This tiny bird was in the Abaco coppice, well off the beaten track. Nearly two miles down a notably unbeaten track, in fact, that later was to lead to a puncture-and-@$%^&*-I-forgot-my-cellphone drama. Trauma, even. The hummer knew perfectly well that I had crept up behind it, but it had presumably seen few bipeds. It would not have known of their urge to bulldoze wild habitat and turn it into massive unsold developments, as has happened a short way up the coast… So it just carried on with what a bird has to do to keep itself looking presentable, while I, feeling rather rude and intrusive, took some quick pictures before leaving it in peace. Rather than sell these intimate studies to Hello!, OK!, Chirpy! or Tweet!, I am displaying them free for your enjoyment.
In addition to the Cuban Emerald, the Bahamas has its own endemic hummingbird, the Bahama Woodstar. In the faltering early days of this blog, I posted about them both atBAHAMA WOODSTARS & CUBAN EMERALDS: THE HUMMINGBIRDS OF ABACOAt that time, I was not really a ‘birder’ at all, and had only a very basic camera, so my own pictures were… very basic. But you may be interested in some of the info in the post about these two species, so I mention it in passing.
I took photos of this tiny bird at BPS last month. They were ‘chance’ pics taken when we were photographing parrots in the tree tops. The hummer suddenly appeared some way ahead of me, so I swivelled the camera at it without changing any settings. Frankly, I didn’t expect the results to show more than a small green blur, but they have turned out slightly better than anticipated. I put these images on my subsidiary ‘Gallery’ site and people seem to like them so I’ve decided to add them here too. After all, it’s their true home, I suppose, with the other Abaco wildlife. Apologies to those who have seen these already on the other site. The images are exactly as taken – no colour tweaking, no sharpening, no photoshop - and may not stand enlargement or close scrutiny, because I was several yards away. On the other hand they give a good idea of how this bird feeds. The body postures are very characteristic, and besides, the plants are pretty…
This is a ‘holding’ post while I am actually on Abaco, to be rejigged in due course. The weather is a bit variable, my fishing is somewhat variable (as usual – more miss than hit, though my biggest bone yet a couple of days ago), the birds are fantastic. Abaco has two hummingbird species, the endemic Bahama Woodstar and the Cuban Emerald. The Woodstars are rather pushed around by the Emeralds, and tend to be scarcer where there are plenty of Emeralds. We are lucky at Delphi that both species coexist in relative harmony, although this may be largely due to the sugar-water feeders and the hummer-friendly planting around the Lodge. Here are a few irridescent images I’ve taken in the last few days. Things are a bit slow here (the internet connections, not me), so the image order, formatting and sizing may need attention later on…
Oh. Is that the time? I need a Kalik and lie down. I’ll add a couple pics more later!
NB these photos are posted exactly as taken. No photoshop, no iFiddling, no cropping. That’s how close you can get to these tiny birds…
ADDENDUM A few shots of a hummer in flight feeding on plants can now be seen on my subsidiary website HERE
Here is a clip taken from the excellent websiteTHE ABACO SCIENTIST, with the kind permission of Dr Craig Layman of FIU. The brief summary of the South Abaco Bird Count 2011 by Elwood D. Bracey is of great interest, not least for the Delphi Club, from where guided Nature Tours take place and where there is a lot of enthusiasm for the birdlife of the island. 75 separate species were recorded this year, including all the known Abaconian endemics.
It is also a very fine photo of a male Bahama Woodstar courtesy ofBIRD FORUM
At an early stage of this blog I set out one of its aims – to help answer the question “What the heck is that small yellow bird over there…?” Since then, images have been posted. Lists and links have been given. Bird books have been reviewed. Every little prompt with ID helps the interested amateur (e.g. rh) and not just with the little yellow birds… I have seen all these birds at or very close to Delphi except the common yellowthroat (which I may well have seen but not “seen” as in recognised); and the red-tailed hawk, which we have spotted in the National Park (seeTO THE LIGHTHOUSE , a rugged (ha!) account of the frankly unnerving trip through the National Park to Hole-in-the-Wall Lighthouse)
Peter Mantle reports that a recent ferocious 4-day storm caused further havoc in the gardens, which had just about recovered from the depredations of Hurricane Irene. Even fishing was impossible. Yes, it really was that bad. However, the birds seem remarkably resilient to everything the weather gods throw at them. Parrots are plentiful around the club and are seen and / or heard almost daily. Peter also says“We had a spectacular exhibition yesterday of a peregrine repeatedly dive-bombing (for fun, we think) several turkey vultures in high wind, with another peregrine cruising nearby.”
