REMARKABLE FEET: SNOWY EGRETS ON ABACO


Snow Egret in Flight (Wiki)

REMARKABLE FEET: SNOWY EGRETS ON ABACO

SNOWY EGRETS (Egretta thula) are small white herons of the Americas, similar to the European Little Egret. The first thing you may notice about them is that they have remarkable bright yellow feet. This distinguishes these birds from all other egret and heron species.Snowy Egret ACH1409

Young Snowy Egrets often have yellow markings higher up on their legs.Snowy 24 a - Version 2

The feet are so bright that they are often visible underwater.Snowy Egret WB P1001206 copy 2

Snowy Egrets eat fish, crustaceans, insects and small reptiles. They have 3 main foraging tactics: (1) Standing still in or on the edge of water to ambush prey (2) Stalking prey in shallow water, often running or shuffling their feet to flush out prey  (3) “Dip-fishing” by flying low over water.

Snowy Egret (Wiki)

In breeding season, Snowy Egrets grow beautiful plumes – “bridal plumage”. At one time these were in great demand as adornments for women’s hats (as with flamingos, parrots and many other decorative species). This reduced the population of the birds to dangerously low levels, from which they have now recovered. Their IUCN rating is now ‘Least Concern’.

Snowy_Egret_-_full_breeding_plumage-1

Contemplating the next meal… one of Sandy Walker’s excellent Abaco photos taken this winterSnowy Egret 1a copyPhoto Credits: Sandy Walker, Woody Bracey, Tony Hepburn, Wiki

‘IN THE PINK’: ROSEATE SPOONBILLS IN THE BAHAMAS


Roseate Spoonbill (Myakka River State) Park - Wiki

‘IN THE PINK’: ROSEATE SPOONBILLS IN THE BAHAMAS

ROSEATE SPOONBILLS (Platalea ajaja) are rare visitors to the Northern Bahamas. For Abaco they are classified with the undignified term ‘vagrant’, meaning essentially (a) that you will be very lucky indeed to encounter one, so therefore (b) it is highly unlikely to be worth making a special trip based on the likelihood of seeing one. Try Florida instead.

Roseate Spoonbill WB 60

We saw one once when bonefishing far out on the Marls. It was unmistakeable, but well beyond the effective range of the puny ‘don’t-really-mind-if-it-takes-a-dive’ camera I had with me. The spoonbills in this post were photographed elsewhere in the Bahamas or in two cases, Florida. The wonderful one below of a spoonbill ‘flipping’ a fish was taken there by Ohio bird expert and photographer Tom Sheley.

SPOONBILL ‘FISH-FLIPPING’Roseate Spoonbill flipping fish LR.Wildcat Run FL.Tom Sheley

SPOONBILLS LOOK VERY DRAMATIC IN FLIGHTRoseate Spoonbill WB

Unlike herons, spoonbills keep their necks outstretched in flight. They are most likely to be found in marshes, salt-water lagoons and on mudflats. They are gregarious and mix in happily with herons and egrets, though there is some competition for food. Spoonbills nest in shrubs or trees, often mangroves.Roseate Spoonbill WB 59_IMG_6302 copy 3

Spoonbills tend to get pinker as they get older. As with American Flamingos, the pink colouring derives from their diet, which contains carotenoid pigments.  The colouring ranges from pale pink to loud pinks and reds, depending on age and location. 

Roseate Spoonbill WB 61Roseate Spoonbill BH (from WB)

Spoonbills feed in shallow fresh or coastal waters by swinging their bill from side to side while steadily walking through the water, often in groups. The spoon-shaped bill allows it to sift easily through mud for the edible contents – crustaceans, aquatic insects, frogs, newts and  small fish ignored by larger waders. This  excellent 1 minute Audubon video shows exactly how they feed, with some white ibises for company.

NEW ADDITION (props to Roselyn Pierce) 1743441_10202241639500028_1766433566_n

Photo Credits: Header, Wiki; 1,3,4,5 Woody Bracey; 2 Tom Sheley, 6 Bruce Hallett (RH: nil)

ALL THINGS BRIGHT… CHEERFUL GARDEN BIRDS AT DELPHI, ABACO


ALL THINGS BRIGHT… CHEERFUL GARDEN BIRDS AT DELPHI, ABACO

It’s not necessary to prowl around the coppice or lurk in the pine forest to see beautiful birds. They are on the doorstep, sometimes literally. Especially if there are full seed feeders and hummingbird feeders filled with sugar water for the Cuban Emeralds, Bahama Woodstars and other birds with pointy beaks (Bananaquits, for example). Here are are a few from the gardens immediately around the Delphi Club.

PAINTED BUNTINGS (f & m)DSC_0204 copy - Version 2

PAINTED BUNTING (m) WITH BLACK-FACED GRASSQUITS (m & f)Painted Bunting SW - V2 jpg

PAINTED BUNTING (f)DSC_0168 copy

WESTERN SPINDALIS (m)Western Spindalis edit DSC_0098

THICK-BILLED VIREO (m)TBV edit

This is a TBV recording made with my iPhone.


