Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Two local Lifers and a Yearer for October

As we exit the second weekend in October, thus far I have recorded two lifers (126 & 127) and one year bird (# 92).  The first recorded was on October 1st two Brown Pelicans and then on 14th a Tricolor Heron. The year bird is a Yellow-billed Cuckoo.
Local Lifer 126: Brown Pelican
As the island of Barbados prepares to celebrate its 50th year of Independence many would be happy to see not one but two of our national birds, the Brown Pelican, on the shores of the island once again.  This bird, which is featured on the island’s coat of arms, is now considered a rarity to the island, but was said to once nest on an island just 200m off the southern tip of Barbados called Pelican Island.  I am not sure if the joining of Pelican Island to the mainland in 1961 during the building of the island’s deep water harbour was responsible for the extirpation of the Brown Pelican but it is symptomatic of the problem many bird species are facing along migration routes and at nesting sites around the world namely the loss of habitats.  It may not be a coincidence that the birds I saw on the 1st were just a few meters away from the original location of Pelican Island.  They may have been guided by an inherited memory from a past generation who is now etch in the history of a maturing  nation.  (Video of the Story of Pelican Island)
Local Lifer 127: Tricolor Heron
This species does not have a romantic relationship with the island as the preceding bird does but was not recorded on the island since 2010.  The Tricolor Heron was thought of as a yearly regular up until that time but is now considered rare among the local birders.  This one was first seen by Dr. John Webster on the morning of the 13th and then by myself in the fading evening light on the 14th at Chancery Lane.
Tricolors are medium sized herons about 24-28” in length, white underparts and throat, grey upperpart.  Juveniles, which this one appears to be, have a rufous or reddish-brown neck.  I am hoping to try for better images of this bird in the days to come.
Year Bird 92: Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Yellow-billed Cuckoos are fixtures at Harrison’s Point around this time of the year but this year even after several visits there, none were recorded.  As a matter of fact Harrison’s Point, which is the first stop on the island for warblers during the southern migration, has been the quietest I have ever heard it.  You can then imagine my surprise on seeing this bird on a snap visit to the pond at Greenland.  I am hoping to see more of them around during the coming weeks.
October is at mid-point and so far it is below par when compared to past years.  Let us hope that the second half is more active but one way or the other I’ll keep you informed
Enjoy your birding!!

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Banded Birds 2016

Banded shorebirds are becoming the norm during the southern (fall) migration and it is something that local birders are always on the lookout for.  Thus far, three tags have been recovered from a Short-billed Dowitcher, Sanderling and a Red Knot.  All sightings were reported to the website bandedbirds.com.

I saw the Dowitcher at one of the private swamps in the eastern part of the island on August 19th.  It was part of a small group that flew in during bad weather.  The bird had a lime green tag, AXX, on its left upper leg and a metal band on its right lower leg.  The re-sighting map showed that the bird was first seen at Chatham - Cape Cod, Tern Island, Massachusetts, United States on August 10th, 2014 before the sightings here.  The bird seemed to be in good health and was busy feeding.  The Dowitcher was seen again the next day but then was gone from the swamp.

The next bird, a Sanderling, was seen on a beach, called Long Beach, on the southern side of the island on September 14th.  This along with other birds were enjoying the feast of invertebrates that were attracted to the Sargassum Seaweed that is continuing to pollute the shoreline of the island.  Its tag, which was light green with black writing, read U5T.  The bird was smaller than the other Sanderlings on the beach and was busy feeding.  A check with the re-sighting map showed that the bird was captured and tagged on Villas Beaches, New Jersey, United States on May 24th, 2014 and was again recaptured at the same location on May 29th, 2015.  Re-sightings were as follows: Mispillion Harbor, Delaware, United States May 12th, 2015; Norburys Landing Beach, New Jersey, United States on May 27th 2016; and then here in Barbados.

The following day, September 15th, I saw another tagged bird on Long Beach.  It was a Red Knot with a light green flag inscribed with black writing on its upper left leg with the code 69X.  This bird was first seen by Dr. John Webster on August, 10th at the same location.  The Knot was tagged at Reeds Beach - north, New Jersey, United States on May 30th, 2011 and has a long history of re-sightings giving a clearer picture of its movement throughout North America.

Here are the re-sightings:
5/17/2012 - Ted Harvey Wildlife Management Area, Delaware, United States
5/27/2012 - Cooks Beach - south, New Jersey, United States
5/29/2012 - Cooks Beach - south, New Jersey, United States
5/30/2012 - Cooks Beach - south, New Jersey, United States

5/21/2013 - Mispillion Harbor, Delaware, United States
5/21/2013 - Mispillion Harbor, Delaware, United States
8/12/2013 - Grande Ile, Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve, Quebec, Canada
8/16/2013 - Grande Ile, Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve, Quebec, Canada

5/20/2014 - Brockenbridge Gut, Delaware, United States
8/28/2014 - Grande Ile, Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve, Quebec, Canada

5/18/2015 - Cooks Beach - south, New Jersey, United States
5/27/2015 - Mispillion Harbor, Delaware, United States
5/28/2015 - Mispillion Harbor, Delaware, United States

5/23/2016 - Brockenbridge Gut, Delaware, United States
9/10/2016 - Long Beach, N/A, Barbados

Tracing the path of these tagged birds puts into perspective the vast journeys of these pint size world travelers.  It also highlights that the protection of these birds, and those like them, is a task for the world not just one country, nation or island.     

