Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Audubon Bird Cards

     I am quite sure that John James Audubon would be staggered to know the ways his name has been used in the furtherance of avian conservation. The mere mention of the word Audubon conjures up a universal mission to preserve species and habitat, and to engage the public through education, publicity and fund-raising campaigns.
     A couple of years ago a friend of mine was attending an auction and saw a boxed set of Audubon Bird Cards and picked them up for me.


     The set has obviously been well used, but the cards remain in remarkably good condition. Several are missing from the set (numbers 11, 12, 13, 18, 22, 24 and 47), not surprising I suppose after almost fifty years in circulation.
     The cards are quite lovely; the illustrations accurate and deftly done. You will appreciate this from the few that I have photographed, while simultaneously ignoring my status as a complete duffer as a photographer. You will also please forgive the clutter on my desk!


     I confess that it's past the time to dust my shelves and do a little housework in my office!
     The cards do not seem to be specifically aimed at children, although I suspect that they were a target audience. The descriptions are quite lyrical at times, but the authors do not shy away from controversy, as revealed by the following comments on the Mallard card above.
     "However, its wholesale slaughter by market hunters, together with the extensive drainage of lakes, ponds, sloughs and marshlands, which constitute its breeding and feeding haunts, have served greatly to reduce its numbers."
     Little has changed today.


     A Pintail is an elegant duck, lauded on the card in picturesque fashion.
     "Its slender neck and graceful lines, which in the male are accentuated by a long spike of a tail and delicate markings of grey and white, serve to give an air of distinction to this well known member of the family."


     The splendour of a Wood Duck speaks for itself. The card refers to other waterfowl as "its plebian relatives!"


     Killdeer is without doubt the plover most familiar to even casual observers, many of who even recognize its distinctive call.


     For those like me, interested in the arcane world of systematics and classification, it is interesting to note the changes in taxonomy that have occurred over the years as new techniques, especially molecular testing, have been developed. Killdeer in 1974 was known by the scientific name Oxyechus vociferous (should read vociferus; the card is in error); subsequently it was assigned to the genus Charadrius and is now known as Charadrius vociferus.


     The card depicts a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, a name that often elicits giggles from children.
     I am very much enamoured of the following line in the description.
     "Beetles, wasps, ants, midges and flies fall an easy prey to this tapper of trees who doesn't even have to move out of his tracks to catch them."


     Who does not thrill to the sight or the sound of a Common Loon?


     ".....its wild and reverberating cries may be heard at all hours and might well seem to personify some lonely spirit in distress."
     I am delighted to have this set of cards, and can only conjecture how many people may have gotten their introduction to birds and to nature from them.
     Years ago I owned several sets of cigarette cards which also depicted aspects of nature. I remember that one set covered trees and another wildflowers. If my memory serves me well these cards originated in the UK and depicted species found there. I am not sure what happened to them, but I wish that I had them now.
     It is more than a little interesting to see how attempts were made to present nature to people, in the hope no doubt that they would be motivated to save it. Sadly it seems not to have worked. Despite all the evidence that a healthy, functioning predator/prey relationship is key to a healthy ecosystem, we are once again, in North America and in Europe embarking on sanctioned kills of top predators that are not quite convenient for us.
     We have not learned our lesson and I fear we never will.   
David M. Gascoigne,
David M. Gascoigne,

I'm a life long birder. My interests are birds, nature, reading, books, outdoors, travel, food and wine.

83 comments:

  1. Hari OM
    Gorgeous cards, David. It is indeed sad that as a species we insist on working against nature, failing to understand that working with it would be more to our benefit. Even where wakefulness to this starts to arrive, attempts seem to be with more than half an eye to preserving the plunderment possibilities... YAM xx

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  2. What a wonderful find (and friend to present them to you). Sadly we epitomise slow learners. Which I fear will be our greedy downfall.
    And your desk looks fascinating (and not dusty).

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  3. Nice set of cards. Somewhere I've seen that Mallard card before; I can't remember where but I'm certain it was when I was a child. The cigarette cards you mention from the UK may have not been cigarette cards but the ones that came in packets of PG Tips tea which were probably the among first pictures of birds I ever encountered. They also had sets on African Wildlife, Asian Wildlife and Freshwater Fish - I collected them all and at some stage threw them all away (foolish decision).

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    1. I don't even know what happened to mine. I would never have knowingly thrown them away, but it's possible I suppose that during a periodic purge they found their way into the wrong box and went to the thrift store.

