BANANAQUITS ON ABACO: CHEERY VANQUISHERS OF GLOOM


Bananaquit, Abaco - Bruce Hallett

BANANAQUITS ON ABACO: CHEERY VANQUISHERS OF GLOOM

I’d been planning a post about marine debris and its dire effects on the natural world. Some images I proposed to use are distressing, and some simply suggest how futile it is to try to prevent mankind chucking harmful and semi-permanent rubbish into the sea. Depressing. A gyre of upset. Add in new military interventions without limitation and suddenly I longed for something more cheerful. Checking through a folder of photos of Bananaquits helped to stave of the gloom, so I picked out a few images of this lovely small bird taken by 9 photographers. 

Bananaquit, Abaco - Craig NashBananaquit & palm, Delphi, Abaco, Bahamas 2 (Keith Salvesen)Bananaquit, Treasure Cay, Abaco - Becky MarvilBananaquit, Bahamas, Great Abaco - Gerlinde TaurerBananaquit, Abaco - Bruce HallettBananaquit, Abaco - Charlie Skinner Bananaquit, Abaco - Erik Gauger Bananaquit, Abaco - Tom Reed Bananaquit, Abaco - Peter Mantle

Credits: Bruce Hallett, Craig Nash, Keith Salvesen, Becky Marvil, Gerlinde Taurer, Charlie Skinner, Erik Gauger, Tom Reed, Peter Mantle

OWLS OF ABACO (2): BURROWING OWLS – RARE VISITORS


Burrowing Owl 1

OWLS OF ABACO (2): BURROWING OWLS – RARE VISITORS

The Burrowing Owl Athene cunicularia is a small owl found in the open landscapes of North and South America. Their natural habitat is in grasslands, agricultural areas, and other open dry areas with low vegetation – even deserts. They nest and roost in burrows. Unlike most owls, Burrowing Owls are often active during the day, though they do most of their hunting from dusk until dawn when they can make use of their excellent night vision and acute hearing. 

On Abaco, this little owl is a rare vagrant, presumably visiting from Florida which has the nearest resident population. There have been few reported sightings; and for ‘The Birds of Abaco’ we were unable to locate a photo taken on Abaco. The main images featured here were taken by me of a rescue bird that is used in wonderful free-flying displays. As you can see, it is in prime condition. 

STOP PRESS Sept 27 Alison Ball from Little Harbour, Abaco has kindly contacted me to say “I saw a burrowing owl sometime during the first week of October last year here in Little Harbour.  I was watching some parrots eating the berries in the top of a large ficus tree by the edge of the road, and suddenly realized that the owl was sitting on a lower branch of the same tree, right at my eye level and only about 8 feet away.  We stared at each other for at least a minute – plenty long enough to get a definite identification – then he flapped off into the woods.  It was about 8 a.m.” Any other reports of sightings would be very welcome.

RANGE MAP

athe_cuni_AllAm_map

Burrowing Owl 1a

In the next photos you can see the bulging eye lensesBurrowing Owl 5Burrowing Owl 2

A DOZEN QUICK BURROWING OWL FACTS FOR SHORT ATTENTION SPANS

  • They have spectacular eyebrows above their piercing yellow eyes
  • When hunting, they use a perch to spot prey, then swoop down on it; or ‘hawk’ for insects in flight
  • Their long legs enable them to chase prey on the ground when hunting in open terrain
  • Burrowing owls mainly eat large insects and small rodents and reptiles
  • Unlike other owls, they also eat fruits and seeds
  • When agitated or excited, they bob their heads
  • They are one of the few avian species that benefit from deforestation
  • The owls often return to the same burrow nest each year
  • A major cause of mortality is vehicle-strike as they cross roads
  • Prehistoric fossil remains have been found in the Bahamas, showing they were once resident
  • There are many subspecies including a Floridian one, where they are ‘of special concern’
  • Florida Atlantic University campus is a National Audubon Society designated burrowing owl sanctuary
Show us, I hear you ask, a burrowing owl in a typical burrow for which it is namedBurrowing Owl Alan Vernon Wikimedia

