Ian’s Irregular Bird – The Tattlers

The next two birds in the IOC list of Tringas are the two Tattlers, the Wandering and the Grey-tailed, so called one assumes because they are fairly vocal.

I did a comparison between the two species in Irregular Bird #195 in January 2007 (or Bird of the Week as it was called then). Here it is:

This week’s bird – or birds as I’ve included a relative for comparison – the Wandering Tattler is for those who appreciated subtlety, or at least acknowledge the challenge in identifying waders.  The Wandering Tattler (Tringa incana) in non-breeding plumage is very similar to its much commoner (in Australia) cousin the Grey-tailed Tattler (Tringa brevipes).  I’ve put numbers on the image of the Grey-tailed Tattler to highlight the differences:

Wandering Tattler (Tringa incana) by Ian

Grey-tailed Tattler by Ian

In the Grey-tailed Tattler, the white eyebrow extends behind the eye (1) and forward across the forehead (2); the cheek is whiter (3); the flanks are whiter (4); the bill is longer and more slender (5) and the wing tips, relative to the tail, are shorter (6).  The Wandering Tattler is darker overall and particularly on the back and crown and to me looked browner rather than grey-brown.  If you think this is all too hard, the calls come to the rescue, being quite different.  The Wandering has a trilling call of 6 – 10 accelerating notes, while the Grey-tailed has a drawn out 2 syllable call.

Wandering Tattler (Tringa incana) by Ian

The Grey-tailed Tattler is a (southern-) summer on the coast all round Australia on mudflats and reefs, while the Wandering is an uncommon summer visitor to the east and north coasts, with a preference for wave-washed rocks on the island of the Great Barrier Reef.

Since then I’ve photographed them in breeding plumage, when it’s easier to distinguish the two species. Both are barred on the breast and flanks, but only the Wandering has barring on the belly. The Grey-tailed retains the white belly even in breeding plumage. The one below in the third photo is feeding in a typical habitat in shallow water on a mudflat.

Here’s another Grey-tailed in breeding plumage swallowing a small crab at sunset. This might look more like the habitat of the Wandering Tattler, but it’s actually a stony area on a beach rather than a rocky headland.

This Wandering Tattler, below, is feeding in a typical habitat for this species, on a rocky foreshore with plenty of invertebrate prey on a Pacific Island. The tourist literature about Norfolk Island says that the name Slaughter Bay isn’t as ominous as it sounds, being derived from an “Old English word” meaning “slow-moving water”. Given that strong currents are reported in Slaughter Bay, that I could find no aquatic suggestions for “Slaughter” in dictionaries or online, and that Norfolk Island has a turbulent history as a convict settlement, I suspect that this is an explanation of which the Kremlin could be proud.Wandering Tattler by Ian

Wandering Tattlers in Australia are most likely to be seen on rocky islands, but they do turn up occasionally on the mainland as well, with records all on the east coast from Cape York to eastern Victoria. The one below was one of a pair that spent some time on the Townsville Breakwater in 2008 and there are more recent records there in 2010 and 2022. This photo clearly shows the grey patch on the forehead between the two short white eye-stripes.

The Grey-tailed Tattlers in this photo are also perched on rocks and pretending they’re Wandering Tattlers.  In fact they are waiting for the tide to go out so they can feed on the neighbouring mudflats. The one on the left is in transitional plumage with barring developing on the breast.

CHA-Scol Grey-tailed Tattler by Ian 7

Grey-tailed Tattler by Ian

Both species are accomplished migrants, breeding in northern latitudes and spending the northern winter in the tropics and southern hemisphere. The Grey-tailed Tattler breeds in inland northeastern Siberia and western Siberia and winters across a wide range from the Bay of Bengal and Taiwan through southeastern Asia to Australia and New Zealand. The Wandering breeds in Alaska and in neighbouring parts of Canada south to northwestern British Columbia. It winters all along the west coast of the Americas from southwestern British Columbia to Chile and across Pacific coast and islands from Japan to New Zealand, through Micronesia, Polynesia to Pitcairn Island and Easter Island.

In terms of conservation, the Wandering Tattler has a status of Least Concern, while the Grey-tailed has been uplisted from Least Concern to Near Threatened in 2014. This reflects some decline in numbers, probably as a result of land reclamation along the migratory stopovers in China.

Greetings,

Ian
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au

Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/


Lee’s Addition:

Thanks, Ian, for another informative post about this Tringa clan. I have to admit that I was a little tickled by their name. It reminded me of a verse about young widows becoming “tattlers.”

“And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies,….” (1 Timothy 5:13 KJV)

Good News

Ian’s Irregular Bird – Solitary Sandpiper

You may remember from the last Irregular Bird (Green Sandpiper) that the plan is to work through all the waders in the genus Tringa, the Shanks and relatives, in the order used by the IOC, below.  This is the next one the Solitary Sandpiper.

It’s fairly similar to the Green Sandpiper and they were originally treated as a single species. In fact, they are easy to distinguish in flight as the Green Sandpiper has a white rump and a tail with side to side barring, while the central feathers of the rump and tail of the Solitary Sandpiper are brown creating a longitudinal stripe. These features are visible under the flight feathers in the first photo and shown in a drawing later.
Solitary Sandpiper by Ian
In practice you can also use their ranges as the Green Sandpiper occurs in Eurasia and Africa, while the Solitary Sandpiper is an American species. It nesting range is almost entirely in Canada and Alaska.  It migrates through the United States and winters in Mexico, Central America, and in northern, central and eastern South America as far south as Peru in the west and northern Argentina in the east.
I haven’t got photos of either species in flight so here is a crude drawing to illustrate the difference in flight pattern. Don’t take too much notice of anything except the different rumps, tail and length of the legs. The latter are longer and protrude farther beyond the tail in the Solitary Sandpiper. So, if you’re a dedicated twitcher, as I am now, keep a beady eye out for something special if you are in a place where either or both of these birds don’t usually occur. There are a few records of Green Sandpipers in northern Australia and a few records of Solitary Sandpiper in Siberia and Western Europe.
Solitary Sandpiper by Ian
There isn’t much difference among the plumages of breeding adults, non-breeding adults, and juveniles though there is less streaking in juveniles and the spots on breeding adults are whiter, rather than buff and more conspicuous. I think the bird in the second photo in Trinidad is a juvenile, the one in the third photo in Brazil is an adult but I don’t know about the one in the first photo. If you’re an expert on the plumages of Solitary Sandpipers, I’d be happy to get your opinion: ianbirdway@gmail.com.
Solitary Sandpiper by Ian
Actually, I misidentified the two in Trinidad as Spotted Sandpipers in non-breeding plumage but maybe I had Spotted Sandpiper on the brain as I’d seen the one in the third photo in Tobago eleven days earlier. Non-breeding Spotted Sandpipers don’t have spots (go figure, as they say), just a little barring on the wings but they have conspicuous long white eyebrow stripes and shorter, much yellower legs, so I lack a reasonable excuse for the confusion.
Spotted Sandpiper by Ian
Like their Eurasian cousins, Solitary Sandpipers breed in trees and shrubs using the old nests of thrushes. It so happens that the range of perhaps the commonest thrush in North America, the American Robin, overlaps the range of the Solitary Sandpiper in Canada and Alaska. The Robin, despite its name which is based on colour not taxonomy, is a Thrush and a close relative of the Eurasian Blackbird and is the most likely candidate as a provider of nests, though not much is known about the breeding behaviour of the Sandpiper.
American Robin by Ian
So how does the Solitary Sandpiper get its name? Amazingly, unlike most waders which believe in safety in numbers, it migrates either alone or in small groups and often appear at stopovers or at the destination in ones or twos. It migrates mostly at night. I don’t know whether juvenile birds instinctively know where to go or whether the adults teach them. The mind boggles at what we don’t know about bird migration.
Jeff Larsen sent me this lovely photo of two birds together in Washington state, so they’re clearly not completely antisocial. He calls them Solitary Chickens, which appeals to me and he gave me permission to share this photo with you.
Solitary Sandpiper by Ian
Solitary Sandpipers are birds of freshwater and are usually found on small ponds or in marshy areas, even in winter. We spotted the one in Brazil in a roadside pond in the Pantanal.
Next time we’ll talk about the Tattlers, two rather similar species that are next on the IOC list.
Greetings
Ian


