“THE BIRDS OF ABACO”: BOOKMAKERS (& GAMBLERS?)


Delphi Club Guide to the Birds of Abaco (Jacket)

“THE BIRDS OF ABACO”: BOOKMAKERS (& GAMBLERS?)

THE DELPHI CLUB GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF ABACO

163 SPECIES, 350+ PHOTOS, 30 PHOTOGRAPHERS, 272 PAGES

Black-necked Stilt, Abaco Bahamas (Alex Hughes)

Black-necked Stilt – Alex Hughes

THE POST DORIAN PLANS

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, until 1 September 2019 when Dorian struck, Abaco was a prime birding location in the Bahamas archipelago, an island chain that stretches from the lower reaches of the temperate zone to the more exotic sub-tropical region. The judgement for ‘best birding location’ is both objective and subjective, and the criteria are flexible. However on any view Abaco scores highly in all avian categories: resident species, endemics, migratory birds, speciality species, vulnerable species, and extreme rarities.

We’ll have to wait some time before it is possible to tell what effects the devastating storm has had on the wildlife of the island and on its birding credentials…

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher vocalizing. Abaco Bahamas (Tom Sheley)

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Tom Sheley

BOOKMAKING

The Delphi Club Guide to THE BIRDS OF ABACO was published in March 2014. To say “I wrote it” would be a gross distortion of the truth: it was an entirely collaborative project. The originator of the idea – as with the entire Delphi Club project (now in new & expert hands) – was Peter Mantle. The book showcases the work of 30 photographers, including some outstanding contributions by islanders. There was huge input from the very experienced project manager (= Mrs RH, then of YUP) and from the top Bahamas bird experts – Woody Bracey, Tony White, Bruce Hallett, and Tony Hepburn, to name but 4. So although my name is on the cover, it is as a participant representing the contributions, camera skills and brainpower of many people.

Cuban Emerald (f) Gilpin, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

Cuban Emerald (f) – Keith Salvesen

GAMBLERS?

The book project was something of a gamble. When planning began, social media – and the facility to reach a wide audience – was significantly less active than it was soon to become. The book was launched at Delphi to generous enthusiasm and support both on Abaco and beyond, but the extent of the interest (and sales) that might be generated more widely was unknown. We predicted it might be a slow-grower, so we were astonished by the immediate positive response to the guide. Perhaps it helped that there was a wider purpose to the book than as a photographic showcase for Abaco’s rich birdlife – we donated copies to all Abaco schools, colleges, libraries and local wildlife organisations for educational purposes. A significant percentage of the profits was set aside for local wildlife causes and duly distributed. 

Moving on just 5 years to this summer, the limited edition of 500 had all but sold out; and around 100 free copies had been donated – or deposited (as required by UK Law) in specified institutions: British Library; National Library of Scotland; National Library of Wales; Bodleian Library, Oxford; University Library, Cambridge; and Library of Trinity College, Dublin.

Brown Pelican, Abaco Bahamas (Tom Sheley)

Brown Pelican – Tom Sheley

PRESENT FOR THE FUTURE?

Six weeks after Dorian, a semblance of normality is returning to the stricken island. Daily snippets of optimism are of great significance: a lost pet found after many days; a trashed plant defiantly putting out a flower; a pair of parrots screeching past; a boat recovered; a building slightly less damaged than feared. Recovered possessions from flooded houses have brought mixed emotions – heart-rending losses of precious items, yet also the unexpected recovery of possessions believed lost or destroyed. And in that context but far less emotionally, I have now had quite a few requests for replacement copies of “Birds of Abaco”.

Short-billed Dowitcher, Abaco (Bruce Hallett)

Short-billed dowitchers – Bruce Hallett

SO, ARE THERE ANY REPLACEMENT BIRD BOOKS LEFT?

