Neotropic Cormorant, Treasure Cay, Abaco 1 (Tom Sheley)


Neotropic or Olivaceous Cormorants Phalacrocorax brasilianus. Smaller cousins of the familiar double-crested cormorant, and occupying a quite different range. In the northern Bahamas they are considered to be uncommon summer residents whereas the big guys are common year-round residents. However the neotropics’ range has spread in the last decade and they may become more noticeable on Abaco. Right now, Abaco is pretty much the northern boundary.

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In many ways, cormorants are taken rather for granted – ubiquitous black guardians of the coastal margins. But seen close-to, they have their glamour. This is especially true of the slimmer neotropics, with precious jewels for eyes and intricate plumage patterns that a mere fly-past cannot reveal.

Male and female neotropic cormorants: a caption contest in the making…Neotropic Cormorant, Abaco 3 (Bruce Hallett)

Neotropic Cormorant, Abaco 2 (Bruce Hallett)
Besides being smaller and lighter than the double-cresteds, these cormorants have longer tails. They are mainly fish-eaters both at sea, and inshore where ponds are to be found. They make brief dives to find food; in groups they may combine to beat the water with their wings to drive fish into the shallows where they can be picked off more easily.
Neotropic Cormorant, Abaco 1 (Bruce Hallett)
Neotropic cormorants are monogamous and breed in colonies. They build a platform of sticks a few metres above the ground or water in bushes or trees, where the eggs are laid. They produce one clutch (if that’s the right term for cormorants – maybe it’s just hens?) for the season. Here’s a fabulous photo of a double-crested cormorant nest, a similar structural arrangement, with 3 growing chicks. It was taken by JIM TODD, who uses a kayak to reach birds in less accessible places.
Double-crested cormorant nest with 3 chicks, Abaco (Jim Todd)
The eagle-eyed may have noticed that in some photos the birds seem to be standing on some kind of white pipe, as indeed they are. That is because a good bet for finding one in the summer is on the golf course pond in Treasure Cay, a most productive location for spotting water birds of many species. The pipes are to do with the watering arrangements. I think.Neotropic Cormorant, Treasure Cay, Abaco 2 (Tom Sheley)
As I have written elsewhere, “Call in at the Clubhouse for permission first. And if you hear a loud yell of ‘Fore’, it’s not someone counting birds. It’s time to duck…”
Raining? What, me worry?
Neotropic Cormorant, Treasure Cay, Abaco 1 (Tom Sheley)Neotropic Cormorant, Treasure Cay, Abaco 3 (Tom Sheley)


‘Emerald Eyes’ may ring a bell with some – and not just Eric Johnson followers either. It was the title of track #1 on the under-rated (largely ignored?) 1973 Fleetwood Mac album ‘Mystery for Me’, in many ways a turning point of a group already in rapid transition.This was their last UK-produced album, cut as the complications of a rich mixture of liquids, substances and other people’s spouses were becoming acute. Bob Welch managed to pen this rather nice song. You’ll need to turn up the volume a bit. Memory lane beckons…

Credits: Photos – Bruce Hallett, Tom Sheley, Jim Todd, Lycaon; Infographics – Allaboutbirds, Comingsbirds



Blainville's Beaked Whale, Sandy Point, Abaco 14 (Keith Salvesen

Adult male Blainville’s Beaked Whale with barnacle-encrusted teeth protruding from its lower jaw


This second post about the Blainville’s Beaked Whales of Abaco, Bahamas, relates to a prolonged encounter with a group of mothers, calves and a male. This was our second BBW sighting on the same day in March: the first is described HERE. Click the link to find out more details about these wonderful creatures, with plenty of close-up photos.

