ROCK WREN: Living Life upon the Rock

ROCK WREN:  Living Life upon the Rock

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

rockwren.discoverlife

ROCK WREN (credit: DiscoverLife.org)

“And, I [Jesus] say also unto thee, that thou art Peter [petros = little stone/rock, a masculine noun in Greek], and upon this rock [petra = large rock formation, a feminine noun in Greek, such as is used as in Matthew 7:24-27, to denote a rock formation large enough to serve as a stable foundation for a building  —  see Matthew 7:24-27, where a form of the Greek noun petra is translated “rock”]  I will build My church; and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.  (Matthew 16:18)

matthew16.18-interlinear

Rocks are important.

Simon Peter himself was a little rock, yet his God-given faith in what God revealed about Jesus  –  namely, that Jesus is the divine Messiah-Savior (i.e., see Matthew 7:24 & 16:16)  — was comparable to a huge boulder-sized rock formation (see Matthew 7:24-27 & Luke 6:46-49), was the truth foundation of the Christianity (see also John 20:31).

In other words, to understand the Greek wordplay that Christ used (in Matthew chapter 16), it is necessary to see how Christ used the term “rock” (i.e., the feminine noun PETRA) in Matthew 7:24-27, in His parable about the wise man building his house upon the “rock” (PETRA).  Simon Peter came to believe in Jesus as the Scripture-defined Messiah, and Peter’s belief in that Messianic truth is the equivalent of Peter wisely building his core faith (and thus also life) upon the right “Rock”.

chapel-built-upon-rock-jross-video.com-allensparkcolorado

Chapel Built Upon Rock, Allenspark, Colorado ( jross-video.com photo )

In fact, even birds appreciate the value of rocks!

Albeit birds are known for habituating trees (Daniel 4:14; Matthew 13:19) and mountains (Psalm 11:1; Psalm 50:11; Psalm 104:12; Isaiah 18:6), some birds are famous for living in rocky habitats (Job 39:27-29; Jeremiah 49:16; Obadiah 1:4).

Consider the following birds: Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus muta), Rock Partridge (Alectoris graeca), Rock Bush Quail (Perdicula argoondah), Southern Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome), Northern Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptes moseleyi),  Rock Shag (Phalacrocorax magellanicus), Rock Kestrel (Falco rupicolus), Rock Sandpiper (Calidris/Erolia ptilocnemis), Rock Pratincole (Glareola nuchalis), Rock Dove (Columba livia —  a/k/a “common pigeon”), Chestnut-quilled Rock Pigeon (Petrophassa rufipennis), White-quilled Rock Pigeon (Petrophassa albipennis), New Zealand Rock Wren (Xenicus gilviventris), Andean Cock-of-the-Rock (Rupicola peruvianus —  a/k/a “tunki”), Cape Rockjumper (Chaetops frenatus — a/k/a Rufous Rockjumper), Rock Wren (Salpinctes obsoletus), Common Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis, — a/k/a rufous-tailed rock thrush), Rock Sparrow (Petronia petronia).

rock-wren-with-horse-hair-fbo-nest.hbw-alive

ROCK WREN, with nest-building material (photo credit: HBW Alive)

The ROCK WREN (Salpinctes obsoletus) is a small yet hearty passerine that often dwells in habitats devoid of thick forests, such as some of the rock-dominated deserts of America’s Great West, including canyonlands sprinkled with pinyon pine and mesquites.

It was Friday, March 3rd in AD2018, when I spied a Rock Wren inside Palo Duro Canyon, a huge canyonland featuring rocky wilderness within the Texas Panhandle.

paloduro-lighthousetrail-wikipedia

LIGHTHOUSE, Palo Duro Canyon   (Wikipedia photo)

The sighting occurred during a hike along Lighthouse Trail, in an area dominated by canyon rocks sprinkled by scrubby pines and mesquite trees. The Rock Wren was perched in the branches of a mesquite tree  —  a welcome sign of life in an otherwise fairly desolate and dry desert.  In the photograph (below) you can see that I had my binoculars, for sighting birds, although the woolly mammoth in the background was photo-shopped into the picture by my cousin Don Barber.

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 JJSJ  in  PALO DURO CANYON   (woolly mammoth inserted by Don Barber)

The hike and the Rock Wren sighting were the occasion for composing this limerick:

ROCK WRENS ARE TOUGH ENOUGH FOR PALO DURO CANYON

In the canyon, near Lighthouse Trail,

‘Twas a bird, with an upturned tail;

In weather-worn mesquite,

It sang out a trill-tweet —

Though petite, Rock Wrens are not frail!

