FLORIDA POND-SHORE REPORT, PART 3

FLORIDA POND-SHORE REPORT, PART 3

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

He hath made everything beautiful in his time….

(Ecclesiastes 3:11a)

BLUE JAY (photo credit: Rob Hanson/ Wikipedia)

As reported in 2 recent blogposts   —  ( see https://leesbird.com/2023/01/20/florida-pond-shore-report-part-1/  and https://leesbird.com/2023/01/23/florida-pond-shore-report-part-2/ )  —  the pond-shore birds were plentiful (except not ducks, for some odd reasons) in St. Petersburg, Florida, at the home of Chaplain Bob and Marcia Webel, on the morning of Monday, January 16th (A.D.2023, as Chaplain Bob and I sat in lawn chairs in the Webels’ backyard that adjoins the pond-shore (of what Floridians call a “lake”), drinking our coffee (and eating toasted rye bread). 

In that prior-reported blogposts I described reported (in Part 1) seeing Bald Eagle, White Ibis, and Common Grackle, as well as seeing (in Part 2) Great Blue Heron, Great White Egret, and Double-crested Cormorant.

In this report (Part 3) the birds to be featured are Snowy Egret, Mockingbird, Mourning Dove, and Blue Jay.

SNOWY EGRET in St. Petersburg  (Joan and Dan’s Birding Blog image, q.v.)

SNOWY EGRET.  The Snowy Egret has previously been described on this blog by ornithologist Lee Dusing, documenting this splendidly plumed wader (seen in St. Petersburg), in her blogpost “Walking Snowy Egret Showing Off Yellow Feet”, posted  at https://leesbird.com/2019/01/04/walking-snowy-egret-showing-off-yellow-feet/ , on January 4th of A.D.2019, — as well as in “’E’ is for Egrets and Emus: ‘E Birds’, Part 2” (posted at https://leesbird.com/2016/11/08/eis-for-egrets-and-emus-e-birds-part-2/ , on November 11th of AD2018).   Snowy Egrets (Egretta thula) are reported to hybridize with Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) and Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), according to Eugene M. McCarthy, HANDBOOK OF AVIAN HYBRIDS FO THE WORLD (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2006), pages 189-191.  The Snowy Egret, as a member of the “heron-egret” subfamily Ardeinae, is a distant “cousin” to the Great White Egret that is described in “Egret Feathers, Worth More than Gold!” (posted at https://leesbird.com/2018/08/17/egret-feathers-worth-more-than-gold/ , dated August 17th of AD2018).

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD    ( U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service image / Wikipedia, q.v.)

MOCKINGBIRD.  The Northern Mockingbird (whose ability to “mock” the vocal sounds of others, reminding us of the wisdom in Ecclesiastes 10:20) has previously been described on this birdwatching blog  –  see “Mockingbirds: Versatile Voices in Plain Plumage”, posted at https://leesbird.com/2017/08/16/mockingbirds-versatile-voices-in-plain-plumage/  (on August 16th of AD2016).  See also ornithologist Lee Dusing’s video-enhanced blogpost (“Northern Mockingbird”), posted March 19th of AD2009, at https://leesbird.com/2009/03/19/northern-mockingbird/ , citing the Peterson Field Guide Video Series, q.v., at https://www.youtube.com/user/petersonfieldguides .

MOURNING DOVE, ( Don BeBold image / Wikipedia, q.v.)

MOURNING DOVE.  The Mourning Dove has previously been described on this birdwatching blog  –  see “The Ghost Army – Repost”, posted November 2nd of AD2015, at https://leesbird.com/2015/11/02/the-ghost-army-repost/  —  citing https://www.icr.org/article/8990 (from the November AD2015 issue of ACTS & FACTS magazine), — as well as in “Pond-side Birdwatching in Florida, Part III”, posted March 5th of AD2015 (at https://leesbird.com/2015/03/05/pond-side-birdwatching-in-florida-iii/ ).  See also ornithologist Lee Dusing’s interesting report on doves in her blogpost “Birds of the Bible:  Dove and Turtledove”, posted May 16th of AD2008 (at https://leesbird.com/2008/05/16/birds-of-the-bible-dove-and-turtle-dove/ ), noting that our Mourning Dove matches the prophet’s lamentation in Isaiah 38:14.  Of course, just because you hear mourning-like cooing—that sounds like a dove—it might be another bird!  (See “So, Who Coos from the Rooftop?” — posted June 9th of AD2022, at https://leesbird.com/2022/06/09/so-who-coos-from-the-rooftop/ ), noting that Roadrunners can make sounds like those of Mourning Doves!  Amazing!

BLUE JAY (John James Audubon painting, ~AD1830s / public domain)

BLUE JAY.  The Blue Jay, which can be a neighborhood bully, has been described on this birding blog  –  see “Bird Brains, Amazing Evidence of God’s Genius”, posted on March 7th of AD2013 (at https://leesbird.com/2013/03/07/48484/ ).  When ranges overlap, such as in Rocky Mountain states, Blue Jays sometimes hybridize with Steller’s Jays — see “Jaybirds Mix It Up in Colorado”, posted on November 12th of AD2018 (at  https://leesbird.com/2018/11/12/jaybirds-mix-it-up-in-colorado/ ). The behavioral habits of Blue Jays, which include eating sunflower seeds, are noted within the poetic blogpost titled “Here’s Seed for Thought”, posted on July 4th of AD2015 (at https://leesbird.com/2015/07/04/heres-seed-for-thought/ ).  Another jaybird adventure that comes to mind is the birdwatching joy (on July 7th of AD2006, with my wife, while approaching a rural restaurant) of seeing a Eurasian Jay in a wooded field outside of Porvoo, Finland – see  “Eurasian Jay: ‘Jay of the Oaks’ Admired in Finland”, posted on October 10th of AD2016 (at https://leesbird.com/2016/10/10/eurasian-jay-jay-of-the-oaks-admired-in-finland/  ). Truly amazing!

WEBELS’ BACKYARD BIRDWATCHING    (Marcia Webel photo, AD2016)

Meanwhile, the other pond-shore visiting birds  —  i.e., Florida Gallinule (a/k/a Common Moorhen), Anhinga (a/k/a Snakebird), Tufted Titmouse, Limpkin, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Muscovy Duck (the last being seen on grass of neighbor’s front-yard)  —   on the morning of Monday, January 16th of A.D.2023), must wait for another day to be reported here, Deo volente.  Thank the Lord for such good memories!

Also, thanks be unto the LORD for His creative and artistic bioengineering as our great Creator, including His Creatorship as exhibited in His making of Snowy Egrets (like the one below shown) and of all of Earth’s other magnificent birds!

><> JJSJ profjjsj@aol.com

SNOWY EGRET   (Rich Vial / Clearly Confused Blog photo credit)

FLORIDA POND-SHORE REPORT, PART 2

FLORIDA POND-SHORE REPORT, PART 2

Dr. James J. S. Johnson


And the stork, the heron [הָאֲנָפָ֖ה] after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.

Leviticus 11:19

As reported last Friday   —  ( see https://leesbird.com/2023/01/20/florida-pond-shore-report-part-1/  )  —  the pond-shore birds were plentiful (except not ducks, for some odd reasons) in St. Petersburg, Florida, at the home of Chaplain Bob and Marcia Webel, on the morning of Monday, January 16th (A.D.2023, as Chaplain Bob and I sat in lawn chairs in the Webels’ backyard that adjoins the pond-shore (of what Floridians call a “lake”), drinking our coffee (and eating toasted rye bread).  In that prior-reported blogpost I described the Bald Eagle, White Ibis, and Common Grackle.  This report (“Part 2” in this series) will feature the Great Blue Heron, Great White Egret, and Double-crested Cormorant.

GREAT BLUE HERON in Florida   (Terry Foote image / Wikipedia image, q.v.)

GREAT BLUE HERON.  The Great Blue Heron has previously been described on this blog  –  see “Great Blue Heron:  Patient, Prompt, and (Rarely) Pugnacious” (posted at https://leesbird.com/2014/06/30/great-blue-heron-patient-prompt-and-rarely-pugnacious/ ), reported on June 30th of A.D.2014.  Another Great Blue Heron report, documenting this gigantic yet graceful wader (seen in St. Petersburg), appears at https://leesbird.com/2015/02/18/pond-side-birdwatching-in-florida-i/  (“Pond-side Birdwatching in Florida, Part 1”), posted February 18th of A.D.2015.

GREAT WHITE EGRET with young   (Mike Baird image / Wikipedia, q.v.)

