Ian’s Bird of the Week – White-faced Heron

 White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae) by Ia

Ian’s Bird of the Week – White-faced Heron ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter 4/19/15

This is the real bird of the week; the recent Collared Sparrowhawk was just a correction to an earlier one. Exotic herons, such as the Great-billed (Northern Australia) and the Boat-billed (Costa Rica) have featured as bird of the week, but, typically, I’ve neglected some of the common ones, so here is the best known Australian heron, the White-faced, to make amends. It’s not as if I have to go far to photograph them: the first photo was taken almost ten years ago on Bluewater Creek near the bottom of my garden.

Nor is it because they aren’t photogenic. I love watching them carefully stalking their prey with extraordinary concentration and poise, like the one in the second photo taken 15 years ago in the early days of digital photography – ‘digiscoping’ with a tripod, Leica spotting scope and Coopix camera held against the eyepiece of the scope.

 White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae) by Ia

Digiscoping didn’t lend itself well to action shots, but this bird came the party. Six seconds later I took a second photo, and at that very instant it struck, producing this lovely sheet of water. Digital cameras in those days had appreciable shutter lag, so you had to rely on the bird doing things serendipitously in synchronisation with the camera rather than relying on your own fast reflexes, unless your were psychic and could anticipate what the bird was about to do.

 White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae) by Ia

Nor are White-faced Herons hard to find in Australasia. They are occur throughout mainland Australia and Tasmania, except in the driest deserts, New Zealand and its Sub-antarctic islands, Christmas, Lord Howe and Norfolk islands, where the fourth photo of a bird in flight was taken, southern New Guinea and various islands east of the Wallace Line. It is extending range and became established in Tonga in 1988 and Fiji in 1997 and has turned up even in SE China.

 White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae) by Ia

The fifth photo, also in flight shows a bird apparently chasing its bat-like shadow along the beach at the entrance to Botany Bay in Sydney. This bird has very little white on the face and is probably a juvenile bird or in transition to adult plumage as juvenile have white only on the neck and not the face.

I think herons and egrets took wonderful in flight holding their necks in a dogs-leg angle. It makes them look delightfully primitive and remind me of the fantastic birds in flight painted by George Braque like the one below of a Bird Passing through a Cloud: this one even has a white face. When I took up bird watching at school in the early 1960s I also became fascinated by Braque’s birds – very fashionable then as he painted the one below in 1957. I did pottery at the time and painted imitations of his birds onto various rather shapeless objects.

White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae) Lithograph from Ian

See? Common birds can be very interesting. However, the lure of exotic birds remain. Joy, my sharp-eyed and -eared birding Pal in Melbourne, and I have just booked a trip to New Caledonia for the end of June. Why? New Caledonia is home to the almost mythical Kagu, a very special, flightless, almost heron-sized bird and it would be great to be able to bring it to you as bird of the week.

Greetings
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland: iTunesGoogle Play Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

The stork, all kinds of heron, the hoopoe, and the bat. (Leviticus 11:19 AMP)

Again, we have a Bird of the Bible from the “do not eat” list. Like Ian, Herons are common here, but yet they are a joy to watch (and not eat). Of course, we do not have this beautiful and neat White-faced ones. What is common to Ian, is a treat for us to see. Thanks, Ian.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s White-faced Heron photos

Ian’s Ardeidae Family photos

Herons, Bitterns – Ardeidae Family

Birds of the Bible – Herons

White-faced Heron – Wikipedia

White-faced Heron – Birds In Backyards

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Collared Sparrowhawk

Collared Sparrowhawk (Accipiter cirrocephalus) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Brown Sparrowhawk ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 4/17/15

I sent the previous post by mistake when I was working on the ebook version of the birds of the week this afternoon. This was actually bird of the week in May 2009, and then I thought it was a Brown Goshawk until a raptor expert recently pointed out the error of my ways with these photos on the website.

I’m making good progress with the ebook. It’s getting quite large, so I’m going to publish it two volumes. The first will be 2002 to 2009. I’ll keep you posted on progress. I think I’m going to call it ‘Diary of a Bird Photographer‘ as it reads like a (weekly) diary.

Anyway, here is the full, corrected posting, six years late!

*Note: this was originally posted as a Brown Goshawk, but the bird is actually a Collared Sparrowhawk. Please accept my apologies.

I’m still sorting through the photos that I took at Gluepot last month. One surprising visitor to the watering point near the hide was a Collared Sparrowhawk that came in to drink and bathe. She (it was rather large) spent nearly half an hour at the tank and bathed several times. Naturally, all the other traffic at the watering point came to a standstill, though I was amused to see a flock of Brown Honeyeaters becoming increasingly restless and approaching much closer than I would have expected. Eventually, she vanished as swiftly as she had appeared and things returned to normal.
Collared Sparrowhawk (Accipiter cirrocephalus) by Ian
The Sparrowhawk seemed very wary, particularly when preparing to bathe and looked around repeatedly as if making sure the coast was clear. It was almost as if the Queen of the Forest couldn’t be seen to be doing her toilet in public and she certainly looked very undignified both when bathing, second photo, and when she emerged wet and bedraggled from the water, third photo. I was impressed by how soft and owl-like the feathers were – the original stealth attack aircraft, I suppose.
Collared Sparrowhawk (Accipiter cirrocephalus) by Ian
Collared Sparrowhawks are smallish hawks,30-40cm/12-16in long, with a wingspan to 70cm/28in. As with many birds of prey, the females are larger and this is thought to be to protect the nestlings from the males in a weak moment. The Collared Sparrowhawk is widespread in all except the driest areas of Australia and New Guinea and because of its furtive behaviour and confusion with the similar Brown Goshawk, is probably commoner than might be supposed.

Recent updates* to the website include new galleries for the Australo-PapuanTreecreepers (), additional photos of various Honeyeaters, Wedge-tailed Eagle and White-bellied Sea-Eagle.

*recent in 2009, but the links are still valid.

