“I MUST FLY”: GONE TO ABACO. BACK SOMETIME.
UPDATES AS & WHEN
Photos: Tom Sheley, RH, Charlie Skinner, Melinda, Kaitlyn Blair on FB, RH
WHAT HAS THE GESTATION PERIOD OF A WALRUS (16 MONTHS) AND WEIGHS THE SAME AS A PAIR OF FULLY GROWN PINEAPPLES (2 KILOS)?
A unique bird book is been published and has arrived on Abaco today. Printed in Italy at the end of January, it has made its way from Florence via Bologna, Leipzig, Brussels, Cincinnati, Miami and Nassau. Having spent an unexpectedly long sojourn in Nassau, 2 pallets of books are now safely at the Delphi Club… at last!
The Guide showcases the rich and varied bird life of Abaco, Bahamas and features both resident and migratory species including rarities and unusual sightings. It is available for sale now from the Delphi Club in a limited edition of 500. The main features are as follows:
The book is published by the Delphi Club (contact details below). The project was managed by a publishing specialist in art books. The author is the wildlife blogger more widely known on Abaco and (possibly) beyond as ‘Rolling Harbour’. Oh! So that would in fact be Mrs Harbour and myself. Well well. What are the chances?
It’s not necessary to prowl around the coppice or lurk in the pine forest to see beautiful birds. They are on the doorstep, sometimes literally. Especially if there are full seed feeders and hummingbird feeders filled with sugar water for the Cuban Emeralds, Bahama Woodstars and other birds with pointy beaks (Bananaquits, for example). Here are are a few from the gardens immediately around the Delphi Club.
This is a TBV recording made with my iPhone.
For details how to record birds (or indeed animals. Or people) with a smart phone and embed the results as an mp3, CLICK HERE
A PAIR OF CAPE MAY WARBLERS
These little birds are autumn / winter visitors, though I have seen one at Delphi in June – it must have like it there and decided to stay on. Strangely, though originally named for one found on Cape May in the c19, there wasn’t another one recorded there for another 100 years…
RUDDY TURNSTONES ON THE BEACH IN ABACO
Ruddy Turnstones Arenaria interpres are well-known shore birds around the world. They used to be classified as plovers, but are now counted with sanderling. Fortunately they are distinctive enough not to be confusable with the many other species of shore bird with which they mix.
Their foraging methods are classified into 6 broad categories, though I imagine that if peckish, they may opt for all of these in the one feeding session.
This female bird has clearly dug down in the sand to the length of its bill
The male plover above is keeping watch from a rocky vantage point over an area at the north end of the beach at Delphi. And with good reason. It’s the summer breeding season, and on the sand are some nests. One of them is his.
This is a ‘scrape’ – not the carefully constructed nest that most birds make, but a shore bird’s collection of sticks and twigs – sometimes stones or shells – clumped together on the sand to provide a comfortable place for the mother to sit until the eggs have hatched.
Usually, there will be a pair of chicks, maybe more. The two in the photo below have scuttled to the back of the beach for safety because the adults thought I was getting a bit close, and sent them to hide in the pine needles
When a nest is threatened by a predator, Wilson’s plovers have a defensive technique that is remarkable to watch. Other shore birds, for example Killdeer, resort to this method as well. A parent will flutter about pathetically on the sand, apparently with one or both wings broken, attracting the predator by its faked vulnerability. The plover will gradually draw the threat away from the nest area, protecting the eggs or allowing chicks to make themselves scarce. Here are some examples of the ‘broken wing display’, all photographed on the beach at Delphi. The first 2 images show a female; the third, a male.
The previous posts in the series are WILSON’S PLOVERS (1) showing the adults; and WILSON’S PLOVERS (2) that shows how plovers nesting on the shore at Nettie’s Point were protected from human activity in the boat-launching area.
Dream Plover? Well, granted, not quite as adorable as the tiny surf-chasers, the Piping Plovers Charadrius melodus. But Wilson’s Plovers Charadrius wilsonia live on Abaco all year round, and may readily be seen on a beach near you. They breed on Abaco, and in the summer you’ll see their tiny puffball chicks scampering round. And if you approach a nest, you’ll very likely see the amazing ‘broken wing display’ by a parent, who will lurch strickenly and pathetically across the sand… leading a predator gradually further away from the nest or her chicks. Part 2 will include photos of this fascinating protective performance, and of some chicks on the Delphi beach.
