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?

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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Boats

I make boats from drift wood I find on the shore near where I live. I have wood I intend to use that is the remains of a rowing boat that was abandoned by its owner. The winter storms buffeted and broke apart the once loved vessel. I enjoy making something new and beautiful, a sailing boat ornament, from that which is discarded or broken. The reclaimed wood is now loved by its new owner as it sits on display in his home.

Today I travelled across Strangford Lough by ferry to see and pray for a friend. While I was waiting at the harbour a beautiful, slim lined yacht passed gracefully through the water. It had two masts that reached skywards. It towered over other yachts parked nearby. The ferry seemed small in comparison to this vehicle. It is a visitor to these parts.

I soon forgot about the beautiful vessel when the ferryman said my ferry card, to pay for the journey, was out of credit. I resisted the temptation to be annoyed. I paid the full price for the journey.

On my return home I wanted to call into a shop to top up my card which gives subsidised journeys on the ferry. I knew I risked not getting on the ferry because of restrictions to the number of vehicles due to Covid. I collected my card and drove to the terminal. The boat was full and the ferryman signalled to me, no more vehicles. I stopped, resigned to wait an half an hour till the ferry returned.

I said a quick prayer, “Please Lord let the ferryman change his mind.” Just as I said that he asked drivers on deck to move forward to make room for another vehicle. He beckoned me forward.

I was super excited at the quick answer to prayer. I was full of joy and thanked the men for their help in making room for me. The ferry launched forward. I saw the sky move and wondered what was happening. Then there was a crash. My car had moved backwards and broke the long pole that is lifted and closed when cars get on and off the ferry. I was disoriented and in shock. In my excitement at getting on the ferry, I forgot to put the handbrake on. No one else saw what happened.

I waited trembling on my journey across the Lough. “What will the staff think when they see the pole crash landed at the back of the boat! I have damaged the ferry boat. That woman I made room for, look what she has done!” Perhaps I should have stayed at home and not bothered going out to help a friend. I remembered a promise from Psalm 121, ” I will watch over your going in and out”. I said another quick prayer, “Help” to God. I waited as other cars started up their engines, preparing to disembark when we got to the other side.

Then one staff member discovered the damage. He called to another. Three or four men gathered to look at the fallen barrier. I waited in trepidation. There was no scolding. No rebuke. In fact they laughed at what had happened. Thankfully they waved me forward and off the boat. They will take care of it. No calling the police to the scene of an accident. Thank God for the ferrymen who helped me today.

I got home. The yacht I saw earlier was parked offshore. It is beautiful. I stopped for a minute to reflect on my adventure. I told Brendan about what happened. He raised his eyes. He asked if my car was damaged? I forgot to look. Later he discovered a dent, the size of my hand just above the back lights. Thankfully the lights weren’t smashed. This new damage is just an addition to the war wounds my car has got since Brendan bought is for me six weeks ago. I have a story to tell about each one. We laughed together.

The Old Heron Waiting


The tide is high
In Strangford Lough

No room to wade on the shoreline
The water is lapping against the wall
I’m safe here on the ledge
My favourite spot
Jutting out of the water
I’ll wait
And keep warm
With my neck
Sunk between my shoulder blades
I’ll wait
Till the water recedes
I’ll wait
To dart at some tiny fish
Lingering in the shallows
I know their hiding places
I’m too old
To fly from my perch
To find another spot
I’ll leave
Those fishing grounds
To the younger ones.
I’ll wait

The Old Heron Waiting



The tide is high
No room to wade on the shoreline
The water is lapping against the wall
I’m safe here on the ledge
My favourite spot
Jutting out of the water
I’ll wait
And keep warm
With my neck
Sunk between my shoulder blades
I’ll wait
Till the water recedes
I’ll wait
To dart at some tiny fish
Lingering in the shallows
I know their hiding places
I’m too old
To fly from my perch
To find another spot
I’ll leave
Those fishing grounds
To the younger ones.
I’ll wait

Happy Birthday Brendan

It was my husband’s seventieth birthday last Saturday. Our children had planned to fly in from Canada, Slovakia, Italy, England and Scotland. Due to the Corona virus lock down the planned celebration with family and friends was cancelled. The children were disappointed not being here with their dad to celebrate this special day.

