Sunday Inspiration – Tits, Chickadees and Penduline Tits

Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) by Margaret Sloan

Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) by Margaret Sloan

The little birds have places for themselves, where they may put their young, even your altars, O Lord of armies, my King and my God. (Psalms 84:3 BBE)

This week we come to two families of avian wonders that are next to one another in taxonomic order. The families are the Paridae – Tits, Chickadees with 61 species and the Remizidae – Penduline Tits with 11 more cuties.

The tits, chickadees, and titmice constitute the Paridae, a large family of small passerine birds which occur in the Northern Hemisphere and Africa. Most were formerly classified in the genus Parus.

These birds are called either “chickadees” (derived from their distinctive “chick-a dee dee dee” alarm call) or “titmice” in North America, and just “tits” in the rest of the English-speaking world. The name titmouse is recorded from the 14th century, composed of the Old English name for the bird, mase (Proto-Germanic *maison, German Meise), and tit, denoting something small. The spelling (formerly titmose) was influenced by mouse in the 16th century. Emigrants to New Zealand presumably identified some of the superficially similar birds of the genus Petroica of the family Petroicidae, the Australian robins, as members of the tit family, giving them the title tomtit, although, in fact, they are not related.

These birds are mainly small, stocky, woodland species with short, stout bills. Some have crests.  They are adaptable birds, with a mixed diet including seeds and insects. Many species live around human habitation and come readily to bird feeders for nuts or seed, and learn to take other foods.

Verdin (Auriparus flaviceps) Building Nest ©Earle Robinson

Verdin (Auriparus flaviceps) Building Nest ©Earle Robinson

The Penduline Tits constitute a family of small passerine birds, related to the true tits. All but the Verdin and Fire-capped Tit make elaborate bag nests hanging from trees (whence “penduline”, hanging), usually over water; inclusion of the fire-capped tit in this family is disputed by some authorities.

Verdin (Auriparus flaviceps) by D

Verdin (Auriparus flaviceps) by D

The Verdin was one of the Life Birds seen on our vacation this year. Didn’t want to stay put to have its photo taken. Then again, most of the titmice act that way. (Is it titmouses or titmice? :)  )

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Little is much when God is in it, and these little birds are great creations from their Creator.

So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:21 NKJV)

“Just a Little Talk With Jesus Makes It Right” ~ Vegter Quartet (together for Vi’s 90th Birthday)

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Crow Honeyeater

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Crow Honeyeater ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 7/31/15

I mentioned last week that the Horned Parakeet was second on my wanted list for New Caledonia but probably third on Joy’s. I knew that number two for Joy, after the Kagu, was this week’s species, the Crow Honeyeater, chosen by her for its scarcity as it is the rarest of the surviving New Caledonian endemics. I’m excluding the four critically endangered/probably extinct endemics: NC (New Caledonian) Rail (last definite record 1890), NC Lorikeet (1860), NC Nightjar (1939) and NC Owlet-Nightjar (possible sight record 1998).

Current estimates of the population of Crow Honeyeater are as low as 250 individuals, based on the density of 18 known pairs in a recent study in Rivière Bleue. Some think this is an overestimate and the population is thought to be continuing to decline. The reasons for this are uncertain with loss of habitat and introduced rats being proposed. It’s preferred habitat is primary rainforest but it is now absent from areas of apparently suitable habitat and its smaller Fijian relative, the Giant Honeyeater Gymnomyza viridis being apparently unaffected by rats. So there may be other factors involved that are not understood.

Crow Honeyeater (Gymnomyza aubryana) by Ian

In any case, I hadn’t really expected to see it so it didn’t make my seriously wanted list – I try to avoid unreasonable expectations to prevent disappointment. But our guide Jean Marc Meriot wasn’t going to be discouraged by such pessimism and, after we had had our fill of Kagus, worked very hard indeed to find one.

Crow Honeyeater (Gymnomyza aubryana) by Ian

Eventually, after lunch this very obliging bird appeared suddenly and perched in full view on an uncluttered perch near the road through the dense forest and posed for photographs. Unlike the Horned Parakeet, it was a brief encounter, but the bird displayed a number of poses in that time including a wing stretch, second photo, and an apparent wave, third photo.