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland: iTunesGoogle Play Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, and stretch her wings toward the south? Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high? She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place. From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off. (Job 39:26-29 KJV)

Another neat bird he has introduced us to, even though it is apparently six years late. Ian gave his permission and I started doing his newsletter in July of 2009. That Brown Goshawk (was dated in May 2009, so it was never written up) I did go back and catch some of his older newsletters as you can see from the list.

Wow! Has it been 6 years? Ian, thank you for that permission. With his newsletter and photograph usage, Ian has been a large input for this blog.

See:

Ian’s Bird of the Week (list of newsletters)

Ian’s Honeyeaters, Wedge-tailed Eagle and White-bellied Sea-Eagle.

Ian’s Accipitridae Family

Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks, Eagles Family

Collared Sparrowhawk – Wikipedia

Collared Sparrowhawk – Birds in Backyards

Collared Sparrowhawk – Avian Web

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Black-faced Monarch

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Black-faced Monarch ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 4/15/15

On the way to Orbost in East Gippsland in March on the great owl hunt, we stopped for a break at Fairy Dell Nature Reserve between Bairnsdale and Lakes Entrance. This has a lovely walk through temperate rainforest along a creek with plenty of interesting birds – we saw our first Lyrebird of the weekend here. We also found this Black-faced Monarch showing its black face to great advantage through the fronds of a tree fern.

Black-faced Monarch (Monarcha melanopsis) by Ian

Black-faced Monarchs are usually inconspicuous solitary inhabitants of dense forest and are best located by their calls, the most distinctive of which is a vibrant fluty call, rendered by Pizzey and Knight as ‘Why-you, which-you’. Here they search for insects, sometimes making sallies after flying insects when they are easier to spot. The combination of grey back and wings, black face and rich, rufous underparts is striking, though the rufous breast is best seen in the gloom of the forest using a flash, as in the second photo taken in the highlands of Northeastern Queensland. These two photos encompass most of the breeding range of this species along the east coast of Australia from Melbourne to Cape York.

Black-faced Monarch (Monarcha melanopsis) by Ian

These birds are resident in the highlands of Northeastern Queensland but breeding summer visitors to areas farther south. In winter many migrate to southern and eastern New Guinea, and some immature birds spend their first summer there. In the lowlands of Northeastern Queensland, around Townsville for example, we see them only as passage migrants in March-April and September-October and I saw one last week along Bluewater Creek near the house, reminding me that autumn is here. The bird in the third photo is an immature one photographed on the creek ten years ago. Juvenile lack the black face, have brownish wings and dark bills with a pinkish edge to the base of the lower mandible – which you can just see in this photo.

Black-faced Monarch (Monarcha melanopsis) juvenile by Ian

Black-faced Monarch build beautiful, conical nests wedged into the fork of a shrub or sapling in moist gullies. This is constructed of fibrous plant material, including ferns and moss, glued together using gossamer from spiders’ webs as in the fourth photo.

Black-faced Monarch (Monarcha melanopsis) Nest by Ian

Autumn here means warm, clear sunny days and (relatively) cool nights with low humidity, very welcome after the wet season and my favourite time of the year. The wet usually leaves a legacy of lush green grassland and forest, though this year it has been fairly dry with good rain only in January. The Dollarbirds have left for the winter and the forests and gardens are rather silent without the loud calls of the Koels and Channel-billed Cuckoos, leaving just the Blue-winged Kookaburras and Bar-shouldered Doves to fill the gap.

Greetings
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland:  iTunesGoogle Play Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

“If a bird’s nest happens to be before you along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, with the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall surely let the mother go, and take the young for yourself, that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days”. (Deuteronomy 22:6-7 NKJV)

What a nice looking bird, Ian. That breast color reminds me of our American Robin’s outfit. Thanks again for sharing so many birds with us over the weeks. With over 10,000 of the Lord’s avian creations flying around, you nor I will ever cover them all.

Here is the Black-faced Monarch’s call from xeno-canto:

You can see Ian’s Monarch family photos at Monarch Flycatchers & Allies [Family: Monarchidae]
Monarchidae – Monarchs Family

Black-faced Monarch –  Wikipedia
Black-faced Monarch – Birds in Backyards
Black-faced Monarch – New Zealand Birds Online

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Ian’s Bird of the Week ~ Pilotbird

Ian’s Bird of the Week ~ Pilotbird ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 3/31/15

The primary targets in East Gippsland were the Sooty and Masked Owls, but there were several daytime birds on the wanted list too. One of these was the Pilotbird, a smallish – 17cm/7in long – brown, ground-dwelling bird of the mountain ranges and dense coastal scrub of southeastern Australia from just south of Sydney almost to Melbourne. I’d seen one only once before, near Mittagong in New South Wales 16 years ago, but that encounter was only a glimpse and no photography was involved.

Pilotbird (Pycnoptilus floccosus) by Ian

It’s an unobtrusive bird and easy to overlook, unless you know its flutey, far-carrying call, sometimes rendered as ‘guinea-a-week’. My Victorian friends knew a good spot for it in coastal scrub and we found one there with relative ease, returning the following day (first photo) to get better photos. It rummages around in thick undergrowth looking for invertebrates. The second photo has a red dot showing the exactly location, beyond the sinuous brown branch, so you can appreciate that we are lucky to be able to see anything much of it in the photo. It has unusual buff dark-edged feathers on the breast, giving it a scaly appearance. The plumage is apparently dense and silky as reflected in its scientific name: Pycnoptilus means thick-feathered, and floccosus is derived from the Latin floccus and means ‘full of flocks of wool’, which, I must admit, left me not much the wiser.

