Ian’s Bird of the Moment – Red-browed Pardalote

McNamara’s Road, Gunpowder, NW Queensland

A long time, as usual these days, since the last Bird of the Moment, but I haven’t been entirely idle in the meantime. I’ve been busy both revising the ebook, Where to Find Birds in North-east Queensland, and compiling a second volume of birds of the week/moment covering 2010 until the present. More about those in a minute, but here is the Red-browed Pardalote, a species I wanted to photograph for Where to Find Birds in North-east Queensland and which I mentioned in the previous two Birds of the Moment, the Masked Finch and the Black-breasted Buzzard.

I finally tracked it down at McNamara’s Road between Mt Isa and Camooweal with the help of my Mt Isa birding pal Rex Whitehead and another Mt Isa birder Karen who took me to a couple of spots on this road where they had found the Pardalote shortly before. McNamara’s Road, about 68km from Mt Isa on the Barkly Highway going towards Camooweal is a famous site for the Carpentarian Grasswren though I have spent many hours there on a number of occasions, including this one, without finding any.

Red-browed Pardalote (Pardalotus rubricatus) by Ian

We had more success with the Red-browed Pardalote helped by the fact that the dominant tree here the Snappy Gum doesn’t get very tall so when you hear the characteristic call of the bird, a mellow rising, accelerating piping of five or six notes, you know that they aren’t too far above the ground.

Red-browed Pardalote (Pardalotus rubricatus) by Ian

It has, for a Pardalote, a large, rather chunky bill, second photo, and the white spots on the black cap distinguish it from the local race of the Striated Pardalote (uropygialis). It has distinctive mustard-coloured wing bars and in flight, third photo, shows a yellowish-green rump.

Red-browed Pardalote (Pardalotus rubricatus) by Ian

Back to ebooks. The second edition of Where to Find Birds in North-east Queensland has gone through a number of iterations and refinements since I first put it up on the website in August of this year, and the latest version went up yesterday both in epub and pdf formats.

Where to Find Birds in NE Qld –

This is a free update to owners of the first edition but to access it you need a Dropbox link to the folder. If you bought it since January 2017, you should receive a separate email with a link to the folder. If you don’t receive this email, perhaps because your email address has changed, let me know: mailto:ian@birdway.com.au.

If you purchased it prior to January 2017, you would have done so through Apple, Google or Kobo and I won’t have your email address. So write to me and I’ll send you the link: mailto:ian@birdway.com.au.

Greetings, Ian

Lee’s Addition:

“So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:21 NKJV)

Ian’s Birds of the Moment always come as a surprise. When he was doing them weekly, they were part of the scheduled post here. So, now that he surprises us, and thankfully he does, we will just double them up with what else has posted that day.

Always glad to see what amazing beauties from our Creator he finds. This Red-browed Pardalote is a beauty, at least in my eyes. I love his cap. Reminds me of a pirates bandana. :)

Ian’s Bird of the Moment – Black-breasted Buzzard

Ian’s Bird of the Moment – Black-breasted Buzzard

by Ian Montgomery

You may remember in the last Bird of the Moment, in April I went to Cumberland Dam near Georgetown in Northern Queensland in the hope of photographing Red-browed Pardalotes but came away instead with photos of nesting Masked Finches. In May I set off on another, longer trip to Mt Isa with several species in my sights, in addition to the Pardalote.

The distance from Townsville to Mt Isa is about 900km/560miles, so I split the journey by staying for a couple of nights at Kooroorinya Reserve, a little gorge 50km/30miles south of Prairie. Kooroorinya’s main claim to fame is that it hosts the annual Oakley amateur horse race and they were preparing for the race during my stay. The satellite image below shows the race track, the Prairie-Muttaburra Road and the oasis created by the gorge in very dry country, which holds water for months in the dry season after the creek has stopped flowing.

A Townsville birder had found nesting Little Eagle and Black-breasted Buzzard there. The Little Eagle is uncommon in North Queensland, and the Black-breasted Buzzard is uncommon generally. So I search diligently along both sides of the creek looking for the nest of raptors. I found several unoccupied nests but these could have been built by Whistling Kites, which were common in the area, and I didn’t initially see any sign of Little Eagles or Black-breasted Buzzards.

It wasn’t until I returned to the campsite near the race track that I saw this Black-breasted Buzzard in the distance perched in a dead tree on the far side of the creek. I went back round to get a closer look at it and when I approached it flew down into a tree with lots of foliage and a nest, just visible in the lower left hand corner of the second photo of the Buzzard. In this photo you can see the characteristic black breast that gives the bird its name, and the short unbarred tail, not as long as the folded wings, which you can see behind the tail.

I left the bird in peace in case it was actually nesting, though laying doesn’t usually start until June. Later that afternoon as I was birding along the creek – there were various birds including Budgerigars – I saw it, or maybe its mate, soaring past in its characteristic hunting mode and exhibiting the striking under-wing pattern with the large white panels at the base of the primary flight feathers.

