BAHAMAS MARINE MAMMAL RESEARCH: 20/20 VISIONS


Sperm Whale Calf, Abaco Bahamas (BMMRO)

Neonate Sperm Whale Calf, Abaco Bahamas

BAHAMAS MARINE MAMMAL RESEARCH: 20/20 VISIONS

Change is in the air. And in the sea. Above, you will notice the brand new logo of the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation BMMRO based in Sandy point, Abaco. Several major Bahamas-wide projects are in progress or in preparation, and as we approach 2020, this is the perfect time for some marine mammal news, illustrated with great images from BMMRO research trips.

Bottlenose Dolphins, Abaco Bahamas (BMMRO)

Bottlenose Dolphins

BMMRO’s scientific research over many years is a prime reason why we all have the privilege of seeing the neonate sperm whale calf in the header image. It was photographed with its mother off South Abaco last Spring. Much-appreciated support of the essential research and conservation work of the organisation helps to ensure that the whales, dolphins and manatees in Bahamas waters are watched over, documented in minute detail (even their calls) and protected. The marine mammals of the Bahamas have a promising future looking ahead to 2020, and well beyond.

Blainville's Beaked Whale, Abaco Bahamas (BMMRO)

Blainville’s Beaked Whale and young calf

Humpback Whale, Bahamas (BMMRO)

Humpback Whale

ATLANTIC SPOTTED DOLPHINS

WEST INDIAN MANATEES – GINA and RANDY

West Indian Manatee, Bahamas - Gina (BMMRO)  West Indian Manatee, Bahamas - Randy (BMMRO)

All photographs and video footage: BMMRO

Sperm Whale tailing, Abaco Bahamas (BMMRO)

Sperm Whale Tailing, Bahamas

‘LIKE’ THE CLAPPERS: ON THE RAILS IN ABACO


Clapper Rail preening, Abaco Bahamas (Tom Sheley)

‘LIKE’ THE CLAPPERS: ON THE RAILS IN ABACO

CLAPPER RAILS Rallus crepitans are elusive birds of mangrove swamp and marsh, more frequently heard than seen. They tend to lurk around in foliage and are easy to overlook. They are creatures of the margins rather than open ground. You may come across one foraging secretively, beak-deep in the mud.

Clapper Rail stretching.Abaco Bahamas - Tom Sheley ("The Birds of Abaco" by Keith Salvesen, p80)

Tom Sheley’s wonderful photos featured here of a preening clapper rail were taken during our backcountry explorations to locate and photograph species for BIRDS OF ABACO.  By being  both patient and an early riser, Tom managed to capture this fine bird engaging in some quality grooming. The one below is ‘vocalising’ – known in rails as ‘rousing’ – in mid-preen.

Clapper Rail rousing.Abaco Bahamas.Tom Sheley

Clapper rails are capable of swimming and even of flying if they choose to. However the most likely activities you are likely to observe will be skulking,  picking their way through marginal  vegetation, or (if you are lucky) doing some beak-deep foraging in the mud. Occasionally they run, a process that looks endearingly comical and which possibly gives rise to their name. 

Clapper Rail running, Abaco Bahamas (Erik Gauger))

Clapper Rail running, Abaco Bahamas (Sandy Walker)

It almost goes without saying nowadays, but the biggest threat to these rather charming inoffensive birds is habitat loss. Which is to say, mankind either directly or indirectly. Drive the bulldozers through the mangroves and marshland of sub-tropical coastal areas, chuck down a few acres of concrete… and the clappers will very soon become clapped out. As they will if the climate we are unarguably changing ruins their unobtrusive lives.

COMPULSORY LINGUISTIC STUDY

When I last wrote about this species its binomial name was Rallus longirostris ie simply ‘long-beaked rail’. Since then the increasingly frenetic annual turmoil of official AOU shuffling species about and messing with their names has resulted in the clapper rail being re-designated Rallus crepitans or ‘rattling / rustling rail’, I assume from the call. There are other rail-name innovations that, reading about them just now, made me crack open a beer instead of wanting to tell you about them.

