The Eagle has Landed, in Fact Many of Them!

The Eagle has Landed, in Fact Many of Them!

Eagles have Repopulated the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Range

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Who satisfieth thy mouth with good [things; so that] thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:5)

BaldEagle-SanDiegoZoo

Bald Eagle – San Diego Zoo

God satisfies our real needs, from time to time, from season to season, just as He sustains the ongoing needs of the eagle. Recovering strength is good for an individual–and also for a population, including eagle populations.

Recovering from a “ghost town” shutdown is worth the effort.  Ask a Bald Eagle.

Whitney Pipkin recently reported, in the Chesapeake Bay Journal , that Bald Eagles have made a comeback along Virginia’s James River.(1),(2)

This avian population illustrates how a pessimistic situation can, if the right actions are taken, be reversed—eventually producing a happier result.

First, the bad news:

In the late 1970s, the treetops of the James River looked like a ghost town. Despite plenty of suitable habitat where bald eagles could have been nesting and had before, the waterway was the only major tributary in the Chesapeake Bay whose nesting population of the iconic American predator had plummeted to zero.(1)

Now, the good news:

Imagine biologists’ surprise when, four decades later, that same river became the staging ground for the eagles’ astonishing comeback. Aerial surveys tallied more than 300 breeding pairs of [bald] eagles along the James River for the first time in 2019—a number that had been the species’ recovery goal for the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed.(1)

When it comes to the Chesapeake Bay, the majestic bald eagle has come back from the dead. Driven from historic nesting strongholds like the James River by pesticides in the 1970s, the national bird has become a success story.(2)

BaldEagles-BirdWatchingHQ

3 Bald Eagles – Bird Watching HQ

Furthermore, the big-picture news is even better:

Biologists estimate there are now close to 3,000 nesting pairs Baywide [i.e., in the Chesapeake Bay watershed], but surveys of the entire region no longer occur annually. Maryland stopped surveying bald eagles in 2004 when they hit nearly 400 breeding pairs statewide, surpassing population goals.(1)

Moreover, it’s not just eagles that are flourishing in the Chesapeake Bay area:

“We are just in an amazing time right now,” said Bryan Watts, co-founder and director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary. … Not just bald eagles, but fish-eaters like osprey and blue heron also once died out on the James.

Today, [these riparian fish-eating birds—like eagles, ospreys, and herons—have ] swelled to numbers Watts believes are well above what even Capt. John Smith encountered on the cusp of the 17th century. “In terms of eagles,” said Watts, “we are protecting them. We’re not shooting them like we did in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We don’t consider them competitors for muskrats or for fish, and so we’re not killing them.”(2)

For conservationists, birdwatchers, and other wildlife enthusiasts, these large-scale recoveries are very good news. After all, eagles are America’s official bird.

Beyond that, eagles are amazing creatures that display God’s genius in bioengineering.(3)

One example of highness being compared to the nesting habits of eagles is found in the Bible, in the Book of Obadiah 1:3-4, where the eagle is described as a creature that lives in high places, much closer to the stars than do most other animals (or people). Another Old Testament book in the Bible, the Book of Job, refers (at 39:13) to the eagle as mounting up into the air by God’s command (because God programs eagles to fly up into the air the way that they do), and as nesting in high places (because God programs eagles to do this also).

Eagles are good parents, training their sons and daughters to live like eagles (see Deuteronomy 32:11). Eagles can fly, like dive-bombing airplanes, at great speeds (see 2nd Samuel 1:23 and Lamentations 4:19). Their strength is renewed from time to time, as their feather-cover adjusts to their growing bodies (see Isaiah 40:31 and Psalms 103:5). Eagles are known for their gracefulness and dignity (see Proverbs 30:19). In fact, eagles fly very high in the air as a matter of habit – above most other birds (see Proverbs 23:5).(4)

Meanwhile, the Bald Eagles’ recovery—in the Chesapeake Bay area–illustrates how a bad situation can be overcome, with the prioritized concern and problem-solving management practices, plus patience.