In other words, Rock Wrens are tough enough to survive (and even thrive) in the hot wilderness canyonland of Palo Duro Canyon, where the wildlife must tolerate months without any precipitation  —  and (non-winter) temperatures well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

(At this point, based on personal experience, I have a practical tip, for hiking Lighthouse Trail in Palo Duro Canyon:  take extra bottles of drinkable water; don’t expect any cell-phone coverage inside the canyon; use sun-screen on your exposed skin, but don’t put sun-screen on your forehead  —  because the hot sun quickly causes sunscreen [on your forehead] to drip down into your eyes, and that can painfully burn your eyes for hours afterwards, especially when there is no available source of running water for flushing it out of your eyes.)

To sum it up, there are quite a few birds (including the Rock Wren) that thrive in rocky habitats, like Palo Duro Canyon  —  you might say those resilient birds really rock!

rockwren-with-grasshopper.wikipedia

ROCK WREN with grasshopper (Wikipedia photo)


 

Hvitkinngås, a Coldwater Coast Colonist

Hvitkinngås, a Coldwater Coast Colonist 

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

BarnacleGoose-flock-in-flight.BirdGuides

BARNACLE GOOSE flock in flight (credit: BirdGuides)

And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter.  (Mark 13:18)

The above-quoted Scripture refers to the “flight” of human refugees, during a time of future world crisis.  However, for migratory birds, long-distance flights are not deemed a “crisis” because they are an ordinary twice-yearly lifestyle  —  winging from breeding grounds (as summer fades into autumn) to wherever it overwinters, usually with stopover breaks along the way, then vice versa (during spring).

For the  BARNACLE GOOSE (called Hvitkinngås in Norwegian, literally “white-cheek goose”), however, the breeding grounds are fairly frigid, with that anatid dwelling mostly in four populations:  (1) east Greenland breeders, who overwinter mostly along the western coasts of the British Isles, especially in the Hebrides (e.g., Islay) and western Ireland; (2) Svalbard’s breeders, who overwinter in and near the Irish Sea’s Solway Firth, that separates England and Scotland, not far from the Isle of man; (3) Russian breeders, some summering at or near Novaya Zemlya, or its neighboring Siberian coastland, who overwinter in the Netherlands or nearby Germany; and (4) an unusual not-so-migratory eastern colony, which appear to have abandoned the Russian population, and are now resettled (and mostly residing year-round!) in and near islands and coastlands of the Baltic Sea, including coastal Estonia, Finland, and Sweden (although some of these “transplants” may overwinter in and around Netherlands).

One of Norway’s most extreme territories is the arctic archipelago of Svalbard, the largest island of which is Spitsbergen.  Svalbard hosts one of the world’s three most-northern breeding populations of migrating Barnacle Goose (Norwegian: Hvitkinngås, meaning “white-cheek goose”) colonies.   Imagine the goslings hatched there each year!

BarnacleGoose-Svalbard.RolfStange

Barnacle Goose group (credit: http://www.-spitzbergen-svalbard.com / Rolf Stange)

According to the Norwegian Polar Institute:

“The barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis) is a medium sized, black and white goose …  occu[ring] in three separate populations that breed [first] in northeast Greenland, [second] in Svalbard[,] and [third] in northwest Russia and the Baltic region … [with those] from Greenland winter[ing] in Ireland and in the western parts of Scotland, [while] the Svalbard birds spend the winter in the Solway Firth between England and Scotland” and the Russian population “winters along the western coasts of Germany and the Netherlands”.

[Quoting from “Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis)”, http://www.npolar.no/en/species/barnacle-geese.html  .]

Also according to the Norwegian Polar Institute, the Svalbard-breeding population looks just like the other white-cheeked geese: “The Svalbard barnacle goose is indistinguishable morphologically from birds in the other populations, but is geographically isolated. In Svalbard, the barnacle goose breeds on the western coast of Spitsbergen and within Tusenøyane south of Edgeøya” – while “most barnacle geese breed in colonies on small islands, but some pairs also breed on cliffs on Spitsbergen.”

