STANDIN’ ON THE DOCK OF THE BAY: GREAT BLUE HERON ON ABACO


Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Sandy Point, Abaco - Keith Salvesen 2

STANDIN’ ON THE DOCK OF THE BAY: GREAT BLUE HERON ON ABACO

The occasion: a trip to Sandy Point for a lunch party at the legendary Nancy’s in honour of  Sandy Walker at the end of his 5 years as manager of the Delphi Club. A pair of brown pelicans on the nearby dock were clumsily flying around, diving, perching, drying their feathers, then repeating the cycle. In a quiet moment I slipped away to watch them – and a heron landed quite close by me. So as well as taking photos of the pelicans, I pointed the camera at the heron from time to time. My favourite view is of it standing proudly on the edge of the dock, with the truly azure sea behind it (header and final image).

Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Sandy Point, Abaco - Keith Salvesen 6

THE PERILS OF A CAMERA UPGRADE

[PHOTOGRAPHIC INTERLUDE - SKIP IF EASILY BORED BY SUCH THINGS]

I don’t have a fancy camera. I would never get the settings right before the bird had flown. Or died, even. So I had been using a Panasonic Lumix FZ45 kindly given to me by Mrs RH in a benign moment, possibly Christmas. Then I made a classic error of upgrading to an FZ72 with an alleged massive 60X zoom. Brilliant, I thought. Big mistake. My old camera has a Leica lens. Used with care and a lens extension (zeugma score!), it is / I am occasionally capable of taking pin-sharp photos. The upgrade camera’s lens turned out not to be a Leica. Almost all the shots I took were ‘soft’, the more so using the zoom. A soft photo taken with a less good lens, zoomed 60X, will never be a better photo. Just an even softer one. I wish I’d had Old Faithful with me instead. When we got home, I immediately dug out OF and sold 60X disappointment. OF is now reinstated as my BF.  

The shots of this heron mostly turned out fairly well, largely because it stayed quite close to me. It flew off a couple of times, then returned to the edge of the dock. Here are a few close-up views of the heron selected from the various pics I took, showing some of the details of this fine bird. Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Sandy Point, Abaco - Keith Salvesen 3 Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Sandy Point, Abaco - Keith Salvesen 4 Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Sandy Point, Abaco - Keith Salvesen 5Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Sandy Point, Abaco - Keith Salvesen 7Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Sandy Point, Abaco - Keith Salvesen 10 Then I remembered why I was meant to be at Sandy Point, and went back to Nancy’s for conch fritters and a Kalik or two well OK make that three… Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Sandy Point, Abaco - Keith Salvesen 11

ROLLING HARBOUR MUSICAL DIGRESSION

Otis Redding recorded ‘Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay’, arguably his greatest moment, in 1967 a matter of days before he died in a plane crash. The record became the first ever posthumous US Chart #1 (#3 in UK). I’ve dug out a video compo by the excellent Rhino outfit that disinters or at least recycles gems from our musical heritage. It’s not just the voice of Otis Redding that makes this song so poignant and so good – Steve Cropper’s guitar is outstanding too.

Guitarists out there – you want a ‘Chase Chart’, don’t you?

http://www.howmusicreallyworks.comCh_6_Fig_114

A rare photo of Sandy (centre back row, sunnies on cap) smilingSandy at Sandy Point

Photo Credits: RH, er… that it…

“OL’ BLUE EYES”: WHITE-WINGED DOVES ON ABACO


1024px-Ala_Blanca

“OL’ BLUE EYES”: WHITE-WINGED DOVES ON ABACO

The White-winged Dove Zenaida asiatica  is an easily recognised dove species, being the only one on Abaco with conspicuous white wing markings. The prominent blue eye-rings are another unusual feature of this bird. The blue is skin and not feather colouring. Another identifier is the dark line on the upper neck.

Although the birds are permanent residents on Abaco, they are relatively uncommon. They are not a protected species, and yet unlike some other pigeon and dove species (Mourning Dove, Ring Necked Dove, White-crowned Pigeon, Zenaida Dove) they are not listed among the game birds that have a shooting season. Unlike many species whose range is decreasing for all the usual human-related reasons, this bird appears to be expanding its range – or is possibly being introduced in new areas. Urban development seems not to be not such a deterrent as for other birds, and feeders are also thought to contribute to the spread.