And who was the Wilson who lent his name not only to a plover, but also to a snipe, a warbler, a storm-petrel and a phalarope, all birds that have been recorded for Abaco?
ALEXANDER WILSON (1766- 1813)
Wilson was Scottish poet. Besides traditional ballads, he also wrote satirical commentary on the conditions of mill weavers. One vicious tirade against a particular mill owner resulted in Wilson’s arrest. He was sentenced to burn the work in public, and imprisoned. After his release, he sensibly emigrated to America in 1794.
Wilson became a teacher in Pennsylvania, where he developed an interest in ornithology and painting. He ambitiously decided to publish a collection of illustrations of all the birds of North America. He spent several years travelling, collecting material and painting, eventually publishing the nine-volume American Ornithology. Of the 268 species of birds illustrated there, 26 had never previously been described.
FRONT AND SIDE VIEW OF THE SAME FEMALE PLOVER
All birds on this page were photographed on the Delphi Beach. They happily coexist there with other shore bird species that include Least Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones and Killdeer. Here is a taster for Part 2, the family life of the Wilson’s plover.
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.
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
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.
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…
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.
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…
Who indeed does photograph the people who take the photographs? Here is a small gallery of photographers on Abaco caught in the act of shooting wildlife, so to speak. And if anyone has ever seen – or been – a photographer photographing photographers photographing other photographers, trust me, that is one stage beyond weird.
RH (who uses a stick – or ‘cane’, if that isn’t too ’50 shades’) takes a collapsible wading stick on these occasions. Since he, too, is collapsible it is sometimes helpful to have a seat while photographing. Not elegant, though, and not especially comfortable. Cheers, Clare, for capturing the indignity…
PM & RH engaged in a ridiculous challenge to photograph various items on the beach. Both lost, even though they had devised the rules…
*This titular nod to the phrase ‘quis custodiet ipsos custodes’ (‘who is guarding the guardians’) is open to objection on the ground of illogicality. It’s a Latin tag with a greek-derived verb and noun forms jocularly inserted. A ‘photograph’ is, literally, ‘light writing’ in Greek. So ‘quis lux-scribit ipsos lucis-scriptores’ is the best solution I can offer… Let’s have that Elder flower to end on a light note
Photographees: Peter Mantle, Sandy Walker, Tom Sheley, Woody Bracey, Mrs RH, RH
Photographers: Clare Latimer, Brigitte Bowyer, Mrs RH, RH
Photographers of photographers photographing photographers: none that we were aware of
The Abaco bay known as Rolling Harbour is a 3/4 mile curve of white sand beach, protected by an off-shore reef. The beach is pristine. Or it would be but for two factors. One is the seaweed that arrives when the wind is from the east – natural and biodegradable detritus. It provides food and camouflage for many species of shorebird – plover and sandpipers of all varieties from large to least. The second – far less easily dealt with – is the inevitable plastic junk washed up on every tide. This has to be collected up and ‘binned’, a never-ending cycle of plastic trash disposal. Except for the ATLAS V SPACE-ROCKET FAIRING found on the beach, that came from the Mars ‘Curiosity’ launch.
We kept is as a… curiosity, until it was eventually removed by the men in black…
I’d intended to have a ‘plastic beach trash’, Atlantic-gyre-rage rant, with angry / sad photos to match. Instead, I decided to illustrate a more positive side to beach life – things you may discover when you take a closer look at the sand under your feet. Like the coconut above. Many of these photos were taken by our friend Clare Latimer (to whom thanks for use permission); some by me.