I was looking forward to the event marked on the calendar. Brendan had been busy for the past few months helping me finish my book. He would awaken at five am and start working. A friend of his called one day. My son told him Dad was resting because he was up at five am writing mum’s book. The friend put his hand to his heart and appeared shaken, saying to me , “Brendan must love you very much.”

It was a glorious sunny day on Brendan’s birthday. Some of our children are staying with us at the moment and working from home. We planned a celebration for Brendan with just a few of us. We hung bunting and balloons around the garden. Abraham prepared a barbeque.

Different kinds of guests dropped by to celebrate with us. Unexpected visitors arrived from Africa; swallows that return every year to nest in the barn. Brent geese flew overhead. They are preparing for their long flight to Canada. They leave Strangford Lough at this time every year. Bees buzzed among the apple and pear blossoms. Starlings flew in and out of the garden wall where they are building their nests.

The open space of our garden where Brendan’s pot plants, shrubs and trees are bursting forth was an ideal venue. Bird song provided the music. All freely given by our Creator God.

Abraham put together a video of each of our children reciting one of Brendan’s poems. I shed a few tears when I saw our children. We had a great celebration despite the circumstances. Happy Birthday Brendan

How Great Thou Art

Praise God for the beautiful display in his creation these recent days in Co Down, Northern Ireland.

Beech trees in gardens and hedgerows are resplendent with leaves of reds, orange,  gold, yellow, and brown.  These trees hold onto their leaves despite wind and rain.

Strangford Lough is full to the brim today.
The Ferry looks imposing on the high water.

To crown a beautiful sunny day we have a full moon tonight.
It’s light is glistening on the waters.
The reflection brightens up my bedroom.

Its good to be alive!

At the end of the day I want to proclaim to God,
How great thou art!
How great thou art.
You are beautiful beyond description.

Too marvellous for words.
I love you Lord!

Spring Visitors

Here in Ireland, a few weeks ago on Easter Sunday the sun was shining and many families and their granny’s and dogs were out for a drive. The two ferry boats between Portaferry and Strangford were racing across The Narrows to help the travellers on their day out; perhaps to visit the festivities at Castle ward, Castlewellan or Newcastle. Others from Strangford come to visit the Aquarium in Portaferry or take a tour of the Ards Peninsula.

We had taken a drive a few days before to pick up our daughter who returned for Easter. The water had filled Strangford Lough as far up as Newtownards. It reached up to the wall that separated the the road from the sea. I looked down through the clear water as we drove along the shore. I marvelled. Where else is there a place where one can drive for miles so close to the shore? I was enjoying the Lord’s provision of leading me beside still waters to restore my soul. We continued to enjoy the Easter weekend of rest.

Easter Monday is memorable for me. Nine years ago I went to the Accident and Emergency in the local town. I was later diagnosed with fourth stage cancer. Praise God I am staying alive after my experience with cancer. I celebrated the victory over the weekend with my family.

On Tuesday the weather changed. Grey clouds rolled in on stormy winds from the east. There was a chill in the air. Warm coats were picked up again. All the visitors had gone. They returned home revived and refreshed from having time out in the country.

I noticed different visitors outside my window. The swallows have arrived for the summer. They nest under the eaves and rear their young. There was no time wasted. A couple of them inspected the nest used last year and began mending it, flying in and out with mud in their beaks.

All the ways of nature have a purpose. The swallows have travelled thousands of miles from Africa. The strong south east winds helped them on their way. The same winds carried the Brent Geese north on their return journey to Canada. I miss their calls as they gathered beneath our garden to drink from the fresh water stream. They have been feeding on the eel grass along Strangford Lough since September. When the Brent Geese arrive they look like ducks. When they leave they have grown fat and look like geese.

