ABACO’S FORGOTTEN LIGHTHOUSE: THE “OLD LIGHTHOUSE”, LITTLE HARBOUR


ABACO’S FORGOTTEN LIGHTHOUSE: THE “OLD LIGHTHOUSE”, LITTLE HARBOUR

Little Harbour Abaco, Aerial View -Simon Rodehn annotated

Little Harbour Abaco, Aerial View (Simon Rodehn)

There’s relatively little that a casual investigator can discover about the ruined lighthouse at Little Harbour, Abaco. This hurricane-damaged wreck is Abaco’s third and largely unknown light, after the icon on ELBOW REEF and the desolate but romantic HOLE-IN-THE-WALL that stands on the southern tip of Abaco, down 15 miles of dodgy track through the National Park. Two specific sources of information begin our tour of the “Old Lighthouse at Little Harbour.

Extract from ROWLETT LIGHTHOUSES OF THE BAHAMAS

“LITTLE HARBOUR Date unknown (station established 1889). Inactive. Ruins of a 1-story concrete keeper’s quarters, known locally as the “old lighthouse.” A modern steel framework tower carried an active light until it was blown over by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012; Trabas has Darlene Chisholm’s photo of the toppled light. A photo and a very distant view are available, and Bing has a satellite view. In an aerial view of the harbor, the light is on the peninsula at upper right. Located at the entrance to Little Harbour, about 25 km (15 mi) south of Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco Island. Accessible by a short walk to the end of the peninsula sheltering the harbor. Site open, tower closed. Site manager: unknown. ARLHS BAH-021; Admiralty J4576; NGA 11808.”

The “Old Lighthouse” – Little Harbour, Abaco

Abaco Escape  – Sandy Estabrook’s essential GUIDE TO THE ABACOS

Often overlooked is (or should we say was) the “Old Lighthouse” as it is called. It was established in 1889 at the entrance to of Little Harbour channel, the southern entrance to Abaco Sound. Once it was a manned light, with the lighthouse keeper and his wife being the only inhabitants of Little Harbour. Of course the keepers are long gone and so is most of the house. The light tower was converted to solar in modern times but was dealt a devastating blow by Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Access is via a path which starts from the shoreline and winds up the hill through seagrapes and bush. Few people venture up here these days. If there is a big ocean swell running, walk down to the cliff top in front of the lighthouse, where you’ll find a blowhole known as the Dragon. Depending on swell height, it could be roaring, snorting and shooting out clouds of spray. Sandy Estabrook

Photos referenced by Rowlett  – see extract above

Note the steel frame tower on the right, a structure replacing the old light destroyed by Hurricane Floyd in 1999; and itself toppled by Hurricane Sandy in 2012

A GALLERY OF RECENT IMAGES

Lighthouse ruins, Little Harbour Abaco, Patrick Shyu

Lighthouse ruins, Little Harbour Abaco, Patrick Shyu. The only interior shot I could find. Note the fallen steel tower (2012) (and seen from the outside below)

Lighthouse ruins, Little Harbour Abaco - Patrick Shyu

Lighthouse ruins, Little Harbour Abaco – Patrick Shyu

Little Harbour lighthouse Abaco - Darlene Chisholm

Little Harbour lighthouse Abaco, post Hurricane Sandy – Darlene Chisholm

Little Harbour Lighthouse Ruins, Abacos - MV Shingebiss

The Old Lighthouse ruins, taken during a cruise (MV Shingebiss)

LOCATION

In the header image, the location of the Light, looking very roughly north, is shown as a grey pimple on the eastern peninsula that forms the Little Harbour bay. There is no other building in this area. Below are some additional aerial maps showing the path to the Light and its relative remoteness. It is not covered in the wonderful book on Bahamas lighthouses by Annie Potts entitled “Last Lights” (2011, Fish House Press). I surmise that this small Light was more of a beacon to pinpoint the location of the entrance to Little Harbour, and perhaps to enable triangulation with the large lights at ELBOW REEF and HOLE-IN-THE-WALL.