Caroline Stahala has given me a West Indian Woodpecker update. These charming if noisy birds have been a bit of a leitmotif of this blog. We met their early reluctance to use the perfectly nice nesting box provided for them; their eventual moving in; their use of the club vehicles’ wing-mirrors for vanity purposes; their attempts to raise 2 broods of chicks with varied success (that’s a deliberate euphemism); and stoutly resisting the force of Irene. The male woodpecker is still using the nesting box for roosting. The breeding season is long over, but perhaps next season his home in the eaves of the verandah will be tempting for a mate… And finally, the hummingbirds are plentiful – so as Caroline says, “now is a good time to be birdwatching…”
At last I have got round to the hummingbirds. It’s quite simple. There are only two species of hummingbird on Abaco. The endemic variety is the Bahama Woodstar, one of only 3 endemic bird species on Abaco (the others are the Bahama Yellowthroat and the Bahama Swallow). The settled migrant is the Cuban Emerald.
Male and female Bahama Woodstars (Photo Credit: Phil Brown – and VG too)
These hummingbirds are found throughout the Bahamas. They do not migrate, although are occasional vagrants in SE Florida. They breed all year round, the main season being in April. The female lays 2 elliptical white eggs, which she incubates for 15-18 days. As with humans, the female is mainly responsible for childcare while males go drinking at the nectar bar and hang out with their mates.
This BW was one of a small group at Hole-in-the-Wall. They were completely unconcerned by our presence, and we could get within arm’s length of them. Woodstars, though tame in human terms, can be aggressive and territorial. They are plentiful throughout the Bahamas except on Grand Bahama, Abaco and Andros. Significantly those are the only islands where the Cuban Emerald is found in any numbers. As with the native red and import grey squirrel problem in the UK, the migrant emerald is aggressive towards the woodstar, which is consequently rare where emeralds are abundant.
Here is their call (credit Jesse Fagan Xeno-canto)
Addition April 2012Here is a seriously cute female Woodstar photographed by Ann Capling at Bahama Palm Shores, close to Ocean Drive – a really pretty little bird
At Delphi, you’ll frequently see emeralds, especially now that feeders with sugar water have been hung up for them. The pool area is a very good place to watch them. But there are occasional woodstars to be seen as well – in the coppice on the drives for example, and even on the feeders. The vague blur to the left of the feeder below is a woodstar in the millisecond between me pointing the camera and it flying away… Don’t bother to click to enlarge it – it’s a useless photo, I know, but it is evidence even at the lowest level
CUBAN EMERALDChlorostilbon ricordii
There’s probably a great deal to be written about the emeralds, but not by me. Or not now, anyway. The little you need to know from me is already covered above, and I haven’t yet discovered whether their childcare arrangements differ significantly from the woodstars. Probably not. So I’ll put in a selection of photos, and remark that it is strange how quickly they can change from sleek and slender birds to small rather cold and dispirited looking bundles of feathers. Both states are depicted below. Here’s what to listen for (credit Xeno-canto.org)
Delphi – pool feeder
Delphi – pool feeder
Delphi – pool feeder
Delphi – far side of pool
Delphi – near pool
Delphi – front drive
Delphi – front drive
All the above birds were photographed at Delphi. We saw emeralds elsewhere, of course – in the pine forest, flicking across the logging tracks; on other Cays. The best sighting was during our day trip reef-snorkelling and island-hopping with Kay Politano, when we had an excellent lunch for 14 at Cracker P’s on Lubbers Cay (see future post about this and the island-hops). There was a bird feeder by our table, to which emeralds came and went throughout the meal. Here are some photos – I wanted to get them hovering, and kind of succeeded. More or less.