“Nidification” was one of the new words I learned from the wonderful book Birds of the West Indies by James Bond (a different one – for the full story behind the name click HERE). It means, essentially, the nesting process of a bird. It sounds pleasingly technical for a straightforward concept: nest-building.
Soft furnishings being added
I spotted this TBV making its nest on the edge of the drive at Delphi. I usually think of these cheerful chirpy birds as ‘lurkers’, hanging back in the coppice and not making themselves easily visible. But this nest was right out in the open – possibly not the wisest place for nidification.
If you look up TBV’s in bird books, you may find a reference to nest building in the fork of shrubs or bushes – exactly what was going on here. It quite a messy nest, but then again it looks comfortable and firmly wedged in.
Although I only saw one of the pair actively engaged in the building, another TBV was ‘vocalising’ (there’s another technical term, = singing) nearby, presumably the mate. In a way that humans have been slow to adopt, both birds will be actively involved in raising their family, from incubating the eggs to chick care – feeding, cleaning out the nest and so on.
WHAT DO THEY SOUND LIKE WHEN THEY VOCALISE?
Let’s hope for a successful outcome to the nidification…
All photos Keith Salvesen, also the sound recording (made at Delphi)
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.
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.
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.
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…
All photos by Charles Skinner (a significant contributor to The Birds Of Abaco)
THICK-BILLED VIREOS: ABACO’S ONLY PERMANENT RESIDENT VIREO
Hard to know why I haven’t got round to featuring these little vireos before. Unlike the other 7 vireo species found on Abaco seasonally or as transients, the Thick-billed Vireo Vireo crassirostris is an ever-present permanent resident of the coppice and scrub; and their unmistakeable repeating song can be heard almost everywhere. It was the first bird song I heard on Abaco, and therefore the TBV was the first bird I learned to ID. I’ve got quite a soft spot for them, really.
Although TBVs are very easy to hear and track to a general area of coppice, I find actually seeing the bird creating the noise quite hard – let alone getting a clear camera shot. They always seem to be lurking several feet further away, deeper in the foliage, than the sound suggests. I’ve had some fun making TBV song iPhone recordings along the Delphi drive, practising the technique. If you want to know more about recording and converting to MP3 CLICK HERE.
One of my favourite images, from Gerlinde Taurer: a ‘shouty’ bird. We used it for ‘BIRDS OF ABACO‘.
I also love this perky little guy with a great beady-eyed pose taken by Bruce Hallett
Here’s a clip of song, which I’m sure will be immediately familiar to Bahamians:
Paul Driver / Xeno Canto
The main signifiers for this species, which in combination distinguish the TBV from the other vireo species on Abaco, are:
Two white wing bars
Yellow patch – usually quite prominent – between eye and beak
Thick bill – which immediately rules it out of being one of the 37 warbler species on Abaco…
Text book TBV
There are marked colour variations in the species according to maturity, season and to an extent gender (though m & f are quite similar). Here’s one that is causing wing-bar confusion by only showing traces. It also has quite dark upper parts.
This is a very yellow TBVWhereas this one has rather anaemic colorationFinally, this pretty TBV is very delicately marked
Vireos haven’t had as much attention as they deserve hereabouts. I have posted about the BLACK-WHISKERED VIREO, but the 7 other vireo species found on Abaco haven’t had much of a look in. It’s a wrong that I shall right at once by featuring the rather shy Philadelphia VireoVireo philadelphicus. Here is the full list of the vireos recorded for Abaco, from which you will see that only the Thick-billed Vireo is a common permanent resident. The Black-whiskered vireo is a common summer breeding resident; there are 2 uncommon winter residents; and the other 4 are transients that chose Abaco as a resting place on their migrations.
Taken from ‘The Birds of Abaco’ checklist by Tony White with Woody Bracey
This little bird tends to be described with such unkind adjectives as ‘drab’, ‘dull’ and ‘plain’, but like many under-appreciated species it has its own charm. The header image and the one above give excellent close-up views. The signifiers include the dark eyes, white eyebrows, the dark line through the eyes, the yellow underparts, and in the negative sense the complete absence of eye rings, wing bars or tail markings. And the thick bill is one quick way to distinguish it from similar-looking warbler species, with their generally smaller, pointy beaks.
The Philadelphia Vireo has a wide range, from its summer breeding grounds as far north as Canada down to its winter quarters in Mexico and South America. They have even, very rarely, been seen in Europe. The connection with Philadelphia is somewhat tenuous and arises because the bird was first identified in 1842 from a specimen collected near Philadelphia. However their visits there are brief, since at best it is only a stopover on their migration route…
Here is the song comparison between (in order) the Philly, the familiar TBV whose song accompanies everyday life on Abaco, and the Black-whiskered vireo. My TBV recording is rather quieter than the other 2.
