Friday, 28 December 2012

Private Ponds in Barbados for Birding

The last area of wetlands where I will be looking to take photographs of birds will be in private ponds. These private ponds are used mainly in gardens or for irrigation.  As few as they maybe, these ponds play their part in the wetlands network.  Codrington College is a theological college in the parish of St. John to the east coast of the island.  At the front of the building and the center piece of their landscape is a lily pond which contains fish, two species of Cichlids, African Blockheads “Steatocranus casuarius “ , Tilapias and Kois.  This shallow pond provides feeding areas for Green Herons ” Butorides virescens”, Belted Kingfishers “Megaceryle alcyon”, Spotted Sandpipers “Actitis macularia  also a number of common passerine birds such as Grackles, Bull finches and Doves can be found feeding on the grounds and in the trees on this property.  This is one of the tourist attractions on the island so it is open to visitors. 
Another pond which is a favorite with local and migrating birds is an irrigation pond found at Redland in the parish of St. George.  I gained permission from the owner to visit and photograph the birds found there.  I was able to photograph a family of Pied Billed Grebes “Podilymbus podiceps” , Common Gallinule/Moorhens Gallinula galeata”, Blue Winged Teals  Anas discors “ and Green Herons  Butorides virescens”,  just to mention a few.  This is a deep pond with vegetation on the bank.

The Bayfield Pond is a pond found in the village of Bayfield in the Parish of St. Philip which is on the East Coast of the Island.  The Common Gallinule and Green Herons can be seen in abundance there.  This pond is close to Human inhabitance, therefore these birds are not very shy and are quite easy to observe and photograph.  Masked Ducks “Nomonyx dominica” has also been observed in this pond.

Below are photographs from the above locations


Common Moorhen @ Bayfield


Cattle Egrets @ Redland

Pied-Grebe @ Redland

Blue-Winged Teal @ Redland

Common Moorhen @ Redland

Codrington College

Black-Faced Grassquit

Green Heron @ Codrington

Eurasian Collar Dove @ Codrington

Spotted Sandpiper @ Codrington


Wednesday, 19 December 2012

An afternoon at The Woodbourne Shorebird Refuge

I arrived at about 5pm.  My goal was to see and hopefully photograph a Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax but I got more than that.  On arrival I went straight to the location where the Herons hideaway during the day, hoping to get a glance of them emerging from the thick leaves of the trees to the south of the refuge, but with no luck. I walked around to the other ponds and there was a Great Blue Heron and a Great Egret in one of the ponds to the west with a number of Cattle and Snowy Egrets in the north pond.  I also saw Common Moorhens, Little Blue Herons, Grey Kingbirds and watched a pair of Peregrine Falcons hunting in the distance, which was a joy to see.  A swallow like bird flew by, then I noticed another, before I knew it I was surrounded with a large flock of what deduce from the size and color to be Barn Swallows “Hirundo rustica”.  Some were swooping down to the surface of the west pond to take water and like that, they were all gone.  Mr. Burke, project manager at the refuge confirmed that my identification of the Barn Swallow was correct and explained to me that sometimes birds just pass through, stopping only for food and water and then continue on their migration route, as was the case with this flock.  We had a wide ranging conversation on birds, birding and conservation as it grew dark.  Then, there was the unmistaken call of the Black Crowned Night Heron quark!!  and there it was the bird I came to see. It was now dark outside about 6:15pm but I could still see its silhouette.  It is bigger than the Green Heron.  One flew right over my head, what a wonderful bird, this nocturnal hunter.  I will have to go back and hopefully I will be able to get a photograph of this beautiful bird of the night.  Happily, I said goodnight to Mr. Burke and was on my way.  Good conversation, good birding, for sure there will be a part 2 stay tune.
Click here for Google Map to WSR
Below is a chart with the birds I saw and some Photographs:

            Scientific Names
Great Egret
Ardea heroddias
Great Blue Heron
Ardea alba
Common Moorhen/Gallinule
Gallinula galeata
Snowy Egrets
Egretta thula
Cattle Egrets
Bubulcus ibis
Green Heron
Little Blue Heron
Egretta caerulea
Peregrine Falcon
Falco peregrinus
Barn Swallows
Hirundo rustica

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Shooting Swamps

There is a paradoxical relationship between the shooting swamps and migrating birds in Barbados.  These privately owned and funded artificially created swamps, created solely to attract bird for shooting, are resting and feeding areas for many tired birds, but sadly it is where thousands meet their death.  A band on shooting would be great, but that would also bring an end to a number of important wetlands, where migrating and resident birds feed, nest and rest.  Bird Life International in conjunction with The Canadian Wildlife Service is working with the local hunters and helping them to identify and a species of concern, so as to avoid the shooting of these birds. 
At these swamps a number of birds can be seen and they will play a part in my challenge of ‘photographing 100 birds of Barbados’.

