Wednesday, 15 July 2015

My 120th Barbados Lifer is a mega-rarity


I recorded my 120th local lifer on July 13th, 2015 while I was not even out birding.  Well, that is not altogether true because I am always birding, but on this occasion I was on my way home from work.  It was about 4:45pm and I was driving through an area which had a mixture of residential and commercial properties, most of which had neatly cultivated agriculture plots to the back of them,  along a highway in the central parish of St. George. This highway is usually very busy but it was abnormally light with traffic that afternoon and as I was driving, I noticed a bird I thought to be a Caribbean Martin but the wings were swift like in nature.  I pulled into a vacant lot to take a closer look only to realized it was not a Martin but a swift.

This was a large swift with brown upperparts, white belly and throat and a brown chest band.  I posted a photograph of the bird along with its description to our local bird alert net and Edward Massiah, a co-author of  The Birds of Barbados an annotated checklist, identified it as an Alpine Swift.  In less than 30 minutes he was standing next to me seeing the bird for himself.

Alpine Swift

Alpine Swifts (Tachymarptis melba) are 8 to 9 inches in length with a wingspan of 22 inches.  This bird breeds in southern Europe and winters in Africa.  It is one of the fastest birds in the sky and is said to spend most of its life on the wing, feeding, drinking and even sleeping while in flight.  It is considered a very rare bird for Barbados with this one being only the fourth ever confirmed sighting with the first one being in 1955.(The Birds of Barbados an annotated checklist pg167)

Here are a few of the photographs of the Alpine swift.