THEY GATHER THEMSELVES TOGETHER
“The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens. Psalm 104:22
“The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens. Psalm 104:22
“And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places;” (Isaiah 32:18 KJV)
Black-winged Petrel (Pterodroma nigripennis) by Ian Montgomery
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
Canary “recruited” for Mining Safety (U.K. gov’t/public domain)
Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. (Ezekiel 3:17)
It’s good to have warning devices – like smoke detectors — that monitor environmental conditions, to give us an alarm if a deadly danger is imminent. However, long before humans invented mechanical safety monitoring devices, God had installed creatures all over the planet, with traits that equip them to serve us a safety monitors who can alarm us humans regarding environmental hazards.
ISLAND CANARY photo credit: HBW Alive
CANARIES, AS AIR QUALITY MONITORS
The Canary (Serinus canaria, a/k/a the “Island Canary” or “Wild Canary”) is an amazingly valuable finch. For generations it has been commonly known, at least within the mining community, that canaries are good safety indicators — serving as caged air quality monitors – if the air is becoming dangerous, the Canary provides the alarm, signaling (by its distress) that it’s time to evacuate(!).
BIRDS AS DANGER SIGNALS – Until 1992 miners used to take a caged canary underground to warn them of dangerous gases [such as carbon monoxide] in the mine. The bird would react to poisons in the air before miners became aware of them. … Canaries were used [by] rescue teams in coal mines to detect poisonous carbon monoxide gas. Reacting more rapidly than humans, their fluttering and other [behavioral] signs of distress gave warning when [dangerous] gas was present. Oxygen was also carried to help birds recover. No detecting apparatus was so reliable and canaries were used until 1992 when new electronic equipment, which can also meter the concentration of gas, was introduced.
[Quoting Colin Harrison & Howard Loxton, THE BIRD: MASTER OF FLIGHT (Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s Educational Series, 1993), page 277.] Perhaps we should not be surprised that canaries have been used as “watchdogs”, in mines, to give warning of dangers – the word “canary” points to the historic discovery of that species of yellow-and-brown finches, in the Canary Islands (and Madeira and the Azores), by Spanish conquistadores. The term “Canary Islands” means “dog islands”, i.e., canine islands, so it makes sense, philologically speaking, that canaries have been harnessed to serve humans as air quality “watchdogs”.
On 1478, when the Spanish invaded the Canaries, they started to export these birds throughout Europe. There followed intensive rearing in captivity, giving rise to the remarkable varieties of forms with their great varieties of forms with their great variety of plumage coloration.
[Quoting Gionfranco Bologna, SIMON & SCHUSTER’S GUIDE TO BIRDS OF THE WORLD (London: Fireside Books, 1990; edited by John Bull), page 365-366.]
But what is a Canary? Do we see them – or their cousins – in America?
The original Canary (Serinus canaria) is a small yellow and brown species of finch with a lively manner and a cheerful song. The familiar yellow bird of today is the result of controlled breeding [i.e., real “selection” of phenotype-coded genotypes, by human breeders] usually suppressing the dark pigments in the plumage. Breeding has also produced a wide range of color in shades and mixtures of white, red (which needs a carotene-rich diet to maintain the color), green and brown, tufted headcaps and variations in body shape. Birds produced by crossbreeding with Red Hooded Siskins (to produce red) and Mules (hybrids with other finches such as the Goldfinch and Linnet), are not taxonomically true canaries but are exhibited as such. The Roller, Malinois and Spanish Timbrado are considered the most musical breeds.
[Quoting Colin Harrison & Howard Loxton, THE BIRD: MASTER OF FLIGHT (Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s Educational Series, 1993), page 236.] Thus, within the extended “family” of finches, the American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) is a cousin to the wild Canary (Serinus canaria) of the Canary Islands.
CRAYFISH crawling out of drainage ditch water photo credit: Aaron LeSieur
CRAYFISH, AS WATER QUALITY MONITORS
While caged Canaries can monitor the underground air quality, Crayfish (e.g., Procambus, Orconectes, Cambarus, Fallicambarus, & Faxonella species) serve as water quality monitors. (This is a service that I especially appreciate, having previously served the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission and the Trinity River Authority of Texas, as a Certified Water Quality Monitor, and having taught a course in Environmental Limnology at Dallas Christian College, back in the AD1990s.)
Just as canaries are sensitive to airborne poisons, crayfish (called “crawfish” by Louisiana Cajuns, as well as “mudbugs”) serve as indicators of lotic freshwater quality, as well as indicating the freshwater quality of lacustrine margins and muddy-water bayous.
