Willets At Ding Darling NWR

Willet at Ding Darling NWR by Lee 01-26-2019

“But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; And the birds of the air, and they will tell you;” (Job 12:7 NKJV)

Previously, we were at Merritt Island NWR and had seen some Willets and I needed help identifying some birds. One of them turned out to be a Willet. I have seen them before, but not very often. Today, we went to Ding Darling NWR over on Sanibel Island, right nearby Fort Myers, Florida.

Today was very cool, around 48-50 degrees, overcast, and very windy. Not a great day for birdwatching, if you have a small temperature range like I do. :) My range is between 65 and 80 degrees. Anyway, back to the adventure.

The birds were few and not really close in. Most of my photos were taken using my zoom. The Willets were feeding and I happened to be standing by a lady with a nice camera that had a long lens on it. Wanting to show of my new Willet identity skills, I said, “those are Willets, right.?” [That is how you ask when you really aren’t 100% sure.]

“Yes, they are.” Then she said, “I am a biologist and a Shorebird specialists.” About that time, one of the Willets from another group flew by us and she told me that the black and white wing bars are a great clue. Also, they are one of the largest shorebirds in this area.

Willet (Tringa semipalmata) at Ding Darling NWR by Lee 01-26-2019

One of the great things about birdwatching is the helpfulness of other birders. Most are willing to share their experience and knowledge about these Avian Wonders from our Creator. Now I have another way to help figure out that I am looking at a Willet.

Here are a few more photos as he flew by:

Willet (Tringa semipalmata) at Ding Darling NWR by Lee

Willet (Tringa semipalmata) at Ding Darling NWR

Willet (Tringa semipalmata) at Ding Darling NWR

Willet (Tringa semipalmata) at Ding Darling NWR by Lee

When the bird landed, you could still see the black at the back of its wings. [far left bird]

As we continued to watch and talk, a group of the Willets flew over and landed. It was nice to see all those black and white markings. Once they settled down, close their wings, all that “clue” is again hid. Oh, the joys and challenges of birdwatching.

Willet (Tringa semipalmata) at Ding Darling NWR by Lee 01-26-2019

Willet (Tringa semipalmata) at Ding Darling NWR by Lee 01-26-2019

By the way, looking back over previous photos, we were last at Ding Darling in July of 2008. It has been some time since we were there and there were many more birds. Could it be because it was in July and WARMER???

The verse quoted above, “But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; And the birds of the air, and they will tell you;” (Job 12:7 NKJV), reminds us that the Lord has made each species just a bit different. If we study them, “they will tell us.”


Ding Darling NWR – FWS

Ding Darling NWR – Wikipedia

Willet – All About Birds

  • Because they find prey using the sensitive tips of their bills, and not just eyesight, Willets can feed both during the day and at night.

Willet – Wikipedia

Willet (Tringa semipalmata) ©WikiC

Walking Snowy Egret Showing Off Yellow Feet

Snowy Egret at Merritt Island NWR 1-1-2019 by Lee

Dan and I went over to the east coast of Florida during the New Year holiday. We were able to do some birdwatching at Viera Wetlands in Viera, Florida and also went to Merritt Island National Wildlife Reserve’s Black Point Dr. That is where I captured this Snowy Egret strutting with his yellow feet showing. Also saw the Snowy Egrets at Viera.

Many verses that refer to walking come to mind. Good reminders as we start the new year off. Here are a few of the verses:

“But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity: redeem me, and be merciful unto me.” (Psalms 26:11 KJV)

Snowy Egret Viera Wetlands – 12-31-2018 by Lee

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.” (Psalms 84:11-12 KJV)

“Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name. I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore.” (Psalms 86:11-12 KJV)

Snowy Egret Viera Wetlands – 12-31-2018 by Lee

“They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.” (Psalms 119:3 KJV)

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

Snowy Egret Viera Wetlands – 12-31-2018 by Lee

“Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein:” (Isaiah 42:5 KJV)

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 KJV)

BREATHE SLOWLY, AND WAIT FOR AN OPEN DOOR – Repost

Duck from Refrigerator

Duck from Refrigerator

RockDoveBlog published this article yesterday and thought you might enjoy reading about this Cool Duck.

An amazing story of duck survival was reported, years ago, by BBC News:

A duck in the US state of Florida has survived gunshot wounds and a two-day stint in a refrigerator. A hunter shot the duck, wounding it in the wing and leg. Believing the bird was dead, he left it in his fridge at his home in Tallahassee. The hunter’s wife got a fright when she opened the fridge and the duck lifted its head, a local veterinarian said. Staff at the Goose Creek Animal Sanctuary who are treating the bird said it has a 75% chance of survival. CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF  THE BLOG

Also BBC’s article about this duck.

“Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.” (James 5:7 KJV)

WilliesDuckDiner.CajunCusine-AD2018

Cajun Cuisine at Willie’s Duck Diner (West Monroe, Louisiana, AD2018)

See More of JJSJ’s articles here

Birdwatching at Merritt Island Blackpoint Drive

Great Egret Relaxing at Black Point Dr.

Great Egret Relaxing at Black Point Dr.

“This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.” (Psalms 132:14 KJV)

Dan and I took a short break and drove to the east coast of Florida and spent two nights. On Tuesday, we drove through Merritt Island’s Black Point Drive. I was reading their page and it says, “The 7-mile, one-way drive follows a dike road around several shallow marsh impoundments and through pine flatwoods. This provides an excellent place to see waterfowl (in season), wading birds, shorebirds and raptors. Alligators, river otters, bobcats, various species of snakes, and other wildlife may be visible as well. A self-guiding brochure (available near the drive entrance) will provide information on things to look for. Driving time is approximately 40 minutes.” [emphasis mine] That 40 minutes is for those who are just viewing birds. Those of us who are birdwatchers and photographers have hardly gone halfway in 40 minutes.

05-great-egret-on-island-blackpoint-dr-merritt-wr-12-27-16-73

We enjoyed seeing many of the wintering birds this time. Last time we visited, the ponds were almost dried up and so had the birdwatching. Much better this trip.

06-great-egret-zoomed-blackpoint-dr-merritt-wr-12-27-16-77

Zoomed in on Great White Egret

As those of you know who have been following this blog, that I am dealing with a back issue and will probably need surgery in a month or so. The benefit of visiting this place and Viera Wetlands, which we did on Wednesday, is that I can watch and take pictures from the car, or just step outside. That is what I did, so some of the shots may not be the best. I appreciate those of you who have been praying about my back. My MRI isn’t scheduled until the 26th of Jan. [insurance issue] At any rate, I trust that my adventure will encourage those of you who have health issues, to go ahead and figure out a way to still enjoy the Lord’s blessings in nature.

This Snowy Egret was trying to shuffle up a fish – Enlarge video to see the shuffling better:

“And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19 KJV)

Most of the views are quite distant, but I always enjoy the challenge of trying to zoom in an catch some of these critters. Surprising, even at these distances, you can ID the birds.

Here are some of the photos that I took. Dan doesn’t have his ready yet.

I will have more of our trip later.

*

Previous trips to Merritt Island:

The Sun Is Finally Back Out!

Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) by Lee at Ding Darling NWR

Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) by Lee at Ding Darling NWR

And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? (Mark 4:39-40 KJV)

Here in central Florida, we have been dealing with Tropical Storm Colin for the last few days. In fact, we had 3.31 inches of rain this morning and with yesterday’s count, we have had 4 inches of rain in two days. Our birds have been rather wet. Also, I stayed off of the computer because of the lightning in the rain storms. These are not my reports, because I have been home, out of the rain, still fighting my bronchitis.

Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) ©WikiC

But, what I want to tell you about, is the reports that are coming in about sightings of Frigatebirds. Florida has a listing service where people report sightings of birds. Usually they are rare sightings. When storms like Colin are in the area, birds get blown off course and birdwatchers get the joy of seeing more rare birds. Many are pelagic, which means they normally fly out over the gulf and oceans. They are rarely seen in towns.

Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) ©WikiC

Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) ©WikiC

“Saw a lone Frigatebird at 9:30 am on B. B. Downes below Cross Creek Blvd.  Storm blown!” that is from a birder in North Hillsborough County, basically, North Tampa area. Here’s another report, “25 counted over Dunedin Causeway late yesterday afternoon between bands of rain. So cool they were flying at eye level on the bridge. M.R., Dunedin” Magnificent Frigatebirds report in Hernando and Pasco counties. And one more, “While stopped at the traffic light at Nebraska and Fowler. I noticed a group of ten frigatebirds circling just to the North about 8:30 this morning..”

Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) ©USFWS

Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) ©USFWS

Across the state several sea-going birds were spotted. A Fea’s Petrel off Miami, European Storm-Petrel, and a Promarine Jaeger. Needless to say, there are some happy, though wet birdwatchers that have enjoyed these spottings.

Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) Drinking Water ©WikiC

Back to the Frigatebirds. The top photo was one of the few times I have had the privilege of seeing one of the Frigatebirds. Frigatebirds are members of the Fregatidae Family of the Suliformes Order.

Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) Male ©WikiC

Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) Male ©WikiC

“All have predominantly black plumage, long, deeply forked tails and long hooked bills. Females have white underbellies and males have a distinctive red gular pouch, which they inflate during the breeding season to attract females. Their wings are long and pointed and can span up to 2.3 metres (7.5 ft), the largest wing area to body weight ratio of any bird.” (Wikipedia)

Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) Female ©WikiC

Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) Female ©WikiC

“Able to soar for days on wind currents, frigatebirds spend most of the day in flight hunting for food, and roost on trees or cliffs at night. Their main prey are fish and squid, caught when chased to the water surface by large predators such as tuna. Frigatebirds are referred to as kleptoparasites as they occasionally rob other seabirds for food, and are known to snatch seabird chicks from the nest. Seasonally monogamous, frigatebirds nest colonially. A rough nest is constructed in low trees or on the ground on remote islands. A single egg is laid each breeding season. The duration of parental care is among the longest of any bird species; frigatebirds are only able to breed every other year.” (Wikipedia)

Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) by Ian

Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) by Ian

“The magnificent frigatebird is the largest species of frigatebird. It measures 89–114 cm (35–45 in) in length, has a wingspan of 217–244 cm (85–96 in) and weighs 1,100–1,590 grams (2.43–3.51 lb).[12] Males are all-black with a scarlet throat pouch that is inflated like a balloon in the breeding season. Although the feathers are black, the scapular feathers produce a purple iridescence when they reflect sunlight, in contrast to the male great frigatebird’s green sheen. Females are black, but have a white breast and lower neck sides, a brown band on the wings, and a blue eye-ring that is diagnostic of the female of the species. Immature birds have a white head and underparts.” (Wikipedia)

These magnificent creations from the Lord, their Creator, have been written about before. Just wanted to share them again. Even though we have storms in life, “Colin”, the Lord always seems to give us blessings, if our eyes and heart are open to Him.

Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! (Psalms 107:28-31 KJV)

*

Our Daily Bread – Life’s Storm-Tossed Sea

“Flag That Bird!” Part 3

SULIFORMES – Gannets, Cormorants, Frigatebirds, Anhingas

Fregatidae-Frigatebirds Family

MagnificentFrigatebird – Wikipedia

Suliformes Order – Wikipedia

Lord’s Avian Wonders – Eastern Rosella

Eastern Rosella Gatorland by Dan

Eastern Rosella Gatorland by Dan

“I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.” (Genesis 9:13 NKJV)

What a delight for me to find two Eastern Rosellas in the little free-flight aviary at Gatorland last week. We have been there two other times, but not when the aviary was open.

Because of Ian’s Bird of the Week articles about the Rosella, these two caught my eye. Never did get a decent photo of them, but never the less, we enjoyed seeing them in person. Dan’s photos were better, of course. They seem quite pale compared to Ian’s photo of one in the wild.

Eastern Rosella (Platycercus eximius) by Ian

Eastern Rosella (Platycercus eximius) by Ian

“The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” (Genesis 9:16 NKJV)

This Rosella reminds me of the colors of a rainbow. Maybe the Lord gave us this beautiful bird to remind us of his promise, even on a non-rainy day.

Here are just a few photos from the aviary:

Gatorland, Florida

Ian’s Eastern Rosella photos at Birdway

Psittaculidae – Old World Parrots

Enjoy seeing the really good photos and newsletters from Ian Montgomery:

Who Paints The Leaves?

*

Lord’s Avian Wonders – Bad Feather Day

Bad Feather Day Gatorland by Lee

Bad Feather Day at Gatorland by Lee

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. (Psalms 91:4 KJV)

Bad Feather Day Gatorland by Lee

Bad Feather Day at Gatorland by Lee

For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.(1 Peter 2:19 KJV)

Bad Feather Day Gatorland by Lee

Bad Feather Day at Gatorland by Lee

Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. (1 Corinthians 6:7-8 KJV)

Bad Feather Day Gatorland by Dan

Bad Feather Day at Gatorland by Dan

Click on photos to enlarge them.

*

Sometimes there are pictures that I’d like to share, but don’t really have much to say. The photos say it all. This new category is called Lord’s Avian Wonders to just post a picture or pictures. They are all the Lord’s Avian Creations.

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)

*

Where Did They Go and Why? Bird Mystery

Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) by Lee at Honeymoon Is SP

Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) by Lee

On Seahorse Key in Florida, a very popular nesting spot was vacated en mass in May. Now the avian biologist from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others are trying to find out why and where they went. Here are some of the quotes from different articles, listed below.

Seahorse Key, a 150-acre mangrove-covered dune off Florida’s Gulf Coast, a key that “fell eerily quiet all at once”.

“It’s a dead zone now,” said Vic Doig, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist. “This is where the largest bird colony on the Gulf Coast of Florida used to be.”

Wood Storks in the Rookery at Gatorland

Wood Storks in the Rookery at Gatorland

Another quote, “It’s not uncommon for birds to abandon nests,” said Peter Frederick, a University of Florida wildlife biologist who has studied Florida’s birds for nearly 30 years. “But, in this case, what’s puzzling is that all of the species did it all at once.”

“Any rookery that’s persisted for decades as one of the largest colonies is incredibly important,” said Janell Brush, an avian researcher with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “It’s quite a large colony. There had to be some intense event that would drive all these birds away.” “Some of the Seahorse birds seem to have moved to a nearby island, but they’re just a fraction of the tens of thousands of birds that would normally be nesting on the key right now, Doig added.

They have even checked with the military to see if they may have experimented with something. They say that they were not involved.

Whatever scared the birds that much must have been something very unusual. The Lord knows all about it and gave the birds the sense to get out of harms way. It is a shame that so many eggs and little ones were abandoned.

