‘Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You. (Jeremiah 32:17 NKJV)
I always enjoy seeing Pileated Woodpeckers like this one at Circle B Bar Reserve here in the area. This was taken several years ago.
I found these videos on YouTube and they show the Pileated in a different way than we have observed them. Enjoy!
The first one is a YouTube by Dan & Joe. He discovers a chipmunk:
He has made the earth by His power; He has established the world by His wisdom, And stretched out the heaven by His understanding. (Jeremiah 51:15 NKJV)
Here’s another video of a Pileated Woodpecker Singing by Pureimaginationvideo:
This last one has a very good close-up of a Pileated digging for Grubs by Martyn Stewart:
But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, And the nations will not be able to endure His indignation. Thus you shall say to them: “The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens.” He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, And has stretched out the heavens at His discretion. (Jeremiah 10:10-12 NKJV)
I have been reading through Jeremiah and these verse caught my attention.
Ian’s Bird of the Week – Goliath Imperial Pigeon ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter – 8/17/15
A characteristic sound of montane forests in New Caledonia is the far-carrying call of this splendid pigeon, the Goliath or New Caledonian Imperial Pigeon. The tone is similar to someone blowing in a (large) bottle but the rhythm accelerates like the sound of a table-tennis ball being dropped on a table. Needless to say, we started calling it the ping-pong pigeon. We first heard them in the dense forests of Rivière Bleue, but had trouble actually seeing any apart from one that flew off from feeding on Pandanus fruit. We eventually tracked this one through the forest and found it putting on a display.
The display is similar to that of the domestic pigeon, alternating between puffing out the crop to show the silvery-tipped bifurcated feathers to best advantage (first photo) and bowing (second photo). The head, upperparts and breast are a steely grey while the breast is a rich rufous colour and the vent pale. The iris is a vivid orange red. With a length of up to 51cm/20in and weighing up to 720g/1.6lb, this is a huge pigeon, which unfortunately makes it good to eat. For comparison the Torresian (Pied) Imperial Pigeon of northern and northeastern Australia measures up to 44cm in length and 550g in weight.
It is endemic to the main island of New Caledonia (Grande Terre) and the Isle of Pines. The population has suffered from habitat loss and hunting, so it remains common only in protected areas and is currently listed as Near Threatened. After our hard work finding it in Rivière Bleue we were amused to find one on perched in the open on a power line beside the road to Mount Koghi two days later, third photo. We also heard several and photographed one at Les Grandes Fougères.
The subject of each bird of the week is usually a species that hasn’t featured previously. This tends to mean that I don’t get to share with you new photos of previous subjects. So I’ve decided to include random photos from time to time, such as this one of a Noisy Pitta. I was contacted by a neighbour recently with a wonderful, well-watered garden in which this Pitta has recently taken up residence. Pittas are such beautiful birds and I like this photo because of the way the bird is framed by the leaves behind it.
P.S. (Be warned: this is a commercial break!) Did you know that some ebook sellers provide facilities of giving book as gifts. Maybe you know someone who would enjoy Where to Find Birds in Northeastern Queensland ($13.20 to $22). Kobo books has ebook readers from most devices and computer so check out their page on gifts. With Kobo you go to this page first and then browse for the item you want to give. With Apple iPads and iPhones, you find the item first e.g. Where to Find Birds on Northeastern Queensland in the iTunes Store and then select the Share icon at top right and select Gift:
I haven’t found a similar facility in the iTunes store accessed from an Apple computer (the share icon is peculiar to iOS). You can however give gift cards with suggestions from iTunes, Google Play and Kobo.
And a champion went out of the camp of the Philistines named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span [almost ten feet]. (1 Samuel 17:4 AMP)
We have seen the Victoria Crowned Pigeons at Zoos and they are typically 73 to 75 cm (29 to 30 in) long. Ian’s 51cm/20in Goliath Imperial Pigeon is not too far behind. The well-known rock dove is 29 to 37 cm (11 to 15 in) long, for comparison. However you look at it, they are quite big. One source mentioned that the Goliaths are very strong flyers.
That is also a great photo of the Noisy Pitta. Thanks, Ian for sharing your photos with us each week (or whenever).
Someone once told me to read one of the Proverbs each day for a month. There are 31 chapters in Proverbs, and that way we can read the Book of Proverbs 12 times during the year. You know, boys and girls, Solomon wrote about 3000 proverbs and he was the wisest man who ever lived (not counting Jesus, of course). Solomon was wiser than the wisest owl they tell me. Try reading a chapter each day and before you know it, you will gain some of Solomon’s wisdom.