[C]rawfishes have proved to be good indicators of the health of streams and other aquatic ecosystems [such as drainage ditches] and are of great interest to environmental biologists. Because the lives of these creatures are tied so closely to water, pollution and lowered water quality often lead to loss of crawfish populations over both small and large areas. Some studies suggest tha talmsot half the species of eastern American crawfishes suffer from increasingly poor water quality and rapid loss of their aquatic habitats to agriculture or human housing development. A few species in other states appear to have become extinct [i.e., locally or regionally extirpated], and several others – including some in Louisiana – could disappear within the next few decades.
[Quoting Jerry G. Walls, CRAWFISHES OF LOUISIANA (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2009), page 1.] For further (and very comprehensive) details, on the need for relatively pure freshwater, for successful crayfish habitats, see Walls’ book (CRAWFISHES OF LOUISIANA), at pages 34-37 & 52-54.
As a youth, I learned to observe and appreciate (and catch) crayfish, in rural Baltimore County (Maryland), as reported elsewhere — see “Catching Crayfish, a Lesson in Over-Reacting”. These wetland-loving freshwater decapods are true shellfish, creative constructions of crustacean beauty, exhibiting God’s bioengineering brilliance.
So America’s Crayfish, which come in a variety of species, are water quality monitors, indicating by their presence (or absence) whether the freshwaters in streams and drainage ditches are relatively healthy.
Consequently, in recent years, I have been glad to see the mud “chimneys” of crayfish, on the sides of a drainage ditch that runs runoff rainwater alongside my front yard, in the shadow of my mailbox. Even gladder, I was, when I saw active crayfish, darting here and there in the pooled up rainwater-runoff water that accumulates in that drainage ditch. In other words, the crayfish in my front yard’s drainage ditch are (by their very lives!) signaling me that the drainage ditch has fairly “healthy” freshwater quality! As a former Certified Water Quality Monitor, I was happy for the crayfish’s monitoring “report”.
BROOK TROUT ( photo credit: troutster.com )
BROOK TROUT, AS WATER QUALITY MONITORS
Of course, the Crayfish is not the only indicator of freshwater quality. Another example is the Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis – a/k/a “brook charr”, “speckled trout”, “mud trout”, etc.), a salmonid famous for inhabiting freshwater streams, as its name suggests. It prefers ponds and streams with clean, clear, cold waters.
The importance of Brook Trout, to mankind, is illustrated by the fact that it is the official fish of 9 states: Michigan (where a potamodromous [fish that migrate only within contiguous freshwaters] population in Lake Superior is called “coaster trout”), New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia – plus it is Nova Scotia’s official “provincial fish”.
Since the Brook Trout thrives only in clean freshwater, it too is an indicator – a water quality monitor of sorts – whose presence exhibits that its home-waters are relatively healthy, i.e., unpolluted.
The brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) is a small, brilliantly colored freshwater fish native to clear, cold streams and rivers in the headwaters of the [Chesapeake] Bay watershed. … There fish thrive in clear, silt-free, well-shaded freshwater streams with numerous pools and a substrate made of mixed gravel, cobble and sand. Because brook trout are not tolerant of water temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, they are rarely found in developed areas. . . .
In addition to being noted for their recreational value [as a “prized game fish”], brook trout are also very significant biologically [i.e., ecologically]. Because they require pristine, stable habitat with high water quality conditions, brook trout are viewed as indicators of the biological integrity of streams. As the water quality in headwater streams has declined so have brook trout populations.
[Quoting Kathy Reshetiloff, “Got Brook Trout? Then You’ve Also Got a Healthy Stream”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 26(8):40 (November 2016). For further (and more comprehensive) details regarding how urban, agricultural, and/or industrial development routinely reduces water quality in affected stream-waters, review Kathy Reshetiloff’s article (cited above), regarding streamside vegetation impacts, sedimentation, rate changes to waterflow, water temperature impacts, acidic runoff, erosion impacts, etc.
In sum, if your stream-water hosts healthy Brook Trout, the stream-water itself is healthy! Like a water quality monitoring device, these salmonids detect and report (by their populational successes or failures) lotic freshwater quality.
FINISHING THOUGHTS: It’s good to have an “early warning” system, a safety monitor who provides a timely alarm of approaching danger. And yet we who have God’s Gospel, the Gospel of Christ’s redemptive grace, are obligated to warn others about the realities of eternity – woe unto whoever shuts his or her ears to the good news of Christ the Redeemer. The time to secure one’s proper relationship to God, through Christ, is now: today is the day of salvation!
He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him; but he who takes warning shall deliver his soul. (Ezekiel 33:5)
Whom [i.e., Christ] we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. (Colossians 1:28)
For He saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I helped thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2nd Corinthians 6:2)
“And the land shall yield her fruit, and ye shall eat your fill, and dwell therein in safety.” (Leviticus 25:19 KJV)
Mockingbird at Gatorland 9-17-16 by Lee
“But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark. (Genesis 8:9 KJV)
Inca Dove ©WikiC Chan Robbins
I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety. (Psalms 4:8 KJV)
Mute Swan – Riding in Safety
Only one person commented about whether I should continue these or not, but over 30 of you liked the last one I did. So, this will continue for a little bit longer. At least a week or two. I really enjoy doing them, and trust you are enjoying them.
