“HANDSOME BIRD, BLUE EYES, LIKES FISH, SEEKS MATE…” REDDISH EGRET ON ABACO


Reddish Egret,  Abaco, Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

“HANDSOME BIRD, BLUE EYES, LIKES FISH, SEEKS MATE…”

REDDISH EGRET ON ABACO

Reddish Egrets come in two colour schemes, reddish and pure white; and both are available on Abaco. ID hint – among the 10 heron and egret species found on Abaco, these are the only ones with a black tip to the beak. In March, these birds are thinking about fish. They do that every day of the year. But they are also thinking about finding a mate. The colouring of the males intensifies, and in particular the greyish-pinkish base of its beak turns a bright ‘hi babe, how are you doing’ pink. The male RE in this post is resplendent in his breeding plumage. We encountered this RE at Crossing Rocks in the brackish pond area on the opposite side of the highway to the bonefishing jetty. This in an excellent place to check out for herons, egrets and other wading birds such as yellowlegs. The island is at its thinnest point here, with the hard dry land over which the highway passes just a few yards across. On either side it’s basically water, mangroves, and other wetland plants. Reddish Egret,  Abaco, Bahamas (Keith Salvesen) The RE noticed us at the edge of the pond and put on a little display. This is unlikely to have been a ‘come on’… Conceivably, he wanted to show off his distinctive ‘bad hair day’ styling. More plausibly, he was probably put out by having his fishing disturbed. Reddish Egret,  Abaco, Bahamas (Keith Salvesen) Reddish Egret,  Abaco, Bahamas (Keith Salvesen) He wasn’t diverted for long, though, and soon got back to business hunting fish. Sometimes he would stand stock still, poised for a rapid strike into the water with that lethal beak. This is the RE’s classic fishing method, the static hunt. Reddish Egret,  Abaco, Bahamas (Keith Salvesen) However, there are times for being proactive and chasing down the prey. While bonefishing out on the Marls, I have seen this done from a distance, especially by the white RE morphs. They splash about near the edge of the mangroves, moving back and forth, lifting their long legs high in the vegetation as they hunt down their small silver snacks. Our Crossing Rocks RE was suddenly on a mission…Reddish Egret,  Abaco, Bahamas (Keith Salvesen) Reddish Egret,  Abaco, Bahamas (Keith Salvesen) Reddish Egret,  Abaco, Bahamas (Keith Salvesen) We had to tear ourselves away from this performance, grateful to have seen it at such close quarters. However we went back a few days later while on a birding trip to the pond at Gilpin Point. But that’s a post for another time…

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REDDISH EGRETS (WHITE MORPH)

GREAT EGRETS 

SNOWY EGRETS

GREAT BLUE HERON

GREEN HERON

CATTLE EGRET

All photos RH; cheers to Woody Bracey for stopping the truck here during our warbler expedition!

WEST INDIAN WOODPECKERS ON ABACO: GUEST POST


WEST INDIAN WOODPECKERS ON ABACO: GUEST POST

The WEST INDIAN WOODPECKER Melanerpes superciliaris is a specialist bird of Abaco, where it is common. The only other island in the Bahamas where it is found is San Salvador, where it is uncommon. Formerly found on Grand Bahama, it is now believed to be extirpated from that island, with no recent recorded sightings. In the early days at Delphi, we had to put up 2 nest boxes under the eaves to discourage the woodpeckers from destroying the woodwork – very effective, since they are now used every year by a pair that raises a family in one of the boxes and, even before the chicks have fledged, are busy kitting out the second box for a second family… 

WIW box Delphi

Charmaine Albury is a resident of Man-o-War Cay, Abaco. A photographic contributor to THE BIRDS OF ABACO, she is an enthusiastic birder and very handy with a camera. MOW has had a great winter season for birds, especially warbler species, and Charmaine has been recording her sightings and posting about them regularly. She has now started a photographic Facebook page SEES THE DAY which I commend to anyone wanting an overview of the rich birdlife of Abaco. This post shows some of her excellent recent photographs of West Indian Woodpeckers on Abaco. The male has the striking red crown; the female has a smaller, paler cap.