Wood Storks Flying

Wood Storks Flying

There is a time in the future when all the birds will flee:

I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly. I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. (Jeremiah 4:24-25 KJV)

I will take up a weeping and wailing for the mountains, And for the dwelling places of the wilderness a lamentation, Because they are burned up, So that no one can pass through; Nor can men hear the voice of the cattle. Both the birds of the heavens and the beasts have fled; They are gone. (Jeremiah 9:10 NKJV)

One article even questioned whether climate change did it. That one is a little far-fetched. Over time, maybe, over-night, I doubt it.

We can’t ask the birds directly, but as they continue to investigate this mystery, there will be lessons learned. Too bad we can’t ask the birds, but we can observe them.

“But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; And the birds of the air, and they will tell you; (Job 12:7 NKJV)

Here are some of the articles about this mystery:

Bird mystery: Thousands disappear and abandon eggs, nests on island off Florida’s Gulf Coast,
Published July 07, 2015 Associated Press

Large Florida bird colony suddenly a “dead zone”, July 7, 2015

Bird mystery: Thousands disappear and abandon eggs, nests on island off Florida’s Gulf Coast, July 7, 2015

Tens fo thousands of birds…, July 7, 2015

*

Birds of the Bible

Birds of the World

Wordless Birds

*

Last Photos of Our Vacation

Laughing Gull at Hanna Park by Lee

Laughing Gull at Hanna Park by Lee

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. (Jer 17:7)

Yesterday we wrapped up our long vacation. We spent our last day birdwatching at the Hanna Park in Jacksonville, Florida. We have actually been on the road since May 3rd. A total of 32 days traveling. We left home and drove to San Diego, California (2,400+ miles) and back via a little different route. Our total trip amounted to just over 6,000 miles. We saw the Pacific and decided to end it at the Atlantic. We are calling this our belated 50th Anniversary Trip (2 years late).

With over 8,000 photos, I will have some tales to tell and birds to share (also lots of photos to toss) Some were taken while Dan was driving. Why is it just about the time you click the camera, a bump shows up?

Hanna Park by Lee

Hanna Park by Lee

I didn’t want to say too much while we gone for so long, but now I can start sharing our adventures. Also, apologies for not getting to your sites as frequently as prefered. The unread emails have been building up. Kept up as best I could, but still stayed behind. Also had many blogs pre-scheduled which helped.

Anyway, we have been to four zoos; Houston, San Diego, San Antonio, Jacksonville and two Living Desert Museum/Zoos. Plus lots of other interesting things and scenery. You already saw the Mississippi Welcome Center and the Large Roadrunner.

Sea Gull with feet in Atlantic at Hanna Park by Lee

Sea Gull with feet in Atlantic at Hanna Park by Lee

Our adventures were not just about birds. We saw 3 ships, Battleship Texas, USS Midway and USS Alabama, plus a couple of Aircraft Museums. We also had to readjust our schedule (never really had one) and route because of all the bad weather across Texas. Also had a Tornado Warning group sitting around the TV while in San Antonio. We were near the basement shelter, if needed. Added around 10 new Life Birds, but still analyzing photos for more.

Gull with feet in the Pacific by Lee

Gull with feet in the Pacific by Lee

The Lord has been very gracious to us while we were gone. We have had safe travels and avoided much of the bad weather. Many were praying for us while we have been traveling. Thank you for those prayers. We also met many nice people along the way. Some are now reading the blog.

As we traveled the Lord’s Hand in creation is so obvious. From birds, critters, plants and to the various terrains, there is so many blessings from Him. We are thankful to the Lord for His protection and blessings.

But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You. For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; With favor You will surround him as with a shield. (Psa 5:11-12)

*

*

Pond-side Birdwatching in Florida II

Pond-side Birdwatching in Florida,

from Chaplain Bob’s Backyard: Part 2

 by James J. S. Johnson

Moscovy Duck

Muscovy ducklings in the rain   (photo credit: J Pat Carter / AP)

For He [i.e., God] maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapor thereof, which the clouds do drop and distil [literally, pour down and drop down] upon man abundantly.  (Job 36:27-28)

For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and returns not there, but waters the earth, and makes it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.  (Isaiah 55:10-11)

[photo above: http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02298/ducklings_2298053k.jpg ]

A pond is not a pond unless it has standing [“lentic”] water, — yet a pond will eventually dry up (and thus cease to be a “pond”) if cloud-dumped rains fail to refill its standing waters!  (The same is true of running [“lotic”] waters – see 1st Kings 17:7.)  Why?  Because rain-provided water is always escaping ponds by evaporation.  (That’s why swimming pool owners must continually add more water to their pools.)

Accordingly, every pond needs rain (or snow that melts into rain-like liquid water), sooner or later, to be a pond!  Obviously, steady rainfall impedes birdwatching, so ideal birdwatching is done when it is not raining.  Even so, all bird-watchers should appreciate the rains that God sends, from time to time!  In fact, rain is a major part of God’s program for how our world and its diverse lifeforms function:  birds need rain, other animals need rain, people need rain, plants need rain, even microörganisms needs rain, — and all of that water is continually recycled throughout the earth!  In fact, Earth itself is mostly water!

As the prophet Isaiah noted [above]—and as every Gideon knows — God’s providentially sustained hydrologic cycle is comparable to how, all over the world, God carefully manages and orchestrates the specific influence and productivity of His written Word.  For more Scriptures relevant to Earth’s water cycle, see also Deuteronomy 8:7 & 32:2; Job 26:8; Ecclesiastes 1:7 & 11:3; Amos 5:8 & 9:6; Psalm 19:1-2 (noting that solar heat affects the sky) & 65:9-10 & 72:6 & 104:10-18 & 135:7; Isaiah 30:23; Jeremiah 10:13 & 14:22 & 51:16; Zechariah 10:1; — and especially Luke 12:54.

This birding report follows “Part 1” of this mini-series.   As noted in Part 1, I happily observed the busy birds at the pond that borders the backyard of Chaplain Bob and Marcia Webel (of St. Petersburg, Florida) on the morning of February 9th (AD2015), a Monday, when we saw 14 birds and heard (but did not see) a mourning dove.  As noted before, those birds were busy  —  quacking, splashing, swimming, perching on shoreline tree branches, dabbling, diving, and with several of them sporadically flying here and there.

Already, 5 of those lacustrine birds were described in Part 1 (Great Blue Heron, Brown Pelican, Mallard, Double-Crested Cormorant, and Black Vulture).  This Part 2 will feature 5 more:  Wood Stork, Lesser Scaup, Osprey, Snowy Egret, and Common Moorhen.  (Hopefully, the remaining 5 birds will be mentioned in an anticipated “Part 3” of this series.)

Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) By Dan'sPix

Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) By Dan’sPix

WOOD STORK   (Mycteria americana).

The Wood Stork (in some places nicknamed “Flinthead”, and f/k/a “wood ibis”) is a huge, long-legged wading bird, built somewhat like a large egret, heron, ibis, or spoonbill.  This bird is tall!  — with adults growing from 3 to almost 4 feet high!  The Wood Stork sports a long, flexible, blackish-grey, featherless neck.  Its ibis-like head is likewise featherless and not likely to be called beautiful (except by its mother).  Its powerful and prodigious bill is stout and slightly curved, well-fitted for probing in mud or muddy water, and for gobbling up fish, frogs, snakes, bugs, and worms located in wetland mud.  Storks sometimes eat small birds, small mammals, and even baby alligators!  The feathers of the Wood Stork are mostly white, except for the tail-feathers and black edge of its wings, which trail behind when the stork is flying.  Its feet are noticeably reddish in color.

Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) sitting by Dan

Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) sitting by Dan

The Wood Stork is typically mute (i.e., no vocal calls), communicating in other ways, such as by “bill-clattering”.  Being very large – and therefore heavy — birds, Wood Storks try to conserve their food-provided energy when flying.  Like other heavy birds (e.g., eagles, vultures, hawks), storks locate and “ride” thermal air currents, soaring and gliding when they can.  A true wetland bird, the Wood Stork is comfortable in a variety of wet habitats (such as ponds, marshy pastures, and swampy woodlands).  Storks construct huge nests for their families, typically as part of a stork colony (which may include literally thousands of stork pairs), often adding size to them year after year – some being built to about 6 feet in diameter and about 10 feet in depth!  Usually storks are monogamous (i.e., a male and female stay paired till one dies) although, for reasons not understood, sometimes pairs can get separated during a migration.  The dependability of the stork, in its migratory movements, is reflected in its Hebrew name (chasidah) which means “faithful” — see Jeremiah 8:7, explained in “A Lesson from the Stork” (posted at  http://www.icr.org/article/lesson-from-stork ).  Although they often migrate – spending summer in the southeastern states, these storks are known to reside in Florida (and parts of Georgia) year-round.  (See range map in Donald W. Stokes & Lillian Q. Stokes, Stokes Field Guide to Birds – Eastern Region [Little, Brown & Co., 1996], page 47, — as well as National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to North American Birds – Eastern Region [Alfred A, Knopf, 1994 revised edition], co-authored by John Bull & John Farrand, Jr., at page 379-380.)

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) by Ray

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) by Ray

LESSER  SCAUP   (a/k/a “LITTLE BLUEBILL”:  Aythya affinis).

The Lesser Scaup looks a lot like the Greater Scaup, but there are two ways to distinguish these look-almost-alike ducks:  (1) different shapes of their respective heads and bills; and (2) different winter ranges of territory where they live.  Donald and Lillian Stokes note the following traits:  “Head and bill shapes are most useful characteristics distinguishing [the Lesser Scaup] from the Greater Scaup … [on the] Lesser Scaup the head comes to a peak at the top or near the back [of the head]; [the Lesser Scaup] bill is slightly shorter and narrower [than that of the Greater Scaup].”  (Quoting Stokes & Stokes, Stokes Field Guide to Birds – Eastern Region [noted above, in entry on the Wood Stork], page 75.)  Regarding the respective ranges of scaups, the typical winter range territories of the Lesser Scaup includes the East Coast, Gulf Coast, West Coast, and non-mountainous regions of states (including most of Texas) that include the greater Mississippi River Valley’s tributary drainage basin.

Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) by Ray

Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) by Ray

The Greater Scaup, however, has a winter range that usually includes only the northern portions of the West Coast and East Coast, plus regions near the Great Lakes.  (Compare the sparser ranges indicated in Stokes & Stokes, Eastern Region, at page 75, with the range maps in Roger Tory Peterson, A Field Guide to the Birds Eastern Birds:  A Completely New Guide to All the Birds of Eastern and Central North America, abbreviated as “Eastern Birds” [Peterson Field Guides, Houghton Mifflin, 1980], at maps M43 & M44, with field notes at pages 58 & 72.)   In other words, if it’s a scaup on a Florida pond, it’s probably a Lesser Scaup!  The male of this duck has an easy-to recognize color pattern:  its bill is pale blue, its head, breast, and tail are dark-blackish; its flanks are white, and its back is mottled grey. In bright sunlight the male’s head has a purplish iridescence.   The female is mostly dark grey-brownish and black, with a noticeable white patch-like spots on both sides of her dark bill. (As with ducks generally, the easiest way to spot a female Lesser Scaup is to watch for a dark duck that pairs with a male Lesser Scaup!)   These ducks are divers – they dive into pond-water to catch and consume submergent plant seeds, insects, snails, and small crustaceans.  These duck are seen on ponds, lakes, rivers, and marshlands (including “prairie potholes” and estuarial saltmarshes).  Lesser Scaups, like ducks generally, are social creatures – sometimes they aggregate in hundreds or even thousands!  In many places, due to the availability of needed resources – which may be indicted by the size of a lake or pond, less than a hundred (maybe only a dozen) will group together.   Bird-books sometimes allege irresponsible and irrational opinions about how scaups supposedly “evolved” (e.g., Bull & Farrand, Eastern Region [noted above, in entry on the Wood Stork], at page 403), without any forensic evidence for such science fiction. The real truth is that all Lesser Scaups (like all other ducks) ultimately descend from ducks that disembarked Noah’s Ark, about 4500 years ago, which Flood survivors were themselves s directly descended form ducks that God made on Day #5 of Creation Week (see Genesis 1:21).

Osprey at Circle B by Lee

Osprey at Circle B by Lee

OSPREY    (a/k/a “FISH HAWK”:  Pandion haiaetus).

The Osprey is rightly nicknamed the “fish hawk” – they love to catch and eat fish! And, to the delight of bird-watchers, ospreys are not afraid to display their fish-eating lifestyle to nearby humans. Donald and Lillian Stokes make this interesting observation about osprey behavior:  “Among our birds of prey the osprey is one of the most amenable to living near humans.  Its main requirements are open water [such as a Florida pond!] where it can hunt for fish and a platform or strong tree where it can build its nest.  Ospreys have occasionally built nests [or use habitual perching sites] right next to homes [such as a large tree in the Webels’ backyard, bordering the pond], in parking lots, and in public parks.  Although they do not prefer being near humans [especially busy humans who move around a lot, causing distraction], they do seem to tolerate human presence, an ability that is a big asset for the survival of any species.” (Quoting “Osprey”, by Donald W. Stokes & Lillian Q. Stokes, in Bird Behavior, Volume III (Little, Brown & Co., 1989), page 159.]  The Osprey has a range that includes river systems in America’s Great West (e.g., Wyoming’s Snake River), a well as coastlines on the West Coast, Gulf Coast, and East Coast.  (See Stokes & Stokes, Eastern Region [noted above, in entry on the Wood Stork], at page 94.)  This “fish hawk” is relatively slender, for a hawk, but obviously stouter than a falcon.

Osprey Catching Fish - Viera Wetlands

Osprey Catching Fish – Viera Wetlands by Dan

The Osprey is long-winged, white underneath (except the outer feathers of its wings, and its tail, which are brown), with a mottled brown pattern above; its head is mostly white, with a dark side-streak that passes “through” each eye and on the side of the hawk’s face.  The talons of this fish-grabber are opened for prey, when the Osprey dives into water, tightly clutching any fish it succeeds in seizing after it splashes into the water.  Sometimes a dead Osprey is seen hanging onto a riverine fish.  How did that happen?  Occasionally a strong fish flees when attacked by an Osprey, diving deeper with the Osprey still attached, as the desperate fish tries to avoid its avian pursuer.  If the Osprey’s talons are embedded in the diving fish’s flesh, the fish may cause the Osprey to die by drowning, if the Osprey cannot shake loose its talons in time to escape.   (Fishing always has its hazards, as any fisherman knows!) If the Osprey is successful, it quickly re-surfaces and flies off with its fish, adjusting its hold on the fish so that the fish’s face is pointed forward – for safe eating.  Ospreys are sloppy eaters.  If Ospreys eat chunks of their catch while perched in tree branches that spread over where you are sitting, watch out!  Fish scraps may fall on your head – or something worse (!) might drop onto your head.  Therefore, a wide beach umbrella (like one that Bob and Marcia Webel have, and use in their backyard, while bird-watching) is a good “shield” to have when Ospreys are eating above you.