Black-breasted Buzzards are versatile feeders and will eat mammals, birds, reptiles, carrion and even large insects. I suppose in the arid interior, you eat what you can find. They show a preference for young rabbits, nestlings, lizards and eggs. They will tackle the large eggs of Emus, breaking them either by pounding them with the bill or dropping stones on them. Have a look at this http://www.arkive.org/black-breasted-buzzard/hamirostra-melanosternon/image-G138753.html if you don’t believe me (or even if you do, it’s a great photo of a juvenile BB Buzzard caught red-handed!).

Black-breasted Buzzards are large. They can have a wing-span of up to 1.56m/61in and can weight more than 1,400g/3.1lbs , making them the third heaviest Australian raptor after Wedge-tailed and White-bellied Sea-Eagles. The species in an Australian endemic, the sole member of the genus Hamirostra (‘monotypic’) and apparently related to the Square-tailed Kite, also the sole member of its genus Lophoictinia. Its range includes most of mainland Australia except the higher rainfall areas of eastern and southern Australia and is more common in the north.
I didn’t find any Red-browed Pardalotes (or Little Eagles) at Kooroorinya, so the search continued.


Lee’s Addition:

It is amazing when we search for a particular bird, at times we do not find what we sought, but many times another bird presents itself so that we still have be productive in our birdwatching adventure. This is the case with Ian. He has gone off on searches for birds and has ended up sharing a different avian wonder with us.

I couldn’t help but remember two verses which have to do with searching. In Ian’s case, he was searching for the Red-browed Pardalotes. Yet, this verse has to do with searching for the Lord and finding Him.

“Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13 NKJV)

See more of Ian’s Articles:

Ian’s Bird of the Week

Night Birds

Ian’s Bird of the Moment – Night Birds

Ian’s Bird of the Moment – Night Birds by Ian Montgomery

If you can remember that far back, the last bird of the moment was Eastern Grass Owl [http://www.birdway.com.au/botw/botw_584.php] found during a spot-lighting trip to the Townsville Town Common led by local night-bird expert and pillar of BirdLife Townsville Ian Boyd.

At the time, Ian was refusing to be discouraged by pancreatic cancer, an attitude that we all admired until his death on 23rd of February. Typically undaunted he gave a presentation on his favourite topic, Night Birds at the BirdLife Townsville AGM on the 10th of February although he had less than a couple of weeks to live. Isolated by flood waters in Bluewater, I couldn’t attend the funeral on 1st March so here is a photographic tribute to him instead.

I got to know him well during his last year or and am left with some precious memories of searching for night birds with him. So let’s go birding together while I share three special occasions with you.

The first was when a birding friend and photographer from Mt Isa was visiting Townsville and wanted to photograph a Rufous Owl. I contacted Ian Boyd and he took us to an active nesting site on a hot afternoon at the end of October. There he showed us the two adults which we photographed (one of them is in the first photo) and our visitor from Mt Isa returned to the site later and got a photo of a fledgling peering out of the tree hollow.

The second was the occasion when we found the female Eastern Grass Owl at the Townsville Town Common which featured as the last Bird of the Moment. At the time our goal was to search for Spotted Nightjars which are supposed to occur occasionally along the Freshwater Track that goes across the grassy, saltbush flats between Bald Rock and the Freshwater hide (see this map:). We drove across the Town Common arriving at Shelley Beach on the northern side at sunset and then drove slowly back in darkness checking for night birds as we went along.

The first stretch of riverine forest on the Shelley Beach Trail produced a remarkable five Owlet Nightjars (second photo) and a single male Tawny Frogmouth (third photo). Male Tawny Frogmouths have silvery grey, strongly marbled plumage. We had only just started along the Freshwater Track when the cry went up ‘Barn Owl’ but we quickly realised that the Tyto Owl beside the track was a female Eastern Grass Owl (fourth photo).

There was no sign of any Spotted Nightjars – we suspect that they are more like to be found in the dry winter months – but at the start of the Freshwater Lagoon Road south of the Freshwater hide, we found a Large-tailed Nightjar (fifth photo). This species is the commonest Nightjar around Townsville and is well known for its persistent, loud ‘chop chop’ call that gives it the colloquial name of Carpenter or Axe Bird.

Finally, along the track between Payet’s Tower and the Forest Walk, a Barking Owl (sixth photo) represented the only remaining Australian night bird family for the evening – Aegothelidae (Owlet NIghtjars), Podargidae (Frogmouths), Tytonidae (Barn Owls), Caprimulgidae (Nightjars) and Strigidae (Hawk Owls). I’m following the IOC and BirdLife International in lumping the Nightjars and Eared-Nightjars into a single family.

We repeated the spotlighting at the Town Common a week later. This time we found one or two Owlet Nightjars along the Shelley Beach Trail, but Tawny Frogmouths were out in force. The seventh photo shows a female; females are often rufous like this one but always have plainer less marked plumage than the males. The eight photo shows a remarkably approachable male Tawny Frogmouth.

This time there was no sign of the Eastern Grass Owl (or Spotted NIghtjars) and the surprise of the night was a Barn Owl perched in a tree along the stretch where we’d found the Barking Owl the previous week (ninth photo). This bird seemed unbothered by our spot- and flash-lights and when it did leave it did so to plunge into the undergrowth after some prey.
That was the last time I went birding with Ian Boyd. He is greatly missed by his wife Robyn, the rest of his family and all us bird watchers who appreciated his generosity, warmth, leadership and enthusiasm. I’ll treasure these great memories of birding with him during his last few months with us. Thank you, Ian Boyd.
Greetings, Ian

What a nice tribute to a good friend and fellow birder. What courage for Ian Boyd to continue on under very adverse conditions. Thanks Ian for the neat birds and a memorial to one of your friends.

