Friday, July 11, 2008

Noisy Birds, Crazy Birds and New Bird Sightings

My sister, in California, has a daily visitor to her patio -- the next-door neighbour's chicken, whom Chris has named Henrietta. If you want to read about her daily antics (Henrietta's AND my sister's!) go to

Well, we just discovered that our neighbour, two doors down, also has chickens --only their's are in a coop so they can't go wandering, which is good. The bad part is that chickens lay eggs, and Blue Jays love to steal eggs. Suddenly there is an over-abundance of very noisy Blue Jays all around us, screeching and dive-bombing angrily, from morning till night, trying to find a way to get into that coop and steal the eggs. I used to like Blue Jays, but ever since we found one in the back of our garden devouring a baby bird (the baby's pitiful cries for help were heartbreaking) -- as beautiful as they are, I really don't like them at all. So our love/hate relationship with nature continues.
At least Blue Jays are smarter than crows. We put moth balls on the ground at the back of the garden to keep the crows away. Don't believe everything you read on the 'net -- which is where we found the advice to do this.
The crows thought they were eggs. First, they tried to eat them -- by taking one in their mouths and banging them on the ground to break them open (works with eggs, NOT with moth balls). They spat out the mothballs and wiped their beaks in their feathers and then rubbed them into the ground to get rid of the nasty taste -- which must have been quite a surprise. Then, being still certain that these were eggs, they took it in turns to stand guard over them.
Finally, when my back was turned, they made off with them! I can just picture it now. Two little mothballs in a nearby nest, with two very hopeful crows sitting on them waiting for them to hatch -- all the while holding their noses!!

Then -- a whole new bird-sighting, which is always a thrill! It was a hot day and all the windows were open, so I heard the unusual bird call while I was sitting up in the office working on the computer. Fortunately my camera was at the ready.
There was no mistaking this fella, once we'd looked him up in the bird book -- so identifiable by his black bib and spotted breast...
...he had the red patch across the back of his neck and the long, strong beak with which to find insects. He's the Northern Flicker -- part of the woodpecker family, but he likes to get his meal out of the ground rather than off the trees. There was a pair of them out on the lawn the next day -- but wouldn't you know it -- DOTH (daughter-of-the-house) has gone away and taken the camera with her!

Addicted as I am to birds and cameras, I went out today and bought a cheap one (camera, not bird) -- just $80 at Staples. Believe me, you get what you pay for - it's digital, but absolutely no good for bird photos, just too slow. All I would get was the tail-end of the bird (no pun intended) by the time the shutter went off. But not bad for close-ups of flowers.

Not sure if there's any point in keeping this camera, but VERY sure I will go crazy without one for a whole month!

Sunday, July 6, 2008


My daughter and I went to see the movie, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, last night. I'd heard good reports and thought the premise of the movie (Intelligent Design) was good enough reason to view it. I have mixed feelings, now that I've seen it, and really don't want to get into the whole discussion for or against (the movie, or ID). But there are a couple of things I found interesting.

Richard Dawkins made this comment -- I think he was quoting someone else, but I don't know who, and I probably am not quoting him accurately:

If God is real, why is He hiding Himself so well?

I almost laughed out loud at this, because there is SO much evidence of God all around us that only the blind would not be able to see it.

The Bible says, "People know the truth about God because He has made it obvious to them. For, ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God" (Romans 1: 19, 20)

This was brought home so clearly to me just recently. As you can tell by the posts in this blog, I'm especially fond of bird-watching. We are blessed to live in an area near a huge ravine and parkland, so we get to see a lot of different species. Most of them are easily identifiable with binoculars and a bird book. But this one recently stumped us:

It looked very much like an American Robin, which are everywhere in our neighbourhood. But the breast was so pale, and covered in spots. And I thought probably it was pregnant, since it was SO fat and very lazy -- it stayed in our mulberry tree for hours without hardly stirring. I was expecting to see a nest and some eggs before too long. The closest I could find in the bird book was a Varied Thrush. But my sister insisted on it being a juvenile American Robin.

Not convinced (sorry, sis!), I went to -- a new-found site I've been enjoying immensely, where they very kindly confirmed that my sister was correct -- a juvenile American Robin! But (and here's the part that blessed my socks off!), this is what 'Charlie' had to say, under the blog "Scruffy Youths and Spotty Adolescents," about female and juvenile birds, that I had never heard before:

Why should young birds look so different from the adults they grow into? There are apparently a number of reasons why young birds in general have different plumages to adult birds. Obviously one is that a plumage made up of spots and broken patterns is harder to see in the shady undergrowth or tree canopy that many young birds hide away in than solid colours and bright patterns. In other words cryptic patterning helps to camouflage the young, often still flightless fledgling when it’s at its most vulnerable and can’t so easily escape predators by flying away...many female birds have similarly drab, muted plumages (ie: the male Cardinal is bright red and black, the female a very drab pink/brown) for more or less the same reason of course: it makes them far harder to see when they’re egg-laying and sitting on the nest, a time when they’re particularly vulnerable too.

Another reason is that a distinctively juvenile plumage clearly establishes the young bird as a non-adult and apparently stops them being attacked by adult males whose sex hormones are still raging and who might see their own offspring as potential rivals. Birders commonly throw their hands up in despair at the many plumages that, for example, gulls go through as they age but studies clearly show that in the charged atmosphere of a tightly-packed breeding colony youngsters need to look very different to their own parents to avoid being driven from the nest before they’re capable of surviving on their own.

The question that immediately came to mind after reading this was, if evolution is really a scientific fact, how on earth could a bird, at some point in the evolution process, 'make the decision' to give birth to a scruffy baby with a paler, very spotted breast, in order to keep predators away? Ben Stein would say, it didn't -- it's the handiwork of Intelligent Design; I would agree -- and add, we have an awesome Creator God!

Another interesting comment in the movie, and I can't remember who said it, but in relation to the complexities of the human cell, it went something like this:

Darwin had no idea of the intricacies of the human cell when he said we all evolved from one cell. The cell is so complex, it has taken us thousands of years of growing technology to understand even what we understand today.

It's impossible that such an intricate, complex cell could have resulted from a 'big bang' or a bit of primordial ooze.

Psalm 139: 13-16 says of the 'Intelligent Designer' -- God, "You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb. Thank You for making me so complex! Your workmanship is marvelous..."

The writer of this psalm, David, didn't have the technology that we have today to understand just HOW complex we are, but there was nothing wrong with his intelligence!