Philip Crispin

Philip's Candlemas Birdwatch

Fundraising for Amos Trust
raised of £500 target
by 31 supporters
Birdwatch, 2 February 2024
Amos Trust

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RCN 1164234
We are a creative human rights charity to build hope & create change


A huge thank you to everyone who has supported the Candlemas Birdwatch for Gaza Emergency Appeal! I am moved and so grateful for your generosity.

I have completed the Birdwatch and am delighted to be able to share with you these words from Jill Howard-Gunasekera of Amos Trust:

‘On behalf of Amos Trust thank you for supporting Philip's fundraising effort. We loved the creativity of the fundraising, it felt like a small breath of beauty in these dark days.

We have been able to offer significant financial support to our Palestinian partners in Gaza and the West Bank due to the overwhelming response to our ongoing Emergency Appeal (of which Philip’s fundraising efforts form an important part). Every fundraising effort is not only providing real practical help on the ground for people struggling to find safety, food and shelter, but it is also bringing real encouragement to our partners as they feel the strength of people's solidarity with them.

Thank you!’

Here is the Candlemas Birdwatch for Gaza report.

I went to Farlington Marshes, my local nature reserve just off Portsea Island, for the Candlemas Birdwatch. The weather was mild, the sky rather grey.

Companionable groups of slender-necked pintails and teal consorted in the shallow channels running through the mud flats. The teal, our smallest duck, made their familiar, reassuring ‘peeps’ to each other. The males sport a handsome green stripe over their eyes.

Restless redshank kept a weather eye upon me, bobbing up and down, and uttering their plaintive cries. Not for nothing, are they known as ‘yelper’, ‘warden’ and ‘watchdog of the marshes’. As with the robin redbreast’s breast, the redshank’s shanks are in fact a vibrant orange hue.

A pair of stonechats appeared on the top of a bush and took it in turns to swoop down to the ground for a forage before returning to their perch. Their alarm call resembles two pebbles being struck together and explains their name.

About this time, the sun pierced through the clouds and the walk remained bright until towards the end when the clouds gathered once more and gentle rain drops fell.

According to European folklore, Candlemas is the earliest date for the bear to emerge from hibernation. Following carnivalesque choplogic, if the weather is poor, the bear will remain above ground but if the weather is fine it will return to its den to snooze away forty more days. (This tradition was transposed to ‘groundhog day’ across the Pond.) What would the bear have made of the changeable Hampshire weather I wonder.

Curlew showed in good number. Most fed and walked in silence but several delivered their beautiful bubbling ‘courlee’ song when on the wing. One bird with damaged primaries combed through seaweed with its long, curved bill – as did a pair of rather more adept turnstones with stouter beaks.

Three of St Brigid’s birds hurried along. Oystercatchers. I was delighted to see them and would see several more of the shrill callers around the shoreline. Whether due to oyster scarcity or not, these pied birds are actually celebrated for their ability to drill or prise open mussels and other types of shellfish.

Numerous and whisperingly garrulous dunlin fed in the ooze and the shallows. A solitary grey plover rested among the smaller birds, alert of gaze. Breeding in the northern tundra regions, this bird can overwinter as far south as Australia.

Good numbers of lapwing, aka the green plover, populated the marsh and swept the surrounding sky.

A kestrel – ‘kingdom of daylight’s dauphin’ as celebrated by priest-poet Gerard Manley Hopkins in his poem ‘The Windhover’ – hovered near the path.

A red-legged partridge stuck close to a moorhen in the lee of a hedgerow. The ‘red legs’ is considered the most likely contender to be the ‘partridge in a pear tree’ as it is seen more often in trees than its grey partridge cousin. As well as this curious pairing, I also clapped eyes on the solitary barnacle goose with its white ‘farmyard goose’ chum, just as I had done on my Epiphany Birdwatch three years ago.

I heard but did not see the skylark as it sang lustily its sublime song. Likewise, the ‘mavis’, the song thrush, as it sang its repeated melodies from a thicket.

I did see several other birds: wigeon, shelduck, shovelers, mallards, gadwall; Canada geese, mute swans, coots and dabchicks; heron, little egrets; pheasant, starlings, crows, gulls and woodpigeons.

