Through the Looking Glass of Val Lee – The Great White Heron and The Great Blue Heron

Great White Heron © Val J. Lee

Great White Heron © Val J. Lee

I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to observe two Great White Herons; as well as the pristine coastal setting of Punta del este, Uruguay.

My husband and I trekked beside the edge of the ocean with eyes wide open in attempt to catch it all. There is a broad, concrete walkway; whereby we could behold a great deal of sea life.

Punta del este, Uruguay © Val J. Lee

Punta del este, Uruguay © Val J. Lee

We arrived at this port of call by water taxi, aka a tender, from our cruise ship.

© Val J. Lee

The Great White Heron, above, is quite rare. It is recognized by its bright white, hanging feather headdress. Also displayed on the Great Blue Heron.

My video of Great White Heron:

I assumed I would never be able to see a Great White Heron, knowing they are incredibly rare. Many birders, even the world’s experts, surmise that Great Egrets are the Great White Herons, though they hold differences. These Egrets do not reveal the snow-white headdress that is always on display atop the Great White Herons.

Great White Heron © Val J. Lee

Great White Heron © Val J. Lee

An ornithologist, employed by Boise State University, informed me regarding the truth of these rare, exquisite specimens that exist on a small island in the lower Florida Keys.

A debate arose in our area of Idaho over a visiting, Great White Egret. A retired Boise State ornithologist, his wife and I were watching this elegant, white Heron at a wildlife area. I was thrilled to observe this shinning, white beauty! I had never seen an ave like it in Idaho, though I had in Florida:

Great Egret © Val J. Lee

Great Egret © Val J. Lee

Egrets are quite common there. The ornithologist, being a former teacher, naturally asked me if I knew what kind of bird it was. I was not absolutely sure, though obviously it resembled an Egret. He enthusiastically let me know that I was in the presence of a Great White Heron. What a privileged sighting I thought, until I sent an email and attached a photo of the Heron to our Audubon president, Pam. This was forwarded to birding experts. I received various opinions and info. The person, who seemed most knowledgable on the subject, was a current BSU ornithologist, who, as I mentioned above, seemed most accurate from what I personally researched. It was a Great White Egret not a Great White Heron.

Great White Herons display a long black or yellow beak with yellow or black legs set on yellow feet. Great White Egrets reveal a yellow beak and black legs on dark feet. The Snowy Egrets display a black beak and black legs on yellow feet. The Great Blue Herons reveal a yellow beak and dark grey legs on dark grey feet.

From my Uruguay photos, I noticed the legs on one of the Great White Herons to be yellow, topping matching yellow feet, and the other Great White revealed black limbs on yellow feet.

The White Herons in my photos do not reveal lower neck feather plumage; however, they are not often seen on the Great Blue Herons.

 

© Val J. Lee

© Val J. Lee

 

This growth appears as Herons age, the older the Blue Heron, the more lower throat feathers—and more impressive are its looks.

Great Blue Heron  © Val J. Lee

Great Blue Heron © Val J. Lee

Of course, ornithologists relish in the classifications they place on birds as the “authorities,” though many of their dubbings change over time. I am not complaining, ornithologists are a great assist in the realm of birding assessment.

I do believe the Great White Heron is a unique Heron. It may simply be an easy tag for those Whites that do not stay in the lines.

The Great White Heron is close in appearance to the Great Blue Heron, excepting the bleached coloring and beak and leg hues.

Even in the Florida Keys, the home of the Great White Heron, there seems to not be a completely convincing argument regarding the Great White Heron:

http://blog.audubonguides.com/2011/04/11/wading-into-controversy-the-great-white-heron/

As you read here, the Florida Keys Great White Heron (lower right photo) also displays yellow legs, not the dark legs of the Blue Heron. What is the obvious difference with the Uruguay Great Whites and the Florida Keys Great Whites is the black beak.

The below information also states the Great White Herons are only located in this Florida Keys refuge. This is referring to their location in the United States. This is where the majority of this species congregate and where they live exclusively in America. The also dwell in the Yucatan Peninsula, and in the Caribbean. And, of course, I photographed them in Uruguay.

Info from US Fish and Wildlife:

Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1938 as a haven for great white herons, migratory birds, and other wildlife. Great white herons are a white color-phase of great blue herons and are only found in the Florida Keys. The refuge was created to protect great white herons from extinction. Great White Heron NWR is accessible only by boat.

http://www.fws.gov/nationalkeydeer/greatwhiteheron/

(I must personally add, I believe they were crafted by God in all their white glory from the beginning of creation.)

Interestingly, Wikipedia states Great White Herons and Great Egrets are the same.

You also have the Snowy Egret to compare to. If you peer at various Snowy Egret photos, you see how much resemblance there is to the Great White Heron overall.

Many Snowy Egrets will reveal a tall, head feather warbonnet and lower feather dress—expanding like a radiant full skirt; this during courtship exhibitions. The display and precision movements are amazingly gorgeous; all crafted by Jesus Christ. They also reveal long, poofy tail feathers, every season.

The Great White Heron’s upper headdress is not for breeding impressions, being viewed continually, as stated previously. The Great White Egret’s is a breeding presentation only.

It is also interesting to note that dark and white forms of the Great Blue Heron overlap in Florida. They are the intermediate Herons known as “Wurdemann’s Herons.” They have the body of a Great Blue Heron, but the white head and neck of the Great White Heron.

Years ago, I noted a Blue Heron that was quite lighter in color than the average. It lived in our local wildlife park. I am sure it would be classified as a Wurdemann’s, though it was in Idaho.

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Great Blue Heron and Great White Heron interesting facts:

I appreciate the fact that some of the Blue Herons at our Boise, Idaho, “Katherine Albertson Park” of wildlife, do not mind me moving in with my camera. I love the varying details of this grand specimen that can contort to a multitude of poses when fishing—truly a must see. The same is true of the Great White Heron. These Herons can be ballerina-like in their movements. White Herons are more so, wearing their prim, white dress that often becomes a full skirt.

You simply gaze on in amazement as you observe and watch the contortion of the necks of these Herons that often resemble an “S.” These proficient anglers always snatch their catch in a wink, but their work does not end there. They must maneuver their captured, finned critter down their long snake-like throats to reach the point of digestion.

One thing to note about these wingers, is, they are loners. You never see a large Heron fishing with another.

The Great Herons are spectacular, photogenic, wading birds of the heron family Ardeidae (Blue Heron) and Ardea alba (White Heron).

Great Blue Heron © Val J. Lee

Great Blue Heron © Val J. Lee

The Great Blue Heron is an eye-catcher, and it is commonly viewed near the shores of open water—in wetlands over most of North and Central America, as well as the West Indies. It is a rare vagrant to Europe.

The Great Blue Heron is definitely the largest North American Heron, with a head to tail length of 36-55 inches. Plus, an impressive wingspan of 66-79 inches.

 © Val J. Lee

© Val J. Lee

It weighs in at 4.6 pounds (on average). The Great White Heron may hold slightly smaller dimensions.

The Blue Heron is incredible in formation with azure feathers that cover the main body. It displays red-brown thighs, with a paired red-brown and black stripe up the flanks. Its neck is rusty-gray, with black and white streaking down the front. The crown is white, and its forehead, and sides of face. A pair of black plumes run from above the eye to the back of the head. The feathers on the lower neck are long and pluming.

Great Blue HeronGreat Blue Heron © Val J. Lee

Great Blue HeronGreat Blue Heron © Val J. Lee

Their bill is dull yellowish, becoming orange briefly at the start of the breeding season, along with its lower legs. Male and female are indistinctive.

The Great White Heron is, of course, completely snow white, except for its yellow or black legs, yellow feet and black or yellow bill.

Blues and Whites comb their down feathers with a claw on their middle toes, acting as a brush, removing all that yucky fish slime from their fishing times. They apply a powder that protects their feathers against the slime of swamps and ponds, as well as from the oily foods they consume. Obviously, they are uniquely and marvelously designed by Jesus Christ.

The call of Herons is a harsh loud croak. You can hear it from afar and it always catches my attention. For sure! Herons are most vocal during the breeding season.

The primary food for Herons is small fish, though they are also known to relish a range of shrimps, crabs, aquatic insects, rodents, other small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and small birds.