OPTIONAL LINGUISTIC DIVERSION

“TO RUN LIKE THE CLAPPERS”. This phrase seems to be fairly recent, most likely originating as military (?Air Force) slang early in WW2 or possibly from earlier conflicts. Some suggest it is a rhyming slang bowdlerisation of ‘run like hell’ with ‘clapper(s)’ standing for ‘bell’, along the lines of the Cockney “I bought a brand new whistle” (whistle and flute = suit). Almost all plausible explanations relate to bells, and some argue that it simply reflects the rapid speed of the clapper of a vigorously rung handbell. This derivation as a link to the bird seems tenuous at best.

Photo credits:Tom Sheley, Sandy Walker, Erik Gauger, University of Amsterdam (print).

Clapper Rail preening.Abaco Bahamas.3.12.Tom Sheley copy

BAHAMAS REEF LIFE (1): FRENCH ANGELFISH


French Angelfish, Grand Bahama (Melinda Riger/ G B Scuba)

BAHAMAS REEF LIFE (1): FRENCH ANGELFISH

The massive destruction and dislocation caused on both Abaco and Grand Bahama by Hurricane Dorian is well-documented. The regeneration of both islands is making unsteady progress towards a stability that still seems many months away. In many locations it is still ‘two steps forward, one step back’. It remains a moot point whether ‘normality’, as it was just over 2 months ago, will ever be quite the same again.

French Angelfish, Grand Bahama (Melinda Riger/ G B Scuba)

We know how things are on land. As far as Abaco is concerned, few people can say how the coral reefs have been affected by the massive storms. Boats that were not flung ashore were sunk instead. Marinas and their infrastructure all but disappeared. 

French Angelfish, Grand Bahama (Melinda Riger/ G B Scuba)

Dive Shops, like so many thriving businesses in MH, have been reduced to rubble by this cruellest of extreme tropical storms. For the time being at least, they are damaged beyond use. I have seen no reports about the conditions in – for example – Fowl Cays National Park, a coral and reef-life rich marine preserve that was directly in the hurricane’s path. It may be weeks before an assessment can be made.

French Angelfish juv, Grand Bahama (Melinda Riger/ G B Scuba)

Happily, Melinda and Fred Riger of Grand Bahama Scuba have very recently been able to reopen their business. Melinda is, as regular readers will know, a wonderful underwater photographer. She kindly gives me the freedom of her extensive photo archive, accumulated over many years. The focus today is on French angelfish on the reefs of Grand Bahama.

French Angelfish, Grand Bahama (Melinda Riger/ G B Scuba)

Many of the photos here have been taken during the last 3 weeks or so, as diving becomes more of a daily exercise and customers are able to return to explore the underwater world of the reefs. Adult French angelfish have handsomely decorated flanks and golden eye-rings. The small striped ones with blue flashes on their fins are juveniles.

French Angelfish, Grand Bahama (Melinda Riger/ G B Scuba)

There are three angelfish species in the northern Bahamas – Queen, Gray and French. I have chosen to feature French angelfish because as it happens the juveniles of the species found since Dorian by Melinda and Fred may provide some insight into the subsurface effects of this huge storm.

French Angelfish, Grand Bahama (Melinda Riger/ G B Scuba)

As is evident from Melinda’s recent photos, the reefs off the south coast of Grand Bahama are relatively unscathed. Corals that she and Fred planted after the last hurricane have ‘taken’ and remain in place. However the juvenile fish now being seen nosing around the reefs in quantity may tell a story of disruption elsewhere.

French Angelfish, Grand Bahama (Melinda Riger/ G B Scuba)

The juvenile angelfish – as with the young of many other species – tend to live in the relative safety of the mangroves as they grow towards adulthood and are ready to move to the reefs. However, the unusual numbers of juveniles seen in the open during recent weeks suggest that the storm-damage to mangrove swamps in shallower water has unexpectedly displaced the juveniles to the reefs. 

French Angelfish, Grand Bahama (Melinda Riger/ G B Scuba)

This theory seems to apply to juveniles of other species recently encountered. What can be said is that, if even if displaced, there are plenty of healthy juvenile as well as adult fish around. And the justifiable  fears of serious damage to the corals have not been borne out. It remains to be seen whether a similar situation exists in Abaco waters.

French Angelfish juv, Grand Bahama (Melinda Riger/ G B Scuba)

Credits: all fantastic photos, Melinda Riger / Dive Abaco. It’s great that you have been able to reopen the business and restart having been forced to suspend operations completely.

