NETTICA (‘NETTIE’) SYMONETTE’S ABACO BONEFISHING LEGACY


NETTICA (‘NETTIE’) SYMONETTE’S ABACO BONEFISHING LEGACY

As a companion-piece to the previous post about Abaco bonefishing, I’ve made a short movie of the final stage of the skiff trip after a day out on the Marls back to Nettie’s Point and the skiff launching / landing ground there. It’s always a interesting ride, and I took the footage just for the fun of it. At very high tide, the channel can (must?) be taken at speed, and end with an 007 flourish. When the tide is low, however, it can be slow progress with the propeller precariously close to the rock for much of the channel’s length… Small crabs scuttle for cover in limestone holes as you pass, and you can see clearly what a huge amount of rock had to be cleared out.

Approaching the mouth of the channel at high tide, with rock spoil on both sides

Then I got to thinking about the originator of this canal cut through rock from the firm ground of the pine forest through to the open sea. ‘Nettie’s’ is named after Nettica Symonette, Eleutheran-born owner of ‘Different of Abaco’, the now defunct bonefishing lodge on the road off the main highway to Casuarina. She was clearly a striking figure – tall, strong-minded, and a passionate promoter of out-island tourism. She must have had plenty of insight into the importance of the natural resources that might make Abaco attractive to visitors, for she was not just a bonefishing pioneer, but also a wildlife enthusiast.

Flamingos and chicks on Inagua, 2012 (photo credit: Melissa Maura)

Nettie attempted to reintroduce flamingos to Abaco as breeding birds (there had been none breeding on Abaco for some 50 years). That involved the relocation of a number of juvenile birds from the National Park on Inagua (see FLAMINGO POST). They were flown to Abaco and resettled in the Casuarina area with their wings clipped. This was 15 – 20 years ago, and I don’t know if there was any successful breeding. I believe further birds were brought over, but for some reason the hoped-for breeding colony did not become established. It’s possible that there were problems with predation, as with the Abaco parrots.

Unhitching a skiff into the boat basin at high tide

Nettie’s lasting legacy is the construction of the canal cut through to the mangrove swamps and the ocean, and the ‘boat basin’ that allows safe launch and return for skiffs. This made possible what must have been very difficult given the geology of the terrain – easy boat access to the prolific fishing grounds over the vast area of mangroves and the labyrinthine water channels that is the Marls. It’s worth the comment that the whole project is entirely natural – it involves no man-made materials of any description. Contrast this with what might have been: concrete, iron, steel, wood – maybe a bit of plastic trim to round it off…

The first skiff sets off for the day…

I don’t know (perhaps someone can help via the comment box or email me) when and how this was done or how long it took, But when you watch the video as it follows the channel’s full length, you will see the rock spoil and appreciate the feat – and the vision – involved. And in places you can also see the shelving rock below the waterline that makes steering a steady central course advisable…

Aha! More arcane music from the Rolling Harbour archive, I hear you say. The music is Preston Reed’s ‘Along the Perimeter’ from ‘Handwritten Notes’ – an astonishing guitarist with a two-handed playing technique that also involves hitting and slapping various areas of the guitar (saves the cost of a drummer). He uses experimental open tunings that are found in no ‘How to play guitar nicely’ manuals. And if you like this, try Erik Mongrain who is simply astounding. Almost a trick guitarist. But I digress…

ABACO BONEFISHING Pt 1: A NON-ANGLER’S SKIFF-VIEW – WHAT, HOW, WHERE & WHY?


             BE NATURAL (YET SHARP) ON THE FLATS - PART 1  

WHAT, HOW, WHERE AND WHY?

[I published the original of this post a year ago. I discovered that it had been put badly out of kilter by recent blog format change, so I have amended and to an extent updated it, with larger photos (NB the video was my first feeble foray).  So yes, it's a retread, which I rarely do; but I wasn't tooled up with Facebook & Twitter then, and thankfully a couple more people now read this thing, so it possibly deserves a fresh outing. No? Well I'm doing it, regardless]

It’s 7.15 and breakfast time at Delphi. At 8.00 the trucks, skiffs, guides and fishers will set off to the fishing grounds for the day, leaving you with an empty beach, shells, warm sea, the pool, the hammock and your book. For the moment, the talk is of the excellent ‘Full Abaco’ breakfast, the weather, ‘Delphi daddies’ & ‘crazy charlies’ and someone’s mislaid reel. Sandy enters to announce that there’s a place free on your partner’s skiff… and offers it to you. So what should you, a non-angler, expect of a day out on the flats?

THE SKIFFS These are top-of-the range boats, capable of considerable speed getting out to the fishing grounds. The ride can be bumpy, splashy and even chilly in the early morning, so bring a fleece and a waterproof top. Camera? Essential. Here is a Delphi skiff on a sand bar in Cherokee Sound, parked for lunch and some quality conch and sand-dollar hunting. So for a start, the day isn’t ALL about fishing…

THE FISHING GROUNDS You will leave from one of three launch points and speed across the water to the bonefishing areas. The main one is “Nettie’s”, with access via a narrow man-made channel to the Marls…

… more than two hundred square miles of mangrove swamp, islets, channels and fish. The journey to Nettie’s may seem quite a long way as you bump along through the pine forest on a network of logging tracks. Watch out for small birds flickering all around as you pass.

