Celebrating the Life-Saving Heroism of Alaskan Dog Mushers (and their Sled Dogs) – Repost

What an interesting article that James J. S. Johnson wrote on his blog. I thought you might enjoy it. The video of an actual dog slide ride is really challenging.

rockdoveblog

 Celebrating the Life-Saving Heroism of Alaskan Dog Mushers (and their Sled Dogs)

James J. S. Johnson, JD, ThD, CNHG

sleddogs-alaska-iditarod

As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.  Galatians 6:10

Imagine a celebration of Siberian husky sled dogs, harnessed together as a racing team, guided by their human driver (called a “musher”), zooming across frigid snow trails in rural Alaska:  this is what happens in a commemorative festival/event called the IDITAROD TRAIL RACE.  (See the YouTube video footage below.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jI3bliK7R94

The Iditarod is an outdoors reenactment-like celebration of dogsled mushing, to remember the heroic relay race – through day and night, blizzard winds, snow, and ice – to save human lives, during a life-or-death crisis in January-February AD1925, when a highly contagious diphtheria plague struck like a serial killer, menacing the almost-unreachable population of Nome, Alaska.

The crisis…

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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)

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See More of JJSJ’s articles here

Making a Joyful Noise in Estonia’s Tallinn: A Quick Memoir of Common Swifts

Making a Joyful Noise in Estonia’s Tallinn: A Quick Memoir of Common Swifts

James J. S. Johnson

commonswift-jiribohdal-photo

COMMON SWIFT (Apus apus)    photo credit: Jiri Bohdal

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.   (Psalm 100:1)

What is making a “joyful noise”? It is commanded is Scripture, whatever it is – see Psalm 66:1; 81:1; 95:1-2; 98:4; 98:4; 100:1.

To many, the noise of circuitous swifts is just that, a screeching-like screaming noise — not the kind of “music” that King David would have included in his orchestra-supported choir (1st Chronicles 15:16). But to a bird-lover, the aerial call of this air-zooming insectivore is a “joyful noise”, installed and directed by the Composer and Giver of all birdsong (and other avian vocalizations).

Yes, as other ignore them, I enjoy hearing the energetic calls of Common Swifts (Apus apus), as they zip around, in hunting packs, de-bugging the lower airspace during the bug-filled days of summer.

commonswift-flock-in-air

COMMON  SWIFT  flock  in  air   (photo credit:  Biopix; J C Schou)

On July 10th of AD2006 I was watching a flock of swifts circling above the rooftops in Old Town, Tallinn, Estonia. The flock’s high-speed-choreography included swerving, veering, soaring, turning, rolling, and circling maneuvers — always in graceful curves, yet nonetheless amazingly quick – in a word, “swift”. It was done so fluidly that it compares, though at a smaller-group level, with the carefully choreographed flock-flights of starling murmurations (which are described elsewhere at “Choreographed Choir on the Wing: Birds of a Feather Flock Together:).

It was a privilege to see such a lively and speedy display of God’s bioengineering, a fly-by performance, like a high-speed aerial parade. And the quaint old-town venue, Tallinn’s “Old Town”, still includes walls and towers from the Hanseatic League era (some 2 or 3 centuries older than the Protestant Reformation), providing an air of calm busyness that matched the swifts’ quick-turning air-dance.

The COMMON SWIFT (Apus apus) is, as its name suggests, a bird that is both common and quick. As a true “swift”, having wings curved like a parenthesis (or boomerang, or crescent-sliver), it somewhat resembles a short-legged version of a Barn Swallow or Purple Martin, colored in black and grey, although its wings are narrower and more sickle-shaped in flight. When viewed from beneath, a swift’s silhouette (against the sky) almost looks like an anchor, as it glides. And swifts often glide, often circling above or near rooftops and other objects. When they want to accelerate, their wingbeats are thorough and (unsurprisingly) swift. The super-short legs are used for clinging to walls and other vertical surfaces, matching the German name for this bird, Mauersegler (“wall-glider”). Don’t expect to see this bird sitting on the ground – if it is “grounded” there is probably an involuntary explanation.

commonswift-range-map-wikipedia

COMMON SWIFT range map (Wikipedia)

And “common” it is, in summer, all over Europe (and ranging from west to east across the middle band of Asia, as well as much of the Mideast and India). This insect-gobbling bird is a migrant, going where the bugs are plentiful — before the “bug famine” of Eurasia’s winter months the Common Swift migrates to the southern half of Africa, where bugs teem (during Africa’s summer months). Swifts and swiftlets are found all over the inhabited words, i.e., anywhere that flying insects are available for “eating on the fly”. Consider these illustrative examples: Black Swift (all over North America, from Canada to Costa Rica and Brazil), White-fronted Swift (forests in Mexico), Great Dusky Swift (many forests of South America), Sooty Swift (many forests of South America), White-chinned Swift (Central and South America), Cave Swiftlet (caves and woods of India, Indonesia, and Malaysia), Himalayan Swiftlet (common to the Himalayan range and Southeast Asia) — just to list a few. One of the rarest swifts is the Seychelles Swiftlet (a subspecies or cousin of the smaller Mascarene Swiftlet of Mauritius and Reunion (both being east-of-Madagascar islands in the Indian Ocean). The Seychelles Swift is found only on the Seychelles Islands east of Africa (and north of Madagascar), in the Indian Ocean. (See postage stamp – public domain image)

seychellesswift-postage

SEYCHELLES  SWIFTLET       [public domain]

An even rarer swiftlet is the Atiu Swiftlet, endemic to the small island of Atiu (in the Cook Islands archipelago). That cave-loving swiftlet has been described in connection with appreciating Gospel Days in the Cook Islands.

 

Atiu Swiftlet (Aerodramus sawtelli a.k.a Kopeka)

Atiu Swiftlet (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now back to the COMMON SWIFT, such as those who circled the air near the rooftops of Old Town, Tallinn (Estonia), that summer afternoon in AD2006.

The Common Swift’s visible physical and behavioral traits have been aptly summarized by the co-authors whose bird-book I used on that summer afternoon in Tallinn:

 Dark, scythe-winged aerial feeder seen careening through sky in characteristic noisy, screaming parties. Flies in lower airspace early and late in day [when flying insects are out and about], and in wet weather. Spends virtually entire life … on the wing, coming to land only to nest. Larger than Barn Swallow, unlike which it never perches on wires or vegetation. Adult [has] uniform blackish-brown plumage relieved only by whitish chin. Very long, narrow, swept-back wings and [relatively] fat, cigar-shaped body give illusion that bird is bigger than it really is. Clearly forked tail lacks Swallow’s streamers and is often held tightly closed. Bill tiny. Sexes alike; similar juvenile has narrow pale feather edgings.

Nest colonially beneath eaves of buildings, less often in caves or hollow trees.

Enters site at breakneck speed and is only rarely seen perched below, clinging to walls with tiny legs and feet (unusually, all four toes face forwards).  Breeds commonly in built-up areas, but travels huge distances to feed. Typically seen in parties of 10—100 birds, but congregates in massive swarms on spring and autumn migration, especially over wetlands and reservoirs. Flight action varied: either very fast with twinkling wingbeats or slower, with sudden flurries of wingbeats and glides on wings stiffly outstretched and slightly bowed down. Jinks, rises and falls with quick flick of wings and briefly spread tail as it gulps insect prey in [relatively] huge, gaping mouth.

Shrill, piercing screaming call, sree, is the essence of warm summer evenings.

[Quoting Chris Kightley, Steve Madge, & Dave Nurney, POCKET GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF BRITAIN AND NORTH-WEST EUROPE (Yale University Press, 1998), page 174.]

And what kind of town is Estonia’s Tallinn? It is the main port and capital of Estonia, a land weary of foreign occupations.

tallinn-oldtown-estonia

Old Town, Tallinn, Estonia (photo credit: Wikipedia)

The native Estonians (who maybe felt like helpful bugs, trying to escape hungry predators), century after century, has been parasitized (and preyed upon) by many opportunists who — like busy Common Swifts — swiftly (or sometimes slowly) inserted themselves onto Estonia’s Baltic coastland, sometimes colonizing and sometimes content with controlling the flow of trade.

A quick [i.e., “swift”] summary of Estonia’s serial occupations by neighboring armies follows. Perhaps the reader can consider these back-and-forth conquests of the Estonian lands, and imagine how the “caught-in-the-middle” Estonians, of generation after generation after generation, lived, as their land changed from colony to battlefield to colony, etc.

Estonia’s sequence of political phases may be condensed to 24 episodes, namely: (1) the Viking era … (800s through 1200); (2) wars with Germany’s Bishop Albert of Livonia and the Sword Brethren (1208-1227); (3) Denmark intervenes and begins to rule Tallinn [from taani linn, meaning “Dane fort”, with the city continuing to be called by its German name, “Reval”], due to Danish King Valdemar II’s conquest … [resulting in] Estonia being occupied by a mix of Danes and Germans by 1220); (4) political decline of the ethnic-German “Sword Brethren” of Livonia, due to Lithuanian militarism … followed by merger of the Livonian Sword Brethren with Prussia’s Teutonic Knights [as Lithuania flourished]; (5) Danish-German domination of Estonia [with the Hanseatic League controlling Estonia’s economy] ; (6) decline of the militaristic Prussian Teutonic Knights, due to Russian militarism aided by Estonian and Latvian conscripted soldiers … [e.g., Alexandr Nevskii’s “Battle on the Ice” victory in AD1242]; (7) political association with, and domination by, the plutocratic “super-merchants” of Germany’s Hanseatic League (with Lübeck Law adopted for Tallinn in 1248, with Tallinn’s trade featuring Estonian rye [!], barley, oats, honey, bearskins and other furs, exchanged for imported herring, salt, precious metals, and clothing materials); (8) Danish relinquishment of troublesome Estonia (prompted by the bloody Jüriöö Mäss rebellion of 1343-1345 … resulting in Denmark’s “sale” of Estonia to the Prussian Teutonic Knights in 1346 … [so Estonia and Latvia were ruled by ethnic-Germans form the mid-AD1300s through the mid-AD1400s]; (9) Old Livonia declines, as Prussia’s Teutonic Knights decline, due to military defeats [e.g., Tannenberg, in AD1410] by the rising empire of Poland-Lithuania … {and Russia unsuccessfully tries, in AD1502, to grab Estonia from Poland-Lithuania]; (10) Estonia is touched by the Reformation, with Luther’s “use-of-the-language-of-the-common-people” policy beginning to change Estonia, planting the first seeds of Estonian cultural identity restoration (Reformation first arrives in Estonia during the 1520s; 1525 sees first book printed in Estonian language [and during that year Walter von Plettenburg, Rome’s “Master of the Livonian Order”, converts to Lutheran Christianity, heavily impacting the launching of the Protestant Reformation in Estonia]; first-Estonian-language church services in the 1530s); (11) the Livonian Wars (1558-1583) reveal Russia’s ambitions for the Baltic lands … followed by Estonia being “sold” to Denmark, who opposed the Russians (1560); (12) Old Livonia disintegrates, as the Swedes arrive to oppose Russia, and Tallinn becomes a Swedish land … (1561); (13) meanwhile, the Livonian lands south of Tallinn become Polish possessions (1561); (14) Livonian resistance to Russia, well into the mid-1500s, permitted the Germany-based Reformation to take root among the Estonian people (often aided by Swedish military action, combined with Lutheran education reforms led by Swedes, Germans, and Finns … for example, Tartu University [was founded] by Swedish King Gustav Adolphus, in 1632, to promote Lutheran education and culture); (15) Russia competed with Sweden for Estonia … complicated by Poland joining the fray (in 1579), resulting in Sweden successfully holding onto Estonia [AD1586]; (16) however, Sweden and Russia resumed war in the 1590s … as tension between Sweden and Poland, regarding who gets Estonia, continued to rise; (17) Sweden continued to dominate the Baltic lands … (from 1600-1629), somewhat resolved by the “Peace of Altmark” [AD1629]; (18) Denmark increased its ascendancy in the region … Denmark’s remaining portion of Estonia [i.e., Saaremaa] was transferred to Sweden (1645); (19) [Estonia suffers, due to war-ravaged agriculture] the Great Hunger of the 1690s (1695-1697); (20) Sweden’s domination in the Baltic [is lost in] the “Great Northern War” of 1700-1721 (with the last fighting of this war, on Estonian soil, occurring in 1710); (21) 300+ years of domination by Russia, with the last portion (from the mid-1800s onward) seeing a growth of national patriotism and a recovered sense of the Estonian language and cultural identity (1710-1918); (22) the first taste of Estonian independence (1918-1940); (23) interrupted by Soviet Russia’s re-conquest and cultural suppression of Estonia (1940-1991); and (24) Estonia’s post-Soviet experience of national independence [which was triggered by Estonia’s “Singing Revolution”], which is ongoing (1991 to present).

