The Word on the Week

The Great Skua

The Great Skua                     Word on the Week                          8th June 2019.

While on a bird-watching expedition last Wednesday to Loop Head in Co Clare a solitary Great Skua flew past heading for Blasket Island.    It was undisturbed by the presence of another big bird which had landed at Doonbeg some 6 miles away and with whom it shares some characteristics.

It is the size of the Herring Gull but much stockier built.   The plumage is largely brown with rustier underparts and white feathers across the base of the primaries.   It is piratical in behaviour, chasing other birds until they disgorge their prey which it then catches often in mid-air.   It wouldn’t be the favourite bird of the colony!

The cliffs are terraced affording nesting sites for legions of Guillemots and Razorbills while below were the dried seaweed nests of Shags and Cormorants.   Kittiwakes screeched as they fussed around their whitewashed nests, occupying the same ledges as their forebears.   Fulmars, of the Albatross family, glide effortlessly in the onshore breeze, landing amid sustained chatter as they preside over their solitary egg.

In the distance a flock of Black Guillemots bobbed on the surface while some dived to bring up their lunch.   They were accompanied by a small school of Dolphin indicating the presence of a shoal of fish.    In the distance a line of Gannets (the fishermen called them a string of pearls) gleamed white in the sunlight as they headed for their nesting sites on the Skelligs to the South.

There is an order and a beauty in nature which not only creates but also sustains wild life.    Each specie has its allotted nesting site and its food supply in the sea nearby.    It would be easy to worship these places and become a ‘birdman’ one sold out on the creation but that would be to confuse the sign with what it signifies.    Creation is the sign.   It has a Creator.    Those who believe or have been radicalised at school into believing that life came from non-life (i.e. evolution), have difficulty in seeing past nature.    We see it as the signpost pointing to God.

All the glories of the physical world serve this one purpose – to remind us of and to point us to the glory of God (Exodus Chapter 20 verse 3).   The natural world is not the thing we are to live for.   How sad when a person looks for what cannot be found in what cannot deliver.   They look to the sign mistaking it for the substance.  

“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth!   For I am God, and there is no other.”   (Isaiah Chapter 45 verse 22)

The Psalmist discovered this (Chapter 73 verses 24/26): –

You guide me with your counsel,

and afterward you will receive me to glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you?

And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.