 

———————————

Launching a skiff at Nettie’s

Plans are hatchedGood to go…

Stowing gear in the front (forrard?) locker. There’s also one behind the seats for the lunch cool boxes. And the fuel…

The other two launch areas are Crossing Rocks (a short drive south of DCB) or Casuarina Point for Cherokee Sound (a slightly longer drive north of DCB)

The jetty at Crossing Rocks – skiffs being prepared

The launch point at Casuarina. A channel leads out to Cherokee Sound

Two boats in the channel – the authentic James Bond chase experience

WHAT’S THE POINT? Bonefishing! You’ve heard all the Club talk, you’ve seen your partner fussing over all those bits and pieces in your room: now see it in action. Once you get out to a fishing area, the guide cuts the engine… and suddenly you are being poled very slowly and almost noiselessly across the shallow flats

The guide stands on the platform at the back of the skiff, using the advantage of height to scan the shallow water; the fisher stands at the front looking tensely for grey shadows underwater, waiting for the magic words…

 “…hey, bonefish, 10 o’clock, 4 of them moving right, 30 feet… see them?” 

And it’s ‘game on’. This isn’t the place for a discourse about casting technique and style – I have neither (Sandy, of me: “Muppet”) – but I promise that you will get completely caught up in the excitement when a fish takes the fly and takes off towards the horizon, stripping the line and backing from the reel… (I realise the image above may suggest… well he’s just fishing, OK?)

THE QUARRY - grey ghosts below water, bars of silver above. Caught on the ‘fly’ which are in fact shrimp or crab imitations, with barbless hooks to make the chance of losing a fish that much greater… This ensures that a boated fish can be returned to the water as easily and quickly as possible. It’s all ‘catch and release’, though some (me) find that mostly the fish very sensibly self-release long before they ever reach the boat…

Abaco bonefish off Crossing Rocks (just caught and released)Guide Ishi with Abaco bonefish caught on the MarlsGuide Robin Albury removes the barbless hook before returning the fishgood specimen‘Ishi’s Fishy’, as he would say

All images, and indeed fish, ©RH

There is even the possibility that at some stage you may unexpectedly be handed a rod (even if you have never held one before, or wanted to) with ‘fish on’… Here, Robin has hooked a 2.5 lb fish and handed the rod to Mrs RH (then engrossed in eating a cheese roll) who successfully played and brought in her first ever fish…

PART 2 will deal with what else goes on during the day: the scenery, birdlife, sharks, turtles, blue holes and so forth. For now, here is a short clip of the skiff ride out to the Marls, to give you an idea. NB this was a very calm day – things can get a little bumpier and wetter at times. The seats are padded, but not very… 

 [Ultra-cautious music credit to Joe Satriani who sued Coldplay for alleged tune 'borrowing' saying "I felt like a dagger went right through my heart. It hurt so much". Case dismissed + unspecified settlement...  Way to go, Joe! Want to check? Cut 'n' paste this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjB024bZoB4&feature=fvwrel Then by way of counterbalance try John Lennon's Imagine vs Coldplay's 'Fix you' at (cut 'n' paste)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DksjpsAe3vk&feature=endscreen&NR=1]                

CLICK LOGO for the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust

 

“GEORGIE” THE MANATEE MOVIE: ON LOCATION AT CHEROKEE, ABACO


UPDATE 17 OCT I gather that Georgie is so pleased with her new home at Cherokee, she’s still there. Not sure if she is with or without her tag, but I suppose if she has decided to stay put in one area, tracking her is not a priority. Maybe the sea grass there is a particularly good kind – or perhaps she has found natural springs to her liking. Maybe it’s the folk who live there… yes, I think it must be that. I’m hoping to get some more specific news soon, and some more photos.

UPDATE 7 OCT Kendria says that Georgie has managed to lose her tag yet again. She’s still at Cherokee, but if she decides to make a move, she can now be tracked only from reported sightings. Maybe she just doesn’t like to accessorise…

UPDATE 6 OCT Georgie has taken to life in Cherokee. She is still there – the longest she has stayed on one place during her epic journey. She’s a very popular guest, of course, and  has generated a lot of local interest and affection. Here’s a BMMRO photo taken yesterday of Georgie enjoying some quality algae browsing on the pilings in the dock

“GEORGIE” THE MANATEE MOVIE: ON LOCATION AT CHEROKEE, ABACO

The story of Georgie, the young female manatee currently undertaking a round trip of Abaco, has further raised the profile of these unusual and fascinating creatures in the northern Bahamas. Like many others who have been enthused by this important conservation and research project, I’ve been following her story since her release with her mother Rita in the Berry Is. earlier this year. In June she was weaned. In September she decided to set off to sea grass pastures new –  see GEORGIE for details

Yesterday she was still in the Cherokee area, but had lost her tag. The task was to locate her, find the tag and reattach it, and check her wellbeing. All were accomplished in the course of the day and the BMMRO posted: “Today was another day in Georgie’s ‘world according to Georgie’!!! A special BMMRO thank you and Manatee high five to Andrew Lowe, Cindy & Buddy, and the community of Cherokee! Georgie is lucky to have such caring people around! She is still parked at Cherokee and BMMRO will do their best to continue to monitor her health and habitat use in the area!”