Google Groups “Birdway” group.
Write to him at ian@birdway.com.au, or visit this group at http://groups.google.com/group/Birdway


Lee’s Addition:

Here is the next Sandpiper in Ian’s “Tringa” series. He has promised more. Stay tuned.
He mentions the sameness of these birds:
“But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.” (Psalms 102:27 KJV)
See:

Ian’s Bird of the Week

Good News

Ian’s Irregular Bird – Green Sandpiper

The last irregular bird, Nordmann’s Greenshank, could have had a sub-heading of The Joys of Twitching. In it, I confessed to being a Twitcher at heart, discarding the respectable facade of “Wildlife Photographer”. Here follows the justifications, or at least illustrations of why it can be enjoyable. The background to this particular obsession/passion was the fact that, worldwide, there are thirteen species of Tringa sandpipers, or Shanks, characterised by different coloured legs. I had reasonable photos of all of them except the rarest, Nordmann’s Greenshank, since 2008 (when I photographed the second last one, the Willet of North America). That is, the seven-year itch twice over.
If you are, or ever were, a stamp collector, you would know the feeling. Suppose the following stamps are from a set of 13 stamps of Queen Victoria, including the first ever stamp, the Penny Black and imagine you have all of them except the rarest, the iconic Two Penny Blue, issued shortly after the first ever stamp, The Penny Black, in May 1840.
Imagine the thrill when you finally lay your hands on one, as I did in the 1960s. This one is a rather daggy example, but it is one from the original two plates issued until February 1841 and lacking white lines under “POSTAGE” and above “TWO PENCE”. The much commoner later series called ‘white lines added issue’ continued until 1858.  I’m still a kid at heart, and the subtlety of distinguishing different series of Two Penny Blues has a similar appeal to separating Common and Nordmann’s Greenshank.CHA-Scol victoria0730-01
Alternatively, maybe you were or are a card player. Suppose you’re playing a game in which you the best hand is an entire suit of cards, say a complete Straight Flush, as opposed to a mere Royal Straight Flush in Poker, but you lack the Queen.
At long last, after fourteen nail-biting years, you finally get the missing card. I’ve chosen the Queen as it’s number twelve (if you have the Ace as the first rather than the last in the suit) and Nordmann’s Greenshank is also the twelfth Tringa if you follow the IOC classification of birds. Continuing the metaphor, I’ve chosen Spades as the Queen of Spades is the most valuable card in the game Hearts. The metaphor fails if you go any further, because in Hearts, a vicious game which we loved as kids, the aim is not to win points and to force your opponents to get a high score, It’s Whist in reverse. Clearly, I also have a passion for Queens.

After that it’s just a question of whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. An introvert gets a deep personal satisfaction from achieving a complete collection, an extrovert gets a sense  of triumph in beating the competition. Of course, you may be a bit of both: I’m mainly an introvert, but publishing all this stuff as the Irregular Bird, showing off obviously, is characteristic of extroverts.

So, back to Tringas. Waders (birdway) are fascinating birds, not least because many of them migrate extraordinary distances. As a consequence, they’re of special interest to twitchers when avian GPSs go awry and they end up in strange places. Many species, however, are hard to distinguish in non-breeding plumages, which is how we usually see them in temperate and tropical latitudes except just before the migration back to the breeding zones. Most, but not all, of the Shanks are fairly easy to identify because of their coloured legs; many of them having corresponding common names as you can see in the IOC table. Four of them, comprising the two Redshanks and the two Tattlers, have featured as Irregular Birds in the past, so I want to do a series on the remaining eight and I’ll do them in the IOC order shown in the table at the beginning of this article. The first is the Green Sandpiper.

Green Sandpiper by Ian

The breeding range of the Green Sandpiper stretches right across northern Eurasian from Norway to Siberia and it winters mainly in tropical Africa, South and Southeast Asia, around the Mediterranean and, to a lesser extent in Western Europe. It’s mainly a bird of fresh water marshy areas even in the non-breeding zones. I’ve photographed it only once, in India in 2003, though I had seen it in England in the 1960s before I came to Australia.It’s even rarer in Australia than Nordmann’s Greenshank with only one confirmed record, near Darwin in 1998. There are a few unconfirmed records but care needs to be taken to distinguish it from the closely related Solitary Sandpiper of America and the Wood Sandpiper.
In fact, I mistakenly identified the Indian bird as a Wood Sandpiper, reasonably common in Australia and also a fresh water species, and posted it as such to the website, and only years later did the twitcher in me take a closer look and realise happily that it was actually a Green Sandpiper. Distinguishing features of the Green Sandpiper include larger size, bulkier appearance, short white eye-stripe ending at eye, longer bill, shorter, greenish legs, sharp gradation from streaked breast to white belly and, particularly in breeding plumage like this one, darker, greener rather than brown upper parts.

