Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Painted Button-Quail

Although I'm out and about birding more than most, at least on the local scene, I rarely see anything other than the expected, and this one so very nearly 'got away'.
I visited the Redgate section of the Meehan Range at Cambridge last Tuesday, with high expectations of getting a few more shots of the Satin Flycatchers or Blue-winged Parrots. Last week I had counted a group of no less than eleven 'Satins' at one point, mostly juveniles and quite the largest number I have ever seen at one time. But the weather intervened, and although it didn't rain, the light conditions became very poor, at least from a photographic standpoint. I had even wound the camera up to ISO 800, something I've not bothered doing previously, because if the light's that bad, you're probably going to battle to get any worthwhile images.
I was about to leave, when I noticed a movement on a nearby bank. Obviously a bird and creeping towards an area of thick scrub. Expecting it to be a Bronzewing pigeon as I had heard what I assumed was that species calling from nearby, but just as it disappeared I ID it as a Quail, a species I have yet to photograph, and rarely see these days. I waited for it to emerge from 'my side' of the scrub, but to no avail. Some minutes later I spotted it again slowly moving across a rise about 30 metres away. So with little enthusiasm or expectation, and with great difficulty in focusing on this very cryptic bird in the gloom, I took several shots. Before I had time to use the binoculars, it had crept off.
An hour or so later and back home, I scanned the few images that I had taken that morning, and surprise, surprise! As you can see from the accompanying image, it turned out to be a Painted Button-quail. Decidedly uncommon these days, or perhaps I should say, surprisingly rarely recorded, and only the third time I've seen this species in Tasmania. Reading up on them, I see that they too have an 'oom oom' call, similar to the bronzewing's, something to remember. Not the best image, it's highly enlarged, but it did make my morning.


Denis Wilson said...

Great find, Alan and a darned good shot, considering.
A chance encounter, but one to remember.

mick said...

Are those as hard to find and photograph as the Black-breasted Button-Quail up this way? I frequently see BBBQ but seldom without sticks and foliage in the way of a good photo. So - yours is a nice photo with nothing in the way and even lighting! Very interesting comment re the sound you heard.

BirdingTas said...

Thanks for the comment Denis. Certainly a nice catch, and have to savour them, as they don't often happen. Little 'red-faced' about not realising what species it was, concentrating too hard on getting some sort of image!

BirdingTas said...

Hi Mick,
I must confess that I have yet to see a BBBQ, so I can't compare. However, I did get to see a pair of 'painted' around the Hobart area that you could walk right upto, but sadly that was pre-digital imaging. You're certainly right in calling it "even lighting"--total overcast. As to the call, in essence I'm guessing. I can't be sure the 'oom-ooming" was the 'painted', because bronzewings of both persuasions are common in the area, and I'm only repeating the literature. I did note that unlike the bronzewings, the ooming got rather rapid at one stage, which is certainly not typical of the pigeon calls, which are usually well spaced. I need to follow up on that, particularly as it may well be a way of picking up on button-quail, which I suspect are not as uncommon as the records here suggest.

Sebastian said...

Congratulations! I know people with 600mm and 800mm lenses that can't get a decent shot of even most common quail species.

I would love to learn some techniques on finding them, I have had no success to date.

BirdingTas said...

Thanks for the great comments Sebastian. I carry minimal gear, but if there is a 'secret' to getting shots of distant birds, it is to ensure you get accurate focus. That at least gives you a chance to get some acceptable results. The captured Button-quail image was very small! As far as finding these birds go I can hardly claim to be an expert with so few sightings over the years. I think the call may well be the best chance. Unlike both bronzewing "oom" calls, which are measured and a few seconds apart, the BQ called similarly to start with, speeding up into a rapid "oom-oom". This may be the best indicator of their presence, something I had not been aware of.

Sebastian said...

Hmm interesting. Once again it comes down to calls...

The importance of interpreting calls is becoming more apparent to me day by day!!

BirdingTas said...

Hi Sebastian,
You're right about learning the calls, it can add so much to the enjoyment of birding, and of course, help to find some of our more "difficult" species.
I took part in a Survey of birds in part of the SW National Park some years ago. In 2 weeks and much walking of transects, we recorded only 26 species, and if we hadn't known the calls, we wouldn't have got even that number.

Sebastian said...

It's unfortunate that audio field guides are so wildly over-priced. Maybe it's time to buy some recording equipment.

sontag said...

Thanks for your blog.

I wondered if you may be able to help identify a bird I saw on Bruny Island. It was roughly the size of a finch and was blue green in colour with zebra striped breast and zebra striped tail feather. It was sitting amongst the sheoaks.

I have not seen a bird like it before and would welcome your thoughts.

Thanks again for your great blog.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Sontag,
I've spent some time mulling over the identity of your bird, and I'm not sure that I can positively ID it. One possible ID is a bronze cuckoo, either a Horsfield's or Shining. Both are generally green and certainly have a striped breast, but a little bigger than a finch. Perhaps if you have access to a bird field guide, you might be able to confirm, or otherwise, that is the bird you saw.
Thank you for your comments on the blog, and apologies for the delayed reply.

sontag said...

Thankyou for your generous reply.
I did zoom in on a digital image of the bird and noted (albeit in the shadows) that the beak looked like that of a cuckoo.

I will consult a field guide again. The striped breast threw me and its small size. But I suspect your ID is right.

Thanks again for your kind response.