Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Local lifers number 125 and 126

Two afternoons and one morning trip to the north of the island has landed me two lifers. It started on the afternoon of December 8th while I was birding after work.  My main reason for visiting this area was to check on a few rarities, two Franklin’s Gulls, two Long-billed Dowitchers and a Glossy Ibis that were recorded there.  As I was concluding my visit after seeing a Dowiticher and the Ibis, I  The bird was being annoyed by a much smaller bird which I guessed was a Grey Kingbird.  I took a few images of the bird before it disappeared into the distance but because it was flying into the sun my resulting images were all silhouettes making identification difficult.  I emailed the images to the local birders asking them if it looked like an Osprey, the only raptor we have here around that size.  Ed Massiah said it was not an Osprey while Richard Roach said it looked like the Marsh Harrier.  He was referring to the Marsh Harrier first seen by Dr. Webster on November 5th, then a few times after that but only in the eastern part of the island.  I also posted the images to the forum Bird Forum - Bird Identification which in the past was able to identify birds from poor images.  Quickly the consensus was that it was a Marsh Harrier with one poster going as far as saying that it looked like a juvenile female.
noticed a large raptor like bird slowly flying away from me, about a mile or more away.

Marsh Harrier

December 9th

The following day I took an early morning trip to the north.  Dr. Webster, who had informed me the day before that he would go and look for this strange raptor, was also in the north.  As I was approaching the location where the raptor was seen, Dr. Webster announced on the local bird alert forum, that the mystery had been solved and the bird was a Marsh Harrier.  I was happy to hear this as the bird had not been seen in a while and I feared that I had missed the chance to see it.  As I was hurrying to the location Dr. Webster announced that the bird left the swamp and headed east along with a Grey Heron, which was the direction I was coming from.  I saw the Grey Heron, which flew almost over my car and then I saw a large bird, which I believed was the Harrier, about a quarter mile up the road still heading east.  I tried to follow them but lost them.  The next sighting of the Harrier was on the 13th at the same location by Dr. Webster.  I am still hoping to be able to photograph this bird properly but it still became my 125th local lifer and my 102nd for the year

December 11th

Greater Scaup
Greenland’s irrigation pond, in the parish of St. Andrew, was the go to place for ducks this year.  So far, seven species of ducks, including my 126th local lifer and 103 for the year , was recorded there.  I saw this bird while visiting the pond late in the afternoon in failing light.  I noticed that two new Scaups had joined the single one that was there for about a week.  I took documentary photos of the new arrivals and on examination at home I noticed that at least one of the two may be a Greater Scaup.  I used the internet, Google, along with a number of field guides within my personal library and when I was almost certain of identification I shared a few images with the local birders by email.  Straight away Ed Massiah confirmed the identification as a Greater ScaupGreater Scaups, unlike their lesser cousins, are vagrants and rare to the island, with only three recorded dating from 1979 to 2008. (Birds of Barbados). 

PS. December 22: After reviewing flight images of the bird which was thought to be a Greater Scaup we can now say without a dough that the bird was indeed a Lesser Scaup.   

Lesser vs. Greater Scaup

 Lesser  Scaups

Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Rounded Head – peak above the eyes
Peak to the back of the head
Large black patch “nail” on edge of bill
Small black patch “nail” on edge of bill
Size: 18-20”
Size: 16-18”
White wing stripe extends strongly into the primaries
White wing stripe does not extend strongly into the primaries



Friday, 11 December 2015

Rarity Month 2015

One of the two Franklin's Gulls
2015 November Rarity month started off with a bang, slowed in the middle weeks, but then finished off on a high note which spilt over into December.  Rarities Month, was a term coined by Edward Massiah (one of the authors of Birds of Barbados) for the month of November because of its history of recording rare birds, especially Eurasian species.  Local birders may have varying opinions on which species may be considered as rarities but as I do my listing on ebird I follow their lead on what is considered a rarity for the island.
Marsh Harrier photograph by Dr. John Webster

The biggest find for the month, in fact for the year, a mega-rarity, was a bird seen for the first time on the island.  It was first seen by birder and photographer Dr. John Webster on Thursday, 5th.  It was a Marsh Harrier (read about it here), a Eurasian Raptor. This bird hung around for a few days and was last seen by Ed Massiah on 24th November.  But this bird keeps eluding me. 

Long-billed Dowitchers
Our next rarity was seen 15 days after recording the first.  This sighting was a lifer for me.  It was three Eurasian Wigeons seen flying in the north of the island with their new world equivalent, American Wigeons on the 20th.

The week starting the 23rd turned out a few rarities in the north of the island.  On the 23rd a Northern Pintail, 24th a mega-rarity, Franklin’s Gull and on the 25th a handsome Long-billed Dowitcher.  In the southern side of the island Dr. Webster reported a Ruff.

December started with reports of a White-winged Tern seen by Dr. Webster and an American Coot in the parish of St. Andrew.  What will the last month of 2015 have in store for us?  Time will tell but the start gives me a lot to look forward too.

Rarities seen during November Rarity Month


Common Name

Scientific Name

Marsh Harrier
Circus aeruginosus
Eurasian Wigeons
Anas Penelope
Northern Pintail
Anas acuta
Franklin’s Gull
Leucophaeus pipixcan
Long-billed Dowitcher
Limnodromus scolopaceus
Calidris pugnax

American & Eurasian Wigeons

Northern Pintail(R)

Franklin's Gull

two Long-billed Dowitchers