Egret Feathers, Worth More than Gold!

Egret  Feathers,   Worth  More  than  Gold !

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

GreatWhiteEgret-Lewisville.MichaelDFox

GREAT WHITE EGRET (photo by Michael D. Fox of Lewisville, Texas)

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.  Moreover by them is Thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.   (Psalm 19:7-11)

The fine-feathered Great White Egret (a/k/a “Great Egret”) could have gone extirpated in America (i.e., regionally extinct in the USA), about a century ago,  if not for the timely intervention of the Lacey Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty.

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GREAT WHITE EGRET (photo by Dennis Skogsbergh, in Texas)

A summary of that avian conservation success story was reported earlier as “Looking Back 100 Years, at the Migratory Bird Treaty:   A Bird’s-eye View of How It was Hatched” [ https://leesbird.com/tag/migratory-bird-treaty/  ].  In fact, the fancy feathers of Great White Egrets were once worth more than gold of equal weight!

The plumes of the Great Egret and Snowy Egret were widely used to decorate women’s hats in the late 19th century [A.D.].

An ounce of egret feathers cost as much as $32 —  more than an ounce of gold at that time  —  and, as a result of overharvesting, egret populations [especially in Florida] began to decline.  Some of the first conservation legislation in North America [e.g., Lacey Act of 1900, codified at 16 U.S.C. §§ 3371-3378, a forerunner of the much-later Endangered Species Act] was enacted to outlaw the hunting of Great Egrets.  These egrets are now steadily recovering and expanding their range[s], probably to areas where they formerly nested.

The Great Egret is the symbol for the National Audubon Society, one of the oldest bird conservation organizations in the United States.   [Quoting Wayne R. Petersen & Roger Burrows, BIRDS OF NEW ENGLAND (Lone Pine Publishing, 2004), page 93.]

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GREAT WHITE EGRET (Audubon Field Guide photo)

Of course, market prices fluctuate. What is “worth more than gold” today may not be so tomorrow.  Consumer markets are fickle things:  beaver top-hats, Toys-R-Us toys, decoder rings, Bazooka Joe bubblegum, Pogo sticks, Rock ’em-Sock ’em Robots, floppy discs, etc.

However, it is a permanent truth that God’s Word is more valuable than gold:

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. . . .  the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold.  (Psalm 19:7 & 19:9b-10a)

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Col. Jeff Williams, NASA astronaut (photo credit: Space Boosters!)

In fact, I was once reminded of that truth by none other than Col. Jeff Williams, a NASA astronaut who was then in outer space, inside the International Space Station [“ISS”], during a satellite-phone-facilitated video-conference conversation (on June 17th of AD2017).  By God’s grace, my wife and I attended that special Skype-like conversation, hosted by Col. Williams’s good friend, Col. Chas Morse (USAF, retired).  The video-conference conversation was partially reported later, as “Videoconference with ISS Commander” [ http://www.icr.org/article/videoconference-with-iss-commander ].

[See also this short interviewhttp://www.icr.org/article/above-all-earth/   — as well as Michael Stamp’s article about astronaut Jeff Williams, “ISS Commander Returns from Space”, posted at  http://www.icr.org/article/iss-commander-returns-from-space/ . ]

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Col. Jeff Williams, NASA astronaut (ABC Net-Au photo credit)

But on June 17th of AD2017, the last earthbound participant in that space-to-Earth videoconference call, to ask Col. Jeff Williams an Earth-to-space question, was me.  (Of course, my wife and I will never forget that unique video-conference conversation!)

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Col Jeff Williams, NASA astronaut (ICR image, with quote)

In particular, I asked astronaut Jeff Williams about his personal appreciation for Psalm 19, which begins with a declaration that “the heavens declare the glory of God”.

After discussing the first half of Psalm 19, which speaks of the wondrous astronomical glories that God operates in the heavens, Col. Williams added that he appreciated the second half of Psalm 19 (i.e., verses 7-14) even more than the first half (i.e., verses 1-6), because Psalm 19:7-14 speaks of God’s written Word (i.e., the Holy Bible), which is even more glorious (see also Psalm 138:2b) than all of the magnificent heavens!  –  and, of crucial importance, only the Bible tells us about how our souls can be redemptively returned to God through Christ as our personal Savior.   Now that’s infinitely priceless!

