Some time ago I was approached by Pushkin Press to review a new book called Bird Cottage by Eva Meijer. I was intrigued because it is about the life of Len (Gwendolen) Howard, the author of “Living with Birds” and “Birds as Individuals”, which were best sellers in the 1950s. I read one of these in the 70s and lent it to Margaret, my mother-in-law, who used to feed the garden birds and was fascinated by their behaviours. She thoroughly enjoyed it.
|Great Tit, Parus major|
Eva gets inside the head of Len Howard and writes as Len after reading her books, unpublished manuscripts and hearing the memories of people who knew her. Bird Cottage is well researched and written and should be enjoyed by anyone who is interested in the behaviour of garden birds. Len was a talented ethologist, untutored and therefore untainted by the prejudices of the biological science of the time. She observed the different personalities of birds and maintained detailed records.
|Robin, Erithacus rubecula|
We live by the Sussex coast, and pass through Ditchling, Len’s village, regularly. We used to visit Ditchling Museum and I recall seeing a pottery exhibition there. We also purchased a painting by Charles Knight, a Ditchling resident, from the art gallery there, which closed some time ago. Ditchling Common has become a regular haunt for me during the Black Hairstreak season. This rare butterfly was recently discovered there and enthusiasts now visit from all over the country to see it.
I don’t devote much time to reading these days and this is the first book I have completed in ages and I have no hesitation in recommending it. Len Howard was a professional violinist and a legacy enabled her to retire to Ditchling and follow a passion for birds which was nurtured in her childhood.