Green Sandpiper by IanI mentioned when discussing the unusual arboreal nest building habits of Nordmann’s Greenshank that the Green and Solitary Sandpipers also nest in trees, but use the old nests of thrushes.  Coincidentally the name Tringa comes from a description of a thrush-sized waterbird by Aristotle (“trungas”). He didn’t distinguish it further but later authors have suggested it was a sandpiper, a Wagtail Motacilla or a Dipper Cinclus. Thanks very much. While we’re at it, ochropus means pale-yellow footed, while the specific identifier of Normann’s Greenshank, guttifer, means spotted, which isn’t very illuminating either. Aristotle preceded the taxonomic and evolutionary ideas of Linnaeus and Darwin, and “thrush-like waterbird” is a reasonable description, except for the length of the legs. He was interested in biology, classified 500 species of animals in the work later known by philosophers as the Scala Naturae and would have been familiar with the Song Thrush, below, in Greece. The Scala Naturae was approved by the Christian Church (and probably all others) as it is hierarchical in form with man at the top, towering above all the lower species.

On the subject of passion and obsession, I’ve decided that the difference is mainly one of perception. A person might think they (in deference to gender fluidity) have a passion for another person and, if not reciprocated, the other party might regard it as an obsession. My cousin in Ireland suggests that obsessions have a negative effect, so maybe it’s more than just perception. Either way, I’ll continue the passion for Tringas next time with the closely related but geographically distinct (“allopatric”), thrush-nest-using, Solitary Sandpiper of America.
You can’t reply directly to these emails, so if you want to write to me, use my email address below. I’ve recently had occasional problems with receiving emails to ian@birdway.com.au, so ianbirdway@gmail.com is preferable.
Greetings,
Ian


Ian Montgomery,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: 0411 602 737 +61-411 602 737
Preferred Email: ianbirdway@gmail.com

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

Lee’s Addition:

Seems that Ian is getting active again with his birdwatching. He, like the rest of us, was quite for awhile during all these lockdowns. I have another of his articles coming soon. Stay tuned.
“As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.” (Proverbs 27:8 KJV)
See:

Ian’s Bird of the Week

Good News

Ian’s Irregular Bird – Nordmann’s Greenshank

Because it’s so long since the last irregular bird, here is a special one of a very rare wader that has become something of a celebrity, perhaps the most photographed individual bird in Australian history. So you may already have superb photos of it, and I apologize in advance if you find this boring. Nordmann’s Greenshank is, sadly, one of the rarest waders in the world with a population of probably less than 2,000 individuals and a red book status of endangered as its population is declining.

Nordmann’s Greenshank (Tringa guttifer) by Ian

Its breeding range is along the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk in Siberia and is subject to disturbance from oil and gas extraction. It normally winters in southeast Asia and, very occasionally, birds end up in Australia. There are three records from wader counts along 80 Mile Beach near Broome in NW Western Australia, and this one. It first appeared in Cairns in the (northern) winter of 2021 and stayed around long enough for anyone able to navigate covid restrictions and see it. I couldn’t drive to Cairns then and resigned myself to the prospect of missing out on it. To everyone’s surprise, it reappeared this year and the scramble to see it started again.

Nordmann’s Greenshank (Tringa guttifer) by Ian

I drove the 340km/210 miles to Cairns at the end of January to catch up with some good friends of long standing from Victoria. They were on the hunt for it, in airline transit from a boat trip to Torres Strait islands to Iron Range National Park on Cape York. We spent four days checking every wader along the Cairns Esplanade at suitable and sometimes unsuitable tides without success. It definitely wasn’t there, but reappeared when they had gone to Cape York and I had returned to Townsville. I rejoined them in Cairns for two days, when it did its disappearing act again, only to reappear for them after I’d returned to Townsville for a meeting that, in hindsight, I deeply regretted attending. so I dropped everything again and returned to Cairns, determined to see and photograph it.
On the second morning of my third visit, the bird relented and I spent an exciting two hours as the incoming tide slowly coaxed it closer and closer. Ultimately, I ended up sitting a mere 6m/20ft from it on the sandy edge of the mudflat, second photo, having taken more than 400 photos. I’ll talk about obsession later. Then I rang Trish, the friend with whom I went to Brazil pre-Covid, who was flying from Brisbane to Townsville that afternoon and suggested she fly to Cairns instead. Which she did, changing her flight at the airport, and we got lovely views of it the following day. We also visited the wonderful Bill Cooper exhibition of tropical bird and fruit paintings at the Cairns Gallery.

Nordmann’s Greenshank (Tringa guttifer) by Ian

Trish suggested bringing our painter/birder friend Marjory and a botanist friend Chrissa to Cairns to see the bird and the exhibition before the latter finished on the 13 February. So we came up again at the weekend, this time in her larger, more comfortable car and saw both the exhibition and the bird yet again. What fun.

Nordmann’s Greenshank (Tringa guttifer) by Ian

Time to mention the bird itself. It looks quite similar to the Common Greenshank and, slightly less so, to the Terek Sandpiper, both of which were present along the Esplanade. The first photo shows some of the diagnostic features: shorter, yellowish rather than greenish legs, the more robust bi-coloured bill (paler at the base) and shorter legs and bigger head (‘bull-headed’) which give it a rather stocky appearance. It’s behaviour when feeding is different too, and when one becomes accustomed to it, this is a good distinction at a distance, with poor light or muddy legs and bill. In the third and fourth photos it is feeding actively in shallow water, attempting to catch prey with a stabbing motion. It also uses its slightly upcurved bill to sieve the water surface by sweeping it back and forth, in a similar way to other waders with such bills such as the Terek Sandpiper and the Avocets. The fifth photo shows its size relative to a Bar-tailed Godwit, left, and a Great Knot, right.

Nordmann’s Greenshank (Tringa guttifer) by Ian

The second photo shows it standing on one leg, a pose it adopted often using one or the other leg, when resting or roosting (second and fifth photos) and when forced by the tide to move, it often hopped quite long distances to do so, sixth photo. In flight, last photo, the shorter legs protrude less beyond the tail than those of the Common Greenshank, it has less barring on the tail, whiter underwing coverts contrasting with dark flight feathers and it look stockier. Not much is known about its breeding habits, though it’s the only shorebird known to often build its own nest in trees. unlike its tree nesting relatives the Green and Solitary Sandpipers which use old nests of thrushes.

Nordmann’s Greenshank (Tringa guttifer) by Ian

This whole saga has revived my interest in bird photography, which rather flagged during Covid, when I took up other interests less dependent on mobility. It was also a time for personal honesty and admitting my twitching tendencies to myself rather than hiding behind the more dignified facade of a wildlife photographer. Next time, I’ll talk a bit more about the joy of twitching and explain why getting photos of this particular species was so important for me. I’m still pondering the difference between a passion and an obsession.
Greetings
Ian

Ian Montgomery,

454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: 0411 602 737 +61-411 602 737
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au

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

Lee’s Addition:

Thanks, Ian. Like many of us, the Covid has slowed our birdwatching adventures. Glad you were able to finally catch up with neat Greenshank.
This Nordmann’s Greenshank is in the Scolopacidae Family of the Charadriformes Order.
More of Ian’s Articles:

Wordless Birds

What An Honor – Top 100 Bird Blogs and Websites

Snowy Egret in Mating Plumage by Dan at Gatorland

Top 100 Bird Blogs and Websites For Ornithologists and Bird Lovers

This blog has been selected “by our panelist as one of the Top 100 Bird Blogs on the web.” Wow! What an honor and totally unexpected.