Things have moved on a bit since then, and I am really grateful to Kendria Ferguson for finding the time to email me; and to Cindy James Pinder  for permission to use her excellent photographic material from her time spent with Georgie. Her latest news is that Georgie is moving south towards Casuarina. There are blue holes in the area where she can find fresh water. Cindy adds “She may show up in the canal in Casuarina today. If you see her please offer her fresh water from a hose.”

It’s time to showcase a short video taken by Cindy at Cherokee yesterday. In order to post it here I have had to make a derivative movie from the original. It’s like an uncontentious bootleg, i.e. made with the artist’s approval (for which many thanks!). The quality isn’t as good of course, but you will clearly see what is endearing about these inquisitive, gentle and trusting creatures – and why this makes them so vulnerable and in need of protection. Only today, a woman has been detained in Florida for riding a manatee – a strictly unlawful act that has been strongly condemned.

Here are some stills also taken by Cindy yesterday, who says “…in case you are wondering . . . a manatee feels like leather!”. They depend on having some fresh water, and these great pictures show various methods of supplying it. The top one is my favourite.

HELP NEEDED If you would like to support manatee research and conservation in The Bahamas, please email info@bahamaswhales.org or rollingharbour.delphi@gmail.com 
This is the perfect place and time to post the BMMRO September 2012 Whale, Dolphin and Manatee sightings map. Last month the cetacean count was very low – no whales at all, a solitary dolphin. However, manatees are starting to feature much more, and the Abaco sightings – presumably of Georgie as she progresses round the Islands  - are the first ones recorded there (I think) since manatee sightings began to be included towards the end of last year. A cause for breaking out the fresh water to celebrate.
*  *  *  *  *  *  *
MUSICAL AFTERNOTES The video music is Rizraklaru by Ralph McTell (before he arguably spoilt it all with the mawkish ‘Streets of London’) from ‘Spiral Staircase’ (credit / plug for RM). He wrote it in 1967 while living in an old caravan in deepest Cornwall. He and his mates had only mother nature’s ‘Rural Karzi’ to use, and the song title is an anagram. It’s a long story that ends, in RM’s words, “After he’d stopped laughing, Henry and I explained the title’s origin [to him] and he suggested an anagram, so we put the first letter last and spelt the whole thing backwards, and there you have it ! RIZRAKLARU !” 

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


GLIMPSES OF LIFE ALONG A CORAL REEF by F. H. HERRICK

This post is aimed at those with a particular interest in the flora and fauna – especially avifauna – of Abaco and its Cays. It is a naturalist’s account from 1886 of an expedition to Abaco, interspersed with a few line drawings. It’s an easy read if you are interested in Abaco, its history, and the state of natural life on the islands 125 years ago. Those who have come to this site for the photos and / or even the occasional jest are warned to expect neither. However, to tempt waverers I’ll highlight below (by way of a quiz) some intriguing aspects of the 9-page article. I have had to edit it to correct the many ‘literals’ in the open-source material; however the c19 spellings are retained. I’ve also added coloured subject-matter codes as follows: PLACE NAMES; BIRDS; PLANTS; FISH; CREATURES

In 1886, Herrick visited Abaco with a party of naturalists. This trip predated by 3 years the publication of Charles Cory’s groundbreaking ‘Birds of the West Indies‘. There would have been scant readily-available published material about the natural history of the Bahamas, let alone of Abaco itself. Herrick and a friend left the main party and went on their own wider explorations of Abaco with two local guides. Herrick recorded their findings, which were subsequently published in ‘Popular Science Monthly‘ in 1888. In Herrick’s wide-ranging account of the adventure you will find the answers to the following 15 questions. If any one of them whets your appetite to read this historic account, press the link below the quiz!

  • What fruit might you have found growing in fields on Abaco in 1886?
  • What was the local name for the perforated rock at Hole-in-the-Wall?
  • What is an “egg-bird”?
  • What was causing “the gradual extermination” of flamingos?
  • What were “shanks” and “strikers”?
  • To what human use were Wilson’s Terns put?
  • How many eggs does a tropic-bird lay?
  • What law prevented the shooting of tropic-birds, and indeed any other bird, by naturalists?
  • What sort of creature is a “sennet”?
  • Which was rated the better for eating – grouper or ‘barracouta’ (sic)?
  • Who or what is or are “grains”?
  • What common creature had a burning touch like a sharp needle?
  • What bird was reckoned to have the call ‘loarhle-ee’ ?
  • What – or indeed who – was described as a “pilepedick”?
  • What creature laid 139 eggs?

