A never-to-be-forgotten moment.

Rosamond Purcell, Nest built in a can by a Bewick's wren, collected near Los Angeles in 1918.

Rosamond Purcell, Nest built in a can by a Bewick's wren, collected near Los Angeles in 1918.

“One day a school friend, being covetous of certain stamps in my collection, induced me to ‘swop’ them for his collection of birds’ eggs which he showed me nestling in the bran at the bottom of a box. He was a cunning boy and thought he had the better of the bargain. He little realised — nor did I — the priceless gift he bestowed when his little fat dirty hands, decorated, I remember, with innumerable warts, picked out the eggs and gave them to me. In fact, a smile momentarily crossed his face, he turned his head aside, he spat in happy contemplation of the deal.

I continued eagerly to add to the little collection of Birds’ eggs, but for a long time it never occurred to me to go out into the country myself and collect them,— I just swopped, until one day our errand boy, who stuttered, had bandy legs, and walked on the outside of his feet with the gait of an Anthropoid, said to me, ‘I will sh-show you how to find Birds’ n-nests if you like to come out to the w-woods.’ So one Saturday, when the backyard was cleaned down and the coal boxes filled, he and I started off together to a wood some way down the river bank, where he — my good and beneficent angel — presently showed me a Thrush’s nest in the fork of a young Oak tree. Never-to-be-forgotten moment! The sight of those blue speckled eggs lying so unexpectedly, as I climbed up the tree, on the other side of an untidy tangle of dried moss and grass, in a neat little earthenware cup, caused probably the first tremor of real emotion at a beautiful object. The emotion did not last long! In a moment I had stolen the eggs and soon after smashed them — in trying to blow them, schoolboy fashion.

Then, I rapidly became an ardent field naturalist. My delight in Birds and Birds’ eggs spread in a benignant infection to every branch of Natural History.”

From W.N.P. Barbellion, The Journal of a Disappointed Man (1919).

Image from Rosamond Purcell, Linnea S. Hall and René Corado, Egg & Nest (2008).

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