But as weather warms after winter, and daylight hours stretch (vs. night darkness), the northward migration repeats; breeding occurs in the arctic north:

“The spring migration starts in April or early May, when the geese leave Solway Firth and head for Helgeland on the western coast of mainland Norway. In the second half of May they move on to the southern part of Spitsbergen before reaching the nesting areas toward the end of May.  In late August or early September the autumn migration starts. Bjørnøya is an important stop-over site where the birds can spend up to three weeks waiting for favourable winds to initiate migration to the wintering grounds in northern Britain. Some birds probably migrate directly from Spitsbergen to the Solway Firth.”

[Quoting “Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis)”,  http://www.npolar.no/en/species/barnacle-geese.html .]

As a previous blogpost indicates, this “new” eastern (Baltic coastlands) population may be the result of Novaya Zemlya breeders who wisely abandoned that Russian archipelago due to the USSR’s hydrogen bomb [“Ivan”, the Russian Царь-бомба, i.e., “Tsar Bomb”] testing there.

[See “What’s Good for the Goose … May be Relocating (to Another Summer Home)”, posted at https://leesbird.com/2017/07/10/whats-good-for-the-goose-may-be-relocating-to-another-summer-home/ . ]

BarnacleGoose-rangemap.WikipediaCommons

Barnacle Goose range map (Wikipedia Commons)

And now for a quick limerick poem about this white-cheeked goose’s migrations.

Hvitkinngås, Migrating Over Cold Oceans and Seas 

Barnacle Geese are God’s creation,

Mobilized marvels of migration;

Far, far north they’ll do their breeding,

Thereafter they’ll be southward speeding,

For winter months of warm vacation.

BarnacleGoose-pair.Helsinki-KaivopuistoPark

Barnacle Goose pair, in Kaivopuisto, Helsinki, Finland (Juha Matti / Picssr)

 

Jaybirds Mix It Up in Colorado

Jaybirds Mix It Up in Colorado

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.   (Genesis 6:20)

Jaybird-hybrid.Stellers-X-Blue-Jay

As my recent blogpost on Corvid hybrids illustrates [see blogpost reference below], birds feel no obligation to conform to taxonomist classifications of “genus” and/or “species” — because they limit their gene pool activities to the created “kind” categories that God gave to them, from the beginning, on Day # 5 of Creation Week (see Genesis 1:21), when God made different kinds of “winged fowl”.  And, it follows likewise, that real-world corvids likely reject modern speculations (by “natural selection” advocates) that appear in public wearing the term “speciation”.

Accordingly, it should not shock us to learn that hybrids are observed where the Blue Jay and Steller’s Jay ranges overlap, in America’s Great West.

Hence, this limerick:

Caveat, Taxonomists:  Jaybirds Mix It Up in Colorado!

In Western pines, before my eyes 

A jaybird perched, to my surprise  

Yet its front, wings, head, and back 

Were feathered blue, not much black

Wow!  Western jaybirds hybridize! 

(Birder’s take-away lesson:  don’t take terms like “species” and “speciation” too seriously.)

See recent blogposts:  “Ravin’ about Corvid Hybrids:  Something to Crow About”, posted at https://leesbird.com/2018/11/07/ravin-about-corvid-hybrids-something-to-crow-about/ .


 

 

Penguin Eggs Tragedy

Penguin Eggs Tragedy

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but end thereof is the way of death.  (Proverbs 14:12)

Antarctica-5froze2death.publicdomain

Collecting a few penguin eggs, in Antarctica, sounds like a “cool” adventure (pardon the pun), but the adventure is not worth dying for.  Even moreso, dying in a quixotic quest to “prove Darwin right” is beyond merely reckless  —  it both foolhardy and tragic.

Here is my limerick, followed by a link to my earlier article “Penguins to Die For“, which appeared in ACTS & FACTS, 44(10):20 (October 2015), about how 5 Darwin fans froze to death, down under, for their error   —  trying to “prove” Darwin’s “natural selection” phylogenetic theory of biological origins.   (Sad and foolish at the same time.)


PenguinEggs2Die4.publicdomain

DARWIN’S  FANS  DEAD WRONG  DOWN  UNDER

Darwin’s theory, as “science”, was bad

But, in England, it soon was a fad;

Seeking eggs, as its proof

Gambling all, for a goof  —

So 5 froze, to death  —  and that’s sad.

For more, see “Penguin Eggs to Die For“, posted at http://www.icr.org/article/penguin-eggs-die-for/ .

