BIRDS OF SAN SALVADOR, BAHAMAS: BOOK REVIEW


Birds of San Salvador (cover) JPG

THE BIRDS OF SAN SALVADOR, BAHAMAS

  • Authors: R. Hays Cummins, Mark R. Boardman, Mark L. McPhail
  • Published 1 Jan 2013, 132pp with 400+ images covering 54 species
  • Available spiral bound for $29.95 on Am@zon; and a steal at $3.16 for Kindle (£5.99 in the UK)
  • STOP PRESS Also available on iTunes for iPhone / iPad, where I imagine it looks great. Once downloaded, author Hays says it can be viewed on a Mac, certainly if you have the latest OS X Mavericks. UK price: a very modest £1.99 (= $3.30)

Within a couple of weeks of the decision to use Tom Sheley’s wonderful Bahama Woodstar as the ‘cover bird’ for “THE BIRDS OF ABACO”, another Bahamas bird book was announced. The same colourful and enchanting endemic bird had also commended itself to the authors for their cover. I wrote to Hays Cummins at once to check whether he would mind another Bahamas bird book encroaching on the territory, especially one using the same cover bird into the bargain. He very charmingly said it would be fine and declared his support for our (luckily) rather different project.

It’s been a while since I added to the section BOOKS, but I thought I’d mention this one for two reasons. First, it is described as ‘A Photo Essay of Common Birds’, which in practical terms means that most if not all of the species featured will be common to the northern Bahamas and therefore familiar on Abaco. Secondly, I very much like the format of the book: there are clear photos; and all necessary general information including notes on individual characteristics and similar species is presented in an easily assimilable way. Were the Delphi book not designed to be the 2 kg bird-showcasing non-field guide doorstop it is, the San Salvador book is one I should liked to have produced! Birds of San Salvador (sample page 1) Birds of San Salvador (sample page 2) DESCRIPTION “This enchanting book addresses a need for an important audience, the budding naturalist, which many of our students are. Without fanfare and pomposity, the book presents beautiful and inspiring photos and lively discussion, but does not indulge in the details of the accomplished birder. The authors present information about the natural history of birds on San Salvador, Bahamas, not through the eyes of a professional or advanced birder, but through the eyes and photographic lenses of inquiring educators and naturalists. This book will help capture and catalyze the interests of aspiring birders and will be an asset for introductions to the birds of the Bahamas and neighboring Caribbean. Over 400 images, representing 54 species, are all original and include a variety of behaviors and highlight recognition characteristics. The authors’ aesthetic photography, printed on high quality paper, will help reinforce identification and enjoyment. Birds are organized by habitat (Coastal, Interior, and Lakes & Ponds), not by taxonomic affinities. A taxonomic index is included.” 

I’m pleased to see the decision to depart from the usual taxonomic ordering of species, though I recognise that for a serious field guide that tradition is pretty much sacrosanct. We played around with categories and sub-categories a bit (sea birds, water birds, land birds; big, medium, small; cute, splendid, dull, plug-ugly) before settling on Peter Mantle’s excellent idea of straight alphabetical organisation. For a mainly photographic book this gives an element of surprise to turning the pages, and avoids  e.g. 37 pages of warblers species, mostly yellow, all huddled together.  Birds of San Salvador (sample page 4) Birds of San Salvador (sample page 5) I notice that there is a single Amazon review, a good one, that says “This guide to one of the lesser known islands in the Bahamas is a nice one. While not exhaustive, it covers most of the species likely to be seen on San Salvador. The style is unorthodox for a field guide (elements of humor, gives brief description of species, but no real key field marks), the descriptions, locations on the island, and behaviors make this guide useful for those visiting San Salvador. The photographs are excellent.” Birds of San Salvador (sample page 3)For anyone interested in a useful reference guide to the common birds of Abaco, and in possession of a Kindle, this book is easily worth getting electronically.  ‘To be brutally honest’ (™ Sandy Walker), I’d like in due course to produce a small book very like this for Abaco, but it would obviously be naked plagiarism to do that, so of course I won’t. Still, all the same…

ABACO: COLOURFUL EVEN DURING TROPICAL STORM ARTHUR


-tropical-storm-arthur

Storm Tracker 13

ABACO: COLOURFUL EVEN DURING TROPICAL STORM ARTHUR

As Tropical Storm Arthur blows northwards increasing in strength, Abaco has begun to get its sunshine back. TS Arthur, then defined as a Tropical Depression, hung around over the Northern Bahamas for four days or so before finally clearing. In the past I wrote daily posts about Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy at a time when information was surprisingly hard to come by. Now everyone is on Facebook and it’s easy to post (or find) cyclone reports, maps, path projections and so on. I’m always struck by the contrast between the bleak, dark-clouded snaps that people put up on their FB pages and the cheerfully coloured weather maps that mark the passage of the storm. Here are a few for Tropical Depression Arthur when over Abaco and moving north, taken from the most useful mainstream sites. My favourite is the National Hurricane Center NOAA where the graphic information is presented in a number of formats. However MIKE’S WEATHER PAGE is a good first resort for information – ‘Like’ it and you’ll get the reports you need. For a plethora of graphics on every hurricane aspect, move on to his website http://www.spaghettimodels.com 

