Saturday, 5 September 2015

World Shorebird Day

Celebrate Shorebirds by joining in the Global Shorebird Counting from 4-6th September 2015.

 Shorebirds are on the decline worldwide and any effort to highlight their plight should be encouraged.  So get out this weekend to your beaches, wet area, parks and fields where ever shorebirds maybe to join in the big count. For more information on The Global Shorebird Day follow this link.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

South Coast Birding

On the last afternoon of the month of August I paid a visit to three south coast beaches for birding. With the fall migration season in full effect many shorebirds were seen on the beaches, these included Semipalmated, White-rumped, Spotted and Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers and Ruddy Turnstones. I was so impressed with the birds I saw that I registered all three locations, for counting, during this weekend's World Shorebirds Day bird count. Here are a few images of the birds I saw. 

Semipalmated Plover in breeding plumage
Ruddy Turnstone and Sanderlings on the lookout
Peeps - Semi and White-rumped Sandpipers

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Least Sandpiper


Friday, 7 August 2015

Two Rarity Seen in July

In the month of July, Barbados registered two rare birds; one could even be considered a major-rarity. The first bird, a Purple Throated Carib (Eulampis jugularis), was seen on July 3rd 2015 by a friend and the deputy director of The Barbados Sea Turtle Project, Carla Daniel.  Carla is also somewhat of a birder and my go-to person when I find stranded or injured birds.  The day she saw the bird was a sad day for the Sea Turtle Project and other nature loving people.  This island is being affected by an influx of Sargassum seaweed that is critically affecting the sea turtles.  On that day, over 20 Green and Hawks-billed turtles were discovered dead among the sea weed on Long Beach on the South Coast, not too far from Chancery Lane Swamp.  

Carla was on the beach assisting with the recording and removal of the dead turtles when the birds alighted not too far from her. She saw the purple throat which confirmed the identification.  Purple Throated Hummingbirds are about the same size as our native Green Throated Carib, about 4.5 inches.  This is a large hummingbird with a down curved bill, emerald green wings and of course a purple throat and chest.  Though this hummer is not common to our island, it is to the neighboring islands of Grenada, St. Vincent and St. Lucia, which are just over 100 miles to the west of us. 

Pearly-eyed Thrasher photographed by Gregg Skeete
The other rare visitor was also seen on the South Coast.  It is a common bird  to the neighboring island of St. Lucia. The bird was first seen by Gregg Skeete who then posted a photo of the bird on Facebook for identification assistance.  The bird was correctly identified as a Pearly-eyed Thrasher (Margarops fuscatus) by noted local birder Dr. Karl Watson.  Pearly-eyed Thrashers are about 11-12 inches in length, with brown upperparts and streaked brown underparts.  It has a yellowish bill and white or pearly colored iris hence it name.  According to the book The Birds of Barbados – an Annotated Checklist, there were four records of this bird up to 2006. Add to that the one I saw and photographed in February 2013 at The Codrington College, making Gregg’s finding the sixth confirmed sighting on the island. (The Birds of Barbados – an Annotated Checklist pg 179)

I am hoping to see both of these birds in person, photograph them and of course share them with you.   

So stay tuned!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

My Seventy-Seventh for the Year

Whimbrel - Numenius phaeopus

I registered my 77th bird for the year on Thursday July 23rd, 2015.  It was one of the largest shorebirds, the Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus), locally known as Crookbill. I saw two Whimbrels at the now dry Chancery Lane Swamp along with four Willets (Tringa semipalmata)  , two Black-bellied Plovers (Pluvialis squatarola) (maybe juveniles) and over twenty Semipalmated Plovers (Charadrius semipalmatus).  Whimbrels are large shorebirds about 15-18 inches in length with a long down curved bill.  These birds are annual visitors to the island mostly around this time.

We are still at the beginning of the southern Migration season but it is slowly heating up. Due to the low rainfall, we been having, many of the wet areas are dry or almost dry but this could change very quickly. So stay tuned!

Here are a few photos of the birds at Chancery Lane on Wednesday.