[See also, on this blog-site, regarding the Emperor Penguin, “Flag that Bird! — Part 2”, posted at https://leesbird.com/2015/04/13/flag-that-bird-part-2/ .]


 

Eggs Taste Better if Salted

Eggs  Taste  Better  if  Salted

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Can that which is unsavory be eaten without salt? Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?  (Job 6:6)

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EGGS NEPTUNE (eggs Benedict with crab — Trip Advisor photo)

Although we Americans sometimes over-salt our food,  it is nonetheless true  that it is perfectly Biblical  to salt poultry eggs  before you eat them  —  but what about crab eggs?

Since, during spring stopovers, Red Knots eat lots of Horseshoe Crab eggs on the beaches of Delaware Bay,  —  and the crabs who deposited those eggs just came from the salty seawater of the Atlantic Ocean,  —  it’s unlikely that the voracious Red Knots need to add salt, to flavor those crab eggs for eating.

As an illustration of Genesis 8:22, this bird-blog has already reported on the magnificent migration of the Red Knot, which mileage-marathon marvel annually feasts on beach-buried Horseshoe Crab eggs during its yearly stopover at Delaware Bay, before the refueled shorebird continues its migration northward (toward its breeding grounds in Canada) during the spring.  [See “Shorebirds Looney about Horseshoe Crabs”, at https://leesbird.com/2017/08/11/shorebirds-looney-about-horseshoe-crab-eggs/ .]

RedKnot-DelawareBay-beach.GregoryBreese-USFWS

RED KNOT at Delaware Bay beach (USFWS photo / public domain)

As this USFWS chart (created by Debra Reynolds) shows, the long-distance adventures of the Rufa Red Knot are, in their repeated successes, providential miracles of populational migration.  

In other words, when we think about how this works out, during each migratory cycle, our minds should automatically think about how amazingly clever and capable God is, to have arranged all of the Red Knot’s long-distance (and metabolic) bioengineering to work.  The Red Knot is providentially programmed (“fitted”) to survive and thrive like this[This can be compared to the providential programming that God has installed into the Arctic Tern   —   see “Survival of the Fitted:  God’s Providential Programming”, ACTS & FACTS, 39(10):17-18 (October 2010), posted at http://www.icr.org/article/survival-fitted-gods-providential-programming/ .]

RedKnot-migration-infochart.USFWS

Of course, the hungry Red Knot is not alone in this all-you-can-eat “fast-food” fiesta – because the Red Knot is joined, at Delaware Bay beaches, by oövorous (i.e., egg-eating) “tablemates” including turnstones and sandpipers.   [See Delaware Bay beach photographs below:  left, USF&W / public domain;  right, Larry Niles.]

All of which leads us to today’s limerick:

CONVERTING  CRAB  EGGS  INTO  MIGRATORY  BIRD  FUEL

Red Knots scoot about, on thin legs;

First come, first serve! — no one begs;

Horseshoe crab eggs, the treat

And it’s “all-you-can-eat“!

Watch the shorebirds gulp down the crab eggs!

RedKnots-eating-crab-eggs.NJEnvtNews

RED KNOTS eating crab eggs (N.J. Environment News photo)

Hmm, now I’m hungry!  —  it’s time to eat a couple of poached eggs, that my gourmet-whiz wife prepared for me this morning.   (Of course, those eggs are slightly salted!)


 

Nail-punctured Tire Leads to Red-bellied Woodpecker

Nail-punctured  Tire  Leads  to  Red-bellied  Woodpecker

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

 Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain.  Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time, and then it vanishes away.  For that ye ought to say, ‘If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that’.   (James 4:13-15)

Red-bellied-Woodpecker.KenThomas-Wikipedia

RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER photo credit: Ken Thomas / Wikipedia

How was seeing a Red-bellied Woodpecker, on July the 5th, the direct result discovering a punctured car tire on July the 4th? And how was this series of related events an illustration of James 4:13-15?

On the 4th of July we planned a multi-generational (i.e., 4 generations!) family get-together, to share a meal and a relaxing visit, but en route I discovered a silver screw-nail pressed into the front right tire of our van.  Surprise! – surprises like that can interrupt your “flight plan”, so a “Plan B” becomes necessary.

