BIRDS OF THE WILD WEST END: GRAND BAHAMA GUEST POST


Osprey, West End Grand Bahama (Linda Barry-Cooper)

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.

WHIMBRELWhimbrel, West End Grand Bahama (Linda Barry-Cooper)

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.

MERLINMerlin, West End Grand Bahama (Linda Barry-Cooper)

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                                                          Upland Sandpiper, West End Grand Bahama (Linda Barry-Cooper) Buff-breasted Sandpiper, West End Grand Bahama (Linda Barry-Cooper)

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                     Cattle Egrets, West End Grand Bahama (Linda Barry-Cooper) Black-bellied Plover, West End Grand Bahama (Linda Barry-Cooper)

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                                   Black Skimmer, West End Grand Bahama (Linda Barry-Cooper)  Brown Noddy, West End Grand Bahama (Linda Barry-Cooper)

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             Pied-billed Grebe, West End Grand Bahama (Linda Barry-Cooper) Greater Yellowlegs, West End Grand Bahama (Linda Barry-Cooper)

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        American Oystercatcher, West End Grand Bahama (Linda Barry-Cooper) Eastern Wood-Pewee, West End Grand Bahama (Linda Barry-Cooper)

         VESPER SPARROW & BELTED KINGFISHER                   Vesper Sparrow, Grand Bahama (Linda Barry-Cooper)- Belted Kingfisher 1Upland Sandpiper, West End Grand Bahama (Linda Barry-Cooper)

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.

PIPING PLOVERPiping Plover 1, West End Grand Bahama (Linda Barry-Cooper)

                                        FISH CROW & BROWN PELICAN                Fish Crow, West End Grand Bahama (Linda Barry-Cooper)    Brown Pelican, West End Grand Bahama (Linda Barry-Cooper)

AMERICAN KESTRELAmerican Kestrel, West End Grand Bahama (Linda Barry-Cooper)

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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…West End Map

ELEGANT COOT CABARETS (6,6,2,5 anag.): CATTLE EGRETS ON ABACO


“ELEGANT COOT CABARETS” (6,6,2,5 anag.): CATTLE EGRETS ON ABACO

The CATTLE EGRET Bubulcus ibis is a species of heron with an affinity with cattle and other grazing animals. It’s a two-way thing – they relieve a cow of its ticks and flies, and get a ready meal return. Their name is the latin for ‘herdsman’.

Originating in Africa, these birds have proved to be one of the most successful and resilient bird species at expanding their breeding populations around the globe.

Range map – yellow: breeding – green: year-round –  blue: non-breeding                     

The first sightings in North America were in 1941, then assumed to be escapees. Far from it. They flew in and multiplied. By 1953 they were breeding in Florida; in Canada in 1962; and in the Bahamas in the 1960s. Now they are everywhere – though (depending, like, how old you are) your grandparents might never have seen one… Here’s a helpful wiki-graphic 

Range expansion in the Americas

In the breeding season, cattle egrets develop pinkish-buff patches on their front, back and crown, and grow matching head-plumes

Recently we saw one at Sandy Point when photographing kestrels. It’s no longer in full breeding plumage, but traces of a pinkish tinge can still be seen.Cattle Egret Abaco 8The cattle egret’s eyes are positioned so that while they are feeding they have binocular vision. I’m not quite sure why that would be advantageous; you might think they’d prefer one eye on their food, and one on the look out for predatorsCattle Egret Sandy Point Abaco 12

When on the move the egrets may adopt a stooping, creeping stanceCattle Egret Abaco 7

These birds have capacious mouths, which enable them to vary their diet from small maggoty things to larger insects, then through snails to small frogs and the likeCattle Egret Abaco 5

Although the neck generally looks slim, they appear to have an expandable gullet which no doubt helps with larger food itemsCattle Egret Abaco 4

Now. Time to get back to the Crossword…Cattle Egret Abaco 2

BINOCULAR VISIONce_sp1Graphics, breeding plumage & header: redoubtable wiki; other images RH

ADDENDUM The redoubtable dou dou, creator of tiny and cute handmade bird models, has been inspired by these fine creatures to make a handsome pair. Check out her site with the link above… and you can even buy your very own cattle egrets there

cattle-egret-birds