13th February 2023

It’s only a little bird, this pipit, no bigger than a Robin, fairly undistinguished in appearance, grey brown-above, slightly speckled and almost white underneath. But it’s rather special, for it’s only found on the Canary Islands and Madeira. It’s called Berthelot’s Pipit, named after the 19th century Frenchman Sabin Berthelot who was one of the first naturalists to study it. On our recent holiday in Tenerife Margaret and I hoped to see it and were duly rewarded when we joined a coach party to Mt Teide, the (extinct!) volcano towering some 11,000 feet above the centre of the island. But we could easily have missed the birds: they are rather modest ground-feeders, quiet apart from a soft ‘seep-seep’ call. Someone in our party thought at first she was just hearing the clicking of a nearby camera. In fact they were very tame, and once we got our eye in we found them nosing around  the rocks almost at our feet.

How could these small, almost mouselike creatures be so at home among the bare rocks of the mountain, exposed to the frost and storms of winter and the searing heat of summer? In such apparently inhospitable terrain they obviously find enough to feed themselves and their young. No wonder that Jesus tells us to look at the birds of the air, who do not laboriously store up in barns and yet are fed by God. They are our role-models for being free from the anxiety bred by greed, not looking for more than we need, or for more than the earth can sustain. God teach us gratitude and simplicity!

Keith Clements