Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Harrison’s Point 2017: Blackpoll Fall Out

October normally finds local birders, like myself, combing the wooded areas surrounding the old US Naval Base at Harrisons Point (HP), St. Lucy. This is in search of a bird weighing less than an ounce but has one of the longest and most impressive migrations of the animal kingdom.  These birds, Blackpoll Warblers(BLPW) (Setophaga striata), take off from their breeding grounds, in forests of northern North America from Alaska, through most of Canada, the Great Lakes region and New England, on a  journey  of up to 1,500 miles over the Atlantic to their winter grounds in South America. (See migration map).  A study in the 90s done by McNair, Massiah and Frost at Harrisons Point discovered that the area around HP is an important refueling station along the migration route of these birds.  On normal occasions you may see one or two birds but during bad weather the birds on the ground can number into the hundreds.  This is a phenomenon called “fallout”.  It is when adverse atmospheric conditions interrupt migration forcing birds to the ground.  The study by McNair et al. stated that among other things when the barometric pressure is low around the BLPOs peek migration period - between October 15th -25th - that fallout will occur at HP. Saturday 14th was just that, with a barometric reading of 1012mb ( along with winds from the SE and persistence rain.

I left home at 5:45am with my birding buddies, Jason and Sahara (my two children) for the 40 minute drive to HP in the north.  When we arrived, it was still raining and I drove onto one of the new access roads (that’s another story) and parked under a large Tamarind Tree (Tamarindus indica) in hope that it would offer some protection from the rain.  They were many birds around especially seedeaters, like Blackface Grassquits and Barbados Bullfinches who were attracted to the seeding Megathrsus maximus commonly known as Guinea Grass.  Shiny Cowbirds and Carib Grackles were also busy feeding on the grass seeds.  As I exited the car with an umbrella, I caught sight of my first Blackpoll Warbler in the Tamarind Tree.  It was a strange one, something I had never seen until then - this bird was still showing its breeding plumage.  I then saw another, and another and another and by the end of our trip to HP the tally was 15 BLPO warblers and I knew many more were around but after spending one hour  and a half it was time to go. 

I am hoping to visit HP again this coming Saturday. Hopefully the weather is better and the birding is good.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

2017 Photographic Big Year - 85,86

The 40th week of 2017 gave me two more images for my Photographic Big Year. One was a new bird for the island, Ringed Kingbird85, and a rambunctious little tern, Common Tern86.  This moved my year count within 14 images of my goal 100!!
See images below.  See 2017 Photographic Big Year images here.
85 - Ringed Kingfisher - Megaceryle torquata
86 - Common Tern - Sterna hirundo

Sunday, 8 October 2017

A New Avian Species Record for Barbados – Ringed Kingfisher (Megaceryle torquata)

Ringed Kingfisher (Megaceryle torquata)
I first saw, well heard, this bird on the afternoon of September 21st, while birding at Woodbourne Shorebird Refuge (WSR).  The call was unfamiliar to me so I took note of it.  I tried in vain to find the bird in the dense foliage but was unable to.   Minutes later what I first thought was a Belted Kingfisher, which is common to the island, flew from the area the bird call came from.  I noticed the reddish colour underparts and got a quick shot with my camera.  The shot was horrible but I
My first image of the RIKI on September 21
was sure this bird was a Ringed Kingfisher.   On returning home I listened to the call of the Ringed Kingfisher on the website  and it was the same call I heard earlier that afternoon at WSR.   I had seen and photographed what I thought was a Belted Kingfisher sitting over one of the ponds, it then flew to the same dense foliage just before I heard the strange call so I reasoned that it must have been the Ringed Kingfisher and gathered a few of the best images to share.   Of course, no matter how you try, you cannot turn a Belted Kingfisher into a Ringed Kingfisher, yes the
Belted or Ringed Kingfisher?
response was unanimous - a Belted Kingfisher.  I was dejected but vowed to find and get photographical evidence to support my sighting but because of a series of unfortunate events I was unable to do an in-depth search.  On September 30th, a local birder saw and photographed the Ringed Kingfisher at the same location, confirming that I did hear its distinct call.