Burrowing Owls may get quickly fed up with being photographed…Burrowing Owl 6

“Oh, do stop. I’ve had enough of you”Burrowing Owl 8 Burrowing Owl 9

“Right. I can’t see you anymore. You are sooooo gone”Burrowing Owl 3

The Burrowing Owl featured in a 1991 Bahamas bird stamp seriesBurrowing Owl - Bahamas - Animal Vista

I rather like this woodcut by Andrea RichBurrowing Owls woodcut 1987 andrea rich.com

Burrowing_Owl_Florida (Tom Friedel Wiki)

If anyone has seen one of these little guys anywhere on Abaco, I’d love to know when and where…

RELATED POSTS

Credits: RH, Alan Vernon & Tom Friedel Wiki, Andrea Rich, Cornell Lab, Defenders.org

SHELL HOMES: HERMIT CRABS IN THE BAHAMAS


Hermit Crab ©Melinda Riger @ Grand Bahama Scuba

SHELL HOMES: HERMIT CRABS IN THE BAHAMAS

I’m feeling distinctly crabby right now. In a skilled move that would impress the Bahamas utility providers, the UK’s very own much-vaunted BT selected us for the privilege of being unplugged from the grid last week. From the time of reporting the problem, it has taken them 6 days to plug us back in. It’s a little reminder of the far more persistent Abaco experience! No landline, no wifi, no email for almost a week. To begin with, it was a light relief. After nearly a week, not funny anymore. Here are some nice crabs in conchs to celebrate getting back online while reflecting my crabby mood.Hermit Crab ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba Hermit Crab ©Melinda Riger @ GB Scuba copy Hermit Crab ©Melinda Riger @ GB ScubaFind out more about Hermit Crabs – in particular crab racing at Delphi and the intricate rules – here: WACKY RACES AT DELPHIHemit Crab, Delphi (Clare Latimer)

Hermit Crab in a conch ©Melinda Riger @ GB Scuba

Photo credits: all undersea shots – Melinda; potential crab race contestant – Clare

ABACO PARROTS: A GALLERY OF GORGEOUS


'Over the Moon'

‘Over the Moon’

ABACO PARROTS: A GALLERY OF GORGEOUS

It’s been a while since the parrots of Abaco got a look-in hereabouts. Time to put that right. At the end of this gallery I will add some links to posts about the unique ground-nesting parrots of Abaco. Newcomers to this blog (I thank you both) may be interested to know that intensive conservation measures have brought this subspecies of the Cuban Parrot back from the brink of extinction – fewer than 1000 – to a sustainable and expanding population of around 4000.

For an overview of these lovely birds, I’ve made a slideshow presentation of a small booklet I put together in conjunction with scientist Caroline Stahala, who devoted several years to the research and protection of the parrots. Contents: parrots, nests, eggs, cute chicks, info, Sandy Walker with a fledgling on his lap.

Bahamas-Great Abaco_6419_Rose-throated Parrot_Cuban Parrot_Gerlinde Taurer Abaco Parrot Craig Nash.Cuban Parrot Abaco Abaco Parrot eating Gumbo Limbo fruit. Abaco Bahamas 2.12 copy

Here is the noise of a flock of parrots at Bahama Palm Shores, an excellent place to find them. It’s one of the less raucous recordings that I have made! We normally go to the main (north) turning, drive straight down to the end, cut the engine and listen. I’ve usually been lucky in that immediate area around 5.00 p.m., though others may have discovered other good times of day.

Abaco Parrot, Peter Mantle Abaco Parrot Keith Salvesen.Rolling Harbour Abaco
Bahama Parrot 1-Nina Henry sm Cuban Parrot Bruce Hallett IMG_7681ABACO (CUBAN) PARROT Abaco (Cuban) Parrot -  Charlie SkinnerAbaco (Cuban) Parrot -  Charlie SkinnerABACO PARROTS Unique parrots in pictures, video & sound

ABACO PARROTS Rare nesting footage

ABACO PARROTS Conservation & anti-predation programs 

Credits: Melissa Maura (brilliant header!), Gerlinde Taurer, Craig Nash, Tom Sheley, Peter Mantle, RH, Nina Henry, Bruce Hallett, Charlie Skinner, and Caroline Stahala