But this is not the first time that an endangered or threatened wild bird (or other wildlife category) has been rescued from the brink of population failure. Consider the amazing recovery of the Trumpeter Swan, which nearly sang its own swan song.(5)

Likewise, Tri-colored Herons (also called “Louisiana Herons”) have recently reclaimed (and repopulated) ranges that previously they had lost.(6)

It’s not just the birds. American bison have made a comeback.(7) The list goes on, but the list could be longer than what it is.

Wildlife populations often face critical perils, sometimes facing population failure, range contraction, or habitat loss. Sometimes they recover.(1),(2),(5),(6)

The same is true for humans. For example, it is well worth praying for America to recover from its many political (socialism-pushing) problems in the wake of pandemic perils and propaganda.(8)

Problematic situations, including disasters, don’t fix themselves—real solutions (to real problems) don’t accidentally “evolve”. There is much good work needed, to recover lost ground in America. Human responsibility is the key to much of what is needed; yet God’s providential blessings are needed even more, much more.(8)

So we need to pray fervently for God’s blessings, daily—not just on the National Day of Prayer.(8)

References   

  1. Pipkin, W. 2020. Bald Eagles’ Recovery Along James River Soars to New Heights: Area’s 300 Breeding Pairs Surpass Goal for Entire Chesapeake Watershed. Chesapeake Bay Journal. 30(3):17-18.
  2. Dietrich, T. 2019. Bald Eagles Enter ‘Golden Age’ in Chesapeake Bay. Daily Press. Posted (July 9, 2019) on DailyPress.com at http://www.dailypress.com/news/dp-nws-bald-eagles-recovery-20190709-story.html (accessed May 9, 2020).
  3. Eggleton, M. 2016. The American Bald Eagle: On Eagle’s Wings. 38(2):34-37, posted at https://creation.com/on-eagles-wings . See also Johnson, J. J. S. 2018. Hawks and Eagles Launching Skyward. Acts & Facts, 47(4):21, posted at https://www.icr.org/article/hawks-eagles-launching-skyward .
  4. Johnson, J. J. S. 2008. Alaska’s Coastal Rainforests and Two of its Rangers, the Bald Eagle and the Alaska Moose. Dallas: NWD Press/RCCL’s Radiance of the Seas (July 2008), pages 10-11.
  5. Johnson, J. J. S. 2020. Post-Coronavirus Comeback or Swan’s Song? Creation Science Update. Posted (April 23, 2020) at https://www.icr.org/article/post-coronavirus-comeback-or-swans-song .
  6. Johnson, J. J. S. 2019. Does Global Warming Threaten Bird Habitats? Acts & Facts. 48(6):21, posted at https://www.icr.org/article/does-global-warming-threaten-bird-habitats .
  7. Whitaker Jr., J. O. 1998. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mammals, revised edition. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 850-854, Plates # 329-333.
  8. James 5:16; 1 Timothy 2:1-3. See also Johnson, J. J. S. 2020. Prayers for America and our Divine Editor. ICR News. Posted (May 7, 2020) at https://www.icr.org/article/prayers-for-america-and-our-divine-editor .

Birds Are Wonderful: M, N, and O !

BIRDS  ARE  WONDERFUL  . . .  M,  N,  and  O !

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 welcoming in the year of our Lord 2020,  below follows the fifth 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 M is illustrated by Magpies, Magnificent Frigatebird, and Motmots.  The letter N  illustrated by Nightingale, Needle-billed Hermit, and Nighthawk (also called “Nightjar”).  The letter O illustrated by Osprey, Oriental Stork, and Oystercatcher.

“M” BIRDS:   Magpies, Magnificent Frigatebird, and Motmots.

