Lee’s Four Word Thursday – 4/20/17

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Two Mallards Taking Off ©WallpaperSafari

SO THEY TWO WENT

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So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?  (Ruth 1:19)

Two Mallards Taking Off ©WallpaperSafari

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More Daily Devotionals

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“D” is for Ducks, Dabblers and Divers: “D” Birds, Part 1

“D” is for Ducks, Dabblers and Divers:  “D” Birds”,  Part  1

James J. S. Johnson

Mallard-mam-with-ducklings

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) Mother & ucklings ©Fair Use Credit – Backyardduck

 “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (1st CORINTHIANS 11:1)

“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” (PHILIPPIANS 3:12)

D” is for as Doves, Dippers, and Ducks (some being dabblers, some being divers)  —  plus other birds with names that begin with the letter D.

Regarding doves, see, e.g., Lee’s Birdwatching “Bible Birds:  Doves and Pigeons” and “Bible Birds: Doves and Pigeons” plus “Columbidae: Pigeons, Doves”, etc.; regarding dippers, see, e.g., my “European Dipper, Norway’s National Bird”.

RuddyDuck.male-and-female

Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis): male (R) & female (L) ©Fair Use Credit – Northrup

This present study will focus on ducksOf the birds we call “ducks” there are two major categories, “divers” (which use their broad feet to propel themselves underwater) and “dabblers” (which typically tip forward to submerge their heads into the water), and these categories are due to those respective ducks’ eating habits (as will be explained below).  Of course, to confuse matters a bit, ducks that dive for their food sometimes dabble too!

NorthernShoveler.male-and-female

Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata): male (R) & female (L) ©Fair Use Credit

But first, because this blogpost-article calmly continues an alphabet-based series on birds, it will look at Psalm 119:25-32, before providing an introduction to 4 types of birds that start with the letter “D”, In particular, those four “D” birds are various DUCKS, both “divers”, the Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis),  —  and “dabblers”, the American Wigeon (Anas americana) and the Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata). Also, some mention will be given to “stiff-tailed divers” (e.g., Ruddy Duck) and “sea ducks” that dive (e.g., eiders, mergansers, oldsquaw, etc.).

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THE ALPHABET HELPS TO TEACH US ABOUT GOD’S TRUTH

As noted in three earlier articles on “alphabet birds”, i.e., on “A birds”, on “B birds” and “C birds” – 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 psalm 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 to 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 fourth octet of verses in Psalm 119 (i.e., Psalm 119:25-32), each sentence starts with DALETH, the Hebrew consonant equivalent to the English “D”.

DALETH.Hebrew-letter-pictograph-door

DALETH.Hebrew-letter-pictograph-door  Fair Use image credit:

The noun based upon this letter is DELETH, which is routinely translated as a “door” (or “gate”) in the Old Testament (see YOUNG’S ANALYTICAL CONCORDANCE, Index-Lexicon to the Old Testament, page 14, column 1.)   Doors are very important.  In fact, JESUS Himself is the “door” to eternal life (compare John 10:7-9 with John 14:6 & Matthew 7:13-14).  Some of the earliest “doors” of the ancient Hebrews were tent-flaps, hanging animal skins that covered an opening in a tent.  This type of “door” appears to be illustrated by the hanging tent-flap (or “gate”) in the Mosaic Law’s blueprint for the Tabernacle (see Exodus 27:16).  To enter into the Tabernacle the hanging tent-flap “door” needed to be pulled back.  (The action of pulling also appears in what may be etymologically related Hebrew words: “bucket” [deli/dali in Isaiah 40:15 & Numbers 24:7] and “draw” [dalah in Exodus 2:16 & Exodus 2:19].)

But it is the usage of the doorway that is of amazing importance to the Christian, because doors provide ingress (entering) and egress (exiting).

Although space here prohibits a detailed analysis, it seems that the Scripture’s usage of DALETH emphasizes more the process of exiting through a doorway, i.e., moving from where one is already, out into something farther, toward a destination.

So, because DALETH is the fourth letter in the Hebrew alphabet, each verse (in Psalm 119:25-32) 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):

25 Cleaves [dâbqâh] my soul unto the dust; quicken Thou me according to Thy Word.

26 My ways [derek] have I documented, and Thou heard me; teach me Thy statutes.

27 The way [derek] of Thy precepts make me to understand, so shall I talk of Thy wondrous works.

28 Melts [dâlpâh] my soul, for heaviness; strengthen Thou me according unto Thy Word.

29 The way [derek] of falsity remove from me, and grant me Thy law graciously.

30 The way [derek] of truth have I chosen; Thy judgments have I laid before me.

31 I have stuck [dâbaqtî] unto Thy testimonies: O Lord, put me not to shame.

32 The way [derek] of Thy commandments will I run, when Thou shalt enlarge my heart.

Psalm119.25-cartoon-pic

Fair Use image Credit: http://markmcmillion.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/quicken-me-flat.jpg

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”.

DALETH.flashcard.letters

Fair Use image credit: http://fce-study.netdna-ssl.com/images/upload-flashcards/back/7/3/58537864_m.jpg

Notice how the Hebrew noun derek appears frequently in this section of Psalm 119 – because when you take a “door” of providential opportunity, to walk life’s journey according to God’s directions, you travel a pathway that leads to your God-designed destiny. Accordingly, the Hebrew letter DALETH refers to a “door” (or doorway, such as a tent-flap), which leads to a destination, after a “journey” (derek – see Genesis 24:21, Joshua 9:11, 1st Kings 19:4 & 19:7, etc.), such as where one is supposed to arrive after traveling a “highway” (derek – see Deuteronomy 2:27).

Accordingly, Psalm 119:25-32 illustrates how God’s Word serves as a “doorway” of opportunity (which requires us to leave our self-anchored selves and our humanistic self-confidences), to facilitate our passage into the spiritual journey that God has providentially predestined for us (Ephesians 2:8-10).

