Ian’s Irregular Bird – The Tattlers

The next two birds in the IOC list of Tringas are the two Tattlers, the Wandering and the Grey-tailed, so called one assumes because they are fairly vocal.

I did a comparison between the two species in Irregular Bird #195 in January 2007 (or Bird of the Week as it was called then). Here it is:

This week’s bird – or birds as I’ve included a relative for comparison – the Wandering Tattler is for those who appreciated subtlety, or at least acknowledge the challenge in identifying waders.  The Wandering Tattler (Tringa incana) in non-breeding plumage is very similar to its much commoner (in Australia) cousin the Grey-tailed Tattler (Tringa brevipes).  I’ve put numbers on the image of the Grey-tailed Tattler to highlight the differences:

Wandering Tattler (Tringa incana) by Ian

Grey-tailed Tattler by Ian

In the Grey-tailed Tattler, the white eyebrow extends behind the eye (1) and forward across the forehead (2); the cheek is whiter (3); the flanks are whiter (4); the bill is longer and more slender (5) and the wing tips, relative to the tail, are shorter (6).  The Wandering Tattler is darker overall and particularly on the back and crown and to me looked browner rather than grey-brown.  If you think this is all too hard, the calls come to the rescue, being quite different.  The Wandering has a trilling call of 6 – 10 accelerating notes, while the Grey-tailed has a drawn out 2 syllable call.

Wandering Tattler (Tringa incana) by Ian

The Grey-tailed Tattler is a (southern-) summer on the coast all round Australia on mudflats and reefs, while the Wandering is an uncommon summer visitor to the east and north coasts, with a preference for wave-washed rocks on the island of the Great Barrier Reef.

Since then I’ve photographed them in breeding plumage, when it’s easier to distinguish the two species. Both are barred on the breast and flanks, but only the Wandering has barring on the belly. The Grey-tailed retains the white belly even in breeding plumage. The one below in the third photo is feeding in a typical habitat in shallow water on a mudflat.

Here’s another Grey-tailed in breeding plumage swallowing a small crab at sunset. This might look more like the habitat of the Wandering Tattler, but it’s actually a stony area on a beach rather than a rocky headland.

This Wandering Tattler, below, is feeding in a typical habitat for this species, on a rocky foreshore with plenty of invertebrate prey on a Pacific Island. The tourist literature about Norfolk Island says that the name Slaughter Bay isn’t as ominous as it sounds, being derived from an “Old English word” meaning “slow-moving water”. Given that strong currents are reported in Slaughter Bay, that I could find no aquatic suggestions for “Slaughter” in dictionaries or online, and that Norfolk Island has a turbulent history as a convict settlement, I suspect that this is an explanation of which the Kremlin could be proud.Wandering Tattler by Ian

Wandering Tattlers in Australia are most likely to be seen on rocky islands, but they do turn up occasionally on the mainland as well, with records all on the east coast from Cape York to eastern Victoria. The one below was one of a pair that spent some time on the Townsville Breakwater in 2008 and there are more recent records there in 2010 and 2022. This photo clearly shows the grey patch on the forehead between the two short white eye-stripes.

The Grey-tailed Tattlers in this photo are also perched on rocks and pretending they’re Wandering Tattlers.  In fact they are waiting for the tide to go out so they can feed on the neighbouring mudflats. The one on the left is in transitional plumage with barring developing on the breast.

CHA-Scol Grey-tailed Tattler by Ian 7

Grey-tailed Tattler by Ian

Both species are accomplished migrants, breeding in northern latitudes and spending the northern winter in the tropics and southern hemisphere. The Grey-tailed Tattler breeds in inland northeastern Siberia and western Siberia and winters across a wide range from the Bay of Bengal and Taiwan through southeastern Asia to Australia and New Zealand. The Wandering breeds in Alaska and in neighbouring parts of Canada south to northwestern British Columbia. It winters all along the west coast of the Americas from southwestern British Columbia to Chile and across Pacific coast and islands from Japan to New Zealand, through Micronesia, Polynesia to Pitcairn Island and Easter Island.

In terms of conservation, the Wandering Tattler has a status of Least Concern, while the Grey-tailed has been uplisted from Least Concern to Near Threatened in 2014. This reflects some decline in numbers, probably as a result of land reclamation along the migratory stopovers in China.

Greetings,

Ian
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au

Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/


Lee’s Addition:

Thanks, Ian, for another informative post about this Tringa clan. I have to admit that I was a little tickled by their name. It reminded me of a verse about young widows becoming “tattlers.”

“And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies,….” (1 Timothy 5:13 KJV)

Good News

50 Stunning Hummingbird Pictures – B & B

Ruby-throated Hummingbird by Ray's Wildlife

Ruby-throated Hummingbird by Ray’s Wildlife

“So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.” (Genesis 1:21-23 NKJV)

You have got to check out this interesting article from Birds & Blooms!!

