Monday, 24 February 2014

The Great Back Yard Bird Count: Day 1

The Great Back Yard Bird Count: Day 1
I decided that after missing the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) and the Caribbean Waterbirds Census (CWC), to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC).  When I first heard of the GBBC last year, I thought it was just a count of the birds in your back yard.  That would have been a very short count for me, but the GBBC really is an annual four-day event that engages birders from across the world, of all ages, in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of bird populations worldwide.  Participants are not tied to their backyards but can submit checklist from any location.
This 17th annual GBBC was held on Friday, February 14, through Monday, February 17, 2014.  It was a very hectic weekend for me after committing to a number of events before adding this one to the itinerary.

Friday 14
Friday 14th, even though it was a day off from work for me, I had a whole day appointment which started at 9am.  No problem.  I left for birding in the morning at about 5am and headed to the north of the island, St. Lucy.  I love birding in St. Lucy, but have not been able to get there very often so far for the year.  I arrived at my first location, Animal Flower Cave at about 5:45am.  It was still dark outside so I got my gear out and headed for a dilapidated hunting hut at an abandoned hunting area close by.  I was hoping to get the sun as it rose over the hut. 
As the sun shed its first light on the north of the island, the Grassland Yellow Finches were noisily going about feeding and looking for food.  A number of our common birds were also about.  The main birds I was hoping to see were Caribbean Martins, but to no avail, it was still too early for the main migration flock to arrive.

My next stop was Alaska, a private location not too far from the Animal Flower Cave.  As I entered the property, a Tricolor Heron, a lifer for me, took flight for the pond.  They were not many birds there as Alaska’s water levels were very low.  Other notable observations were a Barn Swallow and a Merlin.


I arrived at Fosters at 7:15 am.  The water level at this location was also very low. The main pond was now a series of puddles, making it easier for Herons to feed on the now trapped fish caught in these puddles.  There were seven types of Herons/Egrets at this pond, a Great Blue, a Little Blue and a Green Heron.  There were also Great, Snowy, Little and Cattle Egrets.  A single Glossy Ibis was also in the mix. A few types of shorebirds were also recorded.  From here I traveled south to my next stop Six Men’s Bay.

Six Men’s Bay
If you are a regular follower of this Blog, you would have known that Six Men’s Bay is the wintering ground for over one hundred Sanderlings.  As I pulled into the parking lot, the call of these birds could be heard above the roaring of the sea.  The imposing figures of Magnificent Frigate birds soared over the fishing boats anchored near the beach.  I was hoping one would fly into the range of my 300mm Canon lens but none came.  Further out to sea was a Gull swooping down to sea level and back up.  Sadly it was out of the range of my camera and binoculars so I was unable to identify the species. I ended my first day of the GBBC at 8:30am and headed home to prepare for my 9am appointment.

Stay tune for Day 2

Thursday, 20 February 2014

The Great Back Yard Bird Count: Day 1

Here are some photographs from my first day on the GBBC trail.

Sunrises in the North


more Sanderlings



Glossy Ibis

Mixed flock of Egrets and Herons

Sunday, 16 February 2014

The Great Backyard Bird Count

It is that time again for The Great Backyard Bird Count, a worldwide bird count. Learn more about it by clicking on the link below.
 Click Here: The Great Backyard Bird Count

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Birding Tour

February 1
L- Dr John Webster, Nick Bonomo ,Touring
party Back- Edward Massiah

I was happy to be invited on a birding and historical tour of the island by Dr. John Webster, as he hosted Edward Massiah and six members of the Connecticut Audubon Society, lead by team leader  Nick Bonomo  ,  on their Caribbean Tour  on board Holland America's  Ship MS Noordam. We started just after 9am and travelled along the west coast pointing out places of interest along the way.  Our first birding stop was at The Royal Westmoreland Resort in the Parish St. James.

Royal Westmoreland 

The Royal Westmoreland is a world renowned golf resort with luxury residents.  It is a private gated community. The center piece of the property is a large man-made lake where a number of domesticated and wild ducks can be found.  But the duck we were all eager to see was a West Indian Whistling Duck, which was observed on the property about two weeks ago.  We arrived at the lake at about 9:30am and the ducks on display were amazing.  We saw a large flock of Black Bellied Whistling Ducks, a pair of Ruddy ducks, Mallards, Muscovites, Fulvous Whistling Ducks, and a pretty interesting Wood Duck hybrid.  Sadly there were no signs of the West Indian Whistling Duck.  After spending about 30 minutes there we moved inland to our next stop the Landmark Plant Nursery.

Landmark Plant Nursery

At Landmark Plant Nursery, with their lovely plants and flowers, we were on the lookout for hummingbirds.  A section of the property consisted of a Mahogany woods, this provided the perfect opportunity to see two other Caribbean endemic birds that prefer that type of habitat, the Caribbean Elaenia and Black Whiskered Vireo.  As we entered the compound, the visitors were excited to see a pair of Common Ground Doves.  As we got further into the nursery, we saw an Antillean Crested Hummingbird feeding busily on one of the flowering plants.  Some of the birds seen were Bananaquits, one Black-whiskered Vireo and we heard the sweet call of a Caribbean Elaenia. On leaving the Nursery we travelled north to the hope pond.

