Of Stockton and flying finches…

Stockton parish church

I’ve just started a term-time placement at Stockton Parish Church, with the vicar Alan Farish. I am absolutely delighted to be here because this is a church which is growing, from unpromising circumstances.

Alan had been the vicar at nearby Eaglescliffe, and had acquired a key role in finding leaders for other churches in the area. One of these was Stockton Parish Church – a large building in danger of closure unless something drastic happened. One day Alan was going into Stockton to get a watch battery or something similar, and as he passed the Parish Church he felt the Lord telling him that he was the one who should be the next vicar there. So he went back to Eaglescliffe, tendered his resignation immediately, and started at Stockton soon after.

Two years later the congregation has grown to around 100 on a Sunday, with an additional thriving midweek congregation as well. There’s an active Healing on the Streets team (which I was a part of in spring and early summer) – and a general desire to seek the Lord’s guidance in everything. It is an exciting place to be for a couple of terms.

On Saturday, I went on an unashamed tw*tch to Hartlepool Headland, to see a woodchat shrike – but what amazed me was what else was happening amongst the birds there. It’s the time of the autumn migration, as flocks of birds fly in from across the North Sea. As it had been stormy overnight, the birds were tending to flop onto the first bit of greenery they reached. Hence, the headland was host to flocks of chaffinches, siskins and redwings, and small numbers of others like bramblings, redpolls and blackcaps, all of which were newly arriving.

Goldcrest. Photo by Jaybee.

There were also goldcrests – not normally the easiest birds to see as they prefer the tops of conifers, but after their journey they weren’t being fussy. That they could have made the journey at all astonishes me: they are 6g in weight (less than a quarter of an ounce), but they managed to fly the 300 or so miles overnight through bad weather. For such a tiny bird that seems to be a staggering feat of endurance. Nevertheless, small flocks appeared all along the Durham coast on each of the last few days, having completed the same journey.

The woodchat shrike showed well, favouring a small patch of parkland opposite a chip shop. It’s been very obliging, hanging around for more than a fortnight.

Finally, a couple of recent photos of Durham during one atmospheric evening…

The Cathedral at sunset

Durham Cathedral, just after sunset…

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