For details how to record birds (or indeed animals. Or people) with a smart phone and embed the results as an mp3, CLICK HERE 

CUBAN EMERALD HUMMINGBIRD (m)Cuban Emerald DSC_0095

A PAIR OF CAPE MAY WARBLERS

These little birds are autumn / winter visitors, though I have seen one at Delphi in June – it must have like it there and decided to stay on. Strangely, though originally named for one found on Cape May in the c19, there wasn’t another one recorded there for another 100 years…

CMW 33 copy 2CMW 2 copy 2

ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (m)Rose-breasted Grosbeak

INDIGO BUNTING (m)Indigo Bunting

BANANAQUIT (m)DSC_0078

THE DELPHI CLUB, ABACOThe Delphi Club, Abaco, BahamasCredits: Mainly Sandy Walker; a couple from Peter Mantle; DCB by RH

BONEFISHING ON ABACO: A CHALLENGE IS ACCEPTED


Abaco Bonefish a

BONEFISHING ON ABACO: A CHALLENGE IS ACCEPTED

Here is my fly box. It is a qualified success, as is my fishing. The fly box is rather better organised than I am, though. Some of the flies in it are routinely ignored by others to whom I helpfully offer the box.  I’ve found the best plan is to stick with the silvery shrimpy patterns, especially the ones with pink heads. Then nobody gets upset. And from time to time I get lucky (see header image).

BF flies3a

Recently, a proper fisherman started to follow my blog, and I his. I immediately recognised one of the fishing lakes on his site, one where I have fished in the past. One thing led to another and I seem to have agreed to trial some of Mark’s expertly tied flies on the Abaco flats in March…

Mark’s Bonefish Patternsimage24

I am very keen on the principles of ‘Catch and Release’. So keen that I have developed my own specialist methods (designed for fishing with barbless hooks) using what might be termed ‘Early C&R’. These may include some or all of the following on any given day: 

  1.  ‘THE PHANTOM CATCH’ As the fish follows the fly, and the instant before it commits to a lunge for it, abruptly whisk the fly away from under its nose with a sharp reflex ‘trout-strike’. This will ensure that both the fish and your fly remain untroubled by actual contact. This is the most advanced form of Early C&R.
  2. ‘THE BIG MISSED TAKE’ As the fish takes your fly firmly in its mouth, become preoccupied by the fact that your left foot is planted firmly on a horrid tangle of line around your feet. You will feel the solid take, but instantly realise that your retrieve is hopelessly compromised. With some relief, you feel the line go slack as the fish shakes itself free…
  3. ‘THE REEL THING’ Hook the fish. Feel the weight on the end of the line. It’s heavy. Nice one! Turn in muted triumph to your boat partner to shout excitedly “Got One”. As you do so, allow the line somehow to snag round the rod handle and the reel simultaneously. Before you have even begun to figure how to sort this out, the fish will have released itself and be heading for the horizon.
  4. ‘THE STICKY SITUATION’ Hook the fish. Reel in confidently, keeping the line taut and the fish under your masterful control. Allow it to run if it wishes. Proceed with the same efficiency until you notice a single mangrove stem sticking out of the water 30 feet away. Using your skill, ensure that the fish suddenly has the chance to move to the other side of the stick, winding the leader or line (either will do) round it. Prepare for the ‘twang’ when the inevitable break occurs.  Your fish is away.
  5. ‘THE MANGROVE SWAMP’ Hook a fish. Play it competently until the moment your boat partner or guide gives you some word of encouragement or (worse) praise. Immediately, permit the fish to make a fast break for the nearest clump of mangroves even if it is over 100 feet away. The consequent entanglement round the myriad stems will be sure to lose you the fish and your fly. NOTE: all third party encouragement will diminish after this form of EC&R. Praise will not be repeated.

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Mark has just made a challenge public on his website in a post called  All aboard for Abaco! “This little packet of flies is destined for the Bahamas… What stories will they conjure up in time? Rolling Harbour, Abaco… All will be revealed in time! Thanks in advance to RH – I will keep everyone posted in due course! Looking forward to some beautiful pictures of Bonefish…” The flies in question are shown below. It is expected that they will prove to be effective. The expectation is Mark’s. My own feeling is more one of hope. I hope he knows what he is doing. I hope I know what I am doing.*

Rolling Harbour, Abaco... All will be revealed in time!

