New field guide.

Subject: New field guide.
From: "Pat O'Malley" <>
Date: Thu, 19 Mar 1998 10:15:37 +1000
I have been interested in the correspondence on the topic of rarest birds.
The following are the ones I have not seen, plus explanations. I feel quite
strongly about this:

1. Approx 52 species of seabird. I don't count these on the grounds that
they never touch base in Australia unless dead. Ha!. Any bird you have to
go to sea for clearly belongs on the list for "Oceans" - for which country
I note there is no simple field guide. (Field guide! See what I mean?). My
field guide is all the more portable for excising these non-Australian birds.

2. All those other alleged parrots that are really indistinguishable from
Bue Winged parrots. These obviously ARE Blue Winged Parrots but on 'Bad
feather days". And the recent Wingspan article only confirmed this. The
exception is the OBP which obviously exists -  and I have seen it. 

3.Purple crowned Lorikeet. A  hoax propogated by whoever runs the car park
at Tullamarine Airport. My observations confirm these to be Indian Mynas.

4. Owls. Another series of bogus names for  the Tawny Frogmouth. People get
confused in the dark. Quite a few are probably bats (both the sightings and
those who claim them as 'owls'). I have torn the relevant pages out of my
field guide, as they cannot be read in the dark . This is when owls are
alleged to be 'out' - how convenient!.  All instances I have come across
regarding owl calls at night turn out to be "owlers" playing tape
recordings. (Probably of  Ocean birds for all I know).

5. All those alleged fairy wrens that look like Variegated Wrens. Obviously
all ARE Variegated Wrens (I suppose thats why the original name was
chosen). See entry above under Blue Winged parrot. I've torn these pages
out too - useless lumber.

6. Waders. Don't make me laugh. Days spent at Werribee SF confirm that
these are merely another single variable species, best subsumed under Sharp
Tailed Sandpipers. People probably hallucinate from the fumes. Last time I
was there some 'expert' pointed out a large and boisterous ST Sandpiper and
called it a Rough. I dare say, but hardly grounds for naming a separate
(and mis-spelt) species. Leg and bill colour variation, and quite possibly
plumage, clearly depends on the mud (or worse) that the sandpipers are
wading in. My revised guide has only one page for waders with several
illustrations showing some of the major but still trivial local variations
in plumage, size etc of Sharp Tails.

This is, of course only a start. I was pleased to see an honest emailer
point out recently that the Lewins Rail is 'probably extinct nowadays'. Of
course it is. That's if it ever existed . My observations, incidentally,
strongly suggest that the so called 'Spotless Crake' is very likely an imm
Dusky Moorhen, so maybe we should rethink those crakes and Rails pages.
Most people I know are honest enough to admit to not actually seeing many
'close up'. Like 'owls' and a number of other fraudulent entries, these are
said to be seen only under adverse conditions. They are said to 'skulk' . I
bet. Let's tear those pages out of the guide as well, except of course for
the Buff  Banded Rail. 

Perhaps we should  produce a properly revised Field Guide that will be both
more portable and more honest about the 362 species that actually exist in
this country (all of which, incidentally, I have seen). 

I think all sincere birders will join me in looking forward to hearing from
someone more expert than I, who could lead the task of producing a more
realistic field guide to Australian birds.
Pat O'Malley
School of Law and Legal Studies 
La Trobe University
Australia  3083

Phone +613 9479 2133
Fax   +613 9479 1607


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