THE UNIQUE ABACO PARROT: ITS PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE


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THE UNIQUE ABACO PARROT: ITS PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE

Image Credits: RH, Caroline Stahala, Melissa Maura. Based on an information booklet ©Rolling Harbour. You are welcome to use or share this slideshow but please credit and link. Booklets are available at the Delphi Club, Abaco for a small donation to parrot research. The music is from astounding guitar virtuoso Erik Mongrain – he has all the tricks, and sounds as if he plays with 2 pairs of hands…

FIVE STARS: BAHAMAS ENDEMIC BIRDS (FOUR FROM ABACO)


20130106_Bahamas-Great Abaco_4846_Bahama Yellowthroat_Gerlinde Taurer copy

Bahama Yellowthroat (Gerlinde Taurer)

FIVE STARS: BAHAMAS ENDEMIC BIRDS (FOUR FROM ABACO)

The Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival is underway. You can find out more on the CARIBBEAN BIRDS FESTIVALS Facebook page. Abaco is fortunate to be home to 4 of the 5 endemic Bahamas species. The fifth, the beautiful BAHAMA ORIOLE Icterus northropi, was found on both Abaco and Andros until the 1990s, when it sadly became extirpated from Abaco. Now found only on Andros, there are thought to be fewer than 300 Orioles left – a barely sustainable number. The species is unsurprisingly IUCN listed as critically endangered. Here’s a picture of one as a reminder of what Abaco is now missing…

Bahama_Oriole (Wiki)

Bahama Oriole

10302060_10152308854900862_2019057607431310750_n-1

Abaco’s four endemic species are the tiny Bahama Woodstar hummingbird, the Bahama Yellowthroat, the Bahama Warbler (since 2011), and the Bahama Swallow. All are of course permanent breeding residents on Abaco and its outer Cays. None is exclusive to Abaco; all are relatively plentiful. The Woodstar is perhaps the hardest to find, not least because it competes territorially with the Cuban Emerald hummingbird. Even Woodstars can be found easily in some areas - Man-o-War Cay is a good place for them, for example. Here are some striking images of these four endemic bird species taken from the archives for “The Birds of Abaco” published last month. 

BAHAMA WOODSTAR Calliphlox evelynae 

Bahama Woodstar male 3.1.Abaco Bahamas.2.12.Tom Sheley copy

Bahama Woodstar (m) (Tom Sheley)

Bahama Woodstar (f) TL IMG_3213 2

Bahama Woodstar (f) Tara Lavallee

BAHAMA YELLOWTHROAT Geothlypis rostrata

Bahama Yellowthroat vocalizing.Abaco Bahamas.Tom Sheley

Bahama Yellowthroat (Tom Sheley)

Bahama Yellowthroat (M) BH IMG_0675 copy

Bahama Yellowthroat (Bruce Hallett)

BAHAMA WARBLER Setophaga flavescens

Bahama Warbler BH IMG_8398 copy - Version 2

Bahama Warbler (Bruce Hallett)

Bahama Warbler WB P1001012 copy

Bahama Warbler (Woody Bracey)

BAHAMA SWALLOW Tachycineta cyaneoviridis

Bahama Swallow CN

Bahama Swallow (Craig Nash)

bahama-swallow EG  copy

Bahama Swallow (Erik Gauger)

“The Delphi Club Guide to the Birds of Abaco”  was published as limited edition of 500 and has only been for sale for 8 weeks or so exclusively through the Delphi Club. Yesterday, we passed a happy milestone in that short time as the 250th copy was sold. Complimentary copies have also been donated to every school and relevant education department on Abaco to tie in with the excellent policy of teaching children from an early age the value of the natural world around them, the importance of its ecology, and the need for its conservation. The cover bird for the book was easy to choose – it just had to be a male Woodstar in all his glory with his splendid purple ‘gorget’. 

Bahama Woodstar (m) BH IMG_0917 copy

Bahama Woodstar (m) Bruce Hallett

JACKET GRAB JPG

Image credits as shown; otherwise, ‘cover bird’ by Tom Sheley, Bahama Oriole from Wiki and CEBF flyer from the Bahamas National Trust

“THE DELPHI CLUB GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF ABACO” HAS LANDED…


JACKET GRAB JPG

WHAT HAS THE GESTATION PERIOD OF A WALRUS (16 MONTHS) AND WEIGHS THE SAME AS A PAIR OF FULLY GROWN PINEAPPLES (2 KILOS)?

“THE DELPHI CLUB GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF ABACO”

A unique bird book is  been published and has arrived on Abaco today. Printed in Italy at the end of January, it has made its way from Florence via Bologna, Leipzig, Brussels, Cincinnati, Miami and Nassau. Having spent an unexpectedly long sojourn in Nassau,  2 pallets of books are now safely at the Delphi Club… at last!Cuban Pewee on Abaco

The Guide showcases the rich and varied bird life of Abaco, Bahamas and features both resident and migratory species including rarities and unusual sightings. It is available for sale now from the Delphi Club in a limited edition of 500.  The main features are as follows:

  • 272 pages with more than 350 photographs
  • 163 species shown in vivid colour – nearly two-thirds of all the bird species ever recorded for Abaco
  • Every single photograph was taken on Abaco or in Abaco waters
  • All birds are shown in their natural surroundings – no feeders or trails of seed were used
  • Several birds featured are the first ones ever recorded for Abaco or  even for the entire Bahamas

Clapper Rail Abaco Bahamas Tom Sheley

  • A total of 30 photographers, both experienced and amateur, have contributed to the project
  • The book has had the generous support of many well-known names of Abaco and Bahamas birding
  • Complete checklist of every bird recorded for Abaco since 1950 up to the date of publication
  • Specially devised codes indicating when you may see a particular bird, and the likelihood of doing so
  • Specially commissioned cartographer’s Map of Abaco showing places named in the book

Least Tern_ACH3672 copy

  • Informative captions intentionally depart from the standard field guide approach…
  • …as does the listing of the birds in alphabetical rather than scientific order
  • Say goodbye to ’37 warbler species on consecutive pages’ misery
  • Say hello to astonishing and unexpected juxtapositions of species

Abaco_Bahama Yellowthroat_Gerlinde Taurer copy

  • The book was printed in Florence, Italy by specialist printers on grade-1 quality paper
  • Printing took pairs of printers working in 6 hour shifts 33 hours over 3 days to complete
  • The project manager and the author personally oversaw the printing

Smooth-billed Ani pair GT

  • The book is dedicated to the wildlife organisations of Abaco
  • A percentage of the proceeds of sale will be donated for the support of local wildlife organisations
  • A copy of the book will be presented to every school on Abaco

Piping Plover BH IMG_1919

The book is published by the Delphi Club (contact details below). The project was managed by a publishing specialist in art books. The author is the wildlife blogger more widely known on Abaco and (possibly) beyond as ‘Rolling Harbour’. Oh! So that would in fact be Mrs Harbour and myself. Well well. What are the chances?

cuban-emerald-delphi-abaco-3

The Delphi Club at Rolling Harbour
PO Box AB-20006, Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas
Tel: +1-242-366-2222
General Manager – Sandy Walker: +1-242-577-1698
delphi.bahamas@gmail.com

American Oystercatchers BH IMG_2000 copy 2Images by Tom Sheley,  Bruce Hallett, Gerlinde Taurer, Tony Hepburn, RH

EARLY BIRDS ON ABACO: CHARLES CORY’S EXPEDITIONS 1891


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EARLY BIRDS ON ABACO: CHARLES CORY’S EXPEDITIONS 1891

Before the explorations of the american ornithologist Charles Cory towards the end of the c19, there had been few if any serious attempts to record the birds of the Bahama Islands, especially the sparsely populated ones such as Abaco. The english naturalist Mark Catesby had published his  wonderful The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands as early as 1754, which of course included some birds, but it was far from avian-specific. During the 1880s, Cory forsook the golf course (his other passion – he even competed in the 1904 Olympics but, as it is intriguingly put, “…did not finish…”) to concentrate on birds. He commenced his research for his List of the Birds of the West Indies, published in 1886. The scope was wide, including Antilles, Jamaica, Cuba, Hispaniola and the Bahamas. The book simply listed birds by family, giving the bird names in Latin, and the locations where they were found. It’s scarcely an enticing read, and the ‘print on demand’ copy I obtained for about $15 is frankly horrid.00199p1

In 1891, Cory and his colleague Mr C.L. Winch paid more specific attention to the Bahamas, visiting several islands, taking specimens and recording their findings. Cory subsequently published these in the ornithological journal of record, The Auk, established in 1884 as a quarterly peer-reviewed scientific journal and the official publication of the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU).  I’m not clear whether Cory actually accompanied Winch throughout the voyages, or whether they covered the islands separately. In any event, the first visit to Abaco took place in March 1891, when Mr Winch took specimens and recorded the species he encountered.00161p1

Cory : Winch 1891 March jpg

To save you the bother of taxing your brain with Latin  taxonomies (in some cases out-of-date), the species recorded are shown below. Every one of these species might be seen during a March visit nowadays.

