In the early morning, as my beloved and I circle the local gardens in our walking shoes, we routinely hear one of the most beautiful sounds I can imagine: the song of the magpie. In my years away from Australian shores, it’s the one sound I missed. And yet to evoke the magpie’s song in words … I can only take heart from the English ornithologist John Gould: “To describe the note of this bird is beyond the power of my pen.”
I am not a bird man. I can barely spot the difference between a raven and a common koel. That said, I have a friend who photographs birds. Through his images — drip fed over the years into my email in-box — I’ve begun to appreciate just a little of what he sees routinely. It’s another world up there! A mostly hidden world of colour and song. At least now I look.
Clearly, the Australian poet Michael Leunig has been looking much longer than I have. On this beautiful autumn day, his prayer of thanks for these ‘feathered angels’ is one worth praying.
We give thanks for birds.
All types of birds.
Small birds and large birds.
Domestic fowls, migratory birds
and birds of prey,
and dark darting wrens.
Birds too numerous to mention.
We praise them all.
We mourn the loss of certain species
and pray for deliverance
of endangered ones.
We pray, too, for farm birds,
that they may be released
from cruelty and suffering.
We give thanks for eggs and feathers,
for brave, cheerful songs in the morning
and the wonderful, haunting,
night prayers of owls,
and all nocturnal fowls.
We praise the character of birds,
their desire for freedom,
their flair for music
and talent for flying.
May we always marvel
at their ability to fly.
Especially we praise their
disregard for the human hierarchy
and the ease with which they leave
their droppings on the heads
of commoners or kings regardless.
Grant them fair weather,
fresh food and abundant materials
for building their nests in spring.
Provide them too with perches
and roosts with pleasant aspects.
Dear God, guide our thoughts
to the joy and beauty of birds.
May they always be above us.