Those who have realised what deep pleasures the appearance of a well-beloved migrant gives, as, punctual to his hour, he makes himself heard or flashes into sight, will feel something of the pain in knowing that, unless we can be more enlightened in our entertainment of these strangers, we shall each year entertain fewer angels unawares, and England will be immediately the poorer. (pp. 545-6)

For is it not a fact that England, in its weariness and its city banishment from sunshine and sweet country sounds, is becoming each year, by means of an educational process, more fully sensible of such joy as these wild bird presences can yield? (p. 546)

The rich man may find his pleasure in foreign travel, the poor man must find his in his native fields. (p. 546)

The pleasure that habits of natural history observation give, the happiness of being able to use one’s eyes, is a pleasure and happiness within the reach of the poorest of the poor, and we shall be wise in time if we take care that the joy that our bird-life, carefully studied, provides for the poorest of the people, is not sensibly or thoughtlessly diminished.  An Edwards, a Dick, a Jonathan Otley may not be found in every village yet, but the time may come when no boy shall leave his village school without knowing something of the ministry of the fowls of the air and something of the seasons in which to look for the visitors from across the sea, and of the sounds that proclaim their arrival. (p. 546)

It is certain that the education of the future will insist more and more on accurate use of hand and eye; if the Sloyd system or the industrial art school bench and tool is to help towards the former, how better can the latter, viz., accuracy of eye, be attained, than by educating it to habits of careful, accurate, and systematic observation? and what better field for the practice of these habits is to be found for the average English boy or girl than the field of natural history? (p. 546)

It is then a matter of serious concern not only from the cheap pleasure side of the question, but from the practical education side also, that the field for the observation of natural history objects be not narrowed in the British Isles.  The impetus given to habits of observation by our natural science books, our good elementary “school readers,” and our excellent museums, of late has awakened a dormant appetite for the pleasure and the education derivable therefrom.  Where one collector of plants and bird specimens existed ten years ago we have three to-day. Meanwhile the craze for possession of specimens outruns the discretion of observers, who are only beginning to learn the secrets of the naturalist. (p. 546)

In consequence of this revival of scientific interest we find plants and animals which were a real possession for the nation disappearing entirely from sight, and as real a national loss, beyond computation, is the result.  It is asked what can be our remedy? (p. 546)

We answer, public opinion so enlightened as to make it impossible for a collector to root up wholesale the last small patch of “Scheuchzeria palustris” in the bog (of whose destruction, by-the-bye, the poor black-backed gulls in the Scotch marsh are, it seems, blameless) or to shoot the last bittern that may boom in the fens. (p. 547)

We answer, knowledge more wide-spread and accurate of the actual habits of our feathered friends. (p. 547)

Surely, too, the time will come when the kite will be looked upon as chiefly the devourer of arts and snakes, the honey-buzzard and the hobby will be seen to be feeders on wasps, beetles, and cockchafers, and not on young pheasant chocks or grouse eggs.  We shall one day realise that the buzzard has made “mice and frogs and such small cheer” his simple food for many a year; that the kingfisher seeks as much for slugs and watersnails as he does for trout-spawn and minnows, and that that miracle of beauty, the wind-hover or kestrel, never stole a partridge’s egg in its life, and cares more for a plump field mouse than any other food the earth can give. (p. 547)

We who can now, thanks to telegraphy, know to a day the movements of the birds, need not be one whit less weatherwise than he.  What better news have we who live in villages of how the open country or the seashore fares than by noting the presence or absence of the birds in quest of food. The great flocks of winter migrants out in the open break up into serious village bands, and give up gipsying at the first real spell of hard weather. (pp. 547-548)

Moreover, the interchange of field and garden bird life, so admirably described for us by the author of “A Year with the Birds” has much to tell us of the actual temperature and fruitage of the year.  No agriculturist can neglect to use the message that the sensitive followers of the sun and seekers of their food bring with them from across the sea. (p. 548)

The mysterious appearance of rare visitors, such, for instance, as the recurrent flights of “crossbills,” if only we could read their riddle, doubtless would do much for us; but here at home the regular migrations of our well-known birds from south to north, from north to south, have many a lesson for the farmer. (p. 548)

