ABACO: A SANDY ISLAND (SANDY BEACHES, A SANDY POINT AND A SANDY WALKER)
This post features some great Abaco bird photos taken by Sandy Walker, a man familiar to anyone connected with the Delphi Club in any capacity at all, and well-known far and wide from Marsh Harbour to Ireland. Possibly notorious in some places… Sandy doesn’t talk about his photography much, though he has plenty to say on most topics. Here are a few of his photos taken in the last 6 months or so, and deserving a wider audience. The header image, from the Delphi garden, shows a Bananaquit in characteristic feeding mode.
A great picture of feeding time, with the huge chick already seeming to have outgrown the parent – apart from its rather stumpy tail
These shy birds are reclusive by nature and relatively hard to photograph. They tend to lurk in the undergrowth or half-hidden on water margins. If they are caught in the open, they tend to run in a somewhat cartoonish sort of way. This one was having a good dig in the mud for food.
Large birds of the shoreline and mangrove swamps, and classed with sandpipers. In flight, they have eye-catching wing stripes that Sandy has captured with a bit of camera sharp-shooting. You can see more Willets HERE
I was with Sandy when he took this photo during an amazing early evening feeding display of these birds. A hundred or more were swooping and jinking, making the most of an evening fly hatch. Sometimes they flew very close to our heads, make a whirring sound as they passed. Their speed and jagging flight made them very hard to take. I hardly got one in my viewfinder at all, but Sandy is an excellent shot of a different sort, so I guess aiming isn’t a problem for him…
I love these handsome birds, distinguishable from all other white herons and egrets (in some cases as white morphs) by their astonishing bright yellow feet. These are so vivid that they are often clearly visible when a snowy egret is standing in the water. This one was taken by the jetty at a local pond, a wonderful and secluded place to see water birds of many varieties, including rarities.
All images (except this one): Sandy Walker, with thanks
Who indeed does photograph the people who take the photographs? Here is a small gallery of photographers on Abaco caught in the act of shooting wildlife, so to speak. And if anyone has ever seen – or been – a photographer photographing photographers photographing other photographers, trust me, that is one stage beyond weird.
RH on a nature trek with Ricky Johnson
Mrs RH goes right off-piste & ends up on the golf course at TC [good birding there in fact]
RH (who uses a stick – or ‘cane’, if that isn’t too ’50 shades’) takes a collapsible wading stick on these occasions. Since he, too, is collapsible it is sometimes helpful to have a seat while photographing. Not elegant, though, and not especially comfortable. Cheers, Clare, for capturing the indignity…
Mrs RH zooms in on a possibly rare bird… as it turned out, a female grassquit!
RH sort of looks the part but the backpack is crammed full of food & drink, not equipment, and he is looking for shade for a picnic at Casuarina
PM challenges RH to a ‘camera-off’ duel at Nancy’s, Sandy Point, and proves that his is the biggest…
Ace birder and photographer from Ohio, Tom, arrives at Delphi and puts PM’s puny equipment to shame – and with Camo for extra cool. Even the tripod legs.
Sandy Walker, General Manager of Delphi and man of many parts, turns out to own a snappy Nikon
PM & RH engaged in a ridiculous challenge to photograph various items on the beach. Both lost, even though they had devised the rules…
The professionals Tom and Woody (‘Birdman of Abaco’) Bracey get serious with Bahama Mockingbirds in the pine forest. The red bandana is to attract the endemic Bahama Woodstar hummingbirds.
