Saturday, 30 April 2016

Urban Birds are Smarter than Their Rural Counterparts

Barbados Bullfinch
Follow the link to see the results of a study done by the McGill University using Barbados only endemic bird, the Barbados Bullfinch (Loxigilla barbadensis).

Thursday, 21 April 2016

April's Eastern Trip

Short-billed Dowitcher - Limnodromus griseus
It was good to be heading out on an early morning birding trip once again; I have not done this in over a month.  My journey began at about 5:30am.  On hearing a report the day before of shorebirds aplenty at one of the wet areas in the eastern part of the island, I made this my main stop.  Birding was so lean over the past few weeks that seeing a few shorebirds on the ground was exciting.  As I got on my way the birds I saw while driving were busy, Carib Grackles were searching for food along the road and in nearby fields, Cattle Egrets were gracefully moving from roost to their first feeding stop for the day.  Some were harassed by Grey Kingbirds as they flew past over parcels of air space marked out as their territory.  I was distracted by the sunrise over the misty Redland’s Valley and replaced the super telephoto lens on my camera with a wide angled one and spent a few minutes capturing this moment.  I was then off to my intended stop, Conga Road.

Congo Road

Least Sandpiper - Calidris minutilla
I arrived at Congo Road at 6:30am. The sun was now fully awake and the day promised to be as beautiful as the day before.  There were many shorebirds and a few herons wading in the low water and mudflats as I drove in.  Straight away I noticed a group of Least Sandpipers and two Greater Yellowlegs probing close by.  My target bird was a Short-billed Dowitcher which was reported as molting into breeding plumage. While Short-Billed Dowitchers are common during southern (winter) migration when its plumage is greyish in colour, they are not as common during the northern (summer) trek when they are more colourful.  It was only near the end of my visit that I located this bird and I was able to get some pleasing photographs. Other shorebirds seen in numbers were Semipalmated Plovers and Sandpipers, Black-bellied (Grey) Plovers and a flock of Shiny Cowbirds.  The males were making a busy display hoping to land an adoring mate.  I spent close to an hour at Congo Road and registered twenty-three species with the SB Dowitcher being a first for the year.

Red-billed Tropicbird

Caribbean Martin - Progne dominicensis
My next stop provided me with my second target bird for the morning, the Red-billed Tropicbird.  It nests along the rugged east coast of the island at this time of the year.  Unlike the SB Dowitcher which I saw at the end of my visit to Congo Road, I saw this bird as soon as I drove into park my car but did not see it again after that.  I spent close to forty-five minutes sea watching and only saw a few Caribbean Martins, who also nest in the cavities along the seawall.  I registered six species with the RB Tropicbird being a first for the year. 

My tally for this Eastern April trip was twenty – seven species including two first for the year.  As the northern migration moves into full swing I will be hoping for a few warblers to add to my life list. You can keep track of my year list here.

Here is a list of the birds and images from that day

Red-billed Tropicbird - Phaethon aethereus
Great Egret - Ardea alba
Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
Snowy Egret - Egretta thula
Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis
Green Heron - Butorides virescens
Common Gallinule - Gallinula galeata
Black-bellied Plover - Pluvialis squatarola
Semipalmated Plover - Charadrius semipalmatus
Greater Yellowlegs - Tringa melanoleuca
Least Sandpiper - Calidris minutilla
Semipalmated Sandpiper - Calidris pusilla
Short-billed Dowitcher - Limnodromus griseus
Scaly-naped Pigeon - Patagioenas squamosa
Common Ground-Dove - Columbina passerina
Zenaida Dove - Zenaida aurita
Eared Dove - Zenaida auriculata
Green-throated Carib - Eulampis holosericeus
Caribbean Elaenia - Elaenia martinica
Gray Kingbird - Tyrannus dominicensis
Caribbean Martin - Progne dominicensis
Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
Grassland Yellow-Finch - Sicalis luteola
Black-faced Grassquit - Tiaris bicolor
Barbados Bullfinch - Loxigilla barbadensis
Carib Grackle - Quiscalus lugubris
Shiny Cowbird - Molothrus bonariensis

April's Eastern Trip - Images

Short-billed Dowitcher - Limnodromus griseus

Caribbean Martin - Progne dominicensis

Semipalmated Sandpiper - Calidris pusilla

Little Egret - Egretta garzetta

Least Sandpiper - Calidris minutilla

Saturday, 2 April 2016

The Birds of Greenland 2015/16

The pond at Greenland

The low rainfall that affected the island in 2015 and so far into 2016 has caused the loss of many of the wet areas which depend on rainwater as its source.  Places such as Bayfield Pond, the home of the masked ducks, and most of the northern ponds such as Chance Hall, Hope Pond and most of the private hunting swamps are now mostly dry.  The deeper ponds, such as Greenland Irrigation catchment, are suffering from low water levels, thus providing easy access to the underwater vegetation enjoyed by many species of birds especially dabbling ducks.  In 2015/16 these ducks rushed to this St. Andrew wet area like I have never seen before.

My tally of uncommon birds to this location for 2015/16 are:

  • 9 species of ducks; Blue and Green-winded Teals, American and Eurasian Wigeons, Ringed-necked Ducks, Lesser Scaups, Northern Pintail, Ruddy Duck and Masked Ducks.
  • 2 species of coots; Caribbean and American Coots.
  • 1 species of warblers; Northern Waterthrust.  

This may seem like a small thing but to get a clearer picture of the role this pond played during 2015 and continues to play during the 2016 migration period take a look at the statistics.

The Numbers

I first visited Greenland on July 29th and then again on August 1st, 2013 at the height of the Big Year that brought this blog to life.  On those occasions only one bird mentioned above, namely a Masked Duck, was seen.
I visited the location twice in 2014 during the months of October and November, deep in the southern (winter) migration period.  On those visits I did not record any migratory ducks, coots or warblers that were uncommon to this location.
The earlier part of 2015 followed suit with 2013 and 2014 but as the southern migration commenced, as early as September I recorded a female Ruddy Duck.  While I did not expect to see this species of duck here I was not altogether surprised as it was the type of habitat this bird enjoys, but I was more surprised to find fifty-four Blue-winged Teals during November.
As the northern (spring) migration gets on its way, most of our waterfowls have started to make their exodus to start a new generation of globe trotters.

The peak numbers from November to April:

  • Blue-winged Teals – 109 birds
  • Ring-necked Ducks -  17 birds
  • Lesser Scaups – 4 birds
  • American Wigeons – 3 birds
  • Green-winged Teal – 2 birds
  • Eurasian Wigeon – 1 bird
  • Northern Pintail – 1 bird
  • Ruddy Duck – 1 bird
  • Masked Duck – 1 bird
  • Caribbean Coot – 2 birds
  • American Coot – 1 bird
  • Northern Waterthrust-1 bird
  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo – 1 bird
  • White-winged Tern – 1 bird

While it was good to see this assortment of birds congregating at this location the circumstances that mostly drove them here is one I would like to see an end to.  Here is hoping for rain rain rain and more rain!   For the island really needs it and the birds do too. 

Photograph of birds seen at Greenland between November 2015 and April 2016
Caribbean Coots x2
Caribbean Coot
Eurasian Wigeon Drake
Blue-winged Teal
American and Eurasian Wigeons