Bluebirds of Happiness, Plus Enjoying A Lutefisk Banquet

Bluebirds of Happiness,

Plus Enjoying A Lutefisk Banquet

 

by James J. S. Johnson

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) ©WikiC

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) ©WikiC

Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.   (Proverbs 3:13)

He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he.   (Proverbs 16:20)

Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.  (Psalm 144:15)

 

In honor of the so-called “bluebird of happiness” (with apologies to song lyricist Edward Heyman and vocalist Jan Peerce), we can think for a moment about being “happy”.   (In fact, nowadays, isn’t it just “ducky” to appreciate being “happy, happy, happy”?)

Years ago someone told me that the Bible only promises “joy” to godly people, never “happiness”.  The idea was that “joy” is a gladness that is content in the Lord, regardless  whether the surrounding circumstances are pleasant or unpleasant.  (“Happiness depends on what is happening to you”, I was told, “but joy is only dependent upon your appreciation for God Himself  —  glorifying Him and enjoying Him forever.”)

Wise-sounding sound bites, right?  But is that Biblically sound advice?  Not quite.

While it is certainly true that our joy should be anchored in the Lord, as we appreciate belonging to Him (Nehemiah 8:10; Psalm 100:1; Luke 10:20 & 15:6-7; Philippians 1:3-6 & 1:25-26 & 4:4; etc.),  —  it is also Biblically proper to enjoy being happy  —  glad  — as we enjoy appreciating and experiencing the many blessings that God gives to us, here and there, from time to time (Proverbs 3:13 & 16:20; Job 5:17; Psalm 146:5-9; Esther 8:16-17 & 9:17-19 & 9:22; John 13:17; Romans 14:21; 1st Peter 3:14 & 4:14)!

In fact, if a happy occasion is honoring to God, surely it will blend joy with happiness (compare holiday happiness in Esther 9:17-19 with the “joy” mentioned in Esther 9:22).

Fair Use credit: Norwegian Society of Texas, including Steve Ogden, toasting at Cranfills Gap Lutefisk Supper

Fair Use credit: Norwegian Society of Texas, including Steve Ogden, toasting at Cranfills Gap Lutefisk Supper

[ Fair Use credit: Norwegian Society of Texas, including Steve Ogden, toasting at Cranfills Gap Lutefisk Supper]

So, it’s not unbiblical to be happy about being happy (being compassionately sensitive to context, of course – see Romans 12:15).  In fact, we should enjoy being happy with gladness, living life with a song in our heart  — and laughter should not be a stranger!

Accordingly, with those happy thoughts in mind, let us now consider the famous “bluebird of happiness”.  (By the way, that popular phrase caused my own mother, who recently left Earth for glory, to especially appreciate Eastern Bluebirds   —   she was known to greet family and friends with the words, “welcome to the happy home!”)   And all bluebirds need “homes” to nest in.

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) by J Fenton

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) by J Fenton

So what kind of bluebirds (“of happiness”, presumably) do we have in America?

There are three bluebirds in America:  Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis – bright blue above, orange underneath, ranging mostly east of the Rocky Mountains), Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucides – bright blue above and light-blue underneath, ranging mostly in and west of the Rocky Mountains); and Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana – bright blue above, with underside blue at the “bib” and orange on the lower underside, ranging mostly in and west of the Rocky Mountains).

Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) juvenile by Quy Tran

Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) juvenile by Quy Tran

Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) by Daves BirdingPix

Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) by Daves BirdingPix

Since last Saturday I saw a brilliant blue-backed Eastern Bluebird, flying in the Texas “hill country” (where they often winter), I will now limit my comments to the Eastern Bluebird.

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) by S Slayton

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) by S Slayton

Roger Tory Peterson gives the following description of the Eastern Bluebird:

“A bit larger than a sparrow, a blue bird with a rusty red breast; appears round-shouldered when perched.  Female duller than male [no jokes, please!]; young bird is speckle-breasted, grayish, devoid of red, but always with the same telltale blue in wings and tail. … Habitat: Open country with scattered trees; farms, roadsides.”

