A Place to Rear your Young

I live on the shores of Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland. It is a nature reserve for wildlife. Many species of birds migrate here.

The Brent geese come here from Northern Canada in September every year. They come in thousands. I heard their call in the distance on the sixth of September while I was out for a walk. I looked up and saw a chevron of Brent Geese making their way towards the Lough. The birds have flown thousands of miles from distance shores to get to these feeding grounds on Strangford Lough.

They look like ducks when they arrive. After feeding all winter on eelgrass they become fat. By May they look like geese as they waddle on the banks of a drinking stream . They have strengthened themselves for the return journey to have their young in Canada. I am filled with wonder as I consider the rhythm of their lives. They stay together feeding and flying. There is safety in numbers. They go for miles to find safe places to feed and return to Canada where there are no enemies, to rear their young.

Swallows arrive here in May. They return to nests they have occupied year after year in our barn. They spend the next months feeding their young, flying back and forth from the nest ten thousand times catching insects. Sometimes I have to frighten away starlings that sit on the top of the barn waiting to rob the swallow’s young from the nest below. After one batch of young are reared the adult birds start over again and rear another nest of young. They keep feeding young till September comes. They gather on the local electric wires with their young and fly off to Africa to spend the winter.

Terns arrive in April to a small island off Strangford. Hundreds of them nest and rear their young. Their familiar noisy screeching call welcomes the visitor to the Strangford ferry, which connects with Portaferry on the other side of the Lough. Even though the island is only a few yards from the shore the terns are safe. No one is allowed to go to the island to disturb the nesting birds.

The words of God tells me from Jeremiah to look for the ancient pathways to find rest for my soul and to learn from the birds of the air.

“This is what the Lord says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’”
‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭6:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬
“Even the stork that flies across the sky knows the time of her migration, as do the turtledove, the swallow, and the crane. They all return at the proper time each year. But not my people! They do not know the Lord’s laws.”
‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭8:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Jesus said to look a the birds. I am learning from the birds. These small creatures do gigantic feats; they travel thousands of miles from here to another continent on the wing. They arrive at he right time and leave at the right time. It is so important to them to be in a safe place and where there is provision to rear their young. I look at just a few of the species of birds in my area that follow ancient pathways for generations.

God our Father who is the Lord of all creation, who made the heavens and the earth has given us guidelines though His Word how to live. Through reading His Word for many years God has guided me in my life. If one is willing to seek first the Kingdom of God, to seek God, submit to God, you will find rest for your soul. I have looked for the ancient pathways to find rest for my soul.

God has been faithful to lead me to a town during the war in Northern Ireland where it was safe to rear my children. After the troubles He led our family to another town where there were schools and clubs suitable for my growing teenage family. He has led my husband and I to a quiet place beside still waters after all our children have flown the nest. We have found rest for our souls here.

The shores of Strangford Lough are dotted with ancient ruins of monasteries and Christian settlements. St Patrick is believed to have come by boat to this area and sailed up The River Quoile. It is said a local landowner gave him a barn to start his Christian work among the people of Ireland. The rivers and Lough would have been full of fish giving provision to the visitors. Perhaps we are living on the land where some of these ancient settlers lived.

It certainly is a spectacular area to live. The full harvest moon rose high in the sky soon after the sun set in the west, a few nights ago. A vista of pale orange, yellow, grey and blue outlined the hills and valleys of Co Down. Our soul is continuing to be healed.

I thoroughly recommend you dear reader to seek God with all your heart and you will find him. I sought the Lord and he answered me and has been faithful to guide me all these forty odd years. I have just finished a book about how God has helped me in my life. It will be published soon. Please contact me if you would like a copy.





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The Sandwich Tern Arrive.

I was excited to see Sandwich terns today on Swan Island. It is rock outcrop a few yards from Strangford harbour. They are on time! Cold winds are easing and the days are warmer and have longer hours of daylight. Isn’t it wonderful that these birds fly thousands of miles from southern parts of Europe and America to rear their young. We are privileged to have them visit. Thousands of travelers on the Strangford ferry will get to see these terns up close. The birds are safe on the island out of reach from any enemies, but near enough for us to enjoy them.

