SAFETY MONITORING by Canaries, Crayfish, and Brook Trout

SAFETY MONITORING by Canaries, Crayfish, and Brook Trout

Dr. James J. S. Johnson canary-caged-for-mines-heritagetrail

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-hbw-alive

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.]

Yellow Canary (Crithagra flaviventris) Male ©WikiC

Yellow Canary (Crithagra flaviventris) Male ©WikiC

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-at-shoreline-aaronlesieur

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-in-Manitoba.troutster.jpg

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)

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Catching Crayfish, a Lesson in Over-Reacting

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Tsunami and the Animals from Creation Moments

“But now ask the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee;” (Job 12:7)

Almost everyone in the world today knows of the terrible disaster that struck the coasts of South East Asia. The North American news media gave daily body counts, reported human tragedy and inflicted damage … yet, as far as is known, none mentioned the animals.

Elephants in ThailandHowever, Asian reports from the damaged areas comment not only on the ability of trees to withstand the devastating waves but the almost total absence of animal deaths. It appears that the animals, from flamingos to elephants, took off for the hills long before the humans. The Chinese have done extensive investigations on animals and earthquake detection but are at a loss to explain it. Chinese scientists simply conclude that animals have far greater sensitivity than the best of scientific instruments.

Interesting Things from Smiley CentralReuters reported from Thailand that the elephants used in the tourist business at Khao Lak began to “cry” at 9 am, about the time of the quake. Some elephants broke their hefty chains, but they all raced away toward the jungle-clad hills, taking their surprised tourists and guides with them. Some people were even picked up by the elephants using their trunks. They all came to a point on high ground where the waves stopped just short of where they stood. Three thousand, eight hundred people died in that area. God is merciful to those sensitive enough to His warnings.

Prayer:
We thank You, Father, for teaching us by this example of our insensitivity to Your warning signs and Your mercy to the animals. Amen.
Notes:
Reuters. Mark Bendeich, “Jumbos Save Tourists from Tsunami.” January 03, 2005. Photo: Elephants in Thailand. Courtesy of Siebrand. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
©Creation Moments 2016 (used with permission)
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What an absolutely amazing protection the Lord give these animals.
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Birds of the Bible – Bird Catcher

Bird Caught in a Net ©WikiC

Bird Caught in a Net ©WikiC

Fowler

“foul´ẽr (יקשׁ, yōḳēsh): A professional birdcatcher. In the days previous to firearms, birds were captured with nets spread on the ground, in traps and snares. There was a method of taking young birds from a nest, raising them by hand, and when they had become very tame, they were confined in hidden cages so that their voices would call others of their kind to the spot and they could be killed by arrows of concealed bowmen or the use of the throw-stick (Ecclesiasticus 11:30) This was a stick 1 1/2 feet in length and 1/2 inches in diameter, hurled with a rotary motion at the legs of the birds and was very effective when thrown into flocks of ground birds, such as partridge or quail, especially if the birds were running up hill. There was also a practice of sewing a captured bird’s eyelids together and confining it so that its cries would call large numbers of birds through curiosity and they could then be taken in the several ways mentioned. The fowlers supplied the demand for doves and other birds used for caged pets, and furnished the market with wild pigeons and doves for sacrifice and such small birds as were used for food.

For he will deliver thee from the snare of the fowler. And from the deadly pestilence. (Psalms:91:3)

This is David’s promise that the Almighty will deliver us from the evil plans laid to ruin us, as a bird sometimes in its struggles slips the hair and escapes from the “snare” (which see) set for it.

(Here is a video of a modern day “fowler” by patriotledger.)

Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: The snare is broken, and we are escaped. (Psalms 124:7)

Here is the fulfillment of the former promise in a cry of rejoicing. Sometimes the snare held fast, sometimes it broke; then the joy in the heart of a freed man was like the wild exultation in the heart of the escaping bird.

Deliver thyself as a roe from the hands. of the hunter. And as a bird from the hand of the fowler. (Proverbs 6:5)

 

Flamingos Caught in a net©Flickr

Flamingos Caught in a net©Flickr

With methods so primitive as these for taking birds, it must have occurred frequently that a stunned, wounded or entrapped bird slipped even from the hand that held it and made good its escape.

For among my people are found wicked men: they watch, as fowlers lie in wait; they set a trap, they catch men. (Jeremiah 5:26)

Here is the plain comparison strongly drawn between wicked men entrapping their fellows and fowlers taking unsuspecting birds.
The last reference is in Hosea 9:8:

Ephraim was a watchman with my God: as for the prophet, a fowler’s snare is in all his ways, and enmity in the house of his God.

Wherever he goes, the prophet is in danger of being trapped.”

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This article was quoted from:

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915) is a public domain Biblical encyclopedia. This encyclopedia was published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. It contains articles by nearly 200 scholars about archaeological discoveries, the language and literature of Bible lands, customs, family life, occupations, and the historical and religious environments of Bible people.

In addition there is a newer version which should not be confused with the public domain 1915 edition that can be found freely available at various sites.

Photos and Video added and article layout by Lee

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Birds of the Bible – Eagles III

This year I have been reading through the Bible in chronological order. In Jeremiah this week, the eagle showed up in three of the verses I was reading. If you know me by now, that calls for a blog about one of my favorite “Birds of the Bible” birds.

Jeremiah, the prophet, has been warning the people of Judah and Jerusalem that they were going to be punished by God because of their worship of other gods and turning from Him. Jeremiah was always in problems because; 1) few if any believed him, 2) the false prophets were telling the people that “all was well and that they would not be punished.” 3) they tried to kill him several times, 4) when confronted with the truth, knowing they would be killed or taken captive, they still refused to give up their false religions or turn to the LORD. So by chapter 48:28 he warns them – “You who dwell in Moab, Leave the cities and dwell in the rock, And be like the dove which makes her nest In the sides of the cave’s mouth.” (NKJV) (oops! the dove is for another blog) He is telling them to “leave town.”

Jeremiah 48:40-42 says:

For thus says the LORD: “Behold, one shall fly like an eagle, And spread his wings over Moab. Kerioth is taken, And the strongholds are surprised; The mighty men’s hearts in Moab on that day shall be Like the heart of a woman in birth pangs. And Moab shall be destroyed as a people, Because he exalted himself against the LORD.

Watch the following video and decide whether you think the fish was surprised.

In Jeremiah 49:16 and 22, the eagle is mentioned again. Eagles are known to make their nest as high up as they can and these people thought by being high up in the hills, that the enemy would not get them. Then in verse 22, it refers to flying like an eagle and spreads its wings. So the enemy (Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and his army) was going to come over them. Now the people are finally afraid.

Your fierceness has deceived you, The pride of your heart, O you who dwell in the clefts of the rock, Who hold the height of the hill! Though you make your nest as high as the eagle, I will bring you down from there,” says the LORD. (Jeremiah 49:16 NKJV)
Behold, He shall come up and fly like the eagle, And spread His wings over Bozrah; The heart of the mighty men of Edom in that day shall be Like the heart of a woman in birth pangs. (Jeremiah 49:22 NKJV)

Another of my favorite eagle videos of the eagles wings being spread:

Even though I used my favorite videos, this was not a enjoyable experience for these people. I trust we will heed the warnings of the Bible. God loves his chosen people, Israel (and all of us), but God cannot tolerate sin or denial of Himself.

He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy. (Proverbs 29:1 NKJV)
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land; But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword”; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 1:18-20 NKJV)

The people of Noah’s day had over 100 years of warning, but also refused to accept God, and were devoured, not by sword, but by a flood.


See Also:
Eagles for more articles, photos, and videos
Wordless Birds

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