This small bird was quite far back – and high up – in the coppice on the Delphi guest drive. The photos were distance shots, so not the best quality, but they do capture the little bird in full song. BGGs have complete white eye rings; males have a dark ‘monobrow’ which can just about be seen in the photo above. In a word, ‘cute’. They sound like this (you may need to wait for the clip (credit: Cornell Lab / RH) to load – or hurry it along by clicking ‘Play’ as it loads):
They build a cup nest on a horizontal tree branch. It’s a modern family unit – both parents make the nest, tend the eggs, feed the young, and teach them manners. They may raise two broods in a season.
BGGs eat insects and spiders, feeding in trees and shrubs. They can hover very briefly, but mainly they catch insects on the wing (‘hawking’). The tail is often held upright while defending territory. Or sometimes just because they can.
All the information you could want on this species can be found at the excellent OISEAUX-BIRDS.COM
STOP PRESSchecking back through my photos, I’ve found a (slightly blurry) distance shot of a BGG. I am adding it because it shows the bird with its characteristically cocked tail, often seen when perching (the bird, I mean)
A very pretty BGG has recently been published on the superb Cornell Lab website, credited to Laura Frazier. It’s so cute – and such a clear image – that it deserves inclusion here
A new Header has arrived to grace the Home Page. It’s a wonderful wide-angle view of the 3/4 mile bay of white sand that is Rolling Harbour. It was taken by Michael Vaughn, a photographer and tarpon guide from Key West, and I have ‘borrowed’ it from the main DELPHI CLUBwebsite. You can immediately see the attraction of the blog name ‘Rolling Harbour’, an enterprise related to but editorially independent of HQ (though subject to benign scrutiny from Peter Mantle, who has so far resisted any temptation to behave in a ‘Murdochian’ fashion…)
The Delphi Club has just completed its third year in operation, with a record number of fish caught both out on the Marls and off the beach. There were records, too, for guest numbers; nourishment consumed in both the food and the drink categories; and for bird species spotted in the club grounds, the coppice and pine forest, and on the beach…
This aerial view shows the plantation-style club building and its minimal ‘footprint’ in the landscape
The Delphi Club from the beach
The view of the beach looking north from the Club verandahThe view of the beach looking south from the Club verandah
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…
I have previously posted about these cute creatures that lie sunning themselves and occasionally blinking; or scuttle away when they see you. SeeCURLY TAILS for photos and details about these lizards and their habits. Here are a few more recent images. The first three were taken at the Delphi Club, where they seem to enjoy the pool area in particular. The top one has one extraordinarily long finger. It’s worth clicking on these 2x to enlarge them to see the structure of their skin / overlapping scales
An impressive “complete double curly”
This pair of curly tails was at Crossing Rocks, where we were trying to locate Bahama Woodstar hummingbirds in the scrubland. We rather felt that we might be interrupting something… They look endearingly affectionate.
These small birds are a favourite of mine. They flicker around, cheeping cheerfully, yet are often quite hard to see in the coppice even if you think you are looking exactly where the sound is coming from.
Bananaquits are passerines, with an uncertain species designation. Over the years they have been officially reclassified three times. Some include them loosely with tanagers; others put them in their own family group; others argue that there are 3 distinct species. Basically, there is no universal consensus. There is some satisfaction, in a vastly over-classified world, in one small bird resisting man’s pigeon-holing (so to speak). It’s a tiny taxonomic enigma.
Among the islands of the West Indies there are several subspecies of bananaquit, with marked variations of appearance and size too tedious to relate. The best news is that “…the Bahamas Bananaquit with a whitish throat and upper chest may be a separate species…”.
The Bananaquit’s slender, curved bill is designed for taking nectar from flowers. It can pierce flowers from the side to reach the nectar, or use its bill to puncture fruit. It also eats small insects. The birds are tame, and love feeders, especially hummingbird feeders filled with sugar-water – hence their nickname “sugar bird”. They breed all year round. This is the characteristic chirrup of the Bahamas Bananaquit (credit: Xeno-Canto)
This small juvenile was happily feeding by itself near the Delphi Club, Abaco. Its mother then flew onto a nearby branch, and I’m afraid to say that the child indulged in a shameful charade of “Hungry! Feed Me! Now!”