GREAT WHITE EGRET.  The Great White Egret (a/k/a “Great Egret”) has previously been described on this birdwatching blog  –  see “Pond-side Birdwatching in Florida, Part 3” (posted at https://leesbird.com/2015/03/05/pond-side-birdwatching-in-florida-iii/ ).  See also ornithologist Lee Dusing’s blogpost (“Great Egret Preening at Gatorland”), with magnificent photographs and video, from Gatorland, posted December 21st of A.D.2017, at https://leesbird.com/2017/12/21/great-egret-preening-at-gatorland/  .

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT, 1 with a fish   (Brocken Inaglory image / Wikipedia, q.v.)

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT.  The Double-crested Cormorant has previously been described on this birdwatching blog  –  see “Of Cormorants and Anhingas” (posted on June 13th of A.D.2019, at https://leesbird.com/2019/06/13/of-cormorants-and-anhingas/ ).  See also Lee Dusing’s interesting report on cormorants, “Birds of the Bible – Cormorant”, posted June 26th of A.D.2008, at https://leesbird.com/2008/06/26/birds-of-the-bible-cormorant/ — which includes video footage of domesticated cormorant fishing in China.  Amazing!

WEBELS’ BACKYARD BIRDWATCHING    (Marcia Webel photo, AD2016)

Meanwhile, the other pond-shore visiting birds   —  i.e., Mockingbird, Mourning Dove, Blue Jay, Snowy Egret, Common Moorhen (a/k/a “Florida Gallinule”, Anhinga, Tufted Titmouse, Limpkin, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Muscovy Duck (the last being seen on grass of neighbor’s front-yard)  —   on the morning of Monday, January 16th of A.D.2023), must wait for another day to be reported here, Deo volente. Thank the Lord for ssuch good memories!

I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause, Who doeth great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number … Who doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number.

Job 5:8-9 & 9:10

AULD LANG BIRDWATCHING”* follows:


(Sing to the tune of AULD LANG SYNE.)

Should old birdwatching be forgot

    And lifers go unseen?

The fowl so fair, in air we spot

    Or perching as they preen.

 While drinking coffee, birds we gaze

    On earth, at sea, in sky;

God made them all, us to amaze,

    Birds run and swim and fly!

*JJSJ limerick, first posted September 20th of A.D.2017, in “Happy Memories Accented by Black Skimmers at Madeira Beach” (at https://leesbird.com/2017/09/20/happy-memories-accented-by-black-skimmers-at-madeira-beach/  ).

FLORIDA POND-SHORE REPORT, PART 1

FLORIDA POND-SHORE REPORT, PART 1

Dr. James J. S. Johnson


“I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pond of water, and the dry land springs of water.” 

(Isaiah 41:18)

Wow! What a morning birdwatching in St. Petersburg, Florida, at the home of Chaplain Bob and Marcia Webel, good Christian friends (of mine) since the early A.D.1970s (and good friends of my wife, years later). On the morning of Monday, January 16th (A.D.2023) we sat in lawn chairs inside the backyard that borders a near-the-bay pond (i.e., what Floridians call a “lake”), drinking our coffee (and eating toasted rye bread), enjoying the privilege of observing the following birds:

BALD EAGLE  (Wikipedia image)

Bald Eagle. When a Bald Eagle fly to the top branches of a pond-shore tree the smaller birds fled, yielding to the eagle’s raptor reputation. All American patriots know the Bald Eagle, our national bird.  The heads and necks (of both male adults and female adults) are covered with bright white feathers, giving it the appearance of being “bald” (from a distance).  [See John Bull & John Farrand, Jr., NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY FIELD GUIDE TO NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS:  EASTERN REGION, revised edition (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), pages 321-322 & 423-424.]  These heavy hawk-like raptors love to eat fish, so it is not surprising to see them at and near seashores, lakeshores, estuarial bays and riverbanks, and similar shorelines where fish are readily available. [See Roger Tory Peterson, PETERSON FIELD GUIDE TO BIRDS OF WESTERN NORTH AMERICA, 5th edition (Boston, MA: HarperCollins, 2020), page 178.]  

WHITE IBIS  (Wikipedia image)

White Ibis.  Although wild, these happy-to-eat-bread birds are noticeably bold in their willingness to approach humans who feed them bread crumbs.  (In some Florida pond-shore park contexts they will literally eat bread morsels from human hands.)  White Ibises are a long-legged chicken-sized waterfowl, almost all white (yet has black under-edging on its wings), with a long decurved (i.e., downward-curved) bill that is reddish (vermillion-orange/coral-red) in color.  These wading birds enjoy eating critters that inhabit pond-shore waters, such as crayfish, small fishes, and aquatic insects.  [See John Bull & John Farrand, Jr., NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY FIELD GUIDE TO NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS:  EASTERN REGION, revised edition (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), pages 12 & 376.]  These white waterfowl are known to hybridize with Scarlet Ibis.  [See Eugene M. McCarthy,  HANDBOOK OF AVIAN HYBRIDS OF THE WORLD (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2006), page 192.]

COMMON GRACKLE  (Wikipedia image)

Common Grackle.  Although I was originally inspired by a Great-tailed Grackle (at a pond-shore in Denton County, Texas) to write “Of Grackles and Gratitude”, in the July AD2012 issue of ACTS & FACTS ( posted at www.icr.org/article/grackles-gratitude ), the grackles that I saw in St. Petersburg, in the backyard by the pond-shore, were Common Grackles (varieties of which include “Purple Grackle” and “Florida Grackle”).  Their glossy-black iridescent plumage shimmers in the sunlight, like a kaleidoscope of gleaning flickers of indigo, deep purple, peacock blue, midnight blue, dark bronze-brown, and emerald green.  [See John Bull & John Farrand, Jr., NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY FIELD GUIDE TO NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS:  EASTERN REGION, revised edition (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), pages 479 & 735.] 

Other birds that we (i.e., Chaplain Bob Webel and I, while our wives chatted inside the Webels’ house) observed that morning, at or near the pond-shore, included Great White Egret, Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorant, Mockingbird, Mourning Dove, Blue Jay, Snowy Egret, Common Moorhen, Anhinga, Tufted Titmouse (on a tree near the pond-shore), Limpkin (foraging near a group of ibises), Red-bellied Woodpecker (on oak branches by the pond-shore), plus later 3 Muscovy Ducks were seen waddling about on the grass of a neighbor’s front-yard. Besides birds, a playful (and very large) River Otter relaxed on the opposite shore of the pond, while several Eastern Grey Squirrels darted here and there on the ground and on the trunk and branches of nearby trees.

But the details of those other shoreline-visiting birds must await future blogposts (D.v.), because this one is almost finished.

Meanwhile, what a privilege it is to observe—close-up—God’s winged wonders, including those seen last Monday.

“Praise the Lord from the earth, … beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl.” 

(Psalm 148:7a & 148:10)

Why Egg-producing Woodpeckers Snack on Bones

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.  (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

RED-COCKADED WOODPECKER (Carolina Bird Club photo)

Woodpeckers are famous for eating insects—beetles, caterpillars, “grubs” (insect larvae), spiders, ants, etc.—as well as occasionally eating berries and other fruits.  But what about vitamins and minerals, how do woodpeckers get what they need? 

Consider this:  when you eat eggs—boiled, poached, or as omelets—do you discard the eggshells? Likewise, if you eat trout or turkey, do you recycle your fish or fowl bones?

Some birds and mammals eat broken eggshells or snail shells to get nutritionally valuable calcium.[1]  Also, some birds—such as Red-cockaded woodpeckers[2] and Alaskan sandpipers[3]—munch on bones, to get calcium, especially during breeding season.

Getting calcium (usually from calcium carbonate: CaCO3) is needful, of course, but how do birds know they need calcium, especially during the breeding season? 

A related question: how do expectant human mothers, who suddenly crave finfish or shellfish (or pickles, or Buffalo hot wings, or whatever) know that they need a nutritional change, while their physiologically transformed womb-factories busily build beautiful babies? 

God somehow provides an urge to eat certain foods that we need, when we need those foods—this is something we gained by so-called evolutionary “luck” or random “chance”!  In fact, successful reproduction of populations, whether they be human or animal, is something that is unfixable if reproduction is ever broken. (In other words, true extinction is forever—there are no second chances!)

Actually, calcium nutrition-satisfying behavior makes sense, biblically, because it helps Christ’s creatures to reproduce successfully, i.e., to “be fruitful and multiply”, so their kinds can “fill” (populate) Earth’s habitats. Thus, learning how creatures fulfill the Genesis Mandate helps us to “cast down” haughty imaginations (2nd Corinthians 10:4-5), such as the imaginations of Darwinists, who try to replace Christ with animistic “nature-creating-itself” mythology, masquerading falsely as “science” (1st Timothy 6:20)–as if inanimate “nature” could somehow “select” helpful results for promoting life on Earth!