50 Stunning Hummingbird Pictures You Need To See

Still haven’t been doing much birdwatching lately, except through my back door. So, I trust you will enjoy these great photos. We have had some nice photos of hummingbirds here over the years, but these are all right together.

Ruby-topaz Hummingbird (Chrysolampis mosquitus) Male ©WikiC

Some of our previous Hummingbird articles:

Ten Beautiful Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds See Colors Over (Beyond) the Rainbow

How Much Are You Being Monitored? A Hummingbird Lesson

Hummingbird from John 10:10 Project

Tickle Me Tuesday – Hummingbirds

Peru’s Marvellous Hummingbird – Again

Creation Moments – Double Life of the Hummingbird

Hummingbirds in Ultra Slow Motion

Hummingbird Families – Firecrowns

Calliope Hummingbirds – North America’s Smallest

Wordless Birds – Hummingbirds

Ian’s Irregular Bird – Solitary Sandpiper

You may remember from the last Irregular Bird (Green Sandpiper) that the plan is to work through all the waders in the genus Tringa, the Shanks and relatives, in the order used by the IOC, below.  This is the next one the Solitary Sandpiper.

It’s fairly similar to the Green Sandpiper and they were originally treated as a single species. In fact, they are easy to distinguish in flight as the Green Sandpiper has a white rump and a tail with side to side barring, while the central feathers of the rump and tail of the Solitary Sandpiper are brown creating a longitudinal stripe. These features are visible under the flight feathers in the first photo and shown in a drawing later.
Solitary Sandpiper by Ian
In practice you can also use their ranges as the Green Sandpiper occurs in Eurasia and Africa, while the Solitary Sandpiper is an American species. It nesting range is almost entirely in Canada and Alaska.  It migrates through the United States and winters in Mexico, Central America, and in northern, central and eastern South America as far south as Peru in the west and northern Argentina in the east.
I haven’t got photos of either species in flight so here is a crude drawing to illustrate the difference in flight pattern. Don’t take too much notice of anything except the different rumps, tail and length of the legs. The latter are longer and protrude farther beyond the tail in the Solitary Sandpiper. So, if you’re a dedicated twitcher, as I am now, keep a beady eye out for something special if you are in a place where either or both of these birds don’t usually occur. There are a few records of Green Sandpipers in northern Australia and a few records of Solitary Sandpiper in Siberia and Western Europe.
Solitary Sandpiper by Ian
There isn’t much difference among the plumages of breeding adults, non-breeding adults, and juveniles though there is less streaking in juveniles and the spots on breeding adults are whiter, rather than buff and more conspicuous. I think the bird in the second photo in Trinidad is a juvenile, the one in the third photo in Brazil is an adult but I don’t know about the one in the first photo. If you’re an expert on the plumages of Solitary Sandpipers, I’d be happy to get your opinion: ianbirdway@gmail.com.
Solitary Sandpiper by Ian
Actually, I misidentified the two in Trinidad as Spotted Sandpipers in non-breeding plumage but maybe I had Spotted Sandpiper on the brain as I’d seen the one in the third photo in Tobago eleven days earlier. Non-breeding Spotted Sandpipers don’t have spots (go figure, as they say), just a little barring on the wings but they have conspicuous long white eyebrow stripes and shorter, much yellower legs, so I lack a reasonable excuse for the confusion.
Spotted Sandpiper by Ian
Like their Eurasian cousins, Solitary Sandpipers breed in trees and shrubs using the old nests of thrushes. It so happens that the range of perhaps the commonest thrush in North America, the American Robin, overlaps the range of the Solitary Sandpiper in Canada and Alaska. The Robin, despite its name which is based on colour not taxonomy, is a Thrush and a close relative of the Eurasian Blackbird and is the most likely candidate as a provider of nests, though not much is known about the breeding behaviour of the Sandpiper.
American Robin by Ian
So how does the Solitary Sandpiper get its name? Amazingly, unlike most waders which believe in safety in numbers, it migrates either alone or in small groups and often appear at stopovers or at the destination in ones or twos. It migrates mostly at night. I don’t know whether juvenile birds instinctively know where to go or whether the adults teach them. The mind boggles at what we don’t know about bird migration.
Jeff Larsen sent me this lovely photo of two birds together in Washington state, so they’re clearly not completely antisocial. He calls them Solitary Chickens, which appeals to me and he gave me permission to share this photo with you.
Solitary Sandpiper by Ian
Solitary Sandpipers are birds of freshwater and are usually found on small ponds or in marshy areas, even in winter. We spotted the one in Brazil in a roadside pond in the Pantanal.
Next time we’ll talk about the Tattlers, two rather similar species that are next on the IOC list.
Greetings
Ian


Google Groups “Birdway” group.
Write to him at ian@birdway.com.au, or visit this group at http://groups.google.com/group/Birdway


Lee’s Addition:

Here is the next Sandpiper in Ian’s “Tringa” series. He has promised more. Stay tuned.
He mentions the sameness of these birds:
“But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.” (Psalms 102:27 KJV)
See:

Ian’s Bird of the Week

Good News

Ian’s Irregular Bird – Green Sandpiper

The last irregular bird, Nordmann’s Greenshank, could have had a sub-heading of The Joys of Twitching. In it, I confessed to being a Twitcher at heart, discarding the respectable facade of “Wildlife Photographer”. Here follows the justifications, or at least illustrations of why it can be enjoyable. The background to this particular obsession/passion was the fact that, worldwide, there are thirteen species of Tringa sandpipers, or Shanks, characterised by different coloured legs. I had reasonable photos of all of them except the rarest, Nordmann’s Greenshank, since 2008 (when I photographed the second last one, the Willet of North America). That is, the seven-year itch twice over.
If you are, or ever were, a stamp collector, you would know the feeling. Suppose the following stamps are from a set of 13 stamps of Queen Victoria, including the first ever stamp, the Penny Black and imagine you have all of them except the rarest, the iconic Two Penny Blue, issued shortly after the first ever stamp, The Penny Black, in May 1840.
Imagine the thrill when you finally lay your hands on one, as I did in the 1960s. This one is a rather daggy example, but it is one from the original two plates issued until February 1841 and lacking white lines under “POSTAGE” and above “TWO PENCE”. The much commoner later series called ‘white lines added issue’ continued until 1858.  I’m still a kid at heart, and the subtlety of distinguishing different series of Two Penny Blues has a similar appeal to separating Common and Nordmann’s Greenshank.CHA-Scol victoria0730-01
Alternatively, maybe you were or are a card player. Suppose you’re playing a game in which you the best hand is an entire suit of cards, say a complete Straight Flush, as opposed to a mere Royal Straight Flush in Poker, but you lack the Queen.
At long last, after fourteen nail-biting years, you finally get the missing card. I’ve chosen the Queen as it’s number twelve (if you have the Ace as the first rather than the last in the suit) and Nordmann’s Greenshank is also the twelfth Tringa if you follow the IOC classification of birds. Continuing the metaphor, I’ve chosen Spades as the Queen of Spades is the most valuable card in the game Hearts. The metaphor fails if you go any further, because in Hearts, a vicious game which we loved as kids, the aim is not to win points and to force your opponents to get a high score, It’s Whist in reverse. Clearly, I also have a passion for Queens.

After that it’s just a question of whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. An introvert gets a deep personal satisfaction from achieving a complete collection, an extrovert gets a sense  of triumph in beating the competition. Of course, you may be a bit of both: I’m mainly an introvert, but publishing all this stuff as the Irregular Bird, showing off obviously, is characteristic of extroverts.

So, back to Tringas. Waders (birdway) are fascinating birds, not least because many of them migrate extraordinary distances. As a consequence, they’re of special interest to twitchers when avian GPSs go awry and they end up in strange places. Many species, however, are hard to distinguish in non-breeding plumages, which is how we usually see them in temperate and tropical latitudes except just before the migration back to the breeding zones. Most, but not all, of the Shanks are fairly easy to identify because of their coloured legs; many of them having corresponding common names as you can see in the IOC table. Four of them, comprising the two Redshanks and the two Tattlers, have featured as Irregular Birds in the past, so I want to do a series on the remaining eight and I’ll do them in the IOC order shown in the table at the beginning of this article. The first is the Green Sandpiper.

Green Sandpiper by Ian

The breeding range of the Green Sandpiper stretches right across northern Eurasian from Norway to Siberia and it winters mainly in tropical Africa, South and Southeast Asia, around the Mediterranean and, to a lesser extent in Western Europe. It’s mainly a bird of fresh water marshy areas even in the non-breeding zones. I’ve photographed it only once, in India in 2003, though I had seen it in England in the 1960s before I came to Australia.It’s even rarer in Australia than Nordmann’s Greenshank with only one confirmed record, near Darwin in 1998. There are a few unconfirmed records but care needs to be taken to distinguish it from the closely related Solitary Sandpiper of America and the Wood Sandpiper.
In fact, I mistakenly identified the Indian bird as a Wood Sandpiper, reasonably common in Australia and also a fresh water species, and posted it as such to the website, and only years later did the twitcher in me take a closer look and realise happily that it was actually a Green Sandpiper. Distinguishing features of the Green Sandpiper include larger size, bulkier appearance, short white eye-stripe ending at eye, longer bill, shorter, greenish legs, sharp gradation from streaked breast to white belly and, particularly in breeding plumage like this one, darker, greener rather than brown upper parts.