WARBLER IDENTIFICATION – A LIGHT-HEARTED CHALLENGE
SPECIES ID NOW SOLVED! CUT TO THE CHASE BENEATH THE PHOTOS FOR DETAILS. A LATE ENTRY NOW DISPUTES THE GENDER ID, SO THE SEX CHALLENGE IS REOPENED, SO TO SPEAK
I have previously posted aids to WARBLER ID (1); WARBLER ID (2), a pitfall-fraught area that continues to baffle me despite books, online resources, futile stabs in the dark etc. For each species the male differs from the female, and both differ from juvenile / maturing birds. And this all depends to some extent on the season. Here’s a speckled warbler photographed recently at the Delphi Club, Abaco, for which there are various candidates ranging from the distinctly possible to the frankly completely-unlikely-but-astounding-if-it-turned-out-to-be-true Kirtland’s Warbler. These are seen and positively identified vanishingly rarely on Abaco – maybe one or two a year, and invariably in winter. But what if one decided to stay behind for the summer… And to those who say “Prairie, dimwit”, I reply “…but their speckles don’t cover their entire fronts”.
I’m throwing this open, because although I have a view I’d like to see what others come up with. Craig? Avian101? Avian3? Margaret H? Other birding followers? Are you out there? Leave a comment (see small-print blurb at the bottom of the post) or email me at email@example.com The bird was a bit reluctant to be photographed, but I managed to get a side view, a ‘full-frontal’ and a head shot. Any ideas?
UPDATEThanks to all who came up with suggestions – it’s interesting how opinion on warbler species varies, even with quite clear close-ups to judge from. The first past the post is… Dr Elwood D Bracey (Fl), to whom many thanks. It’s a female CAPE MAY WARBLERDendroica tigrina. The runner-up is (amazingly) myself – I had it down for a Cape May juvenile, because I thought it looked a bit on the fluffy side… Also, its eye-patches (photo 3) are grey rather than brown, and I took their colouring to be a work in progress. There’ll be some more ID queries from our recent batch of Abaco photos – not just birds, but flowers & shells as well. All contributions will be welcome…
Oh no! What’s happening here? A late challenge has come in from Margaret H (see comments), who contends that the clearly shown patch on the bird’s cheek indicates that it is a male, not a female, Cape May. So the challenge was ended and the award given prematurely… The species is now definite, but the gender ID remains unresolved…
I’ve now heard from Alex Hughes, who writes “[I am] one of Caroline Stahala’s field techs on the parrot project this summer. She forwarded me the photos of the warbler taken recently on Abaco. The photos I saw are of a female Cape May Warbler, which is a great find in June! She is certainly not going to make it to her breeding grounds, unfortunately, but still fascinating to see a boreal forest bird in the Bahamas during summer.
In a follow-up, Alex adds “I’d be very surprised if this was a male bird, due to the plumage lined up with the time of year. This year’s juvenile birds are not big enough to make the flight south from breeding grounds yet, and wouldn’t anyways if they could. Therefore, it would have to be adult non-breeding plumage if it were a male, also meaning this bird already molted from alternate plumage from spring, and flew south. This seems far more unlikely to me than a female who simply didn’t make the flight, probably due to some handicap. Either way, very cool!”
So I think that wraps it up. A female Cape May, in the right place at the wrong time. How lucky to have got close to one in the off-season. It just goes to show, eager Kirtland hunters, that any of the migratory warbler species might choose to stay behind for the summer…
CORNELL LAB OF ORNITHOLOGY IMAGE & BLURB
“The Cape May Warbler breeds across the boreal forest of Canada and the northern United States, where the fortunes of its populations are largely tied to the availability of spruce budworms, its preferred food. Striking in appearance but poorly understood, the species spends its winters in the West Indies, collecting nectar with its unique curled, semitubular tongue”.