SWAINSON’S HAWK: A UNIQUE VISITOR TO ABACO, BAHAMAS


Swainson's Hawk (imm), Abaco - Bruce Hallett

SWAINSON’S HAWK: A UNIQUE VISITOR TO ABACO, BAHAMAS

Abaco has 6 accipiter species (hawks, eagles and kites) recorded:  Swallow-tailed Kite TR 4, Bald Eagle V4, Northern Harrier WR 3, Sharp-shinned Hawk WR 4, Red-tailed Hawk PR B 1 and Swainson’s Hawk Buteo swainsoni V5. The Red-tail is a familiar permanent resident; the Harrier and Sharp-shinned hawk are uncommonly recorded winter residents; the Kites are occasionally seen passing through on their migratory path; the Bald Eagle has been reported on only a handful of occasions; and the Swainson’s Hawk has been seen (or anyway recognised) precisely once. One glance at its migration route shows why… 

Swainson's_hawk_migration_route

This fine raptor is definitely not worth travelling to Abaco in the hope of encountering. Managing to find one, identify it and photograph it, is a considerable achievement. Well-known Bahamas bird authority Bruce Hallett not only did so, but got great pictures of this juvenile bird both in flight and perched. No other sighting is recorded for Abaco; and few if any have ever been seen in the Bahamas generally.

Swainson's Hawk (imm), Abaco - Bruce Hallett

Swainson's Hawk (imm), Abaco - Bruce Hallett

WHO WAS MR SWAINSON?

Swainson was one of the early ornithologists  – along with men such as Wilson, Cory, Kirtland and La Sagra – whose name is now inextricably bound to the birds they became associated with. Swainson is the  ‘owner’ of 3 bird species recorded for Abaco: a hawk, a thrush and a warbler. I have previously written about him and these birds, so to find out more about him click SWAINSON.

WHAT DO THESE BIRDS SOUND LIKE?  

WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE IN FLIGHT?

A ringed Swainson’s Hawk in its more familiar territory – ColoradoButeo swainsoni (Pharoah Hound Wiki)

Credits: Photos, Bruce Hallett, Wiki (last); Migration Map, open source; videos, as shown

RANDY: LOOKING FOR MANATEE LOVE IN ABACO?


Randy the Manatee, Abaco (BMMRO)

RANDY: LOOKING FOR MANATEE LOVE IN ABACO?

Strangely, the opportunistic title of this post may not be as contrived or daft as it looks. The facts are these.

THE FEMALE In 2012 GEORGIE, a young female manatee, left her mum in the Berry Islands and braved the crossing to Abaco. She reached the Marls; went right round top and down the east side; and eventually settled in the Cherokee / Casuarina area. She managed to hole up there safely during hurricane Sandy but became sick and was removed to Atlantis for medical treatment and rehab, before being released back to the Berry Is. This spring she set of again for Abaco and seems to have made straight for Cherokee, where she has now been resident for several months. 

Georgie the Manatee as a calf in 2012, checking out the BMMRO boatGeorgie the Manatee Calf checks out the BMMRO Boat

THE MALE Randy also originates from the Berry Is, where he was born. He too set off on an expedition to Abaco in the spring, presumably following Georgie. He was seen at Gorda Cay in mid-August and then fetched up at Sandy Point. After spending the summer there, he too took a trip right round the top of Abaco and down the east side. By early September he had got as far as Little Harbour. However, the big question is whether he can, in some way, tell that a lady manatee is a shortish swim away. And if so, will he make the short trip down the coast? And might that lead to baby manatees on Abaco…? Here are some of the photos of Randy’s sightings along the way

RANDY AT SANDY POINT 

Sirenians and cetaceans are generally recognised from particular patterns to flukes or fins. The second image shows the notch in Randy’s tail that confirms IDRandy the West Indian Manatee, Sandy Point, Abaco, BahamasRandy the West Indian Manatee (tail), Sandy Point, Abaco, Bahamas

RANDY IN THE LITTLE HARBOUR AREA

Randy’s notched tail is clearly visible in the first pictureRandy the Manatee, Little Harbour, Abaco (BMMRO)Randy the Manatee, Little Harbour, Abaco (BMMRO)

This could be everyone’s favourite picture – almost like a ‘Randy Selfie’ with a GoPro…Randy the Manatee, Little Harbour, Abaco (BMMRO)

RANDY’S JOURNEY & THE DISTANCE BETWEEN HIM AND LOVE…

Excuse me while I anthropomorphise excessively here. Randy may only be appearing to follow Georgie; the route and the area may happen to suit manatees who may be a short distance apart yet completely ignorant of the presence of the other. Or else… Anyway, more news as (if) it breaks. Here are a couple of maps, of the sort that the red-top press might put together to go with the headline “Lovelorn Randy – A Man Manatee Seeks His Sirenian Siren”. Pictures, page 8, 9, 10 and in sports section.

