Dr. James J. S. Johnson

He hath made everything beautiful in his time….

(Ecclesiastes 3:11a)

BLUE JAY (photo credit: Rob Hanson/ Wikipedia)

As reported in 2 recent blogposts   —  ( see https://leesbird.com/2023/01/20/florida-pond-shore-report-part-1/  and https://leesbird.com/2023/01/23/florida-pond-shore-report-part-2/ )  —  the pond-shore birds were plentiful (except not ducks, for some odd reasons) in St. Petersburg, Florida, at the home of Chaplain Bob and Marcia Webel, on the morning of Monday, January 16th (A.D.2023, as Chaplain Bob and I sat in lawn chairs in the Webels’ backyard that adjoins the pond-shore (of what Floridians call a “lake”), drinking our coffee (and eating toasted rye bread). 

In that prior-reported blogposts I described reported (in Part 1) seeing Bald Eagle, White Ibis, and Common Grackle, as well as seeing (in Part 2) Great Blue Heron, Great White Egret, and Double-crested Cormorant.

In this report (Part 3) the birds to be featured are Snowy Egret, Mockingbird, Mourning Dove, and Blue Jay.

SNOWY EGRET in St. Petersburg  (Joan and Dan’s Birding Blog image, q.v.)

SNOWY EGRET.  The Snowy Egret has previously been described on this blog by ornithologist Lee Dusing, documenting this splendidly plumed wader (seen in St. Petersburg), in her blogpost “Walking Snowy Egret Showing Off Yellow Feet”, posted  at https://leesbird.com/2019/01/04/walking-snowy-egret-showing-off-yellow-feet/ , on January 4th of A.D.2019, — as well as in “’E’ is for Egrets and Emus: ‘E Birds’, Part 2” (posted at https://leesbird.com/2016/11/08/eis-for-egrets-and-emus-e-birds-part-2/ , on November 11th of AD2018).   Snowy Egrets (Egretta thula) are reported to hybridize with Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) and Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), according to Eugene M. McCarthy, HANDBOOK OF AVIAN HYBRIDS FO THE WORLD (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2006), pages 189-191.  The Snowy Egret, as a member of the “heron-egret” subfamily Ardeinae, is a distant “cousin” to the Great White Egret that is described in “Egret Feathers, Worth More than Gold!” (posted at https://leesbird.com/2018/08/17/egret-feathers-worth-more-than-gold/ , dated August 17th of AD2018).

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD    ( U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service image / Wikipedia, q.v.)

MOCKINGBIRD.  The Northern Mockingbird (whose ability to “mock” the vocal sounds of others, reminding us of the wisdom in Ecclesiastes 10:20) has previously been described on this birdwatching blog  –  see “Mockingbirds: Versatile Voices in Plain Plumage”, posted at https://leesbird.com/2017/08/16/mockingbirds-versatile-voices-in-plain-plumage/  (on August 16th of AD2016).  See also ornithologist Lee Dusing’s video-enhanced blogpost (“Northern Mockingbird”), posted March 19th of AD2009, at https://leesbird.com/2009/03/19/northern-mockingbird/ , citing the Peterson Field Guide Video Series, q.v., at https://www.youtube.com/user/petersonfieldguides .

MOURNING DOVE, ( Don BeBold image / Wikipedia, q.v.)

MOURNING DOVE.  The Mourning Dove has previously been described on this birdwatching blog  –  see “The Ghost Army – Repost”, posted November 2nd of AD2015, at https://leesbird.com/2015/11/02/the-ghost-army-repost/  —  citing https://www.icr.org/article/8990 (from the November AD2015 issue of ACTS & FACTS magazine), — as well as in “Pond-side Birdwatching in Florida, Part III”, posted March 5th of AD2015 (at https://leesbird.com/2015/03/05/pond-side-birdwatching-in-florida-iii/ ).  See also ornithologist Lee Dusing’s interesting report on doves in her blogpost “Birds of the Bible:  Dove and Turtledove”, posted May 16th of AD2008 (at https://leesbird.com/2008/05/16/birds-of-the-bible-dove-and-turtle-dove/ ), noting that our Mourning Dove matches the prophet’s lamentation in Isaiah 38:14.  Of course, just because you hear mourning-like cooing—that sounds like a dove—it might be another bird!  (See “So, Who Coos from the Rooftop?” — posted June 9th of AD2022, at https://leesbird.com/2022/06/09/so-who-coos-from-the-rooftop/ ), noting that Roadrunners can make sounds like those of Mourning Doves!  Amazing!