The position in a conch-shell is this:

  • There are now no copies still available on Abaco. Former HQ (and book storage / fulfilment facility) The Delphi Cub changed hands a year ago, and no longer carries a stock of the books. 
  • In the UK, Peter Mantle and I have about a dozen between us that are, in one way or another, ring-fenced.
  • That’s it, I’m afraid.
Bridled Tern, Abaco Bahamas (Bruce Hallett)

Bridled Tern – Bruce Hallett

ARE YOU PLANNING TO REPRINT?

For several reasons, no – it’s not a viable proposition. Specifically:

  • the size & print-costs of such a large heavy (2 kgs) book
  • the specialist printing (eg in Italy) needed to retain the quality; and the associated shipping costs
  • the lack of any viable storage and / or fulfilment facilities on Abaco, or anywhere else suitable
  • the lack of a prominent ornithologically-minded literary-leaning benefactor with a kind smile & deep pockets
Black-throated blue warbler (Gerlinde Taurer)

Black-throated blue warbler – Gerlinde Taurer

CAN I STILL GET THE BOOK IN SOME OTHER FORM?

Yes! I hope. We are kicking around the following ideas in a general and inchoate way:

  • first, avoiding any system requiring storage or fulfilment (so, not a physical reprint)
  • using existing production material to create a Print-on-Demand book
  • turning the guide into an eBook (may be difficult / impossible with non-standard format)
  • most likely producing a full PDF (or similar) version for download and possibly printing
  • selecting sections – eg the definitive checklist – as individual downloads
  • considering other suggestions!

At the moment this is in the basket marked ‘non-urgent’, but the alternatives will be under active consideration.

Clapper Rail Abaco Bahamas Tom Sheley

Clapper Rail – Tom Sheley

The original flyer for the book"Birds of Abaco" flyer

Painted Bunting male.Abaco Bahamas.Tom SheleyPainted Bunting Tom Sheley

Photos: Alex Hughes (1); Tom Sheley (2, 4, 9, 10); Keith Salvesen (3, 11); Bruce Hallett (5, 7); Gerlinde Taurer (8);  Charmaine Albury, para-breakers 

Cuban (Crescent-eyed) Pewee, Delphi, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)Cuban Pewee Keith Salvesen

ABACO PARROTS, SURVIVAL & RESEARCH: POST-DORIAN UPDATE


Abaco Parrot, Bahamas (Tom Sheley)

ABACO PARROTS: SURVIVAL & RESEARCH

A POST-DORIAN UPDATE

The unique and symbolic parrots of Abaco have become quite a focus of attention now that some kind of normality is returning to the devastated island. Utilities and supplies are being sorted out gradually (and with unavoidable setbacks). There are some signs of optimism in the air – and some parrots too.

Abaco Parrot, Bahamas (Erik Gauger)

SO, AFTER THE HURRICANE ARE THERE ANY PARROTS AROUND?

At Bahama Palm Shores, the most ‘parroty’ of all the communities in south Abaco, Tara Lavallee was the first to see – and photograph – a pair on Sep 25th, nearly 4 weeks after Dorian struck. Over the next 10 days, and thanks to Janene Roessler’s work, I compiled a record of reports and sightings and mapped them. There were 12 in all, from Crossing Rocks in the south to Winding Bay in the north (25 – 30 miles as the parrot flies). 

Abaco Parrot, Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian (Tara Lavallee)

THE FIRST POST-DORIAN PARROTS

ABACO PARROT SIGHTINGS MAP BETWEEN SEP 25 AND OCT 4

The interactive map works like this (in theory at least). You can expand the map using the cursor, double clicks, or 2 fingers until you have enlarged the target area sufficiently to click on the individual coloured parrots. For each one, the sighting details are given with as much information as was available. The colour key is this:

  • Maroon – First sighting 
  • Blue – sighting with some details (eg numbers)
  • Yellow – sighting with little detail
  • Purple – flocks of 10 +

Abaco Parrot, Bahamas (Craig Nash)

IS ANYONE LOOKING AFTER OUR PARROTS?

By the turn of the century the parrot population had become unsustainable, having fallen below 1000, and their extinction was imminent. Since then, many organisations (eg BNT) and people have been involved in the reversal of the decline through intensive anti-predation and conservation measures. All this work continues so that the future of the parrots is assured. The rough estimate pre-Dorian was of c4000 birds.