I will enjoy the company of the swallows over the summer along with the resident forest and sea birds. The blackbirds, robins, pigeons, pheasants, doves, thrush, starlings and sparrows are busy making nests for their young. The call of the doves in the morning replace the Brent Geese. The other birds join the chorus as the sun begins to rise in the east.

The time of singing of birds has come. Sap is rising through the tree trunks. The leaves burst open and discard their shells. The sticky pollen of the sycamore tree in front of the house is falling all around. Another thing the wind carries to other trees to pollenate them. The pear and apple blossoms are in full bloom waiting for the bees from a neighbor’s hive to collect their nectar. All nature is busy increasing and multiplying.

Yet more visitors arrived below on the Lough. A beautiful tall yacht drew up within my view below. The owners are getting it ready for sailing events over the summer. I watched as it was secured to a buoy. It is the season for yachtsmen to put their vessels back in the water. A crane lifts the boats, which look like big birds, and settle them on the water.

It’s good to be alive and see life abundant all around.  Jesus came to give us life and life abundantly.  He has done that for me.  It’s the devil who comes to rob, steal, kill and destroy.  John 10 v 10

The Shadow of The Lord

 

The house is quiet after the hustle and bustle of family staying for Christmas. I am awake early. I walk into the room across the way. The curtains are open. The sky is dark. No moon. The only light in my view is a flashing green light on a buoy out in the middle of Strangford Lough. It will be a few more hours before the sun rises.

On the lawn below I see my shadow cast by the light in the room. My outline is magnified and covers a large area of the lawn.

I am reminded of verses from scripture that tell me about other shadows.

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,

If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.

He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.”
Psalm 91

God is speaking to me through the image of my shadow on the lawn. He is telling me that even though he is God Almighty his shadow is covering me and I can rest secure under his protection. Even though it may be dark in life circumstances all around, he is with me.

There is a story about Peter in the Acts 5.

“And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people;
Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭5:12, 15-16‬ ‭KJV‬‬

The power of God was with Peter in those days soon after Jesus died and arose from the dead, that even his shadow healed people. Jesus wants us to believe in him in these days so that signs and wonders will follow us so we can help others.

And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch.
Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭5:12, 15-16‬ ‭KJV‬‬

One may feel that other dark shadows cover us, for example fear may overwhelm one and leave one unable to move. The pain of death, grief, betrayal, sickness, and other shadows may come to disable us but take heart. God will help. The word of God tells us 365 times not to be afraid. When God Almighty is with us all the darkness has to flee from the shadow of his wings covering us. Alleluia. We need not fear. Only believe in God, his son Jesus and the Holy Spirit who is hereto help us.

At the airport the bookshop is full of people browsing deciding what book to take down and read on their journey.  There are many books on “How to”, get rich quick, loose weight or meet the right one in your life.  I recommend the simple book of the Bible.  It is full of power, truth, success and life.

God bless you this morning and may this word from The Lord break you free from your darkness today.

Don’t Be Despondent

Strangford Lough waters were like a mirror early today.  The boats, newly parked in the bay below, are still. This morning I read these words from the Bible.
Proverbs 15 v 15
For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.

These words shook me out of feeling heavy laden and down. I looked up the meaning of despondent in the dictionary.  Dejected, sad, depressed, disheartened, lacking hope or courage.
One can be despondent because of unhappiness due to difficulties that you think will not be able to overcome.
I was prone to despondency and despair before I had cancer. I definitely got depressed and it deepened. Situations in my life seemed insurmountable. But God saw me and had mercy on me. He healed me from cancer.
I can’t afford to let myself get down or despondent. This word this morning shook me. I want to have a merry heart and a feast instead. I have so much to be thankful for.
Another scripture says ,
“Do not be downcast. Hope in God for I will yet praise him.”  I began to thank God for all his blessings.  I got washed and dressed. I decided to go out in the beautiful morning and let the cobwebs blow away. The warmth of spring is here. I praise God for life.