Ian’s Bird of the Week – Crab Plover

Crab-plover (Dromas ardeola) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Crab Plover ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 9-22-14

Well your spiritual energy and goodwill did it again, helped physically, admittedly, by the excellent local bird guide Tommy Pedersen, a Dubai-based pilot from Norway who takes visitors birding in his spare time.

There had been some doubt as to whether he’d be free to help us, as he was just returning from a trip to Milan. I cc’d the last bird of the week to him and got a delightful reply just as I was packing in Bluewater on Monday morning:

So, I arrived in Dubai at 5:00 am, checked into my hotel at 7:00 am and at 11:00 am Tommy arrived, collected me and Madeleine – who’d just arrived from Hamburg – in his large and comfortable 4WD and off we went. The tide wasn’t quite right for the Crab Plovers so we did a few other things first – more about those in the next bird of the week – eventually ending up at the coastal sand and mudflats of Khor al-Beida, north of Dubai city. Here, there were about 40 Crab Plovers moving through the shallows on an in-coming tide.

Crab-plover (Dromas ardeola) by Ian

​I did a gradual, crouching trudge across the mudflat in 42º heat to try to get as close as possible to them. They let me get closer than I had expected, photos one and two, before eventually taking flight, third photo. As you can see they are very striking birds and the name ‘Plover’ doesn’t quite do them justice, either in appearance or taxonomically. Apart from the heavy dagger-shaped bill, they are more like avocets and similar in size with a length 40 cm/16 in. The bill resembles that of a Beach Stone-curlew, presumably a case of convergent evolution reflecting their crustacean diet.

Crab-plover (Dromas ardeola) by Ian

The fourth photos shows a close-up of one of the birds in flight. You can see that it is moulting heavily with many of the flight feathers missing in mid-replacement. This seemed to be the case with all of them, and a reluctance to fly may have had more to do with my close approach than my crouching/stalking skills.

Crab-plover (Dromas ardeola) by Ian

Taxonomically, the species show no very close affinities with other waders so the Crab Plover is the sole member​ of its own family (‘monotypic’), the Dromadidae. This is placed in the order Charadriiformes – Plovers & Allies – sitting between the Oystercatchers (Haemopodidae) and the Avocets & Stilts (Recurvirostridae). I feign indifference to making additions to my life list, but adding and photographing a whole new family is a different matter. The last time that happened to me was three years ago with Diving-Petrels on the Sub-antarctic trip.​

I arrived in Ireland yesterday and am spending a relaxing and enjoyable time with family. Yesterday evening I went blackberry picking with my sister along a country lane near where she lives in Clogherhead, Co. Louth. That was admirable therapy for the future-shock resulting from the glittering excesses of downtown Dubai.

Greetings
Ian


Lee’s Addition:

If thou wouldest seek unto God betimes, and make thy supplication to the Almighty; (Job 8:5 KJV)

And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13 KJV)

We love to seek out new species, to us at least. I am glad that Ian was able to find his Plover that was on his list. I guess we will have to wait until next week to see if he found his Cream-coloured Courser that he was also searching for. See last week’s Bird of the Week.

Ian sure gets about in his search for avian encounters. But what a beauty he found this time to share with us. I am glad Ian shares his photos with us. The Lord sure has created some neat birds. I like the clean look of these Crab-plovers all dressed in white and black. (The IOC list them as Crab-plovers. No matter what you call them, they are the Dromas ardeola.)

Seeking the Lord should always be our number one priority.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Dromadidae – Plovers Family

Dromadidae – Crab-plover Family – Here

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Black Stilt

Black Stilt (Himantopus novaezelandiae) 1 by Ian

Black Stilt (Himantopus novaezelandiae) 1 by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Black Stilt ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 11/15/11

You’ve done it again! Your collective goodwill and spiritual energy have provided yet another special, this time very special bird, the critically endangered and recently saved from extinction Black Stilt. I did have to do a little work as well to find a couple in their favoured habitat of often inaccessible, so-called braided rivers of the South Island. At the second potential site, see photo, the task seemed impossible – that’s all river bed between the foreground and the mountains – and I almost gave up.

