BLACK SKIMMER in Florida (photo credit: Don Faulkner / Wikipedia)
Remember His marvelous works that He hath done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth. (1st Chronicles 16:12)
Madeira Beach, near St. Petersburg (Florida), is a nice place to see white beach-sand, gentle surf tidewaters, and some of the most splendid seagulls, such as gulls, terns, and skimmers. On Labor Day (earlier this month), I was providentially privileged to visit there with my 2 good friends, Chaplain Bob and Marcia Webel, who have encouraged and strengthened my Christian faith for 40+ years. (Bob is the best Bible teacher I have ever known.) During our treks up and down the beach, amidst the happy noise of seagulls at sea and ashore, we saw on the beach a few Black Skimmers. It had been quite a while — perhaps more than a year or two — since I had seen Black Skimmers, so it reminded me of earlier years, and “auld lang syne” (i.e., old long times ago) — times of friendship and fellowship, accented by birdwatching, a continuing reminder of God’s sovereignty and watch care (Luke 12:4-7).
BLACK SKIMMER near Freeport, Texas (photo by Dan Pancamo / Flickr)
Black Skimmers have an easy-to-remember bill; the bottom half (i.e., lower mandible) sticks out farther than the top half (i.e., upper mandible), enabling the tern-like seabird to skim the water’s surface, using its unusually long wings, to catch little fish (like anchovies and silversides) and other prey located at sea, also feeding in tidal pools, in saltmarsh drainage channels, or at seashores. Apparently more than 90% of a skimmer’s diet is fish. The skimmer’s prominent red-blending-into-black bill is also used to occasionally catch small shellfish, such as crustaceans (like decapods or amphipods) and mollusks (like cephalopods or gastropods), as well as available insects (mostly coleoptera). Parent skimmers feed their young by regurgitation.
BLACK SKIMMER feeding young (photo by Jim Gray / Audubon)
These seabirds prefer oceanic and estuarial beaches, as well as salt bays, saltmarshes, lagoons, inlets, sandy islands, and other coastal wetlands.
America’s southeast coastlines (especially all of Florida’s coastline) provide year-round habitat for Black Skimmers, from southernmost Texas to midway up the North Carolina coast. Also, many migrating Black Skimmers winter in the bottom part of Florida’s peninsula, afterwards returning to Mid-Atlantic state coasts (from North Carolina to Connecticut) for summer breeding. [See, accord, Roger Tory Peterson, EASTERN BIRDS (Houghton Mifflin / Peterson Field Guides, 4th edition, 1980), pages 98-99 & Range Map 87. See also “Black Skimmer” at http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/black-skimmer .]
BLACK SKIMMER on beach (photo credit: Andreas Trepte)
Viewing Black Skimmers is fun enough, but it is more fun to view them with friends.
One of the most pleasant forms of outdoor recreation and fellowship, when visiting old or new friends (especially Christian friends), is to take a walk — whether hiking in a forest, or ambling up a mountainside, or trudging through new-fallen snow, or strolling in beach-sand, or splashing in coastal tidewaters — all the while noticing nearby birds who busily fly or swim or strut about, tweeting or chirping out their various songs.
So I recalled the nostalgic old song (usually sung on New Year’s Eve, AULD LANG SYNE, but I changed the lyrics to fit the memories, redubbing it “Auld Lang Birdwatching”.
(Sing to the tune of AULD LANG SYNE.)
Should old birdwatching be forgot
And lifers go unseen?
The fowl so fair, in air we spot
Or perching as they preen.
While drinking coffee, birds we gaze
On earth, at sea, in sky;
God made them all, us to amaze,
Birds run and swim and fly!
God has given us many blessings in life, for which we must ever be grateful. Godly friends are one of the greatest blessings that a man or woman can ever have.
(Having a godly spouse, as one’s best friend, is the ultimate example of such blessing, of course — and I am one of the few men who can honestly say that my wife is my best friend; and, although I have many faults, I think that I am likewise my wife’s best friend.)
But, furthermore, there is one friend to be loved and treasured, above all human friends, the One of Whom we sing, in the song “WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS“.
Accordingly, as much as we esteem and treasure our earthly blessings — and we should — we must always exceed those appreciations with our love for and devotion to God Himself, because a loss of one’s “first love” (for God) constitutes a tragic (and treacherous) loss indeed.
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent…. (Revelation 2:4-5a)
Spiritual decline soon follows whenever one’s devotion to God slips or erodes, unless a clean correction is quickly made. (The exhortation in Revelation 2:4-5 is for each of us!)
May God help us to appreciate our blessings — both friendships and fowl-watching opportunities — yet may He nudge us, daily, to remind us that our most precious blessing in life (and thereafter) is God Himself, for He is truly (as Paul says in 1st Corinthians 15:28) our “all in all”, and it is a wonderful privilege to belong to Him (Psalm 100).
BLACK SKIMMER with young (photo by Michael Stubblefield)