During Creation Week (on Day #5, to be exact), the Lord Jesus Christ (as Creator[4]) commanded birds to reproduce (and “fill” environments); He also equipped them with what they need, to do so.  Many of the intricate details we are just now learning. 

Further complicating matters, successful reproduction requires a harmony of physical traits (biochemically regulated by genetics/epigenetics) with decision-based behaviors (which rely upon learning, by the non-physical “soul” of a bird).  The details of successfully blending physical body systems, with non-physical learned behaviors, is one of the “wonders without number” (Job 9:10) that we can admire God for, as we reverently study how God’s creatures live.[5] 

Of course, when creatures purposefully search local habitats for needed nutrients—including vital minerals like calcium—they exhibit continuous environmental tracking (CET), as they hunt and select what they need from their territory.  Thus, Christ equipped animals to actively select what they need, from their habitats—it is not true that habitats “select” or “shape” passive animals.[6]

So, what can we learn from our Lord Jesus Christ’s red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis), that recycle calcium from collected bone fragments, consuming bone flakes just before and when they are laying eggs?

The females took bone fragments from raptor pellets located on the ground. … Small bone fragments were consumed at the pellets whereas larger pieces were taken to a tree trunk (by flight) where they were pecked and mandibulated. … Pieces of bone were cached by placing them between scales of [tree-trunk] bark and then hammering them with the bill until they were wedged. We confirmed that bones were cached by recovering two pieces of bone from trees and by observing birds recover cached bones, handle them and cache them elsewhere.2

Repasky, Blue, & Doerr article cited in endnote 2 (below)

Selecting and ingesting bone-pecked calcium is targeted and purposeful—not random—because mother woodpeckers seek and extract calcium from bone fragments during breeding seasons (hiding bone fragments for later “snacks”), mostly ignoring those bones when they cease producing eggs2,4,5—amazing! 

Darwinian trial-and-error “luck” cannot explain how these wise woodpeckers know to hunt and ingest calcium-rich bone flakes, timed to egg-producing seasons.4,5  However, the Lord Jesus Christ is the Mastermind of purposeful timing for all of His creation (Ecclesiastes 3:1), including female red-cockaded woodpeckers.

RED-COCKADED WOODPECKERS (James Audubon watercolor — public domain)

REFERENCES



[1] E.g., Mary Straus, “Calcium in Homemade Dog Food”, WHOLE DOG JOURNAL (May 28, 2019), at http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/food/calcium-in-homemade-dog-food/ (calcium from eggshells). See also Samuel L. Beasom & Oliver H. Pattee, “Utilization of Snails by Rio Grande Turkey Hens”, JOURNAL OF WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT, 42:916-919 (1978). 

[2] Richard R. Repasky, Roberta J. Blue, & Philip D. Doerr, “Laying Red-cockaded Woodpeckers Cache Bone Fragments”, THE CONDOR, 93(2):458-461 (1991).  Red-cockaded woodpeckers resemble 4 other American woodpeckers, the Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, and Nuttall’s Woodpecker.  It appears that Red-cockaded Woodpeckers can hybridize with Hairy Woodpeckers (Picoides villosus), which in turn hybridize with Ladder-backed Woodpeckers (Picoides scalaris), which hybridize with Downy Woodpeckers (Picoides pubescens) and with Nuttall’s Woodpecker (Picoides nuttallii). See Eugene M. McCarty, HANDBOOK OF AVIAN HYBRIDS OF THE WORLD (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2006), pages 107-108.

[3] Stephen F. MacLean, Jr., “Lemming Bones as a Source of Calcium for Arctic Sandpipers (Calidris spp.)”, IBIS (INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF AVIAN SCIENCE), 116:552-557 (1974).

[4] See John 1:1-10 & Colossians 1:16-17 & Hebrews 1:1-2, etc. 

[5] “Although qualitatively distinct from humans—who are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27)—animals have what Scripture calls a “soul” (Hebrew nephesh). … But the resourcefulness of animals should not surprise us. Proverbs [30:24-28] informs us that God wisely installed wisdom into animals—even small creatures like ants, conies, locusts, and lizards.  Literally, these animals are “wise from receiving [God’s] wisdom.”7 Fascinating!” Quoting James J. S. Johnson, “Clever Creatures: ‘Wise from Receiving Wisdom’”, ACTS & FACTS, 46(3):21 (March 2017). 

[6] Randy J. Guliuzza, “A New Commitment to Deep Research”, ACTS & FACTS, 50(9):4-5 (September 2021).

RED-COCKADED WOODPECKER (Carolina Bird Club photo)

Golden Eagle Comeback in Southern Scotland

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

GOLDEN EAGLE [photo credit: THE SCOTTISH BANNER, November AD2022]

“Does the hawk fly by your wisdom, and spread its wings toward the south? Does the eagle mount up at your command, and make its nest on high? On the rock it dwells and resides, on the crag of the rock and the stronghold. From there it spies out the prey; its eyes observe from afar.” 

JOB 39:26-29

It’s time for some good news—Golden eagles, thanks to some successfully relocated from the Outer Hebrides, are making a comeback in southern Scotland! Consider this happy report from the online November (AD2022) issue of THE SCOTTISH BANNER:

The pioneering South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project has become the first in the UK to successfully translocate free-flying young golden eagles (aged between 6 months and 3 years) to boost a low population of this iconic bird. These new additions bring the total number of golden eagles in the south of Scotland to around 33 – the highest number recorded here in the last three centuries. Taking a new research approach, under licence from NatureScot, the team leading the ground-breaking charity project revealed that they had successfully caught, transported and released seven golden eagles from the Outer Hebrides. . . .

The Outer Hebrides were selected as the source to boost the south of Scotland population because these Islands host one of the highest densities of golden eagles in Europe. The birds were released almost immediately on arrival in a secret location in the southern uplands of Scotland. The project team is continuing to monitor the birds’ progress to see if they settle and breed in the area. If they do, this could be a ground-breaking for the project.

Francesca Osowska, NatureScot’s Chief Executive, said: “This ground-breaking project has accomplished so much over just a few years, bringing a viable population of golden eagles back to south Scotland . . . it’s wonderful to see a success like this. Golden eagles are a vital part of Scotland’s wildlife, and we’re passionate about returning them to places where they used to thrive. . . .”

[Quoting Staff writer, “South of Scotland Golden Eagle Population Reaches New Heights Thanks to Novel Research Technique”, THE SCOTTISH BANNER, November AD2022.]

This eagle population increase has been developing over time, thanks to patient conservation efforts. See, for further details, Joe Gibbs, “The Return of the Golden Eagle to Southern Scotland: How the King of Birds is Set to Make a Comeback Beyond the Highlands”, COUNTRY LIFE (September 19, 2021), posted at http://www.countrylife.co.uk/nature/the-return-of-the-golden-eagle-to-southern-scotland-how-the-king-of-birds-is-set-to-make-a-comeback-beyond-the-highlands-232264 .

For another photograph of this magnificent raptor, see ornithologist Lee Dusing’s post “Golden Eagles in Scotland”, posted November 28th of AD2018, at https://leesbird.com/2018/11/28/golden-eagles-in-scotland-youtube/  —  wherein Lee cites the very relevant Scripture, Job 39:27. 

GOLDEN EAGLE (Wilderness Scotland photo credit)

For extra explanation about how eagles fly—thanks to God’s bioengineering design and construction of these heavy-bodied (and often-soaring) birds—review my online article titled “Hawks and eagles Launching Skyward”, ACTS & FACTS, 47(4):21 (April 2018), posted at  www.icr.org/article/hawks-eagles-launching-skyward  — noting that the same Hebrew verb [paras], which is used to describe raptor birds’ wing-spread in Job 39:26, is likewise used in Isaiah 33:23 to describe how boat-sails are spread out to catch (and thus harness the power of) the wind.

God taught the patriarch Job a lot about His creation in the “nature sermon” (filled with rhetorical questions) in Job 38–41. God used examples of wildlife to illustrate His wise and caring providence. In particular, He challenged Job to appreciate how and why hawks and eagles fly high in the skies above, looking far and wide for earthbound food. . . .

Some who read Job 39:26 assume hawk migration is the question’s topic. But because God compares the hawk’s aerial behavior to eagle flight, the context suggests otherwise. Both raptors require special aerodynamics to lift their heavy bodies into the air. God designed these raptors to utilize weather-powered “elevators” to ascend into air currents. . . .

Rising hot-air currents routinely blow in from south of Israel, so hawks can “catch a ride” simply by stretching out their wings southward, just as sailors harness wind to power boats at sea. Gliding and soaring on extended wings reduces air resistance as well as the hawk’s need to burn energy by flapping.

