American Goldfinch, Seen in Penn’s Woods



Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.    (Psalm 68:13)


AMERICAN GOLDFINCH on thistle (Fredric D. Nisenholz / Birds & Blooms)

 The psalmist referred to a special dove having silver-covered wings, with feathers sporting yellow-gold highlights (literally, flight-feathers of greenish-gold).  What a beautiful dove that must be!  In America, however, there is a yellow-colored finch that we are more likely to see, the AMERICAN GOLDFINCH.  It too could be called greenish-gold, because its plumage varies seasonally, from lemon-yellow to a light olive-green.  Goldfinches are small passerines, monogamous (i.e., male-female couples permanently paired, as if married) gregarious (i.e., they travels and feed in flocks), and they migrate to and form the outer territories of their populational ranges — although they are year-round residents in much of their American range (see Wikipedia range map below: yellow for breeding-only, green for year-round residence, blue for over-wintering only). 


For me, the first time I saw one was on Friday, July 22nd AD2016, as I was driving a rent-car on a wood-flanked country road that paralleled the Susquehanna River, in Pennsylvania, near Exeter, where the next day I would speak at the Pennsylvania Keystone Family Bible Conference, in celebration of 60 years of IN GOD WE TRUST being our national motto.  Here is a quick limerick in honor and appreciation of the American Goldfinch.  (Speaking of our national motto, IN GOD WE TRUST, it derives from THE STAR-SPANGELD BANNER, penned by attorney Francis Scott Key, during the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.)


Lemon-hued, they eat many seeds;

They’re social, so in flocks they feed;

Goldfinches migrate,

Each true, to its mate;

God provides for all goldfinch needs.


AMERICAN GOLDFINCH female, Virginia (Wikipedia / photograph)


Master’s Degree WAS Finished in 2017

From February 2016 until October 2017 I was working on a Master’s Degree online from the School of Biblical Apologetics. With my back surgery, a hurricane, and etc., etc., … I failed to post the conclusion of it. It’s about time I express my thankfulness to the Institute for Creation Research for having the online school.

SOBA Degree

I was delighted when I received my tassel and the cords that I would have worn with a cap and gown. When there is no graduation ceremony because of being an online degree, you are at a loss to figure out how to show them off. I solved that problem by hanging my tassel on my walker. Then I showed it off at church. I caused my pastor to double over laughing when I told him the following:

When you graduate when you are young, you hang your tassel on your mirror in the car. When you are 74, you hang it on your walker.

Tassel Hanging plus the Cords on Walker (Posed)

I praise the Lord for the opportunity to take the great courses offered through the School of Biblical Apologetics. Here is a list of the courses that I took for my Master of Christian Education in Biblical Education and Apologetics.

S.O.B.A. Courses Taken

What is the School all about? (Taken from their About page)

The School of Biblical Apologetics (SOBA) is a formal education arm of the Institute for Creation Research. (For more on ICR’s purposes, see Who We Are.)

SOBA provides certificate-level, undergraduate-level, and graduate-level training in biblical education and apologetics. SOBA’s foundation is Scripture, which the school and its faculty hold as inerrant, accurate, and authoritative. Biblical creation, with a special emphasis on Genesis 1-11, is a significant focus of all SOBA degrees, majors, and minors. This focus sets ICR’s program apart from other graduate level apologetic programs.

Fulfilling the purpose of training future leaders in biblical education and apologetics, while maintaining a strict adherence to Scripture (including biblical creationist appreciation of Genesis 1-11), makes ICR’s School of Biblical Apologetics the best choice for those desiring to round out their biblical education. SOBA prepares its students with defensible answers for their faith, giving them the tools necessary to “be ready always to give an answer” for the hope within (1 Peter 3:15) and to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 1:3).

Dr. James J. S. Johnson is the Chief Academic Officer of the School. As you may know, he posts articles here on this blog. He loves birdwatching and taught birding courses previous to joining I.C.R. He was a tremendous encouragement for me to begin and continue working on this degree. Also, Mrs Mary Smith, the Registrar and Academic Coordinator, was a great encourager. My thanks to both of them.

My husband, Dan, was my most encouraging supporter. He helped complete my neglected duties because of me “having my head in a book.” :) Thank you, Dan!

At my age, this degree was undertaken for several reasons. It was to help increase my Biblical Knowledge and to help me explain the Creation of God’s fantastic critters better. In other words, for personal enrichment and better witnessing of God’s Love and Salvation. The best decision I ever made in my life was on March 20, 1960, when I personally accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my Personal Savior.

I desire to use the truth of God’s Word to encourage others to, 1) accept Christ as their personal Savior, 2) to read and study the truths found in Scripture, 3) apply the Word to their lives and grow Spiritually, and 4) use that knowledge to teach others to do the same.

Please check out the School of Biblical Apologetics and see how you could also benefit from their courses.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17 KJV)


Fowl Are Fair on Day 5

Fowl Are Fair on Day Five, with Special Attention to Galliforms

Dr. James J. S. Johnson


Red Junglefowl (wild equivalent of domestic chicken) Frederic Pelsey photo

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl [‘ôph] that may fly [ye‘ôphēph] above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.  And God created great whales [tannînim ha-gadolîm], and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl [‘ôph kanaph] after his 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 fowl [‘ôph] multiply in the earth. (Genesis 1:20-22)

In the Holy Bible, King James Version, the term “fowl” is repeatedly used to denote birds in general – animals who fly with wings and feathers. Nowadays, however, we usually limit the term “fowl” to refer to “waterfowl” (like ducks) or landfowl, like chickens.  The latter category – landfowl – are, generally speaking, birds that stay close to the ground because their body plan is fairly heavy (which is not good for intense or prolonged flying), like chickens or turkeys.  The fancy term for these landfowl is GALLIFORM, meaning shaped like a chicken.