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) Notice Yellow Feet by Lee at Circle B

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) Notice Yellow Feet by Lee at Circle B

SNOWY  EGRET   (Egretta thula).

This beautiful white-feathered egret looks like a small version of the Great Egret (a/k/a Great White Egret), except it has its trademark “golden slippers” – i.e., its long skinny black legs end with feet that are conspicuously bright-yellow (unlike the black feet of a Great White Egret).  Also, the slender Snowy Egret has a thin black bill, in contrast to the thicker golden-yellow bill of the stouter  Great White Egret.   (See Roger Tory Peterson, Eastern Birds [noted above, in entry on the Lesser Scaup], pages 102-103 & map M93 & M444.)   Sometimes the Snowy Egret’s feathers, at the back of its head, “hang loose” (i.e., these feathers won’t lay down close to the bird’s head/neck), looking somewhat like a comb-over that won’t “sit down”).   Its feet stir up opportunities to find food:  “When feeding [it] rushes about, shuffling [its] feet to stir up food.”  (Quoting Peterson, Eastern Birds, at page 102.)

Snowy Egret Circle B 8-3-12 by Lee

Snowy Egret Circle B by Lee

Like other egrets, the Snowy Egret habituates the marshy edges of lakes and ponds, as well as other marshy areas, eating fish and almost anything else it can grab with its bill. The summer range of this elegant egret is broad – it can be found at and near many lakes, ponds, estuarial marshlands, and even wet pasturelands throughout America’s lower 48 states.  During winter it can be found all over Florida , as well as all along the Gulf Coast, along the East Coast as far north as North Carolina, plus parts of California (See Stokes & Stokes, Stokes Field Guide to Birds –  Eastern Region [noted above, in entry on the Wood Stork], at page 35.)  notwithstanding taxonomic “splitting”, this is basically the same bird that Europeans call the “Little Egret” (Egretta garzetta), which winters in northern Africa.  (See, accord, Chris Kightley, Steve Madge, & Dave Nurney, Pocket Guide to Birds of Britain and North-West Europe [British Trust for Ornithology/Yale University Press, 1998], page 19.)

CommonMoorhen (Gallinula chloropus) by Reinier Munguia

CommonMoorhen (Gallinula chloropus) by Reinier Munguia

Candy-Corn

Candy-Corn

FLORIDA  GALLINULE   (a/k/a “COMMON MOORHEN” & “COMMON GALLINULE”:   Gallinula chloropus).

This gallinule (i.e., chicken-sized marsh-fowl) is almost all black, with a characteristic and conspicuous yellow-tipped scarlet-red bill.  (Actually the scarlet part of the bill can fade to a less vibrant reddish hue during winter.)  Due to the specific color pattern and shape of this gallinule’s bill, ornithologist Lee Dusing aptly calls this the “candy corn” bird.  (Some of us remember “candy corn” as a trick-or-treat candy.)  This waterfowl makes a variety of noises, including chicken-like clucking noises (befitting its nickname “moorhen”).  The Florida Gallinule is quite similar to the American Coot (which, though a similarly shaped black gallinule, is distinguishable by its all-white bill) and the Purple Gallinule (which is distinguishable due to its male’s iridescent peacock-blue, indigo, and slightly purplish breast and neck feathers, and its glossy green back feathers).  The long “fingers” (i.e., toes) on their feet enable this gallinule to spread out their modest body weight so that they can “walk” on lily pads and similar vegetation that floats in marshy lentic waters.  This gallinule (or “moorhen”) habituates lakes, ponds, and marshy wet places, often near cattails, summering in states east of and within the Mississippi River Valley, plus a few coastal place on the West Coast.  (See Stokes & Stokes, Stokes Field Guide to Birds – Eastern Region [noted above, in entry on the Wood Stork], page 139; Bull & Farrand, Eastern Region [noted above, in entry on the Wood Stork], at page 459.)  Its diet includes marshy vegetation (especially seeds), snails, land bugs, and water bugs.  This rail-like bird is entertaining to watch, routinely bobs its head while swimming across a pond.  Like coots they confidently swim in open-water contexts where they are easily observable to appreciative bird-watchers (like me).

Wow!  That’s another 5 of the 15 birds that the Webels and I observed, that morning, from the Webels’ pond-side backyard.   Stay tuned!  God willing, the remaining 5 birds will be given their proper recognition, at this excellent bird-site!

**

On the morning of February 9th, AD2015, from the pond-side backyard of Bob & Marcia Webel (while enjoying breakfast and Christian fellowship with the Webels), I saw 14 birds:  Great Blue Heron, Brown Pelican, Mallard, Double-Crested Cormorant, and Black Vulture  –  as reported previously – plus Wood Stork, Lesser Scaup, Osprey, Snowy Egret, White Ibis, Common Tern, and Florida Gallinule,   — as reported above  —  as well as Muscovy Duck, Great Egret, White Ibis, and Common Tern, plus the cooing of a nearby Mourning Dove was clearly recognizable.  It is hoped (God willing) that one more report will supplement this one, so the remaining 5 birds will be properly recognized for their lacustrine appearances on that Monday morning.

James J. S. Johnson loves duck ponds, having formerly taught Environmental Limnology and Water Quality Monitoring for Dallas Christian College, as well as other courses on ecology and ornithology.  The hydrologic cycle Scriptures (quoted at the beginning of this bird-watching report) are especially appreciated by Jim, as a Certified Water Quality Monitor, certified by and serving the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, providing reports on Furneaux Creek to the Trinity River Authority of Texas.  Like us all, birds need clean water!  Accordingly, backyard pond habitats are for bird-watching!

*

Pond-side Birdwatching in Florida I

Other Articles by James J. S. Johnson

*

Pond-side Birdwatching in Florida I

PondsideBirdwatching.photo1

Pond-side Birdwatching in Florida,

from Chaplain Bob’s Backyard: Part 1

  by James J. S. Johnson

He turneth the wilderness into a standing water [’agam = “pond”], and dry ground into water-springs.  (Psalm 107:35)

Another wonderful morning in St. Petersburg (Florida), gazing at the duck pond and its marshy shores, with mocha coffee, buttered rye toast, and my feet propped up, birdwatching from the pond-side backyard of Chaplain Bob and Marcia Webel   —   under a huge beach umbrella, shielded from the occasional post-digestion droppings (!) from several ibises and ospreys perched in branches that hung over where were sat, birdwatching, properly outfitted with binoculars, coffee mugs, breakfast foods, and a bird-book. That is what I was doing, by God’s grace, on Monday morning (2-9-AD2015) during February (which, by the way,  is officially “National Bird-Feeding Month” – see 103rd Congress, Volume 140, Congressional Record, for 2-23-1994, U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. John Porter speaking on “National Wild Bird Feeding Month”).

