FAST FOOD ON THE WING: ANTILLEAN NIGHTHAWKS ON ABACO


Antillean Nighthawk in flight 2. Abaco bahamas.6.13.Tom Sheley

FAST FOOD ON THE WING: ANTILLEAN NIGHTHAWKS ON ABACO

A bird ID query was recently posted on my FB page by Abaco resident Maria Bethel Flore, who said “I saw a flock of birds I’ve never seen before. All black except for a white stripe underneath the wing. I didn’t get one good picture they were flying so fast”. There were a couple of clues there: a fast-flying flock; and the white underwing bars. Maria’s distant image confirmed the ID as an Antillean Nighthawk Chordeiles gundlachii. These birds have local names such as ‘killakadick’ and ‘pi-di-mi-dix’, or variations on the theme – presumably onomatopoeic.

Paul Marvin / Xeno-Canto

I thought a post illustrating these wonderful birds in flight and on the ground would be timely. 

Antillean Nighthawk in flight 3. Abaco Bahamas.6.13.Tom SheleyAntillean Nighthawk, Abaco  (Sandy Walker)

The photos above were taken during a trip into deep South Abaco backcountry to the west of the Highway to photograph birds for BIRDS OF ABACO. We reached an open area late in the afternoon to find ourselves in the middle of dozens of nighthawks swooping and diving as they hawked for flies. We leapt out of the truck (we stopped it first) with eager eyes and cameras and watched the performance in amazement. The birds were quite unperturbed by our presence, and from time to time would zoom past within inches of our heads, making a swooshing noise as they did so.

Truck Backcountry

The speed of flight and the jagging paths made it extremely hard to take photos. Photographer Tom Sheley (below) was able to nail them (see top 2 images); I could barely catch a bird in my jiggling viewfinder, but Sandy Walker got a good clear shot (photo 3).Tom Sheley with Antillean Nighthawks, Abaco

Apart from the exuberant aerial displays such as I have described, nighthawks may also be seen on the ground, where they nest. Their colouring enables them tend to blend in with the surroundings. Woody Bracey took the first 2 pictures; the next is from the excellent BIRDS CARIBBEAN, which anyone with an interest in birds would enjoy; and the final one was scooped by Susan Daughtrey on a recent visit to Abaco – another very good example of the bird’s camouflage in natural surroundings.

Antillean Nighthawk, Abaco Woody Bracey Antillean Nighthawk, Abaco (Woody Bracey)Antillean Nighthawk chick (aka %22pi-di-mi-dix%22) BahamasAntillean Nighthawk, Abaco  (Susan Daughtrey)

Credits: Tom Sheley, Sandy Walker, RH, Woody Bracey, Birds Caribbean, Susan Daughtrey, Xeno-Canto

ABACO’S ASTOUNDING UNDERGROUND CAVES (1)


ABACO’S ASTOUNDING UNDERGROUND CAVES (1)

Hitoshi Miho is a diver and photographer who takes amazing photographs of the underground caves he explores. These include some of the cave systems on Abaco, where he has recently accompanied renowned Abaco diver Brian Kakuk of the Bahamas Caves Research Foundation. In due course I hope to produce a page dedicated to the Caves and Blue Holes of Abaco including maps but that’s a project in the mind for now. Meantime, with Hitoshi’s kind permission, here are a few preliminary examples of his fabulous work that showcases the wondrous crystal palaces that lie deep beneath Abaco. 

Abaco Underwater Caves 1 (©Hitoshi Miho)Abaco Underwater Caves 2 (©Hitoshi Miho)Abaco Underwater Caves 3 (©Hitoshi Miho)Abaco Underwater Caves 4 (©Hitoshi Miho)Abaco Underwater Caves 5 (©Hitoshi Miho)

All images © Hitoshi Miho and displayed by kind permission

THE CROSS LITTLE WOODPECKER: A TRUE HAIRY TALE FROM ABACO


Hairy Woodpecker, Delphi Abaco Header

THE CROSS LITTLE WOODPECKER: A TRUE HAIRY TALE FROM ABACO

ONCE UPON A TIME, on a magical far away island called Abaco, where the sun always shone and the people were always friendly and smiling, there lived a little woodpecker. It was a beautiful little woodpecker with long shiny golden locks and its name was Hairy… oh look, I can’t go on with this drivel and neither can you, I’m sure. Sorry about that. Let’s take it from the top…

    ♦      ♦      ♦      ♦

I have mentioned before the excellent birding opportunities that a wander round the Delphi drive circuit has to offer. It’s the best part of 2 miles. I am working on a list of all species encountered on the route from the Lodge, along the guest drive to the white rock on the road, and back down the service drive. It is turning out to be a gratifyingly long one.

