Ian’s Bird of the Week – Temminck’s Stint ~by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter – 12/31/15
Surprise, surprise, Facebook can be useful! I was contemplating a suitable species to wish you a Happy New Year, when I discovered from a post by Rohan Clark that Temminck’s Stint is the newest addition to the Australian bird list, one having turned up in Broome, Western Australia about a month. And no, I didn’t rush off there to photograph it: here are a couple of old photos that I took in India twelve years ago. So that satisfies the Old Year/New Year metaphor. You’ll have noticed by now that I’ll use any excuse as a metaphor to nominate a species as Bird of the Week.
This is probably one for the serious birder as small waders in winter plumage not only pose serious problems of identification but also fail to excite people who are into more dramatic plumages. That said, it’s distinguishing features are the down-curved bill, short legs and, in flight, the white sides to the tail. The latter is probably the best field mark, as it’s shared with no other members of the genus and easy to see in flight, even if it doesn’t show when the birds are on the ground. There are four species of Stints (see Typical Waders on Birdway) the Eurasian name for very small waders; comparable species of the same genus in North America are usually named Sandpipers, e.g. the Least Sandpiper and are collectively, colloquially and somewhat disparagingly called Peeps after their calls.
Temminck’s Stint nest right across northern Eurasia from Norway to eastern Siberia. The short Arctic breeding season is something of a frenzy, as Temminck’s Stints of both sexes are territorial and serially bigamous and sometimes fit in three clutches with different mates. They winter mainly in equatorial Africa and southern and southeastern Asia, with Borneo being the closest regular winter haunt to Australia. It is to be expected that they would sometimes overshoot their destination and there have been several reports of them in Australia in recent years but none has been accepted until now.
Coenraad Temminck was a Dutch ‘aristocrat and zoologist’ born in Amsterdam in 1778. He was director of the National Museum (then the Rijksmuseum) of Natural History in Leiden from 1830 until his death in 1851. He made a huge contribution towards the classification of birds and other vertebrates at a time when the species and type concepts were contentious. He inherited a large collection of bird skins from his father who was treasurer of the Dutch East India Company, so it would be easy to imagine that his specimen of the stint came from Indonesia.
Sixteen bird species still include his name as part of the scientific and/or common name, including the Australian Logrunner (Orthonyx temminckii), which as featured as bird of the week before. He also make a fundamental contribution to biogeography, though his views on the divine aspects of species design and their unchanging nature proved unpopular with other scientists after about 1840.
You nearly got the Eurasian/Winter/Pacific Wrens as bird of the week as today I’ve got as far as the wren family page in the website redesign. I’m switching from BirdLife International to the IOC for classification and the IOC splits the old Winter Wren of the almost the entire Northern Hemisphere into Old World (Eurasian Wren) and New World (Winter and Pacific Wrens , which also suited the Old Year/New Year transition nicely. However, the Eurasian Wren has featured as bird of the week before in the guise of Winter Wren so you ended up with an obscure wader instead.
I send you very best wishes for the New Year and a rewarding 2016 and don’t make your New Year Resolutions too ambitious!
“If a bird’s nest happens to be before you along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, with the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; (Deuteronomy 22:6 NKJV)
Well, Happy New Years to you also, Ian. We look forward to your newsletters again this new year. Thanks for letting our blog share your very informative articles along with super photos of species. Many of those species we have never heard of, let alone have the opportunity to see. Thanks for sharing.
The drought had been rather severe that summer, and the normally moist woodland was dry and parched. Suddenly, out of the brush, a chunky bird was frantically searching the soil for earthworms. Following behind, and looking as famished as their mama, were four of her wood-brown chicks. And as their mama stopped and probed the arid ground before her, the chicks looked on with eager expectation. But all at once, and without warning, mama bird performed an amazing feat! She lay her body flat along the ground and began drumming the surface with her wings. Minutes later, their hunger satisfied, this American Woodcock family disappeared into the dry undergrowth.
All birds reveal incredible design, but the American Woodcock has an interesting design feature in its behaviour as well.
We have been led to believe by the scientific establishment that birds, like the American Woodcock, are products of time and chance. That through natural processes and eons of time, they are the descendants of a common ancestor that sprang from the reptilian line.
On the other hand, the Word of the Creator states that birds were designed and created by Him, according to their own kind, on the fifth day. As a result, He considered them very good (Genesis 1:31).
Chance vs design. Aimlessness vs plan and purpose. These are two fiercely competitive worldview’s. They are mutually exclusive. And, contrary to popular opinion, the essence of both can be described as the science of one person’s religion vs the science of another’s. Why? Because no one was there at the beginning! Scientifically speaking, the conditions of the early earth are unknown and hence cannot be duplicated. On the other hand, God was there! He is perfectly capable of communicating to His people.
