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

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.

BIRDS OF ABACO (BAHAMAS) IN NEW YORK CITY (& VICE VERSA)


Brooklyn Gulls

BIRDS OF ABACO (BAHAMAS) IN NEW YORK CITY (& VICE VERSA)

Many moons ago, I wrote about the bird species that a New Yorker might recognise during a trip to South Abaco. It would depend, of course, on the time of year and migration patterns. And whether a resident of  the Big  was remotely interested in going to Abaco to look at birds. As if! As it happens, Mrs RH is about to go to NYC, and tolerantly offered to take me as ‘trailing spouse’. Naturally, I said no at once [only joking]. So I am resurrecting the earlier material and polishing it up a bit for 2013. There is much good birding to be done in and around the City (Central Park ~ Riverside and Inwood Parks ~ Prospect Park Brooklyn ~ Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge ~ Staten Island ~ shorelines generally) though I shan’t be spending all my time doing that. Or even much of it. But I will see what species I can casually bag in a week.  

This photo is of a ring-billed gull, taken a while back in a freezing february (-15°) on the northern end of Roosevelt Island* in the East River. The whole front of the vessel in the background was thickly coated in frozen sea-ice, which covered the entire foredeck. However, you might just as easily catch one of these gulls on a perfect sunny day on the shores of Abaco…  [*Optional tourist note: it's a great ride there on the aerial tramway. Visit the quaint clapboard Blackwell Farmhouse, built in 1796 and recently restored - it's the oldest surviving building in the City, nestling shyly amidst a forest of new apartment blocks]Ring-billed Gull NYC

 If you happen to live in New York, you may quite possibly spend some spare time birding in Central Park, or checking out the red-tailed hawks of Washington Square. And if you are planning a trip to Abaco, you might suddenly wonder just how different the bird life will be there. Will there be any familiar species at all?

 New York City has nearly 200 regularly recorded bird species, most of which will be found in Central Park at some time of the year, if not all through it. South Abaco has around 126 species, excluding extreme rarities and accidentals. Is there much overlap, I wondered? And the answer is that there is plenty, rather more than I expected. 61 species in common, by my reckoning, including the Great Egret below. The the most notable feature is the almost complete coincidence of warblers.

Great Egret Abaco BC 1Photo credit © Brigitte Carey, Abaco

 I used the excellent (but not exhaustive) AVIBASE checklist for South Abaco, now featured on the Delphi Club site in the new BIRDING  section, and worked through a comparative list of the NYC species (see the birding website links for NYC / Central Park above). The result is below: a New Yorker using the South Abaco checklist may see any of the birds ringed in red. And it would work vice versa, of course. Why New York? It’s the only other place outside Europe that I have ever ‘birded’ (only extremely casually – no book, no notes, no pishing, a few photos – just for enjoyment). Peaceful bird time in the Ramble in Central Park is time well used… Before we get to the list, here’s a bit of local NYC colour that you won’t find on Abaco – a male Northern Cardinal in the snow in FebruaryCardinal NYC CP

NYC BIRD SPECIES THAT APPEAR ON THE SOUTH ABACO BIRDS CHECKLIST

 I photographed this red-tailed hawk in Central Park. We’ve seen one on Abaco in the National Park, close enough to get a really good photo of. Typically, it flew off before I could get my camera out of the truck. There’s a lesson there somewhere…

Editorial note (not necessarily a shared opinion): Abaco is so good, they only needed to name it once…

NO SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN? GO BIRDWATCHING INSTEAD…


                 NO SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN? GO BIRDWATCHING INSTEAD…    

AN ABACO / YEMEN BIRD POPULATION COMPARISON

All anglers have done it. Gone somewhere to fish on a hunch, a whim or a tentative recommendation, only to find no fish. What if you decided  to take a break from Abaco bonefishing on the strength of the film title Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, only to find that there is, in fact, no migratory salmonid species in the republic. Despite the film’s dreamily optimistic outcome, it’s a piscatorial impossibility. You should have read the book first, of course – or seen the film, if only for Emily Blunt. Ok, and Ewan McGregor, if you must. Yes yes, and the fabulously over-the-top foul-mouthed cameo that is Kristin Scott-Thomas.

Set aside your disappointment. The only sensible thing is to put the fishing tackle away and check out the other Yemeni wildlife, specifically the birds. But you haven’t come prepared for this. You have no bird guide. So what species might you find in the Yemen that would be familiar to a Bahamian, specifically a South Abaconian?

South Abaco has 126 of the 196 birds species found more widely on Abaco, according to Avibase. I wondered how many of these one might find in the Yemen. And the answer is 33 (or 26%)

When I started checking this, I thought there would be very few – maybe a dozen or so – ‘mutual’ birds. As I worked my way through the seabirds, shore birds, birds of prey etc, the total slowly rose. Then I came to a sudden halt. Apart from the near-ubiquitous, adaptable rock dove, starling and sparrow, there are NO small birds in common at all. The obvious reasons are distance, habitat and climate, of course, but nevertheless I found it a slightly surprising finding.

So the lesson is, don’t be tempted to go warbler-watching in the Yemen either…