ABACO NATURAL HISTORY Popular Science Monthly Volume 32 January 1888

ABACO LAND CRAB vs RICKY JOHNSON: ROUND 2 (VIDEO)


A few weeks back, I wrote a post called ‘LAND CRABS: HOW TO STALK & WRESTLE THEM. It features stills of famed Abaco nature guide Ricky Johnson in a face-off with a land crab at Bahama Palm Shores. I noted that the large, heavy claw of these crabs is in fact the less worrying one, being used to intimidate and to grip. It’s the small claw that you need to watch out for… 

I have now sorted out an annoying camera card v Mac format incompatibility problem (well, $30 of software has dealt with it. Dear Apple, please make friends with the Panasonic Lumix asap) and to my great surprise I find that I took a video of Ricky and a land crab that perfectly demonstrates the claw point. He did mess with the large claw, but he wisely left the small one well alone… 

The footage starts with Ricky’s trademark laugh to get you into the right spirit (it’s impossible to go on one of his Eco-Tours and not have fun while learning). The volume of the commentary drops off a bit halfway through. I haven’t found the gizmo for changing the audio during the video: it’s all or nothing, I’m afraid

If you want to find out more about Land Crabs on Abaco – including Hermit Crabs – you won’t do much better than to check out the comprehensive account by ‘Bob H’ on Yahoo! Answers ABACO LAND CRAB FACTS

Ricky the guide? Here he is in full-on enthusiastic guide mode, ‘pishing’ for male Bahama Woodstar hummingbirds in low open coppice near Crossing Rocks. He has just had a responding call and is keeping us quiet while he locates the bird

ADDENDUM Tragically in the second half of 2012 Ricky developed a horrible disease that spread rapidly and unstoppably. Within 6 months he was dead, not yet 50. His sad passing, and the cruel manner of it, made me wonder if I should take down some of the many posts in which he features. But he would not have wanted that, so I have left them unaltered. 

MUSICAL DIGRESSION

Those who braved the video may have wondered about the guitar chord at the beginning and end. A few – of a certain age – may have thought it familiar. One or two may have recognised it as the opening chord of A Hard Day’s Night (Beatles 1964). It is one of the most controversial and interesting chords in modern music, with more theories about its exact construction than you can shake a Rickenbacker 12-string at (as played by George Harrison). There have been more than a dozen claimed ‘correct’ chord  identities. According to Harrison, it is in fact simply an ‘F add 9′ chord augmented by Macca’s crucial 5th fret, A string ‘D’ on his Hofner bass. Trouble is, there are half a dozen ways to play ‘F add 9′ at various points on the neck, and most of them don’t sound quite right… But that’s enough about that. Anyone who wants to follow this musical meander further  - much further – should click HERE===>>> THAT CHORD

FISH FRENZY AT FOWL CAY MARINE PRESERVE, ABACO, BAHAMAS


FISH FRENZY AT FOWL CAY MARINE PRESERVE, ABACO

This is the first short video from footage taken in June at Fowl Cay, 2000 acres of protected coral reef waters. This was the start of another great day out snorkelling and island-hopping with dive-diva Kay Politano of ABOVE & BELOW ABACO Marsh Harbour.  In due course there will be more videos of fish and coral. There is very slight evidence that lessons have been learned since last year’s erratic novice snorkeler / underwater photographer efforts. Still a way to go of course. The production process has been hampered by a major format problem between my camera chip thingy and the Mac I now use. It told me the data was unrecognisable / corrupted / damaged etc, which was massively disappointing. Then I thought of  <<techno-tip>> downloading to an old PC and transferring to the Mac on a memory stick. Problem solved.

This huge swirling mass of (tens of) thousands of small fish confronted me as I round one end of the reef. I’ve never seen anything like it before, except on TV. It was an astounding, dizzy-making spectacle. When I swam into the middle of the shoal, I expected to feel tickled all over – but despite the huge numbers of fish, their speed, and their sudden and apparently random direction changes, I wasn’t conscious of feeling them at all. I assume the commotion resulted from the presence of larger fish feeding on the small ones. Or possibly from my appearance…

Music credit: Gordon Giltrap (Hofner champion) ‘Fast Approaching’

BONEFISH! POLING THROUGH THE MANGROVES ON THE ABACO MARLS


BONEFISH! POLING THROUGH THE MANGROVES ON THE ABACO MARLS

I recently posted a short video giving an idea what it is like on a skiff as it skims fast over the water to the bonefish feeding grounds of the Abaco Marls SKIFF VIDEO Having arrived among the mangroves where the bonefish are lurking, the game changes. Instead of the roar of the engine and bump of the waves, the engine is cut and in near-silence the guide poles the skiff very slowly through the low water…

There’s a regular gentle scrape of the long pole on the sea-bed, as all eyes – guide, the fisher ‘up front’, and fishing partner – scan the water and the margins of the mangroves for bonefish or signs of their feeding. There might be tell-tale grey holes in the sandy bottom – or, as below, a ‘push’ wave as one or more bonefish move on to another area

There are bird calls such as the strangely melancholic metallic double-note of the RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD  sounding like a rusty door-hinge.