BLUE JAY (John James Audubon painting, ~AD1830s / public domain)

BLUE JAY.  The Blue Jay, which can be a neighborhood bully, has been described on this birding blog  –  see “Bird Brains, Amazing Evidence of God’s Genius”, posted on March 7th of AD2013 (at https://leesbird.com/2013/03/07/48484/ ).  When ranges overlap, such as in Rocky Mountain states, Blue Jays sometimes hybridize with Steller’s Jays — see “Jaybirds Mix It Up in Colorado”, posted on November 12th of AD2018 (at  https://leesbird.com/2018/11/12/jaybirds-mix-it-up-in-colorado/ ). The behavioral habits of Blue Jays, which include eating sunflower seeds, are noted within the poetic blogpost titled “Here’s Seed for Thought”, posted on July 4th of AD2015 (at https://leesbird.com/2015/07/04/heres-seed-for-thought/ ).  Another jaybird adventure that comes to mind is the birdwatching joy (on July 7th of AD2006, with my wife, while approaching a rural restaurant) of seeing a Eurasian Jay in a wooded field outside of Porvoo, Finland – see  “Eurasian Jay: ‘Jay of the Oaks’ Admired in Finland”, posted on October 10th of AD2016 (at https://leesbird.com/2016/10/10/eurasian-jay-jay-of-the-oaks-admired-in-finland/  ). Truly amazing!

WEBELS’ BACKYARD BIRDWATCHING    (Marcia Webel photo, AD2016)

Meanwhile, the other pond-shore visiting birds  —  i.e., Florida Gallinule (a/k/a Common Moorhen), Anhinga (a/k/a Snakebird), Tufted Titmouse, Limpkin, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Muscovy Duck (the last being seen on grass of neighbor’s front-yard)  —   on the morning of Monday, January 16th of A.D.2023), must wait for another day to be reported here, Deo volente.  Thank the Lord for such good memories!

Also, thanks be unto the LORD for His creative and artistic bioengineering as our great Creator, including His Creatorship as exhibited in His making of Snowy Egrets (like the one below shown) and of all of Earth’s other magnificent birds!

><> JJSJ profjjsj@aol.com

SNOWY EGRET   (Rich Vial / Clearly Confused Blog photo credit)

So, Who Coos From The Rooftop?

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

So, who coos from the rooftop?

Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter; I did mourn as a dove; mine eyes fail with looking upward; O LORD, I am oppressed — undertake for me. 

(Isaiah 38:14)

On Tuesday afternoon, earlier this week, after commuting home from work, I parked my van in front of my house, preparing to enter my home at the end of a tumultuous day.  But, as I walked from the driveway toward my front door, I heard a strange-sounding bird, emitting a repetition of low-moaning-like noises, like a somewhat-sick dove might sound as it tried to “coo” (which is why some doves are called “mourning doves”).  As I looked above, from where the sounds were originating, I saw an odd bird, much bigger than a dove, perched atop the roof of my house – it was a Greater Roadrunner!

Isaiah the prophet knew that doves can make moaning noises, as if mourning. But other birds can make similar noises, too.

ROADRUNNER Gary Stolz / USFWS (public domain) photo credit

After gazing up at the Roadrunner, who ignored me, I went inside and quickly fetched my handiest bird-book, and soon noticed the following information on the book’s page regarding the Greater Roadrunners (Geococcyx californianus):

“Voice: Six to eight low, dove-like coo’s, descending in pitch.”

