Ian’s Bird of the Week – Crimson Finch

pas-estr-crimson-finch-neochmia-phaeton-by-ian-1Ian’s Bird of the Week – Crimson Finch ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 11/10/16

Crimson Finch featured as bird of the week a little over eight years ago, but I’ve decided to have it again as a pair appeared in my backyard several weeks ago, the first time I’ve seen any in Bluewater.

Shortly earlier, I’d seen what looked like a female Satin Flycatcher having a splash in the pool. Satin Flycatchers are rare in North Queensland, though they do show up sometimes on migration. This one didn’t hang around for a photo while I got the camera, so I headed off around the property looking for it. Female Satin Flycatchers are notorious difficult to separate from their slightly duller cousins, female Leaden Flycatchers, so a photograph is essential not only for identification but also to convince anyone else.

Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) Female by Ian

I didn’t find the Flycatcher, but I found the Crimson Finches, male in the first photo and female in the second, feeding on some unseasonable Guinea Grass. We’ve had an odd dry season with not much but sufficient rain at intervals to confuse some of the local plants – Guinea Grass usually seeds here at the end of the wet season (April). In North Queensland, Crimson Finches are usually found in dense grassland near wetlands, and these two were only about 50m from Bluewater Creek, which was still running at the time.

Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) Fledgling by Ian

A couple of weeks later I photographed this very young Crimson Finch at the Townsville Town Common. When I approached, it was being fed by an adult male, who flew off leaving the young bird to its fate. You can see the very pale gape, typical of very young birds. Young Crimson Finches just have a reddish flush in the wings and tail.

Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) Male by Ian

A few days after seeing the pair of Crimson Finches in the backyard, a male Crimson Finch obligingly appeared beside the pool when I was having a swim. I thought the plumage was more intensely coloured and with strong white spots on the flanks than the male member of the earlier pair – more like the one in the fourth photo. I wondered whether they were different individuals, with the first one being younger than the second. The one in the fourth photo was taken on a trip to the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia in 2009.

Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) X Star Hybrid by Ian

On that same trip, I photographed this odd-looking individual at Kununurra. We decided that it was a hybrid between a Crimson Finch and a Star Finch, both of which were present at the time and both of which belong to the same genus, Neochmia, which includes two other Australian species: Red-browed and Plum-headed Finches.

I don’t really keep a yard list as such. If I did, the day I found the Crimson Finches would have been notable. Apart from the possible Satin Flycatcher, later that afternoon I flushed a female King Quail. This time I was armed not with the camera but a brush cutter as part of the fire season preparations.

Several weeks later I had the rest of the long grass cut by a man with a tractor. After he had finished, I went down to inspect the result and spotted a Blue-winged Kookaburra pouncing on something in the cut grass. This proved to be the King Quail, which flew off at high speed pursued by the Kookaburra. The Quail landed safely in some long grass and the Kookaburra perched in a nearby tree. If you ever tried to flush a quail a second time, you’ll know how elusive they are on the ground, so I hope the Kookaburra didn’t have quail for lunch.

Greetings
Ian


Lee’s Addition:

“Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.” (Mat 13:32 KJV)

Thanks again, Ian for another beautiful avian wonder for us to enjoy. That hybrid is quite interesting also. We have seen the Star Finch before, but this is an interesting mix. Also, glad you are putting these Birds of the Week out again.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Birdway Finch photos

Estrildidae – Waxbills, Munias and allies

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Masked Booby

Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 10/14/16

Masked Booby was bird of the week in May 2011, but here it is again to acknowledge the recent use of one of my photos in an Australian, or more specifically, Norfolk Island, stamp.

Here is the original photo taken on Philip Island just off Norfolk Island in 2012. The differences between the sexes in Masked Boobies are subtle, with the main difference being in the colour of the bill: yellower in males than in females which have a bluish tint to the bill.

Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) by Ian

Here is another male Booby from the 2011 bird of the week, taken on an island in the Coral Sea east of Townsville. Note the difference in the colour of the eye. Masked Boobies generally have yellow irises, but those breeding on Norfolk Island, Lord Howe Island and Kermadec Island (off New Zealand) have dark brown irises and are sufficiently different in other less obvious respects to be treated as a separate race, sometimes known as the Tasman Booby (Sula dactylatra tasmani).

Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) by Ian

The next photo shows an adult female Masked Booby on Norfolk Island itself. Here you can see another difference characteristic of the tasmani subspecies: the legs and feet are khaki (those of the race personata found in the Coral Sea, off Western Australia and elsewhere across the Pacific have dark, almost black legs and feet.

Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) Female by Ian

Here is a juvenile at the same site on Norfolk Island as the female bird. The juveniles are somewhat similar in appearance to adult Brown Boobies and the best distinguishing field mark is the complete white collar of the juvenile Masked Booby. In Brown Boobies the brown of the head and neck is contiguous with the brown of the back and, in front, extends as far down as level with the wings and is sharply demarcated from the white breast.

Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) Juvenile by Ian

Here is another photo of a juvenile Masked Booby, this time in flight and at Lord Howe Island, the other Australian breeding colony of the Tasman subspecies. The white collar is clear visible in flight too, as is the extensive amount of white on the breast.

Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) Juvenile by Ian

Masked Boobies breed on isolated islands throughout the tropics and sub-tropics. As well as occurring across the Pacific, they breed in the eastern and western Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and in the western and central Atlantic. The adults normally stay close to the breeding colonies, though young birds and some adults do range farther afield. So, they do occur occasional along the coast of mainland Australia.

The largest colony is found on an uninhabited coral cay called Clipperton Island or Ile de al Passion – it’s a French territory – off the coast of Mexico, with a population of perhaps 100,000 birds.

It was visited in 1958 by an American ornithologist called Kenneth Stager who was shocked to find that feral pigs had reduced the population of Masked Boobies to a mere 150 birds. Being an old-fashioned ornithologist, he had a gun with him to collect specimens so he singlehandedly shot all of the pigs, 58 in number, restoring the cay to to its pre-human state.

Other animals to benefit were the local red crabs and other nesting seabirds. It has the second largest colony of Brown Boobies and one of the relatively few colonies of the eastern Pacific Nazca Booby, very similar in appearance to the Masked, but better known on the Galapagos island and Isla de al Plata off the coast of Ecuador.

Ian Montgomery – Birdway – Photos


Lee’s Addition:

It has been well over a month since Ian produced one of his articles for us to enjoy. I wrote to Ian to see if he was okay, and here is part of his response. I trust he doesn’t mind, but this will help us think about and pray for his recovery.

“I did have problems with the second cataract operation as an interruption to the blood supply to the retina caused some loss of sight to the central part of the field of view – cloudiness, blurriness and lack of colour vision. Naturally that was a bit of a shock and for a while it made me reluctant to do anything which made me more conscious of it, particularly photography and working with images on the computer.

Anyway, the eye is gradually improving, though whether it will recover completely over the next six months or so is uncertain. Your email prompted me to stop vacillating about the bird of the week and get me into action, so thank you for that.”

More Ian’s Bird of the Week articles
Ian’s Bird of the Week – Long-tailed and White-winged Trillers – previous one
Gideon
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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Red Kite

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Red Kite ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 8/18/2016

Definitely bird of the month at the moment, I regret. Recently one of my cataracts worsened quickly, making it difficult to observe birds, take and edit photos: very discouraging to say the least. Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, I had the offending lens replaced ten days ago, resulting in a spectacular improvement in my eye sight. Now I’m looking forward to getting the other one done this coming Monday.

The Red Kite, like the Common Buzzard in the last edition of bird of the week, is another good news story in the recent history of raptors in Ireland. This time its recovery is a result of a successful reintroduction, rather than natural recolonisation with parallel reintroductions by the Irish Golden Eagle Trust in Co. Wicklow south of Dublin and by the RSPB in Co. Down south of Belfast, starting in 2007 and 2008 respectively. Introduced pairs nested successfully in both counties in 2010, and Irish-born Red Kites nested successfully in these counties in 2012 and 2013. In 2014, there were 16 pairs in Co. Down and in 2015 there were 47 pairs in Co. Wicklow, 2 pairs in Co. Wexford and 4 pairs in Dublin-Meath so the population seems to be thriving despite some deaths from rodenticides – Red Kites are partial to carrion.

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) by Ian

I had photographed Red Kites in Spain and Andorra in 2007 and 2014 (first photo), but I was keen to see them in Ireland too. The best place to see them in Co. Wicklow is in Avoca, where there is a winter roost which contained more than 60 birds in the 2015-2016 winter. I went there with my cousin Jean in June and after a distant view of a bird hunting along the Avoca River, she took me to another (secret) location where she had seen a pair of birds in March. Sure enough the birds were still there and nesting in a pine tree.

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) by Ian

We were of course anxious not to disturb the pair, so we parked at some distance from the nest and observed it from the car. So I make no apologies for the distance at which photos 2,3 and 4 were taken. No. 2 shows an adult bird flying towards the nest carrying food. No. 3 shows the same bird on the right of the nest being watched by two nestlings on the left. One of the nestlings looks nearly fledged while the second is less well-developed and still has downy white feathers. No. 4 shows the adult flying away from the nest still carrying the food, watched by the nestlings. The colour of the adult matches that of the tree but the blue wing tags give its location away.

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) by Ian

We wondered whether the adult was wary of us sitting in the car but it returned to the nest two minutes later and we drove away leaving them all in peace. By this time it was late evening so we drove back to Avoca village to see whether any non-breeding birds were using the roost. We parked in the car park opposite the church on the main street and were treated to several kites – and a Common Buzzard – circling over the town.. The one in the last photo flew right over our heads in the car park. You can see the wing tags on this one too.

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) by Ian

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) by Ian

Congratulations to both the Golden Eagle Trust and the RSPB on their wonderful work.

Greetings,
Ian


Lee’s Addition:

And the vulture, and the kite after his kind; (Leviticus 11:14 KJV)

I had begun to wonder where Ian had disappeared to. Concerned he may have been sick or hurt. Now we know. Thanks, Ian, for telling us about your cataract problem. Been there, done that. What a difference it makes when they put the lens implant in. Like you, I need one more, but mine isn’t “ripe” yet, as they tell me.

What a beautiful Kite. That last photo is my favorite!

