I did a quick Internet search to find out whether Kite or Ospreys were mentioned on the bible. They are but rather disappointingly only in the section of Leviticus and Deuteronomy were birds which are uncleaned are discussed. Even then we are left with the difficulty of translation.
June 30, 2009
I had a fascinating days birding on Monday with my friend John. We started off by driving up the Aber valley to a car park which is up to the left of the falls and we then followed a path which led to what is known as Llyn Aber a very small reservoir hidden at the top of the Valley. We were looking for Ring Ouzel which is basically a mountain thrush but we couldn’t find any. However there was plenty of other bird life to keep us happy. A Merlin hunted in the valley while several family parties of Northern Wheatear wondered around. We also had a buzzard trying its hand at hovering over the top of the hills.
It was also great to see lots of Chough some of whom were juveniles. There was at least twenty bird present in the valley and probably more!
After we had taken time in the valley we then drove down to The Spinneys reserve to see what was about on the Menai Straits. There were lots of birds here, it was good to see good numbers of birds in the area especially the large numbers of Goosanders swimming around. There were plenty of Mute Swans on the sea and two escaped Black Swans.
Our final port of call was at the Morfa Madryn reserve at Llanfairfechan. There were good numbers of gulls in the roost. Apart from the usual Herring Gulls, Black-Headed Gulls and Lesser Black Backed Gulls, it was also good to see numbers of Common Gulls appearing. Common Gulls we should note are not all that common especially at this time of year. The highlight here however was this lovely Mediteranean Gull sitting amongst the Black-headed birds.
June 27, 2009
I decided to take a visit to Whixall Moss which is near Whitchurch. I have been told about this place on numerous occasions but have never had the chance to explore it before. The Moss is really three Mosses Fenn’s Moss, Whixall Moss and Bettisfield Moss and they are all Lowland Raised Peat Bogs a very rare place in Britain these days. The main reason for going was that I had been told that it is a good place to see Hobby’s flying, I was only fortunate to have one brief view of a bird but I have since discovered that calm sunny afternoons are best and I was there on an overcast morning! It was also good to see lots of Stonechats, Reed Buntings, and a couple of gorgeous male Yellowhammers.
June 25, 2009
When I was holidaying in Menorca I had the pleasure of seeing a number of vultures. Egyptian Vultures to be precise. We saw these magnificent birds on at least three separate occasionssoring over our heads. Vultures of course have always had a bad press because they eat carrion and other rubbish. In fact I saw a programme on TV the other day that described a vulture as being natures waste disposal unit because of the amount of rubbish they can consume. This probably explains why in the bible they are named amongst the unclean birds. It also explains why most of the biblical references talk about them in a bad light, often they are used by the prophets as a warning against bad behaviour. Of course this is not surprisingly similar to what was said in the section on Birds of Prey.
It seems that in biblical times there were probably three Vulture species, the Griffin Vulture being the most common, Egyptian Vultures were also around as were the massive Lammergeier. The two different translations of the Bible which I looked at both have 8 references to Vultures, confusingly though they have a different set of references. (NB I tend to use the New Revised Standard Version NRSV and the New International Version NIV) This is the problem we first encountered when we considered swifts and swallows. It seems mainly to be an issue about whether the Hebrew should be translated as eagle or vulture. There is no clear hebrew word which can be directly translated as vulture. I think this is due to the lack of biblical birdwatchers. People perhaps had more pressing concerns. I do however think that it is important for us to be aware of these issues all to often we as English speakers read our translations and treat it as if that was the way that the original was written. We forget that things get lost or altered in translation. This is not to say that we cannot trust the bible as God’s word but that we need to take care when reading it.
So now let’s look at the passages which refer to the vulture either in the NRSV or NIV translations of the bible.
Job 15:23 this verse might not have the word vulture in it indeed of the major modern translations only the NIV has the word Vulture. In the verse the wicked man is wandering around and he is either looking for food and crying out where is it as he is about to starve or he is wandering around starving, food for the vulture.
Proverbs 30:17 A proverb about respect for our parents rather a brutal way to deal with a lack of respect I think! How do we deal with this sort of verse do we simply ignore it or do we threaten the kids with it?
Hosea 8:1 The Hebrew hear is uncertain it could be translated eagle as it is in the NIV. This is a prophesy warning people against idolatry.
Micah 1:16 In this verse most translations talk about being as bald as the eagle but in actual fact eagles are not bald but vultures of course are. (The Bald Eagle is seen in the Americas not Israel) The Prophet is lamenting about the failings of Israel and he calls on the people to show their mourning for Israel or more particularly he calls on the people to change their ways so that mourning is not needed.
