Joys and Challenges of Birdwatching

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) at Gatorland by Lee

“Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” (Psalms 37:4 KJV)

While enjoying the birds and critters at Gatorland this week, I had another enjoyable adventure. In fact, at breakfast this morning, I was chuckling as I was again relating my tale to Dan. Most know that Dan is the “Bird Photographer” and I am the “Bird Watcher.” I only use a nice “point-and-shoot” camera that is always set on “Program” mode. In other words, I don’t know an “F-stop” from a “bus stop.”

Earlier, at Gatorland, I had been listening to, and watching a Blue-grey Gnatcatcher in the trees. I kept waiting for him to pop out so I could get a photo. This went on for some time, and most birders know how they do not stay still. Finally, he popped out on a limb in clear view. Pulled my camera and…. it was turned off. Needless to say by the time it was on, he was gone. Yuk! [Here is a photo from another adventure.]

Blue-grey Gnatcatcher preening at Circle B by Lee

Oh, well! There must be another adventure yet to enjoy.

Off I rolled on the motorized wheels, while Dan rested. Aha! I heard a Northern Mockingbird. Let’s see if I can have better luck this time.

“But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” (Psalms 37:11 KJV)

True birders know that “patience is a virtue.” I visually chased that Mockingbird through the bushes waiting for him to pop out. This time I made sure my camera was on. [Program mode also takes great “bush” pictures. Notice how clear the limb in the upper right corner.:o) ]

PAS-Mimi Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) program mode caught the log instead by Lee (8)r

“Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” (Ecclesiastes 7:8 KJV)

I heard the Mockingbird first coming from these bushes, and thus began my delightful challenge of getting a photo of it.

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) at Gatorland

The northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) is the only mockingbird commonly found in North America. This bird is mainly a permanent resident, but northern birds may move south during harsh weather. This species has rarely been observed in Europe. This species was first described by Linnaeus in his Systema Naturæ in 1758 as Turdus polyglottos. The northern mockingbird is known for its mimicking ability, as reflected by the meaning of its scientific name, ‘many-tongued mimic.’ The northern mockingbird has gray to brown upper feathers and a paler belly. Its tail and wings have white patches which are visible in flight.

Mockingbird in there

They teach taking photos with a 1/3 rule. Birdwatchers like me place them right in the center so we can find them later.

Northern Mockingbird (cropped)

Cropped – See, it is there.

The northern mockingbird is an omnivore. It eats both insects and fruits. It is often found in open areas and forest edges but forages in grassy land. The northern mockingbird breeds in southeastern Canada, the United States, northern Mexico, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands and the Greater Antilles.

Almost got him - at least the eye

Getting better, can see part of it.

The northern mockingbird is known for its intelligence. A 2009 study showed that the bird was able to recognize individual humans, particularly noting those who had previously been intruders or threats. Also, birds recognize their breeding spots and return to areas in which they had the greatest success in previous years. Urban birds are more likely to demonstrate this behavior. Finally, the mockingbird is influential in United States culture, being the state bird of five states, appearing in book titles, songs and lullabies, and making other appearances in popular culture. [Wikipedia with editing]

FINALLY!!!

Finally Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) at Gatorland

NOW HE FOUND ME!!!

He found me Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) at Gatorland

This is the Joy of Birdwatching. You have to love the Adventures, and saying a prayer now and then to ask the Lord to “Please” let the bird come in to view!!!

The whole series on Flickr

More Gatorland Adventures

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Balancing High Risks: Mountain Climbing and the First Amendment

Balancing High Risks:  Mountain Climbing and the First Amendment

By James J. S. Johnson

When an American astronaut reverently quotes from Psalm 24, and is promptly faulted by a critic—for “violating” the so-called “separation of church and state”(1)—it is time to learn a lesson about balance, from the agility of mountain goats, adroitly ambulating alpine ascents of the Rocky Mountains.

Mountain Goat in Rocky Mountain

Indeed, mountain goats provide creation science “gems”, plus a picture of how we need balance in the political arena, where Christians are routinely shoved—and told to shut up, to avoid “offending” non-Christians.  (Of course, it is offensive to Christians when they are told to “shut up”, but since when did unbelieving critics care about “offending” Christians?)

Why are mountain goats a picture of this problem? Because safely balancing a mountain goat’s body, on steep alpine slopes—and safely balancing individuals’ civil liberties (such as an astronaut’s religious freedom and free speech rights)—are both examples of high-stakes balancing acts. To appreciate this comparison (in this introductory review of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment), mountain goats must be matched to their intended natural habitat, just as the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment must be matched to its intended political context.

