SAW A SORA? SURE? RAIL TRACK ON ABACO


BAHAMAS - Sora 2 - Oct 2010 copy 2

SAW A SORA? SURE? RAIL TRACK ON ABACO

‘Furtive’. ‘Secretive’. ‘Skulking’. These are harsh epithets to chuck at a small inoffensive bird that just goes about its daily routine in watery places. And look at it from the Sora’s point of view: ‘intrusive’; ‘prying’; invasive’; ‘nosy’… That’s you with your camera, disturbing its quiet life in the reeds and on the margins of marsh and lake. And for that matter your careful attempts to get close to the shy sora without startling it could also be described as furtive, secretive and skulking. See how it feels?

Sora.Marsh Harbour.Abaco Bahamas.6.13.Tom Sheley copy

The Sora Porzana carolina is a species of rail, a winter resident on Abaco. The island also has the CLAPPER RAIL, Virginia Rail and the Black Rail. There are no recorded sightings of this last one, and certainly no photographs. But their distinctive call has been heard in several locations over the last few years -  for example, by two people in different places last June when we were in full bird mode for “THE BIRDS OF ABACO”.

Sora, Gilpin Point Abaco RH 1

Although not uncommon, the sora is relatively hard to find; and if found, to photograph. As I wrote in the book, ‘these are most inconspicuous birds, so it is quite a coup if you manage to locate one. Their creamy beak and upturned tail may give their presence away as they work their way along the water’s edge, feeding intently’. Tom Sheley took the magnificent photo above of a sora peering out from cover – he’s a very patient man. Often, the best sight you’ll get is of the bird half-hidden in the reeds at a distance, as in my feeble effort above. Spot the Sora… I tracked the same bird, and later got a more open shot as the sora picked its way along the edge of a pond before disappearing again into the reeds. The bird was moving away from me. I was crouched on a small jetty, with a little blue heron nearby looking at me in puzzlement. Or sympathy. My best (ha!) shot below (beak and tail both visible? Check!) is followed by much the most usual view of a sora in my experience, the less photogenic end with the white… stern.

Sora, Gilpin Point Abaco RH 3Sora, Gilpin Point Abaco RH 4

I can’t improve on good old Wiki in summarising the diet of this little rail: “Soras are omnivores, eating seeds, insects and snails. Animals that are commonly reported as sora food items include snails, crustaceans, spiders, and insects – mainly beetles, grasshoppers, flies, and dragonflies. Soras often eat plant seeds. Plants in the sora’s diet include duckweed, pondweeds, and grasses.” Wiki’s own image is shown next.

Sora, Birding Center, Port Aransas, Texas

We were with our friend the ornithological scientist Caroline Stahala* when we – I should say she – saw my first sora at the pond at Gilpin Point near Crossing Rocks. She grabbed my camera and plunged into the rather thick undergrowth at the water’s edge. Actually, she had to plunge into the water itself at one stage. Here are 2 shots that further demonstrate how hard it can be to photograph these wretched creatures. They don’t pose prettily on a branch in the sunshine like a Spindalis, for example. They forage about in places where low light and thick vegetation combine to make focus and clarity difficult to achieve. *’The Parrot Lady’  Sora, Gilpin Point Abaco - Caroline Stahala 1 Sora, Gilpin Point Abaco - Caroline Stahala 2 The remarkable calls of the sora can be heard in the very short clips below, from the invaluable Xeno-Canto archive. They make three distinct types of sound, one described as “a descending whinny”. Apparently the use of ‘call broadcasts’ greatly increases the chances of hearing a sora. They also increase the chances of seeing a sora, as the bird will often investigate the source of the call. The propriety of using a recording to attract a bird is open to debate, but there’s no doubt that it can be far more effective than simply going ‘pish-wish’ repeatedly… CALL Ted Floyd ‘WHINNY’ CALL   Micah Riegner ‘WEEP CALL’  Todd Wilson This is a second Wiki image of a sora foraging in water. I like the fact that, as with Tom’s photo, you can see the feet.1024px-Porzana_carolina “SORA”. Where does the word come from? What does it mean? It sounds like some uninviting butter-style spread. Or is that ‘Flora’? I did some research and for a start it means ‘Sky’ in Japanese and ‘Seashell’ in Korean – both used as names. Six countries worldwide have places called Sora. There are various obscure usages (e.g. a little-known video game). Disappointingly, however, the best etymology I can find in a birding context is that the origin is ‘unknown’. I was too disheartened to explore the derivation of ‘Porzana’. Could so easily be a second-tier female character in a Shakespeare comedy: “Haply, Porzana, hast seen the Sora of the Prince, withal?”. Having started this post with a header shot by Becky Marvil, I’ll end with the etymological mystery and another photo by Becky of the same bird going for some underwater delicacy. Sora, Abaco - Becky Marvil 2.1

STOP PRESS Uli Nowlan has kindly sent a photo of a Sora taken at ponds north of Treasure Cay (below). It’s a timely reminder to me that this blog is somewhat South Abaco oriented. More than somewhat, in fact. That’s inevitable I’m afraid, owing to my base camp being south of MH. Also, I think it’s generally accepted that South Abaco is the place to find the best birding. I do include birds from the TC area – the golf course ponds and the creeks – but perhaps not enough. Contributions welcome!