Although our arrival was a bit delayed, it all worked out, without too much trouble, by using a different car, but on July 5th about a half-day was spent with me at the tire repair place  —  but I used the wait-time wisely, reading about lobster ecdysis (i.e., shell-shedding, a/k/a molting) and other such fascinating activities of coastal crustaceans!

Yet should I have been totally surprised?  As James 4:13-15, quoted above, indicates, we should never be shocked when our Plan A must be replaced by a Plan B.  In the end, because we belong to our Lord Jesus Christ, it all works out for good (Romans 8:28).

A NAIL, A TIRE, AND INTERRUPTED PLANS

Silver gleamed from a tire of our van;

A road trip stopped ere it began:

A nail caused air to leak,

Making our van’s tire weak,

Quickly changing my day’s checklist plan.

On the brighter side, on the 5th of July, in a grassy are (with a few small trees) by the tire repair center, I saw (and watched with admiration for God’s detailed bioengineering handiwork) a Red-bellied Woodpecker — that’s a bird I don’t often get to see.

RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER photo credit: Helena Reynolds / Audubon Field Guide

Each day has its little treasures, if we have eyes to see them.  (And some days have much bigger treasures, such as when a grandchild demonstrated a sincere reverence for God and His Word!)


 

 

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Oklahoma’s Long-tailed State Bird

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher,

Oklahoma’s Long-tailed State Bird

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Scissortail-OklaDeptWildlifeConservn

SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER in flight

Photo credit: Oklahoma Dep’t of Wildlife Conservation

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.    (Psalm 91:4)

Feathers provide a soft aerodynamic covering for birds, and parent birds are known to use their feather-clad wings to protect their young –  so much so that God Himself compared His own protectiveness to the protective wings of parent birds (see also Matthew 23:37).  What wonderfully lightweight yet sturdy  structures feathers are – it is amazing how God cleverly imagined and invented such airworthy body parts!  One bird with unusually long tail feathers is the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, several of which my wife and I saw throughout the day last Saturday, while visiting part of Oklahoma.

Specifically, last Saturday (June 16th AD2018) my wife and I undertook a day trip to Frederick, Oklahoma  –  a small town not far from Wichita Falls, Texas (yet obviously north of the Red River, on the Oklahoma side) –  to visit some American West historical sites and the Tillman County Historical Society’s museum, a/k/a Frederick’s “Pioneer Heritage Townsite Museum”, located next to the Tillman County Courthouse — which courthouse’s lawn features a statue of two of Frederick’s most courageous young adventurers, Louis and Temple Abernathy, sons of U.S. Marshal “Catch-’em-alive” Jack Abernathy.

[ See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Abernathy_and_Temple_Abernathy and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Abernathy and http://www.visitfrederickok.com/placestosee/abernathy_boys.html .]

What amazing epic adventures occurred a little more than a century ago, in that area – and are now are chronicled there, for us now to appreciate!

Scissortail-perching.Cornell-allaboutbirds

SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER perching on barbed wire

                                     Photo credit: Allaboutbirds.org / Cornell University

However, that report must appear elsewhere (D.v.) because this is a birdwatching blogsite, so here I will report on the most remarkable of the birds we observed that day, the SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER, which happens to be the official state bird of Oklahoma. Roger Tory Peterson describes this fine-feathered foot-long flycatcher as follows:

“A beautiful bird, pale pearly gray, with an extremely long, scissorlike tail that is usually folded. Sides and wing linings salmon-pink.  Young birds with shorter tails may suggest Western Kingbird.  Hybrids [with other tyrant flycatchers] are known.”

[Quoting Roger Tory Peterson, A FIELD GUIDE TO WESTERN BIRDS (Houghton Mifflin / Peterson Field Guides series, 3rd edition 1990), page 230.]

Scissortail-perching.DickDaniels

SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER, perching on branch

Photo credit: Dick Daniels / Carolinabirds.org

Scissortails breed mostly in Oklahoma and Texas (and Kansas), migrating to Mexico and beyond (to Panama) for the winter. Scissortails (like many other kingbirds) prefer open prairies and semi-open areas, such as thinly wooded farms, ranches, towns, and roadsides – often perching upon ranchland barbed wires, tree branches, or atop bushy shrubs, as they monitor their surroundings for flies to snatch.  As their name suggests, scissortail flycatchers are “hawking” aerial predators of flies and other flying insects (such as dragonflies, wasps, robber flies, bees, etc.), although they also enjoy eating earthbound insects (like beetles and grasshoppers), as well as winter berries.