A female mountain goat with two babies on a rock mountain in Glacier National Park, Montana.

Consider, first, the agility of a mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus), the sure-hoofed bovid that habituates the heights of North America’s Rocky Mountains and Cascade Range.(2)

“For those of us who admit to some fear of heights, the Mountain Goat is an animal to be admired … This shaggy animal, its back hunched in a manner somewhat suggestive of a Bison, is a master at negotiating the steepest of precipices. Mountain Goats are truly alpine creatures. They commonly rest on high-elevation snowfields and find most of their food among the plants of alpine meadows. Their hooves are structured to [optimize] balance and grip; the outer hoof is strongly reinforced and the bottom is lined with rubbery material, making the whole structure rather like a good hiking boot. These animals nonchalantly cross dizzying ledges, sometimes even at a trot.”(3)

In fact, the high-altitude dexterity of the mountain goat is so phenomenal that it routinely spends most of its time on precipitous terrain steeper than a 40o angle, and sometimes at pitches steeper than 60o!, especially during winter.(4)

Furthermore, the leg bones of the mountain goat are engineered to maximize a functional mix of precision balancing (such as perching all four hooves on a small spot), front-forward pulling power, propulsion leverage and maneuverability (for running and jumping), and stability (due to a low center of gravity) against tipping over.(4)

“A mountain goat climbs with three-point suspension. … Lifting one limb at a time [it] frequently pauses to assess the situation, tests the footing, and if needed turns back and selects a different route. Slow, sure consistency allows life on rock steeper than the angle of repose. Because they are most likely the ones to find themselves in a tight spot, kids do most of the go-for-broke climbing. Although a kid might take four or five missteps per year, it salvages the situation almost every time.”(4)

Mountain Goat Kids Juming ©TMLee

Mountain Goat Kids Juming ©TMLee

Thus, the mountain goats are aptly designed for moving on rocky slopes. Mountain goats are instinctively careful, and they apply their characteristic agility, as they test their environment. (Indeed, when predatory cougars try to attack them, the God-given instinct of mountain goats to flee, successfully, is often implemented by their agility and speed in and up these jagged rocky slopes and precipices!)

Mountain Goats in Danger in Mountain

But without the right physical traits for maintaining balance on rugged rocks—traits which God installed on Day 6 of Creation Week—mountain goats could not thrive, as they do, upon the harsh talus slopes and felsenmeer of their high-elevation habitat.

“The [mountain goat hoofprint] track’s squarish imprint is created by the hoof’s spreading tips. The sides of the toes consist of hard keratin, like that of a horse hoof. Each foot’s two wraparound toenails are used to catch and hold on to cracks and tiny knobs. … The front edge of the hoof tapers to a point, which digs into dirt or packed snow when [it] is going uphill. In contrast to a horse’s concave hoof, which causes the animal to walk on the rim of its toenail, a [mountain] goat’s hoof has a flexible central pad that protrudes beyond the nail. The pad’s rough texture provides [skid-resistant] friction on smooth rock or ice yet is pliant enough to impress itself into irregularities on a stone. Four hooves X 2 toes per hoof = 8 gripping soles per animal. As [mountain] goats descend a slope the toes spread widely, adjusting tension to fine-tune the grip. … This feature makes them more likely to catch onto something. It also divides the downward force of the weight on the hoof so that some of the animal’s total weight is directed sideways. Because there is less net force on each downward [pressure] line, the foot is less likely to slide. Think of it as the fanning out of downward forces over numerous points of friction.”(4)

In a word, BALANCE.  God purposefully designed high-elevation mountain goats for balance, because living life among high alpine rocks is a high-risk lifestyle.

