Happy Memories, Accented by Black Skimmers at Madeira Beach

BlackSkimmer-Florida-migrant.Wikipedia

BLACK SKIMMER in Florida   (photo credit: Don Faulkner / Wikipedia)

Remember His marvelous works that He hath done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth.   (1st Chronicles 16:12)

Madeira Beach, near St. Petersburg (Florida), is a nice place to see white beach-sand, gentle surf tidewaters, and some of the most splendid seagulls, such as gulls, terns, and skimmers.  On Labor Day (earlier this month), I was providentially privileged to visit there with my 2 good friends, Chaplain Bob and Marcia Webel, who have encouraged and strengthened my Christian faith for 40+ years.  (Bob is the best Bible teacher I have ever known.)   During our treks up and down the beach, amidst the happy noise of seagulls at sea and ashore, we saw on the beach a few Black Skimmers.  It had been quite a while — perhaps more than a year or two — since I had seen Black Skimmers, so it reminded me of earlier years, and “auld lang syne” (i.e., old long times ago) — times of friendship and fellowship, accented by birdwatching, a continuing reminder of God’s sovereignty and watch care (Luke 12:4-7).

BlackSkimmer-in-Texas.DanPancamo

BLACK SKIMMER near Freeport, Texas  (photo by Dan Pancamo / Flickr)

Black Skimmers have an easy-to-remember bill; the bottom half (i.e., lower mandible) sticks out farther than the top half (i.e., upper mandible), enabling the tern-like seabird to skim the water’s surface, using its unusually long wings, to catch little fish (like anchovies and silversides) and other prey located at sea, also feeding in tidal pools, in saltmarsh drainage channels, or at seashores.  Apparently more than 90% of a skimmer’s diet is fish.  The skimmer’s prominent red-blending-into-black bill is also used to occasionally catch small shellfish, such as crustaceans (like decapods or amphipods) and mollusks (like cephalopods or gastropods), as well as available insects (mostly coleoptera).  Parent skimmers feed their young by regurgitation.

BlackSkimmer-feeding-youngJimGray-Audubon

BLACK  SKIMMER  feeding  young  (photo by Jim Gray / Audubon)

These seabirds prefer oceanic and estuarial beaches, as well as salt bays, saltmarshes, lagoons, inlets, sandy islands, and other coastal wetlands.

America’s southeast coastlines (especially all of Florida’s coastline) provide year-round habitat for Black Skimmers, from southernmost Texas to midway up the North Carolina coast.  Also, many migrating Black Skimmers winter in the bottom part of Florida’s peninsula, afterwards returning to Mid-Atlantic state coasts (from North Carolina to Connecticut) for summer breeding.  [See, accord, Roger Tory Peterson, EASTERN BIRDS (Houghton Mifflin / Peterson Field Guides, 4th edition, 1980), pages 98-99 & Range Map 87.  See also “Black Skimmer” at http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/black-skimmer .]

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BLACK SKIMMER on beach   (photo credit:  Andreas Trepte)

Viewing Black Skimmers is fun enough, but it is more fun to view them with friends.

One of the most pleasant forms of outdoor recreation and fellowship, when visiting old or new friends (especially Christian friends), is to take a walk — whether hiking in a forest, or ambling up a mountainside, or trudging through new-fallen snow, or strolling in beach-sand, or splashing in coastal tidewaters — all the while noticing nearby birds who busily fly or swim or strut about, tweeting or chirping out their various songs.

So I recalled the nostalgic old song (usually sung on New Year’s Eve, AULD LANG SYNE, but I changed the lyrics to fit the memories, redubbing it “Auld Lang Birdwatching”.

(Sing to the tune of AULD LANG SYNE.)

Should old birdwatching be forgot

    And lifers go unseen?

The fowl so fair, in air we spot

    Or perching as they preen.

 While drinking coffee, birds we gaze

    On earth, at sea, in sky;

God made them all, us to amaze,

    Birds run and swim and fly!

God has given us many blessings in life, for which we must ever be grateful.  Godly friends are one of the greatest blessings that a man or woman can ever have.

(Having a godly spouse, as one’s best friend, is the ultimate example of such blessing, of course — and I am one of the few men who can honestly say that my wife is my best friend;  and, although I have many faults, I think that I am likewise my wife’s best friend.)

But, furthermore, there is one friend to be loved and treasured, above all human friends, the One of Whom we sing, in the song “WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS“.

Accordingly, as much as we esteem and treasure our earthly blessings  —  and we should  —  we must always exceed those appreciations with our love for and devotion to God Himself, because a loss of one’s “first love” (for God) constitutes a tragic (and treacherous) loss indeed.

Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.  Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent….  (Revelation 2:4-5a)

Spiritual decline soon follows whenever one’s devotion to God slips or erodes, unless a clean correction is quickly made.  (The exhortation in Revelation 2:4-5 is for each of us!)