Anyways, I just love the verse about apples and gold and silver. Why it reminds me delicious food and color and valuable metals. Everything that God created, He created for the benefit of you and me. He got this world ready in six literal 24 hour days and then God rested on the 7th day. He calls that day, the Sabbath. The word simply means “rest.” After my journey around the world, I can tell you that I need to rest and rest and rest some more. Don’t you just love to stay in your room where it is cold and dark and rest? Hey, why not get in your room and curl up with the best Book on this planet. This Bible came from another world. Did you know that? Look at this next Bible verse:
“For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in Heaven.” (Psalm 119:89)” The Bible came from Heaven and it’s going to be around forever!!!
The Bible starts off with these words: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) God created time: “In the beginning.” That’s almost like baseball: In the big inning. (Yes, I was trying to make a joke) God created space: “heaven” and God created matter: “the earth.” That’s was this Universe is comprised of: time and space and matter. So cool…
In the weeks ahead, I will share with you guys some of the amazing things I enjoyed on my journey around the world. One of the things I really enjoy is food. I love to eat. How about you? Did you know that God created green plants with the ability to make their own food. The scientists call this photo, photosynthesis or something like that. The green plants, with chlorophyll, can somehow use the light from the sun to make starch and sugar and stuff like that. I just love to eat.
Of course, if I eat too much I will get big like the ostrich. Those birds are so heavy, they cannot fly anywhere. I don’t want to be known as the huge eagle that can’t get off the ground. Well, boys and girls, I am going to leave my nest for a short while and find something to eat. The Creator God of the Bible has created me with eyes that can see very far away. Until next time, Golden Eagle says God bless you everyone and have a fun, filled, fantastic day. This is after all, Saturday, where i am off for my next feast. See ya!!!
Golden Eagle, a.k.a., Baron B., is beginning a new blog called Bibleworld Adventures, Apples of Gold in Pictures of Silver. We have been helping him set up his new “nest” and he will now post under the name “Golden Adventures.”
He will not only continue the Golden Eagle articles for the younger people, but will also be writing articles about the Bible, Birds, Creation Science, History, and the Kid’s Corner where the Golden Eagle adventures can be found.
We wish him well in his new adventure and look forward to sharing his Golden Eagle articles with you here. The fact that Golden Eagle is a bird, I have had the privilege of teaching how to blog. Birds don’t even know how to hold a pencil, let alone know how to type. That big beak of his does work okay on the keys though. As Golden Eagle, “learns the ropes,” we will help him and not desert him.
Lord Bless you, Baron, (a.k.a. Golden Eagle) as you venture in to the world of blogging.
Singing Bush Lark (Mirafra cantillans) by Nikhil Devassar
The Lark family has 97 members which are busy doing what the Lord commanded them to when they left the Ark:
Then God spoke to Noah, saying, “Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you: birds and cattle and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. Every animal, every creeping thing, every bird, and whatever creeps on the earth, according to their families, went out of the ark.(Genesis 8:15-19 NKJV)
Larks are passerine birds of the family Alaudidae. All species occur in the Old World, and in northern and eastern Australia. Only one, the Horned Lark, is native to North America. Habitats vary widely, but many species live in dry regions.
They have more elaborate calls than most birds, and often extravagant songs given in display flight (Kikkawa 2003). These melodious sounds (to human ears), combined with a willingness to expand into anthropogenic habitats — as long as these are not too intensively managed — have ensured larks a prominent place in literature and music, especially the Eurasian Skylark in northern Europe and the Crested Lark and Calandra Lark in southern Europe.
Personally, these Larks look very similar to Sparrows, which are very common.
Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. (Matthew 10:29 NKJV)
Larks, commonly consumed with bones intact, have historically been considered wholesome, delicate, and light game. Yet. Traditionally larks are kept as pets in China. In Beijing, larks are taught to mimic the voice of other songbirds and animals. It is an old-fashioned habit of the Beijingers to teach their larks 13 kinds of sounds in a strict order (called “the 13 songs of a lark”, Chinese: 百灵十三套). The larks that can sing the full 13 sounds in the correct order are highly valued. (Info from Wikipedia)
Ian’s Bird of the Week – Crow Honeyeater ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter – 7/31/15
I mentioned last week that the Horned Parakeet was second on my wanted list for New Caledonia but probably third on Joy’s. I knew that number two for Joy, after the Kagu, was this week’s species, the Crow Honeyeater, chosen by her for its scarcity as it is the rarest of the surviving New Caledonian endemics. I’m excluding the four critically endangered/probably extinct endemics: NC (New Caledonian) Rail (last definite record 1890), NC Lorikeet (1860), NC Nightjar (1939) and NC Owlet-Nightjar (possible sight record 1998).