Sora, Abaco (Treasure Cay area) - Uli Nowlan

Credits: Header and last image – Becky Marvil; Tom Sheley, RH, Wiki, Caroline Stahala; Uli Nowlan. Wiki-nod for some info also.

THE UNIQUE ABACO PARROT: ITS PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE


APB 1

THE UNIQUE ABACO PARROT: ITS PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE

Image Credits: RH, Caroline Stahala, Melissa Maura. Based on an information booklet ©Rolling Harbour. You are welcome to use or share this slideshow but please credit and link. Booklets are available at the Delphi Club, Abaco for a small donation to parrot research. The music is from astounding guitar virtuoso Erik Mongrain – he has all the tricks, and sounds as if he plays with 2 pairs of hands…

ABACO PARROT CHICKS FOR 2014, TOP POSTS & A DODO…


Abaco (Cuban) Parrot 2013 8

ABACO PARROT CHICKS FOR 2014, TOP POSTS & A DODO…

The dawn of a New Year shimmers just below the horizon, with all its bright promise for the future. It  provides a convenient excuse to peer symbolically into the limestone holes of the remarkable ABACO PARROT to take a peek at some newly hatched eggs and the tiny chicks that will, by next spring, look like the handsome bird at the top of the page…Abaco Parrot Nest 3 Abaco Parrot Nest 4 Abaco Parrot Nest 5

This website is not overly preoccupied with stats, but I have had a quick look to see which posts were the most popular during 2013. Here, for better or worse (I didn’t make the choices…), are the top dozen, introduced by the cutest chick of the year, a Wilson’s plover calling for its mum…Tiny Wilson's Plover for 2014

ABACO ARTS & CRAFTS    
SEA SHELLS    
LIGNUM VITAE – BAHAMAS NATIONAL TREE    
YELLOW ELDER – THE BAHAMAS NATIONAL FLOWER    
ABACO FOOD & DRINK (cook hog / bonefish; clean a conch; sip an Abaco cocktail / Goombay Smash)    
FLORA    
ABACO MAPS    
SPIDER WASPS & TARANTULA HAWKS: DON’T MESS WITH THESE GUYS    
PINEAPPLES: SYMBOLS OF WELCOME & WEALTH (ALSO, DELICIOUS)    
SHARKS & RAYS    
ABACO & HOLE-IN-THE-WALL, BAHAMAS: A SHORT HISTORY IN MAPS    
ABACO PARROTS    
 

So! Farewell then 2013. Like the Curate’s egg, you were good in parts – indeed, many parts of you were excellent. Now, like Raphus cucullatus, you will become extinct, leaving remains and memories behind you… Thanks to all loyal followers of this site for sticking with it and its eccentricities (especially the musical digressions). If you wound up here by chance, mistyped g@@gle search or sheer misfortune, cheers… A very Happy New Year to you all! 

Dodo AMNH NYCPhoto taken at the American Museum of Natural History – there’s also a dodo skeleton in the Oxford University Museum of natural History

Credits: Parrot nests – Caroline Stahala (the scientist i/c parrots); the rest – RH

‘TAKING OFF’ ON ABACO: NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRDS & MIMICRY


‘TAKING OFF’ ON ABACO: NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRDS & MIMICRY

The Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) is commonly found in North America, but also has a wide range further afield. The species is plentiful on Abaco and in the northern Bahamas generally. I recently posted about Abaco’s other mocker, the local Bahama Mockingbird, HERE.

Northern Mockingbird 1

A DOZEN MEMORABLE MOCKINGBIRD FACTS TO ENLIVEN YOUR CONVERSATION

  • Only male mockingbirds sing
  • The Latin name means ‘many-tongued mimic’
  • They are omniverous and eat fruits, seeds, insects and even small lizards
  • They been shown in experiments to be capable of recognising individual humans
  • They are the State Bird of Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, & Texas
  • Thomas Jefferson had a pet mockingbird named “Dick” [wish I'd invented this one...]
  • Courting males fly around females to impress them with their splendid wing patterns
  • Mockingbirds are monogamous & mate for life (though known to play away on occasion…)
  • Both the male and female are involved in the nest building
  • Cowbirds are inclined to lay their eggs in mockingbird nests
  • Both male and female feed their chicks, in the modern way
  • Mockers will confront larger birds including hawks; also cats and dogs; & even humans