Tasman River by Ian

Tasman River by Ian

The third site wasn’t any better, but the fourth and last was a bridge over another river and you could have knocked me over with a feather when, having just stepped onto the bridge, I spotted two Black Stilts feeding a couple of hundred meters away close to the river bank.
One flew away when I approached but the other was much more cooperative and continued feeding.
Black Stilt (Himantopus novaezelandiae) 2 by Ian

Black Stilt (Himantopus novaezelandiae) 2 by Ian

Eventually it flew off too, but it landed not far away, close to a breeding colony of 3 or 4 pairs of Black-fronted Terns, another species on my wanted list.
Black Stilt (Himantopus novaezelandiae) 3 by Ian

Black Stilt (Himantopus novaezelandiae) 3 by Ian

It stayed for a little while longer, until the terns chased it off. If you look carefully in the last photo, you can see a coloured band on the right leg and bird is presumably one of the captive-bred and released birds.
Black Stilt (Himantopus novaezelandiae) 4 by Ian

Black Stilt (Himantopus novaezelandiae) 4 by Ian

The population of Black Stilts in the wild reached a low of 23 adults in 1981 when the program started, making it the rarest wading bird in the world. There are now probably 200 birds in the wild and the program continues. Lets keep our fingers crossed!
I’ve had a great time so far in New Zealand and yesterday I went on a successful boat trip on Milford Sound in lovely weather for another wanted species, another potential bird of the week. I’m now on my way back to Christchurch to return my splendid campervan – I shall be reluctant to return it.
Best wishes
Ian


Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: 0411 602 737 +61-411 602 737
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au


Lee’s Addition:

Glad to see the Lord answers prayers. (See Addition –  NZ/Australasian Shoveler) What a neat bird, glad you found it and didn’t give up. With them so few in numbers, that is a Great Catch!

I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me. (Proverbs 8:17 KJV)

The Black Stilt is in the Recurviostridae Family of the Charadriiformes Order. There are 6 Stilts and 4 Avocets. Check out Ian’s Recurviostridae photos.

“Avocets and stilts range in length from 30 to 46 centimetres (12 to 18 in) and in weight from 140 to 435 grams (4.9 to 15.3 oz); males are usually slightly bigger than females.[1] All possess long, thin legs, necks, and bills. The bills of avocets are curved upwards, and are swept from side to side when the bird is feeding in the brackish or saline wetlands they prefer. The bills of stilts, in contrast, are straight. The front toes are webbed, partially in most stilts, fully in avocets and the Banded Stilt, which swim more. The majority of species’ plumage has contrasting areas of black and white, with some species having patches of buff or brown on the head or chest. The sexes are similar.” (Wikipedia)

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Black-breasted Buttonquail

Black-breasted Buttonquail (Turnix melanogaster) by Ian

Black-breasted Buttonquail (Turnix melanogaster) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Black-breasted Buttonquail ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 01/30/11

I returned home from Armidale NSW by road bringing back a friend’s car that had been left at the Gold Coast south of Brisbane because of the flooding. I took the opportunity to make a detour to Inskip Point – near Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island – a known haunt of the rare Black-breasted Buttonquail, see the female in first photo.

I found a pair relatively easily, though not before a few false alarms in the shape of some very young Australian Scrub-turkeys, as in the second photo, so young in fact that they were as small as the Buttonquails.
Australian Brushturkey (Alectura lathami) by Ian

Australian Brushturkey (Alectura lathami) by Ian

Buttonquails leave characteristic circular bare patches in leaf litter called ‘platelets’ and I had stopped to examine some of these when a female Black-breasted Buttonquail ambled across the path and walked right past me. At one stage she walked towards me and I don’t think she noticed my presence. Buttonquails, like certain other eclectic groups of birds including Phalaropes and Cassowaries, have reversed sex roles with the more colourful females courting the males and the males incubating and looking after the young, so I was pleased to see the female who has a black head and black breast with moon-shaped white spots on the sides, as in the third photo.
Black-breasted Buttonquail (Turnix melanogaster) by Ian

Black-breasted Buttonquail (Turnix melanogaster) by Ian

Buttonquails are not closely related to the true quails and are placed in their own family, the Turnicidae. The most obvious structural difference is the lack of a hind toe in Buttonquails, as you can see if you look carefully in the fourth photo and they are sometimes called ‘Hemipodes’, meaning half-foots. They feed on seed and invertebrates and the Black-breasted is particularly dependent on leaf litter and eats mainly invertebrates. They make the platelets by spinning around on one foot using the other to clear away the leaves; often they then reverse direction standing on the other foot so the size of the platelet matches the size of the bird. The Black-breasted is large by Buttonquail standards with the larger females being about 19cm/7.5in in length and the males 16.5cm/6.5in. I saw her drabber partner later but he didn’t want his photo taken.
Black-breasted Buttonquail (Turnix melanogaster) by Ian

