I have two more subjects for you. There is a Green Woodpecker's nest in the trunk of an apple tree close by and a Moorhen's nest on the little pond just over there. As we pass the pond on our way to the keeper's cottage, we will do the Woodpecker's first as the time is getting on. This is another case where two views will be useful. One showing the tree taken from a distance where the entrance hole to the nest will be very small on the plate. Then you can get nearer and show this on a much larger scale. Here is the tree. Look how neatly the hole has been finished off. It might almost have been sand-papered round the edge. And remember the bird has done that with her beak. A passage has been hollowed out first horizontally towards the heart of the tree and then downwards for about ten or twelve inches below the entrance, and at the lower part of this, which has been made a little larger than the passage itself, the five to seven glossy white eggs are laid. The only " nest" consists of some of the particles of wood chipped off by the bird in boring the hole. Very often after the bird has gone to all this trouble the hole is appropriated by the Starling, which carries some straw and other materials into the hole, causing the rightful owner to give it up. Sometimes this is not permitted without a struggle, but the Starling generally comes off the victor. When the nesting hole is undisturbed it is often used by the Woodpecker for several seasons in succession. The Woodpecker has what is called a " zygodactyl" foot. It has two toes in front and two of equal length behind, and is eminently suitable for climbing. It is very interesting to watch the bird running in a spiral form up the vertical surface of a tree trunk. This bird has become much commoner of recent years, at any rate in the districts I am acquainted with; its laughing cry is generally supposed to be most frequently heard previous to rain. There are two other species of Woodpeckers in this country, the Greater Spotted and the Lesser Spotted, but both are shy birds, and are more frequently heard than seen. Both are much less common than the Green Woodpecker. But if you are interested and wish to know more about these and many other birds, you must look it up in some standard work like Yarrell's British Birds.
Now make your two exposures and then we will go down to the Moorhen's nest on the edge of the pond. Here is the nest, there are eight eggs, and it is built, as you can see, on some branches just above the surface of the water. I have on several occasions found the nest floating on the surface of the water like a little craft. You can easily see this nest and its contents, but be careful you do not let the camera overbalance and fall into the pond or fall in yourself. It is probably not very deep, but you do not want either your camera or yourself to get a ducking, I am sure.
Now you have only one more unexposed plate, and it must be exposed before we go in to tea, if at all, because the light will not be very good afterwards. Here comes the keeper on his way home to tea. He will make an excellent subject for your last plate. No doubt he will let you take him, as I have already experimented on him myself. But before he comes near I might tell you that a photograph of this sort does a good deal towards making him interested in our work, and he can help us a great deal, in many ways, if he likes. If you get a good negative of him, give him a few prints, and you will find it will amply repay you. This, however, is a little confidential advice.
" Good afternoon, we are just coming up to have a cup of tea with you and the missus, but my young friend here wishes to take your portrait, if you don't mind? Thank you; will you stand just here with your gun over your shoulder and your hand on the gate as if you were just going through. Look round this way, please. There, that is very good." Now focus as quickly as you can, and let me see it is all right before you put the plate in. Remember, it is the last and don't spoil it if you can help it. Yes, you have got him in very nicely. Use your largest stop, say /8, and then half a second will be sufficient exposure. Are you ready now? (Sotto voce : I will speak to him and expose when I raise my hand.) " Now, Mr. Keeper, are you looking pleasant? Thank you, it is done, and I think you had a very pleasant smile on your face, which I hope will please your wife; " but whenever I take a portrait I always like to add: I will send you a print if it comes oat all right.
There, we have made our eighteenth exposure, and if you are not ready for tea, I am. I am sorry I shall not be able to accompany you next week as I shall be busy, but the following week I hope to be free. If you have time drop me a line and let me know how you get on next week by yourself, and also how the exposures made to-day turn out.