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PSALM 19:10 (BiblePic.com credit)

Surely God’s Word is “more valuable than gold, yea, than much fine gold” –  and even more valuable than marketed Great White Egret feathers during the AD1800s.

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GREAT WHITE EGRET (photo by Michael D. Fox of Lewisville, Texas)


 

 

 

“E” is for Egrets and Emus: “E” Birds”, Part 2

“E” is for Egrets and Emus: “E Birds”, Part 2
James J. S. Johnson

“Blessings are upon the head of the just, but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.” (PROVERBS 10:6)

Is that an egret, standing on top of my head?*

Photo credit:  Marcia Webel (St. Petersburg, Florida)

(*Actually, the egret was perching upon branches behind me, not atop my head.)

It is a blessing to use our heads, to watch birds, such as egrets.

As noted in Part 1 of the “E” Birds “E” is for Eiders, Eagles, (of which there are many varieties), Eagle-owls, Egrets, Emus, Eagle-owls, Egrets, Euphonias, Elaenias, Eremomelas, Elepaios, Earthcreepers, and Emerald hummingbirds — plus whatever other birds there are, that have names that begin with the letter E.

In this Part 2 (reviewing “E” birds), 2 categories of “E” birds are considered: Egrets and Emus.

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Snowy Egret at Gatorland by Lee

EGRETS

Regarding Egrets, see, e.g., Lee Dusing’s “Egrets and Heron Catching the Gator Taxis” as well as her “Baby Snowy Egrets at Gatorland”.

It is truly amazing to see egrets seeking food, at Florida’s Gatorland, while presumptively and precariously perched atop the backs of drifting/semi-submerged alligators. As ornithologist Lee Dusing once observed:

Most times these alligators and birds get along fine. People are tossing food to them and so they abide each other. It is amazing how different critters get along. I can only imagine how it must have been when they were first created. There was no desire of the gators to eat the birds. Today, under the curse, it is a totally different situation.

[Quoting Lee Dusing’s “Egrets and Heron Catching the Gator Taxis”, See also my report on how Cattle Egrets practice “mutual aid” with various terrestrial herbivores, in “Cattle Egrets, Cattle, and Other Herbivore Neighbors”.

Since those egrets have been described, as just noted, previously, not much will be added here, regarding them, except for a few comments regarding their distribution, i.e., regarding the ranges they inhabit.

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Great White Egrets (photo by Bence Mate)

The Great White Egret (Ardea alba) is well-known in North America, as the range map below shows, but most of America only hosts this tall egret during the winter months.

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Great White Egret range map (Wikipedia)
Yellow = breeding; Green = year-round; Blue = wintering

Breeding occurs mostly in the Mississippi River watershed corridor states, with a swath of the Southwest and southern coasts providing year-round habitat of this long-legged shorebird.

A tall and stately bird, the Great [White] Egret slowly stalks shallow [waters of] wetlands looking for small fish [or frogs, or snakes, etc.] to spear [or grab] with its long sharp bill. Nests in colonies of up to 100 birds. Now protected [legally], they were hunted to near extinction in the 1800s and early 1900s for their long white plumage.

[Quoting Stan Tekiela, BIRD OF TEXAS FIELD GUIDE (Cambridge, MN: Adventure Publications, 2004), page 371.]

Another familiar white-feathered egret, in America, is the Snowy Egret.
The Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) is a small-scale heron with snowy white plumage, famous for its “golden slippers”.

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Snowy Egret (Wikipedia)

Like the resourceful Cattle Egret (mentioned above — see coverage of this wide-ranged and herbivore-helping egret,) the Snowy Egret is small in size, as herons and egrets go. However, unlike the Cattle Egret, its feathers are all white, and its feet are a mustard-yellow (or goldenrod yellow) in color.  The Snowy Egret is a wetland bird – preferring swamps (including mangrove swamps), pondshores, marshlands (including saltmarshes), island shores, and estuaries (including tidal mudflats).

As shown below, the Snowy Egret has a breeding range that includes some patches of America, mostly in part of the Northwest and in the drainage basin of the Mississippi River. Also, the Snowy Egret is a year-round resident of America’s Atlantic coast and America’s Gulf of Mexico coast.

