TOTAL ECLIPSE ON MONDAY? 80% FOR ABACO!
and how to view it safely…
π Amanda Diedrick, companion Abaco blogger at Little House by the Ferry, GTC
RUDDY TURNSTONES ON ABACO: BEACH NOSHING
Some birds are named for the sounds they make (bobwhite, chuck-will’s-widow, pewee, killdeer). Some are named for their appearance (yellow-rumped warbler, painted bunting). And some are named for what they do (shearwater, sapsucker – but definitely NOT killdeer). The ruddy turnstone Arenaria interpres is in the last two of these categories: it looks ruddy and it literally turns stones to get at the goodies underneath.
And they don’t just turn stones to look for food. Someone with a lot of patience has defined 6 specific methods by which a turnstone forages for food:
- Turning stones by flicking them with its beak
- Digging using its beak to flick away sand or earth (see video below)
- Routing around in piles of seaweed to expose food under it
- Surface pecking with short, shallow pecks for food just below the surface
- Probing by simply sticking its beak deep into soft sand or ground
- Hammer-probing to crack open a shell and get at the occupant
In these photos taken on a rather gloomy day on the Delphi beach, a combination of mainly digging and routing is going on. Note the sandy beak of the RUTU below, right up to the hilt.
This short video shows how effective the RUTU method is. It was fascinating to watch the team work their way through and around the piles of weed on the beach, flicking sand vigorously in their quest for sandflies or whatever. Watch the sand fly! Pity it wasn’t a sunny day – the photos might have looked a bit more cheerful…
All photos Keith Salvesen
SEA GLASS TREASURES & TWO ISLAND CHICKS…
It’s time to shine the Rolling Harbour spotlight on sea glass, a neglected (by me) topic recently . Everyone loves it (don’t they?), and there’s always a bit of excitement in finding a pretty piece of cloudy glass gleaming in the sand on the beach. Just look at that colour. Might it be rare? How old could it be? Should I pick it up or leave it for someone else to enjoy?
Collecting sea glass is one of the pleasures of a walk on the beach. Or maybe it’s the motivation for the walk. For some, it is an opportunity to turn what the sea throws onto the beach into something decorative. Abaco is home to some excellent jewellery** makers who specialise in using locally found materials to make beautiful things. These sometimes incorporate a mix of sea glass, pebbles, and small shells.
In Hopetown on Elbow Cay, Hilary Thompson and Erika Feszt Russell do just that. Trading under the name ‘Two Island Chicks’, they use sea glass in many of their creations, some examples of which are displayed here. As you’ll see, they also apply their creativity to showing their jewellery attractively.
The collected glass has to be sorted into the various colours. Most are quite common (white, green, brown), some are uncommon (eg cobalt blue), and just a few that are very rare – and possibly valuable (red, orange) – see charts below.
The charts below give a general overview of the comparative rarity of various sea glass colours, their sources, and the chances of making a rare find. Of course, these are mainstream colours; there are many other in-between hues and shades.
BEACHCOMBING FOR SEA GLASS with Kasia
BOOKCOMBING: SEA GLASS BOOKS (4 books compared)
ABACO ARTS & CRAFTS (with drop-down menus)
** Yeah yeah, I hear you. Jewellery? How English is that? Please mentally substitute ‘jewelry’ throughout. Maybe the same for colour / color. This is a bi-lingual area.
Credits: Hilary and Erika for all the photos; as for the sea glass charts (1) West Coast Sea Glass 2006 (as found in a number of online sources); (2) Origin unknown (ditto re online sources)
EYES ON STALKS: CONCH WATCH ON ABACO
This is not so much about you looking at, and admiring (without salivating too much, I trust) conchs in their natural element. More about them watching you watching them – and focusing on their rather remarkable stalk-based eyes. Take a look at these examples of the ‘watcher in the shallows‘ (to misquote a well-known book title).