*The plan is to ask my boat-partner and guide – anyone with access to a rod, really – to “have a go with one of these little guys”. They are far less likely to be as skilled as I am at Early C&R, and are therefore far more likely to boat a fish. Job done…

Photos: RH, 1st two; the rest by Mark

THE TANG OF THE BAHAMIAN SEAS… BLUE TANG, IN FACT


Blue Tang School ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy

THE TANG OF THE BAHAMIAN SEAS… BLUE TANG, IN FACT 

The Blue Tang Acanthurus coeruleus is a species of Atlantic surgeonfish mostly found on coral reefs. They are known as surgeonfish because they can slice you with their sharp, spiny caudal fins. Adults are blue, ranging from a deep blue or even purplish to much paler blue.fish28Blue Tang ©Melinda Riga @ G B ScubaBlue Tang ©Melinda Riger @ GB Scuba

Surprisingly, as juveniles, Blue Tang are bright yellow.Blue Tang (juv) © Melinda Riger @ Grand Bahama Scuba Blue Tang (juv yellow form) © Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba

As they grow, they become blue, with the tail being the last part to lose the yellow.Blue Tang (Juvenile) ©Melinda Riger@ G B Scuba Blue Tang (juv, changing colour) © Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba

Blue Tang are herbivores, cruising constantly round reefs feeding on algae. They also act as cleaners of other fish species, removing parasites. They themselves may be cleaned by gobies by visiting so-called ‘cleaning stations’. These piscine beauty parlours have a medicinal purpose as well, since cleaning helps to cure minor wounds.

These fish often move around reefs in large schools, as shown in the header image. Apart from having some value as an aquarium fish, they are not generally of use to humans. Their spiny caudal fins can cause a nasty wound. They have an unpleasant smell. Their flesh supposedly contains toxins, and they carrying a risk of the disease CIGUATERA. I can’t even find a recipe for them online – now, that is a bad sign, there are some people who will try anything. I guess best to boil them for an hour or two, drain the water, allow to cool, and throw away the fish.

FUN FACT In the Disney/Pixar film Finding Nemo, the character Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) is a blue tang.

Blue Tang, Abaco fish22

BLUE TANG: THE MOVIE [RE-RELEASE]

“RECIPE Take one incompetent swimmer who hasn’t snorkelled in, oh, nearly 40 years. Place him over a coral reef for his first time ever. Add a small underwater camera totally alien to him. Immerse for 30 minutes in warm briny water. Lessons have been learnt for next time. Mainly, don’t keep waving the camera about; let the fish move round you rather than vice versa; and most important of all, remember to keep breathing or else…

Here is BLUE TANG: THE MOVIE (music by Adrian Legg), 45 secs of advanced camera-shake with some beautiful fish more or less in shot for most of the time. If you are prone to sea-sickness, do not enlarge the video. If you are allergic to poor photography… well, thanks for visiting.”

Credits: Good pictures, Melinda; bad pictures and execrable movie, not Melinda

RUDDY TURNSTONES ON THE BEACH IN ABACO


 Ruddy Turnstones at Delphi, Abaco 14

RUDDY TURNSTONES ON THE BEACH IN ABACO

Ruddy Turnstones Arenaria interpres are well-known shore birds around the world. They used to be classified as plovers, but are now counted with sanderling. Fortunately they are distinctive enough not to be confusable with the many other species of shore bird with which they mix.Ruddy Turnstones at Delphi, Abaco 13

Their foraging methods are classified into 6 broad categories, though I imagine that if peckish, they may opt for all of these in the one feeding session.

  • Routing — rootling through piles of seaweed by flicking, ‘bulldozing’, and pecking it to expose small crustaceans or gastropod molluscs hidden underneath.
  • Turning stones — living up to its name name, flicking stones with its bill to uncover hidden snaily and shrimpy creatures.
  • Digging —  using small flicks of the bill to make holes in sand or mud and then gobbling up the prey revealed.
  • Probing — inserting the bill right into the ground to get at concealed gastropods.
  • Hammering — cracking open shells using the bill as a hammer, then winkling out the occupant. 
  • Surface pecking — short, shallow pecks to get at prey just below the surface of the sand.

Between them,  these turnstones seem to be using methods 1, 3, 4 and 6Ruddy Turnstones at Delphi, Abaco 2

This female bird has clearly dug down in the sand to the length of its billRuddy Turnstones at Delphi, Abaco 4

This male is digging deep…Ruddy Turnstones at Delphi, Abaco 1

When they are not actively feeding, turnstones enjoy group preening sessionsRuddy Turnstones at Delphi, Abaco 9

They are also very good at just standing around having a companionable chat…Ruddy Turnstones at Delphi, Abaco 6

…or a post-prandial snooze…Ruddy Turnstones at Delphi, Abaco 12

…or just enjoying the scenery in groups…Ruddy Turnstones at Delphi, Abaco 11

…or simply having a peaceful paddleRuddy Turnstones at Delphi, Abaco 16All photos by RH on the Delphi Club beach (where I’ve never seen one actually turn a stone)

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

WTF? (WHAT’S THAT FISH?) REMORAS: WEIRD SUCKERS


File:Nurse shark with remoras.jpg

WTF? (WHAT’S THAT FISH?) REMORAS: WEIRD SUCKERS

WHAT ON EARTH ARE REMORAS?