Green Sandpiper by IanI mentioned when discussing the unusual arboreal nest building habits of Nordmann’s Greenshank that the Green and Solitary Sandpipers also nest in trees, but use the old nests of thrushes.  Coincidentally the name Tringa comes from a description of a thrush-sized waterbird by Aristotle (“trungas”). He didn’t distinguish it further but later authors have suggested it was a sandpiper, a Wagtail Motacilla or a Dipper Cinclus. Thanks very much. While we’re at it, ochropus means pale-yellow footed, while the specific identifier of Normann’s Greenshank, guttifer, means spotted, which isn’t very illuminating either. Aristotle preceded the taxonomic and evolutionary ideas of Linnaeus and Darwin, and “thrush-like waterbird” is a reasonable description, except for the length of the legs. He was interested in biology, classified 500 species of animals in the work later known by philosophers as the Scala Naturae and would have been familiar with the Song Thrush, below, in Greece. The Scala Naturae was approved by the Christian Church (and probably all others) as it is hierarchical in form with man at the top, towering above all the lower species.

On the subject of passion and obsession, I’ve decided that the difference is mainly one of perception. A person might think they (in deference to gender fluidity) have a passion for another person and, if not reciprocated, the other party might regard it as an obsession. My cousin in Ireland suggests that obsessions have a negative effect, so maybe it’s more than just perception. Either way, I’ll continue the passion for Tringas next time with the closely related but geographically distinct (“allopatric”), thrush-nest-using, Solitary Sandpiper of America.
You can’t reply directly to these emails, so if you want to write to me, use my email address below. I’ve recently had occasional problems with receiving emails to ian@birdway.com.au, so ianbirdway@gmail.com is preferable.
Greetings,
Ian


Ian Montgomery,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: 0411 602 737 +61-411 602 737
Preferred Email: ianbirdway@gmail.com

Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au

Lee’s Addition:

Seems that Ian is getting active again with his birdwatching. He, like the rest of us, was quite for awhile during all these lockdowns. I have another of his articles coming soon. Stay tuned.
“As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.” (Proverbs 27:8 KJV)
See:

Ian’s Bird of the Week

Good News

Ian’s Irregular Bird – Nordmann’s Greenshank

Because it’s so long since the last irregular bird, here is a special one of a very rare wader that has become something of a celebrity, perhaps the most photographed individual bird in Australian history. So you may already have superb photos of it, and I apologize in advance if you find this boring. Nordmann’s Greenshank is, sadly, one of the rarest waders in the world with a population of probably less than 2,000 individuals and a red book status of endangered as its population is declining.

Nordmann’s Greenshank (Tringa guttifer) by Ian

Its breeding range is along the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk in Siberia and is subject to disturbance from oil and gas extraction. It normally winters in southeast Asia and, very occasionally, birds end up in Australia. There are three records from wader counts along 80 Mile Beach near Broome in NW Western Australia, and this one. It first appeared in Cairns in the (northern) winter of 2021 and stayed around long enough for anyone able to navigate covid restrictions and see it. I couldn’t drive to Cairns then and resigned myself to the prospect of missing out on it. To everyone’s surprise, it reappeared this year and the scramble to see it started again.

Nordmann’s Greenshank (Tringa guttifer) by Ian

I drove the 340km/210 miles to Cairns at the end of January to catch up with some good friends of long standing from Victoria. They were on the hunt for it, in airline transit from a boat trip to Torres Strait islands to Iron Range National Park on Cape York. We spent four days checking every wader along the Cairns Esplanade at suitable and sometimes unsuitable tides without success. It definitely wasn’t there, but reappeared when they had gone to Cape York and I had returned to Townsville. I rejoined them in Cairns for two days, when it did its disappearing act again, only to reappear for them after I’d returned to Townsville for a meeting that, in hindsight, I deeply regretted attending. so I dropped everything again and returned to Cairns, determined to see and photograph it.
On the second morning of my third visit, the bird relented and I spent an exciting two hours as the incoming tide slowly coaxed it closer and closer. Ultimately, I ended up sitting a mere 6m/20ft from it on the sandy edge of the mudflat, second photo, having taken more than 400 photos. I’ll talk about obsession later. Then I rang Trish, the friend with whom I went to Brazil pre-Covid, who was flying from Brisbane to Townsville that afternoon and suggested she fly to Cairns instead. Which she did, changing her flight at the airport, and we got lovely views of it the following day. We also visited the wonderful Bill Cooper exhibition of tropical bird and fruit paintings at the Cairns Gallery.

Nordmann’s Greenshank (Tringa guttifer) by Ian

Trish suggested bringing our painter/birder friend Marjory and a botanist friend Chrissa to Cairns to see the bird and the exhibition before the latter finished on the 13 February. So we came up again at the weekend, this time in her larger, more comfortable car and saw both the exhibition and the bird yet again. What fun.

