Home, Home on the Sage: Nothing to Grouse about!


Dr. James J. S. Johnson

And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host.   (Exodus 16:13)

Among ground-fowl birds there are some galliforms – called Phasianidae – that resemble one another enough that they are often grouped together, taxonomically, as if they are all super-family “cousins”:  quails, pheasants, partridges, ptarmigans, chickens, peafowl, and grouse-fowl.  One of these Phasianid galliforms, almost the size of a turkey,  will now be considered:  the Greater Sage Grouse.  Since one of the bird’s favorite foods is sagebrush leaves, it is no wonder than the quail-like fowl is often found nesting or foraging in sagebrush-dominated terrain.  Sage grouse eat other leaves as well, if and when accessible, as well as buds, forbs, flowers and bugs.  Insects often eaten by sage grouse include grasshoppers, beetles, and ants.


Greater Sage Grouse   (Centrocercus urophasianus), photo credit: Wikipedia

The GREATER SAGE GROUSE routinely inhabits the Great Basin Desert, thriving in xeric shrublands, a dry steppe-like blend of desert and scrub-grasslands, as well as other sagebrush-dominated lands east of the Great Basin [see Fort Collins Science Center range map, for America’s Sage Grouse].  To appreciate the Greater Sage Grouse’s scrubland habitat, a quick review of the Great Basin Desert is worthwhile.


The “Great Basin” Desert is not the typical “desert” of hot, hot, dry, dry mostly-barren land, studded with cactus and sagebrush vegetation. Rather the Great Basin Desert is a “cold” scrubland desert, meaning that it is dry most of the year, both its temperatures are not hot year-round – in fact, it usually gets more annual precipitation via snowfall than by rainfall.  In other words, the Great Basin is dry enough to qualify as a “desert” (and thus it is not “covered” by forests or grasslands, and typically hot during summer, yet it get quite cold in the winter, with snow winters as the norm.  In this respect the Great Basin is in a class by itself, in North America, unlike America’s other 3 major deserts (the Sonoran, Chihuahuan, and Mojave deserts) which hare truly “hot deserts”. [See map of the Great Basin Desert, below, compliments of Wikipedia.]


Ecologicallly speaking, the Great Basin includes a mix of rocky soils and scrublands, many dominated by sagebrush, greasewood, saltbush and salty-soil areas, mudflats, and sand dunes, as well as pinyon-juniper woodlands in higher elevations. Geographically speaking, the Great Basin covers almost all of Nevada, plus western Utah, a bit of southern Idaho, and part of the south-central part of Oregon.  [See map, below, compliments of the U.S. Geological Survey, a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Interior.]


Great Basin Desert, USGS map [public domain]

Since the Great Basin Desert is not hot year-round, but routinely experiences snowy winters, its inhabitants must apply climate-response strategies that successfully resolve temperature extremes, such as how to deal with hot and dry summers, plus cool-to-cold winters. Some Great Basin animals migrate, seasonally, while other hibernate, to avoid the inconveniences of snowfall and frigidity.  But how do Greater Sage Grouse deal with the seasonal “climate change” challenges of the Great Basin?


Sagebrush-dominated terrain (photo credit: Scott Smith / Defenders of Wildlife Blog)

In short, the sage grouse stay put, for the most part, throughout all or most of the year.  [See Roger Tory Peterson, A FIELD GUIDE TO WESTERN BIRDS (Peterson Field Guides / Houghton Mifflin, 1990), pages 158-159 & Map 96.]  If need be, however, they “micro-migrate” to other nearby areas, although usually only for relatively short distances, so they are not true “migrants”, phenologically speaking.  In other words, depending upon the severity of winter weather, sage grouse may undertake short-distance migrations, to find user-friendly winter habitat, going as far as 100 miles if necessary, although less than 20 miles is more typical.