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian Montgomery’s Birdway

Ian’s Birdway Kite’s

Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks and Eagles

Gideon

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Common Buzzard

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Common  Buzzard

~ By Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 7/09/16

More like bird of the month at the moment, I regret. Slovakia is famous for its raptors so they, along with owls and woodpeckers, were my primary target there with my sister Gillian in June. We did get to see the most interesting ones: Eastern Imperial Eagle, Golden Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, and Saker and Peregrine Falcon, but they were very shy and I had little success with their photography. I suspect it was because deer hunting is popular there – we saw many hides used by hunters – but perhaps also because it was the breeding season.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) by Ian

Ironically, I had more luck with raptors when we returned to Ireland. When I was a teenager there in the 1960s, Ireland was probably one of the worst countries in the world for raptors. All the larger and mid-size ones (Eagles, Buzzards, Harriers, etc) had been exterminated in the 19th and early 20th century, and some of the smaller ones like Peregrines and Sparrowhawks were rare as result of widespread use of pesticides such as DDT, the Silent Spring phenomenon. So the Common Kestrel was the only species that one saw regularly.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) by Ian
Things have improved since as a result of the banning of the most persistent pesticides, the re-introduction of some species and natural recolonisation by one species. I’ll deal with a re-introduction next time, but here is the recoloniser, the Common Buzzard which became extinct in Ireland in 1891. It recolonised Rathlin Island on the far north coast of Ireland twice, once in the 1930s and again after it became extinct a second time as the result of the myxomitosis rabbit-killing epidemic in the 1950s. Rathlin Island is a mere 30km/20miles from the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland, no distance for able-bodied young Buzzards in search of a territory.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) by Ian

Rathlin Island is also about as far as you can get in Northern Ireland from the Irish Republic, where strychnine was legally used to poison ‘pests’ by sheep farmers until it was outlawed in 1991. Far be it from me to jump to conclusions, but it seems a huge coincidence that the subsequent spread of the Common Buzzard to almost the whole of Ireland didn’t start until the 1990s and continues to this day. I saw my first Irish one in 1994 in Co. Louth just south of the border with Northern Ireland. Since then, its range extension has been spectacular. It is now, if not the commonest, certainly the easiest raptor to see in Ireland either soaring over fields or perched on light poles near Motorways. In 2015 it bred in at least 18 of the 32 counties. It is still uncommon in the west of Ireland, west of a line from about Sligo to Cork, though I did see one in Bantry, West Cork on this trip.

The bird in the photos did, unlike its Slovakian counterparts, an obliging fly-past when we visited the RSPB reserve at Portmore Lough. This was on the day after our return to Ireland, when we were staying with cousins at nearby rural Ballinderry in Northern Ireland. Portmore Lough, better known for its wildfowl and nesting Common Terns and Black-headed Gulls (they nest on the floating platform provided for their benefit, just visible behind the reeds in the photo), is an interesting place in its own right. It’s a shallow, almost circular lake perhaps 2km across and about the same distance from Lough Neagh, the largest lake in Ireland. Rumour has it that it was formed by an air-burst meteor or a meteorite about 1500 years ago.

Hunting Castle

Actually, the real reason for my trip to Europe was not raptors or Slovakia but the marriage of my sister Gillian’s son Ian at Huntington Castle in Co. Carlow to his fiancée Sinéad. Huntington Castle was ‘rebuilt’ in 1625, captured by Oliver Cromwell in 1650. It is, presumably, the subject of an ancient tune by the same name (I have a copy of a Scottish version dating from 1795) that I knew already from as a duet that we play on recorders in Townsville. The photo shows me playing it on a tenor recorder during the signing of the register and being watched very intently by my one year old great-nephew Loïc sitting on the lap of his mother Jeannine, one of nephew Ian’s two sisters. His other sister Elyena took the photo and my sister Gillian is holding the sheet music in the form of my iPad, a great family occasion.

What has Huntington Castle to do with Buzzards? Well, just as the celebrant was starting the ceremony and saying that the wedding date was the sixth anniversary of the couple’s meeting, a pair of Common Buzzards circled very deliberately just overhead. I, naturally, took that as a sign of a natural blessing on the wedding and like to think of the pair of birds as a totem of the married couple. Birds are frequently totems in Aboriginal Culture and, as I write, it is currently NAIDOC week in Australia, a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements.

Greetings (from back home in North Queensland)
Ian


Lee’s Addition”

“And these you shall regard as an abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard,” (Leviticus 11:13 NKJV)

Not exactly sure why Ian added the third picture twice in his newsletter, but I deleted it. If he later updates it, I’ll correct this one. Anyway, seems as if Ian has been having too much fun lately. As he said, his Bird of the “Week” is turning into the Bird of the “Month.” I totally understand, so, he is off the hook, as far as I’m concerned.

Nice article and glad you got to attend the wedding. Thanks for the photo of you playing your recorder. The Common Buzzards were of course great as usual.

Ian’s Bird of the Week Newsletters

Ian’s Birdway Site

Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks and Eagles Family

Wordless Birds

Ian’s Bird of the Week – European Bee-eater

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – European Bee-eater by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 6/11/16

I met my sister Gilian in Vienna where we spent a couple of days before going by boat along the Danube to Bratislava, just across the border with Slovakia. We arranged to spend three days with birding guides with my targets being to photograph raptors, owls and woodpecker. We went on the first day to this large European Bee-eater colony just outside Bratislava.