Thanks to Capt Rick Guest, who has contributed an interesting comment regarding the sea biscuit with a hole in it. He writes “the (Meoma) Sea Biscuit w/ the hole in it was dined upon by a Helmet Conch. The Cassis madagascariensis, or C.tuberosa drills the hole w/ its conveyer-belt-like radula teeth w/ some help from its acidic, saliva. Probably 98% of all symetrical holes in marine invertebrates are of this nature. Murex, Naticas, Helmets, and many Cephalapods (via a Stylet), are the usual B&E suspects. The Cone shells utilize a modified radula in the form of a harpoon which is attached to a venom tube.” For more on the vicious cone shell, and other creatures to avoid, click HERE
DRIFTWOOD. IT’S LIKE… OH, USE YOUR IMAGINATIONA WILSON’S PLOVER NESTHORSESHOE CRAB (LIMULUS)A SCULPTURE? AN EMBRYONIC SHELTER? LARGE BIRD FOOTPRINTSMORE BIRD PRINTS AND CRAB TRACKS CRABUS CUTICUSCONCH SHELLS & OTHER BEACH TREASURESCRAB HOLE & TRACKSSOME IDIOT’S LEFT HIS… OH! IT’S MINE
The Delphi Club beach at Rolling Harbour is an undeniably beautiful 3/4 mile curve of white-sand bay, shelving gently into pale blue water. Many interesting things get washed up on the shore, besides shells, sea glass, and vast quantities of seaweed (with a fair amount of junk) that must be regularly cleared. It’s a good place for desultory beachcombing, and some of the finds have featured in earlier posts, with the help of KASIA
Of course that is not in the least unusual in these parts, though Delphi can claim the unique distinction of a 12 foot booster rocket fairing from the Mars ‘Curiosity’ launch, washed up early in 2012 (see short posts on the developing story at ONE & TWO & THREE)
There are large glass and wooden floats. Things that might be car parts. Wooden pallets. Not, as yet, any of the yellow plastic ducks so often written about (see book review of MOBY DUCK). Now, we have an invasion of coloured beads. 2012 has been a prime year for bead beachcombing, a specialist field. At times, guests have had a field day (if you can have one of those on a beach?) collecting these small beads. One large flagon has already been filled and, as Peter Mantle observes, “our cup runneth over”.
An important Christmas task – and not a difficult one, I envisage – will be to empty another suitably large vessel. Drinking is likely to be involved. Meanwhile, an explanation for this beach bead influx over many months would be good to find. A container of children’s toys sadly washed overboard? Evidence of some arcane fishing method? An explosion in a necklace factory? Beads deemed unsuitable for rosaries? Rejects from the World Marbles Convention? Has anyone else experienced finding these multicoloured beads on their local beaches? I know that a few beachcombers follow this blog (thanks!) from other parts of the world. Any beads? All contributions by way of the COMMENT link, or an email to rolling harbour.delphi[at]gmail.com, welcome.
Some of the beads collected during the year – another container needed urgently
“Life’s a beach”, it is said. On Abaco, a new season is starting at the Delphi Club, and the first guests will be sorting out their fishing tackle, reaching for the sun cream and abandoning pre-Delphi diet boot-camp. If they have been eating Marmite™ sandwiches for a week before their arrival, they won’t need to waste energy slapping no-see-ums. The day-dreaming becomes reality, perhaps involving his ‘n’ hers rods near the rocks at one end of the beach
That’s all well and good. But in more northern latitudes the slide from summer via autumn to winter is accelerating. The trout fishing season has just ended, with my final efforts washed away by heavy rain and flooding – this photo is the road leading to one of the beats, a sure meteorological sign that a visit to the local pub would be sensible…
These photos are of patterns on the car roof & windscreen, before the sun thawed the ice
ABACO SHELLS: 3 MORE FROM THE DELPHI CLUB COLLECTION
I have recently featured some of the shells from the collection amassed at Delphi – see SHELLS 1 and SHELLS 2. They are kept in vases or bowls for display and examination. They may not all come from the immediate vicinity, but they are all, for sure, from South Abaco. It’s time for some more.
PINK TRIVIA SHELL
LETTERED OLIVE SHELL
For further details about Spirula(e), please see the comment box where Capt Rick Guest gives a lot of fascinating info about them and related marine cast-offs. You’ll also find out which are the real prize ones to look out for…
ROLLING HARBOUR, ABACO: A WIDE-ANGLE VIEW
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 CLUB website. 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…
ANOTHER STROLL ALONG THE SHORE WITH KASIA
After all the recent excitement – well I was excited, anyway – involving Mars Mission space rocket debris washed up on the Delphi Club Beach CLICK MARS 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…
SATURDAY 28 JANUARY 2012 – A DATE FOR THE DIARY
The images below tell you all you need to know about this excellent festival presented by the BNT in conjunction with the Abaco Beach Resort. From this blog’s point of view, the highlights are:
PRESENTATIONS by Nancy Albury on ‘The Blue Holes of Abaco’; by Ricky ‘Blue’ Jones on Bush Medicines / teas; and by Caroline Stahala on the Breeding & Behaviour of Abaco Parrots
ART The Art. Yes, all of it. Ok?