I received an email from the Founder of this list, Anuj Agarwal.

“I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. This is the most comprehensive list of Top 100 Bird Blogs on the internet, and I’m honored to have you as part of this!”

When I looked through the list, Lee’s Birdwatching Adventures Plus is #20! Wow!

Here is a list of the first 21 blogs or websites out of 100:

  1. Audubon

  2. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology – All About Birds

  3. BirdLife International News

  4. Surfbirds | The World Birding Website

  5. BirdWatching

  6. 10,000 Birds

  7. British Trust for Ornithology | BTO

  8. Bird Note Podcast

  9. Bird Watching HQ

  10. Wild Birds Unlimited

  11. World Birds

  12. Bird Feeder Hub

  13. BirdGuides

  14. Bird Watcher’s Digest | Out There With the Birds Blog

  15. Bird Spot

  16. International Bird Rescue

  17. FeederWatch Blog
  18. Ornithology – The Science of Birds

  19. Outside My Window

  20. Lee’s Birdwatching Adventures Plus

  21. Travels With Birds

  22. And the list goes on to 100

(P.S. This list seems to change. Sometimes it’s 19th or 20th. I’ve seen it change. Not sure how often it is updated.)

Lee with Laughing Kookabura at Brevard Zoo by Dan

Please check out this list of really great and interesting sites of information about our wonderful Avian Wonders!

Seems like I’ll be busy for awhile checking out some fantastic information on all sorts of birdwatching topics.

“But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you.” (Job 12:7 NASB)

“Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth And makes us wiser than the birds of the heavens?'” (Job 35:11 NASB)

Hyacinth Macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) ©Ian Montgomery

Hyacinth Macaw ©Ian Montgomery

Thank you, readers, for visiting this blog for all these 13+ years. Especially, thank you to all of those who have written articles for the blog.

Ian’s Bird of the Week

James J. S. Johnson

Bibleworld Adventures (Golden Eagle)

Emma’s Stories

William Wise

Great Blue Heron; Walton County, Georgia birding photogaphy blog by williamwisephoto.com

Plus, Thank you to our many previous writers like a j mithra, Dottie Malcolm, and others. Also, all the fantastic photographers who have given us permission to use their photos over the years. Especially, my husband, Dan.

The biggest Thanks and Praise goes to the Lord for giving me the idea and inspiration to begin this journey of writing about His Fantastic Avian Creations!

Paintbrush Birds – Blue-footed Booby

Blue-footed Booby (Sula nebouxii) by Ian

Blue-footed Booby (Sula nebouxii) by Ian

The Blue-footed Booby is not what you might think of as a “Paintbrush Bird,” but I thought that the color of his feet qualifies him. :)

Actually, these feet look more like he stepped into a bucket of paint, instead of a Paintbrush being used on them. Yet, we know that their the Creator made those feet blue with His Creative Touch.

The young are not born with blue feet, but eventually their feet will turn blue. 

Blue-footed Boobies with young by Ian

From Wikipedia: “The blue-footed booby (Sula nebouxii) is a marine bird native to subtropical and tropical regions of the eastern Pacific Ocean. It is one of six species of the genus Sula – known as boobies. It is easily recognizable by its distinctive bright blue feet, which is a sexually selected trait. Males display their feet in an elaborate mating ritual by lifting them up and down while strutting before the female. The female is slightly larger than the male and can measure up to 90 cm (35 in) long with a wingspan up to 1.5 m (5 ft).

The natural breeding habitats of the blue-footed booby are the tropical and subtropical islands of the Pacific Ocean. It can be found from the Gulf of California south along the western coasts of Central and South America to Peru. About half of all breeding pairs nest on the Galápagos Islands. Its diet mainly consists of fish, which it obtains by diving and sometimes swimming under water in search of its prey. It sometimes hunts alone, but usually hunts in groups.

Blue-footed Boobie by Ian

Great Verses to consider:

“My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.” (Psalms 121:2-3 NKJV)

“Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.” (Proverbs 4:26-27 NKJV)

“A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9 NKJV)

See other Blue-footed Booby posts:

More Paintbrush Birds:

4 Things God Wants You to Know

Ian’s Irregular Bird – Toco Toucan

Please forgive the shock of another Irregular Bird: I’m currently full of good intentions, which I’ll talk about later. I have Toucans on my mind at the moment, which I’ll also mention later, so here is the Toco Toucan which was well up on our list of wanted birds on our visit to the Pantanal in Brazil in September 2019.

Toco Toucan (Ramphastos toco) by Ian

We found our first one, above, on our first day driving into the Pantanal, feeding on a lone fruiting tree beside the road. This gave us the impression that this large species would be easy to find, but we saw very few after that and I photographed only this one other bird, below, feeding on another fruiting tree beside the river on the way from Porto Jofre to the Meeting of the Waters National Park (Encontro das Águas) to look for Jaguars. This species of Toucan is readily identified by its diagnostic yellow and orange, black-tipped bill and in the second photo, you can just see the red undertail coverts and white rump, both also characteristic of this species.
With a length of 60cm/24in and weight to 800gm/1.8lbs this is the largest of the seven or eight species of large Toucan (genus Ramphastos). It is also the only one that doesn’t inhabit forests; it occurs on forest edges and in grasslands. It has a wide range in South America from Guyana south to northern Argentina, avoiding the forested regions of the Amazon Basin. It nests in cavities in trees, river banks or termite nests. Both adults incubate and feed the young, predominantly on insects when very young but gradually switching to the adult diet of fruit such as figs as the nestlings grow older.