[Quoting James J. S. Johnson, “Heritage Highlights: Estonia”, BALTIC HERITAGE REVIEW (June AD2006), pages 2-4.] Surely you became weary (if not also wary), if you actually read all of that listing of 2-dozen political turnovers (flying over 12 centuries of political history), so imagine what native Estonians must feel like – having been occupied and re-occupied by foreigners, generation after generation.

Maybe the Estonians feel like little flying insects, the easy-prey targets for ever-hungry (and fleet-flying) Swifts, coming at them, from all directions, chasing what could have been tranquility from Tallinn’s lower airspace.

tallinn-olafkirk-olevistekirik-estonia

Olaf’s Church   [Oleviste kirik]   in Tallinn:
Roman Catholic, later Lutheran, now Baptist
(photo credit: Wikipedia)

And that description well fits the memory that I still retain, of the speedy, quick-turning, aerial acrobatics  —  of noisy Common Swifts  —  that I saw near the rooflines and rooftops of the ancient-looking building in Tallinn’s Old Town, likely displaying what those same birds’ ancestors did centuries before, when Tallinn (then called “Reval”) was an old Hanseatic League trading port city.

When it comes to bird behavior, some things don’t change all that much. Of course, European trade has now returned to the old Hanseatic port-city of Reval – or Tallinn (as it is called today, and has been for centuries) — and much of that trade comes today in the form of cruise ship passengers and European Union commerce.

If you are ever in the neighborhood (of Tallinn), check it out; there is a lot of history to see there, and to appreciate, as you think about what all has occurred there, century after century.  So visit Tallinn at a relaxed pace – don’t just whizz by, like a Common Swift.

tallinn-port-cruiseships-estonia

Tallinn port, where cruise ships visit Estonia (photo credit: Wikipedia)

But this nostalgic report began with a quote from Psalm 100, about singing.  There is one habit that the Estonians are especially famous for, maybe moreso than any other habit – despite their long years (and centuries) of being suppressed as a Baltic people, they never gave up their songs.

estonia-singers-folk-costumes

Estonian choir in Tallinn
(photo credit: JJSJ in AD2006, actually a photo of a large sign in Tallinn)

Estonians love to sing, especially in their own native Estonian language. And now, years after the tense days of Estonia’s “Singing Revolution”, they can sing with a freedom that is relatively new to their land. May God bless them – and may He keep their songs in their hearts, as they look up to Him  — because He alone is the ultimate Giver of all good songs, even the diverse songs (and chirps, and other vocal noises) of the busy feathered creatures whom we call “songbirds”.

And may each of us, who has the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Redeemer, live each day with a song in our hearts, singing with grace and gratitude (Colossians 3:16).

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. (Psalm 98:4)

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More From James J. S. Johnson

Apodidae – Swifts Family

Birds of the Bible – Swifts

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If Dogs Could Fly: More than Wings are Needed for Flying High!

If Dogs Could Fly:  More than Wings are Needed for Flying High!

 ~ by James J. S. Johnson

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.   (Genesis 1:20)

God made wings for animals – like birds, insects, and bats – to fly.  (In the case of penguins, they fly underwater!)  But it takes more that wings to fly high: ask a Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus), who migrates over the Himalayas!

Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus)

Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus)

But what about dogs – and humans?

If dogs were meant to fly—apart from aircraft—they would have bodies designed for heavier-than-air flying.  Also, for dogs to fly at altitudes so high that oxygen is a problem, they need bodies designed for breathing at thin-air elevations.  These facts are illustrated by an amazing German shepherd, Antis, who flew combat missions, during 1940-1945, at altitudes up to 16,000 feet.(1)

But who was Antis, and how did he survive flying in oxygen-starved altitudes?

Antis was an Alsatian German shepherd, rescued as a starved-almost-to-death newborn puppy, by a Czechoslovakian pilot named Václav “Robert” Bozdĕch. Robert flew during World War II, first for France, and later for England—as part of the Royal Air Force’s 311 (Czechoslovack) Squadron.  (In fact, how Robert smuggled Antis from France through Gibraltar into England is itself an amazing adventure.)

British Air Ministry regulations prohibited dogs flying on combat missions, of course, but Antis hated to be “grounded” if that meant being separated from Robert.  During June 1941 Antis took matters into his own paws, quietly disappearing when Robert readied for a bombing mission over Bremen, a German port city (known for its strategic military activities).  Antis quietly hid inside the Vickers Wellington bomber where Robert served as turret gunner.

Wellington bombers flew at altitudes as high as 16,000 feet, so air crews wore oxygen masks, to compensate for the oxygen-thin air at that high altitude.  But no one had equipped Antis for such oxygen-thin conditions!  Robert concerned himself with the crew’s mission, bombing Bremen’s oil refinery, till his attention was distracted by someone nudging his elbow:  Antis!

Antis must have somehow crept aboard the aircraft and stowed away, being careful to remain hidden until [Robert’s airplane] was almost over her target.  Recovering from the shock, Robert tried to take in all that he was seeing. His dog’s flanks were heaving, his lungs desperate for breath, which was very likely why he’d alerted Robert to his presence.  They were climbing to 16,000 feet and Antis was having increasing trouble breathing in the thin, oxygen-starved atmosphere. (1)

How could Robert save Antis?

WWII pilot Václav “Robert” Bozdĕch --- and his faithful dog, Antis

WWII pilot Václav “Robert” Bozdĕch — and his faithful dog, Antis

Antis needed to inhale concentrated oxygen, immediately, but so did Robert, at least until the plane descended to a lower elevation.

Taking a massive gasp himself, Robert unstrapped the oxygen mask from his face, bent, and pressed it firmly over his dog’s muzzle.  He watched anxiously as the dog took a few deep breaths of life-giving oxygen, before eventually his breathing seemed to settle down to something normal.(1)

Meanwhile Robert busied himself with his duties as turret gunner, wearing the spare radio headset, since his oxygen mask strappings contained his usual headset.

The mask contained [Robert’s] main radio pickup, and he could only imagine that he and his dog were going to have to share oxygen for the remainder of the flight.  A few moments later he heard a squelch of static in his earpiece, signifying that someone was coming up on the air [intercom].  “Robert, have you gone to sleep down there?” Capka, their pilot, queried. “No. Why?” Robert replied. “Sounds like you’re snoring your head off. What’s going on if you’re not snoozing?”(1)

It was Antis’ canine breathing that was being broadcast through the airplane’s intercom, due to the microphone attached to the oxygen mask.  Meanwhile, the flight became more hazardous.

They began their bombing run at 15,000 feet, an altitude where the dog needed the oxygen.  Robert had no option but to continue operating without it, for he couldn’t keep switching the mask with his dog.  He needed his hands free to operate the guns.  At first he seemed to cope just fine, but then his heart started to race and beads of sweat were breaking out on his forehead.(1)

Antiaircraft fire exploded nearby, bombs dropped from Robert’s plane, and Messerschmitt fighters tried to shoot the British Wellington fighter-bomber out of the night sky.   But, eventually (at the successful close of the mission, thanks to God’s providence), Robert and his air crew mates – and Antis — successfully returned to their home base.  Of course, Antis’ stowaway antics were by then no secret.  Wing Commander Josef Ocelka, 311 Squadron’s commanding officer, liked Antis—but sharing an oxygen mask during future bombing raids was unacceptable. The solution? A doggie oxygen mask, specially tailored for Antis.

[Antis’ oxygen mask] consisted of a standard pilot’s mask, cut and modified to suit a German shepherd’s long and slender snout, as opposed to the flatter, boxier face of a human. The mask attached to his head with a special set of straps that ran around the back of his thick and powerful neck, with extra fastenings latching on to his collar.  Antis didn’t particularly like the thing, but he proved happy enough to wear it so long as Robert was wearing his.(1)

Antis continued to have many death-defying adventures, during the war, as Robert’s loyal dog.  But, thanks to his canine oxygen mask, at high elevations Antis no longer needed to share an oxygen mask with Robert.

Obviously, Antis was not born with the capacity to survive oxygen-starved altitudes without the help of an oxygen mask—and it requires purposeful design and clever engineering to equip dogs like Antis for such high-altitude conditions.

And so we can (and should) marvel at the creative genius and technical problem-solving that achieved a solution to Antis’ need for high-altitude oxygen.  But what about animals—like many high-flying birds—that have no such oxygen mask? How can they survive elevations like 15,000 (or higher) without an oxygen mask?

Bar-headed Goose Flying

Bar-headed Goose

What kind of birds, soaring or migrating, fly at such oxygen-scarce altitudes?

High fliers include Bar-headed Geese, which cross the Himalayas at heights up to 29,500 feet [9,000 m] as they travel between the mountain lakes of central Asia and their winter homes along the Indus [River] valley, India.  A flock of 30 Whooper Swans en route from Iceland to western Europe was logged by a pilot at 27,000 feet [8,230 m].  Mallards have reached 21,000 feet [6,400 m], Bar-tailed Godwits 19,865 feet [6,000 m] and White Storks 15,750 feet [4,800 m] on migration.(2)

Some birds, amazingly, can even soar at 36,000 feet (~11,000 meters)!

How can we know that?

A combination of empirical science (i.e., direct observation) and forensic science (physical remains that show causality events).

Rupell's Griffon ©Telegraph

Rupell’s Griffon ©Telegraph

Specifically, a griffon-vulture, called the Rüpell’s Griffon, collided with an airplane, at that altitude, over Côte d’Ivoire, Africa.

On November 1973, an aircraft collided with a bird at a good 11000 m [meters] above the Ivory Coast in Africa.  The bird wrecked one of the aircraft’s engines, though the plane managed to land without further mishap.  Feather remains in the wrecked engine showed that the bird was a Rüppel’s Vulture.(3)

And other high-flying migrants are known to fly the friendly skies as well:

The impact of even a single goose on a jet airliner can be disastrous … [so] observers south of Canada’s Winnipeg airport monitor the northward progress of Lesser Snow Geese and warn air-traffic controllers of their approach.  If necessary, the airport can be closed down for hours, or occasionally days, during the peak of [their] migration.(4)

Bird Species Height They Fly
But what difference does it make, to us, when the atmosphere is oxygen-scarce?  How are air-breathing humans and animals affected when the oxygen is “thin”?

The highest-lying permanent settlements, in the Andes and in Tibet, are situated at just above 5000 m. [16,400 feet].  Not even people belonging to these mountain communities would be able to survive more than a few hours in the oxygen-deficient air above 8000 m. [26,200 feet].  The oxygen content of the air is about 21%, independent of altitude, in the troposphere; the oxygen pressure consequently decreases in parallel with the decreasing air pressure at increasing altitude. At 6000 m [20,000 feet] the oxygen pressure is only half what it is at sea-surface level; at 8000 m [26,200 feet] it is a third of that[,] and at 10,000 m [32,800 feet] only a quarter. The ability of birds to stay alive at high altitudes is explained by the [comprehensive] fact that they have a more efficient respiratory system than mammals.(5)

But how are birds able to breathe in such oxygen-starved conditions?

Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus) by Lee LPZ

Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus) by Lee LPZ

What they have—thanks to their Creator—is much more efficient that Antis’ custom-made oxygen mask!

A bird’s lungs function according to the through-flow principle: the inspired [inhaled] air collects in the bird’s posterior air-sacs and flows through the lungs to the anterior air-sacs before it passes back out. In the lungs the blood is oxygenated by fine air capillaries, where air and blood flow in opposite directions. Owing to this counterflow, the oxygenated blood that leaves the bird lung acquires a higher oxygen concentration than that corresponding to the oxygen pressure in the expired [exhaled] air.(5)

Also, bird hearts are proportionately larger to their bodies than those of mammals—from 0.8 to 1.5% of its total body mass, compared to mammals (averaging around 0.6%), enabling speedy blood transport and intensive oxygen renewal.(5)

So, is the “flow-through principle” basically all that there is, to why birds can breathe at higher altitudes,   —   or is it even more complicated than that?

In fact, the technical aspects of how oxygen is acquired and consumed, by high-flying birds, is more marvelous than is easy to describe, as this succinct-yet-technical summary indicates:

Birds that fly at high altitudes must support vigorous exercise in oxygen-thin environments.  …  [There is an interactive combination of bioengineering] characteristics that help high fliers [to] sustain the high rates of metabolism needed for flight at [such] elevation.  Many traits in the O2 transport pathway distinguish birds in general from other vertebrates.  These include enhanced gas-exchange efficiency in the lungs, maintenance of O2 delivery and oxygenation in the brain during hypoxia, augmented O2 diffusion capacity in peripheral tissues and a high aerobic capacity.  …  The distinctive features of high fliers include an enhanced hypoxic ventilator response, an effective breathing pattern, larger lungs [proportionately speaking], hæmoglobin with a higher O2 affinity, further augmentation of O2 diffusion capacity in the periphery and multiple alterations in the metabolic properties of cardiac and skeletal muscle.  These unique specializations improve the uptake, circulation and efficient utilization of O2 during high-altitude hypoxia.  High-altitude birds also have larger wings than their lowland relatives[,] to reduce the metabolic costs of staying aloft in low-density air.  High fliers are therefore unique in many ways ….(6)

If all of that sounds complicated it is because it is – very complicated.  But in order for birds to successfully fly at high elevations it was necessary for God to design and install bioengineering features that would succeed in such thin air.  And, because God did not provide such physiologies for dogs – such as Alsatian German Shepherds (like Antis) – it was needful for Antis to have his own oxygen mask, for those times when Antis flew in oxygen-scarce altitudes.

