Burgess Bird Book
by Thornton W. Burgess
with audio, video, resource links, and chapter links
(click title) to online reading at mainlesson
general resource list at bottom of page
Now that the winter's gone, the earth hath lost
Her snow-white robes; and now no more the frost
Candies the grass or casts an icy cream
Upon the silver lake or crystal stream:
But the warm sun thaws the benumbed earth,
And makes it tender; gives a sacred birth.
* * * * * *
Now do a choir of chirping minstrels bring
In triumph to the world the youthful spring!
_ The House Wren
When apple-blooms are hanging
On the boughs like rosy shells,
And the warm, soft rain is bringing
All that budding May foretells,
If you waken in the morning
When the birds their matins sing,
Loudest, clearest, fullest, gladdest
Of the voices of the spring
Burst the wren's sweet notes of rapture;
And you wonder that so strong
Is the throat of such small creature,
To pour forth so great a song.
* * * * *
You may find him in the orchard,
In a suit, black-checked and brown,
With a white vest. Watch his restless
Tiny tail go up and down!
When the honeymoon is over,
Little John and Jenny Wren
Choose a nesting-spot unusual,
Near the dwelling-place of men:
Flower-pot, can or hanging milk-pail,
Worn-out shoe, or hat of straw,
Pocket of a coat discarded,--
Queerest home you ever saw.
Tiny, hungry, clamoring babies
Make their busy parents work
Bringing choicest, tenderest morsels;
Faithful Jenny does not shirk.
But her irritable temper
Makes her quarrel with her spouse;
And she's not a pleasant neighbor,
Valiantly she guards her house.
She may drive away intruders,
Placing sticks across her door
If the entrance is too spacious;
From her throat loud scoldings pour.
For her skill, and her devotion
To her growing family,
We admire her; and without her
Quite bereft our spring would be.
Anyone who travels a thousand miles twice a year as we do has a right to express an opinion, especially if they have used their eyes as I have mine.
There is no place like home, and you
needn't try to tease me by pretending that there is.
House Sparrow or English Sparrow
Handbook of Nature Study – English Sparrow, pg 83-86
Peterson Field Guide -- Sparrows
Bully the English Sparrow is a born fighter. He never is happier
than when he is in the midst of a fight
or a fuss of some kind.
Burgess Bird Book
The Sparrow's Nest
Nay, only look what I have found!
A Sparrow's nest upon the ground;
A Sparrow's nest as you may see,
Blown out of yonder old elm tree.
And what a medley thing it is!
I never saw a nest like this, --
Not neatly wove with decent care,
Of silvery moss and shining hair;
But put together, odds and ends,
Picked up from enemies and friends
See, bits of thread, and bits of rag,
Just like a little rubbish-bag!
Here is a scrap of red and brown,
Like the old washer-woman's gown;
And here is muslin, pink and green,
And bits of calico between;
O never thinks the lady fair,
As she goes by with mincing air,
How the pert Sparrow over-head,
Has robbed her gown to make its bed!
See, hair of dog and fur of cat,
And rovings of a worsted mat,
And shreads of silks, and many a feather,
Compacted cunningly together.
Well, here has hoarding been and hiving,
And not a little good contriving,
Before a home of peace and ease
Was fashioned out of things like these!
Think, had these odds and ends been brought
To some wise man renowned for thought,
Some man, of men a very gem,
Pray what could he have done with them ?
If we had said, "Here, sir, we bring
You many a worthless little thing,
Just bits and scraps, so very small,
That they have scarcely size at all;
"And out of these, you must contrive
A dwelling large enough for five;
Neat, warm, and snug; with comfort stored;
Where five small things may lodge and board."
How would the man of learning vast,
Have been astonished and aghast;
And vowed, that such a thing had been
Ne'er heard of, thought of, much less seen,
Ah! man of learning, you are wrong;
Instinct is, more than wisdom, strong;
And He who made the Sparrow, taught
This skill beyond your reach of thought.
And here, in this uncostly nest,
These little creatures have been blest;
Nor have kings known in palaces,
Half their contentedness in this --
Poor simple dwelling as it is!
by Mary Howitt (1799-1888)
Audio Chapter 3
The Song Sparrow
He comes in March, when winds are strong,
And snow returns to hide the earth;
But still he warms his heart with mirth,
And waits for May. He lingers long
While flowers fade; and every day
Repeats his small, contented lay;
As if to say, we need not fear
The season's change, if love is here
With "Sweet--sweet--sweet--very merry cheer."
He does not wear a Joseph's-coat
Of many colours, smart and gay;
His suit is Quaker brown and gray,
With darker patches at his throat.
And yet of all the well-dressed throng
Not one can sing so brave a song.
It makes the pride of looks appear
A vain and foolish thing, to hear
His "Sweet--sweet--sweet--very merry cheer."
A lofty place he does not love,
But sits by choice, and well at ease
In hedges, and in little trees
That stretch their slender arms above
The meadow-brook; and there he sings
Till all the field with pleasure rings;
And so he tells in every ear
That lowly homes to heaven are near
In "Sweet--sweet--sweet--very merry cheer."
Henry van Dyke
"He stopped for a few days on his way north. I only wish he would stay here all the time; but he seems to think there is no place
like the Great Woods of the North."