[Quoting from Roger Tory Peterson, A FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS:   A Completely New Guide to All the Birds of Eastern and Central North America, 4th ed. (Houghton Mifflin, 1980; abbreviated title: EASTERN BIRDS), page 220 & Map 301.]

[another picture of an Eastern Bluebird, or 2 or more]

In fact, the Eastern Bluebird is the official state bird for both Missouri (since AD1927) and New York (since AD1970), where it is often found, especially in summer months (according the Peterson’s EASTERN BIRDS, at Map 266).  In America, the Eastern Bluebird is the most common of the three bluebirds, and it is the only one that is commonly found east of the Great Plains.

Eastern_Bluebird-rangemap rangemap Y-Sum B-win G-yr rnd

Eastern_Bluebird-rangemap rangemap Y-Sum B-win G-yr rnd ©WikiC

Just a couple of generations ago, colorful bluebirds frequently (and happily) displayed their brilliant blue plumage plentifully in Texas,  –  ranging from the Piney Woods of East Texas, westward into the Hill Country (east of where West Texas touches the Rocky Mountains).  However, their numbers have declined, as their nesting range habitats have shrunk (and as competitive avian “demographics” have changed their nesting-dependent procreative  opportunities).

At one point Eastern Bluebird populations were so depressed (due to nesting challenges, especially as bluebird-friendly cavity trees disappeared), that efforts (by local Audubon Society chapters and other bird-lovers) were exerted to expand their nesting opportunities, by providing birdhouses equipped with ingress-egress holes tailored to suit these birds (and thus to deter their nests from invading competitors or predators).

Eastern Bluebird (by www.portal.state.pa.us)

Eastern Bluebird (by http://www.portal.state.pa.us)

Specifically, birdhouse openings were sized to be no larger than 1.5 inches in diameter, in places where bluebirds habituate (such as along roadsides and in open fields), and bluebird populations have improved  —  happily!  So the population trend, for America’s bluebirds, appears to be headed for a “happy ending”.

Now I return to why I was traveling in the Texas Hill Country, when I saw a bright blue Eastern Bluebird – flying from one rural field over to another – on a cool winter morning.

Eastern Bluebird postage PD

Eastern Bluebird postage PD

In fact, my wife and I were driving through Bosque County, into Clifton and later onto Cranfills Gap, to celebrate Norwegian Christmas festivities.

And, for the brave at heart (and stomach), the highlight of that Saturday was a Lutefisk Supper, a tradition (in that area) originally sponsored by St. Olaf Lutheran Church (of Cranfills Gap), now provided as a feast-fundraiser for Cranfills Gap High School.  Of course, Norwegian-American Christmas festivities are happy activities, which is only proper  —  because holiday happiness has a Biblical precedent from the Old Testament (see, e.g., Esther 8:17-19).

Cranfills Gap Lutefisk Supper road-sign photograph by James J. S. Johnson

Cranfills Gap Lutefisk Supper road-sign photograph by James J. S. Johnson

So what is a “lutefisk supper”?  Why do some regard it as a holiday festivity?

For many of Nordic heritage, especially those who are unusually brave in their cuisine adventures, a unique and historic preparation of codfish, called LUTEFISK, is an unforgettable Christmas tradition:

LUTEFISK SUPPER

‘The Lutefisk Supper is one of the most interesting events in Cranfills Gap [a town in Bosque County, Texas] and is centered round a dried fish imported from Norway.  The tradition began many years ago sponsored by the Ladies’ Aid [Society] of the St. Olaf Lutheran Church.  After several years of time-consuming preparations, organizing, cooking, and serving, the crowds attending the supper became so large that the ladies of the church felt they could no longer carry on this custom so it was discontinued.

In 1965, Oliver Hanson had an idea for a way to financially help the [Cranfills Gap] school’s athletic programs.  To do this, the Lions’ Booster Club of Cranfills Gap High School revived the tradition of serving the Lutefisk Supper.

