🕊Hello, fellow bird nerds. It has been awhile since I have written, and I have been slack lately with the blog; I was waiting, waiting to see what God would put on my heart to share. Typically, I formulate things first in my brain to share with you, and God leads me in a particular direction. This time it has taken longer for me to be clear about what I should write.
Around the neighborhood, we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of nestlings and, of course, fledglings, later.
Thus far, things seem to be much slower this year. I do not know why they are quieter, except perhaps the birds' time-table is off due to the change in human behavior.We have yet to see or hear any nestlings, but overall, bird activity in the neighborhood has increased. At times during my daily walk, I feel like Snow White always surrounded by birds and bird activity everywhere I look. I can only conclude that given my proximity to the beach and the current lack of humans out in public here, there is a void filled by additional bird activity.
At my feeder, the gang is all here. The four Cardinals have paired off along with the four Blue Jays. The Doves, Finches, Titmice, Chickadees, and Sparrows have all paired off (I don't know how many because I have stopped counting). I watch the bonded pairs engaging in the ritual of feeding each other and smile because that is one more opportunity for upcoming babies. The Red-Bellied Woodpecker pair, who gave us two fledges from asynchronous broods last year, are still paired off, and lately, the male is much more frequently coming to the feeder alone. Hopefully, that is because they are taking turns in the nest. Our Mockingbird pair is here along with a full-grown new third "Mockey," who is appearing currently mateless and is possibly a juvenile/previous offspring of the current pair. (Often offspring will often return to where they were born to find a mate). I feel a little somewhat sorry for him. Abby does not, given that he was singing loudly, probably for a mate, at 2:00 am last week directly outside her window and woke her up. This phenomenon, I will address elsewhere, but it does happen. Thankfully, the Brown Thrasher pair is back like last year but is also lately accompanied by a grown third Thrasher who is seemingly mateless as well and is again possibly a previous offspring. The Sharpie Hawk has appeared recently in the tree by the feeder though she was unsuccessful in garnering her prey again. Occasionally we see several Red-Tailed Hawks flyover; the nestling now successfully fledged. (I keep meaning to post a picture of the Red-Tailed Hawk pair which CJ was the only one to capture successfully). The Downy Woodpeckers paired off; along, with the cute Nuthatches who have returned. Additionally, we still have several Grackles of differing variety and Starlings that come daily, along with two new birds, one solo male Red-Winged Blackbird and one female Painted Bunting. Last year CJ and Abby saw a male Painted Bunting in the area, so I have hope he is here again and will make his way to our feeders this time. Of course, I hate to say it, but we also have several Cowbirds that come as well. I can only hope that if they must replace their eggs in the nests, it will be the Doves' nest they choose. I haven't counted them this year, but CJ says we currently have twelve Doves. Lastly, we finally captured the Towhee on camera, who previously had only come twice to our feeders in three years. I was thrilled, and though it doesn't happen every day, he does come often enough that all three of us have been able to snap pictures of him. We have not seen any hummingbirds yet, but, for those of you in this area, they are here in parts of Horry county, so you might get to see them at your feeder despite us not having them here.
As most of you know, we do name some of our Birds. We have "Gerald" the male Cardinal (that is another story), "Grackly," a Grackle fledge from last year that is a loudmouth. Along with, "The General," the largest of our Blue Jays, "Hawkeye," the Red-Tailed Hawk and “Hawkley,” the RT Hawk Fledge, "Gimpy," the female House Finch with the one leg affected by avian pox (now cured with full use of said leg), and "Robbie and Robina," the Robin pair. These are not all of the names we have given the birds but just a few. Yes, I realize they are neither very creative, nor always politically correct. Additionally, most scientists would say it is not very scientific to name them and that if anything, they should be given a number signifying the year of their birth along with other pertinent info. I guess this is where my "nerd" ends, and my "mom to three" appears, so yes, we named some of them, which brings me to Hippity Hop.