Great Blue Heron © Val J. Lee

Great Blue Heron © Val J. Lee

It is fun to watch Herons consume their catch of the day, implementing their bills as swords. They spear it and swallow it whole. Yes, most amazing! Their angling habits are performed day and night.

I have heard Blue Herons flying in the dark; obviously trekking to their next fishing hole. God has granted them day and nocturnal vision for all their hunger needs. They most often roost for a good night snooze when the sun is setting.

My video of a Blue Heron roosting:

This species usually breeds in a monospecific (only of their kind) colony—a heronry; in trees close to lakes or other wetlands. A heronry may include other species of Herons.

The size of these colonies may be large, ranging between 5–500 nests per tree village. Several years ago, I saw such a colony. It was quite impressive … seeing all those nests in one tree.

The males are quite elaborate in their courting displays for the ladies with their concocting bodies, extended necks, bills raised to the sky, circling flights, as well as courtship noises for attention. God implements all of this to bond parents to raise their young as a team.

Parents take turns warming their unhatched young, consisting of three to six pale blue eggs. Once the wee ones are released from their shells, parents share in the responsibility of nourishment, regurgitating their caught prey to make it more like baby food during the first three weeks. The young will take directly from the beak from after this period, until the seven to eight week mark, at which time, the young will fledge—soaring through the air in their first solo flight.

Herons are monogamous during the breeding season, raising one brood. They may or may not choose the same mate the following year.

Whites and Blues live an average of 15 years. One Blue holds the age record of 23 years. God has granted them great length of days.

The LORD Jesus Christ was most gracious to provide us with this glorious, structured being. He created everything according to His desires and omnipotently. Psalm 148 from the Bible, encourages our praise to God. Praise is commanded from the heavens and praise from the earth, because the LORD commanded and all things were created. The birds are commanded to praise Him—all of creation, including mankind, are to praise the LORD for His goodness in presenting creation.

*Info gratefully gathered from various web sources.

Letter to the Bird Enthusiast: letter-to-bird-enthusiast

My South American Video Show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vM72TIfUK-8&feature=c4-overview&list=UU1q-YrogeWMHltSTdCkspkQ

Through the Looking Glass of Val Lee – Merganser (Hooded)

Hooded Merganser (Male) © Val J. Lee

I photographed this distinct drake at my favorite park—Katherine Albertson. This is a Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) and it can cause quite the upset for any photographer. These non-quacking ducks are always on the move as agile swimmers and divers. When on a fishing expedition, they will submerge for a long stretch in time and emerge at a distant local. You can never guess where that odd, adjustable head will pop up next! They can hold their breath for as long as is needed. Wow! God is amazing in His creation; He provided all that is necessary by design for survival.

The pronounced ID on male Hooded Mergansers is the crest at the rear of the head which can expand or contract. This collapsible pinnacle is a large white patch when in full diadem array. You cannot help but be amazed by God when you see all the various ways the intricate beauty crest, glowing white, with black, can maneuver by the whim of the Merganser. Jesus Christ, out of His goodness, has made His created elegance everywhere present in the wilds of North America. The male Merganser is a true representative of this fact.

Hooded Merganser (male) © Val J. Lee

The crest can even fold into a marked out, artistic triangle (photo above). No man manufactured, transformer toy can maneuver and perform like the male Merganser crest can! It is my favorite American duck when it comes to loveliness. I am also impressed by their stately manner when they glide through the water.

Females display a crest as well; however, not as near impressive. They can throw it about and maneuver it in other ways, but it cannot beat their counterpart’s crowning agility of appeal.

This angry gal is the mate of the Male Merganser in my first video. Notice her unusual webbed feet. These ducks are prettier when their feet are hidden when floating on ponds.

The eighteen inch Merganser, with a wingspan of 27 inches, inhabits swamps and wooded ponds in America and Canada, bursting with tasty, aquatic life. They breed in northern locals and winter in the southern US.

Though this bird is on the shy side normally, this all changes during courtship. Males will involve themselves in a number of elaborate display expressions. What also surfaces is the definitive vocalizations—chattering or grunting, but never quacking in conversation.

Hooded Mergansers (female and male) © Val J. Lee

Their courting habits remind me of an ancient, native American war dance, waged against pioneers. Male suitors will surround a single gal, and each hopes to win her heart. They all attempt to impress with their vibrant, white crests in full expansion (akin to white and black feathered, native warbonnets); their necks bobbing their heads. They sometimes place their faces toward the sky, as they uplift themselves out of the water—an added, tasteful touch to a gala performance. As they seek to own, they will act like Indians on horseback, circling a wagon train in full determined expression. She is the center of attention and she shines.

Couples pair in early winter, nesting in tree cavities adjacent to water. (also characteristic of Wood Ducks) Between 10 to 12 spherical, thick-shelled eggs are laid. They are either white or green-blue; though an occasional black is laid.

Mom Merganser incubates the eggs for about a month. (Fowl eggs are completely amazing. God creates young within protective shells and He tells moms how to perfectly care for the unborn young through incubation, rotation, etc. Some male birds also assist on the nest.)

She solely tends the young until 10 weeks of age, when they are able to fend for themselves.

Male Hooded Merganser © Val J. Lee

What ushers in further amazement with this ave, is its eye equipment. The Merganser can change the refractive properties of its eyes to enhance its underwater vision. Their eyes are itsy-bitsy-cute; yet masterfully designed for underwater and above-water usage. The nictating membrane (third eyelid) is transparent, implemented for eye protection when diving, akin to donning a pair of goggles.

Its thin, black, long bill is a resourceful sawbill—a serrated cutting beak with edges—ideally suited for capturing and controlling slippery fish (their staple diet) and other aquatic delicacies such as crustaceans and insects.

Hooded Merganser (male) © Val J. Lee

Wow, isn’t God amazing in composing? And just think, Mergansers never have to plant fields, gather into barns or worry about having enough money for their next meal (Matthew 6:26). God has created all they require in abundance. Those who love Jesus Christ need never worry as well—birds bearing the mental picture of this truism. (Matthew 6:27-30 and 7:7-11)

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Males display brown/reddish flanks with two black vertical bars at the front, black upperparts, a black face; and of course, a varying crest. Flight feathers are black and white striped with matching distribution. Under-layers are old barn brown. In all loveliness, this ave is designed for earth and sky.

Females own brownish flanks and darker brown upperparts, a brown head, and a brown/reddish to gray crest that can be raised or lowered, like the male. And her’s often bobbles. She exhibits a brown beak and her body can appear more grayish in fall, wearing her winter dress.

God grants them, on the average, ten years of life.

Additional photo showing the Hooded Mergansers with American Mergansers (Though it is stated, the two species do no mingle, I have seen them cruising together, as viewed in the photo.)  The American is a far larger Merganser.

Hooded Mergansers and American Mergansers (males and females) © Val J. Lee

*Info gratefully obtained from various web sources.

Please click here to learn of God’s personal love for you: letter-to-bird-enthusiast

Through the Looking Glass of Val Lee – Sugar Bird, Bananaquit or “Honeycreeper” of the Caribbean

Bananaquit or Sugar Bird © Val J. Lee

“Sugar Bird” and “Honeycreeper” best describes the fact these birds feast on nectar.

I shot this cute, yellow fella in Antigua—a plush Caribbean Isle. My husband enjoys flying me to distant lands, and he just happens to tag along. He is the romantic.

Here are three of my photos of this floating paradise area on the sea.

Antigua Sail Boat © Val J. Lee

Antigua © Val J. Lee

Antigua Sunset © Val J. Lee

I was most taken when I spotted this bright, feathery ave lurking here and there on this island stationed southeast of Cuba. I certainly consider birds a blessing from the LORD, being they are lovely, complex, intelligent, and resource the earth and sky as they desire.

Bananaquit or Sugar Bird © Val J. Lee

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Over a month ago, my marvelous husband and I landed on Grand Cayman Island, and I spotted the Sugar Bird here as well (photo below). Unfortunately, this song bird appeared to prefer to be hidden in the tropical forests on this isle. On Antigua, they were more readily sighted.

Bananaquit or Sugar Bird of Grand Cayman © Val J. Lee

Aves certainly appear to rejoice in the life the Creator has provided them through their tweeting repertoires.

