IDENTITY CRISIS ON ABACO:WEST INDIAN WOODPECKERS OR HUMMINGBIRDS?


800px-West_Indian_Woodpecker_(Melanerpes_superciliaris)IDENTITY CRISIS ON ABACO:WEST INDIAN WOODPECKERS OR HUMMINGBIRDS?

The hummingbirds round here – Cuban Emeralds and occasional Bahama Woodstars – have feeders full of sugar water to keep them sweet. These are also enjoyed by other birds with suitable beaks or tongues able to get to the liquid through tiny holes.  Bananaquits, for example. Now the resident woodpeckers have got in on the act. Our arrival at Delphi coincides with the start of insistent tapping noises from inside the 2 nesting boxes that were put up to divert the woodpeckers from wrecking the wooden roof eaves. They are carrying out annual routine maintenance, putting up new bookshelves etc before settling down to produce their first brood of the year. And they have now discovered how to get a sugar-rush to keep up their energies. 

TRYING TO INSERT THE BEAK IS NOT A GOOD METHODWest Indian Woodpecker Abaco 4West Indian Woodpecker Abaco 2

USING A LONG TONGUE IS IDEALWest Indian Woodpecker Abaco 5West Indian Woodpecker Abaco 1

MEANWHILE THE FEMALE HAS TO WAIT FOR HER TURN…West Indian Woodpecker Abaco 3

“PISHING IN THE WIND”: BIRDING IN A BREEZE AT DELPHI


Abaco Cloud Map 5:29

“PISHING IN THE WIND”: BIRDING IN A BREEZE AT DELPHI

The Bahamas weather has been uncharacteristically dire. Rain and cloud for the past week, and a poor forecast for the next week (see above). I arrived on Abaco yesterday, with the short internal flight from Nassau last night nearly cancelled due to a humungous downpour. Instead, people were boarded in bare feet, having had to wade through 3 inches of water to get to the small plane floating on the undrained concrete. Yet today, there was sunshine at Delphi this morning (though cloud to both north and south). A stiff breeze was keeping the clouds off-shore. The weather is fickle and very local.

ROYAL POINCIANADCB 1.10

I took a small camera and strolled for half and hour for about 200 yards along the Delphi drive and back (for those that know it, to the first corner of the guest drive) to see what the first of June had to offer in the way of wildlife. The birds were clearly enjoying some unaccustomed sunshine, and I have listed those I saw below. Not all were photogenically posed, and many were flicking around the coppice too quickly to capture.

RED-LEGGED THRUSHDCB 1.2

GRAY KINGBIRDDCB 1 3

The smaller birds were unusually responsive to ‘pishing’, the unattractive but effective noise that can bring a bird to the front of woodland or scrub to investigate. A black-whiskered vireo was interested, but flew off just as I pressed the button. He was immediately replaced on the branch by a

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERDCB 1 5

A pair of Western Spindalises (see recent post HERE) joined it in the adjacent treeDCB 1.4

DELPHI 30 MINUTE STROLL BIRD LIST 1.06.13

  • Red-legged Thrush 3
  • Western Spindalis  3
  • West Indian Woodpecker 2
  • Black-whiskered Vireo 2
  • Cuban Emerald 2
  • Turkey Vulture 2
  • Bahama Swallow 1
  • Gray Kingbird 1
  • Loggerhead Kingbird 1
  • Greater Antillean Bullfinch 1
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
  • Bananaquit 1
  • {Heard only} Abaco Parrots 2

The flowers were also enjoying some sunshine after the rainDCB 1.8DCB 1.9DCB 1.12DCB 1.11A couple of other things caught my eye, including a cute baby lizard, before I headed for some restDCB 1.7DCB 1.6DCB 1.1

WEST INDIAN WOODPECKERS: EXPERT ADVICE & DELPHI CLUB NEWS


WEST INDIAN WOODPECKERS: EXPERT ADVICE & DELPHI CLUB NEWS

Here’s an article by Abaco Parrot expert Caroline Stahala. She also has in-depth knowledge of the habits of West Indian Woodpeckers, not least because her observations of the nesting in boxes provided for them last year at the DELPHI CLUB ABACO to discourage them from drilling into the building itself… See THE RELUCTANT WOODPECKER. Caroline’s article suggests helpful ways to co-exist with the ‘peckers. They are unlikely to change their endearing little, er, ‘pecker-dillos’, but there are ways and means to prevent them driving you crazy when they take a noisy liking to your eaves and guttering…

CLICK LINK===>>>LIVING WITH WEST INDIAN WOODPECKERS (Caroline Stahala) 

PETER MANTLE has just posted some news – including woodpecker and general wildlife news – from the DELPHI CLUB. After a detailed bonefishing report , he writes:

The best bonefish of recent weeks remains an 8-or-so-pounder. In a rare encounter with tarpon, 2 guests from England had several shots at a group of four fish in the twenty-to-thirty pound range, but had no time to switch over to proper tarpon flies and therefore, to use a cricketing expression, failed to trouble the scorer.