Little Harbour Lighthouse 1 jpg copy

Little Harbour Lighthouse 2 jpg

An unusual aerial view of Little Harbour Lighthouse from the north, showing the path to it. You can see the ‘modern steel framework tower’ referred to in the ROWLETT entry above, replacing the original lighthouse tower destroyed by Hurricane Floyd and later toppled by Hurricane Sandy.

Little Harbour Lighthouse Marinas.com

Little Harbour lighthouse Marinas.com

Credits:  Simon Rodehn (LH aerial view – thanks again!), Rowlett’s Lighthouses, Sandy Estabrook / Abaco Escape, Wiki Map, Patrick Shyu, Darlene Chisholm, MV Shingbiss, marinas.com

WINTER WARBLERS ON ABACO: NORTHERN PARULA


Northern Parula,  Abaco Craig Nash

WINTER WARBLERS ON ABACO: NORTHERN PARULA 

The NORTHERN PARULA Setophaga americana is a stumpy little migratory warbler with white arcs above and below the eyes, and with a slate-coloured back distinctively smudged with an olive patch in both sexes. These birds are winter residents on Abaco, and are common throughout the island and cays. They are arriving right now, including juveniles making their first trip to Abaco. Wonder what they’ll make of it?

Northern Parula, Abaco - Bruce Hallett (adult male)

Range Map: Summer (Yellow) & Winter (Blue)220px-Parula_americana_map.svg

Parulas are primarily insect eaters, with a preference for caterpillars and spiders. They sometimes dart from a perch to snatch insect prey in mid-air. In winter they vary their diet with berries and fruit. You are most likely to see one foraging busily in bushes and low trees – maybe coming up for air by poking its head above the foliage…

Northern Parula, Abaco (Craig Nash)

TAXONOMY DOMINÉ

WHAT THE HECK IS  A “PARULA”? Originally, Linnaeus classified this little bird at a Tit, or Parus. For some reason, “as taxonomy developed the genus name was modified first to Parulus and then the current form” (Wiki Hat-tip). But although none of the other 37 Abaco warbler species is a Parus, Parulus or Parula, they all come under the family name Parulidae. The august institutions that deal with these things have classified the Parula as a ‘Setophaga’, along with many other warblers.

This photo shows the distinctive upper chest band of the adult bird very clearlyBAHAMAS - Northern Parula Warbler, Abaco -  Becky Marvil

The CORNELL LAB list of adult Parula identifiers is shown below, with adult females being similar ‘but with greener backs’. These specifics are pretty much borne out by the birds shown here (except for the last bird, an immature female just beginning to develop the Parula characteristics). The next photo by Woody Bracey, is a perfect example of what to look out for. 

  • Small songbird.
  • Blue-gray hood and wings.
  • Yellow chest with black and reddish band across it.
  • White crescents above and below eyes.
  • Green back.
  • Two white wingbars.

Northern Parula, Abaco (Woody Bracey)

Parulas produce different sounds to listen out for – a ‘chip’ call that could be any number of birds (IMO); a song; and a trill. Here are examples of each from the essential bird call site Xeno Canto.

CHIP CALL Paul Marvin / Xeno Canto

SONG Paul Marvin / Xeno Canto

TRILL Jelmer Poelstra / Xeno Canto

ABACO BAHAMAS - Northern Parula 2, 1-22-12, Nursery copy 2

This is an immature female parula, a ‘first fall’ bird, and therefore on its first visit to AbacoNorthern Parula, Abaco - Bruce Hallett (imm. - 1st fall female)

I’ll end with an excellent 2:18 mins-worth of Parula-based video from Wild Bird Video Productions

RELATED POSTS

WARBLER GALLERY ABACO’S 37 SPECIES

PERMANENT RESIDENT WARBLERS  – THE ABACO 5 

ENDEMIC BIRDS - ABACO’S 4, inc. 2 WARBLERS

CREDITS: Photos – Craig Nash, Bruce Hallett, Becky Marvil, Gerlinde Taurer; Audio – Xeno Canto; Video -Wild Bird Video Productions; Cornell Lab; a smidge of Wiki