Here is my very short video of a Bananaquit singing on Grand Cayman:

My photo of Grand Cayman:

Grand-Cayman © Val J. Lee

My video of the Caribbean Sea stretching from Grand Cayman’s beach:

From the first Bananaquit photo you notice it is a passerine or perching bird. God provided it with four special toes to wrap around branches—3 forward and one that extends backward.

I revel in their golden splendor and their white crowned heads—the authentic regal beauty of the Bananaquit. I always stand in awe of Jesus Christ’s inspiring, artistic creations of wonder, even the minutest.

~

Sugar Bird Basics:

The Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola) is a petite bird (4.5 inches long). It displays a slender, curved bill—uniquely created to obtain nectar from flora.

This Honeycreeper can be spotted in common wooded areas and gardens of the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America. Southern Florida is occasionally blessed by their presence.

At times, this yellow flyer will pierce flowers from the side, removing the nectar without pollinating the plant. It also partakes of fruit and insects. It relishes garden life and can become quite tame. One might even wiz through a front door of an Island home to nab a taste of sweetness from a sugar bowl as a surprise guest. (I know I certainly wouldn’t mind). Its nickname, Sugar Bird, comes from its affinity for bowls or bird feeders stocked with granulated sugar or Hummingbird nectar. (Living in Northwest America, I can’t imagine filling a bird feeder with plain sugar. My goodness the bees!)

The Bananaquit, its formal name, supposedly arose from the fact, it would pierce the flowers of Banana plants.

A rachis (resembles a rope or cord with rings) extends downward from a cluster of bananas and is adorned with a large purple flower on the end. It makes me think of a rope that rings a bell.

My photo of Bananas with purple closed flower on end of the rachis:

Antigua Bananas © Val J. Lee

Amazingly, over 100 billion bananas are consumed each year throughout the world. God has blessed this planet with this abundant yellow fruit that matches the small, yellow bird that enjoys its flowers.

The LORD’S magnificent, dainty, sugar flyer has dark grey upperparts, predominate yellow belly and rump, with a black head crowned with white markings. It also displays a red mark behind the bill. Males and females are matching pairs.

The Bananaquit owns a preen gland (uropygial gland) at the base of its tail. This gland produces a perfect mixture of waxes and oils that the are dispersed by the beak to coat feathers; maintaining flexible, resilient, and water-resistant wings. It also provides basic protection against parasites and bacteria. (God has created this gland in most birds.)

This Honeycreeper’s breeding season commences in resounding beauty—the most productive, flowering period of the year, March and April. The guy and gal’s courtship rituals of play includes bowing, bobbing and exhibiting brilliant, yellow tail feathers.

Once committed, the blond couple weaves a spheric nest of grass, narrow leaves, and twigs. A soft lining is added (the downy blanket). It may consist of many materials, including downy feathers. Bananaquit thieves have been known to steal rag material from mops left on porches. They also will implement the thread-like fibers of coconut husks that also afford many uses for men. One new business implemented the threads for a unusual, hanging ceiling.

At one time ornithologists studied a large range of their nests and “found them to have as many as 404 to 650 items used for nesting materials.” (I know my yard birds will find and sew my long red hair into their nests.) A side or bottom entrance concludes the construction.

The couple may choose to place the nest next to neighbors we would never want—wasps. Yes, if they place their nest adjacent to a wasp nest, they gain protection from predators. God did provide these lovely aves with observation reasoning.

The female will lay several clutches of two to three pale eggs with brown and red tinting. The babies hatch in 12-13 days and the fledglings fly from the nest in 15 to 18 days. A couple may raise 3 to 4 broods a year.

Their lifespan is around 7 years.

Following breeding season, the birds return to separate roosting, sleeping quarters, that are also nests. They do have brooding nests and roosting nests. This is unusual. The roosting nests house several yellows and the nests might be considered condo complexes.

We should never neglect giving thanks for the abundant winged life that sores across our globe. We need to be grateful for all created wonders. We need to offer thanksgiving to Jesus Christ, the Creator of all (Colossians 1:13-19), who died on a tree for every sin. He died for everyone, and whoever sincerely asks Him, in humility, to save them from their sins, can obtain eternal life and a personal relationship with Him. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

*Info gratefully obtained from various web sources.

Please click here to learn of God’s personal love for you: letter-to-bird-enthusiast

Through the Looking Glass of Val Lee – Yellow-legged Seagulls

Yellow-legged Seagull @ Val J. Lee

I enjoyed observing these aves moving about the Rock of Gibraltar where Mediterranean Sea intersects with Atlantic Ocean … becoming one. You can view Africa from Gibraltar, specifically Morocco, and ferries run between. It is a famed limestone peak that was once a fortress.

Rock of Gibraltar @ Val J. Lee

It is richly historical with an inner being that possesses 150 caves and one still holds ancient cannons that are focused on the sea straits.

Gibraltar west side cannon @ Val J. Lee

The City of Gibraltar, holding within the Rock of Gibraltar, is a territory of Britain though it is surrounded by Spain and Spain would like to re-seize it. Spain lost Gibraltar to Britain in the war of 1704.

The highlighted cave of Saint Michael’s, (named after Michael the Archangel in the Bible) was magnificently designed by Jesus Christ. It lodges many deep cavities and a crystal clear lake. The Greeks believed this cave led to Hades.

Barbary or Rock Monkeys freely roam about the Rock. No one knows for sure how these Moroccan monkeys came to Gibraltar; though one couple could have snuck aboard a cargo ship headed for Gibraltar, and over time, propagated  a colony of apes.

Rock Apes on Rock of Gibraltar @ Val J. Lee

Here is my photo of a Barbary Monkey at the summit of Gibraltar and link to my video:

Monkeys (Barbary Macaque) Atop Gibraltar

Barbary Monkey on Rock of Gibraltar @ Val J. Lee

Both the Barbary Monkeys and the Yellow-legged Seagulls (Larus michahellis) love leftovers and handouts. We saw the Seagulls fighting the monkeys for food. Surprisingly, the yellow legs won. It appears these seagulls and monkeys rule Gibraltar in a bi-partisan manner.

Yellow-legged Seagulls on Rock of Gibraltar @ Val J. Lee

Gibraltar is quite the scene and I must say it was the monkeys I enjoyed the most even though they are an aggressive species of monkey.

@ Val J. Lee

This is my husband feeding a friendly rock ape from our car window with some bird seed I brought to feed flyers. A huge, baboon-like ape, noticed this happening, and seeming to come out of nowhere, came right through this window to rob us. I cried, “No” at him, as I do my cats on the rare occasions when they misbehave. But he didn’t care that I pleaded for him to reconsider. He grabbed the bird food bag forcibly from my hand. He knew he was far stronger and faster than I. My husband found it quite the joke, but I was infuriated.

Barbary Monkeys enjoying view on Rock of Gibraltar @ Val J. Lee

You do have to walk cautiously, knowing these apes can bite hard if you do not let them have their way. You can end up spending your vacation in the hospital. They will even check your pockets for food. I must say I enjoyed the Green Monkeys of Barbados better, as they are sweet, shy and kind.

The Yellow-legged Gulls can be mistaken for the European Herring Gull that also displays a red mark on the beak during breeding season. This mark is the target that yellow-legged Gull chicks tap to incite their parents to regurgitate partly digested victuals. (See first photo) Now, who told them where to tap for food and who made that red mark? Yes, the LORD God! He cares for baby birds and makes sure they are wondrously provided for.

Can you imagine the lifelessness of our domain if God had created a black and white world with only black and white birds? Psalm 8, in the Bible, is a song of praise to God whose name is excellent in all the earth! In this song, the LORD proclaims men’s glory, honor and dominion over our prismatic earth, including the multihued birds of the air.

Yellow-legged Seagulls @ Val J. Lee

Both the Yellow-legged and Herring gull, peer with yellow eyes that are surrounded with an orbital eye-ring. When researching the species, I thought the yellow-legs were Herrings. One distinguishing characteristic, of course, is their skinny yellow legs. The Herring’s are dark grey with pink overtones. Outside of the limbs, I find them difficult to distinguish. Their eye-rings I cannot distinguish in photos, though God crafted the Yellow-legged Seagulls to have red eye-rings that match the mark on their beak during breeding; and the Herrings, a deep yellow ring. Yellow-legs also display a whiter head in autumn and disperse a deeper call that is nasal.

