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The Every-Day Book of Natural History  —  £ 4.99

Go to the eBook Shop This is the perfect companion to any walk in the countryside, on any day of the year. With an entry for every day that describes a Bird, Animal, Insect or Plant that you might expect to encounter on that day, together with some associated legend, lore or odd illustration.

Originally published in 1866, this is the eighth edition from about 1918, revised and partially re-written by Edward Step, who wrote the book on British Wild Flowers. All 366 subjects and 66 pictures are indexed, so that you can jump to any plant or animal, should you meet them on the wrong day!

This eBook version contains the entire text and all illustrations. Please see the extract below for the original preface, introduction, four of the entries and the index.

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The year opens with the Robin, and ends with the Christmas Rose. In between, a great deal of British wildlife is described, pictured, praised by poets and has its folk-lore recounted.

You can refer to this book whenever and wherever you are, throughout the year, to understand what you are seeing. You can also read it cover to cover, indoors on a dark winter's afternoon, and be overcome by a real sense of the seasons, and thus a whole year, passing. I found this an almost mystical experience, such is the power of the descriptions of both the familiar and unfamiliar.

The covers of the original two volumes only show the title, so I made the one above. The photograph was taken in early June from a footbridge across the River Granta, as it flows through Linton, in Cambridgeshire.


The text and any images below are identical to the eBook; however, depending on the typeface, etc., that you select, they may not display here exactly as they do on your eReader. Also, pages turn as normal, rather than the scrolling effect seen here.



     It is hoped that this volume may not prove unacceptable to that portion of the public who have neither time nor inclination for the scientific study of the various branches of Natural History, but who, nevertheless, cherish a deep abiding love for the works of Nature.
     The object sought to be attained has been to give a brief but correct description of, and such anecdotes and legends as are connected with, the Wild Flowers, Insects, Birds and other Animals most commonly observed in rambles into the country throughout the year: in short, to form a volume adapted to the use of those rural excursionists who desire to attend to Nature's voice

            "from month to month
      And day to day, through the revolving year."

JAMES CUNDALL          December, 1865.   


     "THE Every-Day Book of Natural History" was first published many years ago, and ran through several editions. The late Mr. James Cundall was a Nature-lover, resident in Weston-Super-Mare, and he had been in the habit for several years of contributing short papers upon birds, beasts, insects, and wild flowers to a local weekly paper. Ultimately these essays were re-cast and formed the main portion of the present volume. For several years the work has remained out of print, although often enquired for: many readers of the previous editions who found the book useful to them desiring to place it in the hands of their young friends. The publishers have, therefore, requested me to revise Mr. Cundall's notes and bring them more into line with the present state of our constantly increasing knowledge of Nature. This I have striven to do without being guilty of violence to the author's plan and have taken advantage of the more exact observations of living naturalists, including a few of my own, to modify or render more definite some of the original statements. I have also excluded several of the original essays on domestic animals, and have filled their places with brief observations upon creatures that may be seen in a state of nature in this country.
     The average systematist may regard a work of this character as of little or no value, and to him it undoubtedly would be so; but herein lies its claim to public attention. If the entire literature of Nature consisted of scientific works there would be few naturalists. There are few observers whose interest has been first awakened by the reading of a systematic book, and we have to keep in mind the importance of beginnings. The present work is of a nature, I believe, to awaken interest, and to widen and deepen it. Then comes the opportunity for the systematist. There is another point worthy of consideration: the text-books which supersede each other rapidly are so largely concerned with structural characters that the more human associations of plants and animals are in great danger of being entirely overlooked. Much of this interesting folklore, industriously collected by Mr. Cundall from many out-of-the-way, and often forgotten sources, will be found in the following pages.
     The object of the book is well expressed in the original Preface and there can be little doubt of the utility of such works if uses in the spirit of the author. The wild flower, bird, insect, or other creature briefly described under a particular date, with perhaps a little quaint gossip illustrating the ideas of our forefathers, should be looked for about the period indicated. Of course, in a country where much latitude has to be allowed for vagaries of climate, the thing named will not always be in evidence on the appropriate day but the naturalist has always this consolation – if the thing he looks for is not found at the time, something else of equal interest will be. This constant looking-out will be rewarded by the observer acquiring many little facts not to be found in books, and the valuable habit of minute observation will be fostered and strengthened. In addition, the daily absorption of small doses of knowledge will be found to have a cumulative effect upon the intelligence, and to form a sufficient foundation upon which to base a more systematic course of study, if so desired. But whether any more serious study of natural science be intended or not, I claim that the man or woman who is able to name our common flowers and insects at sight, to distinguish our birds by flight and song as well as form, has an immensely augmented capacity for enjoyment, and that under circumstances where the average person is simply the victim of ennui. In the hope and belief that a new edition of Mr. Cundall's book will help to acquire this knowledge I have endeavoured to carry out the task entrusted to me.