Likewise, when God commands wind to blow, eagles can “mount up” (literally, “cause to fly”) upon rising thermal air currents—as if they were elevators—and glide almost effortlessly until they spy food far below with their super-powerful distance vision.

[Quoting from James J. S. Johnson, “Hawks and eagles Launching Skyward”, ACTS & FACTS, 47(4):21 (April 2018), posted at  www.icr.org/article/hawks-eagles-launching-skyward]

GOLDEN EAGLE in Cairngorms Park, Scotland (Peter Cairns / NATUREPL.COM photo credit)

Eagles are majestic birds famous for nesting in high places (Obadiah 1:4), moving through the air in marvelous maneuvering movements (Proverbs 30:19), energized and powered by God’s sustaining enablements (Isaiah 40:31).

When I think of eagles—both golden eagles and bald eagles, or any other kind of eagles—and contemplate what God has put into these magnificent birds, I think of the old doxological hymn HOW GREAT THOU ART!

Godwits Flying Nonstop 8000+ Miles Over the Pacific Ocean!

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Bar-Tailed Godwit’s Migration Sets Nonstop Mileage Marathon Record, for Aerial Flapping Flight Over the Pacific Ocean

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. 

(Genesis 1:20)

It seems that nonstop flying, over thousands of miles of ocean, is not limited to Boeing 747s — just ask an over-the-ocean-flying migratory Bar-tailed Godwit, a long-hauling tough-traveling sandpiper known to scientists as Limosa lapponica

Tagging juvenile BAR-TAILED GODWIT “B6” on July 15th AD2022, near Nome, Alaska

(Photo credit: Dan Ruthrauff / U.S. Geological Survey)

Yet some scientists have recently documented the ecological advantages to such seasonal migratory flights, even when those aerial migrations include staggeringly long nonstop over-the-ocean wing-flapping flights:

Mountain ranges, deserts, ice fields and oceans generally act as barriers to the movement of land-dependent animals, often profoundly shaping migration routes. [This study] used satellite telemetry to track the southward flights of bar-tailed godwits (Limosa lapponica baueri), shorebirds whose breeding and nonbreeding areas are separated by the vast central Pacific Ocean. Seven females with surgically implanted transmitters flew non-stop 8117–11680 km … directly across the Pacific Ocean; two males with external transmitters flew non-stop along the same corridor for 7008–7390 km. Flight duration ranged from 6.0 to 9.4 days … for birds with implants and 5.0 to 6.6 days for birds with externally attached transmitters…. [It seems] that this transoceanic route may function as an ecological corridor rather than a barrier, providing a wind-assisted passage relatively free of pathogens and predators.

(quoting Gill et al., cited below)

[Quoting from Robert E. Gill, Jr., T. Lee Tibbitts, et al., “Extreme Endurance Flights by Landbirds Crossing the Pacific Ocean: Ecological Corridor Rather than Barrier?” PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B, 276:447-457 (posted online October 29th AD2008.] 

BAR-TAILED GODWIT in breeding plumage (photo credit: Wikipedia/Andreas Trepte)

This is not the first time that ornithologist Robert E. Gill, Jr. has reported on the tremendous treks of Bar-tailed Godwits migrating southwardly from Alaska to New Zealand and Eastern Australia.  [See Robert E. Gill, Jr., Theunis Piersma, et al., “Crossing the Ultimate Ecological Barrier:  Evidence for an 11000-km-Long Nonstop Flight from Alaska to New Zealand and Eastern Australia by Bar-tailed Godwits”, THE CONDOR, 107(1):1-20 (February 2005), noting that observations indicate that the Alaska-based Bar-tailed Godwits “migrate directly across the Pacific, a distance of 11 000 km” and that they do so “in a single flight without stopping to rest or refuel”.]

In short, these birds know how to use wind currents to their advantage—which is not news to Bible readers, especially to those who have considered the thermal air currents referred to in Job 39:26-29, which says:

Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, and stretch her wings toward the south? Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?  She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place.  From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off.

(Job 39:26-29,)

[For analysis of this Bible passage, from a creation ornithology perspective, see also JJSJ, “Hawks and Eagles Launching Skyward”, ACTS & FACTS, 47(4):21 (April 2018), posted at www.icr.org/article/hawks-eagles-launching-skyward .]

God designed and made bird wings.  Bird wings, almost without exception, were designed for winds. (Penguins, of course, are exceptions—their wings were designed for underwater “flying”.)  For a technical study that documents how important winds are for wings—of Bar-tailed Godwits—see Jesse R. Conklin & Phil F. Battley, “Impacts of Wind on Individual Migration Schedules of New Zealand Bar-tailed Godwits”, BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY, 22(4):854-861 (June 2011), documenting how some Bar-tailed Godwits time their departure dates to maximize harnessing helpful wind currents for nonstop flying migrations.

On the Pacific Ocean side of the globe, these phenological patterns are conspicuously exhibited in the migrations of wading shorebirds, such as skinny-legged sandpipers, who flap their wings in flight (as opposed to relying mostly on gliding).  But one such migratory sandpiper—the Bar-tailed Godwit, takes wing-flapping flight to the maximum! 

BAR-TAILED GODWIT, in flight over the ocean

(photo credit: Wikipedia/Paul van de Velde)

In particular, the New Zealand-breeding subspecies of that marathon-migrating wading bird (Limosa lapponica baueri), has been making ornithology news, again, this year.  But before considering this year’s news, consider news about Bar-tailed Gotwits from last year:

On September 28, one small bird completed a very long flight. An adult, male Bar-tailed Godwit, known by its tag number 4BBRW, touched down in New South Wales, Australia, after more than 8,100 miles in transit from Alaska —flapping its wings for 239 hours without rest, and setting the world record for the longest continual flight by any land bird by distance. And 4BBRW isn’t even done yet. In the next few days, the Godwit is expected to end its southbound migration in New Zealand after its well-earned island stopover, says Adrian Riegen, a builder from West Auckland [New Zealand] and a passionate birdwatcher.

From his home office, usually reserved for managing building projects, Riegen keeps tabs on 4BBRW and 19 other Bar-tailed Godwits fitted with solar-powered location trackers. During migration season, he spends at least an hour each morning going through the most recent location data and writes a daily report for the ongoing project, run by the Pūkorokoro Miranda Shorebird Center, an education and research nonprofit in Miranda, New Zealand, where many Godwits spend non-breeding months. All of the best tidbits he compiles are disseminated to the center’s followers on Facebook and Twitter, so that people can follow along with the birds’ cross-hemisphere, trans-oceanic journeys—speed bumps and all.  “It’s such an amazing story,” Riegen says. “We want to share it as widely as we can.” 

Although 4BBRW’s feat is astounding, it may not be particularly surprising. Bar-tailed Godwits are incredible migrants: Individuals have broken the “longest, non-stop, migration” record more than once since satellite tracking began in 2007 and regularly make continuous flights of more than 7,000 miles.

In fact, 4BBRW previously held the world record for his 2020 flight of 7,580 miles. And just three days before 4BBRW’s 2021 touch-down, a female godwit, tagged 4BYWW, completed a trip of a similar distance that was briefly considered the record.  While multiple subspecies of Bar-tailed Godwit make long distance journeys around the world, the New Zealand-Alaska population travels the farthest in its migration loop. “It’s this thing of imagination and magic that we have in this world, to think this tiny little bird traveled thousands of miles,” says Audubon Alaska executive director Natalie Dawson.  

Unlike albatross or other long-flying seabirds, godwits are active flyers [a/k/a “flappers”], not gliders—their wings are moving the whole time. “It just beggars belief, really,” Riegen says. “I mean, though I’ve known that for decades now, I still find it hard to imagine how anything can keep up that sort of effort 24-hours a day, without taking a break.” 

(quoting Leffer, cited below)

[Quoting Lauren Leffer, reporter for AUDUBON MAGAZINE, posted October 8th of AD2021; see www.audubon.org/news/these-mighty-shorebirds-keep-breaking-flight-records-and-you-can-follow-along .]

“4BBRW has outdone itself two years in a row. Project researchers are hoping the location trackers last for many more years, so they can continue to keep tabs on how birds’ paths change over time.”

[Quoting AUDUBON MAGAZINE / image credit:  Adrien Riegen]

With that impressive background we can appreciate the latest news about the long-distance nonstop migration of this tough-travelling shorebird:

This [October] is the time of year when Alaska’s migratory birds uproot and move to warmer places. But one shorebird in particular made history this past week after it was tracked flying thousands of miles nonstop [calculated as 8,425 or perhaps 8,435 aerial miles!] to the southern hemisphere, drawing international attention and potentially giving scientists new insight into the future of a declining population of shorebirds.