Otherwise, very little noise until… the urgently whispered “Hey! Bonefish 9 o’clock, 30 feet, moving right, 3 of them…” and the hunt is on

This short video shows the skiff’s slow progress across low clear water close to the edge of the mangroves, while we search for the dark shadows cast on the sand by the bonefish as they work their way through the flats hunting shrimps and small crabs… and in due course, with luck a well-placed “Delphi Daddy”

Credits: Red-winged Blackbird call – Xeno-Canto; Video Music – Albert Ross (formerly of Fleetwood Mac); R-WB below – Cornell Lab of Ornithology

LAND CRABS ON ABACO – HOW TO STALK AND WRESTLE THEM…


LAND CRABS ON ABACO – HOW TO STALK AND WRESTLE THEM…

Only kidding. But the following sequence taken at Bahama Palm Shores, Abaco during a recent Eco-tour with Ricky Johnson certainly looks as if they are squaring up for a fight… LAND CRABS (also known as Terrestrial Crabs) are found throughout the world. The large claw looks like the one to avoid, but is in fact the crab’s defensive / aggressive warning to back off. It’s the smaller claw you have to watch out for…

Ricky carefully stalks his opponent, waiting for the right moment to move in

Ricky, now in the crouched fighting position, challenges his opponent by pointing at the ground

The crab accepts the challenge and prepares to engage

First the massive left claw is raised to warn Ricky to back off…

Meanwhile the right claw is poised, ready to inflict the maximum damage when Ricky makes his move

The fearsome face persuades Ricky to show us some parrots instead… SCORE: CRAB 1, RICKY 0

CATCHING LAND CRABS

I checked this out, never having tried it. I found an article by Jack Hardy at oii/net that sets out some methods. See also Brigitte Carey’s comment on the ‘step-on-them-from-behind-wearing-sensible-shoes’ way:

“How do you catch them? Let me count the ways… Expert catchers put their left palm in front of the crab to attract its attention then scoop it up from the rear and have it in a croacker bag in an instant. Others use a stick or machete to pin the crab down then take a hold on the rear of the shell where the biters cannot reach. Sometimes the back two legs are gripped. You can use your foot to hold them in place so long as you have stout footwear. One Marsh Harbour man told me he uses two-foot long wash-house tongs to clasp the contentious crustaceans”

WHERE THE SEA MEETS THE SKY – A SKIFF ON THE ABACO MARLS


A  SKIFF RIDE TO THE BONEFISHING GROUNDS OF THE ABACO MARLS 

With a film budget of $2 (excluding travel costs to Abaco, incidental expenses at Delphi etc), RH Productions is proud to be able to bring you another movie that is arguably slightly less incompetent than the ones that have preceded it (the wretched STINGRAY; the marginally better BLUE TANG and REEF FISH & CORAL). Parts of this one are almost satisfactory. There’s a beginning, a middle and an end – in that order. And, best of all, it’s only a minute long. So sit back with your tub of popcorn and enjoy… oh, is that it already?

The skiff trip can be as much as 5 miles to reach the best places for bonefishing in the mangroves (I’ll post a video of that later on). The exact location can vary daily and depends on a variety of factors including the state of the tide, the wind strength / direction, and cloud cover. On this day the sea was glassy still; mostly it’s quite a choppy trip across open ocean; and when the wind has whipped up some waves, it is (a) exhilarating and (b) a constant reminder of the thin cushioning on the seats… I mention in passing that apart from topping and tailing the clip, muting the noise of the engine / wind, and adding music, this scene is just as it was live. There’s been no subtle blurring of the horizon or other work done – my editing techniques are far too rudimentary (i.e. non-existent). Best viewed full-screen, if you can find the gizmo (bottom right small square thing)

Music credit to the erstwhile litigious Joe Satriani

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


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

I recently traced the history of Hole-in-the-Wall, Abaco through maps from the 16th century onwards – its significance, the name changes, and so on. To see that post CLICK HERE . I have just come across some historical material about HITW that is so fascinating that I have awarded the accolade of a separate post, rather than lumping it in with the earlier one. The extract below is from THE NAVAL CHRONICLE (Vol 9) * for January – July 1803. It gives a short but detailed description of the Hole in the Wall in the context of a remarkable sketch (reproduced as a Plate in the book) submitted by the contributor, who signed himself  ‘Half-Pay’. That was the name traditionally used in both Navy and Army to refer to the pay or allowance an officer received when in retirement or not in actual service – or, metonomously, to the officer receiving the reduced pay. I greatly like the charming deference with which the contribution is offered.

The whole book is well worth examining for the light it sheds on Naval matters at the very start of the c19. The comprehensive personnel and other lists hold plenty of interest. This was an era of almost continuous major military and naval campaigns on both sides of the Atlantic. The Battle of Trafalgar was still 2 years away when this book was published. If you want to see the downloadable online version CLICK HERE  [I had to zoom the page and clip it in two to make it easily readable  - hence the gap. And apologies for the purple highlight - it was my place-mark...]


Here is the amazing aquatint  by J. Wells of Half-Pay’s sketch, published in the 1803 Naval Chronicle by founder J.Gold of Shoe Lane, London. It’s quite small, measuring 5½” x 9″. You may even be looking at a screen clip of a scan of the book plate of the earliest surviving depiction of Hole-in-the Wall. If anyone knows of an older one, please get in touch. And can anyone identify what kind of sailing vessels these are (I wouldn’t know a brigantine from a clipper…)?

