Friday, 31 October 2014

Birding the 3rd Weekend of October (Photographs)

Shiny Cowbird (juv) @ Harrison's Point

Yellow-billed Cuckoo @ Harrison's Point

Shiny Cowbird(juv) @ Harrison's Point

Blackpoll Warbler @ Harrison's Point

Yellow-billed Cuckoo @ Harrison's Point

Shorebirds  flying over head

Antillean Crested Hummingbird

Osprey @ Greenland

Osprey @ Greenland

Pectoral Sandpiper

American Golden Plover

Blackpoll Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Late Afternoon at the WSR



The Woodbourne Shorebird Refuge (WSR) was badly affected by this prolonged dry spell we were/are having on the island.  Unlike the private hunting compounds, which pumped water in to create artificial wetlands, the WSR depends on rain as its source of water.  As a result of the low rainfall, the site was dry for most of the southern (autumn) migration season - robbing migrating shorebirds of a safe haven away from the blazing guns of hunters.  This all changed with the passing of a number of tropical systems.  The site now has a small fraction of its water capacity but is already teaming with avian life.

I visited the WSR on the 17th October, 2014 at about 5pm and recorded 23 species of birds.  The highlight of my visit was a close up encounter with a Yellow-crowned Night Heron.  This has been the only place in Barbados that I have ever seen this bird, earlier this year I recorded two of them, a lifer for me then.  The bird stood motionless on the bank of one of the trays which allowed me to observe it for a while. 

I also saw my first Blue-winged Teal for the southern (Autumn) migration season.  A flock of eighteen birds were hiding among the vegetation in the pond. 
From a layman’s view point I believe that the Shorebird Conservation Trust - the charity which among other things looks after the WSR - should be given the resources to have at least sufficient water for the period of the hunting season.  I personally would also like to see two more Shorebird Refuges established one at the old hunting compounds at Coles, St. Philip on the East Coast and the other at North Point, St. Lucy on the North Coast.  This would be a huge benefit to shorebird conservation.  

I had a good afternoon at the WSR .  See the table below for the checklist of the birds I recorded. (click for Gallery of Bird seen)


                       
Common Names
Scientific Names
Blue-winged Teal
Anas discors
Little Egret
Egretta garzetta
Green Heron
Butorides virescens
Black-crowned Night Heron
Nycticorax nycticorax
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Nyctanassa violacea
Common Gallinule
Gallinula galeata
Semipalmated Plover
Charadrius semipalmatus
Spotted Sandpiper
Actitis macularius
Solitary Sandpiper
Tringa solitaria
Greater Yellowlegs
Tringa melanoleuca
Lesser Yellowlegs
Tringa flavipes
Least Sandpiper
Calidris minutilla 
White-rumped Sandpiper
Calidris fuscicollis
Pectoral Sandpiper
Calidris melanotos
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Calidris pusilla
Wilson's Snipe
Gallinago delicata
Scaly-naped Pigeon
Patagioenas squamosa
Common Ground-Dove
Columbina passerina
Zenaida Dove
Zenaida aurita
Gray Kingbird
Tyrannus dominicensis
Black-faced Grassquit
Tiaris bicolor
Barbados Bullfinch
Loxigilla barbadensis
Carib Grackle
(Quiscalus lugubris)

 


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Late Afternoon at the WSR

The Woodbourne Shorebird Refuge, Christ Church, Barbados (WSR)

Black-crowned Night Heron ((Nycticorax nycticorax))


Black-crowned Night Heron ((Nycticorax nycticorax))

Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea)

Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea)


Blue Winged Teal (Anas discors) & Little Blue Heron ( (Egretta caerulea))

Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria)

Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria)

Wilson's snipe (Gallinago delicata)






Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos)


Monday, 13 October 2014

Another October at Harrison's Point



The month of October found me at the same location looking for the same bird, but unlike last year, this year I found it.  I have recorded a Blackpoll Warbler at Harrison’s Point St. Lucy. (Click here for last year’s search).  This year I was sure that if this bird visited the island I would see it and I did.  From mid September I started tracking the Blackpoll migration out of North America using the online real time checklist program found at ebird.org. Using the tools Species Map and Explore Data under the “Explore Data” tag on the website, I was able to have real time information on the location of the birds.  On October 3rd I saw that Puerto Rico recorded a sighting and I knew it would only be a matter of days before the birds would be in our area.  The next question was, would the Blackpolls alight on the island at its well documented first contact area, Harrison’s Point?  Or would it fly over the island to its wintering ground in South America?  My guess was that it would depend on the weather.

