Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Jewel # 58 (April 27, 2010)

To my dear grandchildren

The Busy Hummingbird

It is thrilling to watch this pretty little bird darting about the garden.  It dips its long beak into a flower, then flies backward a short distance before zooming off in another direction.  The hummingbird weighs less than an ounce and sometimes beats its wings two hundred times per second!

Have you ever seen a hummingbird's nest?  The male brings load after load of light material to his mate, and they work together to build the nest and tightly fasten it to the branch.  Then the male flies off to collect silk threads from several spider webs.  He brings these to the nest by flying backward so he will not get tangled in them.  He covers the outside of the nest with these threads to add strength.  When the nest is finished he covers it with moss to camouflage it from enemies.

Hummingbirds are great travelers.  North America is only their summer home.  They migrate in the fall, with the males leaving first and the females and young leaving later.  They fly to Central America, some going by way of Florida and Cuba.  Others take a shortcut across the Gulf of Mexico, a distance of 500-600 miles over water with no rest stops.

We are told these birds eat nothing while migrating these great distances, which is sometimes as much as two thousand miles.  This is remarkable, for when nesting and raising their young, they must eat the equivalent of their own weight in nectar and insects every day to survive.  The secret of flying such great distances without food is the fact that they store up fat by eating extra food in advance of their flight.

In spite of much study, no answer has been found to explain why they leave when they do or how they know to return at the exact time their favorite flowers  will be blooming.  But we do know that their Creator has given them the ability to make their journeys at just the right time, and He directs them over the many miles they must travel. 

The Bible does not mention the hummingbird by name, but it does tell us, "The sparrow hath found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young" (Psalm 84:3).  The One who enables the sparrows and swallows to nest and raise their young is the same One who also provides for all the needs of the lovely hummingbirds.

He assures us, "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go:  I will guide thee with Mine eye" (Psalm 32:8).  Are you listening to His instruction?  Are you willing to let Him guide you in the path of life?  Our Lord Jesus Christ always proves to be a loving Saviour to all who put their trust in Him.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Jewel # 57 (Apr 9, 2010)

To my dear grandchildren,

The Handsome Goldfinch

"Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father [being aware of it] . . . Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows."
(Matthew 10:29,31)

The goldfinch, often called the wild canary because of it lovely song, is one of America's most beautiful songbirds.  It is about five inches long and is found over most of Southern Canada and the United States.

The male is an exceptionally pretty and compact, neat little bird.  In the spring and summer he is dressed in bright yellow feathers with a contrasting jet-black cap, wings, and tail feathers with pretty cross stripes of white.  His legs and short, sharp beak are orange-brown.  But in the fall and winter his bright yellow body changes to look more like the olive-brown female.

These birds fly in a rapid up-and-down, wavelike motion.  It is delightful to watch this display and hear their distinctive lovely songs.  They seem so happy in the way of life the Creator has arranged for them.

Their nests are made of thistle-down and fibers from various plants and are woven so tightly that the nests will hold water.  The inside of the soft nests will have three to six pale blue eggs.  These are laid from July through September and hatch out as cute baby chicks after about two weeks.  While the mothers incubate the eggs, their mates faithfully bring them quantities of seeds to satisfy their hunger.

The Creator has made the goldfinch a seed-eater rather than an insect-eater.  And in His wisdom He has arranged for their young to hatch out in the late summer, just as seeds are ripening with the most nourishment and are easy to find.  Thistle seeds are their favourite, and climbing about the prickly thistle plant does not seem to bother them a bit.  There is also a variety of other food for them as well, including ripe berries and the seeds of grass, weeds, wheat and oats.

The baby goldfinches are not able to digest whole seeds, no matter how ripe they are.  Until they are older and able to gather and digest their own food, the parents feed them by eating and digesting the seeds in their crops, which is a pouch in their throats where digestion begins.  Then they place their beaks in the little ones' mouths and bring up the digested food.

How did the goldfinch - and all other finches - know to delay their nesting until late in the summer?  And how did they learn such an unusual way to feed their little ones?  We know the answer.  The Creator gave them the instincts to do these things when He first created them, and each new generation does not need to be taught again, because these instincts come naturally to them, just as the Lord God planned it.