Nordmann’s Greenshank (Tringa guttifer) by Ian

Time to mention the bird itself. It looks quite similar to the Common Greenshank and, slightly less so, to the Terek Sandpiper, both of which were present along the Esplanade. The first photo shows some of the diagnostic features: shorter, yellowish rather than greenish legs, the more robust bi-coloured bill (paler at the base) and shorter legs and bigger head (‘bull-headed’) which give it a rather stocky appearance. It’s behaviour when feeding is different too, and when one becomes accustomed to it, this is a good distinction at a distance, with poor light or muddy legs and bill. In the third and fourth photos it is feeding actively in shallow water, attempting to catch prey with a stabbing motion. It also uses its slightly upcurved bill to sieve the water surface by sweeping it back and forth, in a similar way to other waders with such bills such as the Terek Sandpiper and the Avocets. The fifth photo shows its size relative to a Bar-tailed Godwit, left, and a Great Knot, right.

Nordmann’s Greenshank (Tringa guttifer) by Ian

The second photo shows it standing on one leg, a pose it adopted often using one or the other leg, when resting or roosting (second and fifth photos) and when forced by the tide to move, it often hopped quite long distances to do so, sixth photo. In flight, last photo, the shorter legs protrude less beyond the tail than those of the Common Greenshank, it has less barring on the tail, whiter underwing coverts contrasting with dark flight feathers and it look stockier. Not much is known about its breeding habits, though it’s the only shorebird known to often build its own nest in trees. unlike its tree nesting relatives the Green and Solitary Sandpipers which use old nests of thrushes.

Nordmann’s Greenshank (Tringa guttifer) by Ian

This whole saga has revived my interest in bird photography, which rather flagged during Covid, when I took up other interests less dependent on mobility. It was also a time for personal honesty and admitting my twitching tendencies to myself rather than hiding behind the more dignified facade of a wildlife photographer. Next time, I’ll talk a bit more about the joy of twitching and explain why getting photos of this particular species was so important for me. I’m still pondering the difference between a passion and an obsession.
Greetings
Ian

Ian Montgomery,

454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: 0411 602 737 +61-411 602 737
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au

Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au

Lee’s Addition:

Thanks, Ian. Like many of us, the Covid has slowed our birdwatching adventures. Glad you were able to finally catch up with neat Greenshank.
This Nordmann’s Greenshank is in the Scolopacidae Family of the Charadriformes Order.
More of Ian’s Articles:

Wordless Birds

Birds of the Bible – Out of the Ground

NORTHERN FLICKER (red-shafted form)
photo credit: Evergreen State College

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

During our devotions this morning, Dan and I were reading John chapter 9. It tells about the Lord healing the blind man. Also, how the religious rulers doubted his story, and wanted to know if he had really been blind. They called the parents in, and questioned them. The temple rulers were especially upset because Jesus had healed the man on the Sabbath. Many of you know this story.

“Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.”
(John 9:1-7 NKJV) [Bolding mine]

Here is a comment from my Chronological Life Application Study Bible (KJV, p 1350)

John 9:6 When Jesus spit on the ground and made mud in order to repair the man’s eyes, he was working with original materials. Gen2:7 states that God formed Adams body from the dust of the Ground. Jesus was demonstrating a creator’s awareness of the materials he first used to shape the human body”

I had never made that connected in that story before, but it is another view of the fact that our Creator WAS here on earth in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord for all His creation, and especially the birds, which we enjoy so much. Along with all the other parts of His Creation.

Birds of the Bible

Good News

Birds of the Bible – How Many Sparrows?

House Sparrow by Ray

While working on updating the indexes to the Birds of the Bible-Sparrows, I came across an interesting question. How many Sparrows are mentioned in the Bible? I discovered a previous search I had started from the Bible Gateway website.

The Young’s Literal Translation found 6 verses mentioning Sparrows.

Psalm 84:3 – “a sparrow

Hosea 11:11- “a sparrow

Matthew 10:29 – “two sparrows

Matthew 10:31 – “many sparrows

Luke 12:6 – “five sparrows

Luke 12:7 – “many sparrows

House Sparrows visiting National Aviary Parrot Show by Lee

House Sparrows visiting NA Parrot Show Outside by Lee

Okay, so what, you might ask? One, it challenges you to actually study what’s in the Word of God. It is also nice to see what the Bible actually says about the Sparrows and how that impacts us. Try using a website like e-sword.net or Biblegateway.com, and do a little investigation of these questions:

In Psalm 84:3, where was the sparrow and what was she doing?

Hosea 11:22, why was the sparrow trembling?

Matthew 10:29 and 31, what assurance can we get from that verse?

Luke 12:6, who remembers the sparrows?

Luke 12:7, what has been numbered? What about fear?

