The First Ladybird Book of British Birds #1 – The Yellowhammer

During January I’ll be exploring this 1950s Ladybird book of British Birds and their nests to see what’s changed in the last 60 years in the natural world and in British attitudes to nature:

Ladybird Book of British Birds - The Hall of Einar

Today, the Yellowhammer:

Ladybird Book of British Birds - Yellowhammer - The Hall of Einar

“This is the little tubby bird, with the bright yellow cap, that sits on the telegraph wires or the very tops of the hedges, and sings to you as you pass by; ‘A-little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheee-ee-se.”

I’m fascinated by the world view which supports the idea that the Yellowhammer is singing ‘to you’. It’s a primitive, superstitious and religious idea that Nature has been created specially and solely for us. In that world, animals and plants are classified as either good or evil, are there to tempt us or entertain us, for us to eat or to use for transport or to simply be beautiful.

Here’s my photograph of a Yellowhammer sitting at the very top of a hedge in Devon, singing:

Yellowhammer - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It’s singing to me, obviously.

“The Yellowhammer builds a very neat and tidy nest.”

Birds do not have the same concept of neat, tidy, or messy as humans. It’s another case of us projecting our human view of the world onto them. It’s never nice being judged by other people’s standards. You’ll know that if you had relatives staying for Christmas.

“This bird does a great deal of good.”

The view that animals have to be ranked in their usefulness to humankind by how helpful they are denies the intrinsic value of their lives.

Yellowhammer - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I’d like to change every last vestige of the world view that this Ladybird book represents. Or maybe I’m taking it just a little too seriously?

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