EDWARD STEP.            Portscatho, Cornwall.


When the New Yeare, forth looking out of Janus' gate,
     Doth seeme to promise hope of new delight;
And, bidding th' old adieu, his passed date
     Bids all sad thoughts to die in dumpish spright.



January 1st.

(Erythacus rubecula)

Of all our British birds the most known and the best loved is the Redbreast. Often taking up its winter residence within our houses, and not infrequently appearing at our breakfast tables.

                      Half afraid he first
Against the window beats; then brisk alights
On the warm hearth; then hopping o'er the floor
Eyes all the smiling family askance,
And pecks and starts and wonders where he is.


     It is a sprightly bird, with sparkling black eyes that look you full in the face with the utmost confidence. Its plumage is now at its greatest brilliance during the summer months the bright scarlet becomes a dull red. A foolish superstition exists in some of the isolated villages of Ireland, by which the bird has been invested with a sacred character, The myth is that the Robin, at the Crucifixion, hovering near the Cross, a drop of blood fell upon its breast, and was allowed to remain as a token of the bird's fidelity; or as the "Legends of the Church" run:- "When He dropped His head, the bird flew down from Heaven, and plucked at the Crown of Thorns, that it might in some wise wrest one of the thirty-and-three from His brow. But it tore its own plumage till its breast was covered with blood. Wherefore it is called the Robin Redbreast to this day, and little children love the bird that was faithful at His need, to Him who said, 'Suffer little children to come unto Me.'"
     The labourer in the garden or field, and the woodman in the forest, are seldom unattended by the Robin, ever on the alert for insect or worm. At break of day its wild but somewhat melancholy song may now be heard. Slight observation will be sufficient to show that the Robin is not a member of the Peace Society – any intruder in the district is immediately attacked. We have often noticed it perching with the sparrows on the window-sill, without showing hostility; though all such occasions the sparrows are evidently shy of too close quarters; but let another Robin appear, and a fight commences. "When Greek meets Greek, then comes the tug of war." Although so pugnacious, the Robin is a most tender parent, and a pattern of solicitude for its young – up to a certain point. When the nestlings are old enough to fight for themselves and pick up their own living they are remorselessly driven off. Great numbers of the young birds migrate singly on the approach of winter, which they spend in Egypt and Palestine, and still further east, The comfortable nest, composed mainly of dead leaves and moss, well-lined with hair, is built in any situation that offers shelter, and contains from five to eight delicately-tinted pale buff eggs. The young birds have mottled plumage like Thrushes, to which in truth they are not distantly allied. It is remarkable that in the adults the plumage of male and female is identical.


January 23rd.