It is presumably using its ‘unique… tongue’ in Photo 2, inconveniently concealed by foliage so we will never know
(RH COMMENT My one obviously liked the Delphi Club – and its feeders – so much that it decided to stay for the summer…)
(Credit: Steve Pelikan for Xeno-Canto)
CAPE MAY WARBLER RANGE MAP (Wiki) (left)
As a warbler-muddler, I am interested to see how extremely selective this species is in its preferred summer and winter latitudes. The banding is very distinct. Are they never tempted by New York? Have they never tried Disneyland?
CORNELL LAB OF ORNITHOLOGY RANGE MAP(below)
The more sophisticated range map below shows the migration areas between the summer breeding and winter non-breeding areas. It looks as though a Cape May warbler on Abaco in June is an unexpected sighting.
THE RED-LEGGED THRUSH-A WELCOME GUEST AT THE DELPHI CLUB, ABACO
They are everywhere in May and June, with their eponymous limbs and their remarkable red eyes. In fact, ‘red-eyed thrush’ would be as apt a name, if somewhat lachrymose-sounding. This was our first Summer visit to Abaco and the difference in sightings was marked. Now, the thrushes tended to choose a high tree-perch to sing from, when not hopping around feeding on the ground. In March they seem more furtive, lurking in the coppice – presumably eyeing up the talent (or sizing up the opposition) with mating in mind.
There are 6 distinct regional variations on the species, which are found in the Bahamas, Caymans, Cuba, Dominica, Haiti and Puerto Rico. TURDUS PLUMBEUS is the subspecies specific to the Bahamas. Some view them as the Caribbean counterpart to theAMERICAN ROBIN. They eat fruit, insects and small creatures such as snails, lizards and caterpillars. Their song sounds like this (courtesy of Paul Driver at Xeno-Canto)
In a departure from the normal use of an ‘in-house’ logo, I’ve posted a silhouette of a Delphi RLT in the coppice close to the Club. The photo itself was dull, but I liked the pose and decided to turn it into logo-thrush
BIRDS IN THE DELPHI GOUNDS OR IN THE COPPICE NEARBY
1. This bird was at the top of a tree on the Delphi front drive close to the Club. It is singing cheerfully, and you can clearly see its tongue
2. This bird also chose a high vantage point near the front entrance gate. I managed to get gradually closer to it. Its feathers are quite fluffy and I wonder if it a juvenile / late teen?
3. Strike the pose! Two very characteristic poses by a bird on the guest drive. In the first image, you can also (just) see its tongue as it sings
4. Another high perch above the coppice alongside the drive
GROUND-FEEDING IN THE GARDEN ROUND THE POOL
Two very productive areas for thrush-fodder. The newly cut grass exposes insects, in particular ants. And the border beside the lawn has plenty of insect-life to feed on (Photo quality suspect – half-asleep by pool, grabbed camera)
A PRETTY EXAMPLE OF THE THRUSH TAKEN AT BAHAMA PALM SHORES
Checking out the precarious electricity infrastructure, Marsh Harbour, dusk
NORMAL SERVICE WILL BE RESUMED IN TWO WEEKS, IF YOU CAN EVER CALL IT ‘NORMAL’
Actually, apologies for the drawing. No, really. At one time in this blog, I did say that I struggle to draw a stickman. And ain’t that the truth. Click on the Soundcloud thing below for suitable vacation music, composed and played by me (tip of the hat to an iPhone app). Oh good grief. It’s just as feeble as my drawing. Just as well I’m off to Abaco for R & R… Meanwhile, here’s what a bonefish really looks like – the weight / strength ratio makes it one of the world’s most powerful fishes. Hook one and prepare to have your reel stripped to the backing. All caught bones are quickly released to ensure stocks are not depleted.
Why thank you, nice Lubbers Quarters sign, I do believe we are…
BRIGHT & BEAUTIFUL: SUMMER BIRDS AT THE DELPHI CLUB, ABACO
Peter Mantle reports that some colourful birds have arrived at Delphi to take advantage of the feeders and fresh water provided. Indigo Buntings have been around for a while, as they have been a little further north atBAHAMA PALM SHORES;and Rose-fronted / Red-breasted Grosbeaks (I’m not sure which is correct – the terms seem to be used interchangeably) have been seen all round the Club grounds for a week or more. They haven’t been recorded at Delphi before, so they have now been added to the ever-growing official list of the ‘Birds of Delphi’. How long before an elusive Kirtland’s Warbler puts in an appearance? And will anyone recognise it if it does..?
