I bought two little green books today, at my local antiques collective. Nature's Diary, by Francis H. Allen, was published in 1897.
There is an entry for each day of the year. On the left page are two dates with quotations. The dates on the right note birds or flowers one might expect to see, and there is space for the owner to make notes. In the preface the author states "I have tried to have each selection fit its day as exactly as possible... Every selection has passed a rigid examination upon two points,--scientific accuracy and poetic value,-- so that neither requirement has been sacrificed to the other."
I love the seriousness and care with which he approached this endeavor.
A closer look at today's entry. Apparently the whip-poor-will should be out and about. I have strong memories of them from my childhood, but not so much in recent years. Edith M. Thomas calls the whip-poor-will "this voice of the cool and the dusk, this cloistered melodist..." Poetic indeed.
Field Book of Wild Birds and Their Music, by F. Schuyler Mathews--bird lover, composer, and artist, was originally published in 1904; my edition is 1921. Mathews took it upon himself to transcribe the songs of birds, to help watchers identify them. What an undertaking! There's a nice little NPR piece about it that you can listen to here. It includes a playing of Mathew's whip-poor-will notations on the flute, as well as a recording of the bird with the onomatopoeic name. About the whip-poor-will Mathews writes: "There is something uncanny about the nocturnal bird and his strange song...The song is weird, there is nothing like it in all the category of Nature's music..."
I am going to the Catskills tomorrow, and will be listening for whip-poor-wills. Do you ever hear them?
p.s. See Karen's comment below about how both books can be uploaded from Googlebooks, for free.