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Featured Photo, a.k.a. New Photo Quiz, January-February 2014 Birding

First things first. The quiz. Here goes: If you just want to play the quiz, that's great. Skip… [read more]

Featured Photo, a.k.a. New Photo Quiz, January-February 2014 Birding Featured Photo, a.k.a. New Photo Quiz, January-February 2014 Birding

Introducing: The Lifelook

One of the most interesting facets of birding culture is its unique vocabulary. From lifers to dips to… [read more]

Introducing: The Lifelook Introducing: The Lifelook

ABA Rally in Plymouth, Massachusetts – It was wicked birdy

The weather and the birding gods smiled on us for the 2014 ABA Birding Rally in Plymouth, Massachusetts.… [read more]

ABA Rally in Plymouth, Massachusetts – It was wicked birdy ABA Rally in Plymouth, Massachusetts - It was wicked birdy

The 2013 Snowy Owl Invasion: It’s getting crazier by the minute

Maybe you've heard.... There's Snowy Owls around. A lot of them. They're turning up on people's houses,… [read more]

The 2013 Snowy Owl Invasion: It’s getting crazier by the minute The 2013 Snowy Owl Invasion: It's getting crazier by the minute

ABA Adds Zino’s Petrel, #982

On 16 September 1995, Brian Patteson photographed a Pterodroma petrel off Hatteras, North Carolina. At… [read more]

ABA Adds Zino’s Petrel, #982 ABA Adds Zino's Petrel, #982

Advice to a Young Birder

You’ve surely seen those rankings of places to live. Some person or committee rates a town or city… [read more]

Advice to a Young Birder Advice to a Young Birder
Nikon Monarch 7

    Wader Quest in South Australia

    Wader Quest’s last stop in Australia was in Melbourne, where we were helped by Paul Dodd in searching for our last remaining species, but not before Elis and I made an abortive trip to the north of Victoria looking for Inland Dotterel, Plains Wanderer and Australian Painted Snipe.

    A night spent driving the tracks at a place called Ned’s Corner proved fruitless for the Inland Dotterels. The Plains Wanderers would have meant paying a professional guide, something we have tried to avoid in lieu of relying instead on generous folk willing to help. The Australian Painted Snipe eluded us despite much searching of apparently suitable habitat. I must admit that it was a pretty solemn pair that returned to Melbourne.

    It didn’t take long for Paul to out the smiles back on our faces, however. He took us first to the sewage treatment plant. It was very windy, so much so that using a scope was not even possible. Despite this we soon had one of our principle targets under the belt, the amazing Red-necked Avocet, a stunning bird. We also thought that we had seen a couple of Banded Stilts in among them, but the distance and the lack of scope left us uncertain. We tried getting closer by going to the other side of the pool and we did get definite confirmation, but again the views were not good and photography impossible. Later in the day however the weather improved a little and we came across another or perhaps the same, flock of avocets and stilts much closer and in the sun, much more satisfactory.

    Red-necked Avocets and Banded Stilts, photo by Elis Simpson

    Red-necked Avocets and Banded Stilts, photo by Elis Simpson

    At the end of the day Paul expectantly managed to find us a small group of Banded Lapwings, the same species that we had seen at Perth airport but this time we were able to get some decent photographs of them.

    Banded Lapwing, photo by Elis Simpson

    Banded Lapwing, photo by Elis Simpson

    The following day Paul took us to look for Latham’s Snipe. We weren’t having much luck. Everywhere we went the water levels were too high and we were getting desperate. Then I remembered something I had read in one of the hides we had used. The birds are sometimes seen on the golf course in the water hazards. It seemed worth a try.

    We headed for the golf course and started checking the water hazards, being acutely aware of the golfers who passed us with very suspicious glances. It proved to be a good move when we flushed a Latham’s Snipe out from one of those water hazards. Noting where it landed, we started to creep towards it hoping to get it on the deck, but just as we  were within a few meters a golfer came striding past between us and the bird, once again flushing it. This time it went up and away and we´d have to content ourselves with flight views.

    That just left one new wader available for Australia, and what a wader it was! The rare and endangered Hooded Plover. We were unsuccessful at first; there were too many people around thus exemplifying the main problem this species faces. They choose to nest on sandy beaches, unfortunately the very same sandy beaches where Australians like to relax. It probably wouldn’t be too bad if that fun were restricted to sunbathing or the odd ‘barbie’, but the beaches seem to attract the more ‘adventurous’ types who like to whizz around riding quad bikes, motor bikes and even 4x4s on the sand. On top of this, people are in the habit of exercising dogs off the lead and galloping on horseback. All of this on top of pressure from natural and feral predators, so it isn’t hard to comprehend that this is a recipe for disaster as far as the Hooded Plovers are concerned.

    Paul took us to a second, more secluded beach and happily we were treated to excellent views of a pair going about their business. The first we saw was color flagged with the letter KM. We later discovered that we were fortunate to see this bird as it had been close to death due to having fishing line caught around its leg. Birdlife Australia and a local vet came to the rescue and removed the line from the bird’s leg and it has made an almost full recovery. Looking back we remembered then thinking that it did appear to have a slight limp, so now we know why.