During your stroll, it’s worth checking out the dead trees, especially the upper trunk and branches, as you go. For a start, these provide excellent places for birds to pause and scope out the territory below. They also have a good chance of finding insects there. And for some species, like the Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus, it is home. Hairy Woodpecker, Delphi Abaco 16

The Hairy Woodpecker is very similar to the Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens, the smallest woodpecker of North America. Male HWs have a prominent red patch on the back of the head.  You can find an earlier post about a male HW and its nest in the Delphi coppice, with some HW species facts, HERE

220px-Picoides-villosus-001

Last June Tom Sheley, a birding expert and photographer from Ohio with serious (by which I mean huge camo-covered camera and tripod) equipment, was staying at Delphi. He tipped me off about a woodpecker nest he’d found 1/3 of the way along the guest drive, just before the first bend. So I grabbed a camera –  the wrong one, as it turned out, but my main camera battery was charging – and headed out. I found the nest at the top of a dead tree near the edge of the drive (shown above) and a female HW close to it. Hairy Woodpecker, Delphi Abaco 1

She watched my approach carefully, and as soon as I paused close to the nest tree, she went into a fascinating ‘diversionary tactic’ routine to distract me from the nest. She flew across the track close in front of me, and settled on a tree on the other side of the drive, about 1/3 of the way up its trunk. There, she proceeded to scold me loudly as I fiddled about with the camera… Hairy Woodpecker, Delphi Abaco 3

Still scolding, she then started to climb the tree quite slowly, pausing occasionally to fire off some more angry woodpecker abuse at me. Hairy Woodpecker, Delphi Abaco 6

From time to time, she would change tack, closing her eyes gradually and hugging the trunk. This was presumably to make herself appear vulnerable to a predator (me), and therefore retain its (my) interest. If anyone is familiar with this behaviour, please leave a comment.Hairy Woodpecker, Delphi Abaco 5

The woodpecker carried on up the tree, chattering as she went…Hairy Woodpecker, Delphi Abaco 7

…before performing the closed eye / sleepy routine againHairy Woodpecker, Delphi Abaco 11Hairy Woodpecker, Delphi Abaco 12

By now she was nearing the top of the tree, and I was thinking of giving in… Hairy Woodpecker, Delphi Abaco 13 Hairy Woodpecker, Delphi Abaco 14 Hairy Woodpecker, Delphi Abaco 15

Once she had reached the very top, I made the decision to move on, marvelling at her persistence in taking on a two-legged predator 6ft 5″ high and… not exactly a bantam-weight. Then I realised that, in all of this, I hadn’t thought of the nest behind me a single time. She and her distraction technique had won, and so I made my apologies for disturbing her and left. HW 1, Human 0. At least I knew that on a hot cloudless day I had something to look forward to back at the ranch… 

coasters

WHITE SOUND, ABACO: MANGROVES, MUD & (REALLY) GREAT EGRETS


Great Egret Abaco 7

WHITE SOUND, ABACO: MANGROVES, MUD & (REALLY) GREAT EGRETS

The piratically named Treasure Cay (aaarrrrrr…) is north of Marsh Harbour, and home to one of the larger communities on Abaco. It has a wonderfully long white sand beach, a golf course, condos and villas, a marina and a cheerful atmosphere. It is also one of the best areas in North Abaco for birding. There are the shorebirds, of course, and all the usual ‘settlement’ species. In addition, the golf course has freshwater ponds where you will find a wide variety of duck and other water species. NB Check in at the Club House and get permission first – amiably given if politely requested (see map below).

Treasure Cay also has a large area of bays, brackish inlets and lagoons, including – to continue the pirate theme – Galleon Bay, Brigantine Bay, Cannon Bay and Gun Powder Creek. And also White Sound. This can be reached by luck (which may run out) or good management (ask for directions; wait for me to get back the map I have lent to someone and post a grab from it). Drive (with care) along the uneven track beside the lagoon and there is a good chance you will see Great Egrets in the mangrove islands dotted around the middle of the water. This is what to look out for…Great Egret, White Sound, Abaco

Zoom in a bit, and you’ll see two more egrets on the far side of the clump of mangroves. It’s a colony… in the end we were able to count 9 birds on this one mangrove island.Great Egret Abaco 1

One of the loveliest features of these fine birds in breeding season is the way that even a slight breeze will blow their long plumes away from their bodies like streamersGreat Egret Abaco 2Great Egret Abaco 3

We were some way from the birds, as these rather indifferent photos suggest, so we decided to try and get closer. The water was fairly low, leaving expanses of firm-looking marly mud around the edge. There was an apparent causeway to an overgrown rocky outcrop that would enable us to get closer to a vantage point without being spotted. As it turned out, the mud was only… ankle deep. It could have been messier. And we had a chance to see at close quarters the remarkable way in which mangrove entanglements develop.

Great Egret Abaco 4 Great Egret Abaco 5

We reached the outcrop muddier and slightly wiser, and clambered up through the scrubby and scratchy bushes to the top, nothing if not intrepid. My wading stick came in handy for beating a rough path. And by adopting strange stances in the manner of someone trying to pick up a faint cellphone signal, we could peer through the foliage to establish whether we were indeed a bit closer to the egrets.Great Egret Abaco 6

The answer was yes. But there was another obstacle, familiar to all fellow ‘focus fail’ offenders. Shooting a bird through a hole in a bush straight in front of you is complicated. You get a vivid detailed  frame of greenery, with a blurry centre of unintentional and unwanted BOKEH instead of the intended subject. A lens entension (the poor man’s zoom that I use) tends to make it worse. So you’ll have to make do with these pictures for now, until you can visit White Sound and get your own with your natty Nikon. Great Egret Abaco 11Great Egret Abaco 9Great Egret Abaco 8

My favourite ‘stance’ shotGreat Egret Abaco 10

That wasn’t the end of the adventure. After we had squidged our way back through the slightly smelly mud, we moved further along the sound, to find a further egret colony on the far shore just in time to watch them from afar as they took flight.Great Egret Abaco 12 Great Egret Abaco 13 Great Egret Abaco 14

TREASURE CAY, LOCATIONS OF WHITE SOUND & THE GOLF CLUB, &  SOME PIRATICAL NAMESTreasure Cay Map

TREASURE CAY IN RELATION TO OTHER ABACO PLACESAbaco Egret Map 1 jpg

When leaving Treasure Cay, visitors receive a friendly reminder to return, in terms reminiscent of, yet far nicer than, a Scottish Tourist Board brochure. Maybe this reflects the historic significance of the Scots in the history of the Bahamas, to the extent that there is even a Bahamas tartan. 