The colony was in a sandy cliff at a site near Devin Castle which sits in a strategic location at the confluence of the Danube and Morava Rivers, both of which form the border between Austria and Slovakia. I was able to sit at the edge of the cliff and photograph both birds perched in the shrubs below me and flying to and from their burrows in the cliff. European Bee-eaters are vocal and make a soft trilling call similar to their close Australian relatives, the Rainbow Bee-eater and it was very pleasant watching and listening to them.

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) by Ian

“European” is a bit of a mis-nomer as they are migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and breed across the warmer parts of Eurasia from North Africa, through Europe to central Asia. Since the nineteenth century some have stayed behind to breed in South Africa, which they do in the southern summer and then move farther north in Africa in the southern autumn at the same time as their Eurasian counterparts are moving north to breed in the northern hemisphere. South African populations have declined in recent years so this situation may not last.

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) by Ian

Bees do make up a large part of their diet, though they will eat many other insects as well. After catching a bee, a bee-eater will take it back to a perch where it bangs the head of the unfortunate insect on the branch and then rubs its tail on the branch to get rid of the sting. If you look carefully at the photo below you will see that a lucky bee has just used up one of its nine lives, that is if they have that many like cats.

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) by Ian

The photo below shows both the bee-eater colony and in the distance Devin Castle on a 200m/600ft high rock. There are bee-eater burrows both in the bank on the left and in the bottom right of the photo.

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) Bee-eater Colony near Devin Castle Slovakia by Ian

Devin Castle has a very interesting history and you can read about it here Devín Castle. The same site is an important one for fossils as well and our birding guide showed us some rocks that had mollusc fossils in it that looked like scallops.

I’m on a Dublin bus at the moment going to visit my niece. Thanks to the miracles of modern communication and the Irish SIM card in my mobile I can send this to you from my laptop.

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:

“Now for the house of my God I have prepared with all my might: gold for things to be made of gold, silver for things of silver, bronze for things of bronze, iron for things of iron, wood for things of wood, onyx stones, stones to be set, glistening stones of various colors, all kinds of precious stones, and marble slabs in abundance.” (1 Chronicles 29:2 NKJV) (emphasis mine)

I love those beautiful Bee-eaters and this European is just a colorful as the rest of them. I am glad that when the Lord created these avian beauties, He chose to give them such beautiful colors. Oh, what heaven must look like!

Thanks again, Ian, for sharing some more beautiful birds with us. Safe travels and great birding.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Bee-eater Family Photos

Meropidae – Bee-eater Family

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Southern Lapwing

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Southern Lapwing ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 5/24/16

It is, I regret more than a month since last bird of the “week” so you have probably given me up for lost or worse, unless of course you’ve been so busy too that you haven’t noticed. Anyway, I’m now at Brisbane airport waiting for a flight, so you have my undivided attention for at least half an hour.

Southern Lapwing (Vanellus chilensis) by Ian

I’m continuing the series of global Lapwings, with a South American one, the Southern Lapwing. It’s crest gives it a superficial resemblance to the Northern Lapwing of Eurasia, but it’s not a very close relative and used to be in its own monotypic (single species) genus.

Southern Lapwing (Vanellus chilensis) by Ian

It has a wide distribution from the tip of Tierra del Fuego in the south to Nicaragua in Central America. Interestingly, there are two Lapwing species in South America (the other is the Andean Lapwing) but none in North America, odd given the almost global distribution of Lapwing species so one would wonder how their ancestors got around.

Southern Lapwing (Vanellus chilensis) by Ian

The Southern Lapwing lacks the gentle manners of its Northern counterpart and is noisy and aggressive like the Masked Lapwing of Australia. In fact, in Brazil and Chile it is often kept with wings clipped as a guard ‘dog’. Maybe I should get one to get my own back on my neighbour’s Great Dane who often wakes me in the middle of the night.

Another reason why I’ve been slack about the bird of the week is that I haven’t been doing much bird photography. That I hope is about to change. I’m on my way to Vienna at the moment with the intention of spending a week birding with my sister Gillian in Slovakia en route to my nephew’s wedding in Ireland (her son Ian), so I hope I’ll have some interesting photos for you soon.

Greetings
Ian


Lee’s Addition:

And the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat. (Lev 11:19 KJV)

I was beginning to wonder where Ian had traveled to, because, like he said, no newsletter had been sent. Glad he is busy, but miss his newsletter adventures. What a beautiful Lapwing.

Like Ian, we haven’t done much birdwatching either. Now that our wintering birds have flown north, except for our locals, birdwatching has slowed down. There are plenty of tales to tell from previous unpublished adventures. So, stay tuned!

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Red-wattled Lapwing

Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Red-wattled Lapwing ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 4/19/16

While we’re on the subject of Lapwings, here is a rather smart Asian one, the Red-wattled Lapwing, which bears more than a passing resemblance to its close relative the Banded Lapwing of Australia. The Banded Lapwing differs in having a yellow eye-ring and yellow base to the bill, pink legs, and the black and white pattern on the head and neck is different too.