Hippity Hop, a Boat-tailed Grackle, appeared a few weeks ago. She (we don't technically know if a she is a "she," as male and female BT Grackles are very similar in appearance with just subtle differences; but, Abby has listed her reasons why she believes that she is a "she," and the logic is sound, so we are calling her, her), landed at the feeder with another larger BT Grackle several hours after the majority of BT Grackles came and went from the feeder. I first noticed her because when she attempted to land on my platform feeder, she did two “fly-bys,” and when she finally landed, she face-planted right into the seed. You might have guessed it, Hippity Hop only has one leg. Unlike the Finch with the avian pox, which meant a large sore/pox appeared on her leg, rendering it useless for a time, Hippity does not even have a second leg of which to regain use. The leg is missing. At first, I had hopes that it was just temporarily injured, etc. but as Hippity returned day after day, I was able to get better pictures at other angles and can see that there is no leg there. The other thing I noticed was that while Hippity does not appear to be a fledge, she is considerably smaller in stature than the others. Of course, I then worry about her ability to survive; if she does survive, will she ever mate, etc.
So with these thoughts and at this juncture, I need to deviate slightly from my story. If any bird could be one-legged and survive, it would be a Great-tailed or Boat-Tailed Grackle. Unfortunately, BT Grackles are prey to many other larger birds, and other creatures; being ground feeders doesn't help their survival as they face predators like cats, opossums, etc. Additionally, they are generally not welcomed at house feeders as most people see them as big blackbirds, though they are not black but are iridescent black with purple and blues; nonetheless, I digress. What helps their survival is that BT and GT Grackles have an uncommon bird "societal/breeding," structure, and habits, which I have to assume it God's way of ensuring their survival. If you look up breeding behavior for most of our backyard birds, you will find a common designation of breeding type: "monogamous." Don't believe me? Try it, go look up: Blue Jay, Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Cardinal, American Robin, Chickadee, and Tufted Titmouse and you will find all of these typical backyard birds are designated "monogamous." Please don't picture a little bird tux and a white dress and veil. In the bird world, monogamy typically means one male and one female will form a pair bond. That pair bond will last for a single nesting season, an entire nesting season, or several successive seasons (like our Red-Bellied WP). Another breeding description other than "monogamous," is "polygamous." This designation is uncommon because less than 6% of birds share this mating tactic; but there are some other birds that also share this societal/breeding structure with the Boat-tailed Grackles like Hummingbirds and the dreaded Cowbird. In addition to the polygamous breeding description, the BT Grackles and LT Grackles have a colonial social structure. They form a colony or group and move around together. There is protection in numbers. Why is all of this important for this story?
Well, of course, my concern was first, would she be able to survive? Next, would she ever mate? So, the answer is probably, yes. Additionally, BT Grackles not only have a colony, but their societal structure is the "Harem, defense polygamy." This definition means one male with a "harem" or multiple females clustered in their nests. The idea is that the strongest male has the right to have the most progeny, thus ensuring the species continuation. Ok, well, in theory, this is the way scientists have thought it words, but that's not the whole story. Recently, bird nerds have done DNA analysis and have determined that in the offspring produced by the harems only results in about a third being the strongest male's offspring. Males outside the colony fathered the rest of the offspring. Yep, I am going to leave that there; but, my point in giving you all of this information was that after my research, we were satisfied that should Hippity survive, she would probably have the chance to reproduce, etc.
Moving on, we then began to wonder how Hippity came to be one-legged. Was she born like this? Did she have a leg once and later lose it to an attack from the cat across the street, an attack by a hawk, or something in the water near her nest? All of this is, of course, pure conjecture. Could we find out? Maybe, she could be caught, drugged, and examined. This examination might reveal the remnants of a leg or even the indication of a violent twisting action that took a leg? Maybe it would explain the absence of data i.e., the lack of a leg ever being there. She may have been this way since birth. No matter how much I think about it, I will probably not know what happened without invasive action; so, I moved forward in our thinking. The point is that she is alive, and to thrive, she has to adapt. She might have to make several passes by the platform feeder, constantly face-plant her landings, etc. but she is making it and getting better. After her colony discovered our feeder, I noticed she is plumping up a bit, and occasionally she has even come along with the others to eat, though more often, she still comes after they have left.
