A RARE SPOONBILL VISITS GILPIN POND, ABACO


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

A RARE SPOONBILL VISITS GILPIN POND, ABACO

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

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

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

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

roseate-spoonbill                roseate-spoonbill               roseate-spoonbill

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

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

Spoonbill, Gilpin Pond, Abaco (Keith Kemp)3

GILPIN POINT LOCATION

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

Helpful location mapsGilpin Map 1 Gilpin Map 2 Gilpin Map 3

WHAT SPECIES MIGHT BE FOUND AT GILPIN?

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

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

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Bahamas birding nobility: Tony White with Caroline Stahala; Woody Bracey & Bruce Hallett
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Credits: Keith Kemp for the great spoonbill photos; Perry for the Delphi photos

BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING DUCKS REVISITED…


Black-bellied Whistling Duck

BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING DUCKS REVISITED…

The first ever Black-bellied Whistling Ducks recorded for Abaco arrived last June. Six birds turned up on South Abaco in the Crossing Rocks area and slowly worked their way north via Delphi, Bahama Palm Shores and Casuarina. They split up into smaller groups. Two were seen near the airport. Eventually, after 3 weeks or so, the sightings and reports ceased. The BBWDs had moved on, presumably to Florida. Black-bellied Whistling Ducks 10

I mention them now because this June, a flock of 13 birds arrived on a golf course in Bermuda. The only previous recorded sighting of the species had been a single bird spotted in 2006. Within a couple of weeks, the birds had disappeared again. It’s strange that in consecutive years, June sightings have occurred on two islands  where they are not a known species. I happen to have taken some photos of BBWDs elsewhere in the meantime, and I thought these pretty ducks deserved further exposure…

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks 6

A BBWD LOVE STORY

Hello! Would you like to preen with me?Black-bellied Whistling Ducks 12

Yes I would. As long as there are no paparazzi around.Black-bellied Whistling Ducks 13

Mmmmmm. This is so great!Black-bellied Whistling Ducks 1

I’d like to look after you and protect youBlack-bellied Whistling Ducks 2

Let me take you under my wing…Black-bellied Whistling Ducks 3

GODDAMMIT. Pigeon photobomb!Black-bellied Whistling Ducks 4

THE END

RELATED POSTS

BBWDS ON ABACO

All photos by RH at WWT BarnesBlack-bellied Whistling Ducks 11

‘BONEFISH CHASE’: A SKIFF RIDE FROM CROSSING ROCKS


Shadows on the Flats, Crossing Rocks, Abaco

‘BONEFISH CHASE’: A SKIFF RIDE FROM CROSSING ROCKS

Does any ‘fun’ (toxic concept) ever happen around Rolling Harbour? All that detailed business about our little winged friends. All that earnest historic stuff with, like, maps and things. All those fish that are basically just… fish. Ditto the flowers. The prints of Whales (geddit?). But does Rolling Harbour ever truly come alive?

Well here’s a little brief entertainment in a skiff setting off from Crossing Rocks for a day of bonefishing, throwing some shapes along the twisty channel between the jetty and the flats beyond. Anyone who has enjoyed the sometimes exhilarating / sometimes painful (in choppy waves) skiff trips on Abaco to get out to the bonefish grounds will relate to this. You get 2 versions: high definition, with some pretentious music to match the mood. According to me. 

Here’s a smaller version with a more familiar theme (also to be found on the Sidebar of this blog) for those who are allergic to pretentious music… it’s more ‘fun’, in fact.

Dreadits: all stuff, RH; music by Preston Reed and Commander Bond

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


Reddish Egret,  Abaco, Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

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

REDDISH EGRET ON ABACO

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

RELATED POSTS

REDDISH EGRETS (WHITE MORPH)

GREAT EGRETS 

SNOWY EGRETS

GREAT BLUE HERON

GREEN HERON

CATTLE EGRET

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

‘BURNS NIGHT’ – CONTAINING FOREST FIRES ON ABACO


Abaco Forest Fire 4

‘BURNS NIGHT’ – CONTAINING FOREST FIRES ON ABACO

Every year Abaco has a number of forest fires, especially in the south of the island. The timing is variable –  sometimes it’s March, right now it’s… right now. The fires are good in some respects for the forest, and regeneration is remarkably rapid. Links to previous posts on the topic are shown below. Many, or most, are (allegedly) started by hunters clearing scrub and undergrowth so that the dogs can chase the hogs. The rights and the wrongs are debatable, but what is beyond doubt is that a change of wind can cause fires set in forest on the unpopulated west side to jump the Highway across to the east side. There are farms and settlements there, and these are regularly put in peril. The Delphi Club has had a couple of close calls when the thick coppice between the house and the pinewoods failed adequately to deter the flames (in theory, it should!); Crossing Rocks had some nights last year when the whole community united to protect the settlement. Now it’s the turn of Bahama Palm Shores, where the fire service and volunteers have spent the last few days – and nights – trying to prevent fire reaching the houses. So far, so good. Abaco is a wonderful place, but the fires can be powerful and scary, spreading rapidly in the wind.

Luc Lavallee is one of the volunteers, and hasn’t had a lot of sleep recently. He has posted regular bulletins during the night on the BPS Facebook Page to keep everyone informed of the situation and the work in progress – for example creating firebreaks. Here are some of his photos over the last few days; the aerial shot is by photographer David Rees, who takes wonderful ‘drone’ photos.