Crow Honeyeater (Gymnomyza aubryana) by Ian

This is a huge honeyeater, and as far as I can ascertain vies with the Yellow Wattlebird of Tasmania as the world’s largest. Length varies from at 35-42.5cm/14-17in with males being larger and recorded at 211-284g/7.4-10oz and two females at 152g/5.4oz and 159g/5.6oz. This compares with the longer-tailed Yellow Wattlebird with males ranging from 44-50cm/17-20in and 135-260g/4.8-9.2oz and females 37-43cm/15-17in and 105-190g/3.7-6.7. So, I’d declare the Crow Honeyeater the winner as the heaviest, and the Yellow Wattlebird as the winner in the length stakes.

Incidentally, the ‘Giant’ Honeyeater of Fiji is a mere 25-31cm/10-12in and similar in size to the only other close relative of the Crow Honeyeater, the Mao of Samoa (Gymnomyza samoensis). Neither the Giant Honeyeater nor the Moa is black and neither has facial wattles, so the Crow Honeyeater is quite special. The bird we saw had red wattles, but they can be yellowish, while the feet are pinkish-yellow and juveniles lack wattles.

It makes me sad to write this as its future looks rather bleak. So, I hope the bird in the third photo is just pausing in mid-itch – it had been been itching its ear a moment earlier – and not waving goodbye on behalf of its kind. To end on a brighter note, there are about nearly 20 other New Caledonian endemics that are doing rather better, and several others that are endemic to New Caledonian and Vanuatu, so New Caledonia’s record is fairly good compared with many other islands in the Pacific. We got photos of nearly all of these, so I’ll have more to say about them in the future. I’ve been busy putting them up on the website and you can find them via the Recent Additions thumbnails on the website: http://www.birdway.com.au/index.htm#updates.

Greetings
Ian

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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/
Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland: iTunesGoogle Play Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


PAS-Meli Giant Honeyeater (Gymnomyza viridis) by Tom Tarrant

PAS-Meli Giant Honeyeater (Gymnomyza viridis) by Tom Tarrant

Lee’s Addition:

More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. (Psalms 19:10 KJV)

Added a photo of a Giant Honeyeater. When I first looked at the photos, I thought it was a Mynah, but as Ian explains, this is a different species. It was the eyes.

Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) by Ian

Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) by Ian

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Ian’s Bird of the Week
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Kneeling Before Royalty?

Gambel's Quail and Dan at Desert Mus-Tucson by Lee

Gambel’s Quail and Dan at Desert Mus-Tucson by Lee

O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. (Psalms 95:6 KJV)

Bow down Your ear to me, deliver me speedily! Be my Rock of refuge, a strong Fortress to save me! Yes, You are my Rock and my Fortress; therefore for Your name’s sake lead me and guide me. (Psalms 31:2-3 AMP)

Ian’s Horned Parakeet newsletter showed that the “horn” was really feathers. While on vacation, we also saw birds with prominent feathers. One was walking around the aviary and it was near Dan. He was kneeling down to get a photo and I caught him doing so.

Those western quails like to parade around like they are Royalty. Not really, but they are cute with that bobbing curved topknot. It bobs because of the way they walk around putting their head up and down or “bobbing”.

Gambel's Quail by Dan at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Gambel’s Quail by Dan at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

The first quail we encountered were three Gambel’s Quail marching across the road on a street in Tuscon. Then in an aviary we saw this Gambel’s Quail. This is what Dan was taking while I was taking his photo.

We also saw the Scaled Quail there at the Desert Museum’s aviary.

Scaled Quail by Dan at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Scaled Quail by Dan at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Here are the photos we took of these two quail at the aviary on our vacation:

For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. (Romans 14:11 KJV)

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11 KJV)

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The Gambel’s quail (Callipepla gambelii) is a small ground-dwelling bird in the New World quail family. It inhabits the desert regions of Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Texas, and Sonora; also New Mexico-border Chihuahua and the Colorado River region of Baja California. The Gambel’s quail is named in honor of William Gambel, a 19th-century naturalist and explorer of the Southwestern United States.  (Wikipedia)

The Scaled quail (Callipepla squamata), also commonly called blue quail or cottontop, is a species of the New World quail family. It is a bluish gray bird found in the arid regions of the Southwestern United States to Central Mexico. This bird is named for the scaly appearance of its breast and back feathers. Along with its scaly markings, the bird is easily identified by its white crest that resembles a tuft of cotton. (Wikipedia)

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Update to Ian’s Bird of the Week

Horned Parakeet (Eunymphicus cornutus) ©WikiC

Horned Parakeet (Eunymphicus cornutus) ©WikiC

O LORD, correct me, but with justice; Not in Your anger, lest You bring me to nothing. (Jeremiah 10:24 NKJV)

** Update to Ian’s Bird of the Week **

Just thought you might like to see a Hooded Parakeet with the two “horns”. Also, I assumed this was in Australia, but it was taken in New Caledonia.