Guinness Toucan Poster from Ian

Guinness Toucan Poster from Ian

Toucans are strange and spectacular birds and it is not surprising that they have captured the popular imagination. I remember this poster for Guinness in the bar of Greystones Golf Club, Co. Wicklow, when I was a kid in Ireland in the 1950s. Guinness has used the Toucan as a mascot since the 1930s. Who knows, maybe Guinness helped spark my interest in birds, though there was another one about Gnus – “The New Gnu at the Zoo; Guinness is Good for You” – which aroused only a mild interest in even-toed, horned ungulates. The toucan artist has taken a bit of license with a slightly hybrid design (the black spot on the bill is missing, the patch around the eye is blue and green and the yellow and red breast bands are normally barely visible on the Toco Toucan) but it is certainly a Toco Toucan and not one of the other species (http://www.birdway.com.au/ramphastidae/).
The reason why I have Toucans on my mind is because I usually wear tropical shirts when I go folk dancing with the Townsville dancers, suitable for dancing in the tropics even if most of the dance originate in eastern Europe and the Middle East. One of the dancers gave me a pair of socks featuring flamingos to go with a flamingo shirt that I have, so I went on a search for suitable socks to go with another shirt with Toucans and Macaws. As you can see toucan on both the socks and the shirt is a Toco Toucan and I couldn’t resist sharing them and photos of the real thing with you.
One of the reasons the Irregular Bird has been very rare recently is that I started doing a series on island birding so we could get vicarious pleasure from pretending to travel when we were prevented from doing so by Covid-19. I got bogged down on a trip to Macquarie Island, preparing lots of photos and researching lots of species and never finished it. So, I’ve decided to go back to the original format of dealing with a single species at a time, and hopefully that will be easier to do and more frequent. I haven’t taken many photos since the pandemic started, but there are plenty of species left in the library to keep us going until and if things get back to normal.
Greetings
Ian


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

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

Lee Addition:

Toucans are part of the Ramphastidae Family.

Love those Toucans. In fact, the Green-billed Toucan is one of the Wordless Bird posts.

Wordless Toucan

Ian’s Bird of the Moment – Christmas Island Birds

Ian’s Bird of the Incident he’s called it this time in his newsletter. By Ian Montgomery
Well, I’ve finally emerged from various Christmas Island induced rabbit holes and we can have our virtual trip to look at some of the special birds of this remote island. There aren’t any feral rabbits on Christmas Island, so Red Crab burrows might be a better metaphor.
Christmas Island is both remote and very old, making it an interesting place in terms of both biogeography and avian evolution. It is about 350km/220 miles south of the western tip of Java and 1,550km/960 miles northwest of Exmouth in Western Australia. There are no nearby islands – the Cocos Keeling Islands are 980km/610 miles to its west. It first appeared about 60 million years ago as a 5,000m/ high volcanic seamount which then underwent several geological uplifts over the following 10 million years giving it a layered structure with cliffs, both coastal and farther inland, formed by coastal erosion. Coral reefs deposited limestone over the basalt core.
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60 million years ago was shortly, geologically speaking, after the extinction event, thought to be a global collision with a large object, about 66 million years ago that marked the end of the Cretaceous period. This caused the extinction of many plants and animals, notably the dinosaurs, and resulted in rapid adaptive radiation of many surviving groups, particularly birds and mammals. At the time Australia was still attached to Antarctica and the other tectonic plates of the former Gondwana were still drifting to their current locations and resulting land masses: South America, Africa, Madagascar and India.
The island has an area of 135 sq km/52 sq mi and the coast is an almost continuous cliff with few bays or beaches, as shown in the photo of the east coast. Although known to European sailors from the 17th century, the cliffs made landing, exploration and settlement difficult and it remained uninhabited and consequently undisturbed until the late 19th Century. The largest bay is Flyingfish Cove near the north of the island where the Settlement is located. The photo below shows a typical stretch of coast looking south from Margaret’s Knoll on the eastern side of the island.
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You’ll probably know from previous posts that I’m particularly interested in the evolution and ecology of birds, and by extension their taxonomy and biogeography. Isolated islands both provide fascinating insights into and pose intriguing questions about both evolution and biogeography and I’m going to look at the species on Christmas Island from these angles. We’ll start with the taxonomically most unusual, Abbott’s Booby, which belongs to a monotypic endemic genus, then look at other interesting seabirds and finish with land birds.
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Three of the seven global species of Booby breed on Christmas Island: Abbott’s, Brown and Red-footed. Both the Brown and Red-footed are widespread, found throughout tropical waters around the world and members of the genus Sula which comprises all the species of Booby except Abbott’s.  Abbott’s, however, breeds only on Christmas Island and is the only member of the genus Papasula. It was originally included in Sula but structural differences between it and both Gannets and other Boobies led Olson and Warheit 1988 to move it to a new more primitive genus of its own. Subsequent DNA studies have confirmed this and Papasula is thought to have branched off the early Gannet-Booby lineage about 22 million years ago.
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We can’t, however, conclude that it evolved in isolation on Christmas Island. The species was first described from a specimen collected by the American naturalist William Louis Abbott in 1892 on an island near Madagascar in the western Indian Ocean, either Assumption Island or the nearby Glorioso Island. Fossil evidence indicates that it was quite widespread in the Indian and Pacific Oceans and there are eyewitness reports of it breeding in the Mascarene Islands near Mauritius (as described in Wikipedia). So its endemic status on Christmas Island is a result of its extinction elsewhere. On Christmas Island the population, currently estimated at about 2,000 pairs, has declined owing to habitat clearance and the species is classified as endangered.
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Here, by way of comparison, is the white morph of the Red-footed Booby. There is also a widespread brown morph of this species but all, or almost all of the ones on Christmas Island are of the white morph. You can see photos of the brown or dark morph here: Birdway Red-footed Booby.
Frigatebirds are very well represented on Christmas Island. Three of the five global species nest on the island: Lesser, Great and the endemic Christmas (Island) Frigatebird. The other two species are the Magnificent (Birdway: Magnificent Frigatebird) of Atlantic and eastern Pacific Oceans and the Ascension, endemic to Ascension Island in the Atlantic. The Lesser (Birdway: Lesser Frigatebird) has colonised Christmas Island in small numbers relatively recently while the Great (Birdway: Great Frigatebird) is an endemic subspecies (listeri) with a population of about 3,300 pairs.. The Christmas Frigatebird is globally the rarest with a population of about 1,200 pairs. The population has declined since human settlement and the species is now classified as critically endangered, both because of its small, declining population and the fact that its breeding range is limited to a single location.
Unlike Abbott’s Booby, it’s probably fairly safe to assume that it evolved on the island and differs from the other species of Frigatebird mainly in the patterning of the plumage. The male has a diagnostic white belly, while the female has a white breast and belly extending further down the belly than in other species.
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Frigatebirds feed both by snatching prey such as squid and flying fish from on or near the surface of the water and by harrying Boobies, Tropicbirds and Terns until they drop their food. In the photo above, this female has just regurgitated a no doubt tasty mixture for its chick including a flying fish, the “wings” of which you can see sticking out on both sides of the chick’s mouth.
While we’re on the subject of tropical seabirds, Christmas Island has two of the three global species of Tropicbirds: the White-tailed and Red-tailed Tropicbird. Most of the local White-tailed Tropicbird population has black and apricot rather than the typical black and white plumage and has been ascribed to a separate subspecies fulvus. It is known locally as the Golden Bosunbird. However, 7% of the local population has the normal black and white plumage and apricot coloured birds occur in small numbers elsewhere, so it may be better to consider the differences just as colour morphs.
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For me, the Golden Bosunbird was the most beautiful bird on the island and I spent hours watching them in flight from this lookout near the settlement overlooking Tai Jin House, below, the former resident of the governor in more colonial times.
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The Red-tailed Tropicbird, or locally Silver Bosunbird, is quite beautiful too. In pristine condition, the birds have long red tail streamers, but these frequently get broken off when the birds are nesting. They do a spectacular fluttering display flight travelling downwards and often slightly backwards near the cliffs where they nest.
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Both of these Tropicbirds are quite widespread. The White-tailed occurs in tropical parts of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans while the Red-tailed ranges from the western Indian Ocean to the central Pacific.
Special birds on Christmas Island are not restricted to sea birds: it has some unusual land birds as well. Here is the splendid and abundant Christmas Island Imperial Pigeon.
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The dorsal plumage is this lustrous green which reminds me of Connemara marble. The breast is plum-coloured, the vent rufous and the eyes are a spectacular golden. It’s endemic to the island and its closest relative is the Pink-headed Imperial Pigeon (D. rosacea), widespread in the Indonesian islands of the Java Sea.
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A much more elusive member of this family is endemic race natalis of the Common or Asian Emerald Dove. This used to be treated as the same species as the Emerald Dove that occurs in Australia but the latter has been split into two species: the Common or Asian and the Pacific. As a result, Christmas Island is the only place in Australia where the Common or Asian species occurs.
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Also elusive is the only resident owl, the endemic Christmas Island Boobook. With a length of 26-29cm/10-11.4in, it is generally smaller than the rather variable Australian Bookbook of the mainland: 27-36cm/10.6-13.8in. We went out one night near the golf course with David James, one of the leaders of the first Christmas Island Bird Week, who was armed with a recording of the call. The recording was of poor quality but to our delight and surprise we got a response and a family of three appeared at close quarters. The species is regarded as vulnerable with a population of maybe 500 pairs and there are concerns that the introduction of yellow crazy ants is affecting the availability of the invertebrate prey that is its main source of food.
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Christmas Island also has an endemic diurnal predator, the Christmas Island Goshawk. Its taxonomy has proved a challenge for various taxonomists and it has generally been treated as a race of the Brown Goshawk (Accipiter fasciatus). In fact there are significant differences in structure, appearance and behaviour, so there is probably justification for treating it as a separate species. It is the rarest of the endemic birds with a population of probably less than 250 individuals. Unlike the Brown Goshawk, the birds are relatively tame and approachable.
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Christmas Island has only two endemic Passerines, the endemic race of the Island Thrush that was the subject of the last Irregular Bird and the Christmas Island White-eye. White-eyes are famous for finding their way to and settling on remote islands so there are nearly one hundred species ranging from Africa through the warmer parts of Asia to Australasia and the islands of the Pacific. This one is posing on a coral tree near Tai Jin House.
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So, there you are. Plenty of rabbit or red crab burrows to be explored by budding taxonomists and biogeographers. Talking about Red Crabs, itt wasn’t the right time of the year for the Red Crab spawning event and I don’t remember seeing any as they keep out of sight at other times of the year. We did encounter some Robber or Coconut Crabs, however. This species  is the largest terrestrial arthropod, weighing up to 4kg/8.8lbs and measuring up to 1m/39in in span from leg tip to leg tip. Their range comprises islands of the Indian Ocean and parts of the Pacific.
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Greetings and stay safe,
Ian