HOOKED! A FANATICAL FISHERMAN’S WIFE TAKES TO THE BONEFISH FLATS
I’m married to a Fanatical Fisherman. I have never shared his enthusiasm, though I have always loved the places where his fishing takes us. However the chance to spend two weeks at the Delphi Club Bahamas on Abaco every year has changed my perspective. This year I thought to myself (in non-fishing terminology, of course) ‘How about giving it a try?’
We waited for a day that was not windy and that would suit the FF’s own fishing convenience. One of the other guests was a kind and patient, not to say a highly eminent fisherperson and she gave me my first ever lesson on the lawn. With much encouragement I went forth. It was a lovely day with the sun beating down, so it was ‘sun block on and all parts covered’.
Skiffs on their way to the bonefishing grounds
We set out in the skiff and after an exhilarating ride we glided to a stop in shallow water. I sat enchanted for a moment, taking in the incredible beauty of the place. Guide Tony provided suitable footwear for me (his son’s); and the relative merits of a ‘Crazy Charlie or a ‘Delphi Special’ were debated. Soon I was wading on the flats, rod in hand. This was my first-ever experience of my husband’s lifetime obsession…
Poling to a good place for wading
Within minutes Tony pointed to a shoal of bonefish… I cast (in a manner of speaking)! I struck! I hooked! I played! And… I lost!
But that was enough. From then on I was on a mission. I saw the ‘nervous water’ – great shoals of bonefish causing a subtle ripple 0n the surface of the water. When they turned and moved towards me I could hardly contain my excitement. I knew I had to tread carefully underfoot and to keep still as I cast. Silver flashes glinted in the sunlight as the fish started ‘tailing’.
Watch out for ‘Nervous Waters’
Meanwhile the sharks lazily circled us waiting for a chance to grab a prize before we could reel it in. I did hook another bone but it too managed to evade capture. And then suddenly the day was over. How did that happen? In the end I landed no fish but as the skiff sped back across the blue water I knew this was, for me, the start of something wholly absorbing. FF had better look to his laurels.
(All illustrative photos by RH – Lorna was otherwise engaged!)
Janene Roessler has kindly sent news of a sighting yesterday of a prothonotary warbler on a feeder at Bahama Palm Shores, Abaco [Later addition]Now, with thanks to Ann Capling, here is that very warbler on the feeder – a fine photo considering it was taken indoors through glass.Apparently there hasn’t been one recorded there since 2007. I know of one seen further south on the island near the Delphi Club in April 2010 (see photo and caption below). I’ve never seen one myself. It seems fitting to celebrate the news with a post about these little birds…
This very pretty species of warbler Protonotaria citrea is the only member of its genus. The male birds are very colourful, with the females and juveniles being a bit duller. In flight, the underside of their tails are white at the base, and dark at the tipPhoto Credit Craig Nash (Peregrine’s Blog) This fantastic photo was taken on the main drive of the Delphi Club, Abaco
These warblers are native to the eastern US where they breed, wintering further south in the West Indies and Central & South America. Their nesting arrangements are unusual:“It is the only eastern warbler that nests in natural or artificial cavities, sometimes using old downy woodpecker holes. The male often builds several incomplete, unused nests in his territory; the female builds the real nest”where she lays 3 – 7 eggs. So either the male is cleverly creating decoy nests away from the real nest; or maybe he is showing typically male behaviour in starting several home DIY projects at once and not getting round to finishing any of them…
Female Prothonotary Warbler(wiki)
I can never cope with those phonetic descriptions of bird calls… So many small birds are described as going ‘tseep’ or ‘tweep’ or ‘seeep’, yet in practice sound different from each other. So here, courtesy of the admirable Xeno-Canto and recordist Don Jones, is how they sound in real life
Listed as of ‘Least Concern’ (except in Canada, where they are ‘endangered’), the sad fact is that like so many species PNs are declining in numbers due to habitat loss. They are also bullied by other birds, in particular the brown-headed cowbird; and the house wren with which they compete for nest sites.