Remoras (Echeneidae), also known as Sharksuckers, Whalesuckers or Suckerfishes, are  ray-finned fish that grow up to 3 feet long. Remora ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy

You may have noticed them in pictures of sharks and wondered briefly why they hang out with such dangerous creatures. There is filmed evidence that remoras do occasionally get eaten by their hosts…383586_510314062323321_1002533913_n

WHAT DO THEY DO?

Remoras have remarkable dorsal fins that form a sucker-like organ with a ribbed structure. It looks a bit like the sole of a trainer or beach shoe.Remora (head( ©Melinda Riger @ G B ScubaThis bizarre organ can open and close to create or release suction, enabling it can latch onto larger marine creatures. The remora can increase suction by sliding backward, or it can release itself by swimming forward – the ‘slats’ are smooth in one direction, and rough the other way. They have been known to attach themselves to boats. And scuba divers. Even with hairy legs…

WHAT KIND OF CREATURES DO THEY GET ATTACHED TO?

Remoras  associate with specific host species. They commonly attach themselves to sharks, manta rays, whales, turtles, and manatees / dugongs. Smaller remoras may latch onto fish such as tuna and swordfish, and some travel in the mouths or gills of large manta rays, ocean sunfish, swordfish, and sailfish.File:Manta-ray australia.jpgFile:Sea turtle and remora.JPGFile:Mother and baby sperm whale.jpg

WHY WOULD THEY WANT TO DO THAT?

The relationship between a remora and its host is known as  Commensalismspecifically ‘Phoresy‘. The host to which it attaches for transport gains nothing from the relationship, but also loses little. The remora benefits by using the host as transport and protection, and also feeds on morsels dropped by the host. Controversy surrounds whether a remora’s diet is primarily leftover fragments, or the feces of the host. Maybe it’s a healthy  mix of both.

Remora ©Melinda Riger @GBS

WHERE CAN I FIND ONE?

Remoras are found in tropical, sub-tropical and temperate waters, including the mediterranean. You will definitely find them in the Bahamas. Melinda’s photos were all taken in the waters south of Grand Bahama.

ARE THEY USEFUL TO MANKIND IN ANY WAY?

Yes, but not in a good way, some may think. Some cultures use remoras to catch turtles. A cord or rope is fastened to the remora’s tail, and when a turtle is sighted, the fish is released from the boat; it usually heads directly for the turtle and fastens itself to the turtle’s shell, and then both remora and turtle are hauled in. Smaller turtles can be pulled completely into the boat by this method, while larger ones are hauled within harpooning range. This practice has been reported throughout the Indian Ocean, especially from eastern Africa near Zanzibar and Mozambique,  from northern Australia, Japan and even the Americas.

Remora ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba

Because of the shape of the jaws, appearance of the sucker, and coloration of the remora, it sometimes appears to be swimming upside down (see above). This probably led to an older name reversus, although this might also derive from the fact that the remora frequently attaches itself to the tops of manta rays or other fish, so that the remora is upside down while attached.

THANKS FOR THAT. BUT WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFO ON THESE SUCKERS?

RIGHT HERE – AN EXCELLENT VIDEO WITH PLENTY OF LIVE REMORA ACTION

OH! FINAL QUESTION. ARE REMORAS EDIBLE?

I though someone might ask that, so I’ve checked it out. Here is the best recipe I have found, expanded slightly from a blokey Australian chat thread:

Recipe for cooking Remora

  • put a 12 ltr pot on to boil
  • when the pot is bubbling violently, add 2 whole remora, 2 garden rocks, 1 carrot & a large turnip
  • add grandfather’s boots to taste, and turn heat down after 3 hours
  • simmer for a further 6 hours
  • turn off heat and drain carefully
  • remove and discard remora, and serve the rest on a bed of tin tacks

Credits: Melinda Riger, Grand Bahama Scuba; Wikimedia; meaty Wiki chunks & assorted pickings

FINE FEATHERS (1): ABACO BIRD ‘PICS’ OF 2013


Least Tern, Abaco

FINE FEATHERS (1): ABACO BIRD ‘PICS’ OF 2013

The Least Tern in the header image was a stroke of luck. I was watching plovers on the beach when it landed on the tideline with a small fish in its mouth. I just had time to point the camera and fire off 3 shots before it flew off again. This was the only usable image. I liked the fish, of course, and the way its little legs made a dent in the wet sand.

