LEAST (BUT NOT LAST) SANDPIPERS ON ABACO


Least Sandpiper, Delphi Beach, Abaco (Charles Skinner)

LEAST (BUT NOT LAST) SANDPIPERS ON ABACO

There are 23 sandpiper species recorded for Abaco. Of those, 4 or 5 are vanishingly rare vagrants recorded once or twice in recent history (i.e. since about 1950).

Discounting those, the ones you are likely to encounter range from the large  (whimbrel, yellowlegs, dowitchers, stilts) to the small. Or, in the case of the least sandpiper, the least big of all. They are bigly little. Least Sandpiper, Delphi Beach, Abaco (Charles Skinner)

The binomial name of the least sandpiper – Calidris minutilla – is an apt clue to their size, the second part being Latin for “very small”. On Abaco, they are fairly common winter visitors, and each season a handful of them make their home on the beach at Delphi, where these photos were taken. Least Sandpiper, Delphi Beach, Abaco (Charles Skinner)

Along with their small sandpiper compadres such as SANDERLING, these busy, bustling birds of the shoreline are the ones known as “peeps” (also as stints). Least Sandpiper, Delphi Beach, Abaco (Charles Skinner)

Least Sandpipers breed in the northern tundra areas of North America. Like many or most shorebirds, newly hatched chicks are able to fend for themselves very quickly. It sounds unlikely I know, but within a couple of weeks or so they have fledged. Least Sandpiper, Delphi Beach, Abaco (Charles Skinner)

The birds forage on mudflats, in the tideline on beaches, and in wrack. They will probe into soft sand, sometimes the full length of their beak. They will even burrow right under weed to get at the concealed goodies. Their diet consists mainly of small crustaceans, insects, and snails.Least Sandpiper, Delphi Beach, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

Credits: All photos by Charles Skinner (contributor to “The Birds of Abaco”) except the wrack-burrowers above, by Keith Salvesen (also on the Delphi Beach).

Least Sandpiper, Delphi Beach, Abaco (Charles Skinner)

HURRICANE IRMA AFTERMATH: ABACO’S SIDESWIPE(S)


Hurricane Irma, Abaco

HURRICANE IRMA HITS CHEROKEE, ABACO, BAHAMAS

HURRICANE IRMA AFTERMATH: ABACO’S SIDESWIPE(S)

Hurricane Irma barrels on northwards as Florida begins to count the cost.  Abaco has had its turn to experience the awesome power of this brute of a storm. Or make that turns (plural) because such a massive storm 400 miles across, spiralling longs strands of filthy weather outwards with centrifugal menace, can strike more than once as the main storm passes further off.

Hurricane Irma, Abaco

Thanks to the relatively late shift of the storm’s path to the west, there was no direct hit on Abaco (as was once forecast). High winds and heavy seas, but none of the cruel devastation elsewhere that we have all been watching and reading about with horror and sympathy for the victims.

Seaweed covering the beach at Casuarina, AbacoHurricane Irma, Abaco

By Saturday evening, relieved messages were already being posted. Later, an official statement confirmed limited harm and damage. The airport was reopened. Albury’s Ferries announced the forthcoming resumption of services. Gradually, the overall picture took shape as more reports and messages came in from the mainland and the cays.

Tahiti Beach, Elbow Cay, Abaco

At Delphi, Jason confirmed that the worst of the storm passed quite quickly and that there was no structural damage, though doubtless the gardens have taken a beating – a minuscule inconvenience comparatively.

Hurricane Irma, Abaco    Hurricane Irma, AbacoHurricane Irma, Abaco

By yesterday morning, the only area I hadn’t seen anything about was the west side of Abaco – Sandy Point. Might things have been different -perhaps worse –  on the west coast? Then I heard from BMMRO HQ that the situation was much as elsewhere. The whales and dolphins of the Bahamas will continue be researched when the boat can put out to sea…

Atlantic Spotted Dolphins seen off Abaco before Irma came alongAtlantic Spotted Dolphins, Abaco, Bahamas (BMMRO)

Like the aftershocks of an earthquake, bouts of high winds and huge gusts have continued to pass over; and in places the sea has been sucked out from the beaches. There have been outages of course (not a novel experience even in calm times); and I’ve seen reports of interruption with water supplies. But I think it can be said that Abaco has escaped quite lightly – and certainly in comparison with the terrible devastation elsewhere.