Sage Grouse, with Pronghorn, in sagebrush  (photo credit” Defenders of Wildlife Blog)

Consider the following facts, summarized by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, about the Greater Sage Grouse:

Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) are members of the Phasianidae family. They are one of two species; the other species in the genus is the Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus). The Greater sage-grouse is the largest North American grouse species. Adult male greater sage-grouse range in length from 26 to 30 inches and weigh between 4 and 7 pounds. Adult females are smaller, ranging in length from 19 to 23 inches and weighing between 2 and 4 pounds.  During the spring breeding season, male sage-grouse gather together to perform courtship displays on areas called leks. Areas of bare soil, short-grass steppe, windswept ridges, exposed knolls, or other relatively open sites typically serve as leks, which are often surrounded by denser shrub-steppe cover, which is used for escape, thermal and feeding cover. The proximity, configuration, and abundance of nesting habitat are key factors influencing lek location. Leks can be formed opportunistically at any appropriate site within or adjacent to nesting habitat. Therefore, lek habitat availability is not considered to be a limiting factor for sage-grouse. Leks are indicative of nesting habitat.   Productive nesting areas are typically characterized by sagebrush with an understory of native grasses and forbs, with horizontal and vertical structural diversity that provides an insect prey base, herbaceous forage for pre-laying and nesting hens, and cover for the hen while she is incubating. Shrub canopy and grass cover provide concealment for sage-grouse nests and young, and are critical for reproductive success. The average distance between a female’s nest and the lek on which she was first observed ranged from 2.1 mi to 4.8 mi in five studies examining 301 nest locations, but actual distances can be highly variable. Male sage-grouse do not participate in nesting or rearing of the chicks.   …

During the spring and summer sage-grouse will primarily eat insects and forbs, but they rarely stray from the edge of sagebrush, which provides cover year round. In the fall, sage-grouse shift their diet entirely to sagebrush, depending on the shrub for both food and cover. Sage-grouse obtain their water from the food they eat. However, they will drink water if available. …  Currently, greater sage-grouse occur in 11 States (Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, South Dakota, and North Dakota), and 2 Canadian provinces (Alberta and Saskatchewan), occupying approximately 56 percent of their historical range. Approximately 2 percent of the total range of the greater sage-grouse occurs in Canada, with the remainder in the United States. Sage-grouse have been extirpated from Nebraska, British Columbia, and possibly Arizona. Current distribution of the greater sage-grouse is estimated at 258,075 mi2. Changes in distribution are the result of sagebrush alteration and degradation [because sage grouse depend heavily upon sagebrush for their habitat needs]. …

[Quoting from USFWS, “Beginner’s Guide to Greater Sage-Grouse”.]

So there you have it, Sage Grouse like to live around — and eat — desert scrub sagebrush, so expect to find them living in the sagebrush-dominated areas of the Great Basin Desert..  Perhaps they also have a “dry” sense of humor!


Featured image photo credit:  Stephen Parsons / Cornell

Lee’s Three Word Wednesday – 4/26/17


Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) Shuting Mouth ©S-Media-Cache



“So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.”  (Isaiah 52:15)

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) Shuting Mouth ©S-Media-Cache


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Why Kangaroo Rats Don’t Get Dehydrated in the Desert

An interesting article by Dr. Jim, JJSJ. I am reposting it here. The Lord’s amazing Providential Design is beyond our human comprehension of His Love and Care for all critters.


Behold, the hindermost of the nations shall be a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert. (Jeremiah 50:12b)

DESERT SCRUBLAND near EL PASO, TX photo credit: Pinterest

Kangaroo rats thrive in America’s hot, dry deserts — why don’t they suffer from being dehydrated?  How do they get enough water to survive, since they don’t need to drink water like almost all other mammals?   In short, God has designed and constructed kangaroo rats so that they get their water from their food, especially drought-resistant seeds that abound in the desert.  As they digest such xeric foods, the rats produce (within themselves) all the water that they need, metabolically (i.e., from the normal digestion process), and they retain most of that water by releasing very little of it in their urine (as noted below).