We had been invited by Charlotte and Diane of the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation BMMRO to spend a day with them on the research boat. This was our first chance to get close to whales, a chance made far more likely by (a) being with experts and (b) their specialist equipment…

Our first sighting was a short distance south of Rocky Point, as we moved into the deeper, darker ocean waters of the Bahama canyon, with the shoreline still clearly visible. We then visited HOLE-IN-THE-WALL in the RHIB and took a close look from the sea at the damage and destruction of the famous Hole caused by HURRICANE SANDY

On the way back we paused as we got to the same area where we had seen the group earlier in the day. Within minutes, several whales came straight towards us. This photo shows 3 adults and, almost submerged, a calf.Blainville's Beaked Whale, Sandy Point, Abaco 8 (Keith Salvesen

For the next hour or so, they played around the boat like very large dolphins moving in slow motion. Usually these whales make a deep dive every 20 minutes or so and stay underwater for about the same time before resurfacing. These ones stayed with us throughout. 

3 adults with 2 calvesBlainville's Beaked Whale, Sandy Point, Abaco 7 (Keith Salvesen

Mostly they stayed quite – or very – close to the boat. Sometimes they swam across the bow or even under the boat. From time to time, they would move off some distance. Each time we thought they were moving on, and each time they soon returned.  After a while the females and calves were joined by another whale – the less common sighting of a male replete with barnacle-encrusted teeth  protruding upwards from his lower jaw.

Blainville's Beaked Whale, Sandy Point, Abaco 21 (Keith SalvesenBlainville's Beaked Whale, Sandy Point, Abaco 13 (Keith SalvesenBlainville's Beaked Whale, Sandy Point, Abaco 12 (Keith Salvesen

The male initially stayed slightly further away from the boat than the others, perhaps assessing the threat to the group. Then he too joined in, passing and repassing the boat, swimming away and returning, remaining on the surface and offering a wonderful view of his noble head (see header image and below).

Blainville's Beaked Whale, Sandy Point, Abaco 15 (Keith SalvesenBlainville's Beaked Whale, Sandy Point, Abaco 16 (Keith Salvesen

Looking at my photos later, I realised that a second male must have joined the group for a short time. The image below shows a male with far fewer barnacles – certainly not the male we had been watching.Blainville's Beaked Whale, Sandy Point, Abaco 20 (Keith Salvesen

It was remarkable to see these huge creatures behaving in much the same way as dolphins, swimming playfully around and under a boat, moving away, then returning for more. These whales are some 15 feet long and weigh about 2000 pounds. They were inquisitive, unafraid (even with calves in the group) and gentle. Maybe they sensed that they have been to subject of years of intricate research by Diane and Charlotte that will materially assist with the preservation their species. More likely, the group were simply enjoying themselves in the sun with a peaceful intruder in their territory.

You don’t have to go miles offshore to see whales in Abaco watersAdult male Blainville's Beaked Whale, Rocky Point, Abaco (Rolling Harbour)FullSizeRender

BMMRO research RHIB with Diane           BMMRO HQ, Sandy Point, AbacoBMMRO Research Boat, Sandy Point, Abaco (Keith Salvesen) BMMRO HQ, Sandy Point, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

Credits: All photos RH except one; Charlotte & Diane for a brilliant day out; Mr Blainville for a brilliant whale; Mrs RH for snapping me snapping the whale – a photograph that was featured in a competition in the Guardian Newspaper. 



Ghost Crab in surf.Delphi Club.Abaco Bahamas.Tom Sheley


It’s been a while since I was in a crabby mood, but autumn is here and there’s a sharp nip in the early morning air… What better time to visit a selection of the many crab species found on Abaco. 