The lacustrine birds (in this backyard-and-pond setting) were busy, busy, busy,  —  and noisy!  — with their morning activities.  Most of them were ducks (mallards and lesser scaups).  These lentic water-loving birds were busy:  some were paddling across the pond, quacking, splashing, dabbling or diving, others were perching on shoreline tree branches, or loitering in the pond-edge marshy plants.  Most of them were sporadically flying here and there, sometimes alone, sometimes as a group.  (And they noticed the presence of turtles in the water, as well as a dog on the shoreline.)   Sometimes tall wading birds (e.g., egrets and herons) perched atop the roofs of houses near the pond-shore. In that one morning, in just an hour or two, I saw at least 14 different birds, plus we heard the distinctive cooing of a mourning dove!

To memorialize the happy experience (which was all the more enjoyable because it was shared with my good friends Bob and Marcia Webel), please appreciate this quick report on those pond-side birds, blended with a few thoughts about those fair fowl —  all of which birds were so carefully made and maintained by our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, it would take too long to report, now, on all 15 birds that we then observed.  So this report  (God willing)  will be just the first installment – reporting on the Great Blue Heron, Brown Pelican, Mallard, Double-Crested Cormorant, and Black Vulture,  —  within what should be a mini-series, eventually covering  all 15 of those beautiful-to-behold  backyard-pond-birds.

Great Blue Heron by Dan

Great Blue Heron

GREAT  BLUE  HERON   (Ardea herodias). The Great Blue Heron is a tall, majestic egret-like bird, poised and dignified.  It can stand still as a statue for a long time, waiting for its food to become snatchable.  When the heron spies its prey (likely a fish or frog – but maybe a small mammal, bird, lizard, or even a snake!), at the side of a pond, it stabs with sudden speed – the prey never saw that powerful, sharp, dagger-like beak coming – till it was too late! When in flight, the Great Blue Heron is graceful, purposeful, and dignified.  The National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to North American Birds – Eastern Region (Alfred A, Knopf, 1994 revised edition), co-authored by John Bull & John Farrand, Jr., reports (at its page 367) this description of the Great Blue Heron:  “A common, large, mainly [Confederate] grayish heron with pale or yellowish bill.” Its most habitat – which changes with seasonal migrations — is a pond’s edge, or that of a lake, stream, river, or marshland.  What a regal bird!  “For most of us, sightings of great blue herons are confined to a glimpse of the bird as it flies slowly and steadily overhead, wings arching gracefully down with each beat, neck bent back, and feet trailing behind.  At other times we see it on its feeding grounds, standing motionless and staring intently into shallow water, or wading with measured steps as it searches for prey.” [Quoting from “Great Blue Heron”, by Donald W. Stokes & Lillian Q. Stokes, in Bird Behavior, Volume III (Little, Brown & Co., 1989), page 25.]

Brown Pelican and Laughing Gull by Dan MacDill Shore 2014

Brown Pelican and Laughing Gull by Dan MacDill Shore 2014

BROWN  PELICAN   (Pelecanus occidentalis). In their Field Guide to North American Birds – Eastern Region (noted above, in the Great Blue Heron entry), Bull & Farrand describe (at page 359) the Brown Pelican as a “very large, stocky bird with a dark brown body and a long flat bill”.  The adult storks have an ivory-white head, dark throat pouch, with dark brown hindneck coloring during the mating season.  The immature storks have dark brown heads and ivory-white breasts. These pelicans are year-round residents of Florida’s coastlands.  Bull & Farrand (on page 359) also report that the Brown Pelican is the “only nonwhite pelican in the world”, describing its eating habit as follows:  “…this marine bird obtains its food by diving from the air, its wings half folded as it plunges into the surf.  During one of these dives, the pouched bill takes in both fish and water; the bird drains out the water before throwing its head back and swallowing the fish.”  Donald and Lillian Stokes contrast this eating habit with that of the American White Pelican, which “feeds while floating on the water”.  (See Donald W. Stokes & Lillian Q. Stokes, Stokes Field Guide to Birds – Eastern Region [Little, Brown & Co., 1996], page 25.) One characteristic behavior of pelicans – the world over (including the Holy Land) – is the practice of adult pelicans regurgitating partially digested food into the mouths of their young.  “Pelicans” (Hebrew noun: qa’ath) are mentioned in Leviticus 11:18, Deuteronomy 14:17, and Psalm 102:6 [v. 7 in the Hebrew Bible’s verse numbering] – and apparently also in Isaiah 34:11 and Zephaniah 2:14.  George Cansdale says: “All pelicans feed their young by partly digested food, taken by the chick as it puts its head down the parent’s throat.  This regurgitation was the basis of the LXX and [Vulgate translation for] pelican, for [the Hebrew noun] qa’ath is said to mean ‘vomiter’.” (Quoting George S. Cansdale, All the Animals of the Bible [Zondervan, 1976], page 157.)  Cansdale rightly notices this, because the Hebrew noun for “vomitus” is qa’ (an etymologically related noun, which appears in Proverbs 26:11).

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) at Lake Parker By Dan'sPix

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) at Lake Parker By Dan’sPix

MALLARD   (a/k/a “GREEN-HEAD”:  Anas platyrhynchos). Mallards are nicknamed “green-heads”, due to the males’ iridescent green heads (which are bordered by a white neck ring).  The mallard male’s breast is chestnut-hued. Mallards live both on the coasts and inland (at ponds, lakes, prairie potholes, marshlands, including saltmarshes), including the entirety of America’s lower 48 states, so they are common (and well-known to American birdwatchers), so commonly known facts about them will not be repeated here.  Bull & Farrand [noted above, in the entry on Great Blue Heron] reports that the Mallard “is undoubtedly the most abundant duck in the world” (quoting page 392). Mallards are not only relatively ubiquitous, in their migratory or residential ranges (living or visiting in America, wherever migratory or residential ducks might be found), they are not shy around the habitat “edges” of human settlements.  Mallards frequent parks and backyards near ponds or other water bodies (including manmade reservoirs), often learning (and anticipating) that humans might provide bread crumbs or popcorn.  (But if you throw a piece of rotten banana into pond-water the mallards will not eat it.)  Donald Stokes reports that males and females make different noises:  “The quacking sound, which I had assumed that all Ducks made, can be made only by the female.  The male has two other calls of his own – a nasal rhaeb sound and a short Whistle-call, the latter accompanying all of the group courtship displays.”  (Donald W. Stokes, A Guide to Bird Behavior, Volume I (Stokes Nature Guides, Little, Brown & Co., 1979, page 31) Stokes goes on to say (pages 31-32) that this pattern of vocal behavior is not limited to Mallards – it also is observed in similar ducks including Gadwalls, Widgeons, Teals, Black Ducks, and Pintails.  Remember, therefore, if you see a large group of Mallards on a pond, and you hear a lot of quacking, it’s the females who are making all that noise.  (They might be trying to frighten of a turtle or other animal that is getting too close to their ducklings!)

