Thursday, 3 December 2015

Great Birding Week

What a week for birding the final week of November was!  Two lifers and four first for the year, you can’t complain about that at all. I started the week on 93 species and by the end of the week my 2015 checklist stood at 99. Here is how it went, starting from Friday November 20th, 2015.

Friday November 20th
Eurasian Wigeon (
Anas penelope) - 123rd Barbados Lifer, 94th for the Year

American and Eurasian Wigeons
A birding trip to the north one Friday evening after work started off a few days of birding bliss.  At my first stop I noticed a flock of thirteen ducks in one of the ponds.  Noticing the short bill and the shape of its head I realized that they were Wigeons.  Because of the position of the sun I could not see the colour of the birds, which I identified as American Wigeons, sitting in a pond.  I took a few photographs and alerted the other birders of their presence.  One of the birders Richard Roach suggested that I check each bird properly to make sure that all were American Wigeons or, as he put it “have American Passports”.  I did just that the following day and noticed some of the birds had reddish heads and grey under wings which are all field markings of Eurasian Wigeons.  I emailed the photos to the others for confirmation and as I thought, they were identified as Eurasian Wigeons.  This was a lifer for me.

Eurasian Wigeons are medium sized ducks about 17”–20”.  The drake has a reddish head, topped with a cream stripe, and a grey back and sides, while the hen has a grey-brown-to-russet-brown head, neck, chest, back, sides and flanks.  The bill is blue-grey with a black tip and the legs and feet are blue-grey.

Monday November 23rd
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) - 95th for the Year

Blue-winged Teal (L) and female Northern Pintail(R)
It was another afternoon trip to the north of the island to see a duck species I had on my years must-see list, a Northern Pintail.  When I was making that list, at the start of the year, I was imagining a male in full breeding plumage with his chocolate colour head against white breast with its pointed tail feather but this was a hen, which is not as striking.  It however still demonstrates the elegance of this species. This bird was first seen by Richard Roach.  I rushed to see it and added it to my year’s list.  The bird was sitting and feeding with a flock of the much smaller Blue-winged Teal, it was not hard to pick the odd man, or woman of the group.  Its size in comparison with that of a Blue-winged Teal was further emphasized when they took flight.  Northern Pintails are about 26” in length and the females are mottled brown.

Tuesday November 24th
Franklin's Gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan) – 124th Barbados Lifer, 96th for the Year

1st winter Franklin's Gulls
Franklin’s Gulls were on the birding news because of an “epic” flight on the US East Coast (see link). I was excited when our “birders of the week”, Dr. John Webster and Richard Roach, found two of them in the north.  So another afternoon trip was taken by me, to see them.  I met Edward Massiah at the location; there we saw two gulls feeding on little fish in one of the ponds.  These were first winter birds so they were showing brown on their wings, slated grey backs, white underparts and napes with a trace of a hood.  I was camera-less that day so I returned the next morning for images.

Wednesday November 25th
Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus) - 97th for the Year

Long-billed Dowitchers
This was another find by the dynamic duo of local birding, Richard Roach and Dr. John Webster.  They saw these birds the day before at one location and they were later re-discovered at another location by Ed Massiah.  I planned a morning trip to see them and found them where Ed saw them last.  Long and Short-billed Dowitchers can be difficult to tell apart because they look so much alike but their calls are different so if they are calling, identifying them becomes very easy and our birds were calling constantly. 

Yellow-crowned Parrot - Amazona ochrocephala – 98th for the Year

Our second bird for the day was seen at the opposite end of the island, in the south.  It was seen later at the back of a building.  I pulled into the driveway for a closer look.  The birds were green, with yellow crowns and a white eye ring.  Yeah!  A double whammy.

Friday November 28th
Green-winged Teal - Anas crecca – 99th for the Year

Male Green-winged Teals
This was an unexpected find.  I was on my way home after work and made a stop by an irrigation pond that was along the way.  I did notice ducks there earlier in the week but figured that they were all Blue-winged Teals.  I decided to stop just to watch them feeding and swimming around and was surprised to find two drakes.  Female Green-winged Teals are small ducks with mottled brown upperparts and whitish underparts.  The males have a greyish plumage, with a white vertical bar on its side but its most distinguishing mark is its head which is dark brown with a green ear patch trimmed with a white line.    

This was indeed a great week of birding for me and the other birders of the island.  I am still searching for the Marsh Harrier, which was seen last by Ed Massiah at the start of last week.  My time to see it may be running out but that is how the birds fly.  One more month to go for 2015 and I am hoping it ends on a high.