This Sunday, I’ll be taking an hour out of my day to take part in the world’s largest citizen science project – the Big Garden Birdwatch. I’ve also delved into the Howarth – Loomes photography collection and found a selection of inspiring stereo cards issued by the ‘The Country–Side’ magazine.
Around half a million people regularly take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch and it involves logging the birds that appear in your garden (or other outdoor space if you live in a flat), over the course of an hour and sending the results to the RSPB. This data is then collated and analysed to monitor changes in the population and distribution of birds across the United Kingdom.
In 1906, readers of ‘The Country–Side’ magazine (a publication associated with the British Naturalist Association), could collect and exchange tokens for a set of stereo photographs and a stereoscope, these were also offered for sale in WH Smiths.
Developed in the 19th century, the stereoscope combines two stereo images and gives the perception of 3-D depth. Hundreds of thousands of stereoscopic images were sold in a major craze which reached every middle-class drawing-room from the mid-19th to the early 20th Century.
Edward K Robinson – a journalist, keen naturalist and founder of the British Naturalist Association says:
“You could not possibly give your friends a better or more acceptable Christmas present than a stereoscope and a good selection of the Country-Side stereographs. When they see how everything in the views stands out like real life they will be more than delighted”
The descriptions on the back of the cards were written by Robinson and illustrate his passion and knowledge of the natural world.
He gives advice on how best to photograph a puffin in its burrow (don’t stick your hand in!), discusses superstitions surrounding the Robin, and, if you hear the sound “Tol – lol – lol – lol – ginger beer” you know a Chaffinch is somewhere close by.
As well as the ‘Long-Eared Owl in a Temper’, I think my favourite stereograph is of a labour of moles that from now on shall be known as “the little gentleman in the velvet coat.”