Bahamas TartanHaste Ye Back...

TC Map credit: Abaco Estate Services. They send me emails, so I guess they won’t mind publicity here

ABACO’S RAREST VISITOR: MEET ALBERT ROSS… THE ALBATROSS


ABACO’S RAREST VISITOR: MEET ALBERT ROSS… THE ALBATROSS

I can find no record for the sighting of an albatross in the waters around Abaco. Nor for anywhere else in the Bahamas for that matter. It must have come as some surprise to the BMMRO team out at sea on their research vessel off Sandy Point to see a large and unusual seabird bobbing tranquilly on the water. A black-browed albatross Thalassarche melanophrys. Diane Claridge managed to get a great shot of it and I’m really pleased to be able to use it here.

Black-browed Albatross, Abaco © DC BMMROBlack-browed albatross off Sandy Point, Abaco, Bahamas. Photographed by Diane Claridge.

© Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation 2013

This bird was way out of the normal range for the species. They are birds of the southern oceans, breeding in colonies on such islands as the Falklands, South Georgia and Macquarie Island. As far as I can make out, they have no business to be north of the equator at all.

Black-browed Albatross Range Map BirdLife Int

SIGHTING A BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS: A REPORT

During a three-hour survey for whales off Sandy Point, Abaco on Sunday, July 21st scientists from the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation had an exceptional sighting. Dr Diane Claridge, the group’s Executive Director recalls details of the sighting:

“We were drifting waiting for a beaked whale to resurface when our intern Tristan Albury pointed towards a white object floating in the distance and asked what it was. We decided that it was a piece of trash, unfortunately a common sighting, and continued to focus our search for the whale. A half hour later, we still had not re-sighted the whale and believed that it may have gone down on one of its one-hour long feeding dives. So with time to kill and the “trash” still in sight, we had another look with binoculars. We realised immediately that it was a very large bird and slowly motored towards it for a closer look. I began taking photographs of it because we already knew it was unusual and we wanted to be sure to identify the species. As we got closer, Roxy Corbett, a visiting scientist and avid birder exclaimed that it was an albatross! I couldn’t believe it. We were able to approach within 100 feet at which point it swam towards us providing an opportunity for us to document its body condition; it appeared healthy with no obvious signs of distress.

Later when back ashore, we compared our photographs with those available online and learned that it was a juvenile Black-browed albatross, an endangered bird with a 7-foot wing span known from subtropical to polar regions of the southern hemisphere! As far as I know this species has never been recorded previously in the tropical North Atlantic. I have seen albatross during whale surveys in Alaska but never dreamed that I’d ever see one in The Bahamas. Although we are thrilled by the rarity of this sighting, the outcome for a bird so far out of its normal range is not usually good. However, there are two Black-browed albatross that strayed into the North Atlantic previously that have taken up long-term residence in Scotland and the Faroe Islands so who knows where this one may end up. Sunday afternoon was indeed exceptional: in addition to this remarkable sighting, we also saw 4 different species of whales and dolphins, all within 5 miles of Sandy Point.”

These are huge strong birds, with a massive wingspan. I wondered what they might sound like – it’s like this… (Credit: Xeno-Canto & recordist Sofia Wasylyk)

For more information on the normal range and status of the Black-browed albatross, the BMMRO recommended links are:

Link to Birdlife International’s site:
http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=3959

Link to IUCN’s species red list:
http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/106003959/0

CATCHING FLIES: CRESCENT-EYED (CUBAN) PEWEE ON ABACO


Crescent-eyed (Cuban) Pewee on Abaco 6

One of the prettiest small birds to photograph on Abaco is the Crescent-eyed, or Cuban, Pewee Contopus caribaeus. These small flycatchers are as interested in your struggles with your camera settings and your ‘stealthy’ (yet clumsy) approach, as you are in their cute poses. It’s a symbiotic relationship – you may get nice pictures, they have a benign laugh at your efforts.Crescent-eyed (Cuban) Pewee on Abaco 2

This bird was one of a pair we found at a magical corner of scrubland at a crossroad of tracks between the edge of the pine forest and a backcountry of derelict and overgrown sugar cane fields – the perfect habitat for a wide variety of species. The pewees had a nest hidden deep in the undergrowth, but were tame enough to be untroubled by our presence. They kept calm and carried on as usual.Crescent-eyed (Cuban) Pewee on Abaco 1Crescent-eyed (Cuban) Pewee on Abaco 5

These little birds are resident in Cuba and the Northern Bahamas. I have previously posted photos of them, taken by the beach at Casuarina, HERE. They are the smallest flycatchers – tyrannidae – on Abaco, a family that includes LA SAGRA’S FLYCATCHER, and the larger Loggerhead & Gray Kingbirds. Here’s a recording of cuban pewees made on Abaco (credit: Jesse Fagan / Xeno-Canto)

Crescent-eyed (Cuban) Pewee on Abaco 3Crescent-eyed (Cuban) Pewee on Abaco 4

They often have a charmingly quizzical or watchful expressionCrescent-eyed (Cuban) Pewee on Abaco 8Crescent-eyed (Cuban) Pewee on Abaco 7