White-winged Dove Range - Xeno Canto

White-winged Dove, Abaco Bahamas - Tom Sheley crop - Version 2

This short audio clip of a White-winged Dove has other background bird sounds, mostly identifiably a red-winged blackbird making its ‘rusty gate hinge’ call

Mike Nelson / Xeno Canto

White-winged Dove, Abaco - Tony Hepburn

FANCY THAT!

STEVIE NICKS name-checks the White-winged Dove and its call in her 1981 hit “Edge of Seventeen” from her Bella Donna album. If your interest is piqued as the Mac again discuss putting behind them their various differences and prodigious substance sampling to re-form (Glastonbury 2015?), see below. However, rehearing this again (having hidden Bella Donna in a locked drawer 30 years ago) the music has not worn well and her voice – sometimes so exciting – is somewhat fingernails on blackboard. 

This final image is by Dan Pancamo who generously uploaded it to Wiki. It is several cuts above the usual generic illustrative images in both quality and style.

White-winged_Dove_by_Dan_Pancamo

Credits: Wiki / Dan Pancamo, Tom Sheley, Tony Hepburn, Xeno Canto

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


Piping Plover - Danny Sauvageau

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

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

Piping Plover - Danny Sauvageau

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

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

Piping Plover - Danny Sauvageau

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

Piping Plover - Danny Sauvageau

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

Piping Plover - Danny Sauvageau

Piping Plover - Danny Sauvageau

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

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

RELATED POSTS

RARE GEMS: PIPL ON ABACO 1

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

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

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

FORK-TAILED FLYCATCHER: ANOTHER NEW SPECIES FOR ABACO


Rogier Klappe Wiki Tyrannus_savana_-Colombia-8

FORK-TAILED FLYCATCHER: ANOTHER NEW SPECIES FOR ABACO

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fork-tailed flycatcher(Reynaldo wiki) Tesourinha_REFON

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

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

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

Fork_Tailed_Flycatcher_From_The_Crossley_ID_Guide_Eastern_Birds

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

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

640px-168_Fork-tailed_Flycatcher

ESSENTIAL FUN FACT

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

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

Jeremy Minns / Xeno-Canto

        Tyrannus_savanna-Fork-tailed_Flycatcher Hector Bottai wikimedia

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

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

ABACO WARBLERS: A COMPLETE PDF GUIDE FOR TABLET & PHONE


Black & White Warbler, Abaco - Bruce Hallett

ABACO WARBLERS: A COMPLETE PDF GUIDE

Yesterday I posted a complete guide to Abaco’s 37 warblers. A few people said nice things about it. Two people spotted a mistake (my bad!), now corrected. It has now occurred to me that it might be helpful to reduce the contents to a shorter PDF so as to make the guide more handy – plus you will be able to print it out. If you click the link below, you can save the 1.6 mb ‘booklet’ onto your computer desktop / iPad / tablet / etc. You can email it to your phone and save it there. For an iPhone, you have the option to have a ‘quick check’. I you want to keep it, you can ‘cloud’ it, or save it in various ways on the phone, for example to iBook or Kindle if you have the App. I expect other cellphone  types are much the same. I have road-tested the system, and it works! So if one sunny day you suspect you are looking at a Bay-breasted Warbler (highly unlikely, but possible) in that small bush over there… yes look, near the top on the left… no, on the long twig lower down… you can check it out. 

AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO ABACO’S WARBLERS

Bahamas-Great Abaco_Prairie Warbler_Gerlinde Taurer

And here’s the thing. You have a camera in your hand to record the encounter. And if the little rascal is happily singing away, you can use you phone to record it, using a simple technique I have previously described – check out the link. 

HOW TO RECORD BIRDS ON A PHONE 

Prothonotary Warbler, Abaco - Craig Nash

Photos: Black & White Warbler, Bruce Hallett; Prairie Warbler, Gerlinde Taurer; Female Prothonotary Warbler, Craig Nash

BANANAQUITS ON ABACO: CHEERY VANQUISHERS OF GLOOM


Bananaquit, Abaco - Bruce Hallett

BANANAQUITS ON ABACO: CHEERY VANQUISHERS OF GLOOM

I’d been planning a post about marine debris and its dire effects on the natural world. Some images I proposed to use are distressing, and some simply suggest how futile it is to try to prevent mankind chucking harmful and semi-permanent rubbish into the sea. Depressing. A gyre of upset. Add in new military interventions without limitation and suddenly I longed for something more cheerful. Checking through a folder of photos of Bananaquits helped to stave of the gloom, so I picked out a few images of this lovely small bird taken by 9 photographers. 