The gorgeous weather seems to have ennervated all the local wildlife, not just the parrots. Sightings of dolphins, turtles, eagle rays and ospreys in the Marls are now almost commonplace. Countless butterflies of different hues flit through the Club gardens. The woodpeckers are nesting again in the box just outside the office and the hummingbirds are constantly feeding just feet from my desk. It’s the time of year that dreams are made of.

The week was rounded off by your blogger-in-chief setting a new Club record – for the smallest ever bonefish, a brute of half a pound, taken off the Club beach on a Delphi Daddy after a titanic struggle lasting all of 30 seconds, with lemon shark looking on in expectation.

WOODPECKER COUSINS FROM ABACO & ACROSS THE POND


WEST INDIAN AND GREAT SPOTTED – WOODPECKER COUSINS

The starting point / excuse for this post is the nest box for West Indian woodpeckers under the eaves of the Delphi Club verandah. Put ‘woodpecker’ into the home page SEARCH box and you will find various posts about last season’s epic: the reluctance to use the box; the gradual acceptance; the summer nesting and breeding; the heroic stand of the male woodpecker who guarded the box throughout the rampage of Hurricane Irene

Happy to roost here – deeply suspicious of the new wooden structure over there

(Later) No place like Home(©Peter Wesley Brown)

For some years, great spotted woodpeckers have drilled away at the grey poplar tree at the end of our small London garden. A male gouged out a number of exploratory holes near the top, strewing a carpet of wood chips onto the grass below. One year he attracted a mate, eggs were laid and hatched, a huge amount of chattering and scolding ensued – quite annoying at times in persistence and volume. One weekend we were away and returned to… silence. The fledgling woodpeckers had had their flying lessons and left for good. We missed them.

Since then, the male cleaned out the hole each Spring and drilled a few spare holes for practice, but despite his impressive real estate portfolio, he didn’t attract a mate. He made another, lower hole. No luck. Until this year. In January he brought a new bird home and together they mucked out the hole and settled in – about 2 months early, and with snow on the way. In the absence of current news of the West Indian woodpeckers and their nest at the Delphi Club, here are a few pictures of domestic bliss 4250 miles away… Click images to enlarge

A cosy home – hope the neighbours are nice 

Time to go and get a take-out…

…and bring it home for the wife

An act of gross provocation by a starling.  I predict trouble. News update soon

I can’t make out if the photo below is just a horrendously bad photo taken with a cheap camera, a fixed shutter speed, and cold shaking hands; or a powerful image of a beautiful bird artistically captured in full flight, the type of action shot that bird photographers strive for years to achieve (Mrs RH has a view on this). If the former, apologies. If the latter (highly unlikely), my professional tip is to use a tiny point ‘n’ shoot into the sun while moving around quite a bit. Whichever, I’ve awarded it a ‘cameo’ format to emphasise the essential artistry of the shot

BIRD NEWS UPDATE FROM DELPHI CLUB ABACO


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…” 

Photo credit: Peter Wesley Brown

HURRICANE IRENE: ABACO NEWS UPDATE AUG 29… WILDLIFE EFFECTS?


HURRICANE IRENE: LATEST ABACO NEWS UPDATE

AUGUST 29

TO SEE YESTERDAY’S POST CLICK===>>> IRENE 28 AUG

22.00 GMT Here’s the link to 4 very short video clips from ‘Capt-Chris’ in Marsh Harbour CLICK===>>> MH CLIPS 

For those wondering what Rolling Harbour is all about, here is a view of it – a Google Maps image taken just before building started, over which I have superimposed a picture of the Delphi Club. Last Thursday, the sea covered all the visible sand and beyond into the scub, with waves smashing up against the cliff-face. The wooden steps to the beach (on the right of the photo), although robust, were expected to be smashed completely, but amazingly they have survived intact. Double-click to enlarge.

