Lack of Birds To Watch

Staying in as much as we have lately, the birds were at least coming by for a visit. Now that fall has arrived, we were expecting the birds to return. BUT!

Northern Mockingbird on Hook 2
Northern Mockingbird on Hook, last spring.
The trees beyond those houses are the beginning of the forest.

The feeders are filled, yet the birds are not returning. Could it be because they are destroying a huge area of trees right here by us???

Here is a picture, from the weather radar zoomed in on this area. It is a satellite view. The bare spot at the top is where the new houses were put in last year. (Of course, the view is the newest that they have released.)

Before they started clearing

The dark spot in front is a huge forest. When I have shown photos of the birds, those trees have been visible over the houses. That strip of trees is about all that is left of all of those woods. They are clearing it all out for another housing addition. I am expecting any day for those trees to disappear. When they do, I’ll update and show a photo with the trees gone.

The Trees already gone as of today.

The yellow outlines the area that has already been cleared. When that little section is cleared, who knows if many birds will come back this winter. With our area being new, there are few trees that have been planted, and the ones that have been, are only a few feet tall.

Yet! There is always hope for the strange finds now and then. We were visited by a new bird about a week ago. One we have not seen that often. First time we saw one was in Louisiana years ago.

Loggerhead Shrike on Oct 1, 2020

What a surprise!! This Shrike is a first for our yard, and a first in a long time since we spotted the last one.

Loggerhead Shrike 1 Oct 2020-2
Loggerhead Shrike 1 Oct 2020

Stay tuned to see what might show up this winter. I am hoping that we have as many as last winter, but we shall see. Thankfully, we still have the water birds walking by now and then. Oh! Another gator has shown up and ate a Muscovy Duck recently. But that is another post.

Let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy Before the LORD, for He is coming; For He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, And the peoples in His faithfulness. (Psalms 96:12-13) [Unfortunately, these trees will not be in that chorus

Who Paints The Leaves?

Bahama Birds After Hurricane Dorian

Bahama Yellowthroat (Geothlypis rostrata) ©WikiC

Bahama Yellowthroat (Geothlypis rostrata) ©WikiC

As you know, over the Labor Day week-end and beyond, hurricane Dorian “parked” over the Bahamas. Many people have lost their lives and the count will take quite a while to access the true count of lost lives.

BirdWatching has an article that tells about the “grave concern” for the birds in those islands. I thought you might find this article very sad and concerning also. It is worth reading.

After Dorian “Grave Concern” Birds of Northern Bahamas

Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola) by Raymond Barlow

Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola) by Raymond Barlow

“I know every bird of the mountains, And everything that moves in the field is Mine.” (Psalms 50:11 NASB)

The Lord is in control of these hurricanes, and because of the curse, things like this happen. When the earth is renewed, things like this will not happen.

Our hearts go out to those who have lost family members, or were spared, but lost everything. We have church members whose families in the Bahamas were spared, but 70% of them lost all.

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” (Proverbs 3:5-7 KJV)

Common Icterid, with Uncommon Beauty

Common Icterid, with Uncommon Beauty

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty.    (Job 40:10).

CommonGrackle-bronze-morph.RhodeIslandBirdHunter.jpg

One of the most spectacular icterids, known for its iridescent shine, is the Common Grackle. As I observed years ago, it is a sobering thought to realize that God could have – if He had chosen to – made me (or you) a grackle!  [See “Of Grackles and Gratitude”]

One birdwatcher in Maryland describes the Common Grackle as follows:

The common grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) is a widespread, common bird in the eastern United States.  Bigger than most other blackbirds [and robins], it stretches to about 12 inches from its long, tapered tail to its bill.  The black beak is prominent, more long than heavy.  Grackles stand on tall, stout black legs.  They prefer to forage on the ground but they will perch precariously if necessary to reach food.  The diet of the common grackle centers on grain, especially corn [i.e., maize].  Common grackles will descend upon a corn field from the moment it’s planted until it’s harvested.  Walking boldly behind planting equipment [!], they peck at newly sown seeds or unearthed grubs.  As the corn begins to tassel, they tear at maturing ears to eat growing cobs.  After the harvest, they descend [in a mob] like a dark cloud, eating any remaining kernels.  Common grackles do millions of dollars of damage [“robbing” cornfields] annually.  …  Though they prefer grains, grackles readily eat thistle, suet or sunflower seeds.  If those foods are not available, grackles will eat just about anything else on hand, including insects, frogs, mice, worms, other birds and even fish.  (Grackles wade into shallow water to nab schooling minnows.)  Discarded garbage [including fast-food litter] is another food source for these omnivores.