So, three cheers for the East Wretham fitters, who custom-fit a canine oxygen mask, for Antis’ high-altitude breathing!  Also, proper credit is surely due to Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Ltd., the manufacturer of the Wellington bomber that Robert and Antis flew in.

Yet how much moreso should we cheer and extol our Creator-God, for how He designed and constructed high-flying birds,(7) with respiratory physiologies that need no manmade airplanes or oxygen masks!    Yes, “the heavens declare the glory of God”(8)  —  and so do the birds he made to fly in those skies, even the skies that are so high that others, flying there, need oxygen masks!

References

  1. Damien Lewis, The Dog Who Could Fly (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2015), pages 178-180, 187.
  2. Jonathan Elphick, ed., Atlas on Bird Migration: Tracing the Great Journeys of the World’s Birds (Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, 2011), page 23.
  3. Thomas Alerstam, Bird Migration (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993), page 276.
  4. Elphick, Atlas of Bird Migration, page 123.
  5. Alerstam, Bird Migration, page 277.
  6. Graham R. Scott, “Elevated Performance: The Unique Physiology of Birds that Fly at High Altitudes”, Journal of Experimental Biology, 214(15):2455-2463 (August 2011); Douglas L. Altshuler & Robert Dudley, “The Physiology and Biomechanics of Avian Flight at High Altitude”, Integrative and Comparative Biology, 46(1):62-71 (2006).
  7. Job 39:26.
  8. 8. Psalm 19:1.
Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus) ©Bruce Moffat Photography

Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus) ©Fair Use credit: Bruce Moffat Photography

Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus)

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James J. S. Johnson

Orni-Theology

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Balancing High Risks: Mountain Climbing and the First Amendment

Balancing High Risks:  Mountain Climbing and the First Amendment

By James J. S. Johnson

When an American astronaut reverently quotes from Psalm 24, and is promptly faulted by a critic—for “violating” the so-called “separation of church and state”(1)—it is time to learn a lesson about balance, from the agility of mountain goats, adroitly ambulating alpine ascents of the Rocky Mountains.

Mountain Goat in Rocky Mountain

Indeed, mountain goats provide creation science “gems”, plus a picture of how we need balance in the political arena, where Christians are routinely shoved—and told to shut up, to avoid “offending” non-Christians.  (Of course, it is offensive to Christians when they are told to “shut up”, but since when did unbelieving critics care about “offending” Christians?)

Why are mountain goats a picture of this problem? Because safely balancing a mountain goat’s body, on steep alpine slopes—and safely balancing individuals’ civil liberties (such as an astronaut’s religious freedom and free speech rights)—are both examples of high-stakes balancing acts. To appreciate this comparison (in this introductory review of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment), mountain goats must be matched to their intended natural habitat, just as the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment must be matched to its intended political context.

A female mountain goat with two babies on a rock mountain in Glacier National Park, Montana.

Consider, first, the agility of a mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus), the sure-hoofed bovid that habituates the heights of North America’s Rocky Mountains and Cascade Range.(2)

“For those of us who admit to some fear of heights, the Mountain Goat is an animal to be admired … This shaggy animal, its back hunched in a manner somewhat suggestive of a Bison, is a master at negotiating the steepest of precipices. Mountain Goats are truly alpine creatures. They commonly rest on high-elevation snowfields and find most of their food among the plants of alpine meadows. Their hooves are structured to [optimize] balance and grip; the outer hoof is strongly reinforced and the bottom is lined with rubbery material, making the whole structure rather like a good hiking boot. These animals nonchalantly cross dizzying ledges, sometimes even at a trot.”(3)

In fact, the high-altitude dexterity of the mountain goat is so phenomenal that it routinely spends most of its time on precipitous terrain steeper than a 40o angle, and sometimes at pitches steeper than 60o!, especially during winter.(4)

Furthermore, the leg bones of the mountain goat are engineered to maximize a functional mix of precision balancing (such as perching all four hooves on a small spot), front-forward pulling power, propulsion leverage and maneuverability (for running and jumping), and stability (due to a low center of gravity) against tipping over.(4)

“A mountain goat climbs with three-point suspension. … Lifting one limb at a time [it] frequently pauses to assess the situation, tests the footing, and if needed turns back and selects a different route. Slow, sure consistency allows life on rock steeper than the angle of repose. Because they are most likely the ones to find themselves in a tight spot, kids do most of the go-for-broke climbing. Although a kid might take four or five missteps per year, it salvages the situation almost every time.”(4)

Mountain Goat Kids Juming ©TMLee

Mountain Goat Kids Juming ©TMLee

Thus, the mountain goats are aptly designed for moving on rocky slopes. Mountain goats are instinctively careful, and they apply their characteristic agility, as they test their environment. (Indeed, when predatory cougars try to attack them, the God-given instinct of mountain goats to flee, successfully, is often implemented by their agility and speed in and up these jagged rocky slopes and precipices!)

Mountain Goats in Danger in Mountain

But without the right physical traits for maintaining balance on rugged rocks—traits which God installed on Day 6 of Creation Week—mountain goats could not thrive, as they do, upon the harsh talus slopes and felsenmeer of their high-elevation habitat.

“The [mountain goat hoofprint] track’s squarish imprint is created by the hoof’s spreading tips. The sides of the toes consist of hard keratin, like that of a horse hoof. Each foot’s two wraparound toenails are used to catch and hold on to cracks and tiny knobs. … The front edge of the hoof tapers to a point, which digs into dirt or packed snow when [it] is going uphill. In contrast to a horse’s concave hoof, which causes the animal to walk on the rim of its toenail, a [mountain] goat’s hoof has a flexible central pad that protrudes beyond the nail. The pad’s rough texture provides [skid-resistant] friction on smooth rock or ice yet is pliant enough to impress itself into irregularities on a stone. Four hooves X 2 toes per hoof = 8 gripping soles per animal. As [mountain] goats descend a slope the toes spread widely, adjusting tension to fine-tune the grip. … This feature makes them more likely to catch onto something. It also divides the downward force of the weight on the hoof so that some of the animal’s total weight is directed sideways. Because there is less net force on each downward [pressure] line, the foot is less likely to slide. Think of it as the fanning out of downward forces over numerous points of friction.”(4)

In a word, BALANCE.  God purposefully designed high-elevation mountain goats for balance, because living life among high alpine rocks is a high-risk lifestyle.

Agile Mountain Goat Jumping across River

Yet the same is equally true to balancing religious liberty rights (and responsibilities) in American society.  Legitimate needs of both “church” and “state” are deliberately balanced with the God-given personal liberty rights of individuals. Like a mountain goat perched atop a precarious precipice, safeguarding those God-given religious freedoms is no lackadaisical endeavor.  The securing of those fundamental freedoms was not (and is not) easily obtained, nor is it easy to maintain those freedoms amidst the ubiquitously power-greedy politics of both “church” and “state”.(5)

In a word, the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment is purposefully designed for BALANCE.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”. (5)

It is to this legal text that the “separation of church and state” concept is frequently attached. However, not all opinions are equal, regarding what that phrase of 16 words (in the First Amendment) mean. Why? Because, as a matter of honesty and valid interpretation, the real meaning of any message must be matched to the message-composer’s intent.(6)

Thus, the only legitimate understanding of the First Amendment’s meaning is the understanding that matches the meaning assigned to it by the (human) source of its words.(5),(6),(7)

Signing Document

Yet, as a text drafted by statesmen of the late 1700s (principally by James Madison, who condensed an earlier version by George Mason), the authorial intent balanced a rejection of government-“established” church organizations, with affirmation of peaceful expression of individual religious beliefs and moral values.(6)

In other words, the First Amendment anticipated that Christians may freely express their religious viewpoints, at the personal level—yet Congress shall not officially endorse (“establish”) any specific ecclesiastical organizations, such as Baptists or Presbyterians or Anglicans or Methodists. This balancing of freedom and order—free exercise of religion, without any federal sponsorship of a particular religious denomination or hierarchy—fits the overall checks-and-balances equilibrium designed in 1791.(6)

“The real object of the First Amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance, Mohammedanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national establishment which should give to a [religious] hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government.”(8)

To put it mildly, this political balancing act is neither easily obtained nor easily maintained.  But this balance was carefully planned for–intended—by America’s founding fathers. Yet now the phrase “separation of church and state” is used to force-fit an off-balanced understanding of the First Amendment.  How did that happen?

In short, the constitutional jurisprudence of America became “evolutionized”, during the late 1800s, upsetting the proper balance between religious liberty and governmental interference.(5),(6),(7),(8),(9)

“Twentieth-century jurisprudence is based on a Darwinian world view.  Life [supposedly] evolves, men [supposedly] evolve, society [supposedly] evolves, and therefore laws and constitutions [supposedly] evolve.  According to the Darwinian principle, the Constitution’s meaning evolves and changes with time. … [Thus modern judges, implementing evolutionary humanism as jurists, my disagree about what a law “now means”] — But neither the majority nor the minority [of such evolutionary law judges] deny the basic evolutionary interpretation.  They merely question at which stage of the evolutionary scale we are!  This is not the way the founding fathers viewed constitutional interpretation.  They saw the Constitution as the supreme law, and also as a covenant or contract.  The Constitution like all legal documents was viewed as a fixed document, to be interpreted according to its plain meaning.  And if its meaning was ambiguous as applied to a specific situation, it was to be interpreted according to the intent of those who wrote it, signed it, and ratified it.  James Madison expressed this view when he wrote, ‘(If) the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the Nation … be not the guide in expounding it, there can be no security for a faithful exercise of its powers’.”(9)

How evolutionary thinking infected American law will be reviewed, God willing, in a sequel to this introductory article.(10) Meanwhile, don’t believe it when someone tells you that the First Amendment “prohibits” an individual astronaut from reverently reading his Bible in space—or from sharing that personal fact via Facebook.(1)

And, as you appreciate the originally intended balance, designed in the First Amendment, don’t forget to thank God—for how He equipped agile mountain goats, to inhabit some of the most precarious places in the Rocky Mountains, as He exhibits (and we enjoy learning about) His creative glory and bioengineering genius.(2)

References

(1) On April 3rd of AD2016, via Facebook, U.S. astronaut Jeff Williams said: “We finally have a quiet Sunday and I’m reading, ‘The Earth is the LORD’s and all that fills it’ in Psalm 24 and viewing this sight [referring to photographs of Earth, seen from the International Space Station].  No matter how long you’re here [in space], the grandeur strikes and the wonder never fades.”  To this posting a God-hating protest retorted, on Col. Jeff Williams’ Facebook page:  “Jeff Williams could you please leave your personal religious views out of your public posts.  You are a government employee.  In America we have a separation of church and state.  Don’t use your publicly funded position to promote personal views.  Teachers shouldn’t and neither should astronauts.  I enjoy the photos from space.  I have followed astronauts photos for over two years without religious bias in the captions.  Your post elevates (no pun intended) man’s divisiveness on Earth to Space.  Please keep it private and keep posting these wonderful scientific pictures without the religious OPINIONS.”

(2) The rope-like “backbone” ridge chain of North America’s West is called the Western Cordillera. Included in its geographic system are the Rocky Mountains and the Cascade Range, the primary high-elevation range of most North American mountain goats. George Constanz, Ice, Fire, and Nutcrackers: A Rocky Mountain Ecology (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2014), page 215.

(3) John Kricher, A Field Guide to Rocky Mountain and Southwest Forests (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998), pages 235-236. As illustrated in Job 39:1, Israel’s mountain goat is named for how this bearded climber masters its rocky alpine habitat:  ya‘alê-sâla‘   literally means “ascender of cliff-rock”. See also Psalm 104:18a.

(4) Constanz, Rocky Mountain Ecology, pages 224-226, with quotes frompages 225-226.

 (5) U.S. Constitution, First Amendment (Free Exercise and Establishment clauses), ratified 1791. The vast majority of the world’s nations prohibit the “free exercise” for religious liberty, either by establishing a specific religion to the prejudice of others, or by persecuting theistic religions in general.  The most thorough historical analysis of the First Amendment is provided in Rector, etc., of Holy Trinity Church v. United States, 143 U.S. 457, 12 S.Ct. 511 (1892), by Justice David Josiah Brewer.  To bypass the jurisprudential relevance, of the Holy Trinity Church ruling, is to demonstrate careless misunderstanding of what the First Amendment was originally designed (and originally used) to accomplish. The balancing of civil government powers, ordained by God’s delegation, with jurisdictional limits to facilitate religious freedom, accords with relevant Scriptures, e.g., Matthew 22:21; Romans 13:1-4; Daniel 2:21 & 4:25—and with Israel’s separation of religious offices (tribe of Levi) from the monarchy (tribe of Judah).