Lee’s Addition:

“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.” (Genesis 2:1-2 NASB)

Very interesting how these birds have developed and interbred over the centuries. With isolation, much interbreeding within the species has helped influence these varieties within the families and orders.

See More of Ian’s posts at:

Ian’s Bird of the Week

Who Paints the Leaves?

Ian’s Bird of the Moment – Island Thrush

When preparing editions of the Irregular Bird, I enjoy researching the natural history of the species in question. However, as anyone who goes on such a quest on the internet would know, this often proves to be a bit of a rabbit hole leading in unpredictable directions and taking up lots of time.

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Such was the case this time round as I had decided, given our current travel-free situation, to take us on a trip to Christmas Island with photos of about ten of the most interesting species. This led me down endless rabbit holes and the weeks ticked by. One of these that I found particularly interesting, biogeographically and taxonomically, was the Island Thrush and, unlike most of the others, it hasn’t featured previously as an Irregular Bird, or Bird of the Week as it was in 2006.
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This rather smart thrush is one of the typical thrushes comprising the genus Turdus, the members of which are widespread throughout Eurasia, Africa and the Americas and includes such well-known species as the Common Blackbird, the Song and Mistle Thrushes of Eurasia and the American Robin. The Island Thrush is about the same size as the Common Blackbird, to which it is closely related and is also a fine songster with a similar flutey song (listen to it here https://www.xeno-canto.org/204160).
island_thrush_39675_pp.jpg
This particular subspecies erythropleurus (meaning red-sided, or literally red-ribbed) is endemic to Christmas Island and was originally described as a full species Turdus erythropleurus by Sharpe in 1887. Subsequently it was found to be a race of the Island Thrush which is widespread but local through Southeast Asia from Sumatra and the Philippines and tropical Australasia and Oceania as far east as Samoa. Christmas Island is indicated by the brown arrow on the map below.
Island_thrush_distribution.jpg
The first race of the species was described by Latham in 1801. He called it the Grey-headed Blackbird, Turdus poliocephalus (polios is Greek for grey). It occurred only on Norfolk Island (horizontal black arrow on the map) and is now extinct, while another ‘species’ the Vinous-tinted Blackbird Turdus vinitinctus, also now extinct, was described on Lord Howe Island (vertical black arrow). The Christmas Island race is the sole surviving one on Australia territory.
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You may be struck by the different plumages of the various races, so it isn’t surprising that they were originally treated as different species. The colour plate above was created by the Danish artist Henrik Gronvold, and published in this book, below, an appendix to the Birds of Australia, by Gregory Mathews in 1928. 
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In fact, all the various populations of the Island Thrush differ greatly from each other in appearance. Below, stolen from Guy Dutson’s Birds of Melanesia, are two other races, one completely black (efatensis on Efate, an island of Vanuatu) and the other with a white head (albifrons on Erromango, another island of Vanuatu). In some race, the sexes are similar, in others they are different and the plumages of the juveniles are quite variable too. In fact the Island Thrush’s main claim to fame is that it is globally the most variable species of bird with nearly 50 subspecies. DNA studies show that the subspecies  appear to be all closely related with one exception: the northernmost one on Taiwan, niveiceps, is considered a candidate for elevation to species rank.
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The variability and wide range of the Island Thrush is paradoxical from the point of view of biogeography. On the one hand, varability and divergent subspecies indicates isolation with a lack of genetic flow among populations, i.e. the birds don’t move between islands. On the other hand, the wide range suggests that the Island Thrush is or was very good at getting from one place to another. This apparent contradiction is another mystery waiting to be solved.
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John Gould also illustrated the Vinous-tinted Blackbird on Lord Howe. Like the Grey-headed nominate race of Norfolk Island, the sexes were similar so the browner bird in the plate presumably represents a juvenile. In the background are the two high mountains on Lord Howe, Mount LIdgbird (left) and the flat-topped Mount Gower. This species was quite common until a shipwreck introduced rats to the island in 1918 with fatal consequences for this ground-nesting bird.
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Here are the two mountains on Lord Howe in 2013, photographed from the other side of the island from the John Gould illustration. So, we did sort of do a trip even if we ended up on Lord Howe instead of Christmas Island. I will prepare the rest of the photos for a trip to Christmas Island and try not to get too diverted by avian rabbit holes.
 