Next, we began to think of Hippity in terms of events in our world at this time. Aside from being furloughed from work a few weeks ago and not attending church in person, my routine has not changed all that much. In essence, I have more time for my birds, I know where all of my children are always (which is fantastic), and I can catch up on my other hobbies and home improvement. Additionally, CJ is homeschooled, and since the girls were homeschooled for their HS career, being intrinsically motivated to do school is not new to them; except, for the learning curve of doing college classes online. Though, as always, we have varying family dynamics, Abby and I are mostly home-bodies, Essie is not. She has occasionally had to deal with her own "stir-craziness," culminating from being at home 99% of the time, not working her jobs, and not hanging with her friends. Abby had some of her routines, groups of friends, and activities in which she would participate, which is now online, if at all, an adjustment. CJ, too had all of his sports and church, which are, of course, at a dead-stop or online. Thus saying, I am sure several of the 101 members in Myrtle Beach Birdwatchers are in the same boat with me as birdwatching tends to be mostly a solitary hobby. Perhaps their routine has not changed much or has only varied slightly, but we are not just our culmination of our habits. One might argue that through one's routines might not change, the stress/worries HAVE increased incrementally. For instance, the stress and fear over loss of work and wealth, the increase of bills, possible loss of a loved one to sickness, or worry over loss of one's own life probably affects everyone. So, have they increased?
I was wondering about this in my own life and realized that this time last year (before coronavirus), I had NO more control over any of those things THAN I DO RIGHT NOW. You see, I NEVER had any REAL control. I just THOUGHT I did. Just because I had plans, routines, budgets, and enough toilet paper for the household, I believed I was in control. It was a false belief. The reality, anything can/could happen in a blink of an eye and has previously. In my forty-five years, I HAVE had sudden life events do just that on a personal level. Maybe you have had these events too. A car crash, illness or loss of a family member, bad investment, etc. any of which can change things personally in a blink of an eye. Admittedly, this virus and the subsequent economic uncertainty did on a community, national, and global scale in a matter of weeks the same thing that an individual tragedy has done or can do to all of us personally at one time or another. Nonetheless, it doesn't change the premise: that no matter how smart, efficient, essential you think you are, there is and always WAS the POSSIBILITY of unexpected uncertainty, surprise bills, life and death situations, personal/family illness or tragedy to overcome. The difference this time is that what was once an individual trial is now seemingly affecting everything/ everyone at once.
Our routines, goals, plans, and comfort therewith may not have been the problem; but, our BELIEF that we had control may have been the problem. Our perception that the circumstances of life were under our power, even in the smallest way, is flawed. We were never SUPPOSED to get comfortable and put faith in ourselves, job, our budget, our abilities, our routines, or our plans. Part of being a child of God is submitting to HIM. In turn, our relationship with God strengthens the more we trust HIM above all else, above our wants, needs, plans, goals, and feelings. I do not know how Hippity came about to be one-legged, but I can reasonably assume that most likely, she did NOT control the events that led to her current circumstance. She DOES control her ability to adapt to her conditions. We too have this same control. We know that we should've changed our life aspirations and even our daily routines after we gave our life to HIM. Maybe we did. We asked Jesus into our hearts and were excited and invigorated with the possibilities. Then as time goes on, life happens and without fully realizing we begin a a tug-of-war with God for control. We pray, "God willing," but are we secretly hoping that God IS willing to do what WE want HIM to do? This clinging to the former is the reverse of what we should do. We are to have our life, goals, wants, needs in subjugation to HIM, and centered around HIS will, and we must be cautious in our continuous self-correction and give up giving and taking with God.
So what am I saying? Did this virus appear because Christians haven’t been vigilant about dying to self daily or because the world collectively has turned from God, i.e., think Sodom and Gomorrah? I don't know. Did God allow this virus because God wants to use OUR reactions as examples of faith, i.e., think Job and his "friends." Guess what? I do not know that either and personally, I don't think I need to know. I don’t think it matters as God's ways are not our ways, nor have they ever been our ways.
God called Moses (possible speech impediment and all) to lead his people, knowing that they would be wandering for years. God chose a foreign woman who is still known as “Rahab, The Harlot" (how would you like to be recognized by that moniker for thousands of years) to be included in the line of the David, the king and ultimately in the lineage of the King of Kings, Jesus. God's ways are not our ways. Speaking of which, God also used an adulterer/ess, David and Bathsheba, also in Jesus' line. Then, when Jesus came as a baby, he came not the child of a sovereign king and majestic queen, but as a baby born in a manger to every day, "normal," couple. During his earthly ministry, Jesus chose twelve, average "Joes," probably not members of Mensa or important families, to spread the good news. God's ways are not our ways.
