A Passion for Birds
I turned the page. [...] “I have amazing news for you – and indeed for every bird-lover in the country,” he whispered. [...] It was my first day at Junior school and I had picked a book from the library shelves to read. An adventure story about Bee-eaters. It was September 1957.
Fast forward around six decades and from Bath to North Wales ...
Idly browsing books at an Antiques Fair last year, I came across a book that nagged at my memory. It couldn’t be could it! The self same book. Well probably not exactly the same book but - Hooray Hurrah!
a long-lost book
[...] “As I suspected, the birds you saw and which I have been watching for fifteen minutes are Bee-eater.” [...]
I have never, ever, seen a Bee-eater 1. But it was these birds or at least this story about them that kindled a lifelong passion for birds. The book was ‘The Fourth Key’ the last of the Michael and Mary stories 2 by Malcolm Saville.
Like many of his stories, this one had a basis in fact. For he describes in his foreword how three friends came across Bee-eaters “a mile or two from the South Downs” in Sussex at the end of July 1955: It was hard to keep the birds from being worried by enthusiastic bird-watchers during the next few weeks, and although the secret was fairly well kept volunteers helped to keep curious crowds away from the nesting-sites until the baby birds had flown.
While the book was the beginning of a lifelong (selfish) passion for birds, my new-found passion, of writing haiku about them, is perhaps, really the beginning - of something I was always meant to do. I’m only sorry (well a little bit) that it’s taken so long ...
Though one day I’d still love to see a Bee-eater!
Leonard Malcolm Saville (1901-1982) was an English author born in Hastings, Sussex. He is best known for the Lone Pine series of children’s books, many of which are set in Shropshire. His work emphasises location, and the books including many vivid descriptions of English countryside, villages and sometimes towns.
- There’s hope yet - last year a flock of 13 colourful Bee-eaters were spotted on the Llyn Peninsula - only a short drive from home
- Michael and Mary live with their widowed mother and her brother. It is set in Sussex where the family have moved. They befriend a lonely young girl, help to protect a rare nesting pair of birds, and discover hidden treasure.