Roof tiles have been lost, but there seems to have been limited structural damage. Trees have been trashed of course, and there has been plenty of beach erosion. Many beaches have been smothered in seaweed. But all-in-all, Abaco has fared alright, which is not to say that people’s thoughts have been absent from those who have taken the hit and borne the brunt of Irma’s rage.

Bahama Palm Shores, Abaco

The Low Place, Man-o-War Cay

WHAT ABOUT HURRICANE JOSE?

The tracking for this pursuer of Irma has appeared to show the storm going round in circles in mid-Atlantic. Until quite recently. This morning’s prediction shows a determined move to the west towards the end of the week. One to keep a very close eye on still.

WHAT ARE THE VIEWS FROM SPACE RIGHT NOW?

NASA-NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite: night-time view of Irma over Florida

NASA / GOES East satellite: daytime view of the storm moving north over Florida

Credits: Karen Eldon (1); Olivia Patterson Maura (2, 9, 10); Andrea Janeen Sands Albury (3); Abaco Buzz (4); Jason Prangnall (5, 6); Dive Abaco (7); BMMRO (8); Beth Nace (11, 12, 13); Charmaine Albury (14); Wunderground for the Jose Tracker; NASA / NOAA / GOES for the space shots 

DOUBLE DELPHI: TWICE THE CRAIC, TWICE THE KALIK


Double Delphi by Peter Mantle

DOUBLE DELPHI: TWICE THE CRAIC, TWICE THE KALIK

For some years those who know Peter Mantle have been willing him to write about his two very different Delphis: East (Co. Mayo Ireland) and West (Abaco, Bahamas). It is often said that ‘everyone has a book in them’, but most are without lively and engaging material to work with, or a talent for writing in the first place.  Peter has plenty of these assets: great stories to tell and the writing skills to bring them alive. I’m not being paid for a creepy encomium, but I’ve read ‘Double Delphi’ in its various iterations during the winding road to publication (it has been a prominent feature at Rolling Harbour Towers during production). It’s exactly what we all hoped for!

Double Delphi by Peter Mantle

I don’t want to issue ‘spoiler alerts’, and I’m not proposing to provide a cheery synopsis of Peter’s book. For all those who have loved Delphi Lodge in Ireland; for all those who have loved the Caribbean twist to the Delphi experience on Abaco; for all those who love fishing; and for all those who have admired Peter for his astonishing creation of two fabulous fishing establishments over 35 years – this book is for you. Sandy Leventon, well-known former editor of the indispensable Trout & Salmon Magazine has read the book: his views are on the back cover.

Double Delphi by Peter Mantle

Double Delphi contains plenty of incident. There are fishy tales of course; some people great and good; some perhaps less so; a gold rush; legal drama; financial drama; conflict and personality ‘mis-alignments’; and in amongst it all, hard work, success, craic and good times as Peter bestrides the Atlantic with his ambitious twin piscine projects. There seems to be a lot of whiskey along the way, too.

DELPHI LODGE IN 2011, RESTORED TO ITS FORMER GRANDEURDelphi Lodge, Co. Mayo, Ireland (Keith Salvesen)

Many readers will head straight to the index at the back of the book, looking eagerly to see if their own roles in the Delphi sagas have been recorded. They will be disappointed: there isn’t an index! But the chapter headings are promising, and include Of Lice & Men; Princes & Papers; Stars & Gripes; and Bahamian Rhapsody. And there are two sections with plenty of photographs (many historic) to enjoy – two examples shown below.

DELPHI (WEST) ON ABACO – ‘SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE’Delphi Club, Abaco, Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

PM’S FIRST DELPHI SALMON 1986

Double Delphi is imminently to be launched, and can easily be bought right now by clicking this linkhttps://wallopbooks.com/order-form/  (there’s some more blurb there too).