To answer queries arising from my earlier post, I added a map and photos showing exactly where the actual Hole at HITW is, and how to get there (if you are wearing the right shoes). It’s worth revisiting the topic. People are always fascinated by the extremities of land – ‘Land’s End’, ‘Finisterre’, ‘Finistère’ and so on – especially where they are remote and relatively inaccessible. I think HITW qualifies. As far as I am aware, apart from the lighthouse its abandoned outbuildings at the southeast corner of the first map below, there is no other building in the area covered by this map. The nearest road is 15 miles up the inhospitable track to the north of the lighthouse.

Here is the map showing the location of the actual Hole in the Wall, and below that, a distance shot taken at sea

 * According to The Philadelphia Print Shop “Between 1799 and 1818, The Naval Chronicle, was the pre-eminent maritime journal reporting news about the British navy. Issued twice a year, it was published during a period in which the British navy fought the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812, and came to “rule the waves.” This wonderful journal included action reports, intelligence on various matters related to the British and other navies, and biographies of naval officers. Many of the reports were accounts by officers directly involved, such as Lord Horatio Nelson. Included with the articles were portraits, images of naval action, and views of the many ports in which the navy called. These are important, first-hand images of this turbulent period”

HOOKED! A FANATICAL FISHERMAN’S WIFE TAKES TO THE BONEFISH FLATS


HOOKED! A FANATICAL FISHERMAN’S WIFE TAKES TO THE BONEFISH FLATS

I’m married to a Fanatical Fisherman. I have never shared his enthusiasm, though I have always loved the places where his fishing takes us. However the chance to spend two weeks at the Delphi Club Bahamas on Abaco every year has changed my perspective. This year I thought to myself (in non-fishing terminology, of course) ‘How about giving it a try?’

We waited for a day that was not windy and that would suit the FF’s own fishing convenience. One of the other guests was a kind and patient, not to say a highly eminent fisherperson and she gave me my first ever lesson on the lawn. With much encouragement I went forth. It was a lovely day with the sun beating down, so it was ‘sun block on and all parts covered’. 

Skiffs on their way to the bonefishing grounds

We set out in the skiff and after an exhilarating ride we glided to a stop in shallow water. I sat enchanted for a moment, taking in the incredible beauty of the place. Guide Tony provided suitable footwear for me (his son’s); and the relative merits of a ‘Crazy Charlie or a ‘Delphi Special’ were debated. Soon I was wading on the flats, rod in hand. This was my first-ever experience of my husband’s lifetime obsession…

Poling to a good place for wading

Within minutes Tony pointed to a shoal of bonefish… I cast (in a manner of speaking)! I struck! I hooked! I played! And… I lost!  

FISH ON!

But that was enough. From then on I was on a mission. I saw the ‘nervous water’ – great shoals of bonefish causing a subtle ripple 0n the surface of the water. When they turned and moved towards me I could hardly contain my excitement. I knew I had to tread carefully underfoot and to keep still as I cast. Silver flashes glinted in the sunlight as the fish started ‘tailing’.

Watch out for ‘Nervous Waters’

Meanwhile the sharks lazily circled us waiting for a chance to grab a prize before we could reel it in. I did hook another bone but it too managed to evade capture. And then suddenly the day was over. How did that happen? In the end I landed no fish but as the skiff sped back across the blue water I knew this was, for me, the start of something wholly absorbing. FF had better look to his laurels.

Lorna Jarman

(All illustrative photos by RH – Lorna was otherwise engaged!)

EIGHT BIRDIES (BUT NO EAGLES) AT TREASURE CAY GOLF COURSE, ABACO, BAHAMAS


GARETH & KASIA’S GUIDE TO THE BIRDIES OF TREASURE CAY GOLF COURSE

Gareth Reid, master chef of the Delphi Club and Kasia of ABACO BEACHCOMBING fame have put together some excellent material about the bird-life to be found on Treasure Cay golf course. I’ve never been there myself, but I already knew from a recent comment from Dr Elwood Bracey of TC that the birdlife on the golf course is very varied and exciting. 

Gareth writes: I am a keen golfer and my girlfriend loves nature and wildlife so sometimes to cover both bases we spend our day off at Treasure Cay Golf Club.  Whilst I play, Kasia twitches! 

Treasure Cay golf course is 20 odd miles north of Marsh Harbour a challenging little track with a lovely mixture of short Par 4s interesting par 5s and a couple of really testing Par 3s. It was designed by Dick Wilson of Doral fame and has matured into today’s layout of tight fairways framed by dense island vegetation.

Birdlife on the course is supported by the three lakes, beside the fourth and fifteenth greens and to the right of the eleventh fairway. Species  include North American Coots, Moorhens, Canada Geese, Snow Geese, Mallard Ducks, White Cheeked Pintails, Anis, Northern Mocking Birds, Ibis  and Palm Warblers. We have also spotted a Belted Kingfisher and an Osprey both enjoying  a light lunch of fresh fish.

