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Bird Legs & and Christmas Legends Continue
December 13, 2010

It Is Great Top Be Alive.

What a wonderful time of the year.

Christmas music is playing.

Christmas movies and specials to watch.

Even 'A Charlie Brown Christmas".

Walt Disney really blew it, when he turned down a young Charles Schultz.

My friends, with all of the busyness of the season, do remember those less fortunate and the true "Reason For The Season".

The Legend of the Christmas Rose:

Part of the color in celebration of the season is the blooming of Christmas roses. While a variety of plants over time have come to be called “Christmas Rose”, they all are steeped in a legend that dates back centuries.

The Legend of the Christmas Rose speaks of a young girl named Madelon who wanted to come worship the Christ Child. Seeing the gold, frankincense and myrrh brought by others who were drawn to the humble birthplace, she despaired that she had no gift to bring, for Madelon was poor indeed.

In vain she searched the countryside for a flower that she might bring, but the winter had been cold and harsh – and there were no flowers to be found. Saddened, the girl began to weep. An angel passing over her stopped to provide comfort and smote the ground that was wet from her tears. There did spring a beautiful bush that bloomed of white roses.

"Nor myrrh, nor frankincense, nor gold," said the angel, "is offering more meet for the Christ Child than these pure Christmas Roses." And thus young Madelon went her way and worshipped the Prince of Peace, bearing the gift of her heart and tears.

Winter weather continues to be the story as cold and below normal temperatures have gripped much of North America.

One thing about us Northern folk, we believe in sharing so please enjoy our gift to you in the south.

Bundle up and get outside to do some star gazing.

Winter is the best time of the year to do so.

Not only are there more stars to see, but the air is crisp and clean.

Several winter constellations and open star clusters fill the skies.

If you know where to look, the Andromeda Galaxy can be seen with binoculars and even with the naked eye where there is very little light pollution.

Jupiter still dominates the night sky, while Venus in all her beauty is now very bright in the Southeast morning sky before sunrise.

I now here the Great horned owls hooting back and forth when I'm out on my evening walks.

Great horned owls start their courtship now and begin to nest in January and February.

If you are experiencing dry weather, you will want to keep your evergreens watered.

If you haven't yet, you may want to spray an Anti-Desiccant like 'Wilt Pruf' on you prized plants.

Anti-Desiccant put down an invisible barrier that help your plants like Rhodies to retain moisture and this help to prevent winter burn.

Legend of the Candy Cane:

Candy canes are favorites of Christmas decorations amongst kids. These red and white J-shaped candies are tasty too. It is said that their origin lies in an event in Cologne Cathedra about two hundred thirty years ago. It is said that one evening, the children were being very loud and noisy at the Church and were not paying attention to the choirmaster. In his efforts to keep them quiet and still for Nativity ceremony, he gave them a long, white, sugar candy stick.

Since, giving out chocolates

and candies at church was otherwise considered sacrilegious; he bent these sticks on one end to make them look like shepherds' cane who went to worship the Christ on the day he was born and thus, attached a religious significance to them.

In 1847, a German-Swedish immigrant in Wooster, Ohio, liked candy canes so much that he put them on his Christmas tree as decorations. The idea soon caught up and became quite a fashion.

By 1900, candy canes started coming in red stripes and peppermint flavoring and it was said that the white color was symbolic Christ's purity while the red symbolized the wounds he suffered.

The peppermint flavoring was said to represent the hyssop herb described in Bible for purification. Some other interpret that the 'J' shaped candy cane is not a cane but the letter 'J' that stands for Jesus. However, there are no evidences supporting these views.

This is the last week to get your Christmas memories and traditions sent back to me.

Your favs have dried up on me (I have 10 so far).

I would really like to have about 10 more to make it a decent sized special letter on Your Christmas memories, traditions (old or new) and just plane favorite part of the Holiday.

Something you can read at your leisure.

Please send this back to me with your:

First name (last is optional)

Your location

State or Province

Please have this to me by this week Friday and thank you.

The wild turkeys have officially become pests.

It was cute when they visited all summer and fall and would glean under the feeders.

Then they would come once or twice a week and visit for maybe 10 minutes.

They come now and wont leave until they've eaten everything they can.

Later in the day they reappear and feed off the bird food I tossed out once again.

I can't win and the song birds lose out.

It isn't bad enough that they are ripping apart dormant plants, now they are in the trees and on the deck feeding.

The Bradford pears were here when we moved and it simply costs to much to have them removed right now.

I can chase them away and they are back in five minutes.

I break out the fur kids.

Ziggy the Toy Poodle just stands there and watches them.

Little Keet chases them with no concerns of her catching one, but she keeps chasing and then I have to chase her.

Now, they turkeys could beat her up, but it is fun to see the predator, pray scenario take place.

I've resorted to putting less food out for my birds and hopefully timing it so there isn't any food for the turkeys.

I don't mind the turkeys coming to glean, but with the price of bird food on the rise, I can't afford to feed all these very large birds.

You will notice in some of the pictures, that there is a young Tom or two amongst these juvenile birds

Backyard birds can be trained or conditioned to come feed at certain times and for now, that is what I am trying to do.

