Since the hurricane struck nearly 3 months ago, order is slowly being imposed on the chaos. Debris is being removed in vast quantities, building repairs are in progress, shops and some businesses are starting to open – and even (only last week) a bank.
Specific bird news from Abaco post-Dorian is sporadic, with people having plenty of other concerns at the moment and for some time yet. The wellbeing of the parrots has been checked during a scientific survey last month. There is infrequent but positive news of the shorebirds, especially of the piping plovers that are counted each winter season. There have been some reports of the warblers (of which there are an astonishing 38 species recorded for the Island and its cays).
As yet, I have seen no recent mentions at all in SocMed about the hummingbirds – the endemic Bahama Woodstar (#1 F; #2 M); and the Cuban Emerald (#3 F; #4 M). Are they around? Is anyone seeing them darting about like jinking bullets or feeding on flowers on the hover? I’m not on-island, so I’d be very pleased to know: are the hummers still humming?
Photos: Tara Lavallee (1); Bruce Hallett (2); Keith Salvesen / Rolling Harbour Abaco (3), (4)
‘OUTSTANDING BILLS’: THE WHITE IBIS ON ABACO AND BEYOND
The AMERICAN WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus) has a wide range in the Americas and is a familiar species in the southern United States, especially Florida. It is also found in the Caribbean. On Abaco they are quite rare, appearing sporadically as winter residents. Encountering one is definitely a ‘find’. I know of only one recent sighting when an ibis decided to spend some time on the lake at Treasure Cay Golf Course. Luckily Kasia was not concentrating too hard on her round of golf to the exclusion of all else – and had a camera with her.
The white ibis is more common on other Bahamas islands, for example New Providence (Nassau). Here are some photos taken there by Tony Hepburn and Woody Bracey. Others were taken in Florida.
This is the call of an Ibis in the Florida Wetlands (credit Xeno-Canto / Paul Marvin)
Juveniles have dark plumage that gradually grows out as they age and is replaced by white plumage
The ibis forages mainly by feel rather than sight, using the long curved beak to probe the bottom of shallow water for aquatic prey.
The white ibis is said to be a symbol for courage and optimism because they are supposedly the last birds to shelter from the onset of a hurricane, and the first to venture out as the storm passes. This is of course equally consistent with symbolising extreme foolhardiness… but let it pass.
FASCINATING FACTOIDS The white ibis / hurricane connection is nurtured by the University of Miami, of which the bird is the mascot. The sports teams are called the Hurricanes (or the ‘Canes for cheering purposes). Their endeavours are supported enthusiastically by none other than Sebastian the Ibis. “What does he look like?”, I hear you cry. This:
Sebastian makes a ‘U for University’ with his.. er… wingtips. He sports a natty Hurricanes hat and might easily be confused with Donald Duck’s less amiable-looking and more aggressive cousin
I had intended to digress further into the mysteries of the Sacred Ibis, symbol of the Ancient Egyptian God Thoth, the God of Learning and Wisdom who ranked with Isis and Osiris as A Top God. But in fact it’s quite a dull area, and 3 pictures and a nice bronze sculpture will give you the general idea.
The Sacred Ibis of Thoth, Met. Museum NYC
Credits: Kasia Reid, Woody Bracey, Tony Hepburn, Met, Wiki