Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Our field trips took us to Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, Valentine National Wildlife Refuge, and Smith Falls State Park.
Woodland birding is OK, but there is nothing like being out in the open country looking for birds. I saw a dozen species of sparrows and thirteen species of raptors, including the handsome Ferruginous Hawk pictured below.
“When men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint.” Ecclesiastes 12:4
It was five o’clock in the morning and the temperature was close to zero. I met my friend, and we joined three others for a few hours of owling. It was our goal to call up a few Barred Owls for the Christmas Bird Count taking place in Sioux City, Iowa that day. We parked as close as we could to the area we believed contained barred owls. Then we walked some distance before stopping to play a recording of Barred Owl calls. We had no response at first. Then, after two hours of listening in the pre-dawn, frigid stillness, there were two responses. Two hours; zero degrees; two Barred Owls that we heard, but did not see; a typical morning of owling.
I love listening to bird sounds. Listening to birds singing makes me grateful to God for my sense of hearing. It also causes me to ask to be spared the loss of hearing that often accompanies aging. In today’s passage from Ecclesiastes, the writer admonishes us to, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them.’” Among the signs of aging listed by the writer is the loss of hearing. He woke up when birds were singing, but their songs were faint. Most of us dread growing older, and complain endlessly about the aches and pains that accompany the process. However, there are promises in the Bible specifically directed to older people: “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you” (Isaiah 46:4) and “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” (Job 12:12). Long life also brings with it responsibilities: “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come” (Psalm 71:18). Let us honor those who have come before us, and let us ask God to bless us with His wisdom to share with others.
Thank you Lord, for sustaining me as I grow older. Help me to share your wisdom with those who come after me. Amen.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
or-ni-thol-o-gy, n., the branch of zoology dealing with birds.
Ornithology is the study of birds. The name comes from ornis, the Greek word for bird. An ornithologist is a scientist who studies birds. One of the things I once read about the passion of birding was that a birder should not call himself an ornithologist unless he really is one. Now, I do not have a degree in ornithology. In fact, astronomy is the only science course I took in college. So yesterday when a physician's assistant saw my shirt with the word, ornithology, and asked if I was an ornithologist, I said, "no." Then I told her that I was merely an avid birder with no scientific training, but that I did belong to SDOU, the South Dakota Ornithologists' Union. Nearly every state has a group or association for people interested in ornithology. I am also a member of the IOU (Iowa Ornithologists' Union), and this weekend I am going to attend the fall meeting of the NOU (Nebraska Ornithologists' Union). It's rather nice of the real ornithologists to let me join their unions, don't you think?
Monday, September 21, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
“Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom and spread his wings toward the south?” Job 39:26
Hawks by their very nature are reluctant to cross large bodies of water. During migration they must find land routes between their breeding and wintering grounds. Hawks that nest in Canada are faced with a decision when they reach the shore of Lake Superior. Do they proceed west into Minnesota, or do they head east across southern Ontario? Those that elect to fly along the western shore of the lake are funneled past Duluth, Minnesota and a row of high hills known as Hawk Ridge. Thousands of various types of hawks pass over Hawk Ridge each autumn. Scientists conduct research by capturing and banding some of these birds. Data collected from this research helps to verify migration patterns and population trends. On a brisk September morning my family and I visited Hawk Ridge and toured the banding station. I was allowed to hold a just-banded Sharp-shinned Hawk while one of the naturalists spoke to the assembled crowd. Afterward I walked to the edge of the overlook and released the hawk while cameras recorded the event. Sensing its opportunity for freedom, the bird flew up and away from the crowd for about fifty feet. It then hesitated, as if it were collecting its bearings. Slowly the little hawk banked to the left, gaining altitude. When it straightened its course it disappeared over the ridge, heading due south.
Bill releasing Sharp-shinned Hawk (photo by Marlene Krause)
Reading today’s Bible verse and thinking back on the wonder of the hawk migration in Minnesota, I am still amazed that the birds can find the way to their winter homes each year. How did the hawk I released know which way to turn when it left my hand? The only answer I have to the question, “Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom and spread his wings toward the south?” is a humble, “No.” As Job said, there are “things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:3), and I remember the words of Paul, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20).