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  4. We discovered among the books which Rick’s grandparents had, a series of Audubon prints with commentary on the back of each by Roger Tory Peterson. His descriptions of the birds paint beautiful images in themselves.

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  5. These cards are a delight, works of art, really. :) As far as learning our lesson, it does seem unlikely but I keep hope alive as the alternative is too bleak. We've been singing the same tune for a very long time about the environment to little effect. Al Gore might have set the right path had he been president. The clock is ticking. Choices voters make in general seem lackluster with short-term interests.

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  6. You are probably not surprised to know that I adore these! As a collector of ephemera, a lover of birds and a wannabe artist, I so admire each and every one of these. I also love how you displayed them with your decoys. I could envision that wee easel with a new bird card every day or every week! What a lovely gift -- and a friend who knows you well.

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    1. Allan Brooks, the artist, was an accomplished portrayer of birds and illustrated several books. If ever on your meanderings around a thrift store or second hand book store you see "Georgia Birds" by Thomas D. Burleigh "with reproductions of original paintings by George Miksch Sutton", buy it! The artwork is superb. I picked up my copy in 2014 and I think I paid around $15.00.

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  7. Beautiful cards. I often buy for my grandsons magazines and books about nature and animals, mainly birds because they can see most of them in the city, in the country, at the lake or near the sea.
    I don't succeed in understanding how hunting is possible again!

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    1. I am glad to hear that you are introducing your grandchildren to the wonders of nature.

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  8. Beautiful cards, a nice learning tool for kids.

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  9. What a lovely gift for you!
    P.S. I spotted a robin today. I know they overwinter, from time-to-time. It was a bright spot in the day.

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  10. Hello,
    The Audubon cards are wonderful, a great collection for the bird lover. Your bird carvings are wonderful too. Take care, have a happy day!

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  11. My grandma had this set of cards … many years ago! I remember sitting and looking at them while the grownups visited and I’m sure they added to my lifelong interest in birds. Thanks for posting as I had forgotten just what they looked like until I saw your set.

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  12. The cards are very beautiful, David. I fell in love with the loon.
    Many hugs, Marit

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  13. One of my early memories from childhood is receiving a set of bird cards. Were they Audubon cards? I have no idea now and they are lost somewhere along the way, but they had pictures of the birds on the front and their life history on the back. I studied them obsessively. I was fascinated by birds even then. Thanks for reminding me of them.

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    1. Sounds like they may well have been a set of cards in the Audubon series, Dorothy.

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  14. I did not know there were such cards.

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  15. I loved this post David, well except for the hard lesson that we haven't learned as you point out in your last paragraph. But I deeply admire the way you've arranged each picture with the card and (in most of the pictures) your beautiful wood carvings. And I love that your good friend knew how much you'd love this gift and he bid for it and won. Obviously you were a good friend to him and he knew you well. ... and it was so interesting to read about these cards and the other nature card collections you used to have -- none of which I knew about before reading this post. Thanks for sharing.

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  16. You are very fortunate to have such a lovely collection of Audubon bird cards which sit really well with the complimentary statuary.
    You have reminded me that my husband too had cigarette cards showing British birds, and now I too am wondering where they are. I think it might be time for me to explore a few cupboards to see if I can find them.

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  17. What a good friend to have thought about your passion and got the collection for you. I like how you have arranged your "clutter" with each card. Oh my goodness, you do have lots of bird ceramics and books and your own photos of course. I agree that with molecular testing, some birds will now be placed into different genus, just like bacteria. I think we can't "save the world" but if everyone just does a "little," Earth will still be a good place for nature and for our future generations.

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  18. David - what a precious set of cards. The next time we are in the UK (April, God willing), I will look for such cigarette cards!

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  19. Les cartes sont jolies, c'est une belle trouvaille de votre ami. Bonne journée

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  20. What a beautiful set of cards. :)

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  21. I like the cards and the wooden? birds you show so nice together.
    Unfortunately, I share your concern for the future. I just read another article about the sixth mass death. Sad! Afterwards I try to focus on something here-and-now beautiful, otherwise I get too depressed. Fortunately, spring flowers are on the way, the days are getting longer and the birds will soon be singing to me.
    Keep smiling. Lisbeth

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  22. What an enjoyable post. The cards are wonderful and treasured. I was not familiar with John James Audubon and suddenly his name is everywhere as there is currently an exhibition of his work at the Natural History Museum in London. I was also reminded of the cigarette/ tea cards that were given away free and as children we collected. Somewhere they are in my house and I now feel I must find them!

