Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Yellow-billed Loon. Green Heron. Bald Eagle. Pond Filled. Puffins. Red Knot. Rooster. Spanish Florida. Hockey Miracle on Ice.

For "Winged Wednesday":

Yellow-billed Loon

Yellow-billed Loon by Luke Seitz

"The Yellow-billed Loon is the largest of the world’s five loon species. It can be told from the Common Loon, which it resembles, by its larger yellow or ivory-colored bill. This species has very specific habitat requirements, needing deep, clear, clean bodies of water for successful breeding. Its nest is a small depression in a hummock constructed of mud or peat and lined with grasses, built close to the water’s edge. It feeds largely on fish, but takes some invertebrates and vegetation.

Threats include fishing bycatch, marine pollution coastal oil spills in both its breeding and wintering ranges (as many as 870 Yellow-billed Loons were killed in the Exxon Valdez spill), oil and gas development, rising sea levels caused by climate change, and subsistence harvest by Native Alaskans.

The Yellow-billed Loon was designated a candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act in 2009. Unfortunately, it is still awaiting the attention it requires. 

Help ABC conserve this and other birds and their habitats!

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Listen to a two-minute broadcast on this bird!   Photo: Luke Seitz; Range Map, NatureServe


If It Weren't for Birds

If It Weren't for Birds

"If it weren't for birds, how many of us would take notice of the natural world? Birds are all around us. In our back yards or driving across country, most of the animals we see are birds. Many draw attention with their songs. Some birds hunt on the wing, and you’ll see one if you watch the sky. They sometimes fly in large flocks. Birds are unavoidable. How many fewer nature-lovers there would be, if it weren't for the more than 10,000 species of birds! Imagine a world without this Green Heron...  More at:


Bald Eagle - National Symbol

Bald Eagle - National Symbol

"Stretch your arms as far as you can, and imagine a bird whose reach is even greater! Sitting about three feet tall, the Bald Eagle has a wingspan of more than six feet. When you see a mature Bald Eagle, you’ll see a snowy-white head and tail with a dark brown body. Look closer and you’ll see lemon yellow eyes and a powerful set of legs and feet. To learn more about the intriguing ways of the Bald Eagle, visit Cornell's AllAboutBirds.  More at:


Houston Audubon fills up pond for migratory birds.

HIGH ISLAND - "Two months ago, there was not much to Clay Bottom Pond besides a cracked clay bottom.   Texas' wicked drought had turned the 20-acre pond into a few shallow puddles, threatening a favorite nesting spot for an astonishing variety of migratory birds, from snowy egrets to roseate spoonbills.

So the nonprofit Houston Audubon, which manages the rookery on the Bolivar Peninsula, is buying water from a local utility district for the first time to refill the pond before the birds' return this month.

"We asked ourselves whether we should let the drought play out, but decided it is part of our mission to provide good habitat" for the birds, said Marc Reid, coastal sanctuaries manager for Houston Audubon, which has a contract to buy up to 18.5 million gallons of water for the pond."

A black crowned night heron flies over the sanctuary. The rookery is a favorite nesting ground for migratory birds. Photo: Brett Coomer / © 2012 Houston Chronicle

A black crowned night heron flies over the sanctuary. The rookery is a favorite nesting ground for migratory birds. Photo: Brett Coomer / © 2012 Houston Chronicle

Marc Reid, Houston Audubon coastal sanctuaries manager, examines nests from the previous nesting season at the Smith Oaks Sanctuary. The drought has damaged the rookery, but he is hopeful birds will return. Photo: Brett Coomer / © 2012 Houston Chronicle







Marc Reid, Houston Audubon coastal sanctuaries manager, examines nests from the previous nesting season at the Smith Oaks Sanctuary. The drought has damaged the rookery, but he is hopeful birds will return. Photo: Brett Coomer / © 2012 Houston Chronicle