Abaco Parrots, Bahamas (Peter Mantle)

WHAT ABOUT NOW, AFTER THE STORM?

As I mentioned in a previous post, a survey team including Abaco’s former parrot scientist Caroline Stahala Walker (now with Audubon) were planning a trip to Abaco once access became possible. They have just arrived on-island, and will be assessing the effect of Dorian both on the wildlife and on the habitat. This will include the parrots, and other ‘signal’ birds too. I expect these will include the endemics, the speciality birds (eg the woodpeckers), and some shorebirds including (I hope) piping plovers. They will also bring feed and feeders and give advice about care of the birds.

Caroline wrote “I wanted to let everyone know we have a team going to Abaco for surveys and setting up feeders starting tomorrow. The logistics were tough enough to piece together but it certainly would not have happened without all of your help. I will post pictures and update after the trip, not sure what internet situation will be like while there. Thanks everyone! You made this happen.”

CAROLINE’S GO FUND ME PAGE: CLICK THE LOGO

Abaco Parrot, Bahamas (Tom Sheley)

Some years ago Caroline and I put together a tiny booklet about the parrots, mainly for the benefit of guests and visitors at the Delphi Club. We asked for $5 – 10 donations for the birds. There were 2 editions. Later, I turned it into an ‘moving booklet’ with added music (that you can turn off!). Some people may have seen this elsewhere online recently. The middle section on the parrot nests in the National park, the chick-care, and the associated breeding research may be of particular interest. The pics are cute!

Thanks to all who contacted me to say there was an issue with the version of this booklet originally posted – a ‘privacy settings’ problem, as it turned out. I’ve exchanged it for a different format version, which is also a bit clearer… 

Credits: Tom Sheley (1, 6); Erik Gauger (2); Tara Lavallee (3); Craig Nash (4); Peter Mantle (5, 7)

Thanks to Tara, Janene and Caroline

Abaco Parrots Bahamas (Peter Mantle)

STICKING TOGETHER: BIRDS OF A FEATHER ON ABACO


Smooth-billed Ani Pair, Abaco Bahamas (Gerlinde Taurer / Birds of Abaco)

Smooth-billed Anis, Abaco – Gerlinde Taurer

STICKING TOGETHER: BIRDS OF A FEATHER

In times of trouble, of grief and of despair, humans have an instinct to rally round for the greater good. Right now, I am very conscious that on Abaco – and indeed Grand Bahama – there is little or no time or mental space for overmuch concern about the wildlife. I am safely distanced from the tragedies and dire misfortunes of the countless individuals, families and communities affected by Hurricane Dorian. In this post I simply offer some images of birds – all photographed on Abaco – that are bonded together as adults or adult and chick, as symbolic of the huge combined human efforts on Abaco to comfort, restore, and rebuild a shattered island.

Northern Bobwhite pair, Abaco Bahamas (Tom Sheley)

Northern Bobwhites, Abaco backcountry – Tom Sheley

Piping Plovers, Delphi Beach, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen / Rolling Harbour)

Piping Plover, Delphi Beach Abaco – Keith Salvesen

Abaco (Bahama) Parrots, Bahamas - Peter Mantle

Abaco Parrots – Peter Mantle

Neotropic Cormorants, Treasure Cay, Abaco Bahamas - Bruce Hallett

Neotropic Cormorants, Treasure Cay, Abaco – Bruce Hallett

Common Gallinule Adult & Chick, Abaco Bahamas - Tom Sheley

Common Gallinule adult & chick, Abaco – Tom Sheley

Wilson's Plover adult & chick, Abaco Bahamas - Sandy Walker

Wilson’s Plover adult & chick, Abaco Bahamas – Sandy Walker

American Oystercatcher pair, Abaco Bahamas - Tom Sheley

American Oystercatchers, Abaco Bahamas – Tom Sheley

CREDITS: Gerlinde Taurer (1); Tom Sheley (2, 6, 8); Keith Salvesen (3, 8); Peter Mantle (4); Bruce Hallett (5); Sandy Walker (7)