Earlier this week [at the end of October AD2022], a bar-tailed godwit, tagged as “B6″, completed its migration from the Western Alaska coast to Southern Australia, a non-stop journey of nearly 8,500 miles completed in 11 days. …

The center of attention: a four-month-old shorebird weighing just 600 grams — a little more than a pound, or slightly heavier than a can of beans. The journey, tracked for the first time using a real-time solar-powered transmitter, is being described as a world record.

Lee Tibbitts, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center, has been researching these birds for decades and was part of the team that began observational studies about 40 years ago, before technology enabled satellite tracking.

Prior to this work, nobody really believed that nonstop migration across the Pacific Ocean was possible, said Dan Ruthrauff, a USGS research wildlife biologist who helped tag B6.

B6 is the first tagged Alaska-breeding bar-tailed godwit chick whose migration was successfully tracked. Not only did it complete its migration, but it flew nearly 1,600 miles farther than its species’typical migration route from Alaska to New Zealand –– something Ruthrauff hypothesizes could have been a result of strong easterly winds.

“They don’t land on the water. They don’t glide. This is flapping flight for a week and a half,” he said. 

The chick [Bar-tailed Godwit identified as “B6”] was just one of three that was fitted with a transmitter this summer. The other two transmitters are still sending signals from the tundra on the Seward Peninsula. Ruthrauff guesses that they were too loose and fell off the birds before their migration.

The transmitter, attached using surgical-grade silicon tubing, weighs just five grams and fits like a fanny pack, Ruthrauff said. The antenna trails off from the bird’s tail and is fitted with a solar panel. Once fitted with the transmitter, all that was left for Ruthrauff and his team to do was to wait.

During that time, B6 moved to its staging area on the Kuskokwim Delta and stayed there for about six weeks, fattening up on clams, worms and berries for the trip –– much like a bear getting ready for hibernation. “It’s pretty crazy how much bigger they get,” Ruthrauff said. “It’s mostly just fat –– little butter balls.”

In preparation for the trip, these birds increase the size of their gizzard, stomach, kidney, liver and length of their intestine in order to metabolize the foods that they’re eating, Ruthrauff said. As they approach time to migrate, the digestive tract begins to atrophy while their heart and pectoral muscles increase in size.

Bar-tailed godwit chicks migrate without their adult counterparts and are known to take advantage of weather systems along their route.

Set up with a “smokin’” tailwind, B6 departed Alaska on Oct. 12. (quoting Mesner, cited below)

[Quoting Emily Mesner, ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS, posted October 31st AD2022, at news.yahoo.com/juvenile-shorebird-tagged-alaska…]

A map showing the migration route of bar-tailed godwit, B6.

(Image credit: courtesy of Jesse Conklin/Max Planck Institute of Ornithology)

Providentially, Godwit B6 arrived safely on October 23rd of AD2022, in Eastern Australia. What an exhausting nonstop trip!

The obvious take-away lesson, from this astounding journey, is that the southward migration of Alaska’s Bar-tailed Godwits cannot be the product of random trail-and-error experiments by birds trying to “evolve” in a supposedly “survival-of-the-fittest” world, as imagined by evolutionists. 

Rather, these brave birds can only survive and thrive in this world, the real world that the Holy Bible perfectly describes, because God has carefully and caringly provided these wing-flapping migrants with whatever they need to succeed—and they do, thanks to their (and our) Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ!

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. 

(Genesis 1:20)

BAR-TAILED GODWIT over-wintering plumage, Australia

(photo credit: Wikipedia/J. J. Harrison)

Clarifying Confusion about Eagles Wings

Clarifying Confusion about Eagles Wings

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

“As an Eagle stirreth vp her nest, fluttereth ouer her yong, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:”

Deuteronomy 32:11 (KJV translation, with AD1611 spellings)
GOLDEN EAGLES nesting

Based upon a verse in Deuteronomy, 32:11, many expect that an eagle mother, in the wild, sometimes “carries” her young eaglets “on their wings”. Yet that behavior is not observed, in the wild (or in captivity), so Bible skeptics allege this discrepancy as a so-called Bible “error”—but is this a straw-man accusation, based upon a translation confusion? Yes, a less-than-literal translation (form Hebrew into English) has caused confusion with this verse.

To recognize what is true, careful observations are needed, both when studying God’s Word and when studying God’s world (Johnson, 2014).  So, when Scripture refers to the world of wildlife, as it often does, due diligence should be given to the Biblical exegesis and to the “science”.

QUESTIONDoes the text of Deuteronomy 32:11 actually say that an eagle mother “carries” young eaglets “upon her wings”?

ANSWERNo.  Many English translations and paraphrases confuse the literal meaning of this Biblical Hebrew text.

The first problem in the puzzle: English Bible translations (that are popularly available) do not clearly matched the singulars to the plurals, and other literal aspects of the Hebrew text of Deuteronomy 32:11. Also, even grammatical gender information is sometimes garbled in translation.

In particular, the literal Hebrew indicates that it is God Who carries on His wings, not the eagle parent. To a large degree, the confusion is rooted to imprecise translations of the English text of Deuteronomy 32:11, particularly where “her” is sometimes translated for “him”, as well as twice “them” for “him”.  This confusion-clearing clarification—by looking at the actual Hebrew text of Deuteronomy 32:11—was buttressed by the analysis of Hans-Georg Wünch (Wünch, 2016), which specially scrutinized the pertinent Hebrew nouns and verbs.  Details on this follow.

Although the King James Version of the English Bible is usefully very literal (and precise), in those very rare situations where the King James Version mistranslates the underlying Hebrew text’s words, it is likely to be with those KJV Bible verses that describe wildlife. In other words, in the English text of the KJV you are more likely to have imprecise/non-literal translations – perhaps due to the historical life experiences (and priorities) of the King James translators (working in the early A.D. 1600s, finishing in A.D.1611).

In short, the KJV text of Deuteronomy 32:11 is suggesting that eagle parents “carry” eaglets “upon their wings”. However, the Biblical Hebrew text (i.e., the Masoretic Text of Deuteronomy 32:11), interpreted within the immediate context of verses 9-13, is anthropomorphically recalling how God historically “took” and “carried” Jacob (i.e., both “Jacob” the man, as well as the Jewish nation that is ethnically descended from Jacob, i.e., “Israel”). This is comparable to how the Lord Jesus Christ compared His willingness to protect Jews to a mother hen’s protectiveness, in Matthew 23:37 and also in Luke 13:34.

However, the most important key (to solving the puzzle of this confusing-on-the-surface passage), to properly understanding this verse, is to recognize that the subject noun of most (if not all) of the contextual sentences, is God, not a mother bird — although you must look back to Deuteronomy 32:9 to see that Deuteronomy 32:11’s subject noun is “the LORD” [Hebrew YHWH], i.e., God. (Notice also the action verbs in the Biblical context – most of these verbs refer to God only.)

Also, the relevant bird (translated “eagle” in King James Version) is mentioned in a way that is best translated “like an eagle” (or “like a vulture”, depending on how you translate NESHER, which is Hebrew noun for the bird in question). Careful context reading is needed, to recognize how much of the verse applies to the simile phrase “like an eagle”, because not all of the activities that are part of Deuteronomy 32:9-13 correspond to eagle behavior comparison.

BALD EAGLES near Skagway, Alaska

Therefore, let us look at the overall context, i.e., Deuteronomy 32:9-13). Below I have inserted, using brackets, clarifying nouns (or pronouns), to match the literal meaning of the specific Scripture verbs and pronouns.

Also, keep in mind that “the LORD” [YHWH] is masculine, “Jacob” [Ya‘aqōb] is masculine, and “eagle” [nesher] is also masculine, so matching each pronoun to its proper noun requires some context-based interpretation. This is further complicated by a mistranslation in the English phrase “her nest” because the Hebrew literally says “his nest”, i.e., the Hebrew word for “nest” [qēn] has a masculine singular suffix.

In other words, Deuteronomy 32:11 is literally saying “his nest”. The same English mistranslation appears in the English phrase “her young” (which literally says “his young” in the Hebrew). Likewise, the same English mistranslation appears twice in the English phrase “her wings” (which twice literally says “his wings” in the Hebrew).

Confusingly, the Hebrew-to-English translation plot thickens.

In the English translation, of Deuteronomy 32:11, the plural pronoun “them” appears twice where it should say “him”, because the Hebrew pronominal suffix is a 3rd person singular, not a 3rd person plural.
This is, in my opinion, the most important clue, in conjunction with the plural noun “young”, for solving this puzzle, because the “taking” action – as well as the bearing action – has “him” as its (singular) direct object, yet the noun translated “young” is plural, so the taking and bearing action did not happen to young birds — rather, the taking and bearing action happened to “him”, which the overall context (of Deuteronomy 32:9-13) indicates is “Jacob”.