When we look at His world, we find tremendous evidence of His fingerprints, so to speak—design and purpose.
For instance, how did drumming the ground bring the woodcock family from famine to feast? Amazingly enough, mama woodcock was aware of the habits of earthworms. She knew that in dry conditions, they squirm to the lower, moist depths of the soil. However, she was also aware of another quirk in their behaviour! When it rains, worms can sense the ground vibrations caused by raindrops. When this happens, they quickly propel themselves to the soil surface so they won’t drown. Therefore, when the mother beat the ground, she and her family were able to leave the area with their hunger pangs satisfied.
How did she know how to do that? What complicated series of events caused all of this information to come together in one little bird? Was it by chance and natural processes or was it creation with deliberate purpose?
Not only did it know the habits of the earthworms, this bird’s anatomy is highly complex as well. The eyes are located high on its head enabling it to see 360 degrees. Imagine being able to see, with overlapping vision allowing depth perception, both in front of and behind you. The ears are situated between the eyes and its eight-centimetre (three-inch) bill. This highly sophisticated hearing apparatus is better able to detect the sub-soil movement of its prey. Working together with its exquisitely attuned vision and hearing, are its sensitive feet. Designed to feel ground vibration, they help to pinpoint a worm’s location.
Being fairly certain that the worm is within reach, the bird pushes its bill into the ground. But this isn’t just any old bill! The flexible tip, which allows it to open and close in a tweezer fashion within tiny spaces, has highly sensitive nerve endings. It allows the woodcock to know that it has grasped its meal.
A nocturnal animal, the woodcock is probably best known for its bizarre courtship behaviour. At dusk, the male of the species will circle high in the sky on a spring night making a continual ‘twittering’ noise. At this highest point, he’ll suddenly dive in a zig-zag fashion toward the earth. It’s a most unusual display, completely captivating his mate-to-be. The three outer primary feathers not only make the strange sounds of this courting male, but also contribute greatly to his survival. When the woodcock is in danger of being discovered by a predator, it will explode from its concealment. In so doing, those feathers make such an unexpected and horrible noise, that often the predator is temporarily shocked. This brief moment is all the time the bird needs to make its escape!1
When it is realized how many of these complicated factors must come together, at the same time, just for the bird to survive, that all this could come from gradual, piecemeal evolution defies credibility.
The outdoors is chock full of unique and fascinating organisms, like the American Woodcock, just waiting to be discovered by both children and adults alike. All of creation, though now fallen from its original perfection, holds a wonder and fascination that finds its meaning in the Creator God who put it there! Evidence of His handiwork can be seen and understood. And evidence can be logically discussed in scientific circles, so be bold, be confident and be in awe of His creative abilities!
The world today needs more people who will proclaim the news in every land that Jesus Christ, the awesome Creator, came to us, lived amongst us, died and rose again for us!
‘Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest’ (Joshua 1:9).
“The American Woodcock (Scolopax minor), sometimes colloquially referred to as the Timberdoodle, is a small chunky shorebird species found primarily in the eastern half of North America. Woodcocks spend most of their time on the ground in brushy, young-forest habitats, where the birds’ brown, black, and gray plumage provides excellent camouflage.
Because of the male Woodcock’s unique, beautiful courtship flights, the bird is welcomed as a harbinger of spring in northern areas. It is also a popular game bird, with about 540,000 killed annually by some 133,000 hunters in the U.S. (Ugh!)
The American Woodcock is the only species of Woodcock inhabiting North America. Although classified with the sandpipers and shorebirds in Family Scolopacidae, the American Woodcock lives mainly in upland settings. Its many folk names include timberdoodle, bogsucker, night partridge, brush snipe, hokumpoke, and becasse.
The American Woodcock has a plump body, short legs, a large, rounded head, and a long, straight prehensile bill. Adults are 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm) long and weigh 5 to 8 ounces (140 to 230 g). Females are considerably larger than males.] The bill is 2.5 to 2.75 inches (6.4 to 7.0 cm) long.
The plumage is a cryptic mix of different shades of browns, grays, and black. The chest and sides vary from yellowish white to rich tans. The nape of the head is black, with three or four crossbars of deep buff or rufous. The feet and toes, which are small and weak, are brownish gray to reddish brown.
Woodcock have large eyes located high in the head, and their visual field is probably the largest of any bird, 360° in the horizontal plane and 180° in the vertical plane.
The Woodcock uses its long prehensile bill to probe in the soil for food, mainly invertebrates and especially earthworms. A unique bone-and-muscle arrangement lets the bird open and close the tip of its upper bill, or mandible, while it is sunk in the ground. Both the underside of the upper mandible and the long tongue are rough-surfaced for grasping slippery prey.