COLUMN 1 Semipalmated Plover; Common Ground Dove; Turkey Vulture; Smooth-billed Ani; Belted Kingfisher; Hairy Woodpecker; Bahama Woodstar; Cuban Emerald; La Sagra’s Flycatcher; Loggerhead Kingbird; Greater Antillean Bullfinch; Black-faced Grassquit; Western Spindalis; Thick-billed Vireo; Black-whiskered Vireo

COLUMN 2 Bananaquit; Black & White Warbler; Kirtland’s Warbler; Yellow Warbler; Prairie Warbler; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Yellow-throated Warbler; Common Yellowthroat; Bahama Yellowthroat; Northern Waterthrush; Ovenbird; Blue-gray Gnatcatcher; Gray Catbird; Northern Mockingbird;  Red-legged Thrush

00103p1

In June they were back on Abaco; or at least, Mr Winch had returned. This time, the list of species was somewhat different, as one might expect in the summer season. It contains one particular curiosity: the Bahama Oriole. This fine bird was sadly extirpated from Abaco in the 1990s, and may now only be found on Andros. There are reckoned to be only about 300 left, so the species is on the brink of extinction.Bahama Oriole.jpg (Wiki)

Charles Cory 1857 – 1921Charles Barney Cory 1857-1921 (Wiki)Cory List copy jpg

COLUMN 1 Red-tailed Hawk; Mourning Dove; Common Nighthawk; Cuban Emerald; Bahama Woodstar; West Indian Woodpecker; Hairy Woodpecker; La Sagra’s Flycatcher; Cuban Pewee; Loggerhead Kingbird; Gray Kingbird; Bahama Oriole; Red-winged Blackbird

COLUMN 2  Greater Antillean Bullfinch; Western Spindalis; Thick-billed Vireo; Bahama Swallow; Bahama Yellowthroat; Pine Warbler; Olive-capped Warbler; Yellow-throated Warbler; Bananaquit; Blue-gray Gnatcatcher; Northern Mockingbird; Red-legged Thrush

Cory published his findings in The Auk
The Auk 1891

A regrettable ‘print-on-demand’ purchaseCory

Illustrations by John James Audubon 1785 – 1851 (who never visited Abaco)00422p1

For anyone with eyelids still open, you can read more about Bahamas birds and The Auk journal HERE

CUBAN PEWEE: NATURE’S LEAST SCARY TYRANT


Cuban Pewee Abaco 8

CUBAN PEWEE: NATURE’S LEAST SCARY TYRANT

Pasted Graphic
image.aspxThe CUBAN PEWEE Contopus caribaeus bahamensis, also known as the Crescent-eyed Pewee (see photos for details), is a tyrant. At 6″ long , the smallest tyrant you are likely to encounter in the Bahamas, but undoubtedly a member of the family Tyrranidae. These are the flycatchers, and include the larger LA SAGRA’S FLYCATCHER and the still larger Loggerhead and Gray Kingbirds. The Cuban Pewee is permanently resident on Abaco, and can be found in both pine woods and coppice. When returning to its perch after a flycatching sortie, this bird gives a characteristic flick of the tail.

The little bird below was in the edge of the coppice bordering the long sandy beach at Casuarina. Bruce Hallett, in his essential book  ‘Birds of the West Indies…’ notes that Cuban Pewees are ‘usually approachable’, so I decided to test this out. I was about 20 feet from the bird when I first saw it. By sliding one foot forward in the sand and pausing before moving the other foot, I got to within 5 feet of the bird, while it watched my approach with apparent indifference. Unlike some creatures, it did not seem discomfited by eye-contact. It responded when I made a faint clicking sound by rather sweetly putting its head on one side.  Then it began to fidget slightly – possibly feeling camera-shy. So I shuffled slowly back so as not to disturb it in its own territory.

The close-ups at the end clearly show the tiny hooked tip at the end of the upper beak – I imagine this somehow relates to the business of catching flies. Like other flycatchers, the Cuban Pewee has very distinctive whiskers around the base of the beak – again I presume this assists with feeding in some way, perhaps helping to sense the approach of an insect. Any expert views welcome via the comment box.

Cuban Pewee Abaco 1Cuban Pewee Abaco 7Cuban Pewee Abaco 6 Cuban Pewee Abaco 5 Cuban Pewee Abaco 4Cuban Pewee Abaco 9 Cuban Pewee Abaco 10It’s occasionally tempting to anthropomorphise such close encounters in terms of imputed human / creature empathy. Much best to resist that. But as I withdrew, leaving this little  bird undisturbed on its branch, I did experience a strange feeling of… [I must interrupt myself here. I'm a lawyer, so that's quite enough of that sort of nonsense]

NOT THAT JAMES BOND. THE OTHER JAMES BOND. AND THE OTHER TYPE OF BIRD…


NOT THAT JAMES BOND. THE OTHER JAMES BOND. AND THE OTHER TYPE OF BIRD…

I usually try to avoid regurgitating previous posts, but today I feel it is justified. I posted the article below nearly a year ago. As it happens, tomorrow is the 60th Anniversary of the publication by Jonathan Cape of Ian Fleming’s first book in the extensive Bond franchise, ‘Casino Royale’. So it makes some sense to revisit the background to the naming of literature’s iconic special agent. I promise not to repeat this annually for ‘Live and Let Die’, ‘Moonraker’, ‘Diamonds are Forever’ and all the rest of them.

First, a quick plot reminder: James Bond is sent to play against and bankrupt Le Chiffre, the paymaster for a SMERSH-controlled trade union, in a high-stakes baccarat game in France. With help from CIA agent Felix Leiter, Bond wins the game, but is betrayed by Vesper Lynd, a double agent (Ursula Andress in the 1967 caper; Eva Green in the 2006 remake). Lynd falls in love with Bond and, instead of betraying him, commits suicide.”  (Source: I can’t reveal it, obviously. You can’t catch me out that way…)

First, mix a cool Vesper Cocktail (“shaken, not stirred”) HERE. Now read on…

220px-Vesper_Cocktail

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“THE NAME’S BOND. JAMES BOND. LICENSED TO WATCH BIRDS…”

JAMES BOND – THE ORNITHOLOGIST WHO LENT HIS NAME TO A FICTION LEGEND

Jamaica, 1952. The night was hot, too hot. Fleming cursed as he made his way up the steps to his neighbour’s verandah. He heard the clink of ice from within the house, and guessed that the rum punch was being mixed just the way he liked it. Stirred, not shaken. As he passed a low table on the verandah his eyes were drawn to a small book lying on it. Fleming paused, taking in the information, his senses suddenly alive. Bond. James Bond. A bird book about the avian species of the West Indies. Suddenly, it all made sense. Fleming knew now the direction he had to take, and with a thin smile he flicked back the insolent comma of dark hair that had fallen across his face and strode into the house towards the sound of the ice…

James Bond, ornithologist (1900 – 1989) was an expert on the birdlife of the Caribbean and wrote the seminal Birds of the West Indies, first published in 1936 and republished in varying formats ever since.

Ian Fleming lived in Jamaica and was a keen birdwatcher. The story goes that one evening, visiting friends, he saw ornithologist James Bond’s Birds of the West Indies on a table, and borrowed that short, punchy name for his fictional hero 007 for Casino Royale, published in 1953. He later said he wanted a name that sounded ‘as ordinary as possible’. In an interview, Fleming said “I wanted the simplest, dullest, plainest-sounding name I could find, and ‘James Bond’ was much better than something more interesting, like ‘Peregrine Carruthers.’ Exotic things would happen to and around him, but he would be a neutral figure — an anonymous, blunt instrument wielded by a government department.” Fleming wrote to the real James Bond’s wife “It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed, and so a second James Bond was born.” He also contacted the real James Bond about using his name in the books and Bond replied that he was “fine with it.” At some point during one of Fleming’s visits to Jamaica he met the real Bond and his wife. The meeting was recorded for a documentary.

FACT, FICTION & IN-JOKES

IDr No Fleming referenced Bond’s work by basing a large Ornithological Sanctuary on Dr No’s island in the Bahamas. In 1964, Fleming gave Bond a first edition copy of You Only Live Twice signed “To the real James Bond, from the thief of his identity”. In the 2002 Bond film Die Another Day the fictional Bond can be seen examining Birds of the West Indies in an early scene that takes place in Havana. However the author’s name (James Bond) on the front cover is obscured. In the same film, when Bond first meets Jinx, he introduces himself as an ornithologist.