HURRICANE UPDATE: GONZALO TRACKS AWAY FROM ABACO, BAHAMAS


Hurricane Irene 2011 - the eye right on course for central Abaco

Hurricane Irene 2011 – the eye right on course for central Abaco

HURRICANE UPDATE: GONZALO TRACKS AWAY FROM ABACO, BAHAMAS

STOP PRESS – UPDATE Following yesterday’s post (below), the hurricane’s tendency to track further away from the Bahamas is confirmed by later models, for examples this one from Wunderground. So I think we are officially ‘off-risk’. But Bermuda is definitely not… Anyway, read on a bit and you will find out how hurricanes get their names! 

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Yesterday I posted on my FB page an NOAA hurricane tracking map update for Hurricane Gonzalo, currently rated Cat. 2 on the SAFFIR-SIMPSON SCALE. It is making its way north through the Caribbean right now, and at one stage the storm cone looked on a possible course for the Bahamas. Abaco has been spared a major cyclone for a couple of years. However memories are very recent of Hurricane Irene (2011) which passed directly over Abaco as a Cat. 3 storm; and Hurricane Sandy (2012) that passed marginally to the east with (at that stage) an intensity of a Cat. 1 before going on to wreak havoc further north. During those ‘extreme weather events’ I posted regularly about them, with tracking maps and photos. At the time of Irene there was remarkable little information around online and I got a huge number of hits – 5000+ in a day, 15,000+ in a week. I also replied to lots of inquiries from the Bahamas, US and Canada, both general (“How are things at Cherokee?”) to very specific (“Do you happen to know if my boat ‘Blowdakidzinheritanz’ moored in Little Harbour is Okay?”).

Hurricane Sandy Earth from Space 2

Hurricane Sandy over Abaco from the International Space Station

I  have been surprised at the response the map generated by way of ‘Likes’ and comments expressing relief… So from my current safe distance of precisely 4250.00 miles from Marsh Harbour, I am posting an update with helpful maps and a bit of general hurricane info. The agencies all agree that Gonzalo will hook east as it progresses northwards. The Bahamas outlook is promising, though for example Bermuda looks to be at risk.  There’s more on hurricanes on the page ABACO WEATHER. I always think that Wunderground produce the clearest maps for general purposes, though there’s a great deal more information to be had from the NOAA site, to which there’s a direct link in the Sidebar (I’ve moved it to near the top for the time being).

CURRENT TRACKING FORECASTS OCT 14 2014 

WUNDERGROUND 3-DAY TRACKING & WIND MAP at201408at201408_satat201408_radar

NOAA TRACKERS & FORECASTS

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ACCUWEATHER SATELLITE VIEW & TRACKERHurricane Gonzalo Tracking Map  - clip jpg

THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON SCALE

Here is a reminder of how tropical storms and hurricanes are measured for intensity, as decreed by the S-SS, followed by the National Hurricane Center’s explanation of the gradations of relative intensities.

Saffir-Simpson Scale (Wiki) jpgT

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed. This scale estimates potential property damage. Hurricanes reaching Category 3 and higher are considered major hurricanes because of their potential for significant loss of life and damage. Category 1 and 2 storms are still dangerous, however, and require preventative measures. In the western North Pacific, the term “super typhoon” is used for tropical cyclones with sustained winds exceeding 150 mph.

Category   Sustained Winds Types of Damage Due to Hurricane Winds
1 74-95 mph
64-82 kt
119-153 km/h
Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.
2 96-110 mph
83-95 kt
154-177 km/h
Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage:Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.
3
(major)
111-129 mph
96-112 kt
178-208 km/h
Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
4
(major)
130-156 mph
113-136 kt
209-251 km/h
Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
5
(major)
157 mph or higher
137 kt or higher
252 km/h or higher
Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

HOW DO HURRICANES GET THEIR NAMES?