In Spring, males occupy individual singing grounds, openings near brushy cover from which they call and perform display flights at dawn and dusk, and if the light levels are high enough on moonlit nights. The male’s ground call is a short, buzzy peent. After sounding a series of ground calls, the male takes off and flies from 50 to 100 yards into the air. He descends, zigzagging and banking while singing a liquid, chirping song. This high spiralling flight produces a melodious twittering sound as air rushes through the male’s outer primary wing feathers.” (Wikipedia with editing)
Ian’s Bird of the Week – Common Redshank ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter – 11-1-12
Here’s one for the wader enthusiasts: the Common Redshank, well ‘common’ in Eurasia and rather rare in Australia. It occurred to me when I was photographing these birds in Ireland in September, that, for birders, the appeal of a particular species is very dependent on location. Common Redshanks are noteworthy in Australia (I remember looking quite hard before finding one in Broome) but perhaps a nuisance in Ireland because they’re ubiquitous, nervous and noisy and often put more unusual waders to flight when you least want them to.
The one in the first photo is foraging at low tide in the harbour at Carlingford Lough, an attractive bay between the Republic and Northern Ireland on the east coast and overlooked on the northern side by the Mourne Mountains. The two in the second photo are feeding in the mudflats in the estuary of the River Boyne some distance downstream from where the famous Battle of the Boyne took place in 1690. The bird on the right has just taken a tiny crab.
Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) by Ian 2
The birds in the first two photos are in non-breeding plumage. Some wader species undergo spectacular colour changes when breeding, but in the Common Redshank the markings just become more pronounced, as in the third photo, taken in Portugal in the month of June some years ago.
Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) by Ian 3
The bright red legs, or shanks, make this a relatively easy wader to identify. It’s ringing call is also distinctive and it shows a characteristic wing pattern in flight with white panels on the rear edge of the wing, as in the fourth photo, quite different from the wing bar or plain wing of most waders.
Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) by Ian 4
The generic name Tringa is from the ancient Greek trungas ‘a thrush-sized bird mentioned by Aristotle, not further identified, but taken by later authors to be a sandpiper, a wagtail or a dipper‘. That’s equivalent to saying that this fruit is either an orange, a pineapple or a banana. And totanus comes from the Italian name totano for a Redshank. Sometimes the derivation of scientific names is informative, sometimes less so.
Common Redshanks in breeding plumage are a marbled brown color, slightly lighter below. In winter plumage they become somewhat lighter-toned and less patterned, being rather plain greyish-brown above and whitish below. They have red legs and a black-tipped red bill, and show white up the back and on the wings in flight.
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
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
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
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.
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)
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
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
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 .
Ian’s Bird of the Week – Red-necked Stint ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter – 04-01-09
This time of the year, almost anywhere in the world, is a good time to go looking for waders. Not only does the (northern) Spring migration mean that unusual species can turn up, but many of these migrants are acquiring their breeding plumages. So, if you’ve ever been faced with the daunting challenge of identifying waders in their drab winter plumage, you could be in for some pleasant surprises.
Red-necked Stint (Calidris ruficollis) by Ian in breeding and non-breeding plumage
A case in point is the Red-necked Stint, a common non-breeding visitor to Australia, where the plumage is normally anything but red. The bird in the photo is in partial, or ‘pre-breeding’, plumage with the delicate
pinkish-chestnut face and breast and the black and chestnut wing coverts. A dapper little bird by any standards, I think.
‘Little’ is the operative word. Stints – there are 4 species – are the world’s smallest waders and the Red-necked Stint with a length of 13 – 16 cm/5 – 6.3″ is slightly smaller than a House Sparrow (14 – 16 cm). Size doesn’t stop it being one of the champions of migration, breeding in the Arctic tundra of Siberia and northern Alaska and spending the northern winter in Australasia and as far as south as sub-Antarctic islands.
At this time of the year, the birds are feeding madly, building up their fat reserves for the long trip. Apparently, they can lose half of their body weight during the migration.
The sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that the photo was taken at Boat Harbour during a brief visit to the Sydney region earlier this week. It’s tax time and I went to Boat Harbour after a meeting with my accountant in nearby Sutherland. To my friends in Sydney I extend an apology that I didn’t have time to catch up with them.
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Storks, doves, swallows, and thrushes all know when it’s time to fly away for the winter and when to come back… (Jer 8:7)
This is one of the catch-up newsletters I am finally finding time to do. Will be releasing several more of these in the next little bit. Finally have some time to work on them. See Ian’s Bird of the Week list to see Ian’s articles. He will continue to do his current ones also.
The Stint mentioned was getting ready for spring migration, but of course this time of the year, they start preparing for their fall migration. I also went to Ian’s Birdway and found an extra photo. The Stint is in the Scolopacidae Family of Sandpipers and Snipes. The Scolopacidaes are in the Charadriiformes Order which has 19 families.