Photo Credit: Melissa Maura, with thanks. See more gorgeous parrots HERE
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…
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!
Credits: Parrot nests – Caroline Stahala (the scientist i/c parrots); the rest – RH
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.
PARROTS HAVING AN EARLY EVENING GET-TOGETHER AT BAHAMA PALM SHORES
‘GOODNESS ME, IS THAT THE TIME? I MUST FLY…’
A RARE ABACO PARROT DISPLAYS A RARE TALENT…
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MY LITTLE TRICK?
I’M A BIT CAMERA-SHY – I’LL JUST TURN ROUND
THAT’S BETTER. ARE YOU SURE YOU ARE READY FOR THIS?
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
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.
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 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).
BEDRAGGLED ABACO PARROTS, & AN AMERICAN KESTREL TAKES OFF…
It’s a fine June day. Perfect for a morning out with Ricky Johnson, the omniscient leader of ABACO NATURE TOURS. Want parrots? He’ll take you to them. Want a Bahama Woodstar ‘pished’ from its deep cover into the open? He’s your man. And as for wrassling land crabs – see LANDCRAB and LANDCRAB: THE SEQUEL We set off from the Delphi Club in sunshine and hope…
Sure enough, we found the parrots at Bahama Palm Shores, so often a good bet. This was (Ricky said) a non-breeding flock, the breeders all being otherwise detained in the National Park with their nests and eggs. Out of nowhere, a sudden short, sharp downpour arrived, and 5 minutes later, everything – everyone – was soaked. And so, of course, were the parrots. At first I discounted the resulting photos for use. These lovely, rare birds are made to be seen in their bright cheerful livery of green, red and blue. These wet ones looked… black. I usually try to avoid doing much (or any) ‘work’ on my photos, but for these I tried changing the contrast a bit and realised that they looked rather appealing with their dark, damp feathers and unkempt appearance. So I’ve decided to use a few images. Here they are, then: some sodden parrots!
While we were damply watching the parrots, Ricky spotted an American Kestrel near the top of a tree. Heads swivelled. It was some way away, but we could see it looking a bit dejected, huddled in the palm fronds. Then suddenly, just as I pressed the camera button, the kestrel stretched itself upright, raised its wings, and launched itself into the sky. The two photos below are frankly of marginal quality (on a high “blur setting”, as you might say) but the second one has caught the rain-drenched kestrel’s take-off about as well as a point ‘n’ shoot at that distance could…
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…
(All photos © C. Stahala / Rolling Harbour)
A Quarterly Journal of Ornithology
THE AUK is a quarterly journal published by the AOU specialising in promoting the scientific study of birds by means of original peer-reviewed reports. It has been in continuous publication since 1884, and can lay claim to be a (the?) foremost journal in its field. Here is the front page of the first volume of the journal
The 1905 Vol 22 No. 2 contains a 22 page study by Glover M Allen entitled SUMMER BIRDS IN THE BAHAMAS. If you aren’t a particularly dedicated birder, my advice is ‘look away now’ and move on to a page, post or other occupation that interests you more. For the remaining 2 of you, stay tuned in. I thank you both. It will be worth it…
The article was published at a time when ornithological survey of the Bahamas was in its infancy. Cory’s famous list of birds collected from the islands had been published a mere 15 years earlier. Allen details his time spent with 2 companions – much of it on Abaco – as they investigated birdlife and recorded their findings. That aspect comprises the first part of the article. The second part is equally fascinating: their list of bird species, with commentary, remarks and comparisons thrown in, together with some of the local names for the birds. Some of these are still in use, others perhaps long-forgotten. Is a Least Tern still known as a ‘Kill-’em-Polly’? Here are some highlights for busy people:
FLAMINGO / SPOONBILL Of particular interest is the recording of the apparently imminent loss of the flamingo (“fillymingo”) from the Northern Bahamas – a single colony only still surviving on the Abaco Marls by 1905. Allen and his group found only one roseate spoonbill, also on the Marls (we were also lucky enough to see a single spoonbill on the Marls in June)
BAHAMA PARROT Those who follow the fortunes of these fine birds on this blog or elsewhere will be especially interested in the following extract, which suggest that at the start of the c20, the species had all but died out on Abaco: “Amazona bahamensis (Bryant). We were interested to learn through the captain of our schooner, that a few parrots still exist on Great Abaco. He told us of having seen a flock near Marsh Harbor the year before (1903) and in previous years had some- times observed a flock in late summer at that part of the island. We learned that at Acklin’s Island about 14o miles south of Nassau, parrots still nest in numbers and the young birds are regularly taken from the nest when fledged,and bronght to Nassau to be sold as pets” I will be posting about the parrots later this month, but suffice to say here that the current estimate for Abaco parrots is now around 4000 birds, a significant increase since conservation measures and a predator control program were started some years ago.