Black-breasted Buttonquail (Turnix melanogaster) by Ian

There are about 16 species in total and are found in Africa, southern Spain, southern and southeastern Asia and Australia. Seven of these occur in Australia. The range of the Black-breasted is limited to coastal southeastern Queensland and northeastern NSW from Fraser Island to just north of Lismore. Its preferred habitat is open woodland and its population has suffered from habitat clearing and it is now classed as vulnerable.

I’ve put the Southern Boobooks, photographed in Armidale, on the website:
Southern Boobook
Links:
Best wishes,

Ian

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au


Lee’s Additions:

As Ian said, the Buttonquails are in the Turnicidae – Buttonquail Family of the Charadriiformes Order. There are 17 members of this family. The Charadriiformes Order does not even include the New World Quail Family. Those quails are found in the Galliformes Order which also included the Brushturkeys.  The Brushturkeys are part of the Magapode – Medapodiidae Family in the Galliformes Order. It has 22 members in its family.

Quails are mentioned in the Bible in four verses; Exodus 16:13, Numbers 11:31-32 and Psalm 105:40. Which kind of quail, it is not clear, but they were complaining about not having enough to eat and the LORD sent them Quail.

The people asked, and he brought quails, and satisfied them with the bread of heaven. (Psalms 105:40 KJV)

To see more:

Ian’s Birds of the Week

Birds of the Bible – Quail

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Red-necked Phalarope

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) by Ian

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Red-necked Phalarope ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 01-13-11

I had an inquiry from my sister, Colette, in Ireland recently about Red-necked Phalarope (some appeared in breeding plumage at a potential breeding site there last northern summer), so it was floating around in my mind yesterday when I considered what to share with you this week. It’s a dainty and interesting wader, like its cousin the Red/Grey Phalarope which featured as bird of the week after my trip to Alaska in 2008.

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) by Ian

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) by Ian

The three species of Phalarope (Wilson’s is the third) breed in high latitudes in the northern hemisphere so Ireland is at the southern edge of its potential range (there was a colony of up to 50 pairs there in the early part of the 20th century). Despite their delicate appearance and toy-like behaviour when bobbing around picking up plankton from the surface of water, these are tough little birds and the Red-necked, 19cm/7.75in in length with a wing-span of 38cm/15in is the smallest of the three. Their favourite nesting sites are on small ponds in the northern tundra and outside the breeding season they are normally pelagic wandering far and wide over the oceans of the world in search of food.

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) by Ian

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) by Ian

Like the Red/Grey (summer/winter) Phalarope, the Red-necked shows a reversal in sex roles, with the brighter females courting the males, having multiple partners and leaving the males to incubate the eggs and look after the young. There is though to be a selective advantage in the females being able to lay as many eggs as possible in the brief breeding season of high latitudes. The first photo shows the brighter female, the second the smaller and more subdued – in more ways than one – male.

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) by Ian

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) by Ian

In non-breeding plumage all three species have mainly grey and white plumage. The Red-necked has a black, downturned eye-patch – see the third photos – and, visible in flight, wing bars (lacking in Wilson’s) and dark underwing marking. All three species turn up rarely in Australia in the non-breeding season, particular following storms when drive them into bays for shelter or inland. The Red-necked is the least rare of the three and the fourth photo shows one that turned up on the Bellarine Peninsula south-west of Geelong, Victoria in 2002.

