Rhea, The Featherless [bald] Lovebird

Rhea the featherless Lovebird in a knitted sweater

Rhea the featherless Lovebird in a knitted sweater

“They cause the naked to lodge without clothing, that they have no covering in the cold.” (Job 24:7 KJV)

Thanks to some news articles, I heard about Rhea, a Lovebird that lost all her feathers. She has Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD). The feathers will not grow back and has to be kept warm. That fact caused many to send little outfits to her owner to help keep Rhea warm.

“Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:13 KJV)

Enjoy the articles and the video of little Rhea. If you wanted to study bird anatomy, Rhea provides some interesting things to observe. Notice her ear holds.

She has her own Instagram site at rhea_thenakedbirdie

This Featherless Lovebird Is Actually So, So Cute

Article from the Daily Mail Great photos and a video

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The Newest I.O.C. Updates – Version 7.1

Large Cactus Finch (Geospiza conirostris) ©WikiC

Large Cactus Finch (Geospiza conirostris) is now the Ground Finch ©WikiC

“My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:” (Proverbs 24:21 KJV)

Updates

Below are summaries of  quarterly updates  to the IOC World Bird List. We  strive to track taxonomic advances in ornithology in a timely way.  All of the updated information and species changes are included in the latest version of the list on this website.

Please click on one of the tabs on the pull down Updates Menu above for particular sets of  updates, i.e. Species, Subspecies etc. Also see edits of the nomenclature authorities.

Version 7.1 (Jan 8, 2017 )

The IOC World Bird List 7.1 contains 10,672 extant species (and 156 extinct species)  classified in 40 Orders,  238 Families (plus 2 Incertae Sedis) and 2,294 Genera.  The list also includes 20,344 subspecies, their ranges and  authors.

Changes include:

SPECIES ADDED:                13  including one extinct (San Cristobal Flycatcher)

SPECIES DELETED:             0

ENGLISH NAMES:                3

TAXONOMY:                          10  including resequence of Ratites, Draft revision of Orders.

The IOC was busy at work putting out their newest version, and we were too incumbered [crashed computer, bronchitis, on-line course] to really get to it. I trust this blog will be updated in the next few days to reflect these changes.

These are the 13 new birds added:

Foveaux Shag
Merida Sunangel
Longuemare’s Sunangel
White-throated  Wedgebill
Scarlet Flycatcher
Darwin’s Flycatcher
San Cristobal Flycatcher
Double-collared Crescentchest
Chinese Rubythroat
Mediterranean Flycatcher
Genovesa Ground Finch
Vampire Ground Finch
Genovesa Cactus Finch

"Geoffroy’s

Three had their names changed:

Stewart [Island] Shag (Leucocarbo chalconotus) to Otago Shag
Wedge-billed Hummingbird  (Schistes geoffroyi) to Geoffroy’s Wedgebill
Large Cactus Finch (Geospiza conirostris Espanola) to Ground Finch

They also changed the sequence of the first six Orders. They were in this order:

Tinamous – Tinamidae
Ostriches – Struthionidae
Rheas – Rheidae
Cassowaries – Casuariidae
Emu – Dromaiidae
Kiwis – Apterygidae

Now they will be in this order:

Ostriches – Struthionidae
Rheas – Rheidae
Kiwis – Apterygidae
Cassowaries – Casuariidae
Emu – Dromaiidae
Tinamous – Tinamidae

Stay tuned!

Birds of the World

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – (Eurasian) Three-toed Woodpecker

Ian’s Bird of the Week – (Eurasian) Three-toed Woodpecker ~ Ian Montgomery

[Actually his first on of the new year.]

First of all my best wishes for a contented and healthy New Year. There is one important change for birdway customers with the new year. I’m planning to officially deregister the birdway company at the end of the Australian financial year (30 June) so in preparation for that birdway stopped trading on 31 December. I’ve registered as a sole trader, so any future invoices will be made out by me rather in the name of the company and will not include GST.

I’ve also removed the books Diary of a Bird Photographer and Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland from the Apple Store, Google Play and Kobo Books. If you want to buy them, contact me directly, ian@birdway.com.au or ianbirdway@gmail.com. I’ve put instructions on the website: Diary of a Bird Photographer and Where to Find Birds on Northern Queensland. Having removed the middlemen and GST, I can now offer them at reduced prices of $5 and $15 respectively (Australian dollars or equivalent; foreign currencies preferably through PayPal). I’ll investigate direct purchase through the website, but for the moment I’ll email them to customers in the required format (ePub for Apple, Windows and Android computers, tablets and smart phones; Kindle for Amazon readers).

Back to the New Year: here’s the last photo that I took in 2016, a two day old new moon just after sunset on 31st December.

pic-pici-eurasian-three-toed-woodpecker-picoides-dorsalis-by-ian-1

New Year is often represented symbolically by a chubby baby wearing not much more than a top hat and a banner with the new year number on it. Here, perhaps more appropriately for us, is a new year baby Dollarbird taken from my house last Friday, 3 days after it left the nest. Junior is on the right looking relaxed, while an alert and anxious-looking parent is on the right.

pas-dollarbirdA pair of Dollarbirds nest regularly in a termite-ridden poplar gum near the house, which has plenty of nesting hollows thanks to the termites. The same tree is also the headquarters of the local band of Blue-winged Kookaburras, but the two species seem to co-habit quite peacefully, if not quietly. The dollarbird nest is at a great height, perhaps 25m/80ft, so the first introduction of the young birds to the outside world is a perilous decent to the ground that doesn’t always end well.