In other words, because a plurality of hatched birds would need a plural suffix, it is not the hatched young birds that were “taken” and “carried” in Deuteronomy 32:11. Rather, God is providing these caring actions (“taking” and “bearing”) to Jacob/Israel, because “Jacob” is a 3rd person singular masculine person, so “Jacob” can be the direct object “him”.

9 For the LORD’s portion is His [i.e., God’s] people; Jacob [whom God later re-named “Israel”, so this name refers to both the man Jacob and to his descendants who became the nation “Israel”] is the lot of His [i.e., God’s] inheritance.

10 He [God – notice that God is the subject noun of this Hebrew sentence, which is a sentence that actually continues beyond verse 10] found him [i.e., Jacob, a/k/a Israel] in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; He [i.e., God] led him [i.e., Jacob, a/k/a Israel] about, He [i.e., God] instructed him [Jacob, a/k/a Israel], He [i.e., God] kept him [i.e., Jacob, a/k/a Israel] as the apple of His [i.e., God’s] eye.


11 As an eagle [some say this should be translated “hawk” or “vulture” – it means a large-winged carrion-eating bird], [“he” or “He”] stirs up her [actually the Hebrew says “his”, which might mean “His”] nest; [“he” or “He”] flutters over her [actually the Hebrew says “his”, which might mean “His”] young [i.e., “young ones”, since this noun is plural]; [“he” or “He”] spreads abroad her [actually the Hebrew says “his”] wings; [“he” or “He”] takes them [literally “him” — actually this is a 3rd person singular masculine suffix, functioning as a direct object of the action verb]; [“he” or “He”] bears them [literally “him” — actually this is a 3rd person singular masculine suffix, functioning as a direct object of the action verb] on her [actually the Hebrew says “his”] wings:

12 So the LORD alone did lead him [i.e., Jacob, a/k/a Israel], and there was no strange god with him [this “him” seems to mean “Jacob”, though it more likely refers to God, because it is “the LORD alone” Who accomplished this shepherding care over Jacob].

13 He [i.e., God] made him [i.e., Jacob, a/k/a Israel] ride on the high places of the earth, that he [i.e., Jacob, a/k/a Israel] might eat the increase of the fields; and He [i.e., God] made him [i.e., Jacob, a/k/a Israel] to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock.

[Deuteronomy 32:9-13 (KJV, with JJSJ clarification inserts]

This is a confusing Hebrew mistranslation problem, so many readers of the Bible (using English translations or paraphrases) have stumbled in trying to discern its literal meaning. Because wildlife observers do not see mother eagles carrying young eaglets “on their wings”, it is no surprise that many folks have been puzzled by this verse (Lacey, 2019).

According to the literal Hebrew text, analyzed grammatically—with special attention to singular-vs.-plural and masculine-vs.-feminine details, this verse (i.e., Deuteronomy 32:11) is talking about God’s providential care of His people, with only some of God’s actions being comparable to an eagle/hawk/vulture.

Moreover, some of the other caring actions listed (in Deuteronomy 32:11) do not match bird behavior, regardless of whether the Hebrew noun nesher should be translated as “eagle”, or “hawk”, or “vulture” (Wigram, 1874).  So the complicated part (for interpreting Deuteronomy 32:11’s text) is accurately distinguishing:


(a) which phrases fit God only (even if those phrases are anthropomorphic, like Matthew 23:37 & Luke 13:34),
(b) which phrases apply to the nesher bird only, and
(c) which phrases apply to both God and the nesher bird.

In sum, here is my pronoun-interpreting understanding (and exegesis), of what I think the Hebrew text of Deuteronomy 32:9-13 is saying:

9 For the LORD’s portion is God’s people; Jacob/Israel is the lot of God’s inheritance.

10 God found Jacob/Israel in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; God led Jacob/Israel about; God instructed him Jacob/Israel; God kept him Jacob/Israel as the apple of God’s eye.

11 Like an eagle, God stirs up God’s nest; God flutters over God’s young ones; God spreads abroad God’s wings; God takes/was taking Jacob/Israel; God bears/was bearing (i.e., carrying)  Jacob/Israel on God’s wings;

12 So the LORD alone led Jacob/Israel, and there was no strange god with Him.

13 God made-to-ride Jacob/Israel upon the high places of the earth, so that Jacob/Israel might eat the increase of the fields; and God caused-to-suck Jacob/Israel honey [from] out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock.

[Deuteronomy 32:9-13, with JJSJ’s inserted pronoun-clarifying interpretive nouns]

In sum, many interpreters have misidentified the subject noun of that verse, by stretching the comparative noun (nesher, which can/could be translated as “eagle”, “hawk”, or “vulture”, though it likely means “eagles” in Deuteronomy 32:11) in a way that causes the nesher bird to supplant God as the subject noun of the sentence.In other words, instead of the eagle (nesher bird) being comparable to some things that God does, many have interpreted the verse as if every action verb applies to the bird when actually that is not the case.

Having processed the precise parts of this puzzle, which parts should not be studied apart from the big-picture message of the passage, I conclude with a comparison to Psalm 23:1a, which says “the LORD is my shepherd”—that is the main message of Deuteronomy 32:9-13—i.e., it is God Himself Who carries us through all of life’s risks and challenges.

Golden Eagle (NET NS-WildlifeZone photo credit)

REFERENCES

Johnson, James J. S. 2014. A Hart for God. Acts & Facts. 43(7), posted at https://www.icr.org/article/hart-for-god .

Lacey, Troy. 2019. Does an Eagle Carry its Young on its Wings? Answers in Genesis (August 13, 2019), posted at https://answersingenesis.org/contradictions-in-the-bible/does-eagle-carry-young-on-wings/ .

Wigram, George V. 1874. The Englishman’s Hebrew Concordance of the Old Testament (Hendrickson reprint, 2001), pages 849-850.

Wünch, Hans-Georg. 2016. Like an Eagle Carries its Young. Hervormde Teologiese Studies/HTS Theological Studies. 72(3):a3249, posted (by African Online Scientific Information Systems) at https://hts.org.za/index.php/HTS/article/view/3249 .

Even Chickens Get Curious

Even Chickens Get Curious

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Have you been surveilled lately? Is someone watching how you live? In particular, are any chickens checking up on you, as they look through a window of your house, to see what’s going on inside?

JJSJ (Glen Eyrie, A.D.2021), speaking on God’s creation — notice my red crab necktie [photo credit: David Rives]

As part of a Bible study at Glen Eyrie, Colorado (during September A.D.2021, led by creationists Dr. Jobe Martin & David Rives), our group reviewed various Bible passages, including one Scripture from the 1st chapter of the apostle Peter’s first epistle:

Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you, searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ Who was in them did signify (when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow)–unto whom [i.e., unto the O.T. prophets] it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us [i.e., N.T. believers in Jesus] they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by those who have preached the Gospel unto you, with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven–which things the angels desire to look into.

(1st Peter 1:10-12)

In the above-quoted passage, which reports on the big picture (past, present, and future–Heaven and Earth), Peter refers to the wonderful redemption that God gives unto all of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. Specifically, Peter speaks of the magnificent salvation that we Christians now enjoy–as the free gift God gave us in and through Christ–which gracious salvation was prophesied of, centuries ago, by the Old Testament prophets (as is noted in Verses 10 & 11). And, amazingly (as we see in Verse 12), even the angels of Heaven have “desire[d] to look into” the glorious destiny that we forgiven human sinners enjoy because of our permanent relationship to Jesus Christ.

Imagine how angels marvel, as they watch human sinners being forgiven, being justified by Christ’s once-for-all death as our Substitute, guaranteed everlasting life in Heaven because Christ conquered death at His resurrection! In short, the angels of Heaven (whose creaturely lives never experience redemption) are curious, watching our being-redeemed-in-Christ lives as a must-see “spectacle”!

For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death; for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and unto angels, and unto men.

(1st Corinthians 4:9)

So the elect angels are curiousspectators“, observing how God works in our lives. In fact, as the Old Testament book of JOB indicates, even fallen angels learn from watching our lives (Job 1:6-12 & 2:1-6).

But that’s not all. Even chickens get curious at times! Hens like to watch humans. (Sometimes even roosters care about what humans are doing!)

This cellphone photograph [see below, “peeping poultry“] is of 1 of about 16 laying hens that our dottir (Krista) is raising in her backyard  (i.e., her egg-laying hens are housed inside a “palace”-like chicken coup, along with their rude rooster); our dottir regularly lets these “free-range” chickens roam in the backyard, sometimes for hours, so long as no hungry hawks are seen lurking aloft. 

A few days ago one particular hen was especially curious—so she perched herself atop something, in order to see through a window—to check out what was happening inside the human family’s house! 