This Black-necked Stilt was attempting to distract me from a nearby nest, which I’d have known nothing about until it tried to distract me. It zig-zagged towards me, striding through the water while yelling,  and then took off and flew at my head! Twice. I moved away…Black-necked Stilt, Abaco

An effortlessly elegant Red-winged BlackbirdRed-winged Blackbird, Abaco

A Reddish Egret (white morph)  in the mangroves out on the Marls takes a call on its cellphoneReddish Egret (White Morph), Abaco Marls

A Bahama Mockingbird deep in the pine forest of the Abaco National ParkBahama Mockingbird, National Park, Abaco

A baby West Indian Woodpecker takes a look at the wide world from its nest box. Within a week, it and 4 other chicks had flown. West Indian Woodpecker chick in nest box, Abaco

A Red-legged Thrush in full songRed-legged Thrush, Abaco

The Bahama Yellowthroat is one of 4 endemic species on Abaco. Only the males have the striking Zorro mask. They are shy birds, but also inquisitive. I learnt to imitate their call (not difficult) to bring them out of scrub and bushes. Once out, they liked to take a good look from a safe distance.Bahama Yellowthroat, Abaco

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

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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

ABACO PARROT CHICKS FOR 2014, TOP POSTS & A DODO…


Abaco (Cuban) Parrot 2013 8

ABACO PARROT CHICKS FOR 2014, TOP POSTS & A DODO…

The dawn of a New Year shimmers just below the horizon, with all its bright promise for the future. It  provides a convenient excuse to peer symbolically into the limestone holes of the remarkable ABACO PARROT to take a peek at some newly hatched eggs and the tiny chicks that will, by next spring, look like the handsome bird at the top of the page…Abaco Parrot Nest 3 Abaco Parrot Nest 4 Abaco Parrot Nest 5

This website is not overly preoccupied with stats, but I have had a quick look to see which posts were the most popular during 2013. Here, for better or worse (I didn’t make the choices…), are the top dozen, introduced by the cutest chick of the year, a Wilson’s plover calling for its mum…Tiny Wilson's Plover for 2014

ABACO ARTS & CRAFTS    
SEA SHELLS    
LIGNUM VITAE – BAHAMAS NATIONAL TREE    
YELLOW ELDER – THE BAHAMAS NATIONAL FLOWER    
ABACO FOOD & DRINK (cook hog / bonefish; clean a conch; sip an Abaco cocktail / Goombay Smash)    
FLORA    
ABACO MAPS    
SPIDER WASPS & TARANTULA HAWKS: DON’T MESS WITH THESE GUYS    
PINEAPPLES: SYMBOLS OF WELCOME & WEALTH (ALSO, DELICIOUS)    
SHARKS & RAYS    
ABACO & HOLE-IN-THE-WALL, BAHAMAS: A SHORT HISTORY IN MAPS    
ABACO PARROTS    
 

So! Farewell then 2013. Like the Curate’s egg, you were good in parts – indeed, many parts of you were excellent. Now, like Raphus cucullatus, you will become extinct, leaving remains and memories behind you… Thanks to all loyal followers of this site for sticking with it and its eccentricities (especially the musical digressions). If you wound up here by chance, mistyped g@@gle search or sheer misfortune, cheers… A very Happy New Year to you all! 

Dodo AMNH NYCPhoto taken at the American Museum of Natural History – there’s also a dodo skeleton in the Oxford University Museum of natural History

Credits: Parrot nests – Caroline Stahala (the scientist i/c parrots); the rest – RH

DRYAS JULIA (JULIA HELICONIAN): BUTTERFLIES ON ABACO (4)


800px-Dryas_julia-02_(xndr)

DRYAS JULIA (JULIA HELICONIAN): BUTTERFLIES ON ABACO (4)

A fast-flying butterfly in a fetching shade of orange designed to be off-putting to avian predators. If the colour fails as a deterrent, these butterflies are unpleasant to eat (supposedly), so birds learn to leave them alone.

Dryas Julia Butterfly CS 1Dryas Julia Butterfly CS 2800px-Dryas_julia_2 800px-Dryas.julia 800px-Julia-heliconian-butterfly Dryas_julia_caterpillarCredits: Charlie Skinner & Wiki

OTHER BUTTERFLIES IN THIS SERIES

ZEBRA HELICONIANS

GULF FRITILLARY

COMMON BUCKEYE

“WONDROUS TAILS”: CURLY TAIL LIZARDS ON ACACO


“WONDROUS TAILS”: CURLY-TAILED LIZARDS ON ACACO

There is no known connection between ‘curly tails’ and the festive season. So trotting out a few of these charming little creatures in any season is a good idea. Are reptiles inherently repellent? Not these ones, for sure.Curly Tail Lizard, Delphi, Abaco CS2Curly Tail Lizard, Delphi, Abaco CS1Curly Tail Lizard, Delphi, Abaco

TIME FOR A CHANGE OF OUTFIT…Curly Tail Lizard, Delphi, Abaco CS3Curly Tail Lizard, Delphi, Abaco 1

I AM A DRAGON… GRRRRRRRRRRR (note the remarkable finger length)Curly Tail Lizard, Delphi, Abaco RH

AWWWWW… A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO YOU TOO!Curly Tail Lizards, Delphi, AbacoCredits: Charlie Skinner (including the sloughed skin) & RH (including the ‘tired’ pair)

