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.

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VIDEO: Young Swans Meeting

I often get inspiration from bird watching.  Jesus told us to “Look at the birds of the air.”

I was pleasantly surprised on Sunday evening near dusk.  I was returning home along the River Quoile when I noticed a gathering of swans in a bend of the river.  I stopped the car and scrambled out to investigate.  I had never seen such a large flock of swans there before.

Young adult swans were having a evening together.  Circling, resting, washing, dipping, sailing, hissing, eating, cleaning, chirping, doing things swans do.  Apparently at these get togethers the young adults chose life partners and start a family together the next spring.

The male and female swans mate for life.  About eight eggs are laid and hatched.  In the Downpatrick area I have seen families of swans up to seven fully reared young.  At about a year the cygnets leave the parents and join the flock of other single swans.  When the swans are four years old they are mature to pair off and make a nest of their own.  They have to find a new territory to rear their young in safety.

It was timely for me to come upon this scene.  My daughter is leaving home to travel to Canada this week.  Another son will leave soon.

Seeing the young swans together reminded me that it is the natural process of life for young to leave their parents and meet other young people of their age.  My grown children will start out in their lives and meet his or her life partner and start a family of their own.