We decided to do our count for last weekend’s RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch at lunchtime on Sunday. We could sit at the table and eat our lunch mindfully and watch. The patio doors and windows would give us a full view of the garden. We would see every bird that came and went.
The instruction is to watch for an hour and record the highest number of any species of bird that lands on your patch. We settled and waited – nothing! 15 minutes, 30 minutes… nothing. Then two Wood Pigeons landed on the grass. The start? No. During the second half hour not a bird landed on the lawn, the five feeders, the tree or the hedge.
We should have been counting two days ago when, like a thunderbolt, a Sparrowhawk landed on the bare branch of the tree beside the feeders and the Sparrows and Wood Pigeons scattered! That would have been something to report…but two Wood Pigeons! That was embarrassing.
I realised that I was becoming competitive, as if my whole identity rested on how many birds came into our garden. The RSPB wouldn’t be judging me. In fact they specifically say that they want to know what is happening. What is and isn’t there. That’s the whole point of the survey.
At the celebration of Candlemas earlier in the day, we had read of how Jesus was presented at the Temple according to the law of Moses. That law stated that “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord.” It also stated that Mary and Joseph offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “ a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons.”
The story goes on to tell us of how the old man, Simeon recognises something more in Jesus than his just being a firstborn male in a Jewish family. Among other things, Jesus was to be”a light to lighten the Gentiles”. He also turned out not to be too keen on the buying and selling that took place in the Temple – of doves, or anything else. His identity did not rest on the sacrifice of a pair of pigeons.