This group took on the arduous task of preparing the fish.  The fish comes from Norway in 100-pound bales [i.e., stacks of dried codfish]. The weight of each dry fish is from one and a half to two pounds and has already been split in half.  Volunteers saw each dried fish into chunks [note: nowadays the hard-dried codfish is usually cut by a woodshop’s power jigsaw] about four inches long, and then skin the fish of its dry, parchment-like skin.  This is a slow and difficult job.  Next, the fish is soaked in a solution of lye [a strongly alkaline solution, usually dominated by potassium hydroxide] and water for 72 hours.  At the end of these three days, the [now softened] fish is taken out and rinsed and cleaned of any excess skin or any brown spots.  Most of the fins are removed.  Next, the fish is soaked in a solution of lime [limewater is an alkaline solution of calcium hydroxide] and water for a period of 72 hours.  The fish are taken out at the end of that time and carefully cleaned again.  After this cleansing, the fish are then soaked in clear water for 96 hours, changing the water every twelve hours [culminating ten days of various soakings of the no-longer-stiff stockfish!].  By this time the chunks have swelled to four and a half to five times the beginning size and are white.  At cooking time, the fish are placed into a cheesecloth bag, put into a pot of salted, boiling water and boiled about five to ten minutes.  The boiled fish is served with melted butter, white sauce, and boiled Irish potatoes.  Plenty of salt and pepper is a necessity!

Lutefisk serves to bring the [Bosque County] community together as an all out effort probably not seen anywhere else.  On the first Saturday of December almost every able-bodied person in the Gap community begins his or her assigned task[s]—some bake turkeys, some peel potatoes, some bake pies [one favorite being a combined cherry-and-apple pie!], others donate coffee, tea, or sugar.  The person in charge of organizing the dinner assigned duties and food preparation.  Tickets are usually sold in advance, but also at the door [of the Cranfills Gap High School gymnasium].  By 4:00 pm the guests begin to arrive.  The [high school] cafetorium will seat about 200 people at one time.  The food is served family style and high school girls are the waitresses.  The boys wash the dishes.  Through the years, each December as many as 900—1,000 guests have eaten a very delicious meal.

If a diner is not so certain about lutefisk…[!] turkey, dressing, green beans, [cranberry sauce, in lieu of lingonberries] and pie complete the menu.  The cost of the fish has increased from $500 for a 100# bale to $2000 for an 80# box.  An adult ticket in 1965 cost $4.50, but today the ticket is $18.  In the fifty years the Booster Club has sponsored this traditional supper, $250,000 has been donated to the school towards various projects and improvements.

Betty Carlson Smith added more interest in this event when she began teaching elementary age kids several Norwegian [folk] dances.  These dances are performed in the gym for those waiting for their time to be served.  Betty has since retired but the dance tradition [in the gymnasium ‘waiting room’] continues.  For a very reasonable price there is good food, great service, friendly hospitality, and fun.”

Quoting from Darla Kinney, Charlene Tergerson, Rita Hanson, & Laverne Smith, CRANFILLS GAP, TEXAS:  LOKING BACK AND MOVING FORWARD, November 2015 edition (Cranfills Gap, Texas: Cranfills Gap Chamber of Commerce Historical Committee, 2015), page 56-58.

Students Skinning Codfish, in preparation for Cranfills Gap Lutefisk Supper

Students Skinning Codfish, in preparation for Cranfills Gap Lutefisk Supper

So there you have it!  Lutefisk banquets, to Nordic-Americans, are often part of Christmas tradition,  —  and if you are anywhere near Cranfills Gap (Texas), for the first weekend in December, you might want to check out the annual Lutefisk Supper (Saturday evening), and enjoy watching young children dance, as you wait to be called to the banquet table!

Norwegian folk dancing by children at Cranfills Gap: entertainment before lutefisk supper

Norwegian folk dancing by children at Cranfills Gap: entertainment before lutefisk supper

Some of us are happy as bluebirds when feasting on lutefisk.  (And some, for various reasons, prefer to abstain!)

But regardless of how you celebrate the Savior’s birth at Bethlehem (fulfilling the Messianic prophecy of Micah 5:2),  —  whether by eating lutefisk, lefse, and lingonberries  –  or  whether you rejoice in Christ’s historic arrival, by observing some other cultural custom, –  the key is to joyously and gratefully appreciate that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Reason for the season!  JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD IS COME!