BAW-Magpie-MagnificentFrigatebirdBAW-Motmots

“N” BIRDS:  Nightingale, Needle-billed Hermit, and Nighthawk.

BAW-Nightingale-NeedlebilledHermitBAW-Nighthawk

“O” BIRDS:  Osprey, Oriental Stork, and Oystercatcher.

BAW-Osprey-OrientalStorkBAW-Oystercatcher

Birds are truly wonderful — and some, like the “egg-dumping” Oystercatcher, are a little bit odd, 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].

BAW-MagellanicOystercatcher-white-sand

 

An Amazing Osprey Out Fishing!

Received this from an email and needs to be shared! Enjoy!

Osprey with his catch!

But these are they of which ye shall not eat: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the osprey, (Deuteronomy 14:12 KJV)
BOTH THE BIRD AND THE PHOTOGRAPHY
Hard to believe this Osprey got 5-6 fish at a time,  then got a ‘flounder’ under 3 feet of water and finally made off with what looks to be a 5+ lbs steel head.
Have you ever seen a bird shake water off like a dog does?
Wouldn’t want to get in its way when its eyes are locked onto you and talons in the “load” position! It’s talons are amazing!
There are 3 sequences in this one video:
1st sequence – catches half a dozen fish in one strike.
2nd sequence – plunges talons into deep water to grab the prey.
3rd sequence – captures a big old fish that looks as if it weighs more than he does!
This is incredible to watch!

CLICK: OSPREY

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Harriet, The Osprey

Osprey Harriet’s transmitter is safely attached ©Craig Koppie USFWS

James J. S. Johnson, [Dr. Jim, to me] sent a very interesting article to share with you all. It is about an Osprey, named Harriet, who lives up in the Baltimore, Maryland [USA] area. Recently they, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, mounted a satellite tracker on her. Wait, here is the article:

“…On July 10, Harriet was captured and fitted with a satellite transmitter to track her movements. The transmitter, which has a visible antenna, was comfortably and securely attached by a harness onto Harriet’s back.

Like so many other birds we see around the Chesapeake in spring and summer, ospreys begin to migrate to South America in September for the winter. Most of our Chesapeake osprey spend the colder months there, ranging from Venezuela, to as far south as Paraguay and even Argentina.”

Continue to the article, Hurricanes no match for Baltimore’s Harriet the Osprey on her fall trek, by CLICKING HERE

Harriot’s trip so far – Satelite ©USFWS


“Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, and stretch her wings toward the south? Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?” (Job 39:26-27 KJV)

We have also written articles along this line about tracking our migrating avian wonders from the Lord:

Lee’s Seven Word Sunday – 3/12/17

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Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) -Viera Wetlands by Dan

UPON THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK

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Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” (1 Corinthians 16:2 KJV)

Osprey Eating – Viera Wetlands by Dan

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More Daily Devotionals

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Pond-side Birdwatching in Florida II

Pond-side Birdwatching in Florida,

from Chaplain Bob’s Backyard: Part 2

 by James J. S. Johnson

Moscovy Duck

Muscovy ducklings in the rain   (photo credit: J Pat Carter / AP)

For He [i.e., God] maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapor thereof, which the clouds do drop and distil [literally, pour down and drop down] upon man abundantly.  (Job 36:27-28)

For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and returns not there, but waters the earth, and makes it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.  (Isaiah 55:10-11)

[photo above: http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02298/ducklings_2298053k.jpg ]

A pond is not a pond unless it has standing [“lentic”] water, — yet a pond will eventually dry up (and thus cease to be a “pond”) if cloud-dumped rains fail to refill its standing waters!  (The same is true of running [“lotic”] waters – see 1st Kings 17:7.)  Why?  Because rain-provided water is always escaping ponds by evaporation.  (That’s why swimming pool owners must continually add more water to their pools.)

