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Just Believe Me

God forbid that I should harm my sovereign, YHWH’s anointed, or lift my hand against him. For he is the anointed of YHWH. ~ 1 Samuel 24:6

Yes, the chip note of a Swamp Sparrow is very similar to the chip note of a Song Sparrow. Frankly, all sparrow chip notes are nearly identical, but, with enough patience and experience, they can be distinguished. Of course, there are other clues to identification. Yes, Song Sparrows will hang out in marshes, but there is a reason why Swamp Sparrows have swamp in their name. So when I had scouted a Swamp Sparrow in a swamp in January, it was a good find for our Super Bowl of Birding team to claim on the big day if we could locate it…which we did. Well, I say “we” but it wasn’t all of us. Yes, we did all hear a chip note from the exact location where I had seen a Swamp Sparrow days before. All but one of my teammates agreed that we were hearing a Swamp Sparrow. The one who objected is a very good birder, who, to be fair, demanded more evidence to be sure of the identification. If I were being honest, I would have to say that I would not have thought that note belonged to Swamp Sparrow hearing it in isolation. It was the additional information I had from personal experience that swayed me. And though I didn’t ask them, I assume that trust in me was a contributing factor for the rest of the team’s agreement in identification. Anyone who has been birding long enough will have had one of those sightings where you asked someone else, “did you see that well enough for me to list it?” This was not quite that extreme, but we had to accept that while most of us were sure enough to “eat the mushroom” one of us was still cautious.

Our team was always in the running for victory at the Super Bowl. Though I don’t recall how we did that particular year, I know that we finished the day without including Swamp Sparrow on our list. I also remember how that felt. I was upset that I had been doubted. I tried not to take it personally, but I couldn’t. Everyone on the team was loyal to the team, but this one member had a stronger commitment to accuracy that loyalty could not trump. It was frustrating, and frankly, it felt like a betrayal. There are obviously much more serious situations where that label is more appropriate. David’s sparing of Saul’s life is an example of extreme loyalty that is beyond what most of us would demonstrate. Still, loyalty is one of the moral foundations that we all use to make ethical decisions. The challenge is to determine its priority among other factors.

Prayer: God, we would be loyal to you, so we know we have to love our neighbor. Could you just do us the favor of surrounding us with lovable neighbors? Amen.


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