Check out the page ABACO WEATHER

BACKTRACKING

Hurricane Irene 2011 Bahamas Map Accu jpg Hurricane Sandy Map Bahamas 2012 jpg

“ALIEN FROM THE DEEP”: ABACO’S SCALELESS BLACK DRAGONFISH


Scaleless Black Dragonfish - Header - BMMRO Abaco

“ALIEN FROM THE DEEP”: ABACO’S SCALELESS BLACK DRAGONFISH

Prepared to be terrified. Beneath the placid turquoise waters of Abaco lurks a ruthless and implacable killer of hideous mien, armed with vicious teeth  … Yes, as the music from Jaws begins to throb round your temples I bring you… THE SCALELESS BLACK DRAGONFISH, aka the Deep Sea Dragonfish or Viperfish (of which it is one type). Oh, and it’s about 8 inches/ 20 cms long.

The specimen shown here was found off Rocky Point, Abaco during a whale and dolphin research trip by the BMMRO. This is an area where typical low waters give way to the far deeper waters of an arm of the Great Bahama Canyon. It is an excellent place for whale watching, since one effect of the canyon is to provide plentiful food of the sort that cetaceans thrive on. The chances of you ever meeting a dragonfish are very slim indeed, since they live at depths up to 1500 metres. 

MAP to be added after posting, to avoid FB’s deranged random ‘feature photo’ selection The black star at the south end of Abaco  (in the yellowish box) is where Rocky Point and Sandy Point are to be found.

BAHAMAS SEA DEPTH MAP (NEAQ)

Here is an account by BMMRO intern Luanettee Colebrooke who was lucky enough to be on the research vessel when this strange, vicious-looking creature was found. I have edited the material for present purposes, but I recommend reading the whole article which can be found on the BMMRO website HERE. You will get an excellent overview of a day’s research under the hot sun, and plenty about the collection of whale poop (a topic I have previously dwelt on HERE (“Familiar Feces“).