Accordingly, God is glorified by His creation of poultry (domesticated chicken-like birds) and similar landfowl (a/k/a “gamefowl”), both being taxonomically categorized as Galliforms (i.e., birds whose physical forms that resemble big or small chickens).

Galliforms, as large ground-dwelling birds, are well-known for eating seeds and insects (both of which are often found on or near the ground). As noted above, their body weight encumbers them from flying very much or very far, although they can and do fly short distances when needed.  When chased, by predators, they often run and hide (as is indicated in 1st Samuel 26:18 & 26:20).  These often-domesticated birds include chicken, quails, pheasants, tragopans, argus, grouse, guineafowl, incubator birds, craciforms (such as guan, chachalaca and curassow), ptarmigan, turkey, and peafowl.  1st-Samuel26.20-partridge-slide

The typical icon of the galliform group (according to taxonomist Carl Linnaeus, in A.D. 1758) is Gallus gallus, a label assigned to both Asia’s wild Junglefowl and the domestic Chicken.  Many of these birds, especially chickens and turkeys, are raised by humans, for their eggs or to be eaten (as meat).  CodfishLays1000000Eggs-poem

As we know from Scripture (Luke 11:12-13), poultry eggs are a truly good source of nutrition for humans, and the whites (albumen) of eggs taste better when seasoned with salt (Job 6:6).

Galliform birds mostly live mostly sedentary lives (although some seasonally migrate) in moderate climate zones of Europe, Asia, North and South America, Africa, Australia, and many islands. (Don’t expect to find them in the super-dry Sahara Desert or in super-cold Antarctica.)


AMERICAN TURKEYS Schuylkill Center for Envir’l Educ’n photo

Some of these poultry birds are usually found only live in certain parts of the world (such as wild turkeys, which are biogeographically native only to North and South America), yet they can be introduced (as immigrants) to other places that have similar climates.  Because landfowl usually nest on or near the ground they are often victims to predators, including humans; accordingly it is important to avoid over-hunting them (and over-harvesting their eggs); this conservation-relevant reality (and concern) is acknowledged by Moses in Deuteronomy 22:6-7.

Amazingly, the Lord Jesus once compared His own willingness and ability, to care and protect humans, to that of a galliform – specifically, a mother hen — who uses her own body to protectively care for her own hatchling baby chicks (Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34).    How good it is to belong to Him forever!

LUKE 13:34 ( image)

The Snowy “Want-to-Be” at Gatorland

Great Egrets and a Snowy Egret at Gatorland

When we were at Gatorland a few weeks ago, I noticed two Great Egrets on the walkway rail. I zoomed in to get a better view of them. There were actually two Great Egrets and a Snowy Egret in between them.

Great Egrets and a Snowy Egret at Gatorland zoomed

By the time we arrived at their location, one of the Great Egrets had flown off to check something out. There sat the Great Egret and the Snowy Egret side-by-side. I thought maybe that Snowy was thinking he would like to be tall like this friendly Great Egret.

A Great Egret “Want to Be”

The Great Egret is tall and nice looking with his long yellow beak and black feet.

Great Egret up Close at Gatorland by Lee

The Snowy though shorter has a nice black beak and cool yellow feet.

Snowy Egret up close at Gatorland by Lee

Knowing that the Lord created both of these fine birds, He made them just the way He wanted them. One tall, one short. One with a black beak and the other with a yellow one. And He may have given height to the Great Egret, but He gave the shorter Snowy those neat yellow feet.

Do we get envious and desire what someone else has? Maybe taller, more talented, sing better, etc? God has made us just the way He wants us, and has provided us with different bodies, talents, abilities, and directions to serve Him. Are we content with what He has given us?

“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (Philippians 4:11 KJV)

“And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” (1 Timothy 6:8 KJV)

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5 KJV)

I am sure are Snowy Egret was not the least bit jealous or envious.

Snowy Egret up close at Gatorland by Lee

More posts from Gatorland:

Gatorland, FL

Gatorland’s Greedy Snowy Egret

Gatorland Roseate Spoonbills

Gatorland Grackle



The Disappearing Limpkin

GRU-Aram Limpkin (Aramus guarauna)

Limpkin (Aramus guarauna) by Lee

One of the few birdwatching adventures that Dan and I have had, since my surgery, was to South Lake Howard Nature Park. Earlier in the day, we had gone to two other favorite birding spots, but various activities there prevented us from checking out those birds. Later that day, we decided to try one more time. Grabbed our cameras and went to the little Nature Park. [Winter Haven, FL] There was not much going on there, yet, we were able to watch a Limpkin as he searched for his dinner.

The Limpkin (Aramus guarauna), also called carrao, courlan, and crying bird, is a bird that looks like a large rail but is skeletally closer to cranes. It is the only extant species in the genus Aramus and the Aramidae Family. It is found mostly in wetlands in warm parts of the Americas, from Florida to northern Argentina. It feeds on molluscs, with the diet dominated by apple snails of the genus Pomacea. Its name derives from its seeming limp when it walks. We have written about the Limpkins before, and information can be found the Aramidae – Limpkin Family page. This page also has many other Limpkin photos we have taken.

Limpkin and Dan at South Lake Howard Reserve

Limpkins are active during the day but will also forage at night. Where they are not persecuted they are also very tame and approachable. Even so, they are usually found near cover.  They are not aggressive for the most part, being unconcerned by other species and rarely fighting with members of their own species.

The Lord created the Limpkins with some bold makings, yet, when they are busy searching, they can almost totally disappear from our view. The next few photos show a Limpkin searching and then disappearing. Yes, he IS in those last photos.