If the actual utilitarian side of this question of the use of wild birds should seem to be likely to accomplish something, as a motor to their protection, we say that charity will accomplish more. (p. 548)

We look far forth to the time when humanity and “the love of being kind to such as needed kindness” will put down the cruel use of unnecessary snares or the prowling gun. (p. 548)

As I write, news is brought me that a tawny owl, which had just begun to make his interesting to-whoo echo of nights in our vale, was shot – because it was an owl.  A bittern, rarer visitor still, paid the penalty of appearing upon the margin of a neighbouring lake a few weeks since, and will never boom again. (p. 548)….

Those who have seen the havoc made by brutal sticks and cowardly sportsmen upon the weary-winged woodcock who have crossed far seas on the back of a nor’easter, and are hoping for short shelter and rest upon the moonlit banks of Lincolnshire; those who have watched the gathering of the cuckoo, in sad, diminished, anxious, voiceless bands upon the shores of the “Wash,” before they bid a land that loves them not adieu, will feel it needs small effort of imagination to conjure up a vision of inhospitality to the birds that add such beauty, and life, and wealth, and good to the land, which will make the most unthinking amongst us ask whether we deal fairly and honourably with our feathered friends. (p. 549)

But the process of forming an enlightened public opinion is a gradual one.  Knowledge of the habits and food of birds, and the power to distinguish friends from foes amongst them, spreads very slowly. (p. 549)

The tender loving-kindness of a poet’s heart for the people of the air cannot be expected to be the common possession of the people of the earth. (p. 549)

Yet there are signs not wanting that the hearts and the imagination of Englishwomen are being touched to pity our fair-winged friends.  The fact that the beautiful little crane, “ardea gracilis,” was becoming exterminated to provide the Parisian bonnet makers with egret-plumes a year or two ago did not much move the world of fashion; but as soon as it came out that the lovely feather was only worn by the bird in the season of love making, and that every egret-plume obtained meant the probable starving of a callow brood of helpless “ardeas,” the ladies of tender hearts and love in England felt compassion, and egret-plumes were less sought for. (p. 550)

Where is the kingfisher?  In Scotland nearly extinct, in England rarer every year.  Faber’s sonnet will remain, but only once in five years was the flashing emerald that inspired that sonnet seen at his task upon the Brathay shore.  Ten years ago five pairs were known of in Derwentwater district: only one pair is known of now.  In the English Lake District we are blessed with quite a remarkable number of rarer winter visitors – but the red-wing and tufted duck were not likely to be counted amongst them until the past few years.  Of summer visitors, the dotterel, whose flocks made glad Skiddaw and Helvellyn, and the red-backed shrike, were once common enough, but they are looked upon as scarce birds now. (pp. 550-551)

Of our Lake District native residents it is curious to observe that the linnet is scarcer grown – this is said to be owing to the burning or the doing away with the furze or whin-bushes.  The goldfinch, that prince of livery-men, is hardly ever seen, but then, says my friend, the local naturalist, the thistles are hardly ever seen either.  Where are the skylarks that used to be abundant? One seldom even hears their song now. (p. 551)

The owls, beyond the raise, are still fairly plentiful; Wansfell is well beloved of them, and they may be heard on the Furness fells pretty frequently, but round Derwentwater the tawny owl is infrequent, and the white owl positively rare; only one pair is known of in the Crosthwaite Valley. (p. 551)

The kite has ceased to exist with us also.  The last bird in the Keswick vale was shot in Lord William Gordon’s wood near Derwentwater by a man named John Pearson in 1832.  One pair of Peregrine falcons are all that remain.  Six years ago five pairs nested within a radius of twenty miles of Keswick.  Ravens are not much scarcer than they were.  Sparrow-hawks are seldom or never seen.  The fierce little merlins, common within the memory of man, are never seen on Lonscale or Bleaberry now, and the innocent buzzards may be looked for only in certain places and are almost countable.  Six nests, to use a colloquial term, “got flown” in the neighbourhood last season. (p. 552)