Here is a drawing of the Horned parakeet, (Nymphicus cornutus) (above) and Ouvea Parakeet, (Nymphicus uvaensis) that Ian mentioned.

Horned Parakeet, (Nymphicus cornutus) (above) and Ouvea Parakeet, Nymphicus uvaensis) ©WikiC

Horned Parakeet, (Nymphicus cornutus) (above) and Ouvea Parakeet, Nymphicus uvaensis) ©WikiC

The Ouvea Parakeet is really similar:

Ouvea Parakeet (Eunymphicus uvaeensis) ©WikiC

Ouvea Parakeet (Eunymphicus uvaeensis) ©WikiC

This is a great link to compare the two birds.

Animal Photos

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Horned Parakeet

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Horned Parakeet ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 7/27/15

The Kagu was naturally top of our target list in New Caledonia being the most bizarre in appearance, behaviour, taxonomy and general curiosity value. Second on my list and I think third on Joy’s were the horned parakeets of Grande Terre (the main island) and Ouvéa, one of the Loyalty Island off the east coast of Grande Terre. These birds used to be treated as a single species, but have recently been split into the Horned and Ouvéa Parakeets respectively. I mentioned in a previous post that the Kagu nearly got upstaged as bird of the trip by an individual Horned Parakeet at Mont Khogis near Noumea, so here is the bird in question and the interaction that we had with it, a memorable birding experience by any measure.

On an earlier visit to the Inn (Auberge) at Mont Khogis we’d had brief views of three Horned Parakeets flying across the road and we had been told by Serge, the owner of the Inn, that the parakeets came in the late afternoon to feed on the Lavender trees in front of the building. On our visit to Rivière Blue we also tried with little success to photograph a back-lit one feeding in dense foliage right above us, a good situation for chiropractic business but not much else. All was quiet at the Inn on our second visit, so we started on the nearby rainforest walk until Roman, one of the staff, came charging after us with the welcome news that a parakeet had arrived.

We set ourselves up very cautiously at an unobtrusive distance from the tree and started taking remote photos of the parakeet and very gradually working our way towards it. I mean gradually: I and Joy had each taken about a hundred more distant shots before the first one in this series, above. As you can see the bird was very aware of our presence and looked as if it could take off at any time.

We moved slowly closer and the bird started to look more relaxed. In the second photo it is showing its skill at perching on one foot, holding a little bunch of Lavender fruit in the other, munching on them and watching us at the same time. We started to get the impression that it was actually enjoying the attention and showing off for our benefit, third photo.

Eventually,we worked our way up to the tree and around the other side so that we could photograph it in the sunlight a little over an hour before sunset with the mountains in the background. The bird munched on regardless and seemed completely unworried by our approach. It seemed to have an extraordinary appetite. We reckoned that it ate about 700 of the fruit in the time that we were there. It wouldn’t take too long for a small flock to complete strip the tree.

They’re referred to as ‘horned’ rather than ‘crested’ as the feathers of the horn are permanent erect. There should be two horns, but one of this bird’s may have been broken off. They are probably more than just decorative as they nest in hollows in trees and the horns seem to be used to sense the space, or lack of it, above the head. That at least is the suggestion made for the similarly equipped but very different Crested Auklet. It nest in holes in coastal boulders and being able to avoid cracking your skull against rocks would seem to be very desirable.

We can become blasé about even the most riveting spectacles. Three hundred photos each later, here is Joy relaxing under the tree and the parakeet, top centre, looking in the opposite direction. It was still there when we decided it was time to leave but it called after us as if sorry to see us go. By the time we walked around to the car park below the inn, it had left too and joined a couple of other parakeets in another Lavender tree. Joy and I agreed that this was one of the most beautiful parrots that we had encountered.