It’s usually found near water, like this one on the Yamuna River which flows through Delhi but is otherwise fairly catholic in its habitat preferences, which include cultivated land and it is quite common in some densely populated areas. Both House Crows and humans like its eggs but in India it has taken to nesting on pebbled roofs and walls instead of on the ground. This probably doesn’t inconvenience the crows too much, but studies have shows that this leads to a spectacular increase in hatching and fledging success. Like all plovers, the chicks are mobile at an early age but don’t fly till much later, so you’d wonder how well they fare running around on rooftops. Maybe they bounce well.

Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus) by Ian

It was originally described from Indian specimens, hence the specific name indicus. In fact it ranges quite widely from Turkey in the west through the southern part of the Middle East to all of southern and southeast Asia. The original type found in India is the nominate race, but three other sub-species are described. I came across the western race aigneri in Dubai a couple of years ago, third photo, when visiting an equestrian park where the main attraction was – no not horses – the Cream-coloured Courser This race has larger and paler than the Indian one, but otherwise rather similar. There is a third race in Sri Lanka and a fourth in southeast Asia which has a white cheek above a completely black collar and is also called the Black-necked Lapwing.

Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus aigneri) Western Race by Ian

The fourth photo shows a juvenile bird of the western race at the same place. The red wattle is incompletely developed, the crown is brownish and there are pale streaks on the throat. Otherwise, it is quite like the adult.

Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus aigneri) Western Race by Ian

Many thanks for those of you who responded to my successful call for house-sitters. I’m sorry to have disappointed some suitable applicants, but I’ll keep you in mind for future opportunities.

Greetings
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818

el 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 the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.” (Leviticus 11:19 KJV)

What a great looking bird. I like the clean lines on them and the stately look of that first photo especially. Thanks, Ian, for sharing this beautiful Lapwing with us.

Lapwings are one of the birds in the Bible listed not to eat. These are too pretty and their legs are too skinny. :)

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Birds of the Bible – Lapwing

Bats

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Masked Lapwing

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Masked Lapwing ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 4/5/16

This is a seriously overdue bird of the week, so I offer you my apologies. The reason or excuse, and the good news, is that I was working hard to complete the conversion of the birdway website to make it ‘mobile friendly’ and that is now finished. I’ve converted more than 1,600 galleries of birds and other wildlife and all the navigational pages, such as family thumbnails. Naturally I’ve thought up other improvements such as a top-level page of wildlife thumbnails but I’m taking a rest from the website to play catch-up with other effortlessly side-lined tasks such as 2015 tax returns :-).<

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) by Ian 1

The last bird of the week was the elegant and dignified Northern Lapwing, one of the birds that got me interested in birding more than 50 years ago. This week we have its loud and arrogant Australian cousin, the Masked Lapwing. Just in case you think I’m making an offensive comparison, I hasten to add that the other Australian Lapwing – and the only truly indigenous one – the Banded Lapwing is shy, dignified and attractive, which is probably why I’ve previously chosen it rather than the Masked Lapwing as bird of the week. It is, however, much rarer but I’ll let you draw your own conclusions from that.

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) by Ian 2

The Masked Lapwing comes in two forms, sufficiently different to cause taxonomists chronic and persisting migraines. The northern variety, the ‘Masked Lapwing/Plover’ in the strict sense, shown in the first photo has a huge yellow wattle and a black cap that tapers to a point on the nape, while the southern ‘Spur-winged Lapwing/Plover’, second photo has a wattle that is much smaller (posteriorly) and shorter (ventrally) and a larger black cap which extends as an incomplete black collar draped over the shoulders. There are other difference: the northern one is paler, smaller and shorter-winged but has a larger bill. Consequently, taxonomists disagree as to whether we’re dealing with one or two species.

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) by Ian 3

The IOC, which I’m following here, treats them as a single species, the northern one being the nominate race Vanellus miles (miles) and the southern being the sub-species V. miles novaehollandiae. The New Holland tag refers to its original entirely mainland Australian range from Central Queensland south to Victoria and east to South Australia, while the nominate race occurs in northern Australia, New Guinea, eastern Indonesia and Christmas Island. BirdLife International treats them as different species, with the southern form being given full specific status Vanellus novaehollandiae. Unfortunately the name Spur-winged Lapwing is already used for an African species V. spinosus, so Birdlife International calls the Australian one the ‘Black-shouldered Lapwing’, a name largely unused in Australia.

The problem with treating them as different species is that the two form hybridise over a broad zone from Far North to Central Queensland – Cairns to Mackay – a particular obstacle to identification in Townsville, more or less in the middle. The bird in the third photo is a typical Townsville one with a somewhat intermediate, largish wattle and black smudges both below the main cap and on the shoulders. It’s fairly like the pure northern variety found in Cairns, but I’m more comfortable treating it as hybrid miles x novaehollandiae and regarding them as a single species.

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) by Ian 4

The fourth photo shows another Townsville bird cooling off in a dam in a paddock. It’s also displaying the impressive carpal spurs on the wings, possessed by both the Masked and Spur-winged varieties. The Spur-winged race has dark tips on both the spurs and the bill. The spurs are used as weapons and the birds are very aggressive when nesting and the spurs are used both on the ground and in flight (below), with the parents dive-bombing intruders in spectacular fashion. The specific name miles mean ‘soldier’ in Latin. They’re noisy birds too, and not just when nesting. Their sharp, grating ‘kekekekeke’ or shrill repeated ‘kek’ calls are a familiar sound throughout their range, day and night.

