nature - Related Content

Photo of the Week - Week 21

Saturday, June 4th 2022 10:08 am

WARNING! BIRD NERD ALERT! It was a big moment on Wednesday, but I didn't realize it until today! We were returning from taking some food to a mother and her two kids who live far out in the country, and both Sister Yanira and Don Gary (our driver) were patient and kind enough to stop along the way so I could take photos of birds I spotted. They both knew I was getting close to a milestone in my life list, so they were indulging me very kindly.

For those of you who aren't fanatic birders like I am, a life list is a count of the total amount of different species of birds you have seen. For instance, there are over 900 species of birds in the United States and over 900 species of birds in Bolivia. Some birds here are the same but many are different. It's been fun to see new birds here, especially ones we don't see in Wisconsin like macaws, parrots and Oropendolas.

On Wednesday, I was at a count of 598 species of birds on my life list, and I was really hoping to get to 600 before I left Bolivia for my visit home. I was able to take many photos, but as I reviewed them later that day, there was only one new species. I was ok with it and thought that maybe I would find another before I left.

I uploaded my photos to iNaturalist (it's an app and a website) to confirm my identifications and didn't think anything more of it. There are people all over the world that look at the identifications and either confirm them or suggest alternates. I was doing some traveling and other things so I hadn't checked back. You might be interested to know that as I traveled to Santa Cruz (where I will fly out of) I did see a new bird, a Maguari Stork. I was excited for that one too, but it wasn't meant to be number 600.

Once I was settled here in Santa Cruz and looked at iNaturalist, I realized that I had misidentified a macaw species as one I already knew. Three reviewers updated the observation to something else, so I knew it was the correct one. So I went back and added the Red-shouldered Macaw and with that change suddenly, I had a new 600th bird species! It's a Rufescent Tiger-heron, and what a beauty!

As I look at this beautiful bird, I can't but marvel at the creativity of the Creator who could make such different and remarkable types of birds - and such different and remarkable herons! What a gift I have been given to get to see so many wondrous birds. And with all gifts from God, giving them away is a joy. I hope you enjoy this photo that I am sharing!

Click here for a list of all the birds I've seen, if you're interested!

When we look at the order of creation, we form in our mind an image, not of the essence, but of the wisdom of [God] who has made all things wisely. - St. Gregory of Nyssa

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Sister Sue: nature is prayer

Thursday, November 9th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Sue Ernster, FSPA



Image courtesy

I pray outside when I can. Being in nature is prayer for me. Whatever brings me closer to God — feeling God’s presence and love — is prayer for me. I prefer to take time in the morning to help ground and center me for the day; remembering all is gift from God. Being in nature (creation) is a reminder of God’s omnipotence, grandeur and beauty. The many flowers remind me of God’s love, beauty and fragility. Watching rabbits is always prayer. I am mesmerized by their actions, doing what comes naturally, yet showing energy, joy and beauty. Their twitching noses take me close to God. Instantly, creation is a small footprint of God’s capacity.

Franciscan Way is a series featuring prayerful reflection by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Birds and Nature - Enjoying Bolivian Creation

Sunday, March 27th 2022 2:41 pm

Happy Sunday!

Thank you to everyone who asked questions! I got so many great ones - I look forward to answering them all. Since I got to pick, I chose a question relating to a favorite topic - NATURE! - first. I hope you enjoy the pics!

Question: I thought you would be exploring nature, taking pictures of birds and butterflies. We were expecting you to post nature photos. Can you explore nature on your own? Or would you have to arrange to have a buddy take you away from the convent?

Answer: Thanks for the questions! I have been quite remiss in not posting my nature photos. I haven't been out on my own yet, my Spanish is too sketchy and I don't often understand what people are saying to me, so I think it's best to have a buddy for now. Luckily, the sisters here like nature too - and have quite a bit of it here in the convent, too!

Here, there are so many big wonderings, I have been prioritizing them over pictures of birds and butterflies, but your question reminds me that there is a lot to learn from creation as well - and those learnings bring me closer to my Creator. I think the simplest and biggest lesson that creation here in Bolivia teaches me is that even though so much is different than what I am used to, it is still filled with the love and creative expression of God. It's easy to see that as I am witness to God's creative joy in the diversity of the creatures around here. To see a Capped Heron catch a frog, and three bright Macaws fly over the convent, it is clear that God is not only loving and intelligent, God is also amazingly creative. Each new bit of creation I find reminds me that God is full of surprises!

Above: Little-Banded Swift

Above: Orcas Checkered Skipper

Above: Florida White

Above: Dorante Longtail

Above: Polydamas Swallowtail

Above: Julia Heliconian

Above: Red Peacock

Above: Green-banded Urania

Above: Thoas Swallowtail

Above: Greater Ani, photo taken in Yaguarú wetlands

Above: Cocoi Heron, photo taken in Yaguarú wetlands

Above: Neotropic Cormorant, photo taken in Yaguarú wetlands

Above: Snail Kite, photo taken in Yaguarú wetlands

Above: Black Vulture, photo taken in Yaguarú wetlands

Above: Female Saffron Finch, photo taken on the convent grounds

Above: White-Banded Mockingbird -- trying to look threatening to a Rufous Hornero, photo taken on the convent grounds

Above: Rufous-Throated Sapphire, photo taken on the convent grounds
This is the best photo I could get of a hummingbird. You'd think with 75ish species of hummingbirds, one would sit still for me.

Above: Tropical Kingbird, photo taken on the convent grounds
When you are frustrated with hummingbirds, you can always count on this fellow to strike a pose.