BAHAMA WOODSTAR These endemic hummingbirds, now taking second place to the in-comer Cuban Emerald, were plainly everywhere then: “On all the islands and cays, wherever there was bush or tree growth, this humming- bird occurred”
“PARAKEETS” There seems to have been a significant population of these, known then as ‘Bahama Grassquits’. What species were – or are -these? The description doesn’t quite match the ‘quit family candidates we are familiar with today.
OTHER SPECIES Avian taxononomy, with its frequent official changes of classification, is a confusing area… but it seems that in 1905 there were then 2 distinct species of Spindalis (now, one); and 3 Mockingbird varieties (now, two). But of course there may simply have been a naming adjustment since the article was published…
For those who have stayed awake till now, your prize is the following link to the whole 22-page (small pages!) article
ABACO FAVOURITE BIRD POLL RESULTS
RESULTS Here are the results of the recent Abaco Favourite Bird Poll, with apologies for an intermission in activity around here. We were away for a few days somewhere that turned out to be sunny, returning late last night to near-zero temperatures…
THE POLL started with five birds, but the Tropicbird was removed after a week having failed to chart. To begin with, it looked as though the parrots would stay way out in front, but the smallest rival gained ground, flew past and won the title.
THANKS to all who took part by voting and or commenting – a gratifying number, enough to make for a reasonably accurate result. It would be nice to know what bird the voters in the last category would have chosen instead of the candidates on offer…
THE OTHER POLL was designed to find out if people were finding that the ongoing woodpecker saga is becoming (has become?) tedious or is providing a modicum of entertainment. Of relatively few responses (nb I did not vote), the result speaks for itself. I will take voting abstention / inertia to indicate either indifference or tolerance, and continue as and when a new drama occurs.
Best outcome? Chicks!
2. SEA GLASS
Note 1 I give Amazon.uk pricing as a simple standard for new / used prices. Obviously Amazon.com is also worth comparing, as is Abe UK or US. With Abe watch out for the shipping costs. An apparently ‘bargain’ book may have a loading on the shipping, which (unlike Amazon) are not standard.
Note 2 You will see that I have included books that have had bad reviews as well as good – compare books 1 and 2 below – so that you are forewarned…
PURE SEA GLASS
Amazon UK £22; new / used from £14
Amazon UK Reviews 1 x 5*
Pure Beauty “I loved this book… Sea glass is fantastic and this book shows you how to recognise each colour, although in reality there are thousands of hues! I loved the photographs in this book and it made me surf the Internet for sea glass collectors, sites etc.
Amazon.com reviews: 70, average rating 4.9 out of 5*. Here are a few nibbles
Discovering Nature’s Vanishing Gems “This is an excellent volume, especially for beginners… A major attraction is that there are over 150 exquisite and elegant photographs… presenting some of the beat specimens ever collected, along with a vast array of classical glassware from around the world that is often its source. The book is a comprehensive guide, chock full of information on finding and identifying these gems, the bits of aged glass, enhanced by years beneath the sea or caught in the tides that wash our coasts. There are 224 pages with chapters on the history of sea glass and the history of sand, (fascinating), different types of glass, (bottles, containers, tableware, utility and flat glass, like window glass – plain and stained, marbles, insulators and bonfire glass – from ship and shore, etc) & appraising rarity, along with many other interesting topics”
Simply Exquisite “…a must have for all the beachcombers who wander the strands of the world, bending to pick up those gorgeous fragments of glass. It offers history & facts about the globs of glass washed up by the waves, as well as page after page of exhilerating colors & shapes the glass comes in, & images of the seashore”
Amazon UK £8.54, new/used from £5.07
This book has divided readers. It’s worth bearing in mind that it costs a lot less than most, so it can’t be expected to be as lavish. but still… here’s a flavour. I rather enjoyed the two snidey reviews, I’m sorry to say
Amazon.com reviews: 9, average rating 3.7*
The Good Review “It’s exactly what I hoped — SGHH is a celebration of sea glass hunting. Simply put: the book is stunning. As a previous reviewer noted, this is not a “how to” book nor a map (although it does list exceptional locations around the world); rather, it is like a piece of sea glass itself: beautiful, tangible, a treasure. Chapter 1 the world of sea glass; 2, origins; 3, methods for hunting; 4, lexicon; 5, etiquette & laws; 6, destinations. It’s digest size, hard bound & first class… I strongly recommend it for anyone who truly loves sea glass or who would like to share the passion with others