“A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17 NKJV)

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24 NKJV)

See more of Ian’s Posts:

Ian’s Bird of the Week

Happy Green Day

5. Green Jay

Green Jay

It may be Saint Patty’s Day, but the birds decided that they didn’t want to be left out. Enjoy the birds that I could get to show off their greenery. Enjoy the slideshow!

“And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:30-31 KJV)

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“A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” (Psalms 23:1-6 KJV)

Also see: Green Birds of March

Ian’s Bird of the Moment – Eastern Grass Owl

Seeing as Bird of the Moment has been such a rarity lately, I thought I’d finish the year on a special note. So here’s a species that I always wanted to photograph, but never thought I would: maybe on the ‘if the god(s) is/are kind bucket list’.

But before that here is my greetings of the season; too late for Christmas but in time for 2018, which is perhaps the more important – longer anyway.

Two weeks ago I went spotlighting in the Townsville Town Common Conservation Park with some local birding experts, including one who has an official key to the locked gates that normally keep vehicles out of the more remote areas of the Park: the saline flats near Bald Rock and a track that runs through some lovely forest along a tributary of the Bohle River to Shelley Beach.

The target species, and rather a long shot at that, was the Spotted Nightjar which sometimes turns up along the grassy, saline flats. Anyway, the forest produced five Owlet Nightjars, some of which posed for photos and a Tawny Frogmouth, also photographed. On the return through the normally accessible parts of the Park along the main track, we photographed a cooperative Large-tailed NIghtjar and a more distant Barking Owl

The highlight of the night was a Tyto owl on the grass beside the track though the saline flat. Provisionally identified as a Barn Owl, we soon realised that it was a female Eastern Grass Owl, a species recorded only occasionally around Townsville, though more common near Ingham, for example at the eponymous Tyto Wetlands. The female differs from the smaller male in having orange-buff underparts and is distinctive but both genders can be distinguished from the otherwise similar Barn Owl by darker upperparts and much longer, slender legs which trail behind the tail in flight. After photographing it, we flushed it to get a look at its long legs and confirm the identification.

We didn’t find any Spotted Nightjars, but no one cared amid the jubilation at getting such good view of the Grass Owl. We returned a week later for another look. That night, the Tawny Frogmouths were out in force and no sign of either Spotted Nightjars or the Grass Owl. Instead we found a cooperative Barn Owl along perched obligingly in a dead tree in woodland beside the main track. Here it is for comparison.

Grass and Barn Owls have extensive ranges and the ‘Eastern’ in both cases refers to Eastern Eurasia and Australasia. Grass Owls also occur in Africa and there is disagreement whether this is is the same species as the Eastern Form. Similarly, the Eastern Barn Owl, Tyto delicatula, is sometimes split from the Western Eurasian, African and American forms, Tyto alba. Anyway, they’re all gorgeous birds and Australia has an unusually rich selection of five species of about sixteen in total worldwide. Four of the Australian ones are here http://www.birdway.com.au/tytonidae/index_aus.php.

We’ve checked earlier records and it appears that most records of Spotted Nightjars in the Townsville District are in winter, June-August. So, we’ll try again next year, and I hope you have a healthy and rewarding 2018 too.Ian

Lee’s Addition:

“Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased.” (Proverbs 9:9-11 KJV)

>Ian, I believe the Creator of this beautiful Eastern Grass Owl has been very kind to your “Bucket List.” Over the years, you have seen and photographed numerous Avian Wonders that you have graciously shared with us.

May your New Year be a great one and, hopefully, your Birds of the Moment/Week articles might come more frequently again.

Ian’s Bird of the Week/Moment

Ian’s Bird of the Moment – Brahminy Kite

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) by Ian

Surprise, surprise – another bird of the moment at last. The Brahminy Kite last featured as bird of the week in August 2003. In those days you got a single photo and a short paragraph of text, so here is a more thorough treatment. This is one of my favourite Australian raptors and the adults are striking looking birds with their white and chestnut plumage. They’re a common sight along the coast here in North Queensland, and the bird in the first two photos was photographed at Toomulla Beach, about 40km northwest of Townsville and not far from where I live in Bluewater.

The hooked beak is like that of the White-bellied Sea-Eagle, so it’s no surprise that they are adapted to eating fish, for which they both hunt and scavenge and are usually found near water, mainly coastal but also along larger rivers. They have, however, very broad tastes and will eat any flesh that they can catch or find, both vertebrate and invertebrate. It’s not unusual to see them cruising main roads looking for road-kill. With a length of about 50cm/20in and a wingspan of 1.2m/47in , they’re much smaller than sea-eagles (80cm/31in and 1.8-2.2m/71-87in), but their preferred habitat and diet means that they’re are often called sea-eagles by the general population.

