BAHAMAS: POPULATION: 313,500, CAPITAL CITY: NASSAU
The name may have come from the Arawak people who lived here, or the Spanish words ‘baja mar’, which means shallow water or sea.
You’ll find frogs, lizards and snakes on the Bahamas. None are poisonous.
In the seas around the islands you can see many fish, including the crayfish. This isn’t actually a fish, but a spiny lobster.
Tourism is important to the economy. Columbus was the first visitor from Europe, when he landed in 1492 on the island that became known as San Salvador.
The Dean’s Blue Hole is one of the Bahamas’ claims to fame. Blue holes are inland caves or underwater sinkholes, and the Dean’s descends 220 m, making it the world’s deepest blue hole.
The Jankanoo is a traditional street parade in Nassau, taking place on Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve with lots of music and dancers.
The national sport is sloop sailing. Basketball and American football are popular too.
Schoolchildren on the Bahamas like softball, volleyball, baseball and track &field sports.
The Bahamas joined the Commonwealth in 1973.
It first attended the Vancouver 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games and has only missed the Games of 1974 and 1986. The islanders win the vast majority of their medals on the athletics track, and at Melbourne 2006 Tonique Williams won Bronze in the Women’s 400m and Laverne Eve won Bronze in the Women’s Javelin.
At the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games, The Bahamas won six medals. Four of them were in Athletics, with the remaining two in Boxing.
Fun fact: ‘Who Let The Dogs Out’ is a song by the Bahamian group Baha Men, who play music called Junkanoo. You may have heard this song in the The Hangover (2009), and it’s also sung at sport events.
Sport fact: Between 1948 and 1988, the Bahamian sailor Durward Knowles competed in eight Olympic Games, and in 1964 he won a Gold medal in the Star class. Previously he sailed for Britain, ending fourth in 1948.
SWIMMER Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace adds another honour to her glittering career tonight when she carries the Bahamas flag at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow.
The 24-year-old multiple national record holder will be the first female outside track and field to be her country’s flag bearer at the prestigious quadrennial event that stand just behind the Olympic Games in prominence.
“It’s a really big honour. I mean I feel like sometimes track and field get a lot of attention so it’s really nice that swimming is going to get the attention,” said Vanderpool-Wallace.
Although she was given the news before she arrived in Scotland, Vanderpool-Wallace said yesterday it is slowly sinking in that she will be leading in the Bahamas’ largest delegation ever to the Games. “I hope that one day I will also be the Olympic flag bearer,” she said. “But the Commonwealth Games is a very big event for the Bahamas and the world, so I am really honoured that I am carrying the flag.”
RED REEF RESIDENTS: A RUFOUS ROUND-UP IN THE BAHAMAS
It’s sunny and very hot. Time to take another dive with Melinda to see what is going on under water around the reefs. Here are some residents, a somewhat loose description since some of the denizens featured are not especially active. But they are alive, so they qualify by my wide rules. And please may we not get into a discussion about where precisely red and orange overlap. It’s a grey area. And it’s too hot to argue about it… Let’s start with three types of GROUPER that may be spotted in the northern Bahamas. In fact, they are always spotted. One of my favourite pictures is the Graysby – it’s such a great expression, and he really rocks the spots!
“I HEAR YOU KNOCKING”: THE YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO ON ABACO
The Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) is the least common of three cuckoo species found on Abaco. All are permanent residents. It is similar to the more frequently seen Mangrove Cuckoo (post to follow). Both are avid consumers of insects in general and caterpillars in particular. The YBC is shy and you are quite unlikely to see one out in the open, though you may hear its distinctive ‘knocking’ call. The third species classified with the ‘cuculidae’ is the Smooth-billed Ani. Here’s what to listen out for:
Mike Nelson / Xeno-Canto
The YBC has, obviously, a yellow bill. It also has yellow eye-rings and pure white underparts. Photographer Tom Sheley, a major contributor t0“The Birds of Abaco”, is a very patient man. He managed to capture these two beautiful birds by knowing the right place to be at the right time… and waiting. The results for this little-seen species are spectacular.
For those whose memories are stirred by the reference to “I hear you knocking” (Rick from Nassau – you!), I include archive material of Dave Edmunds hamming it up. Get a load of the Clothes! The Dancing! The Moves of the guy in the top left corner / centre back, at once rhythmic yet disconcertingly bizarre.
Few people know that, by international law, it is unlawful to fail to be fascinated by Octopuses… Octopi… Octopodes… Octopotomi… Whatever. For a learned dissertation on the correct plural form for these creatures – bear with me, there are strict rules that apply here – you’ll find out the right way atTHE PLURAL OF OCTOPUS. I won’t go into it all now, because it’s time to showcase some more wonderful underwater photography by Melinda Riger of Grand Bahama Scuba. Strictly, these are not Abacos Octos, but they share the same reef system and are therefore close cousins. Of such tenuous links are blog posts formed.
My favourite octopus photo
Settling down to a take-away
The all-seeing eye…
On the move… so long suckers!
Octopus InkAll photos: Melinda Riger
The Rare Scottish Tartan Octopus
SAD POST SCRIPT: As a Scot out of Norway (did you ever?) my father learnt to play the bagpipes. Indeed had a set. They lived in a cellar I wasn’t allowed into. The bag was allegedly preserved in treacle (don’t ask). I still have the ‘Chanter’ (a single pipe practice instrument), the sound of which is akin to trying to strangle one cat with another cat. I was fobbed off with that. Then one day as a treat the cellar was unlocked and a large wooden box was dragged out. The bagpipes! The lid was opened and… OMG! the bag had rotted away completely, the pipes looked pathetic and very disappointing, and the whole thing stank of nameless dead creatures… I can’t hear the sound of the pipes to this day without finding it (a) stirring yet (b) enough after a short time and (c ) a reminder of a broken dream… The end.
