Enid Blyton - The Bird Woman from Beckenham

VERY few (if any) birders aged 50 or over would be honest enough to claim as one of their inspirations the creator of such children’s heroes as Noddy, Big Ears and The Famous Five

But subliminally, at least, could it have been Enid Blyton who sowed the seed?

During her lifetime, she wrote extensively about birds, not just those, such as hawfinches, that visited her garden but also those only to be seen in more remote habitats such as sea cliffs.

Many older birders of today will have read her fiction and, as a result, perhaps been prompted to set out on their own ornithological life-journeys.

Testament to the enthusiasm of Blyton is that one of her commissions was to edit Birds of The Wayside and Woodland - an expertly condensed edition of the authoritative The Birds of The British Isles and their Eggs which had been written by expert Cheshire ornithologist Thomas Coward, with illustrations by Archibald Thorburn and others.

In her introduction, she wrote: "My knowledge of birds must be small compared with Mr Coward's lifetime study, but, in our love for them, we are perhaps on an equal footing.

"It was a large task to attempt to condense three beautifully-written volumes into one and yet to keep his inimitable style and engaging descriptions.

"If I have not done his work justice here and there, it is not for want of sympathy but for lack of space."

Probably no bird had greater grip on her imagination than one long thought by experts to have become extinct - the great auk.

Says Birds of The Wayside: "It perished like other unadaptable species because it failed to compete with predacious man who wiped it out at its breeding stations, killing it for food."

So fascinated was Ms Blyton by the apparent demise of this flightless marine bird that she made it the focus of one of her novels, The Island of Adventure.

What if the experts were wrong? What if, on some unexplored island, a single colony still survived?

As used to be said, never let the facts get in the way of a good yarn!

What counts in all good fiction is not truth per se but the 'truth' of the imagination.

Ms Blyton's interest in bird was encouraged by her father, a cutlery salesman who moved from Sheffield to Dulwich in South London. At a time before it was outlawed, he was a keen egg collector.

She had strong views about the welfare of birds and backed corporal punishment for boys who cause them harm.

More about her relationship with birds and Nature is revealed in a new e-book available (£2) via Kindle:  The Bird Woman from Beckenham: The Ornithological Writings of Enid Blyton