Sunday, 30 November 2014

Our Tagged Sanderlings

Once a fisherman at Six Men’s Bay St. Peter asked me where these birds, referring to the over one hundred Sanderlings that were on the beach, arrived from.  I was not too sure but not wanting to mislead him, I told him North America.  Later, I was able to narrow that down to the state and even to a particular beach, thanks to and a pair of banded birds that were recorded locally.  It all began when I reported my first banded Sanderling, Y2L, last year on December 24.  After registering the re-sighting, the website gave the option to “map your re-sighting”.  After entering the requested information, I was able to see the traveling information for this bird.  On November 19th, I registered another tagged bird sighted at Six Men’s, the Sanderling tagged 19Y.  Let us look at the history of these two birds.

 Sanderling Y2L

Sanderling Y2L, according to, was captured and tagged on Kimbles Beach, New Jersey, United States on May 13th, 2012 at 1:30PM.  Two weeks later it was re-sighted at Villas Beaches, New Jersey, United States.  Six months after, the bird was sighted twice, on the 10th and 24th November, here in Barbados at Six Men’s Bay.  This was the last recorded sighting for 2012.
There was only one recorded re-sighting in 2013, one year after the previous recorded sighting.  I saw and reported this bird on November 24th, 2013 at Six Men’s Bay.
There were more sightings in 2014.  Sanderling tagged Y2L was spotted twice, 7th and 9th May, at Reeds Beach and twice, 20th and 22nd August, at Moores Beach, New Jersey, United States.
The last reported re-sighting was on the November 16th, 2014 at Six Men’s Bay.

Sanderling 19Y

Sanderling tagged 19Y is a newly tagged bird.  It was captured and tagged on May 24th, 2014 at Villas Beaches in New Jersey.  It was then re-sighted here in Barbados at Six Men’s on November 2nd and 19th.
We always knew that a large flock of Sanderlings spent their North American winters at Six Men’s Bay, but we were unsure as to whether or not it was the same flock returning year after year. 

Why Birds Tagged

Thanks to these tagged birds we now know that it is the same flock.  And that is basically the reason birds are tagged; to provide answers to researcher’s questions.  Here is how put it “The combination of banding and re-sighting data allows greater understanding of the habitat uses and needs by imperiled species. With this understanding comes the hope of achieving the protective actions required to halt, and even reverse, the population decline exhibited by many shorebird species.

I was at Six Men’s Bay this month and again, another fisherman asked me where the birds (Sanderlings) came from.  I told him that in August, members of this flock were identified in New Jersey, United States.  His eyes lit up, no doubt in awe, probably appreciating for the first time the significant distance that these tiny white birds that chase the water break, picking at the sand, travel.  I am sorry that I did not also mention that these Sanderlings make one of the longest migrations in the bird species.  Maybe next time!

PS. Sanderlings seen in our Region breed mainly in the Canadian Arctic and spend the North American winters in the West Indies, South and Central America traveling some 1,900 t0 6,200  miles..

More Photographs of the Sanderling at Six Men's 


Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Common Cuckoo in Barbados

The first Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) recorded in Barbados and the Western Hemisphere was shot on November 5th, 1958 at the Graeme Hall Swamp.  The second Common Cuckoo was recorded 56 years and 13 days later on November 18th, 2014 in the parish of St. Lucy.  It was first seen by Dr. John Webster and identification was made by a visiting birder and, I am happy to say a follower of this blog, Steve Bright on November 23rd.  He was also the first person to take a somewhat useable photograph of the bird with his cell phone and a scope, but our local expert needed a good photo of the rump to separate it from the African Cuckoo (Cuculus gularis).   
We got this photograph, finally, on 21st which firmly established the Identification.
The Common Cuckoo formerly known as the European Cuckoo is a medium sized bird, 13-14 inches in length.  It has a long tail, a yellow eye-ring and is barred, black and white, on its chest.  The upperparts of the males are grey and the underparts whitish.  Their bills are pointed and black in color, while their feet are yellow.  Females are of a brownish morph coloring.
Common Cuckoos breed throughout Europe, Africa and Asia and feed on caterpillars and insects.  It is known mostly for the call made by the male which has been adopted by cuckoo clocks around the world.
So far, as we near the end of Rare Bird Month, the Common Cuckoo heads the list for the most exciting bird seen. I wonder what else will turn up.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Birding the Third Weekend of November

The birders on the island had a wonderful weekend with one of them racking up fifty-one (51)species in just a few hours of birding.  His checklist included such rarities as an American Coot, a Grey Heron, a Lesser Scaup, a Ring-necked Duck, a Red Knot, a Long-billed Dowitcher, a Northern Waterthrush and the threatened West Indian Whistling-Duck.  The best part of his checklist is that he was in the company of a visiting birder whose life list may have had a big boost from that outing. 

Another visiting birder, that was with us for a couple of weeks, jokingly allowed me to know that he will soon overtake my year’s list.  His list for Barbados now stands at seventy-one(71) species.  Some of his new lifers are the Barbados Bullfinch, Blackpoll Warbler and Eared Doves. 

My weekend was not as fulfilling.  My species count only totaled twenty-eight (28)species for the two days.  On Saturday I was finally able to get photos of the Long-billed Dowitchers in the east of the island.  On Sunday, my morning started at Six Men’s on the west coast of the island.  Every year a large flock of Sanderlings winter at this location with some tagged ones among the flock.
There were fifty-eight Sanderlings on the beach and among them was
tagged-bird Y2L.  This was the second year I reported Y2L and the third year it was reported in Barbados.  I contacted banded birds ( and reported the sighting.

Another highlight of the trip was the return of the Ruff.  I first spotted it a week or so ago, it was not seen after that, but now it is back.  I also missed a Green winged Teal at that same northern location.  It was only realized by another birder/photographer, as he was reviewing his photographs from that day.

All in all, it was a fair weekend of birding for me.

 Table below of the birds seen this weekend

Common Name
Scientific Name
Coereba flaveola
Barbados Bullfinch
Loxigilla barbadensis 
Black-bellied Plover
Pluvialis squatarola
Black-faced Grassquit
Tiaris bicolor
Blue-winged Teal
Anas discors
Carib Grackle
Quiscalus lugubris
Caribbean Martin
Progne dominicensis
Cattle Egret
Bubulcus ibis
Common Gallinule
Gallinula galeata
Common Ground-Dove
Columbina passerina
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Streptopelia decaocto
Grassland Yellow-Finch
Sicalis luteola
Gray Kingbird
Tyrannus dominicensis
Greater Yellowlegs
Tringa melanoleuca
Lesser Yellowlegs
 Tringa flavipes
Little Egret
Egretta garzetta
Peregrine Falcon
Falco peregrinus
Pied-billed Grebe
Podilymbus podiceps
Calidris alba
Scaly-naped Pigeon
 Patagioenas squamosa
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Calidris pusilla
Shiny Cowbird
 Molothrus bonariensis
Short-billed Dowitcher
Limnodromus griseus
Snowy Egret
Egretta thula
Stilt Sandpiper
Calidris himantopus
White-rumped Sandpiper
Calidris fuscicollis
Wilson's Snipe
Gallinago delicata
Zenaida Dove
Zenaida aurita