Northern Mockingbird 2

 IMITATIONAL SKILLS
Besides having a particularly wide song repertoire, the mockingbird will mimic other birds, other natural sounds (including dogs) and even man-made / mechanical sounds – car alarms, sirens and a whole lot more besides. Good old Wiki has this to say:
“There are four recognized calls for the Mockingbird: the nest relief call, hew call, chat or chatburst, and the begging call. The Hew call is mainly used by both sexes for potential nest predators, conspecific chasing, and various interactions between mates. The differences between chats and chatbursts are frequency of use, as chats are year-round, and chatbursts occur in the fall. Another difference is that chatbursts appear to be used in territorial defense in the fall, and the chats are used by either sex when disturbed. The nest relief and begging calls are only used by the males.” Northern Mockingbird 4
IMITATIVE MEMORY?
Remarkably, it seems that Northern Mockingbirds can inherit and store the imitations of their ancestors. We listened to a young one in the Abaco National Park with Caroline Stahala, the scientist i/c Abaco Parrot conservation. The bird was accurately mimicking a tufted titmouse, a bird it will never have heard and so cannot have learned from directly (and no other bird on Abaco sounds like the titmouse). 
NEW! Another remarkable nugget, gleaned from Bahamas bird authority and author Tony White, is that in early Spring you may hear the calls of Grey Kingbirds starting to arrive for their summer vacations. Do not be fooled; Northern Mockingbirds begin imitate the calls of this species about 2 weeks before they begin to arrive…
By way of comparison, here is a Northern Mockingbird I photographed at the beginning of the year in New York while walking the High Line (if you get the opportunity to do this, take it. The perfect solution for a defunct high-level railway track is to turn it into a walkway-cum-park-cum-viewing platform).  There are detectable differences, not least the brown frontal flecking.Northern Mockingbird NYC

THE INFLUENCE OF MOCKINGBIRDS ON THE ARTS

“To Kill a Mockingbird”, Harper Lee, (1960); Film version (1962) starring, by amazing coincidence, Gregory Peck

“Listen to the Mocking Bird” (1855) An American folk song popular in the mid-19th century

“Mockingbird” (1974) Carly Simon duets with James Taylor, her (then) husband, one of several (though not simultaneous)

“Mockin’ Bird Hill” (1951) Les Paul & Mary Ford, later massacred in 1964 by ‘The Migill 5′

Star of the Lullaby that starts “Hush, little baby, don’t say a word, Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird…” That’s quite enough of that to be going on with

It turns out Mr Eminem has rapped up a ‘parental advisory’ and ‘explicit warning’ “Mockingbird” for our delectation. I was going to post the mp3 in a vaguely satirical way, but it is so numbingly dire that even his mum Mrs Mathers can’t bear to listen to it. So just enjoy the cover, then move on quickly to the birdsong video below…

51rcGGGsb3L._AA200_

Audubon’s Mockingbirds

Northern Mockingbird Eggs

ABACO PARROTS TO CELEBRATE A MODEST LANDMARK


Abaco Parrot

Abaco Parrot

ABACO PARROTS TO CELEBRATE A MODEST LANDMARK

‘Rolling Harbour: The Blog’ had humble beginnings – a dodgy structure built on foundations formed of an unpromising mix of ignorance and incompetence. Gradually it has come together, to the extent that it has just passed the 125,000 visits mark. Abaco is a small and uncrowded island, so the audience demographic [to use biz-speak] isn’t large. However the wildlife, scenery and lifestyle have turned out to have a wider appeal. 1/8 of a million people (or perhaps 1 crazy punter with repetitive strain injury from checking in unhealthily often) deserve a few of Abaco’s unique parrots in return.

I THANK YOU ALLAbaco (Cuban) Parrot 2013 4a

WHERE IT ALL BEGINS – AN UNDERGROUND NEST DEEP IN THE NATIONAL FORESTAbaco Parrot Nest 2

EVENTUALLY THE CHICKS HATCH…Abaco Parrot Nest 4

…AND GROWAbaco Parrot Nest 5

IN DUE COURSE THEY ARE READY TO BE CHECKED OVER AND RINGEDAbaco Parrot Chick Ringing 1

THEY HAVE NO FEAR OF THE ‘PARROT LADY’, SCIENTIST CAROLINECS with Abaco parrot chick

SOON THEY ARE INDEPENDENT AND DISCOVERING THE JOYS OF GUMBO LIMBO BERRIESABACO PARROT ©CS 2012 3

KEEPING A BEADY EYE OUT…ABACO PARROT ©CS 2012 7

DOMESTIC HARMONY…ABACO PARROTS MM 3ABACO PARROTS MM 8

…BUT NOT ALL THE TIMEAbaco Parrots MM 10

‘HOW DO I LOOK AGAINST A BRIGHT BLUE SKY?’Abaco (Cuban) Parrot 2013 13

PARROTS HAVING AN EARLY EVENING GET-TOGETHER AT BAHAMA PALM SHORES

‘GOODNESS ME, IS THAT THE TIME? I MUST FLY…’

parrot crossingCredits: Caroline Stahala, Melissa Maura, RH; recording and video RH

ABACO’S UNIQUE PARROTS IN PICTURES, VIDEO & SOUND


Abaco (Cuban) Parrot 2013 4a

ABACO’S UNIQUE PARROTS IN PICTURES, VIDEO & SOUND

Abaco parrots. The only ground-nesting parrot species in the Bahamas. In the world, in fact. I’ve posted quite often about them – indeed they have their own page HERE – because, frankly, they are special and their story is one of encouraging success for intensive research and conservation programs. In 1492, Christopher Columbus was amazed by the vast number of parrots he saw in the Bahamas (not that the islands were called that then). In his journal he noted: “flocks of parrots darken the sun…”  Not many years ago, parrot numbers on Abaco had dwindled to fewer than 1000 – below the critical point for sustaining a viable population. Extinction of the Abaco parrot loomed, accelerated by increasing habitat change, predation, and (*euphemistically*) ‘human intervention’.  Thanks to the campaign of conservation, habitat preservation, anti-predation measures and vigilance, numbers have been restored to a sustainable level, perhaps as many as 4000. They are now a fairly common sight – and sound – in South Abaco. But not everyone who looks for them finds them, or even hears them. Especially not if they take pot luck in the vast areas of pine forest in the National Park, where they breed…

I’ve covered much of this ground before, but there is a slightly wider audience these days, so a few newcomers may be interested to learn about these lovely birds. The best thing is to have a look. All photos were taken by me during two early evenings in March.