French Angelfish juv, Grand Bahama (Melinda Riger/ G B Scuba)

WTF? (WHAT’S THAT FISH?): THE FROGFISH


Frogfish (Adam Rees / Scuba Works)

The Astoundingly 5* Strange Frogfish (Adam Rees / Scuba Works)

WTF? (WHAT’S THAT FISH?)

A COMPENDIUM OF SUBSURFACE WEIRDNESS

A SERIES OF 15 OF THE STRANGEST SEA CREATURES IN BAHAMAS WATERS

INTRODUCTION

WTF? stands for ‘What’s That Fish’? But it might also be your exclamation when you come across one of these creatures. The WTF? series highlights some of the unusual, curious, weird and downright extraordinary fishes that inhabit the waters of the northern Bahamas. Some represent local forms of a species found elsewhere in the world; others are in their own evolutionary cul-de-sac. Just as I think I have seen it all, so another oddity crops up somewhere that demands inclusion. 

The WTF? series, put together over several years, is intended to be the most direct route to an underwater menagerie of piscine strangeness, with some great photos to whet your appetite to learn more about these fascinating denizens of the ocean. 

1. THE FROGFISH

* CLICK ON THIS TITLE TO BE TRANSPORTED TO THE STRANGE WORLD OF THE FROGFISH *

Frogfish (Adam Rees, Scuba Works)Credits are given in the individual articles. Thanks to all those that have provide the photos, without which this type of illustrated, unscientifically scientific poke around in the ocean depths would not be possible.

HIDDEN DEPTHS: LIFE ON ABACO’S CORAL REEFS


Reef Coral Abaco Bahamas (Melinda Rodgers / Dive Abaco)

HIDDEN DEPTHS: LIFE ON ABACO’S CORAL REEFS

Nearly 4 weeks after the devastation of Hurricane Dorian, the island and its cays are beginning to emerge gradually from the wreckage and the desolation. The extent of the disaster on the ground is clear, not least from the aerial photos – first drone, then plane, and now Google – of ‘before’ and ‘after’. 

Reef Coral Abaco Bahamas (Melinda Rodgers / Dive Abaco)Reef Coral Abaco Bahamas (Melinda Rodgers / Dive Abaco)

At the stage, it isn’t possible to determine the extent to which the underwater world has been affected. The storm surge was huge and the waves were savage. The progress of the storm was slow (and it went on to stall over equally damaged Grand Bahama). Who knows the effect on the corals and other reef life for which Abaco is renowned.

Reef Coral Abaco Bahamas (Melinda Rodgers / Dive Abaco) Reef Coral Abaco Bahamas (Melinda Rodgers / Dive Abaco)

This pictorial post is a reminder of how things were below the surface of Abaco waters before Dorian struck. If it lifts spirits to any degree, I shall be glad.

Reef Coral Abaco Bahamas (Melinda Rodgers / Dive Abaco) Reef Coral Abaco Bahamas (Melinda Rodgers / Dive Abaco)

All these photos are by Melinda Rodgers who, with Capt Keith, are DIVE ABACO. Many will know how badly they have fared, being in the heart of Marsh Harbour. We wish them a speedy return to the wonderful enterprise they have run for many years. I’m pleased to be able to show the beauty of the reefs in happier times from their archive.

Reef Coral Abaco Bahamas (Melinda Rodgers / Dive Abaco)Reef Coral Abaco Bahamas (Melinda Rodgers / Dive Abaco)

Credits: Melinda Rodgers /  Dive Abaco

Reef Coral Abaco Bahamas (Melinda Rodgers / Dive Abaco)

HURRICANE DORIAN ABACO RELIEF: DONATIONS, RESOURCES, INFO, RADIO, & LINKS


HURRICANE DORIAN ABACO RELIEF: DONATIONS, RESOURCES, INFO, RADIO, & LINKS

SEP 6 UPDATE Since my original post focussing mainly on the rapidly increasing numbers of donation sites and their links, the true extent of the Hurricane Dorian catastrophe on central Abaco and outlying cays is gradually becoming clearer. Reports of localised looting are coming in. The situation is truly desperate and no one reading this will be unaware of the unfolding tragedy. Our thoughts must be with the bereaved and the injured; the missing; their families and friends; the frightened evacuees; those that have lost their homes, possessions, livelihoods; the courageous local people and relief teams.