Tropical Storm Arthur Weatherbug 2Tropical Storm Arthur Weatherbug 1 Tropical Storm Arthur Weather Underground (props to MOWMuseum Abaco)Props to Man-o-War Museum which posted the image above on FB. The purple pin is Abaco

Tropical Storm Arthur Accuweather GIFThere’s nothing like a GIF to show which way the wind is blowing…

Tropical Storm Arthur NOAA 2Tropical Storm Arthur NOAA 1

IMG_2787IMG_2789 - Version 2

Whenever there’s a bad storm or a hurricane, it’s worth visiting the NASA ISS site for dramatic images from the Space Station. The following link will take you to a dramatic photo of Hurricane Irene in 2011 HERE There’s a search facility on the site. This is a fine image of TS Arthur, illustrating the characteristic swirl pattern of a tropical storm.

Tropical.Storm Arthur NASA_ISS Props Reid Wiseman & Chris ChadwickJPG

Compare the bright graphics above with the reality for those under the massed clouds in strong wind and scything rain… Cheers for these vividly gloomy images to Julias Sawyer, Cindy James Pinder and Albury’s Ferries (who post almost daily images of Abaco weather as the ‘Donnies’ ply the seas between the main island and the outlying Cays with their passengers and cargo…)

TD Arthur, over Abaco Julias Sawyer Tropical Storm BPS Cindy James Pinder TS Arthur Albury's Ferry Service

I can’t resist adding an ‘Abaco summer weather’ photograph taken by Amanda Diedrick on Green Turtle Cay. There was a passing bout of bad weather was a couple of weeks back, and Amanda managed to take this extraordinary photo of a bolt of forked lightning apparently burning straight through a small cloud. It’s difficult to get a good lightning shot without special cameras, compartic lenses, Fitzallan filters, aperture reticulators and the like. She did it!*

Lightning Bolt GTC Amanada Diedrick

The start of the summer season is a good time to roll out the Saffir-Simpson Scale, from which you will see how the various intensities of storm are graded. It’s colourful as well.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale

Credit: ‘Watts Up With That” – an excellent weather & climate site

 *All camera terminology is invented to make it seem as if i know what I am talking about. Beyond ‘Point and  Shoot’, I’m lost…

ROLLING HARBOUR, ABACO – THE GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURE


DCB for Vista

ROLLING HARBOUR, ABACO – THE GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURE

Rolling Harbour, location of the Delphi Club, is a mile-long curving sandy bay on the east side of South Abaco, half an hour’s drive south of Marsh Harbour. It is marked on a handful of old maps and a couple of more recent ones. Other than that, it keeps itself pretty much to itself. Here’s a 30-second, 180º panoramic movie from the beach. Blue skies. Blue water. Turquoise water. White sand. 4250 miles from where I am right now…

Abaco Map showing Rolling HabourAbaco Map showing Rolling Habour ('The Johnson Map')

 

 

MARSH HARBOUR ONLINE MUSEUM: A NEW RESOURCE FOR OLD ABACO


Marsh Harbour, Abaco - Old Photo

MARSH HARBOUR ONLINE MUSEUM: A NEW RESOURCE FOR OLD ABACO

There’s a new arrival on Facebook, and the word is already out. Within 12 hours the page has gained 119 followers*. Already there are some wonderful old photos of family groups and MH residents. Some are named; some may be waiting for someone to recognise them. The header image (thanks for use permission, MHOM) is both instantly recognisable yet puzzling. Is that Snappas over there… no, look, there…? To get straight to the page, click HERE. I guess they’ll want to hear from anyone who has old photos or postcards of MH; or who can help with ID of people and places.

cropped-option-7-copy

There is a similar resource for GREEN TURTLE CAY, where Amanda has a great blog LITTLE HOUSE BY THE FERRY. In part it records the restoration of her family home. However, it is also packed with old photos (with people invited to name the unknowns) and details of a fascinating genealogy project through DNA samples. MAN-O-WAR CAY has a Facebook Group called Man-o-War Cay and Abaco Family History with similar aims. HOPE TOWN has a very active Facebook page fronted by the iconic LIGHTHOUSE. And so on. Not forgetting the museums such as the WYANNIE MALONE MUSEUM, Hope Town and the MAN-O-WAR CAY HERITAGE MUSEUM.