So next time you come visit Abaco why not take the trip to Treasure Cay with a bag full of sticks a few balls and tees, hopes of birdies and dreams of eagles and if your swing lets you down at least you got those cute coots. The Delphi Club can provide packed lunches, or you can eat at TC – try Coco Bar (fish and chips, burgers etc) or Treasure Sands (upmarket  bar restaurant with pool) 

BAHAMA (WHITE-CHEEKED) PINTAILS AT TC GC & OTHER SPECIES

(The slideshow was meant to showcase just Pintails but apparently has to include all the other images)

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CANADA GOOSE

GREAT BLUE HERON

GREEN HERON

WHITE IBIS  

SMOOTH-BILLED ANI

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD

PALM WARBLER 

 

KASIA PERFECTS HER DRIVING AT TC GC

BEACHCOMBING WITH KASIA: EXPLORING A ROCKY SHORE


Kasia’s back! She recently explored a rather unpromising-looking stretch of Abaco coastline, and it proved to be anything but… Kasia writes: The story goes: one day I took myself for a walk and a bit of beachcombing. I usually don’t bring my camera with me but luckily this time I did. This particular beach looks very barren but on close inspection and a patient eye there are some lovely treasures to be found. Here are some of the treasures I captured!

A tangle of 3 bleached trees, with their roots apparently intertwined

CHITONS

Great close-ups… are those eggs behind this first one? There’s a similar image in the Macmillan ‘Marine Life of the Caribbean’ but unfortunately neither the caption nor the text refers to them. ADDENDUM: Colin Redfern writes: The “eggs” behind the chiton are fecal pellets

NERITES (Nerita)

 

WEST INDIAN TOP-SHELLS (Cittarium Pica) 

In this image, several very small chitons can also be seen on the rock

It looks as if someone… or something… has been having a Nerite feast on the shore. A bird maybe?  I had taken the shells above and below to be another variety of Nerite, but as so often scientist and shell expert Colin Redfern has kindly corrected the error. He writes: “Very nice photos. The “nerite feast” is actually a pile of broken West Indian Top-shells (Cittarium pica). The photo immediately above shows a live group of the same species. This is what Bahamians call a whelk (or wilk), and in the lower photo they have been harvested, probably for a stew.

 ROCK POOL MISCELLANY

I am trying to ID a much as I can in this pool. All suggestions welcome via ‘Leave a Comment’. So far, the corals are Brain Coral and Pink Coral (I think) but I am going see what else can be given a name…

These are my favourite! :) Kasia

COMET SEA STAR (possibly juvenile, with 3 such short stubs?)

A SPONGE (?) OF SOME SORT (any help with ID appreciated…)

                RED ROCK URCHINS

BOOKCOMBING: AN OCCASIONAL THEMED SERIES (2) SEA GLASS


2. SEA GLASS

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

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

PURE SEA GLASS

RICHARD LAMOTTE

Amazon UK £22; new / used from £14

Amazon UK Reviews 1 x 5*           

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

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

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

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

SEA GLASS HUNTER’S BOOK

C.S.LAMBERT

Amazon UK £8.54, new/used from £5.07

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

Amazon.com reviews: 9, average rating 3.7*

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

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

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

SEA GLASS CHRONICLES 

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

Amazon UK £17.32 new / used from £12

REVIEW CLIPPINGS

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

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

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

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

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

A PASSION FOR SEA GLASS

C. S. LAMBERT AMY WILTON

Amazon UK £19.99 new/used about £15

REVIEW CLIPPINGS

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

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

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

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

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


ABACO BEACHCOMBING: KASIA IS BACK… WITH ANOTHER MYSTERY OBJECT


Kasia has returned to grace the blog with treasures from her Abaco beach-combing from the Delphi Club and further afield. Expect more shells, more sea glass… and more mystery objects. We have already had part of a RAY’S PALATE and a PACIFIC ANGARIA SHELL  that had somehow arrived on the shores of Abaco. There’s a long thin WHITE BONE, as yet unidentified (no suggestions yet). And now this extraordinary item… 

To which my answer is “not the faintest idea”. My guesses are (1) a fossilised vertebra of some medium-sized creature (2) a fossilised ‘soft’ rock that worms have been at (but why only on one side?) (3) a bread roll that went disastrously wrong in the baking…

All suggestions welcome, preferably via the COMMENT box (so others can view them); or to rollingharbour.delphiATgmail.com (spam guard: convert AT to @)

STOP PRESS Mystery quickly solved, thanks to Colin Redfern who says “This is part of the remains of a colony of Petaloconchus worm-shells (molluscs). They attach to rock or coral, and the colonies can be quite large.”  Colin’s website includes some examples from his archive, one chunk being very similar to Kasia’s 

And here’s another chunk, top and bottom view Photos courtesy of James St. John (Geology, Ohio State University at Newark)
…and here is the worm that makes the vermi-accretion or whatever the term is

EXPLORING CORAL REEFS: FOWL CAY MARINE PRESERVE, ABACO


EXPLORING THE CORAL REEF AT FOWL CAY MARINE PRESERVE, ABACO

First, a warning for anyone arriving new to this blog (hi! welcome) either on purpose or accidentally: I can’t swim very well, I hadn’t snorkelled for decades until last year, and I’d never before used a camera underwater.

