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

Sanderling

Monday, 1 July 2019

Birding Last Day of June


Solitary Sandpiper - Tringa solitaria
With all the rain and strong winds, we were experiencing last week, on Sunday I headed to the east to see if any new birds were about.  On my way there, I first checked the irrigation ponds at Redland in St. George and was surprised to find a very early or very late Solitary Sandpiper.  According to ebird.org, this is the second Solitary ever recorded on the island in the month of  June.  It is so rare, that I was prompted to investigate the possibility of this being its old world doppelganger, GreenSandpiper.  I will let you know how my investigations into that matter end up.

Leaving Redland, I ventured to a private pond in the east and recorded a tally of sixteen species including nine shorebird species but nothing out of the ordinary.  We are still a few weeks away from the busy period resulting from the fall migration but things are starting to heat up.

 Here are the species I saw on Sunday

  1. Scaly-naped Pigeon - Patagioenas squamosa
  2. Eurasian Collared-Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
  3. Common Ground-Dove - Columbina passerina 
  4. Zenaida Dove - Zenaida aurita
  5. Common Gallinule - Gallinula galeata
  6. Black-bellied Plover - Pluvialis squatarola
  7. Semipalmated Plover - Charadrius semipalmatus
  8. Ruddy Turnstone - Arenaria interpres
  9. Semipalmated Sandpiper - Calidris pusilla
  10. Western Sandpiper - Calidris mauri
  11. Short-billed Dowitcher - Limnodromus griseus
  12. Solitary Sandpiper - Tringa solitaria
  13. Greater Yellowlegs - Tringa melanoleuca
  14. Lesser Yellowlegs - Tringa flavipes
  15. Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
  16. Snowy Egret - Egretta thula
  17. Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis
  18. Green Heron - Butorides virescens
  19. Carib Grackle - Quiscalus lugubris
  20. Yellow Warbler - Setophaga petechia
  21. Grassland Yellow-Finch - Sicalis luteola
  22. Barbados Bullfinch - Loxigilla barbadensis

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Incidental Birding

Fulvous Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna bicolor)

It looks like the dry spell is finally over.  We had a lot of rain over the last two weeks, not enough to start affecting the water levels in the ponds and wet areas but it is looking promising.  The island though was blanketed by a cloud of Saharan dust for most of last week and reports are that it should continue into this week. 
Black Swifts (Cypseloides niger)
I saw a few interesting birds as I traveled around the island last week.  On Wednesday afternoon I saw two Western Sandpipers (Calidris mauri) in St. Philip.  The following day, the 20th, I saw a raft with close to thirty Laughing Gulls (Leucophaeus atricilla) , just off the coast of Speightstown, St. Peter, on the West Coast.  Later that day I recorded my 85th bird species for the year, when I saw five Black Swifts (Cypseloides niger) while I was driving along the Ermy Bourne Highway, St. Andrew.   The following day I found myself in the northern parish of St. Lucy and in the pond outside the world famous Mount Gay Rum Distilleries I saw a Fulvous Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna bicolor) resting peacefully on the pond.  On Saturday afternoon I saw a total of five Masked Ducks (Nomonyx dominicus)at two different locations in the central parish of St. Thomas.  The first four I saw by a bridge at Farmers, two females, and two males.  One of the males was in breeding plumage, showing a blue bill.  The final one, a female, was seen at the SBRC pond.

Laughing Gulls (Leucophaeus atricilla)
With the rains coming, I am expecting to see more birds as we enter July and then into the fall migration.  Stay tuned to this blog for the latest in birding happenings on the island of Barbados.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Birding Walkers +


Pied-billed Grebe @ Walkers Reserve
With “drought-like conditions”  prevailing and a scarcity of migrating birds, because of the time of year, choosing a location for a few hours of birding was challenging.  I decided to take the suggestion of fellow birder, Dr. John Webster and head east to the parish of St. Andrew.  There, my son Jason, nephew Davion and I, visited Walkers Reserve, Long Pond and made a short visit to Greenland Irrigation Pond.  Here are the highlights.

Walkers Reserve – 23 Species observed

Pied-billed Grebe and two chicks @ Walkers Reserve

This was my first visit to Walkers since the Introduction to Birding workshop on May 25th  and I was eager to see what birds were around.  John visited the reserve the day after the workshop and saw not only the Ruddy Duck but also reported a Pied-billed Grebe with seven chicks.  I was keen to see them and also to get a good sighting of the Ruddy Duck.  We got started at the Main Pond, which was not the plan but a cluster of shorebirds on the far bank of the pond caught our attention.  We tallied 25 Semipalmated Plovers, 75 Ruddy Turnstones and a Sanderling.  These birds appeared to be in the process of migration as a small mixed group of Turnstones and Plovers flew in and we saw the main group of Turnstones taking to the sky as one body and disappearing over the trees.  As we moved on to the southern pond we quickly located the family of Grebes, the chicks appeared healthy, we even saw one diving.  A few of the Common Gallinules in this pond also had chicks but we never saw the Ruddy Duck.  As we were leaving Walkers we saw a Great Blue Heron wading in the main pond.  It is rare to see Great Blues at this time of year and even more so with the scarcity in seeing them last season, but it was easily my bird of the afternoon.