On the website, I’ve started altering the sequence of the next and previous family pointers of the Australian family thumbnail pages so that they follow the sequence of Christidis and Boles (2008) – rather than that of Birdlife International – and only include families that occur in Australia. The intention is to create a ‘green’ Australian zone for visitors who are interested only in Australia birds. A green background already distinguishes the Australian thumbnails and I’m adding background colours to pointer arrows and alphbetical index pages to highlight the distinction. You might like to visit the news section of the home page http://www.birdway.com.au/#news and the Australian index http://www.birdway.com.au/australianbirds.htm to see the difference and to find links to examples.
So far I’ve changed the families from Cassowaries http://www.birdway.com.au/casuariidae/index_aus.htm (the first) as far as Plovers and Lapwings http://www.birdway.com.au/charadriidae/index_aus.htm and will progressively work through the rest. That will be delayed for a week as I’m now in northern NSW en route to Armidale, flooded roads permitting, for a recorder course. Fortunately, given the floods, I had already shelved plans to drive down and flew to the Gold Coast yesterday.
Other website additions include a few more snakes and a couple of photos of Greater Frigatebirds .
Best wishes,
Ian

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au

Lee’s Addition:

Ian has introduced another neat bird. As Ian mentioned, there are three Phalaropes and all of them are here in the United States, though I have not had the privilege of seeing them.

“A phalarope is any of three living species of slender-necked shorebirds in the genus Phalaropus of the bird family Scolopacidae. They are close relatives of the shanks and tattlers, the Actitis and Terek Sandpipers, and also of the turnstones and calidrids. They are especially notable for two things: their unusual nesting behavior, and their unique feeding technique.” (These are in the Charadriiformes Order)

Two species, the Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius, called Grey Phalarope in Europe) and Red-necked Phalarope (P. lobatus) breed around the Arctic Circle and winter on tropical oceans. Wilson’s Phalarope (P. tricolor) breeds in western North America and migrates to South America. All are 6–10 in (15–25 cm) in length, with lobed toes and a straight, slender bill. Predominantly grey and white in winter, their plumage develops reddish markings in summer.”

“Red and Red-necked Phalaropes are unusual amongst shorebirds in that they are considered pelagic, that is, they spend a great deal of their lives outside the breeding season well out to sea. Phalaropes are unusually halophilic (salt-loving) and feed in great numbers in saline lakes such as Mono Lake in California and the Great Salt Lake of Utah. (from Wikipedia)

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. (Matthew 5:13 NKJV)
Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another. (Mark 9:50 NKJV)

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Asian Dowitcher

Asian Dowitcher (Limnodromus semipalmatus) by Ian

Asian Dowitcher (Limnodromus semipalmatus) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Asian Dowitcher ~ by Ian Montgomery

This is something of a postscript to a presentation on wader identification that I gave last Saturday to a workshop organized by the Townsville Region Bird Observers Club as part of the Shorebirds 2020 Project ( http://www.shorebirds.org.au/ ). Of the 45 species that we considered, I lacked photos of just one: the Asian Dowitcher. So you’ll understand why I and a friend jumped into the car after the practical session at Bushland Beach, near Townsville, on Sunday and drove to Cairns, where an Asian Dowitcher had recently been reported, for an overnight visit. They are regular visitors in small numbers to northwestern Australia (e.g. Broome in Western Australia) but occur only as irregular vagrants on the east coast.

Asian Dowitcher (Limnodromus semipalmatus) by Ian

Asian Dowitcher (Limnodromus semipalmatus) by Ian

The mudflats on the Esplanade are very flat, so the window of opportunity provided by an incoming tide is very short and it wasn’t until Monday afternoon that that happened. Even so, I would probably have missed it if Guy Dutson hadn’t alerted me to its location. It’s a bird that’s easy to overlook among the Great Knots and Bar-tailed Godwits when they’re all in non-breeding plumage, thank you, Guy! The first photo shows it among Great Knots. The body size is similar, so the key Asian Dowitcher features are the very long, straight, dark bill with a bulbous tip rather like that of a snipe, long dark legs and dark loral stripe (between the bill and the eye). Body length in waders is confounded by bill and leg length, so weight and wing-span are more useful. These are – Asian Dowitcher: 127-245g and 59cm/23.2in; Great Knot: 115-248g and 58cm/22.8in.

The second photo shows the Asian Dowitcher on the left with a smallish – probably male – Bar-tailed Godwit on the right (Bar-tailed Godwit male 190-400g female 262-630g, span 70-80cm/28-32in) and the third photo shows the Dowitcher with a larger Bar-tailed Godwit and lots of Great Knots and in this photo you can see the barred flanks of the Dowitcher compared with the plain flanks of the Godwit. The bill of the Dowitcher was always the most obvious distinguishing feature, but the bird would often have a snooze, tucking its bill under a wing, and magically disappear. What’s more, the mud on the Cairns Esplanade is very gluggy, so the pink bases of Godwit bills are often covered, but the different shape is usually still apparent.