Blackpoll Warbler

On October 9th Barbados had the weather; well mainly the northern part of Barbados had it.  It was rare, for me, to see such contrasting weather conditions on this small island which is just 21 miles/33.79 km from north to south.  The south of the island was hot, bright and sunny with blue skies, but as you travelled north you were confronted with an angry looking cloud, dark and grey, threatening rain and punctured by the flashes of lightning and the roaring of thunder.  I figured this was perfect conditions for birds to come to ground, so the first chance I got, I took off to Harrison’s Point to take a look.  Harrison’s Point is a very lonesome location; it is not the best or safest place to be alone. So my plan was to drive in, scan the trees near the road, turn around and head back out in less than a minute and that’s what I did.  As I was driving out, a bird jumped out of the low stubs and into the road in front of me.  I stopped and started taking photographs of this strange bird.  I took a photo with my cell phone of the bird in the view finder of my camera and posted it on the local Bird Alert Net for identification.  The response… Setophaga striatain other words the Blackpoll Warbler.  I met Dr. John Webster later at Harrison’s Point where in an hour we recorded 16 species including 2 Blackpoll Warblers, 1 Yellow-billed Cuckoo and a Northern Waterthrush.
Northern Waterthrust
photograph by Dr J Webster

Blackpoll Warbler


So after two years of searching I have recorded the Blackpoll Warbler as a lifer.

Barn Swallow at Harrison's Point

Blackpoll Warbler

Blackpoll Warbler
Barn Swallow

Friday, 3 October 2014

A September to Remember


In many ways September was a month to remember.  It heralded me kicking and screaming into the 40s.  True some may say life begins at forty but to me it is the sign that I am heading over the hill.  Birding wise, it was a good month.  I recorded five lifers and there is a glimmer of hope of recording 100 birds for this calendar year.  I think however that taking part in the first ever World Shorebirds Day was the highlight of the month.
 
The World Shorebirds Day took place on the 6th and 7th of September. I participated by counting birds at four (4) locations over the two days at Long Beach, Inch Marlow, Chancery Lane and Bushy Park.  I recorded thirty-two (32) species of birds which included twelve (12) shorebirds. The high counts were of
Semipalmated Sandpipers - 118 birds, Ruddy Turnstones - 62 birds, Semipalmated Plovers - 51 birds and American Golden Plovers - 34 birds.  A count was also taken at another location by Dr. John Webster.   
   
The World Shorebirds Day was also observed by local hunters, as reported on by BirdLife International’s project leader on the island, Wayne Burke of the Shorebird Conservation Trust. He reported in an article dated September 25 on WHSRN  website that hunters at two Shooting Swamps put down their guns in observation of World Shorebirds Day (click to read article). That in itself was a highlight.  Let us hope more shooting swamps follow suit next year and maybe even for both days. I am happy to have been a part of the first World Shorebirds Day and look forward to next year.


In the month of September I recorded five lifers. Lifers were recorded as follows:

Date sighted
Name
2nd September
A least Tern
4th September
Two Gill-billed Terns
10th September
A Common Nighthawk
13th September
Bridled Terns
21st September
Grey Heron
 


Yellow-billed Cuckoo
 Our regular group of birders on the island, started our annual Warbler watch (as it is now considered), at Harrison’s Point.  Our First visit to the location was on September 13th.  On that occasion the only warbler that was seen was the one common to that location, a yellow warbler. The following weekend we were more successful with the recording of the first Yellow-billed Cuckoo for the year. On that same day I had a wonderful photo session with a flock of willing shorebirds at River Bay in St. Lucy.  There were White-rumped, Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones and Semipalmated Plovers on the beach.


 
Semipalmated Sandpiper @ River Bay
Click to see more shorebirds from the trip

It was truly a September to remember.