Ian Fleming Lived Here in Jamaica **

I had been planning to research the history of the various editions of Birds of the West Indies, the locus classicus for Caribbean species. Then I started to look into it and found that someone – Jack Holloway – had already done it so thoroughly that I would be wasting my time. So I contacted Jack for use permission, and I am very grateful to him for granting it by return. This next part is all thanks to him. I recommend a visit to his very good online bird resource website at AVIAN3

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THE HISTORY OF BIRDS OF THE WEST INDIES BY JAMES BOND
1936 (The Original)
This is the alpha of the “Birds of the West Indies” books by James Bond. Its longer subtitle is “An Account with full descriptions of all the birds known to occur or to have occurred on the West Indian Islands“. Published just shy of two years after Peterson’s A Field Guide to the Birds of the West Indies, this book was the first field guide to cover all the birds of the West Indies (outside of Cory’s annotated book of 1889).
 
Somewhat in contrast to what is stated in the later 1961 version as the “First American Edition”, this 1936 book was published by The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (at which Bond worked) and was printed by Waverly Press, Inc. in Baltimore, Maryland.This book is certainly quite scarce and typically commands a price ranging from $500 – $1,500 depending on its condition and the presence of a dustjacket.
 
Ultimately, one may ask, “What’s the difference between this first book and the subsequent versions?” Here is the answer in the form of a table (see below)
  

1947 (The Next Version)
This 1947 version is often advertised or assumed to be the first edition. This may be due in part to the rarity of the original 1936 edition and/or to the presence of “First Printing” printed on the backside of the Title Page in the 1947 book (see image below). This “first printing” refers only to the second book. For the true, original book, you must go back another 11 years to 1936.
 
Despite the notation of “First American Edition” in the 1961 version, this 1947 book was published by the MacMillan Company of New York and was printed in the United States. The 1936 edition was also US published and printed.
 
As an obscure note, the title of the book printed on the dustjacket does not match the title printed on the book itself. The cover reads, “Field Guide of Birds…” while the book reads, “Field Guide to Birds…”. Also, it is likely this is the version owned by Ian Fleming which inspired the naming of his charismatic spy (see below)
 
Depending on the condition of this book and the presence of a dustjacket, this 1947 version ranges in price between $30 and $100.
 
  
STOP PRESS  As a guideline, I bought a copy of this edition on eBay for $80, in very good condition with good dust jacket. Elsewhere, on a first edition, I beat the seller down from $2250 to $1600, but it was in poor condition and I left it at that…
                             James Bond Birds 1947 ed f:c                        James Bond Birds F:P 1947 ed

1961 (“1st American Edition”)
Just as a note of interest — or irony — this 1961 version is labeled as the “First America Edition”. Keep in mind the 1936 and 1947 books were both published and printed in the US. Additionally, just beneath the statement of “First American Edition”, you will see “Printed in Great Britain”. Completing the picture, this book was published by the Houghton Mifflin Company of Boston; thus, the American connection (I guess).
 
  

1970s
 
1971 1971 1974
  

1980s
 
1980 1980 1985 1986 (?)

1990s (the adoption by the Peterson series)
 
1993 1995 1999
  

2000s
 
2002 (?)

OTHER COVERS
 
1960s?

ADDENDUM
 
1966

Needless to say, the name James Bond has a familiarity beyond just the birding world. Several myths and slight distortions have grown related to how this name has been transmogrified from ornithologist to international spy.

In 1966, Mrs James (Mary Wickham) Bond wrote a 62-page book How 007 Got His Name that outlined the circumstances which led to the use of Mr Bond’s name in the series of books written by Ian Fleming.

As noted on pp. 16-17, Dr. Bond first became aware of his new recognition in 1961. This was after seven spy thrillers had already been published and were just becoming popular in the US.

Mrs Bond wrote a light-hearted letter to Mr Fleming on February 01, 1961 to make note that he had “…brazenly taken the name of a real human being for your rascal!” (p.18). A return letter by Mr Fleming was most gracious and apologetic.

In this reply, (contained in full in Mrs Bond’s book), Mr Fleming wrote, “I will confess at once that your husband has every reason to sue me in every possible position and for practically every kind of libel in the book, for I will now confess the damnable truth.” (p.21).

He then provided an explanation of how he selected his character’s name for the first book in 1953: “…I was determined that my secret agent should be as anonymous a personality as possible…At this time one of my bibles was, and still is, Birds of the West Indies by James Bond, and it struck me that this name, brief, unromantic and yet very masculine, was just what I needed and so James Bond II was born…”

Mimicking Mrs Bond’s light-hearted approach, Mr Fleming continued his reply with this unique offer: “In return I can only offer your James Bond unlimited use of the name Ian Fleming for any purpose he may think fit. Perhaps one day he will discover some particularly horrible species of bird which he would like to christen in an insulting fashion.” (p.22).

Mr Fleming also offered the Bonds an open invitation to visit his residence in Jamaica and to visit the birthplace of the second James Bond.

Iam Fleming and the real James Bond met only once, which was February 5th, 1964. This was in Jamaica, six months before the death of Mr. Fleming.

This short book by Mrs Bond is a nice, quick read. I appreciate it for the first-hand accounts of the historical beginnings of Bond vs Bond as opposed to the hearsay and myths created over time. The book also offers entertaining stories of how James Bond dealt with his new popularity and the avid “fans” upon their discovery of his name. (RH note: copies occasionally appear on eBay, Am@z@n, & ABE)


Comparison Table of the Books’ Contents over the Years
** “THE FLEMING VILLA” (SHOWN ABOVE) – THE FACTS
  • Once rented by Noel Coward
  • Sting wrote “Every Breath you Take” here
  • Princess Margaret, while a guest, broke a toe on one of the beds (rum punch alert!)
  • Ian Fleming himself designed the house, and wrote all the Bond books here
  • It has 5 bedrooms, and was built by a former donkey track bought by Fleming in 1946
  • You can rent it (and its full-time staff) for £3500 (including breakfast). Per night…
  • It is part of the ‘Goldeneye’ Estate (and no, there isn’t a ‘Thunderball’ Estate)
  • Other guests: Errol Flynn, Katharine Hepburn, Lucian Freud, Truman Capote & Evelyn Waugh

(Source credits: The Quarterly, Wiki & kin; Feeble Intro Pastiche:  RH)

BEACHCOMBING: AN INVASION OF BEADS AT ROLLING HARBOUR


DCB GBG Cover Logo dolphin

BEACHCOMBING: A BEAD INVASION AT ROLLING HARBOUR

The Delphi Club beach at Rolling Harbour is an undeniably beautiful 3/4 mile curve of white-sand bay, shelving gently into pale blue water. Many interesting things get washed up on the shore, besides shells, sea glass, and vast quantities of seaweed (with a fair amount of junk) that must be regularly cleared. It’s a good place for desultory beachcombing, and some of the finds have featured in earlier posts, with the help of KASIA

Delphi Club, Rolling Harbour, Abaco

Of course that is not in the least unusual in these parts, though Delphi can claim the unique distinction of a 12 foot booster rocket fairing from the Mars ‘Curiosity’ launch, washed up early in 2012 (see short posts on the developing story at ONE & TWO & THREE)

Sandy's Mystery Object

There are large glass and wooden floats. Things that might be car parts. Wooden pallets. Not, as yet, any of the yellow plastic ducks so often written about (see book review of MOBY DUCK). Now, we have an invasion of coloured beads. 2012 has been a prime year for bead beachcombing, a specialist field. At times, guests have had a field day (if you can have one of those on a beach?) collecting these small beads. One large flagon has already been filled and, as Peter Mantle observes, “our cup runneth over”.

An important Christmas task – and not a difficult one, I envisage – will be to empty another suitably large vessel. Drinking is likely to be involved. Meanwhile, an explanation for this beach bead influx over many months would be good to find. A container of children’s toys sadly washed overboard? Evidence of some arcane fishing method? An explosion in a necklace factory? Beads deemed unsuitable for rosaries? Rejects from the World Marbles Convention? Has anyone else experienced finding these multicoloured beads on their local beaches? I know that a few beachcombers follow this blog (thanks!) from other parts of the world. Any beads? All contributions by way of the COMMENT link, or an email to rolling harbour.delphi[at]gmail.com, welcome.

