Sunday, 22 September 2019

News : 3 billion birds lost in U.S. & Canada since 1970

A study published today in the journal Science reveals that since 1970, bird populations in the United States and Canada have declined by 29 percent, or almost 3 billion birds, signaling a widespread ecological crisis. The results show tremendous losses across diverse groups of birds and habitats — from iconic songsters such as meadowlarks to long-distance migrants such as swallows and backyard birds including sparrows.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

September: Rares, Rares Rares

White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)
It is looking like a September to remember.  What a bold, early prediction you may say, but thus far for the month we have seen a mega-rare bird, two rare ones and unusual numbers, and we are just  12 vdays into the month.  Look at what we saw so far.

Mega-Rare Bird

On September 5th,  John Webster saw a small tern while birding in the eastern parish of St. Philip.  The bird was identified as a White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus), which is one of the terns commonly referred to as marsh terns.  This small Eurasian Tern, about 9-10” (23-27cm), breeds in central Europe through central Asia, and locally in eastern Asia, with a wintering range that includes Africa, the Middle East, India, Southeastern Asia, and the Australian region.  This would make the 6th record of this species for Barbados (The Birds of Barbados: An Annotated Checklist (BOU Checklist Series): Paul A. Buckley, Edward B. Massiah
Check out this article on Marsh Terns from

Rare Birds

Red Knot (Calidris canutus)
Three species of birds that would be considered rare for the island was recorded thus far for September.  Even though some may not consider them rare because one or two are seen almost yearly, they are rare to our region or to our island according to  On the second of September and today, a Brown Pelican(Pelecanus occidentalis)was seen sitting on a buoy in the bay at Pile Bay, St. Michael.  This bird may be the same bird that was seen multiple times last month on the south coast.  The other bird was a Red Knot (Calidris canutus) that was seen on September 03rd, by John Webster.

Rare Numbers

We had a few interesting numbers during the month, but two really stood out.  On September 2nd  John did the first-ever Big Sit* for the island.  He saw 38 species, which in itself was outstanding for one location,  but not as mind-blowing as the 255 Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) he saw.  He promised to share his experience with us on the blog so look out for that.  On the morning of the 7th, Edward Massiah saw nine Hudsonian Godwits (Limosa haemastica) in St. Lucy.  This was a significant number as was shown by Ed’s comments when he saidLargest flock of adults I have ever seen!”.
Migration is definitely in full swing.  What else will show up in the month of September?  Whatever it is you will know about it here.

Monday, 2 September 2019

Cuban Martin - Mega-rare

Cuban Martin (Progne cryptoleuca)
Finding a rarity is always exciting but when it is a mega-rare bird, even better.  That is what happened on Saturday, August, 24th at Bruce Vale in St. Andrew. The bird I saw was a Cuban Martin (Progne cryptoleuca), a close relative of our Caribbean Martin (Progne dominicensis).  The most noticeable difference between the two Martins is the Caribbean shows a white underpart while the male Cuban shows very dark underparts.  I at first incorrectly identified the bird as a Purple Martin  (Progne subis), another close member of the Martin family, but this was amended when the images were shown to author of the book Endemic Birds of Cuba: A Comprehensive Field Guide and expert on Cuban endemics – Mr. Nils Navarro. Here is an excerpt  of his response:

On this picture you can see:
  1. Male and female in typical plumage, Males completely dark and female with a brown breast like in Cubans. 
  2. If you see the male close is possible to see the white section of the feathers in the abdomen, that is typical in Cuban Martin, due its specific name cryptoleuca (hidden white), I have seen close and they have the same white area of the Caribbean Martins, but the tip of the feathers are dark and by this reason they look like completely dark, but the molting immature males in 1st year or less looks like the Caribbean with black markings and flecks...
This could be the second confirmed record of this species on the island, the first was seen in October 2002, at Newcastle St. John.(The Birds of Barbados – P.A. Buckley, Edward Massiah et. al.)
What a way to end the month of August with a Mega.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

World Shorebirds Day 2019

A large percentage of the migrating birds to this island are shorebirds.  This family of birds is on the decline worldwide due to habitat loss, hunting and climate change just to name a few.  The Global Shorebird Counts (September 3rd – 9th) and the World Shorebirds Day (September 6th), was set up to highlight the plight of these marathon migrants around the world and the need for shorebird conservation and research.  You can get involved by getting out during the counting dates September 3rd – 9th, count the shorebirds you see, enter the results of your count on ebird, share the checklist with World Shorebirds Day and that’s it.  Those few steps can potentially save thousands of shorebirds so get involved. 