Yellow-legged Seagull at Rock of Gibraltar @ Val J. Lee

The yellow legs breeding range is centered around the Mediterranean Sea. Here is my video with them flying about Rock of Gibraltar with a view of the Mediterranean/Atlantic:

In North Africa, the yellow legs are common in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. “Recent breeding has occurred in Libya and Egypt. In the Middle East a few breed in Israel and Syria with larger numbers in Cyprus and Turkey.” European colonies run along the Mediterranean coast and have spread north into central and Western Europe.

Yellow-legged Gulls courtship is similar to many birds. The damsel will beg food from her wooing suitor. The skinny yellow-legged gal will plead in a hunched-posture. She will toss her bright pretty head and move her bill up and down so her guy gets the message. These gulls mate for life by Jesus Christ’s design. Couples normally breed in colonies and females will lay three eggs from mid March to early May.

There have been reports of gulls attacking people who come to close too their nesting areas. In one area of London, postal deliveries had to be suspended. They are strong birds. I can testify to this from observing them war with apes.

Yellow leg nests are a sparse mound of vegetation built on the ground or on cliff ledges. Their eggs are incubated for 27–31 days and the hatched fledge or fly at 35–40 days. Nests are defended vigorously. This is true with most bird families.

If a couple makes a successful home, they will return the following season.

Seagulls start breeding when age three and can live for 40 years.

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Seagulls do like to be stationed near fast food suppliers and recent studies reveal many now prefer city-life to sea-life. A few will attack people for the delectables in their hands.

Here is a video of a Seagull robbing a store of its Cheese Doritos:

Yellow legs are omnivores (eating whatever is available). Of course, we all know they are a scavenger bird … I must be blunt. They love rubbish and hunting suitable prey in fields or in coastal areas. They will rob smaller gulls and other seabirds of their catches.

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Please click here to learn of God’s personal love for you:  letter-to-bird-enthusiast

My video of Gibraltar, France and Spain: Gibraltar, Paris and Spain:

Gibraltar, Paris and Spain

*Info gratefully gathered from various web sources.

Through the Looking Glass of Val Lee – Western Tanager

Western Tanager (male) @ Val Lee

What a joy it is when I come across these spectacular, brightly hued birds. Until lately, there have been many in Idaho. This is where I shot the photos and video for this article.

My heart broke when it became known to me that a Western Tanager, Piranga ludoviciana, died in my yard courtesy of one of our two cats. My husband and son decided, minus any hesitation, that it had to be Cassidy who loves only me and hates everyone and everything else. They assumed that sweet Alfredo, who loves everyone and everything, would never kill such a pretty bird. I, of course, defended my cat with my two cents, being poor in defense, and simply let it be known that they are both avid hunters. This is certainly the case though they are declawed, that is, they cannot dispense their front claws. Being on the elderly side, and owning this deficiency, they can still pounce and kill in an instant.

Both cats covet trespassing birds and that cannot be denied. I love and feed the various flyers and consider them part of our property. I had no idea a Western Tanager had become linked to the bird gang on Lee’s land before its demise.

Western Tanager (male) @ Val Lee

I tried to figure out why the ravishing Tanager had come our way. They are attracted to feeders holding oranges, grapes and dried fruits, but I do not provide these fruits for our outside, fly-by diners.

Tanagers also partake of growing berries; however, my raspberries had not yet ripened. Maybe I have plenty of insects in my yard, being they are a delicious delicacy of the Tanagers. They will gobble bugs, rushing upon them from behind, as the gourmet creatures soar through the air.

Western Tanagers love wasps and bees as well, this being their first choice in diet. They will get a belly full of them when my trumpet vine blooms, if they stick around for the feast.

They also eat plant matter, incorporating 15% of their diet.

All bug-gorging creatures are welcome in my yard. It certainly appears that I don’t need a sign to tell them so.

My video: 

When these gorgeous birds, crafted by God, arrived in our area about two weeks ago, people talked and wanted to know the species. When walking in the park, my friend Bev told me that she spotted this yellow and orange bird and wanted to know what it was. I wrongly replied that it was probably an Oriole. They can vary in color within orange and yellow tinting, and the Bullock’s Oriole resides here. Within a few minutes, another friend pointed out a Western Tanager that landed a few yards away. I quickly realized this was the type of flyer Bev had spotted originally. Within a day or so, we saw them flying everywhere in the park.

Western Tanager (male) @ Val Lee

These elegant, western beauties are classified as a Tanager (Thraupidae). They have flip-flopped between being Cardinals (Cardinalidae) and Tanagers. I must say, they certainly do not own the distinctive Cardinal cone-shaped beak. They were thus categorized due to their plumage and vocalizations, which was supposedly found to be similar to Cardinals.

There were 240 birds that were classified as Tanagers, but things are in a muddle currently. Apparently some of these birds require new name tags. They are being shoved from one bird family to another, being reassessed via the AOU—American Ornithologists’ Union.

Despite how man classifies or un-classifies this ave, I have to confess, I do not see why they dubbed the Western Tanager as a Cardinal. I observe their plumage not being similar to Cardinals, but actually to Golden Finches. To me, the Western Tanager is simply a medium sized, colorfully crafted, American songbird, graciously provided for us by the LORD Jesus Christ.

God has manufactured Western Tanagers and all His creatures with unique dissimilarities. He did not form birds so they could fit perfectly into ornithologists’ classifications.

Western Tanager (male) @ Val Lee

Western Tanager adults can be described as displaying a pale, stout, pointed bill. Their underparts and wing bars are yellow. Males expose a bright red to bright orange face and a yellow nape, shoulder, and rump, with black upper back, wings, and tail. In their duller, non-breeding plumage, the head has no more than a reddish cast and the body possesses an olive tinge.

Females display their own distinctions with a yellow head and an olive hue on their back, with dark wings and tail. When shutterbugging, I never noticed any females. Perhaps they were tending the home nest. I say this, noting the male birds were flying in and out of a coniferous fir tree, and it is in these trees that these lifetime lovers prefer to nest.

The dead, male Western Tanager in my yard was found next to our blue spruce. I wonder if the poor fellow had a family.

The Western Tanager’s song consists of short phrases and you might think you are detecting an American Robin; however, the Tanager voice is hoarser and rather monotonous. They seem to say “pit-er-ick.”

The Western Tanager flies northward to its happy nesting grounds in May, making their homes in coniferous or mixed woods across western North America, from the Mexican-American border. They can migrate as far north as southern Alaska. It can be noted that they are the northernmost breeding Tanager.

Like many aves, the Western Tanagers mate for life. You will view no elaborate aeronautical courtship display. They are not showoffs. However, a flirting female will flutter her wings toward a suitor to gain his attention. This type of sign language can also be implemented as the queue for him to personally feed her during their courting days. This “feed me,” dating behavior, is common among birds.

The book of Ruth, in the Bible, is a romantic book. You find the story of a godly man by the name of Boaz, a land owner. One day his heart goes out to an impoverished woman by the name of Ruth. He extends kindness by offering her some bread and dip. Having been informed of her unfaltering reputation, he praises her for being a woman of chastity, and a woman who exercises sacrificial love. Later, she flitters his way, letting him know she is interested in a marriage proposal, at which time, he cheerfully complies. Unfortunately, a villain lies in the way. Once “he” is removed from the picture, they marry and live happily, ever-after.

This divinely, appointed relationship was completely orchestrated by God. Because this couple feared God, He allowed them to be grafted into the ancestry line of Jesus Christ.

The vibrant, happy, singing couple of Western Tanagers will engage in tweet talk with short, song notes of admiration. Their solid lifetime bond may form on wintering grounds or during migration.

The enthusiastic pair will build a flimsy cup nest on a tree branch, usually in a conifer for their arriving, sweet, wee bairns. They lay four bluish-green eggs with brown spots. The papa of the nest eggs, establishes and defends home and property (territory) by singing and chasing away intruders. Gestation or incubation is 13 days, and the young fledge or fly at seven days of age.

These birds migrate south in August, wintering in Southern California, Central Mexico and Costa Rica.

Their life expectancy is around eight years.

Western Tanager (male) @ Val Lee

Psalm 104, in the Bible, uplifts the God of creation who sends forth springs in the valleys that flow between the mountains and provides drink for every beast of the field, including the birds of the heavens that lift up their voices among the branches. To learn more about God who created you uniquely, and provides for you, please click here:

letter-to-bird-enthusiast

I have a couple of cat stories about Cassidy and Alfredo at my other website under the category of “cat story.”  Please click here: vallee

*Info gratefully gathered from various web sources.