I thought I had some good photos of these cute little guys with their ‘Carson the Downton Abbey Butler’ white gloves. However, Tom Sheley (header and below) has perfectly caught the  tide-hanging that they enjoy, sometimes disappearing completely or perhaps leaving just their twin periscopes showing.Ghost Crabin surf.Delphi Club.Abaco bahamas.Tom Sheley


Many people’s favourite small crab, with their endearing house-moving habits as they grow. Excellent for racing, too (see HERE). Here’s one taking its mobile home up a tree; and another tucked safely into a nerite [Capt Rick Guest amends] Magpie Shell, Cittarium pica, (used to be Livona pica), the living animal of which is the 3rd most consumed animal behind Lobster & Conch in the Caribbean. They are Littoral around Shorelines and are also used as bait.Hermit Tree Crab.Abaco Bahamas.6.13.Tom Sheley copy Hermit Crab in a nerite shell, Delphi Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

BLACK-BACKED LAND CRAB Black-backed land crab, Abaco 1 (Charles Skinner) Black-backed Land Crab, Abaco 2 (Charles Skinner)

Faithful guardians of my rod (there are 2 there)!Black-backed Land Crab, Delphi, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

LAND CRAB Land Crab, Bahamas Palm Shores Abaco (Keith Salvesen)Land Crab, Bahamas Palm Shores Abaco 2 (Keith Salvesen)

STONE CRABStone Crab ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba

ARROW CRAB Arrow Crab ©Melinda Riger @ GB Scuba copy

CLINGING CRAB Clinging Crab © Melinda Riger @ G B ScubaClinging Crab ©Melinda Riger @ G B Scuba copy

BLUE CRAB Blue crab (Atlantic) - Leoadec Wiki

HORSESHOE CRAB (LIMULUS)Horseshoe Crab (Limulus), Delphi Beach, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)


Credits: Tom Sheley (1, 2, 3); Keith Salvesen (4,7,8,9,15); Charlie Skinner (5,6); Melinda Riger (10,11,12,13); Leodec (14)


Piping Plover Tuna, banded in NJ, on Abaco 1 (Rhonda Pearce)


Hello again, readers of Mr Harbour’s blog. My name is Tuna. This is the second part of my diary. Last time HERE he called it an ‘autobiography’, but that was a bit pompous of him, I think. It’s 4 months now since I cracked out and after my long trip from that place [the Holgate Unit of the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, New Jersey – ed.], I’m having a good time on Abaco – see my picture above. Michelle, who put my 4 cool rings on, would be proud of me I think.

Since my last post (which was also my first post! Ha!) some things have been happening to me. There I was, safely on my nice beach [Winding Bay, Cherokee Sound – map below] when the wind started to get scary and the sea kept coming further up the beach. And a whole lot more splashy. So I just hid at the back of the beach until it got better again. I knew if that nice lady came back to see me it would mean I could come out again. And she did. So I did. I showed her my bands so she’d know it was me. Green on blue; black on gray. That’s me and no other bird.

Piping Plover Tuna, banded in NJ, on Abaco 2 (Rhonda Pearce)

Showing Rhonda my bands so she knows mePiping Plover Tuna, banded in NJ, on Abaco 3 (Rhonda Pearce)

Mr Harbour wrote and told people about how I was ok after a big storm. He said:

“TUNA THE PIPL: UNRUFFLED BY HURRICANE JOAQUIN” Oct 3. Despite big seas & high winds reaching N Baha on the fringes of the hurricane, Tuna has returned safely to Watching Bay. Photos clearly showing bands. π Rhonda Pearce”

A lot of people [c2000] read about this and Michelle said “yay!!! go tuna!!!”, so maybe people had been a bit worried about me. People passed the story round. What ever a ‘Chorlito Valiente’ is, it sounds good and I’m glad to be one. I’m doing just fine, thank you… 

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Since then I had THE BEST NEWS. My mum Paula has been found! She’s gone to a different beach that’s not very close to here [Joulter Cays, Andros]. She got a different leg thing called a “UR Green Flag PE2” and somebody saw her! I’m so excited (and I hope my dad Ross is safe too). She was in a crowd of 32 other birds just like her, and a lot of other birds friends too. 