(6) George Mason’s religious liberty tenet, which he had drafted (12 years earlier) for the Virginia Declaration of Rights, became the precursor for Virginia’s proposal (to Congress) to approve a religious freedom amendment for the “new” Constitution: “That Religion or the Duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by Reason and Conviction, not by Force or violence, and therefore all men have an equal, natural, and unalienable Right to the free Exercise of Religion according to the Dictates of Conscience, and that no particular religious Sect or Society of Christians ought to be favored or established by Law in preference to others.” Notably, the entire Bill of Rights (i.e., Amendments 1 through 10) limited federal government powers. Ironically, most of the Constitution’s later amendments have expanded those powers. John Eidsmoe, Institute on the Constitution: A Study on Christianity and the Law of the Land  (Marlborough, NH: Plymouth Rock Foundation, 1995), pages 71-73. See also John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution: The Faith of our Founding Fathers (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987), pages 77-178, especially pages 93-112. Ironically, Thomas Jefferson (author of the phrase “separation of church and state”) was undeniably absent—in France!—during the Constitution’s drafting and early ratification (which processes prompted the Bill of Rights amendments), so his opinion of the First Amendment’s “intent” is interpretatively irrelevant.

(7) Importantly, the First Amendment’s meaning is contextually blended to the axiological fabric of the Declaration of Independence (referring to our “Creator”, “Nature’s God”, “the Supreme Judge of the world”, and “Divine Providence”), and to the Christian worldview evidenced by the U.S. Constitution’s Article VII (which refers to Jesus  Christ as “our Lord”).

(8) Eidsmoe, Institute on the Constitution, page 76, quoting Justice Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (Boston: Hilliard, Gray & Co., 1833), vol. II, page 593.

(9) John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution: The Faith of our Founding Fathers (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987), pages 391-392, quoting James Madison.

(10) The evolutionary mantra-phrase, “natural selection”, promotes animistic powers to inanimate elements of “nature”, not dissimilar from the polytheistic nature-worship of the ancient pagans.  See, e.g., James J. S. Johnson, “Norse and Germanic Mythology”, Chapter 14 in World Religions and Cults, Volume 2 (Green Leaf: Master Books, 2016, edited by Bodie Hodge & Roger Patterson), especially at pages 271-272 & 287-288.  See also, accord, James J. S. Johnson, “How Can a Mechanical ‘Cardinal’ Make ‘Selections’?For a thorough analysis of this “bait-and-switch” tricky-terminology problem (of “science” falsely so-called), see generally Randy J. Guliuzza’s “Darwin’s Sacred Imposter:  Natural Selection’s Idolatrous Trap“, Acts & Facts, 40(11):12-15 (November 2011).

Mountain Goats on Rocky Hill

C is for Coot and Corvids: “C” Birds”, Part 2

C  is  for  Coot  and  Corvids:   “C”  Birds”,  Part  2

By James J. S. Johnson

Coots on Ice ©FWS

Coots on Ice ©FWS

 For Thou hast delivered my soul from death; wilt not Thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?  Psalm 56:13

As the following study of the American Coot shows (which begins our review of birds having names that begin with “C”), God has employed creatively clever bioengineering into the form and function of American Coot feet.  How much moreso, as creatures made in His image, should we appreciate His design-and-construction engineering genius, as it is displayed in our own feet and toes!

rican Coot (Fulica americana) © SDbirds-Terry Sohl

rican Coot (Fulica americana) © SDbirds-Terry Sohl

American Coot (Fulica americana)

As noted in the preceding “Part 1” of this series [see ], “C” is for as Cardinal, Chicken [regarding which fowl, see Flag That Bird – Part 1 ], Coot, Cormorant, Chicken, Coot, Chickadee, Caracara, Crane, Cuckoo, Curlew, and Corvid (including Crow and Chough) — plus many other birds with names that begin with the letter C!

In this “Part 2” review of “C” birds, however, the red-eyed American Coot (a/k/a marsh hen, mud hen, water hen, and poule d’eau, i.e., “water chicken”), as well as the crow-like birds that we collectively label as Corvids, will be featured.

Because the American Coot is a wetland “rail” (i.e., classified with the mostly-wetland-or-forest-associated birds, such as gallinules and crakes, that are “ground-living” – as opposed to dwelling in trees), it is often seen and appreciated by birdwatchers (like Chaplain Bob Webel, of St. Petersburg, and his wife, Marcia) who live at the vegetated edge of a freshwater lake or pond, or by brackish estuarial marshland or swampland.

AMERICAN COOT (12 in. [or larger, with their plumage being mostly black or dark grey, depending upon lighting, and with white under-coverts and secondary wing feather-tips]) nests in marsh vegetation, but often winters in open water.  It is the only ducklike bird with a chalky white bill [and that bill is triangular in shape, somewhat like that of a chicken’s beak].  When disturbed it either dives or skits over the water [like flapping, fluttering hovercraft!] with feet and wings.  The closely related Common Moorhen (or Florida Gallinule, 10½ in. [what ornithologist Lee Dusing has nicknamed the “candy-corn bird”]) has a red bill and forehead and a white stripe under the wing.  Both pump the neck when swimming.”

[Quoting Herbert S. Zim & Ira N. Gabrielson, Birds, A Guide to Familiar American Birds (New York, NY: Golden Press, 1987 rev. ed.), page 34.]   As the youtube video-clip (below) shows, American Coots can skim and scoot across the surface of a lake or pond, flapping just over the water surface, when they want to move quickly.

Unlike ducks, however, the coot has no webbed feet.

American Coot, showing off its cushion-padded toes

American Coot, showing off its cushion-padded toes ©i.ytimg

American Coot, showing off its cushion-padded toes

Rather, coots have long toes that sport broad lobes of skin, designed for kicking through the water, almost like synchronized mini-paddles.  These conspicuously broad foot-lobes fold backward, when a coot walks on dry land, so the foot-lobes don’t interfere with the ground surface contact – yet the foot-lobes can be used to partially support the weight of the coot (by spreading body weight over a larger surface area, like snow-shoes) when the “mud hen” travels across mucky mud (or even on thin ice!).

American Coot on Ice ©Graham Catley

American Coot on Ice ©Graham Catley

American Coot on ice!

In other words, God designed coot feet to fit the wet habitats that they fill.

American Coot standing, showing broad-lobed toes ©Johnrakestraw

American Coot standing, showing broad-lobed toes ©Johnrakestraw

American Coot standing, showing broad-lobed toes

Coots are gregarious, “socializing” with themselves and with other waterfowl.  IN particular, coots are share space, as they “fill” a wetland or aquatic habitat.  Families of coots — or even larger groups of coots — often mixed with other waterfowl (like ducks) may compose a “raft” of hundreds or even thousands!  [See, accord, American Coot entry at CORNELL LAB OF ORNITHOLOGY, “All About Birds”, with Herbert K. Job, BIRDS OF AMERICA (Doubleday, 1936), pages 214-215, both cited within Steve Bryant, “American Coot”, in OUTDOOR ALABAMA.

American Coot flock “rafting” (©Jack Dermid)

American Coot flock “rafting” ©ARKive-Jack Dermid

American Coot  flock “rafting”

For a video clip featuring American Coots in action (in Florida), sometimes interacting quite boisterously, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5dPaWH785w .  (Notice:  this youtube footage also includes brief footage of a few other birds, so don’t be surprised when the first bird shown is a Florida Gallinule!)

American Coot  in water

It is interesting to note that the American Coot has a migratory range that covers almost all of North America, from Panama (in the south) through the more temperate zones of Canada (in the north).  As is often the case, a helpful range map has been prepared by Terry Sohl, Research Physical Scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, frequently publishing on topics of land usage, ecology, cartography, climatology, and geography, including biogeography.  As Terry Sohl’s range map shows, this wetland bird is a permanent resident of America’s West and Southwest (west of the Mississippi River), a breeding resident of America’s northern prairie states, a nonbreeding resident of America’s Southeast and East Coast states, and a migrant in some parts of Appalachian Mountain range zones.  [NOTE: the above-referenced Terry Sohl range map is not shown here, because Mr. Sohl, as a self-described “hardcore atheist”, does not want his maps associated with a Christian blogsite.]

American Coot, with young, eating aquatic plant ©Oiseaux-Tom Grey

American Coot, with young, eating aquatic plant ©Oiseaux-Tom Grey

American Coot, with young, eating aquatic plant.

So what do American Coots like to eat?

Mostly duckweeds and other wetland emergent plants (especially seeds and roots), lacustrine algae, small mollusks (like snails), little fish, tadpoles, and wee crustaceans, as well as a mix of aquatic bugs.  [See, accord, Herbert S. Zim & Ira N. Gabrielson, Birds, A Guide to Familiar American Birds (New York, NY: Golden Press, 1987 rev. ed.), pages 134-135.]

American Coot ©iytimg

American Coot ©iytimg

But American Coots are not the only common bird dominated by black plumage. Consider the common crow, or the raven  —  both of which belong to another group of “C birds”:  CORVIDS, an amazingly intelligent group of crow-like songbirds, including the likes of crows, ravens, jackdaws, rooks, choughs, jays, treepies, magpies, and nutcrackers.

For  a few examples, consider that Lars Jonsson’s BIRDS OF EUROPE (Princeton University Press, 1993), pages 487-495, includes the following corvids of Europe:  Siberian Jay, Eurasian Jay, Spotted Nutcracker, Eurasian Magpie, Azure-winged Magpie, Alpine Chough, Red-billed Chough, Jackdaw, Common Raven, Brown-necked Raven, Fan-tailed Raven Carrion Crow, Hooded Crow, and Rook.

Rook (Corvus frugilegus) pair perching on wooden fence ©BBCI Mike Wilkes

Rook (Corvus frugilegus) ©BBCI Mike Wilkes

Rook (Corvus frugilegus) pair, perching on wooden fence

In North America we can expect to find corvids quite terrific, ranging from the Atlantic to the Pacific:  American crow, Northwestern Crow, Common Raven (including the subspecies “Western Raven”), Green Jay, Blue Jay, Steller’s jay, various scrub jays, Grey Jay, Black-billed Magpie, Yellow-billed Magpie, Yucatan Jay, Pinyon Jay, Clark’s Nutcracker, and more!

For general information on corvids, see ornithologist Lee Dusing’s insightful birdwatching articles: “Corvidae — Crows, Jay”, listing more corvids that you or I will ever witness in this lifetime!  —  as well as Lee’s Birds of the Bible – Raven I, Lee’s Birds of the Bible – Raven II, and Lee’s  Birds of the Bible – Raven III.

Corvid Chart - Differences Between Types of Corvids ©Autodidactintheattic

Corvid Chart – Differences Between Types of Corvids ©Autodidactintheattic

For some world history-linked appreciation of corvids (such as ravens, jackdaws, and magpies), see also 5 of my earlier articles:

A Diet of Jackdaws and Ravens” [posted at https://leesbird.com/2015/09/16/a-diet-of-jackdaws-and-ravens/ ]; and

Northern Raven and Peregrine Falcon: Two Birds Supporting the Manx Coat of Arms; and

Steller’s Jay:  A Lesson in Choosing What is Valuable; and

Flag That Bird Part 5, featuring the Australian Magpie; and

Providential Planting:  The Pinyon Jay”, CREATION EX NIHILO, 19(3):24-25, summer AD1997.

Of course, many books could be  —  and, in fact, have been  —  written about  corvid birds.  But this article is already long enough.

Alpine Chough, in snowy French Alps ©Static1-Philip Braude

Alpine Chough  ©Static1-Philip Braude

Alpine Chough, in snowy French Alps

So, God willing, the next contribution to this alphabetic series will be some “D“ birds – such as Dippers, Doves, and Ducks (including Dabblers and Divers).  So stay tuned!    ><> JJSJ

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Lee’s Addition:

American Coot showing feet by Lee LPkr

American Coot showing feet by Lee Lake Parker

Like Dr. Jim’s article above, I have also been fascinated by the feet of the American Coot. See Birdwatching Term – Lobed Feet and  Birdwatching – American Coot where I have a video of one walking down to the shore. He almost steps on his own feet.

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C is for Cardinal and Cormorant: “C” Birds”, Part 1

C  is  for  Cardinal  and  Cormorant:   “C”  Birds”,  Part  1

By James J. S. Johnson

Northern Cardinal M-F ©Billraker

Northern Cardinal M-F ©Billraker

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) male & female

C” is for as Cardinal, Chicken, Coot, Cormorant, Chicken, Coot, Chickadee, Caracara, Crane, Cuckoo, Curlew, and Corvid (including Crow) — plus many other birds with names that begin with the letter C !

