Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Birding April Third

 With an angry looking sky displaying its many shades of grey suggesting rain was imminent, and with I fighting off a cold, I was ready for my first early morning birding excursion in more than a month.  I had all my bases covered; my camera was packed away from the night before with an empty memory card installed and for the cold I took two teaspoons of cough syrup followed by some vitamin C.  I was so hyped that I even considered taking some of my wife’s concoction of Garlic and Ginger which was sitting in the refrigerator, but I regained my sanity just in time when the smell hit my nostrils and left it where it was.  It was quite chilly outside, so I protected myself with three layers of shirts, packed my breakfast and was out through the door.

I had arranged the night before to meet Dr. John Webster at 6am to bird two locations in the south of the island, first a Private Swamp, which he has permission to visit, and the cliffs where the Red-billed Tropicbirds are nesting.

The Private Swamp

Remains of Common Gallinule
killed by Peregine
This is probably one of the best birding locations on the island.  It consisted of many small ponds which provide varying habitats for different birds.  At the first pond we saw a few bird species including five Soras, a few Blue-winged Teals and a very sleepy Pied-billed Grebe.  The Soras were very tolerant of our presence and allowed us to photograph them foraging on the banks and in the shallow parts of the pond. Flying around a few of the ponds were Swallows, mainly Barn Swallows, but we also saw a small Swallow with a white belly, square tail, a brownish rump and a white forehead.  Dr. Webster identified it as a Cliff Swallow with which my Birds of the West Indies Helm Field Guide concurred.  The Cliff Swallow was a first for me for the year.  A Caribbean Coot which was first sighted in January was still around and the family of Grebes which included three chicks was growing well.  Dr. Webster also showed me the carcass of a Common Gallinule that was killed by a Peregrine Falcon.  He described the attack as relentless.  He said the Raptor never tried to feed on the bird and continued attacking until he was sure the bird was dead and then flew off.  We spent two hours there and saw thirty one species of birds.

The Tropicbirds Cliff

We arrived at our second location for birding at 9am.  The sky was still overcast and grey but the lighting was much better for photography.  As I exited my vehicle I could hear the familiar calls of the Grassland Yellow Finch.  As I walked along the grassy path to the cliffs where the Tropicbirds nested, I saw a Grassland Finch jump from just in front of me, on further inspection I found a nest with three eggs.  I took a few photos of the nest and moved away to allow the bird to return to its
nest.  As I reached the cliffs looking over the sea, I noticed two Tropicbirds to the right of where I was standing. Soon afterward I saw another to my left. This bird appeared to be searching for a nesting hole.  It continually examined the face of the cliff as it flew by sometimes hovering or alighting in a hole or on a ledge for closer inspection.  It was at this point that I realized I was not as prepared as I thought.  My camera battery died.  I forgot to charge the battery the night before.  I swapped the camera for a pair of binoculars and continued to watch this bird work.  It appeared that he found a hole that was pleasing; he landed to check it out and then flew off into the Horizon.  We spent thirty to forty five minutes at that location.

Red-billed Tropicbird on a ledge

The April 3rd, trip to the south recorded thirty-six species of birds with one being a first for the year for me. See the table below for the checklist and click this link to view the photographs from that day.


Common Name
Scientific Names
Blue-winged Teal
Anas discors
Pied-billed Grebe
Podilymbus podiceps
Red-billed Tropicbird
Phaethon aethereus
Great Blue Heron
Ardea herodias
Great Egret
Ardea alba
Snowy Egret
Egretta thula
Little Blue Heron
Egretta caerulea
Cattle Egret
Bubulcus ibis
Green Heron
Butorides virescens
Porzana carolina
Common Gallinule
Gallinula galeata
Caribbean Coot
Fulica caribaea
Spotted Sandpiper
Actitis macularius
Solitary Sandpiper
Tringa solitaria
Greater Yellowlegs
Tringa melanoleuca
Least Sandpiper
Calidris minutilla
Wilson's Snipe
Gallinago delicata
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
Columba livia
Scaly-naped Pigeon
Patagioenas squamosa
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Streptopelia decaocto
Common Ground-Dove
Columbina passerina
Zenaida Dove
Zenaida aurita
Green-throated Carib
Eulampis holosericeus
Belted Kingfisher
Megaceryle alcyon
Caribbean Elaenia
Elaenia martinica
Grey Kingbird
Tyrannus dominicensis
Caribbean Martin
Progne dominicensis
Barn Swallow
Hirundo rustica
Cliff Swallow
Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
Yellow Warbler
Setophaga petechia
Grassland Yellow-Finch
Sicalis luteola
Coereba flaveola
Black-faced Grassquit
Tiaris bicolor
Barbados Bullfinch
Loxigilla barbadensis
Carib Grackle
Quiscalus lugubris
Shiny Cowbird
Molothrus bonariensis