Through the Looking Glass of Val Lee—Little Blue Penguins of Australia and New Zealand

 

Little Blue Penguin

                                                                 Little Blue Penguin

Sydney Opera House © Val J. Lee

Sydney Opera House © Val J. Lee

Our Ship docked adjacent to “Sydney Opera House.”

Sydney is the main city in the “down under” world of Australia.

These are the cutest little things! It was such a blessing to see the winged wonders in person. Of course, I relished the koalas, wallabies and kangaroos too. God is amazing in all His creation, which no man can even begin to replicate, though he imagines he can. Man has a brain and mobility; yet, he cannot recreate what he believes absolutely nothing manufactured over limitless years. He cannot remanufacture one human hair to perfection.

The Little Blues scientific genus name, Eudyptula, translates “good little diver;” and who can dispute?

These penguins do not migrate. They are year-round residents of their island and mainland locations in the Southern Hemisphere.

The majority of Little Blue Penguins are found down under, aka Australia. Other places they call home include New Zealand and Chile. A small number of them have been spotted around Tasmania as well.

Their wings, used for swimming, hang down like arms, which adds to their cuteness when they walk about. Penguins do not fly; yet, are considered birds.

Little Blue Penguin swimming

They do swim so they seem more closely related to fish. However, spending a good deal of time on land, out of the water, makes them non-qualifiable.

All species of penguins are disabled to take to the sky. Overall, there are eight bird kinds which do not soar heavenward, including the Kiwi bird of New Zealand. (New Zealand folk refer to themselves as Kiwis after this bird and after the abundant kiwi fruit of New Zealand.) These eight genre are better equipped by God for swimming, walking, running (Ostriches run at 40 miles an hour) and diving.

Bible verses in Psalm 8 explain God crafted man to have dominion over all, including the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, and all which swim the paths of the seas. “Oh LORD God, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth.”

There are 17 species of penguins. Five penguin species reside in Antarctica. Most species love the beach with the heat including species of South Africa. Yes, this is not what most of us normally imagine.

Penguins’ pygmy legs and stocky-build provide them with that distinctive, adorable, waddling walk.

Upper parts of the Little Blues are pale blue to a dark grey-blue, depending upon age, season, etc. The Little Penguin Blue, “has slate-blue to black feathers and a white chin and chest.” Since this animal owns feathers and a beak, it must be classified as a bird, combining with the reasoning earlier stated.

Shiny feathers uniformly overlap to cover a penguin’s skin. Penguins have more feathers than most other birds, with about “100 feathers per square inch.” Penguin plumage is highly specialized—short, broad, and closely spaced, preventing water penetration … protecting the skin from hydrous elements. Tufts of down on the feather shafts or quills, increase the insulative properties of the feathers. God knows just how to design, allowing this seabird creation to thrive in every way.

In contrast to the other penguin species, Little Blues are nocturnal (night creatures). They usually will not waddle to a wave-reaching beach before dusk, and will depart before the dawn. However, in a reserve, you can observe them all day, though you often notice their eyes are shut. Little Blues are fed during the day, allowing patrons to continually view them.

Little Blues display bluish-gray eyes. Like other birds, penguins possess a nictitating membrane, sometimes called a third eyelid, though it resembles a clear-like mucus on penguins. This covering protects the eye from injury, being wonderfully manufactured by God for land and water. Other birds have three eyelids as well; also cats, dogs, reptiles, fish, and camels.

Penguin diminutive legs are strong, though they do not appear to be so. Their feet are webbed, with visible claws. The legs and feet are straight-backed to aid in streamlined navigation while skimming the seas. This placement also ensures penguins stand vertically and walk upright, which makes them doubly cute.

New Zealnd, Dusky Sound, fjords, cruise ship

 

New Zealand fjords © Val J. Lee

Dusky Sound, New Zealand, where many of the “Little Blue Penguins” breed,

and where my husband I cruised (ship with real grass, first photo). © Val J. Lee

At about three years of age, the Little Blues reach mating age. They will choose one mate for life, being monogamously faithful by Almighty God’s design. Ninety percent of bird kinds are monogamous.

Little Blue Penguins

Lifetime unions commence around June. Complex, maneuvering rituals are performed by the guys in order to get the females to take notice. A gal desires just the right guy since this is a life commitment. One would think, she certainly wants she and her guy, to be the cutest couple around, though every little penguin couple is winsome.

Courtship begins with the Little Blue guys performing courtship displays with calls to attention. A guy who desires to woo will hold his body in an upright position with flippers above his back, neck stretched, and head toward the sky. At which point, he emits a mule-like sound. Yes, it all sounds rather primitive.

On occasion, the single guy will perform in front of a nest he constructed. Apparently, to give a hint of his intentions of being a family man.

When a match is made in Aussie-land or Kiwi-land, the newly tied ones, present a display together. One will stand upright and spread its flippers with head bowed, which signals the other Little Blue to follow. At which point, they walk in small circles around the nest, braying as they go. After this public commitment performance, the couple honeymoon.