The kestrel alone enjoys his mouse-hunt in increasing numbers, but the gamekeeper’s eye is always on him.  Yet we in the Lake District have to be thankful to providence for an increase in some varieties of birds; the golden-crested wren, the pied flycatcher, and the redstart have of late multiplied, and whether we are to attribute that to some special increase of food in England, or decrease of it elsewhere, we cannot tell.  The provisions of the “Wild Birds’ Protection Act” is probably in part the reason. (p. 552)

It is generally believed that the increase of that large section of our British birds, the coast-fowl, is attributable directly to the beneficent working of that Act, but when ornithologists are pressed, they generally only point to the eider duck as being very largely on the increase among the sea birds that frequent our northern British shores, and they all speak as if the common skua needed protection still. (p. 552)

Doubtless, an island home of fishermen as we are, we shall be wise in time if we see to it that the fisherman’s friends do not diminish.  If the owl and the kestrel are needed by the harvestmen of the land, the gulls are needed as much by the harvesters of the sea.  They are not only the safest finders of the herring “schools,” but they are the surest scavengers in our fishery ports also.  Anyone has watched the gulls at work after the herring boats have come in at Whitby, or at low tide, has seen what excellent public service they do by the British quays, will realise that the “ocean at her task of pure ablution” round our “shores has, in the sea-gulls, a very competent and assiduous band of helpers. (pp. 552-553)

But has the “Wild Birds’ Protection Act” failed?  We answer, not entirely.  Mr. Dillwyn, M.P., has directly benefited our national life by his carefully considered Bill of 1880.  That Bill gave protection to all wild birds during the breeding season from the 1st of March to the 1st of August, and though it left in the hand of the owner and occupier power to destroy them on his own land, it scheduled certain rarer land birds and some sea-fowl as exceptions, and prevents even the owner or occupier destroying these during the close season. (p. 553)

But there was this flaw in the Bill: it did not touch the question of protecting the birds’ eggs.   And the bird-nester is to-day as free as ever to rob and destroy.  The hardship of this is seen when one considers that there are certain birds who make the British Isles their one and only nesting ground.  Professor Newton tells us that during the breeding season the area of our lesser British redpoll is confined to the British Isles.  Unless we protect its eggs, we in reality do a harm to other lands beside our own. (p. 553)

There are not wanting those who assert that Sir William Harcourt’s Act, passed in 1881, practically rendered useless the Act of 1880.  If we cannot get that Act appealed, at any rate why not attempt to get a longer closing time for our wild birds than at present exists?   February is a month when birds are in fullest beauty of plumage and seen in their lovemakings most easily to forget the gun of the destroyer. (p. 553)

Why should wild birds that are early breeders not have the protection accorded to game birds?  September sees many second broods still callow, but the poor wild birds have no aegis of the law thrown over them in September, and many sea-fowl perish piteously, starved in their nests by reason of the murder of their parents. (p. 553)

The egg-robber must be dealt with, and that vigorously.  Let us extend the protection of that Wild Birds’ Act to the eggs of certain of our feathered friends for a period of years.  Let us take a leaf out of the book of the islanders of Dominica, of our neighbours, the Manxmen, or, to come nearer home, out of our Statute Book of last Session, and provide a temporary but strict protection for such varieties of our British birds and their eggs as competent naturalists shall advise us are in sore need of such provision. (p. 554)….

As I write, there lies before me a list, compiled by one of our ablest ornithologists in the north, or rare birds that he would wish so protected—birds that each year endeavour to breed in Britain.  I will not give it in detail, or they will all be shot off in view of possible legislation, but the list contains twenty-nine varieties and he sends me a supplementary schedule of eighteen others.  The list is a striking one; it does not take into account such wanderers as the waxwings, or such come-and-go visitors as the crossbills, it does not provide for such rare birds as can take care of themselves, but if it be simple truth that there are forty-seven varieties of wild birds sorely needing the succour that a short Act of Parliament would accord to them, the sooner a Rare Birds’ Preservation Act for the United Kingdom is passed the better. (p. 555)

(Gentleman’s Magazine, 266 (June 1889), 545-58)