Abaco (Cuban) Parrot 2013 1Abaco (Cuban) Parrot 2013 2 Abaco (Cuban) Parrot 2013 4aAbaco (Cuban) Parrot 2013 5

The parrots are extremely agile, and have very strong feet and claws that enable them to move around in the tree-tops – or to hang upside down if they choose to. The next photo is a close-up a foot; below that is short video showing a parrot manoeuvring itself in a tree. You’ll also see how the birds use their beaks as an extra limb, so to speak. The uninspiring title shown is only because I forgot to label it ‘Abaco Parrot’ in the first place, and can’t find how to edit it…Abaco (Cuban) Parrot 2013 6

In this image you can clearly see how their ‘opposable’ claws wrap round a branchAbaco (Cuban) Parrot 2013 8

If you suspect that this one has had some ‘work’ done, you’d be right. I normally leave my photos largely alone, apart from cropping and maybe basic light balancing where needed. Sometimes an image is nearly there, but needs a bit of extra cosmetic business – but one can usually tell. The left wing? Hmmmmm (users of ‘noise reduction’ will know what I am talking about!).Abaco (Cuban) Parrot 2013 9 Abaco (Cuban) Parrot 2013 10 Abaco (Cuban) Parrot 2013 11 Abaco (Cuban) Parrot 2013 12

The flocks of parrots are incredibly noisy. Sometimes they split into two or three groups, close together, and seem to compete in raucousness. Around 5.00 pm seemed to be the noisiest time. I took recordings of the racket, using the voice memo app on an iPh*ne, simply holding the phone with the speaker / mike end towards the parrots. Some come out pretty well – good enough to post on the excellent XENO-CANTO bird sound site. Here is a recording, with the first few seconds transcribed into a sonogram. I made a ring tone from this recording for Caroline Stahala, the scientist who, with her team, looks after the birds. She’s been too polite to say whether she uses it or (more likely) not!

Abaco (Cuban) Parrot 2013 13Abaco (Cuban) Parrot 2013 14Abaco (Cuban) Parrot 2013 15I find the parrots very hard to nail in flight (see above), possibly because of a shutter-speed issue (mine, not the camera’s). I nearly junked the picture below, but I liked the clash of the parrot colours with the purple bougainvillea, so I spared it.Abaco (Cuban) Parrot 2013 16B

If anyone is interested in making a small contribution towards the continuing research into and protection of these birds, please have a look at my ABACO WILDLIFE CHARITIES  page, where the relevant link to Parrots International can be found. Or visit doudoubirds, where you will find endearing Abaco Parrot prints by dou dou herself for sale in aid of the parrots. Or contact me at rollingharbour.delphi@gmail.comAbaco (Cuban) Parrot 2013 7

If anyone had a problem with the Xeno-Canto sound file above, here is a simplified version of the recording

A RARE ABACO PARROT DISPLAYS A RARE TALENT…


DCB GBG Cover Logo

A RARE ABACO PARROT DISPLAYS A RARE TALENT…

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MY LITTLE TRICK?ABACO PARROT CS 13-3

I’M A BIT CAMERA-SHY – I’LL JUST TURN ROUNDABACO PARROT CS 13-4

THAT’S BETTER. ARE YOU SURE YOU ARE READY FOR THIS?ABACO PARROT CS 13-2

TA DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAABACO PARROT CS 13-1

The Abaco Parrot is a unique subspecies of Cuban Parrot found on only Abaco. They are the only parrot to nest underground, in limestone caves in the pine forest. Their numbers have increased from near extinction to a sustainable population as the result of an intensive program of conservation and anti-predation. They get plenty of publicity hereabouts, and have their own page HERE. We normally avoid too much whimsy in these parts, but I am in parrot territory right now, so I have given myself permission to break my own rule. Photos: ©Caroline Stahala (who looks after them)

ABACO PARROTS & CHICKS – A 2012 BREEDING SEASON PICTURE GALLERY


ABACO PARROTS & CHICKS

A 2012 BREEDING SEASON PICTURE GALLERY

Time to write some more about Abaco’s most famous bird, the unique ground-nesting Amazon / Cuban parrot sub-species that makes Abaco its home, and breeds in the pine forests of the Abaco National Park in the south of the island. You’ll find lots of information and photos on the dedicated page ABACO PARROTS.