Current estimates of the population of Crow Honeyeater are as low as 250 individuals, based on the density of 18 known pairs in a recent study in Rivière Bleue. Some think this is an overestimate and the population is thought to be continuing to decline. The reasons for this are uncertain with loss of habitat and introduced rats being proposed. It’s preferred habitat is primary rainforest but it is now absent from areas of apparently suitable habitat and its smaller Fijian relative, the Giant Honeyeater Gymnomyza viridis being apparently unaffected by rats. So there may be other factors involved that are not understood.
In any case, I hadn’t really expected to see it so it didn’t make my seriously wanted list – I try to avoid unreasonable expectations to prevent disappointment. But our guide Jean Marc Meriot wasn’t going to be discouraged by such pessimism and, after we had had our fill of Kagus, worked very hard indeed to find one.
Eventually, after lunch this very obliging bird appeared suddenly and perched in full view on an uncluttered perch near the road through the dense forest and posed for photographs. Unlike the Horned Parakeet, it was a brief encounter, but the bird displayed a number of poses in that time including a wing stretch, second photo, and an apparent wave, third photo.
This is a huge honeyeater, and as far as I can ascertain vies with the Yellow Wattlebird of Tasmania as the world’s largest. Length varies from at 35-42.5cm/14-17in with males being larger and recorded at 211-284g/7.4-10oz and two females at 152g/5.4oz and 159g/5.6oz. This compares with the longer-tailed Yellow Wattlebird with males ranging from 44-50cm/17-20in and 135-260g/4.8-9.2oz and females 37-43cm/15-17in and 105-190g/3.7-6.7. So, I’d declare the Crow Honeyeater the winner as the heaviest, and the Yellow Wattlebird as the winner in the length stakes.
Incidentally, the ‘Giant’ Honeyeater of Fiji is a mere 25-31cm/10-12in and similar in size to the only other close relative of the Crow Honeyeater, the Mao of Samoa (Gymnomyza samoensis). Neither the Giant Honeyeater nor the Moa is black and neither has facial wattles, so the Crow Honeyeater is quite special. The bird we saw had red wattles, but they can be yellowish, while the feet are pinkish-yellow and juveniles lack wattles.
It makes me sad to write this as its future looks rather bleak. So, I hope the bird in the third photo is just pausing in mid-itch – it had been been itching its ear a moment earlier – and not waving goodbye on behalf of its kind. To end on a brighter note, there are about nearly 20 other New Caledonian endemics that are doing rather better, and several others that are endemic to New Caledonian and Vanuatu, so New Caledonia’s record is fairly good compared with many other islands in the Pacific. We got photos of nearly all of these, so I’ll have more to say about them in the future. I’ve been busy putting them up on the website and you can find them via the Recent Additions thumbnails on the website: http://www.birdway.com.au/index.htm#updates.
Ian’s Bird of the Week – Horned Parakeet ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter – 7/27/15
The Kagu was naturally top of our target list in New Caledonia being the most bizarre in appearance, behaviour, taxonomy and general curiosity value. Second on my list and I think third on Joy’s were the horned parakeets of Grande Terre (the main island) and Ouvéa, one of the Loyalty Island off the east coast of Grande Terre. These birds used to be treated as a single species, but have recently been split into the Horned and Ouvéa Parakeets respectively. I mentioned in a previous post that the Kagu nearly got upstaged as bird of the trip by an individual Horned Parakeet at Mont Khogis near Noumea, so here is the bird in question and the interaction that we had with it, a memorable birding experience by any measure.
On an earlier visit to the Inn (Auberge) at Mont Khogis we’d had brief views of three Horned Parakeets flying across the road and we had been told by Serge, the owner of the Inn, that the parakeets came in the late afternoon to feed on the Lavender trees in front of the building. On our visit to Rivière Blue we also tried with little success to photograph a back-lit one feeding in dense foliage right above us, a good situation for chiropractic business but not much else. All was quiet at the Inn on our second visit, so we started on the nearby rainforest walk until Roman, one of the staff, came charging after us with the welcome news that a parakeet had arrived.