19.00 GMT I notice I have been getting a great many hits from searches with the format ‘Abaco…damage…[place]’. Local10.com has been excellent in its reporting of Abaco and Irene, with first-class live open-air reports from Janine Stanwood while the storm raged around her, and informative, balanced studio coverage. Here is the link to the recent 39-images slideshow. Some are captioned with location  CLICK==>> LOCAL10 

Meanwhile, according to travel sites, Hotels & Resorts on Abaco have been confirming minimal damage  to buildings – nothing structural so far, anyway – and problems confined in various degrees to the “landscaping”. The overall picture is “open for business”

16.00 GMT a message (thanks, Susan) reads “…thanks for the info. We live if Fl and have dealt with more than a few hurricanes. I love Rolling Harbour and the Delphi [Club] is beautiful – the beach is stunning. Good luck with the clean up and thank you again for your site. I hope the parrots did well – they were finally coming back after the beating they took from Hurricanes Floyd and Frances“.

I am hoping to be able to post about the parrots once Caroline Stahala has had a chance to make an assessment of the situation. Having just finished the chick banding project (see ABACO PARROT CHICK BANDING with unique photos) they must be at the forefront of her mind: she has been engaged in their research and conservation for several years. As for other wildlife, wearing my more natural-fitting blog hat I am hoping to have some news from Ricky Johnson once he too has a chance to get out there and see the effects of the Irene on the birds.

At least we know the W I woodpecker family at Delphi are (probably) ok… here’s a picture (the subject of a caption competition) from a while back to add some cheer with their comic behaviour  (photo credit David Rainford)

14.00 GMT: Back home in London. I have at last had some news from Long Beach, about which there have been queries. Phone calls are now getting through and the damage news from there is “except for some downed trees everything is ok”. Thanks, Elizabeth. Perhaps that is optimistic for comms for most if not all of South Abaco today – and hopefully elsewhere.

Online, there hasn’t been much new activity – still very few storm images (apart from weather maps / satellite images from last week). The ones from this blog are all there now. And very few videos beyond those I have already given the links to. Press reports are, as you might expect, concentrate on what did – or didn’t – happen in NYC yesterday. I’ll check later for updates, but I have a feeling that as links are gradually restored, my storm-related usefulness is coming to an end. Soon I’ll be back to reporting on parrots, reef fish and cone shells… 

09.30 GMT: Post haste: I am travelling this morning. and will post anything of note later on. I’ll be interested to know how things are going, and whether communications are getting back to normal. Please feel free to leave any useful info in the comment box at the bottom, which others can then see. Here a a few items from yesterday’s post to be going on with

  CLICK LOGO ===>>> 

   CLICK LOGO===>>

09.00 GMT: NEWS FROM THE DELPHI CLUB, ROLLING HARBOUR SOUTH ABACO 

Caroline Stahala reports: “Now the clean up begins. We were very lucky but it will still be quite an extensive recovery process.  Even though the house seemed to have withstood the high winds and rain, many of the trees and other vegetation were not as fortunate. And as with most hurricanes, we are bound to see more loss of vegetation and defoliation over the next few weeks. But since you are running a natural history blog, I thought I would add a bird note to the story. So, I have mentioned the woodpeckers that have chicks in the house Sandy built. Well, these birds deserve to be recognized as parents of the year. During a Cat 3 hurricane, the parents were out looking for food for the chicks.  I am attaching a picture of the woodpecker dad waiting for an opportune time to fly out during the eye of the storm.  I am also attaching some hurricane pictures taken from a safe spot during the storm. I appreciate all of your thoughts and well wishes. Crazy experience to say the least.”

Here are her excellent photos (© Caroline Stahala – please credit her if you use them), followed by 3 of my own of them same views taken in March 2011

Delphi Club Abaco 25 Aug 2011 / Hurricane Irene: Looking south from the balcony

Delphi Club Abaco 25 Aug 2011 / Hurricane Irene: Looking south across the pool area

Delphi Club Abaco 25 Aug 2011 / Hurricane Irene: Looking north to the end of the bay

Delphi Club Abaco 25 Aug 2011 / Hurricane Irene: Looking south to the end of the bay

Delphi Club Abaco 25 Aug 2011 / Hurricane Irene: Father woodpecker stands guard over the chicks

The Palm Tree in photo 3 above, in less adverse weather

Delphi Club: the beach looking north (storm photo 3)

Delphi Club: looking south over the pool area (see storm photos 1,2 & 4)

HEADLINEGRABBER Marsh Harbour feature 27 Aug  CLICK===>>> HERE

 (CLICK LOGO LINK) a useful resource for updates. I have put the link the Sidebar Twitter section for those that may want to Retweet the link.