 

This year, the young bird landed in my neighbour’s garden on the 10th January. He has both a dog and a ride-on lawn mower that is his favourite toy and I warned him about the bird. The parents made lots of noise over the next three days, presumably in defence of the newcomer. Consequently, I assumed all was well but I was of course relieved to see it safely up in the tree.

That’s by way of a new year aside. I’ve chosen another hollow-nesting bird as the subject of this posting, the Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker from the trip to Slovakia last June. Those of you who have been on the list for a while probably know that Woodpeckers are among my favourite birds, even though or perhaps because I’ve most lived in Woodpecker-deprived countries – Ireland and then Australia, though eastern Ireland has recently been colonised successfully by the Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Woodpeckers were among my target birds in Slovakia. Although we saw several species, the only one that I got good photos of was this one. A very closely related three-toed woodpecker also occurs in North America. There is disagreement as to whether they should be treated as the same or separate species, so it’s qualified here with ‘Eurasian’. The nesting hollow was close to the ground so I was able to set up the camera and tripod at a convenient distance (see second last photo) and wait for the adults to visit carrying food.

The males are distinguishable by having some yellow streaks on the crown. The yellow varies in intensity and was very pale in this male – first of the Woodpecker photos. He made only one visit during the hour or so I was there, so the female either did most of the work or had more success in finding food. This species is supposedly shy, but this pair didn’t take much notice of me, though the female sometimes perched on a tree closer to the camera and looked in my direction (photo directly above).

A little later, our guides found an active hollow of a Great Spotted Woodpecker with noisy young nearby. These adults were much shyer and wouldn’t approach the nest while I was in the vicinity, so I left them in peace after a little while. Unlike Dollarbirds, Woodpeckers can’t rely on termites to do all the work of burrowing for them and have to do it themselves. You can see on these photos that there were a few false starts chipping through the bark. Eurasian Three-toed Woodpeckers usually nest in Spruce.

pic-pici-eurasian-three-toed-woodpecker-picoides-dorsalis-by-ian-5

I was pleased with the photos that I got of the Slovakian Three-toed Woodpeckers. It was only later that I found that I had already photographed another nesting site in Finland, four years before (last photo). On this photo you can see that the bird has only three toes. All – I believe – other Woodpeckers have four toes and usually cling onto trees with two toes pointing forwards and two braced backwards. I find it hard to imagine what competitive advantage there would lead to the three-toed losing one of its toes.

Greetings
Ian


Lee’s Addition:

“…that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil!” (Habakkuk 2:9b KJV)

What an interesting Woodpecker and what a distance that camera is from the little avian wonder. Wow!

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More of Ian’s Bird of the Week articles:

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Huge Alligator at Circle B Bar Reserve on TV

Alligator Circle B Bar Reserve by Lee

Alligator Circle B Bar Reserve by Lee taken in 2014

“And I will walk at liberty:…” (Psalms 119:45a KJV)

I thought you might enjoy seeing the huge alligator that strolled across the path at our favorite local place we go birdwatching. In fact, this was on the national news this evening. We have seen many gators out there, but glad this this one didn’t surprise us in the past.

Alligator about 8 ft by Lee at Circle B

Alligator about 8 ft by Lee at Circle B 2013

On the news they thought he was between 12-14 feet long and was just wanting to cross the path. Not bothering anyone.

“Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.” (Proverbs 3:23 KJV)

No, we were not out there when this happened. [broken computer, back problems and almost bronchitis] No, this fellow had to do this without our watching him.  :)

Our previous adventures at Circle B

Other Birdwatching Adventures

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WHY BIRDWATCHING IS WORTHWHILE — 3 Lessons from a Box Turtle: Independence, Patience, and Frugality

 WHY BIRDWATCHING IS WORTHWHILE

3 Lessons from a Box Turtle: Independence, Patience, and Frugality

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

boxturtle-cloudy-day-animalhub

Peter seeing him [i.e., the apostle John] saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man [i.e., John] do? Jesus saith unto him [i.e., Peter], If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?   Follow thou Me.   (John 21:21-22)

Peter was quick to check on what others would or should be doing, but the Lord reminded Peter that personal accountability is more important. Yes, our lives are interdependent – however, practicing independence (especially as it applies to individual accountability) is an important life skill.  And that is also true of how box turtles live their humble lives, providing an object lesson to birdwatchers. Plus, turtles provide 2 more lessons for birdwatchers, as we shall see.

Turtle traits and birdwatching? Life lessons?

Recently I was reading an ecology perspective (a few excerpts of which are quoted hereinbelow) about the life of a Box Turtle  –  and it reminded me of 3 reasons why I enjoy birdwatching. [By the way, for a short video on Eastern Box Turtles, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-blYc9GkyFs  .]

Specifically, birding is a worthy investment for economic reasons – and because it encourages recreational independence, and patient resilience. More on those three reasons below.  (Of course, there are other worthy reasons for birdwatching  –  perhaps I will address them some other time.)

easternboxturtle-markswanson

BOX TURTLE LIVING: DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY.

Imagine driving down a country road, where a turtle is slowly crossing – you try to avoid squashing the poor reptile, by swerving to miss it. Being a slow pedestrian, in traffic contexts, is a distinct disadvantage.  However, the turtle’s slowness is more of an advantage, most of the time, because its independent lifestyle is never in a rush to “keep up with the Joneses”.

Instead of allowing the image of a lethargic, indifferent creature to mislead you [as you consider the lifestyle of a rural turtle], envision these pedestrians as animals enviably insulated form [most of ] the vagaries of their setting. In fact, land tortoises seem more divorced form environmental stresses than any other Appalachian vertebrate.