Some of the beads collected during the year – another container needed urgently
Beachcombing Beads

THE NAME’S BOND. JAMES BOND. LICENSED TO WATCH BIRDS…


JAMES BOND – THE ORNITHOLOGIST WHO LENT HIS NAME TO A FICTION LEGEND

Jamaica, 1952. The night was hot, too hot. Fleming cursed as he made his way up the steps to his neighbour’s verandah. He heard the clink of ice from within the house, and guessed that the rum punch was being mixed just the way he liked it. Stirred, not shaken. As he passed a low table on the verandah his eyes were drawn to a small book lying on it. Fleming paused, taking in the information, his senses suddenly alive. Bond. James Bond. A bird book about the avian species of the West Indies. Suddenly, it all made sense. Fleming knew now the direction he had to take, and with a thin smile he flicked back the insolent comma of dark hair that had fallen across his face and strode into the house towards the sound of the ice…

James Bond, ornithologist (1900 – 1989) was an expert on the birdlife of the Caribbean and wrote the seminal Birds of the West Indies, first published in 1936 and republished in varying formats ever since.

Ian Fleming lived in Jamaica and was a keen birdwatcher. The story goes that one evening, visiting friends, he saw ornithologist James Bond’s Birds of the West Indies on a table, and borrowed that short, punchy name for his fictional hero 007 for Casino Royale, published in 1953. He later said he wanted a name that sounded ‘as ordinary as possible’. In an interview, Fleming said “I wanted the simplest, dullest, plainest-sounding name I could find, and ‘James Bond’ was much better than something more interesting, like ‘Peregrine Carruthers.’ Exotic things would happen to and around him, but he would be a neutral figure — an anonymous, blunt instrument wielded by a government department.” Fleming wrote to the real James Bond’s wife “It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed, and so a second James Bond was born.” He also contacted the real James Bond about using his name in the books and Bond replied that he was “fine with it.” At some point during one of Fleming’s visits to Jamaica he met the real Bond and his wife. The meeting was recorded for a documentary.

FACT, FICTION & IN-JOKES

In Dr No Fleming referenced Bond’s work by basing a large Ornithological Sanctuary on Dr No’s island in the Bahamas. In 1964, Fleming gave Bond a first edition copy of You Only Live Twice signed “To the real James Bond, from the thief of his identity”. In the 2002 Bond film Die Another Day the fictional Bond can be seen examining Birds of the West Indies in an early scene that takes place in Havana. However the author’s name (James Bond) on the front cover is obscured. In the same film, when Bond first meets Jinx, he introduces himself as an ornithologist.

Ian Fleming Lived Here in Jamaica **

I had been planning to research the history of the various editions of Birds of the West Indies, the locus classicus for Caribbean species. Then I started to look into it and found that someone – Jack Holloway – had already done it so thoroughly that I would be wasting my time. So I contacted Jack for use permission, and I am very grateful to him for granting it by return. This next part is all thanks to him. I recommend a visit to his very good online bird resource website at AVIAN3
♠ ♣ ♥ ♦ ♠ ♣ ♥ ♦ ♠ ♣ ♥ ♦ ♠ ♣ ♥ ♦ ♠ ♣ ♥ ♦
THE HISTORY OF BIRDS OF THE WEST INDIES BY JAMES BOND
1936 (The Original)
This is the alpha of the “Birds of the West Indies” books by James Bond. Its longer subtitle is “An Account with full descriptions of all the birds known to occur or to have occurred on the West Indian Islands“. Published just shy of two years after Peterson’s A Field Guide to the Birds of the West Indies, this book was the first field guide to cover all the birds of the West Indies (outside of Cory’s annotated book of 1889).
Somewhat in contrast to what is stated in the later 1961 version as the “First American Edition”, this 1936 book was published by The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (at which Bond worked) and was printed by Waverly Press, Inc. in Baltimore, Maryland.
This book is certainly quite scarce and typically commands a price ranging from $500 – $1,500 depending on its condition and the presence of a dustjacket.
Ultimately, one may ask, “What’s the difference between this first book and the subsequent versions?” Here is the answer in the form of a table (see below)

1947 (The Next Version)
This 1947 version is often advertised or assumed to be the first edition. This may be due in part to the rarity of the original 1936 edition and/or to the presence of “First Printing” printed on the backside of the Title Page in the 1947 book (see image below). This “first printing” refers only to the second book. For the true, original book, you must go back another 11 years to 1936.
Despite the notation of “First American Edition” in the 1961 version, this 1947 book was published by the MacMillan Company of New York and was printed in the United States. The 1936 edition was also US published and printed.
As an obscure note, the title of the book printed on the dustjacket does not match the title printed on the book itself. The cover reads, “Field Guide of Birds…” while the book reads, “Field Guide to Birds…”. Also, it is likely this is the version owned by Ian Fleming which inspired the naming of his charismatic spy (see below)
Depending on the condition of this book and the presence of a dustjacket, this 1947 version ranges in price between $30 and $100.
STOP PRESS  As a guideline, I’ve now bought a copy of this edition on eBay for $80, in very good condition with good dust jacket. On a first edition, I beat the seller down from $2250 to $1600, but it was in poor condition and I left it at that…
                             James Bond Birds 1947 ed f:c                        James Bond Birds F:P 1947 ed

1961 (“1st American Edition“)
Just as a note of interest — or irony — this 1961 version is labeled as the “First America Edition”. Keep in mind the 1936 and 1947 books were both published and printed in the US. Additionally, just beneath the statement of “First American Edition”, you will see “Printed in Great Britain”. Completing the picture, this book was published by the Houghton Mifflin Company of Boston; thus, the American connection (I guess).

1970s
1971 1971 1974

1980s
1980 1980 1985 1986 (?)

1990s (the adoption by the Peterson series)
1993 1995 1999

2000s
2002 (?)

OTHER COVERS
1960s?

ADDENDUM
1966

Needless to say, the name James Bond has a familiarity beyond just the birding world. Several myths and slight distortions have grown related to how this name has been transmogrified from ornithologist to international spy.

In 1966, Mrs. James (Mary Wickham) Bond wrote a 62-page book How 007 Got His Name that outlined the circumstances which led to the use of Mr. Bond’s name in the series of books written by Ian Fleming.

As noted on pp. 16-17, Dr. Bond first became aware of his new recognition in 1961. This was after seven spy thrillers had already been published and were just becoming popular in the US.

Mrs. Bond wrote a light-hearted letter to Mr. Fleming on February 01, 1961 to make note that he had “…brazenly taken the name of a real human being for your rascal!” (p.18). A return letter by Mr. Fleming was most gracious and apologetic.

In this reply, (contained in full in Mrs., Bond’s book), Mr. Fleming wrote, “I will confess at once that your husband has every reason to sue me in every possible position and for practically every kind of libel in the book, for I will now confess the damnable truth.” (p.21).

He then provided an explanation of how he selected his character’s name for the first book in 1953: “…I was determined that my secret agent should be as anonymous a personality as possible…At this time one of my bibles was, and still is, Birds of the West Indies by James Bond, and it struck me that this name, brief, unromantic and yet very masculine, was just what I needed and so James Bond II was born…”

Mimicking Mrs. Bond’s light-hearted approach, Mr. Fleming continued his reply with this unique offer: “In return I can only offer your James Bond unlimited use of the name Ian Fleming for any purpose he may think fit. Perhaps one day he will discover some particularly horrible species of bird which he would like to christen in an insulting fashion.” (p.22).

Mr. Fleming also offered the Bonds an open invitation to visit his residence in Jamaica and to visit the birthplace of the second James Bond.

Iam Fleming and the real James Bond met only once, which was February 5th, 1964. This was in Jamaica, six months before the death of Mr. Fleming.

This short book by Mrs. Bond is a nice, quick read. I appreciate it for the first-hand accounts of the historical beginnings of Bond vs. Bond as opposed to the hearsay and myths created over time. The book also offers entertaining stories of how James Bond dealt with his new popularity and the avid “fans” upon their discovery of his name.


Comparison Table of the Books’ Contents over the Years
** “THE FLEMING VILLA” (SHOWN ABOVE) – THE FACTS
  • Once rented by Noel Coward
  • Sting wrote “Every Breath you Take” here
  • Princess Margaret, while a guest, broke a toe on one of the beds (rum punch alert!)
  • Ian Fleming himself designed the house, and wrote all the Bond books here
  • It has 5 bedrooms, and was built by a former donkey track bought by Fleming in 1946
  • You can rent it (and its full-time staff) for £3500 (including breakfast). Per night…
  • It is part of the ‘Goldeneye’ Estate (and no, there isn’t a ‘Thunderball’ Estate)
  • Other guests: Errol Flynn, Katharine Hepburn, Lucian Freud, Truman Capote & Evelyn Waugh

(Source credit: The Quarterly)

ABACO & HOLE-IN-THE-WALL, BAHAMAS: A SHORT HISTORY IN MAPS


ABACO & HOLE-IN-THE-WALL, BAHAMAS: A SHORT HISTORY IN MAPS

To begin with, here is a fabulous recent photograph of the actual Hole-in-the-Wall taken by well-known Abaco nature tour guide Ricky Johnson. This picture inspired me to delve into the history of Abaco and its the southernmost extremity, to see how far back it can be traced; and how the island’s recorded history has evolved since the Columbian era.(Photo Credit: Ricky Johnson)

I started by trying to establish the earliest map, and the earliest mention of Hole-in-the-Wall. I don’t have access to written archival material, so I looked instead at historic maps of the Caribbean / Bahamas / Lucayas. The very earliest, from the late c16, simply depict the Bahama Islands / Lucayas as rather random-looking blobs which bear little relation to their actual geographical location or their shape. The islands mostly have quite different names, or variants of familiar spellings. Over the course of 5 centuries, one can trace the progress of place names to those used today – including of Abaco itself. The gradual development of settlements can also been seen – at Little Harbour, Crossing Rocks and ‘Cheeric Sound’, for example, as well as on the ‘Keys’.