“Magical Corner”, Abaco – birding hotspot. Location on application. $$ only please (©Tom Sheley)Birdwatching Hotspot, Abaco Backcountry ©Tom Sheley

“STRIKE THE POSE”: RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS ON ABACO


Red-winged Blackbird Abaco Bahamas 5

“STRIKE THE POSE”: RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS ON ABACO

The red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) has previously hopped around these pages in the context of a (my!) simple way to RECORD BIRDS using a smart-phone, trim the result and convert it into an mp3 (or even a ring-tone – I have a great Abaco parrot one to startle friends, family and indeed complete strangers). Now we move on to a more important topic, namely courtship and so forth. And boy, don’t male RWBs fancy themselves when trying to impress the laydeez…Red-winged Blackbird Abaco Bahamas 1We had taken a truck into backcountry between the pine forest and the Marls, with Tom and his impressive camo-camera with its 10 foot lens.Tom & Nighthawks

We found formerly cultivated fields – evidence of the defunct sugar cane industry – and then we came unexpectedly to a large expanse of open scrubland, with the track straggling through the middle.Truck

And there, on carefully chosen vantage points, was an array of RWBs. Red-winged Blackbird Abaco Bahamas 2

This bird was within range of my comparatively puny camera, and I watched as it arranged itself into various elegant poses in the late afternoon sun. All around were their ‘rusty door hinge’ calls, of which this is an example (in fact a female, recorded at Casaurina, hence the background sound of lapping waves).

Red-winged Blackbird Abaco Bahamas 4

These acres of open land were not far inland, and there was a slight breeze to ease the heat. This caused the occasional ruffling of feathers, and the need to spruce up…Red-winged Blackbird Abaco Bahamas 3

The purpose of all this was of course to impress the opposite sex (behaviour not confined to bird species). There were plenty of females around, also similarly perching on vantage points for similar display-with-view-to-dating-maybe-more reasons.Red-winged Blackbird Abaco Bahamas 6Red-winged Blackbird Abaco Bahamas 7

I didn’t see the phase in which the males may get quite worked-up, but luckily Y**T*b* has perfect example of a male RWB in full song. Credits as shown on the video.

ABACO BONEFISHING Pt 1: A NON-ANGLER’S SKIFF-VIEW – WHAT, HOW, WHERE & WHY?


             BE NATURAL (YET SHARP) ON THE FLATS – PART 1  

WHAT, HOW, WHERE AND WHY?

[I published the original of this post a year ago. I discovered that it had been put badly out of kilter by recent blog format change, so I have amended and to an extent updated it, with larger photos (NB the video was my first feeble foray).  So yes, it's a retread, which I rarely do; but I wasn't tooled up with Facebook & Twitter then, and thankfully a couple more people now read this thing, so it possibly deserves a fresh outing. No? Well I'm doing it, regardless]

It’s 7.15 and breakfast time at Delphi. At 8.00 the trucks, skiffs, guides and fishers will set off to the fishing grounds for the day, leaving you with an empty beach, shells, warm sea, the pool, the hammock and your book. For the moment, the talk is of the excellent ‘Full Abaco’ breakfast, the weather, ‘Delphi daddies’ & ‘crazy charlies’ and someone’s mislaid reel. Sandy enters to announce that there’s a place free on your partner’s skiff… and offers it to you. So what should you, a non-angler, expect of a day out on the flats?

THE SKIFFS These are top-of-the range boats, capable of considerable speed getting out to the fishing grounds. The ride can be bumpy, splashy and even chilly in the early morning, so bring a fleece and a waterproof top. Camera? Essential. Here is a Delphi skiff on a sand bar in Cherokee Sound, parked for lunch and some quality conch and sand-dollar hunting. So for a start, the day isn’t ALL about fishing…

THE FISHING GROUNDS You will leave from one of three launch points and speed across the water to the bonefishing areas. The main one is “Nettie’s”, with access via a narrow man-made channel to the Marls…

… more than two hundred square miles of mangrove swamp, islets, channels and fish. The journey to Nettie’s may seem quite a long way as you bump along through the pine forest on a network of logging tracks. Watch out for small birds flickering all around as you pass.

 

———————————

Launching a skiff at Nettie’s

Plans are hatchedGood to go…

Stowing gear in the front (forrard?) locker. There’s also one behind the seats for the lunch cool boxes. And the fuel…

The other two launch areas are Crossing Rocks (a short drive south of DCB) or Casuarina Point for Cherokee Sound (a slightly longer drive north of DCB)

The jetty at Crossing Rocks – skiffs being prepared

The launch point at Casuarina. A channel leads out to Cherokee Sound

Two boats in the channel – the authentic James Bond chase experience

WHAT’S THE POINT? Bonefishing! You’ve heard all the Club talk, you’ve seen your partner fussing over all those bits and pieces in your room: now see it in action. Once you get out to a fishing area, the guide cuts the engine… and suddenly you are being poled very slowly and almost noiselessly across the shallow flats

The guide stands on the platform at the back of the skiff, using the advantage of height to scan the shallow water; the fisher stands at the front looking tensely for grey shadows underwater, waiting for the magic words…

 “…hey, bonefish, 10 o’clock, 4 of them moving right, 30 feet… see them?” 

And it’s ‘game on’. This isn’t the place for a discourse about casting technique and style – I have neither (Sandy, of me: “Muppet”) – but I promise that you will get completely caught up in the excitement when a fish takes the fly and takes off towards the horizon, stripping the line and backing from the reel… (I realise the image above may suggest… well he’s just fishing, OK?)