Female Chipping Sparrow bird feeding three baby Chipping Sparrow nestlings, Athens, Clarke County, GA. by William Wise

These are just some of the previous posts about these little Avian Wonders:

To find out more about Sparrows:
Birds of the Bible – Sparrow I
Birds of the Bible – Sparrow II
Birds of the Bible – More Value
Birds of the Bible – Little Brown Jobs
Birds of the Bible – Worry and Sparrows
Birds of the Bible – Lord Who Is There
Eye of the Beholder – House Sparrows
Sparrows Peterson’s Video
His Eye Is On The Sparrow (Birds in Hymns)
The Eyed Sparrow
Mighty God, While Angels Bless Thee (Birds in Hymns)
The Birds, the Economy, and My Provider – by April Lorier
Sparrows and God Care – by April Lorier
Ian’s Bird of the Week – Masked Finch
World Sparrow Days – by a j mithra
Worthen’s Sparrow – Lost, but found… – by a j mithra
White-crowned Sparrow – The Restorer – by a j mithra
Renewed Day by Day: Signs of Spring
Sparrow Quote from The Life Project ~ from Don Merritt
Sunday Inspiration – Old World Sparrows
Sunday Inspiration – Sparrows
Sunday Inspiration – Sparrows II
Emberizidae’s – Buntings
Emberizidae – Part II
Emberizidae Family Allies I
Emberizidae Family Allies II

 

Good News Tracts – Various Topics

Hagerman NWR:  Missing the Northern Shovelers (and Other Winter Migrants)

Hagerman NWR:  Missing the Northern Shovelers and Other Winter Migrants

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1
NORTHERN SHOVELER pair   (Wikipedia photo credit)

Recently I visited Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge (near Sherman, Texas — bordering Lake Texoma), hoping to see a lot of migratory birds, especially geese and ducks who visit wetlands for overwintering or for quick stopovers.  Compared to prior visits, it was a major disappointment.  Even the visitors center was locked, closed to visitors (with a posted sign claiming pandemic dangers as the excuse for the closure).

Possibly due to a year of drought, many of the large ponds were shrunken (leaving half-dried mud basins), demonstrating that water is the key ingredient for wetland habitats.  The winter wheat was mostly consumed, so the population of snow geese was minimal.  Dozens and scores of snow geese could be seen, but not the usual hundreds or thousands. An occasional Great Blue Heron could be seen. Meanwhile the oil pumps (“horseheads”) quietly pumped. Even the few ducks seemed bored.

The Northern Pintail ducks were few and far between.  And, worse, I saw no Northern Shoveler ducks at all. Likewise, I don’t recall seeing the usual Green-winged Teals. Those shallow drought-dried wetlands must have been unattractive to most of the avian winter visitors, such as migratory ducks and geese. 

HAGERMAN NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, near Sherman, Texas (10,000 Birds photo credit)

So maybe this limerick can express my birding disappointment, that day, at Hagerman NWR:

DROUGHTS DISAPPOINT BIRDWATCHING AT WINTER WETLANDS

Hagerman’s a refuge of peace,

Fit for migrating ducks and geese;

Yet no shovelers were seen,

Nor teals with wings green —

Just some pintails, and a few geese.

[JJSJ, AD2022-01-19]

Oh well, goodbye — maybe next winter will be better, for viewing winter migrants at Hagerman NWR.

NORTHERN SHOVELER male in freshwater   (Steve Sinclair photo credit)

New Duck In The Yard

Wood Duck among Black-bellied Whistling Ducks by Lee

Yesterday we added a new bird to our backyard list. He tried to hide, but with a look like that, it’s hard to do. So finally, he came out of hiding. Some of those Whistling Ducks don’t seem to be too happy with him being there. [I was very happy! :) ]

Wood Duck in our yard. 1-17-22

We’ve written about this beautiful bird before, but usually, we have seen them over in Lakeland on their lakes. So, this was a treat to be able to have him visit us.

When I see this duck, I think about how the Lord when he created these Avian Wonders must have had a delight in decorating this Wood Duck. What clear lines!

Wood Duck’s Crested Head and Back

I have to admit that the Duck had a bit of an attitude. While he was strutting around, ever so often he would throw his head like he was trying to flip that long “bonnet” of his. [my term] I tried to capture it on video, but I was only able to capture it once.

Several verses came to mind about this encounter with our beautiful duck:

The first photo, where he was sort of hidden behind the others.

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 KJV)

We should not be afraid to let our Christianity be seen. Also, the look on the faces reminds me of how some people react to us when we do accept the Lord as our Savior.

Other Information:

All About Birds – Wood Duck

While putting these links about Wood Ducks here, I discovered that a Wood Duck and it’s mate HAS been here. I was surprised.

  1. Our Ducky Backyard
  2. Wood Duck
  3. Paintbrush Birds – Wood Ducks
  4. Lee’s One Word Monday – 3/28/16

Zebra Finch Duets and Bird Origins – I.C.R.

PAS-Estr Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia by Ian

“The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come,…” (Song of Solomon 2:12 KJV)

What an interesting and informative article about the creation of Zebra Finches and their singing duets. Bryian Thomas, PH.D. from the Institute For Creation Research wrote “Finch Duets Open Surprising Window on Bird Origins

The Zebra Finches appears to have a pattern of singing that goes against what evolutionists suppose is to be the normal behavior of Finches.