In Verse 25 (of Psalm 119), King David recognizes that his soul’s natural inclination, as a sinner, is to live an earthly life that tends and trends toward “dust” – a sad reminder that we are tragically dead in Adam (Genesis 3:19; Romans 5:12-21). Yet happily, by God’s gracious providence in Christ, God’s Word can reverse the death-sentence and provided David (and us) with life, because the Scripture is the written Word of God that tells us of the living Word of God, JESUS, through Whom we can have life (John 10:10 & 14:6).  In other words, we use God’s written Word to leave our sinful selves, to obtain redemption in Christ, and thereby we leave our mortality for life eternal (1st Corinthians chapter 15).

In Verse 26, the psalmist reports his own “ways” to God, i.e., David was truthful in measuring his own life – this honesty pleases God, Who defines and gives truth (John 14:6 & John 17:17), and it is being truthful with God that keeps open the “door” of access to His forgiveness and cleansing (1st John 1:9).

In Verse 27, the psalmist meditates on God’s Word. This reverent Bible study is the “way” to understanding God’s precepts – it is the “way” to find real knowledge and understanding.  As we soak in the holy Scriptures (which is our true “daily bread” – Matthew 4:4), we leave the finiteness and fallibility of our own minds and memories, to access God’s mind, God’s meanings, God’s morals.

In Verse 28, the psalmist acknowledges that his own soul is weak, losing strength in sorrows. However, thankfully, that sad situation is overcome by the strengthening that God’s Word provides to the reverent and trusting worshipper of God.  This means leaving our own self-sufficiency to appropriate God’s ever-sufficient grace (2nd Corinthians 12:9) – and that is only accomplishes as we apply God’s Word to our own human weakness.

In Verse 29, the psalmist recognizes that he cannot access God’s kindness if he allows the way of falsity to distract him form God’s law.  In other words, the books of Moses – which will one day judge us (see John 5:44-47) – are our foundation for understanding life (and death, and God, and ourselves, etc., etc.), so we must avoid all false distractions that would pull us away (sidetrack, derail, etc.) from that truth.

In Verse 30, the psalmist recognizes that choosing the faithful path is a choice; having made that choice life becomes many opportunities, moment by moment, to apply that choice to the decisions of life. This is the Bible-based spiritual journey – and it is this kind of “walking by faith” that pleases God (see Romans chapter 4 & Hebrews chapter 11).

Verse 31 contrast with Psalm 119:25, where the verb “cleave” was used in a negative way. In Verse 31 David is “cleaving” to God’s testimonies (which hare found in God’s Word); the result is that David will not be ashamed of how his life-journey ends, so long as he is “cleaving” to God’s testimonies along the way (Romans 8:28).

Verse 32, likewise, portrays the psalmist’s movement toward God’s Word. David is now running to God’s commandments, away from the curse of sin-and-death he alludes to in Verse 25 – because David knows that God’s Word enlarges David’s heart – and thus his (redeemed) life.

In sum, Scripture-based living is the way to leave your selfish “self” behind, as you take your godly (i.e., redeemed-in-Christ – Philippians 1:21) “self” closer to God (and toward what He wants for your life)!

Thus we see the theme, woven throughout the octet of DALETH verses (Psalm 119:25-32), 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 our “door” of opportunity (as it informs us of the living “Door”, the Lord Jesus Christ –  compare John 10:7-9 & John 14:6), to leave our selfish selves – and through which we journey toward God, Who Himself is our ultimate home and destination (Psalm 90:1 and 2nd Corinthians 5:1-6.) – see “Why We Want to Go Home” [posted at http://www.icr.org/article/why-we-want-go-home/ ].

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Now back to the ducks. First, let’s consider some “dabbling” ducks, starting with one whose unusually broad shovel-shaped bill gives it its name.

Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata): male ©WikiC

Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata): male ©WikiC

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Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata): female ©WikiC

Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata): female ©WikiC

The Northern Shoveler is a dabbler, ranging much of the Northern Hemisphere.  Its habits are described by ornithologist Steve Madge:  “Sociable duck of shallow freshwater lakes [including “prairie potholes”] and marshes.  Usually found in pairs or small parties, but large concentrations form at migratory stop-over waters [such as Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge in north-central Texas]. Indirectly mixes with other dabbling ducks [such as Mallard, Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, and American Wigeon], but generally keeps apart in discrete gatherings. … Nests on ground among waterside vegetation, often several nests in close proximity.  Feeds by dabbling and sifting in shallow water, swinging bill from side to side over surface, often immersing head and neck and sometimes up-ending; feeds chiefly while swimming, but also while wading.  Loafing birds gather on banks and shores close to feeding waters.  Swims buoyantly, with rear end high and fore parts low, the heavy bill often touching surface of water.  Walks awkwardly.  Flight fast and agile, rising suddenly from surface with whirring wings.  Most populations highly migratory, arriving on breeding grounds from mid March onwards and departing again in August.”  [Quoting Steve Madge & Hilary Burn, WATERFOWL:  AN IDENTIFICATION GUIDE TO THE DUCKS, GEESE AND SWANS OF THE WORLD (Houghton Mifflin, 1988), page 236.]

NorthernShoveler-male-closeup

Northern Shoveler (male closeup) ©WikiC

The male shoveler has an iridescent green head (like a Mallard), rusty sides (like a Ruddy Duck), a white breast, and a shovel-like (or spoon-like) bill. These ducks feed mostly “by filtering tiny aquatic insects and plants from the water’s surface with its bill.”  [Quoting Stan Tekiela, BIRDS OF TEXAS FIELD GUIDE (Adventure Publications, 2004), page 332-333.