Nests vary by location with underground burros under thick grass-roots … the preferred way. However, some nests might be located in rock crevices or caves. Community burrows are slightly over six feet apart; being lined with grass, leaves, or seaweed.

In urban areas, nesting may involve man-made cavities—under buildings, stacks of wood, and even railroad tracks. In some areas, Blues may nest in artificial nest boxes supplied by humans, some quite artistic.

After securing the home environment, the petite homemaker will lay two eggs to her delight and the glee of the papa. And is it not interesting, God placed in the heart of birds the knowledge, these offspring belong to papa too and there is no question who the daddy is? In our wicked society, DNA testing must sometimes be implemented to determine, and such kits can be bought at pharmacies.

Both parents take turns incubating the eggs, their shifts can be for ten days or shorter. Mom’s eggs filled with mini Little Blues, must be incubated for a period of five weeks to develop their hatchlings. It is possible for mommies to lay more eggs through August of the same year.

Upon their chicks being hatched, all baby food sustenance is foraged for them by their parents during the day. The doting parents will sleep beside the nest at night.

Youth are made independent by their parents from 57 to 80 days.

Obviously, the Little Blue Penguins do not require a significant amount of fish food due to size. Their compact diet consists of little bitty fish, krill, and squid. They are known to dive in shallow waters, consuming the catches supplied by the LORD. Being quite petite, inshore fishing suits them best, while supplies last; if not, deeper waters will suffice.

The precious Little Blues live mainly in their own colony. The committed couple return to the same nesting area yearly.

On their first anniversary, the Blue male will arrive at the home nesting site and apply his carpentry skills, renovating last year’s nest. If he chooses not to do this, he will select a new homesite, digging, using his bill and feet. He will then stand in front of the readied nest and await his gal. Most likely, quite excited for their renewed, heart-felt commitment, and the new wee ones which will result.

The adorable Blues are highly social with the other penguins in the colony community. Jesus Christ made them gregarious, part of His marvelous design. Penguins needing penguins to fulfill inner needs.

Most penguin species go through one complete molt (shedding their feathers to be replaced with new) each year, usually following the breeding season. This is true of most birds.

During this period, the penguins are land-bound, not having enough adequate feathers to maneuver in water, leaving them food-less. Because God informs them their molting will begin in a few weeks, penguins increase their food intake, building a fat reserve to sustain them while they are denied a swim.

Birds are never attractive when they are molting. It is a bad feather-day or a long time.

Little Blues can become tasty-prey to a variety of predators, including—seals, sharks, weasels, snakes, rats and foxes.

Little Blue Penguin

Though penguins might appear silky smooth from afar, these flightless aves own about 10,000 feathers—three to four times the feather density of flyers. The feather bases are thick downy … trapping air, providing water-resistant insulation.

God further crafted the feather-tips to be stiff, preventing them from being compressed by water pressure. And He masterfully provides countershading. Penguins are dark when viewed from above, and light when viewed from below. In a marvelous way, this protects them with swimming camouflage.

Penguins are athletes of the seas, completely rhythmic and acrobatic—diving for long periods of time by God’s masterful design.

“Penguins can switch between two modes of oxygen use in the water—either starving their muscles or giving them an extra shot of oxygen;” thus maintaining oxygen operation when submerged.

The Little Blue Penguin’s standing height is 13 to 15 inches.

The life span for the Little Blues in the wild is about 6 ½ years.

Wild penguins may bite if touched.

Val Lee

(Info facts gratefully gathered from various websites)

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My video slide show: 

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Cute Penguin story in video:

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Letter to bird enthusiast:  letter-to-bird-enthusiast

Through the Looking Glass of Val Lee—Saffron Finch of Hawaii

Saffron Finch (male) © Val J. Lee

Saffron Finch (male) © Val J. Lee

My husband and I had a spectacular time feeding this wild Saffron Finch (Sicalis flaveola) on the volcanic Island of Hawaii—A paradise set atop black, molten rock.

Hawaii sunset (molten rock stretches into the ocean)

Hawaii sunset (molten rock stretches into the ocean) © Val J. Lee

This island continues to expand as God touches the volatile volcanoes and makes them smoke and spit their fiery lava skyward. (Psalm 144:5 refers to Almighty God touching the mountains to make them smoke.)

Hawaii volcano © Val J. Lee

Hawaii volcano © Val J. Lee

These petite Saffron Finches, sometimes called roof canaries, were plentiful at our vacation stay. They would bask in the sun and stiff grass in search of seeds, bugs and worms. They had no time to pay attention to vacationers who walked by within a few feet.

Saffrons provide pleasant songs, though often high-pitched.

Saffron Finch, (female) © Val J. Lee

Saffron Finch (female), © Val J. Lee

They mate at two years of age and are faithful to their mates, mating for life, as designed by God.

