Birds, Beasrs and Pond-life: Plants, Flowers and Insects. (Two vols.) Written and illustrated by Eric Fitch Daglish. (Dent. 6s. each.)
This series of six books, as the publishers tell us, was published and had a good sale in separate form at 2s. 6d. each, and is now issued in two "omnibuses," each containing three books.
In the section on birds the author suggests, as the best way of getting a knowledge of their habits and characteristics, is "to persuade them to look on us as friends, and to come to our gardens to feed and rest," and accordingly details are given as to the best form of such aids as feeding-tables, nesting-boxes, and drinking-pools. Chapters follow on bird-structure; song; nests and eggs; summer and winter visitors, with some remarks of the wonders of migration. Birds, almost more than any other creatures, seem gifted with uncanny powers; and it is a mystery how such highly-skilled accomplishments were ever attained when we consider that the earliest known forni of bird, the archreopteryx, seems to have been little other than a flying reptile.
"Beasts" may be more familiar to the general reader than birds, but are not less
interesting. Several rodents, hooved, carnivorous and flying animals are illustrated and described. The chapter on "Beasts in Winter" is of particular interest: how they contend against the change of climate, and the difficulties of obtaining food, by migration—of which the extraordinary conduct of the Norwegian lemming is a striking example—and by the hibernation of such beasts as the bat, hedgehog, dormouse and bear. The latter seems a natural and sensible habit to acquire against the rigours of winter. Strangest of all is the faculty which some animals possess of changing colour at certaM seasons. Thus the Arctic-fox goes from blue-grey to white, apparently at will; yet this fox in our zoos does not change but retains permanently the hue of its summer coat. "Pond Life" deals with frogs, newts, fishes and water-insects, together with some notes on the making and upkeep of an aquarium. The habits of the waterspider are most spectacular. This spider builds its nest below water, keeps it supplied with air, and rears its progeny in safety and assurance. Here was the first inventor of the diving-bell . . .
"How to See Plants and Flowers" occupies two sections of the second volume, and, though of necessity brief, covers a wide range. Various methods by which plants defend themselves, how flowers get fertilised, their "marriage customs," and some of the devices whereby is ensured an efficient distribution of seed are outlined and explained. One is almost tempted to think that many plants are endowed with a kind of consciousness by means of which they achieve their object of continual propagation of each species.
In "How To See Insects" the same method of treatment is followed, and the author gives enough information on the structure and habits of insects to lead the young student into a more extensive study of entomology.
These books, well printed on good paper, are written straightforwardly in non
technical language. Moreover, they are copiously illustrated with sketches of details, together with numerous full-pages of those exquisitely accurate engravings for which Mr. Daglish is so well known. We cannot imagine a better introduction to the fascinations of natural history.