Through the Looking Glass of Val Lee – Black-winged Stilt or Common Stilt of Spain

Stilt (Black-winged) @ Val Lee

I shot this long, pink-legged ave in southern Spain, at the Fuente de Piedra Lagoon (Fountain of Stone).

Spain in May is quite nice. My husband, Al, loves to place me on a winged metal bird and soar me away to wondrous global scenes of the world. This time, massive wings set us down in Paris and Spain and we also drove to Gibraltar. If you would like to see my slide video of photos with music, you can click here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKRiGLgu4pQ

Fuente de Pedra is a shallow lake, brimming with remarkable birds, and functions as a migrating flyway. It is the place to go in Spain to view migrating birds and stationary.

My video of the bird  grabbing bug-bites at the lake:

When shooting shots and videos of Stilts in water and in flight, a thunderstorm snuck in without me noticing. Al and I had walkie talkies to keep in touch, but I had turned mine off, being the battery was low. Al had tried to SOS me, but it was useless. Finally, when I noticed lightning bolts uncomfortably close, I turned on the WT and spoke to him. I told him to get inside the building and not wait for me. I did not want him struck down dead. I was quite afraid and had to run a distance to get cover in the interpretive center. I tell you, I was praying to the Creator of every one of those electric sky strikes. In tears and in fear I begged Him to preserve me! Needless to say, He did.

Black-winged Stilt @ Val Lee

(Job chapter 37, verses 2-5, teaches mankind regarding the LORD God of the storms, who directs His lighting unto the ends of the earth.  He thunders the heavens with His voice.  The thunderous storms speak of  the excellency of His ways that we cannot comprehend.)

As I drew near the interpretive building, I noticed Al was still outside waiting for me. I once again told him emphatically to “get inside.” (I must say I am not normally in the habit of ordering my husband about ☺)

When I reached the building, Al was still outside waiting, to my deep disappointment! He let me know, he was not going anywhere without me.

After we both entered together, it started to pour rather large hailstones. It was thundering, lightning, hailing and windy—the essential parts for a genuine storm exhibit. The curator was quite surprised by it all, being it was May and warm.

Leaving this rabbit trail and getting back to birding, you may have noted from the video, this winger walks miraculously well with those strong, pink bending stilts. He wades effortlessly through the waters of motion with those wire-like limbs. What man could design such walking stilts? What man could design their perfect feet—partially webbed for such action? They are marvelously designed for their role in the world.

Black-winged Stilt @ Val Lee

Stilts, like most aves, are of the gregarious sort—most friendly within their own species—though they can expose an aggressive temperament at times and will engage in aerial combat for property rights.

They might be noticed feeding in Stilt flocks of several thousand … amazing.

If they are made to feel frightened, they will head-bob. Their call is a sharp “yep” or “kek.” They sometimes perform a high-leaping display with an air floating descent.

Men do not understand these artful performances, but the LORD Jesus Christ created Stilts with agility that marvels the mind.

The Black-winged Stilt or Common Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) is a widely distributed skinny-legged wader in the Avocet and Stilt family (Recurvirostridae). God placed on them extraordinary legs—7 to 9 inches—the longest relative to body size. Ostriches have the longest legs of any bird, though they do no fly. There are four other species of Stilt.

Stilt (Black-winged) @ Val Lee

Adult Stilts are 12-14 inches long. Their wingspan is from 26 to 32 inches. Along with their pink legs, they display a long thin black bill. They are blackish above and white below, with a white head and neck displaying a varying amount of black. Males have a black back, often with greenish gloss. Females reveal a back with a brown hue, contrasting with black remiges (flight feathers).

Males and females are often hard to distinguish. Slight head hue alterations can occur with the seasons. Immature Stilts have grey flight wings instead of black and a sandy hue on the wings, with light feather fringes.

Stilts fly with body fully outstretched. Legs are straight as a board stationed behind tail wings. This flyer represents quite the elongated flight form as seen in my second video, also shot at the lake:

They can be spotted in Europe, Southern North America, Central America, Peru and Brazil, and in the lovely Caribbean. Northernmost populations migrate south in winter. Those of Spain and of other parts of Europe might migrate south to Africa in winter.

These stilted marvels shop for their provisions in sand or water. Their diet mainly consists of insects, fish, crustaceans, worms and seeds. They feed in both salt and fresh water on half-webbed feet that allow them to swim—although this is a rarity.

Stilt (Black-winged) @ Val Lee

God equipped them with day and night vision and day and night alertness. Implementing their remarkable nocturnal vision, these agile, rapid dabblers will feed on a windy, moonless night. I am sure they get some shuteye sometime.

Dating commences in late winter. When a Stilt locates that special someone to mate with for life, they might hug each other … head and body hugging—one head under the other in sweet unity. They demonstrate affection quite well without arms.

Regarding their reproductive biology, Stilts usually breed in colonies of two to 50 pairs. Sometimes with other members of the Avocet family.

By God’s design, all Avocets are faithfully monogamous.

Timing of breeding varies over ranges. They make a nest scraped with mud or plants piled up in a mound near marshes, shallow lakes and ponds. At times, it may be a well-lined, floating mass of water weeds. Females generally lay 3 or 4 eggs. Both father and mother incubate the eggs for 25 days. Fathers will spend more time than the mothers at the nest, mostly building the nest and covering the eggs. They are dutiful dads. Mothers spend more time foraging than the fathers.

During late incubation, moms spend significantly more time at the nest than the dads. After hatching, both parents attend to their young. Fledging (flying) takes place at 28–37 days.

Lifespan is up to 12 years.

Black-winged Stilt @ Val Lee

Various male birds can represent the faithfulness of God for His children—that is born again Christians who have yielded their lives to Jesus Christ of the Bible. If you do not know Jesus Christ personally, you can learn about His personal love for you, and His desire to give you an abundant fulfilled life. please click here: How to get to heaven

*Info gratefully gathered from various web sources.

Through the Looking Glass of Val Lee – Hummingbirds

Hummingbird, Rufous, (female) @ Val Lee

This is a female Rufous Hummingbird I shot in my backyard.  Look at those cute little feet!

These extremely petite, nectar-sipping New World birds, bring joy to my heart. I love these delicate appearing creatures that are noted for their flight agility—hovering, ascending, and descending. No survival of the largest and fittest is on their agenda. They will show you, God’s smallest bird can travel through the ages through its intelligence, endurance and stealth.

These helicopter-like creatures effortlessly move backwards, forwards or maintain a horizontal position. In flight, they own the highest metabolism of all fauna, which supports the rapidity of their beating wings. Their heart rate can reach 1,260 beats per minute. They are amazingly crafted by Jesus Christ!

Hummingbird, Rufous (female) @ Val Lee

At any given moment, they can be only hours away from starvation. Providentially, they are capable of slowing down their metabolism at night, or any other time, food is not readily available. They enter the hibernation zone, or the state known as “torpor.” It might be compared to a relaxed, lethargy body condition. They exert no energy that would rob them of life. God has provided them the wisdom within to deal with every situation that may bring harm.

Hummingbird (Rufous) @ Val Lee

Hummingbirds own a unique flying hum that you can hear. I don’t know exactly how to describe it in total accuracy. It sounds abnormally rapid and precise. I know when a Hummingbird is flying near, being I have never heard anything soar so swiftly. At various times, when sitting in my backyard, these tiny ones will rhythmically zoom right up to my face, engaging in still flight, and mute conversation. They look me over to decide if I am a friend or foe, engaging in a character, assessment conversation in their mind.  Once they determine I am simply a harmless human, they will rotate their torso and flitter to my trumpet vine for a nectar sip.

Hummingbird (Rufous) @ Val Lee

What visual discernment these tiny ones own—placed within by the LORD! Jesus Christ is completely amazing in all His works!

Here is a video I shot in my backyard of the Rufous:

Do you notice the pollen on the nose of my little friend in the first photo? Hummingbirds own long, slender bills which are combined with an extendible, bifurcated (two-forked) tongue; whereby, they feed upon nectar deep within blooms and pollinate. The lower bill flexes downward to create a wider bill opening, facilitating the consumption of flying insects in the mouth rather than at the tip of the beak. They typically consume more than their own weight in nectar each day by visiting hundreds of God’s vividly painted flowers.

