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Work moves forward on “A Field Guide to Fairies.” And for help in the accurate identification of any tiny folk spotted in your home or garden, here is a helpful guide to the differences between the two varieties common to the southeastern United States, where I live: fairies and brownies. It’s too hot here for elves — and in recent decades the rapid development of real estate has eliminated the habitat of gnomes — so what you’re going to spot in this region will be one of the two diminutive creatures illustrated here.
I’ve learned a great deal in the past few weeks, spending time in the field with a sketchbook and a pair of binoculars, staking out gardens and tool sheds and other places favorable for close observation. For example, did you realize that the common house sparrow often serves as a babysitter to the local brownie population? The energetic little bird provides childcare to an infant roughly the size of a pecan, while industrious brownie parents are occupied with their secretive benevolent (or occasionally mischievous) deeds. I spotted a mother sparrow tucking a tiny brownie into a nest under the eaves of my patio. Who could have guessed?