Mallard.male-and-female-shore

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos): male (R) & female (L)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mallard#/media/File:Anas_platyrhynchos_male_female_quadrat.jpg

The Mallard (alias “Greenhead”) is another dabbling duck, the most common duck in the world!  (Oops!  — once, at a Tampa church, I erred and said it was the most common “bird” in the world – but I meant to say it was the most common “duck” in the world.)  The Mallard has been reported repeatedly — on www.leesbird.com — so it will not receive detailed treatment here.  (See, e.g., ornithologist Lee Dusing’s “The Mallard Duck: Birds, Volume 2, #1” [at https://leesbird.com/2012/07/16/birds-vol-2-1-the-mallard-duck/ ], as well as  my “Pondside Birdwatching in Florida, from Chaplain Bob’s Backyard, Part 1” [at https://leesbird.com/2015/02/18/pond-side-birdwatching-in-florida-i/ ].  See also, e.g., the report on mallards within my “Birdwatching in Iceland” [at https://leesbird.com/2014/12/08/birdwatching-in-iceland-part-i/ ] and also within my “Bird Brains: Amazing Evidence of God’s Genius” [at https://leesbird.com/2013/03/07/48484/ ].)

AmericanWigeon.male

American Wigeon (Anas Americana): male

Fair Use photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_wigeon#/media/File:Anas_americana_-_drake.jpg

AmericanWigeon.female 

American Wigeon (Anas Americana): female

Fair Use photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_wigeon#/media/File:Anas-americana-004.jpg

The American Wigeon (also spelled “widgeon”, alias “Baldpate”) is another dabbling duck.  This wigeon resembles its Eurasian cousin (Eurasian Wigeon) except the American Wigeon has a curved green side-stripe on its head – unlike the rut-colored head of the Eurasian variety.  (Both have a white “racing stripe” from the bill’s top past the pate.)

American Wigeons are plentiful in America’s Great West; they are also growing numerically East of the Mississippi River. Winter grain fields and saltmarsh habitats serve as homes for this migratory duck. When wigeon flocks fly they do so noisily, bunched together, with obvious agility.  For repeated years this writer observed wigeon flocks sharing a Denton County (Texas) pond with mallards and lesser scaups, during the winter.  Generally speaking, he mallards grouped together, the wigeons grouped together, and the scaups grouped together.

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Now let’s consider some “diving” ducks, sometimes called scaups or pochards.  Despite having the overall outward morphology of dabbling ducks, these diving ducks have some anatomical traits (e.g., trachea structure) differing from those of the dabbling ducks, as well as some noticeable distinctions in their genetics (e.g., mitochondrial BNA cytochrome b and NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 sequence).

LesserScaup.male

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis):  male (L)

Fair Use photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesser_scaup#/media/File:Lesser_scaup_-_Aythya_affinis.jpg

LesserScaup.female

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis):  female

Fair Use photo credit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesser_scaup#/media/File:Aythya_affinis.JPG

The Lesser Scaup (a/k/a “Little Bluebill”) is a diving duck.  This scaup is differentiated from the Greater Scaup in a previous report, “Pondside Birdwatching in Florida, from Chaplain Bob’s Backyard, Part 2” [at https://leesbird.com/2015/03/02/pond-side-birdwatching-in-florida-2-2/ ], q.v. – noting its gregarious nature, range, and other habits.

The typical habitat preferred by Lesser Scaup ducks is described by Steve Madge: “Breeds by freshwater ponds and lakes in open country, especially prairie marshes [i.e., prairie potholes].  In winter on lowland lakes, coastal lagoons, and estuaries and sheltered coastal bays, but chiefly in latter haunts after cold weather has frozen freshwater lakes.”  [Quoting Steve Madge & Hilary Burn, WATERFOWL:  AN IDENTIFICATION GUIDE TO THE DUCKS, GEESE AND SWANS OF THE WORLD (Houghton Mifflin, 1988), page 258.]

RingneckedDuck.male

Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris):  male

http://www.audubon.org/sites/default/files/styles/hero_cover_bird_page/public/Ringnecked_Duck_%20mark%20eden_FL_2011_KK_GBBC.jpg?itok=Qf8g5Vvu (Fair Use photo credit)

RingneckedDuck.female

Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris):  female

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring-necked_duck#/media/File:Ring-necked_Duck1.jpg (Fair Use photo credit)

The Ring-necked Duck is a diving duck, usually migratory in its range.  (However, as the range map below shows, there are some areas in America’s West where the Ring-necked Duck resides year-round.).

RingneckedDuck.range-map

Ring-necked Duck range

map credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring-necked_duck#/media/File:Aythya_collaris_range_map.png

[Orange = breeding range;   yellow = year-round range;   mustard = wintering range]

The male’s cinnamon-hued collar “ring” is often not visible, due to lighting and angle of observation – but it’s there, somewhere! One good place for viewing Ring-necked Ducks (as well as Ruddy Ducks) is Lake Morton (in Polk, Florida), the place where I first saw that particular duck in the wild — see Lee Dusing’s “Fantastic Weekend” [at https://leesbird.com/2014/11/10/fantastic-week-end/ ].

Ironically, the white stripe-like band on its dark bill is usually observable, on both the male and female, so this duck is sometimes called the “Ring-billed Duck”. [See Stan Tekiela, BIRDS OF TEXAS FIELD GUIDE (Adventure Publications, 2004), page 64-65 & 202-203.  For photographs of the Ring-necked Duck, both male and female, taken by Lee Dusing at Lake Morton, see her report titled “Birdwatching at Lake Morton 11/22/13” [at https://leesbird.com/2013/11/22/birdwatching-at-lake-morton-112213/ ].