‘Elbow Reef’ – antique engraving Hope Town Abaco - historic print

I am neither Abaconian nor even a second-homer, so I tread lightly in these matters for obvious reasons. However, I have posted a few items about Abaco’s history from time to time so I’ll add a few links below in case anyone is tempted to investigate further. Meanwhile, I notice that in the time I have put this post together, the followers for MHOM have risen to 139…

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

CHARLES CORY’S C19 BIRDING EXPEDITIONS TO ABACO

“GLIMPSES OF LIFE ALONG A CORAL REEF” A c19 NATURALIST VISITS ABACO

MAN-O-WAR CAY, ABACO: THE HIDDEN BOAT-BUILDING VILLAGE

HOPE TOWN LIGHTHOUSE, ELBOW CAY, ABACO – A BEACON ICON

I’ll end with what I believe to be the oldest known depiction of Hole-in-the-Wall in all its glory, before Hurricane Sandy did for it. It’s an aquatint published in the Naval Review in 1803. If you want to know what the ships are, you’ll have to click the top link. This will also offer you a number of other posts about Hole-in-the-Wall and Abaco more generally, traced through historic maps. Or just open a Kalik, why not. hole-in-the-wall-print-1803

*In the same time, poor Miley Cyrus has lost 2314. Wrecking Ball indeed. Whoops! There go another 249…

ABACO: AN IMPORTANT BIRDING AREA IN THE BAHAMAS


Abaco (Cuban) Parrot 2013 11

Abaco (Cuban) Parrot

ABACO: AN IMPORTANT BIRDING AREA IN THE BAHAMAS

The Bahamas National Trust BNT is one of several organisations in the Bahamas responsible for conservation across the widely scattered islands of the Bahamas. One of its tasks is to look after the birds and their habitat, and from time to time the Trust publishes articles about their work. The Abaco-related material below is taken from a much longer article by Predensa Moore and Lynn Gape that covers the whole area, and concerns the importance of Abaco as a prime Bird Area. This applies in particular to Little Abaco and the Northern Cays; and to the large area of South Abaco that incorporates the National Park. The bird images used show some Abaco speciality birds mentioned by the BNT in their material. 

BNT BIRD ARTICLE 2 JPG copy

BAHAMA MOCKINGBIRD Mimus gundlachiiBahama Mockingbird, Abaco 3BNT BIRD ARTICLE 3 JPGBAHAMA WOODSTAR Calliphlox evelynae              Bahama Woodstar BPS BNT BIRD ARTICLE 4 JPGBAHAMA YELLOWTHROAT Geothlypsis rostrataBahama Yellowthroat Abaco 8 BNT BIRD ARTICLE 5 JPG

CUBAN EMERALD Chlorostilbon ricordiiCuban Emerald Hummingbird, Delphi, Abaco 1Credits: BNT; Bahama Woodstar, Ann Capling with thanks; the rest, RH

PHOTOGENIC ENDEMICS: BAHAMA YELLOWTHROATS ON ABACO


Bahama Yellowthroat Abaco 7

PHOTOGENIC ENDEMICS: BAHAMA YELLOWTHROATS ON ABACO

I’ve been keeping this little bird up my capacious avian-friendly sleeve for a while. In June we took a truck and headed for deep backcountry to the edge of the pine forests and beyond to see what we could find in the way of birdlife. Good choice – the answer was ‘plenty’.Bahama Yellowthroat Abaco 5

Among the birds we encountered were the endemic Bahama swallows, hairy woodpeckers, red-tailed hawks, kingbirds, red-legged thrushes, red-winged blackbirds, western spindalises, tobacco doves, La Sagra’s flycatchers, crescent-eyed pewees with a nest and eggs, a wonderful ‘booming display’ by antillean nighthawks courting during an early evening fly hatch**… and Bahama yellowthroats Geothlypis rostrata.Bahama Yellowthroat Abaco 1

The illustrative photos are of poor quality, but rather than blame my camera (as I am only too ready to do), I plead ‘overexcitement’ in mitigation. Of the 4 endemic species on Abaco, this was the only one I’d never seen. There was a tweeting noise on the edge of an abandoned sugar cane field (above), followed by  some rustling… and out fluttered this bird, crossing the track right by us and landing quite close to inspect us. Bahama Yellowthroat Abaco 2

This striking bird, with its Zorro mask and bright yellow body, is an endearing mix of shy and inquisitive. Only the males have the mask – the females are less colourful, though naturally equally interesting… Bahama Yellowthroat Abaco 8

Yellowthroats are responsive to pishing, and once lured from cover they may happily remain on low-to-medium height branches or on a shrub, watching you watching them.Bahama Yellowthroat Abaco 3

Their song is quite easily imitated, and that may also bring them into the open – a source of immense satisfaction to the amateur (me) if it works. Here’s an example, courtesy of my iPH@NE METHOD for bird recording. It’s the call at the start and the end.