Joulter Cays, Andros, Sep 28. Thousands of shorebirds including over 100 PIPL. Including Paula.Piping Plovers & other shorebirds, Joulter Cays Andros

Tuna’s mum Paula, one of a group of 32 piping plovers on Joulter CaysPaula

“UR Green Flag PE2”12124591_10156120828430564_2098794849_o - Version 2

Joulter Cays, pinpointing Paula’s exact position 25.304095; -78.126642Joulter Cays, Andros (PIPL Paula)

I hope if I get that feeling again that I need to fly a long way, my mum gets it too. And my dad. Then we might all end up on the same beach where I cracked out! But I’m planning to stay on my own beach for now. More news from me soon. Cheeps from Tuna.

Watching Bay, Cherokee, Abaco jpg


  • JUN 10      Hatched
  • JUN 11      Banded & measured
  • JUL 05       Fledged
  • AUG 28     First sighted on Abaco – preliminary ID
  • SEP 16       Seen again on the same beach – ID confirmed
  • SEP 22       Last sighting before Hurricane Joaquin
  • SEP 28       Paula re-sighted on Joulter Cays, Andros
  • OCT 03      Tuna safely back on the beach again after Hurricane Joaquin

PIPL Watching Bay, Cherokee, Abaco. 1 bird. Banded. Rhonda Pearce 2 copy copy

NOTE If you ever wondered why birds are banded and what on earth use it is, the answer is in this story. Banding & tagging enables detailed research at both ends of the migration which in turn enables protection of the species and conservation of threatened habitats. There are only 8000 PIPL left. Degradation of the breeding grounds or the overwintering grounds – let alone both – may result in extinction. This seems to have been a good summer for the piping plover; let’s hope the winter treats them well so that this summer’s chicks like Tuna will be able to breed safely next year.

This Diary extract shows that not only can an individual banded bird’s migration movements be monitored, but also (with a bit of luck) a parent or sibling – even though they may chose to overwinter in quite different places. It is of particular significance if they then return to the same area in summer for breeding.

For details of all this season’s PIPL sightings, check out ABACO PIPING PLOVER WATCH 




Credits: thanks to bander Michelle Stantial, birder Rhonda Pearce, CWFNJ & cohorts, Matt Jeffery and all other providers of info snippets; Birdorable for the cartoon; and as ever Xeno-Canto for the recording


Roseate Spoonbill, Gilpin Pond, Abaco (Keith Kemp)4


In past posts I have mentioned what an excellent birding place Gilpin Point has become. There’s the large pond; and right beside it, dunes, the other side of which is a fine secluded beach and the ocean. The place is a magnet for birds of all shapes and sizes, from brown pelicans down to the tiny endemic Bahama woodstars. There are water birds, wading birds, shorebirds and coppice birds. It has become a place where Abaco parrots regularly congregate. You can reach the Gilpin FB page HERE.

A while back, there was a rare visitor, a Flamingo that stayed a few months then disappeared again. It was in some ways a sad reminder of past flamingo glory days, when they were commonly found on Abaco. Now they are confined to Inagua apart from the occasional vagrant. For more on the the topic, with wonderful photos by Melissa Maura of the breeding season on Inagua, click HERE. Another rare vagrant – formerly quite plentiful on Abaco – was recently found at Gilpin by Keith Kemp, who skilfully managed to get photos of it from some distance away: a Roseate Spoonbill.

Roseate Spoonbill, Gilpin Pond, Abaco (Keith Kemp)2

I have featured spoonbills before in a post IN THE PINK, but the photos were taken on New Providence by Woody Bracey. I had no Abaco spoonbill photos. To be fair, we did once see one while we were bonefishing far out on the Marls. It was on the edge of the mangroves a good distance away, and the pale pink tinge caught my eye. My photo with an iPhone 4 (the one with the risibly cr@p camera – remember?) was so utterly pathetic that I dumped it (the photo, I mean, but the phone soon followed). But we knew what we had seen, and that was enough.

roseate-spoonbill                roseate-spoonbill               roseate-spoonbill

STOP PRESS 1 I should add that a friended visited the pond after the side-effects of Hurricane Joaquin had receded, and the spoonbill had gone. So the spoonbill alone would not make the journey worthwhile!

