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Gators at Gatorland - Great Egrets catching a ride

Gators at Gatorland – Great Egrets catching a ride

The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men; (Psa 33:13)

The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. (Psa 14:2 NKJV)

Today’s Inspiration is just a collection of photos that have been used before. Most are on the lighter side. Some to make you smile, others just to help us enjoy the Lord’s critters. I especially enjoy the three ladies singing “Smile On Me Gracious Lord.”

I trust we all want the Lord to smile on us. Knowing the Lord as your personal Savior and accepting Him will definitely put a smile on His Face.

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“Smile On Me Gracious Lord” – Special by Amy, Dakota and Christina

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More Sunday Inspirations

Wordless Birds

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(WordPress is having a problem at this time and adding new photos is too frustrating to bother with.)

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Masked Woodswallow (Artamus personatus) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Masked Woodswallow ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 8/14/14

When I was taking location photos along the inland route to Paluma several weeks ago, I came across a mixed flock of a couple of hundred Masked and White-browed Woodswallows. The White-browed featured as bird of the week in 2005, but the Masked hasn’t so here it is. The males in particular, first photo, are very elegant with a sharply defined, very black mask, soft grey back, almost white underparts and a white crescent between the mask and the back of the head.

The females, second photo, are similar to the males with less contrasting plumage, only a subtle crescent, and a buff wash to the upper breast. The yellow specks on the mask and breast of this female are pollen – these primarily insectivorous birds also feed on nectar, particularly in northern Australia in winter.

Masked Woodswallow (Artamus personatus) by Ian
The female in the second photo and the juvenile in the third photo were in a mixed flock of Masked and White-browed that spent a week or so feeding on the locally common Fern-leaved Grevillea near where I live in 2005. The juveniles are similar to the females, but with browner plumage with pale spots and streaks.

Masked Woodswallow (Artamus personatus) by Ian

The ‘swallow’ part of the name comes from their buoyant, gliding flight and not because they are related to real swallows (family Hirundinidae). Rather, they are related to the Australian Magpie, Butcherbirds and Currawongs, usually combined in the one family, the Artamidae. There is an obvious similarity to the Magpie and Butcherbirds in their general form and bi-coloured bills and they are also quite aggressive, Woodswallows being quick to mob raptors in flight. The ‘personatus’ part of the scientific name comes from the Latin persona, meaning mask, a derivation that amused me when I though of show business ‘personalities’.

The White-browed and Masked Woodswallows are very closely related species, even though their respective plumages are quite distinct. They are both very nomadic and occur throughout mainland Australia, though not Tasmania. They often occur together in large mixed flocks. In eastern Australia, the White-browed predominates; in Western Australia, the Masked is more numerous and may occur alone. The two species will even nest together in small mixed colonies and occasionally interbreed.

Links:
Artamidae
Masked Woodswallow
White-browed Woodswallow

Greetings
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

“Even the stork in the heavens Knows her appointed times; And the turtledove, the swift, and the swallow Observe the time of their coming. But My people do not know the judgment of the LORD. (Jeremiah 8:7 NKJV)

What a neat looking bird. I especially like the clean line around his “mask”. We have seen Woodswallows in a zoo, but not this kind and not in the wild. That last photo is a super photo. Thanks, Ian, for sharing with us.

Swallows and Woodswallows are in two different families. Woodswallows are in the Artamidae – Woodswallows Family while the Hirundinidae Family has the Swallows and Martins.

Here is a photo of  White-breasted Woodswallows that we saw at Zoo Miami:

White-breasted Woodswallow (Artamus leucorynchus amydrus) by Lee ZM

White-breasted Woodswallow (Artamus leucorynchus amydrus) by Lee ZM

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Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) ©WikiC Alan Vernon

Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) ©WikiC Alan Vernon

Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you. (James 4:8)

Luzon Bleeding-heart by Dan

Orni-Theology

The Visitor Center at Jackson Hole, Wyoming (“Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center”), is a good place to go to for information on Grand Teton National Park, which borders the more-famous Yellowstone National Park.  Yet for bird-lovers, the visitor’s center itself is an attraction, in summer, because the marshy ponded area next to the building hosts a congregation of blackbirds, both Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) and Yellow-headed Blackbirds (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus).