Lord, thank you for the wonder of migration and the lessons you teach me as I observe your creation. Amen.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
For a correction to this post,
Friday, September 18, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
For a correction to this post, please see the blog entry for December 5, 2009.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
“Appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.” Psalm 61:7
As I was watching an Osprey catch a fish at a small roadside lake in western Wisconsin, another spectacle was taking place on the lakeshore. When the Osprey first appeared in the sky above the lake, a family of Canada Geese was lounging in the grass at the edge of the water. The instant the male goose saw the Osprey, it was on high alert, its neck outstretched and its eyes fixed on the menacing raptor. Meanwhile, the female goose ushered the six goslings behind her and stood ready to defend her brood should the need arise. The two adult birds maintained this posture until the Osprey caught a fish and flew away. I am sure the geese were not fully aware that an Osprey very rarely takes any prey other than fish. It was apparent to me that the geese were ready to fight to the death in order to protect their young.
Today’s verse is part of a prayer written by David and recorded in the Bible as Psalm 61. David acknowledged that God was his refuge: “I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings” (Psalm 61:4). Then he prayed a prayer of protection for his earthly ruler: “Increase the days of the king’s life, his years for many generations. May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever; appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him” (Psalm 61:6-7). Here we have a glimpse into the character of God. He is love; He is faithfulness. We can ask God for protection for ourselves and others because love and faithfulness are part of God’s very nature. Do you feel weak, vulnerable and unprotected? Then just as the goslings I observed took refuge under the protective wings of their parents, take refuge under the shelter of God’s wings. Receive His protection today.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
"Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness protect me because my hope is in you" Psalm (25:20-21).
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
I saw a large flock of Franklin's Gulls the other day. They have lost the full black heads and red bills of their breeding plumage and are now preparing for the long migration to the Pacific coast of South America where they will spend the winter. Curious about the origin of this bird's name (and quite certain they weren't named for Benjamin Franklin), I discovered they were named after English Explorer, Sir John Franklin. Admiral Franklin is most famous for perishing on an ill-fated 1847 voyage in search of the Northwest Passage through Canada. Earlier in his life Franklin served as Lieutenant Governor of Tasmania in Australia.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Bill in the Badlands
Badlands rock formationBeautiful rock formations are everywhere.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
“Vultures swooped down on the carcasses, but Abram scared them off.” Genesis 15:11 (The Message)
It has been said that humans and vultures are the only creatures who will eat meat that has been dead for a long time. We purchase ours at super markets or restaurants, while vultures secure theirs any way they can. My son, David, learned this when at age 18 he took a mission trip to Tanzania with a Lutheran group. During a break from their service work, they went on an outing to Ngorongoro Crater to see wildlife. At noon they stopped at an overlook to eat the fried chicken lunch packed by their hosts. David was engaged in a lively conversation complete with gesticulations when a large African White-backed Vulture tried to steal the chicken out of his hand. David held tight to the chicken while the vulture’s beak firmly grasped it as well. They struggled for several seconds in a meal-time tug-of-war, the bird flapping its huge wings, and my son pulling hard and trying to shake the creature loose. Finally the vulture relented, and David had his prize, a mangled piece of chicken that had suddenly lost all its appeal. He slowly walked over to the garbage can, realizing he hadn't won much after all.
In today’s Bible passage, Abram laid on an altar the carcasses of a heifer, a goat, a ram, a dove and a young pigeon as a sacrifice to the Lord. At that moment, a group of vultures attempted to rob Abram of his sacrifice. Abram fought off his vultures as fiercely as my son fought his. The important difference is that while my son was forced to throw his fried chicken into the garbage, Abram was successful in keeping his sacrifice from contamination. How about us? How successful are we in keeping our sacrifices to God from contamination? Psalm 51 says of sacrifices, “You do not delight in sacrifice or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” Psalm 51:16-17). God wants us to offer our heart to Him, a heart that is contrite and deeply sorry for our sin. Allow Him to cleanse your heart from all its unrighteousness, and then you can offer your heart to God free of the contamination of sin.
Heavenly Father, I offer my heart to you as a sacrifice. As I confess my sins to you, cleanse me from my unrighteousness. Amen.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Red-tailed Hawk on wooden fence post