Hummingbird, Rufous (female) @ Val Lee

Humming flyers are one of the world’s most uniquely, created creatures. They only measure from two to eight inches in length, and weigh in from two to six grams. Their wingspan is a slight three to four inches. They are unbelievably winsome.

There are approximately 330 species of Hummingbirds in the world and they are only located in the Western Hemisphere. The majority of species are located in the tropical forests of South and Central America. Seventeen species of Hummingbirds are bred in America—the greatest number being found along the American-Mexican border, from Arizona to Texas. All Hummingbirds winter in southern regions.

Rufous Display 

The widespread Rufous males display a brown back, iridescent ruby-red gorget (throat) that may appear black within some lighting reflections. It owns gray flanks and forked tail.  Males are smaller than females and display a great deal of brown on their bodies.

Females present an emerald-green back, with a white breast and throat. Their tail is rounded with white tips. Females are identified by their magnificent, green, back display.

~

Courtship of Hummers is similar to other birds, with a great aerial show! A courting male will dive toward the ground with his tail wings making a whistling sound for full effect. He will even engage in shuttle flights, wings held close to his body as he flies in swift motion like a rocket! The gal he is trying to impress, will observe and grade him on a nearby limb. If his show is a success, her heart will be won.

Hummingbird, Rufous, juvenile (male) @ Val Lee

Female Hummingbirds make a cup-shaped nest (about half a walnut-shell in size) on a tree branch or shrub. Almost impossible to spot.

She is the most gifted of artisans! She with extraordinary flair, creates a nest to blend in perfectly, with the rest of the tree so it appears to be one with the tree. She weaves it in absolute perfection! If she nests in a pine tree, her tiny cup looks just like a tiny pine knot on the tree. It could not be crafted better by any human.

She will lay two extremely tiny white eggs, with incubation lasting 12–19 days. Upon hatching, the born weigh approximately 0.62 grams—that is one-third the weight of a dime.

Mom, will defend the nest at all costs and will even fight off prey birds such as Hawks and Crows. Female hummers are quite military-minded, when it comes to defense. She is like David; and the Hawk, like Goliath. She can win with her tactful maneuvering! She is the small stone in the sling.

The itsy bitsy, wee ones fly from the nest at three weeks and never return. The mother, however, stays nearby to reveal all the best places to obtain insects and nectar. She then chases off her young to live on their own. She refuses to be one of those controlling mothers who tries to manipulate her adult children so they remain at home.

Hummers can survive in captivity for many years, as long as seventeen years. In the wild, they live an average of 3 to 5 years. In very rare cases, as long as 10 years.

Hummingbird, juvenile, female (Rufous) @ Val Lee

The Bible states God’s ways are past finding out. Job 5:9 states, God does

“great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number!”

The rest of chapter 5, explains how mighty God truly is.

You do not have to search far to know man can explain very little concerning our massive cosmos, let alone the smallest critter.

He miraculously formed you in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139), and He died in your place that you might have eternal life.

Please click here to learn more about His personal and precious love for you: letter-to-bird-enthusiast

Extra video of Hummingbird in my backyard:

*Information gratefully gathered from various websites.

Through Looking Glass of Val Lee – Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Black Bird (male) @ Val Lee

My husband and I were surprised to hear the Red-winged Blackbirds when we strolled through the park last week. It seems early for them to be migrating to their spring and summer romping grounds. We are still in the midst of freezing weather. We have noticed a few other early bird arriving species as well. Where we have a small population of Canadian Geese all winter, they are now arriving in large formations, covering our southern winter skies at times.

The Red-winged male Blackbird reveals red on its wing, underlined with a yellow bar, as you can see from my photo. The female is nondescript dark brown. This black silken avis proclaims a long explosive call—a throaty “check” and a high slurred whistle, “terrr-eeee.”

My video captures their outstretched trilling:

It sometimes gets on my nerves, being slightly annoying, as it seems to never stop with many singing the tune. It breaks out in a continuous rhythmic long note; being loudly pronounced, carried on the outdoor airwaves to one another. God certainly equipped it with a unique call. All of His aves can be personally identified by their speech patterns. Humans also own a personal unique makeup. No one in the world can perfectly match up. We can be identified through our fingerprints and DNA structure. If our DNA body strands were stretched in sequence, they would reach the sun and back, 400 times. Earth to sun is 93 million miles. It amazes me to consider the complexity of man and beast.

Red-winged Blackbird (male) @ Val Lee

Throughout the Bible, we read of God’s expressions of love for the human race. When we understand our complexity, how can we begin to deny it? If God didn’t love us, He would not have formed each of us so distinctively and marvelously. He would not have bothered to give us limbs and a brain, let alone the breath of life.

I, at times, feel sorry for our Blue Herons that enjoy our wildlife park, as the tenacious red wingers will group and attack them when angling. They can be most cruel and relentless, harassing this large blue bird. They even follow the Herons, never-ceasing, always stalking and attacking. If the Heron settles in to fish elsewhere, they swoop and bombard again and again. I have never witnessed a Blue Heron avenging; it simply travels on. I guess the blues venture too close to the redwingers’ nests. These Blackbirds are even known to attack humans who approach their nesting areas, though I have not personally observed this.

Red-winged Blackbird @ Val Lee

I have surveyed the fact, Red-winged Blackbirds are water lovers. They enjoying being in cattails from which they often perch. This seems to be the best setting for our observation of them.

The Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) is a passerine bird (perching bird—half of all birds make up the passerine bird populace). This Blackbird is located in most of North and Central America. It breeds from Alaska, Newfoundland, south to the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico and Guatemala. It may winter as far north as Pennsylvania and British Columbia. However, northern populations are generally migratory, moving south to Mexico and the southern US. These birds are omnivorous, feeding primarily on plant materials, including seeds, berries, weeds, corn and rice. About a quarter of its diet consists of insects and other small animals. In late summer and in autumn, the Red-winged Blackbird will feed in open fields.

These birds can be drawn to bird feeders using bread, seed mixtures and suet.

My video of the female—puffed out and calling out:

Their average length is 8 inches, with a 14 inch average wingspan.

The Red-winged Blackbird is polygamous, with territorial males defending up to 10 females. Pairs raise two or three clutches per season, in a new nest for each clutch. Nesting takes place in loose colonies. The nest is constructed entirely by the female over the course of three to six days. It is a nice basket of grasses, rush plants, and mosses, lined with mud, and bound to surrounding grasses, or branches. Nests are so amazing and it is phenomenal to contemplate on the fact our LORD Jesus Christ implanted in birds the wisdom to construct, thinking of the arriving young and their needs.

Red-winged Blackbird (female) @ Val Lee

A nest is located 3 inches to 14 feet above water.

One nest (which are around 7 inches deep and 5 inches across) was separated, piece by piece by a birding enthusiast in the 1930s. He found it had been weaved of 34 strips of willow bark and 142 cattail leaves—as long as 2 feet. Simply amazing weaver-work!

A clutch comprises three or four eggs—being oval, smooth, slightly glossy, and measure 1 x .7 inches. They are pale bluish-green, marked with brown, purple, or black, with most markings around the larger end of the egg. Incubation is performed by the female, and eggs hatch in 11 to 12 days. The young fledge in 11 to 14 days.

Red-winged Blackbird (female) @ Val Lee

When breeding season is over, Red-winged Blackbirds gather in huge flocks, sometimes numbering in the millions. This is true of many aves.

Their average lifespan is 15 years.

In portions of America, these Blackbirds are considered pests because flocks can consume large amounts of cultivated grain and rice.

~

Regarding the dead bird incident of 5,000 birds falling from the skies of Arkansas on January 1, 2011, the latest news reveals nothing more than speculation regarding the Redwing Blackbirds. Sources stated there was no poison found in the birds. I wonder if we will ever know the reason for the death of the birds and the 100,000 drum fish.

*Some info from Wikipedia and other web sources.

Please click here: letter-to-bird-enthusiast

Through the Looking Glass of Val Lee – The American Black Vulture

American Black Vulture @ Val Lee

Bet you’ll never guess where I shot this Black Vulture? Ummmmmmm. Give up? I shot it at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida.

Through the bird area refuge, that surrounds the space center, you can see astronauts are not the only created beings that love to be launched above the earth. Vultures are one of the loftiest aeronautical bird flyers.