The Model Sniffy Review Intended for total novices, not for a true sea glass hunter… mostly a very broad overview of the sea glass experience, basically nice small pictures in color of perfect pieces of sea glass etc. The book is very small, the type of thing you find in a hallmark gift shop in the mall, designed obviously for gifting to a hospital patient or homebound person, a little birthday type gift, would be nice to give to someone at christmas time that has no idea what seaglass is, or for a pre-teenager to early teens in reading level perhaps. I had too high expectations for this book… it’s just a little puff piece. If you seriously collect sea glass and actively pursue this with any passion, you won’t find anything in this tiny volume of importance that you don’t already know”
The Serious Panning “Ho Hum. The most remarkable thing about this book is how undistinguished it is. A book on sea glass should either be beautifully designed or loaded with useful information, or both. This one is neither. The visual appearance is not unlike what one might expect in a high school project. In particular, the extensive grab bag of colorful and unrelated fonts is amateurish to the extreme. There’s a dearth of information for something purporting to be a “handbook”. The author has thrown together a variety of snippets seemingly without the benefit of an organizing thought process or theme. You can skim this skimpy volume or better yet you can simply skip it – I wish I had. Read Pure Sea Glass by Richard LaMotte instead (see review above. rh)
C.S.Lambert (Author) Pat Hanbery (Photographer)
Amazon UK £17.32 new / used from £12
1. The Overwrought (Suspected Publisher’s Puff) “Hunting for sea glass treasures and safeguarding the hiding places where these precious images of the past wash ashore, are passions among the beach-faithful… This hunger for sea glass is a natural progression… blah…ageless hobby of beachcombing as an anthropological art…blah…this lovely book is a terrific and meaningful gift… blah..those dazzling little pieces of glistening remnants leftover after the sea has abused them as a worthwhile hobby and aesthetic pastime…blah…before being rescued by the beachcombing enthusiast. Holiday gifts, coffee table conversation table toppers or inspirational reading…blah…a book to treasure just like the mysterious particles described between the book jacket covers”
2. The Enthusiast “I love this book. It has a unique perspective – the history of objects from another time – which have washed up on our shores. It is remarkable that a history could be written about a shard of glass. The author manages to trace back through infinitesimal clues the origin and use of what to most is just colorful detrius. The text is very brief and poetic but also informative. The photographs beautifully enhance the found objects. They are insightful and clever, and the quality and sharpness is always first rate”
3. The Pragmatist “I am delighted with this book. Large clear artistic photographs illustrate the research. I have learned a lot about the origins of the beach found objects. To my suprise one of my prized found objects is featured – a Lea & Perrins glass bottle stopper, and I now know it dates from 1876 onwards. I shall be looking out for some purple glass – the rarest colour of all! The text explains why it is so rare. Not a craft book, but a book of answers and interesting facts to inspire the collector”
4. The To-the-Point “Useful purchase beautifully illustrated with creative thought provoking ideas of what can be found on the sea shore and what can be made from what is essentially waste”
And for those that have found glass and want to know what they can do with it, the later companion volume to Sea Glass Chronicles…
A PASSION FOR SEA GLASS
C. S. LAMBERT AMY WILTON
Amazon UK £19.99 new/used about £15
“Heaven is sea glass shaped What a wondeful book that transports the reader to a heaven of sea glass images. I thought I was the only weird person, searching the shore line like an oyster catcher, looking for elusive pieces of wave-worn glass and pottery shards. This book shows me there are other like-minded persons who have taken their search to a whole new creative level by fashioning the most beautiful and imaginative pieces of art from their finds”
“Beautiful images A treasure for any sea glass lover. The images are beautiful and the ideas are creative and inspiring. A wonderfully readable picture book.”
“A fine guide for any art or photography collection Amy A. Wilton provides the stunning photos for A PASSION FOR SEA GLASS, a survey of major sea glass collectors and the workshops of artisans who use the glass to provide everything from sea-glass windows to mosaics, ornaments and more. It complements Lambert’s 2001 SEA GLASS CHRONICLES, which covered collection and identification of sea glass, and adds a new dimension of usage and conversion making this a fine guide for any art or photography collection”
“A worthy sequel to “Sea Glass Chronicles” Author C.S. Lambert and photographer Pat Hanbery showed us the beauty of those colorful beachside finds in “Sea Glass Chronicles: Whispers from the Past.” Now Lambert has gone one step farther by documenting what avid sea glass collectors do with all of their treasures. The people we meet on these pages make jewelry or wind chimes or mobiles. They assemble mosaics on tabletops or walls. One artist crafts panels that look much like stained glass windows, until you examine them more closely. And those are just some of the projects featured in this book. While a few of the profiles include directions for making your own artwork, the focus here is on beauty and art and imagination.”