A YOUTHFUL PETER CONTEMPLATES THE FUTURE

All photos: KS / Rolling Harbour except B&W x 2 from the book

CLAPPER RAILS ON ABACO: A SMALL SHOWCASE


Clapper Rail, Abaco, Bahamas (Tom Sheley / Birds of Abaco)

CLAPPER RAILS ON ABACO: A SMALL SHOWCASE

Just over 3 years ago, THE BIRDS OF ABACO was published and launched at the Delphi Club. The book was intended to showcase the wonderful and varied bird life on Abaco – home to endemics, permanent residents, seasonal residents, and a wide variety of migrating transients. The book has been most generously received and supported – though I have to report that already its definitive checklist (dating from 1950) has become outdated with the recording of 6 additional species on Abaco, featured elsewhere in this blog.

Clapper Rail, Abaco, Bahamas (Tom Sheley / Birds of Abaco)

Tom Sheley was one of the main photographic contributors to the book, and I had the good fortune to coincide with one of his trips to Abaco, when he was armed with significant photographic weaponry; and to accompany him on some of his photographic day trips (not including the early morning ones, in my case). This clapper rail is one of my favourites of his photo sequences of a bird being a bird – preening, stretching, calling – in its own habitat.

Clapper Rail, Abaco, Bahamas (Tom Sheley / Birds of Abaco)

My one regret about my involvement  in producing the book (it took 16 months) and more generally in the wildlife of Abaco is that I have entirely failed to progress to sophisticated (expensive) photographic equipment capable of producing images the quality of Tom’s. Yes, I’ve moved on from compacts (ha!) to bridge cameras (Panasonic Lumix + lens extender), and some results ‘make the cut’. But my move up to a Canon SLR was mainly disastrous, and when eventually I inadvertently drowned it (I overbalanced while photographing shorebirds from breaking waves. Total immersion. Total stupidity.) I felt an unexpected sense of relief. A blessing really – I never understood it, nor in my heart of hearts (if I’m honest) really wanted to… But my feeble struggle made me realise and appreciate the enormous skill of those like Tom who take ‘National Geographic’ quality photographs. It’s not just the equipment – it’s knowing exactly how to use it, and often in a split second…

Clapper Rail, Abaco, Bahamas (Tom Sheley / Birds of Abaco)

Photos by Tom Sheley – with thanks for the adventures

RUDDY TURNSTONES ON ABACO: BEACH NOSHING


Ruddy Turnstones, Delphi Beach Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

RUDDY TURNSTONES ON ABACO: BEACH NOSHING

Some birds are named for the sounds they make (bobwhite, chuck-will’s-widow, pewee, killdeer). Some are named for their appearance (yellow-rumped warbler, painted bunting). And some are named for what they do (shearwater, sapsucker – but definitely NOT killdeer). The ruddy turnstone Arenaria interpres is in the last two of these categories: it looks ruddy and it literally turns stones to get at the goodies underneath.

Ruddy Turnstones, Delphi Beach Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

And they don’t just turn stones to look for food. Someone with a lot of patience has defined 6 specific methods by which a turnstone forages for food:

  • Turning stones by flicking them with its beak
  • Digging using its beak to flick away sand or earth (see video below)
  • Routing around in piles of seaweed to expose food under it
  • Surface pecking with short, shallow pecks for food just below the surface
  • Probing by simply sticking its beak deep into soft sand or ground
  • Hammer-probing to crack open a shell and get at the occupant

Ruddy Turnstones, Delphi Beach Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

In these photos taken on a rather gloomy day on the Delphi beach, a combination of mainly digging and routing is going on. Note the sandy beak of the RUTU below, right up to the hilt.

Ruddy Turnstones, Delphi Beach Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)Ruddy Turnstones, Delphi Beach Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

This short video shows how effective the RUTU method is. It was fascinating to watch the team work their way through and around the piles of weed on the beach, flicking sand vigorously in their quest for sandflies or whatever. Watch the sand fly! Pity it wasn’t a sunny day – the photos might have looked a bit more cheerful… 

 

All photos Keith Salvesen

RED-LEGGED THRUSHES: MAKING EYE-CONTACT ON ABACO


Red-legged Thrush, Abaco, Bahamas (Tom Sheley)

RED-LEGGED THRUSHES: MAKING EYE-CONTACT ON ABACO

I see it is ‘literally’** years since I last wrote about these lovely, accessible birds, the only permanent resident breeding thrush species on Abaco (out of 8). The post – OL’ RED-EYES IS BACK – featured mainly my own photos, plus one by Mrs RH. With a whole lot of more recent photos, it’s time to revisit these cheery birds. I promised something brighter after two rather sombre shearwater die-off posts – (incidentally, a far wider problem than just in the Bahamas, including NC & Cape May). Here it is.