THE QUARRY – grey ghosts below water, bars of silver above. Caught on the ‘fly’ which are in fact shrimp or crab imitations, with barbless hooks to make the chance of losing a fish that much greater… This ensures that a boated fish can be returned to the water as easily and quickly as possible. It’s all ‘catch and release’, though some (me) find that mostly the fish very sensibly self-release long before they ever reach the boat…

Abaco bonefish off Crossing Rocks (just caught and released)Guide Ishi with Abaco bonefish caught on the MarlsGuide Robin Albury removes the barbless hook before returning the fishgood specimen‘Ishi’s Fishy’, as he would say

All images, and indeed fish, ©RH

There is even the possibility that at some stage you may unexpectedly be handed a rod (even if you have never held one before, or wanted to) with ‘fish on’… Here, Robin has hooked a 2.5 lb fish and handed the rod to Mrs RH (then engrossed in eating a cheese roll) who successfully played and brought in her first ever fish…

PART 2 will deal with what else goes on during the day: the scenery, birdlife, sharks, turtles, blue holes and so forth. For now, here is a short clip of the skiff ride out to the Marls, to give you an idea. NB this was a very calm day – things can get a little bumpier and wetter at times. The seats are padded, but not very… 

 [Ultra-cautious music credit to Joe Satriani who sued Coldplay for alleged tune 'borrowing' saying "I felt like a dagger went right through my heart. It hurt so much". Case dismissed + unspecified settlement...  Way to go, Joe! Want to check? Cut 'n' paste this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjB024bZoB4&feature=fvwrel Then by way of counterbalance try John Lennon's Imagine vs Coldplay's 'Fix you' at (cut 'n' paste)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DksjpsAe3vk&feature=endscreen&NR=1]                

CLICK LOGO for the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust

 

FISH FRENZY AT FOWL CAY MARINE PRESERVE, ABACO, BAHAMAS


FISH FRENZY AT FOWL CAY MARINE PRESERVE, ABACO

This is the first short video from footage taken in June at Fowl Cay, 2000 acres of protected coral reef waters. This was the start of another great day out snorkelling and island-hopping with dive-diva Kay Politano of ABOVE & BELOW ABACO Marsh Harbour.  In due course there will be more videos of fish and coral. There is very slight evidence that lessons have been learned since last year’s erratic novice snorkeler / underwater photographer efforts. Still a way to go of course. The production process has been hampered by a major format problem between my camera chip thingy and the Mac I now use. It told me the data was unrecognisable / corrupted / damaged etc, which was massively disappointing. Then I thought of  <<techno-tip>> downloading to an old PC and transferring to the Mac on a memory stick. Problem solved.

This huge swirling mass of (tens of) thousands of small fish confronted me as I round one end of the reef. I’ve never seen anything like it before, except on TV. It was an astounding, dizzy-making spectacle. When I swam into the middle of the shoal, I expected to feel tickled all over – but despite the huge numbers of fish, their speed, and their sudden and apparently random direction changes, I wasn’t conscious of feeling them at all. I assume the commotion resulted from the presence of larger fish feeding on the small ones. Or possibly from my appearance…

Music credit: Gordon Giltrap (Hofner champion) ‘Fast Approaching’

HOOKED! A FANATICAL FISHERMAN’S WIFE TAKES TO THE BONEFISH FLATS


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!  

FISH ON!

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.

Lorna Jarman

(All illustrative photos by RH – Lorna was otherwise engaged!)

BOOKCOMBING: AN OCCASIONAL THEMED SERIES (2) SEA GLASS


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

RICHARD LAMOTTE

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”

SEA GLASS HUNTER’S BOOK

C.S.LAMBERT

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)

SEA GLASS CHRONICLES 

C.S.Lambert (Author) Pat Hanbery (Photographer)

Amazon UK £17.32 new / used from £12

REVIEW CLIPPINGS

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

REVIEW CLIPPINGS

“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”


ESSENTIAL SOUTH ABACO BIRD CHECKLIST FROM AVIBASE


The superb AVIBASE is a massive world-wide bird database – an essential reference point for birders, even the occasional enthusiast. Checklists, range maps, bird links, photos, bird sounds,  and even the facility to make your own contribution, all in one place. AVIBASE has been a work in progress for 20 years and now contains over 5 million records of about 10,000 species and 22,000 subspecies of birds, including distribution information, taxonomy, synonyms in several languages, and much more

Here is the CHECKLIST FOR SOUTH ABACO, the area that I am most familiar with. It probably holds good for the whole of Abaco and the Cays. If you are staying at the Delphi Club, Rolling Harbour, you need this – and especially if you are planning a birding adventure with Ricky Johnson… Be prepared! The plan is that you can download it or print it out from here

SOUTH ABACO BIRD CHECKLIST  click to open!

Here is an illustrative clip of one of the 6 pages 

If you have a problem printing it from here – or for access to photos of a great many of the birds listed, with clips of their calls and songs –  use this direct link  CLICK LOGO===>>>

CREDITS: The Avibase website is managed by Denis Lepage and hosted by Bird Studies Canada, Canadian copartner of Birdlife International

ABACO NATURE TOURS WITH RICKY JOHNSON


ABACO NATURE TOURS with Ricky Johnson

Reluctant as I am to give Ricky even more publicity that he gets already – including passim in this blog – his Nature Tours are seriously good, and his  knowledge and enthusiasm for the flora, fauna, geology and history of Abaco are unrivalled. If you want to see a parrot close-up, understand a blue hole or learn which trees and shrubs are poisonous  (and which are the antidotes) he is undoubtedly your man. He will even show you birds where you have completely failed to see any & believe there are none  

To reach Ricky’s A N T website CLICK LOGO===>>> 

Advert ends (that will be $50 please Ricky)

              

ABACO BONEFISHING Pt 1: A NON-ANGLER’S SKIFF-VIEW – WHAT, HOW, WHERE & WHY?