The horned parakeets belong to the sub-family of Australasian parrots called broad-tailed parrots. The best known members of this group (Playtcercini) are the Australian Rosellas, Ringnecks and Mulga Parrot and its relatives. The group also includes the Shining Parrots of Fiji and the Cyanorhamphus Parakeets of various islands of the southwest Pacific including Norfolk Island, New Caledonia, New Zealand and its sub-Antarctic islands and, formerly, Lord Howe Island and Macquarie Island. Most parrots are fairly sedentary, but these island ones seem to be quite good at island hopping, maybe helped by the cyclones that move generally in an easterly or southeasterly direction in this part of the world.

The Horned Parakeet is listed as Vulnerable with an estimated population on Grande Terre of between 5000 and 10,000 individuals. The Ouvéa Parakeet has a limited distribution on the northern end of this small island (about 40km long) and is listed as Endangered. Recent estimates of the population are about 2000 individuals and it is thought to be increasing. We did, of course, go to Ouvéa later in our stay….

I had some interesting correspondence on giant tree ferns after the last Kagu bird of the week. The Guinness Book of Records has a Norfolk Island Cyathea brownii species as the tallest and I had photos of a very tall one in Vanuatu, and a carving made from another one.

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/
Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland: iTunes; Google Play Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; (Luke 1:69 KJV)

What an amazing “horn”! As Ian said, it was supposed to have a second one. Sounds like the usefulness of their “horn” spares their head. I’ve raised up under things before and hit my head. Maybe I need one of those. :)

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Say’s Phoebe and Nest

On our vacation, we spent the night in El Centro, California. In the morning, while loading the luggage back in the car, I noticed a bird flying in and out of a corner. Investigating, here is what I found:

Say's Phoebe nestling at El Centro Ca by Lee

Say’s Phoebe nestling at El Centro Ca by Lee

Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God. (Psalms 84:3 KJV)

The nest with a young bird in it was patiently waiting for mom/pop to show up with some more food. Sure enough, the parent came and went but didn’t stay long enough for me to get a photo. Finally, they landed on a spot long enough to get a few photos. (He/she was in the direct sun and not the best photo.)

Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya) at El Centro Ca by Lee

Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya) at El Centro Ca by Lee

Yeah! A new Life Bird for my list. This is a Say’s Phobe. Been reading up on this beautiful creation from the Creator. The Say’s phoebe (Sayornis saya) is a passerine bird in the Tyrannidae – Tyrant Flycatchers Family. A common bird in the western United States. It prefers dry, desolate areas. This bird was named for Thomas Say, the American naturalist.

Here is a better photo from Flickr by Dawn Ellner:

Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya) ©©Flickr Dawn Ellner

Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya) ©©Flickr Dawn Ellner

The adult Say’s phoebe is a drab, chunky bird. It is gray-brown above with a black tail and buffy cinnamon below, becoming more orange around the vent. The tail is long and the primaries end just past the rump on resting birds. The wings seem pale in flight and resemble a female mountain bluebird. The juvenile is similar to adult, but has buffy orange to whitish wingbars and a yellow gape. Adult birds are 7.5 in (19 cm) long. They have a 13 in (33 cm) wingspan and they weigh 0.75 oz (21 g). Their diet is almost exclusively insects which they dart out to capture. Sometimes they hover over grass to catch the insects.

Nest – Adherent also under eaves, bridges, in wells; of grass, forbs, moss, plant fibers, lined with fine materials, especially hair. Female believed to build nest. The Eggs – White, mostly unmarked, some (last laid) with small red spots. 0.8″ (19 mm). The female incubates for 12-14 days. Development is altricial (immobile, downless, eyes closed, fed). Young leave the nest after 14-16 days. Both sexes tend young. “Say’s Phoebe is common around people, often nesting on buildings.” (All About Birds)

(Info from Wikipedia, internet and Thayer’s Birding Software)

More about that nest in the next post. Photos can be clicked on to enlarge them.

(Update: Orni-Theology and The Nest)
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Good News
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Sunday Inspiration – Australian Robin and Friends

Cape Rockjumper (Chaetops frenatus) ©WikiC

Cape Rockjumper (Chaetops frenatus) ©WikiC

“The LORD lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let God be exalted, The Rock of my salvation! (2 Samuel 22:47 NKJV)

This week’s birds from their Creator include the Petroicidae – Australasian Robins, Picathartidae – RockfowlChaetopidae – Rockjumpers and the Eupetidae – Rail-babbler Families.

The Robins are all endemic to Australasia: New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand and numerous Pacific Islands as far east as Samoa. For want of an accurate common name, the family is often called the Australasian robins. There are 46 members presently. They are not related to our American Robin.