This is a time when information is valuable, in particular as to the resources available, the urgent needs of the island and its cays, and the ways in which outsiders can help with this dire situation and with funding the recovery. Here are a few suggestions that I hope will be useful, and which will be further updated as the need arises.

LOCAL INFORMATION RESOURCES

The main resources are local / community Facebook groups, or more general Abaco-wide groups. All of them contain local reports and updates, photos, videos and requests for news of family, friends & communities. Events and news are fast-moving, so if you find a group you like, keep checking for up-to-date news, requests for advice or help etc. Simply entering a settlement name in FB search may take you direct to a community group.

ABACO COMMUNITY UPDATE

ABACO BULLETIN GROUP

ABACO BAHAMAS – LIVING ON ISLAND TIME

HOPE TOWN BULLETIN

LITTLE HOUSE BY THE FERRY Amanda Diedrick’s oustanding blog has a wealth of info & advice

THE ABACONIAN  Website

THE ABACONIAN – FB page

TRIBUNE242 – Website (also links to FB, T etc)

Radio link selection given below

I’ll review and edit this page daily. I’ll look out for additional fundraisers, but please contact me with any others that you would like to see included, giving the link to it. You can do this by commenting here; via DM on my Rolling Harbour FB page; or email for those that have it.

ROLLING HARBOUR ABACO

NB I am not making personal recommendations here, except in the case of the Delphi Relief Fund and Caroline’s parrot fundraiser, where I have personal connections and concerns. Please check these pages for yourself before you decide to donate

SEP 6 CLICK LOGO FOR CAUTION NEEDED WHEN YOU CHOOSE YOUR DONATION FUND

RELIEF DONATION SITES

HEADKNOWLES An organization formed in 2015 by Bahamians Lia Head-Rigby and Gina Knowles to provide hurricane relief to the residents of the south and central Bahamas after the devastation of Hurricane Joaquin. Since then, Headknowles provided relief after Hurricanes Matthew and Irma.

You can find out more about the invaluable work of this organization via this link to Amanda Diedrick’s website LITTLE HOUSE BY THE FERRY You will also find there regularly updated information about the present crisis.

DONATIONS                HeadKnowles GO FUND ME page

UPDATES & INFO        Facebook group page

Bahamas Red CrossThe Bahamas branch of the International Red Cross is requesting help with its Dorian-relief program. Specifically, it’s looking for donations of nonperishable goods, water, toiletries, baby products, radios, batteries, candles, bedding, generators, and building supplies (NT)

DONATIONS               BAHAMAS RED CROSS

DONATIONS             ONE ELEUTHERA FOUNDATION

DONATIONS                PERC, Inc.

PERC, Inc. is a not-for-profit U.S. corporation created in 1998 to support the philanthropic work of charitable and community organizations in Abaco, Bahamas (specifically, Hope Town, Man O’ War and Marsh Harbour), and to enable U.S. tax payers make tax deductible contributions to their preferred Abaco charities.

RELIEF NEEDS

LAZY LOCATIONS Excellent list of Hurricane Dorian Relief Efforts including supplies-provision and similar aid in the Abacos, some of which are not yet listed below 

COLDWELL BANKER / LIGHTBOURNE on F/B: Helpful advice, donation links and relief needs (see end of post for list). Their main office on NP is open to accept donations of supplies. For US donors, here are 6 drop-off centres in the States

COMMUNITY& INDIVIDUAL FUNDRAISERS

(GoFundMe unless otherwise stated – PLEASE CHECK VALIDATION)

THE ABACO CLUB ON WINDING BAY

NEW YORK TIMES BAHAMAS RELIEF ADVICE / LINKS

==============================

THE DELPHI CLUB ABACO RELIEF FUND Fundraiser by Robert Ford & Club Members (& my own connection)

HURRICANE RELIEF FOR ELBOW CAY Fundraiser by Matt Winslow.

Please note that this fund, now exceeding $400K of a (raised) target of $500K will have a $ for $ fund match from a private foundation

HOPE TOWN VOLUNTEER FIRE & RESCUE HURRICANE RELIEF  Local Paypal funding

NB  Sep 6 NEW LINK

MESSAGE READS “response to our fundraising efforts has been overwhelming – literally! Your generosity has overtaxed our PayPal account and we are working to find more effective and efficient ways to collect donations. Please hold off on donations through PayPal at this time. We will be providing new funding mechanisms in the next few days. Thank you all for your generosity!!’