HALF A DOZEN CONCH EYE FACTS TO PONDER
- The eyestalks are attached to an extendable ‘snout’
- The two eyestalks (ommatophores) are retractable within the shell
- Their purpose is to provide a wider field of vision around the shell
- The eyes at the tip of each eyestalk have ‘proper’ lenses, pupils and irises
- Amazingly, amputated eyes normally regenerate completely
- The small projection below the eye is a ‘sensory tentacle’ or feeler
For a rather depressing view of the current state of conch populations, check out this recent article in the MIAMI HERALD. Not a great deal to be optimistic about…
CREDITS: All remarkable ‘conch watching’ photos by Melinda Riger / Grand Bahama Scuba – except for the wonderful header image by Charmaine Albury (contributor the The Birds of Abaco), taken on Man-o-War Cay; Cindy James Pinder for the heads-up for the Miami Herald article
ABACO (CUBAN) PARROTS: GETTING FRUITY
To be honest, the header image is not the sort of ‘fruity’ I had in mind, which was intended to have an entirely dietary connotation. I’m not quite sure what these two are up to – not procreation, I think, in that precarious situation. It looks non-aggressive… so maybe just having fun and… er… hanging out together.
Here are some Abaco parrots doing what they love to do in between group squawking sessions: gorge themselves on fruit, and getting at it any which way.
One in the beak, next one ready in the claw
All great parrot photos by Melissa Maura, with thanks as always for use permission
DOLPHINS DISPORTING IN THE BAHAMAS
‘Disporting’. Not a word I’ve used very often. Or possibly ever. It looks a bit like ‘unsporting’, which is emphatically what dolphins are not. Basically, it just describes what dolphins are doing when you see them on the surface: amusing themselves, frolicking around in the waves, and simply enjoying themselves.
True, they are probably keeping an eye out for food… But when you have a group sociably following alongside the boat your are in, moving in front, dropping behind, diving under, and generally playing around, it’s quite hard to believe that these are completely wild creatures. They seem to be performing just for you, simply because they want to. You don’t even have to throw fish at them to earn this free display.
As is well-known, the BAHAMAS MARINE MAMMAL RESEARCH ORGANISATION (BMMRO) is the custodian for the welfare of these beautiful creatures for the entire Bahamas. However, being based on Abaco and carrying out the majority of the research from the HQ at Sandy Point means that many of the great images that get taken are from Abaco waters. Indeed some are taken within swimming distance (not mine) of the shore.
The photographs featured here were taken during the last few weeks. Some are of the familiar bottlenose dolphins. The others – with speckled undersides clearly visible in the header image & below – are of Atlantic spotted dolphins. There’s even one of my own taken from the research vessel.
For the researchers, the most important part of an individual dolphin is its dorsal fin. Unique patterns of cuts and scars mean that each dolphin sighted can be logged and their profiles built up. Some have been found in the same area for many years. They are not usually given jocular names – ‘Davy Jones’, ‘Finny Phil’ or whatever. The first time we went out on the research vessel we were slightly surprised by the practical, scientific calls during a sighting of a dolphin group: “there’s B4 again” and “over there – D5 is back”. All said fondly however – many of the dolphins are old friends.
Notice how these 3 dolphins all have quite different fin profiles. The nearest one’s fin looks unblemished, but has a paler tip. Powerful binoculars and a serious camera can pick out small differences at a distance that the eye could not
Coming soon: Manatees & Man in the Bahamas
All photos (bar one by me) BMMRO, with thanks to Diane & Charlotte, and a tip of the hat to the current interns involved in the research projects (Hi, UK Thomas!)
CUBAN EMERALDS ON ABACO: JEWELS BEYOND PRICE
Well I don’t want to overstate it, but there cannot be anyone on the planet who has anything but love for hummingbirds. There’s no existing word for ‘fear of hummingbirds’ – ‘colibriphobia‘ is not a ‘thing’. There’s fear of almost everything else, from grass to clouds to plastic bags**… but, surely, not hummers. Here are a few to enjoy.
The females have a wonderful metallic sheen that makes them shimmer in the sunshine. Males are darker: a gorgeous, handsome green. The Emeralds are one of those bird species where it is hard to decide between the sexes which is the more beautiful…
All photos: Keith Salvesen / Rolling Harbour
** Plastybolsaphobia (nb despite the apparent Greek derivation of this word, the Ancient Greeks were strangers to the world of these handy carriers / vile polluters / dealing wildlife killers)