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[Fair Use image credit:

Turdidae – Thrushes

James J. S. Johnson

Orni-Theology

Wordless Birds

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Mount Cristo Rey – Vacation

Leaving El Paso, Texas

Leaving El Paso, Texas

We finally arrived in El Paso, Texas, (May 9th) spent the night and then headed to New Mexico. On the way out of El Paso, I was just taking a few photos when we saw a cross on top of a mountain.

Cross on a mountain - El Paso, Texas

Cross on a mountain – El Paso, Texas (Bird Flying By)

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18 KJV)

That caught my eye and then we started wondering how they got it way up there.

Cross on a mountain - El Paso, Texas

Cross on a mountain – El Paso, Texas

As we continued on I-10, we came to the spot where we saw the answer to that. It is not the best photo, but can you see the back and forth road up the side?  Would not want to be the one who built that “road.”

Road up mountain

Road up mountain

And then zoomed in:

Road up mountain - cropped

Road up mountain – cropped

What I didn’t know until this article was being written is that the cross is more than what it appeared to us. It is actually a cross with a statue of Jesus Christ on it. It is also in New Mexico, not Texas as we thought, though we were seeing it from Texas. (El Paso is at the western tip of Texas where New Mexico and Mexico all meet.) Also, these facts have changed this blog from scenery to about an interesting site.

“Summary: At the top, there is a statue of Jesus Crist. It is the largest such statue in the world. At 42.5 feet, it is larger than the one in the Andes Mountains by 1 foot. The project was begun on 29 Oct 1933, and completed 6 years later on 29 Oct 1939.” (From)

“One of the most iconic images in El Paso is the statue of Mount Cristo Rey — the Christ of the Rockies. The magnificent monument overlooks three states and two nations”

But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. (Galatians 6:14-15 KJV)

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 KJV)

I am so glad that Christ is no longer on the cross, but died, resurrected Himself and is now with the Father interceding for those of us who have accepted Him as our Personal Savior.

Gospel Message

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Texas Rest Areas

Traveling across West Texas

Traveling across West Texas – Windy and Sand Blowing

Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: (Genesis 18:4 KJV)

Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. (Psalms 37:7-8 KJV)

In the last post, Moving On – Vacation – Part 3, I mentioned how far Interstate 10 travels across Texas (878.6 miles). When you travel for miles, you eventually have to stop. When stopped at one of the Rest Areas, I was totally unprepared for what was in the restroom.

I went back to the car and got my camera. From then on, every time we stopped I carried my camera with me. :)

The same mural was in both the male and female restrooms. (reported by Dan seeing my photo). Here are photos from two rest areas while going west, a mural seen while heading back east, and a Welcome Center, with no mural:

And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. (Psalms 55:6 KJV)

If you search Google with “murals texas rest areas” look at the images. Many more than we saw. Quite different. We enjoyed traveling across LONG Texas. Who ever thought I’d write a blog about Rest Areas?

Stay tuned for more vacation adventures.

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More Vacation Blogs

 

Moving On – Vacation – Part 3

White-eared Catbird (Ailuroedus buccoides) Houston Zoo by Lee

White-eared Catbird (Ailuroedus buccoides) Houston Zoo by Lee

We have many more Houston Zoo photos to share, but for now, let’s move on with our vacation. In Birdwatching Along the Way, the last statement was “Vacation Goal #1 – Met.” We had arrived at Houston and visited with my niece and went to the Houston Zoo.

On Thursday of that week, May 7th, we were suppose to drive up to Dallas. On Friday, we were to visit James J S Johnson, who writes on this blog, at the Institute for Creation Research. Also, I was looking forward to meeting Ernesto E. Carrasco, and seeing his Noah’s Ark Model. (Ernesto and I follow each other’s blog.). This was to be “Vacation Goal #2”.

