Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Red-billed Tropicbird




The final day of February found me on the rugged south-east coast of the island, on a cliff which was being relentlessly and violently pounded by angry waves of the Atlantic Ocean.  Some of the waves were so large that they reached a couple feet over the cliff which was more than 30’ in some areas.  It was in these harsh conditions that one of the most rarely seen, locally breeding birds of Barbados was found, the Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus).

Photo by Dr. John Webster

These beautiful and graceful birds spend most of their life at sea but return to nest in holes or crevices on the south-east, east and northern sea cliffs of the island.  Red-billed Tropicbirds are 18-20” in length excluding the two centre tails or plumes which can be double the length of the bird.  It is a white bird with black eye patches, black barring on the back, black wing tips and of course a red bill.



I spent an hour observing these birds with some flying in and out of crevices in the sea cliff.  I counted about eight birds within that time.
The Red-billed Tropicbird is one of only two pelagic bird species with a history of nesting on the island. If all goes to plan, in April I will be telling you about the other pelagic bird so look out for that.

Red-billed Tropicbird (Photographs)

Below are a few photographs from my February 28 trip to observe Red-billed Tropicbirds at their nesting ground on the south-east coast of Barbados.





















Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Great Backyard Bird Count 2015



Barn Swallow
The 18th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) was held on February 14-16 worldwide and up to February 21st had statistics of over 139,400 checklists being submitted; with over 4,850 species observed and more than 17,893,900 birds counted.  As I did for the first time in 2014, I joined the global bird count this year.  While I was able to visit ten locations, it mostly was a busy non birding weekend for me and I did not make it to a few key locations e.g. WSR and Chancery Lane.  At the end of the three days, I had submitted 10 checklists, with 44 species of birds and counting close to 590 individual birds.

The Stats


The most numerous species of birds counted were the Blue-winged Teals with a count of 127 birds.  I missed out on a few key locations which would have added to this total.  Birders who birded at some of these locations and posted the GBBC turned up over 100 more Blue-winged Teals, giving a view of over 200 birds on the island.


Cattle Egrets
In comparison the number of Cattle Egrets counted was 122, this was just a small drop in the pan of the true population on the island.  The most of the Cattle Egrets counted were from a small rookery but, with many rookeries on the island hosting hundreds of birds, 122 is a very small fraction of the cattle Egrets here in Barbados.






My Highlight

My highlight for the weekend would easily be a photo session with some very friendly Barn Swallows.  It came on Sunday, while birding with two other birders in the parish of Christ Church.  It was a rainy morning and we had just spent more than an hour observing and photographing a family of Grebes and a Caribbean Coot.  As we were leaving we came upon a small tree with four Barn Swallows sitting on its branches.  The light was favorable for photography and we spent another ten minutes photographing them.  It was the closest I have ever been to these birds and I got some very good photographs, some of which I may enter in the GBBC photo competition.

I enjoyed being involved with the GBBC for yet another year and even though I did not register any lifers I added five species to my year tally. (Click to see year checklist) The data collected and submitted does not give the true extent of the birds here in Barbados, what it does do, is to assist in fulfilling the mandate of the GBBC and that is “to get the “big picture” about what is happening to bird populations” (worldwide).  As we look forward to 2016, I am hoping that enough data will be collected to provide a true snap shot of the birds in Barbados.



GBBC 2015 Tally


BIRDS
Totals
1
Blue-winged Teal - Anas discors
127
2
Ring-necked Duck - Aythya collaris*
7
3
Pied-billed Grebe - Podilymbus podiceps
5
4
Great Blue Heron - Ardea herodias
1
5
Great Egret - Ardea alba
1
6
Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
3
7
Snowy Egret - Egretta thula
5
8
Little Blue Heron - Egretta caerulea
1
9
Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis
122
10
Green Heron - Butorides virescens
1
11
Sora Porzana - Carolina
4
12
Common Gallinule - Gallinula galeata
28
13
Caribbean Coot - Fulica caribaea*
1
14
Black-bellied Plover - Pluvialis squatarola
16
15
Semipalmated Plover - Charadrius semipalmatus 
10
16
Spotted Sandpiper - Actitis macularius
1
17
Solitary Sandpiper - Tringa solitaria
2
18
Greater Yellowlegs - Tringa melanoleuca
2
19
Lesser Yellowlegs - Tringa flavipes
7
20
Ruddy Turnstone - Arenaria interpres
2
21
Least Sandpiper - Calidris minutilla
10
22
Stilt Sandpiper - Calidris himantopus
1
23
Semipalmated Sandpiper - Calidris pusilla
30
24
Wilson's Snipe - Gallinago delicata*
5
25
Scaly-naped Pigeon - Patagioenas squamosa
9
26
Eurasian Collared Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
2
27
Zenaida Dove - Zenaida aurita
8
28
Eared Dove - Zenaida auriculata
8
29
Common Ground Dove - Columbina passerine
3
30
Green-throated Carib - Eulampis holosericeus
3
31
Antillean Crested - Orthorhyncus cristatus
3
32
Caribbean Elaenia - Elaenia martinica
7
33
Grey Kingbird - Tyrannus dominicensis
6
34
Black-whiskered Vireo - Vireo altiloquus
5
35
Caribbean Martin - Progne dominicensis*
2
36
Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica*
30
37
Yellow Warbler - Setophaga petechial
2
38
Grassland Yellow-Finch - Sicalis luteola
2
39
Bananaquit - Coereba flaveola
4
40
Black-faced Grassquit - Tiaris bicolor
11
41
Barbados Bullfinch - Loxigilla barbadensis
18
42
Carib Grackle - Quiscalus lugubris
29
43
Shiny Cowbird - Molothrus bonariensis
36
44
Peregrine Falcon - Falco peregrinus
2