Report on Even Sparrows weekend, 6-8 November 2015

If you had told me that in a November weekend of predominantly howling gales and torrential rain I would see 57 species and hardly notice the weather, I would not have believed you! That is a mark of the passion and enthusiasm which Mark Winter shared with 5 of us on a recent weekend bird-watching and prayer on Holy Island, Lindisfarne, near the Scottish border. We walked this beautiful small island, over the dunes, and along the seashore, stood alongside a modern statue of Lindisfarne’s founding father, St.Aidan, craning our necks looking up into a nearby tree. At Emmanuel Head, we looked down to the nearby shore and were mesmerised to see a very welcome pair of Snow Buntings. As well as the island's Brent Geese, our bird sightings included Golden and Grey Plover (noting their intricate patterns of black and white back feathers), Bar-tailed Godwits, Cormorants, Shags, Curlew pecking in the damp fields, migrating blackbirds, and many, many more.

And all in 2 days! It helped that we were all well-equipped with weather-wear, but were still glad to return to the very comfortable Open Gate Retreat House for wonderful food and time to reflect in simple worship times together. 

I was particularly struck by the fact that for the six of us, the birds came first and we were very definitely second. We were privileged to look in on moments of their lives, and for me this encourages a sense of proportion in relation to my own and the opportunity to reflect on my continued wonder and questions about the Source of this continually surprising aspect of nature and creation. I would recommend such a weekend to anyone looking at the Even Sparrows website, whether of belief or none. There is a mystery in all this and it was a privilege to be part of something which goes on all the time, whether we humans are there or not.

Caroline Brownlie, Cambridge

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