We set ourselves up very cautiously at an unobtrusive distance from the tree and started taking remote photos of the parakeet and very gradually working our way towards it. I mean gradually: I and Joy had each taken about a hundred more distant shots before the first one in this series, above. As you can see the bird was very aware of our presence and looked as if it could take off at any time.
We moved slowly closer and the bird started to look more relaxed. In the second photo it is showing its skill at perching on one foot, holding a little bunch of Lavender fruit in the other, munching on them and watching us at the same time. We started to get the impression that it was actually enjoying the attention and showing off for our benefit, third photo.
Eventually,we worked our way up to the tree and around the other side so that we could photograph it in the sunlight a little over an hour before sunset with the mountains in the background. The bird munched on regardless and seemed completely unworried by our approach. It seemed to have an extraordinary appetite. We reckoned that it ate about 700 of the fruit in the time that we were there. It wouldn’t take too long for a small flock to complete strip the tree.
They’re referred to as ‘horned’ rather than ‘crested’ as the feathers of the horn are permanent erect. There should be two horns, but one of this bird’s may have been broken off. They are probably more than just decorative as they nest in hollows in trees and the horns seem to be used to sense the space, or lack of it, above the head. That at least is the suggestion made for the similarly equipped but very different Crested Auklet. It nest in holes in coastal boulders and being able to avoid cracking your skull against rocks would seem to be very desirable.
We can become blasé about even the most riveting spectacles. Three hundred photos each later, here is Joy relaxing under the tree and the parakeet, top centre, looking in the opposite direction. It was still there when we decided it was time to leave but it called after us as if sorry to see us go. By the time we walked around to the car park below the inn, it had left too and joined a couple of other parakeets in another Lavender tree. Joy and I agreed that this was one of the most beautiful parrots that we had encountered.
The horned parakeets belong to the sub-family of Australasian parrots called broad-tailed parrots. The best known members of this group (Playtcercini) are the Australian Rosellas, Ringnecks and Mulga Parrot and its relatives. The group also includes the Shining Parrots of Fiji and the Cyanorhamphus Parakeets of various islands of the southwest Pacific including Norfolk Island, New Caledonia, New Zealand and its sub-Antarctic islands and, formerly, Lord Howe Island and Macquarie Island. Most parrots are fairly sedentary, but these island ones seem to be quite good at island hopping, maybe helped by the cyclones that move generally in an easterly or southeasterly direction in this part of the world.
The Horned Parakeet is listed as Vulnerable with an estimated population on Grande Terre of between 5000 and 10,000 individuals. The Ouvéa Parakeet has a limited distribution on the northern end of this small island (about 40km long) and is listed as Endangered. Recent estimates of the population are about 2000 individuals and it is thought to be increasing. We did, of course, go to Ouvéa later in our stay….
I had some interesting correspondence on giant tree ferns after the last Kagu bird of the week. The Guinness Book of Records has a Norfolk Island Cyathea brownii species as the tallest and I had photos of a very tall one in Vanuatu, and a carving made from another one.
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 email@example.com
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland: iTunes; Google Play Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au
And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; (Luke 1:69 KJV)
What an amazing “horn”! As Ian said, it was supposed to have a second one. Sounds like the usefulness of their “horn” spares their head. I’ve raised up under things before and hit my head. Maybe I need one of those. :)
Waxwings are characterised by soft silky plumage. (Bombycilla, the genus name, is Vieillot’s attempt at Latin for “silktail”, translating the German name Seidenschwänze.) They have unique red tips to some of the wing feathers where the shafts extend beyond the barbs; in the Bohemian and cedar waxwings, these tips look like sealing wax, and give the group its common name
Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher (Ptilogonys caudatus) by Michael Woodruff
The silky-flycatchers are a small family, They were formerly lumped with waxwings and hypocolius in the family Bombycillidae, The family is named for their silky plumage and their aerial flycatching techniques, although they are unrelated to the Old World flycatchers (Muscicapidae) and the tyrant flycatchers (Tyrannidae).
They occur mainly in Central America from Panama to Mexico. They are related to waxwings, and like that group have soft silky plumage, usually gray or pale yellow in color. All species, with the exception of the black-and-yellow phainoptila, have small crests.
Grey Hypocolius (Hypocolius ampelinus) by Nikhil Devasar
The Grey Hypocolius or simply Hypocolius (Hypocolius ampelinus) is a small passerine bird species. It is the sole member of the genus Hypocolius and it is placed in a family of its own, the Hypocoliidae. This slender and long tailed bird is found in the dry semi-desert region of northern Africa, Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and western India. They fly in flocks and forage mainly on fruits, migrating south in winter.
