Of Cormorants and Anhingas

Of Cormorants and Anhingas

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Cormorant-Doublecrested.WikipediaAnhinga-perching.Wikipedia

Double-crested Cormorant (L) & Anhinga (R)  / both Wikipedia images­

­But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it . . . . (Isaiah 34:11a)

Cormorants and bitterns (the latter being a type of heron) are famous to frequently waterways, preying on fish and other aquatic critters. Yet there is another large waterbird that resembles a cormorant, the anhinga.

CORMORANT VERSUS ANHINGA

Cormorants and Anhingas are frequently confused. They are both [fairly big, i.e., bigger than a crow, almost as large as a goose] black birds that dive under the water to fish.  Both must dry their feathers in the sun [because their feathers are not 100% waterproofed].

The differences are easy to see. The Anhinga’s beak is pointed for spearing [i.e., stabbing] fish, while the Cormorant’s beak is hooked for grasping its prey.  The Cormorants’ body remains above the surface when swimming [unlike the “snake-bird” appearance of a swimming Anhinga, which swims mostly underwater, with only its head and neck emergent].  It [i.e., the Cormorant] lacks the Anhinga’s slender [snake-like] neck, long tail, and white wing feathers.

[Quoting Winston Williams, FLORIDA’S FABULOUS WATERBIRDS: THEIR STORIES (Hawaiian Gardens, Calif.: World Publications, 2015), page 4.]

By the way, this photography-filled waterbird book [i.e., Winston Williams’ FLORIDA’S FABULOUS WATERBIRDS: THEIR STORIES] was recently given to me by Chaplain Bob & Marcia Webel, of Florida, precious Christian friends (of 45+ years) who are also serious birdwatchers.

Cormorant-Doublecrested-fishing.Bruce-J-Robinson-photo

Double-crested Cormorant fishing (Bruce J. Robinson photograph)

Of course, there are different varieties of cormorants [e.g., Neotropic Cormorant, Brandt’s Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant, Great Cormorant, etc.], as Winston Williams observes [ibid., page 4], but the cormorant that you can expect to see in Florida is the Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), so called due to white tufted feather “crests” during breeding season.  Mostly piscivorous [i.e., fish-eating], cormorants will also eat small crustaceans [e.g., shellfish like crayfish] and amphibians [e.g., frogs], often about one pound of prey daily. These cormorants range over America’s Lower 48 states, especially in the Great Lakes region.

It is the American Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga), however, that is properly nicknamed “Snake-bird” (and a/k/a “American Darter” or “Water Turkey”), due to its mostly-submerged-underwater hunting habit.  It eats fish almost exclusively, though it can and sometimes does eat crustaceans (e.g., crabs, shrimp, crayfish) or small aquatic vertebrates (e.g., frogs, newts, salamanders, turtles, snakes, and even baby crocodiles).

Anhinga-piscivore.PhilLanoue-photo

ANHINGA with fish (Phil Lanoue photo)

America’s Anhinga is a cousin to other darters (a/k/a “snake-birds”) of other continents, such as the Indian Darter, African Darter, and Australian Darter. The term “darter” refers to the piercing dart-like impalement technique that these birds use, for acquiring and securing their prey, just before ingestion.   Worldwide, darters like in tropical climes or in regions with almost-tropical weather.

In the Orient, for many generations, cormorants have been harnessed to catch fish for human masters. [See “’C’ Is for Cardinal and Cormorant:  ‘C’ Birds, Part 1”, posted at https://leesbird.com/2016/05/18/c-is-for-cardinal-and-cormorant-c-birds-part-1/ .]

Also, cormorant feathers have been used, historically, for stuffing Viking pillows. [See “Viking Pillows were Stuffed for Comfort:  Thanks to Ducks, Geese, Eagle-Owls, Cormorants, Seagulls, and Crows!”, posted at https://leesbird.com/2018/04/30/viking-pillows-were-stuffed-for-comfort-thanks-to-ducks-geese-eagle-owls-cormorants-seagulls-and-crows/ .]

Now it is time for a limerick, about an Anhinga:

TABLE  MANNERS  &  TECHNIQUE  (ANHINGA  STYLE)

Wings spread out, the bird had one wish:

To dive, stab, flip up, and eat fish;

Without cream of tartar,

Fish entered the darter!

‘Twas stab, gulp!  —  no need for a dish!

><> JJSJ


 

 

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.

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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)

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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