Archive for June, 2007

I and the Bird #52: The best laid plans

The latest edition of I and the bird has been published over at The Wandering Tattler. There you will find plenty of entertaining reading and lots of links to great birding sites, many with photos. Again, yours truly is one of the many contributors.


Birds in the News #89

The latest edition of Birds in the News #89 has been published.

It has plenty of links to interesting articles about birds from all over the world.

Another site worth checking out – if only for the great photos – is “This week at Hilton Pond.” Click on the link below.


Bird word: Lifer

  • Lifer: the first ever time that a birder sees a species of bird it is called a “lifer”or a “tick”.

Birders are like everyone else; they love to see new things – in their case it’s new birds.

Many birders keep a life list of all the birds they have ever seen. Some of these can number in the thousands because there are potentially 9,730 birds to put on your life list (give or take a few dozen/hundred depending on which list you consult). Very few birders have reached the dizzy heights of having seen over 8000 different kinds of birds in their lifetime. And it takes a lifetime of dedication, determination, planning and quite a deal of spare time and cash. Oh – and a healthy dollop of good luck at being in the right place at the right time.

My life list is very modest; it’s in the mid 300s. I’ve not travelled extensively around the world for the purpose of birding. As a result, the chances of me seeing a “lifer” is still very high. With over 9000 species yet to see worldwide I’ll need another several lifetimes to get even near to that magical 8000 mark. Even in Australia I’ve yet to see more than half the species possible.

A “lifer” is sometimes called a “tick.” This comes from the habit of birders who make lists of species seen “ticking” off each species seen on a list.

For more articles about words associated with birds, go to my Glossary of Bird Words here.

Royal Spoonbills

Yesterday I wrote about my love of Yellow Billed Spoonbills. They are truly wonderful birds and certainly have a special place in my birding life.

I also delight in seeing their cousins the Royal Spoonbill with their distinctively coloured bills. Both species are to be found in my home district here in Murray Bridge, though not in large numbers – usually singles through to a half dozen or so.

So far I haven’t managed to get a good photo of the Royal Spoonbill but Snail on A Snail’s Eye View has several excellent photos here.

Both species of Spoonbills are widespread throughout northern, eastern and southern Australia where suitable habitat exists. Both are present in SW Western Australia, though the Yellow Billed Spoonbill is far more common there than the Royal. Their preferred habitats include wetlands, swamps, lakes, shallow waters, estuarine waters, dams and irrigated areas. Both species feed by moving steadily through shallow water, swishing the bill sideways to and fro searching for food.

For a great deal more information about their feeding and breeding habits go to the Birds in Backyards site here. This site also has a distribution map. More information about the Yellow Billed Spoonbill, including a distribution map, can be found here.

Yellow Billed Spoonbills and the birth of a birder

Yellow Billed Spoonbill

Yellow Billed Spoonbill

I must admit that the spoonbills are amongst my favourite birds. Every time I see a spoonbill it gives me great pleasure. In fact, this species was in part responsible for me becoming a birder in the first place.

Back in October 1977 I took my family camping to Chambers Gorge in the Flinders Ranges in outback South Australia. This spectacular gorge through the rugged, dry mountains was a delightful place to spend a few days camping with the family. We went for several walks through the gorge. This gorge usually has a few waterholes but the creek only flows for a few hours after heavy rain.

I was amazed at the bird life around the waterholes. I had no idea at the time that many species of water birds inhabit such normally dry areas. Two Yellow Billed Spoonbills were present and they provided us with much interest over the days we spent there. It was the first time I really took a great deal of notice of the bird life of an area. Fortunately I had taken my binoculars with me, and I think I must have also had with me a simple, abridged paperback version of Cayley’s “What Bird is That?” It was the first of many field guides I have bought over the years since.

The photo above was not taken at the time. It was taken last year in the Cleland Wildlife Park in the Adelaide Hills.

For more information about Yellow Billed Spoonbills, including a distribution map, click here.