The turtle’s habitat provides our first hint of its independence.  Box turtles live in a variety of terrestrial situations—though permanent water does not seem to be a requirement.  High densities of these reptiles commonly occur in woodlots with large trees, canopy gaps, and a diversified ground cover.  The turtles bask in openings in the canopy and munch on a variety of short plants.  The close ground cover of woody shrubs and leaf litter provide shelter.  To feed and bask, box turtles also frequently enter open areas adjacent to the woods.  . . . .

[Quoting  George Constanz, “Box Turtle’s Independence”, in HOLLOWS, PEEPERS, & HIGHLANDERS:  AN APPALCAHIAN MOUNTAIN ECOLOGY, 2nd ed. (W. Va. Univ. Press, 2004), page 127, emphasis added.]

EasternBoxTurtle.MattReinbold-Wikipedia.jpg

Another one of the box turtle’s built-in advantages is its patient resilience – it can survive a “tough neighborhood”, climatologically speaking.   (Patience, of course, is a benefit for any birder.)

One environmental condition [that] turtles do respond to is a cold snap in autumn. Box turtles enter hibernation with the first killing frost.  A wet fall [i.e., a rainy autumn] without a sudden freeze provides good conditions for entering hibernation.  Dry weather, which makes digging difficult, and a sudden freeze may trap some individuals above ground.  Surprisingly, box turtles do not hibernate below the frost line, but remain dormant at depths of up to five inches below the leaf litter.  . . . .

Members of the genus Terrapene, which includes the eastern box turtle, hibernate in shallow terrestrial burrows that feature a vertical extension to the surface.  In cold spells, turtles turn their heads farthest from the opening.  In Ohio, the average turtle spends 142 days in a burrow under three inches of leaf litter with its plastron [i.e., the ventral (“belly”) surface of the turtle’s shell] recessed two inches into the soil.  In such shallow retreats, box turtles are exposed to freezing temperatures, yet they usually survive.  Able to supercool to only -1.1 C [i.e., just below freezing] this strategy cannot be its entire secret [of winter weather survival]. . . .

In an astounding adaptation [i.e., an amazing design-feature that fits the turtle for filling that habitat], the box turtle is able to survive the freezing of 58 percent of its body water for seventy-three hours, making the box turtle the largest animal known to exhibit freeze-tolerance. . . . .

[Quoting  George Constanz, HOLLOWS, PEEPERS, & HIGHLANDERS:  AN APPALCAHIAN MOUNTAIN ECOLOGY, 2nd ed. (W. Va. Univ. Press, 2004), pages 128-129.]  In other words, turtles wait during “tough times” – and their patience is routinely rewarded.  (Likewise, birdwatchers who are patient and still are more likely to enjoy seeing the birds, especially if binoculars are handy – as opposed to scaring the birds off (by movements that startle them) due to spectator impatience.

easternboxturtle-shenandoahnp-va-wikipedia

A third advantageous trait of the box turtle is its metabolic frugality – turtles are slow to spend their energy, so that means they don’t need to eat a lot to replenish spent energy!

A box turtle’s daily behavior seems to be divorced form the caprice of its immediate environment. The condition of a turtle at any particular time appears more an integration of its past experiences than a reflection of its present stresses [due to three of the turtle’s  anatomical/physiological design-features].  . . . .

Most obviously, a box turtle’s shell takes the edge off environmental extremes by buffering its body from environmental stresses such as heat and drought. During severe drought, the tortoises do not concentrate around creeks—they merely seek moist sites within their home ranges, make a form [i.e., a depressions in surface vegetation, descending into only about one inch of topsoil] under a pile of leaves, and rest peacefully.  Second, their forms and hinged plastrons protect and conceal them from what few predators they do have, such as raccoons.  And third, box turtles have a low metabolism. Coupling that with omnivorous food habits, they enjoy a high supply—low demand economy and do not need to hustle.  They eat insects, earthworms, strawberries, [other] fruits, mushrooms, and many other foods, yet they burn these calories slowly.  In these ways, box turtles enjoy a tremendous hedge against environmental stresses.

[Quoting  George Constanz, HOLLOWS, PEEPERS, & HIGHLANDERS:  AN APPALCAHIAN MOUNTAIN ECOLOGY, 2nd ed. (W. Va. Univ. Press, 2004), page 131, emphasis added.]

In other words, the box turtle is frugal about metabolically “spending” its food energy – if it doesn’t spend a lot it doesn’t need a lot to live on. As the old saying goes, which surely applies to animal metabolism:  “if your output exceeds your input, your upkeep is your downfall”.

So how does this apply to birdwatching?

First, just as turtles are relatively independent, birdwatching is a pastime for those who are independent – there is no need for popular approval for birdwatching. Birdwatching can be done as a group, yet it also can be done individually.  Is birding “popular”?  Forget about “peer pressure” or “fashionableness” – birdwatching is worthwhile whether it is “in season” or “out of season”.  Independent-minded people are often birdwatchers, because birding is a wonderful avocation regardless of whether others do or do not appreciate it.

Second, just as turtles are patient and calm, birdwatching requires patience for best viewing results.

Third, just as turtles are economical in their metabolic “spending” habits, birdwatching is a pastime that is perfect for people of modest means, as well as for people of surplus means who are frugal with their resources. Many “hobbies” are expensive – but not birdwatching!

Although it is certainly possible to spend a lot of money (as a birdwatching), such as by taking a birding vacation to Costa Rica, a lot of birdwatching opportunities can be enjoyed with just a bird-book, binoculars, notepad, and pen.  Having an inexpensive “hobby” provides a very real economic freedomso one need not worry about the cost of birdwatching!  Furthermore, many educational resources, about birds, are available (free of charge) on the Internet, including the God-honoring blogsite LEESBIRD.COM !