This post covers the 2012 breeding season, and highlights the success of scientist Caroline Stahala and her team in helping to secure the future of these rare endangered birds. The population had shrunk to around 2500 (or fewer) some years ago. More recently it had risen to 3000. An intensive conservation program, including anti-predation measures, has proved effective; and a systematic ringing program has enabled the team to keep a close eye on recovering parrot numbers. Caroline says that the population is now in the region of 4000, confirming an encouraging reversal of a dismal decline towards extinction for these beautiful birds.

ABACO PARROTS IN THE PINE FOREST

The parrots breed only in the pine forest, where they nest in quite deep holes in the limestone rock. This makes the nests and the areas round them vulnerable to predation from feral cats and rodents etc; but conversely it offers protection from the forest fires that would destroy tree nests. 

The holes are often well concealed in the undergrowth and take some searching for…

Both parents are involved in the nesting and later chick care. The female lays 2 – 4 eggs.

The chicks hatch after an incubation period of around 26 days

Some of the nest holes are remarkably deep: the parent parrots clamber up and down the sides

The chicks grow the beginnings of feathers, remaining quite unattractive except to their parents

The parent parrots share feeding and care duties

The chicks / fledglings stage are ringed so they can be identified – see ABACO PARROT CHICKS

By coincidence, as I was producing the post above, Craig Layman at THE ABACO SCIENTIST was also ruminating on the topic of Abaco parrot breeding. He posted the comments below, which raise the very interesting question whether the Abaco parrots, with their increased population, may be starting to breed outside the National park. Caroline can probably answer this (see COMMENTS), but does anyone have any direct evidence to suggest a wider breeding habitat? I guess there would need to be a suitably pitted rock structure for the nests, and an absence of the usual cat- and rat-type predators that one might find nearer human populations. Answers welcomed via the comment box…

(Sort of) A Bahama Parrot Study

Posted by laymanc 26 Nov 2012

It isn’t really much of a study, but the only “science” I have been able to do over the last week with the continued turbidity of  nearshore waters.

The Bahama parrot (more information HERE and HERE) is one of the iconic Bahamas animals, and the main factor behind the establishment of the ABACO NATIONAL PARK in southern Abaco.  But my study has been conducted instead from my desk in Little Harbour.  My main finding is simple: the range of the parrot has clearly expanded; it has now been a full calendar in which parrots have been in the area.  Just a few days ago two dozen were squawking around the harbour.  The key will be whether they begin nesting here as well – I havent heard reports of that yet.  But if they do, the expanding nesting range will substantially increase long term viability of the parrot on Abaco.  That ends my first ever Bahama parrot study (I really need more time in the water when I come back).

‘PARROTS OF THE BAHAMAS’: ABACO PARROT PAINTINGS BY ANTONIUS ROBERTS


‘PARROTS OF THE BAHAMAS’

A SERIES OF ABACO PARROT PAINTINGS BY ANTONIUS ROBERTS

The wonderful parrots of Abaco are often featured hereabouts, and with good reason. They are the only subspecies of cuban parrot to nest underground, a unique species adaptation that protects them from fires in the pine forest of the ABACO NATIONAL PARK where they breed. However this in turn makes them vulnerable to predation. An intensive long-term conservation and predation-reduction program headed by scientist Caroline Stahala has reversed the decline of this iconic bird. Numbers have increased from fewer than 2500 some years ago to an estimated 4000. 

There are places on Abaco – south Abaco in particular – where the parrots congregate in noisy groups during the day. Many people manage to take photographs of them. Good photographers with a decent lens can get outstanding results. Even the camera-incompetent (I hear my name!) can manage the occasional first-class photo, given time and plenty of spare space on the camera card… But very few can do justice to these colourful birds in paint.

The spectacular series of paintings below are by well-known Bahamian artist and sculptor Antonius Roberts. Caroline has already posted about these on the ABACO PARROT RESEARCH F/B page. The originals of these paintings have (unsurprisingly) been sold, but they are available as limited-edition prints. Antonius will generously be donating proceeds of sale from the series to support the on-going parrot research. The images are ©Antonius Roberts – thanks to him and to Caroline for use permission

A recent reception was held in Nassau to showcase this series of paintings. You will find more about them by clicking the link to open a pdf of the reception brochure ABACO PARROT PAINTINGS Caroline Stahala contributed an excellent one-page article about the Abaco Parrots and their conservation – click on it to enlarge to legible size

Contact Antonius via email to hillsidehousebs@gmail.com or check out his website by clicking the parrot

ABACO PARROTS – CONSERVATION & ANTI-PREDATION PROGRAMS BREED SUCCESS…


The wild parrots of Abaco are very special birds. Uniquely they nest underground in limestone holes which provides protection, not least from forest fires. Thanks to a program of intensive research over the last few years, far more is now known about these birds and their breeding habits. Investigations into predation have led to effective predator controls. The evidence this year is that the population numbers, having stabilised, are gradually rising to a sustainable level of some 4000 birds. The parrot below has been ringed as a chick as part of the continuing monitoring program.