And the cumbersome name? Although at one time known by the helpful name ‘Golden Swamp Warbler’, the bird was renamed after senior Roman Catholic church officials calledPROTONOTARII whose robes were (are?) supposedly golden. For full but quite dull details click on the green word back there. Bizarrely, the wiki-link doesn’t seem to confirm the goldenness of the robes at all. I think I’ll vote for a return to the simpler description…
Male Prothonotary Warbler (wiki)
POST SCRIPT: By complete coincidence, the National Audubon Society posted this lovely PN picture on its Facebook page this very day, with the caption “Start your Monday morning off right with this cute Prothonotary Warbler peeking out of a heart shaped tree hole! Have you seen any of these birds yet? Photo by Mark Musselman”
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.
Apart from the plentiful bird species to found all around the Delphi Club, there’s the strange half-way house between insect and bird that is the HUMMINGBIRD MOTH Hemaris Thysbe, also known as Hummingbird Clearwings. These can be seen – and heard – especially at dusk hovering around the flowers in the garden, sipping nectar. In the half-light they are sometimes confused for tiny birds. I have seen them most clearly when they are busy among the flowers in the beds on either side of the lit main staircase. So far I have not managed to get a reasonable photo of one – a situation I hope to put right in May. Meanwhile, I have found some wonderful pictures, not from Abaco, on a website related to a Research Program at Miami University . They were taken by Dr Hays Cummins, to whom thanks for use permission. These and other outstanding images can be found at his comprehensive website, for which CLICK===>>>HERE
THE BAHAMA SWALLOW: A SMALL ENDEMIC BIRD WITH BIG SURVIVAL PROBLEMS
The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) RED LISTstatus of the endemic Bahama Swallow Tachycineta cyaneoviridis has been upgraded from ‘Threatened’ to ‘Endangered’ because its small declining population faces a number of threats that are likely to worsen in the future. In particular, renewed logging activity and widespread property development could result in a further decline in breeding habitat.
The excellent photo above is the ‘Wikimedia poster bird’, but was in fact taken by prolific bird photographer Craig Nash in the main driveway of the Delphi Club, Abaco in 2010. He blogs as Peregrine’s Blog – see RECOMMENDED LINKS in right sidebar
This swallow species breeds only on 4 Bahamas islands: Grand Bahama, Abaco and Andros; and on New Providence, where a few birds are seen each breeding season, suggesting a ‘relict’ population there. The map below suggests that confirmed numbers are so few that New Providence sadly no longer counts as an ‘official’ breeding island.
The Bahama Swallow winters throughout the Bahamas and has been recorded as far as eastern Cuba, but in general the full wintering range is little known. It is a rare vagrant elsewhere during migration, including Florida. The preferred habitat is in the pine forests, where they nest in old woodpecker holes in Caribbean Pines using pine needles, Casuarina twigs, and grass to make the nest which they line with feathers. They typically lay 3 eggs. Incubation is 15 days and the fledging period is around 22 days.
Sound credit: Jesse Fagan / Xeno-Canto
Besides loss of habitat due to human intervention, other factors in population decline are thought to relate to hurricanes and forest fires. The Red List proposals for conservation of the Bahamas Swallow state:“Survey all suitable breeding habitat and assess the status of the species and its habitat; Gather empirical evidence to clarify population trends as a priority; Assess winter distribution and habitat requirements; Study the impacts of fire suppression on the species; Maintain natural nest-sites through a pine snag management programme, and potentially fire management; Assess and monitor the success of the nest box scheme; Protect remaining forest in the Bahamas and minimise the area lost to housing development and logging; Assess the impact of starling and house sparrows on the population and develop appropriate measures to reduce the threat”
The Bahama Swallow has joined other notable bahamian wildlife species in receiving the accolade of a stamp and a coin:
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)
WEST INDIAN AND GREAT SPOTTED - WOODPECKER COUSINS
The starting point / excuse for this post is the nest box for West Indian woodpeckers under the eaves of the Delphi Club verandah. Put ‘woodpecker’ into the home page SEARCH box and you will find various posts about last season’s epic: the reluctance to use the box; the gradual acceptance; the summer nesting and breeding; the heroic stand of the male woodpecker who guarded the box throughout the rampage of Hurricane Irene
Happy to roost here – deeply suspicious of the new wooden structure over there
For some years, great spotted woodpeckers have drilled away at the grey poplar tree at the end of our small London garden. A male gouged out a number of exploratory holes near the top, strewing a carpet of wood chips onto the grass below. One year he attracted a mate, eggs were laid and hatched, a huge amount of chattering and scolding ensued – quite annoying at times in persistence and volume. One weekend we were away and returned to… silence. The fledgling woodpeckers had had their flying lessons and left for good. We missed them.
