Report on Enjoying birds as God's creation weekend retreat at Seahouses in July 2007
What an amazing experience!
For anyone reading this and considering whether this is an event for you would like to take part in, sign up now! Why? Well, let me tell you about my own experience.
On Friday evening a group of nine people gathered together at the beach House Hotel in Seahouses. We met our leaders Mark and Dale and proceeded to take part in a Fun Quiz on the Bible, birds and St Cuthbert. I think as a group we did extremely well! It was a great icebreaker as everyone got chatting and had a good laugh.
After our evening meal (extremely good food and hospitality courtesy of Malcolm and Hazel) Mark gave us a very informative slide presentation on what birds we were expected to see. This was an excellent introduction to the birds of this area. Our Friday evening concluded with an inspiring prayer service.
And so to Saturday. The sun was out, blue skies, but there was also a strong wind. The boat company delayed our sailing to the Farne Islands until 12 noon which gave us the opportunity to visit Monk House Pool and a walk in front of Bamburgh Castle. A good selection of birds at both site produced Stonechat, Reed Bunting and a
Black- tailed Godwit in full summer plumage.
The journey to and around the Farne Islands was a great adventure. I am assured that this was like no other the group leaders had been on. It was like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean, but don?t let that put you off! We all got soaked, hung on for dear life, said a few prayers to the Almighty and eventually landed on Inner Farne.
Inner Farne was wonderful. There were birds everywhere! Puffins, Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns plus Shags to name but a few. They were so close, a photographer?s and birdwatcher?s dream. My personal highlight was a life first for me ? a majestic dark phase Arctic Skua that appeared on two occasions as we ?rode the waves?.
On returning to our hotel and drying off, we met again to reflect on bible passages that showed how much we could learn about God and each other from the Bible?s references to birds. This gave us a great opportunity to share thoughts and insights within the group. Our evening meal was followed by a memorable and reflective evening prayer that took place on the beach at Seahouses as the sun set over Bamburgh and Holy Island. Treasured moments.
Sunday morning saw us out bright and early visiting Monk House Pool. Again, we saw a good variety of birds. A highlight of this visit was when Mark shouted ?Cuckoo?! We were all pleased to see a male Cuckoo gliding across the dunes and settling in a tree a few hundred meters away.
After breakfast we visited Beadnell Bay and the Long Nanny Reserve tern colony. On arriving we realised that there was a half marathon taking place in the vicinity and we needed to cross the path of several hundred runners in order to get to where we wanted to go! Somehow we did, and when we got to the tern colony the warden told us the story about the Little and Arctic Terns that breed there. It was fascinating being able to compare the terns at close quarters. Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Curlew and a selection of gulls were nearby on the beach. Again, a fascinating and enjoyable visit.
On returning to our hotel we did our final list count for the weekend which added up to an impressive 62 species seen plus a further 5 heard. We then shared a beautiful liturgy and Agape meal before saying our goodbyes and thanking each other for our experience together.
So, there is the outline of the weekend.
Our group were a great mixture of people. We shared a lot about birds, we shared a lot about our faith story, we shared our prayer, we shared a lot about ourselves. We also laughed a lot! This was a prominent feature of our time together. It was a great privilege to be part of such a unique experience. I think for all of us the things we shared and the birds that we saw emphasised very powerfully that we are stewards of God?s beautiful creation and therefore have a responsibility to look after it to the best of our ability.
I am sure that everyone who had this experience will always remember it. I can fully recommend it to anyone who considers taking part in the future.