Weekly Challenge Dec 09

Week 4

Photo 1

Photo 1 – Banded Honeyeater. One of the true black and white Honeyeaters. Note that the throat is white unlike the Pied and Black Honeyeaters that both have black throats.

Photo 2

Photo 2 – Pale Yellow Robin (Race nana). This is the north east Qld race of the Pale Yellow Robin which is distinguished from the southern race by the pale rufous-buff on the lores.

Photo 3

Photo 3 – Spotted Catbird. A mountain rainforest bird that is confined to north east Qld. It is similar to the Green Catbird which is not seen in north east Qld so identification is made easy. Don’t mistake it for a female Satin Bowerbird which is quite different and has a blue eye.

Photo 4

Photo 4 – White-streaked Honeyeater. A resident of northern Cape York Peninsula where it is common.

Weekly Challenge Nov 09

Week 3

Photo 1

Photo 1 – MacLeay’s Honeyeater. A true bird of the tropics. Usually found in the rainforests in the Townsville region where it is quite common. Once seen the bird is easily recoginised as is its call.

Photo 2

Photo 2 – Bower’s Shrike-thrush. Found in the rainforests. Can be mistaken for a Little Shrike-thrush. Look for the dark head and black bill. It has a much darker head, it’s more heavily streaked than the Little Shrike-thrush and the rufous breast colour goes all the way up the throat.

Photo 3

Photo 3 – Black-backed Butcherbird. This photo is a bit unfair in that it was taken well up into Cape York Peninsula where the Grey Butcherbird does not occur. The difference in colour of the Grey and Black-blackbacked Butcherbirds is very good distinguishing point but once a good ID has been made on the Black-backed Butcherbird the head and neck pattern is quite different to the Grey Butcherbird as the field guides will show.

Photo 4

Photo 4 – Victoria’s Riflebird (Female). Another rainforest bird. The colours of the female Victoria’s Riflebird are quite different to the stunningly coloured male. Other than the colour, its size and its long bill are the main point of ID.

Weekly Challenge Nov 09

Week 2

Photo 4

Photo 4 – Red-backed Fairy Wren (Female). In tropical Queensland, a female Fairy-wren with no hint of blue in the tail is sure to be a female of the Red-backed Fairy-wren. In north east Queensland you may come across the Lovely Fairy-wren, of which the female has a predominately blue tail and blue on the back.

Photo 3

. Photo 3 – Metallic Starling (Juvenile). With a predominate grey streaked white breast, the juvenile of this bird is quite a contrast to the adult birds that have an overall black metallicsheened body. The red eye is a good ID point.

Photo 2

Photo 2 – Brown-backed Honeyeater. A common bird in the Townsville region but easily identified by its brown back, scalloped drab white front, pink bill and white line under the eye. This is one of the birds that southern visitors like to see.

Photo 1

Photo1 - Little Tern (breeding plumage). Size of the bird is not apparent in the photo but the identifying features are the black line running from the bill, through the eye to the cap and a triangular white forehead that extends to above the eye but not beyond it. This is an endangered species and is seen regularly in the Townsville area where it nests on certain local beaches.

Photo ID Challenge November 09

Photo 1

Photo1 - Nutmeg Mannikin. Note the scalloping in the feather pattern. It is not hard to tell them apart from all the other finches and manikins seen in the tropics. Juveniles do not have the scalloping.

Photo 4

Photo 4 - Yellow Honeyeater. This is a common bird of tropical north Queensland that is easily distinguished by its overall yellow colour. Some call it the bush canary.

Photo 3
Photo 3 - Australian Brush-turkey (Race purpureicollis). Most will identify this bird but some may not pick the violet tinged white collar of this Cape York race

Photo 2

Photo 2 - White-browed Robin. One of the tropical Robins that is distinguished by the bold white brow that none of the other Robins have.

Wader Identification Challenge.Week 4

Week 4

The photos for the final week are not as easy as those for the preceding weeks. In fact, one image was considered to be incorrectly identified by the photographer and had the adjudicators heading for the reference books!

Image 4 – Wandering Tattler (Tringa incana)

Another bewildering Tattler from Queensland! Once again the clues are its slate grey colouration with a medium length straight bill and yellow legs. The question once again is which species – Grey-tailed Tattler or Wandering Tattler?

