Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Global Big Day 2016 - The Stats

Saturday May 14th, 2016 the day of the Cornell Global Big Day, was the hardest day of birding I have ever done since stumbling into this past time a few years ago.  But it was fun, as my family and I traversed the length and breadth of our lovely but dry island in search of our feathered friends.  I always felt that a goal of 50 bird species at this time of year and under these drought conditions was going to be difficult but not impossible.  However I fell short of my goal.  My final tally was 45 species from 16 checklist and counting over 600 individual birds.  I touched every one of the eleven parishes but only reported sightings from eight of them.  Here is a breakdown parish by parish of the birds seen on The Global Big Day in Barbados.

 St. George

The first bird of the day was a 1Caribbean Elaenia, which was sweetly singing in a tree outside my bedroom window.  Other birds I listed before leaving home included 2Barbados Bullfinch, 3Black-faced Grassquit, 4Grey Kingbird, 5Scaly-naped Pigeon, 6Zenaida Dove and 7Carib Grackle.

St. Michael

My first stop was at Bellville in the city where my targeted species were two Parrots.
Right away I was able to locate the more popular of the two, the 8Orange-winged Parrot.  The second one, 9Yellow- crowned took a bit more effort and I eventually caught a glance of it sitting in a tree.  This was a year bird for me.  Other birds that were added to the checklist were the ever present 10Rose-ringed Parakeet, my first hummer of the day 11Green-throated Carib, 12Bananaquit, 13Black-whiskered Vireo and 14Shiny Cowbird.  I then turned my attention towards sea birds at the fishing village at Pile Bay, on the outskirts of the city.  My target birds, laughing Gull and Royal Tern, were not there but I added to my tally 15Caribbean Martin, 16Common Ground Dove and 17Magnificent Frigate bird

St. Thomas

From St. Michael I journeyed inland to the central parish St. Thomas and to the pond of the recycling company SBRC.  This man-made pond has attracted many exciting birds over time but my target bird was a Great Heron which has been a fixture there for a number of weeks.  It is also a great location for Eurasian Collared Doves but disappointingly none of these two birds were there.   I did see the ever present 18Cattle Egrets, 19Green Heron, 20Common Gallinule, 21Laughing Gull and 22Yellow Warbler.

St. John

I added one more species, 23Grassland Yellow-Finch, at Tabby Pond, St. John as I was on my way to St. Philip.

St. Philip

This parish provided the best birding of the day adding nine species to my Big Day checklist.  The nine were two whistling ducks the 24Black-bellied and 25West Indian Whistling Duck, the egrets 26Snowy, 27Little and 28Great.  The doves were 29Eared, 30Eurasian collared and 31Rock.  Sandpipers made their mark with 32Semipalmated, 33Willet, 34Ruddy Turnstone, 35Greater Yellowlegs, 36Semipalmated and 37Black-bellied Plovers and 38Red-billed Tropicbird to complete the list.  We then moved south to Christ Church.

Christ Church

We took our lunch at the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary around 12 noon but were hoping to see target species for this location – Black-crowned Night Heron, Great Blue Heron and Little Blue Heron but none were seen.  We did see a 39Spotted Sandpiper there.  Birds entering the checklist from other locations in the parish of Christ Church were 40Royal Tern and 41Antillean-crested Hummingbirds.

St. Andrew   

After our lunch stop we headed north making three stops in the parish of St. Andrew and adding three species to our Big Day checklist namely 42Pied-billed Grebe, 43Caribbean Coot and 44Masked Duck. Then it was off to our final stop.

St. Lucy

I officially ended my Big Day quest in the most northern parish and with one of the most peculiar bird on the island the 45Southern Lapwing. 

Monday, 16 May 2016

Global Big Day 2016 (Images)

Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)

Carib grackle (Quiscalus lugubris)

Black-faced Grassquit (Tiaris bicolor)

Caribbean Elaenia (Elaenia martinica)

shiny cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis)

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)

West Indian (Dendrocygna arborea) &  Black-bellied Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis)

Black-bellied  (Dendrocygna autumnalis) & West Indian Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna arborea)
Black-bellied Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis)
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus)
Willet (Tringa semipalmata)
Green Heron (Butorides virescens)
Caribbean Martin (Progne dominicensis)

Ruddy Turnstones (Arenaria interpres)

Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata)
Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata)
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Global Big Day

There are two more days before the second annual Cornell Lab of Ornithology Global Big Day.  Last year Barbados recorded 52 species with yours truly recording 44 of them.  This year, despite the challenging birding conditions the island is experiencing, I will be targeting 50 species.  It will be a difficult day but I will have an added bonus of my wife and two kids joining me on the tour.

The challenge… Traditionally our best birding period is during the winter migration, which is between August – December but birding at this time of year, has in the past, given us a couple of surprises, such as the Eurasian or even South American rarities but that is with normal conditions.  From last year however, the island has been facing drought conditions, with record low rainfalls.  This has affected a number of wet areas that depend on rainfall for its water source.  Most of the natural ponds in the northern parish of St. Lucy are now dry.  This is also true of the ones in the parishes of St. Philip and Christ Church.  Chancery Lane swamp, one of the largest natural water catchment areas on the island, now resembles a desert with just a small hole of water remaining, reminiscent of an oasis.  I will be looking forward to areas such as The Graeme Hall Swamp and the irrigation pond at Greenland for my waders.

Last year’s surprise bird was a Ruff, which was seen at a small pond in the northern parish of St. Lucy but this pond is now dry.  I will be hoping for a surprise of that nature on Saturday.  My biggest find would be the Marsh Harrier if I am able to locate it. This very allusive bird was first seen by Dr. John Webster last year November with sporadic sightings being recorded at different locations in the northern and eastern parts of the island.  I recorded the last sighting of it in April at Tabby Pond, a small irrigation pond in the central parish of St. George.  It would make my day to see this bird during this Big Day excursion.  Local birds that may prove difficult to locate are the Parrots, Yellow-crowned and Orange-winged and the Black-crowned Night Heron.

Meteorologist predicted earlier this year that drought conditions should begin to subside soon, with high rainfall even predicted for this month.  We are approaching the middle of the month and so far the promised rain has not yet materialized, but the show, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Global Big Day, must go on and the island of Barbados will be a part of it, “rainfall or sunshine”.  I am looking forward to sharing the outcome with you.