(Helix hortensis)

     The thrush and blackbird are now such diligent seekers of Snails, that it requires a careful search to discover their hiding-place. On examining the shell we find that the mouth has been carefully closed with a papery substance, and so securely fastened as to appear of one piece with the shell; they are now hibernating. Respiration has ceased, and neither air nor food will be required until the return of spring, when the front doors will be unfastened, and the Snail come forth to lead a life of such blissful luxury as to awaken the envy of the poet, who sings:

It cometh forth in April showers,
Lies snug when storms prevail;
It feeds on fruits, it sleeps on flowers –
I would I were a snail!


     The so-called Garden Snail is not so much a snail of the garden as of the hedge, the larger Sprinkled Snail (Helix aspersa) being more frequent – far too frequent, gardeners think – in gardens. Helix hortensis is usually coloured with some clear tint of yellow, pink, or brown, upon which are laid four or five longitudinal bands of brown; the lip round the mouth of the mature shell white. In the very similar Helix nemoralis, this lip is brown or black.
     The uppermost pair of horns are distinguished by two black points at the extremities; these are the eyes, which, it will be observed, the Snail bends and directs to any object on either side requiring investigation; when danger threatens, or the snail is at rest, the eyes are withdrawn into the tubes, and the tubes themselves retire into the head. The mouth lies under the smaller pair of horns. During the summer a number of small, white eggs, about the size of peas, are deposited under the shelter of the garden wall, or close to the roots of plants, where they remain for a short time, and are hatched into minute copies of the parent. The whorls of the shell mark the age. The young have only one, the mature five or five and a half. If a portion of the shell of a Snail is taken away, a film is soon thrown across the fracture, and this is gradually thickened until the injury has been repaired.
     Snails are extensively used as food in many of the Continental towns; the kind selected is known as the Roman Snail (Helix pomatia), four times the size of our Garden Snail; these favourites for the table are rare with us, though occasionally found in abundance, as along the North Downs in Surrey. The Snails for Continental markets are gathered mostly from the vineyards, and placed in shallow pits, where they are daily fed on vegetables and bran. At the season of hibernation they are packed in casks and sent to the markets of the various towns. The practice of Snail-eating appears to have been a very ancient one. Pliny mentions several kinds that were used as food, awarding the palm to those from Soletum. The Romans preferred those fed upon the vine. Snails are considered on the Continent as a palatable food, but not easy of digestion.
     It may not be generally known, but it is not the less a fact, that our common Helix aspersa is extensively gathered and used as food.


February 6th.

(Putorius erminea)

     Probably the most bloodthirsty of our native mammals is the beautiful, lithe, and quick-limbed Stoat. It is not half the size of the Polecat, and its movements are more snake-like. It proceeds in a rapid series of leaps rather than running. It tracks its prey by the aid of a keen sense of smell, and is not likely to give up the chase without overtaking its quarry. The rabbit that is pursued by a Stoat cries out with manifest terror, and will even fly to man for protection. We have had a rabbit under such circumstances sink exhausted and half-dead with fear upon our feet as we stood on a woodland road, just as the Stoat was within a few inches of overtaking it. The Stoat promptly returned to cover when he realised what kind of sanctuary the rabbit had reached, whilst the latter lay panting and without a particle of fear of us – its hereditary fear of mankind being lost in its much greater fear of the Stoat.
     The summer costume of the Stoat is yellow-brown above and yellowy-white below, the tail bushy and tipped with black. The body is about seven inches long, and the tail about two and a half inches. Under the influence of severe cold the pigment is withdrawn from the hairs, and with the exception of the black tip of the tail the animal becomes entirely white. Some persons imagine that this change of colour is due to the old fur being replaced by new, but that is not so. In a mild winter no such change takes place, and in the more northern portions of these islands the change is more thorough than in the south, where, in fact, there is sometimes no change at all, or it is only half accomplished. The colder the winter the finer and whiter the fur becomes, and a very marked difference is observable in native skins and those imported from colder countries. Ermine is in great demand by the furrier, who imports something like a hundred thousand skins per annum to supplement the home supply.
     In winter time the Stoat often leaves the woods and hunts the mice and birds around barns and rick-yards.