    Hooded Plovers, photo by Elis Simpson

    Hooded Plovers, photo by Elis Simpson

    We said our goodbyes to Paul and then headed for the Mornington Peninsula, the stronghold in Victoria for the Hooded Plover.

    Birdlife Australia has been working on their Beach Nesting Birds program for six years. They have managed to raise the fledgling rate of the Hooded Plover from 5% to 50%, an incredible feat achieved by much hard work and many willing volunteers, but it is soul destroying work. Still half of all nests end in failure, which is very upsetting for the volunteers who try to look after them.

    We have been raising money for the program since we discovered that the Australian Government had cut their funding without warning. Through our contact with Birdlife Australia we were able to arrange to meet Renée Mead who allowed us to accompany her on visit to a beach to monitor breeding Hooded Plovers. By the end of the visit not only had we had seen a total of nine birds, but we had discovered a nest with four eggs in it. Unfortunately, as I write this I have just heard that the eggs never got to hatch. A nest nearby fared a little better, but the chicks never fledged so it is not hard to see the problems these birds face.

    Hooded Plover nest, photo by Elis Simpson

    Hooded Plover nest, photo by Elis Simpson

    Following our visit with Renée she took us back to Melbourne where we met Grainne Maguire, the Project Manager for the beach nesting birds program for BirdLife Australia. We were very happy to hand over the money we had raised so far to her in person and hoped that our small effort would at least make a small difference. If you feel you want to help by donating to our appeal visit our website www.waderquest.org where you’ll find a donate button.

    From there we headed to the airport, the Wader Quest total was now 149 and we were heading for more excitement and a new country, New Zealand, full of expectation.


    Rick Simpson of Newport Pagnell, UK, is a bird guide, illustrator, author of Confessions of a Bird Guide, and a Birdlife Species Champion.

    He previously wrote about Wader Quest at the ABA Blog, in Thailand, the UAE, Florida, Washington, California, the UK, in South America, and Africa.

      Help Support the ABA This Spring

      Birders in North America are no doubt ready for the return of spring following a winter that was overlong and overcold. But in the past couple weeks, the birds have begun to return, spirits are rising with the temperature, and it’s impossible not to be excited about a new season and the birds on the [read more...]

        Guilt in Birding

        I’m by nature a person that feels a lot of guilt and worry. Not that I’m a criminal or a regular law-breaker, but I still often feel guilty.

        If I drive down the highway and see a policeman in my rear view mirror or one parked in the median, I immediately get a guilty feeling, [read more...]

          Blog Birding #183

          Richard Crossley says don’t worry about bird ID. At least that’s what he told Laura Kammermeier in an interview on the Nature Travel Network.

          In our 35-minute interview, he explains how we’ve been going about it all wrong in the United States when it comes to bird identification. Drawing on common-sense principles and the scientific [read more...]

            Common Names in Different Families

            In the March/April 2014 issue of Birding is an article I wrote discussing the many common bird names like “flycatcher” and “shrike” that are used in multiple taxonomically distinct families. As I compiled the list, it became clear the entire list was way too long to publish in the magazine. At least 53 different common [read more...]

              #ABArare - Slate-throated Redstart - Texas

              Another week, another redstart. This morning (4/19), Steve Collins found an ABA Code 4 Slate-throated Redstart in Plains, Texas, in Yoakum County in the far western part of the state. There are four previous records of the species from Texas, though this is by far the northernmost on the state and possibly the northernmost occurrence [read more...]

                Lehman: Learn S&D

                Do you own a field guide to the birds of the ABA Area? If you do, odds are the range maps were created, or at least significantly contributed to, by Paul Lehman–possibly the world’s foremost expert on the status and distribution of the birds of the ABA Area.

                Avian “S&D”–shorthand for “status and distribution”–isn’t mere [read more...]

                  Rare Bird Alert: April 18, 2014

                  This week may be the birdiest one yet for 2014, at least as far as vagrants are concerned. Notable birds were seen in all corners of the ABA Area this week, helped along by strange weather and the overwhelming urge to move.

                  Our friends at Cornell’s Birdcast (and you really should be reading Birdcast this [read more...]

                    Wind is a Four Letter Word... Usually

                    I’m sure I speak for birders everywhere when I say that for the most part strong wind blows.  (See what I did there?)  Nothing puts wee birds into heavy cover, shakes your scope, and wicks the heat out of your extremities like a strong wind.  Long-anticipated pelagic plans can be dashed when the wind gets the sea [read more...]

                      #ABArare – Neotropic Comorant – New Jersey

                      On 4/9, Rob Fergus discovered an unusual cormorant in a retention pond in Clinton, Hunterson County, New Jersey. Fergus identified the bird as a Neotropic Cormorant, and after a bit of discussion consensus gathered on that being the correct identification. This would be a first state record for New Jersey.

                      Photo by Ellen DeCarlo, [read more...]

                      Birders know well that the healthiest, most dynamic choruses contain many different voices. The birding community encompasses a wide variety of interests, talents, and convictions. All are welcome.
                      If you like birding, we want to hear from you.
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