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Trinidad & Tobago Birding Trip 2016 - Days 6-8 - August 6-8th

Yellow Oriole - Icterus nigrogularis
Days 6, 7 and 8 were not birding days but as any birder would know there is no such thing as a non-birding day especially in a country like Trinidad.

Day 6 – August 6

Black Vulture - Coragyps atratus
Day six was the day assigned to go shopping so I decided to take up David Lindo’s challenge and become an urban birder.  I utilized the periods between shops and malls and the city center park for birding.  Black Vultures were never missing from the skyline; also present were Short-tailed Swifts.  During and after a light drizzle of rain, three other swift species flew in slowly.  Straight away, I recognized the Fork-tailed Palm-Swift, and there was also the Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift and the Grey-rumped. The latter two were lifers.  After 8 hours in Port of Spain I had recorded 17 species.

Day 7 – August 7

A drive up to one of the highest points on the island was more of a sightseeing drive than for birding but being on an island with over 400 species, birds are everywhere.  With my eyes scanning the sky, roadside and bushes I was able to find two more lifers – the beautiful Turquoise Tanager, which I saw when our driver stopped to pick a reddish skin, pear shaped fruit, commonly known as a Pomerac.  Our next bird, a raptor, flew into a tree just before we passed.  The bird was greyish and had three bands on its tail.  With the help of the field guide I identified it as a Grey-lined Hawk.  I recorded 11 species on that trip.

Day 8 – August 8

Monday August 8, 2016 was my last day in Trinidad and we made a quick trip to the city for last minute shopping.  On my way to the taxi, in an area which is normally teaming with Black Vultures, I saw two other birds soaring.  These birds looked mostly white.  I took a photo with the Nikon point-and-shoot camera and Wendell later identified the birds as Short-tailed Hawks.  This was my last lifer for the trip and at about 6:00pm that afternoon we were back home in Barbados.


After eight days of birding on the Island of Trinidad and Tobago I came close but did not reach my goal of 100 new species.  Even though I tallied 141 species I only recorded 97 lifers.   The field guide Birds of Trinidad and Tobago, by Kenefick, Restall, Hayes (Helm Field Guides) was very helpful with the identification and I relied on it on many occasions especially with the Swifts in Port of Spain on Day 6.  I definitely enjoyed my stay in Trinidad and Tobago.   


I would like to say a big thank you to my family who endured the early rising, days in the hot sun, late lunches and long walks, all on our vacation.  They did it without complaining.  Also to Janna and Stan, Joan, Wendell and Ryan who made our trip even more special and many others who helped to make this birding trip the vacation it was. Thank You!

Wendell Reyes

Although I met Wendell for the first time during this trip, it was as if we were longtime friends and I could not have gotten close to my goal without his help.  Here is a little about Wendell.
Photography: Wendell is an award winning photographer; his photos have graced the pages of local and international magazines including National Geographic.  His photographs are also currently on the walls at the Asa Wright Nature Sanctuary.  He willingly passes on his knowledge by offering workshops on various forms of photography.
Birding: An experienced birder with over 300 local bird species to his name.  His knowledge of the local birding habitats was flawless.  He knows the local birds, not just by sight but also by sound and that was a big plus.  He also knows where to find the birds you want to see, which makes him one of the best guides on the island.  
Thanks Bro.
See Wendell’s work at these links:  Facebook , Youtube, Flickr, Fuel, and National Geographic.

Our Sanctuary Guest House  

When I was looking for a place to stay overnight in Tobago that was affordable yet nice, I came upon Our Sanctuary on booking.com and easily booked an apartment.  When we arrived at Tobago’s Airport and could not get the hired vehicle which we had pre-booked online, it threatened to place a damper on the trip.  When we arrived at Our Sanctuary and met the owner Mr. Vish, he quickly arranged a hired car for us when he heard of our plight.  He even had it dropped off that very night.  When we missed our flight back to Trinidad he stayed at the airport until he was sure we had secured another flight out.  Thank you Mr. Vish and those at Our Sanctuary Guest House.
To our many Trini and Tobago friends new and old, thank you for a wonderful vacation.

New Species for the Days: 05
New Lifers for the Days: 05
Total Species for the Trip: 141
Total Lifers for the Trip: 97

Port of Spain: Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Gray-rumped Swift.
Fond Pois Doux Road: Turquoise Tanager, Gray-lined Hawk.
Maraval: Short-tailed Hawk

Black Vulture - Coragyps atratus @ Fond Pois Doux Road

Lineated Woodpecker - Dryocopus lineatus @ Fond Pois Doux Road
Violaceous Euphonia - Euphonia violacea @ Fond Pois Doux Road
Black-crowned Night-Heron - Nycticorax nycticorax @ Trincity Mall
Great Egret - Ardea alba @ Trincity Mall

Tropical Kingbird - Tyrannus melancholicus @ Maraval
Great Kiskadee - Pitangus sulphuratus @ Maraval