Down by the Riverside
Over the past couple weeks, while passing through Roundup, I made a few quick excursions to the Musselshell River. I wasn’t able to do this a year ago because the lower part of town was flooded as the melting snow and heavy rains forced the river out of it’s banks. What a difference a year makes! My short trips yielded several exciting finds in the way of birds I’ve never seen before. One, in particular, I’ve been seeking for two years and finally got to see him up-close and personal! At the 20-Acre Wood in 2009, I heard a very unique bird song, but only got brief glimpses of him. It was a Black-headed Grosbeak, and of the few pictures I got, they were either blurry or his head was obstructed by pine needles. Another returned last year, and sang his lively song for a few days before moving on – I wasn’t able to see him at all. However this week I was fortunate to see several of these unique birds at close range along the banks of the Musselshell.
Apparently these large birds are a type of finch, and are one of few birds that are able to eat poisonous Monarch butterflies. On my second visit, I played a recording of their call and quickly had three of these guys responding in song! To me, they came across as very animated birds, especially as they were singing. One was fairly close and showed a lot of curiosity about me and the source of my recording. I captured an embarrassing number of images of him, so I decided to share a dozen faces of this dear fellow.
There was a lot of activity down by the riverside, and I will be sharing some of my other photos in upcoming posts. Right now it is actually a pleasant place to spend an hour and just enjoy a small piece of the majesty of God’s creation. However, in two or three more weeks, when the mosquito population builds, I will really be wondering why He created some things!
The title of this post, Down by the Riverside, is also the name of a gospel song that has reportedly been around for about a hundred and fifty years. The lyrics talk about exchanging the burdens and battles of this world for the garments and fellowship of righteousness in God’s kingdom, and the setting for this to take place is “Down by the Riverside.” It is thought that the song was commonly sung by slaves on plantations in the south, as they reflected on their condition, as well as the hope they had in through salvation. The significance of the water in the river is likely tied to both water of baptism and Living Water, as referenced by Jesus in John 4:10. Living Water is a metaphor for the Spirit of the Lord, which offers grace and comfort to satisfy the thirsty soul. That same Living Water is available to us today, and Christ invites us to partake in it; “…whoever drinks of this [well] water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13-14).