March 25th.

(Narcissus pseudo-narcissus)

     This is one of our gayest spring flowers, known of old as "affodyle" (i.e., that which cometh early); though not common, it may be found in several of our moist woods and watered meadows. The flower appears to have been the especial favourite of our early poets. Shakespeare alludes to its early bloom

......... "Daffodils,
That come before the swallow dares and take
The winds of March with beauty."

     In backward springs the blossom is often delayed till April.
     Herrick, one of the most exquisite of our early lyrical poets, laments the fleeting beauty of the blossom thus:-

"Faire Daffodils, we weepe to see
     You haste away so soone."

      Spenser, Milton, Dryden, and others have embalmed the flower in their verse. Its appearance is exceedingly light and elegant, the flowers swaying to and fro with the lightest breeze,

"Tossing their heads in sprightly dance."

      They were formerly known as "Lent Lilies," – a name that has lately been revived in many places – and were used in the floral decoration of the churches.
     Wordsworth appears to have been greatly struck with the beauty of the blossoms in a mass, and seems to have treasured up the remembrance of the

           "Host of golden Daffodils
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze" –

as an abiding pleasure – a joy to be fondly dwelt upon long afterward.

      Under favourable circumstances the leaves of the plant shoot up a foot or more in height, and from each cluster of five or six leaves rise up the flower-stalks, each bearing a single blossom. The centre of the flower forms a circular bright amber coronal, with indented edges, the petals and sepals being of a paler yellow, the shades of colour beautifully relieving each other. The scent of the flower has been considered injurious, as causing a drowsy, heavy feeling; the perfume, however, is so slight as to be scarcely perceptible.
     Milton, in "Comus," refers to an ancient festival held on the banks of the Severn (then called Hafren), in remembrance of Sabrina, who was drowned in that river – the shepherds and shepherdesses assembling on the banks, singing the virtues of the lost fair one, and casting garlands of Daffodils and other flowers upon the water in honour of her memory.


