Collingwood's earliest surviving sketch is from 1892, when he was 11 or 12 years old. Birds were already at the forefront of his mind.
His first substantial diary was kept in 1896 and he kept them, gradually more intermittently, for a further decade. In the early years they provide a record of his life through the seasons: hunting in winter, bird watching in spring, a walking or cycling tour in early summer, grouse shooting in August, followed by partridge shooting, deer stalking in Scotland and then, once more, winter hunting.
Due to poor health, he went neither to school nor university, unlike his brothers who went to Winchester and Oxford. Instead Collingwood had tutors at home and for long periods was left to his own resources. His companions at home were pet birds and dogs, and in the countryside, birds in their natural habitats.
Unwanted interruptions to this life occurred when he spent winters with the family on the Riviera. Later this became a place for birds and enjoyment, but in the early years he resented leaving England. Returning to England after one winter in Cannes, he wrote:-
'Left Paris this morning for London where we arrived about 8.30. England looks truly beautiful now that the fruit trees are all in blossom. Why did not they return sooner to this land of beauty?’