AN EXPEDITION TO SANDY POINT, ABACO


A MILDLY BIRD-BASED EXPEDITION TO SANDY POINT

You will need: binoculars; camera; picnic lunch OR willingness to eat ‘local’ (see below); swimming kit – and a car, of course, e.g. the club Toyota

Map extract courtesy of ‘Abaco Life’ (the best, indeed the only, road map of the Island I have come across…)

SANDY POINT is a small settlement about 30 miles / 1/2 hr drive south west of Delphi. There’s only one choice of route: turn left at the end of the drive, and keep right on to the end of the road. Having commandeered the club car from Sandy, you drive due south until you get to a long right-hand bend. There is an important junction here: if you drive straight on, you enter the National Park nature reserve proper – breeding ground for the Abaco parrots – and are on the track to Hole in the Wall and its lighthouse…

Do not be tempted to try this – it is 15 miles each way on a deteriorating track, and the club car will soon be a wreck. Rental cars are forbidden. I will post separately about this adventure, which we have done in a truck. We may not repeat the experience.

Bird Alert 1 During the journey, look out for birds on the telegraph posts / wires. You may see American kestrels, turkey vultures and Bahama swallows.Small birds will flick across the road, and you may find yourself readily placing them in the ‘unidentifiable’ category. If in doubt, best settle for ‘warbler’ and there’s a fair chance you will be right. Alongside the road, look out for groups of smooth-billed Anis aka cemetery birds. These largish black birds are noisy and sociable, nest communally and look after each other’s nestlings.
 Charles J Sharp Wikimedia Commons

After the bend, continue roughly westwards, eventually passing Sandy Point Airfield on your left. Soon you will come to a sharp right-hand bend. Pull up at the corner. This is Rocky Point where there is a fabulous beach, so it’s a good chance for a swim. Ignore the defunct beach bar, other than to check it out for curly tail lizards (see Misc Wildlife sub-page). The sea is turquoise, inviting and quite shallow. There are good shells to be found a short walk in either direction – especially to the left. You may well find a sand dollar there. Ignore (if you can) the large cruise ship moored on the horizon. It is an integral part of the Disney Experience that is Gorda Cay, naffly renamed “Castaway Island”. I refuse to give it further publicity.

 Rocky Point

Bird Alert 2 At Rocky Point you are quite likely to see black Magnificent Frigate birds (man o’ war birds ) overhead. Or you may see the graceful white-tailed tropic bird. If you are very lucky, as we once were, you’ll get both mingling together above the bay.

 Frigate Birds at Rocky Point

Sandy Point is a small settlement, quite attractive in a laid-back, slightly scruffy way. It is a fishing village, and a base for bonefishing. Since last year there has been a certain amount of building upgrading. There’s a rumour (perhaps now fact) that Orvis are to run a bonefishing lodge there. Some competition for Delphi, maybe, but fishing different waters. The single main street has small lanes on either side. There’s a small grocery, and Nancy’s restaurant by the shore to the left which is a good place to leave the car. If you haven’t brought a picnic, you can enjoy lunch there with a picturesque view overlooking the sea and the two jetties. From one of these, there is a ferry to Nassau, but I believe it only runs once a week, over the weekend.

 Sandy Point jetty

  Sandy Point

Bird Alert 3 In Sandy Point itself, you are very likely to see some birds you may have seen around Delphi. Northern mockingbirds, loggerhead kingbirds among the larger birds; warblers and ‘quits of various sorts among the smaller.  Northern Mockingbird Sandy P

If you are lucky, you may see a belted kingfisher. Belted Kingfisher, Sandy Point

There are shoreline / wading birds too – these might include willets, plovers, turnstones and American oystercatchers.

 Turnstone, Sandy Point

 Tiny Plovery Thing, SP*

If you eat at Nancy’s – you can get fresh fish caught that morning, or local bahamian food – and have a couple of Kaliks, it’s a pleasant stroll from there along the beach and round the eponymous point. On a sunny day the water is an astounding colour. Keep an eye out for shells including conchs. You can carry on right round the point and cut across to the main street on one of several paths to return to the car.                                  *I’m putting a buck on a Wilson’s Plover

        Nancy’s, the wander round the point, shy rollingharbour in bougainvillea…

Bird Alert 4 After you have rounded the point, and if the tide is low, you will see plenty of waders on the sandbars. In fact, you can walk or wade out onto these for a closer look. However, also look through your binoculars at the more distant sandbars for an amazing sight if you are lucky: this spring there was a colony of frigate birds there, and the males were displaying. Basically, this involves a large black bird blowing up its throat and chest most alarmingly into a large red balloon. Presumably female frigate birds find this irresistible rather than terrifying…

 (nod to ‘wallpaperart_online’)

Still on that side of the point, you are very likely to see large and small types of
Heron and Egret, either on the edge of the water or in the trees. You will probably need to scan with binoculars, especially for the heron which can be quite hard to pick out by eye against foliage – and they may be 10 feet up.

It’s probably time now to go back to Rocky Point for another swim. However there is a final birding aspect to the Sandy Point area that we have yet to check out. Between Sandy Point and Rocky Point there are inland swampy areas which I read somewhere have very good birding potential. I’ve no idea how easy the access is, but it seems that roseate spoonbills are found there. Any further info appreciated.

This is a good place to draw attention to the web link in the Blogroll list to the BMMRO (Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation), which has its HQ at Sandy Point. Their site
http://www.bahamaswhales.org 

This is also the place to stitch myself up utterly and add a link to Erik Gauger’s fantastic travel site – see Blogroll – specifically his recent post about a trip to Sandy Point. Oh dear, I’ve got a great deal to learn in blogland, it seems:  http://www.notesfromtheroad.com/westindies/sandy_point_01.htm

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