             BE NATURAL (YET SHARP) ON THE FLATS – PART 1  

WHAT, HOW, WHERE AND WHY?

It’s 7.15 and breakfast time at Delphi. At 8.00 the trucks, skiffs, guides and fishers will set off to the fishing grounds for the day, leaving you with an empty beach, shells, warm sea, the pool, the hammock and your book. For the moment, the talk is of the excellent ‘Full Abaco’ breakfast, the weather, ‘Delphi daddies’ & ‘crazy charlies’ and someone’s mislaid reel. Sandy enters to announce that there’s a place free on your partner’s skiff… and offers it to you. So what should you, a non-angler, expect of a day out on the flats?

THE SKIFFS These are top-of-the range boats, capable of considerable speed getting out to the fishing grounds. The ride can be bumpy, splashy and even chilly in the early morning, so bring a fleece and a waterproof top. Camera? Essential. Here is a Delphi skiff on a sand bar in Cherokee Sound, parked for lunch and some quality conch and sand-dollar hunting. So for a start, the day isn’t ALL about fishing…

THE FISHING GROUNDS You will leave from one of three launch points and speed across the water to the bonefishing areas. The main one is “Nettie’s”, with access via a narrow man-made channel to the Marls…

… more than two hundred square miles of mangrove swamp, islets, channels and fish. The journey to Nettie’s may seem quite a long way as you bump along through the pine forest on a network of logging tracks. Watch out for small birds flickering all around as you pass.

 

———————————

Launching a skiff at Nettie’s

Plans are hatchedGood to go…

Stowing gear in the front (forrard?) locker. There’s also one behind the seats for the lunch cool boxes. And the fuel…

The other two launch areas are Crossing Rocks (a short drive south of DCB) or Casuarina Point for Cherokee Sound (a slightly longer drive north of DCB)

The jetty at Crossing Rocks – skiffs being prepared

The launch point at Casuarina. A channel leads out to Cherokee Sound

Two boats in the channel – the authentic James Bond chase experience

WHAT’S THE POINT? Bonefishing! You’ve heard all the Club talk, you’ve seen your partner fussing over all those bits and pieces in your room: now see it in action. Once you get out to a fishing area, the guide cuts the engine… and suddenly you are being poled very slowly and almost noiselessly across the shallow flats

The guide stands on the platform at the back of the skiff, using the advantage of height to scan the shallow water; the fisher stands at the front looking tensely for grey shadows underwater, waiting for the magic words…

 “…hey, bonefish, 10 o’clock, 4 of them moving right, 30 feet… see them?” 

And it’s ‘game on’. This isn’t the place for a discourse about casting technique and style – I have neither (Sandy, of me: “Muppet”) – but I promise that you will get completely caught up in the excitement when a fish takes the fly and takes off towards the horizon, stripping the line and backing from the reel… (I realise the image above may suggest… well he’s just fishing, OK?)

THE QUARRY – grey ghosts below water, bars of silver above. Caught on the ‘fly’ which are in fact shrimp or crab imitations, with barbless hooks to make the chance of losing a fish that much greater… This ensures that a boated fish can be returned to the water as easily and quickly as possible. It’s all ‘catch and release’, though some (me) find that mostly the fish very sensibly self-release long before they ever reach the boat…

Abaco bonefish off Crossing Rocks (just caught and released)Guide Ishi with Abaco bonefish caught on the MarlsGuide Robin Albury removes the barbless hook before returning the fishgood specimen‘Ishi’s Fishy’, as he would say

All images, and indeed fish, ©RH

There is even the possibility that at some stage you may unexpectedly be handed a rod (even if you have never held one before, or wanted to) with ‘fish on’… Here, Robin has hooked a 2.5 lb fish and handed the rod to Mrs RH (then engrossed in eating a cheese roll) who successfully played and brought in her first ever fish…

PART 2 will deal with what else goes on during the day: the scenery, birdlife, sharks, turtles, blue holes and so forth. For now, here is a short clip of the skiff ride out to the Marls, to give you an idea. NB this was a very calm day – things can get a little bumpier and wetter at times. The seats are padded, but not very… 

 [Ultra-cautious music credit to Joe Satriani who sued Coldplay for alleged tune 'borrowing' saying "I felt like a dagger went right through my heart. It hurt so much". Case dismissed + unspecified settlement...  Way to go, Joe! Want to check? Cut 'n' paste this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjB024bZoB4&feature=fvwrel Then by way of counterbalance try John Lennon's Imagine vs Coldplay's 'Fix you' at (cut 'n' paste)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DksjpsAe3vk&feature=endscreen&NR=1]                

CLICK LOGO for the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust

 

AN EXPEDITION TO SEE THE ENDANGERED ABACO BARBS


RICKY JOHNSON leads wonderful birding and natural history outings, taking small parties to the prime hotspots for Abaco Parrots and much else besides – see RICKY JOHNSON’S ECO-TOUR for a detailed account. He also takes small groups to see the Abaco Barbs in their protected forest surroundings near Treasure Cay. These photos were taken there in March 2011. The horses are free to roam in the pine forest, but the compound is their HQ, where they can be sure of a feed. There are 4 mares and 1 stallion remaining: even with the best efforts of those concerned, the preservation of this unique breed seems sadly doomed.