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  23. Buenos días amigo David, preciosa representación de esas cartas. Normalmente suelen ser muy instructivas para niños y no tan niños. Se deben de concienciar desde jóvenes para evitar la caza de esos bellos animales. Ya va siendo hora de cambiar ciertas reglas.
    Un gran abrazo amigo y compadre David.

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  24. Hi David, thank you for your comment on the painter Casson.
    I recognized your name as you always comment on Valerie's blog. So here I am for the first time visiting your blog. It's about birds. That is interesting for me as I know absolutely nothing about birds. The only one I can recognize is a vulture (griffin vulture) as we get so many of them flying (or should I say gliding) over our house, riding the thermals. We live in southern Europe, so a tad warmer than Canada. We still eat outside most afternoons. At night the temperatures are around freezing point. On the coast it is even warmer (we live at 3000 ft altitude).
    Again thanks for your comment and I hope to see you around again soon,
    Keep smiling,
    Lisca

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  25. These truly are beautiful. Looking at them, I couldn't help remembering the flashcards that were so much a part of my grade school education. They were used both for vocabulary and arithmetic, and sitting down with my dad after dinner to 'go through the next day's flashcards' was a ritual. Whether these were used in such a way I can't say, but I certainly can see their value as a teaching tool for children -- and the occasional adult!

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  26. Hi David.

    Great and the cards still look very good.

    Greetings from Patricia.

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  27. That's a great keepsake! I bet little Lily would have fun looking at them with you!

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    1. She's at that stage where everything goes to her mouth, Amy, so I may wait a while before I show them to her.

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  28. I loved reading this post and I was quite fascinated by all the carved birds you had to go along with the cards. Very cool!

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  29. What a great find these cards. Love the way you present them with the carved wooden examples with it as far as you have the same birds as a model.
    Realy nice!
    Warm regards from Belgium,
    Roos

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  30. What a great gift for your friend to get for you! The cards look like they're in great condition. One of the Audubons near me has an area staked out along the shoreline, where Plovers (I think) nest, and they have signs telling people not to disturb that area. (I think most people are respectful of that.) Among several birds that are on my "hope to photograph some day" list, the Wood Duck is one of them! I have seen fleeting glimpses of them, in the distance, on the water, but they have eluded me. (Owls, any type, are on my list too!)

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    1. Well, you will have to make a little trip to southern Ontario, where I could show you both!

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  31. It is a beautiful gift for you, I am sure. thanks for all the beautiful photos.

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  32. ...David, you have a lovely collection!

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  33. beautiful artwork in both books and sculptures. :)

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  34. I, too, wish I still had all the cards I collected as a child, many of them from older members of the family. I learnt a lot of information from those cards :)

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    1. There are doubtless others having the same thought, Margaret.

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  35. That was a lovely gift. What a pity some cards are missing.

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    1. I am hoping that someone reading this post might have one of the missing numbers sitting in a drawer somewhere, unwanted, and in that way I might be able to acquire them. A faint hope, I know, but it's possible.

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  36. What a stroke of luck it was that a friend found those fabulous cards for you, David. I wonder if you could find those missing cards through social media if you know anyone who is adept at use of such devices? I see that a full 'spring birds' set was on Ebay a month back for USD 43.99!

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  37. Me encantó ver tu colección de pájaros. Creo que yo tuve alguna de mariposas y otros insectos. Abrazos.

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  38. You have a beautiful collection of cards and wooden birds. The ones you mention about the nature of cigarette cards must be wonderful, it would be nice to find them.
    Very interesting this way of seeing art and knowledge.
    A hug.

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  39. I enjoyed reading, thank you for sharing. There are fantastic captures.

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  40. A perfect and thoughtful gift for you!

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  41. What a remarkable find, David. Your friend knows you well. What a lovely gift.

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  42. Wow how lucky to have a friend that thought of you when they saw the cards. It would be great if you could replace the missing cards. I hope all is well. Take care Diane

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  43. Hi David. When you get a chance, can you please look at some Canada Goose photos I took? One had a white speckled head, so I was hoping you could leave a comment explaining what's going on with that. Also, I spotted that dapper little fellow we both like (aka the male Hooded Merganser) and posted a few photos of the couple. And a Bald Eagle! (What a thrill that was!) Anyway, thank you for sharing your knowledge about birds.

    The second photo in this post shows the speckled head profile:

    https://annescreativecornucopia.blogspot.com/2022/01/canada-goose-white-speckled-head.html

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  44. Hello David,:=) A thoughtful gift from your friend, and I hope that you somehow manage to acquire the missing cards. I'm impressed by the beautiful and accurate coloured drawings by Allen Brooks.