During the month of May, Dallas had tremendously bad weather. They had tornadoes and flood warnings most of that month. The weather was turning bad even in Houston, so, with a call to Dr. Jim, we all agreed that it would be best to not come up to Dallas, at least at this time. Vacation Goal #2 – NOT Met!

West Texas from phone camera 5-7-15

West Texas from phone camera 5-7-15

The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness. (Psalms 72:3 KJV)

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. (Matthew 5:14 KJV)

Dan and I decided to continue on west, taking the lower Interstate 10 route through west Texas and maybe try to get to Dallas on our return trip. We never did make it to Dallas. We were challenged coming back through lower Texas on our return trip because of the storms and flooding. Whoops! I’m getting ahead of myself. More about that later.

Let me tell you, Texas is one long state! I-10 across Texas, according to Wikipedia is – Length‎: ‎878.6 mi (1,414.0 km). You do not scoot across it in one day!

West Texas Speed Limit sign from phone camera 5-7-15

West Texas Speed Limit sign from phone camera 5-7-15

We were surprised to see this speed limit sign at 80 MPH. Never seen one that high. 70 or 75 maybe, but 80, not seen before. Forgot to put the camera up front, but grabbed the phone.

We ran 70, but, considering that there are miles and miles of open area, it is understandable why Texas has it this high out here. We got as far as Sonora, Texas and then on Friday we had some interesting things to investigate.

Roadrunner in Ft Stockton TX  by Lee

Roadrunner in Ft Stockton TX by Lee

I’ve already written about My Western Greater Roadrunners that we saw in Fort Stockton. That was on Friday, May 8th. At Fort Stockton, there is actually an old fort that was originally called Camp Stockton, now Fort Stockton.

Welcome to Historic Fort Stockton

Welcome to Historic Fort Stockton

“Military presence began here with the establishment of Camp Stockton in 1858 by troops of the 1st and 8th Infantry, US Army. It was named for Commodore Robert Field Stockton, a naval officer who distinguished himself during the Mexican War. This first site was southwest of the present location, near the present Courthouse.

The post protected travelers and settlers on the numerous roads and trails that made use of the abundant water supply of Comanche Springs. It was here that these trails crossed the Comanche War Trail.”

Below are some photos from Sonora and Fort Stockton. More tales to come before we leave Texas headed West. Next “Vacation Goal” – San Diego, California. On the way!

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Fort Stockton

Fort Stockton, Texas – Wikipedia

Birdwatching Along the Way

My Western Greater Roadrunners

Ernie’s Musings

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Meerkats at Houston Zoo

Meerkats at Houston Zoo by Lee

Meerkats at Houston Zoo by Lee

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelation 4:11 KJV)

I know this blog is about birds, but the “Plus” in the name lets me show other critters. Every since the Meerkats where on the Animal Planet TV series several years back, they have been another favorite of mine. (I have LOTS of favorites) The enclosure for the Meerkats at the Houston Zoo was one of the nicer ones we have seen. They seemed to be right comfortable with their surroundings.

We were able to watch them through a glass wall, which gave great views of them. They were created to blend in with their habitat and they do it quite well. What care the Lord provides for His critters and their protection.

From the Houston Zoo’s Meerkat page.

Meerkats belong to the mongoose family and are also known as slender-tailed mongooses. These animals have a tolerance for venom, which is why they can eat scorpions and venomous snakes.


  • Scientific Name: Suricata suricatta
  • Range: Angola, Botswana, South Africa, and Namibia
  • Status in the Wild: Not Threatened
  • Location in the Zoo: Natural Encounters
  • Cool Animal Fact A group of meerkats is called a “mob” or a “gang.”

Here are most of the photos taken of these cute Meerkats:

All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:3 KJV)

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More Vacation Blogs

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Houston Zoo – Vacation – Part 2-B

You were shown the Blue-chinned Macaws and five different Turacos in Houston Zoo – Vacation – Part 2. Now to show you some more of the neat birds from the Lord’s Creative Hand.

The next set of birds were outside and most were still damp from the rain.