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Two Rare Birds For August

Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus)
Photograph by Sahara Moore
It has been an uneventful birding year in Barbados thus far but the month of August gave it just a little spark with two rare birds.  The first one, a Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus), was seen by Ed Massiah on August 1, in the parish of St. Philip.  These birds, though common in other islands of the Caribbean, are considered rare to ours, even though around 2008 a pair successfully nested and raised chicks at Walkers, St. Andrew, now Walkers Reserve. 
Black-necked Stilts look like birds on stilts. They are between  13.5-15.5” in length, with long pink legs, black upperparts, and white underparts.  The last Black-necked was recorded on May 1, 2013, at Chancery Lane’s swamp.

The other rare bird seen was a Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus).  This species has become a yearly visitor to our island.  This one was spotted in the parish of St. Lucy on August 19.  Ibis is known for its decurved bill.  Glossies are 22-25” in length.  Adults are mostly dark with iridescent green and reddish tones, with a very thin white border surrounding the dark facial skin.  Immatures are a duller brown.
As we approach the end of August and the birds begin to arrive we will be on the lookout for more rare birds.

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Lifer #140

Wilson's PloverCharadrius wilsonia
Tuesday afternoon I passed to check the water level at Chancery Lane’s Swamp after a few days of heavy rain.  The swamp was about 10% of its full capacity but it had a few shorebirds wading and feeding.  There were Sanderlings,(Calidris alba) Semipalmated Plovers (Charadrius semipalmatus)and a single Willet(Tringa semipalmata). One bird among the Semi-plovers caught my eye. It was about the same size as the plovers but a little paler and a had a large bill. Straight away I knew it was a Wilson’s Plover (Charadrius wilsonia), a rare bird for the island.  It was also my 140th lifer for the island.

Wilson's Plover is a stocky 'ringed' plover, about 7-8” in size, with a large head and a long heavy black bill.  Males have a black breast band while females and immature birds have a brown breast band.  This is the second lifer I recorded for this year.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

A Visit to Chancery Lane

A Dry Chancery
The rainfall we were having over the last few days encouraged me to pay a visit to Chancery Lane, which is on the south coast of the island, to see what effect it had on this wet area.  On my way there I passed through the town of Oistins and made a check for seabirds.  I saw three small white Terns fishing close to shore.  These birds’ bill and legs were red and they had a black crown with bright white plumage. They were no doubt, Roseate Terns.  As I was about to continue on my journey to Chancery, a fourth tern flew by.  This one appeared slightly larger, with longer wings than that of the Roseate Tern.  Its back was also shades darker than that of the Roseates.  Could this be a Common Tern? 
Brown Pelican
An object bobbing in the sea about 400 to 500 feet out also caught my attention.  On closer inspection, I realized it to be a Brown Pelican, a rare but yearly visitor to our shores.
The stop at Oistins, while fulfilling, was not the main purpose for me being on the south coast that afternoon,  so I continued on my way to the Chancery Lane Swamp.  When I arrived, I was surprised to find that the area was still mostly dry, with just a few “puddles” here and there.  A few shorebirds, made up of
Semipalmated Plover
Semipalmated Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones and a Sanderling, were relaxing around the larger catchments.  The air was full with the loud calls of the Black-whiskered Vireos and Golden Warblers.  With the prolonged dry spell we had, or continue to have, I guess it was wishful thinking to believe that the first real rain of the season would have much of an effect on this wet area.  However, it was good to see that the micro-ecosystem cycle that comes to life when water accumulates in this area, was beginning to take place.  With every collection of water, hundreds of Fiddler Crabs congregated.  This is one of the basic food sources and just a glance of the swamp at Chancery Lane slowly coming alive, and not a minute too soon.  We move swiftly into the migration season.  So please join me in a rain dance.

Fiddler Crabs