The Palmchat (Dulus dominicus) is a small, long-tailed passerine bird, the only species in the genus Dulus and the family Dulidae. It is thought to be related to the waxwings, family Bombycillidae, and is sometimes classified with that group. The name reflects its strong association with palms for feeding, roosting and nesting. The Palmchat is the national bird of the Dominican Republic.
Kauai Oo (Moho braccatus) WikiC
Mohoidae is a family of Hawaiian species of recently extinct, nectarivorous songbirds in the genera Moho (ʻŌʻōs) and Chaetoptila (Kioea). These now extinct birds form their own family, representing the only complete extinction of an entire avian family in modern times, when the disputed family Turnagridae is disregarded for being invalid.
The Hylocitrea (Hylocitrea bonensis), also known as the yellow-flanked whistler or olive-flanked whistler, is a species of bird that is endemic to montane forests on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Has traditionally been considered a member of the family Pachycephalidae, but recent genetic evidence suggests it should be placed in a monotypic subfamily of the family Bombycillidae, or even its own family, Hylocitreidae.
Stenostiridae, or the fairy flycatchers, are a family of small passerine birds proposed as a result of recent discoveries in molecular systematics. They are commonly referred to as stenostirid warblers. This new clade is named after the fairy flycatcher, a distinct species placed formerly in the Old World flycatchers. This is united with the “sylvioid flycatchers”: the genus Elminia (formerly placed in the Monarchinae) and the closely allied former Old World flycatcher genus Culicicapa, as well as one species formerly believed to be an aberrant fantail.
Nicator is a genus of songbird endemic to Africa. The genus contains three medium sized passerine birds. The name of the genus is derived from nikator, Greek for conqueror. Within the genus, the western and eastern nicators are considered to form a superspecies and are sometimes treated as the same species. The nicators occupy a wide range of forest and woodland habitats.
Bearded Reedling (Panurus biarmicus biarmicus) by Peter Ericsson male
The bearded reedling (Panurus biarmicus) is a small, reed-bed passerine bird. It is frequently known as the bearded tit, due to some similarities to the long-tailed tit, or the bearded parrotbill. The bearded reedling was placed with the parrotbills in the family Paradoxornithidae, after they were removed from the true tits in the family Paridae. However, according to more recent research, it is actually a unique songbird – no other living species seems to be particularly closely related to it. Thus, it seems that the monotypic family Panuridae must again be recognized. The bearded reedling is a species of temperate Europe and Asia.
(All data from Wikipedia)
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39 KJV)
Listen to Megan Fee (Violin) and Jill Foster (Piano) as they play and watch the Lord’s beautiful avian creations.
“Oh The Deep, Deep, Love of Jesus” ~ Megan and Jill during communion.
Ian’s Bird of the Week – Great Crested Grebe ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter ~ 6/20/15
I’m going to weave a tangled web of French connections around this bird of the week, but the first and most important is that in honour of Loïc, my great nephew and first child of my niece Jeannine and her husband Carlos who live in Strasbourg in Alsace. He was due today, but arrived safe and well four days early.
Clearly, a bird photographed in France was required but the choice was very limited: Carrion Crow, Common Coot or Great Crested Grebe. The latter was bird of the week in July 2007, so I toyed with the idea of Coot but, given that in the British Isles people say ‘you silly coot’ in the same tone that Australian say ‘you silly galah’ I decided that coot was better saved for a non-dedicated bird of the week.
So here is an elegant grebe in non-breeding plumage in a park near where my niece lives in Strasbourg last October. She took my sister Gillian and I there to look for some White Storks that had been nesting there, but they had already left for the winter so the grebes and coots attracted my attention instead. If my sums are correct in working back from today’s date, little Loïc would have been with us too, though probably not much older than the egg in the nest in the second photo. This egg was probably freshly laid, as Great Crested Grebes usually lay 3 or 4 eggs. Maybe it arrived early too, as the parent is busy adding nesting material to the structure.
This nest was on Lake Alexandrina on the South Island of New Zealand, so it’s apparent that this species has a huge range extending from Ireland in the West and all the way through Eurasia to Australasia and in northern and southern Africa. It is however absent from the tropical regions of Africa and various tropical areas of Asia such as Indonesia.
The third photo shows one of the New Zealand birds in full breeding plumage with the elongated crest and head plumes that give it scientific (cristatus), English and French name Grèbe Huppé. I’ll come back to huppé later. The 2007 bird of the week photos were of some breeding birds in Portugal and here is another one from that series: proud parent with two gorgeous striped youngsters. As this posting is celebrating a new family, I’d like to think that the photo is prophetic and that Loïc can look forward to a lovely sibling in due course.