Grey-winged Trumpeter and Racquet-tailed Rollers Exhibit

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Grey-winged Trumpeter’s Beautiful Feathers Houston Zoo by Lee

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Racket-tailed Roller (Coracias spatulatus) Houston Zoo 5-6-15 by Lee

Racket-tailed Roller (Coracias spatulatus) Houston Zoo by Lee

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I kept trying to get a photo of the “racket-tail”, but he never really got in the right position. This was a new species to see for me.

Guira Cuckoo (Guira guira) Houston Zoo 5-6-15 by Lee

Guira Cuckoo (Guira guira) Houston Zoo 5-6-15 by Lee

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Chestnut-breasted Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus curvirostris) Houston Zoo 5-6-15 by Lee

Chestnut-breasted Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus curvirostris) Houston Zoo 5-6-15 by Lee

We have seen both the Cuckoos and the Malkohas before, but the Cuckoos were closer to us this time.

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Then a couple of favorites, the Kookabura, except this time it was a Blue-winged Kookabura, and a Micronesian Kingfisher.

Micronesian Kingfisher by Dan

Micronesian Kingfisher by Dan

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Blue-winged Kookaburra – What you looking at?  by Lee

Blue-winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii) Houston Zoo 5-6-15 by Dan

Blue-winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii) Houston Zoo 5-6-15 by Dan

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** Updated 6/27/15 **

Forgot about this video:

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Houston Zoo – Vacation – Part 2

From the last post, Birdwatching Along The Way – Vacation – Part 1, you know we arrived in Houston on Tuesday, the 5th. On Wednesday, we headed over to see their Houston Zoo. The weather was starting to turn “yukkie” and it was overcast. This made for making photos a challenge, at least for the outside exhibits. More about that weather later.

Houston Zoo 5-6-15 by Lee

Houston Zoo 5-6-15 by Lee

The Houston Zoo is a very nice zoo with lots of the Creator’s Avian Friends to check out along with the other Critters from the Lord. Not sure where to begin, so, let’s start with the entrance. As you can tell, it had been raining, but stopped in time for us to visit.

Houston Zoo 5-6-15 by Lee

Houston Zoo 5-6-15 by Lee

That fact, overcast skies, was the beginning of some of the challenges ahead. I have previously told of challenges with the fencing and cage material between us and the critters. Most of them are fine, but with birds, the bars or mesh can really get to be a challenge. Houston Zoo was loaded with those obstacles to keep me from getting any “perfect shots.” You photographers know exactly what I am referring to. Dan just gave me his “finished” photos that I can use and he was frustrated with how many didn’t turn out. Maybe I should just put all his up here and spare you the agony of seeing mine. :)

I informed him that many of the ones he isn’t going to let me use are better than most of mine. (He is a bit of a perfectionist.) Oh, the joys of a birdwatcher and a photographer marriage. Sure makes for some interesting discussions. Back to the Zoo.

Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis) Sign Houston Zoo by Lee

Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis) Sign Houston Zoo by Lee

When you enter the zoo, the first birds we saw were the Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis). We have seen Blue and Gold Macaws, but these are not seen as often in zoos. The challenge began.

Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis) Houston Zoo by Lee

Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis) Houston Zoo by Lee

When I tried to zoom in the fence was still in the way.

Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis) Houston Zoo by Lee

Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis) Houston Zoo by Lee

Never say never. Not the best, but you can tell that they are Blue-throated Macaws. Yeah!

Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis) Houston Zoo by Lee

Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis) Houston Zoo by Lee

Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis) Houston Zoo by Lee

Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis) Houston Zoo by Lee

Don’t worry, I’m not going to do that for every bird I tried to get photos of. If I did, this would be a loooonnngggg post. I took over 800 photos just at this zoo. Many of those are the signs like up above. I do that so I can try to put the right name on the right bird. I used to try to write them down, but it is much easier to take a photo. plus the signs are usually near the bird and time taken.

