Three humbugs, with spashes of yellow and red

About ten days’ ago I bumped into Sue Sellick in Shapwick village: had I seen the grebes from the Decoy Hide on the Heath recently? A pair had nested close to the hide, and their three chicks were still young enough to be hitching rides on their parents’ backs. I hadn’t, but I persuaded Jen that we really should go. They were just outside the hide and very photogenic!

Great crested Grebe at Shapwick Heath with a humbug hitching a ride.

The parents took it in turns to carry their chicks while the other went fishing.

The chicks seemed to have insatiable appetites…

There were three little humbugs in all, though usually only one showed at any one time.

Family portrait on a sunny afternoon…

A few days previously I went to Harnhill, in Cirencester, for three days’ retreat. While there I went on a walk over the fields towards Ampney Crucis – and I heard many yellowhammers singing, for the first time in ages. This may be because I’ve not been in typical yellowhammer habitat in a long time, but it’s a nationally red-listed species, meaning that it is endangered because of a serious recent population decline. I was determined to get a good photo, and having spotted a favourite perch of one pair, I went back a couple of times to do so.

Yellowhammer near Harnhill, Cirencester

At the end of last week, while Jen was still in London, I went up one of the coombs on the edge of the Quantocks to try to see redstarts. I wasn’t particularly hopeful of much more than a distant sighting, and in the lower part of the valley the lack of birdsong didn’t improve my outlook. Halfway up, I happened to turn around, just in time to see a flash of red tail feathers fly across the path. It was indeed a redstart! After hanging around for a while I realised I was close to the nest site, and found myself watching both parents while they were feeding their young. Although my camera ended up malfunctioning, it was my best sighting of redstarts, and my first photographic sequence of the male was at least halfway decent!

Redstart in the Quantocks

Supernatural and natural

Woodie, Anna and their daughters

Earlier this week, Woodie came into college with his wife, Anna, and twin daughters – the first time they’d brought their kids in. This would have been a significant event in itself – but this was more than that. Last year Woodie had shared openly with the community about their going for IVF, and that it hadn’t been working. The community prayed, the miracle that was required happened – and then they had not just one child, but twins!

Last weekend Jenny came up to Durham, and on the Thursday evening we went to the Stockton Community Church. We got chatting to a couple we’ll call Mike and Rebecca. He’s been a Christian for a year, whereas she’s adamant that she isn’t. She’d just been in a serious car accident – her car was a write-off, and she was suffering from considerable pain in her neck, left shoulder and side. Later in the meeting Duncan announced a session for praying for healing: one group for those who were suffering in such a way that they would know immediately if they were healed. Rebecca put her hand up for prayer, and Jenny and another lady, Rachel, prayed for her. I was praying with Mike on the opposite side of the table. We then became aware that something had happened: Rebecca was trying out her arm and saying, “this is really weird. I feel no pain. I don’t understand this and I’ve been healed. I don’t even believe in God but I’ve been healed. This is really weird!”

It’s so exciting when God acts supernaturally like this: it’s good to celebrate these events and remind ourselves of them. Sometimes when we get disappointed, we need to remember to focus on God and his sovereignty. My course at Cranmer ends in a week, and unless something miraculous occurs(!) I will end without a curacy. This is not a situation I’d have chosen! But focussing on God and not allowing oneself to be downhearted is really important.

On Thursday afternoon, I had a quick trip to the Durham coast, to see an unusual scoter from Blackhall Rocks, and to visit the colony of nesting Little Terns at Crimdon Dene. My walk to the terns was interrupted by a bold and showy yellowhammer, and I spent some time trying to get as close as possible with my camera. He’d fly off a short distance, but would still allow me to approach quite close. Here’s the best of the pics.

Yellowhammer at Crimdon Dene