Ornithologist Steve Madge describes the Ring-necked Duck’s phenology-keyed habitat preferences: “Breeds in freshwater lakes and ponds in open lowland country, often by quite small pools in marshes. In winter, in larger freshwater lakes and locally on tidal bays and coastal brackish lagoons.” [Quoting Steve Madge & Hilary Burn, WATERFOWL: AN IDENTIFICATION GUIDE TO THE DUCKS, GEESE AND SWANS OF THE WORLD (Houghton Mifflin, 1988), page 250.]

RUddyDuck.both-FederalDuckStamp-pic

Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis): male (L) & female (R)

Fair Use image credit (Jennifer Miller, Federal Duck Stamp competition winner for AD2014-AD2015): http://media.jsonline.com/images/39528847_Ruddy%20ducks%20by%20Jennifer%20Miller%202015-‘16%20Federal%20Duck%20Stamp%20winner%20.jpg

The Ruddy Duck exemplifies a type of duck called a “stiff-tailed diver”.  Like other “stiff-tailed” ducks, the Ruddy Duck has lengthy and stiff tail feathers, which stick up prominently when the duck is resting (somewhat like the upturned tail that wrens sport).  These ducks prefer to dive in freshwater, such as freshwater ponds or lakes.

Like other diving ducks their legs are located near the back of their bodies (with large paddle-like feet), equipping them for propelled paddling under water, as they dive for food. Underwater propulsion depends upon such legs and feet, but this anatomy is not inefficient for walking on land, so Ruddy Ducks tend to minimize their time doing “shore duty”.

RuddyDuck.female

Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) female, displaying “stiff tail”

Fair Use photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruddy_duck#/media/File:Ruddy_Duck_(Oxyura_jamaicensis)_RWD3.jpg

The range of the Ruddy Duck is almost all of the “lower 48” of the United States, wherever they can find available marshy ponds or lakes, especially places having fairly dense vegetation along the shoreline – optimal for their preferred diet: aquatic plant seeds and roots, as well as aquatic insects and crustaceans.

Sea ducks” – such as mergansers, oldsquaw (a/k/a “long-tailed duck”), bufflehead, goldeneyes, and eiders – will be examined (hopefully, D.v.) in later articles of this series – because this article, albeit “ducky”, is already long enough.

Oldsquaw.male-afloat

Oldsquaw (Clangula hyemalis)  male

Fair use photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long-tailed_duck#/media/File:Long-tailed-duck.jpg

God willing, the next contribution to this alphabetic series will be some more “D“ birds – perhaps a couple of these: Dippers, Doves, Dunlin, Dickcissel, Dusky Flycatcher, Downy Woodpecker, or the “snowbird” known nowadays as the Dark-eyed Junco!  (Meanwhile, use God’s Word as you out into life, daily, with its opportunities to follow Christ!)

Ducks.Belarus-postage-stamps-sheet

[Public Domain images:  Belarus postage stamps]

So stay tuned!   ><> JJSJ

Lee’s Five Word Friday – 4/15/16

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Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) One in and One Out of the Water ©Slodive

STANDING OUT OF THE WATER

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“For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water.” (2nd Peter 3:5 KJV)

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) One in and One Out of the Water ©Slodive

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Pond-side Birdwatching in Florida I

PondsideBirdwatching.photo1

Pond-side Birdwatching in Florida,

from Chaplain Bob’s Backyard: Part 1

  by James J. S. Johnson

He turneth the wilderness into a standing water [’agam = “pond”], and dry ground into water-springs.  (Psalm 107:35)

Another wonderful morning in St. Petersburg (Florida), gazing at the duck pond and its marshy shores, with mocha coffee, buttered rye toast, and my feet propped up, birdwatching from the pond-side backyard of Chaplain Bob and Marcia Webel   —   under a huge beach umbrella, shielded from the occasional post-digestion droppings (!) from several ibises and ospreys perched in branches that hung over where were sat, birdwatching, properly outfitted with binoculars, coffee mugs, breakfast foods, and a bird-book. That is what I was doing, by God’s grace, on Monday morning (2-9-AD2015) during February (which, by the way,  is officially “National Bird-Feeding Month” – see 103rd Congress, Volume 140, Congressional Record, for 2-23-1994, U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. John Porter speaking on “National Wild Bird Feeding Month”).

The lacustrine birds (in this backyard-and-pond setting) were busy, busy, busy,  —  and noisy!  — with their morning activities.  Most of them were ducks (mallards and lesser scaups).  These lentic water-loving birds were busy:  some were paddling across the pond, quacking, splashing, dabbling or diving, others were perching on shoreline tree branches, or loitering in the pond-edge marshy plants.  Most of them were sporadically flying here and there, sometimes alone, sometimes as a group.  (And they noticed the presence of turtles in the water, as well as a dog on the shoreline.)   Sometimes tall wading birds (e.g., egrets and herons) perched atop the roofs of houses near the pond-shore. In that one morning, in just an hour or two, I saw at least 14 different birds, plus we heard the distinctive cooing of a mourning dove!

To memorialize the happy experience (which was all the more enjoyable because it was shared with my good friends Bob and Marcia Webel), please appreciate this quick report on those pond-side birds, blended with a few thoughts about those fair fowl —  all of which birds were so carefully made and maintained by our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, it would take too long to report, now, on all 15 birds that we then observed.  So this report  (God willing)  will be just the first installment – reporting on the Great Blue Heron, Brown Pelican, Mallard, Double-Crested Cormorant, and Black Vulture,  —  within what should be a mini-series, eventually covering  all 15 of those beautiful-to-behold  backyard-pond-birds.