This blogpost-article calmly continues an alphabet-based series on birds, starting with a quick introduction to 4 types of birds that start with the letter “C”   –    followed by a few observations of alphabetic patterns in Scripture (exhibited by Psalm 119:17-24)   –   then followed by specific information on Cardinals, Cormorant, and Cranes..  In particular, this article will feature the Northern Cardinal, also known as the Redbird (Cardinalis cardinalis), and the Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus).

Northern Cardinal M-F ©BackyardBirdLover

Northern Cardinal M-F ©BackyardBirdLover

DC Cormoraant w fish

Double-crested Cormorant with Fish ©R. Curtis

THE ALPHABET HELPS TO TEACH US ABOUT GOD’S TRUTH

As noted in the earlier article on “A birds” – titled “A is for Avocet, Albatross: “A” Birds, Part 1” and “A is for Accipiter and Alcid: “A” Bird, Part 2” ”B is for Bluebird and Bittern: “B” Birds, Part 1” and “B is for Bluebird and Bittern: “B” Birds, Part 2” – using the alphabet, to organize a sequence of information, has Biblical precedent.  The perfect example is the “acrostic” pattern of Psalm 119, the longest psalm (having 176 verses!), which has 22 sections (comprised of 8 verses per section), representing the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. (Compare that to English, which has 26 alphabet letters, and Norwegian, which has 29 alphabet letters.)

The sentences in each section start with the same Hebrew  letter, so Verses 1-8 start with ALEPH, Verses 9-16 start with BETH, Verse 17-24 start with GIMEL, and so forth.  In this serial study’s lesson, the third octet of verses in Psalm 119 (i.e., Psalm 119:17-24), each sentence starts with GIMEL, the Hebrew consonant equivalent to the English “G”.

GIMEL ©I.Ytimg

GIMEL ©I.Ytimg

So, because GIMEL is the third letter in the Hebrew alphabet, each verse (in Psalm 119:7-24) literally starts with that letter as the first letter in the first word (although the first Hebrew word may be differently placed in the English translation’s sentence):

17Transact/bear up [gemōl] with thy servant, that I may live, and keep Thy word.

18 Roll back Thou [gal] mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.

19 A stranger [gêr], I am, in the earth; hide not Thy commandments from me.

20 Has been broken [gârsâh], my soul, for the longing that it hath unto Thy judgments at all times.

21 Thou hast rebuked [gâ‘artâ] the proud, who are cursed, who do err from Thy commandments.

22 Roll back [gal], from me, reproach and contempt, for I have kept Thy testimonies.

23 Also [gam], princes did sit and speak against me, but Thy servant did meditate in Thy statutes.

24 Also [gam], Thy testimonies are my delight and my counselors.

Bible Open to Psalm 119 ©Flickr Jason2917

Bible Open to Psalm 119 ©Flickr Jason2917

As noted before, Psalm 119 is all about God’s revelation of truth – especially truth about Himself – to mankind (in a comprehensive “A to Z” panorama).  The most important revelation of truth that God has given to us, and the most authoritative form of truth we have, is the Holy Bible – the Scriptures.  Accordingly, Psalm 119 is dominated by references to the Scriptures, using terms like “the law of the LORD” (and “Thy Word”, “Thy commandments”, “Thy testimonies”, “Thy statutes”, “Thy judgments”, etc.).  In Psalm 119:9-16 these terms are used, to denote God’s revealed truth to mankind: “Thy Word” (3x), “Thy commandments”, “Thy statutes”, ”Thy precepts”, Thy “judgments”, and “Thy testimonies”.

Journeying with God's Word ©slideplayer_com

Journeying with God’s Word ©slideplayer_com

The Hebrew letter GIMEL means “camel” (primarily as a vehicle for transport, such as for travel, i.e., bearing a rider and/or providing a transfer, from one place to another – so a secondary connotation is that which results from a transfer, such as the outcome of a transaction or some kind of personal dealings.  Accordingly, Psalm 119:17-24 illustrates how God’s Word is the facilitating vehicle that carries God’s servant unto God’s intended outcomes in life (and to God Himself), somewhat like the way that John the Baptist (who wore camel-hair garments) pointed people to the Lord Jesus Christ, informationally conveying them to Jesus as the true Lamb of God Who came to remove our sin (John 1:29).

In Verse 17 (of Psalm 119), God’s Word is recognized as facilitating the psalmist’s goals of living and keeping God’s Word (Psalm 119:105 & 119:129).

In Verse 18, the psalmist recognizes that God Himself must enable our “eyes” to see, with comprehension, the truths that are contained within God’s Word – because different parts of God’s Word are required in order to provide enlightenment about the meaning and value of other parts of God’s Word (1st Corinthians 2:13; John 17:17).

In Verse 19, the psalmist understands that, in this earthly life, he sojourns as a pilgrim-like stranger “passing through”, so He needs to use God’s Word as the authority for what to do during this journey (as the psalmist treks through a strange land where he does not permanently belong), because this temporal world and its institutions are not the ultimate affiliation or fealty that defines the psalmist’s allegiance or belonging (Philippians 3:20).

In Verse 20, the psalmist’s soul is broken in its effort to be attached to God’s great doings, yet only God’s Word can equip us for appreciating and comprehending God’s providential program and judgments in the world.

In Verse 21, the psalmist reflects on how God rebukes the proud, who are cursed by and for their refusal to respect God’s Word – in effect, God has provided His Word in such a way that it delivers judgments for rejecting its truth (Romans 1:18-28).

In Verse 22, the psalmist appreciates his need for God to secure his ability to keep and care for God’s testimonies, and it is the Scriptures that enable us to break out of the world’s opposition, so that a worthwhile life of honoring God (and His Word) can be accomplished (Psalm 1:1-3; Psalm 101:3).

Verse 23, extends the thought of the previous verse, using political powerfully foes as examples of how the psalmist needs protection from the world’s opposition, and how immersing one’s thoughts and attitudes with Scripture’s truth is the proper “logistic” for avoiding failure amidst such opposition (Joshua 1:7-9).

Verse 24, likewise, extends the thought of the previous verse, noting that meditating upon God’s Word is the best counsel for living.  In other words, living life according to God’s Word is like taking a reliable camel ride that transmits us unto a desirable destination – the journey is a good ride and the outcome is a happy ending.  In sum, Scripture-facilitated living is the best way to go through life!

Camel Riders ©Travelnt.com

Camel Riders ©Travelnt.com

Thus we see the theme, woven throughout the octet of GIMEL verses (Psalm 119:17-24), that we are designed to rely upon the truth and values of the holy Scriptures, as we journey through life, as if God’s Word was a transportation vehicle (or camel) that bears us up and delivers us to a good and proper outcome in life. Ultimately, of course, God’s Word transports, in our thinking unto God Himself, Who is our ultimate destination, our everlasting Home – see “Why We Want to Go Home”, as we learn from Psalm 90:1 and 2nd Corinthians 5:1-6.

ethiorthodoxyouth.files.wordpress.com-bible

Bible ©Ethiorthodoxyouth

Now back to the “C” birds, beginning with cardinals.  These birds are visually distinctive, the male of which is almost entirely crimson-red, accented by a black “face-mask” contrasting with a thick reddish bill.

“The [male] cardinal (7¾ in. [in length]) is the only eastern red bird with a crest.  The heavy red bill, with black at its base, is a good field [identification] mark.  The light brown [sometimes tinted a golden mustard shade of tan] female has the [red-tinged] crest and red bill, but little red on the body [with most of her red feathers highlighting her wings and tail plumage].  Young [cardinals] have dusky bills.  Cardinals are common in shrubbery, hedgerows, and wood margins [i.e., forest edges].  In recent years [as of AD1987] the cardinal has gradually spread [its residential range] northward.  The [somewhat similar-looking] Pyrrhuloxia (7½ in.) of the Southwest [a/k/a “desert cardinal”] is mostly gray with red face, crest, breast, and tail, and the general cardinal shape [and is also distinguishable by its golden-yellow bill].”

[Quoting Herbert S. Zim & Ira N. Gabrielson, Birds, A Guide to Familiar American Birds (New York, NY: Golden Press, 1987 rev. ed.), page 104.]

Northern Cardinal Male ©WikiC

Northern Cardinal Male ©WikiC

Northern Cardinal Female ©WikiC

Northern Cardinal Female ©WikiC

 

In particular, this article looks at the Northern Cardinal, which was previously known as the Virginia Cardinal (Cardinalis virginianus), a fitting name for the state bird of Virginia.  (In fact, the Redbird is also the official state bird of North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia – making the redbird the official bird of 7 states, more than any other American bird.)

Cardinal Country Stamps

[government-issues postage stamp images are public domain]

The cardinal is also appreciated outside of America, as is demonstrated by postage stamps of other countries, such as Belize (f/k/a British Honduras), Bermuda, and Mexico.

In a previous article, about a year ago (March 12th of AD2015), an artificial “cardinal” was featured, in  lesson about what it means to make “selections”   —   see “How Can a Mechanical ‘Cardinal’ Make ‘Selections’?.  As that article demonstrated, the notion of so-called “natural selection” is an example of bait-and-switch terminology, serving as a cloak for science fiction (1st Timothy 6:20).

Now, however, a few real facts  —  about real cardinals  —  will be reviewed.

The Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is widely spread, range-wise, across most of North America, covering the eastern half of America, into Texas, plus most of Mexico.  As a Terry Sohl range map (not shown) indicates, the Northern Cardinal is a permanent resident in the wide range cardinals inhabits, so green fields during spring and summer, as well as snow-covered fields (during winter), seasonally serve as a contrasting backdrop for the bright red hue of male cardinals.  Earth-toned females too are often seen, year-round, where they live.  [NOTE: the above-referenced Terry Sohl range map is not shown here, because Mr. Sohl, as a self-described “hardcore atheist”, does not want his maps associated with a Christian blogsite.]

“The Cardinal is a favorite bird of many people and it’s easy to see why.  The brilliant scarlet plumage of the male and the subtle [earth-tone] shades of the female, combined with their clear melodic song, make them enjoyable to watch in any season.”

[Quoting Donald Stokes & Lillian Stokes, A Guide to Bird Behavior, Volume II (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1983), page 247.]

Northern Cardinal Pair ©Media-cache

Northern Cardinal Pair ©Media-cache

Northern Cardinal Pair ©Photoshelter

Northern Cardinal Pair ©Photoshelter

So what do Northern Cardinals like to eat?  Mostly seeds (including grains, such as corn, oats, and sunflower seeds) and fruits (especially berries). The seeds of what humans call “weeds” are a delightful contribution to a cardinal’s diet. Also, cardinals will eat many kinds of insects, such as beetles, grasshoppers, and cicada “locusts”.  Even snails are sometimes eaten by redbirds.

Northern Cardinal Pair ©Firstlighttours

Northern Cardinal Pair ©Firstlighttours

Northern Cardinal Pair ©Wunderground

Northern Cardinal Pair ©Wunderground

Socially speaking, cardinals are monogamous – they mate for life, living together year-round.

“At your [bird] feeder you may see mate-feeding, a highlight of the relationship between the pair.  In this the male picks up a bit of food, hops over to the female, and the two momentarily touch beaks as she takes the food.  If you have a pair mate-feeding at your feeder, they are likely to nest in the area.  The nest is not hard to find …and once you know where it is, you will be able to watch mate-feeding continue at the nest through the incubation phase.”

[Quoting Donald Stokes & Lillian Stokes, A Guide to Bird Behavior, Volume II (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1983), page 247.]

Sometimes they sing together, as they prepare for life in a new nest!  The male finds and delivers ingredients for the new nest; the female does most of the nest assembly work.  Most incubation of their eggs is done by the mother cardinal, yet sometimes the father will incubate the eggs while Mama takes an off-the-nest break.

“Male and female Cardinals sing equally well, a fact not generally known by those used to the widespread assumption that only male birds sing.  Song is an important coordinating behavior in the life of the Cardinal.  Cardinal song consists of many different phrases.  In countersinging, one bird will sing one phrase several times and then the other will match it.  Then the leader will sing a new phrase and the other will again match it.  This type of countersinging that involves copying phrases functions to synchronize and unify members of a pair; and when given between males, helps settle territorial disputes.”

[Quoting Donald Stokes & Lillian Stokes, A Guide to Bird Behavior, Volume II (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1983), page 247.]

Northern_cardinal M-F in winter storm ©

Northern_cardinal M-F in winter storm ©

Now for another “C bird”:  Cormorants, a group of coast-water birds, typically black (or greyish-black), and known for catching and eating fish – and sometimes even for being trained by innovative humans, to catch fish for human masters!

Chinese man with 2 cormorant trained to catch and deliver fish

[ see also youtube of Cormorant Fishing in China,

For general information on cormorants, see ornithologist Lee Dusing’s insightful birdwatching articles: “Birds of the Bible — Cormorants”, as well as Birds of the Bible – Cormorant, as well as Birds of the Bible – Cormorant II.

Double-crested Cormorants are sometimes called “white-crested cormorants”, due to the white plumage they acquire during breeding season (see below).