Bananaquit, Abaco - Craig NashBananaquit & palm, Delphi, Abaco, Bahamas 2 (Keith Salvesen)Bananaquit, Treasure Cay, Abaco - Becky MarvilBananaquit, Bahamas, Great Abaco - Gerlinde TaurerBananaquit, Abaco - Bruce HallettBananaquit, Abaco - Charlie Skinner Bananaquit, Abaco - Erik Gauger Bananaquit, Abaco - Tom Reed Bananaquit, Abaco - Peter Mantle

Credits: Bruce Hallett, Craig Nash, Keith Salvesen, Becky Marvil, Gerlinde Taurer, Charlie Skinner, Erik Gauger, Tom Reed, Peter Mantle

OWLS OF ABACO (2): BURROWING OWLS – RARE VISITORS


Burrowing Owl 1

OWLS OF ABACO (2): BURROWING OWLS – RARE VISITORS

The Burrowing Owl Athene cunicularia is a small owl found in the open landscapes of North and South America. Their natural habitat is in grasslands, agricultural areas, and other open dry areas with low vegetation – even deserts. They nest and roost in burrows. Unlike most owls, Burrowing Owls are often active during the day, though they do most of their hunting from dusk until dawn when they can make use of their excellent night vision and acute hearing. 

On Abaco, this little owl is a rare vagrant, presumably visiting from Florida which has the nearest resident population. There have been few reported sightings; and for ‘The Birds of Abaco’ we were unable to locate a photo taken on Abaco. The main images featured here were taken by me of a rescue bird that is used in wonderful free-flying displays. As you can see, it is in prime condition. 

STOP PRESS Sept 27 Alison Ball from Little Harbour, Abaco has kindly contacted me to say “I saw a burrowing owl sometime during the first week of October last year here in Little Harbour.  I was watching some parrots eating the berries in the top of a large ficus tree by the edge of the road, and suddenly realized that the owl was sitting on a lower branch of the same tree, right at my eye level and only about 8 feet away.  We stared at each other for at least a minute – plenty long enough to get a definite identification – then he flapped off into the woods.  It was about 8 a.m.” Any other reports of sightings would be very welcome.

RANGE MAP

athe_cuni_AllAm_map

Burrowing Owl 1a

In the next photos you can see the bulging eye lensesBurrowing Owl 5Burrowing Owl 2

A DOZEN QUICK BURROWING OWL FACTS FOR SHORT ATTENTION SPANS

  • They have spectacular eyebrows above their piercing yellow eyes
  • When hunting, they use a perch to spot prey, then swoop down on it; or ‘hawk’ for insects in flight
  • Their long legs enable them to chase prey on the ground when hunting in open terrain
  • Burrowing owls mainly eat large insects and small rodents and reptiles
  • Unlike other owls, they also eat fruits and seeds
  • When agitated or excited, they bob their heads
  • They are one of the few avian species that benefit from deforestation
  • The owls often return to the same burrow nest each year
  • A major cause of mortality is vehicle-strike as they cross roads
  • Prehistoric fossil remains have been found in the Bahamas, showing they were once resident
  • There are many subspecies including a Floridian one, where they are ‘of special concern’
  • Florida Atlantic University campus is a National Audubon Society designated burrowing owl sanctuary
Show us, I hear you ask, a burrowing owl in a typical burrow for which it is namedBurrowing Owl Alan Vernon Wikimedia

Burrowing Owls may get quickly fed up with being photographed…Burrowing Owl 6

“Oh, do stop. I’ve had enough of you”Burrowing Owl 8 Burrowing Owl 9

“Right. I can’t see you anymore. You are sooooo gone”Burrowing Owl 3

The Burrowing Owl featured in a 1991 Bahamas bird stamp seriesBurrowing Owl - Bahamas - Animal Vista

I rather like this woodcut by Andrea RichBurrowing Owls woodcut 1987 andrea rich.com

Burrowing_Owl_Florida (Tom Friedel Wiki)

If anyone has seen one of these little guys anywhere on Abaco, I’d love to know when and where…

RELATED POSTS

Credits: RH, Alan Vernon & Tom Friedel Wiki, Andrea Rich, Cornell Lab, Defenders.org