May 6 2015

Gone to the Birds

_DSC9845I guess I’m finally going to have to admit it.  I’ve become a birder.  I never thought that would happen but the evidence is overwhelming.  In recent months I’ve spent over $100 on bird books,  attended three programs on birds, and spent a small fortune on bird seed and other birding supplies.  I’m currently reading a fascinating book on bird language called What the Robin Knows by Jon Young.  I’ve started keeping my long lens in the car so that if I come across a good opportunity to photograph a bird I’ll be ready.  I’ve even been listening to recordings of bird sounds so I can better identify the birds I’m hearing around me.  I haven’t reached the obsessed stage yet but I’m afraid it’s coming.

_DSC9904I’ve always liked birds.  Don’t most people? I’ve enjoyed taking pictures of them for a number of years.    Yes, I’ve liked birds for a long time but it wasn’t until I moved back to western Kentucky a couple of years ago that I really started getting interested in them.  Where I now reside is by anyone’s definition a birder’s paradise.  It is located on a major flyway and has an abundance of remarkable habitat that draws many birds to the area.  John James Audubon lived here long ago and the area no doubt contributed to his own passion for birds.  A state park that bears his name is located just a mile from my home and it has a plethora of bird species year round.

_DSC9807Having so many species of birds at my back door (literally) has sparked my interest in birds.  I’m still not very good at identifying a good many species and I find distinguishing bird calls to be incredibly difficult and frustrating.  Still, I intend to work on both disciplines and hopefully will make improvements in the coming months.  I have a feeling I’ll never be that good at it but I guess I’m finally ready to officially join the ranks of birders.

_DSC0071Jesus once encouraged his disciples to “look at the birds of the air.” (Mt. 6:26)   Since it is estimated that there are around 10,000 species of birds that may take a while.  He also told a group “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” (Mt. 10:29)  Both biblical passages remind me that we can, in fact, learn much from “the birds of the air.”  The late theologian and preacher John Stott has a wonderful book called The Birds: Our Teachers.  If you are interested in learning spiritual principles derived from observing birds I highly recommend this book.  Perhaps if I pay careful attention I might learn a few lessons as well.

O.k., I feel better getting that off my chest.  Birders of the world (all 22 million of you) take note; you have added one more member to your tribe.  I hope you will accept me and be patient with me.  I have a lot to learn!


(I took the images shown above–northern cardinal, rose-breasted grosbeak, goldfinch and prothonotary warbler over the past week at my home and at Henderson Sloughs WMA.

Mar 17 2010

Learning From Birds

raven 380“Look at the birds…”  (Matthew 6:26)

I’m not a birder.  I like looking at, feeding and photographing birds but I confess I have trouble remembering their names and distinguishing their calls.  That’s why it may surprise you to learn that the two books I’ve been reading this week are about birds.  I just finished reading Stacey O’Brien’s book, Wesley the Owl.  It’s a wonderful story about the barn owl she kept in her home for nineteen years.  The other book is Bernd Heinrich’s The Mind of the Raven.  Heinrich is an expert on ravens and explores the question of raven intelligence in this fascinating book.

Both writers spend considerable time talking about lessons they have learned by studying and observing the birds in their lives.  They believe that we have a lot to learn from birds.  The great Reformer, Martin Luther, apparently thought so too.  Back in the 16th century he wrote that he felt God “is making the birds our schoolmasters and teachers.”  He added, “We have as many teachers and preachers as there are little birds in the air.”

Burrowing OwlFrom Wesley Stacey O’Brien learned “the Way of the Owl.”  She also indicates that this incredible barn owl enabled her to connect with God again.  Bernd believes ravens are very intelligent creatures and that we can learn much from them.

John Stott, a highly respected Christian theologian,  once wrote, “Many Christians have a good doctrine of redemption, but need a better doctrine of creation.  We ought to pursue at least one aspect of natural history.”   Stott himself chose to focus on birds and has published a book called The Birds Our Teachers.  He, too, believes that there is much we can learn from the birds of the air.

I guess I need to start paying more attention to birds.  It would appear to be the wise thing to do.  Wise as an owl…


(The raven image above was taken in Yellowstone last month.  The burrowing owl was photographed in southern Florida.)