Double-crested Cormorant ©WikiC

Double-crested Cormorant – During Breeding Season ©WikiC

As Lee Dusing has already observed, cormorants and shags are really part of the same avian kind, some of which have crests and some of which don’t   —  so, does that mean the latter category of cormorants are “crestfallen”? :)

Cormorants are social creatures – they congregate together.  Regarding the Double-crested Cormorant in particular, see the group photo (from Danspix), shown below  —  perhaps it was a family reunion?

Cormorants (and “shags”) are variously distributed, around the world, yet their ranges usually concentrate at or near coastal seawaters, or sometimes near freshwater habitats such as ponds, lakes, and rivers). They usually fly close to the water’s surface, using steady wingbeats.  After plunging (diving) into seawater, while fishing, they protect their feathers by spreading out their wings, while resting, to accelerate air-drying.  In this article, however, the piscivorous “family” of cormorants is represented by the Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus).  Besdies fish, cormorants eat amphibians and crustaceans, underwater.  A mated pair work together to build their nest, incubate eggs, and raise their hatching young. [See Oliver L. Austin, Jr. & Arthur Singer, Families of Birds (Racine, Western Publishing Company, 1971), page 31.]

The Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) is widely spread, range-wise, across North America.  As a Terry Sohl range map (not shown) indicates, the Double-crested Cormorant is a migratory bird, so its range differs depending upon the season of the year.  [NOTE: the above-referenced Terry Sohl range map is not shown here, because Mr. Sohl, as a self-described “hardcore atheist”, does not want his range maps associated with a Christian blogsite.]

Of course, other birds (such as the American Coot!) have names that start with “C” – but this article is already long enough.  God willing, the next contribution to this alphabetic series will be some more “C“ birds – perhaps a couple of these: Chicken, Coot, Chickadee, Caracara, Crane, Cuckoo, Curlew, or Corvids (including Crow)!  So stay tuned!    ><> JJSJ

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B is for Bluebird and Bittern: “B” Birds, Part 1

A is for Avocet, Albatross: “A” Birds, Part 1

A is for Accipiter and Alcid: “A” Bird, Part 2

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Lee’s Six Word Saturday – 4/16/16

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Eye Surgery on an Eagle ©phillipdthomas

CONSIDER THE OPERATION OF HIS HANDS

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“And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of his hands. (Isaiah 5:12)

Eye Surgery on an Eagle ©phillipdthomas

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More Daily Devotionals

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Lee’s Two Word Tuesday – 4/12/16

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Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) ©USFWS

AND CHOKED

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“And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.” (Mark 4:7 KJV)

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) ©USFWS

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More Daily Devotionals

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A is for Accipiter and Alcid: “A” Bird, Part 2

A is for Accipiter and Alcid:  “A” Bird, Part 2

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. (Proverbs 14:12)

(Patience!  The relevance of this verse will be noted near the end of this article.)

As noted in Part 1 (of the “A” Birds review), “A” is for Avocets, Albatrosses, Accipiters, and Alcids (including Auklets and the Atlantic Puffin), — plus Antbirds and a few other birds omitted here.   This study now continues (after having reviewed Avocets and Albatrosses) with 2 categories of birds that start with the letter “A, Accipiters and Alcids.

SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)

What are some of the accipiters hawks, also called “bird hawks”? 

One example of an accipiter is the Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), depicted below.

Northern Goshawk - Juvenile (brown) adults (grey)

Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) ©WikiC

Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) ©WikiC

[Northern Goshawk: juvenile (brown) & adults (grey)]

Accipiter” is an avian category term used for grouping similar bird-eating  hawks, the so-called “bird hawks” (many of these slim raptors are known as sparrow-hawks or goshawks), such as Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii), and Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus).

Regarding accipiter hawks, the eminent ornithologist Roger Tory Peterson says: “Long-tailed woodland raptors with rounded wings [and long tails, which they use a rudders for steering quick turns], adapted [i.e., designed by God] for hunting among the trees.  Typical flight consists of several quick beats and a glide … [chiefly eating] birds, [plus] some small mammals.” [Quoting Roger Tory Peterson, A Field Guide to Western Birds (Houghton Mifflin, 1990, 3rd edition; maps by Virginia Marie Peterson), page 172.]   Regarding the difference between the slim hawks grouped as “accipiters” and the larger high-soaring hawks called “buteos”, see Lee’s “Birds of the Bible: Hawks .

For specific information about Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), which appears on the flag of the Azores, see Flag that Bird! (Part 1)”.

Now for a representative of the accipiter hawks, the Cooper’s Hawk.

Cooper's Hawk (female) mug shot

[COOPER’S HAWK (female): “mug shot”]

For another “in-your-face” close-up view of a Cooper’s Hawk, showing the detail of its beak (profile view), see “Cooper’s Hawk” .

As shown in a Terry Sohl range map, the permanent (i.e., year-round) range of the Cooper’s Hawk covers almost all America’s “lower 48” states, except that accipiter only stays for breeding in the northernmost states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, most of New York, much of Michigan, northern Wisconsin,  most of Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Montana, some of northern Wyoming, the Idaho Panhandle, and northern Washington).  [NOTE: the above-referenced Terry Sohl range map is not shown here, because Mr. Sohl, as a self-described “hardcore atheist”, does not want his maps associated with a Christian blogsite.]

Cooper’s Hawks are stereotypical “bird hawks” (formerly called “chicken hawks” in some rural areas).  These aerial raptors rely upon surprise — mostly hunting, ambushing, snatching, and then eating, small and medium-sized birds, such as picids (woodpeckers, flickers, and sapsuckers), smaller corvids (jays), icterids (blackbirds, grackles, and orioles), galliforms (wildfowl such as quail, domestic chickens, grouse, bobwhites, pheasants, and Mexico’s wood partridges), columbids (doves, including pigeons), cuculids (cuckoos, roadrunners, anis), thrushes, (including robins), warblers, starlings, etc.  Supplementing their bird diet, Cooper’s Hawks (especially those in America’s West) are also known to capture and eat small rodents (squirrels, chipmunks, and mice), lagomorphs (rabbits and hares), and even bats.

Accipiters and Alcids - Cooper's Hawk with caught bird

The Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) can live as long as 20 years, although its lifestyle usually shortens that lifespan – chest puncture impact/trauma injuries, occurring during a chase, are observed on carcasses of many of these accipiters.

Disappointingly, despite its noble name, is not named for England’s eminent scholar Dr. Bill Cooper.  (Actually, the hawk’s association with the name “Cooper” refers to an American naturalist named William Cooper, who lived in the late AD1700s and early AD1800s – some of his work was used by ornithologists John James Audubon, Charles Lucien Bonaparte, and others).  Regardless, it is worth noting, here, that Dr. Bill Cooper does allude to trained “hawks” as they (and pigeons) were used in festive pageantries during the falconry-adorned Dark Ages, when Great Britain suffered being deprived of Scripture accessibility, prior to the Protestant Reformation dawning under the helpful ministries of Dr. John Wycliffe,  Lollards, and William Tyndale.  [See William R. Cooper’s annotated translation of THE CHRONICLE OF THE EARLY BRITONS: Brut y Bryttaniait, (AD2002), at page 52, posted CLICK HERE 

Ironically, Cooper Hawk female adults are larger than their male counterparts.  Consequently, Cooper Hawk males demonstrate respect (seen in submissive body language) when approaching females.  However, communications are primarily a matter of vocalizations (with the male having a higher-pitched voice!), rather than body language, because the usual habitat of Cooper Hawks is visually crowded by trees and dense vegetation, so body gestures may not be practical for communicating except at short distances.

But now we turn, briefly, to introduce some seabirds called “alcids”.

 

Black Guillemot (Cepphus grylle) ©FLickr Ray Morris

Pigeon Guillemot (Cepphus columba) ©USFWS

Pigeon Guillemot (Cepphus columba)

 

[guillemots: approaching beach for landing (T); carrying caught fish (B)]

Alcid” is an avian category term (previously called “auks”) used to denote another group of similar birds, i.e., the auk-like bird group that includes puffins (like the Atlantic Puffin, Tufted Puffin, and Horned Puffin); auklets (like Least Auklet and Cassin’s Auklet); murres (like Common Murre and Thick-billed Murre); murrelets (like Xantus’s Murrelet, Ancient Murrelet, Marbled Murrelet, and Guadalupe Murrelet); guillemots (like Common Guillemot and Black Guillemot); the Razorbill auk (2/3 of whom breed in Iceland); the high-arctic-island-dwelling Little Auk (a/k/a Dovekie), and the now-extinct Great Auk.

Alcids spend much time at sea, hunting seafood (usually small fish, though sometimes shrimp or other miniature sea creatures, such as baby squid), but they breed on coastal land (often in the crevices of or atop shoreline cliffs that are  not easily accessed by terrestrial predators) in fairly dense breeding colonies.   [E.g., for movie footage of a Canadian guillemot colony, to see the video posted CLICK HERE.

Atlantic Puffin Colony on Farne Islands, near England's Northumberland Coast

Atlantic Puffin colony on Farne Islands, near England’s Northumberland coast

For a listing of about 2 dozen alcids, with photographs (and some video footage), see Lee’s “Alcidae – Auks”.

Regarding alcids (a/k/a “auks”), the eminent ornithologist Roger Tory Peterson says: “The northern [hemisphere’s] counterparts of the [similarly piscivorous divers, yet much larger] penguins, but auks fly [in the air, as well as underwater], beating their small narrow wings in a whit, often veering.  They have short necks and pointed, stubby, or deep and laterally compressed bills.  Auks swim and dive expertly.  Most [alcid] species nest on sea cliffs in crowded colonies … [habitually eating] fish, crustaceans, [and sometimes a few] mollusks.” [Quoting Roger Tory Peterson, A Field Guide to Western Birds (Houghton Mifflin, 1990, 3rd edition; maps by Virginia Marie Peterson), page 32.]

Puffins

Alcids have mostly black-and-white plumage, so they look superficially like miniature penguins.  Alcids have short wings, so their wing-flapping must be quick and intense — in order to succeed is getting and staying aloft.  Yet their flying prowess enables their populations to eat, successfully, as they propel their streamlined bodies down through the air, diving into the seawater (with powerful wingbeats propelling and “paddling” them underwater) toward their prey, which usually is some kind of fish (such as herring, sprats, and capelin).  These seabirds get their needed water by drinking ocean-water; their highly efficient salt glands (located inside their nostrils) facilitate desalination of ocean-water, supplemented by salt-removing kidney excretions.

Nasal Salt Gland ©Niceweb

Later, in this article, one alcids will receive special attention, the Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica), who (like other alcids) ranges the North Atlantic’s northern latitudes.  (The Xantus’s Murrelet will be featured later, D.v., because birds with names starting with “X” are few and far between!)

Now for another “A” bird, an alcid of Viking seawaters, Atlantic Puffin.

 atlantic-puffin2-710x300

Atlantic Puffins, as “pursuit-divers”, love to eat fish. Puffins thrive on ocean-caught herring, sand-eel, capelin, sprats, and small gadids (such as hake, whiting, and shore rockling), although they actually eat their catch on land.  Puffin chicks are mostly fed sand-eels.  Yet observations of puffin stomach contents, presumably done when puffins were dead ( J ), show that their fish diets are supplemented by small shellfish, mollusks, and marine annelid worms (a/k/a “bristle worms”), especially if the birds were last eating in coastal seawaters.

Atlantic Puffin with fish

The Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica), as noted above, is one of many Northern Hemisphere alcids.  The arctic/subarctic seawaters and coastlands of the northern Pacific Ocean host the Horned Puffin and the Tufted Puffin, but only the Atlantic Puffin is found in the arctic/subarctic waters of the North Atlantic Ocean and its coastlands.  The primary range of the Atlantic Puffin is in the waters between and alongside northeastern North America, southern Greenland, Iceland, all of the British Isles, Scandinavian coasts (excluding Baltic Sea coasts), northwestern Russia, Svalbard, and other islands of the Arctic Ocean.

Specifically, the Atlantic Puffin has an extended range that includes the coastlands once visited by Norse Vikings, focusing mostly on the frigid North’s coastlines, yet (due to migration) stretching farther south than most would expect of this alcid, as geographer Mia Bennett insightfully observes:

The Farne Islands, England lie at 55 degrees N. Off the coast of Northumberland, they’re not too far from Newcastle, England and Edinburgh, Scotland. I took a boat trip out to the islands a few weeks ago and saw thousands of puffins. The black and white birds were diving, bobbing, and flying with fish in their beaks.

Puffins are usually associated with the Arctic, so I was surprised to see them in the country I’ve called home for the past ten months. Even though I wasn’t really that far north – still eleven degrees south of the Arctic Circle – the presence of puffins made me feel closer to the Arctic than I have since I was in Trømsø in January.