Great Blue Heron by Dan

Great Blue Heron

GREAT  BLUE  HERON   (Ardea herodias). The Great Blue Heron is a tall, majestic egret-like bird, poised and dignified.  It can stand still as a statue for a long time, waiting for its food to become snatchable.  When the heron spies its prey (likely a fish or frog – but maybe a small mammal, bird, lizard, or even a snake!), at the side of a pond, it stabs with sudden speed – the prey never saw that powerful, sharp, dagger-like beak coming – till it was too late! When in flight, the Great Blue Heron is graceful, purposeful, and dignified.  The National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to North American Birds – Eastern Region (Alfred A, Knopf, 1994 revised edition), co-authored by John Bull & John Farrand, Jr., reports (at its page 367) this description of the Great Blue Heron:  “A common, large, mainly [Confederate] grayish heron with pale or yellowish bill.” Its most habitat – which changes with seasonal migrations — is a pond’s edge, or that of a lake, stream, river, or marshland.  What a regal bird!  “For most of us, sightings of great blue herons are confined to a glimpse of the bird as it flies slowly and steadily overhead, wings arching gracefully down with each beat, neck bent back, and feet trailing behind.  At other times we see it on its feeding grounds, standing motionless and staring intently into shallow water, or wading with measured steps as it searches for prey.” [Quoting from “Great Blue Heron”, by Donald W. Stokes & Lillian Q. Stokes, in Bird Behavior, Volume III (Little, Brown & Co., 1989), page 25.]

Brown Pelican and Laughing Gull by Dan MacDill Shore 2014

Brown Pelican and Laughing Gull by Dan MacDill Shore 2014

BROWN  PELICAN   (Pelecanus occidentalis). In their Field Guide to North American Birds – Eastern Region (noted above, in the Great Blue Heron entry), Bull & Farrand describe (at page 359) the Brown Pelican as a “very large, stocky bird with a dark brown body and a long flat bill”.  The adult storks have an ivory-white head, dark throat pouch, with dark brown hindneck coloring during the mating season.  The immature storks have dark brown heads and ivory-white breasts. These pelicans are year-round residents of Florida’s coastlands.  Bull & Farrand (on page 359) also report that the Brown Pelican is the “only nonwhite pelican in the world”, describing its eating habit as follows:  “…this marine bird obtains its food by diving from the air, its wings half folded as it plunges into the surf.  During one of these dives, the pouched bill takes in both fish and water; the bird drains out the water before throwing its head back and swallowing the fish.”  Donald and Lillian Stokes contrast this eating habit with that of the American White Pelican, which “feeds while floating on the water”.  (See Donald W. Stokes & Lillian Q. Stokes, Stokes Field Guide to Birds – Eastern Region [Little, Brown & Co., 1996], page 25.) One characteristic behavior of pelicans – the world over (including the Holy Land) – is the practice of adult pelicans regurgitating partially digested food into the mouths of their young.  “Pelicans” (Hebrew noun: qa’ath) are mentioned in Leviticus 11:18, Deuteronomy 14:17, and Psalm 102:6 [v. 7 in the Hebrew Bible’s verse numbering] – and apparently also in Isaiah 34:11 and Zephaniah 2:14.  George Cansdale says: “All pelicans feed their young by partly digested food, taken by the chick as it puts its head down the parent’s throat.  This regurgitation was the basis of the LXX and [Vulgate translation for] pelican, for [the Hebrew noun] qa’ath is said to mean ‘vomiter’.” (Quoting George S. Cansdale, All the Animals of the Bible [Zondervan, 1976], page 157.)  Cansdale rightly notices this, because the Hebrew noun for “vomitus” is qa’ (an etymologically related noun, which appears in Proverbs 26:11).

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) at Lake Parker By Dan'sPix

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) at Lake Parker By Dan’sPix

MALLARD   (a/k/a “GREEN-HEAD”:  Anas platyrhynchos). Mallards are nicknamed “green-heads”, due to the males’ iridescent green heads (which are bordered by a white neck ring).  The mallard male’s breast is chestnut-hued. Mallards live both on the coasts and inland (at ponds, lakes, prairie potholes, marshlands, including saltmarshes), including the entirety of America’s lower 48 states, so they are common (and well-known to American birdwatchers), so commonly known facts about them will not be repeated here.  Bull & Farrand [noted above, in the entry on Great Blue Heron] reports that the Mallard “is undoubtedly the most abundant duck in the world” (quoting page 392). Mallards are not only relatively ubiquitous, in their migratory or residential ranges (living or visiting in America, wherever migratory or residential ducks might be found), they are not shy around the habitat “edges” of human settlements.  Mallards frequent parks and backyards near ponds or other water bodies (including manmade reservoirs), often learning (and anticipating) that humans might provide bread crumbs or popcorn.  (But if you throw a piece of rotten banana into pond-water the mallards will not eat it.)  Donald Stokes reports that males and females make different noises:  “The quacking sound, which I had assumed that all Ducks made, can be made only by the female.  The male has two other calls of his own – a nasal rhaeb sound and a short Whistle-call, the latter accompanying all of the group courtship displays.”  (Donald W. Stokes, A Guide to Bird Behavior, Volume I (Stokes Nature Guides, Little, Brown & Co., 1979, page 31) Stokes goes on to say (pages 31-32) that this pattern of vocal behavior is not limited to Mallards – it also is observed in similar ducks including Gadwalls, Widgeons, Teals, Black Ducks, and Pintails.  Remember, therefore, if you see a large group of Mallards on a pond, and you hear a lot of quacking, it’s the females who are making all that noise.  (They might be trying to frighten of a turtle or other animal that is getting too close to their ducklings!)