Randy's the Manatee's trip Berry Is. to Abaco copy Page_1 copy 3

STOP PRESS SEPT 21

Oh dear. The course of love is rarely straightforward. Randy has retraced his route and returned to Castaway Cay. Meanwhile Georgie remains happily at Cherokee.

RELATED POSTS

GEORGIE at Cherokee, 2012

GEORGIE” the manatee movie (on location, Cherokee)

GEORGIE taken to Atlantis for medical treatment

GEORGIE Is she related to an elephant?

Credits: BMMRO + Heather Albury, Andrew Lowe & Richard Appaldo for pictures & reports, Loggerhead Productions, Abaco Scientist 

mantsw~1

WORLD SHOREBIRDS DAY – ABACO’S 33 SHORE SPECIES (3): PLOVERS


Wilson's Plover & Chick, Delphi Beach, Abaco - Sandy Walker

Wilson’s Plover & Chick, Delphi Club Beach, Abaco (Sandy Walker)

 WORLD SHOREBIRDS DAY – ABACO’S 33 SHORE SPECIES (3): PLOVERS

Over the last 2 days, 20 of Abaco’s 33 shorebird species have been featured, LARGER SHOREBIRDS followed by SANDPIPERS. The third part of the series concentrates on the 6 plover species found on Abaco. First, I’ve repeated the main Abaco shorebird checklist of 26 species (birds previously featured in bold), with each bird’s ‘availability’ code. I am disregarding the 7 species listed under the checklist because (1) they are transients or vagrants and your chances of encountering one are slim to remote; and (2) because in 16 months I was unable to obtain photos of any of them taken on Abaco, which can’t simply be because they are not photogenic. I still haven’t managed to deal with the shonky formatting, so I’ve given up on that…

The codes will tell you, for any particular bird, when you may see it (P = permanent, WR = winter resident, TR = transient, V = vagrant); whether it breeds (B) on Abaco; and your chance of seeing it, graded from easy (1) to vanishingly unlikely (5).

  • Black-necked Stilt                         Himantopus mexicanus              PR B 3
  • American Avocet                           Recurvirostra americana           WR 4
  • American Oystercatcher          Haematopus palliatus                 PR B 2
  • Black-bellied Plover                          Pluvialis squatarola                      WR 1
  • American Golden Plover                 Pluvialis dominica                         TR 4
  • Wilson’s Plover                                  Ochthodromus wilsonia              PR B 2
  • Semipalmated Plover                        Charadrius semipalmatus          WR 2
  • Piping Plover                                      Charadrius melodus                      WR 3
  • Killdeer                                                 Charadrius vociferus                    WR 2
  • Spotted Sandpiper                      Actitis macularius                         WR 1
  • Solitary Sandpiper                       Tringa solitaria                            WR 2
  • Greater Yellowlegs                       Tringa melanoleuca                      WR 2
  • Willet                                                   Tringa semipalmata                    PR B 2
  • Lesser Yellowlegs                          Tringa flavipes                              WR 3
  • Ruddy Turnstone                          Arenaria interpres                      PR 2
  • Red Knot                                            Calidris canutus                           WR 3
  • Sanderling                                        Calidris alba                                  WR 1
  • Dunlin                                                 Calidris alpina                              WR 2
  • Least Sandpiper                            Calidris minutilla                         WR 2
  • White-rumped Sandpiper       Calidris fuscicollis                        TR 3
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper         Calidris pusilla                              TR 2
  • Western Sandpiper                      Calidris Mauri                                TR 2
  • Short-billed Dowitcher               Limnodromus griseus                  WR 1
  • Long-billed Dowitcher                Limnodromus scolopaceus         WR 4
  • Wilson’s Snipe                                 Gallinago delicata                         WR 3
  • Wilson’s Phalarope                      Phalaropus tricolor                        V 4

