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‘Ornitheologists’ flock together

by Pat Ashworth

YELLOW-BROWED warblers blown off course to Siberia could be among the sights to gladden the hearts of a unique group of bird-watchers this autumn.

The Revd Adrian Hughes, Vicar of Belford and Lucker, and Mark Winter, a Baptist who runs Birdwatch Northumbria, have joined forces to pioneer a weekend of bird-watching and Christian worship in November.

The organisers promise a full programme of guided birdwatching walks; presentations on birds and their God-given significance; and times of devotion and worship celebrating God’s creativity.

Bird-watching requires stillness and attentiveness and thus is like a platform for prayer, says Mr Hughes, who has been ministering in Northumberland for 18 years. "We’re encountering a huge number of people who are fascinated by birdwatching as their window on the created order," he said on Tuesday.

"It’s part of the long-standing tradition in this part of the world, and comes from our Celtic and Irish saints, like Cuthbert and Aidan, whose affinity to the created order arose out of their relationship with God."

"Ornitheology" is the word coined for it by the Revd Dr John Stott, an Evangelical statesman and avid birdwatcher, whose recently published book, The Birds Our Teachers, contains his own photographs.

Worship during the weekend, 5-7 November, will include quiet meditation, leading to prayer and adoration, Mr Hughes said.

Holy Island (Lindisfarne) is one of the most famous sites on the east coast for bird-watching, attracting thousands of rare migrant birds in late autumn.

The island’s sycamore trees become a refuge for the Yellow-Browed Warbler, Pallas’s Warbler and the Dusky Warbler; and the shores are home to the Pale-Bellied Brent Goose on its annual flight from Spitzbergen.

"We have all our regular migrants there and some unusual divers and grebes might be arriving. It’s just fabulous," said Mr Hughes, who claims he originally needed binoculars to spot his parishioners in the tiny Cheviot parishes to which he was first assigned.


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