So here is my limerick, to memorialize the time birdwatching in and around Frederick, Oklahoma, historic home of the adventurous Abernathy family:

SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHERS, OKLAHOMA’S OFFICIAL BIRD

Perching and alert, scissortail

Pearly grey, its plumage is pale;

Hawking flies in midflight,

Eating bugs with delight

Long-tailed bird that Okies do hail!

Scissortail-with-grasshopper-Birdsna.org-JoeOvercash

SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER with grasshopper

Photo credit: Birds of North America / Joe Overcash

 

 

 

GREAT BLUE HERON COUPLES, CONTENTED WITH STEREOTYPICAL DOMESTIC ROLES

GREAT  BLUE  HERON  COUPLES,   CONTENTED  WITH  STEREOTYPICAL  DOMESTIC  ROLES

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace  of  life,  that  your  prayers  be  not  hindered.  (1st Peter 3:7)

GreatBlueHerons.AmericanExpedition

GREAT BLUE HERONS, nest-building together   (photo credit: American Expedition)

Great Blue Heronwhat a big, beautiful bird! These are the largest-sized and heaviest of North America’s herons – standing about 4 feet tall and weighing over 5 pounds (about 2½ kilograms). Because both sexes look alike, generally speaking, it is difficult to discern which is a male (versus a female).  However, when a pair is seen, expect the male have a slighter larger bill than his female.  (That’s a nice way of saying that males have noticeably bigger mouths than their females.)

GreatBlueHerons.CarolinaBirdClub

GREAT BLUE HERON couple, on nest   (photo credit: The Carolina Bird Club)

Previous blogposts have mentioned this wading bird’s bold usage of alligator “taxis” [see Lee Dusing’s “Gatorland’s Taxi Service”, posted at https://leesbird.com/tag/great-blue-heron/ ], as well as its opportunistic dietary preferences (e.g., fish, frogs, rodents, small birds, bugs, etc.), so those facts are not repeated here [See “Great Blue Heron:  Patient, Prompt, and (Rarely) Pugnacious”, posted at https://leesbird.com/2014/06/30/great-blue-heron-patient-prompt-and-rarely-pugnacious/ ].

However, it is worth mentioning that the Great Blue Heron is unafraid of stereotypical male/female courtship and domestic roles  —  something that some “modern” folks get nervous about:

GREAT BLUE HERONS.  From exchanging twigs to flying in circles, great blue herons participate in a wide range of behaviors during courtship.  To construct the big, bulky nest, the male does most of the gathering of materials, picking up sticks from the ground … [or from other places in its “territory”].  The female does most of the work of putting the nest material in place [i.e., she takes care of the home’s interior decorating].  Pairs often reuse old nests [and have been doing this long before “recycling” became a fad], but if they build a new one, it can take three days to two weeks [although it probably takes longer if they are government contractors].

[Quoting, with editorial inserts, from Kaitlin Stainbrook, “Love at First Flight”, BIRDS & BLOOMS, February-March 2018 issue, page 34.]

GreatBlueHeron-nest.NaturallyCurious-MaryHolland

GREAT BLUE HERON nest    (photo credit: Naturally Curious with Mary Holland)

Where do they build nests? Inside trees and bushes, yes, but also in tall marshy weeds, or even on the ground.  Great Blue Herons are known to collect tree twigs from nearby trees, including some branch fragments that are too long to be useful as part of a nest, so many sticks are likely to fall to the ground before a pair of great blues get their nest built “just right”.  Other nest-building materials include a “lining” of pine needles, moss, grasses, cattail reeds, and/or leaf material.

In other words, these herons are as eclectic in nest-building as they are in sourcing their food.

GreatBlueHerons-nestbuilding.GBH-RV-rentals

GREAT BLUE HERONS, nest-building
(photo credit: Great Blue Heron RV Rentals & Sales Inc.)

A quick limerick follows.

       GREAT BLUE HERON NEST-BUILDERS KNOW THE DIFFERENCE

What’s right oft gets lost, in the throng

       As fads drop what’s right, for what’s wrong;

                        As home tasks come and go

                        Their right roles herons know;

       May that difference forev’r live long !

So Great Blue Herons know the difference between male and female roles.

What a Biblical concept! As the French would say:  vive la difference!