Agile Mountain Goat Jumping across River

Yet the same is equally true to balancing religious liberty rights (and responsibilities) in American society.  Legitimate needs of both “church” and “state” are deliberately balanced with the God-given personal liberty rights of individuals. Like a mountain goat perched atop a precarious precipice, safeguarding those God-given religious freedoms is no lackadaisical endeavor.  The securing of those fundamental freedoms was not (and is not) easily obtained, nor is it easy to maintain those freedoms amidst the ubiquitously power-greedy politics of both “church” and “state”.(5)

In a word, the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment is purposefully designed for BALANCE.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”. (5)

It is to this legal text that the “separation of church and state” concept is frequently attached. However, not all opinions are equal, regarding what that phrase of 16 words (in the First Amendment) mean. Why? Because, as a matter of honesty and valid interpretation, the real meaning of any message must be matched to the message-composer’s intent.(6)

Thus, the only legitimate understanding of the First Amendment’s meaning is the understanding that matches the meaning assigned to it by the (human) source of its words.(5),(6),(7)

Signing Document

Yet, as a text drafted by statesmen of the late 1700s (principally by James Madison, who condensed an earlier version by George Mason), the authorial intent balanced a rejection of government-“established” church organizations, with affirmation of peaceful expression of individual religious beliefs and moral values.(6)

In other words, the First Amendment anticipated that Christians may freely express their religious viewpoints, at the personal level—yet Congress shall not officially endorse (“establish”) any specific ecclesiastical organizations, such as Baptists or Presbyterians or Anglicans or Methodists. This balancing of freedom and order—free exercise of religion, without any federal sponsorship of a particular religious denomination or hierarchy—fits the overall checks-and-balances equilibrium designed in 1791.(6)

“The real object of the First Amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance, Mohammedanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national establishment which should give to a [religious] hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government.”(8)

To put it mildly, this political balancing act is neither easily obtained nor easily maintained.  But this balance was carefully planned for–intended—by America’s founding fathers. Yet now the phrase “separation of church and state” is used to force-fit an off-balanced understanding of the First Amendment.  How did that happen?

In short, the constitutional jurisprudence of America became “evolutionized”, during the late 1800s, upsetting the proper balance between religious liberty and governmental interference.(5),(6),(7),(8),(9)

“Twentieth-century jurisprudence is based on a Darwinian world view.  Life [supposedly] evolves, men [supposedly] evolve, society [supposedly] evolves, and therefore laws and constitutions [supposedly] evolve.  According to the Darwinian principle, the Constitution’s meaning evolves and changes with time. … [Thus modern judges, implementing evolutionary humanism as jurists, my disagree about what a law “now means”] — But neither the majority nor the minority [of such evolutionary law judges] deny the basic evolutionary interpretation.  They merely question at which stage of the evolutionary scale we are!  This is not the way the founding fathers viewed constitutional interpretation.  They saw the Constitution as the supreme law, and also as a covenant or contract.  The Constitution like all legal documents was viewed as a fixed document, to be interpreted according to its plain meaning.  And if its meaning was ambiguous as applied to a specific situation, it was to be interpreted according to the intent of those who wrote it, signed it, and ratified it.  James Madison expressed this view when he wrote, ‘(If) the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the Nation … be not the guide in expounding it, there can be no security for a faithful exercise of its powers’.”(9)

How evolutionary thinking infected American law will be reviewed, God willing, in a sequel to this introductory article.(10) Meanwhile, don’t believe it when someone tells you that the First Amendment “prohibits” an individual astronaut from reverently reading his Bible in space—or from sharing that personal fact via Facebook.(1)

And, as you appreciate the originally intended balance, designed in the First Amendment, don’t forget to thank God—for how He equipped agile mountain goats, to inhabit some of the most precarious places in the Rocky Mountains, as He exhibits (and we enjoy learning about) His creative glory and bioengineering genius.(2)

References

(1) On April 3rd of AD2016, via Facebook, U.S. astronaut Jeff Williams said: “We finally have a quiet Sunday and I’m reading, ‘The Earth is the LORD’s and all that fills it’ in Psalm 24 and viewing this sight [referring to photographs of Earth, seen from the International Space Station].  No matter how long you’re here [in space], the grandeur strikes and the wonder never fades.”  To this posting a God-hating protest retorted, on Col. Jeff Williams’ Facebook page:  “Jeff Williams could you please leave your personal religious views out of your public posts.  You are a government employee.  In America we have a separation of church and state.  Don’t use your publicly funded position to promote personal views.  Teachers shouldn’t and neither should astronauts.  I enjoy the photos from space.  I have followed astronauts photos for over two years without religious bias in the captions.  Your post elevates (no pun intended) man’s divisiveness on Earth to Space.  Please keep it private and keep posting these wonderful scientific pictures without the religious OPINIONS.”

(2) The rope-like “backbone” ridge chain of North America’s West is called the Western Cordillera. Included in its geographic system are the Rocky Mountains and the Cascade Range, the primary high-elevation range of most North American mountain goats. George Constanz, Ice, Fire, and Nutcrackers: A Rocky Mountain Ecology (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2014), page 215.

