Sunday, October 07, 2007

Amateur Field Notes Shed Light on Rare Bird

From time to time, birders are reminded to take good field notes, especially when we view unusual birds. A recent reminder in the bird blogs came with posts by Corey at 10,000 Birds and David Sibley. Discussion of the practice crops up occasionally elsewhere, too. I don't normally take good notes myself, but perhaps I should.

Rediscovered notebooks from an amateur ornithologist have provided new information about the Javan Lapwing. This rare species, which formerly roamed the marshes of Indonesian Java, was last confirmed in 1940.

In 2000, the Zoological Museum Amsterdam received a number of unpublished and previously unknown notes and manuscripts written by August Spennemann. Spennemann lived on Java from c.1915 to 1940 and among his notes was a detailed typed account of his observations of the Javan Lapwing in the late 1920s near Pamanukan, West Java province.

"Spennemann's notes contain descriptions of the calls and behaviour of these birds, things we knew almost nothing of before. This discovery provides us with an amazing window onto their lives,” says Bas van Balen, one of the authors of the paper.

These records come from areas with no previous reports of Javan Lapwings and suggest that these birds may have wider habitat preferences than was previously thought.

"If it still exists the population of Javan Lapwings must be tiny and work needs to be carried out immediately to survey all potential areas,” Bas adds.
A translation of the notes is available in the latest issue of Bird Conservation International.