In sum, kangaroo rats are made to get their water form their food and to conserve it…

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Lee’s Seven Word Sunday – 4/23/17


Black-cheeked Lovebird (Agapornis nigrigenis) ©ImagesFromAfrica




“And Ruth said, entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for where you go, I will go; and where you lodge, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.  (Ruth 1:16)

Name and Credit for Bird Photo


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Lee’s Five Word Friday – 4/21/17 ex


American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) ©WTTW



“Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.”  (Ruth 1:7)

American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) ©WTTW


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Lee’s Four Word Thursday – 4/20/17


Two Mallards Taking Off ©WallpaperSafari



So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?  (Ruth 1:19)

Two Mallards Taking Off ©WallpaperSafari


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Lee’s Three Word Wednesday – 4/19/17


Feeding White Ibises at Lake Morton



“Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread.”  (Ruth 1:6)

Feeding White Ibises at Lake Morton


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Lee’s Two Word Tuesday – 4/18/17


Corn Bunting (Emberiza calandra) In the barley harvest ©Vinehousefarm



“So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.”  (Ruth 1:22)

Corn Bunting (Emberiza calandra) In the barley harvest ©Vinehousefarm


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Lee’s One Word Monday – 4/17/17


Kingfisher Diving Sequence ©SMedia-Cache



“Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a-fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.  (John 21:3)

Kingfisher Diving Sequence ©SMedia-Cache


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Cedar Waxwings: Winter Texans Snack on Bugs and Berries

Cedar-Waxwing-with-redcedar-seed-cone. ©GaryBrady

Cedar-Waxwing-with-redcedar-seed-cone. ©GaryBrady

Cedar Waxwings: Winter Texans Snack on Bugs and Berries

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

But he himself [i.e., Elijah] went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am not better than my fathers. And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.  And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baked on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid himself down again.  (1st Kings 19:4-6)

The above Scripture reports how the persecuted prophet Elijah, a fugitive fleeing Queen Jezebel, was miraculously fed a hot meal, by an angel, under a juniper tree. But the bird featured herein — CEDAR WAXWING (see feature photo by Gary Brady, above) — would need no miracle or angel to find food at a juniper tree, because the Cedar Waxwing’s diet is famous for including “juniper berries”, a nickname given to the evergreen redcedar tree’s seed cones (that are signified by the Cedar Waxwing’s name).

Cedar Waxwing with redcedar seed cone (a/k/a “juniper berry”)

Fair Use credit:  Missouri Dep’t of Conservation photo

Cedar Waxwings are insectivorous –  they often resemble flycatchers as they pursue and capture their aerial insect prey; in fact, insects are their main diet when berries are unavailable.  However, Cedar Waxwings thrive on seeds, including redcedar cones (nicknamed “juniper berries”), which are berry-like female seed cones.  (Each seed cone, technically called a megastrobilus, is bluish-purple within a waxy-whitish envelope, appearing somewhat like blueberries if seen in its wax coating.)  Cedar Waxwings also enjoy eating available fruits (e.g., apples) and a variety of perennial plant berries, especially during winter, when insects are mostly unavailable.  [See, accord, Thomas Alerstam, BIRD MIGRATION (Cambridge University Press, 1993), pages 167, 182, 195, 203.] juniper-berries-with-needleleaves.Wikipedia

Juniper “berries” with evergreen needle-leaves (Wikipedia photo)

Cedar Waxwings are very social passerines – they are even known to share berries, passing them from one bird to another (form beak to beak) in a line, so that each waxwing gets its share of the berries. [See Robert Rice, “The Moveable Feaster: Cedar Waxwing”, Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute (May 1st 1997), posted at https://nationalzoo.si.edu/migratory-birds/news/moveable-feaster .]   As gregarious birds, Cedar Waxwings travel—and stopover—in compact flocks.  This “caravan”-style migration is noted in the following birdwatching limerick of mine (which commemorates my observations of them, perching as a group, on April 1st (of AD2017):


Humankind, earthbound, lacks wings;

Unlike us, though, Cedar Waxwings,

Like migratory troops,

Stopping over in groups  –

Passing through, Cedar Waxwings.