That said, there is probably enough in this 2:40 min video  to warrant a quick view. As with other videos from this expedition to Fowl Cay Marine Preserve (STINGRAY / BLUE TANG), best viewed small to avoid queasiness and disorientation. You can always Pause for a breather. There are some nice fish obligingly in view from time to time, and the coral is very diverse. And I’ll know what to do this year to get better results, besides trying harder with the swimming… (Music: East Wes by Eric Johnson, off Ah Via Musicom)

AUDUBON CARIBBEAN FISHES APP £0.69 / $0.99 PROMOTION: GET IT NOW!


AUDUBON FISHES OF THE CARIBBEAN & GULF OF MEXICO APP

iphone, ipad (172mb)    £0.69 / $0.99 offer until 31 Jan, then reverts to $9.99          rollingharbour rating *****

This is app is so good, and such an utter bargain until 31 Jan 2012, that I have awarded it the rh logo position at the top of the page. Praise indeed. Audubon guides are legendary, of course. The excellent Audubon bird app has already been reviewed and also given a rare 5*- see BIRD APP on the BOOKS ETC drop-down menu. Now here are the Caribbean Fishes, in all their glory. First, a clip shot of the download page – click on it to enlarge and avoid eye-strain

This is a very well designed app, a comprehensive search and identification tool with a myriad of features. It’s fine for an iPhone, but I guess it would really come into its own on an iPad. Whatever that is. Here’s a brief overview of the contents

SEARCH OPTIONS:  by shape (dividing size into 5 categories, from giant to tiny); family (alphabetical list of species); name (alphabetical list with useful thumbnails to assist – and cleverly, the ability to search by first name ‘Sergeant’ or last name ‘Major’), or advanced search (size / shape; habitat; regions; colour)

REFERENCE sections on biology; fish-watching tips; marine habitats; biogeography; conservation; fish taxonomy; dangerous fishes; large glossary

OTHER FEATURES include the facility for having a (free) account, enabling a ‘My Content’ facility; Journal; and GPS

Crits? Very few at first glance. The odd typo. My inital search for bonefish by size (over-optimistic, of course) led me to the larger ladyfish, but a search by name took me straight to it. The most significant confusions may arise from the present ‘single image’ ID format. For example, if you look for the uncomely  greeny-blue adult male stoplight parrotfish, you may be surprised to find the prettier black, white & red female pictured. Similarly, you won’t find juveniles, such as the small blue-with-yellow-spots yellowtail damselfish. But these are small points in an app with such a large scope. Anyway, who knows what upgrades will follow?

Overall for £0.69 / $0.99 a complete steal for New Year

THE INTRIGUING PARROTS OF GREAT ABACO ISLAND – PODCAST


A 5 minute PODCAST from ABC Radio’s ‘The Science Show’ featuring Caroline Stahala, research scientist and Abaco Parrot expert, and David Knowles of the Bahamas National Trust, Chief Park Warden for Abaco

The online report is headed by this: Holiday homes and resorts are replacing the forests in which the Bahamian parrot of Great Abaco Island breeds. When Christopher Columbus discovered the beautiful Bahamian islands in 1492, he wrote in his journal ‘the flocks of parrots obscure the sun’. Now the Bahamian parrot is confined to just two islands and they’re a protected species. On Great Abaco Island Bahamian parrots breed in the pine forests of the south and, as Pauline Newman discovered, their nesting behaviour is quite extraordinary”

CLICK HERE==>> ABACO PARROTS PODCAST – THE ABC SCIENCE SHOW

For the relevant web page and a transcript of the talk CLICK LOGO===>>> 

Thanks to the ABC Science Show for use approval – click name for more Podcasts

Abaco Parrot

ESSENTIAL SOUTH ABACO BIRD CHECKLIST FROM AVIBASE


The superb AVIBASE is a massive world-wide bird database – an essential reference point for birders, even the occasional enthusiast. Checklists, range maps, bird links, photos, bird sounds,  and even the facility to make your own contribution, all in one place. AVIBASE has been a work in progress for 20 years and now contains over 5 million records of about 10,000 species and 22,000 subspecies of birds, including distribution information, taxonomy, synonyms in several languages, and much more

Here is the CHECKLIST FOR SOUTH ABACO, the area that I am most familiar with. It probably holds good for the whole of Abaco and the Cays. If you are staying at the Delphi Club, Rolling Harbour, you need this – and especially if you are planning a birding adventure with Ricky Johnson… Be prepared! The plan is that you can download it or print it out from here

SOUTH ABACO BIRD CHECKLIST  click to open!

Here is an illustrative clip of one of the 6 pages 

If you have a problem printing it from here – or for access to photos of a great many of the birds listed, with clips of their calls and songs -  use this direct link  CLICK LOGO===>>>

CREDITS: The Avibase website is managed by Denis Lepage and hosted by Bird Studies Canada, Canadian copartner of Birdlife International

SOUTH ABACO CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT 2011


Here is a clip taken from the excellent website THE ABACO SCIENTIST, with the kind permission of Dr Craig Layman of FIU. The brief summary of the South Abaco Bird Count 2011 by Elwood D. Bracey is of great interest, not least for the Delphi Club, from where guided Nature Tours take place and where there is a lot of enthusiasm for the birdlife of the island. 75 separate species were recorded this year, including all the known Abaconian endemics.

It is also a very fine photo of a male Bahama Woodstar courtesy of BIRD FORUM