Accordingly, every pond needs rain (or snow that melts into rain-like liquid water), sooner or later, to be a pond!  Obviously, steady rainfall impedes birdwatching, so ideal birdwatching is done when it is not raining.  Even so, all bird-watchers should appreciate the rains that God sends, from time to time!  In fact, rain is a major part of God’s program for how our world and its diverse lifeforms function:  birds need rain, other animals need rain, people need rain, plants need rain, even microörganisms needs rain, — and all of that water is continually recycled throughout the earth!  In fact, Earth itself is mostly water!

As the prophet Isaiah noted [above]—and as every Gideon knows — God’s providentially sustained hydrologic cycle is comparable to how, all over the world, God carefully manages and orchestrates the specific influence and productivity of His written Word.  For more Scriptures relevant to Earth’s water cycle, see also Deuteronomy 8:7 & 32:2; Job 26:8; Ecclesiastes 1:7 & 11:3; Amos 5:8 & 9:6; Psalm 19:1-2 (noting that solar heat affects the sky) & 65:9-10 & 72:6 & 104:10-18 & 135:7; Isaiah 30:23; Jeremiah 10:13 & 14:22 & 51:16; Zechariah 10:1; — and especially Luke 12:54.

This birding report follows “Part 1” of this mini-series.   As noted in Part 1, I happily observed the busy birds at the pond that borders the backyard of Chaplain Bob and Marcia Webel (of St. Petersburg, Florida) on the morning of February 9th (AD2015), a Monday, when we saw 14 birds and heard (but did not see) a mourning dove.  As noted before, those birds were busy  —  quacking, splashing, swimming, perching on shoreline tree branches, dabbling, diving, and with several of them sporadically flying here and there.

Already, 5 of those lacustrine birds were described in Part 1 (Great Blue Heron, Brown Pelican, Mallard, Double-Crested Cormorant, and Black Vulture).  This Part 2 will feature 5 more:  Wood Stork, Lesser Scaup, Osprey, Snowy Egret, and Common Moorhen.  (Hopefully, the remaining 5 birds will be mentioned in an anticipated “Part 3” of this series.)

Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) By Dan'sPix

Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) By Dan’sPix

WOOD STORK   (Mycteria americana).

The Wood Stork (in some places nicknamed “Flinthead”, and f/k/a “wood ibis”) is a huge, long-legged wading bird, built somewhat like a large egret, heron, ibis, or spoonbill.  This bird is tall!  — with adults growing from 3 to almost 4 feet high!  The Wood Stork sports a long, flexible, blackish-grey, featherless neck.  Its ibis-like head is likewise featherless and not likely to be called beautiful (except by its mother).  Its powerful and prodigious bill is stout and slightly curved, well-fitted for probing in mud or muddy water, and for gobbling up fish, frogs, snakes, bugs, and worms located in wetland mud.  Storks sometimes eat small birds, small mammals, and even baby alligators!  The feathers of the Wood Stork are mostly white, except for the tail-feathers and black edge of its wings, which trail behind when the stork is flying.  Its feet are noticeably reddish in color.

Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) sitting by Dan

Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) sitting by Dan

The Wood Stork is typically mute (i.e., no vocal calls), communicating in other ways, such as by “bill-clattering”.  Being very large – and therefore heavy — birds, Wood Storks try to conserve their food-provided energy when flying.  Like other heavy birds (e.g., eagles, vultures, hawks), storks locate and “ride” thermal air currents, soaring and gliding when they can.  A true wetland bird, the Wood Stork is comfortable in a variety of wet habitats (such as ponds, marshy pastures, and swampy woodlands).  Storks construct huge nests for their families, typically as part of a stork colony (which may include literally thousands of stork pairs), often adding size to them year after year – some being built to about 6 feet in diameter and about 10 feet in depth!  Usually storks are monogamous (i.e., a male and female stay paired till one dies) although, for reasons not understood, sometimes pairs can get separated during a migration.  The dependability of the stork, in its migratory movements, is reflected in its Hebrew name (chasidah) which means “faithful” — see Jeremiah 8:7, explained in “A Lesson from the Stork” (posted at  http://www.icr.org/article/lesson-from-stork ).  Although they often migrate – spending summer in the southeastern states, these storks are known to reside in Florida (and parts of Georgia) year-round.  (See range map in Donald W. Stokes & Lillian Q. Stokes, Stokes Field Guide to Birds – Eastern Region [Little, Brown & Co., 1996], page 47, — as well as 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 379-380.)