Pilotbird (Pycnoptilus floccosus) by Ian

Pilotbird (Pycnoptilus floccosus) location by Ian

It’s common name Pilotbird arises from the bird frequently associating with Superb Lyrebirds, taking advantage of the digging habits of the latter (third photo) to snatch up revealed invertebrates. Some sources say the name Pilotbird comes from the similar habit of Pilotfish which associates with large marine predators such as sharks; other say that the Pilotbird by its call led early settlers looking for food to lyrebirds. I prefer the first explanation. Lyrebirds are very vocal in their own right and don’t need another species to advertise their presence. Lyrebirds are perhaps the world best mimics and are known to mimic Pilotbirds, and it would be easy to imagine that this attracted Pilotbirds in the first place and they then learned that this was an easy way to get dinner. We did in fact see several Superb Lyrebirds dashing across the roads of the forests where the owls lived, though the coastal scrub didn’t strike me as good lyrebird habitat.

Superb Lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae by Ian

This photo of the lyrebird digging vigorously reminded me both of Scrub-turkeys and Chowchillas (fourth photo) and I wondered whether the Pilotbird had a behavioural counterpart in the forests of Northeastern Queensland. The Pilotbird is usually placed in the Acanthizidae, the family of thornbills and their allies (though it shows some affinities with the bristlebirds Dasyornithidae), so I checked up on the Fernwren (fifth photo) another brown, rummaging Acanthizid endemic to the Wet Tropics.

Chowchilla (Orthonyx spaldingii  by Ian

Sure enough, HBW (Handbook of Birds of the World) reports that the Fernwren “sometimes associates with Orange-footed Scrubfowl (Megapodius reinwardt) and Chowchilla (Orthonyx spaldingii), following in close proximity and catching prey disturbed by their feeding actions”. The Orange-footed Scrubfowl is, of course, a cousin of the Brush-turkey.

Fernwren 9Oreoscopus gutturalis)  by Ian

So maybe this week’s bird of the week should be entitled ‘small brown rummaging birds of the forest floors of eastern Australia’.

Greetings
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland: iTunes; Google Play Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me; (Psalms 31:3 ESV)

Teach me to do Your will; for You are my God; Your Spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness. (Psalms 143:10 MKJV)

What great protection colorations these birds have received from their Creator. I am sure when the birds of prey are in the area, rummaging types of birds are very thankful for their less colorful outfits.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Greater Sooty Owl

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Greater Sooty Owl ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 3/19/15

Here is the belated and sought-after bird of the week after a great trip to Victoria. I’ve been unwell since my return a week ago, but things are fine now and the wheels of my life are turning again.

Your spiritual support and goodwill have done it again, so it’s another mission accomplished, though in English this time (having been Catalan and Spanish in the past). Actually, most credit should go to my sharp-eared, sharp-eyed, knowledgeable and passionate birding friends. With their hard work, the track record for target species in East Gippsland during our stay was fantastic. We went searching for owls on each of the three nights. The first night, we heard both Greater Sooty and Masked Owls – and the sharpest-eyed of the group saw a Masked Owl in flight. On the second night, at a different site we heard another Sooty Owl and eventually caught sight of it flying among the tall trees of the forest. It then flew over us and perched on a dead limb in the open high above us.

STI-Tyto Greater Sooty Owl (Tyto tenebricosa) by Ian

I got only this photo, discarding a second out of focus one. For the technically minded, I used manual focussing – it was too distant and the light and contrast too faint for auto focus – and guessed an exposure of 1/80sec at f5.6 and 1600 ISO using the 100-400mm zoom. As the passionate/obsessive birder would understand, it was worth travelling to Victoria for this one photo and, having taken it, misión completa (I have liked it in Spanish since finding the Resplendent Quetzel in Costa Rica in 2010) I was free to relax and enjoy whatever other gems came our way. In fact, one such, this Yellow-bellied Glider. sailed over our heads and landed in a nearby tree while we were trying to locate the calling Sooty Owl.

Yellow-bellied Glider (Petaurus australis) by Ian

These are fantastic, long-tailed, wrist-winged relatives of possums (the Striped Possum of Northeastern Queensland is in the same family, the Petauridae) and the Yellow-bellied can glide up to 150m/400ft. It is rabbit-sized with a huge bushy tail that it presumably uses as a rudder in flight. They’re called wrist-winged, to distinguish them from elbow-winged like the Great Glider, and if you look carefully in the photo you can see the black edge of the membrane attaching to the little finger of the left hand. This proved to be diagnostic as we were unsure of both its identify and of whether the large possum-like animal on the tree was the same creature as the pale form that glided over us.

They are reasonably common in suitable old growth forest in eastern Australia, though the northern race regina has a very restricted range in northeastern Queensland and is threatened by logging. Quite coincidentally, I received a request yesterday to support a petition to prevent the transferring of Tumoulin Forest Reserve near Ravenshoe to State Forest so that logging can resume. The petition is aimed directly at protecting the Yellow-bellied Glider, and if you think, like I do, that downgrading the status of nature reserves is disgraceful, then we should support it: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/851/727/614/protect-rare-possum-habitat-from-senseless-logging/.

Later that evening, we returned to the Masked Owl site. We could hear one or two Masked Owls but they were wary, keeping their distance in the forest and moving away when spotlights were shone in their direction. We did, however, see one in flight and, having already photographed the Sooty Owl, I was satisfied with that, even though we did try again for photographs without success on the third night. We did, however, find this Sugar Glider, a small relative of the Yellow-bellied. It seemed to be keeping a low profile, very sensible given the presence of calling owls. Later still, we came across a juvenile Southern Boobook which flew up in front of us into a small tree beside the road. It didn’t dally for a photo, but that made it a three-owl evening which we all thought was special.

Sugar Glider (Petaurus briviceps) by Ian

I’ve barely mentioned Sooty Owls, as so much else happened that evening. There are two Australian forms: the Lesser Sooty in the wet tropics of northeastern Queensland and the Greater Sooty in eastern Australia from Eungella National Park near Mackay in Queensland to the Dandenong and Strzelecki Ranges in Victoria, both reasonably common in suitable habitat of wet, gully, forest but rarely seen. Another race, supposedly of the Greater Sooty, occurs throughout New Guinea. Currently the Lesser and Greater are treated as separate species by most authorities, though Christidis and Boles lumped them in 2008. Having one species with a disjoint range in New Guinea and eastern Australia and a closely-related separate one in between should make any student of biogeography laugh out loud, but that’s the way it is. Sooty Owls feed mainly on arboreal mammals, though they will take other prey such as birds.