[Peterson Field Guides, noted below]

[Quoting Roger Tory Peterson, A FIELD GUIDE TO WESTERN BIRDS (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin / PETERSON FIELD GUIDES, 3rd edition, 1990), page 212.]

Bingo! What a perfect description of what I had been hearing near my front door. 

ROADRUNNER / WorldAtlas.com photo credit

Then my imagination got to thinking.  Imagine a rat, or a snake, that hears that cooing on the ground, behind one of the thick bushes.  What if that hungry rat, or snake, wrongly guessed that the low-moaning cooing noises were clues of a nearby mourning dove nest, where tasty dove eggs (or dove hatchlings) might be located?  If any such rat, or snake, made such a mistaken guess —  OOPS!  Its last thought might be that a hungry roadrunner can sound like a dove!

Such a mistake could be fatal, of course, because roadrunners often eat snakes and small rodents, as well as small lizards, etc.

ROADRUNNER with lizard / U.S. Army (public domain) photo credit

Ironically, mourning doves often frequent the bushes next to my house; sometimes they perch atop the rooftop.  That means our roadrunners sometimes “shadow” the meanderings of our mourning doves. 

Someone once said that “curiosity killed the cat” —  well, sometimes curiosity might kill a rat.

Pond-side Birdwatching in Florida III


Pond-side Birdwatching-Webel Backyard

Pond-side Birdwatching in Florida,

from Chaplain Bob’s Backyard: Part 3

 by James J. S. Johnson

Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me. (Isaiah 38:14)

But they that escape of them shall escape, and shall be on the mountains like doves of the valleys, all of them mourning, every one for his iniquity. (Ezekiel 7:16)

O ye that dwell in Moab, leave the cities, and dwell in the rock, and be like the dove that maketh her nest in the sides of the hole’s mouth.  (Jeremiah 48:28)

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) by Daves BirdingPix

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) by Daves BirdingPix

Doves (a kind of birds that include pigeons) are among the most commonly observed birds in the world.  Doves display great variety (mourning dove, turtle dove, zebra dove, Inca dove, white-winged dove, etc.), the most popular variety being the pigeon (whose more formal name is “rock dove”).   Doves illustrate 2 different nesting habits (both being mentioned in Deuteronomy 22:6-7):  some nest in trees or other high places; others nest on the ground. Pigeons are often seen, due to their conspicuous habit of domesticating urban habitats (such as city buildings and bridges), nesting in high places (as indicated by , feeding, and flying in plain view of human spectators – often learning to accept food from humans, or to scavenge human garbage.  However, other doves (such as mourning doves) nest on the ground, a more vulnerable lifestyle.  Doves that nest on the ground, however, tend to be more reclusive (hiding in bushes and other thick vegetation), so they are more often heard than seen.  For example, in this birding report, brief mention will be made of a cooing mourning dove – that was heard, but not seen.

As reported previously, at Lee’s Birdwatching Adventures, it was a wonderful morning in St. Petersburg, where 3 of us  (my dear friends in Christ, Chaplain Bob and Marcia Webel, and I)  were watching the duck-populated pond and its bird-visited shores, with coffee and feet propped up, in the Webels’ backyard —  under a huge beach umbrella, shielded from occasional droppings (!) from ibises and ospreys (who were perched in branches hanging over where we were) sitting with binoculars, coffee mugs, healthy breakfast foods, and a bird-book.  Mostly we were bird-watching, that morning, but also we were bird-listening!

Muscovy Duck

Muscovy Duck

MUSCOVY   (a/k/a “MUSCOVY DUCK” or “BARBARY DUCK”:  Cairina moschata).