    I haven't been doing much blogging, as the weather is warm during the day so I'm outdoors much of the time, as I believe the weather forecast for next week is rain.I'm sorry for my delayed visit, but it's always a pleasure.

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    1. Far better to be outside, Sonjia. Enjoy it as much as you can. Blogs will always be here when you come back inside.

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  45. I agree with those who previously commented, David, that your friend was indeed thoughtful. I found the original cost amazing for this 50-card set. It was also interesting to see the wooden representations of the card images.

    Thanks for the recent comment on my clock museum post. Perhaps the second son's wife will change her mind and the grandfather clock will find a home within the family.

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  46. Eso es una auténtica joya, que suerte poder tener esas tarjetas. Audubon es un grande!!! David un fuerte abrazo desde el norte de España.

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  47. That was so nice of your friend to gift these to you. A treasure for sure.

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  48. You have such a thoughtful friend! I love how you displayed the cards with matching decoys. Very well done post!

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  49. What a wonderful find, those cards; even if some are missing. Thought of you yesterday when a friend and I were out walking by a lake that has quite a bit of marshy land. We spotted interesting nests that we thought were for Heron's, and she got some good pictures of some of the birds, even a few in flight. Argh, but we also saw an alligator which had me nervous. There were 3 small ducks. We assumed them to be baby ducks; but we don't know what type they were. I'll have to ask her to send me the duck picture and maybe you can identify it.
    Sandy's Space

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  50. How cool is this! You really have the models for the cards! Wonderful. Yes, he sure would be very proud.

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  51. Hi David - how wonderful your friend picked up this pack of cards for you ... I've always preferred the texts and notes from earlier years, than those of recent years ... I'll always buy older versions of things: they seem to offer educational, yet accessible information ...

    The photos you've given us show a few of the cards, and the illustrations so well - while letting us see some of your beautiful wood-worked/turned and stunningly painted birds ... such a delightful post: thank you.

    Cheers Hilary

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  52. That's a fascinating intro to past efforts at conservation. But are those cards really only 50 years old? They look as if they were designed quite a bit earler.

    I love your little statuettes of birds that you paired with the cards!

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    1. I suspect you are right that the design is of an earlier vintage, but this set was published in 1974.

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  53. Hello David,
    What a great gift from your friend. The cards are beautiful, a great addition to your collection.
    Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, have a happy weekend. PS, thank you for leaving me a comment.

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  54. We should all be so fortunate as to have a friend such as yours! What a thoughtful act.

    The card set is really interesting. We need to put more effort in attracting young people to birding and especially to the importance of conservation.

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  55. How nice that your friend brought that for you David.
    That's a real friend ;-))
    Nice to see, who knows, maybe you'll get the missing songs.
    Greetings Tinie

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  56. These cards are a real treasure. I love seeing the books and birds that you have. I would spend all my time looking around in that room!

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  57. Hi David,
    It is a great book with beautiful illustrations of al these birds . The wooden ducks are also fantastic!
    Happy weekend,
    Big hug
    Maria

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  58. Somehow some of your posts are showing up in my reading list, but not all. The most recent one with Lily did, this one did not. Good thing I looked back and got some sneak views of your office. You have some lovely decoys and carved birds. Those cards are beautiful too. I agree. Sometimes I think making nature too beautiful only makes people think it is all OK. But then again, who would buy cards with dead wolves? But it might wake them up. Happy weekend. Hugs-Erika

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  59. What beautiful cards, very well illustrated, and how nice they look in your office with the books and your desk "birds"

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  60. The cards are very beautiful ...

    All the best Jan

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  61. Great post! Human greed is destroying the natural world... but it is fighting back. There is such a thing as carrying capacity and we seem to have passed ours.

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  62. Querido David tienes en tus manos un verdadero tesoro, yo desconocía estas cartas. Tus fotos con ellas y las aves de madera son muy educativas e interesantes. Me encanta. Enhorabuena. Un enorme abrazo para ti y para Miriam.

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  63. David, what a beautiful deck! I am a deck collector, mainly for Tarot and Oracle cards, but I've also recently started collecting playing card decks too. I love how you presented each card along with your figurines of birds! Very creative!!! ☺

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  64. Ciekawa "ptasia" kolekcja! Uwielbiam takie gadżety! Kiedy mój starszy syn się wyprowadził, w jego pokoju urządziłam "ptasi" gabinet i tam gromadzę tego rodzaju pamiątki! Pozdrawiam i życzę zdrowia!

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