A Maker of Thunder and a Friend in Black – Chapter 19

One of our readers asked if I might continue this Burgess Bird Book for Children Series in the Bird Tales section. [She is reading them to her children.] Since I already have the stories, photos, and recordings on my computer, I agreed. Here is Chapter 19, and there are 45 chapters all total. So, STAY TUNED!

Strutter_the_Ruffed_Grouse - Burgess Bird Book ©©

Strutter, The Ruffed Grouse – Burgess Bird Book ©©

A Maker of Thunder and a Friend in Black

The Ruffed Grouse and the Crow Blackbird.

The Burgess Bird Book For Children

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Chapter 19. A Maker of Thunder and a Friend in Black.

Listen to the story read.

Peter Rabbit’s intentions were of the best. Once safely away from that
lonesome part of the Green Forest where was the home of Redtail the
Hawk, he intended to go straight back to the dear Old Briar-patch. But
he was not halfway there when from another direction in the Green Forest
there came a sound that caused him to stop short and quite forget all
about home. It was a sound very like distant thunder. It began slowly at
first and then went faster and faster. Boom–Boom–Boom–Boom-Boom-Boom
Boo-Boo-B-B-B-B-b-b-b-b-boom! It was like the long roll on a bass drum.

Peter laughed right out. “That’s Strutter the Stuffed Grouse!” he cried
joyously. “I had forgotten all about him. I certainly must go over and
pay him a call and find out where Mrs. Grouse is. My, how Strutter can
drum!”

Peter promptly headed towards that distant thunder. As he drew nearer
to it, it sounded louder and louder. Presently Peter stopped to try to
locate exactly the place where that sound, which now was more than ever
like thunder, was coming from. Suddenly Peter remembered something.
“I know just where he is,” said he to himself. “There’s a big, mossy,
hollow log over yonder, and I remember that Mrs. Grouse once told me
that that is Strutter’s thunder log.”

Very, very carefully Peter stole forward, making no sound at all. At
last he reached a place where he could peep out and see that big, mossy,
hollow log. Sure enough, there was Strutter the Ruffed Grouse. When
Peter first saw him he was crouched on one end of the log, a fluffy ball
of reddish-brown, black and gray feathers. He was resting. Suddenly he
straightened up to his full height, raised his tail and spread it until
it was like an open fan above his back. The outer edge was gray, then
came a broad band of black, followed by bands of gray, brown and black.
Around his neck was a wonderful ruff of black. His reddish-brown wings
were dropped until the tips nearly touched the log. His full breast
rounded out and was buff color with black markings. He was of about the
size of the little Bantam hens Peter had seen in Farmer Brown’s henyard.

Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) by Raymond Barlow

Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) by Raymond Barlow

In the most stately way you can imagine Strutter walked the length of
that mossy log. He was a perfect picture of pride as he strutted very
much like Tom Gobbler the big Turkey cock. When he reached the end of
the log he suddenly dropped his tail, stretched himself to his full
height and his wings began to beat, first slowly then faster and faster,
until they were just a blur. They seemed to touch above his back but
when they came down they didn’t quite strike his sides. It was those
fast moving wings that made the thunder. It was so loud that Peter
almost wanted to stop his ears. When it ended Strutter settled down to
rest and once more appeared like a ball of fluffy feathers. His ruff was
laid flat.

Peter watched him thunder several times and then ventured to show
himself. “Strutter, you are wonderful! simply wonderful!” cried Peter,
and he meant just what he said.

Strutter threw out his chest proudly. “That is just what Mrs. Grouse
says,” he replied. “I don’t know of any better thunderer if I do say it
myself.”

“Speaking of Mrs. Grouse, where is she?” asked Peter eagerly.

“Attending to her household affairs, as a good housewife should,”
retorted Strutter promptly.

“Do you mean she has a nest and eggs?” asked Peter.

Strutter nodded. “She has twelve eggs,” he added proudly.

“I suppose,” said Peter artfully, “her nest is somewhere near here on
the ground.”

“It’s on the ground, Peter, but as to where it is I am not saying a
word. It may or it may not be near here. Do you want to hear me thunder
again?”

Of course Peter said he did, and that was sufficient excuse for Strutter
to show off. Peter stayed a while longer to gossip, but finding Strutter
more interested in thundering than in talking, he once more started for
home.