As I thought about the Limpkin’s ability to seem to disappear, at first I considered the way the Creator provided a way for it to be camouflaged. Also, there is another analogy that comes to mind.

“He will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great.” (Psalms 115:13 KJV)

As Christians, we are all given something to do for Our Savior. Many serve in tasks that place them in the open like Preachers, Leaders, Teachers, Ushers, Choir members, etc. There are also many that are behind the scenes serving the Lord through their task. It might be tending to the toddlers and babies, audio and sound helpers, ladies folding letters, and on and on. When these servants are visible, they are very handsome or as pretty as the Limpkins, yet when they are busy, they just seem to disappear. The Lord sees all of our works, no matter where we serve Him.

“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (Colossians 3:17 KJV)

Wordless Birds

Woods, Water, and Winged Wonders

Woods, Water, and Winged Wonders

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Dan's Wood Stork Tree up close

WOOD STORKS in evergreen tree   (photo by Dan Dusing)

He sends the springs into the valleys;
They flow among the hills.

They give drink to every beast of the field;
The wild donkeys quench their thirst.

By them the birds of the heavens have their home;
They sing among the branches. …

The trees of the Lord are full of sap,
The cedars of Lebanon which He planted,

Where the birds make their nests;
The stork has her home in the fir trees.

(Psalm 104:10-12 & 104:16-17)

WOOD STORKS in tree   ( image credit: )

Springs and rain fall water the hills.  Wooded hills provide myriads of branches useful for avian nests, providing a hospitable habitat for birds of many kinds.  (Of course, the ecological fact that thriving trees facilitate homes for thriving birds is nothing new — see Daniel 4:11-12).  So, if rainfall is adequate, trees thrive – and where you find trees you also find birds, many birds of many different kinds. Forests are homes for owls, corvids, cardinals, hawks, wood ducks, doves, storks, and miscellaneous passerines galore!


Watch birds as they fly or they walk;

See their plumage and hear them talk!

Look for bird neighborhoods

In green, well-watered woods:

Homes for woodpecker, jay, owl and hawk!

So, take a trek through the woods  –  you should like the hike!   Walk and gawk.  (Is there a fowl on a bough?  Do birds perch on a birch?)  Wherever woods and water abound, look for winged wonders!


STELLER’S JAY on evergreen tree branch   (iStock / Getty image)



Shorebirds Looney about Horseshoe Crab Eggs


Red Knot Eating Crab Eggs at Delaware Bay Beach

Photo by Gregory Breese / USF&WS

Thankfully, the rhythms of our world are fairly predictable. Although the details differ, the overall cycles are regular:

While the earth remains, seedtimes and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease. (Genesis 8:22)

Because of these recurring patterns migratory birds can depend on food being conveniently available when they migrate northward in the spring. In effect,  “fast food” on the beach is a “convenience store” for famished feathered fliers.

For example, consider how the annual egg-laying (and egg-burying) activities of horseshoe crabs perfectly synchronize with the hunger of migratory shorebirds (e.g., red knots, turnstones, and sandpipers) that stopover on bayside beaches, for “fast food”, right where huge piles of crab eggs have just been deposited (and where some have been uncovered by tidewaters).


Horseshoe Crabs on Delaware Bay Beach

Photo by Gregory Breese / USF&WS

No need to worry about the birds eating too many crab eggs! – the egg-laying is so prolific (i.e., about 100,000 eggs per mother) that many horseshoe crab eggs are missed by the migratory birds, thus becoming the next generation of horseshoe crabs, plus the birds mostly eat the prematurely  surfacing eggs that are less likely to succeed in life anyway!)

Timing is everything. Each spring, shorebirds migrate from wintering grounds in South America to breeding grounds in the Arctic. These birds have some of the longest migrations known. Delaware Bay is the prime stopover site and the birds’ stop coincides with horseshoe crab spawning. Shorebirds like the red knot, ruddy turnstone and semipalmated sandpiper, as well as many others, rely on horseshoe crab eggs to replenish their energy reserves before heading to their Arctic nesting grounds.  The birds arrive in the Arctic before insects emerge. This means that they must leave Delaware Bay with enough energy reserves to make the trip to the Arctic and survive without food until well after they have laid their eggs. If they have not accumulated enough fat reserves at the bay, they may not be able to breed.

The world’s largest spawning population of horseshoe crabs occurs in Delaware Bay. During high tide, horseshoe crabs migrate from deep water to beaches to spawn. The female digs a nest in the sand and deposits between 4,000 and 30,000 eggs that the male will fertilize with sperm. A single crab may lay 100,000 eggs or more during a season. Horseshoe crab spawning begins in late April and runs through mid-August, although peak spawning in the mid-Atlantic takes place May 1 through the first week of June.

At low tide, adult crabs go back into the water but may return at the next high tide. Horseshoe crab spawning increases on nights with a full or new moon, when gravity is stronger and high tides are even higher. At the same time that migrating shorebirds arrive to rest and feed along Delaware Bay, horseshoe crab activity is high. While the crab buries its eggs deeper than shorebirds can reach, waves and other horseshoe crabs expose large numbers of eggs. These surface eggs will not survive, but they provide food for many animals. The shorebirds can easily feed on eggs that have surfaced prematurely.

Quoting Kathy Reshetiloff, “Migratory Birds Shore Up Appetites on Horseshoe Crab Eggs”, THE CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 27(3):40 (May 2017).