"I am told that he is very dearly loved up in the north where he makes his home. They say he sings all the time."
_Scratcher the Fox Sparrow
All About Birds
Copywork: (choose one or more)
The only thing I've got against him is the color of his coat. It always reminds me of Reddy Fox, and I don't like anything that reminds me of that fellow.
"I discovered something about Scratcher which I don't believe you know."
"What?" demanded Jenny rather sharply.
"That when he scratches among the leaves he uses both feet at once," cried Peter triumphantly.
Handbook of Nature Study – Song Sparrow, pages 89-91
also see .musicofnature
Song Sparrow All About Birds
Copywork: (possible choices)
Once more Peter nodded. "That's right," said he. "Everybody does love Little Friend. It makes me feel sort of all glad inside just to hear him sing."
He isn't a tree bird, anyway. He likes to be on or near the ground. You will never find his nest much above the ground, not more than a foot or two. Quite often it is on the ground.
I go to prove my soul!
I see my way as birds their trackless way.
I shall arrive! what time, what circuit first,
I ask not: but unless God send his hail
Or blinding fireballs, sleet or stifling snow,
In some time, his good time, I shall arrive:
He guides me and the bird.
_ Fox Sparrow is most familiar as a migrant or wintering bird. Its vigorous "double-scratching," kicking backward in ground litter with both feet to uncover food, often draws attention to its presence under a bird feeder.
LITTLE bird, with plumage brown,
Beside my window flutters down,
A moment chirps its little strain,
Ten taps upon my window-pane,
And chirps again, and hops along,
To call my notice to its song;
But I work on, nor heed its lay,
Till, in neglect, it flies away.
So birds of peace and hope and love
Come fluttering earthward from above,
To settle on life's window-sills,
And ease our load of earthly ills;
But we, in traffic's rush and din
Too deep engaged to let them in,
With deadened heart and sense plod on,
Nor know our loss till they are gone.
Paul Laurence Dunbar
Audio Ch 4
The Chipping Sparrow
Some sparrows live in open fields
Or in hedges' safe retreat;
You dearly love the haunts of men--
The garden, orchard, street;
You smallest of all sparrow-folk,
Your sweet, confiding way
Endears you to your human friends;
We love your homely lay:
O Chip-py, Chip-py, Chip-py, Chip-py,
Chip-py, Chip-py, Chip-py!
You wear a dark brown, striped coat,
A vest of grayish white;
A reddish cap, with line of gray
Above your eyes so bright,
And streak of black behind each eye
Like spectacles' neat bow;
You don a tiny dull-brown cap
When to the South you go:
O Chippy, Chippy, Chippy, Chippy,
Chippy, Chippy, Chippy!
Your tiny nest of rootlets fine
With horsehair deftly lined,
And mottled blue-green eggs within,
Delightedly we'll find
In hanging vines or bushes low,
That grow beside our door;
We welcome you on April days
As we have done of yore:
O Chippy, Chippy, Chippy, Chippy,
Chippy, Chippy, Chippy!
_ The Vesper Sparrow
It comes from childhood land,
Where summer days are long
And summer eves are bland,--
A lulling good-night song.
Upon a pasture stone,
Against the fading west,
A small bird sings alone,
Then dives and finds its nest.
The evening star has heard,
And flutters into sight;
O childhood's vesper-bird,
My heart calls back, Good Night.
Edith M. Thomas
_The Tree Sparrow or Winter Chippy
When lordly Winter stalks abroad,
With trailing robes of snow,
That hide the lovely tender things
His icy breath lays low;
When grasses, shrubs and hardy weeds
Hold high their heads, and mock
Their tyrant lord,--from Northland woods
There comes a merry flock
Of feathered songsters, soft and brown,
With a dark spot on each breast;
They sway on stalk of golden-rod
Above a snowdrift's crest.
Their voices ring like tinkling bells
Beneath the wintry sky,
Till April, when with joyous songs
Back to the North they fly.
He knew that voice for that of one of his
oldest and best friends in the Old Orchard, a little fellow with a red-brown cap, brown back with feathers streaked with black, brownish wings and tail, a gray waistcoat and black bill, and a little white line over each eye--altogether
as trim a little gentleman as Peter
was acquainted with.
Copywork: (choose one)
Out of the grass just ahead of him flew a rather pale, streaked little brown bird, and as he spread his tail Peter saw two white feathers on the outer edges. Those two white feathers were all Peter needed to recognize another little friend of whom he is very fond.
It was Sweetvoice the Vesper Sparrow, the only one of the family with white feathers in his tail.
That night, sure enough, just as the Black Shadows came creeping out over the Green Meadows, Sweetvoice, perched on the top of a bramble-bush over Peter's head, sang over and over again the sweetest little song and kept on singing even after it was quite dark.
Copywork: (possible choices)
"Why do you call him Dotty?" asked Johnny Chuck.
"Because he has a little round black dot right in the middle of his breast," replied Peter.
"I don't know why they call him Tree Sparrow; he doesn't spend his time in the trees the way Chippy does, but I see him much oftener in low bushes or on the ground. I think Chippy has much more right to the name of Tree Sparrow than Dotty has.
Now I think of it, I've heard Dotty called the Winter Chippy."