(3) John Kricher, A Field Guide to Rocky Mountain and Southwest Forests (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998), pages 235-236. As illustrated in Job 39:1, Israel’s mountain goat is named for how this bearded climber masters its rocky alpine habitat:  ya‘alê-sâla‘   literally means “ascender of cliff-rock”. See also Psalm 104:18a.

(4) Constanz, Rocky Mountain Ecology, pages 224-226, with quotes frompages 225-226.

 (5) U.S. Constitution, First Amendment (Free Exercise and Establishment clauses), ratified 1791. The vast majority of the world’s nations prohibit the “free exercise” for religious liberty, either by establishing a specific religion to the prejudice of others, or by persecuting theistic religions in general.  The most thorough historical analysis of the First Amendment is provided in Rector, etc., of Holy Trinity Church v. United States, 143 U.S. 457, 12 S.Ct. 511 (1892), by Justice David Josiah Brewer.  To bypass the jurisprudential relevance, of the Holy Trinity Church ruling, is to demonstrate careless misunderstanding of what the First Amendment was originally designed (and originally used) to accomplish. The balancing of civil government powers, ordained by God’s delegation, with jurisdictional limits to facilitate religious freedom, accords with relevant Scriptures, e.g., Matthew 22:21; Romans 13:1-4; Daniel 2:21 & 4:25—and with Israel’s separation of religious offices (tribe of Levi) from the monarchy (tribe of Judah).

(6) George Mason’s religious liberty tenet, which he had drafted (12 years earlier) for the Virginia Declaration of Rights, became the precursor for Virginia’s proposal (to Congress) to approve a religious freedom amendment for the “new” Constitution: “That Religion or the Duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by Reason and Conviction, not by Force or violence, and therefore all men have an equal, natural, and unalienable Right to the free Exercise of Religion according to the Dictates of Conscience, and that no particular religious Sect or Society of Christians ought to be favored or established by Law in preference to others.” Notably, the entire Bill of Rights (i.e., Amendments 1 through 10) limited federal government powers. Ironically, most of the Constitution’s later amendments have expanded those powers. John Eidsmoe, Institute on the Constitution: A Study on Christianity and the Law of the Land  (Marlborough, NH: Plymouth Rock Foundation, 1995), pages 71-73. See also John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution: The Faith of our Founding Fathers (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987), pages 77-178, especially pages 93-112. Ironically, Thomas Jefferson (author of the phrase “separation of church and state”) was undeniably absent—in France!—during the Constitution’s drafting and early ratification (which processes prompted the Bill of Rights amendments), so his opinion of the First Amendment’s “intent” is interpretatively irrelevant.

(7) Importantly, the First Amendment’s meaning is contextually blended to the axiological fabric of the Declaration of Independence (referring to our “Creator”, “Nature’s God”, “the Supreme Judge of the world”, and “Divine Providence”), and to the Christian worldview evidenced by the U.S. Constitution’s Article VII (which refers to Jesus  Christ as “our Lord”).

(8) Eidsmoe, Institute on the Constitution, page 76, quoting Justice Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (Boston: Hilliard, Gray & Co., 1833), vol. II, page 593.

(9) John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution: The Faith of our Founding Fathers (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987), pages 391-392, quoting James Madison.

(10) The evolutionary mantra-phrase, “natural selection”, promotes animistic powers to inanimate elements of “nature”, not dissimilar from the polytheistic nature-worship of the ancient pagans.  See, e.g., James J. S. Johnson, “Norse and Germanic Mythology”, Chapter 14 in World Religions and Cults, Volume 2 (Green Leaf: Master Books, 2016, edited by Bodie Hodge & Roger Patterson), especially at pages 271-272 & 287-288.  See also, accord, James J. S. Johnson, “How Can a Mechanical ‘Cardinal’ Make ‘Selections’?For a thorough analysis of this “bait-and-switch” tricky-terminology problem (of “science” falsely so-called), see generally Randy J. Guliuzza’s “Darwin’s Sacred Imposter:  Natural Selection’s Idolatrous Trap“, Acts & Facts, 40(11):12-15 (November 2011).

Mountain Goats on Rocky Hill

Birdwatching In Bushnell – 1

“If a bird’s nest happens to be before you along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, with the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young;” (Deuteronomy 22:6 NKJV)

Just received information from my sister-in-law, Patty, up in the Bushnell area of Florida. They live in a wooded area where many birds make their nests. Yesterday, her friend went to town and then to my sister-in-law’s, with her truck. They discovered that mamma bird had placed a nest, with young, behind the licence plate. They had ridden all around with her.

