Sunday, 23 November 2014
My Garden by Alfred Smee- early Beddington natural history
Thanks to Dave and Bob I've got hold of a copy of My Garden by Alfred Smee which was published in 1872. The book chronicles the gardening exploits and natural history observations through the 1800s of the current Grange- part of Beddington Park (adjacent to the farmlands and part of the contiguous green space that forms the heartland of the Wandle Valley Regional Park).
Anyway here's a few interesting bird observations:
Whooper Swan- one present through 'one winter'
Smew- one shot in January 1871
Slavonian Grebe- a specimen obtained once from the water.
Corncrake (Land Rail)- heard in the meadows in summer
Wild Geese- seen crossing over the garden, but have never been known to settle
Woodcock- visits the garden
Whimbrel and Curlew- heard crossing over of an evening during the autumn migration
Gulls- not often been obsevered
'A stray Patridge and Pheasant visit us now and then and one Quail has been seen in one of our meadows'
Turtle Dove- appears in the district plentifully in August
Woodpigeon- in 1869 flocks at intervals in number from ninety to five hundred crossed the garden
Nuthatch- has been shot in Beddington Park
Wryneck- in 1871 the gardener found a young Wryneck and placed in the Poor Man's House
Magpie's- they have been observed but are scarce throughout the district
Hooded Crows- formely considered to be scarce by Apollo, have been seen on two or three occasions
Hawfinch- occasional visits and probably occasionally breeds
Mountain Finch (Brambling)- recorded at times
Black-headed Bunting (Reed Bunting) - recorded at times
Woodlark- has been heard about the place
Grey-bearded Wagtail- have been observed (WTF?)
Ray's Wagtail- have been observed (WTF?)
Marsh Tit- 'we have it'
Grasshopper Warbler- 'has been heard'
Nightingale- 'charms us with it's sweet melody'
The White Owl (Barn Owl)- 'The ill-faced owl, Death's dreadful messenger' (steady on)
'In the woods on the hills Hen Harrier, Hobby and Merlin have been shot.
Cockatoo- a splendid wild one was unfortunately shot this year (1872)
'Although birds delight us with their song, yet in my intercourse with musical men I have found but few that have the power of recording their notes' (Magnus Robb 100 years away!)
'A garden without birds is like a mansion without inhabitants'.
What a gezer! The founder of our local natural history and in whose path which he hath trail blazed we do gratefully and humbly walk (unarmed).