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PLAYING WITH YOUR FOOD? HOW MUCH FUN CAN YOU HAVE WITH A BERRY?11117259_1625337987698569_7452867222430469765_n10942602_1625337984365236_7839433915910857592_n

and… pop it into the hole. Score!20417_1625338031031898_5316912847301464680_n

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NOW IT’S TIME TO VISIT THE STONE THING THAT HAS WATER IN IT10309181_1625338207698547_743705503764216360_n11080986_1625338147698553_6862424132411400508_n11060458_1625338187698549_1989610138388453679_n

   11035287_1625338024365232_6166437311448663000_n

MY TURN ON THE TREE NOW11133685_1625338034365231_5375400946628441291_n

GETTING A BIT SLEEPY NOW. GOT BED HEAD…11111962_1625338074365227_2479363145688616600_n

All photos Charmaine Albury, with many thanks for use permission. Delphi WIW in nest box & all silly anthropomorphising captions are down to me…

PEARLY-EYED THRASHER – ANOTHER NEW BIRD FOUND ON ABACO


Margarops_fuscatus_Mike's Birds Wiki

 PEARLY-EYED THRASHER – ANOTHER NEW BIRD FOUND ON ABACO

Exactly a year ago, the ultimate, complete and utter Checklist of the birds of Abaco, compiled by Tony White with Woody Bracey, was published. It covers 4 pages of close print in THE BIRDS OF ABACO, and lists the 282 species recorded since 1950, including so-called ‘exotics’ but excluding so-called ‘pets’ (sadly your minah bird would not qualify). New sightings had been static since a BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS had made an unheralded appearance out at sea. In the last year, 5 new species have been recorded. The links to them are listed below. That Checklist already needs an update!

Pearly-eyed_ThrasherDick Daniels (Wiki)

The newest bird in town is the Pearly-eyed Thrasher (Margarops fuscatus). This is a bird in the family Mimidae, along with mockingbirds and the gray catbird. Until last November, no thrasher species had ever been recorded for Abaco. Then there was a sighting of a BROWN THRASHER. Just a few months later, its Pearly-eyed cousin has turned up right in the heart of Treasure Cay, seen by first by Erik Gauger and confirmed by Woody Bracey (each a contributor to THE BIRDS OF ABACO). 

This thrasher species is found widely throughout the Caribbean, though with several varieties that are genetically distinct. In the Bahamas, they breed on some of the southern islands. They are known to overwinter on Eleuthera and Cat Island, but have not previously been recorded as far north as Abaco. This sighting is important in suggesting that the species may be beginning to extend its range, although it could of course simply be a one-off ‘vagrant’, as they are officially yet disrespectfully known.

Pearly_Eyed_Thrasher,_Margarops_fuscatus (Kati Fleming Wiki)

Since the first sightings by Erik & Woody a couple of days ago, Woody has been out again with a camera seeking to obtain photographic  evidence of the bird. Last night he sent me a snapshot taken in difficult circumstances – the bird was being hassled by a Eurasian Collared Dove (who should have known better, being a non-native species itself…). The pearly eye is quite clear, as is the speckled front and white end to the underside of the tail. If  a clearer shot comes in, I’ll add it. So, TC-based birders, a Rolling Harbour Kalik challenge is on!

IMG_3432 copy

STOP PRESS Woody has sent a couple more photos of the PET taken right in the centre of Treasure Cay. Or perhaps there is a second one… and if so, different sexes… and if so, a nest, eggs, chicks, fledglings and in due course a new breeding species on Abaco… 

Pearly-eyed Thrasher, Treasure Cay, Abaco - Woody Bracey (new species for Abaco)IMG_3444 Pearly-eyed Thrasher, Treasure Cay, Abaco - Woody Bracey (new species for Abaco)

STOP PRESS April 2015 Erik Gauger has now written up his account of his discovery of this new species for Abaco. You can read it HERE (scroll down to the second article on the page)

The other photos I have used are ‘open source’ for obvious reasons, and credited below as far as the information is available…

 NEW ABACO BIRD SPECIES – MAR 2014 to MAR 2015

BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING DUCKS

FORK-TAILED FLYCATCHER

BROWN THRASHER

MASKED BOOBY

Photo credits with thanks for public postings: (1) ‘Mike’s Birds (2) Dick Daniels (3) Kati Fleming, and  (4) Woody Bracey

UNDENIABLY NATTY: BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERS ON ABACO


Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Abaco, Bahamas 1 copy

UNDENIABLY NATTY: BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERS ON ABACO

As I sort through 11,867* recent photographs from Abaco and dump the 99% of them that fall into any of the ‘epic fail’, ‘hopeless’, ‘what on earth?’, ‘why on earth’?, ‘sun-flared’, ‘pitch black’, and ‘bird-butt’ categories, a few are making it through the rigorous editorial process. There will be birds, fish, whales, dolphins, expeditions and scenery in due course, but I’m kicking off with a small bird that is a great favourite, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea. This is because it is probably the easiest bird to pish, click, whistle or otherwise vocalise from the back of the coppice to the front. Then it gets flirty with the camera, performs cutely, and follows you down the track. The perfect subject except for one thing: they are small and branches / twigs are numerous. So, many shots consist of a magnificently focussed stick or leaf, with a blue-gray blur behind it…

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Abaco, Bahamas 7Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Abaco, Bahamas 6Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Abaco, Bahamas 1Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Abaco, Bahamas 2Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Abaco, Bahamas 5

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BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERS “TOP 5 CUTE?”