Mallard Duck army marching (I know it's not a King, but it's cute) ©WikiC

Mallard Duck army marching ©WikiC

Mallards have good memories (as do all birds, I assume), and I have personal knowledge of that fact.  More than 15 years ago, my son and I would regularly feed the ducks (mostly mallards, plus lesser scaups during the winter months) at a pond near Furneaux Creek (in Denton County, Texas), in the evening. But one day we were in a hurry — I don’t recall why — so we drove straight home, bypassing the pond, then driving about a block, taking a right turn, then after another block taking another right turn, then driving down the hilly street to near the end of the cul-de-sac in our neighborhood, parking the car by our mailbox. However, as we got out of the car (and I approached our mailbox at the edge of our small front yard), and as we stepped onto the sidewalk toward our home’s front yard, we were greeted by a host of energetically quacking ducks! — apparently they wanted to know why we didn’t make our usual stop to feed them at the pond. Embarrassed, we quickly found something to feed them, and we quickly scattered food scraps on our front yard, to satisfy our avian guests (and they gobbled up all the bread scraps)! Yes, I felt a bit ashamed of myself, that day, for disappointing the mallards that day — but I’m pretty sure that they “forgave” us. Life gets busy — but that should not become an excuse for ignoring those whom we have an opportunity to be kind to (Galatians 6:10), even if they are mallards who live at a nearby pond.

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) by Lee at Honeymoon Is SP

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) by Lee at Honeymoon Is SP

DOUBLE-CRESTED  CORMORANT   (Phalacrocorax auritus). The male of this bird is basically black, like a super-sized crow, with a goldish-orange bill and throat pouch, featuring a long neck that is usually posed in an S curve if perching.  (The female’s coloring is lighter – somewhat brownish-grey.)   But why is this bird called “double-crested”?   Don’t expect to observe any “crests” on its head (like a cardinal or a Steller’s jay), much less two of them!   Donald and Lillian Stokes inform us that the description “refers to crests that grow during breeding” that, even then, are “hard to see”.  (Stokes & Stokes, Stokes Field Guide to Birds – Eastern Region [noted above, in entry on Brown Pelican], page 27.)  Stokes & Stokes also note (on page 27) that this cormorant is the most common cormorant seen in the Eastern region of  America, on Atlantic (and Gulf of Mexico) coasts and farther inland, often wintering throughout the eastern half of Texas, and residing year-round in Florida.  (For example, the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary — located in McKinney, Texas — is a good place to view these cormorants.) Cormorants are known to live in the coastal areas of the Holy Land.  The darting-to-its-prey habit, of diving cormorants, fits the Hebrew noun, shalak, often translated as “cormorant” (see Leviticus 11:17 & Deuteronomy 14:17). Like anhingas, these dark birds perch with outstretched wings, to dry out their wings after diving into and swimming in water for food (usually fish).  Like vultures, eagles, and hawks, these large birds have a bit of difficulty launching their heavy bodies from the ground, so after they do ascend high enough, to reach rising thermal air currents, they position themselves to “ride” those air currents (sometimes ascending as if riding an elevator), soaring and gliding whenever those air currents are conveniently available.   The double-crested cormorant’s neck is crooked in flight, unlike other cormorants.   These are gregarious birds – they nest in colonies and they often fly in groups, either in a straight line of in V formation.  (See Stokes & Stokes, page 27; see also page 361 of Bull & Farrand [noted above, in entry for Great Blue Heron].)

Black Vulture by Lee Myakka SP

Black Vulture by Lee Myakka SP

BLACK  VULTURE (Coragyps atratus). This eagle-like scavenger’s grey face distinguishes it from its cousin, the Turkey Vulture, which has a reddish-pink face Both of those faces are wrinkled, somber-looking, and – to put it bluntly – ugly.  The Black Vulture is distinguished by its conspicuously “short square tail that barely projects from the rear edge of the wings and by a whitish patch toward the wing tip”.  (Quoting Roger Tory Peterson, A Field Guide to the Birds Eastern Birds:  A Completely New Guide to All the Birds of Eastern and Central North America, abbreviated as “Eastern Birds” [Peterson Field Guides, Houghton Mifflin, 1980] page 160, with illustration on page 161.)  Black Vultures are somewhat feistier than their slightly larger cousins; they are known to scare off Turkey Vultures when there is competition for carrion.  (See Bull & Farrand [noted above, in entry for Great Blue Heron] at pages 416-417.   On the average, a Turkey Vulture grows about 4 inches larger than a Black Vulture, — yet both are about 2 feet long, from bill tip to tail tip.  Anyway, a vulture (sometimes colloquially called a “buzzard”) is a vulture is a vulture, and this is a vulture!   Vultures eat dead stuff – and sometimes even defenseless live animals.   Scavengers by God’s design (serving as garbage collectors/processors for this fallen world), vultures love to pick over and eat dead stuff!  God gave it a “naked” (featherless) head, which may be an advantage for keeping rotten food from besmirching its head with contagion, which might be more likely if its head was covered in feathers.  But Black Vultures   —   like other vultures  —   routinely consume flies-infested, rotting, bacteria-breeding dead animal carcasses  — why do they not get sick and die themselves of botulism or some other kind of food poisoning?  Dan “the Animal-man” Breeding has the answer:

“What is a vulture’s job? They find and eat what I call “road pizza.” They basically help keep the environment livable by limiting the build-up of dead animals and the spread of disease. God carefully designed vultures, giving them the needed tools to find, digest, and keep clean after eating dead animals.  Most meat-eating animals can find their dinner because it is mobile. Movement makes finding things easier. Have you noticed that when someone walks through your peripheral vision, you are acutely aware of it? But if you’ve misplaced your keys, it can take hours before you find them. God gave Buzz and vultures like him two special designs to help them find their motionless dinner—keen eyesight and an extraordinary sense of smell.