[See also, comment on seeing waxwing stopover, https://leesbird.com/2016/04/04/lees-one-word-monday-4416/#comment-762787  — posted 4-1-AD2017.]


Flock of perching “winter Texan” Cedar Waxwings   (Steven Schwartzman photo)

Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) are well-known crested migrants of North America (and to the Caribbean, and even as far south as Panama), yet their larger “cousins” — Bohemian Waxwings (Bombycilla garrula) — live and migrate within both North America and Europe. [See Thomas Alerstam, BIRD MIGRATION (Cambridge University Press, 1993), pages 164, 316, 337.]


Cedar Waxwings perching in Wisconsin   (Mike McDowell photo)

Cedar Waxwings themselves are widespread migrants, migrating phenologically with seasonal weather cycles. Roger Tory Peterson summarizes the Cedar Waxwing’s broad migratory range (in North America and the Caribbean) as follows:

Where found:  Se. Alaska, cent. Canada south to n. California, w. Oklahoma, and Georgia.  Winters from s. Canada to Panama, West Indies. Texas: Winters (Oct.-June) throughout. Habitat: Various; semi-open, wooded, towns, etc.

[Quoting Roger Tory Peterson, BIRDS OF TEXAS: A FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF TEXAS AND ADJACENT STATES (Houghton Mifflin / Peterson Field Guides, 1988), page 191.]   Yet think about the marvels of migration – it’s easier to pronounce the word than it is to successfully accomplish the aerial journey!  For starters, what kind of weather is right for migration?

Which factors govern the migrants’ choice of migration weather?

Three such factors can be considered to be of great importance:  the living conditions in the area the birds are leaving, the living conditions in the area for which they are heading, and the flying conditions during the migration itself.

If the birds’ choice of migration weather were mainly an adaptation [i.e., providentially prepared-for response] to the conditions in the area they are leaving, then in the first place cold, frost, snow and formation of ice, [i.e.] weather factors which make their living conditions considerably worse, ought to trigger emigration.  Similar weather in the destination area, if it could be foreseen by the birds, naturally ought to have the effect of deterring migration [i.e., immigration to the new location].

Where the flying conditions during the migration are concerned, two factors are of the greatest importance to the birds:  they should carry out the flight as economically as possible from an energy [consumption] point of view[,] and they should avoid weather which may lead to [navigational] orientation problems.  The first factor is provided for if the birds choose tail winds, and the second if they avoid flying in rain, fog and dense cloud[s].  That precisely those points, tail winds and avoiding of areas of rain, usually are key factors for intensive migration has been confirmed.  We can therefore draw the conclusion that the migrants’ reactions to weather, those reactions that determine the variation in migration intensity from day to day, in general (but not always, see below) are an adaptation [i.e., providentially prepared-for response] to good flying conditions in the area they start from or finish in.

Occasions arise, however, when birds are driven [by instinct or something else] to migrate by degenerated living conditions or are held back by poor prospects in the area of their destination [yet only if it can be assumed that, somehow, they already know that their destination is ill-equipped to host their arrival upon immigration]. They are then forced to waive [i.e., risk] the need for energy savings and safety during the flight itself.

[Quoting Thomas Alerstam, BIRD MIGRATION (Cambridge University Press, 1993), page 316.]


Cedar Waxwing in the snow   (Fair Use/Public Domain: photo by anonymous retiree)

In fact, waxwings are resilient, able to tough out winter weather when they must.

Some birds attempt to overwinter in northern regions so long as it is [relatively] mild and they can find food. When the cold, the frost and the snow step in with full force, however, they have no alternative but to leave on winter migration.  This can be observed at Falsterbo [in Skåne, Sweden], for example, during periods of severe winter weather:  crows, finches, larks, starlings, gulls, ducks and geese leave southern Sweden and head out over the sea in a southwesterly direction towards milder regions.