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) by Ian

The names “Brahminy” and Haliastur indus give a clue as to their geographical range, as they were first described in India. Their range extends from Pakistan in the west through south and southwest Asia to eastern China and Taiwan, and south through the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to New Guinea and Australia. In Australia its range is mainly tropical from Carnarvon in Western Australia across northern Australia and down the east coast as far as about Myall Lakes in New South Wales, though it is uncommon south of Cape Byron. Its population in New South Wales contracted northwards owing to the use of persistent organochloride insecticides in the third quarter of the 20th century, but there is some evidence of recovery since then.

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) by Ian

Immature birds differ greatly in appearance from the adults, third photo, and are easily confused with other raptors such as, in Australia, pale phase Little Eagles or immature Black-breasted Buzzards. Immature birds are also rather similar to their only close relative the Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus), though Brahminy Kites have much shorter, rather eagle-like tails and shorter wings.Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) by Ian

You may remember that I visited Slovakia in June 2016 with my sister Gillian. The main birding target was eagles, but despite the best efforts of our guides we had only limited success with such species as Lesser Spotted Eagle Eastern Imperial Eagle and Golden Eagle, and the local raptors didn’t seem at all keen on having their photos taken. So, there was a certain irony when I returned to Bluewater and found that my excellent house minders, Julie and Ed, had discovered a pair of Brahminy Kites nesting in my neighbour’s property, about 100m from my house (fifth photo). The grass is greener, etc. etc.

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) by Ian

The birds attended the nest for about three months but disappointingly without success. The nest was high up, about 25m/80ft from the ground, so it wasn’t possible to see into it, so I don’t know what happened. Anyway, you can understand my delight when the birds returned again this year and restored the nest, sixth photo.

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) by Ian

At the beginning of last week I finally spotted a healthy looking chick. It survived the unseasonable heavy rain we had last week (150mm/6in in five days) so I set up the camera and tripod, table, chair and coffee near the house and watched them in comfort at an unobtrusive distance for most of Friday afternoon. Sure enough, both adults arrived with food. The first, seventh photo, produced a flying fox (fruit bat), a Black Flying-fox I think, and spent an hour carefully tearing off tiny strips of muscle and feeding to the chick.

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) by Ian

I was impressed with the gentle way the parent fed the youngster and itself. Eventually, the chick seemed satisfied, and lost interest in the meal. The adult bird slipped away as quietly as it had arrived – I didn’t see it leave – and I presume it took the remains of the fruit bat with it.

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) by Ian

Within half an hour, the other adult arrived with a frog, I think a Green Tree Frog (ninth photo). This adult has whiter plumage and a longer beak than its partner, so they are not hard to distinguish.

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) by Ian

The chick seemed satiated and not very interested, so the adult hungrily ate some of the frog itself and after a little while flew off taking the frog with it and went down to nearby Bluewater Creek.

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) by Ian

Brahminy Kites usually lay 2 or 3 eggs, and often only one chick survives to fledging. Incubation takes about 35 days, and fledging 7 to 8 weeks. The young birds remain dependent on the adults for a further two months. This chick is about half the length of the adults and is beginning to grow proper feathers, including flight feathers on the wings, though these currently appear as just short quills.

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) by Ian

I can see the nest through the trees from my back verandah, so it is easy to check on it. I plan to photograph progress over the coming weeks. A furry mammal, probably road-kill, was on the menu today.


Fantastic photos of the Brahminy Kite. It sure has been a while since Ian had a “Moment” to share another of his interesting post with us. Thanks, Ian. We always enjoy seeing and learning about your birds.

For more of Ian’s Bird of the Week – Moments

“And the vulture, and the kite after his kind;” (Leviticus 11:14 KJV)
“Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” (Genesis 1:20 NKJV)

Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks & Eagles Family

Birds of the Bible – Gledes and Kites


Sunday Inspiration – Hamerkop, Shoebill, and Pelicans

Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta) at NA by Dan

Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta) at National Aviary by Dan

I am like a pelican of the wilderness; I am like an owl of the desert. (Psalms 102:6 NKJV)

Previously, it was mentioned that some bird families have already been featured on the Sunday Inspirations. The next family includes the Herons and Bitterns. It is the Ardeidae, and it was covered in these two articles written in 2014:

Sunday Inspiration – Bittern and Sunday Inspiration – Herons

Today we will finish up the Pelicaniformes Order, which included the Ibises and Spoonbills [Threskiornithidae], the Herons and Bitterns [Ardeidae], and now today with; the Hamerkop (1) with only one species in the Scopidae family, the Shoebill (1) in the Balaenicipitidae Family, and the Pelicans (8) in the Pelecanidae Family.

[Because this is being scheduled in advance, Lord willing, my back surgery will be performed on this Tuesday, the 20th. Your prayers will be greatly welcome. It will be a 4-5 hour surgery. I think.]

Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta) by Africaddict

Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta) by Africaddict

The Hamerkop, have been a favorite of mine ever since we saw our first one at the National Aviary in Pittsburg, PA. When its head feathers are out, the head looks like a hammer. They also seemed rather tame walking around in the aviary.

Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) by Daves BirdingPix

The Shoebill is another favorite. We have these at the Lowry Park Zoo, in Tampa. I keep trying to get a decent photo, but I have to shoot through a fence. Though, the fence is nice to have between us. He is a nice bird, but that look can be intimidating. :) Here is a close-up taken through the fence.

