Tag Archives: red-winged blackbirds

God, the Ultimate Artist/Naturalist

Remember the mysterious 7-mile wide blob on Denver’s weather radar in the fall of 2018 that began this nature series? It turned out to be painted lady butterflies invading Colorado in never-before-seen numbers. That post led to my summer-long series about artist/naturalists and suggestions for how to study nature in our own neighborhoods.

Now let’s come back to the butterflies and the ultimate artist/naturalist—God. With unbelievable creativity, wisdom, and power, He created all that exists and continues to uphold and preserve His creation. He designed painted lady butterflies with their intricate patterns of orange and black and gave them the instinct to head south when autumn winds blow.

Among several posters I always kept up in my classroom was one of a little boy holding a fuzzy yellow duckling and gazing intently at it. The Bible verse said, “Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God.” Job 37:14

That’s just what Molly and I have been doing. We stood still to watch hundreds of butterflies fluttering on the same bush and lone bumblebees gathering nectar on a single flower. We saw red-winged blackbirds land on thin cattails, hardly bending them, and goldfinches plucking seeds from thistle flowers without getting hurt.

In early summer I considered that both swallows and red-winged blackbirds eat insects, but swallows soar through the air to catch flying insects, while red-winged blackbirds hop along the ground to find their insect lunches. God has truly provided for all the birds of the air. Matt. 6: 26

Now as summer fades, I consider the golden sunflowers God has spread across every field and along every roadside, and am reminded of how God clothes the lilies of the field in splendor. Matt 26:28-29

All summer I’ve considered how perfectly these wondrous works point to our Creator God. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

God is also the ultimate author/teacher, and His Word clearly shows us that our Creator God is also our loving Heavenly Father, who cares for our daily needs and especially sent His Son to die for us so we may become new creatures in Christ, (2 Cor. 5:17) loving God and trying to live our lives for Him.

God knows that we need concrete pictures to learn spiritual lessons (just look at the lowly things Jesus used in His parables!)

So it’s not at all strange for Christian writers and artists to use the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly to illustrate the new creatures we become in Christ.When the Holy Spirit gives us a new heart to believe in Christ, we are newly dressed in Christ’s righteousness, and just as butterflies receive new compound eyes that see much better than caterpillar eyes, our eyes are opened to see the beauty of Christ and to want to know Him and live for Him more and more.

Through science we can now see just how apt an illustration metamorphosis is. The latest research shows that the changes are even more profound than once thought. Inside its pupa the parts of the caterpillar actually liquefy and rearrange to become a butterfly.

So I think we can see that this transformation of the butterfly not only helps us appreciate what God does initially to change us, but is also a wonderful illustration of what will happen when Christ returns for His people. As Paul explains,

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must cloth itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:  “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” I Cor. 15:51-54

In that day the miracle of people being transformed from the perishable to the imperishable will way, way outdo even the marvel of butterfly metamorphosis, and when people from every tribe and nation are caught up in the air with their changed bodies to meet Christ and live with Him forever, that will outnumber the greatest butterfly migrations ever!   

Hallelujah, What a Savior!!

 

 

 

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I’m taking a short break to finish up a proposal for a book of devotions and activities for families, but be sure to sign up to receive these posts so you don’t miss out on the next art subject  —  What’s up with Claude Monet and all those paintings of haystacks and cathedrals??

Molly’s taking a break, too, to play with her favorite ball!

 

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Writing about Nature in a Sketchbook

If you’ve visited my website http://www.kathy-oneill.com then you know that last year I went to western Nebraska to  learn more about cliff swallows. I’d seen them building mud nests all over a hotel in the Texas panhandle. 

With cliff swallow expert Dr. Charles Brown of Tulsa University and his assistant, Wes and I trekked through fields and waded into culverts. Using a flashlight and a dental mirror I got to peer into their mud nests and see their eggs! Dr. Brown has been studying cliff swallows for many years and has learned lots and lots of fascinating stuff about these birds that live together in colonies.  Don’t miss the good news about my trip and research at the end of this post!!!

And look carefully for Molly, too, and make a guess about why she’s hiding!

Before I traveled to Nebraska, I made notes about what I had already seen and heard, asked questions about my observations, and did some initial research.

 

Using these steps you can learn more about the plants and creatures you’ve been observing on your walks:

  1. Stand still and carefully observe, take photos, make drawings
  2. Make written notes about what you see and hear
  3. Ask questions about what you observe
  4. Look in books and safe, reputable online sources to answer your questions

1. Notes

In my last post I suggested you leave some white space around pictures in your sketchbook, because one of the easiest places to write about nature is to make notes in those white spaces. Here are some things to make notes about:

  • Where you were, what the land was like–forest, meadow, seaside, rocky, hilly, etc.
  • What kind of trees or plants you saw
  • What the weather was like
  • The things you saw, heard, smelled
  • The colors of plants or animals you focused on
  • Tell what you think creatures were doing

Here in my new neighborhood in Colorado is a large marsh, and since early spring when they first arrived, I’ve been watching hundreds of red-winged blackbirds. Here are some photos of the marsh and as close as I can get pictures of  the birds.  Because I couldn’t get closeups of the birds I drew one from a nature guide. But you can see my notes all around the drawing about the place and the birds.

2. Questions

Questions help focus your research. As you research you’ll probably think of more. Here are some I had about red-winged blackbirds:

  • Do only the males have the red and yellow shoulder colors?
  • Where did they migrate from or do they live in Colorado year round?
  • What do they eat?
  • Where do they build their nests?
  • What do their nests look like?
  • How many eggs do they lay
  • what do the eggs look like?

3. Research to answer your questions.

  • The nonfiction section of your library is a great place to start. Birds have a whole section, as do insects, mammals, fish, etc., etc!!
  • If you go online, be sure to use safe and reputable websites. For example for my questions about the cliff swallows and now the red-winged blackbirds, I start with the national audubon society’s website.  http://www.audubon.org
  • Use the blank pages of your sketchbook to write the information you find. Make notes about where you found the info

Have fun finding out about lots of interesting creatures or plants. God is so creative, and His world is amazing beyond our wildest imaginations!!

NOW…. my news:   I enjoyed finding out some amazing things about cliff swallows and then wrote a nonfiction article about them. It has been bought by a children’s magazine! I haven’t heard when it’ll be published, so I won’t tell you which one yet, but I’m excited, and I’ll let you know when it comes out!

What can you do with all your new knowledge? write a report, write a fiction story, make an informational poster , write an email or letter to a distant relative telling about your experiences….  For a few ideas, stay tuned for the Picture Lady’s next post. It’ll give you some ideas about how to write creatively about all your observations!

So don’t forget to sign up to receive the Picture Lady’s posts before you go!

AND check out my website http://www.kathy-oneill.com

There you’ll see lots of ways that I can help your class or group in person or by skype learn about and make art!!

And I’d love to hear from you about your summer nature walks and studies!

Finally, can you find Molly in this photo? Comment and tell me why you think she’s hiding.

I’ll tell you why in my next post.