A snowy egret is a familiar sight in the High Island area. The Audubon Society already has pumped 4 million gallons of fresh water into Clay Bottom Pond. Photo: Brett Coomer / © 2012 Houston Chronicle

A snowy egret is a familiar sight in the High Island area. The Audubon Society already has pumped 4 million gallons of fresh water into Clay Bottom Pond. More and more pictures at:


Puffin Mystery Solved With First Tracking Evidence

"Scientists as well as bird-watchers have long wondered exactly where puffins go in the winter months, which they spend far out at sea.  Now, researchers in Audubon’s Seabird Restoration Program, also known as Project Puffin, are beginning to unravel the mystery.  Geo-locating- technology has enabled the first ever winter tracking of individual Atlantic Puffins from North America and revealed their far-flung travels."  Read More


Bird Stewards to the Rescue: Volunteers Increase Effectiveness of Protected Beach

Birds like the Red Knot benefit from stewards on duty at protected bird areas. (Photo: Greg Breese for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

"Every year during the spring migration, the Red Knot travels a staggering 9,300 miles between its wintering grounds in the south to Delaware Bay and the Arctic. Though North America’s largest “peep” will usually spend the winter months along the coasts of southern Chile and Argentina, a small portion of Red Knots wait out the cold in Florida, where they must rest before the long journey north. In light of this shorebird’s declining numbers, one Florida professor studied whether symbolic fencing, signs, and designating beaches as “protected” helped birds like the Red Knot by deceasing human disturbance. Turns out Red Knots not only prefer protected beaches, but bird stewards—volunteers with a passion for our feathered friends—increase the effectiveness of these areas to the benefit of all birds."  Read more


What Can We Learn From a Rooster?

"Surprisingly, a lot!    But really, it shouldn't be so surprising. A long time ago wise old Solomon wrote, "Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest" (Proverbs 6:6-8 [6] Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:[7] Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,[8] Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.See All...).   If an ant can teach wisdom, why can't a rooster?

Years ago, a rooster named "Rufus" lived on our tiny, suburban farm. When he was very young, we put him in a pen with twelve older hens that were complacently satisfied to be doing their own thing. They had their own pecking order and ignored Rufus altogether. The way Rufus coped with the situation is an example well worth noting.

Little by little, step by step, day after day, he began to take the lead. At first he did not know what his role should be or what was best to do. As time went on, each day brought him closer to a rooster's purpose and goal.

When we would let the chickens out of their pen in the late afternoon, instead of just feeding himself on insects and grass, Rufus seized the initiative by dashing to the nearest likely patch of leaves or grass and scratched vigorously for grubs and worms, coaxing the hens to follow.

When he happened upon a tender morsel or two, his coaxing took on a louder, more urgent sound. Though the hens were skeptical at first, they soon learned that his concern was genuine. Then they came running -- wings outspread and feet flying. Rufus would stand protectively aside looking out for danger while they plucked up the delicacies. He repeated the action again and again as he led them about the farm.

Those hens became happy to have such a leader. His concern for their need had won their full confidence and desire to follow him.

How did he know to do that? Are roosters smarter than humans? Do they think out and practice love and care for others? Or is it just another way that God has for setting us good examples in nature.

I know that that rooster did not plan out how to charm the ladies with such outgoing consideration. It is not a case of one rooster stumbling onto it and others following, according to man's theory of evolution. God programmed this into his brain, just like you might write a program into a computer. It is God who sets us an example of good leadership, even in a rooster.

I marvel at how simply that rooster applied this important principle without having to be taught. You and I do not have such instinct. In fact, we grow up in a world that programs us toward selfishness and self-centeredness. We need instruction, example and a lot of determination to learn and practice right principles. We also need to be guided by God's word and His Holy Spirit if we are to practice righteous principles.  Godly attributes are taught in nature, the example of the rooster being only one of many."    More at:


On This Day:

The U.S. acquires Spanish Florida, Feb 22, 1819:

"Spanish minister Do Luis de Onis and U.S. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams sign the Florida Purchase Treaty, in which Spain agrees to cede the remainder of its old province of Florida to the United States.