Sometimes the [migratory] passage goes on in blizzard conditions, as for example on the December morning with whirling snow, less than 50 m visibility and wind strengths of over 15 m/s [i.e., > 30 mph] when Gunnar Roos logged emigration at Falsterbo of Fieldfare, Starling, Skylark, [Bohemian] Waxwing and Common Gull.

[Quoting Thomas Alerstam, BIRD MIGRATION (Cambridge University Press, 1993), page 316.]

Cedar Waxwings sharing food   (Fair Use credit; Wild for Wildlife photo)

So there you have it: Cedar Waxwings, on the move, migrating huge distances twice a year, alternating between summer and winter ranges.  Mealtimes involve a mix of snapping up fruits fallen to the ground, or happily eating (and sometimes sharing) seeds and berries while perching en banc in tree branches, or snatching “fast food” insects on the wing.  Lots of air miles for this crested traveler  — migrating with its group (and taking group “rest stops” along the way), and casually sharing the “wealth” and enjoying one another’s company, gregariously illustrating the airborne and passerine equivalents of Amos 3:3.   ><> JJSJ


Cedar Waxwing with berry (Smithsonian Nat’l Zoo photo)

“F” is for Flamingos and Frigatebirds: “F” Birds, Part 1

“F”  is  for  Flamingos  and  Frigatebirds:  “F” Birds,  Part  1

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Flamingo: [Fair Use photo credit: Palm Beach Post/ South Florida Water Management District]

41 Let Thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord, even Thy salvation, according to Thy word.  42 So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me: for I trust in Thy word.  43 And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in Thy judgments.  44 So shall I keep Thy law continually for ever and ever.  45 And I will walk at liberty: for I seek Thy precepts.  46 I will speak of Thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.  47 And I will delight myself in Thy commandments, which I have loved.  48 My hands also will I lift up unto Thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in Thy statutes.  (Psalm 119:41-48 KJV)

F” is for Flamingo, Frigatebird, Frogmouth, Fairywren, Flowerpecker, Flufftail, Fantail, Figbird, Fulvetta, and/or Finch — plus whatever other birds there are, that have names that begin with the letter F.

This present study (i.e., “‘F’ Birds, Part 1”) will focus on Flamingos and Frigatebirds.  But first, because this blogpost-article calmly continues an alphabet-based series on birds, we look at Psalm 119:41-48, — thereafter we review two categories of birds that start with the letter “F”, namely, Flamingos and Frigatebirds.


Flamingos ©Florida Gardener

Fair Use photo credit: Florida Gardener


Using alphabet letters, to order a sequence of information, has Biblical precedent, as is demonstrated in the five earlier articles in this series of “alphabet birds”:

A Birds  A is for Avocet, Albatross: “A” Birds, Part 1, & A is for Accipiter and Alcid: “A” Bird, Part 2
B Birds”  B is for Bluebird and Bittern: “B” Birds, Part 1, & B is for Bobwhite and Buteo: “B” Birds, Part 2
C Birds”  C  is  for  Cardinal  and  Cormorant:   “C”  Birds,  Part  1, & C  is  for  Coot  and  Corvids:   “C”  Birds,  Part  2
D Birds”  D is for Ducks, Dabblers and Divers: “D” Birds, Part 1, & D is for Dunlin and Dark-eyed Junco: “D” Birds, Part 2
E Birds”  E is for Eagles and Eiders: “E” Birds”, Part 1, & E is for Egrets and Emus: “E” Birds, Part 2

The perfect example is the “acrostic” pattern of Psalm 119, the longest psalm (having 176 verses!), which psalm has 22 sections (comprised of 8 verses per section), representing the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. (Compare that to the English alphabet, which has 26 alphabet letters, and/or to the Norwegian alphabet, which has 29 alphabet letters.) The sentences in each section start with the same Hebrew letter: Verses 1-8 start with ALEPH, Verses 9-16 with BETH, Verse 17-24 with GIMEL, and so forth.  The such alphabetic-acrostic grouping of verses is Psalm 119:41-48, each of which verses begin with the Hebrew letter  VAV [also written as WAW],  —  which is translated (in English) as a “V” or “W” if used as a consonant, or translated as long “O” or long “U” if used as a vowel.