I will soon be posting about the current breeding season – the parrots are in their limestone cavity nests now, the eggs are laid, the chicks will soon be hatching. Caroline Stahala, the Abaco parrot expert familiar to those who follow this blog (see ABACO PARROTS), will soon be reporting on this years breeding and chick-ringing program. In the meantime, here are some of Caroline’s pictures taken during the past season of the parrots in all their glory…

The parrots mainly live and breed in the pine forest of the Abaco National Park

During the day they fly northwards, often in large noisy groups, where they feed. One of their favourite treats is the fruit of the Gumbo Limbo tree. This sometimes requires acrobatic skill

The sunshine brings out their bright colouring. When they fly, the blue on their wings is wonderful 

Besides Gumbo Limbo berries, the parrots enjoy feeding on seeds

A parrot takes flight near a nest cavity. There’ll be more photos of parrot nests later this month

(All photos © C. Stahala / Rolling Harbour)

HERMIT CRABS: SHELL-DWELLERS & CONTESTANTS FOR WACKY RACES


HERMIT CRABS: SHELL-DWELLERS & CONTESTANTS FOR WACKY RACES

Hermit Crabs are all around – occasionally (sadly and unavoidably) underfoot. They borrow an empty shell, and as they grow they trade up to a bigger one, leaving their previous home for a smaller crab to move into. It’s a benign chain of recycling that the original gastropod occupant would no doubt approve of… The crabs are able to adapt their flexible bodies to their chosen shell. In the 1st 2 images the crab has chosen a somewhat weathered shell, into which he fits snugly

This small crab has gone for something more modern – possibly quite an awkward shape to lug about…

These crabs have found the Delphi Club bird feeders and taken up residence close by. They forage in the grass, many wearing West Indian top shells. One seems to want to climb the tree to get at the feeder…

They are sensitive to sound: approaching footfalls send them scurrying for shelter into the undergrowth or to holes in the limestone rock. They don’t all manage to fit into a hole so the ‘outsiders’ try to look inconspicuous by withdrawing into their shells, though from a predator’s point of view there are usually a couple of telltale legs sticking out…

Quick, everyone – hide! A human just trod on Derek…An entertaining after-dinner game (and I blame Caroline Stahala for starting this one) is hermit crab racing. Please note that no crabs are harmed in the course of these sporting proceedings, though some crabs may feel a little humiliated. The races can be played for money, of course, but the complete unpredictability and lack of any information about a crab’s previous racing form make that unwise. Far better to have a few drinks first. Then some more afterwards. 

HERMIT CRAB RACING: THE OFFICIAL RULES

  • Dinner is to be completed and drink taken by all participants before racing can commence
  • Each contestant chooses a crab from the group under the bird feeders
  • All chosen crabs are placed in a dish

  • Caroline (or whomsoever shall be designated) paints the shells with each contestant’s name

  • The crabs are lined up by hand on the verandah as straight as they will permit (so, not very)
  • The starter will say “Ready, Steady, GO”, and the crabs are released over a 3 meter course
  • The winner shall be the first crab over the finishing line. In the event of a dead-heat, the crab requiring the least foot-impetus and direction correction is declared winner
  • The crabs shall be returned to the collection site (those that can still be found) and all humans shall return to the Clubhouse for celebrations…

DELPHI HCR RACE REPORT 2012

This crab (the largest) was chosen by Sandy Walker, and regrettably was the only one that started by going backwards. It was never in serious contention

Caroline becomes very overexcited by her crab’s progress

Others resort to unorthodox methods like ‘foot-persuasion’ to keep their crab on course. RH didn’t realise this was allowed at all, and watched his crab dive pathetically off the edge of the verandah into the flowerbed – an irrecoverable drop of 6 inches

Most of the crabs went forwards as intended, though with a certain amount of lateral movement. 2 or 3 seemed to have got the general idea of the race and proceeded more or less according to plan

The impressive winner, by nearly half a minute, was the crab named ‘Emma’. A well-deserved victory, especially as the owner / trainer’s foot-directing was minimal (bare feet!)…

The one thing I would like to know about these little creatures is how they – and their shells – are to be found in large numbers 50 foot above sea-level at the top of a cliff…

WEST INDIAN WOODPECKERS: EXPERT ADVICE & DELPHI CLUB NEWS


WEST INDIAN WOODPECKERS: EXPERT ADVICE & DELPHI CLUB NEWS

Here’s an article by Abaco Parrot expert Caroline Stahala. She also has in-depth knowledge of the habits of West Indian Woodpeckers, not least because her observations of the nesting in boxes provided for them last year at the DELPHI CLUB ABACO to discourage them from drilling into the building itself… See THE RELUCTANT WOODPECKER. Caroline’s article suggests helpful ways to co-exist with the ‘peckers. They are unlikely to change their endearing little, er, ‘pecker-dillos’, but there are ways and means to prevent them driving you crazy when they take a noisy liking to your eaves and guttering…

CLICK LINK===>>>LIVING WITH WEST INDIAN WOODPECKERS (Caroline Stahala) 

PETER MANTLE has just posted some news – including woodpecker and general wildlife news – from the DELPHI CLUB. After a detailed bonefishing report , he writes:

The best bonefish of recent weeks remains an 8-or-so-pounder. In a rare encounter with tarpon, 2 guests from England had several shots at a group of four fish in the twenty-to-thirty pound range, but had no time to switch over to proper tarpon flies and therefore, to use a cricketing expression, failed to trouble the scorer.