Since then, the male cleaned out the hole each Spring and drilled a few spare holes for practice, but despite his impressive real estate portfolio, he didn’t attract a mate. He made another, lower hole. No luck. Until this year. In January he brought a new bird home and together they mucked out the hole and settled in – about 2 months early, and with snow on the way. In the absence of current news of the West Indian woodpeckers and their nest at the Delphi Club, here are a few pictures of domestic bliss 4250 miles away… Click images to enlarge
A cosy home – hope the neighbours are nice
Time to go and get a take-out…
…and bring it home for the wife
An act of gross provocation by a starling. I predict trouble. News update soon
I can’t make out if the photo below is just a horrendously bad photo taken with a cheap camera, a fixed shutter speed, and cold shaking hands; or a powerful image of a beautiful bird artistically captured in full flight, the type of action shot that bird photographers strive for years to achieve (Mrs RH has a view on this). If the former, apologies. If the latter (highly unlikely), my professional tip is to use a tiny point ‘n’ shoot into the sun while moving around quite a bit. Whichever, I’ve awarded it a ‘cameo’ format to emphasise the essential artistry of the shot
MARCH 2011 Fires swept through large areas of South Abaco, spreading rapidly and jumping the firebreak of the Highway in several places. At any one time, there were several ‘non-natural’ seats of fire. For 3 days the flames were uncomfortably close to the Delphi Club, halted only by the natural boundary between the flammable pine forest and the damper less combustible coppice. The smoke caused some amazing visual effects, especially at sunset. The first image was taken looking east from the Club verandah one evening as the fire got nearer
The vegetation alongside and between the drives was dense and lushly green before the fires. Here is a photo as fire began to take hold near the top of the drives towards the road, having jumped the Highway in the night…
As the fire rapidly spreads, this tall dead tree is actually flaming from the top
During the next couple of days, we took photographs along the drives of the apocalyptic scenes where there had so recently been impenetrable vegetation. Nearly a year later, indispensable beachcomber and photographer Kasia has taken some pictures of the drives as they are now. First, two ‘then and now’ views of the same scenes to illustrate the extent of forest regeneration
2011The burnt-out forest between the drives
2012A wander round the drive circuit
In some places the undergrowth has returned but trees have not recovered
Elsewhere, blackened stumps are visible in amongst the vigorous regrowth
After all the recent excitement – well I was excited, anyway – involving Mars Mission space rocket debris washed up on the Delphi Club Beach CLICKMARS ROVER it’s a gentle touchdown back onto a sandy beach for some more of Kasia’s finds. First, a shell which I believe (tempting fate) I have correctly ID’d for once. Then a half crab shell, at a guess a spider crab’s roof.