The trail starts in the c16. The earliest map I have so far found is the Abraham Ortelius map of 1592, which is a good example of the rather basic map-making of the time. It is quite hard – near impossible – to relate the position of ‘Haraco’ to the other islands depicted.

ADDENDUM I have now uncovered an even earlier and far more ambitious map published in 1550 by the Spanish cartographer Diego Gutiérrez. His incredibly intricate map, for the period, is decorated with volcanos, mermaids, monkeys, and variety of fantastical sea creatures. The first image is a detail of the whole map, showing the Bahamas, a sea monster, and a graphic shipwreck. I have also included an image of the whole map so that the extraordinary range and complexity of this early map can be seen in its entirety.

This colourful and charming 1679 map shows that a very basic style of mapping was still common in the c17

This famous map by A.M.Mallet from 1683, with its enjoyable sea battle vignette, is another good example of the very general nature of the maps, although the design and draftsmanship has advanced considerably

Things become much clearer and more detailed in the c18. The relationship of the islands to each other is shown in geographic reality; and many more details and place names are included. The earliest specific reference to Hole-in-the-Wall (as it now is) that I have so far found is in a 1738 map by Johannes Couvens & Cornelius Mortier. ‘Abaco’ is now spelled as we know it, with ‘Hole in the Rock’ clearly marked. Little Harbour is mentioned, as are 2 ‘Keys’, presumably indicating settlements. 

A 1750 map by Robert of Paris shows the southern tip of Abaco as ‘Trou dans le Roc’. You’ll have to trust me on this – the writing is tiny and impossible to enlarge legibly. The French name is not just because the map maker was French, but probably because it was the name given by French settlers who are believed to have lived in that part of Abaco in the c18 (and quite possibly earlier). Many more settlements are shown, especially on the Cays.

The Cartographer Jacques-Nicolas Bellin, in a 1764 map, also used the french name, though in the plural ‘Trou dans les Roches’, as this much enlarged portion of his ‘Cartes des Isles Lucayes’ shows. Little Harbour – ‘Petit Havre’ – is again included as a distinct settlement, and a few Cays are also named.

John Blair’s map of 1779, below, shows clearly ‘the Hole in the Rock’ – indeed, it is the only named place on Great Abaco. The southern end of Florida looks worryingly fragmented…

For the new century, a map by George Cook dated 1800 shows the first appearance of Little Abaco as a separate entity. Again, Hole in the Rock is the only place on Great Abaco that is marked. Maybe this evidences a continuing significance as a navigation aid.

The good clear map by Thompson dated 1815 provides plenty of excellent detail hitherto lacking in maps of the northern Bahamas. Another name for Hole-in-the-Wall has crept in, shown as ‘Hole of the Rock’. There are some oddities here. A ‘Rocky Point’, usually associated with the south west coast below Sandy Point, is marked on the east coast. Little Harbour is shortened to L.H., indicating perhaps that it had become a familiar enough settlement to warrant abbreviation – unless it stands for Light House, referring to the long-defunct lighthouse there… The word ‘Kay’ is used, a half-way house between the earlier ‘Key’ and the later ‘Cay’. The positions of the Kays seems (now) amusingly off-cay – indeed the relative scales to the main island are quite strange. Green Turtle Cay is some way nor’-nor’-west of Little Abaco…

Harrison’s much simpler map in 1818 also uses ‘Hole of the Rock’, which is the only place shown.                              

As the  c19 progressed, far more sophisticated and detailed map-making – including nautical charts – was undertaken. This extract from a much larger chart by Edmund Blunt from 1827 is the first mapped reference I can find of the name change from ‘Rock’ to ‘Wall’. It is also the earliest I have found Crossing Rocks mentioned on a map, though apparently as a shipping warning rather than an indication of a viable settlement. Walt Disney has yet to visit ‘Key Gorda’.

A new name for the southern extremity entered the scene in 1833 on Thomas Starling’s map of the West Indies. The tip is simply called ‘Light Ho. Pt’, with no reference to Holes, Rocks or Walls – an interesting variation (see below). I have found no other instances of this name.

The interest lies in the fact that the evidence suggests that the Lighthouse at Hole-in-the-Wall was not actually completed until 1836, yet Starling was specifically referencing it 3 years earlier. One could deduce that there was already a basic lighthouse of some description there, soon to be superseded; or perhaps that construction of the Lightstation had already commenced in 1833, and Starling was confident of its eventual completion and wanted to be ahead of the competition… On the left is the notice at the lighthouse station today.

——————————————

For a time, maps continued to use ‘Rock’ rather than ‘Wall’ – the 1843 Findlay map has reverted to ‘Hole in the Rock’. Great and Little Abaco are again separately named.

In 1857, a very detailed nautical chart of the area was published. The survey seems to have been carried out by the British Navy for the French, and now detailed depth measurements enter the picture. It seems that new techniques have recently been discovered. I have used only one of the 3 areas mapped, a detail of the southern tip of Abaco. Here, in french, we are back to ‘Wall’ rather than ‘Rock’. For the first time, the lighthouse and associated lightstation buildings have been included, but I haven’t been able to decipher the words in brackets under ‘Phare’.

Mitchell, in a far more basic (pretty border though) 1872 map,reverts to ‘Hole in the Rock’

Two near-identical maps were published in the late c19: the first, by Hardesty, New York, in 1884; the second, by Rand McNally, in 1890. Extracts are shown below, side-by-side. This time, both clearly show ‘Hole in the Wall’. Cay is still spelled ‘Key’. And for the first time I have seen, Cherokee gets a mention as ‘Cheeric’ or ‘Cheerie’ Sound.

      

In the final year of the c19, George Cram of Chicago pubished the most ambitious map of the region so far. By 1899 shipping routes were so well-established that they could be added to maps, increasing their usefulness and therefore sales. He’s back to ‘Hole in the Rock’, though. The names of the Cays are more familiar here, and Pelican Harbor is now included. Cherokee is still in its early form.

The c20 saw the use of the name ‘Hole in the Wall’ becoming predominant, as shown on this Waterlow’s map from 1919. The map also uses the modern-day ‘Cherokee Sound’; and surprisingly this is the first map I came across that names Marsh Harbour (and also Wilson City). The map also marks all Bahamas lighthouses (oddly, although ‘Hole in the Wall’ is marked on a similar map from that period by Harrison & Sons, the red dot for the lighthouse is missing there – presumably in error, since the lighthouse was well-established and functioning at that time). I am left wondering when the hyphens became included in ‘Hole-in-the-Wall’. They are not universal, I have noticed, but seem to be the preferred usage nowadays, making the place a lot more niggly to type!

To end with, a photo of the lighthouse (now automatic) and some of the abandoned buildings. For an account of an intrepid trip to this part of South Abaco CLICK ===>>> ‘TO THE LIGHTHOUSE…

  • This post is by no means exhaustive, and any suggestions, additions or corrections are welcome by way of the COMMENT box or by email to rollingharbour.delphi@gmail.com
  • Apologies for the very small writing on many of the maps, but in most cases it was not possible to enlarge the image further without also making the written details illegible. 
  • The photos, apart from Ricky’s, are mine. Acknowledgement is given to the variety of sources used for the map extracts, which come mainly from catalogues / sales advertising or open online archives. Any problems? Let me know!

POST SCRIPT: I am very grateful to Marinas.com for permission to download this wonderful aerial image of Hole-in-the-Wall lighthouse and its outbuildings, looking towards the southern tip of Abaco. They have generously enabled a completely cost and watermark-free download. I have added the © detail. Thanks, guys. 