Shorebirds and Horseshoe Crabs on Delaware Bay Beach

Photo by Larry Niles

Notice how it is the gravitational pull of the moon, as the moon goes through its periodic cycle, that causes the high and low tides – which facilitate the uncovering of enough horseshoe crab eggs to satisfy the needs of the migratory stopover shorebirds that pass through Delaware Bay.  Notice how the moon provides a phenological “regulation” (i.e., the moon is physically ruling and correlating the interaction of the horseshoe crabs, the migratory shorebirds, and the bay’s tidewaters – in accordance with and illustrating Genesis 1:16-18).

At low tide, adult crabs go back into the water but may return at the next high tide. Horseshoe crab spawning increases on nights with a full or new moon, when gravity is stronger and high tides are even higher. At the same time that migrating shorebirds arrive to rest and feed along Delaware Bay, horseshoe crab activity is high.

Again quoting Kathy Reshetiloff, “Migratory Birds Shore Up Appetites on Horseshoe Crab Eggs”, THE CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 27(3):40 (May 2017).

Map of Red Knot Winter Ranges, Summer Breeding Range, & Migratory Stopovers
Map by The Nature Conservancy, adapted from USF&WS map

So, you might say that these reproducing Horseshoe Crabs, and the myriads of migratory shorebirds, share phenological calendars because they’re all looney.


Red Knot on Beach, during Migratory Stopover
photo by The Nature Conservancy / M J Kilpatrick

Snow Goose, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, and More

Snow Goose, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, and More:

Grandfather-and-Grandson Birdwatching at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge

Dr. James J. S. Johnson


Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable.  One generation shall praise Thy works to another, and shall declare Thy mighty acts.  I will speak of the glorious honor of Thy majesty, and of Thy wondrous works.   (Psalm 145:3-5)

Hiking up and down forest trails, while birdwatching at a wildlife refuge, can be an opportunity to praise God’s works to another generation – if the adventure is used to explain God’s mighty deeds to a grandchild. And the grandparent-grandchild outing need not be a “big deal”, by worldly standards, in order for it to become a treasured time that counts for eternity (Matthew 6:19-21).  Of course, God’s works include the birds He made.

The Hebrew text of Psalm 145:4 (translated “One generation shall praise Thy works to another, and shall declare Thy mighty acts”) can be translated as “Generation, unto generation, shall intensively extol Thy works and shall explain Thy mighty doings”.  Part of grandparenting, therefore, involves praising God’s works to another generation, as well as explaining God’s mighty deeds.  Since “His greatness is unsearchable”, there are countless opportunities for applying this mandate to wildlife-viewing recreation activities.


Imagine seeing an open prairie field — or a freshwater lake — covered by what looks like (from a distance) a blanket of unmelted snow – only to recognize that the “blanket” of white is actually a huge flock of migratory Snow Geese – totaling almost 4,000 in one flock, spread over two adjacent fields!


Gregarious flock of Snow Geese at Hagerman NWR (Photo credit: Trent)

Of course, a winter stopover haven that hosts literally thousands of Snow Goose migrants, unsurprisingly, hosts many other birds, providing (for the observant birdwatcher) a mix of other “winter Texans”, migratory transients, and year-round residents —  such as American Pipit, Northern Pintail, American Coot, Mallard, Great Blue Heron, Northern Shoveler, Ring-billed Gull, Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, Lesser Scaup, Turkey Vulture, sparrows, sandpipers, hawks, and more.

All of those, about a week ago, I saw at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge (“Hagerman N.W.R.”) in Grayson County, Texas, a few miles west of Sherman.  Specifically, on a Wednesday (12-21-AD2016), when local schools were closed for Christmas holiday (i.e., what secularists call “winter break”), an adventure of birding and hiking was undertaken, there, by Trent (one of my grandsons) and me, after we both fueled ourselves with a generous array of Buffalo hot wings (at the WINGSTOP restaurant in nearby Sherman).


The Hagerman N.W.R. acreage (more than 11,000 acres!) is located just south of the Big Mineral Arm of Lake Texoma, the large “lake” (which is actually a lacustrine reservoir formed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Denison Dam, built on the Red River) that separates southern Oklahoma from north Texas.  [To learn more about Hagerman N.W.R.,  (website provided by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service ), and Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge web article provided by Wikipedia.]

Of those birds viewed, amidst several lengthy treks along the wooded hiking trails, a few are noted below: Snow Goose, Northern Pintail, and Northern Shoveler.


Due to how God programmed Snow Goose bioengineering, no air traffic control team is needed — even though in-flight traffic occurs with lots of motion in very close quarters!

SNOW GOOSE   (Anser caerulescens)

The Snow Goose is the almost-all-white “winter Texan” goose that dominated the fields of Hagerman N.W.R. when Trent and I visited that forest-blended-with-grassland earlier this month.  (In biome ecology terms, this refuge is located in a pond-pocked hilly region that transitions the Piney Woods forestland of East Texas with the prairie grasslands of Oklahoma.)

Highly gregarious throughout the year, breeding in closely-packed colonies on the Arctic tundra. …  Has well-defined migration routes to and from winter quarters.  Arrival in winter quarters [such as arrival in Texas] varies with each population, some having quite long stop-overs en route, whereas others move quickly onwards; generally, however, northward spring migration is slower than the autumn one.  Winter flocks often attain tens of thousands in coastal farmland [yet, in the case of Hagerman N.W.R., which is inland, the total winter flock is now about 4,000].  Roosts on water, swimming freely, but feeds by grazing, usually pulling out plants by roots, rather than by grazing off tops.  Mixes freely with other geese [e.g., Ross’s Goose] on winter grounds, although main portions of flocks keep separate.  Even on breeding grounds, other Arctic geese may nest in fairly close proximity and occasional wild hybrids have been recorded with such species as Ross’s [Geese], White-fronted [Geese], and Canada Geese.  …  On winter grounds resort to cultivation [e.g., Hagerman N.W.R., which is agricultural land, interspersed with deciduous forests and sprinkled here and there with traditional Texas-style “horsehead pump” oil wells], fields of sprouting corn, pasture and stubble fields in lowland coastal zones are favoured.