Fair Use Image Credit: http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Grammar/Unit_One/Aleph-Bet/Vav/vav-h.gif

In this serial study’s lesson, the sixth octet of verses in Psalm 119 (i.e., Psalm 119:33-40), each sentence starts with VAV (also written as WAW, and pronounced “vahv”, like the English word “valve” without the L sound), serving variously as the Hebrew consonant equivalent to the English letters “V”, “W”, “O”, and “U”.  (More on that below.)

The Hebrew word based upon this letter is VÂV (a/k/a WAW, like the letter itself, pronounced “vahv”, like the word “valve” without the L sound), which is routinely translated as “hook”  (13x) in the Old Testament (see YOUNG’S ANALYTICAL CONCORDANCE, Index-Lexicon to the Old Testament, page 52, column 3), i.e., in Exodus 26:32; 26:37; 27:10; 27:11; 27:17; 36:36; 36:38; 38:10; 38:11; 38:12; 38:17; 38:19; & 38:28.  Thus, the concept of “connection”/“joinder”, illustrated by the use of a connecting tent-hook/peg (used in assembling/fastening pieces of the Mosaic Tabernacle), is the concept to be expected when the Hebrew letter VÂV is used.

And the 20 pillars thereof and their 20 sockets shall be of copper; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver.  And likewise for the north side in length there shall be hangings of 100 cubits long, and its 20 pillars and their 20 sockets of copper; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets of silver.  [Quoting Exodus 27:10-11.]

And he made thereunto 4 pillars of acacia wood, and overlaid them with gold; their hooks were of gold; and he cast for them 4 sockets of silver.  [Quoting Exodus 36:36.]

An etymologically related verb, LAVAH (apparently combining the concepts of toward [L], hook/joinder [V], and distance/position [H], to indicate “joined/belonging to that position”) is routinely translated as “join” [in the niphâl form], e.g., in Esther 9:27; Isaiah 56:3 & 56:6; Jeremiah 50:5, and as “cleave” in Daniel 11:34.

So, because VAV is the sixth letter in the Hebrew alphabet, each verse (in Psalm 119:41-48) literally starts with that letter as the first letter in the first word (although the first Hebrew word may be differently placed in the English translation’s sentence):

41 And shall come [vîbō’ūnî], unto me, Thy mercy, O Lord, even Thy salvation, according to Thy word.

42 And I will answer [ve’e‘eneh] him who reproaches me, a word, because I trust in Thy word.

43 And don’t-let-escape [ve’al—tatsêl], from my mouth, the word of truth, very much; because I have hoped in Thy judgments.

44 And I will safeguard [ve’eshmerâh] Thy law, completely, forever and ever.

45 And I will walk [ve’ethallekâh] in largeness [i.e., with great liberty], because Thy precepts I have sought.

46 And I will speak [va’adabberâh] of Thy testimonies, before kings, and I will not be shamed.

47 And I thoroughly-delight-myself [ve’eshta‘sha‘] in Thy commandments, which I have loved.

48 And I raise [ve’essâ’] my hands up, unto Thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate within Thy statutes.

As noted before, Psalm 119 is all about God’s revelation of truth – especially truth about Himself – unto mankind (in a comprehensive “A to Z” panorama). The most important revelation of truth that God has given to us, and the most authoritative form of truth that we have, is the Holy Bible – the Scriptures (2nd Peter 1:16-21). Here, the octet of verses in Psalm 119:41-48 is dominated by references to the Scriptures, using the terms “the Word” (DABAR in verses 42 & 43; IMRAH in verse 41), “Thy law” (verse 44), “Thy commandments” (verses 47 & 48), “Thy testimonies” (verse 46), “Thy statutes” (verse 48), “Thy ordinances” (verse 43), and “Thy precepts” (verse 45).