Dark-fronted brent geese were present in impressive number. Over-wintering from as far afield as Bolshevik Island, Siberia, the old English word ‘brent’ describes their burnt-umber head and upper body parts.

I caught a glimpse of bearded reedlings flitting through the reeds, and two further highlights came at the end of the walk.

A marsh harrier flapped unhurriedly over the reedbeds before alighting in their midst. Some minutes later, I glanced up to see some forty avocets in the sky, their long legs trailing behind them. These beautiful, pied birds with delicate upturned beak alighted on and at the edge of ‘the Lake’.

Both species came back from the brink. Both encapsulate simultaneously the fragility and sanctity of life.

Yours in deep gratitude and solidarity.


Thanks for taking the time to visit my JustGiving page.

Candlemas Birdwatch for Gaza Emergency Appeal

Four years ago, many of you supported me in my Epiphany Birdwatch for Palestine when I wrote:

‘You don’t need me to rehearse the suffering of the Palestinian people. It has struck me forcibly during the past months of [Covid] lockdown that our privations pale into insignificance compared to those in perpetual lockdown in Gaza or languishing in the West Bank.’

Tragically, four years on, the situation in Gaza is catastrophic, the suffering immense.

I’m writing this on the Feast of St Brigid of Ireland and just yesterday, my friend Brigid, told me that the oystercatcher is her namesake St Brigid’s bird.

Giolla Brighde, meaning the ‘Servant of St. Brigid’, is one of the names for the Oystercatcher in Irish. The story goes that St. Brigid was pursued by a band of men who wished to kill her. Coming onto a beach she realized there was nowhere to hide and so praying, lay down on the beach, accepting her fate. A flock of Oystercatchers was nearby. Realising what was happening, they quickly gathered seaweed and covered St. Brigid, hiding her from the men. In return for saving her, St. Brigid blessed the Oystercatcher. Since then, the Oystercatcher has been linked to Ireland’s principal female saint.

This story evokes so much. Violence and protection. Destruction and haven. The compassion of the birds chimes with Brigid’s own generosity of spirit, empathy and compassion. Her deep humanity.

The first of February is also the Celtic feast of Imbolc ‘when ewes are milked at Spring’s beginning.’ A turning point. It leads naturally into Candlemas the next day – a feast of wisdom, insight and enlightenment: ‘a light to enlighten all peoples.’

I’m therefore going to undertake a Candlemas Birdwatch, in the hope that enlightened vision will lead to peace and justice, and to show my solidarity and support for the Amos Trust’s Emergency Appeal for Gaza and Palestine.

I heartily recommend this charity to you and if you fancy it you can make a direct donation to the charity via my Just Giving Page.

Support for Amos will help:

• send vital funds to Al Ahli Hospital

• provide food and water for some of the thousands sheltering in the church and community buildings in Gaza City

• provide vital support to Amos’s partners on the West Bank as they seek to respond to the needs of the communities they work with.

• enable the Gaza Sunbirds to provide essential food packs to their communities.

The Gaza Sunbirds - who take their name from Palestine’s beautiful national bird – comprise amputee cyclist-athletes who lost limbs to Israeli Defence Force bullets. In the first six weeks of Israel’s assault on Gaza, the Sunbirds had helped distribute 36,000 tonnes of food, pedalling around on prosthetic limbs and dropping off essentials from door to door.

‘Despair is a luxury. Hope is all that remains for those who don’t have that luxury,’ said Karim Ali, co-founder of the Gaza Sunbirds.

When I attended a fundraiser for Amos’s Emergency Appeal for Gaza, the night ended with this prayer:

May the peace of the Sunbird’s song

Be heard once more

On the shores of Gaza.

And may justice flow like a river

Like a never-ending flood.

Go in peace

As the makers of peace

As those who believe

That another world is still possible

And we shall hear her breathing again.

Peace to the whole earth

Peace to all peoples

Peace to one another

Peace within.

I won’t see a Palestinian sunbird tomorrow but perhaps I will see an oystercatcher.

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About the charity

Amos Trust

Verified by JustGiving

RCN 1164234
Amos Trust is a small, creative human rights charity that challenges injustice, builds involvement and creates change. We work with vibrant grassroots partners for justice and hope for the forgotten. Our partners are based in Palestine & Israel, India, Nicaragua, South Africa, Burundi & beyond.

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