Shoebill by Lee - Closeup

Shoebill by Lee – Closeup

Living in Florida, we all see Pelicans quite frequently, even inland. The White Pelicans land at many of our lakes, and several years ago, over 5,000 landed at Circle B Reserve in Lakeland, Florida, for a month or so. I’ve shown this video before but thought it fit here again. I was so excited by all of them arriving to land just behind where Dan and I were standing. My utter amazement shows. [along with poor English]

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26 NKJV)

Brown Pelican with fish and Laughing Gull

Brown Pelican with fish and Laughing Gull

Pelicans are a genus of large water birds that makes up the family Pelecanidae. They are characterised by a long beak and a large throat pouch used for catching prey and draining water from the scooped up contents before swallowing. They have predominantly pale plumage, the exceptions being the brown and Peruvian pelicans. The bills, pouches and bare facial skin of all species become brightly coloured before the breeding season. The eight living pelican species have a patchy global distribution, ranging latitudinally from the tropics to the temperate zone, though they are absent from interior South America as well as from polar regions and the open ocean.

White Pelicans by Lee over Circle B Reserve

Pelicans frequent inland and coastal waters where they feed principally on fish, catching them at or near the water surface. They are gregarious birds, travelling in flocks, hunting cooperatively and breeding colonially. Four white-plumaged species tend to nest on the ground, and four brown or grey-plumaged species nest mainly in trees

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“God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet: and setteth me upon my high places.
(2 Samuel 22:33-34 KJV)”

“I Will Sing The Mighty Power of God” ~ ©Hyssongs

More Sunday Inspirations

Pelecanidae – Pelicans Family

Birds of the Bible – Pelicans

Gospel Message


Bird of the Moment ~ Restless Flycatcher

Restless Flycatcher (Myiagra inquieta) by Ian

Bird of the Moment ~ Restless Flycatcher ~ by Ian Montgomery

Some weeks ago I went to Toonpan a dry pasture area outside Townsville which is good for dry country birds such as Bustards and often produces unusual birds. There were a couple of Restless Flycatchers there hawking for insects and I found out later that this species has never featured as bird of the moment, an omission we’ll rectify now.

They are dapper birds, smart in their glossy black and white plumage and long tail. They bare a superficial resemblance to the similarly sized Willie Wagtail, but the species is a member of the Monarch Flycatcher family rather than the Fantails. The nominate larger type inquieta breeds in eastern, southern and southwestern Australia, but not in Tasmania or eastern Western Australia (the Nullabor). The smaller type nana occurs in northern Australia from northwestern Queensland through the Top End of the Northern Territory to northeastern Western Australia.

Restless Flycatcher (Myiagra inquieta) by Ian

Taxonomists disagree as to whether these types should be treated as conspecific or separate species. I’m treating them as separate ones here, so ‘Restless Flycatcher’ refers to the southern one, and ‘Paperbark Flycatcher’ to the northern one. Both are mainly sedentary, but there is some northward movement of the Restless Flycatcher in winter here in northeastern Queensland it is a winter visitor.

Restless Flycatcher (Myiagra inquieta) by Ian

Restless Flycatchers have a characteristic hovering flight when hawking for insects and this one at Toonpan was doing just this between me and the afternoon sun in the second, third and fourth photos. There were all taken within an elapsed time of one second and in the third one, it is turning away from whatever attracted its attention in the first two. When hawking like this, they make ‘grinding, churring sounds’ (to quote Pizzey and Knight) which are supposed to disturb insects into flight. For this reason, the species is sometimes called the Scissors Grinder.

Restless Flycatcher (Myiagra inquieta) by Ian

The fifth photo shows one of the two birds checking out the vegetation along a barbed wire fence. It’s not, as it might appear, flying towards the fence. Rather it had been perched on the fence seconds before and is making its way down the side of it.

Restless Flycatcher (Myiagra inquieta) by Ian

The Restless Flycatcher builds a beautiful nest of grass, bark and spiders’ webs on a horizontal branch, sixth photo with a usual clutch size of three. The nest is typically decorated or maybe camouflaged with lichen. In this photo, you can see the broad, flat bill characteristic of Monarch Flycatchers.

Restless Flycatcher (Myiagra inquieta) by Ian

Restless Flycatchers are usually found near water. The one in the seventh photo is having a drink from a river.

Restless Flycatcher (Myiagra inquieta) by Ian

Here is the Paperbark Flycatcher, eight photo. The best way I know to separate it from the Restless Flycatcher is by range, though the Paperbark is smaller (17-19cm versus 19-22cm) and supposed to be glossier and have a darker back. The calls are supposed to be slightly different, though they sound much the same to me.

Paperbark Flycatcher (Myiagra nana) by Ian

The Paperbark Flycatcher also builds a cup-shaped nest on a horizontal branch, ninth photo, but the sources I have don’t mention bark as building material, or lichen as a decoration. As with the Restless Flycatcher, both genders share in nest-building, incubation and rearing of the chicks.

Restless Flycatcher (Myiagra inquieta) by Ian

If we treat Restless and Paperbark as separate species, then the Restless is an Australian endemic, The Paperbark isn’t as it also occurs in southern New Guinea on both sides of the Indonesian-PNG border.