A RED-LEGGED, RED-EYED GALLERY

Red-legged Thrush, Abaco, Bahamas (Peter Mantle)

Red-legged Thrush, Abaco, Bahamas (Gerlinde Taurer)

Red-legged Thrush, Abaco, Bahamas (Peter Mantle)

Many of the birds shown here were photographed in or around the grounds of Delphi. More recently, they have to an extent been displaced by red-winged blackbirds which are of course very fine birds but in large numbers sound (may I say this? Is this just me?) quite irritating after a while. Whereas the thrush of course has a sweet and melodious song, like this (my own recording – turn up the vol):

Mr & Mrs Harbour’s Handiwork at DelphiRed-legged Thrush, Abaco, Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

Red-legged Thrush, Abaco, Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

Red-legged Thrush, Abaco, Bahamas (S Salvesen)

As I may have mentioned before (impatient reader: ‘yes, yes, you did’), the eyes of the RLT are at least as prominent a feature as their legs. Lots of birds have red legs. Very few have such remarkable bright, fiery eye-rings, even in a youngster.

Red-legged Thrush, Abaco, Bahamas (Charles Skinner)Red-legged Thrush, Abaco, Bahamas (Charles Skinner)

Red-legged Thrush, Abaco, Bahamas (Erik Gauger)

This photo from birdman Tom Sheley is my favourite – a perfect compositionRed-legged Thrush, Abaco, Bahamas (Tom Sheley)

** This means it really is literally years (4), not in the modern modified sense of ‘not actually literally’, as  in “I am literally dying of hunger”. Unless you are exceptionally unfortunate, while you have the breath to say you are, you are literally not doing so…

FUN FACT

There is quite literally no song since 1950 with the word ‘thrush’ in the title. Hard to fathom why… One or two songs have a thrush buried away in the lyrics somewhere. Blackbirds have done rather better in this respect… 

Photo Credits: Tom Sheley (1, 11); Peter Mantle (2, 4); Gerlinde Taurer (3); Mr & Mrs Harbour (5, 6, 7); Charles Skinner (8, 9); Erik Gauger (10). Lo-fi audio recording: RH

THICK-BILLED VIREO ‘ON VOCALS’: A CHIRPY JUVENILE ON ABACO


Thick-billed Vireo (juv), Abaco - Charles Skinner

THICK-BILLED VIREO ‘ON VOCALS’: A CHIRPY JUVENILE ON ABACO

I’m not sure that TBVs would rank as anyone’s all-time favourite bird. Probably not in the top 10. Or 20. But we have a particular affection for them. When we first arrive at Delphi, that cheerful call is invariably the first birdsong we hear. And when we leave, it’s often the last. These small birds inhabit the coppice on either side of the drive, and are often found right by the the Lodge.

Thick-billed Vireo (juv), Abaco - Charles Skinner

The strange thing about them is that despite their ubiquity and their uninhibited advertising of their presence, they are surprisingly hard to see, let alone get a clear photograph of. A singing TBV often seems to be at least 2 rows of bush further back than it sounds, concealed by intervening branches, leaves, and twigs.

Thick-billed Vireo (juv), Abaco - Charles Skinner

Maybe growing juveniles are less cautious. This little guy is right out in the open, and singing away happily. He’s still cutely fluffy, but his plumage already starting to turn yellow. He has the diagnostic yellow marking in front of and around the eyes. However at the base of his characteristically plump beak there’s still a hint of baby bird mouth.

Thick-billed Vireo (juv), Abaco - Charles Skinner

Here’s a recording of an adult TBV I took from the Delphi drive (you may need to turn up the volume a bit). And no, I couldn’t actually see the bird, though I knew exactly where it was from the slight movements of foliage. All-in-all, the TBV is a most engaging little bird and well-deserving of affection if not perhaps a high placing in the Avian Popularity Charts…  

Thick-billed Vireo (juv), Abaco - Charles Skinner

All photos by Charles Skinner (a significant contributor to The Birds Of Abaco)