[Quoting Mike Burke, “Grackles’ Aggressive Behavior Not Helping its Survival – A Lesson?”, in CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 27(3):39 (May 2017).

Ranging from the Midwest to the Eastern coastlands of America (plus some summer breeding ranges northward into central Canada), with most of their wintering range limited to the lands from the East Coast to the sates that straddle the Mississippi River Valley, the Common Grackle is known throughout most of America’s Lower 48 states.

But the Common Grackle’s iridescent plumage is its most conspicuous glory:

Common grackles display an odd geographic variation in color. Those south and east of the Appalachian Mountains [i.e., the so-called “Purple Grackle” variety] have an iridescent purple-blue head, purple belly, and blue-green tail.  Those north and west of the Eastern continental divide [i.e., the so-called “Bronze Grackle” variety of New England and west of the Appalachians] have blue-green heads and brassy bronze bodies.  From afar, all of the birds look black, but at closer distances the iridescent head is easily distinguishable from the glossy body.  Of course, there are exceptions, but generally the grackles in the Chesapeake [Bay] watershed have purple-blue heads.

[Quoting again from Mike Burke, “Grackles’ Aggressive Behavior Not Helping its Survival – A Lesson?”, in CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 27(3):39 (May 2017).  Of course, these grackles are similar to the Boat-tailed Grackles that I’ve observed in Florida, and the Great-tailed Grackles that dominate Texas, but the tails of Common Grackles are not as conspicuously lengthy as those of its cousins in Florida and Texas.

CommonGrackle.BillHubick-photo

Like most grackles, the Common Grackle is noisy, gregarious (often congregating on power lines, or in trees near shopping centers), and confident (strutting about in parking lots, hunting for edibles discarded by humans).  Grackles are routinely bold, sometimes to the point of being aggressive.

But is this temperament-like habit a guarantee of the Common Grackle’s success?  Apparently not, according to the Breeding Bird Survey.

The North American Breeding Bird Survey is a joint venture of the U.S. Geological Survey and the Canadian Wildlife Service, for monitoring avian populations, provided time-indexed data that is relied upon for bird conservation policy and programs.  Because these voracious blackbirds are an expensive nuisance to crop farmers, their recent population decline is unlikely to evoke lamentations by crop farmers.

Common grackles are in serious decline. Although they seem to be expanding farther westward and they are still [very much] abundant, the population has fallen nearly 60 percent since 1966, according to the [often-relied-upon] Breeding Bird Survey.  Ornithologists are thus far stumped about why the bird’s abundance has fallen so significantly.

[Quoting again from Mike Burke, “Grackles’ Aggressive Behavior Not Helping its Survival – A Lesson?”, in CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 27(3):39 (May 2017).

Could it be habitat loss?  Of course, the Eastern half of the United States continues to convert its croplands to urban and suburban development —  the farmlands of America continue to disappear all too quickly (and the Common Grackle’s “robberies” are not the main cause!).  The cornfields that I knew as a boy (and sometimes worked in), growing up in different parts of Maryland, have substituted housing complexes and shopping centers for what were cornfields (and other crop fields).   If the habitat shrinks, and the readily available food supply shrink, is it any wonder that the population shrinks too?

Another possibility should be considered, too, the empirical science may be less than accurate –  i.e., it may be that the grackle population measurements are not as reliable as the “authoritative” data that they are advertised to be.  To illustrate this possibility, consider how the Atlantic Sturgeon was lamented for years – by Chesapeake Bay bioscientists who opined that it was nearly extirpated, only to be embarrassed to learn that they were looking for the anadromous fish at the wrong season of the year, phenologically speaking, and the fish was actually thriving in some of the Chesapeake Bay’s tributary waters!  [For details on that empirical science foible, see “Anadromous Fish ‘that Swam with Dinosaurs’ Neither Extinct Nor Extirpated,” Creation Research Society Quarterly, 51 (3): 207-208 (winter 2015).]

But to close on a simpler note: the Common Grackle may be common in many parts of America, yet its beautiful shimmering and glossy iridescent colors are anything but common.   Only God’s artistry could design and build a blackbird that reflects sunlight with such majestic magnificence.


FAIR USE PHOTO CREDITS:

Bill Hubick, Maryland: Common Grackle (bold pose & hungry pose)

Jason Major, Rhode Island:  Common Grackle perching (bronze variety)