STOP PRESS 2 A check of eBird reveals that a handful of spoonbills have been reported in Northern Bahamas this year, about 6 in all. Almost none before that. I have the impression that birding intensity in The Bahamas, coupled with the ease of uploading reports to eBird, will increasingly make a difference to the incidence of sightings of uncommon and rare species, cf the recent WHIMBRELS of Grand Bahama.

Spoonbill, Gilpin Pond, Abaco (Keith Kemp)3


Gilpin Point is just south of Crossing Rocks. The brackish pond – sometimes an alarming reddish colour that I assume is algal – is just inland from the shoreline and provides a wonderful haven for birds. It’s a long mile from the highway. There is no vehicle nor even human traffic apart from occasional birders and walkers. Please note that the drive and the property are private. However Perry Maillis is always welcoming to tidy birders who (as I have written elsewhere) bring only enthusiasm and take only photographs (though a picnic on the beach is worth considering. And maybe a swim…). 

Helpful location mapsGilpin Map 1 Gilpin Map 2 Gilpin Map 3


A brief list includes regular visits from parrots. It’s the only place we have found a furtive little sora skulking in the reedy margins. It’s a reliable spot for herons and egrets of every kind, white-cheeked (Bahama) pintails by the score, black-necked stilts and lesser yellowlegs. Occasionally a northern pintail, ruddy duck or merganser. Turkey vultures. Limpkins. We’ve seen belted kingfishers, Bahama woodstars, cuban emeralds, american kestrels, Bahama swallows, doves, pigeons, western spindalis and many more coppice birds besides. One flamingo. One spoonbill. Pelicans have been seen on the rocks on the beach. Shorebirds include turnstones, sundry plovers & sandpipers, and oystercatchers. You may well see tropicbirds and frigate birds off-shore, and assorted gulls and terns. I can’t personally be more species-specific  because I have never ‘shorebirded’ properly there, but I have noticed an impressive mix…

When we launched THE BIRDS OF ABACO at the Delphi Club, we were delighted that Pericles was able to come to the party. He took a few photos and I’m sure he won’t mind my including a small gallery to end with, featuring a couple of the Gilpin entries in his signed copy.

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Bahamas birding nobility: Tony White with Caroline Stahala; Woody Bracey & Bruce Hallett

Credits: Keith Kemp for the great spoonbill photos; Perry for the Delphi photos


Bahamas Manatee Randy 2 (BMMRO)

West Indian Manatee Randy, Sandy Point, Abaco, Bahamas


Felice Leanne Knowles of the Bahamas Manatee Club has written a great round-up of the Bahamas manatee history for International Manatee Day. She has included their current whereabouts as at September 2015. I’ve added some illustrative images. I’ve called it a “short” history since, although the incidence of recorded manatee sightings in The Bahamas spans 109 years, there was a complete blank of 73 years until 1976, then only sporadic reports until the 1990s.

Randy at Sandy Point, Abaco (2015). Note the distinctive notch in his paddle that confirms his IDBahamas Manatee Randy, Sandy Point Abaco 2 (BMMRO)Bahamas Manatee Randy's notched paddle (BMMRO)

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“The first official documentation of a manatee sighting in The Bahamas was in 1904. The next report was not until 1975. Since the 90’s manatees have been sighted much more frequently.

GINA was first sighted in The Bahamas in 1998 at the AUTEC base in Andros. Since then, she has made The Bahamas her home and has had four calves. Gina is currently in Spanish Wells with her youngest calf of ~ 2 months. RANDY (~7 years old), her son, is currently in Hope Town, Abaco and her daughter JJ (~3.5 years old) was last seen in February, 2015 in Great Harbour Cay, the Berry Islands. Her eldest calf was lost to a motor craft strike.