More on the efforts to curve hunting of shorebirds click here
Below are images from some of the shooting swamps on the island:

2 Snowy Egrets @ Shooting Swamp in the East of the Island
Caged Shorebirds @ Shooting Swamp

Shooting Hut @ swamp in the east of the island

Thursday, 6 December 2012

The Watering Hole

To see the animals in the Serengeti, the best place to look are the watering holes.  Well it seems that if you want to see birds, you find their watering hole.  This is what I discovered while hiking and birding in the central parish of St. George.  I came across a tap, a dripping tap, where many passerine species came for a drink.  Here are a list of birds that visited the tap Bananaquit Coereba flaveola, Barbados Bullfinch Loxigilla barbadensis, Carib Grackle Quiscalus lugubris, Zenaida Dove Zenaida aurita and a pair of Yellow Warblers Setophaga petechia.

Bananaquit – This is a small bird about 3.5 to 5 inches in length, it has a yellow breast and belly, with a black back and a prominent white eye stripe.

Barbados Bullfinch – this bird is endemic to Barbados.  It was previously considered a subspecies of the Lesser Antillean Bullfinch Loxigilla noctis.  It is a small bird about 5 to 6 inches in length , dark olive-grey in the upper parts, the wings are mostly brown and under parts are grayish.  In Barbados the male and females are the same colour.

Carib Grackle a black bird with yellow eyes.  In Barbados unlike other Caribbean countries, the male and female has the same colour with the female being totally black like the male.

Zenaida Doves are very common on the island. This dove is approximately 11–12 inches in length. I was surprised to see it turn up for water, I can’t remember ever see them take water in this manner.  But not as surprised as seeing a pair of Yellow Warblers (a bright yellow bird which is now making a comeback on the island) known locally to frequent swamps and mangroves.

Below is a table of the birds seen and some of the photos.

Common Name
Scientific Name
Coereba flaveola
Barbados Bullfinch
Loxigilla barbadensis
Carib Grackle
Quiscalus lugubris
Zenaida Dove
Zenaida aurita
Yellow Warbler
Setophaga petechia
Gray King Bird
Tyrannus cubensis

Barbados Bullfinch


Bananaquit and Yellow Warbler

Zenaida Dove

Zenaida Dove and Barbados Bullfinch

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Carib Grackle

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Woodbourne Shorebird Refuge (WSR).

Fresh Water Wetlands

The fresh water areas on the island of Barbados are of importance to migrating shore and water birds.  There are made up mainly of a network of artificially created swamps for the purpose of luring migrating birds down so that they can be shot.  Some of these shooting swamps, as there are called locally; maintain water levels outside of the shooting season which spans from July to October.  This is a plus for those birds which migrate outside the hunting season.

But without a doubt the beacon in bird conservation on the island of Barbados is -
The Woodbourne Shorebird Refuge (WSR).  This once abandoned shooting swamp was brought to life to give the many migrating shore and water birds a place of safety during migration.  At this one location you can see well over 15 species of birds on any given day but it is well known for Snowy, Cattle and Great  Egrets, Little Blue Heron, Green Heron, Black Bellied Whistling Ducks, Common Moorhens or if you prefer Common Gallinule and much more.  I am expecting to pay a lot of visits there during the New Year.

Click Here  Google Map

Click Here to read about how WSR came about.

Click Here for articles on the Woodbourne Shorebird Sanctuary (WSR).

Below are some Photos from WSR:

The observation blind built at Woodburne Shorebird Refuge
 called "The Hutt," after  Barbadian Ornithologists, Naturaliist and  Conservationist Captain M.B. Hutt (1919-1998)
One of the fresh water ponds at WSR
Osprey "Pandion haliaetus" fishing at WSR

Sora "Porzana carolina" in the wetfeilds

Green Heron "Butorides virescens " and Wilson's Snip "Gallinago delicata"

Egrets taking time to rest at the pond infront The Hutt

Great Egret "Ardea alba"