Not a ‘birder’

Source: the author

I am not a birder or a twitcher or even a bird watcher.  But I tend to be attentive to my environs.  As I boy took pride in identifying most of the flora on our Saskatchewan farm.  And so, for example, I knew the exact location of the blue, purple, white, and yellow violets in the near pasture. 

About birds?  I enjoyed the melodic  song of the meadowlark and the cry of the killdeer as it lured me away from its nest with its broken wing act.   A chicken hawk often floated in the sky too near the chicken house for my mother’s taste and our barn swallows swooped dangerously low over the prowling nonchalant black cat, its tail pointing directly skyward! 

The kingbirds nesting in the abandoned threshing machine always protested noisily at my approach.  Red wing blackbirds flitted about the cattails in the creek.  But crows and magpies ignored our treeless farm yard finding a habitat in the willows near the small beaver dam in the distant west pasture.  

Here on the shore of Last Mountain Lake in these last three weeks of August the pleasure is to observe through the wide windows of the Jesuit Silton villa cottage the twittering antics of colourful orioles, the pretty yellow warblers, the shy Bohemian waxwing, and the long tailed brown thrasher.  

Because the lakeside cottage is just a few miles north of the Last Mountain Lake Bird Sanctuary evident are many gulls, diving loons and mergansers and an ever present long necked cormorant perched on a rock waving its wings. 

But most spectacular are the pelicans soaring in the sky, skimming the waves, or moving like merchant ships leaving a large V wake in the water as they scoop up nourishment with their long curious bills. 

Just this morning, a wondrous sight:  on the rocks jutting into the lake, a squadron of pelicans perch preening their feathers, awkward looking elegant birds that for centuries have been associated with Jesus feeding us with his own Body and Blood.   (It was believed the pelican pierced its own breast to feed its young with its blood.)

St Thomas Aquinas wrote a Eucharistic hymn, Adoro Te Devote, naming Jesus a pelican in 1264 for the celebration of the first solemn Feast of Corpus Christi in the Latin Church:

Pie Pellicane, Iesu Domine,
Me immundum munda tuo sanguine.
Cuius una stilla salvum facere
Totum mundum quit ab omni scelere.

(Lord Jesus, good Pelican,
wash me clean with your blood,
one drop of which can free
the entire world of all its sins.)

So wonderful to see on August 18, 2021 pelicans calmly resting on the rocks at the shore of Last Mountain Lake near Silton, Saskatchewan! 

Frank Obrigewitsch, SJ, is pastor of St. Ignatius parish in Winnipeg.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 13:59h, 01 September Reply

    Thank you Frank!

  • Stephanie Molloy
    Posted at 02:02h, 02 September Reply

    Forwarding this to my sister, a border! Thanks, Frank.

  • Stephanie Molloy
    Posted at 02:02h, 02 September Reply

    S/b a birder

  • Lorraine Majcen
    Posted at 09:40h, 03 September Reply

    Thank you Fr Frank. I have a fascination with the gift of birds, which has increased as I age. I enjoyed reading the interesting description and information, of your experience with birds. A wonderful creation of God, which I am growing in appreciation for. Thank you so much.

  • Deborah Morrison
    Posted at 16:12h, 05 September Reply

    Ken Mitchell wrote a poem for Jamie as she was leaving. It was based on the pelicans flying over Echo Lake. Your reflection put me in mind of that, and many good memories of Saskatchewan. Thank you for this, and for the hymn.

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