Thursday, 15 January 2015

Turner’s Hall woods and the Oven Bird

Yellow Warbler as easily seen in the Woods

January 04, 2015

I now understand the term Warbler’s Neck.  This was after spending close to three hours in the Turner’s Hall Woods, which is located in the parish of St Andrew, in search of wintering Warblers.  Our guide was one of the most knowledgeable birders on the island, Martin Frost, along with fellow birders and photographers Dr. John L. Webster, Mr. Richard Roach and my son, Jason.  A week before Martin had seen an Oven Bird while in the woods and we were hoping it was still around.  It would have been a lifer for all three of us.

Turner’s Hall Woods

Turner’s Hall Woods is the last trace of the original tropical forest which once covered our island Barbados, before it was colonized by the English.  It sits on fifty acres of land with a main hiking trail of over one mile.  There are many secondary trails branching off to the left and right of the main trail.  It is known mostly for its rich flora, containing trees and shrubs seen no other place on the island.  It also has a number of small streams and ponds flowing under its canopy of trees, making it a perfect place for local and migrating song birds to be found.  (Learn more about Turner’s Hall Woods)


American Redstart
Photo by Richard Roach
Our birding started at about 8:30am. As we started along the main trail, the calls of Carib Grackles, Barbados Bullfinches and Caribbean Elaenias filled the air.  We stopped at the few clearings and openings in the dense foliage to ‘pish’*.  It was not surprising that the Grackles and Bullfinches were the first to answer our calls.  As we journeyed deeper into the woods, we soon saw a few Yellow Warblers and heard the callings of Black-whiskered Vireos. By the time we reached the end of the trail and exited the woods to the views of the scenic east coast, our tally of migrating warblers stood at zero.  We still had a second bite at the cherry any way, since our vehicles were parked a mile away at the other end of the trail.  After a short pause we started our journey in the opposite direction.  We moved a little faster this time, stopping to take notice of a troop of Green Monkeys and the clearings.  At the last clearing we registered our first and only migrant for the trip It was not an Ovenbird though.  It was a Setophaga ruticilla; locally referred to as the Christmas Bird because it is mostly seen around the Christmas season.  It is known worldwide as an American Redstart.  This was a lifer for Richard, John and I.  It was a good start for the year, a two mile hike and a lifer in just the first week.  Not bad!!  I am looking forward to part 2 of birding at Turner’s Hall Woods.  After all, there is an Ovenbird to be seen.

Click to learn more about the American Redstart and Ovenbird.

*pish- Pishing is a technique birders use in the field to attract small birds... click to read more