Sunday, 14 December 2014

My One Hundredth Bird for 2014

I wanted to record my hundredth bird for the year by the end of November, but the mostly likely bird I figured would bring me to that land mark was the Orange Winged Parrot, but this was proving harder to find than an Emperor Penguin, sun bathing on Brown’s Beach (one of our popular beaches). So I returned to my casual mode of birding. 

On Saturday December 11th I got out of bed around 4:30am with no plans of going birding. To my surprise, I found my nine year old son busy doing his homework.  My son is into butterflies, well insects in general but he really loves butterflies and moths.  He is always eager to go birding but has problems leaving his bed early on these cold mornings.  This morning was not a school morning and he was up, and had already completed his homework and ready to go.  So I decided to take him to see a butterfly, a White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae), which he has never seen before.  I only discovered this butterfly at Graeme Hall’s Nature Sanctuary while birding last month. 

We left home about 6am, talking about one thing to another, the sun was now peeping over the Horizon and the sky had those beautiful morning colours.  As we were approaching Bridgetown, our capital in the parish of St. Michael, I heard the call of a parrot and saw two flying in a southerly direction.  I followed them until they both perched on a Palm at Belleville.  Belleville is known for Parrots and Parakeets.  It was once decorated with many tall mature Royal Palms (Roystonea oleracea) but these are now slowly disappearing.

After taking and checking the photographs, I realized these were Yellow Crowned and not Orange Winged.  Just then a flock of nine parrots flew high overhead towards a north-easterly direction.  I quickly aimed the camera and took a shot, but only got two frames.  Upon inspection the yellow cheeks of the Orange winged Parrot could clearly be seen.  With a smile, I turned to my son and said “that is my hundredth bird”.  We tried to follow them but gave up after losing sight of them.  It was then off to Graeme Hall.  We did not see the White Peacock but we found an interesting caterpillar which we are still trying to identify.  He took photos of tadpoles, while I took some of the water lilies.  We are planning a revisit to look for the Butterfly during his vacation and hopefully he will be able to get some photos. 

The Orange-winged Parrot is my hundredth bird species for 2014. The difficulty in finding this bird peeked my curiosity.  I would like to try to track them in the New Year, get some quality photographs and hopefully get an idea on the numbers in the wild.  Don’t expect an update on this blog on the numbers though. These guys are facing a lot of pressure from poachers for the pet trade and I don’t want to tip them off.

Below are some photographs from that day.   

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Ducks at Woodbourne

The first half of the year was very dry. It was so dry that many of the major wet areas on the island had dried up.  The Woodbourne Shorebird Refuge was not spared, for up until late October it was bone dry.  On November 21st -22nd a trough system dumped in excess of 160mm of rain on the island.  It filled to capacity all the wet areas on the island, providing conditions migrating ducks would enjoy.  The WSR was not to be left out. 

Sunday November 30

This was the day our country celebrated their independence from Britain.  I received a call from a visiting birder, Glen Carmichael; he said he was at the WSR and that a number of different ducks were there including three Fulvous Whistling-Ducks (Dendrocygna bicolor).  Fulvous would be a lifer for me and my 99th bird for the year so I arranged to meet him there.
The water levels at WSR were very high. Most of the trays were flooded; in some cases water exceeded the banks, forming one large lake.  Glen was sitting in front of the Hutt, the monitoring building named after local Conservationist Captain M.B Hutt (1919-1998), his eyes glued to a flock of ducks sitting on a semi- submerged bank of one of the trays.  Straight away I could see Black Bellied Whistling Ducks (Dendrocygna autumnalis) mostly juveniles, fifty plus Blue Winged Teals (Anas discors) and six Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis).  He quickly turned my attention towards the observation tray, which is in front of the Hutt’s observation gallery looking to the east.  Hidden in the grass, were the three Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, my 113th lifer and 99th bird species for 2014.  The only question was, were these Fulvous duck migrants or were they the “zooed” ones (mentioned in previous posts) which are kept at two locations on the island.  Edward Massiah and Dr. John Webster made quick checks at the locations and all the birds were present and accounted for.  This confirmed the birds as being migrants.

Fulvous Whistling-Duck

Fulvous Whistling-Ducks are 18-21 inches in length, light brown plumage with dark brown wings and white stripes on the edges.  These ducks were last recorded on the island, according to the book ‘Birds of Barbados’, on March 7th, 1998.

Checklist of birds seen at WSR on November 30

Checklist of birds seen at WSR on December 1

Check to see Photographs of birds seen on these two days

Birds at the WSR at the end of November

Great Egret

Great and Snowy Egret

Blue-winged Teals

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, American Wigeon, Blue-winged Teals

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon


Lesser Scaup

Fulvous and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks


American Wigeon

Lesser Scaup

Cattle Egret in Flight

Fulvous Whistling Ducks in Flight

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Search for the Orange Winged Amazona

On the weekend of November 29 my search for Orange Winged Parrots (Amazona amazonica) took me to the horse racing tracks of The Garrison Savannah, which is part of historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. (To find out more about this UNESCO World Heritage Site Click this Link).  This Parrot and  Yellow Crowned Parrots (Amazona ochrocephala) are the only two species of Amazona with established breeding colonies in the wild here on the island.  I saw and recorded both of them last year, but this year I was only able to record the Yellow Crowned in August.  I usually would not go through so much trouble trying to track this bird when I am not doing a big year (refer to earlier post), but with just casual birding this year, I have  already surpassed my last year species count and was just two species away from my first three digit year count.  Seeing all the birds I could, became a must in order to reach the 100 species mark, in this year.  This made the Orange Winged Parrot a very important bird to see.  I put out an APB on my Facebook page which brought me to the Garrison Savannah early that Saturday morning.

There were a lot of persons around, horses were training on the track, joggers and walkers were exercising.  Horse racing fans, jockeys and horse owners were sitting under the trees socializing.  My first stop was to the western end of the track.  I saw two parrots flying from west to east at the northern end of the track but they were too far to identify.  I then moved to the northern end, where I saw the birds.   

I was there for 11/2 hours and recorded nine species, they all were local common birds but none were the Orange winged Amazona.  The most numerous amounts of birds seen at the Garrison were Rock Pigeons (feral).   

The search continues for #99.

Update: Bird #99 was recorded the very next day.  It was not the Orange Winged Amazona, but that story will be told in another post.

Race Horse and Jockey on the Track at the Garrison

Carib Grackle

Barbados Bull Finch

Rock Pigeon

Cattle Egret

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Bird #89: Blackburnian Warbler

Common Name: Blackburnian Warbler
Scientific Name: Setophaga fusca
Description: 5 inches; throat bright orange; triangle ear patch; yellowish–orange breast, eye brow, white wing bars; underparts whitish-yellow (buff) with black streaked flanks; upperparts blackish. Male Breeding: deeper reddish-orange throat, eye brow, crown and breast.
 Habitat: Forest, Gardens etc.
Statue: Vagrant