“A male finch sings to females while courting, but then quiets down after finding his mate. According to evolution, finches have no reason to continue to communicate at that point, since they’ve already ensured that their genes will be passed on to a new generation. Thus, researchers were surprised to find that wild zebra finches sing to each other only after becoming a couple.”

Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia guttata) by Ian

Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia guttata) by Ian

He also discusses how these songs are thought to have happened through natural selection, but….

“For male finches to sing their songs, they have to have a fully-formed system of pulmonary tubing, valves, musculature, and integrated skeletal structures. Then, the larynx (many birds have two) has to be located near the mouth and properly “wired” to the correct areas of the brain. All of that would still be useless, however, without the instinctive knowledge required to compose a song, or without the females’ ears being tuned to their specific tones. To consider this seamless array of parts as a product of just nature is imaginative–not scientific.”

A very good article to continue reading at “Finch Duets Open Surprising Window on Bird Origins“.

“Zebra finches are active and colorful birds from Australia, and they choose a mate for life.” Thankfully, Ian has provided us with great photos of the unique Avian Wonders.

PAS-Estr Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia by Ian

See Also:

Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia guttata) ©WikiC

Sharing The Gospel

Birds of the Bible – Foundation Reviews in 2022

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) by Dan

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) by Dan

Wow! Looking over the previous articles that have been written through the years on our blog, I thought it would be nice to read through some of our many posts.

To build a house, you need a foundation. To build a blog, you need a foundation. So, our foundation from the beginning for Lee’s Birdwatching Adventures Plus, has always been this:

“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11 NKJV)

He created our world, universe, us, and all His Avian Wonders, which we like to write about. We love to write about His birds and how we can learn from them. We’ve done our best, with a few stumbles here and there, but we have tried to honor Him through it all. He has been gracious to send me extra writers, photographers, and friends along this journey.

My thanks to Him, these extra hands to assist, my husband, and all of you who have visited us along the way.

Now, what has been written about the Foundations? Let’s take a look:

White Pelicans in Flight - Circle B Bar by Dan

White Pelicans in Flight – Circle B Bar

Birds of the Bible – Foundation #1 (2009) and then Foundation #1 Updated (2015)

These two posts explain about the beginning of birds and how they came to be here.

Fischer’s Lovebird (Agapornis fischeri) by W Kwong

Birds of the Bible – Foundation #2 (2009) and then Foundation #2 Updated (2015)

In Genesis Chapter 2, the birds and animals were named, but what happened in Chapter 3 caused the birds to be cursed and death now became a reality to them and others. But there is hope.

Noah’s Ark ©©Flickr elmada

Birds of the Bible – Foundation #3 (2009) and then Foundation #3 Updated (2015)

Now we find God has a plan to preserve the life of some of the people, animals, and the birds by having them enter the Ark.

Ernesto Carrasco’s Noah’s Ark Model

Birds of the Bible – Foundation #4 (2009) and then Foundation #4 Updated (2016)

What did the birds encounter as they came off the ark and afterwards?

Rainbow-clouds.© Readers Digest

Rainbow-clouds ©Readers Digest

Birds of the Bible – Foundation #5 (2009) – Not Updated Yet (Stay tuned)

This post presents many of the “theories” about where birds came from, versus how the creationist view where and how the Avian Wonders of this world came into being.

We trust you will enjoy reading (or re-reading_ through these Foundation of the Birds of the Bible posts.

Western Tanager: Red, Yellow, Black and White

Birds of the Bible

Long-tailed Duck: Birdwatching in the Scottish Hebrides, Part 3

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Let them give glory unto the LORD, and declare [yaggîdû = hiphîl imperfect 3rd person masculine plural of nâgad, “to appear”, “to be clear”] his praise in the islands.   

(Isaiah 42:12)
LONG-TAILED DUCK (long-tailed male, smaller female), iNaturalist photo credit

Recently, when reviewing a bird-book that presented seabirds of the Hebrides, I noticed a duck’s name that I was unfamiliar with, the “Long-tailed Duck” [see Peter Holden & Stuart Housden, RSPB Handbook of Scottish Birds, 2nd edition (Bedfordshire, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing / Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, 2016), page 39].  However, I recalled that I’d seen similar-looking ducks, in near-freezing wetland pond-water, from a train-car of the White Pass and Yukon Railway, traveling from Skagway (Alaska) into British Columbia, about 20 years ago, probably during early September, when these ducks visit migratory stopover sites. 

So, what does a Long-tailed Duck look like?  For starters, the male (a/k/a drake) has a conspicuously long tail—that makes sense.

Smaller than Mallard, but tail of male may add 13 cm [about 5 inches].  Small, neat sea duck with a small, round head, steep forehead, all-dark wings in flight and white belly.  In winter, male is mainly white with a dark brown “Y” mark on its back, brown breast-band and a large, dark cheek patch.  In summer, it has a streaked brown back, dark head and neck, and pale greyish-white face patch.  Adult male has greatly elongated central tail feathers.  Female in winter shows a white collar, white face with dark lower cheeks and dark crown.  … In summer, female has a darker face than in winter.  Females have short tails.  Juvenile is like female in summer, but with a less contrasting face pattern.  Flight feathers are moulted between July and September; during part of this time birds are flightless for a few weeks.  Has a unique moult, as some back feathers are moulted four times a year and some head and neck feathers three times a year.