There are many pairs in the colony that will nest and rear their young on the small island. They are very noisy. They rise up into the air together, screech and fly off to feed. They catch small fish on the surface of the water. Perhaps the same flock of terns return year after year.

The Strangford ferry is a vantage point to see the terns. Some of the birds stand on the end of the gangway on the ferry as it crosses the Lough. They aren’t shy of humans.

When I arrived home I heard Bird Song as the evening sun was setting. I recognized the blackbird’s, robin’s and starling’s call in the chorus. Only a few come to the bird table in the morning. They must be off looking for mates and making their nests in preparation to rear their young. It is safe now to start building. A week ago there was snow on the ground and many birds were feeding at the bird table.

The daffodils are sprouting yellow trumpets at last. They were held back by cold temperatures. What a welcome sight of new green shoots and yellow flowers swaying in the breeze, another sign that spring has sprung.

God’s glory is seen in his creation. Who tells the tern to leave the warm climes to come north to the best conditions to rear their young? Who causes the grass, flowers and trees to bud and blossom? Who causes the lambs to be born just when it is warm enough for them to survive.

“For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭61:11‬. NIV

The Brent Geese have Left.

In the last week the Brent Geese have left for Canada. Isn’t it amazing the timing in nature. These birds have been migrating since creation. How marvellous our creator is.

“Then God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.” So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply. Let the fish fill the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.” And evening passed and morning came, marking the fifth day.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭1:20-23‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Many centuries ago before man has cultivated the land people living along the shores of Strangford Lough would have welcomed the arrival of the geese.  Perhaps there could have been a source of food. There are many historical Christian settlements along the Lough, Greyabbey, Nendrum and Movilla.
Nowadays the Brent geese are protected.

When the Brent arrive on the Strangford Lough shores in September, they look like ducks. They have flown across the Atlantic from Northern Canada, a journey of two thousand miles. They spend the next eight months in Ireland. They feed on eel grass, which grows on the intertidal shore especially where fresh water meets the salt water of the sea. There are two such areas on the shore near where I live. I am privileged to watch the birds close up.

For the last month groups of geese gather near my home to feed. I can hear their guttural calling when they arrive. They are fattening up for their flight across the ocean. They now look like geese. They waddle from where they are feeding to the shore and float away when they are disturbed. They conserve energy at this stage only flying off when in danger. They can be approached up close to get a picture. When they do take flight they travel very fast just above the level of the water and disappear into the distance.

The name Brent means charcoal in Norse. Their feather colours are dark on the neck and wings. Their wing tips and underbelly are white. When the sun shines the light highlights the white feathers, making the birds look regal with the black and white contrast.

I thought the same geese return in the spring. The Irish Brent Research Group tells me the parents remain with the young for fifteen months before the fledglings are strong to make the long journey to feeding grounds along the shores of Ireland. They stay home with their young. This reminds me that even the birds follow the truth in the scripture,
“He gently leads those who are with young.” Isaiah 40 v 11.

“The migrating geese leaving en mass signify a powerful force in nature.” quote from Naomi Hart, artist. They know when the time is right. Perhaps there is a strong wind blowing that helps their journey north. The desire to leave and return are part of the bird’s life cycle. I am learning from the birds.

“Look at the birds of the air, for they don’t sow, neither do thy reap.”  Matthew 6 v 26.    I have learnt so much by looking at the birds.

When I travel to Toronto, Canada the flight from Dublin is seven hours. The journey home is only five hours. Why? There was a strong tail wind behind the plane helping it along. Similarly I believe the strong winds help the birds migrate.

Perhaps by looking at the birds St Brendan was inspired to make a boat to travel north into the Atlantic on a path of discovery. Swans and Geese head north into the horizon where the human naked eye can see no land. “But there must be some place out there for the birds to land,” he may have thought?

Brendan and I often go to far off nations around May and September.  Like the birds we know when it is time to fly.