Sanderlings, Delphi Beach, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen / Rolling Harbour)

Sanderlings, Delphi Beach, Abaco Bahamas – Keith Salvesen

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

ABACO’S RARE PIPING PLOVERS: CITIZEN SCIENTISTS WANTED FOR YEAR 5


Piping plover adult & chick (Conserve Wildlife Foundation NJ / birdsbyKim)

ABACO’S RARE PIPING PLOVERS: CITIZEN SCIENTISTS WANTED FOR YEAR 5

  • BE A BEACH MONITOR IN THE CAUSE OF RESEARCH AND CONSERVATION OF A TINY RARE BIRD THAT CHOOSES ABACO FOR ITS WINTER HOME
  • NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY; MINIMAL EQUIPMENT (pen, paper, binox & a ‘normal’ camera)
  • ABILITY TO COUNT TINY BIRDS IN (USUALLY) SMALL NUMBERS AN ADVANTAGE
  • SIMPLE AS TAKING A NATURE WALK ON YOUR FAVOURITE BEACH (but sorry, not with a dog)
  • COMMITMENT UP TO YOU – ONCE A WEEK, ONCE A MONTH, JUST THE ONCE
  • EVERY SIGHTING IS LOGGED – BANDED BIRDS ARE TRACKED BACK TO THEIR ORIGINS
  • EVERY BIRD IS A STAT THAT ADDS TO THE OVERALL PICTURE FOR RESEARCHERS
  • THE BIRDS MAY BE FOUND ON THE MAINLAND AND THE CAYS – EVEN THE MARLS
  • WE WORK IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE SCIENTISTS  IN THE BREEDING GROUNDS
  • ABACO IS THE ONLY BAHAMAS ISLAND WITH AN ANNUAL WINTER-LONG WATCH

At the end of July – my guess is the 28th, on past form – the first piping plover of the winter season will be resighted on Abaco. It will weigh less than 2oz, and will have travelled at least 1000 miles (direct route). In practice it will be much further, because the journey will be broken by coastal stopovers en route.

‘SQUID’ from the Holgate Unit of the Edwin B Forsythe NWR, NJ, overwintering on Abaco (year 2)Piping Plover Squid from NJ - on Abaco Bahamas (Keith Kemp)

My bet is that the first bird will touch down in the Cherokee Sound area. There’s a fair chance it will be called ‘Squid’  from New Jersey (for the 3rd year) or ‘Black Flag 2J’ from Prince Edward Island, Canada (for the 2nd year). At once, ABACO PIPING PLOVER WATCH will switch from summer indolence to red alert and piping hot… for the next 7 months. The last winter visitor will leave on ± March 15 2020 to return to its breeding grounds in the North (specific parts of northern US / Canada).

Piping Plover on Man-o-War Cay, Abaco Bahamas (Charmaine Albury)Piping Plover on Abaco Bahamas (Charmaine Albury)

HOW ON EARTH CAN YOU PREDICT THIS?

Since the 2015-16 season, we have been monitoring Abaco’s beaches, shorelines, and flats (there are specific locations that are preferred by the birds) throughout the winter season. Each year adds to the data from previous years and as the annual information is analysed, the knowledge of the behaviours of this little plover significantly increases.

‘TUNA’ – a legendary regular from past years (Rhonda Pearce)Piping Plover on Abaco Bahamas (Rhonda Pearce)

Over 4 years, distinctive patterns have emerged.

  1. Firstly, the plover numbers each season are fairly constant.
  2. Next, we have found that a number of birds return the following winter. Some are repeat returners – the current record is held by Bahama Mama from Lake Michigan, with 5 annual visits to the very same beach.
  3. Then, we have established that many of the banded birds are (a) resighted along the US coastline where they take a stopover during migration and (b) return to exactly the same beach where they were born.
  4. Often, we can find out when they hatched, fledged and left the beach – and even the person who did the banding.
  5. Finally, the number of banded birds – especially Canadian ones – is on the rise. This in part reflects an increase in summer chicks banding – but the fact is, we can show that they are turning up on Abaco, and returners usually turn up either on the same shoreline (or very close to it) as the previous year.