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) by Ian 5

The ‘nest’ is just a scrape in the ground in short grass often near water and often in very vulnerable locations such as roadsides, parks, paddocks, gardens and airfields. They usually lay 3 or 4 large eggs and will re-lay if the clutch is lost to predation, mowing or being stepped on. Typical predators include birds such as Butcherbirds and reptiles such as Goannas (Monitor lizards).

Despite heavy losses, Masked Lapwings would appear to have benefitted from clearing of land following European settlement. In the past two hundred years, their range has expanded in Australia, and the southern race has become well established in Tasmania and colonised New Zealand, Lord Howe Island and, recently, New Caledonia, where it has bred since 1998. This is despite the fact that it relatively sedentary in Australia, although an altitudinal migrant in the Snowy Mountains.

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) eggs by Ian 6

As in all plovers, the eggs are large so the hatchlings are well developed and mobile at a very early age, below, after incubation by both parents for 28-30 days. They can also swim when very young. Until they fledge after 5-7 weeks, they remain very vulnerable to predation, relying on camouflage and their parents for survival.

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) Chicks by Ian 7

Below is an older youngster showing the barred plumage and an already developing wattle. They start feeding themselves from a very early age but remain dependent on the parents for up to six months. The parents maintain the pair bond from one year to another and often return to the same site to nest.

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles x novaehollandiae) Immature by Ian 6

So there you have it: noisy, aggressive and successful. Sounds like a very 21st century lifestyle to me.

Incidentally, because all the new web pages use embedded scripts to load common code such as headers, their file names end in ‘.php’ instead of ‘.htm’. If you use bookmarks to access the website, you’ll automatically get redirected to the correct file or, in the case of individual photo pages, to the first photo page in the gallery. You may care to update the bookmarks either by replacing them (easier) or, for the technically inclined, editing them to replace the ‘htm’ with ‘php’. If you do, the pages should load faster.

Greetings

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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:

Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. (2 Timothy 2:3 KJV)

Thanks again, Ian. What a coincidence, we were at the Lowry Park Zoo today and guess what a took a picture of? A Masked Lapwing.

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) by Lee at LPZ

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) by Lee at LPZ

It was nice being out birdwatching again after having been home-bound with bronchitis. Thanks for all your prayers for my recovery. Even the back was better today. Praise the Lord.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Birdway

Ian’s Banded Lapwing

Wordless Toucan

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Northern Lapwing

 

Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Northern Lapwing ~ Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 3/14/16

I’m wading through all the non-Australian galleries on the website making them ‘mobile-friendly’, and I came across what is for me an iconic species. It brought back memories of when I first saw Northern Lapwings in September 1961 on the way back from summer holidays in Co. Kerry. The Lapwings were gathered in large flocks with Golden Plover on the Curragh in Co. Kildare, a large grassy plain west of Dublin probably better known for its race track. I was very struck by the crests of the Lapwings – they seemed very exotic by Irish standards – and I was motivated to find out what they were.

I was 14 then and already interested in wildlife but birds hadn’t previously attracted my attention until several interesting sightings that year which included, in addition to the Lapwings, a good view of a Common Kingfisher and a mysterious sandpiper on a golf course in Co. Kerry, probably a Common Redshank Anyway, my parents responded to my interest and gave me, when we got home, a copy of the classic Peterson et al. Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe. At Christmas 1961, a pair of binoculars came my way, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) by Ian

Northern Lapwings are a characteristic bird of farmland and marshes in Europe, occurring on both arable land and pasture. They breed throughout Britain and Ireland and their numbers are augment in winter by migrants from northern Europe. The bird in the first two photos is a male in breeding plumage. Breeding males have longer crests and more black on the face and throat than females. When I photographed these I was in a hide in Finland at the lek where Ruffs were displaying, but birds of other species came from time to time. The Lapwings were nesting and this young fledgling was wandering around the hide.

Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) Chick by Ian

In non-breeding plumage, the crests are shorter, the throat is white and there are buffish fringes on the feathers covering the wings (fourth photo). This one is feeding in the estuary of the River Boyne downstream from Drogheda.

Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) by Ian

I’m making good progress with website. I’ve finished more than 1,100 galleries and have less than 400 to go. I hope to finish them off in a few weeks, and maybe you’ll get the bird of the week more regularly then!

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:

“And the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.” (Lev 11:19 KJV)

Ian, thanks for all your hard work on the website. It can be very time-consuming when working behind the scenes. (I know from experience.) When you finish, we will be here waiting on the great Bird of the Week articles you share with us. Lapwings have become one of my favorite birds to watch at the zoos. Though, I don’t think I have seen the Northern one.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Barn Swallow

 

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica gutturalis) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Barn Swallow ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 3/1/16

I’ve just been making galleries of the Australasian Swallow family ‘mobile-friendly’ and noticed that the Barn Swallow has never been Bird of the Week. Although not well known in Australia or New Zealand – where it is replaced by the closely related Welcome Swallow – it is an iconic migrant species in the Northern Hemisphere. It is a welcome harbinger of Spring and recognised not just by birders but by anyone with an interest in the weather. It has an almost global range south of the Arctic Circle breeding right across Eurasia and North America and spending the northern winter in almost all of Sub-Saharan Africa, South and Southeast Asia and most of Central and South America except southern Chile and Argentina.