So there you have it! — not only angels, but even chicken, care to see what we humans are doing. So, be careful how you live — you are being surveilled!

(Actually, the fact that God watches us, always, is more than enough reason to live carefully and to do right: “For the Father, up above, is looking down in love, so be careful, little hands, what you do.”)

family get-together at Krista’s house (No wonder chickens are curious about those happy humans!)

><> JJSJ

SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER: the Texas Bird of Paradise

SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER: the Texas Bird of Paradise

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail [zânâb]; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them.

(Deuteronomy 28:13)

Usually we think of “head” as being valuable and important, but “tail” not so much. Being a “head” is desirable; being a “tail” not so — as Moses indicated in Deuteronomy 28:13, quoted above. (See also, indicating likewise, Deuteronomy 28:44 & Isaiah 9:15.) However, when God made birds, on Day #5 of Creation Week (Genesis 1: 20-23), God made them with feathered tails that blend practical traits (such as aerodynamic rudder functionality) with beauty (such as the extravagant tail of a peacock).

Among the “tyrant” flycatchers, certainly there is no better example of this blending, of beauty and bioengineering, than the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, famous for eating flies on the fly.

SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER perching on fence
Texas Parks & Wildlife Dep’t photo credit

Earlier this month [June A.D.2022], on 2 different occasions, I saw Scissor-tailed Flycatchers (Tyrannus forficatus) in my neighborhood.  One was larger than the other, so those must have been different Scissortails, because the size difference would not have occurred in just 3 days’ time! 

SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER flying
Ken Slade / BirdNote.org photo credit

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers are beautiful squeaky-voiced birds with long-streaming split tail plumage that looks like long scissor blades. The Scissortail’s head and most of their plumage (neck, upper back, and breast) is soft-looking ivory-white (to very light grey), plus white-edged black on wings and tail feathers, with sides (flanks) and underwings that feature salmon-like orange-pink.

14” [long, including tail feathers.]  Very long split tail; pale gray body; pinkish wash on flanks.  In flight: Underwings bright pinkish orange.  …  Feeding: Flies from perch to catch insects on the ground [such as grasshoppers or beetles] or in the air [such as flies and dragonflies].

[Quoting from Donald Stokes & Lillian Stokes, “Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus)”, STOKES FIELD GUIDE TO BIRDS: WESTERN REGION (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1996), page 312.

This flycatcher (which also eats lots of grasshoppers) is well established throughout Texas, the Lone Star State, which is itself quite a range.  The Scissortail’s breeding range also includes Oklahoma (where it is the official state bird — a fact that I learned from Christian attorney Don Totusek!), as well as large parts of Kansas, Missouri, western Arkansas, western Louisiana, and small parts of eastern Colorado and Nebraska.  Probably the best places to see them during breeding season are Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.  As migrants, these kingbirds fly south of the USA for the winter, e.g., into Mexico—although some are observed over-wintering in southern Florida. [See, accord, Robert C. Tweit, “Scissor-tailed Flycatcher”, in Texas A&M AgriLife Research’s TEXAS BREEDING BIRD ATLAS, posted at https://txtbba.tamu.edu/species-accounts/scissor-tailed-flycatcher/ .]

SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER perching
Texas A&G AgriLife.org photo credit

If you have ever seen a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher you won’t forget it—Scissortails are unlike any bird you have ever seen, unless you have seen their shorter-tailed cousin called Mexico’s Fork-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus savanna, known in French as le tyran á queue fourchue = “the tyrant of the fork-tail”), with whom Scissortails can mate.  In fact, Scissortails are also known to hybridize with Couch’s Kingbird (Tyrannus couchii), as well as with Western Kingbirds (Tyrannus verticalis), which themselves hybridize with Eastern Kingbirds (Tyrannus tyrannus) — so there are many “cousins” within the greater kind-family of aggressive insectivores we call “tyrant kingbirds”. [See Eugene M. McCarthy, HANDBOOK OF AVIAN HYBRIDS OF THE WORLD (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2006), pages 203-204; see also Alexander J. Worm, Diane V. Roeder, Michael S. Husak, Brook L. Fluker, & Than J. Boves, “Characterizing Patterns of Introgressive Hybridization Between Two Species of Tyrannus Following Concurrent Range Expansion”, IBIS (International Journal of Avian Science), 161(4):770-780 (October 2019).]

SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER flying
eBird.org photo credit

One Scissortail (that I saw recently) was flying between trees on the side of a golf course.  The other Scissortail was flying from a residential lawn, that had a few trees and bushes, to another residential lawn, that also had a few trees and bushes. 

No surprise there, because Scissortails prefer to hunt insects in areas that mix open fields with trees and shrub cover, such as the semi-open country of grassy prairies, farm fields, suburb clearings, and ranchlands sporadically dotted with honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) trees.

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers (Tyrannus forficatus) are Neotropical migrants that breed throughout the south-central United States with the highest breeding densities in southern Oklahoma and northern Texas, corresponding to the core of the breeding range …  In their breeding range, they occupy open areas that provide adequate hunting perches and nesting sites including savannahs, prairies, brush patches, agricultural fields and pastures. … Scissor-tailed Flycatchers require trees for nesting and hunting perches to support their foraging strategy given that they are sit-and-scan foragers that utilize perches such as shrubs, trees, utility wires and fences, while they scan for insect prey …. Most prey are captured in the air [“hawking”] a short distance from the perch [citation omitted] which further indicates the need for open habitat to facilitate foraging.

[Quoting from Erin E. Feichtinger & Joseph A. Veech, “Association of Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers (Tyrannus forficatus) with Specific Land-Cover Types in South-Central Texas”, WILSON JOURNAL OF ORNITHOLOGY, 125(2):314-321 (2013), at page 314.]

In other words, Scissortails prefer habitats with ecotones where open-field and forest-cover micro-habitats overlap, i.e., preferring to nest and hunt “in landscapes (linear transects 0.8-40.2 km in length and 2.4 km wide) with a mix of “open country” and “closed forest” than in landscapes comprise mostly of either of these two general cover types.” [Quoting from Feichtinger & Veech, page 314.]

SCISSORTAILED FLYCATACHER perching
Bird-Sounds.net photo credit

Scissortails perch and wait, watching for their next prey to move into capture range. Their method of hunting, called “hawking”, involves an aerial dash (with a sudden spurt of speed) toward a soon-to-be-seized target.  In more casual flight, however, this beautiful kingbird is easier to see and to appreciate.

The scissor-tailed flycatcher, with its namesake long, forked tails, is one of the most recognizable bird species on the Katy Prairie and throughout southeast Texas’s coastal prairie ecosystem. The male’s tail can reach up to 15 inches long while the female’s tail can reach about 10.5 inches, making the scissor-tailed flycatcher a spectacular sight to see.  The species name forficata, not surprising, derives from the Latin word for ‘scissors’ (forfex). The scissortail is a member of the Tyrannus, or ‘tyrant-like’ genus. This genus earned its name because several of its species are extremely aggressive on their breeding territories, where they will attack larger birds such as crows, hawks, and owls.

During the reproduction season between April and August, the male [Scissortail] performs a spectacular aerial display during courtship, sharply rising and descending in flight, its long tail streamers opening and closing, while the bird gives sharp calls. He may even perform backwards somersaults in the air.

[Quoting from Andy Goerdel, “State of the Species: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus)”, COASTAL PRAIRIE CONSERVANCY (January 31, A.D.2022), posted at www.coastalprairieconservancy.org/blog/state-of-the-species-scissor-tailed-flycatcher .]

“Somersaults in the air”?  That reminds me of when I did flips, in the air, on a neighbor’s trampoline, more than a half-century ago.  But those days are over.  (At least I hope they are!) 

Nowadays I’d be happy to see a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher do aerial somersaults, as I sit comfortably in an Adirondack chair.  A glass of iced tea would help the birdwatching experience. Maybe, too, I could better appreciate looking, at a Scissortail’s salmon-colored underwings and flanks, as I snack on some smoked salmon.

But I digress.

SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER perching
National Audubon Society photo credit

 

So, Who Coos From The Rooftop?

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

So, who coos from the rooftop?

Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter; I did mourn as a dove; mine eyes fail with looking upward; O LORD, I am oppressed — undertake for me. 

(Isaiah 38:14)

On Tuesday afternoon, earlier this week, after commuting home from work, I parked my van in front of my house, preparing to enter my home at the end of a tumultuous day.  But, as I walked from the driveway toward my front door, I heard a strange-sounding bird, emitting a repetition of low-moaning-like noises, like a somewhat-sick dove might sound as it tried to “coo” (which is why some doves are called “mourning doves”).  As I looked above, from where the sounds were originating, I saw an odd bird, much bigger than a dove, perched atop the roof of my house – it was a Greater Roadrunner!