Flame Robin by Ian

Flame Robin by Ian

Most species have a compact build with a large, rounded head, a short, straight bill, and rounded wingtips. They occupy a wide range of wooded habitats, from subalpine to tropical rainforest, and mangrove swamps to semi-arid scrubland. All are primarily insectivorous, although a few supplement their diet with seeds. Hunting is mostly by perch and pounce, a favoured tactic being to cling sideways onto a treetrunk and scan the ground below without moving.

They have long-term pair-bonds and small family groups. Most members practice cooperative breeding, with all family members helping defend a territory and feed nestlings. Nests are cup-shaped, usually constructed by the female, and often placed in a vertical fork of a tree or shrub. Many species are expert at adding moss, bark or lichen to the outside of the nest as camouflage, making it very difficult to spot, even when it is in a seemingly prominent location.

White-necked Rockfowl (Picathartes gymnocephalus) cc Ross@Texas

White-necked Rockfowl (Picathartes gymnocephalus) cc Ross@Texas

The White-necked and Grey-necked Rockfowls are the only members of the Picatharitidae family. They are also called “bald crows’ and are found in the rain-forests of tropical west and central Africa. They have unfeathered heads, and feed on insects and invertebrates picked from damp rocky areas. Both species are totally non-migratory, being dependent on a specialised rocky jungle habitat.

They are large (33–38 centimetres (13–15 in) long) passerines with crow-like black bills, long neck, tail and legs. They weigh between 200–250 grams (7.1–8.8 oz). The strong feet and grey legs are adapted to terrestrial movement, and the family progresses through the forest with long bounds on the ground. The wings are long but are seldom used for long flights. Rockfowl are generalized feeders, taking a wide range of invertebrate prey.

Drakensberg Rockjumper (Chaetops aurantius) by ©WikiC

He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He. (Deuteronomy 32:4 NKJV)

The Rockjumpers are medium-sized insectivorous or omnivorous birds in the genus Chaetops, which constitutes the entire family Chaetopidae. The two species, the Cape Rockjumper,, and the Drakensberg Rockjumper, are endemic residents of southern Africa. The Cape Rockjumper is a resident of the West Cape and SW East Cape, and the Orange-breasted (or Drakensberg) Rockjumper is distributed in the Lesotho highlands and areas surrounding this in South Africa. These are birds with mostly brown and red plumage. Both with long, white tipped black tails, black throats, broad white submoustachial lines, rufous or orange bellies and rumps and grey and black patterned backs and wings.[The iris is red and the bills and legs are black. Their wings are very small and they do not fly very often. They spend most of their lives running and jumping among rocks and grasses while hunting insects.

Rail-babbler (Eupetes macrocerus) by Peter Ericsson

Rail-babbler (Eupetes macrocerus) by Peter Ericsson

The Rail-babbler or Malaysian Rail-babbler (Eupetes macrocerus) is a strange, rail-like, brown and pied inhabitant of the floor of primary forest in the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra (the nominate subspecies macrocerus), as well as Borneo (ssp. borneensis), distantly related to African crow-like birds. Its population has greatly decreased, however, it is locally still common in logged forest or on hill-forest on slopes. The species is poorly known and rarely seen, in no small part due to its shyness.

(Most information from Wikipedia)

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“Hiding in the Shadow of the Rock” ~ © Dr. Richard Gregory (Used with permission)

Each will be like a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land. (Isaiah 32:2 ESV)

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Crow Versus Eagle, Free Ride Instead

Crow on Eagles Back ©©

Crow on Eagles Back ©©

Here is an article worth looking at:

Crow Tries to Fight Eagle, Gets Free Ride Instead

‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. (Exodus 19:4 NKJV)

Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; They fly away like an eagle toward heaven. (Proverbs 23:5 NKJV)

But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31 NKJV)

Our pursuers were swifter Than the eagles of the heavens. They pursued us on the mountains… (Lamentations 4:19a NKJV)

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More from Focusing On Wildlife

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Cactus, Birds and Boots

Gila Woodpecker Hole Desert Mus-Tucson by Lee

Gila Woodpecker Hole Desert Mus-Tucson by Lee

Again, while at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, we learned more about the “Cactus Boot.” I was aware that Woodpeckers, especially the local Gila Woodpecker,  make their homes in cactus, especially Saguaro Cactus. I also knew that the cactus, to prevent loss of moisture, seals around the “wound”, a.k.a. nest cavity. Another way the Lord created the plants and birds to survive in the harsh conditions of a desert.

Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis) Desert Mus-Tucson by Lee

Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis) Desert Mus-Tucson by Lee

One of the docents gave a short lesson about the cactus and the Saguaro boot that was very interesting. First, notice the ribs or pleats on the cactus. These allow the cactus to expand during the rainy times to allow storage of water. Then as the dry seasons arrive, they will contract again. Wise creation design. The Anatomy section of the Cactaceae (cactus family) has a great explanation about this. “A fully hydrated large stem is more than 90 percent water and weighs 80 pounds per foot (120 kg per meter).”

The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, Even with joy and singing. … They shall see the glory of the LORD, The excellency of our God. (Isaiah 35:1-2 NKJV)

Showing the ribs of a dead Saguaro and holes where the Woodpeckers had their boot.

Showing the ribs of a dead Saguaro and holes where the Woodpeckers had their boot.

“Near the center of the stem is a cylinder of 13 to 20 woody ribs running the length of the main stem and branching into the arms. In the upper part of a stem the ribs are separate; as the stem ages the ribs continue to grow and fuse into a latticed cylinder.”

Cactus Boot Lesson

Cactus Boot Lesson

When the Gila Woodpecker and other birds make the nest in the cactus, a hole is created, to the birds preference and then the cactus seals around that area. When they take these cavity nest out of old/dead cactus it looks like a “boot.”

Cactus Boot Desert Mus-Tuscon by Lee

Cactus Boot Desert Mus-Tuscon by Lee

The Gila woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis) is a medium-sized woodpecker of the desert regions of the southwestern United States and western Mexico. In the U.S., they range through southeastern California, southern Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. (Wiki)

PIC-Pici Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis) Desert Mus-Tucson cr(11)

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Matthew 8:20 NKJV)

Besides the Saguaros, they also make nest in mesquite trees. Their cavaties in the cacti are later used by other species, even the elf owl. They usually lay 3-5 white eggs.

Here are some photos of the Cactus, Birds and Boots:

Psalms 33:1-8 NKJV
(1) Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful.
(2) Praise the LORD with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings.
(3) Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy.
(4) For the word of the LORD is right, And all His work is done in truth.
(5) He loves righteousness and justice; The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.
(6) By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
(7) He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses.
(8) Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.

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Arizona Hummers – Vacation

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Desert Mus-Tuscon

Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Desert Mus-Tuscon

By them (springs) the birds of the heavens have their home; They sing among the branches. He waters the hills from His upper chambers; The earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works. (Psalms 104:12-13 NKJV)

While visiting the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, we visited their Hummingbird Aviary. They have four species of hummingbirds flying around in their spacious surroundings. Well, actually, a couple of them were sitting on their nest.

Hummingbird on Nest Desert Mus-Tuscon by Lee

Hummingbird on Nest Notice the Anchoring System by Lee

I was excited again to be able to see some of the Lord’s fantastic Hummingbirds. Especially two of the species. I had never seen the Broad-billed or Broad-tailed Hummingbirds before. Thankfully, we saw them again outside the aviary, which enabled me to add those 2 to my Life List of Birds. (264 and counting)

Anna's Hummingbird by Dan

Anna’s Hummingbird by Dan

My camera acted up just as we entered the aviary. What disappointment. Thankful, there was a man there with the exact camera as mine and we were able to get it re-adjusted. Apparently I had hit some wrong button and in my frustration, continued to mess it up more. (None of you have ever been frustrated?) In the mean time, the hummers were doing their thing, totally unaware of my problems.

In the photos below are some showing their nest. Three of the four species had active nest. They are so tiny.

Hummer on a nest by Dan

Hummer on a nest by Dan

All the birds of the heavens made their nests in its boughs; Under its branches all the beasts of the field brought forth their young; And in its shadow all great nations made their home. (Ezekiel 31:6 NKJV)

I said that to say, I don’t have as many photos to show, because many were tossed. Here are some of the better ones. Unfortunately, I’m not positive of who was who.

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Birds of the Bible – Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus) by Lee

Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus) by Lee

Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. (Genesis 2:19 NKJV)

After posting the photos of the Cactus Wrens (The Chase Begins…), I realized that you weren’t told much about these birds. After researching them; I decided they deserve to be a Birds of the Bible bird.