Ian at work photographing Owl

Ian at work photographing Owl

On the following day we returned to the Sooty Owl site and here is a photograph of me photographing it, the red spot showing where the bird in the photo was perched. I was surprised at how far up it was and felt very fortunate to have got the one reasonable photo. This forest also produced for us Tawny Frogmouth, Australian Owlet-Nightjar, Brush-tailed Possums, a bandicoot, a wombat and Black or Swamp Wallabies leaving us in no doubt about the value of old growth forests (reminder http://www.thepetitionsite.com/851/727/614/protect-rare-possum-habitat-from-senseless-logging/).

A few people have requested location information about the owls, but I have been sworn to secrecy by my friends as they don’t want them being disturbed too much or subjected to tapes of owl calls. So please understand my reticence.

Greetings
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland: iTunesGoogle Play Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

the little owl, the fisher owl, and the screech owl; (Leviticus 11:17 NKJV)

What an adventure. Some birds just don’t want to be found. Thanks again, Ian, for sharing another trip with us. Glad you are feeling better.

Sooty Owls belong to the Tytonidae – Barn OIwls family which has 19 speciesIan’s Owls can be found at

http://birdway.com.au/tytonidae/index.htm and

http://birdway.com.au/strigidae/index.htm.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Birdway 

Tytonidae – Barn Owl Family

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Budgerigar

PSI-Psit Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) by Ian
Ian’s Bird of the Week – Budgerigar ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 3/3/15

Judging by the number of emails that I received about Pied Butcherbirds, iconic species are popular and there were many interesting stories about experiences with them. So here is another, perhaps globally the most familiar Australian bird. Although it’s quite common and sometimes very abundant after good rains in the drier parts of Australia, you have to go out of your way to find it. So it it’s much less well-known as a wild bird than say other iconic species like Australian Magpie and Laughing Kookaburras that turn up in backyards.

It wasn’t until after I moved to North Queensland in 2002 that I first saw them in the wild, and that was on a trip to Moorrinya National Park between Torrens Creek and Aramac, 370km southwest of Townsville. In places like that you usually see them in small flocks of maybe 10-20 in rapid undulating flight. These make sudden turns in the sunlight showing alternately green and yellow in a characteristic and delightful display of vivid, fluorescent colour.

PSI-Psit Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) by Ian

The sexes can be distinguished either by differences in behaviour, sometimes subtle as in the first photo with an attentive male and a bored or playing hard to get female, or less subtly as in the second photo. Her the male is concentrating seriously, and the female is rather inscrutably either in a state of bliss or thinking of the motherland. An easier way though is by the colour of the cere – the tissue surrounding the nostrils – blue in adult males, and brown in females. Juveniles have duller plumages, barred foreheads and lack the black spots on the neck.

PSI-Psit Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) by IanAfter good inland rains, the population can explode and Budgerigars may be seen in flocks of thousands. When dry conditions return and seeds become scare, flocks wander far and wide in search of food. They move into areas beyond their normal range and can turn up in coastal areas such as near Townsville. The birds in the third photo were near Woodstock just south of Townsville on the way to Charters Towers and I have seen them near Bluewater.

Sometimes escaped cage birds turn up in odd places in strange colours, such as this almost completely white one near the Strand in Townsville. I don’t know about you, but I prefer the natural colours. I was in Ireland once for a family funeral in February and was birding on Dun Laoghaire pier in Dublin Bay on a very cold, dull winter’s day, when I spotted a bright yellow budgie looking very out-of-place among some roosting waders. It was a moment of great empathy and I thought ‘you and I should be back in sunny Australia’.

PSI-Psit Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) by IanI’m in Melbourne at the moment to visit East Gippsland next weekend with my Victorian birding pals who know of a good site for both Greater Sooty Owls and Masked Owls (both cousins of Barn Owls) near Orbost. I haven’t seen or photographed either of these, so may I request your customary friendly support and spiritual goodwill to help us find them? It would be lovely to be able to bring at least one of them to you as the next bird of the week.

Greetings
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Check the latest website updates:
http://www.birdway.com.au/#updates


Lee’s Addition:

Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. (Psalms 96:3 NKJV)

Ian is correct, at least for me. The Budgerigar or “Budgie” as I was taught, was one of the first bird names I ever knew. Almost everyone I have ever seen was in a cage or aviary. Few have been pets and one was sitting on someone glasses look down into their lens. But, to see them in the wild where they live would be a great experience.

Thanks, Ian, for again sharing your adventures with us. The most I have ever seen at one time has been at Lowry Park Zoo. I’ll also be praying that Ian finds those Greater Sooty Owls and Masked Owls so that he will share them with us on another Bird of the Week.

Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) by Lee LPZ

Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) by Lee LPZ

Ian’s Birds of the Week

Ian’s Budgerigar Photos

Ian’s Psittacidae Family

Psittacidae – Parrots Family

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Pied Butcherbird

Pied Butcherbird (Cracticus nigrogularis) by Ian
Ian’s Bird of the Week – Pied Butcherbird ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 2/22/14

Birds of the week are usually chosen on the basis of appearance, photo quality or species interest, but here for a change is one whose real claim to fame is auditory. Not that Pied Butcherbirds don’t look quite dapper, even if the hooked bill suggests a predatory existence and the black hood has the connotation of the executioner, at least for the Spanish : Verdugo Gorjinegro, where verdugo means executioner or hangman, and gorjinegro you can guess. However, their real claim to fame is their beautiful singing which has a clarity and sense of purpose that I think is unequalled. When I first heard a Pied Butcherbird singing in Australia in western New South Wales in 1971, I was fascinated. To me it seemed like it was practising the theme from an oboe concerto, as it would keep carefully repeating the phrases, each time slightly differently.