NASA Vehicle Assembly Building (Largest single-story structure in the world) by Val Lee

To tell it like it happened, I was observing the many displays, including the historic astrovan that was long employed for transporting astronauts to the launching pad.

Vehicle Assembly Building @ Val Lee

This astrovan represents commemorative memories and heartbreaking ones. Many explorative accomplishments arose from the launched lives. The lost lives from failure flights can still jolt our hearts.

NASA Moon Van @ Val Lee

Behind the astrovan, I noticed something odd out the massive rear windows of the visitor room. Large, strange birds that resembled turkeys were lurking outside. Upon closer inspection, I determined they must be Vultures. It was quite the large flock with some, roosting in a tree. I stepped outside, not realizing it was an emergency exit only. Oh my, oh well. No harm done—no arrest. I had my eyes on these birds, not the small sign.

I had never been in such a situation so it was quite a blessing to observe this unique, strange acting creation of God, the American Black Vultures.

American Black Vultures @ Val Lee

These Vultures, like the Cormorant, stand often with wings outstretched, the “spread-winged stance” or “horaltic pose.” They can cool off, dry off, and bake off bacteria—not a pleasant thought; no, indeed not.

My video of these Vultures:

I am not sure what attracted them to this spacey local. I am sure they did not hear about it on the news, though there were various reports regarding the preparation of the last Atlantis Shuttle launch that was scheduled for July 8, 2011.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6308516608498324470

We were there in June and it was quite intriguing to view Atlantis from afar.

There have been 135 missions performed by five shuttles.

“Shuttle flights deployed more than fifty satellites for military, governmental, and commercial clients. Three interplanetary craft were launched from shuttles: the Magellan spacecraft that traveled to Venus, the Galileo spacecraft that traveled to Jupiter, and the Ulysses spacecraft that traveled to the sun. Shuttles also deployed important observatories into space, including the Hubble Space Telescope, Gamma Ray Observatory, the Diffuse X-Ray Spectrometer, and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory.”

Two Christian astronauts, Commander Richard Husband and Michael P. Anderson, perished during the Columbia Shuttle reentry disaster on February 1, 2003.

Actual Apolo 14 Capsule, Third Moon Landing @ Val Lee

God’s universe is beyond comprehension and probes to endless galaxies or so it appears. Men can only explore a minuscule segment of its vastness. Privileged Planet Video with the Hubble Heritage Team:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6308516608498324470

_________

The Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) or American Black Vulture is an ave of the New World Vulture family whose range extends from the southeastern United States to South America, and the Caribbean Islands—a landing local for those buzzards who relish the perfect vacation spots. It inhabits relatively open areas, which provide forests and vegetation. They love perching in dead trees, imagine that.

“Vulture” is derived from the latin word vulturus, which means tearer. This is an ugly picture of its necessary, vulgar habits. Its latin name Atratus, means “clothed in black,” The genus name, Coragyps means “raven-vulture.” The family name, Cathartidae, means “purifier.” It is also identified by the names, Carrion Crow and Black Buzzard.“

Its wingspan is quite large—five feet. As you can from the photos, this bird is as large as a turkey. It is classified as a smaller species of Vulture.

Males and females reveal no distinguishing differences in appearance. Their plumage is black. They display a featherless gray head and neck. This allows these buzzards to probe into carcass’ without getting too yucky.

Their face displays a short, hooked beak and we all know what that is for.

It exhibits grayish white legs. Their flat, weak, blunt talons are long and consist of two front webbed toes. They are not constructed for grasping.

Primary feathers display a white underside at the baseline, visible in flight. The tail is short and square, nothing attractive.

I did notice one positive thing, their brown eyes appeared kind of sweet looking. I was quite struck when peering at one of my photos.

Black Vultures are non-threatening to any human population. They never attack live mortal beings. Contrary to belief, they do not leave bacteria, not even in their feces. God manufactured their systems to be totally self-cleaning. They do leave uric acid (urine) that can kill trees and vegetation; however, decaying dead carrion is more harmful to the environment than Vulture acid that can be washed away by a rainstorm or a good hosing.

Like all New World Vultures, the Black Vulture often defecates on its legs, using the evaporation of the water in the feces and/or urine to cool itself, a process known as urohidrosis. It also kills bacteria as the feces and urine contain a cleaning acid. No, this is not the most pleasant bird on God’s green earth.

The generally displeasing appearance of the Black Vulture matches its prescribed work on this sphere. Besides being a flesh scavenger, this Vulture of black deeds, will seize nest eggs, kill newborn animals and small animals. I viewed a video where they slew and consumed a gray kitten. Not a pleasant scene.

One Black Vulture will devour in one swallow, a newly hatched Olive Ridley Sea Turtle, as it attempts to rush to ocean’s safety. Ridleys are dispersed around the world and eggs are laid in the sand, a distance from the ocean so they are not washed away.

Animal carcass’ are easily spotted by the specialized eyes of this Vulture from a good distance of up to four miles. Though the Black Vulture is smaller than the Turkey Vulture, it is more aggressive and will let the Turkeys know they are not invited to dinner. They win the food fights.

Though the American Black Vulture is not a pretty bird that we like to maintain in our minds’ eye, such as the cute Yellow Warbler, its vacuum cleaning job for the earth is essential. God is astonishing in correlating prey animals for remain disposal. Of course, His bug life can take care of any tiny, unsightly leftovers.

In Revelation chapter 19 of the Bible, we read that Jesus Christ before His millennial reign, will enlist His army of Vultures (there are at least 25 species) to eat the remains of His enemies. He may call other prey birds as well to assist in the feast of human flesh. He will destroy His enemies before He takes His throne in Jerusalem, whereby He will rule the earth as a lowly King, though He is the Creator and ruler of the universe. Perfect peace, harmony and righteousness will rule the world under His power.

The American Black Vulture soars into the heavens in flight artistry. It is one of the most skilled pilots in the world. They fly slightly lower than the Turkey Vulture. Black Vultures are called the “flying wing,” since they mainly fly without exerted effort.

When someone peers into the air and sights Vultures hovering, they might think, “What’s this all about, a bunch of buzzards overhead?” It can be thought of as a nightmare moment since it usually signals a death of something or someone. Black Vultures dress in black for all funerals, but they are not the mourning type. They are into holding wakes, installing the dead.

American Black Vulture @ Val Lee

Black buzzards migrate over North and South America with minimal energy output. Vultures often take to flight a few hours after sunrise, after the morning air has been warmed by the glowing sun. Vultures frequently circle and gain altitude on pockets of rising, warm thermals of air. Topping the thermal, they can glide across the sky at speeds of 60 miles per hour. Upon natural descent, they will locate another thermal for another sequences of circling dance; rising, and then gliding again, implementing the wonders of heavenly air.

Vultures can cover many air miles, advantaging each thermal, never needing to beat a wing. The LORD’S amazing ways of birding design are past finding out. He equips His aves with the right equipment for their designed service on this earth. He even includes break times.

In human populated areas, this ave is not above robbing garbage dumps. It is equipped with a remarkable nose for tracing anything that smells foul, though its snout is weaker than the Turkey Vulture.

Do not expect to hear anything resembling the song of the Nightingale coming from this buzzards’ vocal cords, being it was manufactured without a music box; oops, voice box. It can, however, produce offensive grunting and hissing noises, which God corresponded to its occupation. It seems to be in perfect sync.

It is known to regurgitate food when approached or disturbed. This act displays strategy survival maneuvers. This lightens the air freight load of the bird for fast take offs. And the returned to earth food, at times, can be viewed as a present offered to a prey animal; whereby it might forget the Vulture and eat the fast food. Fortunately for this bird, it has no natural enemies.

American Black Vulture @ Val Lee

Black Vultures are of the friendly sort, owning they are gregarious, roosting in large groups with friends and family. Young stay with the parents in a social group or “kettle” for years or for life.

They fly low to the ground to pick up the scent of ethyl mercaptan—a decay gas emitted from dead animals.

The American Black Vulture occasionally sets its binocular eyes on livestock and deer. This is not a pleasant thought for ranchers. It is the only species of New World Vulture which preys on cattle. Occasionally, it harasses birthing cows; however it primarily preys on newborn calves. Unsuspectingly, young caves will allow the dark Vultures to approach them. In ghastly, black heart fashion, a venue of Black Vultures will swarm a calf. The dressed in black gang will then move in to peck at the calf’s eyes, nose or tongue. The calf eventually goes into shock, and the rest is unspeakable.