Great Crested Grebes mostly feed on fish, quite large ones at that, but this one Portugese one, fifth photo, has seized this hapless frog, whose expression seems a rather sad combination of pleading for help and accepting its fate.
Another French connection is that I’m on a flight to New Caledonia and had thought that I would be on French territory when Loïc arrived, but he decided not to wait but I will try and skype the happy trio from Noumea.
I mentioned a few weeks ago, that our primary target is the very special Kagu, a rare, crested pigeon-sized terrestrial species endemic to New Caledonia. It’s taxonomically special too, being the only member of its family (Rhynchochetidae) and belong to an order that has only one distant relative, the Sunbittern of South America (according to Birdlife International).
The Kagu is crested too, so it’s French name is – you’ve guessed it, go to the top of the class – Kagou huppé. Huppé is slang in French for upper crust, smart, posh which seems highly appropriate. So, as usual I’m relying on your spiritual and moral support to produce au autre oiseau huppé for the next bird of the week. Joy and I have booked a guide at Rivière Bleue National Park next Tuesday, its main breeding locality and pride and joy of the park.
Forty one minutes to go before we reach Noumea.
Ian’s Bird of the Week ~ Pilotbird ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter ~ 3/31/15
The primary targets in East Gippsland were the Sooty and Masked Owls, but there were several daytime birds on the wanted list too. One of these was the Pilotbird, a smallish – 17cm/7in long – brown, ground-dwelling bird of the mountain ranges and dense coastal scrub of southeastern Australia from just south of Sydney almost to Melbourne. I’d seen one only once before, near Mittagong in New South Wales 16 years ago, but that encounter was only a glimpse and no photography was involved.
It’s an unobtrusive bird and easy to overlook, unless you know its flutey, far-carrying call, sometimes rendered as ‘guinea-a-week’. My Victorian friends knew a good spot for it in coastal scrub and we found one there with relative ease, returning the following day (first photo) to get better photos. It rummages around in thick undergrowth looking for invertebrates. The second photo has a red dot showing the exactly location, beyond the sinuous brown branch, so you can appreciate that we are lucky to be able to see anything much of it in the photo. It has unusual buff dark-edged feathers on the breast, giving it a scaly appearance. The plumage is apparently dense and silky as reflected in its scientific name: Pycnoptilus means thick-feathered, and floccosus is derived from the Latin floccus and means ‘full of flocks of wool’, which, I must admit, left me not much the wiser.
Pilotbird (Pycnoptilus floccosus) location by Ian
It’s common name Pilotbird arises from the bird frequently associating with Superb Lyrebirds, taking advantage of the digging habits of the latter (third photo) to snatch up revealed invertebrates. Some sources say the name Pilotbird comes from the similar habit of Pilotfish which associates with large marine predators such as sharks; other say that the Pilotbird by its call led early settlers looking for food to lyrebirds. I prefer the first explanation. Lyrebirds are very vocal in their own right and don’t need another species to advertise their presence. Lyrebirds are perhaps the world best mimics and are known to mimic Pilotbirds, and it would be easy to imagine that this attracted Pilotbirds in the first place and they then learned that this was an easy way to get dinner. We did in fact see several Superb Lyrebirds dashing across the roads of the forests where the owls lived, though the coastal scrub didn’t strike me as good lyrebird habitat.
This photo of the lyrebird digging vigorously reminded me both of Scrub-turkeys and Chowchillas (fourth photo) and I wondered whether the Pilotbird had a behavioural counterpart in the forests of Northeastern Queensland. The Pilotbird is usually placed in the Acanthizidae, the family of thornbills and their allies (though it shows some affinities with the bristlebirds Dasyornithidae), so I checked up on the Fernwren (fifth photo) another brown, rummaging Acanthizid endemic to the Wet Tropics.
Sure enough, HBW (Handbook of Birds of the World) reports that the Fernwren “sometimes associates with Orange-footed Scrubfowl (Megapodius reinwardt) and Chowchilla (Orthonyx spaldingii), following in close proximity and catching prey disturbed by their feeding actions”. The Orange-footed Scrubfowl is, of course, a cousin of the Brush-turkey.
So maybe this week’s bird of the week should be entitled ‘small brown rummaging birds of the forest floors of eastern Australia’.