So, enjoy your birdwatching opportunities – it’s good for practicing independence (instead of trying to “keep up with the Joneses”), it develops your patience, and it’s economically responsible!

><> JJSJ

PHOTO CREDITS:

Box Turtle on cloudy day: Animal Hub

Eastern Box Turtle near grass: Mark Swanson

Eastern Box Turtle close-up: Matt Reinbold

Eastern Box Turtle in leaves: Wikipedia

5 Eastern Box Turtles video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-blYc9GkyFs

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Crimson Finch

Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) by Ian

Crimson Finch featured as bird of the week a little over eight years ago, but I’ve decided to have it again as a pair appeared in my backyard several weeks ago, the first time I’ve seen any in Bluewater.

Shortly earlier, I’d seen what looked like a female Satin Flycatcher having a splash in the pool. Satin Flycatchers are rare in North Queensland, though they do show up sometimes on migration. This one didn’t hang around for a photo while I got the camera, so I headed off around the property looking for it. Female Satin Flycatchers are notorious difficult to separate from their slightly duller cousins, female Leaden Flycatchers, so a photograph is essential not only for identification but also to convince anyone else.

Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) Female by Ian

I didn’t find the Flycatcher, but I found the Crimson Finches, male in the first photo and female in the second, feeding on some unseasonable Guinea Grass. We’ve had an odd dry season with not much but sufficient rain at intervals to confuse some of the local plants – Guinea Grass usually seeds here at the end of the wet season (April). In North Queensland, Crimson Finches are usually found in dense grassland near wetlands, and these two were only about 50m from Bluewater Creek, which was still running at the time.

Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) Fledgling by Ian

A couple of weeks later I photographed this very young Crimson Finch at the Townsville Town Common. When I approached, it was being fed by an adult male, who flew off leaving the young bird to its fate. You can see the very pale gape, typical of very young birds. Young Crimson Finches just have a reddish flush in the wings and tail.

Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) Male by Ian

A few days after seeing the pair of Crimson Finches in the backyard, a male Crimson Finch obligingly appeared beside the pool when I was having a swim. I thought the plumage was more intensely coloured and with strong white spots on the flanks than the male member of the earlier pair – more like the one in the fourth photo. I wondered whether they were different individuals, with the first one being younger than the second. The one in the fourth photo was taken on a trip to the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia in 2009.

Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) X Star Hybrid by Ian

On that same trip, I photographed this odd-looking individual at Kununurra. We decided that it was a hybrid between a Crimson Finch and a Star Finch, both of which were present at the time and both of which belong to the same genus, Neochmia, which includes two other Australian species: Red-browed and Plum-headed Finches.

I don’t really keep a yard list as such. If I did, the day I found the Crimson Finches would have been notable. Apart from the possible Satin Flycatcher, later that afternoon I flushed a female King Quail. This time I was armed not with the camera but a brush cutter as part of the fire season preparations.

Several weeks later I had the rest of the long grass cut by a man with a tractor. After he had finished, I went down to inspect the result and spotted a Blue-winged Kookaburra pouncing on something in the cut grass. This proved to be the King Quail, which flew off a high speed pursued by the Kookaburra. The Quail landed safely in some long grass and the Kookaburra perched in a nearby tree. If you ever tried to flush a quail a second time, you’ll know how elusive they are on the ground, so I hope the Kookaburra didn’t have quail for lunch.

Greetings
Ian
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His other birds mentioned:

Star Finch (Neochmia ruficauda) by Ian

Star Finch (Neochmia ruficauda) by Ian

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Red-browed Finch (Neochmia temporalis) by Ian

Red-browed Finch (Neochmia temporalis) by Ian

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Plum-headed Finch (Neochmia modesta) by Ian males

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Lee’s Addition:

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 KJV)

I decided to put a photo of the three other finches mentioned in Ian’s newsletter. They all seem so colorful for a nice Christmas Eve day. Thanks, Ian, for sharing your photos with us and for a Christmas photo present. Trust you eyes are improving. We miss your newsletters.

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Reginald’s Second Christmas

Turkeys in Snow ©Bryant Olsen Flickr

Turkeys in Snow ©Bryant Olsen Flickr

Reginald’s Second Christmas ~ by Emma Foster

Christmastime was coming in the forest and Reginald had to prepare all of the turkeys for the heavy winter that was about to arrive. Already flakes of snow were falling onto the ground and the wind was cold. Fortunately, snow meant that there wouldn’t be any hunters around. The turkeys hoped that the winter wouldn’t be as bad as before when they lived closer to the hunters. Luckily, they had been able to travel deeper into the forest early before Thanksgiving to get away from all the hunters.

As the snow began to fall harder, Reginald made sure that the forts he and the other turkeys were building were ready for Christmas. They had made the forts out of different sized tree branches to make three walls and a roof to keep them from the cold wind because there was no time to build forts underground with the snow. Reginald soon found out that Oliver needed some help building his fort because Oliver kept knocking his branches over accidentally. Eventually Reginald had to build Oliver’s fort for him because Oliver kept knocking over the branches whenever he tried to help.

To prevent Oliver from doing any more damage, Reginald brought him farther into the woods in order to look for berries and acorns for the winter. The turkeys Reginald brought with him used their army helmets, which they used to protect themselves, to gather up the acorns and berries to take home. Because Oliver had lost his in the river on the way to their new home at Thanksgiving, Reginald let him borrow his own helmet to use.

Turkey in Snow ©SABaking

Turkey in Snow ©SABaking

At one point, the turkeys came to the river they had crossed before that hadn’t yet frozen over in the winter. Reginald watched as Oliver wandered close to the edge, and before Reginald could stop him Oliver dropped the helmet into the river and the helmet drifted away.

