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

WORLD SHOREBIRDS DAY – ABACO’S 33 SHORE SPECIES (1) LARGE BIRDS


Wilson's Plover chick 5.Delphi Club.Abaco Bahamas.6.13.Tom Sheley copy small

Wilson’s Plover chick, Delphi Club Beach, Abaco (Tom Sheley)

WORLD SHOREBIRDS DAY: ABACO’S 33 SHORE SPECIES (1)

Abaco is home to 33 shorebird species. Like the human residents of the main island and cays, some are permanent; some are winter visitors arriving to enjoy a warmer climate; and some a transients (e.g. Delphi Club members). To celebrate today being World Shorebirds Day, I am going to feature Abaco’s quota of the world’s shorebirds in 3 posts over the next few days. I’ll start with the definitive checklist of Abaco’s shorebirds compiled by Bahamas Birding author and authority Tony White  with Woody Bracey especially for the BIRDS OF ABACO. I have kept to the conventional / official species order. I’ve let the formatting run wild, though… problematic in WordPress. I may try to sort it. Or perhaps not…

AMERICAN AVOCET Recurvirostra americana   WR 4
American Avocet, New Providence - Tony Hepburn

The codes will tell you, for any particular bird, when you may see it (P = permanent, WR = winter resident, TR = transient, V = vagrant); whether it breeds (B) on Abaco; and your chance of seeing it, graded from easy (1) to vanishingly unlikely (5).

  • Black-necked Stilt                             Himantopus mexicanus              PR B 3
  • American Avocet                               Recurvirostra americana             WR 4
  • American Oystercatcher                  Haematopus palliatus                   PR B 2
  • Black-bellied Plover                          Pluvialis squatarola                      WR 1
  • American Golden-Plover                 Pluvialis dominica                          TR 4
  • Wilson’s Plover                                  Ochthodromus wilsonia               PR B 2
  • Semipalmated Plover                        Charadrius semipalmatus             WR 2
  • Piping Plover                                      Charadrius melodus                     WR 3
  • Killdeer                                                 Charadrius vociferus                  WR 2
  • Spotted Sandpiper                              Actitis macularius                       WR 1
  • Solitary Sandpiper                             Tringa solitaria                              WR 2
  • Greater Yellowlegs                             Tringa melanoleuca                      WR 2
  • Willet                                                     Tringa semipalmata                   PR B 2
  • Lesser Yellowlegs                               Tringa flavipes                              WR 3
  • Ruddy Turnstone                                 Arenaria interpres                        PR 2
  • Red Knot                                                Calidris canutus                         WR 3
  • Sanderling                                             Calidris alba                                WR 1
  • Dunlin                                                    Calidris alpina                             WR 2
  • Least Sandpiper                                   Calidris minutilla                          WR 2
  • White-rumped Sandpiper                  Calidris fuscicollis                           TR 3
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper                  Calidris pusilla                                TR 2
  • Western Sandpiper                             Calidris Mauri                                TR 2
  • Short-billed Dowitcher                      Limnodromus griseus                     WR 1
  • Long-billed Dowitcher                      Limnodromus scolopaceus             WR 4
  • Wilson’s Snipe                                     Gallinago delicata                         WR 3
  • Wilson’s Phalarope                            Phalaropus tricolor                          V 4

Of these 26 birds, 23 are ones you might encounter, though some only if you are lucky or your field-craft is excellent. If you happen upon a Long-billed Dowitcher or an American Avocet, tell someone! And the photo I will be posting of a Wilson’s Phalarope is of the first specimen ever recorded for Abaco. And it so happens that I can illustrate them with photographs, mostly from the book archive… What a coincidence. All except 3 were photographed on Abaco; and I have purposely chosen many that were photographed on the lovely 1-mile curve of white sand watched over by the Delphi Club and historically named ‘Rolling Harbour’.

For the sake of completeness, the other 7 species of shorebird recorded for Abaco – all transients or vagrants – are:

  • Upland Sandpiper                     Bartramia longicauda             TR 4
  • Whimbrel                                    Numenius phaeopus                 TR 4
  • Hudsonian Godwit                   Limosa haemastica                   V5
  • Marbled Godwit                         Limosa fedoa                               V5
  • Buff-breasted Sandpiper          Tryngites subruficollis            V5
  • Pectoral Sandpiper                   Calidris melanotos                    TR 3
  • Stilt Sandpiper                           Calidris himantopus                 TR 3

photo

OK let’s see some of the birds. I’ll post one shot of each of the 26 birds to show them at their best in their perfect environment – wild coastline. Some of these species haven’t yet featured in the blog at all, or else not for a while. Let’s go with some of the larger and / or long-beaked species, including a couple of matching pairs.

GREATER YELLOWLEGS  Tringa melanoleuca   WR 2Greater Yellowlegs LR. Abaco Bahamas.Tom Sheley.2.12 copy 2

LESSER YELLOWLEGS  Tringa flavipes  WR 3Lesser Yellowlegs.Evening on the Marls.Abaco Bahamas.2.13.Tom Sheley small2

SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER  Limnodromus griseus  WR 1Short-billed Dowitcher (NB), Abaco - Bruce Hallett 

LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER  Limnodromus scolopaceus   WR 4Long-billed Dowitcher Mike Baird Wiki

WILLETT  Tringa semipalmata  PR B 2Willet.Abaco Bahamas.2.13.Tom Sheley small

WILSON’S SNIPE  Gallinago delicata   WR 3Wilson's Snipe, Abaco - Woody Bracey

BLACK-NECKED STILT  Himantopus mexicanus  PR B 3Black-necked Stilt, Abaco - Tom Sheley

I’m adding a free  bonus stilt in flight, because it’s such a great shot…Black-necked stilt, Abaco - Alex Hughes

AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER  Haematopus palliatus PR B 2American Oystercatcher, Abaco 5.1 Tom Sheley

Part 2 will be about the Plovers. Or maybe the Sandpipers

RELATED POSTS

WILLET

BLACK-NECKED STILT

AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER

 Photo Credits: Tom Sheley, Bruce Hallett, Tony Hepburn, Mike Baird, Woody Bracey, Alex Hughes

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