Acacia Tree, False
Adder or Viper
Adder's Tongue
Agrimony, Common
Alder or Howler
Almond Tree
Anemone, Wood
Ant, Common
Ant, Wood
Arbutus or Strawberry Tree
Armadillo Woodlouse
Arum, Wake Robin or Cuckoo Pint
Ash, Common
Barberry or Berberry
Barnacle, Common or Duck
Bat, Pipistrelle
Bay Tree, Sweet
Beautiful Dragon Fly
Bee, Humble
Beech Tree
Beetle , Death-Watch
Beetle, Burying or Sexton
Beetle, Dor or Dung
Beetle, Oil
Beetle, Stag
Beetle, Whirlwig
Beetles, Ground
Berberry or Barberry
Betony, Wood
Bitter Cress or Cuckoo Flower
Black Mulberry Tree, Common
Blackberry or Bramble
Blackthorn or Sloe
Boletus, Edible
Box Holly or Butcher's Broom
Box Tree
Bracken or Brake
Brake or Bracken
Bramble or Blackberry
Briar, Sweet or Eglantine Rose
Bryony, White or Our Lady's Seal
Buck Bean or Marsh Trefoil
Bullfinch, Red Hoop, or Monk
Butcher Bird, Lesser or Redbacked Shrike
Butcher's Broom or Box Holly
Butter Bur
Buttercup or Bulbous Crowfoot
Butterfly, Brimstone
Butterfly, Common Blue
Butterfly, Common Blue
Butterfly, Large White
Butterfly, Orange Tip or Lady of the Woods
Butterfly, Painted Lady
Butterfly, Peacock
Butterfly, Purple Emperor
Butterfly, Red Admiral
Butterfly, Small Tortoiseshell
Caddis Worm or Fly
Campion, Bladder or White-bottle
Campion, Red and Ragged Robin
Cedar of Lebanon
Celandine, Greater
Celandine, Lesser - Pilewort
Chamomile, Sweet
Cherry Tree, Wild
Chestnut, Horse
Chestnut, Sweet or Spanish
Chickweed, Common
Chicory or Succory
Chiffchaff or Lesser Petty Chaps
Christmas Rose
Cinquefoil, Spring
Clover, Strawberry-headed
Cockchafer or Chafer Beetle
Cockle, Common
Colts foot
Convolvulus, Seaside
Cormorant, Crested
Corn Blue Bottle
Corn Bunting
Corn Cockle
Corn Crake or Land Rail
Corn Poppy
Cowslip or Paigle
Crab Tree
Crab, Green or Shore
Crane Fly
Crane's Bill - Herb Robert
Crayfish, River
Cricket, House
Crow, Carrion
Crowfoot, Bulbous or Buttercup
Crowfoot, Wood or Goldilocks
Cuckoo Flower or Bitter Cress
Cuckoo Pint, Arum, or Wake Robin
Cuckoo Spit or Frog Hopper
Curlew, Stone
Dead-Nettle, Red
Death's Head Hawk Moth
Death-Watch Beetle
December Moth
Deer, Fallow
Devil's Coach Horse
Diver, Black-throated
Dog Rose, Common
Dog Violet
Dogs' or Perennial Mercury
Dogwood or Wild Comel
Dove, Ring or Wood Pigeon
Dragon Fly
Duck or Common Barnacle
Elder, Black
Elm, Small Leaved
Falcon, Peregrine
Fern , Maiden-hair
Fern, Male or Common Shield
Fir, Norway Spruce
Fir, Scotch
Flag, Yellow
Flowering Hush
Fly, Common House
Fly, Flesh
Fly, Green or Rose Aphis
Fly, Ichneumon
Fly, Lace-winged
Flycatcher, Spotted
Frog Hopper or Cuckoo Spit
Fungi, Some Edible
Furze Gorse or Whin
Gall-fly, Oak
Goatsbeard, Yellow
Goatsucker or Nightjar or Fern Owl
Goose, Grey Lag
Grass of Parnassus
Grass, Annual Meadow
Grass, English Scurvy
Grass, Vernal
Grass, Vernal Whitlow
Grasshopper, Great Green
Great Titmouse or Saw Tit
Greenfinch or Green Linnet
Guelder Rose or Water Elder
Gull, Herring
Hare Bell
Hart's Tongue
Hawthorn, May, or White Thorn
Heartsease or Wild Pansy - Love in Idleness
Heath , Fine-leaved
Heather or Ling
Hellebore, Green
Hemlock, Common
Henbane, Black or Common or Hogsbean
Herb Paris
Herb Robert - Crane's Bill
Hermit Crab, Common
Hogsbean or Black or Common Henbane
Honeysuckle or Woodbine
Hop, Wild
Horehound, White
Howler or Alder
Hyacinth, Wild
Ivy, Ground, Gill, or Alehoof
Kestrel or Windhover
Knapweed and Hard-heads
Knotted Wrack
