THE HUMMER’S TALE: A BAHAMA WOODSTAR’S RESCUE ON EXUMA


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THE HUMMER’S TALE: A BAHAMA WOODSTAR’S RESCUE ON EXUMA

This blog usually stays pretty close to base on Abaco, with occasional forays to other parts of the Bahamas. Inagua for example, for amazing photos of the annual FLAMINGO banding. Now it’s time for a visit to Exuma. In July, a resident of Stocking Island emailed me asking for advice about a rescued hummingbird that had arrived on her porch and could not – or would not – fly. Caroyln had nursed her – a female Bahama Woodstar – for 5 days and was worried about her (lack of) progress.

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Being an amateur in these matters, and some 4000 miles away, I wondered how much I could usefully contribute. However for the next few days Carolyn and I kept in touch and exchanged ideas. The bird was apparently uninjured, was able to feed a bit and to drink sugar water from a syringe. However without being able to fly, her chances of survival were minimal.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Eventually the hummer start to practise some fluttering, which was a good sign. That’s her above, in the widow behind the greenery. We worked on various ideas to encourage a flying instinct. I suggested putting her on a low box to see what happened… If the fluttering worked to any extent, a gradual increase in take-off height might do the trick.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This seemed promising, except that the bird’s left wing fluttered twice as fast as her right wing. This suggested some sort of lack of co-ordination that might explain why the natural instinct to fly was somehow surpressed. However by Day 10 we had progress, if not actual lift-off.

By now the bird was starting to look less bedraggled and a lot stronger. My suggested names (‘Hummy'; ‘Humela’) didn’t find favour; Carolyn simply called her ‘Baby’. A potential fruit-fly factory on a banana was constructed.photo

At times, Baby was somewhat passive, but it’s possible that Carolyn’s tuneful mockingbird was a confusing element… You can see she was well catered for, with sustenance, fresh air and a nice view.

The next stage was to devise an outdoor flight plan. There had been strong winds, but by Day 12 they had abated.  It was time to see what Baby could do in the fresh air, with tempting flowers all around. She had had some indoor twig perching practice. Her fluttering was stronger: maybe launching from a low branch outside would be the answer. Or the ground?

Mmmmm. 3 failed attempts. Not encouraging. And Carolyn needed to leave Exuma imminently. Luckily, a new life for Baby was at hand with a family in Georgetown who were able to supply a happy ending, having cared for hummingbirds and being perfectly set up with a screened porch with shrubs, flowers, feeders… and fruit flies. Hummer heaven. I am waiting to hear the very end of the story… did Baby ever fly, or is she so pampered in her new home that there is no need for her to budge? And when I get some news, I will post it here.

Bahamas Map  Exuma

PRECIOUS EMERALDS ON ABACO: GREEN HUMMINGBIRD JEWELS


Cuban Emerald Hummingbird, Delphi, Abaco10PRECIOUS EMERALDS ON ABACO: GREEN HUMMINGBIRD JEWELS

There are two resident hummingbird species on Abaco: the beautiful endemic Bahama Woodstar; and the lovely non-native Cuban Emerald. The species don’t get on, and tend to keep to separate territories. At Delphi the Emeralds predominate, though luckily there are Woodstars as well. Both species of these tiny birds have featured in previous posts, but this little hummer was a special one. Cuban Emerald Hummingbird, Delphi, Abaco 1

There’s a small patch of cleared coppice at Delphi, the ‘Farm’. This is where plants are ‘grown on’ for the gardens. In particular, there are coconuts planted in soil to germinate, to provide replacements for any palms that are trashed in the hurricane season. Since both Irene (in 2011) and Sandy (2012) passed directly over Delphi, you can see the sense in having an on-site garden centre. It can be a good place for birds, having both sun and shade. It’s where I suddenly spotted this Emerald, a few feet away from me. Cuban Emerald Hummingbird, Delphi, Abaco 2

It seemed quite relaxed, so I decided to see how close I could get. My attempt at stealth was slightly spoiled by my inexplicable need to make totally unnecessary “soothing” clicking and chooking noises as I crept forward. But the bird just watched peacefully, assuming me to be insane and probably harmless. Cuban Emerald Hummingbird, Delphi, Abaco 3

I shuffled forwards, expecting the bird to fly off at any moment. Instead, it seemed to go to sleep…  By now I was a couple of feet away, and felt it was time to stop the ridiculous noises. The bird could not have been more at ease if I had sung it a lullaby.  [Apart from the fact that I can’t sing, that is]Cuban Emerald Hummingbird, Delphi, Abaco 6

By now the metallic glint of the feathers in the sun was extraordinary, with colours other than green clearly visible, especially on the tail. Does this bird look nervous? I was a foot away from it.Cuban Emerald Hummingbird, Delphi, Abaco 7

In the end I actually reached the bird. I stood over it and could easily have touched it. I quite see that it had probably been using the sugar water feeders, and was used to seeing people. But still. It was mini and I am… not. Here is my last shot, an aerial view. Then I crept away again, leaving the bird in peace and doubtless wondering what on earth that had all been about. I have a general rule against anthropomorphic ‘special moments’ but if I did not, then this was one…Cuban Emerald Hummingbird, Delphi, Abaco 8All photos RH armed with a Panasonic Lumix. If you want to use a photo – surprisingly, people occasionally do – please ask first and it will probably be fine. One or more of my images may be published shortly, and I don’t want a wrangle on my hands. Or anywhere else…

GREEN PREEN: CUBAN EMERALD HUMMINGBIRD, ABACO


Cuban Emerald Hummingbird preening, Abaco 8

GREEN PREEN: CUBAN EMERALD HUMMINGBIRD, ABACO 

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.Cuban Emerald Hummingbird preening, Abaco 1Cuban Emerald Hummingbird preening, Abaco 4Cuban Emerald Hummingbird preening, Abaco 6Cuban Emerald Hummingbird preening, AbacoCuban Emerald Hummingbird preening, Abaco 5Cuban Emerald Hummingbird preening, Abaco 2Cuban Emerald Hummingbird preening, Abaco 7a

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 at BAHAMA WOODSTARS & CUBAN EMERALDS: THE HUMMINGBIRDS OF ABACO At 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.

A CUBAN EMERALD HUMMINGBIRD ON ABACO, BAHAMAS


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A CUBAN EMERALD HUMMINGBIRD ON ABACO, BAHAMAS

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… Cuban Emerald Hummingbird in flight, Abaco Bahamas 1Cuban Emerald Hummingbird in flight, Abaco Bahamas 2Cuban Emerald Hummingbird in flight, Abaco Bahamas 3Cuban Emerald Hummingbird in flight, Abaco Bahamas 4Cuban Emerald Hummingbird in flight, Abaco Bahamas 5

HUMMINGBIRDS OF ABACO SPARKLING IN THE SUN


KS Hummer 4

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…

KS Hummer 6KS Hummer 1KS Hummer 3KS Hummer 5Oh. 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

SOUTH ABACO CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT 2011


Here is a clip taken from the excellent website THE 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 of BIRD FORUM

ABACO BIRD I.D: A SMALL GALLERY


ABACO BIRD I.D: A SMALL GALLERY

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 (see TO THE LIGHTHOUSE , a rugged (ha!) account of the frankly unnerving trip through the National Park to Hole-in-the-Wall Lighthouse)

Here is a small gallery posted with permission of Friends of the Environment, Abaco (thanks Olivia), taken from their website, where you will find these images and a great deal more excellent material besides. Click anywhere on the gallery to get a better view. All images © A.C. Hepburn 

Friends of the Environment website CLICK LOGO=>