Andrew Spencer / Xeno Canto
RH at Delphi
Brian Cox / Xeno-Canto
If you want to know how to record birdsong easily using an iPhone or equivalentCLICKHERE
Credits: Woody Bracey (2, 3); Brian McClure, Dominic Sherony, William H. Majoros, Xeno Canto, Wiki, Cornell Lab
ALL THINGS BRIGHT… CHEERFUL GARDEN BIRDS AT DELPHI, ABACO
It’s not necessary to prowl around the coppice or lurk in the pine forest to see beautiful birds. They are on the doorstep, sometimes literally. Especially if there are full seed feeders and hummingbird feeders filled with sugar water for the Cuban Emeralds, Bahama Woodstars and other birds with pointy beaks (Bananaquits, for example). Here are are a few from the gardens immediately around the Delphi Club.
PAINTED BUNTINGS (f & m)
PAINTED BUNTING (m) WITH BLACK-FACED GRASSQUITS (m & f)
PAINTED BUNTING (f)
WESTERN SPINDALIS (m)
THICK-BILLED VIREO (m)
This is a TBV recording made with my iPhone.
For details how to record birds (or indeed animals. Or people) with a smart phone and embed the results as an mp3, CLICKHERE
These little birds are autumn / winter visitors, though I have seen one at Delphi in June – it must have like it there and decided to stay on. Strangely, though originally named for one found on Cape May in the c19, there wasn’t another one recorded there for another 100 years…
ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (m)
INDIGO BUNTING (m)
THE DELPHI CLUB, ABACOCredits: Mainly Sandy Walker; a couple from Peter Mantle; DCB by RH
YOU WILL NEED: an iPh@ne or similar smartphone with a voice memo facility; patience; minimal non-natural background noises (traffic, yelling people, barking dogs, heavy machinery); a steady-ish hand; one or more birds nearby
Use the Voice Memo app on an iPh@ne (I presume most other smart phones have a similar app).
Once you have it onscreen, turn the phone round 180 deg and the image will swivel round too. Now you can point the microphone at the sound and have the controls the right way up facing you.
Turn the volume up to max before you record.
Handle the phone carefully so it doesn’t record you touching it as well. It probably won’t pick up pressing ‘record’, but it may when you press ‘stop’. But you can trim the end of the saved file on the file very simply.
The recording saves in m4p format, and you can email it to your computer direct from the app (or to anywhere or anyone else).
Drag / save the file onto your desktop from the email. When you open it, it will (a) play and (b) appear in your iTunes library (or whatever music storage system you use).
CONVERTING RECORDINGS TO MP3
Having opened the recording, to convert the file to an mp3 (generally the preferred version for uploading elsewhere) in iTunes, go to Songsin your iTunes library and search for Memo. There it is!
You can rename it at this stage if you wish.
Then go toFile on the top bar, and in the drop-down menu, near the bottom, go to Create new version. It will offer you mp3.
Clickmp3 and a second recording file will appear in your library. That’s your mp3.
Drag it onto your desktop and do what you want with it.
Apologies if this is all blindingly obvious and written in the elementary computer language ‘eggy-peggy’. It took me a while to get it sorted out, and I hope the details above will help the lo-tek computer user to record birds and use the results painlessly.
I recommend recording for about 20 – 30 seconds max. The iPh@ne allows easy trimming at the start and end of the saved file, but there’s no easy way to edit the middle to take out the barking dog.
Several short recordings of each bird will give a better choice of results than one or 2 long recordings.
The iPh@ne mic is surprisingly sensitive. It will pick up all nearby sounds – someone whispering at you “is it recording yet?”, for example. So ideally this is best done in the pine forest or coppice, away from the Highway. And maybe the loud whisperer.
Wind can be a problem. Not just for humans. The mic will pick up gusts of wind, or wind blowing across it if you change the direction you are pointing the phone as you record. So this is best done on a calm day.
Here are two practice recordings I made in March. The first is the female red-winged blackbird above (and header) at Casuarina beach. The distinctive call is rather like a rusty hinge on a swinging gate, often heard far out in the mangrove swamps of the Marls. You’ll hear background noises from collared doves and also the sea lapping on the shore.
The second is thick-billed vireo in the coppice at Delphi. You’ll hear an answering vireo – and also some wind noise. I find these little birds frustratingly hard to see – they always seem to be lurking further back in the bushes than I think. I’ve never managed to take a good photo of one, so I’ll upload an illustrative poor one to be going on with. I am back on Abaco in a week, and a better TBV photo is on my avian hit list.
Finally, you’ll find a longer recording I made of Abaco parrots squabbling noisily at Bahama Palm Shores near the end of a recent post HERE. I made an mp3 using the method described above, and uploaded it to the excellent Xeno-Canto bird sounds website, which is well worth exploring. You can find my recordings of the parrots and the birds in this post, plus sonograms, on my XC page, such as it is, HERE
But if you just want to hear the parrots, here they are. Like schoolkids, only louder.
Why do I do that annoying ‘iPh@ne’ thing? It’s a statistical fact that I have just made up that 373,597 people a minute world-wide g@@gle the correct word. Imagine the meta-crawlers and spam-splurgers that lock onto that word. I don’t want to cyber-meet them. I also use the form Am@z@n but for different reasons relating to their ingenious tax arrangements (alleged, obviously). Thus with G@@gle as well (again, merely alleged – as Dusty Springfield memorable sang, “Nothing is proved…)