Laburnum Tree or Golden Chain
Land Rail or Corn Crake
Lapwing, Plover, or Peewit
Leek, House or Sengreen
Lily of the Valley
Lime or Linden Tree
Lizard, Common
Loosestrife, Purple
Maple, Common
Maple, Greater or Sycamore
Marsh Mallow
Marsh Marigold
Martin, House or Martlet
Martin, Sand
May Flies
Meadow Saffron
Meadow Sweet
Moorhen or Water Hen
Moss, Screw
Mosses, Feather
Moth, Clothes
Moth, Clothes
Moth, Death's Head Hawk
Moth, December
Moth, Gamma or Silver Y
Moth, Ghost
Moth, Goat
Moth, Humming Bird Hawk
Moth, Magpie or Gooseberry
Moth, Many-plumed
Moth, Privet Hawk
Moth, Scarlet Tiger
Mountain Ash or Rowan Tree
Mouse , Field or Wood
Mouse, Harvest
Mulberry Tree, Black
Mushroom, St. George's
Mussel, Fresh-water
Newt, Water or Salamander
Nightjar or Goatsucker
Night-shade, Enchanter's
Nut, Earth, Kipper or Hawk
Nut, Hazel
Oak, Red
Oak, White
Orange Wax-cup
Orchis, Bee
Orchis, Early Purple or Meadow
Orchis, Fly
Orchis, Spotted Palmate
Owl, Fern or Goatsucker or Nightjar
Owl, Tawny or Wood
Owl, White or Barn
Owls, Eared
Paigle or Cowslip
Pear Tree, Wild
Perennial or Dogs' Mercury
Periwinkle, Lesser
Petrel, Storm or Mother Carey's Chicken
Pigeon, Wood, Cushat or Ring Dove
Plantain, Greater or Waybread
Plover, Lapwing or Peewit
Polypody Fern, Common
Rabbit or Coney
Rat, Black
Rat, Brown
Red Crane's Bill or Bloody Geranium
Redstart or Redtail
Roach and Dace
Robin or Redbreast
Rose Bedeguar
Rose, Christmas
Rose, Dog
Rose, Green Chafer
Rose, Guelder or Water Elder
Rose, Rock or Dwarf Cistus
Rose, White Field
Rosebay Willow Herb
Rowan Tree or Mountain Ash
Salamander or Water Newt
Sandpiper, Dunlin
Saw-fly, Gooseberry
Scarlet Pimpernel
Sea Eryngo or Sea Holly
Seaweed, Dock-leaved
Sexton or Burying Beetle
Shepherd's Purse
Shrew, Common
Shrike, Redbacked or Lesser Butcher Bird
Sky Lark
Sloe or Blackthorn
Snail, Garden
Snake, Ringed or Water
Snipe, Common
Soft Rush, Common
Solomon's Seal
Song Thrush, Mavis, or Throstle
Sparrow, Hedge or Hedge Accentor
Sparrow, House
Speedwell, Germander
Spider, Garden
Spider, House
Spider, Hunting
Spiders, Gossamer
Spindle Tree
Spleenwort, Black
St. John's Wort, Perforated
Starling or Stare
Stickleback, Three Spined
Stinging Nettle
Stitchwort, The Greater
Stoat or Ermine
Strawberry Tree or Arbutus
Strawberry, Barren
Strawberry, Wild
Succory or Chicory
Swift or Screech Martin
Sycamore or Greater Maple
Teal, Common
Thrush, Missel
Thyme, Wild or Mother of Thyme
Tit, Longtailed or Bottle Titmouse
Titmouse, Blue or Nun
Titmouse, Bottle or Longtailed Tit
Toadstools, Some Poisonous
Traveller's Joy or Virgin's Bower
Tree Creeper
Trout, River
Tutsan or Park Leaves
Vervain, Common
Violet, Sweet
Violet, Water
Viper or Adder
Wagtail, Grey
Wagtail, Pied
Wallflower, Wild
Walnut Tree
Warbler, Black Cap
Warbler, Garden
Water Beetle
Water Boatman or Boat Fly
Water Elder or Guelder Rose
Water Lily or Water Rose
Water Lily, Yellow
Watercress, Common
Waybread or Greater Plantain
Wheatear or White Tail
White Archangel or Dead Nettle
White-throat or Nettle Creeper
Willow, Purple
Willow, Sallow or Goat
Windhover or Kestrel
Wolfsbane or Monkshood
Wood Sorrel
Woodbine or Honeysuckle
Woodland Loosestrife or Yellow Pimpernel
Woodlouse, Armadillo
Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted
Woody Night-shade or Bitter Sweet
Wren, Common
Yellow Hammer, Bunting, or Yeorling
Yellow Toadflax


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