Friday, 28 October 2016

October at Harrison's Point

Blackpoll Warbler - Setophaga striata

For most weekends during the month of October the birders on the island usually turn their attention to the decommissioned US Naval Base, at Harrison’s Point (HP) in the northern parish of St. Lucy.  We were not there to reminisce on the glorious or darker days of this location, or to enjoy the beautiful view of the northern coastline, not even to explore the impressive lighthouse which now stands in a state of disrepair.  We were there for one reason, birding, and specifically birding for migrating warblers, with the star being the Blackpoll Warbler.

The first couple weekends we visited, starting from October 1st, was uncharacteristically quiet.  No calling of Yellow Warblers, Black-whiskered Vireos or Caribbean Elaenias.  There were also no Yellow-billed Cuckoos sighted.  What was also noticeably missing, which may have been the reason for the seemingly low number of birds in the woods at Harrison’s Point, were butterflies, moths and caterpillars which is the main food source of these  migrating birds at the Point.

This was not the case when I visited on October 22nd with Dr. John Webster.  I arrived at HP just before 6:00 am.  Outside was very overcast with dark threatening clouds hanging overhead.  As soon as I parked and exited the car I could hear birds calling around me but was attracted to a strange call just behind the car.  There, forging close to the ground were a pair of Blackpoll Warblers.  It looked like an adult searching for bugs and feeding a noisy juvenile.  I tallied six birds all forging close to the ground before I moved to a different area.  
I was happy to finally see the warblers at Harrison’s Point and hope we see more as the month goes on.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Two local Lifers and a Yearer for October

As we exit the second weekend in October, thus far I have recorded two lifers (126 & 127) and one year bird (# 92).  The first recorded was on October 1st two Brown Pelicans and then on 14th a Tricolor Heron. The year bird is a Yellow-billed Cuckoo.
Local Lifer 126: Brown Pelican
As the island of Barbados prepares to celebrate its 50th year of Independence many would be happy to see not one but two of our national birds, the Brown Pelican, on the shores of the island once again.  This bird, which is featured on the island’s coat of arms, is now considered a rarity to the island, but was said to once nest on an island just 200m off the southern tip of Barbados called Pelican Island.  I am not sure if the joining of Pelican Island to the mainland in 1961 during the building of the island’s deep water harbour was responsible for the extirpation of the Brown Pelican but it is symptomatic of the problem many bird species are facing along migration routes and at nesting sites around the world namely the loss of habitats.  It may not be a coincidence that the birds I saw on the 1st were just a few meters away from the original location of Pelican Island.  They may have been guided by an inherited memory from a past generation who is now etch in the history of a maturing  nation.  (Video of the Story of Pelican Island)
Local Lifer 127: Tricolor Heron
This species does not have a romantic relationship with the island as the preceding bird does but was not recorded on the island since 2010.  The Tricolor Heron was thought of as a yearly regular up until that time but is now considered rare among the local birders.  This one was first seen by Dr. John Webster on the morning of the 13th and then by myself in the fading evening light on the 14th at Chancery Lane.
Tricolors are medium sized herons about 24-28” in length, white underparts and throat, grey upperpart.  Juveniles, which this one appears to be, have a rufous or reddish-brown neck.  I am hoping to try for better images of this bird in the days to come.
Year Bird 92: Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Yellow-billed Cuckoos are fixtures at Harrison’s Point around this time of the year but this year even after several visits there, none were recorded.  As a matter of fact Harrison’s Point, which is the first stop on the island for warblers during the southern migration, has been the quietest I have ever heard it.  You can then imagine my surprise on seeing this bird on a snap visit to the pond at Greenland.  I am hoping to see more of them around during the coming weeks.
October is at mid-point and so far it is below par when compared to past years.  Let us hope that the second half is more active but one way or the other I’ll keep you informed
Enjoy your birding!!