May God help us to appreciate our blessings —  both friendships and fowl-watching opportunities — yet may He nudge us, daily, to remind us that our most precious blessing in life (and thereafter) is God Himself, for He is truly (as Paul says in 1st Corinthians 15:28) our “all in all”, and it is a wonderful privilege to belong to Him (Psalm 100).

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BLACK  SKIMMER  with  young   (photo by Michael Stubblefield)

 


Lee’s Six Word Saturday – 4/29/17

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Flock Scattering at shore by Lee

ALL HIS WORKS IN ALL PLACES

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“Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the LORD, O my soul.” (Psalms 103:22 KJV)

Mixed Flock Scattering at Tampa Bay shore by Lee

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Lee’s Five Word Friday – 12/16/16

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Golden Pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus) Male ©© NotMicroButSoft

A CROWN OF PURE GOLD

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“For You meet him with the blessings of goodness; You set a crown of pure gold upon his head.” (Psalms 21:3 NKJV)

Golden Pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus) Male ©© NotMicroButSoft

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“E” is for Egrets and Emus: “E” Birds”, Part 2

“E” is for Egrets and Emus: “E Birds”, Part 2
James J. S. Johnson

“Blessings are upon the head of the just, but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.” (PROVERBS 10:6)

Is that an egret, standing on top of my head?*

Photo credit:  Marcia Webel (St. Petersburg, Florida)

(*Actually, the egret was perching upon branches behind me, not atop my head.)

It is a blessing to use our heads, to watch birds, such as egrets.

As noted in Part 1 of the “E” Birds “E” is for Eiders, Eagles, (of which there are many varieties), Eagle-owls, Egrets, Emus, Eagle-owls, Egrets, Euphonias, Elaenias, Eremomelas, Elepaios, Earthcreepers, and Emerald hummingbirds — plus whatever other birds there are, that have names that begin with the letter E.

In this Part 2 (reviewing “E” birds), 2 categories of “E” birds are considered: Egrets and Emus.

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Snowy Egret at Gatorland by Lee

EGRETS

Regarding Egrets, see, e.g., Lee Dusing’s “Egrets and Heron Catching the Gator Taxis” as well as her “Baby Snowy Egrets at Gatorland”.

It is truly amazing to see egrets seeking food, at Florida’s Gatorland, while presumptively and precariously perched atop the backs of drifting/semi-submerged alligators. As ornithologist Lee Dusing once observed:

Most times these alligators and birds get along fine. People are tossing food to them and so they abide each other. It is amazing how different critters get along. I can only imagine how it must have been when they were first created. There was no desire of the gators to eat the birds. Today, under the curse, it is a totally different situation.

[Quoting Lee Dusing’s “Egrets and Heron Catching the Gator Taxis”, See also my report on how Cattle Egrets practice “mutual aid” with various terrestrial herbivores, in “Cattle Egrets, Cattle, and Other Herbivore Neighbors”.

Since those egrets have been described, as just noted, previously, not much will be added here, regarding them, except for a few comments regarding their distribution, i.e., regarding the ranges they inhabit.

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Great White Egrets (photo by Bence Mate)

The Great White Egret (Ardea alba) is well-known in North America, as the range map below shows, but most of America only hosts this tall egret during the winter months.

greatwhiteegret-range-map-wikipedia

Great White Egret range map (Wikipedia)
Yellow = breeding; Green = year-round; Blue = wintering

Breeding occurs mostly in the Mississippi River watershed corridor states, with a swath of the Southwest and southern coasts providing year-round habitat of this long-legged shorebird.

A tall and stately bird, the Great [White] Egret slowly stalks shallow [waters of] wetlands looking for small fish [or frogs, or snakes, etc.] to spear [or grab] with its long sharp bill. Nests in colonies of up to 100 birds. Now protected [legally], they were hunted to near extinction in the 1800s and early 1900s for their long white plumage.

[Quoting Stan Tekiela, BIRD OF TEXAS FIELD GUIDE (Cambridge, MN: Adventure Publications, 2004), page 371.]

Another familiar white-feathered egret, in America, is the Snowy Egret.
The Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) is a small-scale heron with snowy white plumage, famous for its “golden slippers”.

snowyegret-wikipedia

Snowy Egret (Wikipedia)

Like the resourceful Cattle Egret (mentioned above — see coverage of this wide-ranged and herbivore-helping egret,) the Snowy Egret is small in size, as herons and egrets go. However, unlike the Cattle Egret, its feathers are all white, and its feet are a mustard-yellow (or goldenrod yellow) in color.  The Snowy Egret is a wetland bird – preferring swamps (including mangrove swamps), pondshores, marshlands (including saltmarshes), island shores, and estuaries (including tidal mudflats).

As shown below, the Snowy Egret has a breeding range that includes some patches of America, mostly in part of the Northwest and in the drainage basin of the Mississippi River. Also, the Snowy Egret is a year-round resident of America’s Atlantic coast and America’s Gulf of Mexico coast.

snowyegret-range-map-wikipedia

Snowy Egret range map (Wikipedia)
Yellow = breeding; Green = year-round; Blue = wintering

 More than a century ago the Snowy Egret (as well as the Flamingo, the Roseate Spoonbill, various cranes, ducks, geese, swans, other members of the heron-egret family, doves, as well as insectivorous passerine migrants, etc.) was wastefully being hunted for its fancy feathers, jeopardizing the entire American population — until the Migratory Bird Treaty was enacted (and was enforced).