Isaiah the prophet knew that doves can make moaning noises, as if mourning. But other birds can make similar noises, too.

ROADRUNNER Gary Stolz / USFWS (public domain) photo credit

After gazing up at the Roadrunner, who ignored me, I went inside and quickly fetched my handiest bird-book, and soon noticed the following information on the book’s page regarding the Greater Roadrunners (Geococcyx californianus):

“Voice: Six to eight low, dove-like coo’s, descending in pitch.”

[Peterson Field Guides, noted below]

[Quoting Roger Tory Peterson, A FIELD GUIDE TO WESTERN BIRDS (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin / PETERSON FIELD GUIDES, 3rd edition, 1990), page 212.]

Bingo! What a perfect description of what I had been hearing near my front door. 

ROADRUNNER / WorldAtlas.com photo credit

Then my imagination got to thinking.  Imagine a rat, or a snake, that hears that cooing on the ground, behind one of the thick bushes.  What if that hungry rat, or snake, wrongly guessed that the low-moaning cooing noises were clues of a nearby mourning dove nest, where tasty dove eggs (or dove hatchlings) might be located?  If any such rat, or snake, made such a mistaken guess —  OOPS!  Its last thought might be that a hungry roadrunner can sound like a dove!

Such a mistake could be fatal, of course, because roadrunners often eat snakes and small rodents, as well as small lizards, etc.

ROADRUNNER with lizard / U.S. Army (public domain) photo credit

Ironically, mourning doves often frequent the bushes next to my house; sometimes they perch atop the rooftop.  That means our roadrunners sometimes “shadow” the meanderings of our mourning doves. 

Someone once said that “curiosity killed the cat” —  well, sometimes curiosity might kill a rat.

Behold The Fowls of The Air, Especially When They Land and Walk Nearby.

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

“Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” 

Matthew 6:26 [quoting the Lord Jesus Christ]

Beholds the fowls of the air, especially when they land and walk nearby.

The Lord Jesus Christ told us to “behold” the birds of the air.  Of course, that is easier to do if some of those flying fowl land on the ground long enough for us to observe them at close range.

GREAT BLUE HERON in drainage water (Steve Creek photo credit)

Yesterday I walked to my mailbox, to check for something I am anticipating – and nearby I saw a young Great Blue Heron, stalking in the drainage ditch that still retains pooled run-off rainwater from recent showers.  The heron eyed me carefully, apparently concluding that I was not an immediate threat—since I was careful to walk slowly and meekly toward my mailbox.  When I left the area the heron was still there, wading in the standing water of the drainage ditch. Probably the heron was foraging, looking for a frog or some other meal.

GREAT BLUE HERON foraging (Audubon Society of Portland)

With that memory in mind I have a limerick:

GREAT BLUE HERON IN THE DRAINAGE DITCH

Should I check out a drainage ditch?

For wetland birds it’s a niche;

If rain runoff flows through therein

It might attract great blue heron —

So, go check out a drainage ditch!

Happy birding—even if your birdwatching happens next to your own mailbox!

GREAT BLUE HERON in flight (Shoreline Area News photo credit)

OSPREY, The Migratory Piscivore

OSPREY, the Migratory Piscivore

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

Genesis 8:22

Migrating birds remind me of what God said in Genesis 8:22, about the predictability of annual seasons. It’s really amazing if you think much about it: God selected Moses to report a conversation that God once had with Noah, at the conclusion of the worldwide Flood. In that conversation God promised Noah (and Noah’s family and descendants, which include all of us) that God would not send another global deluge.

OSPREY MIGRATION (The Cornell Lab map, Laura Erickson photo credit)

Rather, day-night periods would continue with constant periodicity, plus weather patterns would be stabilized with predictable patterns, such as the cyclical seasons we know as summer, autumn, winter, and springtime. God’s creatures depend on day-night cycles, as well as on annual cycles–such as the 4 seasons which provide predictability to growing and harvesting food crops (Genesis 8:22, quoted above).

But not only do humans depend upon such phenology patterns, so do animals–especially migratory animals, such as many insects and birds. One such migratory bird is the OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus), also known as the Fish Hawk.

OSPREY (Free Photos and Images photo credit)

Although not all ospreys migrate, most do, according to Donald & Lillian Stokes, A GUIDE TO BIRD BEHAVIOR, volume III (Boston: Little Brown & Company,1989 ), pages 169-170. In fact, most ospreys of North America–such as those of the Chesapeake Bay region–are known for over-wintering in or near South America, regularly returning to North American ranges during spring:

The warmer temperatures have brought with them a familiar Chesapeake icon. Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) occur in nearly every corner of the globe, but nowhere as abundantly as on the Chesapeake Bay.

Ospreys return to the Chesapeake every spring from southern wintering grounds. Their abundance in the Bay region is due to the availability of food: They feed exclusively on live fish.

Their curved, sharp talons and rough-soled feet are designed to hold on to slippery fish.

Large brown and white birds of prey, they’re about 2 feet long with wing spans of 4-5 feet. When in flight, their long, narrow wings take on the shape of an outstretched M.

Ospreys hunt by soaring over water, periodically hovering on beating wings to scan the surface for schooling or spawning fish. Upon sight of its prey, the osprey makes a spectacular dive. Folding its wings tightly, it descends swiftly and plunges feet first into the water, often submerging itself completely. Another technique is a shallow scoop for fish at the water’s surface.

In addition to food, the Chesapeake provides many favorable nesting areas over the water such as duck blinds, navigation markers or man-made nesting platforms. Offshore structures offer protection from predators like raccoons, and rapid detection and escape from danger. On land, ospreys may nest on high trees and utility poles.

Ospreys 3 years or older usually mate for life, and will use the same nest site year after year A recently reunited pair will begin the task of nest building or repair.

Kathy Reshetiloff, “Chesapeake’s Ospreys Mark Return of Spring”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL (June 19th, A.D.2020).
OSPREY (PublicDomainPictures.net photo credit)

Thanks for that report, Kathy Reshetiloff–that report that repeatedly fits the return of spring. This year (A.D.2022) is no exception, according to a short report in the CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL:

Standing watch over a channel marker, soaring above the water, effortlessly snatching a fish — ospreys are among the most recognizable bird species in the Chesapeake Bay region. And they have begun their annual springtime return from South America.

Staff writer, “A Sign of Spring: The Return of the Chesapeake’s Ospreys”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 32(2):3 (April 2022).

The Osprey is a daytime-hunting raptor, like others hawks and eagles, seizing its prey after a successful chase. And for the Osprey, that hapless prey is most likely fish of some kind–more than 99% of the Osprey’s diet is some kind of fish!

OSPREY (PublicDomainPictures.net photo credit)

However, according to the University of Michigan’s Museum of Zoology website “Animal Diversity Web” [ AnimalDiversity.org entry for Pandion haliaetus ], an extra-hungry Osprey might catch and consume rodents (mice, rats, voles, squirrels), lagomorphs (rabbits, hares, pikas), small birds, salamanders, snakes, juvenile alligator, or even carrion (e.g., dead opossum, deer carcass). But those are rare dietary choices for an Osprey, because they have earned their common nickname, “Fish Hawk”.

Ospreys are not bashful about seizing fish prey, whether those prey are near the water’s surface or whether such prey is well below the water’s surface.

[The Osprey] is the only raptor that plunges into water feet first to catch fish. Can hover for a few seconds before diving. Carries fish in a head-first position for better aerodynamics [for post-catch flying]. Often harassed by Bald Eagles for its catch.

Stan Tekiela, BIRDS OF TEXAS FIELD GUIDE (Adventures Publications, 2004), page 79.

Hmm. that last “kleptoparasitism” fact–about eagles robbing ospreys of caught fish–where did I read about that recently? Oh yeah, I saw something about that on the best birdwatching blog in the world, LEESBIRD.COMhttps://leesbird.com/2022/05/17/a-fisherman-robbed-chapter-20/ .

Kleptoparasitic Eagle chasing Osprey with fish (CenteroftheWest.org photo credit)

It pays to be a regular reader of LEESBIRD.COM ! — thanks, Mrs. Lee Dusing, for the ongoing blessing your birding blog has been, for years, is now, and continues (God willing) to be. (And thanks also for your sterling service as an Adjunct Professor to ICR’s School of Biblical Apologetics, over the past few years.) But mostly, thanks for honoring the Lord Jesus Christ, (our Creator-Redeemer) and for continually blessing birdwatchers, like me, with the wonderful service that LEESBIRD.COM provides. : )

OSPREY featured on heraldic Coat-of-arms of Sääksmäki, Western Finland (public domain)