Guess this can no longer be called Sandra’s New Kooky Challenge, since her challenge is finished. In fact, she was the one encouraging me to continue. I have now challenged her to do some like these, but she doesn’t have to use birds. Scripture, yes, birds, no. Any of you other bloggers like to try your hand at this? Maybe you are into flowers, butterflies, or donkeys, or whatever, for all I know.
If you come up with a name for this series, let me know. I am open to suggestions.
Have a blessed day as you continue reading your emails and blogs.
The unnamed Challenge – Any Suggestions?
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. (Jer 17:7)
Yesterday we wrapped up our long vacation. We spent our last day birdwatching at the Hanna Park in Jacksonville, Florida. We have actually been on the road since May 3rd. A total of 32 days traveling. We left home and drove to San Diego, California (2,400+ miles) and back via a little different route. Our total trip amounted to just over 6,000 miles. We saw the Pacific and decided to end it at the Atlantic. We are calling this our belated 50th Anniversary Trip (2 years late).
With over 8,000 photos, I will have some tales to tell and birds to share (also lots of photos to toss) Some were taken while Dan was driving. Why is it just about the time you click the camera, a bump shows up?
I didn’t want to say too much while we gone for so long, but now I can start sharing our adventures. Also, apologies for not getting to your sites as frequently as prefered. The unread emails have been building up. Kept up as best I could, but still stayed behind. Also had many blogs pre-scheduled which helped.
Anyway, we have been to four zoos; Houston, San Diego, San Antonio, Jacksonville and two Living Desert Museum/Zoos. Plus lots of other interesting things and scenery. You already saw the Mississippi Welcome Center and the Large Roadrunner.
Our adventures were not just about birds. We saw 3 ships, Battleship Texas, USS Midway and USS Alabama, plus a couple of Aircraft Museums. We also had to readjust our schedule (never really had one) and route because of all the bad weather across Texas. Also had a Tornado Warning group sitting around the TV while in San Antonio. We were near the basement shelter, if needed. Added around 10 new Life Birds, but still analyzing photos for more.
The Lord has been very gracious to us while we were gone. We have had safe travels and avoided much of the bad weather. Many were praying for us while we have been traveling. Thank you for those prayers. We also met many nice people along the way. Some are now reading the blog.
As we traveled the Lord’s Hand in creation is so obvious. From birds, critters, plants and to the various terrains, there is so many blessings from Him. We are thankful to the Lord for His protection and blessings.
But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You. For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; With favor You will surround him as with a shield. (Psa 5:11-12)
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 KJV)
Words: Charles Wesley, Hymns and Sacred Poems, 1740. Some have called this the finest hymn in the English language.
Music: Aberystwyth (Parry), Joseph Parry, in Stephens’ Ail Lyfr Tonau ac Emynau, 1879
“The circumstance of the writing of this hymn is interesting. The story goes that Charles Wesley was roused from his sleep one night by a terrible storm. Being unable to rest he got up, put on his dressing-gown, and, opening his casement window stood looking out upon the stormy scene. Suddenly a bird, exhausted by the wind, and hotly pursued by a hawk, flew through the open window right into Charles Wesley’s breast for protection. Having saved the bird and placed it in security, he turned to his desk and wrote this immortal hymn, so realistic and descriptive of the fear and intense longing of the anxious soul to find safety and rest.
For our soul needs shelter; and the Only One Who can be a refuge for the soul is Jesus. He is our Hiding-place, our Haven of Rest. Listen to these words of the prophet Isaiah (32:2):
“A man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest . . . as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.”
We have no time to say anything about this wonderful hymn in detail, but I would have you notice one point about it. I have spoken of this in the case of other hymns, but the thought will bear repeating. Notice in it the personal and persistent use of me, and my, and I, in it:
“Let me to Thy bosom fly.”
It is the prayer of the individual soul for succour, to the Saviour Himself; the call, as of a drowning man, that insists on being heard, and that can take no refusal; the cry of the terrified, and frail, and helpless bird, pursued by the cruel hawk, that is eager for its life.
Dear friends, are you “Safe in the arms of Jesus”? Have you “hidden” yourselves in Him?
Oh that these questions may go straight home to your hearts. If you are not in Christ, Oh, may God the Holy Spirit awaken you to see your danger. I will read the hymn to you, and then we will sing it together, on our knees, as our closing prayer.”
Jesus, Lover Of My Soul by Charles Wesley
Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.
Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.
Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—Lo! on Thee I cast my care;
Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand, dying, and behold, I live.
Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.
Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.