Scaleless Black Dragonfish - BMMRO Abaco
CREATURE by Luanettee’ Colebrooke, BMMRO intern, summer 2014
The crossing of this organism was by complete accident. It was something that none of us would have imagined finding floating along the surface of the water. For Dr Claridge, Jurique (another BMMRO summer intern from Cat Island) and I as Bahamians, who knew this creature even existed in our majestic waters? Who knew our waters were even that deep to hide this specimen? (I think Dr Claridge knew)
Our morning began as per the usual routine for a boat day. There are several research sites that we venture to regularly: Rocky Point for the coastal Bottlenose Dolphins, and an area about 2 miles south of Rocky Point for our very elusive and wary Blainville’s beaked whales, and the deep blue (a massive drop into waters that are 1500 metres deep) to listen for Sperm Whales.It is not that I do not believe that we have deep waters. The Tongue of the Ocean runs through the northern part of our country. My thought comes more from, ‘our waters are that deep’? To a point where light does not hit the bottom and organisms have to rely mainly on bioluminescence? It is a similar thought process I had when I saw a sperm whale for the first time. They are not small creatures of the sea. It is both an awe and scary thought that there are creatures out there we, as Bahamians, do not know exist in our waters.
Scaleless Black Dragonfish - BMMRO AbacoScaleless Black Dragonfish - BMMRO Abaco
“Our final activity of the day was tracking a sperm whale acoustically using a hydrophone…” There follows a graphic account of the technicalities of sperm whale poop collection and co-intern Jack’s “Faecal Dispersion Technique”. Then this: Jack stood up, Pringle in mouth and pointed to a black leather looking strap off of the port bow. “What is it?” Moving closer to the port, Jurique and I had our own thoughts. “It looks like a boxing glove strap,” he suggested. “More like an expensive underwater watch,” I mentioned. Dr. Claridge said, “It looks like a squid tentacle.” Jack added in, “More like the strap from a fin to me.” Our heads were turning with no closer answer. Taking it upon himself as the official sample collector, Jack popped back into the water to collect it. There were no sample pots large enough for it, so he had to use a large Ziplock bag to pick it up.
Scaleless Black Dragonfish - BMMRO AbacoLetting out a surprised chorus when he got back on the boat, we wondered what the heck it was. It had a mouth and a weird white patch that at first, I thought was its eye. The ventral abdominal section seemed swollen as if it had expanded from the decreasing pressure rising from the sea. As we looked at it and took photos, we determined several characteristics of the deceased specimen without having to autopsy it. The first was that it had three rows of needle like teeth that turned inward. There was what we assumed to be an angler under its ‘chin’ that had a murky transparent color. Another deduction we came to was the white dots that ran along the body all the way to its tail could be bioluminescent in nature like an angler. The pectoral fins were small and thin like a tooth pick. The final detail we took note of was the silver patch underneath its eyes.It was a type of angler fish we hypothesized. And it somehow ended up on the surface. There were several questions we voiced to each other: if it is a deep angler fish, how did it end up here? Where did it come from? Was it stunned by the sperm whale’s echolocation and pulled upwards as it surfaced? Later that night as we went through our faecal samples, photo IDs and data entry, the search began for what exactly this organism was. Jack did some image trickery and overlapped the photos with an alien from Alien. Scaleless Black Dragonfish c/w Alien - BMMRO AbacoI personally thought it looked more like Venom from Spiderman. As he did that, I took it upon myself to begin the search by looking up the most prominent feature: the angler on the anterior ventral side of the fish. By using this characteristic, I was able to narrow the organism down to a Scaleless Black Dragonfish by using several online scientific key identification guides and forums. The species we are still unsure about. The mystery continues…Scaleless Black Dragonfish - BMMRO Abaco
This creature is one of a number of dragonfish species found worldwide. This one might to be one of the genus Melanostomias (says he, hesitantly…). Like many deep sea creatures, its customary depths are pitch black, or nearly so; and so it is equipped with its own light source (bioluminescence), including the item dangling down from its lower jaw, called a barbel. The fish’s glow and no doubt the gleam of the barbel swaying around in the water act as a lure to attract prey that swim up to investigate and then.. snap! Those teeth start to do their work.
Scaleless black dragonfish (Melanostomias biseriatus) (imagesource.com)
I’ll end with an amazing short (2:28) video posted in early 2014 by ‘Indoona’. The accompanying description is the most authoritative account of the species and its little ways that I have  come across, complete with useful links. I include it before the video, noting only that the creature featured is a Pacific one from off the coast of California, and therefore not identical to the Abaco one.
                                                                       scaleless-black-dragonfish-mini-jpg          scaleless-black-dragonfish-mini-jpg          scaleless-black-dragonfish-mini-jpg

THE DEEP SEA DRAGONFISH OR VIPER FISH is an awesome looking creature from the middle depths of the ocean (this one comes from 600 metres or about 1000 feet deep). Also called the scaleless dragonfish, they are ferocious predators, with extremely large teeth compared to their body size. And they have one of nature’s most amazing tricks to give them the edge over their prey (more below).

There are several different species of dragonfish (one estimate is 67 species – all from the fish family known as Family Stomidae) and they are quite difficult to tell apart but this one is from the pacific depths of California and is likely Tactostoma macropus, the longfin dragonfish. Idiacanthus antrostomus is an Atlantic species that looks very similar – at least I think that’s the case correct me if I’m wrong.

They hunt with a bioluminescent barbel or lure. It is not glowing here but under the different lighting regimes I used – some of the darker images – you can see how much the lure stands out.

Sadly fish like this do not survive long on the surface, mainly because of temperature differences and mechanical damage in the net rather than pressure problems I think. It was caught in a cod-end trawl and filmed in a special tank (a kreisal aquarium). But is great to be able to share another wonder of the oceans on YouTube.