The first edition of Graham Pizzey’s Field Guide to the Birds of Australia (1980-2000) has wonderful descriptions – I bought it after reading his description of Musk Duck, which starts “A decidedly strange duck.” – so I’ll quote him on the Pied Butcherbird: “Superb: slow flute-like piping, of clear high-pitched and low mellow notes, throughout day and moonlit nights, best in early morning; often given by two or more birds alternatively, higher-pitched notes of one contrasting with more mellow notes of others. … Also accomplished mimicry, as part of quieter sub-song.”

I can’t just leave you hanging after a description like that. Here is a YouTube link to a lovely video of a duet

and here is another to a Pied Butcherbird mimicking a variety of species

Listen to these and I’m sure you’ll agree that this is one of the most beautiful song birds in the world.

Pied Butcherbird (Cracticus nigrogularis) by Ian

On the subject of mimicry, I had an email from Rose Bay in Sydney recounting a conversation that took place between a Grey Butcherbird and the correspondent, thank you Jeremy, who whistled in response, over several months. The bird remained hidden and unidentified in foliage until a couple of weeks ago when, during such a talk, he spotted the bird and the mystery was solved. I’ve accompanied a Pied Butcherbird here in Bluewater on the treble recorder. I checked their vocal range using a pitch analyser on sound recordings and found that the mellow notes were close to middle C (C4), while the top notes were around D6, two octaves above middle C; an impressive range.

Pied Butcherbird (Cracticus nigrogularis) by Ian

And, yes, they do prey on small birds, mammals, reptiles and invertebrates and will even hunt in unison with Australian Hobbies. They get their name from their habit of wedging larger prey items in a fork in a tree (or clothes line) so that they can dismember it. If you think that sounds macabre, go and listen to Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique again, imagining the idée fixé played by a Pied Butcherbird, particular the rendering of it in the third movement on the oboe and by the clarinet in the fourth Marche au supplice. The latter appears briefly before the fall of the guillotine. I tried playing the first of the YouTube videos simulaneously with the third movement a short while ago and the result is, well, fantastic.

Pied Butcherbird (Cracticus nigrogularis) by Ian

Anyway, back to family matters. Pied Butcherbirds have group territories similar to those of their cousins the Australian Magpies with usually one breeding pair. The female does all the hard work of building the nest and incubating the eggs while, the male, presumably, sings. The other members of the group, usually offspring from earlier broods, do help to feed the young.

I should, I suppose, mention the photos. The first three are of adult birds, the last two of brownish immature birds. At 32-36cm/12.5-14in in length the Pied Butcherbird is intermediate between the smaller Grey and Black-backed Butcherbirds and the larger Black Butcherbird. The Pied Butcherbird occurs through most of mainland Australia, but is absent from very arid regions, most of South Australia and Victoria, and southeastern New South Wales. Here in the northeast Queensland, they show a preference for watercourses.

PAS-Arta Pied Butcherbird (Cracticus nigrogularis) by Ian 5

The bird of the week has been going out regularly, if not weekly, since late 2002. I have copies of almost all of them and I’ve decided to publish them as an electronic book under the umbrella “A Bird Photographer’s Diary”. At the moment, I’m progressing steadily through the second quarter of 2006, and I’m having great fun reliving all the experiences and places involved. The intention is to add photos of the various locations and habitats. I’ll keep you posted.

Greetings and sweet sounds,
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland: iTunesGoogle Play Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing [of birds] has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. (Song of Solomon 2:12 AMP)

Wow! What an amazing article about these birds and the videos only enhance it more. I especially like the them singing duet. Ian finds us the most interesting birds to see and hear. Thanks, Ian.

Check out Ian’s Butcherbirds in his Artamidae Family

Ian’s Bird of the Week

Artamidae – Woodswallows, butcherbirds and allies Family

Wordless Birds

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Common/Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Common/Black-billed Magpie ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 2/9/2015

The Australian Magpie of last week generated quite some interesting correspondence, about both it being an iconic species and bird names and their derivation. I also got a request for a BotW on Butcherbirds, which I’ll do soon, but in the meantime here is the original Magpie of the the Northern Hemisphere. It is, incidentally, on the Australian list, a record from Port Hedland in May 2007 having been accepted by the rarities committee. This species is quite sedentary, the nearest place it occurs naturally is China and Port Hedland is an iron ore port so you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to work out how it got there.

This, unlike the Australian Magpie, is a member of the crow family, Corvidae, and I think you’ll agree that the resemblance between the two species is fairly superficial, not that that ever got in the way of names. The Common or Black-billed Magpie – I’ll get back inevitably to names shortly – has beautifully iridescent wings and tail which can appear blue or green under different lighting conditions, which tells us that the colour is due to the prismatic microscopic structure of the feather rather than coloured pigment. The first photo shows one on a garden wall in suburban Dublin.

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia) by IanThe second one was taken in Catalonia at the Northern Goshawk site. Like their cousins the Common Ravens the Magpies were quite brazen and prepared to steal a morsel of food from under the noses of much larger raptors. Also like the Ravens and unlike the raptors, the Magpies noticed the sound of the camera shutter and you can see this one peering warily at the hide. This photo shows the extremely wedged-shaped tail, which is very obvious in flight. The third photo shows a juvenile one in Ireland, very similar to the adult plumage but it still has the slightly swollen gape of a very young bird and, maybe I’m imagining it, an atypically innocent expression.

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia) by IanCommon Magpies are iconic too, and as kids in Ireland we attached great significance to the number seen together, according to the nursery rhyme ‘One for sorrow, Two for joy …’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_for_Sorrow_(nursery_rhyme). Magpies, and other crows, have long been considered birds of ill-omen.

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia) by IanBack then, we called them just ‘Magpies’. In later decades, I became aware that, like The Kittiwake and for similar reasons, it acquired a coloured qualification ‘Black-billed’. In the case of the Kittiwake this was to distinguish the black-legged Eurasian one from the Red-legged Kittiwake of the eastern Bering Sea; in the case of the Magpie, it was because of the Yellow-billed Magpie of California, fifth photo, having a very restricted range that overlaps with the much more widespread Black-billed Magpie (fourth photo). The fifth photo, incidentally gives a good idea what the very similar Common/Black-billed Magpie looks like in flight and the white patches on the wing are very striking.