Lee’s Addition:

“And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places;” (Isaiah 32:18 KJV)

What interesting Flycatchers Ian has introduced us to. His “Moment” seems to get longer each time. Maybe one day, Ian may get back to his “Bird of the Week.”  :)

Keep up the good work, Ian. We enjoy your birds whenever they fly our way.

Ian’s Bird of the Week/Moment – Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo

Ian’s Bird of the Week/Moment – Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo by Ian Montgomery

Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) by Ian

The bird of the week has, regrettably, been so irregular over the last year or so, that I can’t pretend anymore that it’s a weekly event, or even a monthly one for that matter. These days we’re supposed to achieve peace of mind by living in the now, I’ve renamed the series Bird of the Moment.

In the last one on Macaws, I finished with this photo of a Scarlet Macaw feeding on an introduced Terminalia tree in Costa Rica and mentioned that the fruit of same species (T. cappata) is equally popular with Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos along The Strand in Townsville. Here is a pair with the male on the right whispering sweet phrases to the female two days before Valentine’s Day: she looks very receptive. You can see the female has spots on the head, barring on the body and a barred panels in the tail against a background of red and yellow. The male has glossy black plumage and scarlet, unbarred panels in the tail.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) by Ian

These Cockatoos are quite common in the Townsville District and for me, it was love and first sight when I arrived here in 2002. They are spectacular birds, very large (to 65cm/25in in length) with a wonderful leisurely ‘rowing’ flight, long tails and a permanent smile. They are often heard before being seen both when perched and in flight, owing to their haunting, far-carrying, trumpeting calls, which are positively melodious compared with the ear-shattering screeches of their ubiquitous white relatives, the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. They’re remarkably tame too and seem to enjoy being photographed.

Terminalia sp

Terminalia grow readily from seedlings, and Jo Wieneke gave me some seedlings when I moved to Bluewater in 2013, which I planted with the sole aim of attracting these Cockatoos, above. These belong to a different species of Terminalia with smaller leaves and fruit. The fruit of T. cappata, the ‘Beach Almond’ are about the size of walnuts; these ones are more like smallish, hard, black olives. The three trees all lean to the left, a legacy of cyclone Yasi in 2011, called the ‘Yasi lean’. Since then the trees have tried to correct this defect by growing vertically at the base and the top – easiest to see in the left-most tree – and growing thicker branches on the right-hand side, presumably as a counter-balance.

The trees started flowering and fruiting about three years ago, and I was delighted when they had their first visit from a lone Black-Cockatoo. Last November, the trees had an abundant harvest, and a pair of Cockatoos came each evening at about 4:30 pm (and maybe before I surfaced in the morning) and thoroughly until they had completely stripped all fruit. The birds are wonderfully acrobatic (below) and their preferred way of eating is to snip off a twig, hold it in one foot, stand on the other foot, prise open the hard shell to get at the kernel in the middle and discard both the shells and the twigs.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) by Ian

The shells are quite hard and I cut one open to see what was inside and found the kernel is tiny, so it seemed like a lot of effort for a relatively small reward. In the photo below, the male is using the pointed tip of the upper mandible to extract the kernel from the cracked shell. They drop a lot of unopened fruit and several months later a small flock of cockatoos came round to feed on the ground under the trees.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) by Ian

The coloured panels on the tail are not easy to see except when the birds spread the tail feathers, either when taking off, landing or doing a sudden manoeuvre in flight. Presumably, it is an important signal to other members of the flock. Black-Cockatoos seem to form long-term pair-bonds which are maintained even when they flock, so I wonder whether the variability in the colour of the panels of females (the one below has much red and little yellow) help the males identify their mates.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) by Ian

The next photo shows a male just after take-off and showing his red panels to best advantage.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) by Ian

Here is a female on the beach at Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island. She looks as if she’s contemplating a swim – you can see the edge of the water in the background – but it is more likely that she is looking for fruits from the casuarinas growing along the foreshore. In the absence of introduced Terminalia trees, the birds feed on the fruit of native trees including those of Eucalyptus and Pandanus.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) by Ian

The Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo is the most widespread of the five species of Black-Cockatoo, all of which are Australian endemic.s (I’m not including the Palm Cockatoo which belongs to a different genus and occurs in Cape York and across New Guinea.) The other four species are the Glossy (eastern Australia); the Yellow-tailed (eastern and southern Australia and Tasmania) and the Long-billed and Short-billed (both have white tails and are restricted to SW Western Australia). The Red-tailed has five subspecies which differ in size and in the colour of the tail panels in females: the largest, nominate race banksii (Queensland and northern NSW); the large-billed macrorhynchus (Northern Territory and NW Western Australia); the smaller samueli in central Australia; also in (SW Western Australia); and graptogyne (western Victoria and SE South Australia).

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) by Ian

The three birds in the last photo belong to the large-billed race macrorhynchus, and presumably are a family with the female on the left and the male on the right. The bird in the centre has female-like plumage but a black bill – females have whitish bills – so is probably a juvenile male; juvenile males take about four years to acquire the adult male plumage. Family bonding would appear to be important and you often see these birds in groups of three.