Regarding the Migratory Bird Treaty’s historic importance, see “Looking Back 100 Years, at the Migratory Bird Treaty: A Bird’s-eye View of How It was Hatched”.

Great White Egret, Snowy Egret, White Ibis,Roseate Spoonbill, and
Great-tailed Grackle, flying over coastal marshland (Photo credit: Eric Ripma)

Thankfully, populations of egrets (and other long-legged, long-necked birds, such as cranes, herons, flamingo, roseate spoonbill, ibis, etc.) have rebounded, since passage (100 years ago) and enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty.

EMUS

Regarding Australia’s Emu (as well as regarding other ratites, including the smallest ratite — New Zealand’s kiwi), see ornithology professor Lee Dusing’s “Sunday Inspiration: Ostrich, Rhea, Cassowary, Emu & Kiwi”.

Also, for a close-up (albeit abrupt) perspective on an Emu, see “Lee’s Five Word Friday: 9/16/16”.

Emu (Dromaius novahollandiae) in the wild (Wikipedia)

The Emu is the second-largest (non-extinct) bird, by height; only the Ostrich is taller. By weight the Emu is the world’s third-largest bird, weighing less than the Ostrich and anther ratite “cousin”, the double-wattled Southern Cassowary.

The Emu has an over-all height of about 180 cm. (70”); to the top of the back it measures about 100 cm. (40”); it can weigh up to 55 kg. (120 lbs.) and have a beak up to 12 cm. long (5”). The body is very bulky, the coloring of the plumage brownish. The feet have three toes [each]. … The nest [typically located in scrubby steppe grassland habitat] is a hollow in the ground near a shrub, and it is covered with leaves, grass, et cetera. Various females lay 15-25 eggs, which are incubated by the male for 52-60 days [during with time the male loses a lot of weight, due to not eating], depending on the interruptions made by the male to find food and water. The nestlings, which have a distinctive white and brown-striped plumage, achieve complete development and sexual maturity within 2 or 3 years. The Emu can run at speeds of up to 50 kph. (30 mph.).

[Quoting Gianfranco Bologna, SIMON & SCHUSTER’S GUIDE TO BIRDS (Simon & Schuster, 1981; edited by John Bull), page 143.]

Since the Emu was described previously (as noted in the previous sentence), no more will be added here, other than to note that the Emu’s native range covers most of Australia. (Also, emus have been, and now are, raised commercially in America, for their meat, for oil, or sometimes as part of investment scams.)

emu-range-map-wikipedia

Emu range map (Wikipedia)

In recent years I have observed, in the wild, many varieties of Egrets – especially Great White Egret, Snowy Egret, and Cattle Egret. Also, on a few occasions I have observed (very close up) domesticated Emus – and they are not fully “tame” even when they are “domesticated”. All of these birds, which range in size, are marvels in motion — examples of God’s super-genius bioengineering.

Whenever we look at such feathered creatures, we should be amazed, and we should admire God’s handiwork, — because God has given us the ability to use our minds (which are somehow linked to the physical “hardware” of our heads, especially our eyes and brains). In a sense, we have such birds “on our heads”, as we think through the blessings God has given, due to Him creating such birds.

So, if our minds are renewed to proper reverence of God, as the Creator of all creation (Revelation 4:11), our “heads” can empirically accept and analyze these visual blessings, as feathered exhibits displaying God’s glory.

Blessings are upon the head of the just, but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.” (PROVERBS 10:6)

God willing, the next contribution to this alphabetic series will be some “F birds” – perhaps some of these: Fairywrens, Falcons, Fantails, Fernbirds, Fieldwrens, Figbirds, Finches, Firetails, Fiscals, Flamebacks, Flamingos, Flatbills, Flowerpeckers, Flycatchers, Foliage-gleaners, Forktails, Francolins, Friarbirds, Frigatebirds, Frogmouths, Fruiteaters, Fulmars, Fulvettas, etc.! Meanwhile, enjoy using your eyes (and the rest of your head) to appreciate the blessings and privileges of daily life, including opportunities to observe God’s avian wonders, like egrets and emus.

><> JJSJ

Lee’s Seven Word Sunday – 7/24/16

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Geese Getting A Shower ©Pinterest

SHOWERS TO COME DOWN

IN THEIR SEASON

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“I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing.(Ezekiel 34:26 NKJV)

Geese Getting A Shower ©Pinterest

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Lee’s Four Word Thursday – 7/21/16

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Skimmers - Gulls - Terns resting at the shore MacDill by Lee

UPON THE SEA SHORE

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“That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;” (Genesis 22:17 KJV)

Skimmers – Gulls – Terns resting at the shore MacDill by Lee

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