Why? Not because they are named specifically, but because of the way the Lord Jesus created these wrens to live in the desert environment and to survive there.

Cactus Wren Desert Mus-Tucson by Lee 37

Cactus Wren Desert Mus-Tucson by Lee 37

For one thing, they sort of blend in with their surroundings which helps protect them, camouflage. Hanging out in those spiked plants give them another great advantage.

Cactus Wren at nest ©WikiC by BigWheel55

Cactus Wren at nest ©WikiC by BigWheel55

Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26 NKJV)

One of the favorite places they like to make their nest is in the Cholla cactus. It is very spiny and keeps predators at bay. We saw several nests. An interesting thing about their nest show wisdom given them by the Creator. “Cactus wrens build nests that are the size and shape of a football with an opening at one end. They will construct this nest out of grasses and other annual plants, but can also include scraps of cloth and other woven fibers that they find. They will build this nest (and many others) usually in cholla, but also in palo verde, acacias, saguaros, or the hanging pot in your backyard.” (Fact Sheet)

Cholla Cactus by Lee

Cholla Cactus by Lee

Nest in a Cholla Cactus at Desert Museum by Lee

Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth, And makes us wiser than the birds of heaven?’ (Job 35:11 NKJV)

The nest always have a roof over them. “Domed with tunnel-shaped entrance, made of coarse grass or plant fibers. Lined with feathers.” They also make a perch or doorstep at the opening. They need the dome or roof to shield the hatchlings and themselves from the heat and sun of the day. At night, the feathers and other linings help preserve the body heat. As you may know, desert have large temperature swings each day. Sounds like wise advise for humans in a desert also.

They do have some predators. “Coachwhips and other whipsnakes are able to navigate their way through the cactus and often will take eggs or nestlings. Adult birds can be food for coyotes, hawks, fox, bobcats or domestic cats.” (Wikipedia)

“It is a bird of arid regions, and is often found around yucca, mesquite or saguaro; it nests in cactus plants, sometimes in a hole in a saguaro, sometimes where its nest will be protected by the prickly cactus spines of a cholla or leaves of a yucca.” (Wiki)

The thing that does reveal were they are is when they sing:

It is not the fanciest song, but they sound happy when they sing. I can’t sing well, but I enjoy singing. The Bible says were are to make a joyful noise.

“The Cactus Wren is the largest North American wren, at 18–23 cm (7.1–9.1 in) long. Unlike the smaller wrens, the cactus wren is easily seen. It has the loud voice characteristic of wrens. The cactus wren is much less shy than most of the family. Its marked white eyestripe, brown head, barred wings and tail, and spotted tail feathers make it easy to identify. Like most birds in its genus, it has a slightly curved bill. There is little sexual dimorphism.

The cactus wren primarily eats insects, including ants, beetles, grasshoppers, and wasps. Occasionally, it will take seeds, fruits, small reptiles and frogs. Foraging begins late in the morning and is versatile; the cactus wren will search under leaves and ground litter and overturn objects in search of insects, as well as feeding in the foliage and branches of larger vegetation. Increasing temperatures cause a shift in foraging behavior to shady and cooler microclimates, and activity slows during hot afternoon temperatures. Almost all water is obtained from food, and free-standing water is rarely used even when found” (Wikipedia) Another source mentioned that when the Gila Woodpecker pecks the cactus, it causes it to seep liquid. The Cactus Wren drinks this also for fluid. That is another great provision provided by their Creator.

Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus) by Lee

Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus) by Lee

The Cactus Wren has the honor of being the State Bird of Arizona.

INTERESTING FACTS: The cactus wren is very protective of its nesting area. They have been known to attack squirrels, other birds, and even people who have gotten too close to their nests. They are not as shy as other wrens and, in fact, have been known to fly into open windows of cars or homes out of curiosity. (50States.com)

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Kagu, Episode 2

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Kagu, Episode 2 ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 7/13/15

Before, I forget again, here is the email of our Jean-Marc our guide at Rivière Bleue that I meant to include last week: jean-marc.meriot@province-sud.nc. He works as a ranger in the park, is very knowledgeable, speaks good English and worked very hard to get us the birds we wanted. The fee was 2000 CFP per hour for both of us (about 24 AUD). We had great fun with him.