Black Vultures have been known to pick ticks from resting, cute Capybaras; a uniquely created, manifold animal:

http://animal.discovery.com/videos/pets-101-capybaras.html

I guess this might be considered a good deed, if you don’t get too technical. They will also try and kill young Capybaras.

The USA Peregrine Fund, located just south of Boise, Idaho, in 2006 discovered why vulture numbers were declining in the nation of India that depends upon vultures for clearing the dead. Vultures were dying from kidney failure that arose from an anti-inflammatory drug administered to cattle. Upon this discovery, the drug was outlawed in order to reestablish vulture numbers. In this pagan land where animals are worshipped as sacred, many people die of starvation. Hindus cannot eat meat.

(My father was stationed in India during WWII working as a lineman with the rank of sergeant. He told of the large carts that were wheeled through cities every morning to pick up the accumulated dead who had starved because heathens maintain a meatless diet. Today one-fifth of India’s population is chronically hungry—200 million people. This land is not abundantly blessed of God because these people refuse to worship their Creator. Instead, they worship cows and other animals that the LORD created to sustain them.)

They soar higher than eagles. They are perfect gliders and rarely have to flap their wings. They display a tremendous wingspan and lofty, aerial abilities. In 1973, a vulture collided with a commercial aircraft off the Ivory Coast. At the time, the plane was flying at 37,000 feet. The plane was able to land safely with one engine.

August 2010: “Warnings were issued to air traffic over Scotland and England yesterday after a vulture, which is capable of soaring at heights of more than 30,000 feet, escaped during an air show. Britain’s air traffic control group issued the warning. ‘We made pilots aware of the possibility of seeing this bird as it has a three-meter wingspan and can fly at altitudes used by commercial aircraft,’ a British air traffic control spokesman says to the Telegraph of London.”

There are a couple attractive vulture species in the world. The Griffin Vulture (Old World) that is not bald; it displays beautiful fluffy white head feathers.

Vultures can be synchronized in their eating habits. Many African species of vultures dine on the same carcass, arriving and feeding at various times, employing regimented dismemberment tactics. The powerful White-headed Vultures usually arrive first on the scene, cautiously approaching the carcass before tearing apart the tough hide. White-backed Vultures arrive soon after, assisting in exposing the carcass’ entrails. Ruppell’s Griffon Vultures may be next in the chow line, thrusting their long necks into the open carcass to obtain pieces of soft flesh. Lappet-faced Vultures typically feast last, eating the remaining skin, tendons, and ligaments. Bearded Vultures feed on bone marrow by breaking open large carcass bones by flying them high into the air, hundreds of feet, and dropping them onto rocks.

God is astonishing in correlating prey animals for remain disposal.  Of course, bug life can take care of any tiny, unsightly leftovers.

Mating for life is the American Black Vultures’ most renowned attribute.

Pairs are formed following a courtship display. Several males will encircle a female, while strutting and bobbing their heads, as if grooving to a love song. They, at times, will perform courtship flights, diving and chasing each other over their chosen nest site. It is always pleasant to fly somewhere for a honeymoon. These show-off guys can afford it.

Once a bond is formed, it is time to raise a family. Bird moms believe in home birth so they lay their one to two eggs in caves, hollow trees, other lofty places or even on the ground. No, not much in the way of a crib. However, some do love exterior decorating and will adorn the nursery area with glass chips, brightly colored plastic, shiny metal objects, such as bottle caps, etc. They lay eggs of various hues—gray-green, blue, or white. The shells are blotched or spotted with lavender or pale brown around the larger end. Both parents incubate the young for 29 days.

Upon hatching, the young are covered with white down, but are still not very cute. Both parents caringly nurture their young.

Vultures feed their young regurgitated carrion (dead meat), a vile smelling substance. It takes the young about 75-80 days to manage the skies as gifted pilots. The entire family remains together throughout the summer.

American Black Vultures lifespan averages 25.5 years.

*Info gratefully gathered from various web sources.

To learn of God’s personal love for you, please click here: letter-to-bird-enthusiast

My Revelation commentaries for chapters 1-10 explained, please click here: revelation-chapters-1-10-explained

My Revelation commentaries for chapter 11 and following explained, please click here: revelation-chapter-11-mouths-of-fire

Through the Looking Glass of Val Lee – Eclectus Parrot (Solomon)

Barbados Eclectus Parrot (Female) @ Val Lee

When my husband and I were in Barbados, I found it bewildering to see the Solomon Eclectus (Pronounced “ek-lek-tus”)Parrots standing on the ground and peering out of holes like ground hogs. In my mind’s eye, wild Parrots should always be perched in high trees. It is true; they are often spotted in lofty positions in tropical trees in arid climates. They can also be spotted on the ground and at times nest in holes as I have learned.

The Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus Roratus) is native to the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, northeastern Australia and the Maluku Islands (Moluccas). It is arguably the most noticeably dimorphic bird species in aviculture today. Up to the early 20th century, the cock and hen had been wrongly grouped into two different Parrot species.

It is unusual for females to be more colorful in the wild kingdom, and the striking female Grand Eclectus supplants her duller male counterpart. She wears a bright red headdress, complimented by a lovely royal blue shawl-like covering about the neck, being accented through her wine-tinted back feathering. She displays an unusual blue eye-ring and her beak is black.

The cock reveals varying shades of vivid green with some yellow tinting, with a bright candy corn colored upper beak and a black lower mandible. He poses with blue or red tail and wing feathers. No doubt, females find the males to be quite attractive. The flight wings of both sexes are gorgeous when displayed in the air, being rainbow-like.

Barbados Eclectus Parrot (Male) @ Val Lee

All Parrots have a strong curved bill, sturdy legs, and upright stance. Their feet maneuvering reveal extreme power. It is possible for them to hang upside down from a branch for long periods. Their claw-like feet have two outer toes that point backwards. These nimble toes are formed to grip with the two forward pointing inner toes. Quite the mechanics! This toe grasping enables them to hold and manipulate objects close to their bill. It is like fork to fork union when placing food in their mouths.

Their nourishment consists of seeds, nuts, fruits, leaf buds, blossoms, and nectar.

The LORD created Parrots with unique characteristic features and an intelligence that speaks in more ways than one. They are generally classified among the top three Parrots for talking ability when nurtured as pets.

The Eclectus is a medium-sized parrot. The length of the commonly available Eclectus subspecies ranges 12 to14½ inches and the wingspan is from 2 to 2½ feet.

The birds will cry loudly in flight. While feeding they discharge a mellow fluting type call. They fly in pairs or small parties in search of food. In the evening, they engage in display flights before gathering in large groups, up to 80 birds, to roost and echo their final night call.

Eclectus Parrots are monogamous (united for life) according to sources. However, some report they are not. Most parrot species are lifetime committed and I guess I have to leave it at that. It is amazing that God created many avis’ that commit for life as mankind should. These wingers mainly mate between August and January. They are cooperative breeders. Fellow Eclectus lend aid to new parents. Is this not interesting? Christians (Those who love Jesus Christ and have accepted His forgiving love) are called to minister to one another, assisting one another. Every believer is to consider each person as being more important than themselves; Philippians 2:3-4. These Parrots willingly assist one another as the need arrives; revealing a helpful nature.

Because they are gregarious, you can locate four nests in one tree. Most Parrots make simple nests in tree holes (one of a few avis’ that do). However, they will also construct nursery homes in the ground, among rocks or in termite mounds. The hen delivers a clutch of two to five white eggs. Only the female sits on the nest. She only leaves the brood when she needs to be fed by her mate. The incubation process is 28 days. The feeble young are fed by both parents with predigested food that is regurgitated. The young birds leave the nest about 12 weeks after hatching.

Their average lifespan in the wild is 30 years.

The Master Artisan exquisitely designed Parrots to reveal majestic palette hues. God has miraculously provided us with 372 known Parrot species. There are seven colorful subspecies of the Eclectus. The Lord created Parrots to be stunning for the watching world.  He “saw” His animal kingdom, and affirmed, “it was good.” (Genesis chapter 1)

Remarkable Parrot Talk:

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* Information gratefully gathered from various web sources.

Please click here: letter-to-bird-enthusiast

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