KEY WEST QUAIL-DOVES ON ELBOW CAY, ABACO


Key West Quail-Dove, Elbow Cay, Abaco (Milton Harris) 1a

KEY WEST QUAIL-DOVES ON ELBOW CAY, ABACO

Elbow Cay has many reasons to be admired: the historic iconic striped lighthouse, Hope Town’s pretty harbour and surroundings, wonderful beaches, some great places to eat and stay, no cars, the general impression of being a happy and most congenial place to be. To which, may I add, a good place for birding in general and for pinning down a couple of hard-to-find species in particular. Resident and birder Milton Harris has sent me a few photos from his recent outings. There is at least one burrowing owl at the north end of Elbow Cay. These owls are reputedly very rare vagrants on Abaco but recent sightings suggest numbers may be increasing. More of which another time.

The Key West Quail-Dove Geotrygon chrysia is a permanent breeding resident on Abaco, but relatively uncommon. These birds are difficult to find, flighty, and fly fast. They are hard to get a clear photo shot at, and reluctant to pose attractively in the open in good light while keeping still. Sadly, we never got a good clear shot of one to use for THE BIRDS OF ABACO‘. A great one from Nassau, yes, but disqualified from inclusion by location. 

Key West Quail-Dove, Elbow Cay, Abaco (Milton Harris) 6a

Milton says he has been seeing KWQBs “at the north end of Elbow Cay off and on for the past year. Normally they flush and fly though the trees at great speed, so I have not been able to get a photo.  Today I was creeping through the coppice and one walked out in a clear spot and posed!” 

Approximate KWQD locationElbow Cay (north) map jpg

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Disappointingly little these days. The KWQD originally bred in the Florida Keys and was actually discovered on Key West (incidentally a James Bond location used in ‘Licence to Kill’). Sadly the species no longer breeds in Florida (reasons unknown – all shot, maybe?) and these doves are now found only as vagrants there. I have checked the Bahamas National Trust’s very helpful BNT HUNTERS GUIDE – in the Bahamas, the quail-dove is completely protected and may not be shot or taken at any time [but I have a sneaking suspicion that they would be delicious…]

Elbow Cay: Abaco’s KWQD hotspot (eBird)KWQD hotspot map abaco

SO SHOULD IT BE RENAMED THE ELBOW CAY QUAIL-DOVE?

A nice idea, Elbow Cay being the sole Abaco hotspot for the species over the last 10 years, as recorded on eBird. But in fact the birds are found throughout much of the Caribbean so there will be other contenders for the honour. Probably best left as it is to avoid contention.

Key West Quail-Dove, Elbow Cay, Abaco (Milton Harris) 5a

I always enjoy comparing the ‘real thing’ as you might see a bird in the coppice near you, with the depictions of the bird made by one of the pioneers, Audubon prime among them. Here’s his very charming take on the species. But I agree, it’s not very like the bird you are looking out for…

Key-west Dove (J J Audubon)

Credits: many thanks to Milton Harris for his excellent photos of this tricky bird; hotspot clip from eBird

ELBOW REEF LIGHTHOUSE, ABACO: THE OLD LADY’S BIG DAY


Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay, Abaco

ELBOW REEF LIGHTHOUSE, ABACO: THE OLD LADY’S BIG DAY

There are various overwrought ‘describing’ words that have become devalued and tired through overuse. Unique. Unsurpassed. Unparalleled. Iconic. However the famous and much-loved Elbow Cay Lighthouse could plausibly lay claim to any one of those adjectives. Let’s make that ‘all’. Earlier this year, following a meticulous survey, repairs and refurbishments were made to this stately 89 foot high, 101 step light that came into operation in 1863 during the height of the American Civil War. 

You can read more about the lighthouse, its importance and its machinery in various earlier posts (use the search box), and there is other material including details of the recent repair program HERE. This post is simply to advertise the forthcoming 2nd Lighthouse Festival that takes place in Tuesday June 23rd. The flyer below tells you all you need to know about the day.