Hope Pond

The Hope Pond is located in the parish of St. Lucy to the north of the island.  This is where Dr. John Webster, Edward Massiah and I released a Masked Duck about two weeks earlier. This bird would be a lifer for our entire crew, so they were excited at the prospect of seeing one. Sadly the ducks were not at this location.  We moved on to our first Pit stop at the Animal Flower Cave.

The Animal Flower Cave

The Animal Flower Cave is located on the most northern edge of the island.  Known for its rugged cliffs and carved by the powerful waves of the Atlantic Ocean.  These waves perform breathtaking water displays as they meet the land and roar into the air.  Even though this was just a bathroom stop we were hoping we would be lucky and see an early returning Caribbean Martin or two.  We were not disappointed as a female Caribbean Martin soon came swooping over the cliff to our delight.  Another attraction was a flock of Shiny cow-birds, two females and four males, who were in a perfect position for them to be photographed.
Our next stop will take us to the other side of the island to Bayfield Pond in the Parish of St. Philip.

Bayfield Pond

Bayfield Pond is considered the home of the Masked Ducks in Barbados and after not seeing any at the Hope Pond we were hoping the Ducks were at home.  This small pond nestled in the heart of the village of Bayfield is surprisingly a sanctuary for these shy birds.
We arrived at Bayfield at ____ and right away we could have detected the Blue bills of the male Masked Duck.  On further inspection we saw a total of three males and two females. This made our guest very happy as this bird was a lifer for all of them.  As the time quickly faded away we left Bayfield with two more stops to make, Chancery Lane and The Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary.

Chancery Lane

Because of the time, this stop was a short one. The bird of interest now was the Little Egret. On the cliff looking over the swamp at Chancery, with the help of a scope, we were able to see two Little Egrets. We also saw a Great Egret, Blue Teals and a Yellow Warbler. From Chancery Lane we drove down the south coast to our last birding stop at the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary.

Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary

Graeme Hall Sanctuary was once the main spot for birding on the island, before it closed its doors, but that is another story.  A coffee shop is now operating at the swamp with access to the park being very much restricted.  From the main deck on the front lawn we could see the main island where the Egrets nest.  With the use of the scopes we were able to see Little Egrets in the process of nesting.  Other birds of note were an American Coot, a Blue Heron and Snowy Egrets. Another attraction at The Graeme Hall Swamp was the Aviary.  Many beautiful birds such as Flamingos, Scarlet Ibis, Roseate spoonbills, White Cheek Whistling Ducks and more can be found there.
Egret Islands at Graeme Hall breeding home of the Little Egrets

What a wonderful day we had.  Our visitors registered among themselves more than five lifers, while we saw forty- six species of birds in just over five hours.

 Here is the list of birds we saw on that day.

American Coot
Fulica Americana
Antillean Crested Hummingbird
Orthorhyncus cristatus
Coereba flaveola
*Barbados Bullfinch
Loxigilla barbadensis
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Dendrocygna autumnalis
Black-faced Grassquit
Tiaris bicolor
*Black-whiskered Vireo
Vireo altiloquus
Blue-winged Teal
Anas discors
*Carib Grackle
Quiscalus lugubris
*Caribbean Elaenia
Elaenia martinica
#Caribbean Flamingos
Phoenicopterus ruber
*Caribbean Martin  
Progne dominicensis 
Cattle Egret
Bubulcus ibis
Common Gallinule
 Gallinula galeata
Common Ground-Dove
Columbina passerine
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Streptopelia decaocto
#Fulvous Whistling Duck
Dendrocygna bicolor
Grassland Yellow-Finch
Sicalis luteola
Grey Kingbird
Tyrannus dominicensis
Great Blue Heron
Ardea Herodias
Great Egret
Ardea alba
Greater Yellowlegs
Tringa melanoleuca
Green Heron
Butorides virescens
Green-throated Carib
Eulampis holosericeus
Least Sandpiper
Calidris minutilla
Little Blue Heron
Egretta caerulea
*Little Egret
Egretta garzetta
Anas platyrhynchos
#Mandarin Duck
Aix galericulata
*Masked Duck
Nomonyx dominicus
#Muscovy duck
Cairina moschata
Pandion haliaetus
#Roseate Spoonbill
Platalea ajaja
#Ruddy Duck
(Oxyura jamaicensis
Scaly-naped Pigeon
Patagioenas squamosal
#Scarlet Ibis
Eudocimus ruber
Shiny Cowbird
Molothrus bonariensis
Snowy Egret
Egretta thula
Solitary Sandpiper
Tringa solitaria
Porzana Carolina
Spotted Sandpiper
Actitis macularius
#White-cheeked Pintail
Anas bahamensis
#White-faced Whistling Duck
Dendrocygna viduata
#Wood Duck 
Aix sponsa
Yellow Warbler
Setophaga petechial
Zenaida Dove
Zenaida aurita 
* Lifer for one or more of the group
# Domesticated or Zoo birds