RTP @ 52-53 & 302-303

The Muscovy Duck is a strange looking fowl.  (And its name refers to “musk”, so it must have a characteristic smell, too!)  It is a duck, yet it is large – the size of a goose.  Yet even stranger are the colorful growths of red flesh upon its face:  the Muscovy looks like someone spilled some red bumpy-lumpy oatmeal on the sides of its bill, and on some of them the “red oatmeal” stuck to the face even around the eyes.  This fleshy growth is wattle-like “caruncle”, something like what turkey faces display.  Some people dislike the Muscovy Duck simply because its knobby (i.e., carunculated) face looks grotesque or diseased or “corrupted”!  But Mallards don’t seem to disdain these beauty contest flunkies; often a Muscovy (or two) is seen amidst a group of Mallards, and it seems that maybe they sometimes hybridize.  The coloring of a Muscovy Duck might be mostly white, or mostly black (with iridescent green tinting), or a quilt-patched mixture of black and white, with large white “patches” or “bars” on the wings.   (See 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], at pages 52-53 & 302-303.)   The Muscovy’s awkward gait, when waddling about, sometimes looks a clumsy-looking, but these strange ducks are hearty survivors.  Regardless of where they came from (some say Latin America), these ducks are here to stay.   A domesticated form of the Muscovy is bred as the Pato Criollo (i.e., Creole Duck), though it seems that many of these have figured out how to escape their intended culinary destinies, becoming semi-wild as escapees. Muscovy Ducks have been observed and studied for centuries.  The Muscovy Duck was noted by two of the earliest (and most godly) eco-science geniuses, Konrad Gessner and John Ray, both being Bible-believing creationists.  To appreciate just an introductory sample of their trail-blazing creation research, analysis, and scholarship, see:  http://www.icr.org/article/christianity-cause-modern-science/  (mentioning John Ray),   http://www.icr.org/article/graffiti-judgment/  (mentioning, in Footnote #3, both Konrad Gessner and John Ray),  and  http://www.icr.org/article/fossil-political-correctness-sixteenth-century (mentioning Konrad Gessner as a Bible-believing Christian ecologist).

Feeding White Ibises at Lake Morton

Feeding White Ibises at Lake Morton

WHITE  IBIS   (Eudocimus albus).

The White Ibis is a white-plumed wading bird, with a reddish/orange-scarlet/pinkish/salmon-colored “decurved” (i.e., downward-curved) bill — shown here (with Dan Dusing, Baron Brown, and me  —  in a lakeshore photograph taken by ornithologist Lee Dusing) being fed bread crumbs.  The White Ibis is a gregarious bird, nesting in colonies and often seen foraging as a group.  Its homes are found in coastal mudflats, lakes and lakeshores, ponds and pondshores, and marshy areas.  (Obviously this group of ibises have been fed bread crumbs before – they are quite ready for a tasty snack!)  During the breeding season the White Ibis also has skinny pink legs (about the same color as its prominent bill, but at non-breeding times these legs are duller in color),  —  and this bird knows how to scurry about on those legs! The decurved bill, of course, is an excellent tool for probing around in shoreline mud or sand, for little things to eat, such as small crustaceans (like mudcrabs), frogs, or bugs.  (Obviously God gets the credit, for designing the ibis bill to accomplish what it does for the ibis, as well as for supplying ibis populations with the food sources they need to carry on the business of life.)  If the White Ibis bill snaps your fingers, as you feed him (or her) a bread-crumb, don’t worry!  –  the ibis’s bill is so light and gentle that its peck doesn’t hurt at all.  The White Ibis is found all over Florida, year-round, as well as on the Gulf Coast and America’s East Coast as far north as North Carolina.   (See Peterson’s Eastern Birds” [noted above, in entry for Muscovy Duck], at page M105.)  Why do fishermen especially appreciate the White Ibis?   The ibises eat a lot of shoreline crustaceans (like crabs and crayfish), which in turn eat fish eggs.  So if the crustacean populations grow too much, eating lots of fish eggs, the fish populations decline – bad news for fishermen.  Without consciously realizing it, therefore, the White Ibis is protecting the reproductive success of coastal fish populations — on which human fishermen (and their customers) rely.   (See 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., at page 376.)

Great Egret at Gatorland by Dan

GREAT  WHITE  EGRET   (Ardea alba  or  Casmerodius albus).