Errol Thurston Bahamas Abaco Hurricane Relief Fund  Fundraiser by Errol Thurston 

HOPE 4 HOPE TOWN – ABACO ISLANDS RELIEF FUND Fundraiser by Patrick Davis 

Abaco Strong Hurricane Relief Fund  Fundraiser by Dave Meldeau 

Abaco Parrot post Dorian Food Supplementation Fundraiser by Caroline Stahala 

For the Love of Abaco – Hurricane Relief Fundraiser by Lou Lentine 

Hurricane Dorian Relief Fund for Abaco Fundraiser by Al Lee

Dorian Relief Effort – Bahamas Abaco Islands TCCF Fundraiser by Omar Maissen 

Hurricane Dorian Relief Fund Abacos Fundraiser by Heidi Marie Hill 

MAINSTREAM INTERNATIONAL NGOs

DIRECT RELIEF  Hurricane Dorian Relief

SEP 5: “Luíz David Rodriguez, the programme manager for Direct Relief, an NGO, said the island’s main health clinic, near Marsh Harbour, was being overwhelmed with hundreds of people waiting to be treated”

 GlobalGiving Disaster Recovery Network Hurricane Dorian Relief Fund

RADIO GARDEN – highly recommended for online or as App – a simple world-wide resource. The link is set take you direct to Guardian Talk Radio. You’ll see other Bahamas stations listed. Every green dot represents a radio station. The globe rotates. You can pinpoint a chosen station anywhere in the world in seconds

ZNS BAHAMAS – varied news formats with rolling updates

ZNS RADIO – news and plenty of online links

TUNE IN BAHAMAS – Stream Radio – more than a dozen stations – App available

LIVE ONLINE BAHAMASStream Radio  – Lots of stations – can headline favourites

CAUTION FOR DONORS

  • Be on guard for a surge of solicitations related to any highly publicized crisis. There will be fraudulent charity solicitations, some involving websites and email links attempting to steal your credit card information for identity theft or insert malware on your computer.
  • Unknown Senders. Do not respond to, or click on any attachments, links or pictures included in, emails or text messages received from unknown senders.
  • Fake Victims. Social media will include many fake victims. Do not donate to unknown individuals purporting to need aid that post on Facebook, GoFundMe, etc. They may be fraudsters, and even if legitimate victims, they may receive an unfairly large amount of aid.
  • Scamming. Scammers may try to use copy-cat names similar to those of well-known charities. Avoid name confusion by independently verifying that the charity is legitimate before you donate. Reputable charities will not pressure you to give immediately.
  • Third-party ‘enablers’. Beware of individuals or others claiming to be third party intermediaries for charities or those in need.
  • Give directly only to the charities that you are confident are legitimate and recognized for providing humanitarian relief on a specific local and / or at international level

CREDITS

Amanda Diedrick / Little House by the Ferry for taking a big lead in collecting and spreading information and advice including the HeadKnowles information shown here

Matthew McCoy for additional suggestions

Sundry online posters of clips and snips

PHOTO CREDIT: Gerlinde Taurer – Bahama Yellowthroat (endemic to the Bahamas)

Elbow Reef Lighthouse still standing where Hurricane Dorian made landfall (NYT)

HURRICANE DORIAN: RELIEF CONTACTS & LINKS FOR ABACO BAHAMAS


American Flamingo ©Melissa Groo (with kind permission)

HURRICANE DORIAN: RELIEF CONTACTS & LINKS FOR ABACO BAHAMAS

The massive extent of the devastation caused by the unprecedented violence of Hurricane Dorian to the northern Bahamas is, after 2 days, still being revealed only gradually. Overall, the cruel effects of the storm could hardly be any worse. There’s no need to chronicle the horrendous details of the crisis in terms of the people, communities, property, infrastructure, fauna, flora and even geology. Right now, bad news accumulates by the hour. Many people are still unaccounted for. Information about some of the communities is scant.

This is a time when information is valuable, in particular as to the resources available, the urgent needs of the island and its cays, and the ways in which outsiders can help with this dire situation and with funding the recovery. Here are a few suggestions that I hope will be useful. 