Reginald just shook his head and hopped down the river to try to catch his helmet. But the water rushed faster than he thought it would, and soon Reginald was far away from the other turkeys. Reginald finally found his helmet hanging on a stray branch that leaned over the water, but next to it was another helmet, which Reginald guessed was Oliver’s because he had lost it on the way to their new dwelling.

Turkey Track in Snow ©WikiC

Turkey Track in Snow ©WikiC

Reginald took both of the helmets home and made sure that Oliver didn’t see his old one. Eventually the snow began to fall hard so the turkeys had to stay in their forts. But on Christmas morning Reginald built a fire to melt the snow away so the turkeys could exchange their Christmas presents. Most of the presents were made out of branches to make rakes so each of the turkeys could keep the snow out of their forts. But Reginald gave Oliver his old helmet back as a Christmas present. Oliver was so happy he accidentally knocked over his fort again. Reginald just shook his head.

In the end the turkeys were very happy in their new homes, even though there was a lot of snow in that part of the forest. Fortunately, that meant that no hunters were nearby. But even though no hunters were seen Oliver still wore his helmet everywhere, at least until he dropped it in the river again for Reginald to retrieve.

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“How hast thou helped him that is without power? how savest thou the arm that hath no strength?” (Job 26:2 KJV)

“They helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage.” (Isaiah 41:6 KJV)


Lee’s Addition:

Emma, that is another great story in the life of Reginald. He is proving himself to be quite a leader and a helper to those in need. Especially, Oliver.

Keep up the great articles. We are all enjoying them as your writing just keeps improving. Lord’s Blessings as you finish up your Senior Year in High School in just a few more months.

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More of Emma’s Stories

Reginald The Turkey Commander – Part 3

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SAFETY MONITORING by Canaries, Crayfish, and Brook Trout

SAFETY MONITORING by Canaries, Crayfish, and Brook Trout

Dr. James J. S. Johnson canary-caged-for-mines-heritagetrail

Canary “recruited” for Mining Safety    (U.K. gov’t/public domain)

Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. (Ezekiel 3:17)

It’s good to have warning devices – like smoke detectors — that monitor environmental conditions, to give us an alarm if a deadly danger is imminent. However, long before humans invented mechanical safety monitoring devices, God had installed creatures all over the planet, with traits that equip them to serve us a safety monitors who can alarm us humans regarding environmental hazards.

island-canary-hbw-alive

ISLAND CANARY photo credit: HBW Alive

CANARIES, AS AIR QUALITY MONITORS

The Canary (Serinus canaria, a/k/a the “Island Canary” or “Wild Canary”) is an amazingly valuable finch.  For generations it has been commonly known, at least within the mining community, that canaries are good safety indicators  —  serving as caged air quality monitors  –  if the air is becoming dangerous, the Canary provides the alarm, signaling (by its distress) that it’s time to evacuate(!).

BIRDS AS DANGER SIGNALS – Until 1992 miners used to take a caged canary underground to warn them of dangerous gases [such as carbon monoxide] in the mine. The bird would react to poisons in the air before miners became aware of them.  …  Canaries were used [by] rescue teams in coal mines to detect poisonous carbon monoxide gas.  Reacting more rapidly than humans, their fluttering and other [behavioral] signs of distress gave warning when [dangerous] gas was present.  Oxygen was also carried to help birds recover.  No detecting apparatus was so reliable and canaries were used until 1992 when new electronic equipment, which can also meter the concentration of gas, was introduced.

[Quoting Colin Harrison & Howard Loxton, THE BIRD: MASTER OF FLIGHT (Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s Educational Series, 1993), page 277.]  Perhaps we should not be surprised that canaries have been used as “watchdogs”, in mines, to give warning of dangers  –  the word “canary” points to the historic discovery of that species of yellow-and-brown finches, in the Canary Islands (and Madeira and the Azores), by Spanish conquistadores.  The term “Canary Islands” means “dog islands”, i.e., canine islands, so it makes sense, philologically speaking, that canaries have been harnessed to serve humans as air quality “watchdogs”.

On 1478, when the Spanish invaded the Canaries, they started to export these birds throughout Europe. There followed intensive rearing in captivity, giving rise to the remarkable varieties of forms with their great varieties of forms with their great variety of plumage coloration.

[Quoting Gionfranco Bologna, SIMON & SCHUSTER’S GUIDE TO BIRDS OF THE WORLD (London: Fireside Books, 1990; edited by John Bull), page 365-366.]

Yellow Canary (Crithagra flaviventris) Male ©WikiC

Yellow Canary (Crithagra flaviventris) Male ©WikiC

But what is a Canary? Do we see them – or their cousins – in America?

The original Canary (Serinus canaria) is a small yellow and brown species of finch with a lively manner and a cheerful song.  The familiar yellow bird of today is the result of controlled breeding [i.e., real “selection” of phenotype-coded genotypes, by human breeders] usually suppressing the dark pigments in the plumage.  Breeding has also produced a wide range of color in shades and mixtures of white, red (which needs a carotene-rich diet to maintain the color), green and brown, tufted headcaps and variations in body shape.  Birds produced by crossbreeding with Red Hooded Siskins (to produce red) and Mules (hybrids with other finches such as the Goldfinch and Linnet), are not taxonomically true canaries but are exhibited as such.  The Roller, Malinois and Spanish Timbrado are considered the most musical breeds.