A GHOST CRAB’S DAY AT THE SEASIDE AT DELPHI, ABACO


Crab, Delphi Club Beach, Abaco

A GHOST CRAB’S DAY AT THE SEASIDE AT DELPHI, ABACO

Crabby the Crab lived amongst the greenery at the very back of the Delphi Club BeachGhost Crab Delphi Beach 1

It was a very beautiful beach indeed. Lucky Crabby!Delphi Beach + Shell

One day Crabby decided to go down to the sea for a swimGhost Crab Delphi Beach 2

He scuttled across the sand towards the sound of the wavesGhost Crab Delphi Beach 3

He passed the burrow of his friend Sandy. Sandy was very busy tidying his house.Ghost Crab Delphi Beach 4

“Would you like to come for a paddle?” asked Crabby. “No thanks”, said Sandy, “I’m busy today”Ghost Crab Delphi Beach 5

So Crabby carried on towards the water’s edge. He got closer, to where the sand was wet…Ghost Crab Delphi Beach 6

…and closer, to where the water tickled his toes…Ghost Crab Delphi Beach 7

…and closer, to where the tide ripples reached.  Crabby waved his claws with excitementGhost Crab Delphi Beach 8

Finally, he was paddling in the warm water. It was just perfect. Whoops! Don’t fall in, Crabby!Ghost Crab Delphi Beach 9

Very soon Crabby was in the water, right up to his eyes. What a beautiful day for a swim!Ghost Crab in surf.Delphi Club.Abaco bahamas.6.13.Tom Sheley copy

See ‘Crab Run: The Movie’, starring Crabby the Crab

CREDITS: header & beach, RH; last image, Tom Sheley; the rest, Charlie Skinner. DEBITS: pre-Christmas nauseatingly anthropomorphic tomfoolery and video – blame me. No crabs were harmed or even mildly embarrassed during this photoshoot.

SHARKS! ALL YOU NEED (OR WANT) TO KNOW IN ONE SMALL BOOK


Shark ©Melinda Riger @ Grand Bahama Scuba copy

SHARKS! ALL YOU NEED (OR WANT) TO KNOW IN ONE SMALL BOOK

THE IDENTIFICATION, BEHAVIOUR & NATURAL HISTORY OF THE SHARKS OF FLORIDA, THE BAHAMAS, THE CARIBBEAN & GULF OF MEXICO

Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch, Trident Press 2000 (95 pp)

Occasionally I review books, apps, ‘meeja’ and so on, of general relevance to Abaco wildlife and ecology. You can find all this under the heading BOOKS ETC and its drop-down sub-menus. You’ll see comparative recommendations, mostly positive, with some frankly snidey comments on a few things not to waste your ‘hard-earned’ on. 

Shark Swirl ©Melinda Riger @ GB Scuba

Here’s a book I bought on @m@z@n for a few coins + p&p (less than $5 total) just to see what it might have to offer. The answer is, a great deal. It’s not the book for those who want a detailed exploration the intricate mesopathy of selachimorphic exo-cartilege, if such a thing exists. But it has a mass of useful information, brief but helpful identification pages for many different shark species, and good illustrations, all compressed into a slim tome.

Although this book was published in 2000, sharks haven’t changed noticeably since then, so the contents still hold good. Here are a few pages to give an idea of how simple yet informative this book is.

A tour round a shark’s ‘bits’Shark Book 6

The Contents page gives a very clear idea of the scope of the book. Pages 34 to 54 are of particular interest for anyone intending to dive, spearfish, snorkel or indeed take a dip.Shark Book 5

The entries for the Blacktip Shark and the Lemon Shark. Each entry features a useful range map, and an even more useful ‘potential danger rating’ for each species. It’s worth remembering, however, that there are sharks worldwide, and they all have teeth. Thousands of people dive and swim with many of the species every day in complete safety. There are simply some does and don’ts, mostly completely obvious, that will make the difference between enjoying their company (and they, yours); and pushing your luck with a wild creature when you have intruded into its habitat…Shark Book 3 Shark Book 4

THE SHARK TRUST FEEDING CODE

This page interested me in the light of the chumming debate. Plenty of basic common sense here.Shark Book 8

A useful illustration to help you understand what the book is all aboutShark Book 7

More shark information and some amazing images can be found HERE .

As I wrote elsewhere: “Take comfort from the fact that no fatalities and fewer than 10 injuries from shark attacks have been recorded in Abaco waters for over 250 years (since 1749)… By way of comparison, in the last 150 years there have been 36 recorded shark attacks in the Mediterranean, of which 18 have been fatal… Since 1845 there have been a number of shark attacks in British waters, with one fatality.  There were two more fatalities in an incident in 1956 , but this was an ‘own-goal’ arising from an attempt to blow up a shark with dynamite. It can hardly be blamed on the shark.

WEIRD NON-SHARK RELATED STATISTIC: Amazingly, in the 3 years 2007 – 09 in England and Wales, 42 people died from being bitten by animals, only a few of which were dogs.