[Quoting Steve Madge, Waterfowl: An Identification Guide to the Ducks, Geese and Swans of the World (Houghton Mifflin, 1988), page 143  –  see also plate 6 illustration by Hilary Burn, page 36.]


What a graceful duck!  Watch it glide quietly through pond-water.  What dabbler dignity!

Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) ©USFWS


The most plentiful duck that we saw, when we visited various parts (but not all) of Hagerman N.W.R., was the Northern Pintail, another migratory “winter Texan”.

Abundant, esp. in [American] West. Widespread on shallow freshwater wetlands, often in large flocks; also salt marshes, grainfields in winter. Wary; flight fast, agile.  Slender neck, rounded [dark, almost black] head, blue-gray bill, gray legs.  Male has long, pointed tail [hence the name “pintail”]; brown head with white line on neck extending from breast; green speculum [i.e., colorful patch of plumage on the outer wing secondary feathers].  Female mottled brown; bronze speculum with white rear border. Juv[enile] and eclipse male like female.

[Quoting Jack L. Griggs, American Bird Conservancy’s Field Guide to All the Birds of North America (HarperCollins, 1997), page 33.  Other than the thousands of Snow Geese, the most common bird we saw, when we visited Hagerman N.W.R., was the Northern Pintail.  Many of these ducks were congregating in the ponded areas near “horsehead” oil pump sites.


Notice how the pair’s coloring is like a Mallard pair, but not those large spatula-like bills!


NORTHERN SHOVELER   (Anas clypeata)

Perhaps my favorite duck, of those I’ve seen at Hagerman N.W.R., is the Northern Shoveler.  The male shoveler has an iridescent green head (like a Mallard), rusty sides (like a Ruddy Duck), a white breast, and a shovel-like (or spoon-like) bill. These ducks feed mostly “by filtering tiny aquatic insects and plants from the water’s surface with its bill”.  [Quoting Stan Tekiela, BIRDS OF TEXAS FIELD GUIDE (Adventure Publications, 2004), page 332-333.  A well-named dabbler, this duck’s bill is unlikely to be confused with any other duck. The marshy wetlands at Hagerman provide an ideal winter home for the Shoveler.

Usually found in pairs or small parties, but large concentrations form at migration stop-over waters. Indirectly mixes with other dabbling ducks, but generally keeps apart in discrete gatherings.  …  Feeds by dabbling [i.e., bobbing upside-down underwater] and sifting in shallow water, swinging bill from side to side over surface [straining wee crustaceans and seeds, as if its bill was a colander!], often immersing head and neck and sometimes up-ending; feeds chiefly while swimming, but also while wading.  Loafing birds gather on banks and shores close to feeding waters.  Swims buoyantly, with rear end high and fore parts low, the heavy bill often touching surface of water.  Walks awkwardly.  Flight fast and agile, rising suddenly from surface with whirring wings.  Most populations highly migratory, arriving on breeding grounds from mid March onwards and departing again in August.  …  Favours shallow freshwater lakes [and ponds] and marshes with areas of open water, emergent and fringe vegetation and muddy margins.

[Quoting Steve Madge, Waterfowl: An Identification Guide to the Ducks, Geese and Swans of the World (Houghton Mifflin, 1988), page 236  –  see also plate 33 illustration by Hilary Burn, page 91.]  For more photographs of the Northern Shoveler, see “’D’ is for Duck, Dabblers and Divers: ‘D’ Birds, Part 1.

What an enjoyable day!

All in all, it was a good day to trek some birdwatching trails —  good for physical exercise, good for intellectual adventure, and good for spiritual appreciation for our great Creator-God, the almighty and majestic Provider of every form of life that lives, whether big or small.  Each minute of a nature hike is a “teachable moment” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7), for those with eyes to see.


And, as part of good preparation for the outing, it was good to start the day’s recreational activities with a more-than-we-could-eat feast of WINGSTOP Buffalo hot wings, seasoned fries, and iced tea.  (Of course, we took home what we didn’t then eat, plus we took home some good memories and Trent’s photographs.)



Snow Goose flock in flight by Kim A. Sheridan:

Snow Goose flock in flight (close-up) by Pottsboro Chamber of Commerce:

Gregarious flock of Snow Geese at Hagerman NWR by Trent (grandson)

Snow Geese at Hagerman NWR winter stopover by Kim A. Sheridan: 

Migratory Snow Geese at Hagerman NWR by

Northern Pintail by USF&WS:

Northern Shoveler (male & female) by

Gregarious Snow Geese in Flight at Hagerman NWR by Moreno:

Wing Stop (Singapore) photo: Snapytrend

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable.  One generation shall praise Thy works to another, and shall declare [i.e., explain] Thy mighty acts.  I will speak of the glorious honor of Thy majesty, and of Thy wondrous works.   (Psalm 145:3-5)


Birdwatching On Board the Ark Encounter – The Doves

Noah taking the Dove Back on board. the Ark

Noah taking the Dove Back on board. the Ark

On Monday, September 12, 2016 we visited the Ark Encounter in Kentucky. One of my goals was to find as many birds as I could on the Ark. Dan and I were on vacation for almost two weeks and the highlight of our trip was a visit to the Ark. When you first see the size of the, it is overwhelming. The picture below is almost deceiving. The Ark spans ” 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high.” (From the website)

Dan and I sitting way out front.

Dan and I sitting way out front.