A supermoon is “the coincidence of a full moon or a new moon with the closest approach the Moon makes to the Earth on its elliptical orbit, resulting in the largest apparent size of the lunar disk as seen from Earth”. These huge, bright moons are not particularly rare, but they are undoubtedly spectacular. The most recent occurrence was on July 12, 2014 and generated many wonderful images around the world, such as the header image (AP / D Mail) which cannily shows a shot from World Cup Land. The moon also brought a flurry of good photos from Abaco, for example these from Char Albury and Rhonda Pearce that were posted on FB. The visible detail of the moon’s surface is amazing – craters, seas, mountain ranges, lines and all. The source of radiance oddly appears to be a large crater I’d never heard of, called Tycho.
The event was a dream for selenologists (lunar scientists) and selenographists – those who study the surface and physical features of the Moon, and are involved in mapping and naming the lunar seas, craters, mountain ranges etc. A surprising amount of detail of the moon’s surface was visible even to the naked eye. Nowadays, orbiting spacecraft have made the scientific tasks much easier, and even the moon’s backside has been thoroughly charted (not to be confused with the frequent charting of The Dark Side of the Moon).In the UK we also noticed the phenomenon – a large, heavy moon hanging brightly in the sky. I took a few shots in the countryside where there is gratifyingly little light or air pollution, without thinking that the object I was focusing on was obviously much the same for everyone everywhere…Then I got to wondering what exactly I was looking at. I had a vague memory of some of the seas – Mare Imbrium for example – but I couldn’t remember any crater names at all. So I did a bit of research in an amateur serenographist kind of way and came up with this:This led me on to thoughts of the moon landings, and in particular Apollo 11. Wasn’t there something about touching down in the Sea of Tranquility? But whereabouts exactly on the supermoon? Here’s the answer. The moon below (from SOERFM) is at a different angle, but it can still be compared with the supermoons above.And what of all the other Apollo landings? Did they all aim for the same spot where Neil Armstrong staked his claim for mankind? Or were other landing areas tried by the Apollo moon missions? NASA has the answer:Then I wondered about the names given to the seas and craters. Are they all modern or are some historical? I came across a wonderful map that shows that many names were given and recorded centuries ago. The moon map below is confusing – it is upside down compared with all the ones above. However, it is clear that by the c17, the naming of lunar geographical features was already largely settled. Almost all the names I added to the moon above can be found on this map of 1647. Double-click on it to get an enlarged legible view. It’s worth noting that it was published only 5 years after Galileo’s death.
Map of the Moon by Johannes Hevelius (1647)
Photos: Charmaine Albury, Rhonda Pearce, RH, SOERFM, NASA; other credits as noted in text
Realistically, the Barn Owl (Tyto alba) is the only owl you are likely to see – and hear – on Abaco. The species is permanently resident, which is a good start in that the opportunities for sighting one exist year-round. Although they are not at all common they can be found in particular locations, for example the Treasure Cay area. There are two other owl species recorded for Abaco: the Burrowing Owl, a rare vagrant (post coming soon); and the Northern Saw-whet Owl, a vanishingly rare vagrant recorded a handful of times that I don’t propose to feature unless and until it decides to visit Abaco more frequently…
Barn Owl, Treasure Cay, Abaco Bahamas (Becky Marvil)
The shrill banshee cry of the Barn Owl – known in many places as the ‘screech owl’ (which, strictly, is a different owl species) – is unmistakeable. Mainly nocturnal, they fly noiselessly like white ghosts in the night. If you are lucky enough to see one in daytime, you’ll be struck by the beautiful heart-shaped face and (if close enough) the delicate markings. We are lucky enough to live in barn owl country in the UK. In summer we often hear them at night as they hunt for rodents and other small mammals. Last night, for example, at 2.30 a.m. Barn owls also make an intimidating hissing noise.
Patrik Aberg Xeno-Canto
Both photos above were taken on Abaco. Woody Bracey’s header image is featured in “THE BIRDS OF ABACO“. Becky Marvil’s photo was taken near Treasure Cay. I’ve never seen a barn owl on Abaco, but I’ve been lucky enough to get close to a couple – last summer in Dorset, and last week in Cornwall. For those who have never seen one, here is a gallery of my own images that show what wonderful birds they are.
This close-up of a barn owl shows the typical speckling on its pure white front, and the wing patterns
This fluffy baby barn owl was recently rescued and is being cared for in a sanctuary before being returned to the wild. Whimsy is rarely permitted in this blog, but seriously, folks – cute overload!
The Least Grebe Tachybaptus dominicus is an adorable little dabchick that can be very entertaining to watch. These small birds are able to stay underwater for long enough to ensure they always bob up further away from you than you expect. They can easily stay below the surface for 20 seconds, and may dive again only a few seconds after surfacing (their taxonomic name comes from a Greek compound meaning ‘fast diving’). While underwater, the grebe forages for tiny fish, crustaceans, frogs and aquatic insects. In the breeding season the striped chicks are sometimes carried on a parent’s back.
A GALLERY OF LEAST GREBES
For the sake of completeness, there is one other dabchick species found on Abaco, the closely related Pied-billed Grebe. Here’s how to tell them apart: the Least has a bright golden eye, while the Pied-billed is slightly the larger of the two species, and has a dark eye and a black beak-ring in the breeding season.
Photo Credits: Tom Sheley (3); Peter Mantle (2); RH (2); Gelinde Taurer (1); Tom Reed (1); Wiki – PBG (1)