Habakkuk 1:8 Again this verse could be referring to vultures or eagles most translations go for eagle and I prefer that simply because the eagle is more likely to swoop to devour its prey. An eagle hunts for food and will swoop to take its prey but a vulture mainly eats long dead carrion. A Falcon is actually more likely to swoop so would falcon fit better, not being a Hebrew expert I do not know the answer to this.
Matthew 24:28 and Luke 17:37 are very similar verses, Jesus in both cases is talking about the end times. In particular these verses seem to be a warning to Jesus’ listeners not to go with the crowd. Vultures flock together for food but it is after all only a dead carcass. In Matthew this is slightly more explicit because here Jesus is talking about people rushing to see the son of man. Surely we should be seeking the one who brings life not death.
June 24, 2009
Over the last few weeks particularly while I was away on holiday I was able to see several Birds of Prey or Raptor as birders tend to call them. So I thought it was high time I took a look at the Birds of Prey mention in the bible.
When first searching for Birds of Prey in the bible it becomes clear that they are not necessarily seen as good things probably because of the tendency of these birds to eat meat particularly carrion. This is particularly noted in Genesis 15:11 where Abram drives them away from some carcasses. The propensity of these sorts of birds to eat carrion is also noted in the prophets where Isaiah 18:6 Ezekiel 39:4 and Jeremiah 12:9 all offer the threat that God may allow Bird’s of Prey to eat the corpse of the people who fail to do the will of God in some way. Obviously have your corpse eaten rather than being properly buried is seen to be a real threat. What is clear is that in biblical times the practice was always to give a person a proper and honourable burial.
We should also note that not all Birds of Prey eat carrion so it seems likely that birds such as Kites and Vultures would seem to be the sort of birds we should think of in this situation.
Apart from Kites and Vulture there are other types of Raptor mentioned in the bible. Hawk and Falcons in general are noted as are Ospreys and of course eagles. Owls are also mention on a few occasion’s although technically they are not Bird’s of Prey. In the next few biblical post I will look in more detail at particular sorts of Bird’s of Prey.
This morning I went for a walk around Marford Quarry. The woods were much more active this week than on my previous walk in May. This might have been because of the lack of dogs in the wood and also because the few I met all seemed to be well controlled but it is more likely that the woods had more life in them simply because there were more birds around. I suspect that half the birds I met this morning were juveniles.
Indeed the first birds I saw were a group of young sparrows and a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker with it red cap! It was also good to see young Great Tits, Blue Tits and Coal Tits as well as a good number of Chiffchaffs, I heard at least 4 birds singing and I also found one juvenile bird. The highlight for me however was spotting a group of recently fledged Long Tailed Tits hiding in the back of a bush while the parents went of to feed.
I am however slightly concerned that I did not see any Goldcrests, Nuthatches or Treecreepers.
June 23, 2009
As I left home yesterday morning things did not look very promising at all although the forecast had promised a good day it was drizzling, the sort of rain that seems to soak you without really trying!
Anyway I pickup John Small and drove to Anglesey over the next few hours we picked up 50 or more species of bird. The best site of the day was undoubtedly Penmon Point over looking Puffin Island. The birds hear included Black Guillemots some how it is much nicer seeing them at this picturesque site rather than the industrial landscape of Holyhead harbour.
Thankfully by now the drizzle has stopped and indeed the sun had come out so we decided to head up the Nant Ffrancon Valley on the mainland. The valley follow the river Ogwen from Bethesda to Llyn Ogwen on the A5 road. Fortunately there is another much smaller road which travels on the opposite side of the valley it is single track but has plenty of passing places and also has the advantage of providing lots of good birding is you can pull of the road to Park. Here we seemed to find lots of juvenile bird many of which confused me as they have quite different plumage from there parents often looking much duller. Highlights here were the Dipper, Grey Wagtails and young Pied Flycatchers and Redstarts.
June 19, 2009
One of the things that I did when I began this sabbatical was to surf the web looking Christian Birding websites. There are a few out there all you need to do is to type those two words into a search engine and a number of links will appear, there are even a couple of blogs on a similar theme to this one. However I soon realised that all of them came from a Creationist stand point. That is that they held the view that Creation took place literally in the way that the bible say’s it did i.e. they believe that the world was created in exactly six days by God and that on the seventh day God rested,(they would probably say he!) I do not wish to quarrel with anyone about whether God created the earth, I believe whole heartedly that God is my creator and has created the world, but I do think that the balance of the scientific evidence suggested that Genesis 1 is not an explanation of how the world came into being rather that it tells us more about God and our relationship both the God and the world at large. That is that God is our creator and that God in some way requires us to care for this planet.