Spending a lot of time in isolation has given me the opportunity to work on the website not only adding birds and mammals from the trip to Brazil and Chile last year (about 120 species at last count), but also digging up neglected photos of other wildlife from earlier trips. If you are interested in checking these out, you can do so via the thumbnails on the Recently Added Photos page: http://www.birdway.com.au/recent_additions.php.
 
Greetings and stay safe,
Ian

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

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

 

Lee’s Addition:

I am always grateful when I get the surprise Birds of the “Moment” from Ian. When he used to do the Bird of the Week, they were very regular. Now, I love being surprised by Ian. [He is becoming almost as “off-schedule” as I am.] At any rate, what a beautiful and neat looking Thrush. Thanks, Ian for sharing another avian wonder with us.

“Even the stork in the sky Knows her seasons; And the turtledove and the swift and the thrush Observe the time of their migration; But My people do not know The ordinance of the LORD.” (Jeremiah 8:7 NASB)

Birds of the Bible – Thrushes

Ian’s Birds of the Week/Moment

Ian’s Bird of the Whatever – Bare-faced Curassow

The Irregular Bird, formerly Bird of the Moment, formerly Bird of the Week, #600: Bare-faced Curassow
[This is how Ian titled his email. He is celebrating his 600 article. That is quite a milestone. Congratulations, Ian, Keep them coming. They are always so interesting.]
Bird number 600 after 18 years is a bit of a landmark, so here is something suitably celebratory: the best dressed award for the South American trip: the Bare-faced Curassow. They also win the worst named award as I have to think every time I write it so I don’t say ‘assed’ but that’s probably a reflection on me, not the species.
The most beautiful bird award went to the Hyacinth Macaw#592; the most interesting went to the Sunbittern#591; the most spectacular went to the Andean Condor#593; the most beautiful mammal award went predictably to the Jaguar which also featured briefly in #592; the most unusual mammal to the Armadillo;  the least elegant went to the Collared Peccary; the most amusing and ugliest went to the Capybara, and the most delightful to the Giant Otter; the most beautiful lizard went to the Green Iguana; and the most beautiful snake went to the Yellow Anaconda.
If you can think of any categories I’ve left out let me know and I’ll see what I can do in the next Irregular Bird. A former colleague of mine, the world expert on the different pelagic behaviour of right- and left-footed thongs/jandals/flipflops recently called it Bird of the Undefined Time, which I like very much and set me thinking, but I’m going to settle on The Irregular Bird.
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The Curassows also won the best hairstyle award so I’ll deal with that first. The male’s is all black, quite original in a dapper and restrained sort of way, very suitable for evening dress/tuxedo. The female couldn’t resist a two-tone look, also restrained and very dignified. I think the black curly tip on a white base is gorgeous and the little black fringe/bang is the perfect finishing touch. Both have the suitably haughty look of famous models and you might be surprised to find that this male is married to this female: it could be an interesting household with two prima donnas, even before any kids come along.
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Here’s the male in his dinner jacket/tuxedo on the way to the Rio Claro masked ball. He’s wearing a special yellow face mask which doesn’t cover his eyes. It’s partially for epidemiological reasons but fame is important to him and he wants everyone to recognised him and know that he too was invited to this special event. Very suave and practising his red carpet walk, but he doesn’t really need to as he naturally has the sort of elegant, pouty walk that is widely admired by on the cat-walk.
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The female is wearing a tan-coloured silk ball gown with a brownish black cape and train. Both of these are hand embroidered with stripes consisting of thousands of large pearls and diamonds. Consequently they’re rather heavy and she hopes she doesn’t trip or fall on the way and is secretly looking forward to discarding them with a flourish in front of the cameras of the paparazzi. She’s walking past the resort swimming pool on the way to the ballroom. Those of you familiar with Australian flora will recognised the trunk of the tree and the leaves on the ground as belonging to a rare species of Eucaplyptus specially imported at great expense from a boutique nursery in Humpty Doo, 40km from Darwin in the Northern Territory, a small town better known by ordinary folk for its barramundi (an over-rated freshwater fish with a wonderful name). The climate there is similar to that in the Pantanal, hot and dry for much of the year with a very wet wet season.
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Masked balls can lead to unexpected results and this mother Curassow is paying the price. She sadly remembers the party times well, don’t we all, but is quite fond of her two chicks. She’s pleased to have both a daughter (centre foreground) and a son, trying to hide under mother’s skirts in the background on the left. He is already sporting a yellow face mask like his dad, is developing a precocious crest and wearing a black waistcoat, unbuttoned to show off his tan. Curassows are vegans naturally, and these ones are looking for the seeds of some super-food they’ve been told about. They also visit salt-licks as they believe that it’s makes their plumage very lustrous. It also leads to high blood pressure but they are young and don’t worry about such matters.
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Bare-faced Curassows range through central Brazil, eastern Bolivia, most of Paraguay and northern Argentina. Like the rest of us they are regarded as Vulnerable, suffering from hunting by left-wing elements, and are extinct in Rio de Janeiro as they found the Carnival much too vulgar and moved to the provinces particularly the Pantanal in Mato Grosso, a well-known retreat for the rich and famous.
Like all news now whether official or on social media, subject this article to the scrutiny of your b*llsh*t meter.
Stay safe, practise acceptance (very difficult I know) and keep cheerful,
Ian
PS Here is the only prize winner that hasn’t yet made it to the website. I must rectify that today. They’re king of the Iguanas, very large to 2 metres long, perfect for social distancing, with a noble heritage having been described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758 during the reign of Louis XV and when the United States were still British colonies. Like Louis XIV and Bare-faced Curassows, they’re into extravagant balls. This one is lounging on a freshwater beach on a sunny day near the fashionable resort of Porto Jofre in the Southern Pantanal, improving its green tan.
green_iguana_205307-pp.jpg


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

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

Lee’s Addition:

See my comments above, plus we have posted quite a few of those 600 articles here. Ian gave me permission years ago to use these newsletters. Thank, Ian. And for the great photos of birds you have shared with us.
“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)
“I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine.” (Psalms 50:11 NKJV)

Ian’s Bird of the Week, Moment, Whenever

Ian Montgomery Offers Free eBooks During Pandemic

Diary of a Bird Photographer, Vol 2 by Ian Montgomery

Just received an email from Ian Montgomery, Ian’s Bird of the Week, who is offering free downloads of his three eBooks. This is only being offered for a short time.