Piping Plover on Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

WOULD IT MATTER IF APPW DIDN’T EXIST?

In one sense no, because the birds would still undertake their Fall and Spring migrations, even if no one took any notice. But then, of course, no one would have any idea where the plovers might be for 6 – 8 months of the year. What the Watch can do, in conjunction with our partners in the breeding grounds, is to complete the annual migration circle and provide the specific details that help research and conservation of this rare little bird (world population around 8000). Furthermore, the Watch results provide continuing evidence that Abaco and its Cays provide a safe and suitable overwintering habitat for the birds. 

SQUIDS KIDS – THE MIGRATION CIRCLE COMPLETED

KEITH, CHEROKEE & ABACOPiping Plover 'Keith' - CWFNJ    Piping Plover 'Cherokee' - CWFNJ Piping Plover 'Abaco' CWFNJ

These 3 little chicks are this summer’s hatchlings (in June) of parents Squid (see above) and ‘Sophia’. This is on the very same beach where Squid was born and banded in July 2017. Sometime this Fall, we hope that Squid will return for a 3rd year in Cherokee Sound. And we hope just as much that one or maybe all his chicks will arrive on Abaco too. We’ll certainly know if they do – we already know their band combinations! They each have an Abaco-related name – maybe that will encourage them too.

Piping plover on the beach at Delphi (Peter Mantle)Piping Plover on Abaco Bahamas (Peter Mantle)

WHAT SORT OF PEOPLE CAN BE BEACH MONITORS?

Anyone at all. No experience is needed. You’ll be given all the info you need about the birds you’ll be looking for, and it may be possible to go out with a monitor to see what it’s like. Even a blank report is useful to have, to indicate where the plovers are not… And there’s no such thing as a mistake – the system allows for occasional miscounts, for example. Below is a summary of the last season, from which you can see the kind of data that is accumulated. 

You’ll see that there were 17 beach monitors of whom most were local Abaconians or regular second-homers. You probably know some or all of them! A few were visitors from US and UK. The 2 pro monitors were from our partners Conserve Wildlife Foundation NJ, and Audubon Caribbean. Keith Kemp is the wonderful and hard-working lead monitor and very regularly visits the hotspot shorelines. Other people made quite frequent reports, some about once a month, and several made fewer than 5. Each one added to the overall picture.

Piping Plover chick on LBI (Northside Jim Verhagen)

 

If you would like to become involved, even on the most casual basis, please do get in touch. Ditto if you’d like to know a bit more about it. If you decide not to go ahead – or once started, to stop – that’s all fine. It’s basically up to you whether you want to turn a beach walk into a bit of research (though as I mentioned above, it’s not a thing that can be done with a dog, for obvious reasons). Take a friend – or even a spouse. A single sighting might reveal a hitherto unknown location or a new banded bird – it happens every year. It’s Citizen Science in action!

Please email me at rolllingharbour.delphi [@] gmail.com or contact me via FB. Or just comment on this post!

A flock of piping plovers (with a few birds that aren’t), Cherokee Flats (Lucy & mark Davies)Piping Plover Flock, Cherokee Sound, Abaco Bahamas (Lucy & Mark Davies)

Credits: CWFNJ / Kim; Keith Kemp; Charmaine Albury; Rhonda Pearce; Keith Salvesen; CWFNJ / Michelle Stantial x 3; Peter Mantle; ‘Northside’ Jim Verhagen x 2, LBI; Lucy & Mark Davies

I’m on Long Beach Island right now – hope to meet you on Abaco in the Fall (Northside Jim)
Piping Plover chick on LBI (Northside Jim Verhagen)

BABY SPERM WHALE IN BAHAMAS WATERS: AMAZING FOOTAGE


Sperm Whale baby (neonate) Abaco Bahamas (Charlotte Dunn / BMMRO)

BABY SPERM WHALE IN BAHAMAS WATERS: AMAZING FOOTAGE

Over several years I have had the privilege of being able to feature wonderful photographs and video footage in this blog. Birds, course, and also reef fish, sharks, seahorses, coral and anemones and a whole lot more. I have also been involved throughout with the wonderful work of the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation (BMMRO), and have been a part of team since 2017. Abaco is lucky enough to have the HQ at Sandy Point, but we must keep in mind that the organisation’s remit extends throughout the entire Bahamas archipelago, and has firm links with research and conservation organisations on the other islands.