I also found one website that argued that not every species we now have on earth could have fitted in the Ark and so this meant that some species had to develop after the Noah Flood. What I found novel was that they were at pains to point out that this in no way could be considered or seen as being evolutionary.
This got me wondering is it possible to be a Christian and an evolutionist? Are the two compatable?
Fortunatley I recently recieve a small booklet in the post from the Bible Society. The booklet is called Rescuing Darwin: God and evolution in Britain today and is available from the Theos Think Tank Website. It comes out of some interesting research on British atitudes to Darwinian Evolution and Christian Faith. I personally have found it very helpful in my own thinking and so I am able to say a bit more confidently that yes I think the evolutionary theory best explains how the world came into being and that this in no way conflicts with my own Christian faith.
This will be a subject I will return to in the future.
June 18, 2009
As I am still catching up with my blogging I thought I would roll this weeks exploits into one. On Monday I set of to pick up my friend John Small and then drove to Anglesey where we visited the reserve at Cemlyn (which was featured on Springwatch last week) It was good to catch up with the Terns that breed there (Sandwich, Common and Arctic.) We also heard and saw several warblers here. We did our usual sea watch but it was very quiet, it was hard even to find a Gannet out at sea. On Anglesey John also took me to cors erddreiniog which is a National Nature Reserve and SSSI. This is a huge Fen are which holds very important insect species. The birds were good here as well with lots of Warblers the highlight being Lesser Redpolls who were chasing each other over the reeds.
On Tuesday Morning I got up and pottered around the house for a while before checking the Internet and discovering that a Royal Tern had been seen on Black Rock Sands Beach nr Porthmadog. So I jump in the car and went off on a twitch! I wish I hadn’t this is the scene that greeted me when I arrive just after 2pm. People had travelled for many hours to get to the beach and there was no sign of the bird! I left after two hours but most of the rest stuck it out well into the evening. I am not sure whether I admire the persistence or think they were mad!
June 17, 2009
You might have been wondering why I have not posted for over a fortnight the reason is simple I have been on holiday with my wife Ruth on the beautiful Island of Menorca. We stayed at the Valentin Son Bou, which unsurprisingly is in the resort of Son Bou on the south side of the of the Island. We choose Son Bou because the long beach backs onto the largest marsh area in Menorca and is therefore ideal for birding! I have to say that we had a wonderful time the hotel was great, and the resort while being very much hotel ville was not to packed.
This was not a birdwatching holiday the intention was simply to have a relaxing time, however we did plan to go out for several walks to explore the island and as we did this we took our bins to look for birds as we went. The fact that we saw forty odd species including 4 lifers for me ( that means the first time I have seen the species) means that I enjoyed what birding we did do.
Son Bou itself produced many good birds I saw my first Tawny Pipit’s, first Purple Heron, and first Blue Rock Thrush here along the beach/marsh area. We also saw Egyptian Vultures and lovely European Bee-eaters here. The Vultures were not my first because my first came when we were on a coach tour of the island. We had stopped at Cheese shop to sample Menorcan Cheese (very nice it was too) when a Vulture flew straight over the coach park! It was an amazing site but sadly not photograph-able. I should add at this point that the other wild life of the area was also very interesting our knowledge of butterflies and dragonflies was tested to the limits and I was attacked by a huge grasshopper! We also were privileged to see wild terrapins and also Herman’s Tortoise.
We decided to be very brave and hired a car for a couple of days, Menorca is very quiet at this time of year and the roads were great to drive on although it did take a few moments to get used to driving on the right hand side of the road. Having a car meant that we could get to several recommended birding sites one of these was S’Albufera es Grau which is a beautiful area for birds. Unfortunately the conditions were really not right here it was to hot and the birds were keeping in the undercover. But we had an enjoyable day especially watching Black Winged Stilt Chicks.
The real birding hightlight of the holiday was actually provided by the Adults Only Bar at the hotel. This was a wonderful quiet space were we were able to sit and have a quiet drink at the end of the day.
On our first night we noticed that one of the speaker was turned off because there was a nest behind it. So we fetched our bins and to our delight realised that a spotted fly catcher was sitting on the nest. Over the next fourteen nights we watched on as four little birds grow up and left the nest. What was equally exciting was to note the on out last night mother and father were setting up an new nest on the next speaker preparing for a new brood.