Another terrific national park that we visited was Les Grandes Fougères a huge national park that was established as recently as 2008. Les Grandes Fougéres means the Great Ferns and refers to the Giant Tree Fern, endemic to New Caledonia which can reach a height of 30m. It’s claimed to be the tallest tree fern in the world, despite its scientific name (above), though it may have a rival in the shape of another very tall one in Vanuatu, but I haven’t been able to track that one down.

Parc des Grandes Fougères is inland from La Foa, which is on the east coast highway about 70km north of the International Airport, which is itself about 45km north of the capital Nouméa. The road is good and the park is easy to find. There are well-signed walking tracks and you can get a map from the ticket office at the entrance. We saw a juvenile Kagu making a fast getaway on our first visit there and we returned for a second visit on our last full day in New Caledonia.

On that second visit, at lunchtime we got chatting to a local family who shared the only picnic table in the vicinity. They were showing the park to the grandparents visiting from France, and excitedly recounted their encounter with a pair of Kagus at the next spot on our itinerary, a Banyan tree were there was a T-junction on the walking track near a stream.

We knew by then that Kagus are territorial and that their territories are usually about 20 hectares. So we searched in the region of the Banyan along the three tracks. We were on the one not on our original itinerary approaching a cut-out log that had fallen across the track when a family of kagus going in the opposite direction jumped up onto the log and, seeing us, froze. The first kagu photo shows Ma on the cut out part, Pa on the left of the photo and Junior barely visible under Ma’s tail.

The second kagu photo shows, Pa and Ma still like statues and Junior, still unaware, leaping onto the log without a care in the world. I said ‘Oh my God!’, they looked as if they said “Oh mon Dieu!’ and we all just looked at each other. These photos are full frame using only 180mm of the 100-400mm zoom so you can imagine how close we were.

The next photo shows Ma, still otherwise motionless, turning to Pa and saying ‘Alors????!!!!”. The kagu consensus seemed to be to stick to plan A, more or less, and they eventually headed down the hill to the stream. We followed them there and both we and the kagus met up with some other hikers – be warned, the park is quite popular on Sundays.

Here is Pa, fourth kagu photo, contemplating crossing the stream while the fifth photo shows Junior (note the barring on the wings) crossing back across the stream and having a drink in the general confusion. I got the impression that while cats lick their fur to avoid looking indecisive, kagus drink.

More confusion was to follow, this time caused by another kagu. Pa tried to lead Junior past us to a quieter spot further down the stream away from the tracks, when he (Pa) got distracted by an intruder, abandoned Junior and confronted the other male. I just happened to be taking an iPhone video of Pa when this happened and I’ve posted it on Youtube. The last kagu photo shows Pa and the intruder doing their threat display which consists of the two birds circling each other at close quarters with their wings hanging loose and their crests erected.

After that, we decided it was time to leave them in peace. The whole encounter lasted about 40 minutes and it was a fitting climax to our visit to New Caledonia. The photo of the displaying kagus was one of the last photos that I took on the trip.

Kagus aren’t just great birds in their own right, they are also of great taxonomic and bio-geographical interest. The Kagu is the single member of its family, the Rhynochetidae. It’s only rather distant living relative appears to be the Sun Bittern of South America, also the member of a single-species family the Eurypigidae. These two families used to be included in a heterogenous collection of birds in the Crane order (Gruiformes), but recent DNA studies (Hackett et al 2008) have led to their elevation to their own two-species order the Eurypigiformes. This makes them very distinguished – the other 39 or so orders of birds contain about 10,000 species.

The traditional bio-geographical explanation for this is that both species had a Gondwana ancestor that existed on New Caledonia when it separated from Gondwana. Recent studies (see Grandcolas et al 2008) indicate that New Caledonia has probably been completely submerged since then and all terrestrial plants and animals have colonised since then. If this is correct, then either the simple Sun Bittern – Kagu relationship is incorrect or their ancestors found some other way to get to where they are now, such as island hopping with extinctions obliterating their tracks. The mystery remains…

Greetings
Ian

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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/
Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland: iTunesGoogle Play Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

My heart is troubled and does not rest; days of affliction come to meet me. (Job 30:27 AMP)

I think the daddy Kagu went to afflict the other Kagu. :)

Thanks Ian, for another episode to your Kagu adventure. They are really pretty and amazed that they let you get so close. We enjoyed your first episode also: Ian’s Bird of the Week – Kagu

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