“And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive. And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them. Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.” (Genesis 6:19-22 KJV)

The first bird I observed was a carved bird in a workshop on board the Ark. It appears to be a dove, maybe.

Bird being carved in Workshop

Bird being carved in Workshop

The Workshop with the Dove

The Workshop with the Dove

Then we saw a dove resting before its next venture out of the Ark.

Dove resting on board the Ark

Dove resting on board the Ark

“And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more.” (Genesis 8:11-12 KJV)

The next dove we saw was on a mural depicting various events in Genesis.

Mural Showing the Dove on the Ark

Mural Showing the Dove on the Ark

Mural on the Ark

Mural on the Ark

Stay tuned as the other birds are revealed. We know from Scripture that there were seven pairs of every “kind” of birds/fowls on board the ark. I have more to show you.

“And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth.” (Genesis 7:1-3 KJV)


The Ark Encounter

Just some of the latest articles here about the Ark:

Birds of the Bible – Foundation – The Ark

Birds of the Bible – Loading the Ark

Birds of the Bible – Leaving the Ark

Avian Kinds on the Ark – Introduction

Avian Kinds on the Ark – What Is A Kind?

Avian Kinds on the Ark – Birds Embarking


Busy Spectators, Oblivious to Hummingbirds

Busy Spectators, Oblivious to Hummingbirds

Dr. James J. S. Johnson


Purple-throated Carib Hummingbird (Wikipedia image)

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.     (Psalm 90:12)

Two years ago the shoe was “on the other foot”, when I wrote about “Busy Hummingbirds, Oblivious to Spectators”. Yet during the Labor Day weekend, it was I who was the busy “spectator”, “oblivious” to hummingbirds in my own backyard!

It all started as just another half-day of clean-up in my backyard, in reaction to 4 stormy-weather-caused tree casualties, this year: serious branch tear-offs on 4 different Bradford pear trees. The aftermath involves a lot of branch debris clean-up, for packaging (in yard-trash bags, after my oldest grandson helped trim the arboreal wreckage with his chainsaw) required by the trash pickup service. One of the piles of yard trash was stacked under an oak tree, situated next to an iron rod fence that is heavily draped by a flourishing “thicket” of trumpet vine growth.


Trumpet Vine “wall” ( image)

In fact, the iron rod fence itself is so enveloped, in the greenery and blossoms of trumpet vines, that the combination of fences and vine-growth resembles a “wall” or curtain of vine growth, green leaves, and bright orange “trumpet” flowers. Next to that fence is a tall and sturdy oak tree, loaded with green leaves.  Then I noticed what initially looked like a thick brownish-green insect buzzing about the fence’s trumpet vine blossoms – but it was no dragonfly or damselfly or moth or butterfly – it was a busy hummingbird! (Later I saw another hummer buzz by the same area, collecting nectar from blossom after blossom of the same thicket of trumpet vine flowers.)


Hummingbird at Trumpet Vine blossom   (Mike Lentz image)

Why had I not noticed that our trumpet vine “patch” was hosting hummingbirds?

Unlike two years ago, this time I was the “oblivious” one – I had busily ignored those hummingbirds (for months, at least), because I was so busy bagging yard rubbish. So, being a true birder, I promptly went inside our house, to fetch my binoculars, so I could observe the hummingbird activities more closely.

Trumpet Vine in backyard by tree (image credit:

The hummers were obtaining nectar, again and again — then they would flit away into the foliage of the nearby oak tree. On closer investigation I was that the trumpet vine had grown out form the fence — and had traveled up the trunk of the oak tree, entwining itself around various oak branches, so that the orange flowers peeked out of the top of the oak tree! Try to imagine a large oak tree, covered in bright green leaves – yet sporting some orange trumpet-shaped flowers near the top of the leaves! (Now I need to research whether the trumpet vine is parasitically detrimental to the oak tree – or whether it will be okay to leave it as it is.)

So much for being a careful spectator of my own backyard! As the serial crises of summer storms recently ravaged our Bradford pear trees, consuming many weekend hours (and a lot of my attention) I had neglected to monitor other developments in my own backyard.  Yet what should I have expected?  After all, hummingbirds — if any were to be found in my backyard — would surely be attracted to the vermillion-red blossoms of the Trumpet Vine.  “All hummingbirds are drawn to the color red, whether in the form of a flower bearing the nectar that accounts for more than half of their dietary intake or in the colorful plastic petals of a sugar-water feeder.”  [Quoting “Hummingbirds and Feeding”, in BIRDS IN YOUR BACKYARD: A BIRD LOVER’S GUIDE TO CREATING A GARDEN SANCTUARY (Birds & Blooms, edited by Robert J. Dolezal, 2009 Readers Digest edition), page 108.]   For video footage of a hummer defending his trumpet vine from bee competitors see .

Maybe that can happen in other aspects of life, too. (Some call this the problem of the “tyranny of the urgent” – where only priorities with hard deadlines get serious attention.)  Maybe getting distracted by the various “in-your-face” crises of life, which frequently crash down here-and-there, in one storm after another, can pull our gaze away from other parts of our own “backyards” — such that this of that vine can silently creep up into a nearby tree (a little bit at a time, week after week, month after month), and we don’t notice it.


Trumpet Vine  (a/k/a Trumpet Creeper) climbing up tree 

Could this habit of being repeatedly distracted (by whatever makes the loudest “noise”) apply to personal Bible study, or personal prayer life, or the forgotten/postponed need for getaway time with one’s husband or wife, or the need to be a vocal witness to an non-Christian friend (or coworker, or relative, or neighbor)?  Sometimes it is important to step back, look up, and regain a big-picture perspective. Life continues to flow quickly by, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year. How quickly our lives, like money, are spent!