[Quoting Colin Harrison & Howard Loxton, THE BIRD: MASTER OF FLIGHT (Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s Educational Series, 1993), page 236.]  Thus, within the extended “family” of finches, the American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) is a cousin to the wild Canary (Serinus canaria) of the Canary Islands.

crayfish-at-shoreline-aaronlesieur

CRAYFISH crawling out of drainage ditch water    photo credit: Aaron LeSieur

CRAYFISH, AS WATER QUALITY MONITORS

While caged Canaries can monitor the underground air quality, Crayfish (e.g., Procambus, Orconectes, Cambarus, Fallicambarus, & Faxonella species) serve as water quality monitors.  (This is a service that I especially appreciate, having previously served the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission and the Trinity River Authority of Texas, as a Certified Water Quality Monitor, and having taught a course in Environmental Limnology at Dallas Christian College, back in the AD1990s.)

Just as canaries are sensitive to airborne poisons, crayfish (called “crawfish” by Louisiana Cajuns, as well as “mudbugs”) serve as indicators of lotic freshwater quality, as well as indicating the freshwater quality of lacustrine margins and muddy-water bayous.

[C]rawfishes have proved to be good indicators of the health of streams and other aquatic ecosystems [such as drainage ditches] and are of great interest to environmental biologists. Because the lives of these creatures are tied so closely to water, pollution and lowered water quality often lead to loss of crawfish populations over both small and large areas.  Some studies suggest tha talmsot half the species of eastern American crawfishes suffer from increasingly poor water quality and rapid loss of their aquatic habitats to agriculture or human housing development.  A few species in other states appear to have become extinct [i.e., locally or regionally extirpated], and several others – including some in Louisiana – could disappear within the next few decades.

[Quoting Jerry G. Walls, CRAWFISHES OF LOUISIANA (Baton Rouge:  Louisiana State University Press, 2009), page 1.]  For further (and very comprehensive) details, on the need for relatively pure freshwater, for successful crayfish habitats, see Walls’ book (CRAWFISHES OF LOUISIANA), at pages 34-37 & 52-54.

As a youth, I learned to observe and appreciate (and  catch) crayfish, in rural Baltimore County (Maryland), as reported elsewhere — see “Catching Crayfish, a Lesson in Over-Reacting”.  These wetland-loving freshwater decapods are true shellfish, creative constructions of crustacean beauty, exhibiting God’s bioengineering brilliance.

So America’s Crayfish, which come in a variety of species, are water quality monitors, indicating by their presence (or absence) whether the freshwaters in streams and drainage ditches are relatively healthy.

Consequently, in recent years, I have been glad to see the mud “chimneys” of crayfish, on the sides of a drainage ditch that runs runoff rainwater alongside my front yard, in the shadow of my mailbox. Even gladder, I was, when I saw active crayfish, darting here and there in the pooled up rainwater-runoff water that accumulates in that drainage ditch.  In other words, the crayfish in my front yard’s drainage ditch are (by their very lives!) signaling me that the drainage ditch has fairly “healthy” freshwater quality!  As a former Certified Water Quality Monitor, I was happy for the crayfish’s monitoring “report”.

Brook-Trout-in-Manitoba.troutster.jpg

BROOK TROUT    ( photo credit:  troutster.com )

BROOK TROUT, AS WATER QUALITY MONITORS

Of course, the Crayfish  is not the only indicator of freshwater quality.  Another example is the Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis – a/k/a “brook charr”, “speckled trout”, “mud trout”, etc.), a salmonid famous for inhabiting freshwater streams, as its name suggests. It prefers ponds and streams with clean, clear, cold waters.

The importance of Brook Trout, to mankind, is illustrated by the fact that it is the official fish of 9 states: Michigan (where a potamodromous [fish that migrate only within contiguous freshwaters] population in Lake Superior is called “coaster trout”), New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia – plus it is Nova Scotia’s official “provincial fish”.

Since the Brook Trout thrives only in clean freshwater, it too is an indicator – a water quality monitor of sorts – whose presence exhibits that its home-waters are relatively healthy, i.e., unpolluted.

The brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) is a small, brilliantly colored freshwater fish native to clear, cold streams and rivers in the headwaters of the [Chesapeake] Bay watershed. … There fish thrive in clear, silt-free, well-shaded freshwater streams with numerous pools and a substrate made of mixed gravel, cobble and sand.  Because brook trout are not tolerant of water temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, they are rarely found in developed areas. . . .

In addition to being noted for their recreational value [as a “prized game fish”], brook trout are also very significant biologically [i.e., ecologically]. Because they require pristine, stable habitat with high water quality conditions, brook trout are viewed as indicators of the biological integrity of streams.  As the water quality in headwater streams has declined so have brook trout populations.

[Quoting Kathy Reshetiloff, “Got Brook Trout?  Then You’ve Also Got a Healthy Stream”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 26(8):40 (November 2016).   For further (and more comprehensive) details regarding how urban, agricultural, and/or industrial development routinely reduces water quality in affected stream-waters, review Kathy Reshetiloff’s article (cited above), regarding streamside vegetation impacts, sedimentation, rate changes to waterflow, water temperature impacts, acidic runoff, erosion impacts, etc.

In sum, if your stream-water hosts healthy Brook Trout, the stream-water itself is healthy!  Like a water quality monitoring device, these salmonids detect and report (by their populational successes or failures) lotic freshwater quality.

FINISHING THOUGHTS:  It’s good to have an “early warning” system, a safety monitor who provides a timely alarm of approaching danger. And yet we who have God’s Gospel, the Gospel of Christ’s redemptive grace, are obligated to warn others about the realities of eternity – woe unto whoever shuts his or her ears to the good news of Christ the Redeemer.  The time to secure one’s proper relationship to God, through Christ, is now:  today is the day of salvation!