I’ve been slack about the Bird of the Moment; I have however been working on the website. The latest inclusions include a gallery of Dragonflies and one of Butterflies and Moths, and there are various additions to the bird galleries.


Lee’s Addition:

“Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psalms 107:8 KJV)

Thanks, Ian, for an update. I had begun to think you were not able to provide any more of these great articles for us. You are missed when we fail to hear from you.

It appears that the series of blog posts of Ian’s will be renamed. Starting with his next article, the title will be “Ian’s Bird of the Moment.” It is an appropriate name for the series, as most birdwatchers are watching “birds of the moment.”

Not sure if you readers were aware, but Ian has been dealing with a serious eye problem. That is difficult for such a good photographer to deal with. Glad he is improving so he can keep us informed about God’s amazing flying avian wonders.


Ian’s Bird of the Week – Brown Wood Owl

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

Newsletter – 2/6/2017

I’ve chosen an owl this time because I want to talk about a beautiful book called The Enigma of the Owl. A complimentary copy of it arrived recently by air from the UK, because I supplied a photo of a Rufous Owl. I’ll come back to the book and the Rufous Owl in a moment, but first, here is the Brown Wood Owl, which, unlike the Rufous Owl, hasn’t ever featured as bird of the week.

Brown Wood Owl (Strix leptogrammica) by Ian

In 2007 I spent several days at an unashamedly spartan wildlife outfit called Uncle Tan’s Wildlife Adventures in near the Kinatabangan River in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. One doesn’t go there for the facilities – the best shower we had was during a monsoonal downpour when everyone repaired outside with soap and shampoo – but for the wonderful wildlife. There were regular wildlife-spotting boat trips by day and by night on the river and lots of interesting animals, including Orang Utans in the jungle near the camp. My main target was, successfully, the Buffy Fish Owl but we also came across the Brown Wood Owl in the forest between the camp and the river.

Brown Wood Owl (Strix leptogrammica) by Ian

This is a medium to large owl, 40-55cm/16-22in in length, a member of the globally widespread genus Strix which includes the well-known Tawny Owl of Europe, the Barred and Spotted Owls of North America and other representatives in Africa and South America but not Australia. The specific name leptogrammica means fine-lined and refers to the elegant barred underparts.

Brown Wood Owl (Strix leptogrammica) by Ian

We came across the Brown Wood Owl twice. The first two photos are of the same individual, but the second one is of another bird three days later.

Brown Wood Owl (Strix leptogrammica) by Ian

These three photos illustrate some of the difficulties of photographing owls. Most are nocturnal, many are shy (the Brown Wood Owl in particular prefers undisturbed forest and avoids areas of human habitation), so you need to be lucky to find them at their roosting sites. Roosting owls are prime targets for mobbing by other birds, so they often roost in hollows or in dense vegetation. In woodland, a bird in an unusually clear visible position like the first one here is often back-lit, while the second bird is well-lit but partially obscured by branches and leaves. I say this not just to make excuses but to express my admiration for many of the wonderful photos in The Enigma of the Owl.

So I’m happy to have had this photo of a Rufous Owl selected for inclusion in the book. The bird in the photo was the immature member of a family of three that roosted regularly for a while in 2008 in an easily accessible spot behind the Black Hawk Memorial in the Palmetum, one of the three botanic gardens in Townsville. The Memorial honours 18 Australian servicemen killed when two Black Hawk helicopters collided in Townsville in 1996.

Rufous Owl (Ninox rufa) by Ian

The general introduction to the book covers the taxonomy, physiology (visual and auditory), life-style and significance to humans of owls. The remainder of the book consists of detailed treatment of 80 of the approximately global 250 species of owls, with thorough natural histories of each species and about 200 spectacular photos, mostly covering a whole page and sometimes two pages. The 80 species are organised into chapters by region: North America; Central & South America; Eurasia; Africa; Southern Asia and Australasia; and Oceanic Islands. Each regional chapter has its own introduction.

Brown Wood Owl (Strix leptogrammica) by Ian

This is a terrific book and I highly recommend it. The UK edition is ₤32 and the US edition is $40 fantastic value for a large hard cover book of this quality. There isn’t an Australian edition but Italian, Japanese, French and German editions will be published later this year. My only quibble is that I think it would be better organised taxonomically rather than geographically, but that reflects my taxonomic and evolutionary tastes. That said, the taxonomic cover is very broad: there are representatives of all the important genera (about 22 out of about 27) and the missing ones are either obscure or fairly closely related to other ones already in the book.

Brown Wood Owl (Strix leptogrammica) by Ian

Back at the website, I have recently added global and Australasian thumbnails to all the non-bird taxonomic groups of ‘other wildlife’ to make them easier to find: http://www.birdway.com.au/global_wildlife_tn.php and http://www.birdway.com.au/aus_wildlife_tn.php.


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/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au

Lee’s Addition:
Another neat looking Owl and what an adventure just to get their photos. I am glad that Ian shares his many birds that he works so hard to photograph. We sit back in our easy chairs and sometimes forget what it takes to come up with these photographs from our photographers. Thanks again, Ian, for sharing with us.