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERS “ON SONG IN THE COPPICE” 

*This may be a slight exaggeration, but it certainly seems like it now…

All photos: RH

THE WARBLER GUIDE: BOOK OR EASY ID IN NEW APP


The Warbler Guide App (cover)

 THE WARBLER GUIDE: BOOK OR EASY ID IN NEW APP

In 2013 Princeton University published a well-received – indeed award-winning – guide to North American warblers. Its relevance to the Northern Bahamas is that all 37 species of warbler recorded for Abaco are found on its pages. Plus, you can use it in North America as a bonus! Details of the book are given below.

As a follow-up project, Princeton has now produced a Warbler Guide App that looks quite impressive at a glance. It’s not cheap, at £9.99 or dollar equivalent, but with bird apps you generally get what you pay for. Included are song/call IDs for a start, which takes the App a long way beyond mere visual recognition. And the illustrations are from several angles, taking account of the fact that you may not get an ideal broadside view of a bird in the field. Below are a few sample images.

To go straight to the App on iTunes CLICK HERE

The Warbler Guide App (Princeton)The Warbler Guide App (Princeton) The Warbler Guide App (Princeton) The Warbler Guide App (Princeton)

 THE WARBLER GUIDE IN BOOK FORM

(Amazon listing details March 2015)

WARBLER GUIDE  for post jpg

The Warbler Guide revolutionizes birdwatching, making warbler identification easier than ever before. For more information, please see the author videos on the Princeton University Press website.

  • Covers all 56 species of warblers in the United States and Canada
  • Visual quick finders help you identify warblers from any angle
  • Song and call finders make identification easy using a few simple questions
  • Uses sonograms to teach a new system of song identification that makes it easier to understand and hear differences between similar species
  • Detailed species accounts show multiple views with diagnostic points, direct comparisons of plumage and vocalizations with similar species, and complete aging and sexing descriptions
  • New aids to identification include song mnemonics and icons for undertail pattern, color impression, habitat, and behavior
  • Includes field exercises, flight shots, general identification strategies, and quizzes
  • A complete, page-by-page audio companion to all of the 1,000-plus songs and calls covered by the book is available for purchase and download from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library by using the link at http://www.TheWarblerGuide.com
  • Winner of a 2014 National Outdoor Book Award in Nature Guidebooks
  • Second Place for the 2013 BB/BTO Best Bird Book of the Year, British Birds and the British Trust for Ornithology
  • Honorable Mention for the 2013 PROSE Award in Single Volume Reference/Science, Association of American Publishers

THE PECKING ORDER: FEEDER GREED ON ABACO


Black-faced Grassquits, Delphi, Abaco 2

THE PECKING ORDER: FEEDER GREED ON ABACO

At Delphi there are several feeders, with seeds for the garden birds in general, and sugar water feeders for the specialist hummingbirds. The seed feeders are the cause of a certain amount of species squabbling, with a pecking order based on size. Smaller birds tend to give way to larger, and either flutter down to the ground to pick up dropped seeds or fly off to the bushes until it’s safe to return.  The hummer feeders are also visited by birds with adaptive beaks to fit the tiny holes, such as bananaquits; and birds with long and probing tongues like the resident West Indian woodpeckers. The hummers tend to flit away until the intruders have flown off again.

BLACK-FACED GRASSQUITS

There’s no getting away from it, I’m afraid. BFGs are greedy little birds. Many would also call them dull, but personally I rather like the assertive colouring of the male and the subtle olive shades of the female (but that said I’d trade one in for a painted bunting without a second thought…). They are easily bullied out of the way by GABs (see below), although I have noticed that both species happily coexist on the ground under the feeders, where there is more space for them to pick up fallen seeds.

Black-faced Grassquits, Delphi, Abaco 4Black-faced Grassquits, Delphi, Abaco 3 Black-faced Grassquits, Delphi, Abaco 6

 GREATER ANTILLEAN BULLFINCH

These fine birds with their striking livery assume feeder priority. They are just as voracious as the BFGs, and get seriously stuck in. No other birds spoil their feasting. These are alpha seed guzzlers.Greater Antillean Bullfinch, Delphi, AbacoGreater Antillean Bullfinch, Delphi, Abaco

HEY YOU! GRASSQUIT! DON’T YOU DARE COME ANY CLOSER… MINE!Greater Antillean Bullfinch, Delphi, AbacoGreater Antillean Bullfinch, Delphi, Abaco