He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him; but he who takes warning shall deliver his soul.   (Ezekiel 33:5)

Whom [i.e., Christ] we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. (Colossians 1:28)

For He saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I helped thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation(2nd Corinthians 6:2)

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Catching Crayfish, a Lesson in Over-Reacting

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Eagles and Parrots Safe in Tennessee Fires

 Salmon-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua moluccensis) at Parrot Mtn by Lee

Salmon-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua moluccensis) at Parrot Mtn by Lee

As the fire burneth a wood, and as the flame setteth the mountains on fire; (Psalms 83:14 KJV)

As you may recall, Dan and I visited the Parrot Mountain and Garden of Eden in Gatlinburg, Tennessee this summer. There have been devastating fires up in the mountains in that area due to severe drought conditions. Many places have been destroyed in the Gatlingburg surrounding area. Dollywood, who has quite a collection of Eagles and Parrot Mountain with their Parrots were to close for comfort, but the Lord has been good to them and their keepers.

 Salmon-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua moluccensis) at Parrot Mtn by Lee

Salmon-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua moluccensis) at Parrot Mtn by Lee

“I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine.” (Psalms 50:11 KJV)

Salmon-crested (Moluccan) Cockatoo at Parrot Mountain

Parrot Mountain’s Prayer Garden

Plantain-eater at Parrot Mountain

Parrot Mountain’s Origin and Mission

Here are some of the articles you might find interesting:

Dollywood’s eagles ‘safe and sound,’ as are Parrot Mountain birds

This is from their Facebook Account:

Parrot mountain was not affected by the fires! All the birds are safe and secure! God was watching over Parrot mountain. We pray for all those who were affected by the fires. Thank you all for your concerns ! We appreciate you all and love you guys. #PrayForGatlinburg

LIST: What’s damaged, destroyed and intact From 9 News

Tennessee Wildfires

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Mystery Bird Solved at Zoo Miami

Pheasant Pigeon (Otidiphaps nobilis) (Green-naped) Zoo Miami by Lee

Mystery Bird at Zoo Miami by Lee

“My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.” (Pro 6:20-21 KJV)

Finally sat down and started naming my photos from our latest trip to Zoo Miami’s Wings of Asia Aviary. Since we spent the whole day, just in that Aviary, except for lunch, the photos are not in any order. Ducks especially have a way of swimming by and then another, then back they come again. Most of you photographers know how it is. And as I’ve always stated, I wish the Lord had hung name tags on birds so we could more easily identify them. :o)

I was fortunate to receive a list of the current birds from the workers, which has been a huge help. With at least 500 birds and 88 species in one aviary, it can get complicated putting names on the right birds.

I had gone through these photos before I came to the one above:

Lady Amherst's Pheasant (Chrysolophus amherstiae) Zoo Miami by Lee

Lady Amherst’s Pheasant (Chrysolophus amherstiae) Zoo Miami by Lee

Now there is a beautifully designed avian wonder from the Creator. More about this bird later.

The Siamese Fireback is also in the Pheasant family.

Siamese Fireback (Lophura diardi) Zoo Miami by Lee

Siamese Fireback (Lophura diardi) Zoo Miami by Lee

So, when our mystery bird showed up, which family do you think I kept looking through? The Pheasants and allies – Phasianidae Family. I searched high and low.

Pheasant Pigeon (Otidiphaps nobilis) (Green-naped) Zoo Miami by Lee

Guess what this bird is!

Can you guess what this bird is?

Pheasant Pigeon (Otidiphaps nobilis) (Green-naped) Zoo Miami by Lee

Mystery Bird and a Red-vented Bulbul at the Zoo

I about fell out of my computer chair when I found out.

Pheasant Pigeon (Otidiphaps nobilis) (Green-naped) Zoo Miami by Lee

Maybe a close up of the face will help. Zoo Miami by Lee

Our Mystery Bird turns out to actually be a Pigeon!!!. This is a Pheasant Pigeon (Otidiphaps nobilis) [Green-naped Pheasant Pigeon] as Zoo Miami calls it.

Pheasant Pigeon (Otidiphaps nobilis) (Green-naped) Zoo Miami by Lee

Pheasant Pigeon (Otidiphaps nobilis) (Green-naped) Zoo Miami by Lee

I Just Couldn’t Believe THIS IS A PIGEON!!!!!

“The pheasant pigeon (Otidiphaps nobilis) is a genus of large terrestrial pigeon found in the primary rainforests of New Guinea and nearby islands. It ranges primarily over hilly and lower mountain areas, but can also be found in lowlands.

There are four species, [actually subspecies] which differ primarily in the presence or absence of a small crest and in the colour of the nape. The two best known are the western nominate (O. nobilis) with a greenish nape and O. n. aruensis from the Aru Islands with a white nape. [We saw this at the Cincinnati Zoo] The two remaining species, O. n. cervicalis from the eastern part of its range and O. n. insularis from Fergusson Island, have a grey nape and a black nape (concolour with the remaining black neck) respectively.” [Wikipedia with editing]

COL-Colu Pheasant Pigeon (Otidiphaps nobilis) (Green-naped) Cincinnati Zoo 2016 - Lee (2).JPG

Pheasant Pigeon [White-naped]  (Otidiphaps nobilis) Cincinnati Zoo 2016 – Lee

Pheasant Pigeon – Wikipedia

 

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Tsunami and the Animals from Creation Moments

“But now ask the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee;” (Job 12:7)

Almost everyone in the world today knows of the terrible disaster that struck the coasts of South East Asia. The North American news media gave daily body counts, reported human tragedy and inflicted damage … yet, as far as is known, none mentioned the animals.