KING VENUS CLAM Verenidae – Chione Paphia
These bivalve molluscs seem to be inoffensive, and to lead rather dull lives: so far all I have discovered is that “they live buried in sand at depths of 1 – 20 fathoms” I shall investigate further & report back – there must be some small creature they molest or upset in some way…
More news about the the space rocket debris washed up on the Delphi Club beach, Abaco. The booster rocket fairing found by Sandy fortunately had a serial number on it. Various inquiries have been made and a definitive explanation of the item has now been given by the NTSB. It turns out that the fairing was not, after all, from the Ariane 5 launch in French Guiana. More exciting than that – it comes from a Mars Program launch to put the Space Rover Curiosity on Mars. There’s an excellent Wikipedia article on the mission to be found at WIKIMARS
Bob Swaim at the NTSB has emailed Sandy to say “The serial number of the fairing fragment is from a part that was on a Delta V [sic - it was in fact an Atlas V, see comments] rocket launch of November 26, 2011. In August, a new car-sized rover will touch down on Mars and you’ll have something from the mission!” He has kindly provided a link to the launch – see image below and direct linkHEREHe has also given a direct link to theNASA MARS PROGRAMsite from which I have taken the screen clip below. You will see an image of the Mars Rover Curiosity, and the time countdown until touch-down at the exact moment I took the shot…
I contacted Bill Ailor, Principal Scientist/Engineer, Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies, The Aerospace Corporation AERO CORPthinking a booster fairing might be of interest for their rocket debris database. He writes
Thanks for the notification (and for your excellent web page – looks like a wonderful spot). On the website, we catalog debris that has reentered from orbit and don’t include payload fairings, solid and first stage rocket boosters, and other “range” debris, since these are suborbital and the launch is designed so that the debris impacts is in known safe areas. That debris can sometimes float outside of the safe area and wash ashore.I should mention that we recently reentered a small device that might one day float to your beach. I’ve attached a description. Let us know if you see that one
Although the device he mentions may have in fact have landed a long distance away (the South Pacific even), best keep an eye out for this…REBR Fact SheetBy a strange coincidence in a huge world, the Aerospace Database shows that in 1965 reentry debris was recovered from a beach on Abaco:
In early 1965 an object having the appearance of a space fragment was reported washed ashore on Abaco Island in the Bahamas
Possibly from the Atlas-Mariner I booster which was destroyed by the range safety officer shortly after launch on 22 July 1962, and landed in the designated ocean impact area
Apologies if I have got sidetracked from normal beachcombing duties – shells and stuff – but wildlife blogging doesn’t get more exciting than this – well, unless they find a colony of Abaco parrots on Mars…
STOP PRESS Rocket part now positively ID’d by serial number – and it’s not from Ariane 5. More exciting – it’s from the Mars Program launch of the the Mars Rover ‘Curioisty’. See latest post at CLICK IMAGE
Kasia’s mystery beachcombing item, posted yesterday, was solved within the day – basically a rock-like accretion of large tubular wormy molluscs of a somewhat unattractive sort. Sandy Walker has now sent me a photo of a baffling object he has found on the club beach to test your ingenuity, or patience. He’s sent it to the NTSB (air-crash investigation etc) for their view. For sure, it isn’t wildlife: however any nautical, aero-nautical, NASA-based or ‘strange white cone’ experts out there might like to contribute an opinion via the COMMENT box or email rollingharbour.delphiATgmail.com (spam guard: please convert AT to @)
My contenders, from most to least exciting (1) Rocket nose-cone. But no re-entry scorch marks – maybe it never got that far (2) Light aeroplane engine cowling or whatever the term is (3) Front end of a canoe-type vessel, with a standard Avery 5-slot for’ard rowlock stanchion clip (or maybe a bit of storm-tossed catamaran – Mrs rh)
STOP PRESS Jan 28 Peter Mantle’s latest bulletin from the Delphi Club… and I get to award myself the first prize of a Kalik beer for wild guess (1) above!
January 28th: Beachcombing at Rolling Harbour produces a great miscellany of shells, corals, beads, fishing floats and the occasional baseball. But a recent find by Sandy had everyone in a panic – a 12-foot chunk of superstructure that looked for all the world like a large piece of aeroplane. Sandy immediately contacted the US National Transportation Safety Board, who initially confirmed a strong resemblance to the tail section of an Airbus A320 passenger jet but wanted to run further investigations of the part numbers. All rather alarming.
But Sandy has just heard again from the NTSB, who now believe it may be part of the Ariane V space rocket, launched from French Guyana. Airbus say it’s not from one of their planes and suggest that it’s probably the nose fairing off an Ariane V booster. Looking at photos and drawings of the booster, this may be right and this would also fit for the eastern exposure of the beach where the part was found. You can see the booster here: http://esamultimedia.esa.int/docs/ATV/infokit/english/05_ATVLauncher.pdf
Ariane Space have been contacted and we will let you know what they say. We will also post a pic of the part. In the meantime, Sandy looks a bit, er, spaced out.
Comment: Since it appears to be made of cardboard, no wonder it fell off…