The other 7 species of shorebird recorded for Abaco – all transients or vagrants – are: Upland Sandpiper TR 4, Whimbrel  TR 4, Hudsonian Godwit V5, Marbled Godwit V5, Buff-breasted Sandpiper V5, Pectoral Sandpiper  TR 3, Stilt Sandpiper TR 3

PLOVERS ON ABACO

The best-known of the 6 Abaco plover species is the Wilson’s Plover, because it is the only permanent resident. The American Golden Plover is a rare transient, but we luckily have one taken on on Abaco. All the others are winter residents and easy to middling hard to find. All except the American Golden Plover may be found on the beach at Delphi or the rocks at either end. The Piping Plover is the most interesting species, with a mere 8000 left in the world and a vigorous conservation program to protect them and their habitat. Their summer breeding range is in Canada, central US and the eastern seaboard. In winter they migrate south, and Abaco is one of their homes. At Delphi we are very fortunate that every year some choose the beach for their winter retreat.

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER  Pluvialis squatarola   WR 1Black-bellied Plover intermediate plumage.Marls.Abaco Bahamas.3.12.Tom Sheley edit

You  may well wonder why a bird with such a very specific belly-related colour designation has a white one in the photo. It’s because this is the non-breeding plumage (in fact, intermediate), so I have borrowed from Audubon Magazine (‘tip of the hat’) to show a non-Abaco bird in its breeding plumage. Black- Bellied Plover (Audubon Magazine)

AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER  Pluvialis dominica  TR 4American Golden Plover, Abaco - Tony Hepburn

 SEMIPALMATED PLOVER Charadrius semipalmatus WR 2Semipalmated Plover (f nb), Abaco - Bruce Hallett

KILLDEER Charadrius vociferus WR 2Kildeer, Abaco - Bruce Hallett

PIPING PLOVER  Charadrius melodus WR 3Piping Plover, Abaco - Bruce HallettPiping Plover, Abaco - Tony HepburnPiping Plover, Abaco  - Tom Reed

WILSON’S PLOVER Ochthodromus wilsonia  PR B 2

This permanent resident plover is a year-round presence on the Delphi Club beach, where in summer they nest and raise their tiny fluffball chicks (see Sandy Walker’s wonderful header image). I’m posting in some detail about these because it’s a while since I featured them. Links to other relevant posts are given below. All the following photos bar 1 were taken on the beach at Delphi.Wilson's Plover, Delphi Club Beach, Abaco - Craig Nash

The photo below was taken by Tom Sheley at Nettie’s Point, the skiff launching point for the day’s bonefishing on the Marls. The plover pair had made a scrape and nested there. They chose a tricky place to do so –  it was just where the trucks are turned after off-loading the skiffs. So the guides built a protective driftwood enclosure to protect the nest and prevent tragedy. The plovers, unfazed by the human proximity and activity, raised their family safely. I mostly saw the female on the nest within the square wooden pen, with the male usually close by, standing guard protectively. 

Wilson's Plover, Abaco Bahamas - Tom Sheley

This plover, photographed on the Delphi beach, is performing a typical ‘broken wing’ display, a tactic used to draw predators away from a nest site. The bird makes itself appear to be wounded and vulnerable, and flaps pathetically about on the ground… gradually getting further from the nest. If the going gets tough and the predator gets too close for comfort,  the plover gets going by unexpectedly flying off. Wilson's Plover, Abaco (broken wing display) Clare Latimer - Version 2

TWO MORE FROM THE DELPHI BEACHWilson's Plover, Abaco 12 Wilson's Plover, Abaco 11

RELATED POSTS

PIPING PLOVERS

WILSON’S PLOVERS (1) ‘Dream Plover’

 WILSON’S PLOVERS (2) Nest Protection

 WILSON’S PLOVERS (3) Scrapes, Chicks & Broken Wings

Photo credits: Sandy Walker, Tom Sheley, Audubon, Tony Hepburn, Bruce Hallett, Tom Reed, Craig Nash, Clare Latimer, RH