LOCAL INFORMATION RESOURCES

The main resources are local / community Facebook groups, or more general Abaco-wide groups. All of them contain local reports and updates, photos, videos and requests for news of family, friends & communities. Events and news are fast-moving, so if you find a group you like, keep checking for up-to-date news, requests for advice or help etc

ABACO COMMUNITY UPDATE

ABACO BULLETIN GROUP

ABACO BAHAMAS – LIVING ON ISLAND TIME

(to be expanded)

I will be reviewing and editing this page daily. I’ll look out for additional fundraisers, but please contact me with any others that you would like to see included, giving the link to it. You can do this by commenting here; via DM on my Rolling Harbour FB page; or email for those that have it.

ROLLING HARBOUR ABACO

NB I am not making personal recommendations here, except in the case of the Delphi Relief Fund and Caroline’s parrot fundraiser, where I have personal connections and concerns. Please check these pages for yourself before you decide to donate

RELIEF DONATION SITES

HEADKNOWLES An organization formed in 2015 by Bahamians Lia Head-Rigby and Gina Knowles to provide hurricane relief to the residents of the south and central Bahamas after the devastation of Hurricane Joaquin. Since then, Headknowles provided relief after Hurricanes Matthew and Irma.

You can find out more about the invaluable work of this organization via this link to Amanda Diedrick’s website LITTLE HOUSE BY THE FERRY You will also find there regularly updated information about the present crisis.

DONATIONS               HeadKnowles GO FUND ME page

UPDATES & INFO        Facebook group page

Bahamas Red CrossThe Bahamas branch of the International Red Cross is requesting help with its Dorian-relief program. Specifically, it’s looking for donations of nonperishable goods, water, toiletries, baby products, radios, batteries, candles, bedding, generators, and building supplies (NT)

DONATIONS               BAHAMAS RED CROSS

DONATIONS               PERC, Inc.

PERC, Inc. is a not-for-profit U.S. corporation created in 1998 to support the philanthropic work of charitable and community organizations in Abaco, Bahamas (specifically, Hope Town, Man O’ War and Marsh Harbour), and to enable U.S. tax payers make tax deductible contributions to their preferred Abaco charities.

RELIEF NEEDS

LAZY LOCATIONS  Excellent list of Hurricane Dorian Relief Efforts including supplies-provision and similar aid in the Abacos, some of which are not yet listed below 

COMMUNITY& INDIVIDUAL FUNDRAISERS

(GoFundMe unless otherwise stated – PLEASE CHECK VALIDATION)

THE DELPHI CLUB ABACO RELIEF FUND Fundraiser by Robert Ford & Club Members (& my own connection)

HURRICANE RELIEF FOR ELBOW CAY Fundraiser by Matt Winslow 

HOPE TOWN VOLUNTEER FIRE & RESCUE HURRICANE RELIEF  Local Paypal funding

Errol Thurston Bahamas Abaco Hurricane Relief Fund  Fundraiser by Errol Thurston 

HOPE 4 HOPE TOWN – ABACO ISLANDS RELIEF FUND Fundraiser by Patrick Davis 

Abaco Strong Hurricane Relief Fund  Fundraiser by Dave Meldeau 

Abaco Parrot post Dorian Food Supplementation Fundraiser by Caroline Stahala 

For the Love of Abaco – Hurricane Relief Fundraiser by Lou Lentine 

Hurricane Dorian Relief Fund for Abaco Fundraiser by Al Lee

Dorian Relief Effort – Bahamas Abaco Islands TCCF Fundraiser by Omar Maissen 

Hurricane Dorian Relief Fund Abacos Fundraiser by Heidi Marie Hill 

OTHER WAYS TO GIVE

NB I know nothing specific about these more widely-based organisations – it’s up to you to check them out

 GlobalGiving’s Disaster Recovery Network Hurricane Dorian Relief Fund

DIRECT RELIEF  Hurricane Dorian Relief

CREDITS

Amanda Diedrick / Little House by the Ferry for taking a big lead in collecting and spreading information and advice including the HeadKnowles information shown here

Matthew McCoy for additional suggestions

PHOTO CREDIT  Melissa Groo, International Photographer with Bahamas ties. Thanks as always for use permission