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


Latest Challenge of Zoo Photography

White-breasted Cormorants at Lowry Park Zoo 12-26-14 by Lee

 But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness. (Isaiah 34:11 KJV)

With my new Panasonic Lumix FZ200 camera in hand, off we went to Lowry Park Zoo the day after Christmas. I was itching to try out the 600 zoom compared to my 450 on the FZ47. I was content with the older camera, because as I have said before, I am a birdwatcher, not a photographer. I don’t know an “F-stop” from a “bus stop”. I shoot in Program mode.

That aside, I use the camera often, probably more than binoculars. Why? Maybe I am a little bit of a photographer because I like to see the birds when I get home. Many times I keep my bad shots because they are at least “proof shots” that I really did see the bird or to help ID it later. I leave the real good shots for Dan to take.because he knows what a “F-stop” is.

First Attempt - See the neat knots?

First Attempt – See the neat knots?

Back to my challenge. Taking photos at a Zoo can be quite challenging to say the least. Especially for “program mode” photographers. For some reason, zoos like to keep something between you and the birds, unless you are in an aviary with them. That “something” is usually a fence, bars, netting, or something to try to shoot through. They seem to like to keep their birds safe. :)

Another Attempt - Nice knots!

Another Attempt – Nice knots!

I tried again,

Nope - Not yet!

Nope – Not yet!

I backed out the zoom and tried to find the other one.

There he is

Different color netting, but same blurry bird photo.



Then, I finally got through the netting enough to see that beautiful bird.

Look at that beauty!

Look at that beauty!


I got through the netting.

Even got the chest and some feather design.

Yeah! I got through

Yeah! I got through

Look at those eyes!

What pretty green eyes

What pretty green eyes

Our Creator gave the White-breasted Cormorants a beautiful eye color and overall neat appearance. Just this one encounter, trying to get a photo takes you through a wide range of emotions; frustration, wanting to give up, then determination and joy when you can finally see the bird clear. Reminds me of what I have been reading in Ecclesiastes.

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: …A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; …A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away (blurry photos); …A time to love, And a time to hate; …What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 NKJV)

Enjoy all the photos of the cormorants and even some from a previous trip:

The white-breasted cormorant (Phalacrocorax lucidus) is much like the widespread great cormorant and if not a regional variant of the same species, is at least very closely related. It is distinguished from other forms of the great cormorant by its white breast and by the fact that subpopulations are freshwater birds. Phalacrocorax lucidus is not to be confused with the smaller and very different endemic South Australian black-faced cormorant, which also is sometimes called the white-breasted cormorant.


Birdwatching Trips

Lowry Park Zoo

White-breasted Cormorant – Wikipedia

White-breasted Cormorant – Dallas Zoo

Wordless Birds


Bird Name Challenges

Seychelles Black Parrot is actually Lesser Vasa Parrot (Coracopsis nigra) by Bob-Nan

Seychelles Black Parrot is actually Lesser Vasa Parrot (Coracopsis nigra) by Bob-Nan

As I have been working, behind the scenes to obtain photos for the Birds of the World pages, it has been a challenge to match the birds up with their new names. Apparently the I.O.C. (International Ornithological Congress) has a goal to standardize the English names of birds. That is a good thing, but it has problems.

Fantastic photographers (see sidebar-Photographers) have given their permission to use their photos, but the titles they use, don’t always coincide with the new names. So the progress has been slow trying to match the two together. It is not their fault, but changes just keep occurring. When all is said and done, when you link to a photo of theirs and the name is not the same as you clicked, not to worry. I have done my best to match them up properly. Many also give the Scientific name which is a great aid. I have had to “Google” many of the old names to try to come up with the correct new one.

An article puts all of the Naming in good perspective. “New Standard Bird Names – do we need them?” by Sumit K. Sen, from the Birds of India website does that. Here is just one his thoughts:

Bird renaming it seems is not a task, but a passion. Year after year birds are renamed by whoever has the ability to get anything printed. Some birds are particularly at risk and go through name changes as fast as their numbers decline. The only relief for them may be extinction – but that may still not be ‘name-change’ relief for us. We may suddenly be told that it was not a yuhina that went extinct – but was an epornis all the time! I am still waiting for someone to propose that the Dodo is entirely inappropriate (especially as there are some suggestions that the etymology of the word ‘dodo’ may have derogatory connotations associated with it) and the bird should certainly be called a ‘Mauritius Flightless Pigeon’ and we will soon learn that ‘as dead as a Mauritius Flightless’ is more appropriate usage over ‘as dead as a dodo’. It is coming, believe me!

Madagascar Bee-eater is the Olive Bee-eater (Merops superciliosus) by Bob-Nan

Madagascar Bee-eater is the Olive Bee-eater (Merops superciliosus) by Bob-Nan

You will find his comments interesting. In the mean time, the birds have been merrily doing what God told them to do, and that is reproduce and fill the earth. Luckily, they do not wear name tags that have to be replaced every so often to keep up with their new names.

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. (Genesis 8:17 NKJV)