ARKWILD is the website to go to for information. There’s a link to the website in the Sidebar Blogroll and also a Twitter link in the Sidebar. Here is the direct link to the latest summary (dated July 2010, but in sequence it should be 2011, I think) and donation page – it is also the portal to the rest of the site with information, photographs and videos                                                                            CLICK LOGO ===>>> 

 (Photo credits – all photos – Mrs rh)


ABACO BARBS – THE ISLAND’S ENDANGERED WILD HORSES


In the rollingharbour tradition of encouraging easy access to online material, here is a selection of 8 videos about Abaco Barbs, the near-extinct wild horses of Abaco. In due course I’ll add some links to the most informative websites and also some photos. The first 3 videos derive from the origins and subsequent conservation work by the charity Arkwild. There’s a link to the Arkwild site in the sidebar Blogroll. The struggle to try to preserve the breed is extremely well documented on the internet, and needs no repetition from me. It’s worth saying, however, that the situation is now worse than ever: in March 2011, there were only 5 horses left, of which only one is a stallion…

The remaining videos are mostly collections of stills, some accompanied by music that you may want to turn down. Or off, in one case. There’s a degree of repetition, but I have left them there in case there is an image that strikes you as special or a nugget of information that is of interest…

THE ARKWILD VIDEOS

      Thumbnail1:49

ABACO BARB TRAILER

Horses in the Pines, the story of the Abaco Barbs. Only 8 left on the planet, their story is both tragic and beautiful. by photogchic1 | 3 years ago |

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE WILD HORSES OF ABACO

This compelling video is an introduction to the story of the Wild Horses Of Abaco. Only a few are left now, we’re fighting hard to save them from … by arkwild | 2 years ago |

THE ABACO WILD MARES GET SUPPLEMENTAL SNACKS

Because the forest is in a dry cycle, new grasses are not growing fast enough we decided to supplement each mare with a measure of mixed grain and … by arkwild | 1 year ago

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

SUPPLEMENTARY VIDEOS  

ABACO BARB HORSE

The Abaco Barb is one of the purest breeds left in the world. They live on an island in the Bahamas where they ship wrecked around the same time … by TheFluffyFan53 | 2 years ago |

HELP THE ABACO BARBS!

Once, they were a mighty herd, perhaps 200 strong: pinto, bay and roan horses rippling through thousands of acres of pine forest. They were as … by SabinoPaintMare369 | 2 years ago |

♥HELP THE ABACO BARBS

The abaco barb is so pretty! why would u want them 2 die out? Help them out and try 2 keep them on this planet! subscribe 2 me if you care … by EnglishCowgirl121 | 2 years ago |

ABACO BARB HORSE

This is a short clip of the beloved Abaco Barb Horse, I know that my name says puppylove, but i am making horse, videos. For more info go to this … by puppylove825 | 2 weeks ago |

ABACO BARB.WMV

Information about the world’s rarest and most endangered horse breed by Horsieperson | 2 weeks ago |

ISLAND-HOPPING WITH ABACO ABOVE & BELOW


Time for the Island-hopping part of our day with Abaco Above and Below. There’ll be some links to other aspects of the day as we go along. Apologies for the gloomy photos – the weather was distinctly adverse for much of the day, as this photo taken from Kay’s catamaran shows.

Straight boat, squint horizon

SCOTLAND CAY  We saw this cay in passing but didn’t land here. We wouldn’t have been welcome on this rather stern-sounding island. It’s private. And exclusive. In case are you are making plans to drop by, this is how private and exclusive according to the island’s website: “Only property owners and their guests are allowed on the island.  This exclusively private island is accessible by private aircraft, private vessel, or ferry service from nearby Marsh Harbour, Abaco. Please be advised that there are no commercial services on the island.  No restaurants, bars, stores, public marinas, etc.  Do not travel to the island unless you are a guest of a current property owner. You will be asked to leave immediately.”  (S C website)  To which one can only  say “Fair Play”, and pass on by. But you are allowed to take photos from afar. Even gloomy ones. And non-exclusively.


LUBBERS CAY Our first stop was at Lubbers Cay and lunch for 14 at Cracker P’s after our snorkelling excitements at FOWL CAY

The landing-stage looked promisingly welcoming…

…as did Cracker P’s itself

Lunch for 14 passengers and crew: excellent local food, cheerfully provided

Cuban Emeralds feeding on sugar water by our table

RH waits anxiously as his dollar bills are scrutinised for authenticity

HOPE TOWN: After lunch our next stop was Hope Town. Here are a couple of direct links to other Hope Town posts / pages from this and previous trips:  HOPE TOWN ART; THE LIGHTHOUSE The plan is  to add some more Hope Town photos in due course of an earlier trip when it was sunny…

MAN-O-WAR: We had quite a brief stop here, a quick wander round and a look at the boat yards. There was a Bahama Woodstar feeding on flowers near the jetty. The weather was still pretty vile, not conducive to photography. A place to return to on a sunny day…

AND FINALLY to some dolphins, the cetacean finale to the day, which appeared as we approached  Marsh Harbour and made a very good day excellent: DOLPHINS