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For this event, the students of Hope Town Primary School, in conjunction with the invaluable ELBOW REEF LIGHTHOUSE SOCIETY , have produced a wonderful book celebrating the lighthouse, with proceeds of sale benefitting the school’s volunteer programs and the Society’s ongoing projects. I am sure will be a best seller – make it happen!

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As last year, the events will include an auction. Among the wide variety of items to be auctioned will be a 15″ x 15″ print on canvas of my photo of a Western Spindalis, taken on the drive of the Delphi Club and included in “THE BIRDS OF ABACO” (a copy of which was auctioned last year). 

Western Spindalis, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

Maybe a few more pics of such an interesting building are called for…. And a reminder of some key words to scatter liberally into your conversation at the event. Or anywhere, really: “Fresnel Lenses”, “Mercury Bed”, “Clockwork Mechanism”, “Trinity House, London”.Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay Abaco

Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay, Abaco (Lamp, Fresnel Lens) hoplit22 Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay, Abaco hoplit20 Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay, Abaco hoplit19 Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay, Abaco hoplit18 Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay, Abaco hoplit17 Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay, Abaco (Fresnel Lens) hoplit6 Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay, Abaco hoplit4 Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay, Abaco hoplit2 Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay, Abaco hoplit3

And finally a wonderful photo of Hope Town centred on the Lighthouse complex. Enjoy June 23rd.Elbow Reef Lighthouse Society

Logo of the World Lighthouse Society

Logo of the World Lighthouse Society

Credits: Lighthouse exteriors and Spindalis RH; all interiors Mrs RH; props to Elbow Reef Lighthouse Society (and ?David Rees for the aerial view…); Annie Potts for her inspiring book “Last Lights” about the intriguing lighthouses of the Bahamas

HOPE TOWN, ABACO: DOLPHINS & A LIGHTHOUSE IN THE SUN


Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abaco 13

HOPE TOWN, ABACO: DOLPHINS & A LIGHTHOUSE IN THE SUN

A trip to Hope Town and Elbow Cay is a always a treat. Especially if it includes lunch with friends. Most of my previous visits have been in cloud or rain, so the glory of the historic and indeed iconic candy-striped lighthouse has been rather marred. I left Delphi in hot sunshine, but it began to cloud over ominously during the half-hour drive north to Marsh Harbour and Albury’s Ferry Terminal. I was still optimistic when I arrived, though…Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abaco 2…until I looked the other way. The 20-minute crossing of the Sea of Abaco to Elbow Cay was characterised by a sudden pelting rain storm and a churning sea. A passenger lay down greenly, and I began to count the minutes.Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abaco 1However, as we approached Hope Town we emerged from the gloom into bright sun, and a fine view of the lighthouse. This edifice has one of the last remaining kerosene-lit lights in the world, attended to every 2 hours throughout the night by volunteers. The mechanism sits on a bed of mercury, and the light shines through the original fresnel lenses. Much of the original british-made machinery is still in place. For a tour round the interior, with excellent photos taken by Mrs RH, and views from the top platform, click HOPE TOWN LIGHTHOUSE Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abaco 3 Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abaco 4Lunch at the pleasant Harbour’s Edge Restaurant was enhanced by two – or was it three? – bottlenose dolphins that swam around the harbour. I was torn between eating, chatting  and photographing them. I didn’t catch the wonderful lazy arcs they made as the broke the surface and slowly arched back into the water. It was near impossible to predict where they would surface next. Here are a couple of less dramatic shots… Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abaco 11Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abaco 5After lunch there was time for a quick wander round the attractive little town, with its pastel-coloured houses. Hope Town 1a

There was a YELLOW ELDER tree in bloom, the national flower of the Bahamas. [Later: as it turns out, I was caught in the act… of photography]Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abaco 7Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abaco 6996860_10200325236513792_581389694_n

Hummingbird Cottage Art Centre and Gallery

I was taken to see the new HUMMINGBIRD COTTAGE ART CENTRE & GALLERY  a fine work of building restoration in the centre of town that provides a surprisingly large exhibition space and an idyllic place for art classes and related activities.

DSC_0076-150x150Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abaco 10Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abaco 8Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abaco 9Later, I took the ferry back to Marsh Harbour, taking a final good look at the lighthouse, still thankfully in full sunlight against a vivid blue sky.Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abaco 12Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abaco 15  Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abaco 14Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abaco 16

LINKS

HOPE TOWN LIGHTHOUSE: THE WORKS

YELLOW ELDER: BAHAMAS NATIONAL FLOWER

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ALBURY’S FERRY SERVICE

and for a comprehensive overview of Hope Town and Elbow Cay

hopetown

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Hummingbird Cottage ©Brigitte Bowyer

HUMPBACK WHALES IN THE BAHAMAS: TWO SIGHTINGS & AN ENTANGLEMENT


HUMPBACK WHALES – BMMRO REPORT JANUARY 2012

The BMMRO has posted recent whale news on its site – an entanglement off Elbow Cay with a happy ending, a sighting off Long Island in January, and another in February with images    (CLICK LOGO for BMMRO website)

1. An Entanglement 30.12.11  During the winter months the Bahamas occasionally get a sighting of a humpback whale migrating northward. For some reason a few of the migrating whales take a route a little closer to our islands and allow us the wonderful experience of seeing them.

On the 30th December 2011 Joseph Strickland and his crew who had been staying on the Highlander in Hope Town harbour, came across an entangled humpback whale. Due to the courage and calm response of Joe and his team, they managed to release the 40′ humpback. The whale had been entangled in a thick rope of approximately 600′ in length attached to a fishtrap. The animal was found off  Sea Spray marina in 40 feet of water off Elbow Cay, Abaco. They managed to free the animal of the fishpot which it had been dragging… as well as freeing the animal of the majority of rope, with only 20′ of line remaining on the whale. We would sincerely like to thank Mr & Mrs Strickland and their family for their extrodinary effort to free this animal, and also to report the encounter in detail.

Unfortunately as humpbacks are one of the more coastal whales, they often end up entangled in fishing gear, and come into contact with fishing pots, as well as being susceptible to vessel strikes. However, this species have made a remarkable recovery since the whaling era and in the North Atlantic abundance estimates are now approximately 12,000 humpback whales.

2. A sighting on 14.01.12  A better start to the New Year provided us with a single humpback sighting on Saturday 14th January off of Cape Santa Maria, Long Island. 

3. A sighting on 8.02.12 Finally, on Wednesday 8th February, a mother-calf humpback pair were spotted off of Dutch Bar, Spanish Wells, providing us with these beautiful pictures! Report and Image Credits BMMRO 2012

 

HOPE TOWN ANNUAL HERITAGE DAY SAT 3 MARCH 2012


 

HOPE TOWN ANNUAL HERITAGE DAY

SAT 3 MARCH 2012    

BE  THERE!

BMMRO WHALE, DOLPHIN & MANATEE SIGHTINGS / WINTER REPORT


BMMRO WHALE, DOLPHIN & MANATEE SIGHTINGS AND WINTER REPORT DECEMBER 2011

This was an interesting month. For a start, a humpback whale was reported off Elbow Cay, and a sperm whale further out to sea to the east. There were several cetacean reports between Sandy Point and Hole-in-the-Wall. Perhaps best of all, West Indian manatees – mother and calf – were reported in the area at the end of December, just off the Berry Islands – photo below, and further details in the BMMRO Winter Newsletter via the blue link.