PRODUCE Something of everything, please.
OTHER Everything else on offer…
The very best of luck with this event and best wishes for successful fundraising from Rolling Harbour
Many thanks to Nassau-based WEBLOG BAHAMAS for giving such a positive recommendation on its eclectic site. Much appreciated. The site, by a small collective of independent bloggers, covers a multitude of mainly Bahamas-related topics including books, current affairs, economy, eduction, environment, food & drink, government, health, media, music, politics, religion and society, sport, and travel. An excellent place to spend some online exploration time…
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
KASIA’S MYSTERY ABACO SHELL: A PUZZLE FOR XMAS
Kasia’s beachcombing exploits have produced some lovely seashells that have already featured here. Precise identification has sometimes been difficult for an amateur, because of the many varieties of a particular type of shell or close resemblance to other shell families. This one has got me stumped. I have trawled the internet. I have studied field guides. I’m still baffled. It hasn’t quite matched any other shell…
XMAS PRIZE the first person to ID this shell correctly will enjoy a bottle of ice-cold Kalik being drunk on the Delphi balcony swing in February 2012. By me. Suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org welcome
STOP PRESS: NOW SOLVED – SEE UNDER IMAGES
First entry by Kasia (potentially disqualified as the shell’s owner): Angaria, a form of Turban shell. However these seem to be confined to Pacific areas…
The Solution: And the winner (within 24 hours) is… Kasia!
I sent the link to the post to Bahamian seashell expert Colin Redfern at http://www.bahamianseashells.com, author of ‘Bahamian Seashells: 1000 Species from Abaco, Bahamas’. He confirms Kasia’s ID as an ANGARIA SHELL , one of a large number of species of turban shells TURBINIDAE found throughout the world. It is indeed a Pacific shell, probably from the Philippines. So what on earth was it doing on a beach on the east coast of Abaco? Colin has encountered this sort of anomaly before, and gives various possible explanations:
1. Homeowners’ shell collections come from areas other than the Bahamas & are sometimes thrown out onto a beach. They may be washed up along the coast
2. Shops sell packets of shells, including Pacific shells, which may become dispersed
3. In Fl. it is not unknown for resorts to “seed the beach” with Pacific shells, which are cheaper & more easily bulk-bought than Atlantic shells
4. Rare Pacific & Indian Ocean shells washed up on a beach were once traced to the owner, whose beach house had been lost in a hurricane some years before
Many thanks, Colin, for your help with this puzzle; and congratulations Kasia – I’ll claim my Kalik in February please. Oh I see, I’ve got to buy you one, have I?
Well-known artist Richard Bramble already features in his own page here under the CONTRIBUTIONS drop-down menu. For the previous post of RB hard at work on new designs at the Delphi Club CLICK EXAMPLE PHOTO BELOW
Richard has broadened his already considerable range of paintings and ceramics to include the Abaco marine life he painted while at Delphi. In addition to his very elegant Bonefish, there are now Permit and Crawfish plates (with the original ‘life model’ pictured above). Some weeks later I was at Richard’s studio in Dorset as he prepared to transfer these designs to ceramics, with crawfish cut-outs artfully strewn around the floor. Here are his new items, with his characteristic captions:
Richard’s comprehensive website featuring his entire oeuvre is to be found at the sign of the Crawfish together with an elementary purchase method to take advantage of the excellent online shopping opportunities (he might be too modest to say). I write this with Christmas-tide a mere 2 weeks away. You’ll find sea water and fresh water fish / creatures, shells, all manner of game birds and farmyards animals, on every conceivable type of ceramic platter, utensil and kitchen gizmo.
(With apologies that this site seems t0 be turning into a cross between an online Mall and an advertising agency… Nature Tours. Boat Expeditions. Arts & Crafts. Kitchenware. Books. Cameras. Yup, ticked them all. But there’s plenty of other stuff to look at in these pages)
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
Advert ends (that will be $50 please Ricky)