Livingstone’s Turaco (Tauraco livingstonii) Houston Zoo 5-6-15 by Lee

Mine (can see the bars on it’s chest):

Livingstone's Turaco (Tauraco livingstonii) Sign Houston Zoo 5-6-15 by Lee

Livingstone’s Turaco (Tauraco livingstonii) Sign Houston Zoo 5-6-15 by Lee

Now a good one by Dan:

Livingstone's Turaco (Tauraco livingstonii) Houston Zoo 5-6-15 by Dan

Livingstone’s Turaco (Tauraco livingstonii) Houston Zoo 5-6-15 by Dan

The Livingstone’s Turaco “is named after Charles Livingstone an English missionary that lived in Africa.” The Turaco Family has 23 species and the Houston Zoo has at least 5 species. In fact, I added at least four new birds to my Life List of All The Birds We Have Seen in this family:

Fischer’s Turaco (Tauraco fischeri) HZ, Great Blue Turaco (Corythaeola cristata) HZ, Livingstone’s Turaco (Tauraco livingstonii) HZ, Western Plantain-eater (Crinifer piscator) HZ, Red-crested Turaco (Tauraco erythrolophus) and the White-bellied Go-away-bird (Corythaixoides leucogaster) which we had seen at the National Aviary. (Will see some of these again later in the trip).

Fischer’s Turaco (Tauraco fischeri) Houston Zoo by Lee

White-bellied Go-away-bird (Corythaixoides leucogaster) Houston Zooby Lee

White-bellied Go-away-bird (Corythaixoides leucogaster) Houston Zooby Lee

The Go-away-bird reminds me of a verse:

But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” (Matthew 14:16 NKJV)

Western Plantain-eater (Crinifer piscator) Houston Zoo

Western Plantain-eater (Crinifer piscator) Houston Zoo

Ross's Turaco (Musophaga rossae) Houston Zoo by Lee

Ross’s Turaco (Musophaga rossae) Houston Zoo by Lee

Red-crested Turaco (Tauraco erythrolophus) by Dan

Red-crested Turaco (Tauraco erythrolophus) by Dan

Great Blue Turaco (Corythaeola cristata) Houston Zoo

Great Blue Turaco (Corythaeola cristata) Houston Zoo

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Birdwatching Along The Way – Vacation – Part 1

Great Crested Flycatcher outside motel in Tallahassee

Great Crested Flycatcher outside motel in Tallahassee

We left home on Sunday afternoon, May 3rd and drove to Tallahassee, Florida. As I normally do, I kept a list of birds as were riding and I turned these into eBird. While traveling 70 mph, I usually don’t see anything except the larger birds, so the numbers are not spectacular.

Here is a summary of that day:

White Ibis 6, Black Vulture 2, Turkey Vulture 4, Red-tailed Hawk 2, Sandhill Crane 1, American Crow 4, Common Grackle 1, Boat-tailed Grackle 2. When we stopped for the night, we spotted a Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, a Brown Thrasher and Great Crested Flycatcher which I was able to get a photo of. (12 species)

Great Crested Flycatcher outside motel in Tallahassee

Great Crested Flycatcher outside motel in Tallahassee

It took the second photo to finally put the ID together. Flycatchers can be a challenge (to me), but the underside helped me ID this bird.

Not bad for a first day. The second day, we drove to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which was one of our longest driving days. Our first goal of the vacation was to be in Houston, Texas by Tuesday, May 5th, which is 1,000 miles from home.

I listed these birds with eBird for the 2nd day, May 4th. A total of 14 species – Great Blue Heron 1, Great Egret 1, Cattle Egret 2,Turkey Vulture 6, Osprey 1, Bald Eagle 1, Great Crested Flycatcher 1, American Crow 2, Fish Crow 1, Tree Swallow 1, Barn Swallow 1, Brown Thrasher 1, Common Grackle 2 and 2 Boat-tailed Grackles. Not much for 500 miles of riding.  Most of the interesting birds that day were the ones at the Welcome Center which I wrote about.

See the Birds at the Mississippi Welcome Center

On Tuesday, we had an easier day and decided to stop by the Battleship Texas. It is located in the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site. Dan was in the Navy and if there is a Ship Museum we usually visit it. While we were looking around it, as normal for me, if there is a bird nearby, my attention gets diverted. “Birdwatching Adventure” kicks in and I’m off to capture the birds with the camera. The ship will still be there, but birds have a way of moving on.