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 firstname.lastname@example.org
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me; (Psalms 31:3 ESV)
Teach me to do Your will; for You are my God; Your Spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness. (Psalms 143:10 MKJV)
What great protection colorations these birds have received from their Creator. I am sure when the birds of prey are in the area, rummaging types of birds are very thankful for their less colorful outfits.
Bridled Honeyeater (Lichenostomus frenatus) by Ian
How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalms 119:103 KJV)
The Meliphagidae – Honeyeaters are another of our beautifully created birds in the Passerine Order to highlight. Thought about changing the sequence because of Palm Sunday, but did Palm Birds previously with Lisa Brock singing from an Easter Musical. The Words of Christ that tell of this week, and they are sweeter than honey to those of us who have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior.
The Lord did not have to stay on the cross, but because of His Love for us, he stayed there and paid the penalty for our sins. He offers us the gift of Salvation, but we have to admit and acknowledge our sinful condition, and accept that gift. Honey is a gift from the Lord for the Honeyeaters, and they could stand and look at it all day, but they need to partake of it to do them any good. Taste comes when they accept it.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (John 3:14-19 KJV)
“Blood of Jesus Medley” ~ Faith Baptist Church Choir
Ian’s Bird of the Week – Greater Sooty Owl ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter ~ 3/19/15
Here is the belated and sought-after bird of the week after a great trip to Victoria. I’ve been unwell since my return a week ago, but things are fine now and the wheels of my life are turning again.
Your spiritual support and goodwill have done it again, so it’s another mission accomplished, though in English this time (having been Catalan and Spanish in the past). Actually, most credit should go to my sharp-eared, sharp-eyed, knowledgeable and passionate birding friends. With their hard work, the track record for target species in East Gippsland during our stay was fantastic. We went searching for owls on each of the three nights. The first night, we heard both Greater Sooty and Masked Owls – and the sharpest-eyed of the group saw a Masked Owl in flight. On the second night, at a different site we heard another Sooty Owl and eventually caught sight of it flying among the tall trees of the forest. It then flew over us and perched on a dead limb in the open high above us.
I got only this photo, discarding a second out of focus one. For the technically minded, I used manual focussing – it was too distant and the light and contrast too faint for auto focus – and guessed an exposure of 1/80sec at f5.6 and 1600 ISO using the 100-400mm zoom. As the passionate/obsessive birder would understand, it was worth travelling to Victoria for this one photo and, having taken it, misión completa (I have liked it in Spanish since finding the Resplendent Quetzel in Costa Rica in 2010) I was free to relax and enjoy whatever other gems came our way. In fact, one such, this Yellow-bellied Glider. sailed over our heads and landed in a nearby tree while we were trying to locate the calling Sooty Owl.
These are fantastic, long-tailed, wrist-winged relatives of possums (the Striped Possum of Northeastern Queensland is in the same family, the Petauridae) and the Yellow-bellied can glide up to 150m/400ft. It is rabbit-sized with a huge bushy tail that it presumably uses as a rudder in flight. They’re called wrist-winged, to distinguish them from elbow-winged like the Great Glider, and if you look carefully in the photo you can see the black edge of the membrane attaching to the little finger of the left hand. This proved to be diagnostic as we were unsure of both its identify and of whether the large possum-like animal on the tree was the same creature as the pale form that glided over us.
They are reasonably common in suitable old growth forest in eastern Australia, though the northern race regina has a very restricted range in northeastern Queensland and is threatened by logging. Quite coincidentally, I received a request yesterday to support a petition to prevent the transferring of Tumoulin Forest Reserve near Ravenshoe to State Forest so that logging can resume. The petition is aimed directly at protecting the Yellow-bellied Glider, and if you think, like I do, that downgrading the status of nature reserves is disgraceful, then we should support it: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/851/727/614/protect-rare-possum-habitat-from-senseless-logging/.
Later that evening, we returned to the Masked Owl site. We could hear one or two Masked Owls but they were wary, keeping their distance in the forest and moving away when spotlights were shone in their direction. We did, however, see one in flight and, having already photographed the Sooty Owl, I was satisfied with that, even though we did try again for photographs without success on the third night. We did, however, find this Sugar Glider, a small relative of the Yellow-bellied. It seemed to be keeping a low profile, very sensible given the presence of calling owls. Later still, we came across a juvenile Southern Boobook which flew up in front of us into a small tree beside the road. It didn’t dally for a photo, but that made it a three-owl evening which we all thought was special.
