Social Distancing and Mask by Birds

This year we were privileged to see a small flock of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks land by our home. As we are constantly being reminded to “social distance” ourselves, I think someone must have informed this flock of Ducks.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks by Lee 3-15-20

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks by Lee 3-15-20

This is the way you normally see them:

Black-bellied Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis) ©WikiC

“All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.” (Matthew 25:32 NKJV)

Also, we have been told to wear mask, but this recent visiter, a Loggerhead Shrike seems to have the mask a little too high.

Loggerhead Shrike on hook – by Lee

Loggerhead Shrike on hook - by Lee Closeup

Loggerhead Shrike on hook – by Lee Closeup

“Help me understand Your instruction, and I will obey it and follow it with all my heart.” (Psalms 119:34 HCSB)

Loggerhead Shrike on hook - by Lee Closeup

Loggerhead Shrike on hook – by Lee Closeup

Stay safe as we journey through this trying time.

Lack of Birds To Watch

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

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

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

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

Before they started clearing

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

The Trees already gone as of today.

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

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

Loggerhead Shrike on Oct 1, 2020

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

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

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

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

Who Paints The Leaves?

Birds Are Wonderful: J, K, and L !

BIRDS  ARE  WONDERFUL  . . .  J,  K,  and  L !

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Jesus said: “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink . . . Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, . . . your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”   (Matthew 6:25-26)

For ushering in the year of our Lord 2020,  below follows the fourth advance installment of alphabet-illustrating birds of the world, as part of this new series (“Birds Are Wonderful  —  and Some Are a Little Weird*).  The letter J is illustrated by Jack-Snipe, Junco, and Jackdaw.  The letter K  illustrated by Kiwi, Kites, and King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise.  The letter L illustrated by Loons, Loggerhead Shrike, and Little Spider-Hunter.

“J” BIRDS:   Jack-Snipe, Junco, and Jackdaw.


“K” BIRDS:  Kiwi, Kites, and King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise.


“L” BIRDS:  Loons, Loggerhead Shrike, Little Spider-Hunter.


Birds are truly wonderful — and some, like the King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise, are a little bit extravagant-looking, if not also weird!  (Stay tuned for more, D.v.)

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


Loggerhead Shrike: Converting Thorns into Meat-hooks

Loggerhead  Shrike:  Converting  Thorns  into  Meat-hooks

Dr. James J. S. Johnson


LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE with impaled bird prey (photo credit: Quora)

Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head from off thee, and he shall hang thee on a tree; and the birds shall eat thy flesh from off thee.  (Genesis 40:19)

Do Loggerhead Shrikes live where you live? Have you ever seen one?

Just because a trustworthy range map indicates that a bird lives where you live, with suitable habitat (e.g., semi-open fields, forests, xeric scrub-brush, etc.), is no guarantee that you will see that bird, even if you are a careful and consistent birdwatcher.

For example, during the entire calendar year of AD1995, as part of a research project that overlapped with my duties as a Certified Water Quality Monitor (then serving the Trinity River Authority of Texas, and what was then called the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission), I did regular birdwatching near some ponds next to a part of Furneaux Creek in Carrollton (Denton County), Texas  —  a mostly open habitat that included lotic (creek) and lentic (pond) freshwater, semi-open fields, mesquite trees, and a nearby oak-dominated forest.  That location was a great place for year-round birding!


LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE with impaled rodent prey (Alan Murphy photo)

Yet during that entire year I never saw, there,  a Loggerhead Shrike, although I did see one, once (1-30-AD1995), a few blocks south, along the semi-wooded roadside (at the northwest corner of what was then McCoy and Trinity Mills Road), and later saw another Loggerhead Shrike along a roadside in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (3-11-AD1996).

In today’s cyber-world we sometimes talk about “open source” categories. But with the parapatric shrikes [i.e., shrikes belonging to the same created “kind”, so they are genetically compatible for hybridization, yet usually live in geographically distinct populations]  — such as the Loggerhead Shrike, and its look-almost-alike “twin” (the Northern Shrike), as well as other shrikes of Eurasia  —  one thinks of an “open pantry” lifestyle – because the predatory shrikes are best known for their behavior of impaling their “too-large-to-eat-all-at-once” prey on plant spines (i.e., thorns) and barbed wire, as if using meat hooks, for convenient storage till time for eating.  (Get the point?)


LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE, impaling grasshopper prey (Scott Simmons photo)

Although the Zorro-masked Loggerhead Shrike shares similar grey, white, and black coloration and some of the markings of the Northern Mockingbird (which has no “Zorro mask”), the Loggerhead Shrike uses completely different food-getting and food-storing techniques than the mockingbird.  Also, shrike prefer different prey — often prey too large to consume in one meal.

[Like other shrikes, the Loggerhead Shrike] is a patient and skilled hunter that often perches atop shrubs and small trees, using its keen vision to search for prey. Any small vole, mouse, shrew, lizard, snake, frog or large insect [like a grasshopper, or even a small bird] that comes into view is quickly dispatched [by the shrike’s hook-tipped bill, which can break the neck of a small bird] in a swift swoop [like a hawk on the hunt] and added to a cache of food impaled on thorns [or] barbed wire. Shrikes seem to have an uncanny memory for the location of their food caches, and they have been known to find prey stored for up to eight months.   [Quoting Wayne R. Petersen & Rogers Burrows, BIRDS OF NEW ENGLAND (Lone Pine Publishing, 2004), page 225.]

Wow!  —  there you have it – shrikes impale their “too-large-to-eat-all-at-once” prey, returning to it when convenient (unless a thief gets it while the shrike is elsewhere, not an unlikely contingency).

So, the next time that you see what looks like a mockingbird, wearing a black Zorro mask, watch out!  Actually, no need to fear  —  unless you are small enough to be hung upon barbed wire, or upon a rose-bush’s thorn!


LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE with impaled rodent prey (H. D. Allred photo)