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia) by Ian

Plus ça change … as they say. I discovered while researching this BotW that Handbook of Birds of the World (HBW) and Birdlife International have accepted the split of the Black-billed/Common into three species: the Common Magpie (Pica pica) of Eurasia, the Black-billed Magpie of North America (Pica hudsonii) – fourth photo – and the Arabian Magpie (Pica asirensis), restricted to a tiny range in SW Saudi Arabia. So the European bird is back to where it started from.

I’m losing patience with avian taxonomists. Molecular studies over the past thirty years have led to countless changes in classification and naming, and not just at the species level. The 2014 HBW Checklist of Birds of the World, volume 1 (non-passerines) has many changes at every level up to order. I’ll repeat what I’ve said before that Linnaeus – he who tried to impose order on chaos – must be turning in his grave. Maybe he is just laughing, and perhaps that’s the right approach.

I used to think what the latest taxonomists said – starting with Sibley and Monroe in 1990 – was the gospel truth and a huge advance in our understanding. I don’t think that anymore! Here is a quote from Birdlife International on the fate of the Rainbow and Red-collared Lorikeets: Trichoglossus haematodus, … T. rubritorquis… (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) were previously lumped as T. haematodus following Christidis and Boles (1994), and before then were split as T. haematodus and T. rubritorquis following Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993): Lump, split, lump, split!

On a lighter note, I’m giving a talk on ‘Australia: Land of Parrots?’ at the BirdLife Townsville AGM next Saturday 14 February at 2:00pm in the Sound Shell meeting room at Thuringowa. If you’re a local, and even if you’re not, it would be great to see you there. The talk is about parrot diversity and bio-geography – all the Gondwanaland stuff.

Greetings
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland: iTunesGoogle Play Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

I know and am acquainted with all the birds of the mountains, and the wild animals of the field are Mine and are with Me, in My mind. (Psalms 50:11 AMP)

Ha! Ha! Ha! Thanks Ian for saying what I have been feeling. Sounds like we both agree on all the renaming, splitting, re-shuffling and “Lump, split, lump, split!” (Birds, People and DNA

The Magpies above are neat and I especially like that expression of the juvenile one. He (or she) still has the gape of an immature bird.

The Corvidae Family Crows, Jays, Ravens is where you will find the Magpies placed. (at this time). There are 130 members that make up this family.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Australian Magpie

Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen) by Ian

National days are occasions in which icons play a big, maybe dominant or even overpowering role, and Australia’s, January 26th, is no exception. So here is the Australian Magpie. It’s not strictly a Magpie in the Northern Hemisphere sense and it’s not strictly Australian, as it also occurs naturally in southern Papua New Guinea and has been introduced to both the main islands of New Zealand.

It is, however, certainly iconic, and not just in the sense of something that is typical of Australia. It was incorporated in various South Australian insignia just after Federation, and features “displayed proper” against the risen sun of federation. All six state coat of arms were incorporated into the Australian coat of arms in 1912, so the magpie, along with the Black Swan of Western Australia, made it to the national coat of arms. The bird referred to in the original South Australian design documents is called the “Piping Shrike” but the Australian Magpie has had various names including “Piping Crow-shrike” (Charles Sturt, explorer, 1840).

Australian National Coat of Arms

There are several races of the Magpie and I thought it would be easy to describe and illustrate them as part of this bird of the week. In fact, the descriptions, delineations and ranges of the various races are both messy and vague so I’ve settled for three easily recognised categories based on the colouration of their backs between the universally white (or pale grey) nape and rump: Black-backed, White-backed and Western.

Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen) by Ian

The Black-backed group, first and second photos, is the most widespread occurring everywhere except in SW Western Australia and SE Australia and Tasmania. The nominate race ‘tibicen’ of eastern Australia is Black-backed and the name is derived from the Latin for ‘trumpeter': tubicen. Male and female Black-backed have similar patterning except that the females have greyish tinge to the white and the black is less intense.

Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen) by Ian

The familiar Magpie of Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia is the White-backed. The bird in the third photo is a male, while the one in the fourth photo is a female. The grey tinge and scalloping on her nape and back is quite obvious.

Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen) by Ian

The male of the Western Magpie in SW Western Australia is like the male White-backed. The female, however, has very dark scalloping on the back to the point where it is almost black, fifth photo.

Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen) by Ian

Australian Magpies have group territories with the group varying in size from a pair of adults to several adults and juveniles of varying ages. Usually only one pair in the group actually nests with the female doing the nest-building and most of the incubation. The young are fed by the female, often with help from her male partner and sometimes from other group members. Magpies can be aggressive towards people near the nest, and many Australians can recount stories of being attacked when cycling to or from school. Juveniles have greyish rather than black plumage, like the juvenile Black-backed in the sixth photo.

Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen) by Ian

Australian Magpies, and their close relatives the Butcherbirds, are candidates for being the finest song birds in Australia. The Magpie has a varied and complex repertoire and is well-known for its flute-like choruses by a pair or group. It is usually started by the senior male or female in the group with other members, including juveniles, joining in. Less intense warbling songs are done by individuals, often for long periods, contain elements of the choral singing and mimicry. The New Zealand Poet, Denis Glover, in his best known poem, The Magpies, rendered the song as ‘and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle/The magpies said’.

The flute-like quality of the voice features in various European names for the Australian Magpie: Cassican flûteur (F), Flötenvogel (G) and Verdugo Flautista (Sp). I think the Germans have got it right with their Fluting-bird – much better than naming it after some unrelated Northern Hemisphere bird that it vaguely resembles. Maybe we should launch a new name for it next Australia Day. Now that would be a fitting Australia Day honour.

Greetings
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland:  iTunesGoogle Play Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

He (Solomon) spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that grows on the wall; he spoke also of animals and birds and creeping things and fish. (1 Kings 4:33 NASB)

Ian, thanks again for sharing your Magpies from Australia. Seeing that he travels all around, he gets to see these different Magpies as he goes off on his birdwatching adventures. Their expressions give a look of intelligence to them.