However at Sandy Point they seem to have forgotten their cameras…
Tom returning to the truck after filming an evening festival of dozens of nighthawks on the wing
Out in the field… or scrubland – with 2 cameras
PM takes aim…
RH subdues an unruly Yellow Elder (Bahamas national flower) for a close-up
*This titular nod to the phrase ‘quis custodiet ipsos custodes’ (‘who is guarding the guardians’) is open to objection on the ground of illogicality. It’s a Latin tag with a greek-derived verb and noun forms jocularly inserted. A ‘photograph’ is, literally, ‘light writing’ in Greek. So ‘quis lux-scribit ipsos lucis-scriptores’ is the best solution I can offer… Let’s have that Elder flower to end on a light note
Photographees: Peter Mantle, Sandy Walker, Tom Sheley, Woody Bracey, Mrs RH, RH
[I published the original of this post a year ago. I discovered that it had been put badly out of kilter by recent blog format change, so I have amended and to an extent updated it, with larger photos (NB the video was my first feeble foray). So yes, it’s a retread, which I rarely do; but I wasn’t tooled up with Facebook & Twitter then, and thankfully a couple more people now read this thing, so it possibly deserves a fresh outing. No? Well I’m doing it, regardless]
It’s 7.15 and breakfast time at Delphi. At 8.00 the trucks, skiffs, guides and fishers will set off to the fishing grounds for the day, leaving you with an empty beach, shells, warm sea, the pool, the hammock and your book. For the moment, the talk is of the excellent ‘Full Abaco’ breakfast, the weather, ‘Delphi daddies’ & ‘crazy charlies’ and someone’s mislaid reel. Sandy enters to announce that there’s a place free on your partner’s skiff… and offers it to you. So what should you, a non-angler, expect of a day out on the flats?
THE SKIFFS These are top-of-the range boats, capable of considerable speed getting out to the fishing grounds. The ride can be bumpy, splashy and even chilly in the early morning, so bring a fleece and a waterproof top. Camera? Essential. Here is a Delphi skiff on a sand bar in Cherokee Sound, parked for lunch and some quality conch and sand-dollar hunting. So for a start, the day isn’t ALL about fishing…
THE FISHING GROUNDS You will leave from one of three launch points and speed across the water to the bonefishing areas. The main one is “Nettie’s”, with access via a narrow man-made channel to the Marls…
… more than two hundred square miles of mangrove swamp, islets, channels and fish. The journey to Nettie’s may seem quite a long way as you bump along through the pine forest on a network of logging tracks. Watch out for small birds flickering all around as you pass.
Launching a skiff at Nettie’s
Plans are hatchedGood to go…
Stowing gear in the front (forrard?) locker. There’s also one behind the seats for the lunch cool boxes. And the fuel…
The other two launch areas are Crossing Rocks (a short drive south of DCB) or Casuarina Point for Cherokee Sound (a slightly longer drive north of DCB)
The jetty at Crossing Rocks – skiffs being prepared
The launch point at Casuarina. A channel leads out to Cherokee Sound
Two boats in the channel – the authentic James Bond chase experience
WHAT’S THE POINT? Bonefishing! You’ve heard all the Club talk, you’ve seen your partner fussing over all those bits and pieces in your room: now see it in action. Once you get out to a fishing area, the guide cuts the engine… and suddenly you are being poled very slowly and almost noiselessly across the shallow flats
The guide stands on the platform at the back of the skiff, using the advantage of height to scan the shallow water; the fisher stands at the front looking tensely for grey shadows underwater, waiting for the magic words…
“…hey, bonefish, 10 o’clock, 4 of them moving right, 30 feet… see them?”
And it’s ‘game on’. This isn’t the place for a discourse about casting technique and style – I have neither (Sandy, of me: “Muppet”) – but I promise that you will get completely caught up in the excitement when a fish takes the fly and takes off towards the horizon, stripping the line and backing from the reel… (I realise the image above may suggest… well he’s just fishing, OK?)
