A Lesson in “Seeing” the Birds – More on Journaling

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Amateur and professional bird watchers alike, along with artists and philosophers, have kept journals of their thoughts and observations over the years. They inherently understand the value journaling offers in helping us “see” nature and the activities around us more clearly and completely. In doing so, they become active participants in their observations by noting in great detail every facet of their experience.

I recently stumbled across an online collection of journal entries and essays printed in Bird-Lore, the immediate predecessor of Audubon magazine published in 1899 and 1900 by Frank Chapman.  I instantly fell in love with the writings.  I was excited to see the same passion and interest in birds as I see today among my birding colleagues; in that regard it seems nothing has really changed over the years.  I also came away with a greater appreciation and inspiration to write better entries in my own birding journal, and I find myself anxious and eager to delve deeper into my writing habits.

Below is one such essay. Note the attention to detail and, after reading this essay, ask yourself if you are feeling equally inspired.  Enjoy!



Florence A. Merriam

Don’t think that I mean the Mouse, or English Sparrow, for he is quite a different bird, our little doorstep friend is the very smallest of all the brown Sparrows you know, and wears a reddish brown cap, and a gray vest so plain it hasn’t a single button or stripe on it. He is a dear, plump little bird, who sits in the sun and throws up his head and chippers away so happily that people call him the Chipping Sparrow.

He comes to the doorstep and looks up at you as if he knew you wanted to feed him, and if you scatter crumbs on the piazza he will pick them up and hop about on the floor as if it were his piazza as well as yours.

One small Chippy, whom his friends called Dick, used to light on the finger of the kind man who fed him, and use his hand for a dining-room, and sometimes when he had had a very nice breakfast, he would hop up on a ringer, perch, and sing a happy song!

Dick was so sure his friends were kind and good, that as soon as his little birds were out of the nest, he brought them to be fed too. They did not know what a nice dining-room a hand makes, so they wouldn’t fly up to it, but when the gentleman held their bread and seeds close to the ground, they would come and help themselves.

If you were a bird and were going to build a nest, where would you put it? At the end of a row of your brothers’ nests, as the Eave Swallows do?


Excerpt reprinted from Bird-Lore, the immediate predecessor of Audubon magazine, published in 1899 and 1900 by Frank Chapman and described as the “Official Organ of the Audubon Societies.”


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