Black Vultures at Saddle Creek by Lee

Black Vultures at Saddle Creek by Lee

Vultures have very sharp eyesight. Even when they are soaring high above the ground, they can still see everything below them. God even provided them with sunglasses to protect their eyes against the sun’s harsh light. Vultures have dark lines around their eyes, which work the same way as the dark lines underneath a football player’s eyes. The dark color absorbs sunlight, reducing glare.  This way, vultures don’t have to worry about missing a single detail.  The lesser yellow-headed vultures have another advantage over most birds: a keen sense of smell. Their nares, or nose openings, look like holes in their beak. Wind from any direction funnels through the nares, which leads to the largest amount of sniffing possible. Each breeze is loaded with information, so God equipped these vultures with a very large olfactory lobe, able to handle all that information. Once the vultures find their dinner, how can they possibly eat it? Most other animals would get sick from eating dead animals. Why don’t vultures get sick all the time?  God gave them a very special digestive system. The acid in their crop (which functions like our stomach) is one of the strongest in the natural world. Strong enough to kill the harmful bacteria found in their dinner, it keeps them from getting sick from pretty much anything! In fact, vultures can use their digestive juices to defend themselves. If you were to startle a vulture while it was eating, you’d better back up quickly—vultures will vomit on you if you’re not careful. This not only makes them lighter (so they can more easily escape), but with the addition of the digestive acid, their lunch now smells much worse.”

(Quoting from  Dan Breeding, “Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture” [Answers in Genesis, 3-14-AD2012], posted at https://answersingenesis.org/birds/lesser-yellow-headed-vulture/ .)

Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) by Nikhil

Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) by Nikhil

In the Holy Land proper (i.e., Israel), as well as in southwestern Europe and northern Africa to India, there is a vulture – the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus – a/k/a White Scavenger Vulture) – that appears to match the Hebrew nouns rachma in Leviticus 11:18 (q.v.) and rachamah in Deuteronomy 14:17 (q.v.), and that same bird is nowadays known in Arabic as rachmah, essentially the same word.  (See, accord, George S. Cansdale, All the Animals of the Bible [Zondervan, 1976], pages 145-146.) The Black Vulture soars high in the sky, with a wingspan of about 5 feet (!), often in wide circles, scanning the ground for carrion – something dead yet nutritious to eat.   Scouting for rotting animal carcasses, vultures monitor the land below them:   marshy coastlands, tree-spotted hillsides, grasslands and other open fields, not-so-dense forests, riparian shore-banks, bushy thickets, — and but I’m not sure about the famous Hinckley under-brush of Minnesota (that we have heard so much about from Dr. Stan Toussaint — although he has confirmed that at Hinckley “the men are men, pansies are flowers, and the women are slightly above average”).  The Black Vulture’s body is heavy – like an eagle – so its wing-flappings are few, if possible, to conserve energy.  “Note the quick labored flapping — alternating with short glides”, notices Roger Tory Peterson (Eastern Birds, at page 160).  Its black-to-grey wings are two-tone-colored, with the flight feathers that trail behind the wings being paler (Peterson, Eastern Birds, page 160;  —  see also page 91 of Stokes & Stokes, Eastern Region, noted above in entry on Brown Pelican).  These scavengers are both residents and migrants:  they reside in most of the southern half of America’s lower 48 states, year-round, and summer in the northern half of those states.  Vultures are not picky eaters!  Roadkill, or even a partially picked-over animal carcass, is a wonderful “fast food” for a vulture.  If the roadkill (or other available animal carcass) is large enough it might provide a quick picnic for a family of vultures.

Wow!  That’s just 5 of the 15 birds we observed that morning, in the Webels’ pond-side backyard.   Stay tuned!  God willing, the other 10 birds will be given their proper recognition, at this excellent bird-site!

(On the morning of February 9th, AD2015, from the pond-side backyard of Bob & Marcia Webel (while enjoying breakfast and Christian fellowship with the Webels), I saw 14 birds:  Great Blue Heron, Brown Pelican, Mallard, Double-Crested Cormorant, and Black Vulture  –  as reported above – plus Wood Stork, Lesser Scaup, Osprey, Muscovy Duck, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, White Ibis, Common Tern, and Florida Gallinule, — plus the cooing of a nearby Mourning Dove was clearly recognizable.  It is hoped (D.v.) that later reports can supplement this one, so the latter-listed 10 birds will be properly recognized for their lacustrine appearances that morning.)

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James J. S. Johnson loves duck ponds, having formerly taught Environmental Limnology and Water Quality Monitoring for Dallas Christian College, as well as other courses on ecology and ornithology.  As noted in a recent comment to Emma Foster’s fascinating bird tale “The Old Man and the Ibises” (posted 2-11-AD2015), Jim enjoyed the habit of feeding ducks at a neighborhood pond during years when he lived near Furneaux Creek (in Carrollton, Texas).  Nowadays, from time to time, Jim feeds ducks (mostly mallards) and geese (mostly Canada geese) that visit the pond at the edge of his present home’s backyard.  Backyards and ponds are for bird-watching!

* Other Articles by James J. S. Johnson *

Birds Vol 2 #1 – The Mallard Duck

THE MALLARD DUCK

THE MALLARD DUCK

THE MALLARD DUCK.

We should probably think this the most beautiful of ducks, were the Wood Duck not around.

His rich glossy-green head and neck, snowy white collar, and curly feathers of the tail are surely marks of beauty.

But Mr. Mallard is not so richly dressed all of the year. Like a great many other birds, he changes his clothes after the holiday season is over. When he does this, you can hardly tell him from his mate who wears a sober dress all the year.

Most birds that change their plumage wear their bright, beautiful dress during the summer. Not so with Mr. Mallard. He wears his holiday clothes during the winter. In the summer he looks much like his mate.

Usually the Mallard family have six to ten eggs in their nest. They are of a pale greenish color—very much like the eggs of our tame ducks that we see about the barnyards.

Those who have studied birds say that our tame ducks are descendants of the Mallards.

If you were to hear the Mallard’s quack, you could not tell it from that of the domestic duck.

The Mallard usually makes her nest of grass, and lines it with down from her breast. You will almost always find it on the ground, near the water, and well sheltered by weeds and tall grasses.

It isn’t often you see a duck with so small a family. It must be that some of the ducklings are away picking up food.