This bird is dark grey rather than soft grey, which initially suggests Wandering Tattler, but this difference is a slight one and identification is by no means straight forward. The key features which tend to confirm Wandering Tattler are:

· the supercilium (eye-brow) is most prominent in front of the eye, but it does not extend over and past the eye as it would in a Grey-tailed Tattler;

· the primaries extend well beyond the end of the tail, not just to the end as they would in Grey-tailed Tattler; and

· the bars on the flanks and on the breast (remnants of breeding plumage) are thicker (broader) than the finer grey bars of Grey-tailed Tattler.

Image 3 – Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus )

The upward curved bill with a dull orange base and bright orange legs make the identification of this bird a cinch.

The fine dark streaks on the head, neck and breast, the brightness of the legs, the dark bill and the heavily abraded scapulars may indicate this bird is moulting out of breeding plumage.

Image 2 – Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos)

This is a less common wader that superficially resembles a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. The points of difference can be subtle and vary with different individuals. This bird is one that is reasonably straight forward to identify. The points to look for, not all of which are obvious in the photo, are:

  • the heavily streaked neck and breast, with a sharp demarcation between the breast streaking and the white belly (Sharpies can have a heavily marked breast but it is more brownish arrow heads and spots than blackish streaks and in Sharpies these marks continue onto the sides of the belly);
  • the bird generally looks darker brown with less rufous feathers than a Sharpie;
  • the crown is browner than the more rufous Sharpie;
  • the head usually appears smaller and rounder (the Sharpie usually looks flat-headed);
  • the legs are brighter yellow than the yellowish-green of a Sharpie;
  • the bill is usually longer; and
  • the yellow at the base of the bill is also brighter than in a Sharpie.

All of these points vary in different individual and in different plumages but they are rarely more straight forward than in the bird pictured.

Image 1 – Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)

The 2 birds in this picture are both Curlew Sandpipers. The long black decurved bill is the main clue to identify them. The grey upperparts with white fringes to the feathers indicates they have recently moulted into winter plumage. As the feathers wear the white edges abrade and the birds appear more evenly grey. The black legs are another clue to the identity. In the field they might fly to reveal white wing-bars and a white rump without a dark line down through the tail (as in Red-necked Stint and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper). The upperparts are similar to those of Red Knots, but a Knot is much heavier in its build and has a short straight bill.

Wader Challenge Week 3

Week 3

This week provided a good selection of less common birds in Australia (one is extremely rare).

Image 1 – Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis)

This bird is very pale, with the predominant colours grey and white. This, together with the long bill and legs identify it as a Tringa. This means a choice between Common Greenshank and Marsh Sandpiper. The bill is finer (and straighter) than that of a Common Greenshank, particularly at the base, which means it is a Marsh Sandpiper. The legs are usually described as greenish. In the photo they seem to have a slightly orange tinge, but they are not yellow/orange enough to start dreaming about Lesser Yellowlegs!

Image 2 – Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)

Often to identify a wader you need to consider a number of features, rather than a single feature. With this image, there are a number of clues which need to be digested together to identify it as a Wood Sandpiper:

· it has generally even dark brown upperparts (not as rufous and with the light and dark contrasts of a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper);

· it has white spotting on the fringes of the feathers;

· it is a typical Tringa – elegant with long neck and legs, but it is brown, not grey and white like a Common Greenshank or Marsh Sandpiper;

· the legs are greenish-yellow (if they were red we would be getting excited thinking about Spotted or Common Redshanks);

· the bill is relatively long and straight; and

· it is not dark enough to be a Green Sandpiper (more wishful thinking by Fred and John because neither of them have seen this bird in Australia).

Again, in the field it bobs and teeters and has a distinctive call

Image 3 – Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica)

Here the photo shows a feature which is often difficult to see in the field. The dark underwing pattern of the bird on the right is diagnostic (meaning there is no other wader with this pattern) – Hudsonian Godwit. If one appears (which it does very rarely), it usually stands around without raising its wings. Then you need to separate it from the more common Black-tailed Godwit by comparing leg length (not possible if it is in a group of Sandpipers and Stints) and looking for other very subtle differences.