Notice how the positional/relational connectedness “theme” of the Hebrew noun VAV appears frequently in this section of Psalm 119 – because God’s salvation mercifully comes unto (i.e., joins) the psalmist according to God’s Word; the psalmist confrontationally give an answer unto (i.e., enjoins) his opponent, in reliance upon God’s Word; the psalmist does not want God’s true Word to depart from (i.e., escape by disjoining) out of the psalmist’s mouth, because the psalmist relies upon God’s providential judgments; the psalmist continually safeguards (i.e., secures/keeps close to himself) God’s law; the psalmist’s walk stays joined/connected to the large pathway of God’s precepts; the psalmist confronts (i.e., enjoins) king with God’s testimonies; the psalmist loves — delighting within himself – God’s commandments, such that God’s law is in the psalmist’s heart, wherefrom the psalmist devotionally meditates thereupon, in reverence and love.

The thematic idea of Psalm 119:41-48, that “joins” these 8 verses together (pardon the pun), is that the psalmist connects all of the important aspects of life – salvation, resisting enemies, being a good steward of God’s Word, walking, talking, facing rulers, and heart priorities – by joining God’s Word to those life activities.  (And so should we!)


Flamingo Sign ©TripAdvisor

Fair Use Credit:  TripAdvisor.com

After that lesson (from Psalm 119:41-48), let us rejoin (pardon another pun) our study of “F” birds, beginning with FLAMINGOS, a long-legged wading shorebird well-known to Floridians.

PHOTO CREDIT: Flamingo, posing on 1 leg (Paul Marcellini)

PHOTO CREDIT: Flamingo, posing on 1 leg (Paul Marcellini)


Regarding American Flamingos, see Lee Dusing’s Phoenicopteridae — Flamingos”. See also Ian Montgomery’s description of the Greater Flamingo, at Ian’s Bird of the Week – Greater Flamingo.

American Flamingos are tall and thin.  With a descriptive summary, Roger Tory Peterson notes:

An extremely slim rose-pink [but sometimes flamboyantly bright orange-red or pink-salmon] wading bird as tall as a Great Blue Heron but much more slender.  Note the sharply bent bill or broken ‘Roman nose’.  Feeds [e.g., shrimp and other small tidewater crustaceans] with the bill or head immersed [in shallow water].  In flight it shows much black in the wings; its extremely long neck is extended droopily in front and the long legs trail behind, giving the impression that the bird might as easily fly backward as forward.  Pale washed-out birds may be escapes [i.e., escapees] from zoos as the color often fades under captive conditions [unless a carotene-rich diet is supplied and digested, e.g., carotene-pigmented pellet containing carrots, red peppers, and/or dried shrimp].  Immatures are also much paler than normal adults.

[Quoting Roger Tory Peterson, EASTERN BIRDS  (PETERSON FIELD GUIDES),  A COMPLETELY NEW GUIDE TO ALL THE BIRDS OF EASTERN AND CENTRAL NORTH AMERICA), 4th edition (Houghton Mifflin, 1980), page 110.]    Slat flats and saline lagoons are a favorite habitat for American Flamingos in Florida.

Magnificent Frigatebird pair on nest ©Jim Burns

Magnificent Frigatebird



Regarding those huge-winged oceanic birds we call Frigatebirds, see Ian Montgomery’s “Great Frigatebird”, as well as Ian Montgomery’s “Lesser Frigatebird”.   See also, “Flag that Bird! (Part 3)”, a part of which article is reprinted hereinbelow.