HURRICANE IRENE: ABACO NEWS UPDATE and 5* IMAGES AUG 28 from Delphi Club, Rolling Harbour


HURRICANE IRENE: ABACO NEWS UPDATE        AUGUST 28 [for news update Aug 29 CLICK==>HERE]

22.30 GMT: No additional Abaco news. Time to sign off unless I get any further info by email… until tomorrow. Meanwhile, good luck with the clear-up…

20.00 GMT: There’s a new short report on the DELPHI CLUB website, for those keeping an eye on Rolling Harbour rolling news… It basically cross-refers to this Post (which can be reached direct from the Delphi website) and the vivid images, adding: “In essence, all is well. But there will be lots of clearing up to do”. 

19.00 GMT: Not much to report, except that my impression is that communications are gradually being re-established on Abaco. I notice the Rocky Bay webcam on Elbow Cay is still down, but I doubt it’s a priority right now…I have sent out a few inquiries, and am waiting responses which I will post as and when. Meanwhile there is a new post from Conch Salad TV – a site many Abaconians will be familiar with – that includes video clips of Irene from last week   CLICK LOGO ===>>> 

14.00 GMT: The media focus has pretty much left the Bahamas in its wake, much like Irene itself. Very little online material that adds anything. However, Firefly Sunset Resort in Hope Town is posting regular updates on its Facebook page, including images of the aftermath of Irene.The message boards below may also help those seeking Elbow Cay information                                                          CLICK LOGO===>>

09.00 GMT: STOP PRESS NEWS FROM THE DELPHI CLUB, ROLLING HARBOUR SOUTH ABACO I have just heard from Caroline Stahala at Delphi, where some comms have now been restored. She has been on guard throughout. Those familiar with the day-job of this blog – Abaco wildlife – will know that she is a research scientist heading the project dedicated to the conservation of the Abaco Parrot. Put her name in the search box – or ‘Abaco Parrots’ –  and the relevant POSTS will come up. 

Caroline reports: “Now the clean up begins. We were very lucky but it will still be quite an extensive recovery process.  Even though the house seemed to have withstood the high winds and rain, many of the trees and other vegetation were not as fortunate. And as with most hurricanes, we are bound to see more loss of vegetation and defoliation over the next few weeks. But since you are running a natural history blog, I thought I would add a bird note to the story. So, I have mentioned the woodpeckers that have chicks in the house Sandy built. Well, these birds deserve to be recognized as parents of the year. During a Cat 3 hurricane, the parents were out looking for food for the chicks.  I am attaching a picture of the woodpecker dad waiting for an opportune time to fly out during the eye of the storm.  I am also attaching some hurricane pictures taken from a safe spot during the storm. I appreciate all of your thoughts and well wishes. Crazy experience to say the least.”

And here are the graphic pictures. There are very few images from Abaco online yet – no doubt because comms are down – so it’s worth pointing out that these are from a place over which the eye of the storm passed directly. I should add that these images are © Caroline Stahala – please credit her if you use them

Delphi Club Abaco 25 Aug 2011 / Hurricane Irene: Looking south from the balcony

Delphi Club Abaco 25 Aug 2011 / Hurricane Irene: Looking south across the pool area

Delphi Club Abaco 25 Aug 2011 / Hurricane Irene: Looking north to the end of the bay

Delphi Club Abaco 25 Aug 2011 / Hurricane Irene: Looking south to the end of the bay

Delphi Club Abaco 25 Aug 2011 / Hurricane Irene: Father woodpecker stands guard over the chicks

The Palm Tree in photo 3 above, in less adverse weather

Delphi Club: the beach looking north (storm photo 3)

Delphi Club: looking south over the pool area (see storm photos 1,2 & 4)

08.00 GMT: Hi on Sunday 25 Aug. I have had a quick look online to see what new information there may be… here are a couple of items to be going on with.

HEADLINEGRABBER has a Marsh Harbour-based feature posted yesterday 27 Aug at 12.18 pm LT CLICK===>>> HERE

 (CLICK LOGO LINK) looks a useful resource for updates from contributors, e.g. “At Marsh Harbour airport they had  minimal structural damage.” I have also put the link in a Tweet in the Sidebar Twitter section for those that may want to Retweet the link.

Finally for now, here is an image from the Australian Telegraph that vividly shows Irene’s track over the Bahamas