[Peter Holden & Stuart Housden,”Long-tailed Duck”, RSPB Handbook of Scottish Birds, 2nd ed. (Bloomsbury / Royal Society for Protection of Birds, 2016), page 39.]
Long-tailed Duck (male & female),  NaturalCrooks.com photo credit

Does that physical description sound familiar?  Do the photographs look familiar?

After some research I realized that certain cold-weather diving ducks, called “Oldsquaw” ducks in older guidebooks [e.g., James Kavanagh, The Nature of Alaska (Blaine, WA: Waterford Press, 1997), page 56], are now called “Long-tailed Duck” in newer guidebooks [e.g., Robert H. Armstrong, Guide to the Birds of Alaska, 6th edition (Portland, OR: Alaska Northwest Books, 2019), page 54]. But why?

Surely this is an odd duck.  In fact, its typical call is an odd quacking-warbling-hooting honk, sounding like a duck trying to yodel through a semi-muted horn.

The duck’s fancy scientific name, Clangula hyemalis, has not changed lately.

But political pressure intrudes into the mostly-apolitical ornithology neighborhood.  It seems that the earlier common name for this duck, “Oldsquaw”, is now deemed unacceptable, because it might offend someone who stumbles on the terms “old” and “squaw”, as imagining disrespectful stereotypes of elderly tribeswomen.  Although “P.C.” (i.e., political coërcion) pressures should not dictate taxonomy for ornithologists, there you have it—since the International Ornithologists’ Union has acted, so now all Oldsquaws are re-named “Long-tailed Ducks”!  What a world! 

Long-tailed Duck mother with young   (Wikipedia photo credit)

Ironically, to eschew the prior common name (“Oldsquaw”) implies that folks often disrespect old squaws, i.e., elderly womenfolk of the Native American tribes.  But why should someone be ashamed of being “old”?  It is a blessing to be given many years of earthly life (Leviticus 19:32; Proverbs 16:31 & 20:29b; Job 12:12).  Likewise, why should an Indian woman—or any woman—be ashamed of being a “squaw” (i.e., a woman)?  It is a blessing and a privilege to be whomever God creates someone to be.  After all, God did not need to create anyone who would live long enough to become an old “squaw”, or an old “brave”, for that matter.  It is God’s generous and providential grace that we are whomever we are—because God could have made us all Long-tailed Ducks, or Coots, or Gooney Birds, or Grackles! 

While God appreciates the “simple”, yet unique, snowflakes that are ignored by busy humans, God treasures our personal lives (created in His image) infinitely more, as though we were His precious jewels (Malachi 3:17). In fact, God providentially planned our lives to be exactly what they are, and if we belong to Him, God artistically “works together for good” the component details of our lives (Romans 8:28). Surely, we should thank our Lord Jesus Christ for being our very personal Creator. So, the next time you see a grackle, think thankfully for a moment, “That could have been me!” And be grateful to your Creator, Who made you a unique, one-of-a-kind creation.

[Quoting JJSJ, “Of Grackles and Gratitude”, ACTS & FACTS, 41(7):8-10 (July 2012), posted at www.icr.org/article/6900/ .]
Long-tailed Duck (male & female), Animalia.bio photo credit

Meanwhile, back to the Oldsquaw’s cold-weather life in and near northern ocean seawaters.  The Long-tailed Duck is a sea-duck, spending most of its winter days at sea (not very close to shoreland), diving for food, though using arctic tundra, taiga (i.e., boreal forest), and subarctic coastlands for breeding, and for latter-month molting and migratory stopovers.  It’s a diving duck, sometimes diving to depths of 200 feet, using their feet to propel themselves downward, staying underwater moreso (i.e., longer) than other diving ducks. And oxygen-rich coldwaters contain lots of nutritious food for the Long-tailed Duck.

Dives to search mainly for crustaceans and molluscs, especially Blue Mussels, cockles, clams and crabs.  Also eats sandpipers, small fish such as gobies and some plant material.

[Peter Holden & Stuart Housden,”Long-tailed Duck”, RSPB Handbook of Scottish Birds, 2nd ed. (Bloomsbury / Royal Society for Protection of Birds, 2016), page 39.]
Long-tailed Duck with fish (BirdGuides / Martyn Jones photo credit)

Wonderful birds are there to be seen, in the Outer Hebrides (“Western Isles”).  If you get the opportunity, go see them!  Meanwhile, appreciate that they are there, living their daily lives—filling their part of the earth—and glorifying their Creator. 

><> JJSJ     profjjsj@aol.com