If you are helping city kids to see these passerine icterids, tell them to “look for the tall corny-dogs growing in the wild” (cattails – Typha species, tall-stemmed wetland plants topped by a sausage-shaped flowering “spike”), around the pond.

As in many other lacustrine marshlands, red-winged blackbirds are often found perched among the cattails that grow as emergents among the wavy shoreline of pond.  For a redwing this is “prime real estate”, until the yellow-heads move in. How so?  In cattail dominated marsh-ponds, if both yellow-heads and red-wings are both present, the innermost places of the cattail “ring” are routinely occupied by the yellow-headed blackbirds, leaving the “outer” cattail positions (i.e., slightly farther away from the pond-water) for the redwings.

Why?  I have no idea why, but others have notice this. [E.g., see W. Braun’s observations in Blackbirds In Cattail Marshes , saying “The YHBs [yellow-headed blackbirds] clearly are the rulers of the cattails. They often, but not always, nest in the same marsh as the Red-winged Blackbird and the Common Grackles. The larger Yellow-headed Blackbird is dominant to the Red-winged Blackbird and displaces the smaller blackbird from the prime nesting spots.”]

 

Red-winged and Yellow-headed Blackbirds on Cattails ©Orcawatcher.com

Red-winged and Yellow-headed Blackbirds on Cattails ©Orcawatcher.com

Photo credit www.Orcawatcher.Com

But it reminds me of the dramatic difference between the apostle Peter and the Pharisee Nicodemus.  Peter was (almost) always close to Christ, and often so, but Nicodemus mostly kept his distance from Christ, at least publicly.

Far from being infallible, Peter is infamous for his cowardice that was indicted by a rooster crowing thrice (Luke 22:54-61).  Peter is also remembered for getting distracted, and becoming fearful, and sinking into the Sea of Galilee, after having miraculously walked on water for only a few steps (Matthew 14:24-33).  But Peter was wise enough to immediately cry out “Lord, save me!”  (And Jesus did.)  At least Peter did some walking on water (at Christ’s command, of course), which is a lot better than the other disciples who just stayed in the boat, as mere spectators, wonderfully how Jesus was enabling Peter to walk on water.

Likewise, Peter had the courage to step up and speak up – to call Jesus “the Christ, the Son of the living God” – a deed that the Lord Jesus commended Peter  — and God the Father —  for doing (Matthew 16:15-17).  And Peter did what he could to defend Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus was being arrested – Peter used a sword to chop off one man’s ear (Luke 22:49-51; John 18:10-11)!  (But unlike the Orcadian Viking known to history as Thorfinn Skull-splitter, Peter missed most of his victim’s head.)  It’s the thought that counts, right?

Yellow-hooded Blackbird (Chrysomus icterocephalus) ©Flickr Bob

Yellow-hooded Blackbird (Chrysomus icterocephalus) ©Flickr Bob

So you really have to love Peter.  (Jesus certainly did!)  Peter was one of the “inner” circle of three  –  just James, John, and Peter  — who were invited to witness the Lord Jesus Christ being glorified upon the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8).  What an unforgettable privilege that was (2nd Peter 1:16-18)!  Jesus later invited the same “inner circle” of three to pray for Him in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:3738).  With all his faults, Peter was a truly privileged member of Christ’s “inner circle”.

But Peter’s privileges are not so high that we should feel sorry for Nicodemus.  Not at all!

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) by Ray

What a privilege it was for Nicodemus to be the first listener to hear, what we now read in, John’s third chapter (John 3:1-9), including the everlastingly famous promise of John 3:16, spoken by Jesus Himself!  Later Nicodemus took a modest stand for Jesus (John 7:50-52), and in time Nicodemus had an official role in Christ’s burial (John 19:39-40) three days before Jesus rose triumphantly from the grave!