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor).  The Great Frigatebird is found soaring above tropical oceans all over the world.  Because it is almost always seen at sea, it is not surprising that English sailors (centuries ago) called it the “man-of-war”, a term that indicated a fast-sailing oceanic warship, the same kind of ship that the French called a “frigate” (la frégate). If you ever watch a frigatebird in the air, contextualized by a background (or foreground) that provides distance indexing – as I once did (a Magnificent Frigatebird “cousin”, actually, near the shoreline of Grand Cayman, one of the Cayman Islands), – you too will be impressed with the frigatebird’s speedy flight maneuvers.  In fact, its habit of stealing food (such as fish) from other seabirds is so well-known that the bird might have been better labeled the “pirate-bird”.   Why?  Frigatebirds often harass seagulls carrying fish, in the air, repeatedly, until the seagull drops – abandons – his or her piscatorial food-catch, in order to escape the threatening frigatebird.  As the bullied victim (seagull) flees the scene of the crime, empty-beaked, the buccaneering frigatebird swoops down after the plummeting food, snatching it out of the air before it drops into the water. The physical appearance of a frigatebird is not to be easily forgotten.  Frigatebirds are mostly black, with long angular wings, with a long sharply forked tail that looks pointed when “closed”.  (Males are almost all black, except for the red gular pouch (described below); the females have a white “bib” covering most of the neck-to-chest area (but have no gular pouch).  Frigatebirds “have long, thin, hooked bills and the males [each] possess an inflatable gular pouch which can be blown up to form a huge scarlet ball during courtship”.  [Quoting Marc Dando, Michael Burchett, & Geoffrey Waller, SeaLife, a Complete Guide to the Marine Environment (Smithsonian Institute Press, 1996), page 248.]  The male’s bright red “gular pouch” is a skin-covered (i.e., featherless) inflatable throat sac that connects the lower half of the bird’s beak down to and below the bird’s neck.  This inflatable throat sac, quite conspicuous during breeding season, is showcased during courtship displays, swelling into a balloon-like inflation (like a bullfrog), for a timeframe that may exceed 15 minutes!  The noise produced by this throat sac “sound-box” is the frigatebird’s rattling equivalent to yodeling.

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor) Male Displaying ©WikiC

The Great Frigatebird is usually seen soaring above ocean waters, or swooping through the air near island beaches, looking (“on the fly”) for a meal.  In fact, frigatebirds are rarely seen on land during daylight, though they must use land for sleeping and for nesting activities, such as laying and hatching their eggs.  [See www.icr.org/article/why-we-want-go-home/ — citing Tony Soper, Oceans of Birds (London:  David & Charles Press, 1989), pages 82-83.] Oceanographer Tony Soper describes the winged magnificence of this oceanic flier:  “Frigatebirds live up to their reputation [i.e., “frigate” = seafaring warship] with spectacular manoeuvres in aerial pursuit and piracy, stalling and turning with total control in a way which outclasses any competition.  Supremely aerial seabirds, they can hang seemingly motionless in the sky for hours [gliding], waiting to pounce.  The air is their daytime medium, they alight on the water only at their peril, for they have small oil glands and their plumage is not waterproof. … They are equally at a disadvantage on dry land, for their legs are short and hopelessly inadequate for walking.  They must shuffle and climb to a point from which they can take off [and “land” on a rising thermal air current, as if it was an elevator].  By night they roost on a tree or bush which offers a convenient launch-pad when the sunrise brings a thermal lift.  They have huge wings, up to 7ft. (2.1m) in span….  With their shapely wings they float effortlessly in dynamic soaring flight, plunging only to retrieve food items from the surface or to snatch a flying fish.  Sometimes they chase other seabirds to relieve [i.e., rob] them of their catch. “   [Quoting Tony Soper, Oceans of Birds (London:  David & Charles Press, 1989), pages 82-83.] Frigatebirds congregate in breeding colonies, often near colonies of other seabirds (such as cormorants, pelicans, and boobies), not infrequently mooching food collected by their avian neighbors.

[QuotingFlag that Bird! (Part 3)”]


God willing, the next contribution to this alphabetic series will be some more “F” birds – perhaps Finches, Frogmouths, and Fairywrens!

Meanwhile, in accordance with Psalm 119:41-48, may you and I use God’s Word, always, to connect the priorities of daily life, as we “join” with our daily opportunities to follow and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.

><>  JJSJ profjjsj@aol.com