Above: Whistling Heron, photo taken at a resort/family water park that was closed, but they let us in to look at birds anyway

Above: Blue-and-yellow Macaw, photo taken at the same resort
This bird was a pet of theirs, but such a beauty, and a good representative of the many that fly over the convent.

Above: Guira Cuckoos, photo taken at Hermana's farm out in the country.
They were kind enough to let me come along while they worked so I could take photos of birds and then even stopped the car each time so I could snap some shots!

Above: Limpkin, photo taken on the road back from the farm

Above: Capped Heron, photo taken on the road back from the farm

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Photo of the Week - Week 14

Wednesday, April 13th 2022 9:51 am

The sun was hastening to the horizon as the courtyard filled with the prayers of the rosary.

Dios te salve María, llena eres de gracia, el Señor es contigo...

Outside, a cool breeze played with skirts, habits and veils and cooled the sisters as their gazes returned to the tabernacle inside the chapel, their lawn chairs facing toward the recipient of their prayers.

Bendita Tú eres entre todas las mujeres…

A pair of pigeons sang their praises with quiet cooing. A hornero announced its joining with a noisy and enthusiastic call. A butterfly gently glided among the brightly colored flowers, dancing to the rhythm of the prayer. A kingbird performed acrobatic pirouettes from the rooftop, catching insects along the way.

y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre Jesús…

As the Rosary continued, the skies filled with sound. The gentle peet of neighbor songbirds and the raucous cries of hundreds of parrots flying overhead. Martins and swallows in large numbers left their perches and danced in the skies above.

Santa María, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros pecadores…

Outside the walls of the mission and convent, the plaza was filled with the sounds of talking and laughing. Traffic punctuated things with its crescendo and decrescendo as the residents of the pueblo returned from a day of work or school. Music announced the start of dancing outside the convent, and for a few moments overrode everything else.

ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte…

As I prayed and reflected on the sorrowful mysteries, I felt a oneness with all the different sights and sounds. I felt the deep, foundational connection I have with all and everyone as one tiny, but greatly loved, part of God’s creation. And in that, I understood God a little bit more.


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Photo of the Week - Week 20

Friday, May 27th 2022 6:45 pm

Meet Mia Mandarina! You might remember me mentioning a cute little baby Brown Agouti that stopped by the convent for a visit. Well, she decided to stick around! It might have something to do with the easily attainable food that's always available here for the ducks, chickens, geese and tortoises. In the photo, she's enjoying some delicious papaya.

For the past two weeks or so, I have been stopping near where she lives and calling to her. To my surprise, she comes running almost every time! There is a Mandarin Orange tree nearby, so I pick a deliciously sweet fruit and share it with Mia. We sit down, I peel the mandarin and give her a piece, and enjoy a piece myself. She enjoys the seeds so I give her all of those, too. After we've finished, I give her some scratches and pets and she gives me little baby agouti kisses. It's a special friendship. I never try to pick her up and respect that she's a wild animal who is choosing to spend time with me. It's a gift to be the recipient of such trust from one of God's precious creations. I hold these times of sharing with Mia as sacred.

Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength. - St. Melangell

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What It Sounds Like Here

Monday, August 1st 2022 2:30 pm

Someone sent me a message with a request. It's interesting how a person can get used to things and stop noticing them, and I realized that was happening a little bit here now that I have been in Bolivia for about 7 months.

Request: I am curious in your new environment what sounds you have heard when falling asleep and when waking up.

I haven't thought about the sounds here in a while. When I first arrived I was astounded by the flocks of parrots flying over and the birdsong during our prayers. Time has passed here and I realize that just like in the United States, the different seasons mark changes in bird behavior too. I was curious if I had stopped noticing the sounds, or if they are indeed different.

We are in the middle of winter here right now. It's very different here in a tropical environment than it is back in the northern part of the United States! Highs are in the mid to upper 90's here in winter, with a rare exception of a cold day in the 50s or 60s. Lows overnight are normally in the 60s. What marks the season change here is the lack of rain. It is quite dry and it only rains once every two or three weeks. The sun can feel especially hot on these days as clouds are about as rare as the rain. Dirt and dust blow through the streets with no moisture to weigh it down.

Back to the request!

In the evenings, most times there is not much to hear except motorcycles and dogs barking. Although it can be a little loud because we are right next to the center of the city, the plaza, I have gotten used to it and it doesn't keep me awake. It is helpful that most evenings I am very tired! I rarely have trouble falling asleep.

Many weekends and during festivals, music can be heard. I am not sure where it comes from, and I suspect it travels to my ears from different places. What is interesting is how the music goes all night long, normally finishing (but not always!) as I get up for prayer. The sisters tell me that there is lots of dancing and festivities at these times.

In the mornings, it is very different. Although there is traffic and dogs, there is a cacophony of the world waking up. Even in the winter, there is still much to hear. The flocks of parrots aren't chattering overhead, but the morning is still alive with sound.

I spent a Sunday morning listening to the sounds before prayer. It was a joy to be able to take the time to notice these things. It felt like a blessing!

Sounds from home...
pigeons, sparrows, crickets and a lovely little house wren.

Sounds of civilization...
motorcycles and traffic, dogs barking and legions of roosters crowing.

Sounds specifically here...
crested caracaras (photo), purplish jays, one lone macaw, a few guira cuckoos and a lovely melodious blackbird.

I realize all the "here" sounds are birds. I was happy to realize I have come to know the sounds of the birds in Ascencion like the ones in the midwest. What a gift! And what a gift to be asked about sounds. Thank you!

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