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Snowy Egret range map (Wikipedia)
Yellow = breeding; Green = year-round; Blue = wintering

 More than a century ago the Snowy Egret (as well as the Flamingo, the Roseate Spoonbill, various cranes, ducks, geese, swans, other members of the heron-egret family, doves, as well as insectivorous passerine migrants, etc.) was wastefully being hunted for its fancy feathers, jeopardizing the entire American population — until the Migratory Bird Treaty was enacted (and was enforced).

Regarding the Migratory Bird Treaty’s historic importance, see “Looking Back 100 Years, at the Migratory Bird Treaty: A Bird’s-eye View of How It was Hatched”.

Great White Egret, Snowy Egret, White Ibis,Roseate Spoonbill, and
Great-tailed Grackle, flying over coastal marshland (Photo credit: Eric Ripma)

Thankfully, populations of egrets (and other long-legged, long-necked birds, such as cranes, herons, flamingo, roseate spoonbill, ibis, etc.) have rebounded, since passage (100 years ago) and enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty.

EMUS

Regarding Australia’s Emu (as well as regarding other ratites, including the smallest ratite — New Zealand’s kiwi), see ornithology professor Lee Dusing’s “Sunday Inspiration: Ostrich, Rhea, Cassowary, Emu & Kiwi”.

Also, for a close-up (albeit abrupt) perspective on an Emu, see “Lee’s Five Word Friday: 9/16/16”.

Emu (Dromaius novahollandiae) in the wild (Wikipedia)

The Emu is the second-largest (non-extinct) bird, by height; only the Ostrich is taller. By weight the Emu is the world’s third-largest bird, weighing less than the Ostrich and anther ratite “cousin”, the double-wattled Southern Cassowary.

The Emu has an over-all height of about 180 cm. (70”); to the top of the back it measures about 100 cm. (40”); it can weigh up to 55 kg. (120 lbs.) and have a beak up to 12 cm. long (5”). The body is very bulky, the coloring of the plumage brownish. The feet have three toes [each]. … The nest [typically located in scrubby steppe grassland habitat] is a hollow in the ground near a shrub, and it is covered with leaves, grass, et cetera. Various females lay 15-25 eggs, which are incubated by the male for 52-60 days [during with time the male loses a lot of weight, due to not eating], depending on the interruptions made by the male to find food and water. The nestlings, which have a distinctive white and brown-striped plumage, achieve complete development and sexual maturity within 2 or 3 years. The Emu can run at speeds of up to 50 kph. (30 mph.).

[Quoting Gianfranco Bologna, SIMON & SCHUSTER’S GUIDE TO BIRDS (Simon & Schuster, 1981; edited by John Bull), page 143.]

Since the Emu was described previously (as noted in the previous sentence), no more will be added here, other than to note that the Emu’s native range covers most of Australia. (Also, emus have been, and now are, raised commercially in America, for their meat, for oil, or sometimes as part of investment scams.)

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Emu range map (Wikipedia)

In recent years I have observed, in the wild, many varieties of Egrets – especially Great White Egret, Snowy Egret, and Cattle Egret. Also, on a few occasions I have observed (very close up) domesticated Emus – and they are not fully “tame” even when they are “domesticated”. All of these birds, which range in size, are marvels in motion — examples of God’s super-genius bioengineering.

Whenever we look at such feathered creatures, we should be amazed, and we should admire God’s handiwork, — because God has given us the ability to use our minds (which are somehow linked to the physical “hardware” of our heads, especially our eyes and brains). In a sense, we have such birds “on our heads”, as we think through the blessings God has given, due to Him creating such birds.

So, if our minds are renewed to proper reverence of God, as the Creator of all creation (Revelation 4:11), our “heads” can empirically accept and analyze these visual blessings, as feathered exhibits displaying God’s glory.

Blessings are upon the head of the just, but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.” (PROVERBS 10:6)

God willing, the next contribution to this alphabetic series will be some “F birds” – perhaps some of these: Fairywrens, Falcons, Fantails, Fernbirds, Fieldwrens, Figbirds, Finches, Firetails, Fiscals, Flamebacks, Flamingos, Flatbills, Flowerpeckers, Flycatchers, Foliage-gleaners, Forktails, Francolins, Friarbirds, Frigatebirds, Frogmouths, Fruiteaters, Fulmars, Fulvettas, etc.! Meanwhile, enjoy using your eyes (and the rest of your head) to appreciate the blessings and privileges of daily life, including opportunities to observe God’s avian wonders, like egrets and emus.

><> JJSJ