Forest fire, BPS, Abaco (David Rees) Forest Fire, BPS, Abaco (Luc Lavallee) Forest Fire, BPS, Abaco (Luc Lavallee) Forest Fire, BPS, Abaco (Luc Lavallee)

This photo captures the fire raging in the middle of the night, making an almost abstract imageForest Fire, BPS, Abaco (Luc Lavallee)

FOREST FIRES –  BURNING SENSATIONS

FOREST FIRES – TOO CLOSE TO DELPHI

FOREST FIRES – REGENERATION

INDUSTRIAL ARCHAEOLOGY AT SAWMILL SINK REVEALED BY FIRE

Finally, here is a shot I took last year from the Delphi balcony looking west to the sunset. The fires had burned for several days, and the suns rays in daytime had to penetrate clouds of smoke and ash. The effect was striking.

Forest Fires, Delphi Abaco 2013

 

 Credits: Header & last pic- RH at Delphi 2013; aerial shot – David Rees; other images – Luc Lavallee

 

 

ENJOYING THE POOL: YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS ON ABACO


Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Abaco 5

ENJOYING THE POOL: YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS ON ABACO

The Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violate) is a smallish heron, and avian counterpart to the Black-crowned Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax). The clue to the main difference between them is in the names. The juveniles of both species are similar. The ‘night’ part of the name refers to their preferred time for feeding. They have broad appetites that include crustaceans, molluscs, frogs, fish, and aquatic insects. 

Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Abaco 6

At Delphi, these lovely birds are regularly seen in gardens round the pool; drinking from the pool; standing hopefully waiting for prey to show itself in the water; and occasionally getting a bit confused by the whole thing (see below). Delphi Club Pool

Looking rightYellow-crowned Night Heron, Abaco 7

Looking wet and ruffledYellow-crowned Night Heron, Abaco 8

Looking hungryYellow-crowned Night Heron, Abaco 9

Looking contentedYellow-crowned Night Heron, Abaco 10

The YNCH will stand motionless, waiting to ambush its prey. So a human, wandering to the pool laden with towel, book, iWotsit™, sun stuff and a cool Kalik, may easily not spot the bird at first. It will have seen you first, anyway, and moved away quietly if it isn’t too sure about you. However, they can be surprisingly tame if not startled. You may settle down, and suddenly sense that you are being watched from the other side of the pool…Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Delphi (DR)

Peter Mantle managed to capture a wonderful moment when a juvenile YCNH made a bit of a mistake early one morning while the pool cover was still in place… It looks embarrassed and slightly apologetic.Yellow-crowned Night Heron (juv) PM IMG_4607 (2)

Usually, these birds are to be found in marshy areas, or by brackish ponds where (unlike the pool) there is a ready supply of food for them. A few miles south of Delphi is an excellent pond for birding near Crossing Rocks, where there is always the chance of seeing an unusual or rare species. Herons and egrets often use the landing stage as a vantage point for scoping out the feeding opportunities. The next pictures are of a juvenile (?teenage) YCNH doing just that – and fortunately, the pond does not have a cover to cause discombobulation of the species. Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Abaco 3 Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Abaco 2Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Abaco 4

Black-crowned night heron for comparison220px-Black-crowned_Night_Heron_RWD7

300px-YCNH20101

Photo credits: All RH except the across-pool-starer (David Rainford); the confused juvenile on the pool cover (Peter Mantle); and the last 2 comparatives (Wiki)

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK: ROCK POOLS ON ABACO


Rock Pool, Abaco 2

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK: ROCK POOLS ON ABACO

Here’s a promising-looking rocky outcrop a short distance south of Crossing Rocks. The action of the sea over centuries has eroded and pitted it – ideal for the formation of pools in which marine life can thrive.Rock Pool, Abaco 1

Time to clamber up to see if the theory holds good… the prospects are encouraging. There are certainly plenty of sea urchins here.Rock Pool, Abaco 4

Let’s zoom in on the nearest pool. There are clearly 2 different-coloured sea urchins here, but I’m not sure if that’s an age thing or a species thing. Rock Pool, Abaco 6

Apart from the sea urchins, there are some shells and other things that need a closer look…Rock Pool, Abaco 5

At the bottom of these photos, you can see that a zebra-marked nerite is quite happy to share a hole with an urchin. There are two brownish accretions on or in the rock. My tentative suggestion is that these are the shells of some sort of worm, perhaps petaloconchus.

UPDATE Rick Guest helpfully comments “Yes, it’s quite the invertebrate hotel mostly due to the urchin’s talent for scouring out protective “rooms”. Of interest is the Magpie shell (Livona pica) in frames 4 and 5. The rather ubiquitous Livona’s very thick shell, (Up to 5″ diameter) and ability to withstand most attempts at removal by predators, including Homo sapiens, assures their continued presence on littoral shore lines. They are edible, but not particular tasty to my palet. All these “Condo” residents “party” at night and will even leave the rock in search of food and perhaps romance, so a flash pic of the condo at night would be an interesting contrast to a daylight shot”.ROCK POOLS, ABACO 11

In a snug little cave (top right) just above the water-level of the pool is a primitive-looking chiton, a species that has been around for millions of years. Below, there’s a clearer image of one from a different pool. These creatures always remind me of school projects on prehistoric trilobites.Rock Pool, Abaco 7Rock Pool, Abaco 10

The rough rocky surfaces close to the pool are covered in shells. The stripey nerites are small, the grey shells really are miniature.  They are mostly littorines/ periwinkles and perhaps ceriths, I think.Rock Pool, Abaco 9Rock Pool, Abaco 12

Close-up views of nerites showing their distinctive markings and spiralsRock Pool, Abaco 13Rock Pool, Abaco 14