Check out:

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – European Goldfinch

European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) Female by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – European Goldfinch ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 1/21/15

Last week I mentioned that the Zebra Finch was an Estrildid or Grass Finch (family Estrildidae) without exploring the significance of this, so here is a taxonomically quite different finch, the European Goldfinch (family Fringillidae), to continue the subject. Choosing it was prompted by an email from some English friends of mine currently in New Zealand who expressed disappointment that most of the birds seemed to be ones introduced from the British Isles, naming in particular the Goldfinch. So here is a photo of one that I took in its native habitat, when staying with these friends in 2001 on Alderney one of the smaller inhabited Channel Islands off the coast of France.

It was introduced to Australia as well in the 1860s and is quite widespread in the southeastern mainland and on Tasmania. It’s an attractive bird with a canary-like song and like the Zebra Finch a popular cage bird. So it’s not surprising that homesick settlers introduced it. It does well in farmland, parks and gardens but not in native vegetation.

European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) Male by IanThe sex of adult Goldfinches can be told from their plumage, even though they are very similar and most field guides don’t make the distinction. It’s a bit like those Spot the Difference puzzles, so here, second photo, is an Irish male to compare with the female in the first. The pale cheeks on the female are buff, those on the male white. The red bib on the female is rounded, on the male more rectangular. The female usually has a complete buff breast band; the male just has buff breast patches separate by white. The male is also whiter underneath. There are other subtle differences not apparent in these photos such as the amount of white on the tail.

PAS-Frin European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) Juvenile by IanYou can tell from their stout conical bills that they are seed-eaters, and any such vaguely sparrow-like bird is likely to be called a ‘finch’. In temperate zones seeds are available mainly in spring and autumn, so dietary versatility is needed. The male is chomping its way through the buds and flowers of Hawthorn and Goldfinches will also feed on invertebrates. Their favourite food is the seeds of thistles and their, by finch standards, relatively pointed bills are adapted to picking out seeds from among thorns, like the juvenile bird in the third photo in autumn. Its plumage, apart from the black and yellow wings, is mainly brown and streaked with no red or black on the head, and almost pipit-like.

The juveniles acquire the adult plumage during the first autumn moult, and the rather scruffy individual in the fourth photo is in mid-transition. This photo shows the very pointed bill, even if the owner is looking a bit doubtful about the even scruffier thistle head.

European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) Juvenile by IanGetting around to the taxonomy at last, the various groups of finch-like birds have caused and still cause avian taxonomists many headaches, and I don’t want to trigger any more here. It is sufficient to say that the approximately 700 global species of finch-like birds belong to several separate lineages, currently separated at the level of family.

The Fringillidae to which the Goldfinch belongs, sometimes called the ‘true’ finches (by the Europeans of course) have an almost global distribution but are completely absent, naturally, from Australasia. The Estrildidae, which include all the native Australian grass finches, occur only in Africa, southern and southeast Asia and Australasia (but not New Zealand).

The African members belong to a group called Waxbills, the Asian ones are mainly Munias or Mannikins and the grass finches are predominantly Australian. The Estrildids occur mainly in tropical or sub-tropical regions, and only in Australia have some Firetails ventured into cooler areas: notably the Red-eared Firetail in SW Western Australia and the Beautiful Firetail in the SE mainland and Tasmania.

I’m in danger of getting carried away here, so I’ll stop. Here are some links if you want to explore their photos further: FringillidaeEstrildidae and I haven’t even mentioned the other finch-like birds such as the Sparrows  Buntings and New World SparrowsNew World OriolesWeaversTanagersCardinals

Greetings
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland: iTunesGoogle Play Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

they and every beast after its kind, all cattle after their kind, every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, every bird of every sort. And they went into the ark to Noah, two by two, of all flesh in which is the breath of life. (Genesis 7:14-15 NKJV)

More beautiful birds to check out from Ian. Thanks, Ian. If you check out his links, you will find some very nice photos.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Zebra Finch

PAS-Estr Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Zebra Finch ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 1/12/14

Here’s a perhaps surprising omission so far from the bird of the week series, the Zebra Finch, In Australia the most widespread of the grass- or weaver-finches (family Estrildidae). It is resident almost throughout mainland Australia, avoiding only the very driest deserts (such as the Nullabor Plain and the Great Sandy Desert), Cape York and the cooler and wetter regions of southern Victoria and southern Western Australia. It is absent from Tasmania. I qualified ‘surprising omission’ with ‘perhaps’, as it’s natural to rush into print with rarer and more sought-after species, such as Gouldian Finches, and overlook the more common ones.

With a length of 10cm/4in, it is among the smallest of the 19 species of Estrildid finches found in Australia (17 naturally; 2 introduced), but the males in particular (first photo) are beautiful birds and are hugely popular all over the world. Given the rigours of their natural habitat, they are hardy birds and easy to breed. One of my favourite ways to lazily photograph birds is to sit quietly near a waterhole in dry country and see what arrives, and you can see the bird in the first photo has wet breast and flank feathers from having a dip.

PAS-Estr Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia by Ian

The second photo shows a pair drinking at the same spot. The male on the left is recognisable by its chestnut-coloured cheeks, while the female has plainer plumage, lacking the chestnut plumage on the cheeks and flanks and the stripes on the neck. She still has the stripy tail, white rump and diagnostic vertical ‘tear-drop’ stripe below the eye. This acts as camouflage by obscuring the eye and breaking up the outline of the head.

PAS-Estr Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia by IanThe third photo shows another pair at the same place. They would appear to be having a difference of opinion about something, and the body language suggests to me that the female is getting the upper hand. Most females have plain breasts, but some have a faint breast band like this one. The fourth photo shows another pair, the female having the more typical plain plumage. These two look as if they’re not on very good terms either, definitely not speaking to each other, so you won’t be surprised to hear that Zebra Finches form permanent pair bonds.