Relatively small numbers reach northern Australia each year so sharp-eyed birders look out for it northern Western Australia, the Top End of the Northern Territory and Northern Queensland during the Southern Summer. Eight or more races are recognised and these vary in the length of the tail streamers, the width of the diagnostic dark blue breast band and the colour of the underparts, varying from white to rufous buff. Interestingly, in Eurasia the length of the tail streamers and the width of the breast band get shorter and narrower respectively as you travel from north-west to south-east – in other words the closer you get to Australia the more like the Welcome Swallow the races become.

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica gutturalis) by Ian

The Malaysian bird in the first photo is of the Asian race gutturalis – thought to be the one that turns up in Australia – while the one in the second photo was taken at Newell Beach near Mossman north of Cairns. After migrating in the northern Autumn, the birds moult and adults lose their long tail streamers, so this is why both these birds have short tails. Gutturalis, like ‘guttural’ refers to the throat i.e. ‘-throated’ without specifying what is distinctive about the throat. Maybe it refers to the dark spot in the centre of the breast band. Newell Beach is known as a bit of a Swallow hot-spot and on this occasion, the Barn Swallow was in the company of Welcome SwallowsFairy and Tree Martins and Red-rumped Swallows (uncommon in Australia) all near the entrance to the golf course.

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica erythrogaster) by Ian

The North American race of the Barn Swallow is called erythrogaster, meaning red-bellied as in the fine specimen in the third photo. This has the dark spot in the middle of the throat too and an incomplete breast band, largely hidden in the third photo but more obvious in the two birds in the fourth photo taken about half an hour earlier in the same location. Females Barn Swallows are generally paler than males so I suppose the one on the left is a female though only one of several North American field guides that I consulted was prepared to commit itself on this gender-based distinction.

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica erythrogaster) by Ian

The one in the fifth photo of the nominate race rustica in Ireland in Spring shows the very white underparts and very long tail streamers of breeding adults. Because the adults moult in Autumn after migrating south, short adult tail streamers are not usually seen in the Northern Hemisphere and it is safe to assume there that birds with short streamers are juveniles.

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica gutturalis) by Ian

Swallows usually feed on the wing and perch above the ground. In adverse weather, they do sometimes feed on the ground and in the breeding season they land to collect mud and fibres such as grasses or horse hair to build their cup-shaped nests, sixth photo. This Spanish bird is also of the nominate race and you can see the broad breast band with no central spot. I keep mentioning this spot as, although all the field guides tell us that Welcome Swallows lack a breast band, all the birds I have photographed whether adults or juveniles have at least traces of this black spot, suggesting a close affinity with Asian Barn Swallows.

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica rustica) by Ian

Barn Swallows are prolific breeders and will nest up to three times in a season. Studies have shown that breeding success averages 4-7 fledglings per pair. Adult survival on migration appears to be high – up to 65% return to the same breeding site – so juvenile mortality is presumably severe. The seventh photo shows two fledglings in a concrete shelter in a bird sanctuary in Dublin waiting for the parents to return with food.

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica rustica) by Ian

The eight photo was taken 27 seconds later than the seventh and shows that one of the juveniles has flown out to meet an adult returning with food. Presumably such mid-air transfers help the fledglings develop their flying skills for the time when the parents abandon them to start a new brood and they have to fend for themselves.

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica rustica) by Ian

We now take for granted the amazing migration of small birds but for a long time the complete disappearance of Swallows was assumed to be because they hibernated in winter. The ancient Greeks including Aristotle thought that they hibernated in the mud at the bottom of ponds. We now think that that’s a bit silly as they wouldn’t be able to breathe but the sensible rationale was presumably that the bottom of deep ponds do not freeze in winter. It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that the hibernation theory was disproved. The alternative theory of being able to fly many thousands of miles, cross deserts like the Sahara and navigate at night with extraordinary precision is equally preposterous.

Welcome Swallows don’t really migrate even though they move around after breeding (‘partial migrant’) and some at least remain in the colder regions such as Tasmania and the South Island of New Zealand. So I wonder why they’re ‘Welcome’?

Meanwhile back at the website, I finally updated all the Australasian galleries. That’s 800 down and about 700 to go, so there’s light at the end of the tunnel!
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:

“Even the sparrow has found a home, And the swallow a nest for herself, Where she may lay her young— Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts, My King and my God.” (Psalms 84:3 NKJV)

“Even the stork in the heavens Knows her appointed times; And the turtledove, the swift, and the swallow Observe the time of their coming. But My people do not know the judgment of the LORD.” (Jeremiah 8:7 NKJV)

Thanks, Ian, for sharing these different subspecies of the Barn Swallows. That third one looks like he has his eye Ian. Probably wondering what that big long lens is pointing at him.

Always enjoy seeing Swallows, especially the Barn Swallows.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Australasian Swallow family

Birds of the Bible – Swallow

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Barred Honeyeater

Mont Koghi, New Caledonia by Ian

I’m currently working my way through the Honeyeater galleries on the website and on Saturday I’m giving a talk on the birds of New Caledonia to BirdLife Townsville, so here is New Caledonian endemic the Barred Honeyeater. it is confined the main island of Grande Terre, where it is reasonably common in woodland areas, particular in hilly country, e.g. Mont Koghi just outside Noumea.