 

Shoreline Action: Birds, Turtles, and a Gator

Shoreline Action: Birds, Turtles, and a Gator

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Again He turneth the wilderness into pools of water, and the dry land into water springs.   (Psalm 107:35, Geneva Bible)

Water is a universal magnet for birds and other animals, so “pools” (or “ponds” or “lakes”) attract wildlife.  So having a pond (or a “lake”) in one’s backyard is good for birdwatching — as well as for watching other kinds of wildlife.

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JJSJ’s first bird-book (from 2nd grade)

During the latter part of this month, for a couple days (May 20th through 22nd), I once again had the memorable privilege of birdwatching in St. Petersburg, at the hospitable home of Chaplain Bob and Marcia Webel.    [Regarding this favorite backyard birdwatching site, see “Appreciating White Ibises (and Other Birds in Florida)”, posted at https://leesbird.com/2016/12/06/appreciating-white-ibises-as-well-as-dozens-of-other-birds-in-florida/ .]   On Monday (May 21st), on or near that lacustrine shoreline, in addition to feeding some large turtles and a hungry alligator  (about 4 feet long! — who stayed on the other side of a metal fence), we saw a lot of birds  – osprey (a/k/a “fish hawk”), great blue heron, Louisiana heron (a/k/a “tri-colored heron”), white ibis, wood stork, mallard, Muscovy duck, snowy egret , great white egret, boat-tailed grackles, anhinga (a/k/a “snake-bird”), etc.  –  and we heard the eerie calls of limpkins (a/k/a “crying bird”). Onshore we also saw birds in the trees, including blue jay and some variety of sparrows, as well as frenetic grey squirrels.    [Regarding Florida’s shellfish-snacking limpkins, see Lee Dusing’s “The Disappearing Limpkin”, posted at https://leesbird.com/2017/11/04/the-disappearing-limpkin/ .]

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COMMON MOORHEN (a/k/a Florida Gallinule, a/k/a Marsh Hen) — photo credit: Shantanu Kuveskar / Wikipedia

In error, then, I thought I saw a Purple Gallinules family, but Bob correctly identified these candy-corn-billed rail-fowl as Common Moorhen (a/k/a “marsh hen” and “Florida gallinule”), and Bob’s bird-book confirmed Bob’s identification.  Meanwhile, at one point, amidst a lot of tossing pieces of bread unto the birds and turtles (and alligator), Marcia tossed some less-than-fresh tuna fish salad upon the shore  –  and the tuna was quickly gobbled up by a Louisiana Heron! (Louisiana herons are birds that I don’t often see – I first saw one at Aransas Bay, in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, on March 11th of AD1996, and I have rarely seen any since then.)  It rained quite a bit, later (on Monday and Tuesday), so I was very glad that we did our backyard birdwatching when we did  — here is a limerick to remember that time by!

Remembering Time (and Critters) at the Shore

Ducks afloat, hawks in the sky

Herons ashore, jays fly by;

Turtles near, some beyond

Gobble bread in the pond;

Busy critters catch my eye!


Happy birdwatching!

Behold! Carolina Chickadee in Louisiana Pine Tree!

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Carolina Chickadee in pine tree (photo credit: FeederWatch.org )

 

The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth.  The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it.   (Daniel 4:11-12)

Birds love trees!

Trees provide suitable platforms for nests.  Sometimes trees serve as substrates for crawling bugs that are eaten by attentive birds. Trees provide shelter form boisterous winds or excessively hot sunlight.  Trees often provide fruits or nuts that birds eat. Trees can provide protective cover to birds who hide in their branch-supported foliage. Trees provide perching sites, for resting or for monitoring the neighborhood for predator or prey.  Among other uses, trees are made to birds!

One perky illustration of these forest ecology facts is the Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis).

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Carolina Chickadee range map (Wikipedia)

On Thursday, March 22nd (AD2018) I saw a “lifer”  —  a Carolina Chickadee perched upon a branch of a pine tree, in the Thomas, Louisiana (in the Franklinton/Pine area), not too many miles south of Brookhaven, Mississippi (home of some of the best Cajun/Creole cuisine I’ve ever eaten – at “Mardi Gras Gril”, a family-owned-and-operated restaurant).  The Carolina Chickadee looks a lot like it northern cousin, the beige-accented Black-capped Chickadee; however, the Carolina Chickadee has no beige plumage – its feathers are a patchwork of black, grey, and white.