Ian’s Bird of the Week Newsletters


Ian’s Bird of the Week – (Eurasian) Three-toed Woodpecker

Ian’s Bird of the Week – (Eurasian) Three-toed Woodpecker ~ Ian Montgomery

[Actually his first on of the new year.]

First of all my best wishes for a contented and healthy New Year. There is one important change for birdway customers with the new year. I’m planning to officially deregister the birdway company at the end of the Australian financial year (30 June) so in preparation for that birdway stopped trading on 31 December. I’ve registered as a sole trader, so any future invoices will be made out by me rather in the name of the company and will not include GST.

I’ve also removed the books Diary of a Bird Photographer and Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland from the Apple Store, Google Play and Kobo Books. If you want to buy them, contact me directly, ian@birdway.com.au or ianbirdway@gmail.com. I’ve put instructions on the website: Diary of a Bird Photographer and Where to Find Birds on Northern Queensland. Having removed the middlemen and GST, I can now offer them at reduced prices of $5 and $15 respectively (Australian dollars or equivalent; foreign currencies preferably through PayPal). I’ll investigate direct purchase through the website, but for the moment I’ll email them to customers in the required format (ePub for Apple, Windows and Android computers, tablets and smart phones; Kindle for Amazon readers).

Back to the New Year: here’s the last photo that I took in 2016, a two day old new moon just after sunset on 31st December.


New Year is often represented symbolically by a chubby baby wearing not much more than a top hat and a banner with the new year number on it. Here, perhaps more appropriately for us, is a new year baby Dollarbird taken from my house last Friday, 3 days after it left the nest. Junior is on the right looking relaxed, while an alert and anxious-looking parent is on the right.

pas-dollarbirdA pair of Dollarbirds nest regularly in a termite-ridden poplar gum near the house, which has plenty of nesting hollows thanks to the termites. The same tree is also the headquarters of the local band of Blue-winged Kookaburras, but the two species seem to co-habit quite peacefully, if not quietly. The dollarbird nest is at a great height, perhaps 25m/80ft, so the first introduction of the young birds to the outside world is a perilous decent to the ground that doesn’t always end well.


This year, the young bird landed in my neighbour’s garden on the 10th January. He has both a dog and a ride-on lawn mower that is his favourite toy and I warned him about the bird. The parents made lots of noise over the next three days, presumably in defence of the newcomer. Consequently, I assumed all was well but I was of course relieved to see it safely up in the tree.

That’s by way of a new year aside. I’ve chosen another hollow-nesting bird as the subject of this posting, the Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker from the trip to Slovakia last June. Those of you who have been on the list for a while probably know that Woodpeckers are among my favourite birds, even though or perhaps because I’ve most lived in Woodpecker-deprived countries – Ireland and then Australia, though eastern Ireland has recently been colonised successfully by the Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Woodpeckers were among my target birds in Slovakia. Although we saw several species, the only one that I got good photos of was this one. A very closely related three-toed woodpecker also occurs in North America. There is disagreement as to whether they should be treated as the same or separate species, so it’s qualified here with ‘Eurasian’. The nesting hollow was close to the ground so I was able to set up the camera and tripod at a convenient distance (see second last photo) and wait for the adults to visit carrying food.

The males are distinguishable by having some yellow streaks on the crown. The yellow varies in intensity and was very pale in this male – first of the Woodpecker photos. He made only one visit during the hour or so I was there, so the female either did most of the work or had more success in finding food. This species is supposedly shy, but this pair didn’t take much notice of me, though the female sometimes perched on a tree closer to the camera and looked in my direction (photo directly above).

A little later, our guides found an active hollow of a Great Spotted Woodpecker with noisy young nearby. These adults were much shyer and wouldn’t approach the nest while I was in the vicinity, so I left them in peace after a little while. Unlike Dollarbirds, Woodpeckers can’t rely on termites to do all the work of burrowing for them and have to do it themselves. You can see on these photos that there were a few false starts chipping through the bark. Eurasian Three-toed Woodpeckers usually nest in Spruce.


I was pleased with the photos that I got of the Slovakian Three-toed Woodpeckers. It was only later that I found that I had already photographed another nesting site in Finland, four years before (last photo). On this photo you can see that the bird has only three toes. All – I believe – other Woodpeckers have four toes and usually cling onto trees with two toes pointing forwards and two braced backwards. I find it hard to imagine what competitive advantage there would lead to the three-toed losing one of its toes.


Lee’s Addition:

“…that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil!” (Habakkuk 2:9b KJV)

What an interesting Woodpecker and what a distance that camera is from the little avian wonder. Wow!


More of Ian’s Bird of the Week articles:


Ian’s Bird of the Week – Crimson Finch

Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) by Ian

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 a 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.

His other birds mentioned:

Star Finch (Neochmia ruficauda) by Ian

Star Finch (Neochmia ruficauda) by Ian


Red-browed Finch (Neochmia temporalis) by Ian

Red-browed Finch (Neochmia temporalis) by Ian


Plum-headed Finch (Neochmia modesta) by Ian males


Lee’s Addition:

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 KJV)

I decided to put a photo of the three other finches mentioned in Ian’s newsletter. They all seem so colorful for a nice Christmas Eve day. Thanks, Ian, for sharing your photos with us and for a Christmas photo present. Trust you eyes are improving. We miss your newsletters.