Here is a list of the birds seen while visiting the Battleship Texas on May 5th. (eBird report): Neotropic Cormorant  2, Brown Pelican  1, Great Egret  1, Black Vulture, Bonaparte’s Gull  1, Laughing Gull  2, Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  3, Cliff Swallow  10, Northern Mockingbird  1, European Starling  4, House Sparrow  2.

Here are some of those photos of the ship and the birds I tried to photograph.

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We were close to Houston and arrived safely at my niece’s house later that day. Vacation Goal #1 – Met.

I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. (Psalms 4:8 NKJV)

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Some of the other articles that mention our vacation:

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My Western Greater Roadrunners

Roadrunner in Ft Stockton TX by Lee

Roadrunner in Ft Stockton TX by Lee

And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckoo, and the hawk after his kind, (Lev 11:16)

While on our vacation to the West (USA) I wanted to see the Greater Runner. It was one of the top birds on my “to see” list. Disappointed by not finding one in the wild, we were not totally disappointed. Surprised, but not disappointed. I actually saw some years ago, but wanted to photograph a wild one.

When we stopped in Fort Stockton, Texas, we visited the original Camp Stockton and then went to see the “22 foot” Roadrunner. No kidding, it is 22 feet long and 11 feet tall. Of course it was not a live roadrunner. I have since learned that his name is “Paisano Pete.”

(Bonus) Apparently Fort Stockton likes “big birds” because we found a large chicken also.

Large Chicken in Ft Stockton TX by Lee

Large Chicken in Ft Stockton TX by Lee

An actual “roadrunner, also known as a chaparral bird and a chaparral cock, is a fast-running ground cuckoo that has a long tail and a crest. It is found in the southwestern United States and Mexico, usually in the desert. Some have been clocked at 20 miles per hour (32 km/h).”

“The subfamily Neomorphinae, the New World ground cuckoos, includes eleven species of birds, while the genus Geococcyx has just two, the greater roadrunner and the lesser roadrunner. The Greater Roadrunner, (Geococcyx californianus), inhabits Mexico and the southwestern United States. The Lesser Roadrunner, (Geococcyx velox), inhabits Mexico and Central America.” (Wikipedia)

Well, “Paisano Pete” definitely would not count as a real bird, so I had to keep looking. We saw some in a Zoo or two, but when we got to the Living Desert Zoo in California, we were able to really see two of them. They were in an aviary where we saw them up close and not through a cage wire. These are the Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus). One was warming itself by exposing its feathers on the back and the other was trying to kill a dead mouse and chase a Turkey Vulture around. Got within two feet of one of them.

Roadrunner Warming up at Living Desert Zoo CA

Roadrunner Warming up at Living Desert Zoo CA

 

Roadrunner with mouse at Living Desert Zoo CA by Lee

Roadrunner with mouse at Living Desert Zoo CA by Lee

 

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Fort Stockton, Texas: Paisano Pete: Giant Roadrunner

Paisano Pete

Living Desert Zoo and Garden

Fort Stockton, Texas – Wikipedia

Greater Roadrunner – Wikipedia

Birds of the Bible – Cuckoo

Cuckoos – Cuculidae Family

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Birdwatching Trip – Santa Ana NWR

Last week was not conducive for birdwatching trips. Between windy overcast days, stormy rainy evenings, and doctor visits we didn’t get out and about, nor was I on the computer much. So, I have decided to share our visits to Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Alamo, Texas. That is way “down in the valley” and sits on the Rio Grande River. We spent two winters in our RV in that area and were able to visit the refuge.

The first time we visited (Nov 01’) with our friend Betty, who is an experienced birder. It is nice to have someone along who can help ID the birds. They have a welcome center that has some feeders right by the entry way. Within about 5-10 minutes, I was able to see my first Green Jay, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Great Kiskadee, Inca Dove, Red-billed Pigeon and the Plain Chachalaca,. Some of the birds only come over the Rio Grande a few miles, so I was thrilled to see them. I am including pictures of them. These were taken with an older digital camera, so they are so so.

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