“I really would like to know where that nest is,” said he to himself
as he scampered along. “I suppose Mrs. Grouse has hidden it so cleverly
that it is quite useless to look for it.”

On his way he passed a certain big tree. All around the ground was
carpeted with brown, dead leaves. There were no bushes or young trees
there. Peter never once thought of looking for a nest. It was the last
place in the world he would expect to find one. When he was well past
the big tree there was a soft chuckle and from among the brown leaves
right at the foot of that big tree a head with a pair of the brightest
eyes was raised a little. Those eyes twinkled as they watched Peter out
of sight.

“He didn’t see me at all,” chuckled Mrs. Grouse, as she settled down
once more. “That is what comes of having a cloak so like the color
of these nice brown leaves. He isn’t the first one who has passed me
without seeing me at all. It is better than trying to hide a nest, and I
certainly am thankful to Old Mother Nature for the cloak she gave me.
I wonder if every one of these twelve eggs will hatch. If they do, I
certainly will have a family to be proud of.”

Meanwhile Peter hurried on in his usual happy-go-lucky fashion until
he came to the edge of the Green Forest. Out on the Green Meadows just
beyond he caught sight of a black form walking about in a stately way
and now and then picking up something. It reminded him of Blacky the
Crow, but he knew right away that it wasn’t Blacky, because it was so
much smaller, being not more than half as big.

Grackle by Dan

“It’s Creaker the Grackle. He was one of the first to arrive this spring
and I’m ashamed of myself for not having called on him,” thought Peter,
as he hopped out and started across the Green Meadows towards Creaker.
“What a splendid long tail he has. I believe Jenny Wren told me that he
belongs to the Blackbird family. He looks so much like Blacky the Crow
that I suppose this is why they call him Crow Blackbird.”

Just then Creaker turned in such a way that the sun fell full on his
head and back. “Why! Why-ee!” exclaimed Peter, rubbing his eyes with
astonishment. “He isn’t just black! He’s beautiful, simply beautiful,
and I’ve always supposed he was just plain, homely black.”

It was true. Creaker the Grackle with the sun shining on him was truly
beautiful. His head and neck, his throat and upper breast, were a
shining blue-black, while his back was a rich, shining brassy-green.
His wings and tail were much like his head and neck. As Peter watched
it seemed as if the colors were constantly changing. This changing of
colors is called iridescence. One other thing Peter noticed and this
was that Creaker’s eyes were yellow. Just at the moment Peter couldn’t
remember any other bird with yellow eyes.

“Creaker,” cried Peter, “I wonder if you know how handsome you are!”

“I’m glad you think so,” replied Creaker. “I’m not at all vain, but
there are mighty few birds I would change coats with.”

“Is–is–Mrs. Creaker dressed as handsomely as you are?” asked Peter
rather timidly.

Creaker shook his head. “Not quite,” said he. “She likes plain black
better. Some of the feathers on her back shine like mine, but she says
that she has no time to show off in the sun and to take care of fine
feathers.”

“Where is she now?” asked Peter.

“Over home,” replied Creaker, pulling a white grub out of the roots of
the grass. “We’ve got a nest over there in one of those pine-trees on
the edge of the Green Forest and I expect any day now we will have four
hungry babies to feed. I shall have to get busy then. You know I am
one of those who believe that every father should do his full share in
taking care of his family.”

“I’m glad to hear you say it,” declared Peter, nodding his head with
approval quite as if he was himself the best of fathers, which he isn’t
at all.

“May I ask you a very personal question, Creaker?”

“Ask as many questions as you like. I don’t have to answer them unless I
want to,” retorted Creaker.

“Is it true that you steal the eggs of other birds?” Peter blurted the
question out rather hurriedly.

Creaker’s yellow eyes began to twinkle. “That is a very personal
question,” said he. “I won’t go so far as to say I steal eggs, but I’ve
found that eggs are very good for my constitution and if I find a nest
with nobody around I sometimes help myself to the eggs. You see the
owner might not come back and then those eggs would spoil, and that
would be a pity.”

“That’s no excuse at all,” declared Peter. “I believe you’re no better
than Sammy Jay and Blacky the Crow.”