PAS-Estr Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia by IanTheir breeding cycles depend on seeding grasses and therefore on rainfall patterns. If the weather is warm enough for grasses to flower, the birds start breeding in response to rain, timing the hatching of the young with the appearance of seed. They will also feed on insects, particular when feeding young. In good conditions, the birds breed repeatedly, and the young, independent 35 days after hatching, can breed when as young as 80 days. Although the pair-bonds are permanent, Zebra Finches are very sociable, often breeding colonially and forming large flocks outside the breeding season. The bonding doesn’t prevent the females from getting on cosy terms with other males, and about 10% of clutches have two fathers (HBW).

PAS-Estr Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia by Ian

PAS-Estr Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia by Ian

Young juveniles resemble the females, but have dark bills. The bird in the fifth photo is an older juvenile male with still only patchy development of the adult plumage.

A closely related population is resident in the Lesser Sundas from Lombok to Timor. This is slightly larger, has a recognisable different song and the males have plain grey rather than striped throats and upper breast. When mixed with Australian birds on captivity, they normally avoid interbreeding unless the male plumage is painted to look like the other type or young birds have been imprinted by being reared by foster parents of the other type. Such hybrids are fertile. Even so, some authorities treat the two races as different species, the Timor and Australian Zebra Finches. ‘Zebra’ doesn’t seem to me a suitable name for the unstriped Timor one, maybe ‘Unzebra’ would be better?

Greetings
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland: iTunesGoogle Play Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

Thanks again Ian for showing us some more beauties. I have seen these in captivity, but it is always nice to see them where they belong – out enjoying the great outdoors.

I also appreciate Ian telling us about how to distinguish between them. That third photo might be of the male being so “overwhelmed” by her beauty that he fell back and sat down to admire her. :0)  (We really never know what a bird is thinking, do we?)

Looking at these birds can’t help but bring these verses to mind:

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6 KJV)

Maybe the Lord created these birds with stripes to remind us of that fact.

The Zebra Finches are members of the Estrildidae Family which has 141 species. See:

Ian’s Estrididae Family

Estrildidae – Waxbills, Munias & Allies here

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Collared Kingfisher

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Collared Kingfisher ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 12-30-14

The first photo shows a present from Santa that I want to share, taken late in the afternoon on Christmas Day: a Collared Kingfisher This species is the only one of the ten Kingfishers and Kookaburras normally found in Australia that hasn’t featured as bird of the week. It’s a close relative of the Sacred Kingfisher, but larger with a much heavier bill. In Australia it is almost exclusively a dweller of mangroves and feeds mainly on crustaceans such as crabs with a carapace width up to 2cm: hence the shell-crunching beak, it’s best field mark.

Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) by Ian

Because of its preference for mangroves and because it’s not very common, I’ve found it a difficult species to photograph in Australia. Often the only access to mangroves is on boardwalks, so you can’t get close to anything that’s not close to the boardwalk and, even if you can, you usually can’t get an uninterrupted view in the dense vegetation. In fact, the only tolerable Australian photo that I had was one I took in Darwin in 2004 where there is a walking track into mangroves from Tiger Brennan Drive.

 

Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) by IanWhen I pass through Cardwell travelling north towards Innisfail and Cairns, I always stop there as it’s a lovely place where the highway runs along the beach front with views of Hinchinbrook Island and a convenient 90 minutes from home. There’s a rest area at the southern end of town close to a patch of mangroves that regularly produces interesting birds. It was badly damaged by cyclone Yasi four years ago, but is now recovering and the path through the mangroves from the rest area to Port Hinchinbrook has been restored.

In early November, I saw a Collared Kingfisher perched in the open on a dead mangrove near the rest area; it was low tide and the bird was presumably looking for dinner on the mudflat. I didn’t get a photo of it – camera malfunction – but looked again on Christmas Eve on the way north and heard and then found one on a different perch in the middle of the mangroves. I got only the quick, back-lit, get-it-before-it-flies-away shot, second photo, before it did exactly that and I didn’t see it again.

Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) by Ian

I returned home on Christmas Day and had another look, as the tide was going out and I hope that this would attract the bird into a more open position for a late feed. Just before I was about to give up, I heard the bird calling and found it perched near the beach. I got some distant shots, but when I approached it it flew over my head and returned to exactly the same back-lit spot where it had been on Christmas Eve. If you compare photos two and three, you can see from the guano stains on the branch that it is only a couple of centimetres apart on the two occasions. Clearly a bird of habits. This time, it tolerated my approach, and allowed me to leave the path, squelch through the mangroves and get around behind it where I took the first photo. Austral

Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) by Ian

I’ve qualified some comments with ‘in Australia’. This species also ranges quite widely through Asia, and in some places it is found in many other habitats including suburban gardens and forested areas along rivers. I had no trouble photographing three in the space of week in Singapore and Malaysia, fourth photo, in 2001. These Asian birds belong to different races from the Australian ones and their taxonomy is very confused, with about 50 subspecies being currently recognized. The Malaysian and Australian races have white underparts but some others, particular those in the Pacific Islands east of New Guinea are quite buff, and some taxonomists think they should be transferred to the Sacred Kingfisher. The calls vary by location too. In Australia the usual contact call is a distinctive two note ‘kek KEK’, with the emphasis on the second one.

I hope Santa brought you what you wanted too.
Happy New Year!

Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Where to Find Birds in Northern QueenslandiTunesGoogle Play Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

“And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.” (Matthew 4:18-20 KJV)

It is always enjoyable to happen upon a bird that is not always easy to find. Of course, when you bring out a camera, you never know if they will stay long enough to get a photo or not. Personally, for me, they seem to scatter. I am glad Ian was able to capture this beautiful Kingfisher’s photo.

You can see Ian’s Kingfisher photos here:

Collared Kingfisher

Sacred Kingfisher

Whole Kingfisher Family

and also enjoy many of his adventures here:

Ian’s Bird of the Week

Kingfishers – Alcedinidae – Whole Family

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