If you love someone, if you care for someone, tell (and/or show) him or her so – do it today! Don’t wait for a “hard deadline”, because the “tyranny of the urgent” may distract you (or me) from doing those important things that have no exact deadline. Don’t be oblivious (like me) to what is happening (or not happening) right next to you!


Hummingbird at Trumpet Vine (image credit: Harold A. Davis)

Notice the hummingbirds in your own backyard, and treasure the beauty that God is sharing in the process. Notice also when vine are sneaking form one place to another – if they are harmful, take action!

So here is my takeaway prayer:  may I be less oblivious to what is happening in my own backyard – and may I appreciate the beauty that God provides (such as those colorful and quick little hummingbirds, that I didn’t even know were living in my oak tree, enjoying the trumpet vines that drape my fence), each day, as I live out whatever day son earth that I have left to live (before it’s time to go Home).

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)


Busy Hummingbirds, Oblivious to Spectators

More post by James J. S. Johnson


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Birds of the Bible – Black Heron Seeing Clearly

Black Heron (Egretta ardesiaca) ©WikiC San Diego Zoo

Black Heron (Egretta ardesiaca) ©WikiC San Diego Zoo

And the stork, and the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat. (Deuteronomy 14:18 KJV)

The Black Heron (Egretta ardesiaca) is also know as the Black Egret. They belong to the Ardeidae – Herons, Bitterns Family. “This medium-sized  (42.5–66 cm in height), black-plumaged heron with black legs and yellow feet. It is found south of the Sahara Desert, including Madagascar, and prefers shallow open waters, such as the edges of freshwater lakes and ponds. It may also be found in marshes, river edges, rice fields, and seasonally flooded grasslands. In coastal areas, it may be found feeding along tidal rivers and creeks, in alkaline lakes, and tidal flats. Its breeding range is between Senegal and Sudan and to the south. It is found mainly on the eastern half of the continent. It has also been observed in Greece.”

Black heron (Egretta ardesiaca)map) Range Map

Black heron (Egretta ardesiaca)map) Range Map

“The nest of the black heron is constructed of twigs placed over water in trees, bushes, and reed beds, forming a solid structure. The heron nests at the beginning of the rainy season, in single or mixed-species colonies that may number in the hundreds. The eggs are dark blue and the clutch is two to four eggs.” (Quotes from Wikipedia)

Black Heron (Egretta ardesiaca) by Daves BirdingPix

Black Heron (Egretta ardesiaca) by Daves BirdingPix

“Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings,” (Psalms 17:8 KJV)

Black Heron (Egretta ardesiaca) ©WikiC

Black Heron (Egretta ardesiaca) ©WikiC

What is so amazing about this heron is how it searches out its food. They stretch out their wings to form an umbrella or canopy. This creates shade which attracts fish and the canopy also allows the heron to see their future meal better by blocking the reflection of the sun, giving them better visibility.

Black Heron (Egretta ardesiaca) ©WikiC

Black Heron (Egretta ardesiaca) ©WikiC

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, (Romans 1:19-22 KJV)

Black Heron (Egretta ardesiaca) ©WikiC

Black Heron (Egretta ardesiaca) ©WikiC

Are we trying to shield the corruption of this world, so we can see the clear truth of God’s Word? Are we looking for the good things to see and think about as Philippians 4:8 tells us.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8 KJV)


Birds of the Bible – Herons

Ardeidae – Herons, Bitterns

Birds of the World

Orni-Theology Articles

Black Heron – Wikipedia



“D” is for Dunlin and Dark-eyed Junco: “D” Birds”, Part 2

“D” is for Dunlin and Dark-eyed Junco: “D” Birds”, Part 2

James J. S. Johnson

Dunlin (Calidris alpina) shorebirds, in winter snow!

For He saith to the snow: ‘Be thou on the earth’; likewise unto the small rain, and unto the great rain of His strength. JOB 37:6 

She is not afraid of the snow for her household; for all her household are clothed with scarlet. PROVERBS 31:21

“D” is for Dunlin and Dark-eyed Junco, as well as for Doves, Dippers, and Ducks (some being dabblers, some being divers) — plus other birds with names that begin with the letter D, such as Dickcissel, Darter, Dotterel, Doradito, Dollarbird, Dacnis, Drongo, Dunnock, Dapple-throat, and even Dodo! Regarding the earlier article on “D” birds, in this ongoing series, focusing mostly on Duck (both Dabblers and Divers), see “D” is for Ducks, Dabblers and Divers: “D” Birds, Part 1. But this review will focus only on two, the Dunlin (Calidris alpina) and the Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis).    And, as is noted below, there is a “snow” connection to both — (1) because the brown-and-grey Dunlin is a circumpolar migrant, breeding in the snow-blessed arctic and subarctic regions — and (2) because the migratory Dark-eyed Junco was formerly called (by Audubon and others) the “snowbird”.

Dunlin (Calidris alpina) adult

As noted elsewhere on , the Dunlin is part of the short shorebird waders, called “Scolopacidae” (a subset of the “Charadriiformes”), that includes a mix of wading sandpipers, snipes, phalaropes, plovers, curlews, and the like. Part of an original sandpiper-like ancestral kind, Dunlins are reported to hybridize with North America’s White-rumped Sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis) and Europe’s Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima).