The one we watched had plenty to sing about – it’s just a shame that my images are so poor, because in some you can see its tiny tongue. A bit too blurry, though, even by my own moderate standards for inclusion.Bahama Yellowthroat Abaco 4

At a formative stage of this blog, I did a short post about the endemic Bahama Yellowthroat and its comparisons with the similar and better-known Common Yellowthroat, which is also found in the Bahamas. You can read it HERE. There’s a female shown, a video, and an unacknowledged debt to Wiki or similar source, I can’t help but notice…Bahama Yellowthroat Abaco 6

**ANTILLEAN NIGHTHAWKS AND THE ‘BOOMING DISPLAY’

Common Nighthawk Photo “On summer evenings, keep an eye and an ear out for the male Nighthawk’s dramatic “booming” display flight. Flying at a height slightly above the treetops, he abruptly dives for the ground. As he peels out of his dive (sometimes just a few meters from the ground) he flexes his wings downward, and the air rushing across his wingtips makes a deep booming or whooshing sound, as if a racecar has just passed by. The dives may be directed at females, territorial intruders, and even people.” We found ourselves right in the middle of one of these astounding displays, with maybe 100 birds behaving exactly as described, often whooshing within inches of our heads. I’ll post some more about it in due course. Credits: Philip Simmons; All About Birds (Cornell Lab)

Toyota Truck, Abaco Backcountrygeothlypis_rostrata RANGE MAP

PHILATELY WILL GET YOU… NICE BAHAMAS WILDLIFE STAMPS


Parrot

WILDLIFE STAMPS OF THE BAHAMAS

with guest expert PHIL LATTERLY

The Bahamas ‘does’ extremely nice stamps, in particular ones featuring the rich and varied wildlife of the islands. The islands spread from the subtropical climates of the north, on a level with Florida, to the near-tropical islands of the south. This ensures plenty of scope for designing pretty sticky bits of paper to stick onto other bits of paper. One of the small pleasures in life, near-lost to the tyranny of the email…

The sets of wildlife stamps are issued by the Bahamas Post Office. I’ll add to this collection piecemeal (including some from my own modest collection). The very latest commemorative issue heads the display.

1. SEA CREATURES

BREEF 20th Anniversary Issue – November 2013IMG_2918

REEF FISHESBahamas Reef Fish StampsBahamas Bonefish Stamp (old-style)Bahamas Marine Life Stamps 2012

2. BIRDS

February 2012: WWF Flamingo Issue

Best seen on Inagua, the island where they breed. Less often found elsewhere, and sadly now only as occasional ‘vagrants’ on Abaco. Flamingo post with wonderful pictures of adults, babies and nests HEREBahamas Wildlife Stamps Flamingos

PARROT POST

Found mainly on Abaco (the resident underground nesting variety) and Inagua (conventional nesters), where they breed. Small groups are now found elsewhere, e.g. Nassau, where there is a local monitoring programme, but I’m not sure that there is evidence of breeding there. Any info welcome… One (of several) lavishly illustrated parrot posts HERE

 Impressive commemorative issues for the BAHAMAS NATIONAL TRUST

OTHER BIRD SPECIES

Bahamas Wildlife Stamp Osprey

The KIRTLAND’S WARBLER is one of the rarest birds of the Bahamas, a winter resident that breeds only in a small area of Michigan. The entire population is numbers only a few thousand birds. The number of sightings annually on Abaco is very small – fewer than a dozen, and in some years none at all. Increasing knowledge about their favourite haunts is now improving the recording rate. I know of two seen this year, on the same day… a birder’s lifetime achievement.

Bahamas Stamps Kirtland's Warbler (eBay)

This swallow is endemic to the Bahamas

Found on Abaco only as an occasional visitor.

stock-photo-a-bahamas-stamp-featuring-a-burrowing-owl-on-the-face-10479643 copy

WATERFOWL                Credit as shown

3. ANIMALS

Bahamas Wildlife Stamp Set

Bahamas Wildlife Stamps Sept 1984Bahamas Wildlife Stamp Set - Bat, Hutia, Raccoon, DolphinBahamas Potcake Stamps (First Day Cover)

4 BUTTERFLIES & INSECTSBahamas Butterfly Stamps

Credits: A compendious credit to sundry online sources including Bahamas PO, Bahamas Weekly, eBay and other sales / promotional sources, ads and the like, and unknown sources. I rarely find myself having to use this broad sweep approach: if your pic is here and you are upset, apologies, contact me to express your displeasure &co and I’ll take it down of course. But these are only non-rare small bits of paper; and this is a humble non-profit making info site of limited appeal in a Big Wide World. OK with that?