Whimbrel - Numenius phaeopus

Willet - Tringa semipalmata

Semipalmated Plover - Charadrius semipalmatus

Willet and Black-bellied Plovers

Willet and Black-bellied Plovers


Willet in Flight 

Yellow Warbler - Setophaga petechia

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

My 120th Barbados Lifer is a mega-rarity

I recorded my 120th local lifer on July 13th, 2015 while I was not even out birding.  Well, that is not altogether true because I am always birding, but on this occasion I was on my way home from work.  It was about 4:45pm and I was driving through an area which had a mixture of residential and commercial properties, most of which had neatly cultivated agriculture plots to the back of them,  along a highway in the central parish of St. George. This highway is usually very busy but it was abnormally light with traffic that afternoon and as I was driving, I noticed a bird I thought to be a Caribbean Martin but the wings were swift like in nature.  I pulled into a vacant lot to take a closer look only to realized it was not a Martin but a swift.

This was a large swift with brown upperparts, white belly and throat and a brown chest band.  I posted a photograph of the bird along with its description to our local bird alert net and Edward Massiah, a co-author of  The Birds of Barbados an annotated checklist, identified it as an Alpine Swift.  In less than 30 minutes he was standing next to me seeing the bird for himself.

Alpine Swift

Alpine Swifts (Tachymarptis melba) are 8 to 9 inches in length with a wingspan of 22 inches.  This bird breeds in southern Europe and winters in Africa.  It is one of the fastest birds in the sky and is said to spend most of its life on the wing, feeding, drinking and even sleeping while in flight.  It is considered a very rare bird for Barbados with this one being only the fourth ever confirmed sighting with the first one being in 1955.(The Birds of Barbados an annotated checklist pg167)

Here are a few of the photographs of the Alpine swift.

Friday, 10 July 2015

State of my Birding: Second Quarter 2015

The second quarter of the year is normally the driest, even though it includes the first month of the hurricane season, June.  Most of the wet areas around the island had low water levels with many completely dry.  I reduced my birding excursions significantly, and during that period I recorded twelve (12) new birds for the year, two of them were lifers, which brought my year count to seventy four (74) species. The two lifers - a Herring Gull, observed in the month of May and a Collared Plover in the month of June.


Scarlet Tanager by John Daniel
The Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea) on April 21st was the bird of the month for me. It was not a lifer but I am yet to get a photograph of this fiery red and black bird. There were many unconfirmed sightings of this species throughout that month. Other uncommon sightings included a pair of Bank and Cliff Swallows among a flock of Barn Swallows in Christ Church. These were the only new birds for the month of April.


Herring Gull
May was a good month for me. I added eight species to my year list which included a lifer. I was also part of the First Annual Cornell Global Big Day and recorded forty-four (44) species on that day, including a Ruff, which was seen in the parish of St. Lucy.  It was rare to see one at this time of the year. The lifer I recorded in this month was a Herring Gull seen in the East of the island.  I needed help identifying this gull because the quality of my  two photographs were not the best and I sought the help of experts both local and overseas, with all agreeing that it was an American Herring Gull.  One of the persons I asked, namely Steve Bright, wrote an informative post explaining the process he took in identifying this Gull.  The latter part of May was very dry and that continued into the month of June.


Collared Plover
June is the start of the hurricane season, but if you look at the wet areas around the island many were still dry or drying.  Important Birding areas like Chancery Lane and WSR were almost dry.  However, this did not prevent the migrating birds from stopping in, with shorebirds such as Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones, Willets and a few Short-billed Dowitchers made use of the few wet areas still around.  My lifer for this month is a shorebird but it prefers pastures and lawns. It was a Collared Plover which I saw in the parish of St. Lucy.  I did very little birding in June, so I only recorded one bird for that month.

New Page

You may have noticed a new page was added to the blog called Book Store. This page highlights a number of field guides you can use in Barbados and the Caribbean. So if you are looking to get a field guide from Amazon you can use one of these links.
In this quarter I missed just one bird, a Ruddy Duck, which was seen in the parish of Christ Church. At the end of June it was still dry but we were starting to get some rain.  By the end of the next quarter we will be deep into the Southern Migration period and all of the wet areas should be at peak levels. It should be a blast. Stay tuned!!