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) by Ray

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) by Ray

LESSER  SCAUP   (a/k/a “LITTLE BLUEBILL”:  Aythya affinis).

The Lesser Scaup looks a lot like the Greater Scaup, but there are two ways to distinguish these look-almost-alike ducks:  (1) different shapes of their respective heads and bills; and (2) different winter ranges of territory where they live.  Donald and Lillian Stokes note the following traits:  “Head and bill shapes are most useful characteristics distinguishing [the Lesser Scaup] from the Greater Scaup … [on the] Lesser Scaup the head comes to a peak at the top or near the back [of the head]; [the Lesser Scaup] bill is slightly shorter and narrower [than that of the Greater Scaup].”  (Quoting Stokes & Stokes, Stokes Field Guide to Birds – Eastern Region [noted above, in entry on the Wood Stork], page 75.)  Regarding the respective ranges of scaups, the typical winter range territories of the Lesser Scaup includes the East Coast, Gulf Coast, West Coast, and non-mountainous regions of states (including most of Texas) that include the greater Mississippi River Valley’s tributary drainage basin.

Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) by Ray

Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) by Ray

The Greater Scaup, however, has a winter range that usually includes only the northern portions of the West Coast and East Coast, plus regions near the Great Lakes.  (Compare the sparser ranges indicated in Stokes & Stokes, Eastern Region, at page 75, with the range maps in 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 maps M43 & M44, with field notes at pages 58 & 72.)   In other words, if it’s a scaup on a Florida pond, it’s probably a Lesser Scaup!  The male of this duck has an easy-to recognize color pattern:  its bill is pale blue, its head, breast, and tail are dark-blackish; its flanks are white, and its back is mottled grey. In bright sunlight the male’s head has a purplish iridescence.   The female is mostly dark grey-brownish and black, with a noticeable white patch-like spots on both sides of her dark bill. (As with ducks generally, the easiest way to spot a female Lesser Scaup is to watch for a dark duck that pairs with a male Lesser Scaup!)   These ducks are divers – they dive into pond-water to catch and consume submergent plant seeds, insects, snails, and small crustaceans.  These duck are seen on ponds, lakes, rivers, and marshlands (including “prairie potholes” and estuarial saltmarshes).  Lesser Scaups, like ducks generally, are social creatures – sometimes they aggregate in hundreds or even thousands!  In many places, due to the availability of needed resources – which may be indicted by the size of a lake or pond, less than a hundred (maybe only a dozen) will group together.   Bird-books sometimes allege irresponsible and irrational opinions about how scaups supposedly “evolved” (e.g., Bull & Farrand, Eastern Region [noted above, in entry on the Wood Stork], at page 403), without any forensic evidence for such science fiction. The real truth is that all Lesser Scaups (like all other ducks) ultimately descend from ducks that disembarked Noah’s Ark, about 4500 years ago, which Flood survivors were themselves s directly descended form ducks that God made on Day #5 of Creation Week (see Genesis 1:21).

Osprey at Circle B by Lee

Osprey at Circle B by Lee

OSPREY    (a/k/a “FISH HAWK”:  Pandion haiaetus).