The Great White Egret (a/k/a “Great Egret”) is a large long-legged heron-like wading bird, white in plumage, with a yellow bill and black legs.  (See Bull & Farrand’s Eastern Region [noted above, in entry for White Ibis], at page 368.)  This truly “great” egret is often seen standing, like a statute, on the shoreline of a pond, waiting for movement that would betray the availability, in the shallow water or the shoreline weeds, of a quick meal  –  perhaps a fish, a frog, or even a snake.   Donald and Lillian Stokes describe its eating habits as follows:  “Primarily feeds by walking slowly, head erect, then striking prey.  Forages in shallow water for small fish and amphibians [like frogs], but also on land for insects, reptiles [like snakes], and small mammals.  May feed solitarily and defend feeding areas by displaying aggressively and supplanting intruders.  Also feeds in large groups when food is concentrated.  Has been known to steal fish from other birds.” (Quoting Donald W. Stokes & Lillian Q. Stokes, Stokes Field Guide to Birds – Eastern Region [Little, Brown & Co., 1996], page 34.)  During summer this egret also frequents marshy grasslands, tidal mudflats, salt marsh beaches, and other wet habitats – all over America’s lower 48 states.  During winter this fair-weather fowl routinely migrates to America’s East (northward to Delaware), Gulf Coast, and West Coast.  It makes guttural-hoarse croaking noises, as well as loud squawking noises, but it is usually seen before it is heard – due to its large size and strikingly white color.  Its flight is majestic and gracious  —  a marvel to watch, with or without binoculars.

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) by J Fenton

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) by J Fenton

COMMON  TERN   (Sterna hirundo).

The Common Tern is one of the many coastline-dwelling birds that get lumped into the term “seagull”.  The Common Tern has been described as “White with black cap and pale gray back and wings.  Bill red with black tip; tail deeply forked.  Similar to Forster’s Tern, but lacks frosty wing tip.  Also similar to Arctic and Roseate Terns.”  (Quoting Bull & Farrand’s Eastern Region [noted above, in entry for White Ibis], at page 519.)  This seagull likes to nest in colonies, often on sandy beaches or on small islands, near lakes, bays, or ocean tidewaters.  Unsurprisingly, the males are the more aggressive sex, although a male intruder may be rebuffed by a male-and-female pair  —  so don’t mess with a Common Tern couple!  (See “Common Tern”, by Donald W. Stokes & Lillian Q. Stokes, in Bird Behavior, Volume III [Little, Brown & Co., 1989], page 71.)

Mourning Dove by Reinier Munguia

Mourning Dove by Reinier Munguia

MOURNING  DOVE   (heard cooing  —   Zenaida macroura).

Many books could be written about the Mourning Dove, and about its many cousins – such as the “pigeon” (Rock Dove) – that inhabit so many rural, suburban, and urban places around the world (as noted above, at the beginning of this birding report).  But a better description and appreciation for this bird must wait another day, because this report is already too long!  So, for now, this report closes with a passing mention that “mourning” was heard that morning – the plaintive cooing of the (well-named) Mourning Dove.  But no need for sadness  –  because it will soon be (God willing) another day for pondside birdwatching in Florida!

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, Black Vulture, Wood Stork, Lesser Scaup, Osprey, Snowy Egret, and Florida Gallinule,  as reported previously,  —  and, as reported hereinabove, Muscovy Duck, Great Egret, White Ibis, and Common Tern, plus the cooing of a nearby Mourning Dove was clearly recognizable.  What a morning!

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.  Limnology terms are not universal:  what some call a “pond” others call a “lake”.  [NOTE:  Some use the temperature of the bottom water as the lentic nomenclature determinant:  if the bottom water is the same temperature, year-round (i.e., regardless of whether it is winter or summer), it’s deep enough to be a “lake” – otherwise limnologists call it a “pond”.]   Regardless of this semantic custom, the “pond” viewed in the foregoing bird-watching report is called “Lake Coronado” in Florida’s Pinellas County.  J

Pond-side Birdwatching in Florida I

Pond-side Birdwatching in Florida II

Other Articles by James J. S. Johnson