I’ve barely mentioned Sooty Owls, as so much else happened that evening. There are two Australian forms: the Lesser Sooty in the wet tropics of northeastern Queensland and the Greater Sooty in eastern Australia from Eungella National Park near Mackay in Queensland to the Dandenong and Strzelecki Ranges in Victoria, both reasonably common in suitable habitat of wet, gully, forest but rarely seen. Another race, supposedly of the Greater Sooty, occurs throughout New Guinea. Currently the Lesser and Greater are treated as separate species by most authorities, though Christidis and Boles lumped them in 2008. Having one species with a disjoint range in New Guinea and eastern Australia and a closely-related separate one in between should make any student of biogeography laugh out loud, but that’s the way it is. Sooty Owls feed mainly on arboreal mammals, though they will take other prey such as birds.
Ian at work photographing Owl
On the following day we returned to the Sooty Owl site and here is a photograph of me photographing it, the red spot showing where the bird in the photo was perched. I was surprised at how far up it was and felt very fortunate to have got the one reasonable photo. This forest also produced for us Tawny Frogmouth, Australian Owlet-Nightjar, Brush-tailed Possums, a bandicoot, a wombat and Black or Swamp Wallabies leaving us in no doubt about the value of old growth forests (reminder http://www.thepetitionsite.com/851/727/614/protect-rare-possum-habitat-from-senseless-logging/).
A few people have requested location information about the owls, but I have been sworn to secrecy by my friends as they don’t want them being disturbed too much or subjected to tapes of owl calls. So please understand my reticence.
Ian’s Bird of the Week – Budgerigar ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter ~ 3/3/15
Judging by the number of emails that I received about Pied Butcherbirds, iconic species are popular and there were many interesting stories about experiences with them. So here is another, perhaps globally the most familiar Australian bird. Although it’s quite common and sometimes very abundant after good rains in the drier parts of Australia, you have to go out of your way to find it. So it it’s much less well-known as a wild bird than say other iconic species like Australian Magpie and Laughing Kookaburras that turn up in backyards.
It wasn’t until after I moved to North Queensland in 2002 that I first saw them in the wild, and that was on a trip to Moorrinya National Park between Torrens Creek and Aramac, 370km southwest of Townsville. In places like that you usually see them in small flocks of maybe 10-20 in rapid undulating flight. These make sudden turns in the sunlight showing alternately green and yellow in a characteristic and delightful display of vivid, fluorescent colour.
The sexes can be distinguished either by differences in behaviour, sometimes subtle as in the first photo with an attentive male and a bored or playing hard to get female, or less subtly as in the second photo. Her the male is concentrating seriously, and the female is rather inscrutably either in a state of bliss or thinking of the motherland. An easier way though is by the colour of the cere – the tissue surrounding the nostrils – blue in adult males, and brown in females. Juveniles have duller plumages, barred foreheads and lack the black spots on the neck.
After good inland rains, the population can explode and Budgerigars may be seen in flocks of thousands. When dry conditions return and seeds become scare, flocks wander far and wide in search of food. They move into areas beyond their normal range and can turn up in coastal areas such as near Townsville. The birds in the third photo were near Woodstock just south of Townsville on the way to Charters Towers and I have seen them near Bluewater.
Sometimes escaped cage birds turn up in odd places in strange colours, such as this almost completely white one near the Strand in Townsville. I don’t know about you, but I prefer the natural colours. I was in Ireland once for a family funeral in February and was birding on Dun Laoghaire pier in Dublin Bay on a very cold, dull winter’s day, when I spotted a bright yellow budgie looking very out-of-place among some roosting waders. It was a moment of great empathy and I thought ‘you and I should be back in sunny Australia’.
I’m in Melbourne at the moment to visit East Gippsland next weekend with my Victorian birding pals who know of a good site for both Greater Sooty Owls and Masked Owls (both cousins of Barn Owls) near Orbost. I haven’t seen or photographed either of these, so may I request your customary friendly support and spiritual goodwill to help us find them? It would be lovely to be able to bring at least one of them to you as the next bird of the week.
Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. (Psalms 96:3 NKJV)
Ian is correct, at least for me. The Budgerigar or “Budgie” as I was taught, was one of the first bird names I ever knew. Almost everyone I have ever seen was in a cage or aviary. Few have been pets and one was sitting on someone glasses look down into their lens. But, to see them in the wild where they live would be a great experience.
Thanks, Ian, for again sharing your adventures with us. The most I have ever seen at one time has been at Lowry Park Zoo. I’ll also be praying that Ian finds those Greater Sooty Owls and Masked Owls so that he will share them with us on another Bird of the Week.