CONCLUSION You are statistically far safer to spend 250 years swimming off Abaco than spending 3 years stroking a cat in Manchester. Or Swansea.”

Shark Book 2

Shark Gif

SUBMARINE SUPERMODELS: POUTS & GLAM EYES OF BAHAMAS REEF FISH


SUBMARINE SUPERMODELS

THE POUTS & GLAM EYES OF BAHAMAS REEF FISH

I have been idly filing away some stunning close-up reef denizen images by Melinda Riger. A Monday morning is the perfect time to showcase some pouts, poses and glad eyes from the ‘catfish walk’, starting with my absolute favourite…

A COWFISH** PERFECTS THE POUTCowfish ©Melinda Riger @ Grand Bahama Scuba

A GREEN MORAY EEL SMILES STRAIGHT TO CAMERAGreen Moray Eel ©Melinda Riger @ Grand Bahama Scuba copy

THE QUEEN ANGELFISH ‘LOVES’ THE LENSQueen Angelfish © Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba

A GROUPER DOES THE ‘OPEN-MOUTH’ GAPE'Bruno' ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy

THIS SCHOOLMASTER SNAPPER MAY NOT HAVE GOT QUITE WHAT IT TAKESSchoolmaster Snapper ©Melinda Riger GB Scuba copy 

NICE EYES, BUT THE PETITE SAND-DIVER NEEDS TO BE A LITTLE MORE OUTGOINGSand Diver Fish copy

AS DOES THE SOUTHERN STINGRAYSouthern Stingray ©Melinda Riger @ GB Scuba copy

HOWEVER THE PEACOCK FLOUNDER IS ROCKING THE MAKE-UP BOXPeacock Flounder Eye ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy

THE OCTOPUS IS MOODY &  WON’T GET OUT OF BED FOR LESS THAN 20 MOLLUSCSOctopus ©Melinda Riger GB Scuba copy

AND REGRETTABLY THE POOR CONCH HAS A BAD STAGE FRIGHTConch Eyes ©Melinda Riger @ Grand Bahama Scuba copy 2

For more octopus information and a discussion of the correct plural (choice of 3) CLICK HERE

For a post about underwater species camouflage CLICK HERE

**Since I posted this earlier today, I have been asked (re photo 1) what the… the… heck a Cowfish looks like, when it’s not puckering up while facing you. The answer is: stunningly glamorous…

Cowfish ©Melinda Riger @ Grand Bahama Scuba copy

Thanks as ever to Melinda Riger of Grand Bahama Scuba for use permission for her fab photos; tip of the dorsal fin to Wiki for the shark eye header pic

SCRAPES, CHICKS & BROKEN WINGS: WILSON’S PLOVERS ON ABACO (3)


Wilson's Plover Delphi BeachSCRAPES, CHICKS & BROKEN WINGS: WILSON’S PLOVERS ON ABACO (3)

The male plover above is keeping watch from a rocky vantage point over an area at the north end of the beach at Delphi. And with good reason. It’s the summer breeding season, and on the sand are some nests. One of them is his.

This is a ‘scrape’ – not the carefully constructed nest that most birds make, but a shore bird’s collection of sticks and twigs – sometimes stones or shells – clumped together on the sand to provide a comfortable place for the mother to sit until the eggs have hatched.Wilson's Plover Scrape CL JPG

Though tiny at first, the chicks soon become independent enough to explore their surroundingsWilson's Plover Chick, Delphi Beach, Abaco

Usually, there will be a pair of chicks, maybe more. The two in the photo below have scuttled to the back of the beach for safety because the adults thought I was getting a bit close, and sent them to hide in the pine needlesWilson's Plover Chicks Delphi Beach

When a nest is threatened by a predator, Wilson’s plovers have a defensive technique that is remarkable to watch. Other shore birds, for example Killdeer, resort to this method as well. A parent will flutter about pathetically on the sand, apparently with one or both wings broken, attracting the predator by its faked vulnerability. The plover will gradually draw the threat away from the nest area, protecting the eggs or allowing chicks to make themselves scarce. Here are some examples of the ‘broken wing display’, all photographed on the beach at Delphi. The first 2 images show a female; the third, a male.Wilson's Plover - broken wing display CL1 Wilson's Plover - broken wing display CL4 Wilson's Plover - broken wing display CL6

Athough the little chicks are vulnerable, they grow quicklyWilson's Plover Chicks x 2 RH Delphi

Before very long, they are able to get onto the same rocky vantage point as their parents to practise surveying the scene. Next summer, they will be keeping watch over nests and chicks of their own.Wilson's Plover chick.Delphi Club.Abaco Bahamas.Tom Sheley JPG

The previous posts in the series are WILSON’S PLOVERS (1) showing the adults;  and WILSON’S PLOVERS (2) that shows how plovers nesting on the shore at Nettie’s Point were protected from human activity in the boat-launching area.