Asian Dowitcher (Limnodromus semipalmatus) by Ian

Asian Dowitcher (Limnodromus semipalmatus) by Ian

When I was preparing the presentation and checking carefully on distinguishing features, I found that a wader that I’d photographed in India in 2003 and posted to the website as a Wood Sandpiper was actually a Green Sandpiper. This a bird, rare in Australia, that I had long wanted to photograph, so I was pleased to find and correct the error: http://www.birdway.com.au/scolopacidae/green_sandpiper/index.htm .

Best wishes,
Ian

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au


Lee’s Addition:

The Asian Dowitcher is part of the Scolopacidae Family which is in the Charadriiformes Order that consists of Shorebirds and their allies. To see Ian’s Birdway website of the Scolopacidae – Click Here.

He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” (John 9:11 ESV)

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Banded Lapwing

Banded Lapwing (Vanellus tricolor) by Ian

Banded Lapwing (Vanellus tricolor) by Ian

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

Newsletter – 08-05-10

Banded Lapwing (Vanellus tricolor) by Ian

Banded Lapwing (Vanellus tricolor) by Ian

There are two species of Lapwing in Australia. One, the Masked Lapwing, is widespread, common and well-known throughout northern and eastern Australia and Tasmania. It’s familiar because it is at home in populated areas, large, aggressive when nesting, and always noisy when disturbed, even at night, a real larrikin, to use an Australian expression. The other, the Banded Lapwing is the opposite. It’s smaller, quieter, uncommon, not well-known and wary, occurs in drier country away from people, and altogether much more dignified.

Banded Lapwing (Vanellus tricolor) by Ian

Banded Lapwing (Vanellus tricolor) by Ian

It occurs mainly west of the Great Divide and south of the Tropic of the Capricorn, including Tasmania, though there is a small resident population in the dry, cattle-grazing country south of Townsville, north of its usual range. A friend of mine took me there last Sunday so that I could take some photos. Previously, I’d seen them only in Victoria and Western Australia.

Masked Lapwings have large, pendulous, yellow, facial wattles that make them look rather ridiculous, but larrikins don’t worry about appearances. Banded Lapwings have small discreet red wattles, that combine tastefully with the yellow eyes and bills and black, white and tan plumage; presumably the scientific name tricolor refers only to the plumage. The birds – we found about ten – allowed close approach in the car and eventually seemed to get quite used to my presence, though the curious cattle came over too and got in the way a lot.

Banded Lapwing (Vanellus tricolor) by Ian

Banded Lapwing (Vanellus tricolor) by Ian

I concentrated on a group of 5 birds, one of which was a juvenile – the third photo – so the birds had bred recently. Juveniles have small, pale wattles and camouflaged plumage. One pair of adults came quite close to the car and eventually mated. Banded Lapwings are supposedly monogamous and I wondered whether this pair were the parents of the juvenile bird.

Lapwings form a sub-family within the Plover family and there are about 25 species world-wide in every continent except North and Central America. I’ve chose a pair of Yellow-wattled Lapwings – from India as the current Old World pick for comparison. This pair is also mating, so either Lapwings like doing it in public or I like photographing them doing it: the choice is yours.

Other current picks include:
Australia: Red-capped Robin
New World: Blue-footed Booby
Other Wildlife: Koala

Links:
Masked Lapwing
Banded Lapwing

I recently spent a night at a Bed and Breakfast place in Alligator Creek recently opened by friends of mine, Colin and Helen Holmes. Alligator Creek is about 25km south of Townsville and close to the Mount Elliott section of Bowling Green Bay National Park. Their house is set in several acres of land with plenty of trees and shrubs right on the Creek. It’s a delightful place and very comfortable and you’ll be well looked after and supplied with a lavish breakfast. I can recommend it highly, so if you’re looking for somewhere friendly and peaceful to stay near Townsville check out their website: http://www.alligatorcreekbedandbreakfast.com.au/ .

Best wishes,
Ian

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au


Lee’s Addition:

The Banded Lapwing is part of the Charadriidae  Family which includes not only Lapwings but also Plovers, Dotterels and a Wrybill. There are 67 species in the family. They are in the Charadriiformes Order which has 19 families.

The Lapwing is one of the Birds of the Bible. See the Lapwing page.

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

See all of Ian’s Birds of the Week

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