To be continued...................

Even with the turkeys becoming a pest, they inspired me to write on today's topic.

Bird Legs.

I wrote on this topic more than a couple of years ago.

But, thanks to the turkeys for reminding me, it is a good time to do it again.


Bird legs:

When you here this, you may think of someone with skinny or even scaly looking legs.

But, I mean the make-up and design of bird legs.

I wrote on bird legs more than two years ago, and the turkey invasion inspired me to write on this topic once again.

Why not, we have several hundred new readers since then.

Bird legs and feet serve several functions and it often depends on the species of bird.

For most birds, most of the bones are hollow for flight purposes.

A lighter bird makes for a quick take off.

In some cases, the bird has solid breast bones to help keep them under water like Loons and other diving birds. (Do you notice how low they sit in the water?)

These same birds need powerful legs to aid in take off as they run across the water to get airborne.

(Juvenile Tom)

When it comes to legs and feet, virtually all species of birds have solid bones and bones that are more dense.

Birds need strong bones in their legs for the daily routines they are involved in.

Take a look at Raptors.

A bird of prey can fly in excess of 100 miles and hour and slam into another bird in flight.

Falcons have been recorded diving (stooping) at speeds of 220 MPH. Can you imagine hitting another object at that speed?

Even if the other object is moving, it is still a tremendous jolt or impact.

Osprey dive into the water feet first nailing a fish.

Bald eagles snatch at the water to grab a fish without ripping a leg off or loosing flight.

Those are some strong legs and feet.

What about an owl or hawk that may pounce on a rabbit, snake or squirrel as they slam into earth?

And do it with a powerful bone breaking force.

On the prey that is.

Can you imagine that collision?

If you've ever been in an auto accident, or taken a serious fall, than you can just about imagine it.

Just because the birds are smaller doesn't mean the impact is any less for them.

It's not just the feet and sharp talons, but the legs must be strong or they would snap in several pieces on impact.

Have you watched a ground feeding bird hop back and forth as it unearths a meal?

What about the power of a woodpecker to stand their as it drills.

Nuthatches that need strong leg bones as it climbs upside down.

Chickadees and Goldfinches that swing upside down and twirl around need strong legs too.

Legs and feet that are so strong, they lock in position so perching and sleeping birds wont fall.

Water fowl have webbed feet, but they need something powerful to propel those feet.

What about the strong bones of an Ostrich or Emu as they run from danger or can cause death with one kick of their powerful legs.

You don't think those legs need strong, solid bones?

Great blue herons and other wading birds that stand there on one leg.

If the bones weren't strong and solid, it would snap like a hollow reed.

We don't think about bird legs much do we?

Even turkey legs need to be strong as they scratch away at the earth or run from danger and can push this large bird into flight.

Next time you are really observing your birds, watch how the legs and feet come into play in a birds daily routine.

For standing, hunting, launching into flight, nest building, holding onto seed and other food and much more.

As we age, out legs may get stiff and our joints ache.

But what about our youth?

How many times as a youngster, did you play or work hard one day and you were sore and stiff for the next few days?

We are in our physical prime mind you. Can you imagine what life would be like for a bird if it woke up sore and stiff?

No hunting or feeding for a couple of days.

What if there were young that depended on a successful hunt every day?

Sorry kids, dad is to sore today to go out and hunt.

There is something else special about bird feet and legs.

They help regulate a bird's temperature.

Birds have the ability to increase and slow down blood flow to the scaly part of the legs and the feet.

In winter, the blood flow to these parts slows way down so there is minimal loss of heat from blood flow.

Herons can stand in 40 degree water.

Ducks and geese can swim in water that hasn't formed ice.

Like the picture of these turkeys taken last week, your backyard birds walk around and scratch in the snow.

Notice the snow on the turkey legs, it isn't melting and didn't for the afternoon they were here.

Again I mention............

During cold weather, birds slow down the flow of blood into their lower legs and feet to help prevent the loss of valuable body heat.

Their feet and legs get wet when they drink or bathe.

And you never see one sticking to a mettle feeding perch.


Bird legs don't have pores.

They don't perspire or lose moisture through them like we do, and moisture can't enter the scaled armor and tough skin.

This is why birds can stand in the snow and hop in a bird bath without freezing there feet off.

Birds can go from the snow or bath to a metal feeder perch with no problems.

If we were to touch a metal perch on some of our winter days, our hand would stick for a short moment (birds don't).

In summer, birds increase blood flow to the legs and feet to help keep them from over heating.

As the blood flows through the legs it rushers near the surface of the cooler outer temperature.

The cooler blood runs back through and does it all over again.

Very much like the radiator on your automobile.

God made the birds as special creatures and as we learn more about them, we have to be more amazed an in awe of His wondrous creations.

One last thing on legs. Hummingbird legs are virtually useless.

Research does show hummer leg bones are indeed hollow.

After all, these light weights of the avian world can't be weighted down now can they?

Well,, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

Be of good cheer. Do not think of today's failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American Writer

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

Hebrews 10:36 (NIV)

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the victor's crown, the life God has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12 (NIV)

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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