Dunlin (Calidris alpina) juvenile ©WikiC

These skinny-legged, starling-sized waders make a living, to a large degree, by probing and picking mudflat shorelines (including muddy estuaries, saltmarshes, sandy beaches, coastal lagoons, swampy coastlands, and sometimes rocky coastlines), for edible invertebrates — mostly insects (especially insect larvae) and worms (both polychaetes and oligochaetes), plus small crustaceans (like shrimp and amphipods) and molluscs (like snails, slugs, and small bivalves), and even some small fish — captured along seacoasts and/or at freshwater streambanks. The characteristic eating behavior of the thin-billed Dunlin has been likened to the rapid-feed pecking motion of an energetic sewing machine, as its slightly decurved bill jabs rapidly and repeatedly into mudflats, to pick at (and ingest) small animals captured on or under the shoreline surface. Dunlins sometimes dip their heads under water, as they wade belly-deep in coastal tidewaters. [For a short video clip of Dunlin feeding in shallow shorewaters,]


Dunlin (Calidris alpina) adult, wintering at a New Jersey beach ©WikiC

The Dunlin, like other sandpipers, is a gregarious migrant, as is illustrated by this photograph (taken in AD2015) of Dunlins in Sweden. Although the various Dunlin subspecies (which number 8 or 9, depending on taxonomic “lumping” and “splitting” preferences) are known to overlap (i.e., intermingle in) their ranges, especially in migratory passages and in wintering territories, they mostly breed within their respective subspecies populations. Dunlin breeding begins at one year of age; an entire Dunlin lifespan may reach 20 years.


Dunlin (Calidris alpina) group, congregating in shoreline tidewaters ©WikiC

The overall range of the Dunlin is impressive – its migratory habits includes breeding (during the warmer months) within many of the coastlines of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, the British Isles, Scandinavia, and Siberian Russia – as well as wintering in coastlands of Mexico, America’s Southeast, Europe’s western coasts, some of the coastlands of northwestern Africa, and some southern coastlands of Asia (including eastern China, Japan, some of the Indian subcontinent, and the coastlines of southwestern Asia). According to the Australian government’s statistics, the Chinese East Coast-trekking Dunlin (which is not routinely found in Australia) is the second-most common shorebird traveling the East Asian—Australasian Flyway. [Source: Australian Government, Dep’t of the Environment, posted at – under the heading “Global Distribution”. ]

Now for another “D” bird, the DARK-EYED JUNCO.


Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), f/k/a “Snow Bird” ©Drawing Audubon

Regarding my personal encounters with Dark-eyed Junco migrants, who habitually wintered in my backyard (in southern Denton County, Texas), see “Here’s Seed for Thought” [posted at ] – and also see my defense of trusting juncos and English sparrows, from a bullying Blue Jay, in “Bird Brains, Amazing Evidence of God’s Genius (Sometimes the Logic of Bird Brains Puts Humans to Shame)” [posted at ].


Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) ©Kim Smith

The Dark-eyed Junco adult has a distinctively pink bill (which aptly consumes a lot of bugs and seeds, including seeds at bird-feeders!), the color of which contrasts with its black-to-dark-grey back feathers, and its snow-like (almost-white) under-plumage.   Regarding the wee bird’s wintering habits in Texas, ornithologist Stan Tekiela writes: “Spends the winter in the [Texas] foothills and plains after snowmelt. Nests in a wide variety of wooded habitats in April and May. Adheres to a rigid social hierarchy, with dominant birds chasing less dominant birds. Look for its white outer feathers flashing while in flight. Most comfortable on the ground [which is often a good place to forage for insects and seeds], juncos ‘double-scratch’ with both feet to expose seeds and insects. Eats many weed seeds. Usually seen on the ground in small flocks. Doesn’t nest [i.e., raise hatchlings] in Texas.” [Quoting Stan Tekiela, BIRDS OF TEXAS FIELD GUIDE (Adventure Publications, 2004), page 253.]

The migratory behavior of the Dark-eyed Junco, as its earlier nickname “Snow Bird” suggests, is appreciated by those who observe it during winter.   The ornithologist couple Donald and Lillian Stokes say: “Every fall we await the arrival of the ‘snow birds’ from the north where they breed. The name comes from the junco’s plumage, which has been described as ‘leaden skies above, snow below.’ This name more aptly describes the slate-colored form of junco. Ornithologists used to think there were four separate species of juncos, white-winged, slate-colored, Oregon, and gray-headed. Now they are all considered one species [that’s genetics for you!], the dark-eyed junco. We tend to think of them as ‘snow birds’ because we see them most when the snow is here. Juncos are a favorite at winter bird-feeding stations [such as my former home in southern Denton County, Texas – noted above] throughout the United States and lower Canada. Much of the study of juncos has been of their winter flock behavior. There is still a lot to be learned about their courtship and breeding behavior [which occurs farther north]. Juncos tend to winter at the same spot each year and stay in fixed flocks with a stable dominance hierarchy. …. At night juncos often roost in the same place. It is fun to follow the flock from your feeder to see where they will roost. Usually it will be in some dense conifer where they will be protected from cold and predators.” [Quoting Donald Stokes & Lillian Stokes, A GUIDE TO BIRD BEHAVIOR, VOLUME III (Little, Brown & Company, 1989), pages 327-328.]


Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), perching, as if posing for the camera!

God willing, the next contribution to this alphabetic series will be at least a couple of the “E“ birds – such as eiders, eagles, eagle-owls, egrets, emus, euphonias, elaenias, eremomelas, elepaios, earthcreepers, and/or emerald hummingbirds! Meanwhile, please stay tuned to !  ><>  JJSJ

Fair Use Credit For Photos Used in Article (Click Links For Credits)

Dunlin (Calidris alpina) shorebirds, in winter snow! — New Jersey Audubon

Dunlin (Calidris alpina) adult —  ©Wikipedia

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), f/k/a “Snow Bird” —  ©National Audubon Society

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) ©Kim Smith

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), perching, as if posing for the camera! — ©Vicki J. Anderson /