Jesus Christ designed His birds in such a way that 90% are monogamous. Colossians chapter 1, in the Bible, teaches, all things were created by Jesus Christ. He is God the Son who created with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Godhead, three in one.

Saffron Finch and English Sparrow (background), © Val J. Lee

Saffron Finch and English Sparrow (background), © Val J. Lee, Saffron Finch comparison to English Sparrow

“Saffron” explains the color of the finch, yellow to orange, the color of the stigmas of the Mediterranean crocus plant that are dried to sell as a spice, and it is the most costly of herbs. Though you can find it at an inexpensive price at Amazon.

They are a gregarious bird, outside of breeding season; seen in groups with fellow Saffrons, as I observed.

My video of Saffron Finch:

Saffron meals include a mixture of grass seeds, wild seeds, plants, ant eggs, mealworms, wax-worms, and fruit fly larva. They do visit feeders and will sometimes make a nest under an eave of a house. A homeowner may provide a ready-made nest such as a large, elevated, gourd bird house.

It is a Tanager bird from South America. In North America we have the Western Tanager that is far more striking in vibrancy.

Western Tanager (male) © Val J. Lee

Western Tanager (male) © Val J. Lee

The Saffron Finch is common in open and semi-open areas in lowlands. It can be spotted in Colombia, western Ecuador, western Peru, Brazil (here referred to as “native canary”), Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and northern islands of South America and the Caribbean.

It was introduced to Hawaii and other locals.

Though commonly thought of as a canary, it is not related to this ave.

Saffron Finches, though exotic birds, can be bought in pet stores, and make hardy, caged pets.

Male Saffron Finches are territorial and will fight for a nesting area for he and his bride during mating season. He will even fight unto death and will not only wrestle fellow Saffrons, but also large male birds twice its size.

Due to this aggressive nature, male Saffrons are frequently used as fighting birds in South America. They are the pit bulls of birds. This is referred to as “blood sporting.” Two are placed in a cage to fight until the loser dies. Wagers are placed on the preferred bird. It is not highly favored and authorities will raid locations of the fights.

Saffron Finch (male) © Val J. Lee

Saffron Finch (male) © Val J. Lee

When a Mr. Saffron spots the gal of his dreams, he will chase her until he has won her heart. At which point, he will court the gal, sitting beside her, romancing her with dancing and songs.

Mommy finches will lay three to five off-white eggs, heavily marked in brown, in a cavity of a tree, crevice in a rock, in an abandoned nest or under an eave of a building, using sticks or bamboo.

Mom incubates the eggs while Dad guards the nest. Incubation is 12 to 14 days. Upon hatching, both parents feed the young and the doting father often checks on his babies.

Baby bird diaper changing involves both the male and female removing the waste from the nest, placing it in their beaks and flying it away.

The young Saffrons resemble their mommies. Hatchlings, are often olive-brown with heavy dark streaks. The males are slightly lighter than the females.

After a few days the chicks fledge (fly from the nest).

A Saffron Finch is over 5 inches in length, weighing in at .7 ounces.

Their flight pattern consists of rapid wing beats with its rounded wings pulled to its sides. Its feathers are black, edged in yellow with yellow-green upper-tail coverts: Covers for all other feathers. Coverts help smooth airflow over the wings and tail.

Adult males are brighter yellow than the females and display an orange crown. Females are more greenish in general. Saffrons, at times, can be difficult to distinguish and often, you see photos at birding sites where the gender is not provided.

Saffron Finch, (female) © Val J. Lee

Saffron Finch, (female) © Val J. Lee

God’s manufactured phenomenal wings; blessing birds with an oil gland at the base of their tail, whereby, birds take the oil and cover their wings for weather-proofing while preening or grooming their plumage. This includes aligning their feathers as well. God tells them what to do to for maintenance for perfect piloting.

Birds, in general, can own up to 25,000 feathers. This includes their numerous, itsy bitsy down feathers.

Tanagers experience a molt and also, a half molt. When a bird molts, they lose all their feathers, unless it is a half molt. A complete molt is when they gain a new set of pinions from God. Unfortunately, we humans can never shed our old bodies for new ones. Though true Christians will obtain new bodies one day in heaven.

Most birds molt after the nesting season.

The LORD God blesses Saffron Finches with an average lifespan of 10 years.

In the Bible book of Hosea, God reveals to us, during the millennium, when Jesus Christ rules the earth from Jerusalem, that the birds will be blessed! God will make a covenant with the birds. They will enjoy peace!  There will be no more war! They will be able to lie down in complete safety. (Hosea 2:18)

Letter to bird enthusiast: letter-to-bird-enthusiast

Bird data gratefully gathered from various web sources.
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My Hawaii Part 2, video with Saffron Finch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSs_fdjwNsk&list=UU1q- YrogeWMHltSTdCkspkQ&index=13

Hawaii Part 1, video of volcanos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8ukxjxPEIg&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.

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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.

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