Atlantic Puffin Range Map - accompanying Mia Bennett's Article

[Atlantic Puffin range map accompanying Mia Bennett’s article]

A map of the global puffin habitat reveals that the species generally breeds in places we call the Arctic, but also places we wouldn’t, namely the British Isles, Normandy and Brittany, and Canada’s Maritime Provinces. Puffins fly as far south as Morocco, providing a link between ecosystems in Africa and the Arctic.

The map of the puffin habitat bears an odd resemblance to that of the Viking raids:

Viking range map accompanying Mia Bennett’s article

[Viking range map accompanying Mia Bennett’s article]

Visualizing the extent of the puffin habitat and the Viking raids helps us to reconceptualize what the Arctic means and to understand its place in relation to the rest of the world. The region can be defined beyond a strict adherence to lines of latitude like the Arctic Circle. In their own ways, puffins, and the Vikings before them, help link the circumpolar north into more southern-lying lands like Spain and Morocco. The flight of the puffin, which winters south of the Arctic, reminds me of the fish protein commodity chain that begins up in the Lofoten Islands, Norway, where I saw Lithuanian fishermen hanging cod to dry. The protein powder made from ground up fish heads would be sent on to Nigeria – yet another North-South chain, this time to do with goods rather than animals or people.

As for the UK, a lot more connects the country to the Arctic than puffins. Klaus Dodds, a geography professor and Arctic specialist at Royal Holloway, and Duncan Depledge, his doctoral student and a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies  (RUSI), outline what they see as the country’s priorities in a RUSI report. They write, “The UK has a 400-year-old relationship with the Arctic, created and consolidated by exploration, science, security, resources, commerce and the popular imagination.” The near hero-worship of explorers like Robert F. Scott and television shows like BBC’s Frozen Planet attest to the continuing prominence of the Arctic in British popular culture, even if Westminster isn’t paying the High North (or even the north of England, for that matter) too much heed.

[Quoting Mia M. Bennett, “As the Puffin Flies: The U.K. and the Arctic” (emphasis added)]  Bennett’s allusion to Captain Robert Scott is a good reminder of the quixotic quandaries (and deadly dangers) that can go with idolizing evolutionists and their animistic “natural selection” mythologies.

Explorers Robert Scott and others

How so?  Robert Scott and others learned the hard way – the cold reality – that trying to prove the Bible wrong about origins, while trying to backdate “proof” for Darwin’s speculations, paves a miserable path to self-destruction.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

(See “Penguin Eggs to Die for”.)  What a quixotic quest that Antarctic expedition was – futilely trying to prove that Darwin’s “natural selection” theory was right, and that the Holy Bible was wrong.  What a tragic folly it was.

Even today there are similar enterprises, albeit less exotic, following fables and materialistic myths (see 1st Timothy 6:20) – rather than embracing the “inconvenient” truth that Genesis reports the facts!

For a recent example, exhibiting editorial resistance to admitting that Darwin’s “natural selection” theory is pseudo-scientific “emperor’s new clothes” sophistry,  —  compare “Mislabeling Crabs and Creationists”, as published ultra vires in Creation Research Society Quarterly, 52(2):50 (fall 2015) (displaying unauthorized censorship, ironically exemplifying my article’s caveat that some professing creationists have compromised with Darwinian concepts/terminology, and are doing so surreptitiously), — with my authorized version, “Charading Crabs and Creationists”, posted at Bibleworld Adventures, posted at http://bibleworldadventures.com/2015/10/23/mislabeling-crabs-and-creationists/  (10-23-AD2015).   Using unfair surprise and the equivalent of editorial forgery, the CRSQ version replaced the critical phrase “natural selection” with “descent-with-modification”, without any advance notice to me, the author (much less getting any pre-publication authorization from me, for that meaning-quashing edit), of CRSQ‘s decision to insert such terminology transmogrification.  In essence, the unauthorized editing, in the CRSQ version (that removed my phrase “natural selection” and replaced it by the inapposite term “descent-with-modification”), showcases the very problem of underhanded/undercover defense of “natural selection” sophistry.  [For more on this topic, see the comments regarding Dr. Randy Guliuzza within “A Bohemian Goose and Saxon Swan”, posted at https://leesbird.com/2014/12/10/a-bohemian-goose-and-a-saxon-swan/  .]

Now, back to the puffins:  why do so many people love to see Atlantic Puffins?

Atlantic Puffin with mouth open

Perhaps because the Atlantic Puffin is one of the most cute and colorful alcids — if not also goofy-looking (in a clownish way) — of the North Atlantic latitudes.

With a face like that, surely the Atlantic Puffin has won many a beauty contest!

Of course, other birds have names that start with “A” – but readers can only read for so long, and this article is already long enough!

Meanwhile, God willing, the next study in this alphabetic series (to be delivered in parts) will be about some “B” birds – such as Bee-eaters, Bittern, Bluebird, Bunting, and Buteos.  So stay tuned!         ><>   JJSJ        profjjsj@verizon.net

Atlantic Puffin on the march

Atlantic Puffin at the shore

A is for Avocet, Albatross: “A” Birds, Part 1

Birds of the Bible: Hawks

Flag that Bird! (Part 1)

Alcidae – Auks

Penguin Eggs to Die for

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A is for Avocet and Albatross: “A” Birds, Part 1

A is for Avocet and Albatross: “A” Birds, Part 1

James J. S. Johnson

American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana) by Jim Fenton

American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana) by Jim Fenton

“A” is for Avocets, Albatrosses, Accipiters, and Alcids (including Auklets and the Atlantic Puffin), — plus Antbirds and a few other birds omitted here. This study now bravely begins an alphabet-based series on birds, starting with a quick introduction to 4 types of birds that start with the letter “A”   –    followed by a few observations of alphabetic patterns in Scripture (exhibited initially by Psalm 119:1-8)   –   then followed by specific information on avocets, albatrosses, accipiters, and alcids. Due to the length of this review, the “A” birds (just mentioned) will be considered in two parts: Part 1, Avocets and Albatrosses, — and Part 2 (in the near future, God willing), Accipiter hawks and Alcids.

Red-necked Avocets ©WikiC

Red-necked Avocet at shore ©WikiC

Avocets” are shorebirds, known for wading into the salty or brackish tidewaters, on skinny stilt-like legs, picking at food with thin upward-curving (the opposite of “decurved”) bills.  Avocets include American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana), Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta), Red-necked Avocet (Recurvirostra novaehollandiae), and Andean Avocet (Recurvirostra andina).

Avocets are often grouped with other shorebirds that have similar morphology (shape), who occupy similar eco-niches (similar ecological contexts) and have somewhat similar eating habits – the fancy word for that category of shorebirds is “Recurvirostrids” – a group that includes avocets and stilts.  (For a listing on these shorebirds, with photographs, see Lee’s “Recurvirostridae: Stilts, Avocets

Later, in this article, one avocet will receive special attention, the American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana).

Black-browed Albatross launching into flight from the sea

Black-browed Albatross launching into flight from the sea

[Black-browed Albatross, launching into flight from the sea]

Albatross” is a large tube-nosed seabird type  –  sometimes called “gooney birds” — typically ranging over open-ocean waters, that includes about 20 different species, such as Snowy Albatross (Diomedea exulans, a/k/a Wandering Albatross or White-winged Albatross), Black-footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes), Light-mantled Albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata, a/k/a Grey-mantled Albatross), the Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross (Thalassarche chlororhynchos), Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis), Steller’s Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus, a/k/a Short-tailed Albatross, known for eating juvenile squid), etc.

Regarding albatrosses as a “family” group, with photographs of more than 20 species of albatrosses, see Lee’s “Diomedeidae: Albatrosses.  “Gooney birds” are obviously designed by flying over oceans.  However, on land they can ambulate as they need to, although they may appear “goofy” on shore, as they appear to hobble (or waddle) along, upon their large webbed feet. Yet they live for many decades (e.g., up to 60 years!), unless their natural lives are cut short by a predator.

http://siliconvalley.corriere.it/files/2015/12/black-browed-albatross-flying.jpg

Albatross (Diomedea) ©Unknown from Siliconvalley

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Albatross Study from Ian Montgomery

Albatross Study from Ian Montgomery

For examples of albatross studies, provided by Australian ornithologist Ian Montgomery, see “Ian’s Bird of the Week: Royal Albatross”,  —  and “Ian’s Stamp of the Week: Antipodean Albatross”,   —  and “Ian’s Bird of the Week: Light-mantled Albatross”,  — and “Ian’s Bird of the Week: Campbell / Black-browed AlbatrossLater, in this article, one albatross will receive special attention, Steller’s Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus).

ALPHABETS CAN BE HELPFUL FOR ACROSTIC-BASED LISTINGS

Using an alphabet, to organize a sequence of information, has Biblical precedent.  The perfect example is the “acrostic” pattern of Psalm 119, the longest psalm (having 176 verses!), which has 22 sections (comprised of 8 verses per section), representing the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. (Compare that to English, which has 26 alphabet letters, and Norwegian, which has 29 alphabet letters.)

The sentences in each section start with the same Hebrew  letter, so Verses 1-8 start with ALEPH, Verses 9-16 start with BETH, Verse 17-24 start with GIMEL, and so forth.  Here are the first 8 verses in Psalm 119, each sentence of which starts with ALEPH  [an inaudible guttural consonant, usually transliterated into English as an apostrophe that looks like a backwards C = ’ , i.e., like a closed single-quotation mark].  ALEPH is the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet, so each verse literally starts with that letter as the first letter in the first word (although the first Hebrew word may be differently placed in the English translation’s sentence):

Alphabet in Hebrew of Psalm 119

Blessed [’asherê] are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.

Blessed [’asherê] are they that keep His testimonies, and that seek Him with the whole heart.

Yea [’aph], they also do no iniquity: they walk in His ways.

Thou [’atah] hast commanded us to keep Thy precepts diligently.

O-that [’aḥalai] my ways were directed to keep Thy statutes!

Then [’az] shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all Thy commandments.

I-will-praise-thee [’ôdekâ] with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned Thy righteous judgments.

Thy-statutes [’et-uqqekâ] I will keep; O forsake me not utterly.

Interestingly, Verses 1-3 are narrated in the third person (referring to God as “He”, “Him”, etc.), but Verses 4-8 are addressed to God (“Thou”, “Thy”, “Thee”) in the second person.  Certainly the psalmist appreciates God’s truth as He has  kindly and authoritatively provided it unto His favorite creature, Adam’s race!

Most English Bibles show how the Hebrew alphabet is used to divide Psalm 119 into those 22 sections, although it requires looking at the Hebrew text to see how this was actually done.  Psalm 119 is not the only acrostic psalm – there are others (see Psalms 9, 10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 145).  In fact, there is a hidden-in-plain-view message in Psalm 145, which deliberately omits the Hebrew letter nûn (that matches our “N”), but that unusual usage of an intentionally incomplete acrostic must wait another day to be explained.

“In the common form of acrostic found in Old Testament Poetry, each line or stanza begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, in order. This literary form may have been intended as an aid to memory, but more likely it was a poetic way of saying that a total coverage of the subject was being offered — as we would say, ‘from A to Z.’ Acrostics occur in Psalms 111 and 112, where each letter begins a line; in Psalms 25, 34, and 145, where each letter begins a half-verse; in Psalm 37, Proverbs 31:10-31, and Lamentations 1, 2, and 4, where each letter begins a whole verse; and in Lamentations 3, where each letter begins three verses. Psalm 119 is the most elaborate demonstration of the acrostic method where, in each section of eight verses, the same opening letter is used, and the twenty-two sections of the psalm move through the Hebrew alphabet, letter after letter.” [Quoting J. Alec Motyer, “Acrostic”, in The New International Dictionary of the Bible (Zondervan, 1987), page 12.]

Hebrew Alphabet Acrostic of Psalm 119 ©Zondervan

Hebrew Alphabet Acrostic of Psalm 119 ©Zondervan

Psalm 119 is all about God’s revelation of truth – especially truth about Himself – to mankind (in a comprehensive “A to Z” panorama).  The most important revelation of truth that God has given to us, and the most authoritative form of truth we have, is the Holy Bible – the Scriptures.  (In fact, it appears that Scripture is referred to 176 times within Psalm 119, since 6 verses twice allude to Scriptures.)  Accordingly, Psalm 119 is dominated by references to the Scriptures – using terms like “the law of the LORD”, “Thy Word”, “Thy commandments”, “Thy testimonies”, “Thy statutes”, “Thy judgments”, etc.