And their amazing trick? Unlike most other deep sea creatures which are sensitive to blue light – the dragonfish also produces a red light beam (see the organ to the rear of the eye) – it is also very sensitive to red light. Although red light does not travel very far underwater it allows them to see when other animals cannot and to sneak up on their prey – especially shrimps that glow in the red light. For more detail see: http://www.science-frontiers.com/sf10… and the work of Ron Douglas and Julian Partridge,http://blog.wellcomecollection.org/ta… (these images were filmed with the help of Julian and Ron). Oh and this dragon is not big – about 20 cm or just under a foot!

Credits: Luanettee Colebrooke, ‘Jack’ & BMMRO (to whom thanks as ever), imagesource.com, Indoona , and 2 sites I came across during my investigations – seasky.org & strangesounds.org

If you can’t get enough of dragonfish, check out this Tumblr site for dozens of images including photos, drawings, cartoons, and enough strange dragonfish-based characters to weird you out utterly… HERE

CRYSTAL CLEAR: ABACO’S ASTOUNDING UNDERGROUND CAVES (3)


Crystal Caves of Abaco - Ralph's Cave (Brian Kakuk)

CRYSTAL CLEAR: ABACO’S ASTOUNDING UNDERGROUND CAVES (3) 

This is the third in a series showcasing the wealth of beauty that lies beneath the many thousands of acres of pine forest that cover the vast majority of South Abaco. I have previously  featured sets of wonderful photos taken by diver Hitoshi Miho in the underground cave systems of Abaco, in conjunction with the Bahamas Caves Research Foundation. The links to these posts are given below. This post showcases some of the photos taken by Abaco’s leading cave diver, well-known Brian Kakuk. The following images all come from RALPH’S CAVE, one of several systems that lie within the proposed South Abaco Blue Holes Conservation Area.

The maps show the 3 main caves in the SABHCA area, Ralph’s, Dan’s and Nancy’s – also Sawmill Sink. The curve of bay, bottom right, is Rolling Harbour – and one excuse for ‘borrowing’ the map is that I notice that it includes a (tiny) photo of mine of the Delphi Club from the beach that I uploaded to Google Earth a while back…

Abaco caves map jpg    Abaco Caves Ralph & Dan jpg

Crystal Caves of Abaco - Ralph's Cave (Brian Kakuk)Crystal Caves of Abaco - Ralph's Cave (Brian Kakuk) Crystal Caves of Abaco - Ralph's Cave (Brian Kakuk)Crystal Caves of Abaco - Ralph's Cave (Brian Kakuk)Crystal Caves of Abaco - Ralph's Cave (Brian Kakuk)

To get the ‘live’ experience of exploring these underground geological wonders, here is a 6 minute video of a dive in Ralph’s Cave made in June 2014 by Ramon Llaneza of Ramon Llaneza Technical Diving

RELATED POSTS

ABACO’S ASTOUNDING CAVES (1) Hirohito Miho

ABACO’S ASTOUNDING CAVES (2) Hirohito Miho

SAWMILL SINK Industrial Archaeology / Post-apolcalyptic Landscape

 Credits: Brian Kakuk, Bahamas Caves Research Foundation, Ramon Llaneza

“50 WAYS TO PLEASE YOUR PLOVER”: PIPING PLOVERS ON ABACO (2)


Piping Plover - Danny Sauvageau

 “50 WAYS TO PLEASE YOUR PLOVER”: PIPING PLOVERS ON ABACO (2)

There must be 50 ways at least, most of them amounting to leaving Piping Plovers alone and respecting their habitat. So, in many cases simply NOT doing things . Refraining from driving your  SUV around on the beaches exactly where they are resting (with other shorebirds) during migration (yes, this very scenario is captured on film). Discouraging your canine friends from investigating their scrapes, eggs and chicks. Not building a concrete block on their favourite beach. Avoiding dumping quantities of oil in their vicinity. That kind of thing. Make a new plan, Stan! Watch where you drive, Clive! Find a new place, Grace! Safeguard your oil, Doyle! And leave the birds free…