HUMMINGBIRD FEEDER RIVALS

BANANAQUIT

This bird had been sticking its thin, curved beak in to the tiny holes and drinking until I got a bead on it (with the camera). Annoyingly it then started to sip the spillage, so I missed the shot I really wanted… Meanwhile two Emeralds had retired to the bushed nearby, waiting for their chance at what was after all their own designated feeder.Bananaquit at Hummer feeder, Delphi, Abaco Bananaquit at Hummer feeder, Delphi, Abaco

This is a beak that can easily negotiate a little feeder holeBananaquit & palm, Delphi, Abaco, Bahamas 7

WEST INDIAN WOODPECKER

When Delphi’s resident woodpeckers decide to try out the hummer feeder, everyone keeps clear. Very meanly, the male takes precedence over the female, despite the fact that in the course of each year she rears two families, moving to the second nesting box to rearrange the furniture even before the chicks in the first box have flown. Nevertheless, she has to wait her turn… Note how the male manages to get his long tongue right into the small hole in the yellow flower…West Indian Woodpecker (male) at Hummer Feeder, Delphi, Abaco

Meanwhile, Mrs Woody politely waits her turn…West Indian Woodpecker (female) at Hummer Feeder, Delphi, Abaco

 All photos: RH

“PELICAN BRIEF”: BROWN PELICANS AT SANDY POINT, ABACO


Brown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 12

 “PELICAN BRIEF”: BROWN PELICANS AT SANDY POINT, ABACO

The Brief today is to write about Brown Pelicans at Sandy Point. And to shoehorn in the traditional titular pun somehow (job done!). For those unfamiliar with Abaco, SP is the end of the road. Literally. The island has one highway 120 miles long, mostly straight, from north to nearly south where it curves abruptly west for a while, past the airfield, and when it reaches the ocean at Rocky Point there’s a 90º turn. For a couple of miles, you travel north again into Sandy Point… then stop when you see the sea ahead of you. Dead end. Time to park and explore… 

Abaco Road Map

Brown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 4

The birding at SP can be very rewarding. Depending on the time of year, you may see ospreys, tropicbirds, heron and egrets of various sorts, kestrels, anis and plenty of shorebirds. The last are found on the narrow beaches and at low tide on the sandbars close to the shore. On the more distant sandbars in Spring, you may see a colony of Magnificent Frigatebirds (or Man-0-War birds), the males with their amazing ‘look-at-me’ bright red throat-balloons (‘gular pouches’) inflated to enhance their wooing prospects. This is exactly the time you’ll realise you haven’t brought your binoculars with you…  Brown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 9 We’d gone to a (very) informal lunch party at the legendary Nancy’s, but there was activity on the nearby dock that caught my eye. A pair of pelicans were fishing from it, then drying in the sun, then having a little fly around. I only had a rather underwhelming camera with me, so I did what I could in a short time before returning to the matter in hand. Brown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 8Brown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 6Brown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 7 Although I watched the birds diving off the dock a few times, I never actually saw them catch anything. Maybe they had already swallowed some hapless little fish before returning to the dock. I was reminded of a poem by a poet called James Montgomery. Here’s his vivid and perhaps overwrought description of pelican feeding habits: Nimbly they seized and secreted their prey, Alive and wriggling in the elastic net, Which Nature hung beneath their grasping beaks; Till, swoln, with captures, the unwieldy burden Clogg’d their slow flight, as heavily to land, These mighty hunters of the deep return’d. There on the cragged cliffs they perch’d at ease, Gorging their hapless victims one by one; Then full and weary, side by side, they slept, Till evening roused them to the chase again. James Montgomery (4 November 1771 – 30 April 1854): Pelican Island, 1828 (canto IV, l. 141)

Watching the water intentlyBrown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 10

Check out that ‘gular pouch’… Pelicans, like frigatebirds, have them – cormorants too.Brown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 14

After each sortie a certain amount of shaking down, feather fluffing & general drying-off took placeBrown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 13

Although these pelicans look generally rather clumsy and ponderous both in flight and on land, they are surprisingly quick and agile in the dive. Occasionally, however, the take-off was a bit ragged… Brown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 16 Usually the male took the tallest post from which to survey the scene, but occasionally the female beat him to a good vantage point.Brown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 17 I’d never seen pelicans so close-to before. At Delphi they can be seen flying lazily past over the bay, quite high. I’ve seen one in Hope Town, but some distance away. So it was a huge thrill to be able to watch these two birds from the dock itself. You’ll see that the female was ringed (banded), but the male was not. Very soon we’ll be back on Abaco. I’m hoping the pelicans will be at Sandy Point again. And the ospreys. And the Frigatebirds.  And that I’ll have remembered the binoculars. And that the Kaliks at Nancy’s will be ice-cold…  All photos, RH

It’s a poor photo, but it illustrates the huge wingspan compared to body length…Brown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 15