THE WINTER NEWSLETTER contains much of cetacean interest, as always. It features articles on the effects of climate change of the declining Sea of Abaco bottlenose dolphin population; manatees in the Bahamas; ‘Life after Death’ – the importance of whale carcasses on the deep sea eco-system; sonic body-length measurement of sperm whales; the false killer whale stranding on Guana Cay (see POST); educational news update; and much more besides

BMMRO NEWSLETTER WINTER 2011/12

Courtesy of NAHRVALUR and her excellent wildlife blog, here is a cute view of a manatee in a Florida Reserve, where a webcam has been installed 

Manatees (family Trichechidae, genus Trichechus) are large, fully aquatic, mostly herbivorous marine mammals sometimes known as sea cows. There are three accepted living species of Trichechidae, representing three of the four living species in the order Sirenia: the Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis), the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), and the West African manatee (Trichechus senegalensis). They measure up to 13 feet (4.0 m) long, weigh as much as 1,300 pounds (590 kg), and have paddle-like flippers. The name manatí comes from the Taíno, a pre-Columbian people of the Caribbean, meaning “breast”
I’ll write a separate post about these creatures later, and cross-refer from here. rh
NOW CLICK LINK===>>>       MANATEES: THE FACTS

HURRICANE IRENE: AUG 31 ABACO AFTERMATH UPDATE, DAMAGE ASSESSMENT REPORTS


HURRICANE IRENE: LATEST ABACO NEWS UPDATE

 AUGUST 31

FOR YESTERDAY’S MAIN POST CLICK===>>> IRENE 30 AUG       See immediately below for the important Patherfinders Task Force Report links, and below that for today’s posts in reverse time order, oldest at the end.

DOWNLOADABLE  & PRINTABLE VERSION of the Pathfinders Task Force SWEAT-MS [Sewer, Water, Electricity, Academics, Transportation, Medical and Security] ASSESSMENT FOR ABACO with detailed maps and photos of supply problems caused by Irene eg Sandy Point was without electricity when assessed  CLICK===>>> PTFSWEAT-MSAssessmentAbaco

DOWNLOADABLE  & PRINTABLE VERSION of the Pathfinders Task Force RAPID DAMAGE ASSESSMENT for Abaco. The maps are incredibly helpful in revealing the extent of damage found in many areas – Marsh Harbour, Treasure Cay, Sandy Point for example – graded by severity.  CLICK===>>>  PTFRapidDamageAssessmentAbaco

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16.00 GMT WILDLIFE NEWS: Abaco Parrots post-Irene . For a new report from Caroline Stahala, a great photo of a chick safe in its nest, and an optimistic afterword from rh  CLICK===>>> ABACO PARROT CHICK

14.00 GMT The damage assessment reports, photos and pdf download links given above are now also available on The Bahamas Weekly.com, with a comprehensive ‘SHARE’ button linking to more sharing methods than I have ever seen, let alone heard of  CLICK LOGO===>>> 

09.00 GMT  Local10.com has notified me overnight of a new short video report by Janine Stanwood on the Abaco situation. It centres (apologies for UK spelling, my spellchecker does that) on the GREEN TURTLE CLUB, GTC and on relief being flown in from South Florida by BAHAMAS RELIEF working with BANYAN AIR, including much-needed supplies for repairing properties. For the latest Local10.com report CLICK LOGO===>>>  

For direct access to the BAHAMAS RELIEF SITE / PAGE  CLICK LOGO===>>>  

rollingharbour reports… 

The situation on Abaco this week is clearer to the world, communications are mostly restored, family and friends are back in contact, and the long process of clearing up is under way. The need for the Irene side of this Abaco wildlife blog has receded. I usually get 20 – 25 hits a day for the birds, plants, reef fish and so on.  I have been getting 1000s daily since I started posting Irene radar and tracking maps and weather reports a mere 8 days ago – more than 5000 on one day alone and over 15,000 overall. The scope expanded rapidly to include links to media reports, videos, photos, damage reports and so forth. People have sought or supplied specific information. Some have said nice things. Now, however, the hit-rate has reduced to fewer than 1000 a day. Very soon it will be time for this blog, too, to return to normal service. With that in mind, here is an Abaco Parrot (taken in March 2011) to be going on with!