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 remarkableABACO 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…
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…
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!
Photo 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
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.
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
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.”
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.
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…
‘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 ALL
WHERE IT ALL BEGINS – AN UNDERGROUND NEST DEEP IN THE NATIONAL FOREST
EVENTUALLY THE CHICKS HATCH…
IN DUE COURSE THEY ARE READY TO BE CHECKED OVER AND RINGED
THEY HAVE NO FEAR OF THE ‘PARROT LADY’, SCIENTIST CAROLINE
SOON THEY ARE INDEPENDENT AND DISCOVERING THE JOYS OF GUMBO LIMBO BERRIES
KEEPING A BEADY EYE OUT…
…BUT NOT ALL THE TIME
‘HOW DO I LOOK AGAINST A BRIGHT BLUE SKY?’
PARROTS HAVING AN EARLY EVENING GET-TOGETHER AT BAHAMA PALM SHORES
‘GOODNESS ME, IS THAT THE TIME? I MUST FLY…’
Credits: Caroline Stahala, Melissa Maura, RH; recording and video RH
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.
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…
In this image you can clearly see how their ‘opposable’ claws wrap round a branch
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!).
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 excellentXENO-CANTObird 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!
I 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.
If anyone is interested in making a small contribution towards the continuing research into and protection of these birds, please have a look at myABACO WILDLIFE CHARITIESpage, 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 email@example.com
If anyone had a problem with the Xeno-Canto sound file above, here is a simplified version of the recording
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
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 informationHERE andHERE)is one of the iconic Bahamas animals, and the main factor behind the establishment of theABACO NATIONAL PARKin 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).
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.
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 brochureABACO PARROT PAINTINGSCaroline Stahala contributed an excellent one-page article about the Abaco Parrots and their conservation – click on it to enlarge to legible size
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 (seeABACOPARROTS), 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
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
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 theDELPHI CLUB ABACOto 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…
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.
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)
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…
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”
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 itHERE 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.
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 throughPARROTS 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’
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…
[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
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: seeABACO 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 – seeABACO 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
CAROLINE STAHALA has provided some truly outstanding photos derived from her scientific research work during the summer into the breeding of Abaco Parrots in the National Park. By their very nature, these pictures of direct human contact with these lovely birds must be exceptionally rare, and I am really grateful to Caroline for allowing me to showcase them in this blog.
1. Adult Abaco parrots in the National Park pine forest. One is wearing a band on its leg from last year’s ringing programme (CLICKimages to enlarge)
2. A bag of 3 parrot chicks, at different stages of maturity, in the process of banding. You can see the band on the leg of the little baldunfeathered one
3. Two timed shots of adult Abaco parrots, one of which is going down the inside of their burrow into the nest while the other keeps a lookout
4. Caroline is assisted with writing up her data records by one of her protégés
5. A unique photograph (I haven’t been able to locate another similar image) of a newly-banded Abaco parrot fledgling contentedly perched on a human hand
6. This photograph of Sandy Walker (Delphi Club) is captioned ‘Sandy and Chick’, and I really don’t think I can improve on that!Thanks Caroline for these amazing images – it’s a privilege to be able to post them
CAROLINE STAHALA has sent a quick update on the progress of the Abaco Parrots and chicks as the breeding season (and the associated project) nears its end. The chicks are growing up fast, and will very soon be fledging. CLICK==>>>HERE to admire their cute appearance in their earlier stages. Caroline says “they are currently, literally, climbing the walls to make their first flight with their parents”. She hopes to provide some photos – perhaps there may be video – in due course. She hasn’t mentioned problems with feral cats, racoons or other predators, so with luck nest raids and chick losses through predation have been low. And if you want to know how to build an Abaco Parrot out of Lego™ (CLICK ‘Lego™ Logo’ above) you’ll have to buy my book “A Spare Week and a Bucket of Lego™” (rh Press $15 / £10)