A MILDLY BIRD-BASED EXPEDITION FROM DELPHI TO SANDY POINT, ABACO


You will need: binoculars; camera; picnic lunch OR willingness to eat ‘local’ (see below); swimming kit – and a car, of course, e.g. the club Toyota

Map extract courtesy of ‘Abaco Life’ (the best, indeed the only, road map of the Island I have come across…)

SANDY POINT is a small settlement about 30 miles / 1/2 hr drive south west of Delphi. There’s only one choice of route: turn left at the end of the drive, and keep right on to the end of the road. Having commandeered the club car from Sandy, you drive due south until you get to a long right-hand bend. There is an important junction here: if you drive straight on, you enter the National Park nature reserve proper – breeding ground for the Abaco parrots – and are on the track to Hole in the Wall and its lighthouse…


Do not be tempted to try this – it is 15 miles each way on a deteriorating track, and the club car will soon be a wreck. Rental cars are forbidden. I will post separately about this adventure, which we have done in a truck. We may not repeat the experience.

Bird Alert 1 During the journey, look out for birds on the telegraph posts / wires. You may see American kestrels, turkey vultures and Bahama swallows. Small birds will flick across the road, and you may find yourself readily placing them in the ‘unidentifiable’ category. If in doubt, best settle for ‘warbler’ and there’s a fair chance you will be right. Alongside the road, look out for groups of smooth-billed Anis aka cemetery birds. These largish black birds are noisy and sociable, nest communally and look after each other’s nestlings. Continue reading

THE NATIONAL PARKS OF ABACO


The National Parks of Abaco

Abaco National Park Created in 1994, it encompasses over 20,500 acres of pine forest / coppice and is the principal habitat for the endangered Bahama Parrot and other important species of Bahamian wildlife. The tract covers a large area of the Great Abaco water table and has significant recreational value for the people of Abaco. 

Black Sound Cay Nature Reserve This two acre mangrove reserve is nestled in the harbour of Abaco’s historic Green Turtle Cay. The reserve was established in 1988 to protect a vital waterfront ecosystem and wildlife.

Pelican Cays Land & Sea Park A 2,100 acre area just north of Cherokee Sound in Great Abaco that contains stunning undersea caves, extensive coral reefs and is noted for its fish, plant and bird life.

Tilloo Cay National Park Acquired by the Trust through private donation, this 11 acre area encompasses a tropical wilderness shoreline of outstanding beauty. Exposed to the Atlantic Ocean, the area is an important sea bird nesting site.

Fowl Cay Land and Sea Park Recently created in 2009, an excellent place for reef snorkelling [I will be posting about this in due course…] 

CLICK LINK for Article (Abaconian March 3 2011): The Two Abaco Sea Parks, Fowl Cay & Pelican Cay (BNT)

(Info mostly courtesy of Bahamas National Trust; Article “The Abaconian”)

A STROLL ROUND THE DELPHI GARDENS ON ABACO


There is a wealth of birdlife on the Delphi doorstep. You don’t even have to go out of the front gateway to find it. You’ll hear a great many more birds than you ever see – many are small and very hard to spot in the bushes, even when you can hear loud chirrups. Here are a few examples of what you might see, all taken within the Club precincts

TURKEY VULTURES, ever present, wheeling above the bay, sometimes in flocks of 20 or more. Their grace in flight is slightly spoiled by the knowledge that their heads are red, wrinkled, bald and… frankly unattractive. You may also see them hunched on a dead branch along the drive (second photo) LOGGERHEAD KINGBIRDS, one of several types of ‘Tyrant Flycatcher’, so-called because of their robust attitude to defending their territory. The first one is on the far side of the pool; the second is taken from the verandah.

 WEST INDIAN WOODPECKER, resident initially under the verandah eaves before moving to the upscale nesting box further along. Often seen during the day in the gardens, sometimes shouting raucously: the second photo is near the pool

ANTILLEAN BULLFINCH (previously wrongly ID’d as American Redstart – thanks CN) I’d never seen one of these before, nor indeed heard of them. This one was photographed in the trees along the drive while I was in fact looking for another bird altogether…

THICK-BILLED VIREO, one of several vireo species. Believe me, they are much less blurry in real life than here… They chirp a lot and seem quite tame.

BANANAQUIT My second favourite bird (after the western spindalis). Smart black and white heads, yellow underparts, and a sharply curved beak used to pierce the base of flowers for nectar. They aren’t choosy though, and eat insects and fruit too. Very chirpy, and VERY hard to see in the bushes, even when you can clearly hear exactly where you think it must be… Look for moving foliage. This one was in the shrubs by the main staircase.They sound like this (credit Xeno-canto.org)

NORTHERN MOCKING BIRD at a distance… above the skiff park. We heard it singing melodiously. ID (in close up – click on image for a marginally better view) from cocked and slightly spread tail, and (you won’t see this) white wing markings. This species is apparently beginning to displace the larger but unaggressive Bahama Mockingbird.

NORTHERN PARULA Small yellow warbler, of which there are many types. This is the one that unwisely tried to fly into the Great Room through the plate glass, and had to be revived by Sandy. It perked up quite quickly, and flew off none the worse for its encounter either with the glass or Sandy…

HUMMINGBIRDS are a fascinating topic in themselves, and I’ll post about them separately. There is the Cuban Emerald and the endemic Bahama Woodstar, both of which can be seen at Delphi (though the latter are rare where the former predominate). There is a 3rd type of hummer on Abaco, which I will leave you with for now: