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.