AFTERTHOUGHT I have received a query as to exactly where the eponymous Hole in the Wall, or Rock, can be found in relation to the lighthouse. At the foot of the page is an annotated map which I should no doubt have provided in the first place. The consensus of those who have walked to it (I haven’t yet) is that you’d be well advised to wear walking shoes / boots. Mary Wallace Chamie in a recent POST (check out the link for her VG photos, of which I have included 2 small tasters) says this:

“At first the hike was easy as we followed a cement path through a maze of sea grapes and then hiked further down until we reached the beach.  We took a left at the beach and started hiking across limestone that was full of potholes and sharp edges.  We walked carefully through the maze until we reached a point where we could finally see the Hole in the Wall.

    We then headed back across the limestone craters and up the hill to the lighthouse.  One suggestion I have to any beach comber who takes this hike.  Wear your walking shoes! ” 

To which I can now add this ‘distance shot’ from the sea, which makes it all completely clear. I have contacted the photographer via Panoramia but had no reply. Credit as annotated. If you are the photographer, Hi!. And if you object to its inclusion, please let me know and I’ll remove it…

 

LINKS TO OTHER HOLE-IN-THE-WALL POSTS

ABACO HISTORY: SHIPS, MAPS & HOLE-IN-THE-WALL

HOLE-IN-THE-WALL ABACO: HISTORIC 1803 DESCRIPTION & AQUATINT

HOLE-IN-THE-WALL TO GAP-IN-THE-WALL: HURRICANE SANDY SMASHES ABACO LANDMARK 

HOLE-IN-THE-WALL BEFORE SANDY DEMOLITION: FIRST & LAST EVER IMAGES

HOLE-IN-THE-WALL, ABACO: THE ‘HOLE’ THAT’S NO LONGER A WHOLE

HOLE-IN-THE WALL ABACO: “MIND THE GAP” – A NEW ISLET IS BORN

 

 

‘A BIRDER’S GUIDE TO THE BAHAMA ISLANDS’: BOOK REVIEW


A BIRDER’S GUIDE TO THE BAHAMA ISLANDS (INCLUDING TURKS & CAICOS)   

 ABA BIRDFINDING GUIDES (American Birding Association)

  Anthony W. White

  Published 1998

  302 pages

  Wire-O binding

  ISBN 1-878788-16-7

QUICK REVIEW In a rush? Scroll down for a 30-second bullet-point review. If not, hang in here for fuller details…

PUBLISHER’S BLURB (précis) The first comprehensive guide to finding birds on the islands of The Bahamas and TCI. The islands host an unusual mix of Caribbean and North American species, with over 300 bird species recorded. There are 3 endemic species: Bahama Woodstar, Bahama Swallow, and Bahama Yellowthroat, and a host of other specialties, including such birds as West Indian Whistling-Duck, White-cheeked Pintail, Key West Quail-Dove, Great Lizard-Cuckoo, Cuban Emerald, West Indian Woodpecker, Bahama Mockingbird, Olive-capped Warbler, Stripe-headed Tanager, Greater Antillean Bullfinch, and Black-cowled Oriole. Seabird nesting colonies [include] Audubon’s Shearwaters, White-tailed Tropicbirds, and 8 tern species. The parks and refuges of The Bahamas and TCI protect a great diversity of subtropical birds, among them the Bahama Parrot (an endemic subspecies of Cuban Parrot), and many North American wintering birds, including the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler. The New World’s largest flamingo colony nests on Great Inagua, protected by the country’s largest national park. The Guide [includes] complete descriptions by Tony White of more than 150 birding sites on the major islands and smaller cays. It also features a beautiful eight-page Photo Gallery of many of the Bahamian specialty birds, several of which show up regularly in Florida

RH VIEW This book obviously covers a far greater area than Abaco / Northern Bahamas – indeed, it is about as comprehensive of the whole Bahamas region as it could get. Where it scores highly is in taking the area island by island, cay by cay, and identifying the prime birding areas on each. I have to say that, being a 1998 book, some of the descriptions of places on Abaco that I am familiar with are not as you will find them now; and doubtless this applies across the whole region. As the Table of Contents shows, the book is split into ‘places’ chapters, with additional and useful general information chapters. Abaco is covered in just 20 pages. It’s not a lot, but the birding hotspots are well covered, and expected / hoped for bird species are given for each.

Despite the relatively little page space given to each region, there is much else to be got from this book. The final third of the book includes a detailed annotated list of the speciality bird species (also shown in photo gallery format earlier in the book). This is followed by a huge 20-page bird checklist, with every species given a numbered code for each region, ranging from 1 (easily found) to 6 (cannot be found – extinct or extirpated). So you will find, for example, that a Forster’s Tern is rated ’4′ for Abaco – ‘extremely difficult to find’. There are short notes on other Bahamas wildlife, divided into mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects – followed by helpful appendices (a glossary; a list of common name alternatives); a massive 22-page bibliography; and a serviceable index

The chart inside the front cover shows where the specialty Bahamas birds are to be found . At the back is a large area map showing the total coverage

——————————————-
BULLET POINT REVIEW FOR THOSE WHO ARE PRESSED FOR TIME
  • Fairly weighty 300 pages covering the entire Bahamas region
  • Short but helpful descriptions of birding hotspots on the islands and cays, with the species you may encounter
  • Excellent ancillary species and distribution checklists
  • Focus on specialty birds of the Bahamas
  • Particularly useful for anyone investigating different regions of the Bahamas, or wishing to compare them
  • 14 years since publication is a long time in the islands’ development; expect some irrelevant references for 2012
  • Overall a useful, interesting bird location book, but NB not intended as species identification field guide

SHELLS OF THE ATLANTIC COASTS & WEST INDIES: PETERSON FIELD GUIDE


SHELLS OF THE ATLANTIC COASTS & WEST INDIES 

PETERSON FIELD GUIDE    Abbott / Morris   350pp

An excellent and comprehensive field guide which covers the area as thoroughly as one could wish. It’s not exactly a pocket book, and at 350 pages it’s quite a chubby paperback – but the sort of size you’d happily throw into a day-bag or backpack. This authoritative shell guide dates from 1947, with frequent reprints. Mine is a fourth edition (1995) – there may be a 2002 one.

Currently £18 from Amazon UK,  or new / used for around £7 (a bargain); and a great deal cheaper on Amazon US. Overall 4* reviews

Rolling Harbour rating *****

THE BOOK IN A CONCH SHELL

  • Numerous clear illustrative line drawings throughout (115, in fact)
  • 74 colour plates grouped together at the heart of the book, showing living creatures and a huge variety of shells – 780 in all
  • Introductory articles on collecting, preparing, arranging and naming shells; also classifications and measurements
  • The text comprises 800 brief but helpful family / species descriptions, with notes on habitat and other remarks
  • Bi-valves cover 120 pages; Gastropods a stonking 150 pages
  • The substantial illustrated core of the book has shell groups on the right-hand page, with ID and text references on the left. The system works very well, especially with the many shell types that are very similar
  • At the back there’s a useful ‘Conchological Glossary’ to help sort out the crenulates from the reticulates
  • A huge 30-page index that is both thorough and user-friendly
I personally found the illustration section very helpful as a first stop; then a trip to the text to confirm the description. I had no idea what a shell we recently found in a drawer might be, but it didn’t take long to nail the ID as a STOCKY CERITH a shell I’d never even heard of. First I found a very clear illustration of it, then turned to the text description which matched what I had in my hand. Overall, as a complete amateur, I found this book the best practical guide I have yet tried for shell identification – and I suspect more sophisticated shell-seekers will get a great deal out of it too.

BOOKCOMBING: AN OCCASIONAL THEMED SERIES (2) SEA GLASS


2. SEA GLASS

Note 1 I give Amazon.uk pricing as a simple standard for new / used prices. Obviously Amazon.com is also worth comparing, as is Abe UK or US. With Abe watch out for the shipping costs. An apparently ‘bargain’ book may have a loading on the shipping, which (unlike Amazon) are not standard.

Note 2 You will see that I have included books that have had bad reviews as well as good – compare books 1 and 2 below – so that you are forewarned…

PURE SEA GLASS

RICHARD LAMOTTE

Amazon UK £22; new / used from £14

Amazon UK Reviews 1 x 5*           

Pure Beauty “I loved this book… Sea glass is fantastic and this book shows you how to recognise each colour, although in reality there are thousands of hues! I loved the photographs in this book and it made me surf the Internet for sea glass collectors, sites etc.