THE QUARRY – grey ghosts below water, bars of silver above. Caught on the ‘fly’ which are in fact shrimp or crab imitations, with barbless hooks to make the chance of losing a fish that much greater… This ensures that a boated fish can be returned to the water as easily and quickly as possible. It’s all ‘catch and release’, though some (me) find that mostly the fish very sensibly self-release long before they ever reach the boat…
Abaco bonefish off Crossing Rocks (just caught and released)Guide Ishi with Abaco bonefish caught on the MarlsGuide Robin Albury removes the barbless hook before returning the fishA good specimen‘Ishi’s Fishy’, as he would say
There is even the possibility that at some stage you may unexpectedly be handed a rod (even if you have never held one before, or wanted to) with ‘fish on’… Here, Robin has hooked a 2.5 lb fish and handed the rod to Mrs RH (then engrossed in eating a cheese roll) who successfully played and brought in her first ever fish…
PART 2 will deal with what else goes on during the day: the scenery, birdlife, sharks, turtles, blue holes and so forth. For now, here is a short clip of the skiff ride out to the Marls, to give you an idea. NB this was a very calm day – things can get a little bumpier and wetter at times. The seats are padded, but not very…
[Ultra-cautious music credit to Joe Satriani who sued Coldplay for alleged tune ‘borrowing’ saying “I felt like a dagger went right through my heart. It hurt so much”. Case dismissed + unspecified settlement… Way to go, Joe! Want to check? Cut ‘n’ paste this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjB024bZoB4&feature=fvwrel Then by way of counterbalance try John Lennon’s Imagine vs Coldplay’s ‘Fix you’ at (cut ‘n’ paste) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DksjpsAe3vk&feature=endscreen&NR=1]
About a year ago, Sandy Walker encountered a praying mantis at the Delphi Club. For technical reasons his photo(s) of it didn’t work out. Undaunted (and because I’d never seen one outside an insectarium) I turned an essentially non-event into a short post SANDY’S PRAYING MANTIS, in the course of which I learnt a bit about these strange creatures. There isn’t a great deal of compelling information to pass on, to be honest. And I still don’t buy their supposed resemblance (for the sober observer) to Eleuthera.
We saw no mantises this summer on Abaco, and I forgot about them completely until a week ago… And there, nonchalantly strolling across an outdoor table where we were staying for a few days in Italy, was the very creature. It obligingly posed for some prayerful snaps, then I put it gently on a balcony railing where it clung upside down and apparently content overnight. It was still there at breakfast, gone by lunchtime, and we never saw it again. But the images live on…*
* Please note that the fingerprints in photo 1 are copyright…
HERMIT CRABS: SHELL-DWELLERS & CONTESTANTS FOR WACKY RACES
Hermit Crabs are all around – occasionally (sadly and unavoidably) underfoot. They borrow an empty shell, and as they grow they trade up to a bigger one, leaving their previous home for a smaller crab to move into. It’s a benign chain of recycling that the original gastropod occupant would no doubt approve of… The crabs are able to adapt their flexible bodies to their chosen shell. In the 1st 2 images the crab has chosen a somewhat weathered shell, into which he fits snugly
This small crab has gone for something more modern – possibly quite an awkward shape to lug about…
These crabs have found the Delphi Club bird feeders and taken up residence close by. They forage in the grass, many wearing West Indian top shells. One seems to want to climb the tree to get at the feeder…
They are sensitive to sound: approaching footfalls send them scurrying for shelter into the undergrowth or to holes in the limestone rock. They don’t all manage to fit into a hole so the ‘outsiders’ try to look inconspicuous by withdrawing into their shells, though from a predator’s point of view there are usually a couple of telltale legs sticking out…
Quick, everyone – hide! A human just trod on Derek…An entertaining after-dinner game (and I blame Caroline Stahala for starting this one) is hermit crab racing. Please note that no crabs are harmed in the course of these sporting proceedings, though some crabs may feel a little humiliated. The races can be played for money, of course, but the complete unpredictability and lack of any information about a crab’s previous racing form make that unwise. Far better to have a few drinks first. Then some more afterwards.