It seemed to like perching high up in trees, like this one at Riviere Bleue, and at the time we had bigger distractions at hand (such as the Kagu) so we left it to its own devices.

Barred Honeyeater (Glycifohia undulata) by Ian

On our second visit to Mont Koghi (in search of the Horned Parakeet) we came across this one perched more obligingly at eye level in some flowering ginger. While we were photographing it, a member of the staff at the nearby inn, came galloping along to tell us that a Horned Parakeet had arrived, and the poor honeyeater was abandoned unceremoniously.

Barred Honeyeater (Glycifohia undulata) by Ian

From its shape and general appearance it’s clearly a Honeyeater, but the wavy barred plumage is unlike any Australian Honeyeater and gives it its specific name undulata. Not surprisingly, it has no close relatives in Australia, though it was plonked in the same genus as the New Holland and White-cheeked Honeyeaters (Phylidonyris) until someone decided to look at its genes a bit more closely and removed it and its only close relative the Vanuatu Honeyeater (G. notabilis) to their own genus.

Barred Honeyeater (Glycifohia undulata) by Ian

New Caledonia has some strikingly unusual birds – which is why we were there in the first place – but this familiar but different theme was much more often the case with a broad spectrum from very similar (same species but usually a different race) through somewhat different (common genus, different species) and very different (separate genera) to the Kagu which is in a family of its own and an in order with no other Australasian representatives. I found this very interesting and this is why the theme of my talk at 2:00pm on Saturday afternoon is “New Caledonian Birds: from strangely familiar to very strange”. You can find out about the activities of Birdlife Townsville here http://www.birdlifetownsville.org.au/2016_Calendar.html and details of the location here http://www.birdlifetownsville.org.au/Activities.html.

Work on converting the website to make it ‘mobile friendly’ continues and I’m in the middle of the Honeyeaters With photos of 76 species – and therefore 76 galleries – this is easily the largest family in the website – the ducks and their relatives come second with 64 species. So, I regard it as something of a watershed and look forward to having the Honeyeaters behind me and tell myself that it will all be downhill from then on!

If you’re a local or in the Townsville area, I hope to see you on Saturday.
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 rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” (Genesis 9:16 NKJV)

Beautiful rainbow photo and the of course the Barred Honeyeater is pretty. I noticed that in each photo the bird has his eye on Ian. Thanks, Ian, for sharing another of your adventures into the world of avian wonders.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week articles

Ian’s Birdway

Honeyeaters – Meliphagidae

Wordless Birds

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Azure Kingfisher

Azure Kingfisher (Ceyx azurea) by Ian

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

Newsletter – 2/2/2016

Although the second boat trip at Daintree didn’t produce any more Black Bitterns, it did produce a few gems including this Azure Kingfisher. This has featured as bird of the week before, but that was almost exactly nine years ago so I imagine you’ll forgive another one. They’re small (17-19cm/6.5-7.5in) usually quite shy and often hard to spot perched in dense riverine forest but these ones on the Daintree seem to be used to boats full of birders. Anyone this one let us get very close. Incidentally, I meant to provide a link to Ian Worcester’s website last week but forgot, so here it is: Daintree River Wild Watch.

The one in the first photo is an adult, probably a male from the bright colours. The second photo is on another one on the Daintree from an earlier visit. This one is a juvenile, I think, with scalloping on the crown and blacker wings. Azure Kingfisher normally perch on a branch over water and dive for their prey, returning to the same perch to administer the coup de grace. They feed mainly on small fish, but also on crustaceans and other invertebrates and occur on both fresh and tidal rivers.

Azure Kingfisher (Ceyx azurea) by Ian

Azure Kingfisher occur in New Guinea and northern and eastern Australia and in Tasmania. Three Australian races are recognised. The bluer nominate race occurs in eastern Australia, while the smaller, more violet northern race ruficollaris, third photo, occurs from NW Western Australia eastwards as far as Cooktown in Far North Queensland. The northern race has more blue extending much farther down the flanks than in the nominate race. Cooktown is only about 100km north of the Daintree as the Kingfisher flies, so the birds here are probably intermediate between these two races.

Azure Kingfisher (Ceyx azurea) by Ian

I’ve included the bird of the week from February 2007 for comparison, fourth photo. this was in the Sydney area and belongs to the nominate race. The third race diemensensis occurs only in western Tasmania and is classified as endangered by the Tasmanian Government. It is larger, has a smaller bill and a dark crown.

Azure Kingfisher (Ceyx azurea) by Ian

Work progress on the website. I’ve finished updating nearly all the galleries of the Australasian non-passerines (58 families) with only the members of the Cuckoo family to do. Then I’ll start on the Australasian Passerines (46 families).

On Saturday 13 February I’m giving at talk at the BirdLife Townsville AGM (see Activities for details and location) on the birds of New Caledonia. I’m calling it “New Caledonian birds: from strangely familiar to very strange” with reference to the Australasian origin of most of the species. If you’re in the Townsville district, it would be great to see you there. 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:

Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created. (Psalms 148:5 KJV)

What a cute little bird! Love those kingfishers anyway, but this one seems special. It is in the river kingfisher part of the family.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Birdway – Kingfishers

Alcedinidae – Kingfishers Family

Good News

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