Amazon.com reviews: 70,  average rating 4.9 out of 5*. Here are a few nibbles

Discovering Nature’s Vanishing Gems  “This is an excellent volume, especially for beginners… A major attraction is that there are over 150 exquisite and elegant photographs… presenting some of the beat specimens ever collected, along with a vast array of classical glassware from around the world that is often its source. The book is a comprehensive guide, chock full of information on finding and identifying these gems, the bits of aged glass, enhanced by years beneath the sea or caught in the tides that wash our coasts. There are 224 pages with chapters on the history of sea glass and the history of sand, (fascinating), different types of glass, (bottles, containers, tableware, utility and flat glass, like window glass – plain and stained, marbles, insulators and bonfire glass – from ship and shore, etc) & appraising rarity, along with many other interesting topics”

Simply Exquisite  “…a must have for all the beachcombers who wander the strands of the world, bending to pick up those gorgeous fragments of glass. It offers history & facts about the globs of glass washed up by the waves, as well as page after page of exhilerating colors & shapes the glass comes in, & images of the seashore”

SEA GLASS HUNTER’S BOOK

C.S.LAMBERT

Amazon UK £8.54, new/used from £5.07

This book has divided readers. It’s worth bearing in mind that it costs a lot less than most, so it can’t be expected to be as lavish. but still… here’s a flavour. I rather enjoyed the two snidey reviews, I’m sorry to say

Amazon.com reviews: 9, average rating 3.7*

The Good Review “It’s exactly what I hoped — SGHH is a celebration of sea glass hunting. Simply put: the book is stunning. As a previous reviewer noted, this is not a “how to” book nor a map (although it does list exceptional locations around the world); rather, it is like a piece of sea glass itself: beautiful, tangible, a treasure. Chapter 1 the world of sea glass; 2, origins; 3, methods for hunting; 4, lexicon; 5, etiquette & laws; 6, destinations. It’s digest size, hard bound & first class… I strongly recommend it for anyone who truly loves sea glass or who would like to share the passion with others

The Model Sniffy Review Intended for total novices, not for a true sea glass hunter… mostly a very broad overview of the sea glass experience, basically nice small pictures in color of perfect pieces of sea glass etc. The book is very small, the type of thing you find in a hallmark gift shop in the mall, designed obviously for gifting to a hospital patient or homebound person, a little birthday type gift, would be nice to give to someone at christmas time that has no idea what seaglass is, or for a pre-teenager to early teens in reading level perhaps. I had too high expectations for this book… it’s just a little puff piece. If you seriously collect sea glass and actively pursue this with any passion, you won’t find anything in this tiny volume of importance that you don’t already know”

The Serious Panning “Ho Hum. The most remarkable thing about this book is how undistinguished it is. A book on sea glass should either be beautifully designed or loaded with useful information, or both. This one is neither. The visual appearance is not unlike what one might expect in a high school project. In particular, the extensive grab bag of colorful and unrelated fonts is amateurish to the extreme. There’s a dearth of information for something purporting to be a “handbook”. The author has thrown together a variety of snippets seemingly without the benefit of an organizing thought process or theme. You can skim this skimpy volume or better yet you can simply skip it – I wish I had. Read Pure Sea Glass by Richard LaMotte instead (see review above. rh)

SEA GLASS CHRONICLES 

C.S.Lambert (Author) Pat Hanbery (Photographer)

Amazon UK £17.32 new / used from £12

REVIEW CLIPPINGS

1. The Overwrought (Suspected Publisher’s Puff)  “Hunting for sea glass treasures and safeguarding the hiding places where these precious images of the past wash ashore, are passions among the beach-faithful… This hunger for sea glass is a natural progression… blah…ageless hobby of beachcombing as an anthropological art…blah…this lovely book is a terrific and meaningful gift… blah..those dazzling little pieces of glistening remnants leftover after the sea has abused them as a worthwhile hobby and aesthetic pastime…blah…before being rescued by the beachcombing enthusiast. Holiday gifts, coffee table conversation table toppers or inspirational reading…blah…a book to treasure just like the mysterious particles described between the book jacket covers”

2. The Enthusiast “I love this book. It has a unique perspective – the history of objects from another time – which have washed up on our shores. It is remarkable that a history could be written about a shard of glass. The author manages to trace back through infinitesimal clues the origin and use of what to most is just colorful detrius. The text is very brief and poetic but also informative. The photographs beautifully enhance the found objects. They are insightful and clever, and the quality and sharpness is always first rate”

3. The Pragmatist “I am delighted with this book. Large clear artistic photographs illustrate the research. I have learned a lot about the origins of the beach found objects. To my suprise one of my prized found objects is featured – a Lea & Perrins glass bottle stopper, and I now know it dates from 1876 onwards. I shall be looking out for some purple glass – the rarest colour of all! The text explains why it is so rare. Not a craft book, but a book of answers and interesting facts to inspire the collector”

4. The To-the-Point “Useful purchase beautifully illustrated with creative thought provoking ideas of what can be found on the sea shore and what can be made from what is essentially waste”

And for those that have found glass and want to know what they can do with it, the later companion volume to Sea Glass Chronicles…

A PASSION FOR SEA GLASS

C. S. LAMBERT AMY WILTON

Amazon UK £19.99 new/used about £15

REVIEW CLIPPINGS

“Heaven is sea glass shaped What a wondeful book that transports the reader to a heaven of sea glass images. I thought I was the only weird person, searching the shore line like an oyster catcher, looking for elusive pieces of wave-worn glass and pottery shards. This book shows me there are other like-minded persons who have taken their search to a whole new creative level by fashioning the most beautiful and imaginative pieces of art from their finds”

“Beautiful images  A treasure for any sea glass lover. The images are beautiful and the ideas are creative and inspiring. A wonderfully readable picture book.”

“A fine guide for any art or photography collection Amy A. Wilton provides the stunning photos for A PASSION FOR SEA GLASS, a survey of major sea glass collectors and the workshops of artisans who use the glass to provide everything from sea-glass windows to mosaics, ornaments and more. It complements Lambert’s 2001 SEA GLASS CHRONICLES, which covered collection and identification of sea glass, and adds a new dimension of usage and conversion making this a fine guide for any art or photography collection”

“A worthy sequel to “Sea Glass Chronicles” Author C.S. Lambert and photographer Pat Hanbery showed us the beauty of those colorful beachside finds in “Sea Glass Chronicles: Whispers from the Past.” Now Lambert has gone one step farther by documenting what avid sea glass collectors do with all of their treasures. The people we meet on these pages make jewelry or wind chimes or mobiles. They assemble mosaics on tabletops or walls. One artist crafts panels that look much like stained glass windows, until you examine them more closely. And those are just some of the projects featured in this book. While a few of the profiles include directions for making your own artwork, the focus here is on beauty and art and imagination.”

A must for Sea Glass Lovers I received this book as a gift, and absolutely loved it. I found it interesting to see what other “seaglunkers” did with their collections to display them, where they found their pieces, and enjoyed the beautiful pictures and narrations throughout the book. It is beautifully photographed with great text from the contributing artisans. Terrific craft ideas and suggestions, much more than a tabletop book and well worth the investment”


BOOKCOMBING: AN OCCASIONAL THEMED SERIES (1) OCEAN DEBRIS


BOOKCOMBING

A MISCELLANY OF BOOKS MORE OR LESS RELEVANT TO ABACO LIFE

These are not books I have read myself. They are books that may be of interest to readers of this sort of blog. Islandy. Beachy. Mariney. A whiff of wildlife. They will be collected together under the BOOKS ETC menu as the series expands. If one of them catches your eye, then check online for reviews, reader ratings and prices. If I get round to one or more of them I will add my own views, but I am still gradually working through wildlife books that I have already paid for…

1. FLOTSAM, JETSAM & OCEAN DEBRIS

Flotsametrics and and the Floating World: How One Man’s Obsession With Runaway Sneakers and Rubber Ducks Revolutionized Ocean Science

by Curtis Ebbesmeyer & Eric Scigliano

“Curtis Ebbesmeyer has made important discoveries about everything from currents to the huge floating garbage patches in the ocean to how life was first spread on earth and how the Vikings settled Iceland. In the tradition of John McPhee’s bestselling books on scientists who both study and try to protect the natural world, The Floating World offers a fascinating look at the creativity and energy of a most unusual man—as well as offering an amazing look at what currents have meant for the world and especially mankind through the centuries.  Hardcover; PP: 288; Illustration: 10-15 images throughout” Smithsonian Store

Washed Up: The Curious Journeys of Flotsam and Jetsam

by Skye Moody

“The ocean gives up many prizes, just setting them on our beaches for us to find. From rubber ducks that started out somewhere in Indonesia to land Venice Beach, to an intact refrigerator makes it way to the Jersey Shore. Chunks of beeswax found on the Oregon coast are the packing remnants of 18th century Spanish gold. Author Skye Moody walks the coast, dons her wet suit, and heads out to sea to understand the excellent debris that accrues along the tideline. There she finds advanced military technology applied to locating buried Rolexes, hardcore competitive beachcombing conventions, and isolated beach communities whose residents are like flotsam congregated at the slightest obstacle on the coastline. This book confirms that the world is a mysterious place and that treasure is out there to be found” (Publisher’s Fluff)

Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam and the Science of Ocean Motion

by Lorree Griffen Burns

“Tracking Trash is the story of Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer who studies the movement of ocean currents. Dr. Ebbesmeyer’s work has attracted attention because he has received much of his information from studying trash. It all began when his mother heard about sneakers that were washing up on a beach after a cargo ship lost one of its containers. Since then, he has tracked sneakers, Lego’s, and even rubber duckies that have been accidentally spilled at sea and made their way to shore. By understanding how ocean currents move, scientists hope to solve many problems such as fish shortages and animals being caught in fishing nets. This book was very enjoyable to read and easy to understand. The pictures were large and engaging. The author did a great job at making it feel like a story while at the same time giving a lot of scientific information” (Satisfied Amazon Punter)

Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools who wen in search of them…

Donovan Hohn

I have just spotted that this book is about to be reprinted and, I imagine, updated at the end of February, so I am adding it to the collection. I note in passing that it is published by Penguin…

One 5* review on Amazon UK sets the scene: “This is a book that follows the journey of plastic ducks, turtles, frogs and beavers after the container they are in falls overboard and breaks open on impact with the sea. Moby Duck is fact that reads as good as fiction. The Author doesn’t only traverse the world of escapee plastic toys but meanders his way through a factory in China that makes bath toys, gets on a ship that is on research mission even though he has a fear of open water and even ends in Alaska where the first plastic duck was found. This is a great read, for anyone who likes a quirky book that tells a true story with wit, charm and gentle humour. Moby Dick is never far away in this book, only he has been transformed into Moby Duck…”

Amazon.com has 42 reviews, averaging a disappoining 3.5*. Some are ecstatic, some lukewarm, few can resist the golden opportunity proffered by the author to be “puntastic”. I like the one titled “An Eclectic Tale, but Caught in Its Own Eddy in the End”. Maybe that is the most astute summary of all.

SOUTHEAST COAST & GULF OF MEXICO MARINE / COASTAL FIELD GUIDE: 5* YALE BOOK REVIEW


BOOK REVIEW

This is a superlative field guide: comprehensive, clear and approachable. The illustrations are excellent, and include helpful examples of birds in flight, different views of marine creatures (basking shark side view and head on), whale fluke comparisons and dolphin profiles. The 11 Chapters comprise marine and coastal plants and habitats; invertebrates; sharks; rays; fish; sea turtles; crocodiles and alligators; marine and coastal birds; baleen whales; toothed whales and dolphins; and finally seals and manatee

Yale University Press 386pp, £20 / $24  ISBN 978 0300 11328 0

rollingharbour rating: a rare and coveted 5*****

Obviously this isn’t the guide for land-based birds – you’ll still need Hallett  or Arlott to help with all those warblers, for example. But for all aspects of marine and coastal wildlife it is as thorough as you could ever wish for in a book that is readily portable. While slightly too large (8″ x 6″) and heavy for a pocket, it would be perfect for a day-bag. Convention dictates that the most enthusiastic reviews should include a couple of tiny niggles to prove a book has been read… so,  the shell section is very brief at 2 pages; and the coral section also, with some types (Mustard Hill, for example) omitted. But such an ambitious yet compact book couldn’t possibly be exhaustive. In practical terms, it has everything you could want from a Field Guide when exploring or researching this area.

Publisher’s Summary [added here to indicate the scope & depth of the book]

  • Entries on 619 coastal and ocean species including seabirds, cetaceans, fish, turtles, invertebrates, and plants
  • More than 1,100 color illustrations & 121 colour photographs
  • 452 up-to-date range maps
  • Overviews of key ecological communities, including mangroves, salt marshes, beaches, sand dunes, and coral reefs
  • Special attention to threatened and endangered species
  • Discussions of environmental issues, including such catastrophic events as Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon blowout
  • Glossary
  • Excellent organizational aids for locating information quickly
To which I would add:
  • Clear text alerts for endangered / red list species
  • 12-page index (which works very well)
  • Handy front and back flaps place-markers
  • Colour-coded section divisions

To see the publisher’s UK or US webpages for the book CLICK LINK===>>>  YUP UK   or   YUP US – it can also be obtained from the other  conventional sources already mentioned in the book section of this site

Finally, a declaration of interest: Mrs rh works in the London office of YUP, so I have been consciously avoiding partiality. However this just happens to be an excellent book by any standards, so fortunately the frosty domestic fall-out from a bad crit has been easily avoided…

PETERSON CONCISE GUIDE TO SHELLS OF NORTH AMERICA: REVIEW


PETERSON CONCISE GUIDE TO THE SHELLS OF NORTH AMERICA

This pocket guide is part of the well-known Peterson series of natural history guides. It’s called a ‘First Guide’ to denote its ‘beginner’ / condensed status, and to distinguish it from the serious business of the excellent and comprehensive Peterson Field Guides (I shall review 2 of these in due course. When I have read them. In 2012).                                  rh rating **

SUMMARY: this 128pp ‘concise field guide to 224 common shells of North America’ is a simple pocket guide, with quite basic descriptions, and colour drawings rather than photos. All the main gastropod and bivalve species are represented, each with a few variants. The vast majority of these will be found on Abaco and more generally in the northern Bahamas. For the used price I paid for a 1989 edition with a creased front cover (1 pence + P&P on Amazon UK!) I have actually found it quite useful for comparing or confirming IDs, or for snippets of additional information. However, it’s not the one to rely on entirely to identify your beachcombing finds or to get species details. Apart from anything else the illustration colouring is often somewhat approximate. At best, I’d say it’s a useful preliminary tool for ID on the beach if you don’t want to lug a much larger field guide around with you. Don’t use it for your doctoral thesis. Overall, some use, but not a great deal. There are better books: see FISH & SHELL BOOKS

BOOK REVIEW – ABACO: HISTORY OF AN OUT ISLAND & ITS CAYS


STEVE DODGE, illus. Laurie Jones – White Sound Press

• Original Edition 1983 (170pp), reprinted                     rollingharbour rating ****     • Revised and expanded edition 2005 (270pp)                    [I don't have it!]

These are the 2 covers, to help distinguish them if you search online. Beware, the covers are often used interchangeably… so check the edition date

                              

The cover image, colourfully made over for the new century, shows the Albertine ‘Adoue’ – the last Abaconian sailing mailboat (giving way to diesel power in 1923)

1st EDITION REVIEW: The first 5 chapters cover the more distant history of the Bahamas in general & Abaco in particular. Starting promisingly “Two hundred million year ago…”, the early chapters briefly cover the formation & geology of the islands and the demographic & social history, with plenty to interest and not too much detail – very informative for a non-Abaconian like me. I personally am uninterested in the boatbuilding chapter (I like the illustrations) but it will surely appeal to people who feel comfortable out of their depth. The history of gradual expansion, increased trading importance, & the less attractive sides – e.g. wrecking – are well-covered. 

The final 3 chapters form the second half of the book – the 20th Century when Abaco moved from relative isolation to greater significance. Here the detail becomes denser as Abaco rapidly develops. There are parts that I skimmed, but there’s much of interest and many factual nuggets about the political developments in the later 20th century. Overall the book is an excellent primer for an Abaco novice for an overview up to the 1980s. I guess residents will also get plenty from it as well.

I haven’t seen the new edition, but I am sure it is the one to get. The Am*z*n blurb for it, which I recklessly copy, says “This expanded and updated second edition has completely new sections on Lucayan Indians, Wilson City, and contemporary Abaco, and many revisions. This is the only general, comprehensive history of Abaco, Bahamas available; it covers from the geologic formation of the Bahama Banks to the middle 1990s. Cover painting by Phil Capen,; illustrations by Laurie Jones. 112 illustrations, photographs, and maps. Appendix on boat building in Abaco”  There are plainly many more illustrations and photos than in my copy; and I notice boatbuilding has been moved to an Appendix…

CURRENT COST: Unlike most of the books I have reviewed, this book is not cheap at the moment. The new edition can be bought for $25 on Amazon.com /  £33 on Amazon.co.uk – none on Abe. The original edition is a mere $4 on Amazon.com, unfeasibly expensive on Amazon.co.uk, but reasonable on Abe

THE GOOD BOOK GUIDE – DELPHI CLUB, ABACO


Selected Birdyographyplease see the BOOKS page for full details – starting with the ‘Go-To’ reference book

Bruce Hallett

Birds of the Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos Islands

James Bond

Birds of the West Indies (Collins Field Guide)

Birds of the West Indies Norman Arlott

Birds of the West Indies (Collins Field Guide)

P G C Brudenell-Bruce

The Birds of New Providence and the Bahama Islands (1975) 

 Flieg and Sander

A Photographic Guide to Birds of the West Indies

 Herbert Raffaele et al

Field Guide to the Birds of the West Indies (Helm Field Guides)