A Pleasant Surprise – II

BJU Bird Collection 2018

In A Pleasant Surprise At The BJU Homecoming the Waterman Bird Collection, in the Science building, was introduced. This post will start introducing you to these wonderfully preserved specimens of birds that lived over a hundred years ago.

BJU Waterman Bird Collection 2018

At first, it bothered me about the use of birds in this manner, even though many museums have displays of birds. Yet, when you look back 100 plus years, they didn’t have the technology, nor the modern color cameras or slow motion videos to capture images of them. John Audubon did excellent drawing, with detailed colors. He also studied live birds and specimens.

“John James Audubon’s Birds of America is a portal into the natural world. Printed between 1827 and 1838, it contains 435 life-size watercolors of North American birds (Havell edition), all reproduced from hand-engraved plates, and is considered to be the archetype of wildlife illustration.” Birds of America

When the Lord first created the birds, there were no specimens until sin entered. How must those first birds have appeared? Photos, movies, and even specimens would have given us quite a sight. Today, we have fossils, but they do not show the beautiful feathers and features that those original avian wonders must have been adorned with.

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

Common Eider, Bufflehead, and Canada Goose

The birds in the right hand side of the display above is where we will begin. On the top shelf is an Eider, a Bufflehead and a Goose. It is nice to see them together to get a size perspective.

Common Eider (Somateria mollissima) BJU Bird Collection 2018

The Common Eider (pronounced /ˈaɪ.dər/) (Somateria mollissima) is a large (50–71 cm (20–28 in) in body length) sea-duck that is distributed over the northern coasts of Europe, North America and eastern Siberia. It breeds in Arctic and some northern temperate regions, but winters somewhat farther south in temperate zones, when it can form large flocks on coastal waters. It can fly at speeds up to 113 km/h (70 mph) Part of the Anatidae Family. Common Eider – Wikipedia and All About Birds

Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) BJU Bird Collection 2018

The Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) is a small sea duck of the genus Bucephala, the goldeneyes. This species was first described by Linnaeus in his Systema naturae in 1758 as Anas albeola.

The genus name is derived from Ancient Greek boukephalos, “bullheaded”, from bous, “bull ” and kephale, “head“, a reference to the oddly bulbous head shape of the species. The species name albeola is from Latin albus, “white”. The English name is a combination of buffalo and head, again referring to the head shape. This is most noticeable when the male puffs out the feathers on the head, thus greatly increasing the apparent size of the head.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) BJU Bird Collection 2018

All of these three birds are in the Anatidae Family. The photo shows how much larger the Goose is than the Bufflehead.

The Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) is a large wild goose species with a black head and neck, white cheeks, white under its chin, and a brown body. Native to arctic and temperate regions of North America, its migration occasionally reaches northern Europe. It has been introduced to the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, and the Falkland Islands. Like most geese, the Canada goose is primarily herbivorous and normally migratory; it tends to be found on or close to fresh water. Canada Goose Wikipedia and All About Birds

I trust you will enjoy meeting the various birds through this series. The links provided give much more information, and photos of these species.

“The works of the LORD are great, Studied by all who have pleasure in them.” (Psalms 111:2 NKJV)


Bufflehead Duck, One of Diverse Divers at Aransas Bay

 Bufflehead Duck, One of Diverse Divers at Aransas Bay

Dr. James J. S. Johnson


BUFFLEHEAD male (Wikipedia)

And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. (Genesis 1:22)

Diverse birds have lived and thrived upon planet Earth ever since God created bird-life on Day #5 of Creation Week. One of the major categories of God’s avian inventory are the waterfowl we call “ducks”, some of which dive to get their food. The Bufflehead duck is one such diving duck (in contrast to perching duck, dabbling ducks, and whistling ducks), and is described on the Sea Duck Joint Venture website as follows:

Bufflehead  [Bucephala albeola] The bufflehead is the smallest diving duck in North America. Males weigh about 450 g (1 lb.) and females 325 g (11 oz.). Breeding males are striking with a black head glossed green and purple, a large white patch covering the back of the head, a black back, white underparts, and black wings with a large white patch covering most of the inner wing.

[Quoting from https://seaduckjv.org/meet-the-sea-ducks/bufflehead/ .]


BUFFLEHEAD female (Wikipedia)

The Bufflehead female, however, is mostly brownish-hued, with grey sides and breast, white underside, and a white cheek patch that is shaped like an oval, almost like the shape of a fallen bowling pin. [See Kevin T. Karlson, “Waterfowl of North America:  A Comprehensive Guide to All Species”, page 10.]

The Bufflehead’s cousins include the goldeneye ducks, such as the Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) and Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica).

As the range map below shows, the Bufflehead breeds mostly in Alaska and Canada, migrating south into more than half of America’s Lower 48 for over-wintering.


BUFFLEHEAD range map / North America (Sea Duck Joint Venture photo)

During an over-wintering season, on March 11th of AD1996, I first saw a Bufflehead duck – it was in the part of Aransas Bay (part of the Texas Gulf coast), while visiting Aransas Bay and Aransas Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

That same day my family and I saw many other “winter Texan” migrants (as well as some year-round residents), including several “lifers”:  Whooping Crane, Brown Pelican, Pelican, Least Tern, Bonaparte’s Gull, Herring Gull, Laughing Gull, American Coot,  Short-billed Dowitcher, Western Sandpiper, Black Skimmer, Black-necked Stilt, American Oystercatcher, Common Goldeneye, Green-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Louisiana Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, White Ibis, and Western Kingbird —  not to mention many other birds seen previously elsewhere (e.g., Sandhill Crane, Blue-winged Teal, Great Blue Heron, White Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Common Grackle, Western Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, etc.)!


Obviously, early March (and winter in general) is a good time for coastal wetland birdwatching at Aransas Bay! What a pleasant time it was, hour after hour, witnessing Gods’ love of variety, exhibited in those beautiful bayside birds!

God loves variety — so should we!  (For more on this, see my article “Valuing God’s Variety”, ACTS & FACTS, 42(9):8-9 (September 2012), posted at  http://www.icr.org/article/6939 .]

So, if you get the opportunity, check out Aransas Bay National Wildlife Refuge for yourself — unless a hurricane is approaching.  (It’s always good to check the weather forecast before you undertake a serious birding adventure.)


BUFFLEHEAD male in flight (Bill Bouton photo)