“A must for Sea Glass Lovers I received this book as a gift, and absolutely loved it. I found it interesting to see what other “seaglunkers” did with their collections to display them, where they found their pieces, and enjoyed the beautiful pictures and narrations throughout the book. It is beautifully photographed with great text from the contributing artisans. Terrific craft ideas and suggestions, much more than a tabletop book and well worth the investment”
A NEW BIRDING DIVERSION
BAHAMA WOODSTARS LEAD VOTE NOW POLL CLOSES 29 FEBRUARY
This could be fun. Unless no one bothers to participate. I’ve just found out how to do this, having wondered for a while what the little widget did. There may be some way for you to put your own choice, but I am a slow learner. Another time maybe. For now, you can positively opt out of the nominated birds – your very own protest vote. Or you can all just ignore the whole thing, as I rather fear may happen… If this prototype bombs, I’ve only wasted a couple of hours, after all…
UPDATE: After a week, the order is (1) Bahama Woodstar (2) Abaco Parrot (3) Western Spindalis (4=) Banaquit and ‘Sorry…’ The poor Tropicbird got no votes and has been removed…
THE FEAST OF ST VALENTINE 2012
Patron Saint of Cut Flowers, Boxed Sweetmeats & the Greetings Card Industry
Or it would if it could talk. Here is a win -win -win. ‘Adopt’ this miniature Abaco Parrot sculpture (ok, buy it) by Dou Dou Birds and all proceeds will go towards the conservation of the Abaco Parrot population. Then give it to someone. It’s an investment in art; a philanthropic deed; and a gift from the heart. Here’s the direct link (there are many other cute birds for sale too) To save parrots CLICK THIS ONE===>>>
Oh dear. Maybe someone else got there first. Never mind. How about making a donation to 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’
Then go ahead and buy that big box of chocolates you were going to get anyway…
SATURDAY 28 JANUARY 2012 – A DATE FOR THE DIARY
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
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…
ABACO PARROTS AND THEIR UNDERGROUND NEST
Exceptional and rare video footage of Abaco Parrots entering their underground nest, very kindly provided by Caroline Stahala for use in this blog. I don’t imagine many people have been lucky enough to see this sort of parrot activity in the wild, so it is great to be able to see it captured on video…
If the video above doesn’t work you can reach it another way: CLICK LINK—–>>>ABACO PARROTS NESTING
[At the moment the video is reachable by the link above. I'm working on embedding it, but there's a technical hitch to sort out. It's all geek to me. So I'm using something I'd never heard of until this morning called Dropshot, which at least lets you see the video... though I've got a feeling it entails having to have 'friends' and to end up involuntarily 'following' people like Britney Spears and some crazy guy called 'iruletheworld']
Many thanks for this great video, Caroline
Ricky ushers us into his spacious, comfortable truck: 6 denizens of Delphi eager for adventure. Most have already been on a morning trip to see the Abaco Barbs (wild horses) of which more in a separate post. rollingharbour suffers from an unfortunate but mild form of equine indifference disorder, so gave it a miss.
We set off north on the highway, checking cameras, binoculars and other essential expeditionary impedimenta. Meanwhile, Ricky reveals his knowledge, experience and huge enthusiasm… this extends way, way beyond mere birds to the trees and plants, to poisons and herbal remedies, to geology and speleology, to geography and history. Soon we reach our destination, confident in Ricky’s renowned ability to know where the parrots (and many more birds besides) are to be found. We don’t have to wait very long – about two minutes after we turn off the highway, in fact… The parrots favour the Gumbo Limbo Tree (Bursera simaruba) as pictured, which invariably and most conveniently grows next to the Poisonwood tree (Metopium Toxiferum) and is its antidote. That’s the first place to look.
ABACO PARROTS (Amazona leucocephala bahamensis) Here is a selection of our photos of these fantastic birds. I hadn’t expected to see so many, for so long, and at such close quarters. Their colouring was extraordinarily vivid, with a slash of blue on the wings. This was especially dramatic in flight. One parrot, shown below, had red frontal markings that extended almost to its tail. Ricky hadn’t seen one like it before.
CLICK on the images to enlarge them significantly [Mrs rollingharbour reports that this is as yet a theory and may not work in practice]
To be continued… (I’m going to do this post piecemeal – other birds, flowers etc to follow)