Creaker chuckled, but he did not seem to be at all offended. Just then
he heard Mrs. Creaker calling him and with a hasty farewell he spread
his wings and headed for the Green Forest. Once in the air he seemed
just plain black. Peter watched him out of sight and then once more
headed for the dear Old Briar-patch.

“There are three things which are stately in their march, Even four which are stately when they walk: The lion which is mighty among beasts And does not retreat before any, The strutting rooster, the male goat also, And a king when his army is with him. If you have been foolish in exalting yourself Or if you have plotted evil, put your hand on your mouth.” (Proverbs 30:29-32 NASB)

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  • Who did Peter hear first in the forest?
  • What did that bird sound like? What kind of instrument?
  • Are we supposed to act better than others?
  • Did he find Mrs. Grouse? Why not?
  • How is the Grackle different from a Crow?

“A friend loveth at all times,…” (Proverbs 17:17a KJV)

*

Links:

Bible Birds

Birds Vol #6 – The Ruffled Grouse

Home, Home on the Sage: Nothing to Grouse about!

Fusion Unplugged by Boat-tailed Grackles by AJMithra

 

  Next Chapter (A Fisherman Robbed.)

 

Burgess-Bird-Book-for-Children

 

 

  Burgess-Bird-Book-for-Children

 

Gold/Yellow = Heaven

  

 

Wordless Birds

 

 

**

Long-tailed Duck: Birdwatching in the Scottish Hebrides, Part 3

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Let them give glory unto the LORD, and declare [yaggîdû = hiphîl imperfect 3rd person masculine plural of nâgad, “to appear”, “to be clear”] his praise in the islands.   

(Isaiah 42:12)
LONG-TAILED DUCK (long-tailed male, smaller female), iNaturalist photo credit

Recently, when reviewing a bird-book that presented seabirds of the Hebrides, I noticed a duck’s name that I was unfamiliar with, the “Long-tailed Duck” [see Peter Holden & Stuart Housden, RSPB Handbook of Scottish Birds, 2nd edition (Bedfordshire, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing / Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, 2016), page 39].  However, I recalled that I’d seen similar-looking ducks, in near-freezing wetland pond-water, from a train-car of the White Pass and Yukon Railway, traveling from Skagway (Alaska) into British Columbia, about 20 years ago, probably during early September, when these ducks visit migratory stopover sites. 

So, what does a Long-tailed Duck look like?  For starters, the male (a/k/a drake) has a conspicuously long tail—that makes sense.

Smaller than Mallard, but tail of male may add 13 cm [about 5 inches].  Small, neat sea duck with a small, round head, steep forehead, all-dark wings in flight and white belly.  In winter, male is mainly white with a dark brown “Y” mark on its back, brown breast-band and a large, dark cheek patch.  In summer, it has a streaked brown back, dark head and neck, and pale greyish-white face patch.  Adult male has greatly elongated central tail feathers.  Female in winter shows a white collar, white face with dark lower cheeks and dark crown.  … In summer, female has a darker face than in winter.  Females have short tails.  Juvenile is like female in summer, but with a less contrasting face pattern.  Flight feathers are moulted between July and September; during part of this time birds are flightless for a few weeks.  Has a unique moult, as some back feathers are moulted four times a year and some head and neck feathers three times a year.

[Peter Holden & Stuart Housden,”Long-tailed Duck”, RSPB Handbook of Scottish Birds, 2nd ed. (Bloomsbury / Royal Society for Protection of Birds, 2016), page 39.]
Long-tailed Duck (male & female),  NaturalCrooks.com photo credit

Does that physical description sound familiar?  Do the photographs look familiar?

After some research I realized that certain cold-weather diving ducks, called “Oldsquaw” ducks in older guidebooks [e.g., James Kavanagh, The Nature of Alaska (Blaine, WA: Waterford Press, 1997), page 56], are now called “Long-tailed Duck” in newer guidebooks [e.g., Robert H. Armstrong, Guide to the Birds of Alaska, 6th edition (Portland, OR: Alaska Northwest Books, 2019), page 54]. But why?

Surely this is an odd duck.  In fact, its typical call is an odd quacking-warbling-hooting honk, sounding like a duck trying to yodel through a semi-muted horn.

The duck’s fancy scientific name, Clangula hyemalis, has not changed lately.