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Carolina Chickadee (Alberto Lopez Torres)

So here is my limerick about seeing the chickadee in the pine tree.

 

        VIEWING A CAROLINA CHICKADEE IN LOUISIANA

Behold!  The Carolina Chickadee  —

        Was perched within a pine tree;

               ‘Twas ready, to grab, bugs to eat,

               For insects, in air, was its meat  —

        Behold!  The Carolina Chickadee!

(Also, that day, I observed Eastern Bluebird, Barn Swallow, Swamp Sparrow, Mockingbird, Black Vulture, White Egret, Brown Thrasher, and more —  and heard a Mourning Dove’s mournful cooing.)

Louisiana is not just a “Sportsman’s Paradise”, it is a near-paradise for birdwatching (and catching frogs!)  —  but, if you are in or near in blackwater swamps,  watch out for snakes and alligators!   (Meanwhile, expect to have some good Cajun cuisine!)

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JJSJ eating crawdads, Mardi Grad Gril (Brookhaven, Mississippi)

Teaching God’s Creatorship to Kids

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

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SNOW GEESE at Hagerman N.W.R.   (photo by Trent)

And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.   (Deuteronomy 6:7)

USING  RECREATION  TO  TEACH  GOD’S  CREATIONSHIP  TO  KIDS

Kids grow with imagination,

Kids learn, too, with recreation;

Moth to watch, ducks to feed,

Songs to sing, books to read

So teach kids about creation!

And, in the process of teaching kids about creation, teach them about God’s Creatorship.

Unless the process is “boring”, most kids like to learn.  Furthermore, most young children love to learn about animals — especially mammals and birds.

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child feeding ducks (Daily Express photo)

Introducing a young child to birdwatching, therefore, can be one of the most wonderful favors one can do for such a child.  In fact, teaching a child about God’s Creatorship is one of the best “inheritances” that a parent — or a grandparent (or a family friend) — can bestow to a child (Proverbs 13:22).

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For an example of a child being introduced to birdwatching, see “Attracted to Genesis by Magnets and a Bird Book“, posted at  http://www.icr.org/article/attracted-genesis-by-magnets-bird-book — and its uncondensed version at “Appreciating Baltimore Orioles and my First Bird Book“, posted at  https://leesbird.com/2015/06/02/appreciating-baltimore-orioles-and-my-first-bird-book/ .    (See alsoSnow Goose, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, and More“.)


 

American Goldfinch, Seen in Penn’s Woods

AN AMERICAN GOLDFINCH, SEEN IN PENN’S WOODS,

NEAR THE SUSQUEHANNA RIVER

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.    (Psalm 68:13)

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AMERICAN GOLDFINCH on thistle (Fredric D. Nisenholz / Birds & Blooms)

 The psalmist referred to a special dove having silver-covered wings, with feathers sporting yellow-gold highlights (literally, flight-feathers of greenish-gold).  What a beautiful dove that must be!  In America, however, there is a yellow-colored finch that we are more likely to see, the AMERICAN GOLDFINCH.  It too could be called greenish-gold, because its plumage varies seasonally, from lemon-yellow to a light olive-green.  Goldfinches are small passerines, monogamous (i.e., male-female couples permanently paired, as if married) gregarious (i.e., they travels and feed in flocks), and they migrate to and form the outer territories of their populational ranges — although they are year-round residents in much of their American range (see Wikipedia range map below: yellow for breeding-only, green for year-round residence, blue for over-wintering only). 

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For me, the first time I saw one was on Friday, July 22nd AD2016, as I was driving a rent-car on a wood-flanked country road that paralleled the Susquehanna River, in Pennsylvania, near Exeter, where the next day I would speak at the Pennsylvania Keystone Family Bible Conference, in celebration of 60 years of IN GOD WE TRUST being our national motto.  Here is a quick limerick in honor and appreciation of the American Goldfinch.  (Speaking of our national motto, IN GOD WE TRUST, it derives from THE STAR-SPANGELD BANNER, penned by attorney Francis Scott Key, during the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.)

AMERICAN GOLDFINCH, A YELLOW-FEATHERED FELLOW

Lemon-hued, they eat many seeds;

They’re social, so in flocks they feed;

Goldfinches migrate,

Each true, to its mate;

God provides for all goldfinch needs.

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AMERICAN GOLDFINCH female, Virginia (Wikipedia / flickr.com photograph)