Sperm Whale baby (neonate) Abaco Bahamas (Charlotte Dunn / BMMRO)

The clear turquoise waters around the islands and their cays are well-known to, and appreciated by, all. This is the playground of the smaller marine mammals – the dolphins, smaller whales and the (now a significant presence) manatees.

   

Less well known are the denizens of the deeper waters and the immense depths of the GREAT BAHAMA CANYON of the northern Bahamas. This is the realm of the large marine animals, from the mysterious speciality beaked whales right up to massive sperm whales. 

Sperm Whale baby (neonate) Abaco Bahamas (Charlotte Dunn / BMMRO)

About 3 weeks ago, the BMMRO research team encountered something truly wondrous off the south Abaco coastline – something to quicken the pulse and gladden the heart – a newborn sperm whale investigating the underwater world it has just been born into. Hopefully it will flourish and live for decades. The hope is sadly tempered by the overwhelming – and increasing – evidence of the terrible effect that humans have caused in just one generation by the pollution of air, land and sea. 

Charlotte Dunn posted the footage of 2 separate sightings. Her first caption reads:

“Close encounter with a curious newborn (‘neonate’) sperm whale yesterday – reminding us of the importance of our Shared Waters project about the effects of ship traffic on resident sperm whales, http://www.bahamaswhales.org/research.aspx. The young individuals like this one will be the most impacted if we don’t make serious conservation changes. As this young whale matures, the policy changes we make in the Bahamas now will affect its survival”.

“While their mothers are feeding at depth (knocking sound in the background) this newborn is being cared for by a slightly older calf until the adults return.”

After the second encounter, Charlotte wrote: “Here’s another amazing short clip of the neonate sperm whale we videoed off south Abaco two weeks ago – thank you to the BEP Foundation and the Devereux Ocean Foundation for funding some of our important work with sperm whales in the Bahamas”.

Sperm Whale baby (neonate) Abaco Bahamas (Charlotte Dunn / BMMRO)

On Charlotte’s conservation points above, over the last 3 months or so I have been checking daily for posts and articles specifically related to stranded, dead, and killed whales, and their stomach contents as revealed by necropsies. I have collected images from around the world. I won’t wreck this marvellous find in Abaco waters by including any of these. This casual research reveals a horrifying attrition rate for marine mammals. Most animals were full of plastics, from micro through flip-flops all the way up to very large chunks. Some of this junk clearly was the actual cause of death rather than a contributing factor. A whale may take several weeks to die in this way. All of it is entirely the responsibility of mankind – and pretty much caused in the last 50 years.

So let’s enjoy this little sperm whale, and hope it grows to an adulthood that will have seen a radical change for the better in its birth environment – the one that should never have been considered ours to destroy.

Sperm Whale baby (neonate) Abaco Bahamas (Charlotte Dunn / BMMRO)

CREDITS: Brilliant close-up footage plus the clips I have taken from it – Charlotte Dunn / Diane Claridge / BMMRO.  

DONATE: If you are touched by the magic of this little Bahamas sperm whale, may I invite you to consider making a donation to BMMRO for its research and conservation work – a scientific commitment that reaches far beyond the waters of the Bahamas. The system is set up to process donations from just $10 upwards, and every cent is used to further the work of BMMRO. Please click the logo below to reach the right page directly.

Sperm Whale baby (neonate) Abaco Bahamas (Charlotte Dunn / BMMRO)

Baby sperm whale off south Abaco, Bahamas ©BMMRO