Psalm 119 Study Photo

Psalm 119 Study Photo

Of the 176 verses in Psalm 119 there appear to be only 6 verses (actually, there are only 5 exceptions) that omit a direct reference to the Scriptures:   Verses 3, 37, 90, 91, 122, and 132.  Yet, even so, each (of those “exceptions”) refers to some form of God’s general or special revelation:  “His ways” and “Thy way” (in Verses 3 & 37, yet God’s ways are only known to us by His creation, His Word, His incarnation, and His providences, all of which are forms of God revealing truth to us); “Thy faithfulness” (in Verse 90, yet God’s faithfulness is only known to us by His creation, His Word, His incarnation, and His providences, all of which are forms of God revealing truth to us); “Thy ordinances” (in Verse 91, is not really an exception, because it translates for mishpat, a Hebrew noun repeatedly translated as “judgment(s)”, elsewhere in Psalm 119); “surety” (in Verse 122, is the Hebrew verb ‘arōbh, functioning as a noun, yet the concept of God as our “surety” is comparable to His “faithfulness”, noted in Verse 90); and “Thy name” (shemekâ, in Verse 132, which divine name itself reveals God’s character (in the Old Testament Hebrew name for God) as the eternal Being, YHWH, as is emphasized in Exodus 3:14 and further in John 8:58).

Regarding God’s name, the incarnation has revealed God to us as Emmanuel (“God with us”), the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:9-11).  Accordingly, by His name as the incarnate God (i.e., Jesus the Christ), God’s name is necessarily implied even by how we count time on Earth, every time we refer to what year it is, — because the years are denominated as “B.C.” (“before Christ”) and “A.D.” (“anno Domini= “year of our Lord [Jesus Christ]”), ubiquitously reminding us that God has revealed Himself, on Earth, via Christ’s incarnation and earthly ministry!).

Eight Synonyms of Gods Word in Psalm 119

Dusty Bible

In short, Psalm 119 teaches that God reveals truth, and we should expect that we learn 97% of it from the Holy Bible!  (Romans chapter 1 emphasizes that we are taught, by the physical creation, about God’s majestic power and glorious wisdom, and that the message of God’s creation is so strong that to ignore it is to do so “without excuse”.)  Also, since the Hebrew letter ALEPH is derived from the Hebrew word for “ox” (which exemplifies might), it is noteworthy that the first 8 verses of Psalm 119 emphasize who powerfully God’s Word strengthens us for holy living (see Hebrews 4:12).

Now back to the “A” birds (Part 1), Avocets and Albatrosses.

American Avocet - Family group visiting lentic shore

American Avocet – Family group visiting lentic shore

The American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana), like many shorebirds, thrives upon the available edibles on beaches swept back-and-forth by coastal tidewaters.  This dignified shorebird, with its long skinny bill, long skinny legs, and its cinnamon-to-salmon summer plumage (on its head and neck), has already been described by ornithologist Lee Dusing – see “Birds, Volume 2, #1: The American Avocet.

The breeding range of the American Avocet includes most of the states in the western half of America’s “lower 48” states, plus some of western inland Canada (southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, and part of Manitoba), with the breeding range situated mostly in Montana, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, southern Idaho, western Oregon, northern Utah, New Mexico, far western Oklahoma, and the Texas Panhandle.  Some breeding avocets have also been sighted in Minnesota.

Avocets migrate south for the winter, either to Florida or to Mexico.  Their migratory passage travels occur in between their wintering and breeding ranges, covering large parts of Texas, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, and Idaho.

Avocets, being shorebirds, like to eat fish that venture close enough to the shoreline to get caught in the quick bill of an avocet.

Do not think that avocets are merely passive, waiting for food to swim or drift by where they stand, in the shallow water of a pond or lake.

Avocets poke their long stick-like bills into the water, then flex their bills back and forth in the water, stirring the water so that nearby creatures – such as water bugs and crustaceans – are agitated into motion that reveals their presence.   Seeing such creatures reactively move, avocets use their long bills to clamp down on an entrée, such as a small fish!

Avocets also enjoy eating aquatic plants (especially their nutritious seeds) that emerge above the shoreline’s water surface.

American Avocet "Gone fishin" – photo by Ron Dudley

American Avocet “Gone fishin” – photo by Ron Dudley

Now for another “A” bird:  the Albatross, specifically Steller’s Albatross, a shorebird that has been listed as “endangered” since AD2000.

The Steller’s Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus, a/k/a Short-tailed Albatross, formerly known taxonomically as Diomeda albatrus) is an North Pacific Ocean-ranging albatross.  This albatross was originally named for the 18th century (AD) German naturalist Georg Steller, for whom the Steller’s Jay is also named.  Georg Steller is likewise the namesake of Steller’s Eider and Steller’s Sea Eagle (and even of two pinniped marine mammals, the Steller’s Sea Lion and the now-extinct Steller’s Sea Cow).  Regarding Georg Steller’s scientific career and “stellar” accomplishments (pardon the pun), see Steller’s Jay: A Lesson in Choosing What Is Valuable.

Steller’s Albatross ©U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service describes the Steller’s Albatross as follows:

“With a wingspan of over 2 meters (over 7 feet), the short-tailed albatross is the largest seabird in the North Pacific. Its long, narrow wings are adapted to soaring low over the ocean. It is best distinguished from other albatrosses by its large, bubblegum-pink bill. Young birds also have the large pink bill, but their feathers are dark chocolate brown, gradually turning white as the bird ages. Adults have an entirely white back, white or light gold head and back of neck, and black and white wings. …

Historically, millions of short-tailed albatrosses bred in the western North Pacific on several islands south of the main islands of Japan. Only two breeding colonies remain active today: Torishima Island and Minami-kojima Island, Japan. In addition, a single nest was recently found on Yomejima Island of the Ogasawara Island group in Japan. Single nests also occasionally occur on Midway Island, HI. Short-tailed albatrosses forage widely across the temperate and subarctic North Pacific, and can be seen in the Gulf of Alaska, along the Aleutian Islands, and in the Bering Sea. The world population is currently estimated to be about 1200 birds and is increasing. …

Like many seabirds, short-tailed albatrosses are slow to reproduce and are long-lived, with some known to be over 40 years old. They begin breeding at about 7 or 8 years, and mate for life. Short-tailed albatrosses nest on sloping grassy terraces on two rugged, isolated, windswept islands in Japan. Pairs lay a single egg each year in October or November. Eggs hatch in late December through early January. Chicks remain near the nest for about 5 months, fledging in June. After breeding, short-tailed albatrosses move to feeding areas in the North Pacific. When feeding, albatrosses alight on the ocean surface and seize their prey, including squid, fish, and shrimp.”

[Quoting USF&W, “Short-tailed Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus)”, February 2001 pamphlet, page 1 of 2.]

Steller’s Albatross 2©U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Steller’s Albatross 3©U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Short-tailed Albatross Map

The Steller’s Albatross, under the name Short-tailed Albatross, has been officially listed as “endangered” (under the Endangered Species Act of 1973) throughout its North Pacific range, as promulgated in 65 F.R. 46643 (Volume 65 of the Federal Register, page 46643-46654, issued 31 July 2000), in conjunction with implementing aspects of the wildlife protection treaty called “CITES” (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

This means that the Steller’s Albatross, and products of its body parts, may not be freely traded (i.e., apart from an appropriate governmental license), regardless of whether they were “taken” from the wild in America — or “taken” from the wild in any other country that is a ratifying signatory of the CITES treaty (which prohibits the trafficking of endangered species and products produced therefrom).

So, if anyone offers to sell you a fancy hat, adorned with Steller’s Albatross feathers – and claims that the bird was obtained outside the United States, don’t buy it!   (It’s contraband, unpermitted possession of which is a federal crime!)

Ironically, as a result of an earlier “administrative error”, this albatross was officially listed as “endangered” throughout its range “except in the United States”! — Way to go, bureaucrats!

At this point we will break our review of the above-mentioned “A” birds.  In “Part 2” of these “A birds” we will review Accipiter hawks and Alcids, God willing!

<> JJSJ

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A is for Accipiter and Alcid: “A” Bird, Part 2

Diomedeidae: Albatrosses

Ian’s Bird of the Week: Royal Albatross

Ian’s Stamp of the Week: Antipodean Albatross

Ian’s Bird of the Week: Light-mantled Albatross

Ian’s Bird of the Week: Campbell / Black-browed Albatross.

Steller’s Jay: A Lesson in Choosing What Is Valuable

Recurvirostridae: Stilts, Avocets

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Arctic Terns Set Mileage Records As Frequent Fliers

Artic Terns 1
ARCTIC   TERNS   SET   MILEAGE   RECORDS   AS   FREQUENT   FLIERS

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

For  the  kingdom  of  heaven  is  as  a  man  travelling  into  a  far country… (Matthew  25:14a)

Arctic Terns (Sterna paradisaea), which weigh only about a quarter-pound,  are the ultimate example of global migrants, accomplishing the longest-known migrations, every year, from near  the top of the world to near the bottom, then vice versa.  In fact, some Arctic Terns fly >50,000 miles in their pole-to-pole-and-then-back-again migration!  (And, if an Artic Tern lives 30 years, as some do, that could mean about 1½ million miles on his or her lifetime “odometer”, which is comparable to 3 round trips to the moon (i.e., that’s like 3 times, to the moon and back again)!

Imagine how inconvenient it would be for a bird to arrive at the South Pole during May or June, when the weather is freezing cold and food is scarce. Or imagine a similar scenario at the North Pole during November or December, when the weather there is harshest. Thankfully, arctic terns follow the opposite schedule, synchronizing with temperature and seasonal food availability.

Why? These birds are purposefully preprogrammed to operate by these schedules; God fitted them to do so. This programming is critical for these migratory birds to travel over the Atlantic Ocean from the Arctic to the Antarctic, and vice versa, every year. At more than 40,000 miles round trip, they are the ultimate frequent fliers! A recent study pointed out:

The study of long-distance migration provides insights into the habits and performance of organisms at the limit of their physical abilities.

The Arctic tern Sterna paradisaea is the epitome of such behavior; despite its small size (<125 g), banding recoveries and at-sea surveys suggest that its annual migration from boreal and high Arctic breeding grounds to the Southern Ocean may be the longest seasonal movement of any animal. Our tracking of 11 Arctic terns fitted with miniature (1.4-g) geolocators revealed that these birds do indeed travel huge distances (more than 80,000 km [>50,000 miles] annually for some individuals).…

Arctic terns clearly target regions of high marine productivity both as stopover and wintering areas, and exploit prevailing global wind systems to reduce flight costs on long-distance commutes.

Ecologically speaking, it’s all a demonstration of “survival of the fitted”. Arctic terns, like all birds, survive because they are divinely fitted to survive all of the interactive factors in their diverse and geographically extensive environments.

Providentially, the arctic terns select season-synched flight times that repeatedly avoid the harsh winter months at both the North and South Poles. Likewise, the terns select flight plans that take advantage of global wind patterns and incorporate helpful stopovers for rest and refueling.

Timing factors are interactive throughout this cyclical migration: the seasonal weather cycle, wind patterns influenced by daily rotation of the earth, food availability influenced by annual seasons, and the reproductive cycle of the terns themselves.

In all of this, providential programming is both complicated and critical!

[Quoting James J. S. Johnson, “Survival of the Fitted: God’s Providential Programming”, Acts & Facts, 39 (10): 17-18 (October 2010), quoting Carsten Egevang, et al., “Tracking of Arctic terns Sterna paradisaea reveals longest animal migration”, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(5): 2078-2081 (2010).  See also Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, “The Longest Animal Migration in the World Revealed” (press release, n.d.), quoting Carsten Egevang —  and “The Arctic Tern Migration Project” website — showing “the impressive journey of the Arctic tern from the breeding grounds in Greenland to Antarctica and back in this Google Earth Tour combining maps, animations and photos”.]

Artic Tern near Iceberg

Fair Use photo credit:

Arctic Terns are circumpolar, i.e., their range largely covers the polar regions.  Its “normal” turfs include its breeding grounds, spread variously over Arctic lands (like Iceland and Greenland), as well as the sub-Arctic parts of Eurasia (such as Schleswig-Holstein, Germany) and North America, —  plus its migratory “timeshare” stopover lodgings,  — plus its Antarctica wintering grounds (such as Wilkes Land), including “down under” islands near Antarctica, such as Weddell Sea islands or New Zealand’s South Island.

Thus, the historic fame of Thingvellir, Iceland not only derives from hosting the annual Althing events (ever since Viking times), but also from hosting the critical-habitat nesting activities of breeding Arctic Terns!

Unsurprisingly, these noble and courageous seabirds have been celebrated by postage artists and philatelists alike in Nordic countries (and quasi-autonomous jurisdictions), such as the Åland, the Færoe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Sweden   —   as well as in Canada  —  and in other countries (or quasi-countries, like the Isle of Man) that appreciate either the Arctic or Antarctic activities of this globe-flier.

Stamp 1 Stamp 2 Stamp 3

Stamp 4 Stamp 5

 

Yet even the ever-traveling Arctic Terns have their share of enemies – such as predatory Arctic Foxes who are happy to raid Arctic Tern nests, if they can.  But, Arctic Terns won’t tolerate such predatory thefts without a fight – the Arctic Tern colony defenders will challenge (“mob”) such foxes!         ><> JJSJ

 

Picture1

Fair Use photo credit: 

Artic Fox and Artic Tern b©Arkive

Fair Use photo credit: 

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Orni-theology

James J. S. Johnson

Arctic Tern Family – Laridae

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