Piping Plover - Danny Sauvageau

MIGRATION & CONSERVATION I’m returning to Piping Plovers at a time when concerns for their diminished population has led to intensive research and protection programs at both ends of their migration routes. For a long time, their winter destination was a mystery. Recent investigations have helped to pinpoint the wintering grounds, which include Abaco. Ringing programs in the summer breeding areas mean that birds can be identified in winter and traced back to their origin. So if you are out and about and see one of these little guys – let’s say, on the beach at Casuarina – and you happen to have a camera with you, can I repeat the request to please take a photo, if possible showing the leg bling, and let one of the island birders (or me) know…

You can see how the PIPLs live through the seasons and their migrations in an excellent Audubon interactive presentation I have featured previously entitled “Beating the Odds: A Year in the Life of a Piping Plover”. CLICK BEATING THE ODDS

Piping Plover - Danny Sauvageau

PIPL ON ABACO I shared this wonderful video from the reliably excellent CONCH SALAD TV on my FB page, but it’s such a great 15 minutes worth of Piping Plover information that I am including it in this post, not least because many of the the subscribers are different. The Bahamas in general and Abaco in particular are favoured by these delightful but rare and vulnerable birds for their winter habitat (sensible creatures). If you can spare 15 minutes and are interested in the importance of Abaco as a vital component in the conservation of migratory birds, do watch the video. Presenters include Todd Pover and Stephanie Egger of CONSERVE WILDLIFE NEW JERSEY, David Knowles of the BNT and Olivia Patterson of FOTE (Friends of the Environment, Abaco). One of the most heartening features is to see the responses of  the young children who were encouraged to participate in the project, and who take to it with huge enthusiasm.  

Piping Plover - Danny Sauvageau

A while back, well-known and much missed Abaco naturalist Ricky Johnson made his own Piping Plover film incorporating his own trademark style and sense of humour. My original post about it can be seen HERE, but far better to go straight to Ricky’s video. It’s good to recall his infectious enthusiasm for the wildlife of Abaco. Impossible to watch without smiling…

Piping Plover - Danny Sauvageau

Piping Plover - Danny Sauvageau

The PIPL in this post all have two things in common. The wonderful photos are all taken by Danny Sauvageau; and all of the birds are differently ringed, reflecting their various summer habitats. So this brings me to Danny’s Kickstarter project “Saving Endangered Piping Plovers through Photography”. He has put together a superb presentation explaining his project, and how his photography in prime PIPL resting areas during their migrations back and forth can help to map and complete the picture of this vulnerable species to enable their protection.

You can reach Danny’s film by clicking the link DANNY’S FILM (there’s no obligation to go further and contribute) and you will see some fabulous footage of these little birds scuttling around on the beach, looking enchanting; and the commentary will explain the importance of the the birds and the research into their conservation.

RELATED POSTS

RARE GEMS: PIPL ON ABACO 1

“GIVE PEEPS A CHANCE ” (I know, I know…)

Credits: All photos, Danny Sauvageau; Videos – Audbon, Conch Salad TV, Ricky Johnson, Danny Sauvageau; Tip of the Hat, Paul Simon

Piping-Plover Artmagenta          Piping-Plover Artmagenta          Piping-Plover Artmagenta          Piping-Plover Artmagenta          Piping-Plover Artmagenta          Piping-Plover Artmagenta

FORK-TAILED FLYCATCHER: ANOTHER NEW SPECIES FOR ABACO


Rogier Klappe Wiki Tyrannus_savana_-Colombia-8

FORK-TAILED FLYCATCHER: ANOTHER NEW SPECIES FOR ABACO

Following the flurry of reports and photos in June of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks on Abaco – a species never recorded here before – comes a new ‘first bird': the Fork-Tailed Flycatcher Tyrannus savant. On September 24 Shirley Cartwright saw an unusual bird with a long dark tail and managed to get a photo of it of sufficient quality for a certain identification to be made. Never mind the photo detail, the fact that Shirley saw the bird and was able to obtain photographic confirmation is the thing. So here is the first-ever Fork-tailed Flycatcher for Abaco – and only the third for the Bahamas  (previous ones seen on New Providence and Great Inagua).