I was finally able to get my first good look at the bird on October the 1st and first usable images on October 5th some of which you can see below.

Ringed Kingfisher (Megaceryle torquata) is a large bird about 16 inches, with bluish-gray upperparts, shaggy crest and a broad white collar around the neck.  Its underparts are reddish-brown, which covers the entire breast of the male to under the tail while females are more colourful having a bluish-gray breast and a narrow white stripe separating the breast from the belly.  Juveniles are darker above, with marks on the back; breast is mottled and belly a lighter reddish-brown making our bird a female.

While these birds are uncommon to this island they are common to some of our Caribbean neighbours eg. Dominica which was recently devastated by Hurricane Maria – Our hearts and prayers go out to them.

Here are a few images of the bird:

Bird Dispatches from the Hurricane Front Lines - Bird Caribbean

It has been an exhausting few weeks for many of BirdsCaribbean’s partners across the region. The hurricane season is not over for another two months, but Caribbean conservationists are hoping for a break. BirdsCaribbean and its wonderful supporters across the region are doing their best to keep up with a variety of urgent needs, from shipping hummingbird feeders for starving birds to organizing assessments and surveys. There is a lot of work to be done, but teamwork and partnerships are making the difference.
Continue reading >>>

Sunday, 24 September 2017

2017 Photographic Big Year - 84

Week 38 and one more bird to add to my Photographic Big Year 2017 list.  This is one of the lager Shorebirds, standing at 15.5” with a wing span of 29”.  Bird number 43 is a Hudsonian Godwit43.

See images below.  See 2017 Photographic Big Year images here.

84 -Hudsonian Godwit - Limosa haemastica

Sunday, 17 September 2017

World Shorebird Day 2017

World Shorebird Day was created to raise awareness of the need to protect shorebirds and their habitats throughout their life cycles; to raise public awareness of the need for continued shorebird research, monitoring, and conservation and to connect people with shorebirds through wetland sites around the world.For yet another year I was happy to do my part in helping to reach the ideals of this movement in spotlighting these threatened birds and took part in the seven day Global Shorebird Counting which took place over the days of  September 1st to the 7th.  I registered five locations across the island for counting and tallied 18 species of shorebirds with over 450 individual birds. Here are a few high points. 

High Counts  

Two hurricanes, Irma and Jose, to the north – east sent hundreds of shorebirds to the beaches and wetlands across the island.  This mass invasion of these feathered migrants emphasizes the importance of wetland habitats along migration routes, sadly many of these areas are disappearing and this is why the World Shorebird Day and initiatives like it which emphasize these fast, among other, are important.  I was not surprise to see high number of Semipalmated Sandpipers and Plovers as it is the for this time of year but I was surprised with the Short- billed Dowitchers and White-rumped Sandpipers totals, for example on September 6th, World Shorebird Day, I counted over 90 White-rumped Sandpipers at the Woodbourne Shorebird Refuge.  Lesser Yellowlegs and Ruddy Turnstones were two other species with high counts. 

As the curtains came down on World Shorebird Day 2017 and I viewed the Actual Global Shorebird Counting Locations I saw how these little waders, these shorebirds, mobilized many persons across the globe.  I hope that my small effort on this tiny island of Barbados helped to raise awareness of the need to protect shorebirds and their habitats throughout their life cycles; to raise public awareness of the need for continued shorebird research, monitoring, and conservation and to connect people with shorebirds through wetland sites around the world. 

Enjoy your birding!!

The shorebirds I saw

1. Whimbrel

2. Semipalmated Plover

3. Ruddy Turnston9ne

4. Least sandpiper

5. Semipalmated Sandpiper

6. Short-billed Dowitcher

7. Spotted sandpiper

8. Solitary sandpiper

9. American golden plover

10.  Lesser yellowlegs

11.  Pacific golden plover

12.  Black-bellied plovers

13.  Red knot

14.  White-rumped sandpiper

15.  Pectoral sand

16.  Western sandpiper

17.  Greater yellowleg

18.  Sanderling