But political pressure intrudes into the mostly-apolitical ornithology neighborhood.  It seems that the earlier common name for this duck, “Oldsquaw”, is now deemed unacceptable, because it might offend someone who stumbles on the terms “old” and “squaw”, as imagining disrespectful stereotypes of elderly tribeswomen.  Although “P.C.” (i.e., political coërcion) pressures should not dictate taxonomy for ornithologists, there you have it—since the International Ornithologists’ Union has acted, so now all Oldsquaws are re-named “Long-tailed Ducks”!  What a world! 

Long-tailed Duck mother with young   (Wikipedia photo credit)

Ironically, to eschew the prior common name (“Oldsquaw”) implies that folks often disrespect old squaws, i.e., elderly womenfolk of the Native American tribes.  But why should someone be ashamed of being “old”?  It is a blessing to be given many years of earthly life (Leviticus 19:32; Proverbs 16:31 & 20:29b; Job 12:12).  Likewise, why should an Indian woman—or any woman—be ashamed of being a “squaw” (i.e., a woman)?  It is a blessing and a privilege to be whomever God creates someone to be.  After all, God did not need to create anyone who would live long enough to become an old “squaw”, or an old “brave”, for that matter.  It is God’s generous and providential grace that we are whomever we are—because God could have made us all Long-tailed Ducks, or Coots, or Gooney Birds, or Grackles! 

While God appreciates the “simple”, yet unique, snowflakes that are ignored by busy humans, God treasures our personal lives (created in His image) infinitely more, as though we were His precious jewels (Malachi 3:17). In fact, God providentially planned our lives to be exactly what they are, and if we belong to Him, God artistically “works together for good” the component details of our lives (Romans 8:28). Surely, we should thank our Lord Jesus Christ for being our very personal Creator. So, the next time you see a grackle, think thankfully for a moment, “That could have been me!” And be grateful to your Creator, Who made you a unique, one-of-a-kind creation.

[Quoting JJSJ, “Of Grackles and Gratitude”, ACTS & FACTS, 41(7):8-10 (July 2012), posted at www.icr.org/article/6900/ .]
Long-tailed Duck (male & female), Animalia.bio photo credit

Meanwhile, back to the Oldsquaw’s cold-weather life in and near northern ocean seawaters.  The Long-tailed Duck is a sea-duck, spending most of its winter days at sea (not very close to shoreland), diving for food, though using arctic tundra, taiga (i.e., boreal forest), and subarctic coastlands for breeding, and for latter-month molting and migratory stopovers.  It’s a diving duck, sometimes diving to depths of 200 feet, using their feet to propel themselves downward, staying underwater moreso (i.e., longer) than other diving ducks. And oxygen-rich coldwaters contain lots of nutritious food for the Long-tailed Duck.

Dives to search mainly for crustaceans and molluscs, especially Blue Mussels, cockles, clams and crabs.  Also eats sandpipers, small fish such as gobies and some plant material.

[Peter Holden & Stuart Housden,”Long-tailed Duck”, RSPB Handbook of Scottish Birds, 2nd ed. (Bloomsbury / Royal Society for Protection of Birds, 2016), page 39.]
Long-tailed Duck with fish (BirdGuides / Martyn Jones photo credit)

Wonderful birds are there to be seen, in the Outer Hebrides (“Western Isles”).  If you get the opportunity, go see them!  Meanwhile, appreciate that they are there, living their daily lives—filling their part of the earth—and glorifying their Creator. 

><> JJSJ     profjjsj@aol.com 

Birdwatching is the right thing to do!

Appreciating  birds  (including,  but  not  limited  to,  Birdwatching)  is  the  right  thing  to  do!

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

birds-Matthew6.25-26 Now begins a new Leesbird.com series (D.v.), on “Birds Are Wonderful! — And Some Are a Little Weird“.*

In this series we will learn to appreciate a variety of birds, while appreciating our great God Who made all those birds — and while also realizing that our great God made each of us who we are, though He could have made us otherwise!birds-grackle.could-have-been-you

Of course, birds began on Day 5, so birds are older than the human race — by 1 day  — since God made the original human pair (Adam & Eve) on Day 6 of Creation Week.

birds-Genesis1.20-22Stay tuned!

* Quoting from “Birds Are Wonderful, and Some Are a Little Weird”, (c) AD2019 James J. S. Johnson   [used here by permission].