Here is his email:

Given the strange times we live in now, I’m thinking of all the other people isolated at home and looking for things to do. I’ve decided to make all my eBooks free for the time being.
Two of these are Diary of a Bird Photographer, Volumes 1 and 2, which are compilations of the Bird of the Week/Moment from #1 to #341, and #342 to #585, respectively, i.e. from 2002 to 2009 and 2010 to 2018.
The third is guide Where to Find Birds in North-east Queensland. This is a guide to the more than 400 species of birds that occur in this region and the 200 or so locations in which to look for them, and there are about 700 bird photos, and 200 of locations.
All the books is comprehensively indexed so you can jump around all over the place. If your stuck at home, and even if you’re not, you can take a virtual bird tour of NE Queensland at zero cost in Where to Find Birds in North-east Queensland – much better than having to worry about to getting home after your trip. Maybe you could use it to teach your kids about the joys of bird watching.
Given the current pandemic, Ian has decided to give his ebooks free to anyone interested in nature. If you already now about ebook formats such as pdfs, epub and mobi, then go straight to the Birdway Store on the Payhip website where I’ve made the books available for download.
If you’re a bit vague about ebook formats, go first to the Quick Guide to eBooks, check it out to see which one is best or you and then got to the Birdway Store on the Payhip website which you can do from that page.
None of the books is copyright protected, so you can distribute them as you wish.
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Happy reading and happy virtual travelling,
Stay safe,
Ian


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

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

Lee’s Addition:

I followed his links and was able to download all three ebooks.
Thanks, Ian, for giving us something to do while we are staying close/in our homes.
“Who has put wisdom in the mind? Or who has given understanding to the heart?” (Job 38:36 NKJV)

Bird of the Moment – Red-legged Seriema

Of the birds that we wanted to see in Brazil, this one, the Red-legged Seriema proved the most difficult. Like the Greater Rhea (#598), this is mainly a bird of dry, grassy habitats such as the Cerrado rather than the flood-prone Pantanal. So we hoped to find it at our last lodge, Piuval Lodge in the northern end of the Pantanal just south of Poconé. Even there, we resorted to the help of a local guide, attached to the Lodge, who found one within five minutes of departing from the Lodge. This was the only one we saw, despite further trips through the reserve there.
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Seriemas are unusual birds. There are only two remaining species, this one and the Black-legged Seriema (Chunga burmeisteri) South American, remnants apparently of a much larger clan known from a few fossils. The Red-legged has quite a wide range through Brazil south of the Amazon basin, Paraguay, eastern Bolivia, eastern Uruguay and north-eastern Argentina. The range of the Black-legged partially overlaps that of the Red-legged but maiinly farther west, still east of the Andes, from southern Bolivia through western Paraguay to central northern Argentina. Despite their remnant status, both are reasonably common in suitable open habitat and classified as of ‘Least Concern’.
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The Red-legged is the larger species, with a length of 75-90cm and weighing 1.5-2.3kg. Both are mainly terrestrial, though they are capable of short bursts of flight, and will often perch in bushes and small trees, where they build their nests. Both species are predatory, feeding on small reptiles such as snakes and lizards, and large insects, but will also feed on seeds. Both are very vocal and join in the morning chorus, though we had listened in vain for the distinctive song of the Red-legged. This is a ‘calm series of nasal, well-separated, and accentuated “hah-hah” notes, lilting up and then down again’, according to Ber van Perlo in his Birds of Brazil, though the recording in his app sounds like a very distressed and lonely puppy, and ‘calm’ is not an adjective I’d have chosen.
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Naturally, as you’ve guessed by now, one of the reasons I was keen to see and photograph it was to fill a taxonomic hole in the species on the Birdway website. Until the advent of DNA analysis, the correct placement of the Seriemas was put in the too-hard basket, which in those days for land birds was in its own family, Cariamidae, in the Crane order, Gruiformes. Cranes were known to be of an ancient lineage, so Gruiformes was a bit of a taxonomic dumping ground for such problem groups, ‘GRU’ in the diagram above. That all changed in 2008 with this landmark DNA study by Hackett et al. which revolutionised the understanding of the relationships among major groups of birds.
Perhaps most strikingly, the Parrots were shown to be a sister clade to the Passerines, or perching birds, and the Falcons and Caracaras were separated from the other diurnal predators, such as Hawks, Eagles and Vultures. I’ve highlighted the relevant relationships in the diagram above. Interestingly the Seriemas were an early offshoot of the group that gave rise to the Falcons, Parrots and Passerines. Other studies since have supported these findings and the Seriemas have been elevated to their own order the Cariamiformes. The Passerine order contains half of all extant bird species, 5,000 or so out of 10,000, so the Seriemas have great status in the overall scheme of things with an order to themselves.
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I couldn’t help to see a certain resemblance to Bustards in size, form and habit, but perhaps the Secretarybird of Africa is the closest analogue. I’ve seen this species in pre-digital days in Zimbabwe but I haven’t photographed it, so I’ve taken the liberty of including this splendid photo by Janelle Morano which is published in the Cornell online Birds of the World and the related Macaulay Library: Secretarybird.
If you return to the Hackett diagram you’ll see that the Secretarybird is a relative of the hawks and eagles: it is the sole member of one family – Sagitariidae – of the four that make up the order Accipitriformes, the others being the Cathartidae (new world vultures) the Pandionidae (ospreys) and Accipitridae (all the other hawks and eagles). Given the similarities and the relationships to different groups of diurnal predators, the Seriemas and Secretarybird would seem to be a very elegant example of convergent evolution.
So far, I’ve resisted the temptation of mentioning IT, the current crisis. I will however say that I wasn’t intending to be prophetic when I said that the New Year had got off to a bumpy start with the Australian bushfires, and later that the taxonomic puzzle of the Ratites was Gaia’s revenge on Homo not so sapiens. Maybe Gaia has turned to self-defence in the way she knows best. I’m largely isolating at home, given the warnings to older people, so I hope to do more work on the website and have more birds of the moment.
Greetings and stay safe,
Ian


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

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

Lee’s Addition:

Ian has shared one of the birds we have seen at the Lowry Park Zoo many times. Always enjoy seeing them.
And, Ian like many of us around the world, is sticking close to home. Maybe it will be a good time to clean up some of our photos, and write about them, just as he is doing.
Stay tuned!
“I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine.” (Psalms 50:11 NKJV)