Bird Watching in Northern Ireland. Guillemots

Jesus said to look at the birds. They don’t sow nor reap yet their Heavenly Father looks after them. I love bird watching. I had plenty of opportunity to study different birds when I lived along the shores of Strangford Lough.

Near where we lived in Portaferry was a favoured nesting place for three couples of Guillemots. These are small sea birds that spend their time at sea until spring. They build their nests in crevices above the water line on the stone wall. The south facing wall received the full warmth of the sun, a comfortable place to get the maximum heat for their vulnerable young. The chicks were hidden from the blast of chilly winds and out of reach from predators.

This particular group of Guillemots became quite tame. They would sit on the wall above their nests unafraid of walkers passing by. They are a feature every spring. One is sure to see these little black birds flying or swimming near their nests. I was able to photograph one couple last year close up from my car. They didn’t fly away even though I was very near them.

Their black feathers flow smoothly back from their pointed black beak. They have bright red legs and a patch of white on each wing. Their feathers look as of they are smoothed with oil. This gives the bird effective movement down underwater to feed on food at the bottom of the Lough.

During the strong winds and storms of February 2020 the shore wall a further few miles along from Portaferry was broken. The road remained closed for several months. The reason for the delay in the repair was because it is a nesting site for a colony of Guillemots. Many pairs make their nests and rear their young safely. There was even less disruption to their nesting and feeding because the road above was closed. Well done to the council who waited till the birds had reared their young before repairing the road.

Last week on a drive north along the Antrim coast we stopped at Glenarm. This village has a small, picturesque harbour with white limestone walls rising from the deep blue water. We walked close and to our delight little black birds flew out from the walls and skimmed along the water away from us. Guillemots were nesting here. It is an ideal nesting site, with crevices between the stones on the south facing walls and small fish swimming below in the water for them to feed on. We watched the birds. It was lovely to see the black and white birds below us before they ventured back to their nests. This harbour is an ideal place for the Guillemots to rear their young.

Seeing the Guillemots reminded me of God’s faithfulness to me when he tells me not to worry.
Matthew 6 v 25 to 27
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Bird’s Nests

I am always encouraged when I watch birds in my garden. Jesus tells us to look at the birds. They don’t sow nor reap yet our Heavenly Father looks after them. We are more important to God than birds so we are encouraged to learn from the birds.
There are swallows nests in the eve of a barn and a swallows nest in a hedge nearby. Psalm 84 says “Even the swallow and the sparrow find a nest near your altar where she can rear her young. “. An altar speaks of a place of prayer. So if one is praying in his home be sure there will be a bird’s nest nearby in the springtime.

I’m fascinated by the energy the birds exert in rearing their young. Firstly they fly here and there to collect material to build a nest. Then the female lays her eggs and hatches her young. The male and female gather food to feed the hungry chicks. The poor parents are exhausted after the young leave the nest. I often felt like that after the summer when my children were home for the summer. I have never seen chicks in a bird’s nest before. This year I had the treat of seeing my first nest of young.

After visiting a friend before lockdown, Jean sent me a picture of a robin’s nest. She had been furloughed from work and was enjoying her garden. The parent birds had found a safe spot under a plastic covering in a shed. Jean wanted to use a table she had stored there. To her delight she found the nest with three chicks in it. She didn’t unsettle the nest but checked it every day till the chicks fledged three weeks later.

She inspected the nest more closely and found small purple pellets at the bottom of the nest. She did some research and it was suggested they acted as insulation and absorbed waste. How clever the robins are. They even know what can be used as good material for their rearing of their young.

My son is home during lockdown. Back in March we had some logs that needed chopped. Each day my son enjoyed a bit of exercise chopping the wood. His dad and he cleared a space in the yard to store the wood for next winter.
One morning in May I noticed a Wagtail flitting in and out of the wood pile. Was he building a nest in the
midst of the newly stacked logs? I never got to check where the nest was.

But I was social distancing at a friend’s farm recently. He said come here I have something to show you. At the back of his modern tractor in between the gear for lifting heavy weights was a nest with three baby wagtails. He told us the parents feed the young when the tractor is not in use. When the tractor is in use the parents follow it to feed the young when the farmer stops. How special is the lengths the birds go to rear their young and overcome obstacles.

I heard a cuckoo recently. It had a clear crisp,call. I was cheered to hear it’s call. They fly in from Africa in April. The female lays her eggs in a wagtails nest or other convenient nest in the meadow. She is lazy. She leaves the rearing of her young to poor little birds that feed one hungry Cuckoo chick after it has pushed the other young out of the nest. The Cuckoos don’t stay too long they fly away in May.

My daughter lives in a street in Belfast . Blackbirds have built a nest in a bush in the hedgerow. She sent me a photo of the nest with young in it. The parent birds fly in and out to feed them. Ruth is keeping her cat in lock down in case she disturbs the birds.

All these three stories of birds has comforted us during this season of isolation. We are looking to the birds as Jesus taught us. They don’t wear masks or are restricted in rearing their young. They continue to survive.


Pheasants Come to Visit.

I was sitting by my bedroom window with my feet up taking a few moments to praise and thank God for the beauty all around.  I have been writing about birds in some of my posts.  I am learning from them each time because Jesus says “Look at the birds.”

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I was pleasantly surprised when some movement at the side of the lawn caught my eye. I watched as a mother pheasant followed by five young, walked along the side of the garden.  There is dead, brown vegetation as well as green grass there.  The five chicks spread out looking for seeds in the mixture of vegetation on the verge of the lawn.  In the photo I hope you can see the hen on the look out, a chick to the left under a bush and another to the right.  One, with coloured feathers like a necklace, ventured further than the others.  He must be a young male.  His coloured feathers were beginning to show.

I enjoyed the scene before me for some minutes.  I wanted a closer look.  I got my binoculars.  The hen stopped, relaxed and began to preen her feathers.   She stretched her wings, ruffled her feathers and scratched.  I could see the pattern on her feathers as she picked through them.  Her overall colour blended well into the background of brown vegetation.  Her chicks investigated the foliage around her.  They had no fear, as their mum was close by.

A farmer is harvesting his crop of wheat over the fence from where we live today.  Beyond the field is a forest.  They must have been disoriented today because of the noise of the farm machinery.  The wheat would be their convenient supply of food.  It is harvested today. They will have to search for seeds left on the ground.

It is true what Jesus said.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (‭Matthew‬ ‭6‬:‭26-27‬ NIV)

God had supplied a whole field of wheat for this family.  I can see the pheasant family are well cared for, how much more will God care for me and my family.  We are more important than the birds of the air.

What are the main things people worry about: health, lack of money, how to look after their children, what to eat, being alone, where to live.  Have faith in God, who promises if we seek him first he will add all things unto us.  I can testify to God’s provision for food, houses, and health for my family of fourteen children.

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (‭Matthew‬ ‭6‬:‭31, 33‬ NIV)

I was pleasantly surprised to see this family of pheasants cross my lawn in the early morning after we returned from holiday.  I watched as they jumped up onto the bank to the left and head back to their nest for a rest after their morning forage.  I will see them again.

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Update, Sunday 20th September, saw family in orchard garden in the afternoon.

Saturday 26th morning at dawn family flew from neighbours garden into ours.  They played about for a while.