The gorgeous weather seems to have ennervated all the local wildlife, not just the parrots. Sightings of dolphins, turtles, eagle rays and ospreys in the Marls are now almost commonplace. Countless butterflies of different hues flit through the Club gardens. The woodpeckers are nesting again in the box just outside the office and the hummingbirds are constantly feeding just feet from my desk. It’s the time of year that dreams are made of.

The week was rounded off by your blogger-in-chief setting a new Club record – for the smallest ever bonefish, a brute of half a pound, taken off the Club beach on a Delphi Daddy after a titanic struggle lasting all of 30 seconds, with lemon shark looking on in expectation.

ABACO PARROT NEWS FROM THE DELPHI CLUB


ABACO PARROT NEWS FROM THE DELPHI CLUB, ABACO
Caroline Stahala has emailed me with some excellent parrot news of daily sightings around the Club and in the coppice along the drives. It sounds as though, if we are very lucky, Caroline might take us to the nest sites when we are at Delphi in May…
TWO ABACO PARROTS ON THE DEAD TREE BY THE DELPHI FRONT DRIVE
“As far as current parrot news.  Well, they are all around the lodge at the moment.  I can hear the parrots each day right on cue at 7:30 in the morning and then again just after 4pm.  They have been foraging in the fruiting hardwoods in the area, especially the Gumbo Limbo (Bursera simaruba).  I am attaching a picture of a small flock I saw right on the drive in front of the house. A couple of pictures are close up of the parrots and the ones with the Delphi signs do have parrots in them, see if you can find them. They have even been spotted just behind the pool.  Let’s hope they decide to make this a habit. I am currently working on getting the summer field season organized… writing reports and grant applications is the necessary evil in order to have a summer field season”
PARROTS IN THE COPPICE BY THE DELPHI DRIVE (TOP LEFT)
A CLOSE-UP OF THE FLOCK – THERE ARE 6 VISIBLE (ONE IS PEEPING)
A FLOCK OF ABACO PARROTS
Credit: Laura Gooch @ Xeno-Canto

ABACO NEWS: ART FOR THE PARKS / BAHAMAS NATIONAL TRUST DAY


SATURDAY 28 JANUARY 2012 – A DATE FOR THE DIARY

CLICK LOGO!

The images below tell you all you need to know about this excellent festival presented by the BNT in conjunction with the Abaco Beach Resort. From this blog’s point of view, the highlights are:

PRESENTATIONS by Nancy Albury on ‘The Blue Holes of Abaco’; by Ricky ‘Blue’ Jones on Bush Medicines / teas; and by Caroline Stahala on the Breeding & Behaviour of Abaco Parrots

ART The Art. Yes, all of it. Ok?

PRODUCE Something of everything, please. 

OTHER Everything else on offer…

The very best of luck with this event and best wishes for successful fundraising from Rolling Harbour

BAHAMA PARROTS: BAHAMAS NATIONAL TRUST DOCUMENTARY


BNT ABACO / INAGUA PARROT DOCUMENTARY

In August 2011 the Bahamas National Trust published a documentary about the resident Abaco and Inagua populations of this Cuban Parrot subspecies. It features research scientist Caroline Stahala, and contains plenty of information about these birds, their nesting and breeding habits, and the problems they face from predation. In places, some of the devastation caused by the extensive forest fires in March 2011 is still evident (see images in earlier POST). If you want to know more about these attractive (but noisy) birds, the documentary video below covers a great deal in 8 minutes…

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

HELP SAVE ABACO PARROTS – DOU DOU’S ART INITIATIVE


WELCOME BACK! Normal service is resumed after the family festivities of Christmas, with only the precious gift of a fractured wrist for rh to spoil an otherwise lovely few days. Immediately, I can report excellent parrot news…               DOU DOU, an avid birder and sculptor of most engaging miniature birds, has taken up the cause of the Abaco Parrot. We have been corresponding for a while about this, and I now reproduce her latest post, with the link to her site below

BIRD SCULPTURE – ABACO PARROT

“Help, the cats are eating my babies!” said the parrot. And it’s true. These parrots are endangered – only 1000 of them left. A woman named Caroline is trying to save them from the feral cats that have invaded their island in the Bahamas. Let’s help her out! All proceeds from the sale of this parrot are going to Parrots International, which supports Caroline’s work. 

This little parrot measures 3.5 x 1.5 x 1.5 inches. You can buy it HERE from me and I will send the money to Parrots International or you can use “Other” to check out, send me proof you donated at least $30 to Parrot’s International, and I will send you a code that gives you $30 discount on this parrot so you will just pay for shipping – I will verify that a donation was made.

We can save these parrots! Let’s do it!!!!!