HERMIT CRAB RACING: THE OFFICIAL RULES
Dinner is to be completed and drink taken by all participants before racing can commence
Each contestant chooses a crab from the group under the bird feeders
All chosen crabs are placed in a dish
Caroline (or whomsoever shall be designated) paints the shells with each contestant’s name
The crabs are lined up by hand on the verandah as straight as they will permit (so, not very)
The starter will say “Ready, Steady, GO”, and the crabs are released over a 3 meter course
The winner shall be the first crab over the finishing line. In the event of a dead-heat, the crab requiring the least foot-impetus and direction correction is declared winner
The crabs shall be returned to the collection site (those that can still be found) and all humans shall return to the Clubhouse for celebrations…
DELPHI HCR RACE REPORT 2012
This crab (the largest) was chosen by Sandy Walker, and regrettably was the only one that started by going backwards. It was never in serious contention
Caroline becomes very overexcited by her crab’s progress
Others resort to unorthodox methods like ‘foot-persuasion’ to keep their crab on course. RH didn’t realise this was allowed at all, and watched his crab dive pathetically off the edge of the verandah into the flowerbed – an irrecoverable drop of 6 inches
Most of the crabs went forwards as intended, though with a certain amount of lateral movement. 2 or 3 seemed to have got the general idea of the race and proceeded more or less according to plan
The impressive winner, by nearly half a minute, was the crab named ‘Emma’. A well-deserved victory, especially as the owner / trainer’s foot-directing was minimal (bare feet!)…
The one thing I would like to know about these little creatures is how they – and their shells – are to be found in large numbers 50 foot above sea-level at the top of a cliff…
STOP PRESS Rocket part now positively ID’d by serial number – and it’s not from Ariane 5. More exciting – it’s from the Mars Program launch of the the Mars Rover ‘Curioisty’. See latest post at CLICK IMAGE
Kasia’s mystery beachcombing item, posted yesterday, was solved within the day – basically a rock-like accretion of large tubular wormy molluscs of a somewhat unattractive sort. Sandy Walker has now sent me a photo of a baffling object he has found on the club beach to test your ingenuity, or patience. He’s sent it to the NTSB (air-crash investigation etc) for their view. For sure, it isn’t wildlife: however any nautical, aero-nautical, NASA-based or ‘strange white cone’ experts out there might like to contribute an opinion via the COMMENT box or email rollingharbour.delphiATgmail.com (spam guard: please convert AT to @)
My contenders, from most to least exciting (1) Rocket nose-cone. But no re-entry scorch marks – maybe it never got that far (2) Light aeroplane engine cowling or whatever the term is (3) Front end of a canoe-type vessel, with a standard Avery 5-slot for’ard rowlock stanchion clip (or maybe a bit of storm-tossed catamaran – Mrs rh)
STOP PRESS Jan 28 Peter Mantle’s latest bulletin from the Delphi Club… and I get to award myself the first prize of a Kalik beer for wild guess (1) above!
January 28th: Beachcombing at Rolling Harbour produces a great miscellany of shells, corals, beads, fishing floats and the occasional baseball. But a recent find by Sandy had everyone in a panic – a 12-foot chunk of superstructure that looked for all the world like a large piece of aeroplane. Sandy immediately contacted the US National Transportation Safety Board, who initially confirmed a strong resemblance to the tail section of an Airbus A320 passenger jet but wanted to run further investigations of the part numbers. All rather alarming.
But Sandy has just heard again from the NTSB, who now believe it may be part of the Ariane V space rocket, launched from French Guyana. Airbus say it’s not from one of their planes and suggest that it’s probably the nose fairing off an Ariane V booster. Looking at photos and drawings of the booster, this may be right and this would also fit for the eastern exposure of the beach where the part was found. You can see the booster here: http://esamultimedia.esa.int/docs/ATV/infokit/english/05_ATVLauncher.pdf
Ariane Space have been contacted and we will let you know what they say. We will also post a pic of the part. In the meantime, Sandy looks a bit, er, spaced out.
Comment: Since it appears to be made of cardboard, no wonder it fell off…
This Spring has seen a number of birds – possibly tempted by Gareth’s cuisine – flying hard into the windows / doors of the Great Room and falling stunned onto the verandah. Luckily, Sandy has sometimes been on hand to scoop them up and gently let them come to their senses before releasing them.
WESTERN SPINDALIS (Spindalis Zena) or Stripe-Headed Tanager
NORTHERN PARULA: one of a large number of yellowy warbler types around Delphi
The Parula ID was confirmed by Craig Nash (see side-barBLOGROLLfor his Delphi birding links) and he has supplied his own much better photo of one, photographed in one of the drives – seeCONTRIBUTIONS / PHOTOGRAPHS
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