This is a yellow hammer’s egg. The male yellowhammer is an unmistakeable bird with a bright yellow head and underparts, brown back streaked with black, and chestnut rump. At times, as they hop about in the hedge, they almost seem like a canary. However, although they can still be seen in our hedgerows, there are nowhere as near as many of them as there used to be. As with many other once common birds the cause of this decline seems to be changes in farming practices, particularly the move from spring to autumn sown cereals, which deprives them of food at a crucial time.
Yellowhammers have at least 20 other names including yellow bunting, yellow amber, yellow ring, scribble lark and scribbler. The last two names derive from the squiggly marks on their eggs. The scribble marks on the eggs gave the bird, in some people’s minds, an association with the Devil – the scribbles may have been thought to carry devilish messages and to have been written by a drop of the Devil’s blood which it carried on its tongue.
It is often said that the yellowhammer’s song sounds like the phrase ‘A little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheese’, but in the highlands of Scotland it was said to resemble ‘The de’il tak’ ye a’ and leave me’. Because it was a devilish bird, boys were taught that it is right to steal its eggs and sing:
Half a paddock [frog], half a toad,
Half a drop o’ the de’il blood,
Horrid yellow yorling [the name in Scotland for the bird]
Why should such a beautiful bird be persecuted in this way? Sometimes people make scapegoats of others, blaming them for all sorts of problems and failures, when really the problems and faults are inside themselves.
‘Then the governor's soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. "Hail, king of the Jews!" they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.’
(Matthew 27. 27-31)
‘Father, forgive us for those times when we have been cruel to other people. Help us to be open to your love and transformed by it. Amen.’