Fork-Tailed Flycatcher Tyrannus savant, Abaco (Shirley Cartwright)

I did a little brightening and clarifying of the original image, and also tried a cropFork-tailed Flycatcher, Abaco (Shirley Cartwright)

Tony White, the well-known authority on Bahamas birds, sent me the image with some information about this bird’s usual range:

“This is an interesting species as the race found in eastern US is South American and highly migratory. It breeds in Chile and Argentina. It is a frequent vagrant to USA, well over 100 records, and has appeared as far north as Nunavut, Canada. In the Austral fall (our spring) it migrates north and winters in Northern South America. Birds that appear in the USA at that time are considered overshoots. Birds that appear in our fall (Austral spring) are believed to be mostly first year birds that winter in northern South America and then fly a mirror image from the proper direction heading north instead of south. Unfortunately, the photos of the Abaco bird are not close enough to tell whether it was a young one or not. Field guides say young birds have shorter tails, but in fact there is considerable overlap in tail lengths between females and young. I strongly recommend a paper by McCaskie and Patton on this species in Western Birds 1994 Vol 25, No 3, pp 113=127. It can be found on SORA (Searchable Ornithological Research Archives).”

Treading carefully through a copyright minefield, I have dug out some illustrative images of this flycatcher, shown below. It belongs to the group known as tyrant flycatchers, which includes the kingbirds that are familiar on Abaco.

Fork-tailed flycatcher(Reynaldo wiki) Tesourinha_REFON

This first range map (Cornell Neotropical) shows the FTFs’ typical, largely subequatorial rangeRange Map Cornell (Neotropical) jpg

However this ‘overshoot’ range map (Audubon) reflects the fact that overshoots occur almost annually in the eastern United States seaboard and even as far north as Canada. To see these birds photographed in Connecticut (10000birds.com), click HEREGiven that the whole Florida coast is included, it’s perhaps not surprising that sooner or later the odd bird would misdirect to the northern Bahamas.fork-tailed flycatcher

This example of the species is taken from the Crossley ID Guide to Eastern Birds (open source) . The bird in the centre with the long tail is clearly a male; I imagine the mature-looking one on the left is a female; and the one on the right with the comparatively stumpy tail, a juvenile.

Fork_Tailed_Flycatcher_From_The_Crossley_ID_Guide_Eastern_Birds

It’s sometimes instructive to discover how John James Audubon saw a particular bird, so here is his FWF. While the bird is undeniably beautiful, I am not too certain of its proportion in relation to the size of the blossom. But then again, it seems to me that he didn’t always struggle for exactitude, preferring a broader, more relaxed approach to depict the birds as he saw them – and not afraid to exaggerate a characteristic for effect.

NEW INFO Woody Bracey has contacted me to point out that the male in the image above “is actually a pale mantled manachus subspecies from Central America, not the darker savana nominate subspecies from South America which Shirley photographed”. Which explains the colour difference.

640px-168_Fork-tailed_Flycatcher

ESSENTIAL FUN FACT

The fork-tailed flycatcher has the longest tail relative to body size of any bird on earth (trails.com)

As the name suggests, this species feeds mainly on insects, although in winter it may also eat berries and the like. They will often perch on wires of fence posts. I’ve no idea if they ‘hawk’ for flies on the wing, but if so the sight of a male feeding must be wonderful. Here is an example of their song

Jeremy Minns / Xeno-Canto

        Tyrannus_savanna-Fork-tailed_Flycatcher Hector Bottai wikimedia

To see a gallery of FWF photos on the excellent birding resource Oiseaux.net, click on the logo oiseaux

 RELATED POSTS
BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING DUCK A new species for Abaco (June 2014)
BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS New species, June 2013
Credits: Shirley Cartwright, Rogier Klappe, Tony White, ‘Reynaldo’, Cornell, Audubon, Crossley, Xeno-Canto,  Hector Bottai
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