The Osprey is rightly nicknamed the “fish hawk” – they love to catch and eat fish! And, to the delight of bird-watchers, ospreys are not afraid to display their fish-eating lifestyle to nearby humans. Donald and Lillian Stokes make this interesting observation about osprey behavior:  “Among our birds of prey the osprey is one of the most amenable to living near humans.  Its main requirements are open water [such as a Florida pond!] where it can hunt for fish and a platform or strong tree where it can build its nest.  Ospreys have occasionally built nests [or use habitual perching sites] right next to homes [such as a large tree in the Webels’ backyard, bordering the pond], in parking lots, and in public parks.  Although they do not prefer being near humans [especially busy humans who move around a lot, causing distraction], they do seem to tolerate human presence, an ability that is a big asset for the survival of any species.” (Quoting “Osprey”, by Donald W. Stokes & Lillian Q. Stokes, in Bird Behavior, Volume III (Little, Brown & Co., 1989), page 159.]  The Osprey has a range that includes river systems in America’s Great West (e.g., Wyoming’s Snake River), a well as coastlines on the West Coast, Gulf Coast, and East Coast.  (See Stokes & Stokes, Eastern Region [noted above, in entry on the Wood Stork], at page 94.)  This “fish hawk” is relatively slender, for a hawk, but obviously stouter than a falcon.

Osprey Catching Fish - Viera Wetlands

Osprey Catching Fish – Viera Wetlands by Dan

The Osprey is long-winged, white underneath (except the outer feathers of its wings, and its tail, which are brown), with a mottled brown pattern above; its head is mostly white, with a dark side-streak that passes “through” each eye and on the side of the hawk’s face.  The talons of this fish-grabber are opened for prey, when the Osprey dives into water, tightly clutching any fish it succeeds in seizing after it splashes into the water.  Sometimes a dead Osprey is seen hanging onto a riverine fish.  How did that happen?  Occasionally a strong fish flees when attacked by an Osprey, diving deeper with the Osprey still attached, as the desperate fish tries to avoid its avian pursuer.  If the Osprey’s talons are embedded in the diving fish’s flesh, the fish may cause the Osprey to die by drowning, if the Osprey cannot shake loose its talons in time to escape.   (Fishing always has its hazards, as any fisherman knows!) If the Osprey is successful, it quickly re-surfaces and flies off with its fish, adjusting its hold on the fish so that the fish’s face is pointed forward – for safe eating.  Ospreys are sloppy eaters.  If Ospreys eat chunks of their catch while perched in tree branches that spread over where you are sitting, watch out!  Fish scraps may fall on your head – or something worse (!) might drop onto your head.  Therefore, a wide beach umbrella (like one that Bob and Marcia Webel have, and use in their backyard, while bird-watching) is a good “shield” to have when Ospreys are eating above you.

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) Notice Yellow Feet by Lee at Circle B

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) Notice Yellow Feet by Lee at Circle B

SNOWY  EGRET   (Egretta thula).

This beautiful white-feathered egret looks like a small version of the Great Egret (a/k/a Great White Egret), except it has its trademark “golden slippers” – i.e., its long skinny black legs end with feet that are conspicuously bright-yellow (unlike the black feet of a Great White Egret).  Also, the slender Snowy Egret has a thin black bill, in contrast to the thicker golden-yellow bill of the stouter  Great White Egret.   (See Roger Tory Peterson, Eastern Birds [noted above, in entry on the Lesser Scaup], pages 102-103 & map M93 & M444.)   Sometimes the Snowy Egret’s feathers, at the back of its head, “hang loose” (i.e., these feathers won’t lay down close to the bird’s head/neck), looking somewhat like a comb-over that won’t “sit down”).   Its feet stir up opportunities to find food:  “When feeding [it] rushes about, shuffling [its] feet to stir up food.”  (Quoting Peterson, Eastern Birds, at page 102.)