Gina with one of her calvesBahamas Manatee Gina & Calf (BMMRO)

Gina with her newest calf, photographed recently in EleutheraBahamas Manatee Gina & calf, Eleuthera (The Front Porch)

Since Gina’s arrival, more manatees have been sighted in The Bahamas as persons and organisations became more aware. RITA was first sighted 2009 in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera and was actually pregnant! She gave birth to GEORGIE on June 25th, 2010. Rita was last seen at the AUTEC base in Andros two weeks ago and Georgie was last seen in Casaurina in July 2015. These two ladies have a very interesting story which can be followed on our website: http://www.bahamaswhales.org/news/2012/news_Apr12.html [You can also read about Georgie’s adventure-packed life, with additional links, HERE]

Georgie, Rita’s daughter, at Cherokee, AbacoGeorgie the Manatee, Cherokee, Abaco DSC_0009-001

Two large adult males are also inhabiting The Bahamas, KONG and BLACKBEARD. Kong was first sighted by BMMRO in December of 2011, but could have been in The Bahamas before. Kong has been a true Berry Islander and has always been sighted in Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands. Blackbeard was first sighted in Long Island in 2010. Blackbeard got his name because he has surely traveled the Bahamian waters. He has been to Long, Cat, Eleuthera, and New Providence islands. Since his arrival in New Providence in December 2014, he has already circumnavigated the island twice for sure. He has become very popular down there to the residents and to guests.

Randy in a playful moodBahamas Manatee Randy (BMMRO)

There have been sightings of many other manatees, but we have not received enough photographs and information to give the manatees proper identification names and sexes. Currently, we propose that there are ~15 manatees inhabiting The Bahamas, but this number is not set in stone.

As yet unidentified manatee in Marsh Harbour, summer 2015. Note 3 prop scars on its backBahamas Manatee, Marsh harbour Abaco. No ID. (BMMRO)

BMMRO is working hard to monitor and protect the manatee population in The Bahamas and we cannot do it without the help from the public. Please stay encouraged and continue to care for these magnificent marine mammals. We would like to thank everyone who plays a role in protecting our Bahamian beauty, for providing sighting reports, for providing photographs, and for sharing information about manatees. 

Gina checking out the camera! Manatees are gentle & very curious… maybe in both sensesBahamas Manatee Gina (BMMRO)

“Always remember your manatee manners: “Do not touch, follow, or chase them, do not feed them, and do not give them fresh water to drink”.”

Manatee Awareness Poster jpg copy

Props to Felice, Bahamas Manatee Club , BMMRO and ‘The Front Porch’, Eleuthera


Hurricane Joaquin at dawn from International Space Station, Oct 2 (Scott Kelly / ISS / NASA)

Hurricane Joaquin at dawn from International Space Station, Oct 2 (Scott Kelly / ISS / NASA)


Since my post yesterday HERE confirming evidence that Joaquin was hooking out into the Atlantic and away from northern Bahamas, the storm has picked up speed as it now heads for Bermuda. It is also on a direct route to Ireland and the UK, but is already weakening. With the storm now reduced to a Cat. 3, a continuing lessening of intensity is predicted.

In this second – and, I hope, final – post of the hurricane season, the images below show the current state of play early today. I’ll repeat the weather watch links at the end.

Joaquin clears the Bahamas & heads out into the Atlantic towards Bermuda as a Cat. 3 stormHurricane Joaquin Storm path October 3

Forecast eye-path early on Oct 3Hurricane Joaquin Storm path October 3

The remarkable storm path, hooking round over Central Bahamas & going back on itseslfHurricane Joaquin Storm path October 3

The strange beauty of a hurricane captured from spaceHurricane Joaquin over central Bahamas, seen from space







and for local Bahamas news


Credit: 'Watts Up With That

Sources: NASA, NOAA, ISS / Scott Kelly, Wunderground, Accuweather