Spanish colonization of the Florida peninsula began at St. Augustine in 1565. The Spanish colonists enjoyed a brief period of relative stability before Florida came under attack from resentful Native Americans and ambitious English colonists to the north in the 17th century. Spain's last-minute entry into the French and Indian War on the side of France cost it Florida, which the British acquired through the first Treaty of Paris in 1763. After 20 years of British rule, however, Florida was returned to Spain as part of the second Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolution in 1783.

Spain's hold on Florida was tenuous in the years after American independence, and numerous boundary disputes developed with the United States. In 1819, after years of negotiations, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams achieved a diplomatic coup with the signing of the Florida Purchase Treaty, which officially put Florida into U.S. hands at no cost beyond the U.S. assumption of some $5 million of claims by U.S. citizens against Spain. Formal U.S. occupation began in 1821, and General Andrew Jackson, the hero of the War of 1812, was appointed military governor. Florida was organized as a U.S. territory in 1822 and was admitted into the Union as a slave state in 1845."


U.S. hockey pulls off Miracle on Ice, Feb 22, 1980:

"On this day in 1980, the U.S. men’s hockey team pulls off one of the biggest upsets in sports history with a 4-3 victory over the heavily favored Soviet Union at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. Two days later, the Americans went on to beat Finland and take home the gold medal.

Going into the game, the Soviet team, which consisted of experienced, state-sponsored athletes, was considered the best in the world, even better than any teams in the National Hockey League. By contrast, the American squad was mostly made up of unseasoned college players. In an exhibition match shortly before the Olympics, the Soviets, who had dominated Olympic hockey since 1964, crushed the Americans, 10-3.

Despite their relative inexperience, the U.S. team had a strong, well-rounded group of players. They were led by Herb Brooks, the head hockey coach at the University of Minnesota, where his teams had won three NCAA championships. Brooks himself had been a player on the 1964 and 1968 U.S. Olympic hockey teams. In their opening game at Lake Placid, the U.S. squad tied with Sweden, 2-2, and then went on to defeat Czechoslovakia, Norway, Romania and West Germany. On February 22, the Americans faced the Soviets, who had defeated all their tournament opponents up to that point. The U.S.-Soviet match up was particularly charged, because at the time the nations were Cold War enemies.

Once the game began, the Soviets came on strong but the Americans managed to hold their own. With the Soviets up 2-1 in the final seconds before the first period, Mark Johnson tied it up at 2-2. Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov then decided to replace goalie Vladislav Tretiak, considered by many the best goaltender of the time. Coach Tikhonov would later call this move his biggest mistake of the game.

The Soviets led 3-2 in the third period, when Johnson scored again to tie the game. With 10 minutes left in the game, U.S. team captain Mike Eruzione scored what would become the winning goal. As a flag-waving American crowd counted down the final seconds of the game to victory, broadcaster Al Michaels famously explained, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” After beating the Soviets, the U.S. defeated Finland, 4-2, on February 24 to capture the gold medal. The Soviets took home the silver medal, while the Swedes received the bronze.

Following the Olympics, many members of the U.S. team went on to pro careers in the NHL. Herb Brooks coached several NHL teams after the “Miracle on Ice,” before dying in a 2003 car accident.

The game is still remembered fondly by many Americans as one of the greatest moments in Olympic history."



When Misty and I went to get Jay, Misty and Maddie had their walk down to the lake.  The news says that Lake Conroe is up, but we couldn't see it.  The bulkheads are still too far out of the water for people to keep their boats at their lots.

Jay and I attacked the RVport with gusto.  We cleared up the yard sale completely, but there is still a row of tables with the best stuff to take to the flea market.  I need to think of a better place to store those items. My van is loaded to the gills with donations and smashed cardboard boxes for recycling, which we will drop off today.

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