Do you think they look like young chickens?

From col. Chi. Acad. Sciences.
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) at Lake Parker By Dan'sPix

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) at Lake Parker By Dan’sPix


THE MALLARD DUCK.

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HE Mallard Duck is generally distributed in North America, migrating south in winter to Panama, Cuba, and the Bahamas. In summer the full grown male resembles the female, being merely somewhat darker in color. The plumage is donned by degrees in early June, and in August the full rich winter dress is again resumed. The adult males in winter plumage vary chiefly in the extent and richness of the chestnut of the breast.

The Mallard is probably the best known of all our wild ducks, being very plentiful and remarkable on account of its size. Chiefly migrant, a few sometimes remain in the southern portion of Illinois, and a few pairs sometimes breed in the more secluded localities where they are free from disturbance. Its favorite resorts are margins of ponds and streams, pools and ditches. It is an easy walker, and can run with a good deal of speed, or dive if forced to do so, though it never dives for food. It feeds on seeds of grasses, fibrous roots of plants, worms, shell fish, and insects. In feeding in shallow water the bird keeps the hind part of its body erect, while it searches the muddy bottom with its bill. When alarmed and made to fly, it utters a loud quack, the cry of the female being the louder. “It feeds silently, but after hunger is satisfied, it amuses itself with various jabberings, swims about, moves its head backward and forward, throws water over its back, shoots along the surface, half flying, half running, and seems quite playful. If alarmed, the Mallard springs up at once with a bound, rises obliquely to a considerable height, and flies off with great speed, the wings producing a whistling sound. The flight is made by repeated flaps, without sailing, and when in full flight its speed is hardly less than a hundred miles an hour.”

Early in spring the male and female seek a nesting place, building on the ground, in marshes or among water plants, sometimes on higher ground, but never far from water. The nest is large and rudely made of sedges and coarse grasses, seldom lined with down or feathers. In rare instances it nests in trees, using the deserted nests of hawks, crows, or other large birds. Six or eight eggs of pale dull green are hatched, and the young are covered over with down. When the female leaves the nest she conceals the eggs with hay, down, or any convenient material. As soon as hatched the chicks follow the mother to the water, where she attends them devotedly, aids them in procuring food, and warns them of danger. While they are attempting to escape, she feigns lameness to attract to herself the attention of the enemy. The chicks are wonderfully active little fellows, dive quickly, and remain under water with only the bill above the surface.

On a lovely morning, before the sun has fairly indicated his returning presence, there can be no finer sight than the hurrying pinions, or inspiring note than the squawk, oft repeated, of these handsome feathered creatures, as they seek their morning meal in the lagoons and marshes.

Summary

MALLARD DUCK.Anas boschas. Other names: “Green-head,” “Wild Duck.” Adult male, in fall, winter, and spring, beautifully colored; summer, resembles female—sombre.

Range—Northern parts of Northern Hemisphere.

Nest—Of grasses, on the ground, usually near the water.

Eggs—Six to ten; pale green or bluish white.

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) By Dan'sPix

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) By Dan’sPix at Lake Hollingsworth


Lee’s Addition:

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Matthew 8:20 NKJV)

We see Mallards all the time here in Central Florida. With over 500 lakes in Polk County, ducks, especially Mallards are quite common. A few of those lakes allow feeding and they become almost tame. Even the “Aflac” Duck (called that because of the Aflac Insurance ads) are actually a white version of the Mallard. (So I have been told.)

The Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) belongs to the Anatidae – Ducks, Geese & Swans Family. There are 172 species in the family at present. Not all are ducks of course. The Anas genera is made up of Ducks, Teals, Wigeons, the Gadwall, Shovelers and Pintails. The whole family has Whistling Ducks, Geese and Pygmy Geese, Swans, Shelducks, Pochards, Scaups, Scoters, Eiders, Mergansers, and various other “ducks.”

Wikipedia says,The Mallard or Wild Duck (Anas platyrhynchos) is a dabbling duck which breeds throughout the temperate and subtropical Americas, Europe, Asia, and North Africa, and has been introduced to New Zealand and Australia. This duck belongs to the subfamily Anatinae of the waterfowl family Anatidae.
The male birds (drakes) have a bright green head and are grey on wings and belly, while the females are brown all over. Mallards live in wetlands, eat water plants and small animals, and are gregarious. This species is the ancestor of almost all of the breeds of domestic ducks (Aflacs etc).

The Mallard is 50–65 cm (20–26 in) long (of which the body makes up around two-thirds), has a wingspan of 81–98 cm (32–39 in), and weighs 0.72–1.58 kg (1.6–3.5 lb).

The breeding male is unmistakable, with a bright bottle-green head, black rear end and a yellowish orange (can also contain some red) bill tipped with black (as opposed to the black/orange bill in females). It has a white collar which demarcates the head from the purple-tinged brown breast, grey brown wings, and a pale grey belly. The dark tail has white borders. 

The female Mallard is a mottled light brown, like most female dabbling ducks, and has buff cheeks, eyebrow, throat and neck with a darker crown and eye-stripe. However, both the female and male Mallards have distinct purple speculum edged with white, prominent in flight or at rest (though temporarily shed during the annual summer moult).

Upon hatching, the plumage colouring of the duckling is yellow on the underside and face (with streaks by the eyes) and black on the backside (with some yellow spots) all the way to the top and back of the head. Its legs and bill are also black. As it nears a month in age, the duckling’s plumage will start becoming drab, looking more like the female (though its plumage is more streaked) and its legs will lose their dark grey colouring.

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) by Ray

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Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

The above article is an article in the monthly serial for May 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

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(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – Bird Song-July

Previous Article – The Semi-Palmated Ring Plover

Sharing The Gospel

Links:

Anatidae – Ducks, Geese & Swans Family

Mallard – All About Birds

Mallard – Wikipedia

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