Read about Caroline’s work to save the parrots: ABACO PARROT RESCUE

doudou      CLICK LOGO to visit website ===>>>      

More about this exciting development in due course – other ideas are afoot… Abaco Parrot conservation is strongly supported by the Delphi Club, Abaco; and the research scientist heading the project, Caroline Stahala, is delighted with dou dou’s initiative in helping to raise the profile of her conservation work and in contributing to the funding received through PARROTS INTERNATIONAL

This organisation allocates funding for the research into the Abaco Parrots and their conservation. You can now pay direct by Paypal or Credit Card (with gift tax benefits depending where you live). Please remember use the “Note to Seller” box to specify ‘ABACO PARROTS / CAROLINE STAHALA’

Membership and Donation page   CLICK LOGO===>>>       Parrots International

ABACO PARROTS IN THE PINE FOREST


This is one of a number of sequential images posted by cfinke3856 on the website Webshots. It seems to have been taken in 2004, and shows 4 Abaco parrots in a pine tree (location unspecified – the National Park, maybe?). They look pleasingly convivial, and they provide a chance to roll out the newly created  rh parrot logo

Normally I would have cleared permission for use (and slight cropping) and given a click-through link so you could see the rest of the (similar) images. However, the website is a nightmare. A pop-up offered me the chance – apparently a near-certainty – of winning $10,000, and froze my cursor when I tried to delete it. Twice. Other untempting offers were made in a rage-inducing way. So I’ll spare you all that, warn you briskly off the site, and apologise to Mr or Ms Finke for ‘borrowing’ the image, duly credited but in tiny writing…

ABACO PARROTS: NEST CAMERAS AND PREDATOR CONTROL


♦ NEW ABACO PARROT LOGO 

[Note: this post replaces the preliminary, typo-ridden and imageless draft that subscribers may have received, for which I stupidly pressed the 'publish' button rather than 'save draft'... Not the 1st time, either... Sorry] 

Scientist Caroline Stahala has spent 10 years researching the Abaco population of the Bahama parrot. Her aim is to develop understanding of their behaviour so that conservation and management strategies for this rare sub-species can be optimised. Particular protection problems arise because Abaco parrots, uniquely, nest underground. Their main vulnerability is to predation by feral cats, racoons and rodents which kill adults, chicks and fledglings in the nest

Predator monitoring and control programs have been in place for several years, removing surprising numbers of feral cats prior to and during the breeding season. Prevention techniques have been refined as predation data has accumulated. In 2011 for the first time motion-sensitive cameras were used, positioned near the openings of vulnerable active nests (shallow or with large openings), monitored 24/7 with infra-red night-time flash. Constant technical adjustments were needed to determine optimum filming distance and memory card size, and to avoid ‘false triggers’ (eg wind)

A great deal of vital data was collected, particularly at night when predation can’t otherwise be effectively monitored. Feral cats were the most frequent visitors, followed by rodents. No racoons were recorded, so these may be less of a threat than expected. One northern mockingbird (above) was caught on film up to no good. It it seems that the camera flash itself may act as a deterrent, something that bears further study. There is also new evidence that some predators approach a nest and ‘case the joint’ for later use. All this data will make it possible to target predator control preventatively, rather than in the sad aftermath of predation – a great step forward. 

Overall, during the 2011 breeding season none of 55 nests monitored was lost due to predation. In previous years, the attrition rates have been around 25%. The use of cameras avoids any disturbance of the parrots and chicks and provides round-the-clock monitoring. If the cameras / flash are in themselves deterrents, that is a simple method of predation control. The new banding project means that it is now possible to be certain whether same parrot (or pair) is using the same nest cavity each year – and of course individuals can more readily be identified

Finally, Caroline confirms that the parrots weathered Hurricane Irene well.  She was still monitoring the breeding territory then, and when she returned to check active nests after the storm, she found the chicks and fledglings safe in their nest cavities 

Abaco Parrot chick safe and sound - the first post-Irene image

ABACO PARROTS POST-IRENE: CAROLINE STAHALA’S FIRST REPORT


ABACO PARROTS EXCELLENT POST-IRENE NEWS

The past week has been rightly dominated by concerns for family and friends, for homes and property, for the swift restoration of communications, and for many other human interests. The consequences of Irene for Abaco’s wildlife has taken its appropriate place lower down in the priorities, but there are obvious concerns for the loss of habitat through destruction and defoliation, consequent problems with food supply and so on. 

The Abaco parrots are a potent symbol of recovery from near-disaster, with the conservation programme annually leading to breeding success in the wild and numbers on the increase. Recently – it seems a while ago now – I posted about the progress of this year’s chicks and fledglings: see ABACO PARROT CHICKS   Caroline Stahala, who heads the conservation project, has now sent the first report on how the chicks have fared through the hurricane:

“…I have been out checking on the unfledged chicks and I am finding that most of the nests that should have been active still are.  This means chicks are still in the nest.  I am attaching a photo of one of the chicks that I found post hurricane.  It seems that the parrots did well through the hurricane now I hope they are able to find enough food until spring…”  

In my earlier post today – see ABACO 31 AUG POST-IRENE – I mention at the end that I feel my unexpected transformation into a storm commentator and information provider is coming to its natural end. I can’t think of a more appropriate image for taking my leave from hurricane duties than this little parrot fledgling. It’s an emblem of Abaco, and a symbol for the future after the storm. Thanks for reading the blog, following it and for all contributions and encouragement over the past week.               rollingharbour 

Abaco Parrot chick safe and sound - the first post-Irene image