What about the circumstances? Nope, not those either. God's ways are not our ways. Think of one of my favorite stories and a popular Sunday School song taken from Joshua 6 regarding the battle of Jericho. Instead of using Israel's tip-top fighting men to devise astounding tactical maneuvers to bring down the seemingly impregnable walls of Jericho, God chooses to use fighting men, laypeople, priests, and musicians to play a game of, "ring around a rosy/Jericho," essentially. Think about our elite Seal Teams. What would their response be if in a briefing before an operation, if their commander gave them these attack plans? “Hey guys, ‘all of you men of war’ are going to march around the enemies’ compound silently once a day for six days. Bring along with some priests, who will be carrying a holy relic (the ark), laypeople, and musicians who will be playing, ‘blowing trumpets.’ On the seventh day, you will do the same thing, but when I give you the cue, everyone should break their silence and shout together. Ok, got it?” I would love to see the faces of those elite fighting men. You're laughing right, yeah, I did too. The list goes on and on. God's ways have never been our ways.
God's idea of super leaders is not our idea of leaders; God's people are not always the people WE would pick out of a crowd. Moreover, it seems that God EVEN delights on using mistakes as the message and turning pain into prosperity. I do not think this is an accident. The Bible tells us God knows about Hippity Hop. He knows about us and can and will turn any hopeless situation into the ultimate story of survival. Not only is he aware of every situation, but HE has also planned for it and wants us to KNOW the purpose. (II Cor. 4:5-11) He tells us that every situation, I daresay especially the worst ones, are apart of HIS plan: trouble, distress, persecutions, mistakes, misinterpretations, mischaracterizations, and misery does have a purpose, always.
Everyone is talking about the "new normal." Either you believe we need to adapt to the new normal or you think we need to return to what we considered normal was previously. Do we need to adapt? Adapt to a "new" normal or return to the previous normal? Yes and no. Our "normal" as a child of God is the SAME normal it has ALWAYS been. We are live our life for Him, not ourselves; and, we are to trust God in ALL things. To adapt, yes; but, what we need to adapt is our THINKING. Especially if over time, our thinking has strayed, and thus our actions have followed. When we realize that we no longer have two "legs," we re-evaluate OUR goals, routines, hopes, ideas of perfection, and plans for the future to bring them under submission to the God who IS and will ALWAYS be in control; mostly because we are forced to by circumstances. In reality, our choice is the same as Hippity Hop's choice, and we make that choice every day. We can choose to sit on our little branch bemoaning our lot in life, worried about tomorrow, and maybe starve to death; or, we can attempt to fly (I am sure I have said this before), even if by taking flight means we might face-plant or crash-land the first eighteen times. We make this decision every day! When we chose to adapt our mindset, the "easy" way, we can be down on our knees before our God, burying ourselves in reading His Word, and resting in Him is our choice and will give us peace. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” (Isa 26:3). At the very moment, we feel the slight flutter in our heart or worry creep up in our brain or the tell-tale words, "What If." We can fix it with God's help, with faith, and with the power of God's Word.
Of course, we can refuse to adapt readily. Doing things the "hard way" includes whining, crying, pleading, and clinging to the remnants of our old routines, old wants, old "needs," or anything the natural man resorts to doing when we don't use faith. This brain change IS what we control and is our choice. Understand, regardless of whether or not Hippity Hop comes to the feeder, I will still fill the feeders each morning either for Hippity Hop or for others. Cogently, whether or not we choose to adapt our thinking, it will NOT change God's plans. His plans will still come to fruition; but, it will determine how quickly and how smoothly we settle back into a faith-filled life, are used by God, and are re-centered in His plans. We DO control this. We can choose to arrive in the center of God's will via a smooth landing, enter via a crash landing eighteen times until we finally get "it" right, or sadly never arrive at all. What is your choice? I know what my choice is and will proactively choose the peace of God. "Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in truth; and put away the gods (insert here your gods) which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt and serve ye the Lord and if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day (and every day after) who ye will serve.......but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:14 and 15, interjections mine). Thank you, Lord, for the reminder.
If you have time now and are interested in getting into birding please check out our page, Getting Started Backyard Birdwatching.
ALL PICTURES ON THIS SITE WERE TAKEN ONLY BY ABBY, CJ OR ME. WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE PHOTOS ON THE BIRDING FIELD TRIP PAGE, ALL PICTURES HAVE ALL BEEN TAKEN IN OUR URBAN BACKYARD/TREES, OR IN THE SKY AND TREES ABOVE OUR HOUSE/NEIGHBORHOOD FROM 2018 TO THE PRESENT. WE ARE USUALLY BIRDING EVERYDAY BUT ARE ALSO USUALLY BEHIND UPLOADING PICTURES.
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