Mallard Duck army marching (I know it's not a King, but it's cute) ©WikiC

Mallard Duck army marching ©WikiC

Mallards have good memories (as do all birds, I assume), and I have personal knowledge of that fact.  More than 15 years ago, my son and I would regularly feed the ducks (mostly mallards, plus lesser scaups during the winter months) at a pond near Furneaux Creek (in Denton County, Texas), in the evening. But one day we were in a hurry — I don’t recall why — so we drove straight home, bypassing the pond, then driving about a block, taking a right turn, then after another block taking another right turn, then driving down the hilly street to near the end of the cul-de-sac in our neighborhood, parking the car by our mailbox. However, as we got out of the car (and I approached our mailbox at the edge of our small front yard), and as we stepped onto the sidewalk toward our home’s front yard, we were greeted by a host of energetically quacking ducks! — apparently they wanted to know why we didn’t make our usual stop to feed them at the pond. Embarrassed, we quickly found something to feed them, and we quickly scattered food scraps on our front yard, to satisfy our avian guests (and they gobbled up all the bread scraps)! Yes, I felt a bit ashamed of myself, that day, for disappointing the mallards that day — but I’m pretty sure that they “forgave” us. Life gets busy — but that should not become an excuse for ignoring those whom we have an opportunity to be kind to (Galatians 6:10), even if they are mallards who live at a nearby pond.

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) by Lee at Honeymoon Is SP

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) by Lee at Honeymoon Is SP

DOUBLE-CRESTED  CORMORANT   (Phalacrocorax auritus). The male of this bird is basically black, like a super-sized crow, with a goldish-orange bill and throat pouch, featuring a long neck that is usually posed in an S curve if perching.  (The female’s coloring is lighter – somewhat brownish-grey.)   But why is this bird called “double-crested”?   Don’t expect to observe any “crests” on its head (like a cardinal or a Steller’s jay), much less two of them!   Donald and Lillian Stokes inform us that the description “refers to crests that grow during breeding” that, even then, are “hard to see”.  (Stokes & Stokes, Stokes Field Guide to Birds – Eastern Region [noted above, in entry on Brown Pelican], page 27.)  Stokes & Stokes also note (on page 27) that this cormorant is the most common cormorant seen in the Eastern region of  America, on Atlantic (and Gulf of Mexico) coasts and farther inland, often wintering throughout the eastern half of Texas, and residing year-round in Florida.  (For example, the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary — located in McKinney, Texas — is a good place to view these cormorants.) Cormorants are known to live in the coastal areas of the Holy Land.  The darting-to-its-prey habit, of diving cormorants, fits the Hebrew noun, shalak, often translated as “cormorant” (see Leviticus 11:17 & Deuteronomy 14:17). Like anhingas, these dark birds perch with outstretched wings, to dry out their wings after diving into and swimming in water for food (usually fish).  Like vultures, eagles, and hawks, these large birds have a bit of difficulty launching their heavy bodies from the ground, so after they do ascend high enough, to reach rising thermal air currents, they position themselves to “ride” those air currents (sometimes ascending as if riding an elevator), soaring and gliding whenever those air currents are conveniently available.   The double-crested cormorant’s neck is crooked in flight, unlike other cormorants.   These are gregarious birds – they nest in colonies and they often fly in groups, either in a straight line of in V formation.  (See Stokes & Stokes, page 27; see also page 361 of Bull & Farrand [noted above, in entry for Great Blue Heron].)

Black Vulture by Lee Myakka SP

Black Vulture by Lee Myakka SP

BLACK  VULTURE (Coragyps atratus). This eagle-like scavenger’s grey face distinguishes it from its cousin, the Turkey Vulture, which has a reddish-pink face Both of those faces are wrinkled, somber-looking, and – to put it bluntly – ugly.  The Black Vulture is distinguished by its conspicuously “short square tail that barely projects from the rear edge of the wings and by a whitish patch toward the wing tip”.  (Quoting Roger Tory Peterson, A Field Guide to the Birds Eastern Birds:  A Completely New Guide to All the Birds of Eastern and Central North America, abbreviated as “Eastern Birds” [Peterson Field Guides, Houghton Mifflin, 1980] page 160, with illustration on page 161.)  Black Vultures are somewhat feistier than their slightly larger cousins; they are known to scare off Turkey Vultures when there is competition for carrion.  (See Bull & Farrand [noted above, in entry for Great Blue Heron] at pages 416-417.   On the average, a Turkey Vulture grows about 4 inches larger than a Black Vulture, — yet both are about 2 feet long, from bill tip to tail tip.  Anyway, a vulture (sometimes colloquially called a “buzzard”) is a vulture is a vulture, and this is a vulture!   Vultures eat dead stuff – and sometimes even defenseless live animals.   Scavengers by God’s design (serving as garbage collectors/processors for this fallen world), vultures love to pick over and eat dead stuff!  God gave it a “naked” (featherless) head, which may be an advantage for keeping rotten food from besmirching its head with contagion, which might be more likely if its head was covered in feathers.  But Black Vultures   —   like other vultures  —   routinely consume flies-infested, rotting, bacteria-breeding dead animal carcasses  — why do they not get sick and die themselves of botulism or some other kind of food poisoning?  Dan “the Animal-man” Breeding has the answer:

“What is a vulture’s job? They find and eat what I call “road pizza.” They basically help keep the environment livable by limiting the build-up of dead animals and the spread of disease. God carefully designed vultures, giving them the needed tools to find, digest, and keep clean after eating dead animals.  Most meat-eating animals can find their dinner because it is mobile. Movement makes finding things easier. Have you noticed that when someone walks through your peripheral vision, you are acutely aware of it? But if you’ve misplaced your keys, it can take hours before you find them. God gave Buzz and vultures like him two special designs to help them find their motionless dinner—keen eyesight and an extraordinary sense of smell.

Black Vultures at Saddle Creek by Lee

Black Vultures at Saddle Creek by Lee

Vultures have very sharp eyesight. Even when they are soaring high above the ground, they can still see everything below them. God even provided them with sunglasses to protect their eyes against the sun’s harsh light. Vultures have dark lines around their eyes, which work the same way as the dark lines underneath a football player’s eyes. The dark color absorbs sunlight, reducing glare.  This way, vultures don’t have to worry about missing a single detail.  The lesser yellow-headed vultures have another advantage over most birds: a keen sense of smell. Their nares, or nose openings, look like holes in their beak. Wind from any direction funnels through the nares, which leads to the largest amount of sniffing possible. Each breeze is loaded with information, so God equipped these vultures with a very large olfactory lobe, able to handle all that information. Once the vultures find their dinner, how can they possibly eat it? Most other animals would get sick from eating dead animals. Why don’t vultures get sick all the time?  God gave them a very special digestive system. The acid in their crop (which functions like our stomach) is one of the strongest in the natural world. Strong enough to kill the harmful bacteria found in their dinner, it keeps them from getting sick from pretty much anything! In fact, vultures can use their digestive juices to defend themselves. If you were to startle a vulture while it was eating, you’d better back up quickly—vultures will vomit on you if you’re not careful. This not only makes them lighter (so they can more easily escape), but with the addition of the digestive acid, their lunch now smells much worse.”

(Quoting from  Dan Breeding, “Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture” [Answers in Genesis, 3-14-AD2012], posted at https://answersingenesis.org/birds/lesser-yellow-headed-vulture/ .)

Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) by Nikhil

Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) by Nikhil

In the Holy Land proper (i.e., Israel), as well as in southwestern Europe and northern Africa to India, there is a vulture – the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus – a/k/a White Scavenger Vulture) – that appears to match the Hebrew nouns rachma in Leviticus 11:18 (q.v.) and rachamah in Deuteronomy 14:17 (q.v.), and that same bird is nowadays known in Arabic as rachmah, essentially the same word.  (See, accord, George S. Cansdale, All the Animals of the Bible [Zondervan, 1976], pages 145-146.) The Black Vulture soars high in the sky, with a wingspan of about 5 feet (!), often in wide circles, scanning the ground for carrion – something dead yet nutritious to eat.   Scouting for rotting animal carcasses, vultures monitor the land below them:   marshy coastlands, tree-spotted hillsides, grasslands and other open fields, not-so-dense forests, riparian shore-banks, bushy thickets, — and but I’m not sure about the famous Hinckley under-brush of Minnesota (that we have heard so much about from Dr. Stan Toussaint — although he has confirmed that at Hinckley “the men are men, pansies are flowers, and the women are slightly above average”).  The Black Vulture’s body is heavy – like an eagle – so its wing-flappings are few, if possible, to conserve energy.  “Note the quick labored flapping — alternating with short glides”, notices Roger Tory Peterson (Eastern Birds, at page 160).  Its black-to-grey wings are two-tone-colored, with the flight feathers that trail behind the wings being paler (Peterson, Eastern Birds, page 160;  —  see also page 91 of Stokes & Stokes, Eastern Region, noted above in entry on Brown Pelican).  These scavengers are both residents and migrants:  they reside in most of the southern half of America’s lower 48 states, year-round, and summer in the northern half of those states.  Vultures are not picky eaters!  Roadkill, or even a partially picked-over animal carcass, is a wonderful “fast food” for a vulture.  If the roadkill (or other available animal carcass) is large enough it might provide a quick picnic for a family of vultures.

Wow!  That’s just 5 of the 15 birds we observed that morning, in the Webels’ pond-side backyard.   Stay tuned!  God willing, the other 10 birds will be given their proper recognition, at this excellent bird-site!

(On the morning of February 9th, AD2015, from the pond-side backyard of Bob & Marcia Webel (while enjoying breakfast and Christian fellowship with the Webels), I saw 14 birds:  Great Blue Heron, Brown Pelican, Mallard, Double-Crested Cormorant, and Black Vulture  –  as reported above – plus Wood Stork, Lesser Scaup, Osprey, Muscovy Duck, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, White Ibis, Common Tern, and Florida Gallinule, — plus the cooing of a nearby Mourning Dove was clearly recognizable.  It is hoped (D.v.) that later reports can supplement this one, so the latter-listed 10 birds will be properly recognized for their lacustrine appearances that morning.)

====================================================================================

James J. S. Johnson loves duck ponds, having formerly taught Environmental Limnology and Water Quality Monitoring for Dallas Christian College, as well as other courses on ecology and ornithology.  As noted in a recent comment to Emma Foster’s fascinating bird tale “The Old Man and the Ibises” (posted 2-11-AD2015), Jim enjoyed the habit of feeding ducks at a neighborhood pond during years when he lived near Furneaux Creek (in Carrollton, Texas).  Nowadays, from time to time, Jim feeds ducks (mostly mallards) and geese (mostly Canada geese) that visit the pond at the edge of his present home’s backyard.  Backyards and ponds are for bird-watching!

* Other Articles by James J. S. Johnson *

Ruddy and Raja Shelducks at Wings of Asia

Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) at Wings of Asia by Dan

Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) at Wings of Asia by Dan

We enjoyed our latest birdwatching adventure to Zoo Miami. Caught video of the Ruddy Shelducks discussing something. So this time we will share the two species of Shelducks at the Wings of Asia aviary. The Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) and the Raja Shelduck (Tadorna radjah) are members of the duck, goose and swan family Anatidae – Ducks, Geese and Swans. They are in the shelduck subfamily Tadorninae. There are seven species in the Tadorninae subfamily. Wings of Asia has the Ruddy and Raja Shelducks.

Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. (Psalms 104:1 KJV)

The Lord has provided for the Shelducks, as He does for all His critters. They are designed for the conditions they live in, in this case swimming, feeding and migrating, with beaks, feet, wings, and coloration to help them survive.

Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) at ZM

Ruddy –  There are very small resident populations of this species in north west Africa and Ethiopia, but the main breeding area of this species is from southeast Europe across central Asia to Southeast Asia. These birds are mostly migratory, wintering in the Indian Subcontinent.

Facts:

  • They are sometimes called Brahminy Ducks.
  • Can be seen in many Zoos in America.
  • In Tibet and Mongolia, Ruddy Shelduck is considered sacred by the Buddhists. It is also a sacred animal in Slavic mythology.

Although becoming quite rare in southeast Europe and southern Spain, the ruddy shelduck is still common across much of its Asian range. It may be this population which gives rise to vagrants as far west as Iceland, Great Britain and Ireland. However, since the European population is declining, it is likely that most occurrences in western Europe in recent decades are escapes or feral birds. Although this bird is observed in the wild from time to time in eastern North America, no evidence of a genuine vagrant has been found.

This is a bird of open country, and it will breed on cliffs, in burrows, tree holes or crevices distant from water, laying 6-16 creamy-white eggs, incubated for 30 days. The both shelduck is usually found in pairs or small groups and rarely forms large flocks. However, moulting and wintering gatherings on chosen lakes or slow rivers can be very large.

The ruddy shelduck is a distinctive species, 22.8-27.5 in (58-70) cm long with a 43-53 in (110–135 cm) wingspan. It has orange-brown body plumage and a paler head. The wings are white with black flight feathers. It swims well, and in flight looks heavy, more like a goose than a duck. The sexes of this striking species are similar, but the male has a black ring at the bottom of the neck in the breeding season summer, and the female often has a white face patch. The call is a loud wild honking.

Not sure what these Ruddy’s were debating about, but it seems the single one lost the discussion and left.

 

 

The ruddy shelduck is a common winter visitor in India. This bird is found in large wetlands, rivers with mud flats and shingle banks. Found in large congregation on lakes and reservoirs. It breeds in high altitude lakes and swamps in Jammu & Kashmir. Arrives in north India by October and departs by April. The genus name Tadorna comes from Celtic roots and means “pied waterfowl”, essentially the same as the English “shelduck”.

Raja Shelduck (Tadorna radjah) at Wing of Asia by Dan

Raja Shelduck (Tadorna radjah) at Wing of Asia by Dan

Raja Shelduck – The Radjah Shelduck (Tadorna radjah), is a species of shelduck found mostly in New Guinea and Australia, and also on some of the Moluccas. It is known alternatively as the raja shelduck (IOC Name), black-backed shelduck, or in Australia as the Burdekin duck.

The Raja Shelduck forms long-term pair-bonds, and is usually encountered in lone pairs or small flocks. During the wet season the males commonly become very irritable, and have been observed attacking their mates.

The diet consists mainly of mollusks, insects, sedge materials and algae. Pairs start searching for nesting sites during the months of January and February. They nest close to their primary food source, often in the hollow limbs of trees, which makes habitat destruction a particular issue.

Raja Shelduck (Tadorna radjah) by Dan at Zoo Miami

Raja Shelduck (Tadorna radjah) by Dan at Zoo Miami

The radjah shelduck does not use nesting materials except for some self-supplied down feathers. Egg-laying is usually done by May or June, but depends on the extent of the wet season. The clutches range from 6 to 12 eggs. Incubation time is about 30 days. (Wikipedia edited)

Here are photos of both Shelducks. Some of the photos are from other trips and some from Ian. (PBZ is Palm Beach Zoo)

 

 

*