Good morning Lee! These baby birds rode all the way down I-75 to my girlfriends hair salon in the front bumper of her truck behind the license plate & spent the day there.

Birds behind licence plate by PattyBirds behind licence plate by Patty

Birds behind licence plate by Patty (from phone)

When she discovered it, she rushed back home to see if momma would come attend to the young. The momma would not come back to them, even though she put the truck right back in the same spot. Toward night and it getting cold, my sister-in-law took them to her place and put them in a warm room and is now feeding them formula.

She said they are perking up and now the two of them, her friend who has baby lovebirds and Patty, are getting into a routine of feeding them. They haven’t found a rehab place, so they are doing what they can. She is asking for advice. My advice is “you will have fun when you start feeding them worms later on.” :)

Birds now perking up- by Patty

Birds now perking up- by Patty

“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. (Luke 12:6 NKJV)

Here are some quotes from her text message:

It took us a couple of hours to get formula into each one at the beginning but after I got them home they perked up and started begging. – I have been making batches of formula & feeding when mouths are open. – It’s a full-time job. – Getting into a rhythm now. – I will need your input as we go along!

When I reminded her of Luke 12:6, she wrote back:

“When it comes to babies & animals God seems to guide me.”

I have never raised baby birds, so her plea is out there. If you have any input, please let us know and I’ll forward it up to her.

Stay tuned!

Golden Eagle’s Adventure Continues… Welcome Boys and Girls!

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) Flying ©WikiC

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) Flying ©WikiC

Golden Eagle ©PD

Golden Eagle ©PD

Hi everybody! This is Golden Eagle and I am very excited today! I got up this morning and flew around one of the beautiful lakes in my home state of Florida! The Bible says that God sends the rain and the sunshine on the good people and the bad people. God treats us all with GRACE and kindnesses!

Genesis 6:8 says that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” That’s the first time the Bible mentions grace and the last time? It’s in the last verse of the Bible: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” (Rev 22:21)

This ADVENTURE all started in the mind of our Creator God (the Lord Jesus Christ). Hey young people, ponder the lakes, the streams, and the rivers. Ponder the rocks, the minerals, and oh yes, the gold and silver. Ponder the butterflies, the animals, and the insects. Ponder the planets, the Earth, the stars, and the sun. Ponder the Milky Way Galaxy and our beautiful Solar System. Ponder mankind, life, and all that it means. Ponder God and His created Universe.

Hubble Ultra Deep Field with Scale Comparison ©©

Hubble Ultra Deep Field with Scale Comparison ©©

ALL OF THIS AND SO MUCH MORE CAME FROM THE MIND OF GOD. The Universe shows us what was in the mind of God in eternity past!

God has a PLAN for this Universe, for our Solar System, and for our Planet, Earth. He has a PLAN for your life and for my life. We are going to get to live FOREVER with God if we are saved! Are you saved? The answer is either yes or no.

Sunrise over Lake

This morning as I flew around my hometown lake I saw the sunrise in beautiful colors of splendor. I saw the sky turn different shades of red and pink. I saw the colors reflected in the glass like mirror of the still and smooth lake surface. I saw the birds fly in a V-shape formation. The white ibises were just beautiful. I flew around the lake for a number of minutes and the minutes turned into an hour.

Circle B Bar White Pelicans

Circle B Bar White Pelicans

Every moment we get closer to God. “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7) We have come from God and we are going back to God.

This ADVENTURE that God has planned for us is truly exiting. We will get to reign with Jesus for a thousand years on this very Earth. Some of you will be in charge of two or five or ten cities! Now is the time to prepare for what God has in store for us! It all starts with you admitting that you are a sinner and excepting what Jesus has done for us on the cross. He shed His precious blood to wash away our sins. Accept Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour and Lord and you will have entered this amazing journey that God has planned for us, all because of His GRACE.

Kids keep in touch and the Golden Eagle will fly in with exciting new developments in this adventurous journey. A journey that will lead to the God of the Universe and His amazing Heaven!!!

(Re-post of Bibleworld Adventure’s The Adventure Continues… Welcome Boys and Girls!)

Bibleworld Adventures is the new home of Golden Eagle and other interesting articles about Christian different topics.

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Golden Eagle Articles Here

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