BIRDS OF THE WILD WEST END: GRAND BAHAMA GUEST POST
As the result of my keeping an eye on eBird reports for piping plover sightings for ABACO PIPL WATCH, I have strayed from Abaco from time to time to check out the bird life elsewhere in the Northern Bahamas. Healthy, seems to be the answer, with a busy migration season in progress and some unusual and exciting visitors.
On Grand Bahama, Linda Barry-Cooper, Director West End Ecology and Linda Bird Tours, has been kept busy, in particular at West End, the nearest point of the Bahamas to Florida (a mere 66 miles to West Palm Beach). So I asked if she would kindly write a guest post, to be illustrated with some of her recent photographs. To which, I’m pleased to say, she said ‘yes’. The first thing I learned from her is that West End is in fact the capital of Grand Bahama and the oldest settlement, and not Freeport as I, and I suspect many other people, have always assumed.
RESTORING BIRDS IN THE CAPITAL: WEST END, GRAND BAHAMA
Fall is captivating for Birders and Bird enthusiasts that visit West End, Grand Bahama Island this time of year. West End (also referred to as “Settlement Point” is the oldest town and westernmost settlement on the Bahamian island of Grand Bahama. It is the current capital of Grand Bahama and is also the third largest settlement in the Bahamas. There is one airport in West End, West End Airport, which serves mostly private aircraft. Since the 1950s, the settlement of West End has fluctuated with the rise and fall of the adjacent resort developments.
UPLAND & BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS
Birds just like people have to adapt to new and existing change in their environment. Unfortunately with the rise and fall of the Jack Tar Resort & Hotel and now the former Bobby Ginn land development project, the habitat for birds had been gravely impacted with the loss of many prominent trees that birds rely on as a primary food source.
CATTLE EGRETS & BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER
The way to restore settlements that have lost many of their native trees & palms due to developments is to plant new fruit-bearing trees and shrubs that birds love i.e. (seagrape, Cocoplum, fig trees, cherry, oleander, pink and gold poui, frangipani, coral trees, etc.) Hummingbirds especially love the Firecracker plant and are primarily attracted to red and yellow.
BLACK SKIMMER & BROWN NODDY
Within the local community and in backyards residents can aid birds this fall during migration with setting out bird feeders now filled with wild bird food supplied by Crosstown or Dolly Madison/Kelly’s. Residents can do well to attract birds right in their backyards by planting tropical flowers, bougainvillea, desert rose, Ixora flame of the woods, Hibiscus, Peregrina a.k.a. Star of Bethlehem.
PIED-BILLED GREBE & LESSER YELLOWLEGS
In 2015, West End is now considered the top birding Hot Spot in The Bahamas according to E-Bird Caribbean. Linda Barry-Cooper attributes this to her and her many peers and birding supporters to include her mentor and friend Erika Gates, Bruce Purdy, Bruce Hallett, Dr. Elwood Bracey as well as international birders recorded observations and field work in West End.
AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER & EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE
VESPER SPARROW & BELTED KINGFISHER
This fall, rare birds such as the Whimbrel, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Upland Sandpiper, Fish Crow, American Oystercatcher, and Eastern Wood Pewee have made landfall in West End. Keep Watching West End! There are more rarities to come. Our main goal however in the future is to increase the presence of our own endemic Bahamian species. These in particular are the birds that the world would want to see. Together, the future developers and community at large can take part in restoring the bird habitat that West End once embraced.
FISH CROW & BROWN PELICAN
Many thanks to Linda for her glimpse of the avian life on the western tip of Grand Bahama. It’s worth noting that some of these birds e.g. the fish crow, wood-pewee, and the 2 sandpipers are extremely rare on Abaco; and one, the vesper sparrow, is unrecorded for Abaco. Whimbrels are a good find on both islands – luckily this seems to be the year of the whimbrel.
Linda is welcoming visitors to West End who would love up close encounters with Birds, as well as photographing birds in their natural habitat. Photographers grab their super zoom lens and head on down to West End to explore the Cays and the vast eco-systems West End has to offer. Her website and tour pricing can be found at www.westendecologytours.com and on Facebook under Linda Bird Tours.
If you swam due west from West End you’d arrive in West Palm Beach…