Elephants in ThailandHowever, Asian reports from the damaged areas comment not only on the ability of trees to withstand the devastating waves but the almost total absence of animal deaths. It appears that the animals, from flamingos to elephants, took off for the hills long before the humans. The Chinese have done extensive investigations on animals and earthquake detection but are at a loss to explain it. Chinese scientists simply conclude that animals have far greater sensitivity than the best of scientific instruments.

Interesting Things from Smiley CentralReuters reported from Thailand that the elephants used in the tourist business at Khao Lak began to “cry” at 9 am, about the time of the quake. Some elephants broke their hefty chains, but they all raced away toward the jungle-clad hills, taking their surprised tourists and guides with them. Some people were even picked up by the elephants using their trunks. They all came to a point on high ground where the waves stopped just short of where they stood. Three thousand, eight hundred people died in that area. God is merciful to those sensitive enough to His warnings.

Prayer:
We thank You, Father, for teaching us by this example of our insensitivity to Your warning signs and Your mercy to the animals. Amen.
Notes:
Reuters. Mark Bendeich, “Jumbos Save Tourists from Tsunami.” January 03, 2005. Photo: Elephants in Thailand. Courtesy of Siebrand. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
©Creation Moments 2016 (used with permission)
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What an absolutely amazing protection the Lord give these animals.
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Sunday Inspiration – Cardinalidae Family of Cardinals Plus

Northern Cardinal M-F ©BackyardBirdLover

Northern Cardinal M-F ©BackyardBirdLover

Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? (Isaiah 63:2 KJV)

Today, you are being introduced to the Cardinalidae Family, which is the last family, in taxonomy order, of the Passeriformes Order. Since February 1, 2016, we began the journey with the first four families in More Amazing Birds. Now we have arrived at the last of the 131 families of this order. I trust you have enjoyed the journey through these many Sundays. Hopefully you have been blessed by the great variety of Avian Wonders from our Lord, their Creator. The Passeriformes Order contains well over half of all the birds in the world; around 6,000 plus of the 10,659 species on the latest update. (6.3)

The Cardinalidae – Cardinals, Grosbeaks and allies has 69 species in the family. Because of that number, this family will be presented in two segments. Growing up in Indiana, the Northern Cardinal was a favorite of most of us. It is the “State Bird” of Indiana along with six other states. [Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia] The family members are found in North and South America. The South America Cardinals of the genus Paroaria are placed in another family, the Thraupidae (previously placed in Emberizidae). Even though the family name is Cardinalidae, there are only two “cardinals” among the members.

Lazuli Bunting (Passerina amoena) ©WikiC

Lazuli Bunting (Passerina amoena) ©WikiC

Also known as cardinal-grosbeaks and cardinal-buntings, this family’s members “are robust, seed-eating birds with strong bills. The family ranges in size from the 12-cm (4.7-in), 11.5-g (0.40-oz) and up orange-breasted bunting to the 25-cm (9.8-in), 85-g (2.99-oz) black-headed saltator. They are typically associated with open woodland. The sexes usually have distinctive appearances. The northern cardinal type species was named by colonists for the male’s red crest, reminiscent of a Catholic cardinal’s biretta.

The ‘North American buntings’ are known as such to distinguish them from buntings. The name ‘cardinal-grosbeak’ can also apply to this family as a whole.”(Wikipedia)

Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea) by Kent Nickell

Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea) by Kent Nickell

The family starts off with 11 Tanagers in the Piranga genus, which used to be in with the tanagers, but were relocated here recently. “They are essentially red, orange or yellow all over, except the tail and wings and in some species also the back. Such extensive lipochrome coloration (except on the belly) is very rare in true tanagers, but is widespread among the Cardinalidae in the Piranga genus.

These songbirds are found high in tree canopies, and are not very gregarious in their breeding areas. Piranga species pick insects from leaves, or sometimes in flight. They will also take some fruit. Several species are migratory, breeding in North America and wintering in the tropics.”

Red-throated Ant Tanager (Habia fuscicauda) by Michael Woodruff

Red-throated Ant Tanager (Habia fuscicauda) by Michael Woodruff

Next are the Ant Tanagers in the Habia genus. “These are long-tailed and strong billed birds. The males have a red crest and plumage containing red, brown or sooty hues. Females may resemble the males or be largely yellowish or brown in colour.” Following these are four more tanagers in the Chlorothraupis genus. These are the last of the tanagers that were moved to this family.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) by Rob Fry

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) by Rob Fry

The next genus, Pheucitcus has six Grosbeaks.  Typical of the genus, they lay two to five pale bluish to greenish eggs with heavy brown and gray speckling. The cup nest is built at medium height in a bush or small tree.” (Wikipedia)

Red-breasted Chat (Granatellus venustus) ©WikiC

There are three Chats in the Granatellus genus; Red-breasted Chat, Grey-throated Chat, and the Rose-breasted Chat. They range from North America through Central America into northern South America. Their natural habitat is subtropical or tropical dry forests.

Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus) ©Flickr Don Faulkner

Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus) ©Flickr Don Faulkner

We will finish this first half of the family with three of my favorites, the Cardinalis genus. Our Northern and Vermilion Cardinals and the Pyrrholixia (which I saw for the first time last year) are hard to miss with their bright set of feathers the Lord provided for them. These range across North America and into northern South America.

“He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.” (Matthew 16:2 KJV)

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“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 KJV)

“Written in Red” – Faith Baptist Choir and Orchestra

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. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (John 3:16-19 KJV)

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More Sunday Inspirations

Sunday Inspiration – More Amazing Birds

PASSERIFORMES – Passerines

Cardinalidae – Cardinals, Grosbeaks and allies

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