Even so, if one had the choice, why visit Christ, in secret, keeping a distance from Him in public, when the opportunity to belong to His “inner circle” is available?

Am I more like Peter or Nicodemus?  Maybe that question will come to mind next time you see a group of “inner circle” yellow-headed blackbirds, perching on cattails, as the “outer circle” of cattails hosts the red-winged blackbirds. And, if you like the idea of being in the Lord’s “inner circle”, you might sing this as a prayer:  “Just a closer walk with Thee…”

 

James J. S. Johnson, with his family, has repeatedly visited Wyoming’s Jackson Hole Visitor Center, in summer, to admire the yellow-headed and red-winged blackbirds that congregate on and among the pond-ringed cattails there. (And a very special thank-you to Lee for teaching me how to edit the typos in this blog.)

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Australian King Parrot ~ Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 7-31-14

Mea culpa again for the long delay since the last bird of the week. The good news is that, apart from dotting a few i’s, my current obsession Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland is finished, so with luck you may get more frequent BotWs in the future. Here is an attractive and surprising omission from the BotW series, the Australian King Parrot. It’s one of the most spectacular Australian parrots and deserves the ‘King’ moniker. The French call it la Perruche royale.

It’s quite common along the eastern seaboard of Australia, with a preference for fairly dense coastal and highland forests including rainforest. That can make it hard to see but it’s quite vocal and the whistling call of the males is a very characteristic sound of eastern forest. It responds readily to being fed and can get quite tame. The one in the first photo was taken at O’Reilly’s in Lamington National Park, where the birds will perch on arms and shoulders and pose happily for photos. The males are distinguished from the females by the brilliant scarlet of the breast extending onto the head and having a conspicuou peppermint green blaze on the wings.

The females are gorgeous too with scarlet lower breast and belly, green heads and pinkish necks. The one in the second photo was busy exploring hollows in trees, but it was hard to imagine that she was contemplating nesting in May. Both sexes have blue backs, third photo, but this is usually hidden by the folded wings. The wing blaze may be missing or inconspicuous in females.

It’s usually just called the King Parrot in Australia and I used to wonder vaguely about the ‘Australian’ qualification. The reason for it is that is a Papuan one in New Guinea and a Moluccan one in western New Guinea and the islands of eastern Indonesia. Both these are rather similar to the Australian one, but smaller and differ mainly in the colour or lack of the blaze on the wings, and the amount of blue in the plumage.

There are two races of the Australian species. The larger nominate race occurs along most of the east coast, while the smaller race minor (obviously) occurs in northeastern Queensland. The literature doesn’t say much about minor except that it’s smaller, and there’s disagreement in the field guides about how far south it occurs: choose between Cardwell, Townsville and Mackay. I suspect Townsville is correct as there a big gap between the Paluma Range population and the Eungella/Clark Range one near Mackay. Anyway, the male in photo 4 and the female in photo 5 were photographed on the Atherton Tableland and are certainly minor.

It seemed to me from the photos that I took there that the northern males had brighter and more extensive blue hind collars and the females had brighter wing-blazes than southern birds. My sample size was small, but it might be an interesting project to check out whether these differences are consistent and to establish the exact geographical ranges of the subspecies. In northeastern Queensland it is mainly a highland species, with some movement to the lowlands in winter and I have seen them very occasionally near where I live.

Links:
Australian King-Parrot (I should have put hyphens in the photo captions)
Red-winged Parrot

Anyway, back to dotting i’s. The next stage in the book is to check out publishing via Apple iBooks, Google Play, etc. That’s something I know nothing about, so it will be interesting to find out how it’s done.

Greetings

Ian<
**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17 KJV)

What beautifully created Parrots! They are just fantastic. Also, I was beginning to worry about Ian. It has been over a month since his last newsletter, Plum-headed Finches.

These parrots are members of the Psittacidae – Parrots Family. There are approximately 365 members, depending on whose list. The greatest diversity of parrots is in South America and Australasia.

Checkout all of Ian’s Parrot photos (around 50 species)

King Parrot at Wikipedia

Psittacidae – Parrots Family

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