I have not been birding in the north of the island for a couple of weeks. Birding in the north has always been fun but with the lost of access to one of the main birding locations and the quickly drying wet areas, make the drive to the north seem pointless. The morning of January 25th, I decided to go to the northern parish of St. Lucy after reports of two ducks, a Northern Pintail and a Lesser Scaup, were spotted.
I started my journey at 5:30am. It was dark, wet and cold from early morning rain. The sky looked angry with a large percentage of cloud cover and the threat of rain at any moment. With sunrise officially forecast for 6:25am I was hoping to make the 16 mile drive, from the central parish of St. George, through the parishes of St. Thomas, St. Joseph, St. Andrew and St. Peter, and arrive at my first stop, the Hope Pond just before the sun had fully awaken. Everything went according to the plan except for the lighting for photography. For those who know photography - my camera’s maximum Fstop is f5.6 @ 400mm. The lighting was so poor I was shooting with an ISO of 6400 and shutter speed of below 500; this resulted in grainy and very soft photos.
Hope Pond is a small, seasonal pond next to a public road. This was the pond in which the Mask Duck Laurie was released last year. (See that post on Masked Duck Laurie ) The birds at the pond this morning were 7 Blue-winged Teals which included a male in breeding plumage with its distinctive white crescent in front of each eye, a Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers and 3 Yellowlegs. Two Peregrine Falcons showed themselves briefly just to the south of the pond. In total twelve species were recorded at the Hope Pond. After spending about fifteen minutes at the Hope, it was off to my next stop, the Cave swamp at North Point. Click for Checklist
Cave Swamp is an abandoned shooting swamp situated on the most northerly part of the island called North Point. This artificial swamp, which depends on seasonal rains for its water, was full to capacity just a month ago and was teaming with many Shorebirds. Now it was dry. The ever present and heavily Grassland Yellow Finches were singing and fluttering around, while part time fishermen were fishing from the high cliffs, occasional taking cover from the explosions, as the waves violently bashed against the cliffs and shooting salt water high into the air. The sun was now lazily climbing into the sky with palates of blues and oranges that made you sit up and take notice. So this stop turned into a landscape shoot. Then it was off to my final stop, Trents.
Trents is the location where the two ducks, a Lesser Scaup and a Northern Pintail were seen. Both of these ducks would be a first for the year for me. I arrived there at 6:30am and saw the Scaup right away. A Snowy Egret was also wading on the far side of the pond. I made a thorough search of the pond but could not find the Pintail. Maybe it had moved on. If it had, its most likely current location would be Chance Hall’s Pond I thought. So my next stop was now Chance Hall’s pond. (Click to see Checklist)
Chance Hall Pond
Chance Hall’s Pond has water all year round. It is a location where you can find large flocks of ducks, mainly Teals, which flock here when other ponds and wet areas start to dry. I figured it would be the place to find a duck like a Northern Pintail. I arrived there at 7am and as I had guessed, ducks were in the pond, about nine of them, but they were all Blue-winged Teals, no Pintails. I was now out of time and was unable to make any further checks for the Duck.
It was a fair morning; I saw a total of 15 species and added one bird to my year list.