Snowy Egret Circle B 8-3-12 by Lee

Snowy Egret Circle B by Lee

Like other egrets, the Snowy Egret habituates the marshy edges of lakes and ponds, as well as other marshy areas, eating fish and almost anything else it can grab with its bill. The summer range of this elegant egret is broad – it can be found at and near many lakes, ponds, estuarial marshlands, and even wet pasturelands throughout America’s lower 48 states.  During winter it can be found all over Florida , as well as all along the Gulf Coast, along the East Coast as far north as North Carolina, plus parts of California (See Stokes & Stokes, Stokes Field Guide to Birds –  Eastern Region [noted above, in entry on the Wood Stork], at page 35.)  notwithstanding taxonomic “splitting”, this is basically the same bird that Europeans call the “Little Egret” (Egretta garzetta), which winters in northern Africa.  (See, accord, Chris Kightley, Steve Madge, & Dave Nurney, Pocket Guide to Birds of Britain and North-West Europe [British Trust for Ornithology/Yale University Press, 1998], page 19.)

CommonMoorhen (Gallinula chloropus) by Reinier Munguia

CommonMoorhen (Gallinula chloropus) by Reinier Munguia

Candy-Corn

Candy-Corn

FLORIDA  GALLINULE   (a/k/a “COMMON MOORHEN” & “COMMON GALLINULE”:   Gallinula chloropus).

This gallinule (i.e., chicken-sized marsh-fowl) is almost all black, with a characteristic and conspicuous yellow-tipped scarlet-red bill.  (Actually the scarlet part of the bill can fade to a less vibrant reddish hue during winter.)  Due to the specific color pattern and shape of this gallinule’s bill, ornithologist Lee Dusing aptly calls this the “candy corn” bird.  (Some of us remember “candy corn” as a trick-or-treat candy.)  This waterfowl makes a variety of noises, including chicken-like clucking noises (befitting its nickname “moorhen”).  The Florida Gallinule is quite similar to the American Coot (which, though a similarly shaped black gallinule, is distinguishable by its all-white bill) and the Purple Gallinule (which is distinguishable due to its male’s iridescent peacock-blue, indigo, and slightly purplish breast and neck feathers, and its glossy green back feathers).  The long “fingers” (i.e., toes) on their feet enable this gallinule to spread out their modest body weight so that they can “walk” on lily pads and similar vegetation that floats in marshy lentic waters.  This gallinule (or “moorhen”) habituates lakes, ponds, and marshy wet places, often near cattails, summering in states east of and within the Mississippi River Valley, plus a few coastal place on the West Coast.  (See Stokes & Stokes, Stokes Field Guide to Birds – Eastern Region [noted above, in entry on the Wood Stork], page 139; Bull & Farrand, Eastern Region [noted above, in entry on the Wood Stork], at page 459.)  Its diet includes marshy vegetation (especially seeds), snails, land bugs, and water bugs.  This rail-like bird is entertaining to watch, routinely bobs its head while swimming across a pond.  Like coots they confidently swim in open-water contexts where they are easily observable to appreciative bird-watchers (like me).

Wow!  That’s another 5 of the 15 birds that the Webels and I observed, that morning, from the Webels’ pond-side backyard.   Stay tuned!  God willing, the remaining 5 birds will be given their proper recognition, at this excellent bird-site!

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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 previously – plus Wood Stork, Lesser Scaup, Osprey, Snowy Egret, White Ibis, Common Tern, and Florida Gallinule,   — as reported above  —  as well as Muscovy Duck, Great Egret, White Ibis, and Common Tern, plus the cooing of a nearby Mourning Dove was clearly recognizable.  It is hoped (God willing) that one more report will supplement this one, so the remaining 5 birds will be properly recognized for their lacustrine appearances on that Monday 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.  The hydrologic cycle Scriptures (quoted at the beginning of this bird-watching report) are especially appreciated by Jim, as a Certified Water Quality Monitor, certified by and serving the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, providing reports on Furneaux Creek to the Trinity River Authority of Texas.  Like us all, birds need clean water!  Accordingly, backyard pond habitats are for bird-watching!

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Pond-side Birdwatching in Florida I

Other Articles by James J. S. Johnson

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