“I’m off now. See you next year”Wilson's Plover Delphi Beach AbacoCredits: scrape & broken wing display, Clare Latimer; last (and best) chick image, Tom Sheley; the rest, RH

BUTTERFLIES ON ABACO, BAHAMAS (2) GULF FRITILLARIES


BUTTERFLIES ON ABACO, BAHAMAS (2) GULF FRITILLARIES

The GULF FRITILLARY Agraulis vanillae is a so-called ‘longwing’ butterfly species found from South America to central North America, named for its migration route over the Gulf of Mexico.Gulf Fritillary Abaco CSK 7Gulf Fritillary Abaco CSK 2

The black and orange patterns of this butterfly are a reminder to predators of the toxicidity of its stripy caterpillar  and birds tend to leave them alone. Just in case. The markings are also similar to other butterflies that are poisonous – for example the Monarch.  Tip of the hat to Wiki for the information that “this species belongs to the ‘orange’ Batesian mimicry complex”. Me neither! It is where an innocuous species resembles a noxious one in order to discourage predators without going to the bother of actually developing its own ‘on-board’ toxins.

Gulf Fritillary Abaco CSK 4Gulf Fritillary Abaco CSK 3

File:Gulf Fritillary Life Cycle.svgGulf Fritillary Abaco CSK 1Gulf Fritillary Abaco CSK 5

The gulf fritillary is common on Abaco, as elsewhere in the Bahamas. I particularly fond of the photo below, in which the whole feeding apparatus can be seen. I haven’t done my homework, I’m afraid. If anyone wants to provide the technical terms (mouth? proboscis? tongue-thing?), that would be welcome. Please use the comment box to spread enlightenment.Gulf Fritillary Abaco CSK 6

FURTHER BUTTERFLIES YOU MAY ENJOY

ZEBRA HELICONIANS

ATALA HAIRSTREAKS and LIFECYCLE OF THE ATALA HAIRSTREAK

Credits: all amazing photos by Charlie Skinner, except header image Wiki – to which credit also for the graphic and some info in particular ‘Batesian Mimicry complex’, which is definitely one to drop lightly into conversation…

HAMLETS (NOT GLOOMY DANES): BAHAMAS REEF FISH (14)


SHY HAMLET (Wiki) JPG

BAHAMAS REEF FISH (14): HAMLETS (NOT GLOOMY DANES)

“Oh, that this too too solid flesh would melt, thaw and…” Ah! Sorry. I’m soliloquising again. Must be Thursday. And the merest mention of Hamlet is enough to set anyone off. But I speak not of noble yet gloomy Danes of Elsinore and of discernibly introspective aspect. These ones are pretty reef fish of the Caribbean seas, mainly in the Bahamas and along the Florida coast. There are a number of different types of hamlet, of which the 4 featured below in Melinda’s amazing underwater images were were encountered in one dive.

SHY (OR GOLDEN) HAMLETShy Hamlet ©Melinda Riger @ Grand Bahama ScubaShy Hamlet ©Melinda Riger GB Scuba

Hamlets have outstandingly interesting reproductive skills, being ‘synchronous hermaphrodites’. They have the unusual benefit of having both male and female sexual organs as adults, permitting imaginative combinations of pairings (though not including self-fertilization). When they find a mate, “the pair takes turns between which one acts as the male and which acts as the female through multiple matings, usually over the course of several nights”. I don’t dare check whether there are websites that cater for this sort of energetic coupling. The wonder is that Hamlets preferentially mate with individuals of their same colour pattern, and that they are not more wanton with their attentions and sexual flexibility.

INDIGO HAMLETIndigo Hamlet ©Melinda Riger @ Grand Bahama Scuba.jpg

BARRED HAMLETBarred Hamlet ©Melinda Riger @ Grand Bahama Scuba.jpg

BUTTER HAMLETButter Hamlet ©Melinda Riger @ Grand Bahama ScubaButter Hamlet ©Melinda Riger GB Scuba

OPTIONAL CULTURAL, HISTORICAL & MUSICAL DIVERSION INSPIRED BY HAMLET

The other notable Hamlet is, of course, the mild cigar equated in the famed commercials with happiness, accompanied by an excerpt from a jazzy version of Bach’s ‘Air on the G String’. Here is one of the best – and possibly the only advert to my knowledge to feature not one, but two excellent Sir Walter Raleigh jokes.

Bach’s well-known descending chord sequence of was of course shamelessly ripped off by ingeniously adapted by Procol Harum for ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’, their first single in 1967. Relive the Summer of Love right here and now. Is this the music that might even put those versatile hamlets in the mood…


Any fret-tweakers might like to see the sheet music of the Air for guitar – you could even play it on air guitar – which is relatively easy, being in C major.Air on a G String - J S Bach - Guitar Tab JPGCredits: All fish pics Melinda Riger of Grand Bahama Scuba, except wiki-header; open-source online material; my mp3, dammit – I can’t get the wretched tune out of my mind…