... in a new hobby

Published on 25 Jan 2020
A tiny bird with a gold streak at the top of its head

I have a new hobby. I don't think I am a 'bird watcher' in the sense that I don't particularly mind which type of bird I'm looking at, although I've less interest in a feral pigeon or gull than a robin or blackbird. I don't tick them off a list either. But I've begun to enjoy watching out for birds on my daily walks, and have hit upon a particular aspect that has brought me some spiritual discovery too. 

Near where I live there are some densely wooded areas, thickets of young hazel trees, another area of oaks and other deciduous trees. One day I was standing by the oak tree looking at something else when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a tiny movement, almost impossible to discern, and realised there was a goldcrest in the tree. Goldcrests, along with their rarer cousins the firecrest, are Europe's smallest bird. They are difficult to spot because, as I soon realised, they prefer the dense branches of some trees, and due to their extremely small size (4.5–7.0 g) they are very light, so when they land on a tiny branch, the movement is difficult to spot. I was hoping to take a photo of one but so far have not managed to do so, because they move so fast. 

Instead, a few times a week, I go down to the thicket of hazel trees, make my way between the trees to find a little space to stand, and I wait. Only when I stand still for a while in silence will I spot one. They are shy, so will fly off if you make a sound or sudden movement, and in any case, if you're moving about you can't see them or hear them. Usually I will see a goldcrest if I do this, but if I don't, some other small birds (long-tailed tits, great tits, blue tits) will inevitably appear, often in a flock, or I will see a wren or a robin. 

The sensation produced from standing still in a thicket on a winter's day is quite peculiar. I think the stillness is prayerful. I feel like I'm really waiting for a sign of God's presence in the world in waiting for those tiny birds, and he's not going to let me see them until I've stopped long enough from the busyness of my life. 

Of course, you hope no one is passing and thinks you're a lunatic, standing in the middle of a thicket, but I don't mind seeming a bit eccentric. God is waiting for us in the stillness, we just need to give him enough of our time that we can sense his presence. I was reading about goldcrests and due to their crowns they have the nick name of 'king', so I am in fact, waiting for the king!