The bird on the left is a Bar-tailed Godwit – identified by its tail pattern

Image 4 – Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
The white which extends from the breast over the fold of the wing is the best clue to the identity of this bird. In the field it would be teetering (moving its body up and down like a see-saw), bobbing (moving its head up and down) and flying with extremely shallow jerky wing-beats - but the photo cannot show these very characteristic behavioural clues. The white supercilium (eye-brow), white eye-ring, and finely streaked neck and breast are all indicators. As too are the light and dark bars on the upper-wing. The long tail, the darkness of the legs and bill and other very fine differences might be helpful if you thought you had its North American equivalent, the Spotted Sandpiper (Fred Smith and John Barkla just started dreaming).

Wader ID challenge Week 2

Week 2

The photos for week 2 are not as easy as those for week 1: one is a species the occurs annually, but not in huge numbers; one is a trans-Tasman migrant which arrives when the northern hemisphere migrants are leaving and leaves when they are arriving; one is an absolute rarity; and one is in a perhaps unfamiliar immature plumage.

Image 4 – Grey-tailed Tattler (Tringa brevipes)

These 4 birds are clearly Tattlers – slate grey colouration with a medium length straight bill and yellow legs. The question is which species – Grey-tailed Tattler, Wandering Tattler or a combination of both? The 2 species can be very difficult to separate in a photograph, but are not so difficult in the field because they have totally different calls (they usually call when they are flushed). If they do not call, they can even be difficult in the field.

The 2 birds at the back are pale grey, not as dark as we would expect in a Wandering Tattler, but with the other 2 birds this is not so apparent. The key feature seems to be the broad white supercilium (eye-brow) which extends over and past the eye and the contrast this provides with the dark loral line (the line from the bill to the eye). With Wandering Tattler, the white is most prominent in front of the eye, but it usually does not extend so prominently behind the eye and the contrast with the loral line is not so great. The bird on the left in the 2 birds at the back shows the primaries extending to the end of the tail. In Wandering Tattler, the primaries extend beyond the tail. Also in Wandering Tattler the dark crown extends to the base of the bill, which means the 2 supercilium lines do not meet over the bill. With a little imagination in the photos you can see they meet. Is everyone now sufficiently confused?

Image 3 – Double-banded Plover (Charadrius bicinctus)

This is a Plover based on its round head, large eye, short straight bill and short neck. The 2 dark lines (double-bands) extending onto the sides of the breast are a good clue as to its identity. It has the generally buffy head (particularly obvious in the supercilium, hind neck and throat) of an immature. The bird most closely similar to it is an immature Red-capped Plover, but it has black legs not yellow-green; it has only one blackish mark extending onto the sides of the breast; and it has a smaller head and finer bill. Of course, Red-capped is a lot smaller, but again size is difficult in a photo

Image 2 – Little Stint (Calidris minuta)

By its structure it appears to be a Stint – short black bill and legs in a bird the size of a hen’s egg (but remember size can be tricky with nothing to compare it with). You can immediately discount Long-toed Stint because they have yellowish legs. In Australia, the choice for black-legged Stints is between Red-necked Stint, which is common, and Little Stint, which is very rare. Usually, if you go with the commoner species you will be correct: but this is a tricky competition.

Little Stint is a notoriously difficult bird to identify in non-breeding plumage, but not so difficult if the bird is in full breeding plumage, as in this case. The first impression is of an orange-red, not a pinkish-red bird. In general colour it seems to be too orange to be a typical breeding plumaged Red-necked Stint. This alerts you to look a bit closer.

It has a longish (for a stint) fine dagger-like bill (Red-necked is more blunt) and has a very noticeable white line down the mantle. In the field (not in the photo) you would see 2 lines through the mantle making an obvious white V. It has a whitish throat and dark streaks and spots over the orange which extends onto the side of the breast. Importantly, the orange extends over the entire upper surface of the wing, where in Red-necked the colour is on the scapulars, with most of the coverts (not all) a plain grey-brown. The legs are slightly longer (you need lots of imagination here) and the wings slightly shorter (more imagination please). The calls are also different. I think you get the idea that they are not that easy.

Image 1 – Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica)

The enormously long upturned bill with a pink base is usually enough to identify a Bar-tailed Godwit. The barred tail which gives the bird its name is also evident. This is an immature bird with its chequered upperparts (which are unique amongst Godwits) and orange flush to the breast and flanks. By the enormous length of its bill, it is probably a female (males are shorter).

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