I write these few introductory sentences to this volume only to second so worthy an attempt to quicken and enlarge the general interest in our birds.
The book itself is merely an introduction, and is only designed to place a few clews in the reader's hands which he himself or herself is to follow up. I can say that it is reliable and is written in a vivacious strain and by a real bird lover, and should prove a help and a stimulus to any one who seeks by the aid of its pages to become better acquainted with our songsters.
The various grouping of the birds according to color, season, habitat, etc., ought to render the identification of the birds, with no other weapon than an opera glass, an easy matter.
When I began the study of the birds I had access to a copy of Audubon, which greatly stimulated my interest in the pursuit, but I did not have the opera glass, and I could not take Audubon with me on my walks, as the reader may this volume.
But you do not want to make out your bird the first time; the book or your friend must not make the problem too easy for you. You must go again and again, and see and hear your bird under varying conditions and get a good hold of several of its characteristic traits.
Things easily learned are apt to be easily forgotten. Some ladies, beginning the study of birds, once wrote to me, asking if I would not please come and help them, and set them right about certain birds in dispute. I replied that that would be getting their knowledge too easily; that what I and any one else told them they would be very apt to forget, but that the things they found out themselves they would always remember. We must in a way earn what we have or keep. Only thus does it become ours, a real part of us.
Not very long afterward I had the pleasure of walking with one of the ladies, and I found her eye and ear quite as sharp as my own, and that she was in a fair way to conquer the bird kingdom without any outside help.
She said that the groves and fields, through which she used to walk with only a languid interest, were now completely transformed to her and afforded her the keenest pleasure; a whole new world of interest had been disclosed to her; she felt as if she was constantly on the eve of some new discovery; the next turn in the path might reveal to her a new warbler or a new vireo.
I remember the thrill she seemed to experience when I called her attention to a purple finch singing in the tree-tops in front of her house, a rare visitant she had not before heard. The thrill would of course have been greater had she identified the bird without my aid. One would rather bag one's own game, whether it be with a bullet or an eyebeam.