Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Birding the First Week of August

I have not being birding in a couple of weeks, mostly because the areas which would normally have been teaming with migrating shorebirds, at this time of the year, are now dry. The reason? - An ongoing dry spell which continued into the first two months of the rainy season (June and July).  The beginning of August saw the first major rain storm of the season but it had little effect on the very dry ponds and “wet areas”. So I had to take my birding to places which still had water, even if just a little.   

Redland’s Irrigation Pond

My first stop was Redland’s Irrigation Pond in St. George. This pond had suffered from the drought and is now slowly regaining water but for now it is far away from its optimum water level.  The water levels were so low that a Little Egret could stand in the deepest area, so it was not surprising to see wading birds in the now shallow pond.  There were nine Snowy and one little Egret with it long white head plumes.  I spotted my first Solitary Sandpiper for the migration season.  Other birds at the pond were the ever present Common Gallinules, a Spotted and a Greater Yellowleg Sandpipers also a few Least Sandpipers.  I spent 15 minutes and then moved on.

Codrington College    

Green Heron @ Codrington College
Codrington’s College was more of a fun stop than a birding stop but while there, I decided to make a checklist.  Mostly common birds were seen on the property of this 18th Century Seminary but it remains the best place to observe Green Herons.  The first Eurasian Collard Dove was observed here about a year or two ago but now, you can see a number of pairs there.  I spent about one hour at Codrington’s College and moved on to my next stop.

Conset Bay

Shorebirds @ Conset Bay
Conset Bay is a fishing port found on the East Coast of the island.  I drove into the car park at about 5pm. The first thing I noticed was that the beach, like so many on the East Coast of the island, was being affected by the Sargassum Seaweed (what is Sargassum Seaweed?).  Shorebirds though, were enjoying the seaweed, and a flock of Least Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpipers and a Semipalmated Plover were all busy feeding among the seaweed.  Other birds observed were three Caribbean Martins and a couple of Carib Grackles.  On to my next stop Bayfield Pond, but wait, Black Swifts!

Black Swifts

Black Swift @ Three Houses
The road to Bayfield goes through the public park at Three Houses St. Philip.  Just as I exited the road through the park I noticed the familiar boomerang shape of the Black Swift flying to my right over a Banana Field.  I stopped and exited the car and was able to see a flock of more than ten Black Swifts.  I tried to photograph as many as possibly with some passing as close as 30 feet over head.  In among the Swifts were Caribbean Martins making for a perfect comparison between these two birds possible.  Sadly I was unable to obtain a photographic comparison.  After about 10 minutes there, I moved on to Bayfield Pond.   

Bayfield Pond

For the first time, the Bayfield Pond is showing effects from the low rain fall.  Water levels are falling. Snowy Egrets and Common Gallinules were busy feeding.  Four Least Sandpipers were also on the banks of the Pond.  I rescued one of the Least Sandpipers after it became stuck in the mud around the pond. It was startled by a failed attempt of an Indian Mongoose to prey on it.  It jumped into the pond and was unable to get back out.  I am not sure why it did not fly; my guess was that its wings were too wet for flight.  After trying to reach the bank, it became stuck in the watery, muddy quick sand (mud).  I took a long poll and help it to the bank.  It was all covered with mud so I washed it off and released it onto the banks of the pond.  It was still unable to fly, so I transported it to a beach not too far from the pond so that it would be less vulnerable to attack.  On its release, it was still unable to fly but was now flapping its wings while heading for cover among the Sargassum Seaweed on the beach.  I hope it survives.
Least Stuck in mud @ Bayfield

Least Sandpiper @ Bayfield

In two and a half hours I visited four locations and recorded twenty-two bird species. 
See the checklist below:
Click to see photographs

Barbados Bullfinch

Loxigilla barbadensis

Black-faced Grassquit

Tiaris bicolor

Black Swift

Cypseloides niger 

Black-whiskered Vireo

Vireo altiloquus

Carib Grackle

Quiscalus lugubris

Caribbean Martin  

Progne dominicensis 

Common Gallinule

 Gallinula galeata

Common Ground-Dove

Columbina passerine

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Streptopelia decaocto

Grey Kingbird

Tyrannus dominicensis

Greater Yellowlegs

Tringa melanoleuca

Green Heron

Butorides virescens

Least Sandpiper

Calidris minutilla

Lesser Yellowleg

Tringa flavipes

Little Egret

Egretta garzetta

Scaly-naped Pigeon

Patagioenas squamosa

Snowy Egret

Egretta thula

Solitary Sandpiper

Tringa solitaria

Spotted Sandpiper

Actitis macularius

Zenaida Dove

Zenaida aurita