Long Pond – 14 Species observed

Sanderlings and Semipalmated Plovers @ Long Pond

There were only a few birds at Long Pond.  The main bird of interest was a Sanderling molting to breeding plumage.  The transformation which some birds make to breeding plumage still intrigues me and sanderlings are one of the poster birds for this change.  In normal plumage, it is a pale-ish grey bird but around this time of year, the breeding season, it starts to replace that pale look with a reddish-brown and black livery, making it distinguishable from its non-breeding self.  Sadly while the molting process may start here on the island, by the time the process is completed the bird would already have migrated.

Greenland Irrigation Pond – 8 Species observed

With the sun setting over the hills of St. Andrew, we made our final stop at Greenland Irrigation Pond. This small and usually deep pond has suffered greatly from the dry conditions and is now very shallow and receding at the banks.  This pond  still attracted Common Gallinules (21) but not much else.

At the end of our trip to St. Andrew, we tallied 26 species made up of 388 individual birds.  Common Gallinules accounted for 163 birds with 141 of that number recorded at Walkers Reserve.  Even though I did not see the Ruddy Duck it was still a good afternoon of birding in the east.

---See images here

Birds seen:
  1. Pied-billed Grebe - Podilymbus podiceps
  2. Scaly-naped Pigeon - Patagioenas squamosa
  3. Eurasian Collared-Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
  4. Common Ground-Dove - Columbina passerina
  5. Zenaida Dove - Zenaida aurita
  6. Green-throated Carib - Eulampis holosericeus
  7. Antillean Crested Hummingbird - Orthorhyncus cristatus
  8. Common Gallinule - Gallinula galeata
  9. American Coot - Fulica Americana
  10. Semipalmated Plover - Charadrius semipalmatus
  11. Ruddy Turnstone - Arenaria interpres
  12. Sanderling - Calidris alba
  13. Greater Yellowlegs - Tringa melanoleuca
  14. Great Blue Heron - Ardea Herodias
  15. Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
  16. Snowy Egret - Egretta thula
  17. Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis
  18. Green Heron - Butorides virescens
  19. Caribbean Elaenia - Elaenia martinica
  20. Gray Kingbird - Tyrannus dominicensis
  21. Caribbean Martin - Progne dominicensis
  22. Yellow Warbler - Setophaga petechia
  23. Grassland Yellow-Finch - Sicalis luteola
  24. Bananaquit - Coereba flaveola
  25. Black-faced Grassquit - Tiaris bicolor
  26. Barbados Bullfinch - Loxigilla barbadensis


Birding Walkers + (images)

Walkers Reserve

Semipalmated Plover - Charadrius semipalmatus

Sanderling - Calidris alba

Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) & Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus)

American Coot (Fulica Americana) & two Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata)

looking north over the south Pond

Common Gallinule with chicks (Gallinula galeata )

Pied-billed Grebe with chicks (Podilymbus podiceps)
Long Pond


Long Pond

Sanderling (Calidris alba) (Front) & Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) Back
The Sanderling on the left is molting to breeding plumage

Friday, 31 May 2019

Bullfinch as Host



On Saturday, during the Introduction to Birding workshop at walkers, St. Andrew, we spoke briefly about the Shiny Cowbird’s brood parasitic nature,  mainly in reference to the Carib Grackle as host.  This point was forcefully highlighted when on leaving the classroom we witnessed a noisy Shiny-cowbird chick pleading incessantly to his much smaller surrogate parent, a Barbados Bullfinch.  I hope this is not going to be a norm as I am not sure how much our lone endemic can take.



Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Introduction to Birding Workshop



Workshop participants getting a good view of a Short-billed Dowitcher 
I had an enjoyable afternoon at Walkers Reserve on Saturday, May 25th.  It was all about birds and birding as I had the privilege of making a presenting to 17 participants in the classroom on the theme “Introduction to Birding”.  After which, we went into the reserve for some birding, seeking to put into practice what was discussed in the classroom.
We got started around 3:15 pm with Jonathan Ramsay, Regeneration Coordinator at Walkers, giving a brief update on the ongoing project before introducing me to the group.  
We got started by first highlighting the basic anatomy of birds and encouraged using those terms when describing birds.  We then took a look at a few keys that can assist in positively identifying birds.  The keys that were highlighted and elaborated on were Physical Features, behaviour, songs and calls, habitats and field marks.
We considered a few devices that can enhance our naturally attained birding “tools” such as our sight, our hearing and the analytical abilities made possible by our marvelously made brain.  We looked at binoculars – the best specs for birding and the correct usage, we also took a look at field guides, both the book and app versions, just to mention a few.  When discussing making effective field notes. The participants undertook an exercise, which involved drawing a bird highlighted in a short video clip and providing enough information on the drawing to allow for someone (we used Jonathan), to identify the bird without seeing the clip.  We had fun with some of the creative drawings but Jonathan eventually identified the bird correctly, as a Blue Wing Teal drake in alternate plumage.  The point was made; it is not the quality of the drawing but the quality of the information that goes along with the drawing.
The final part of the workshop, before heading off birding, was to highlight by means of photographs, a few of the species which we were expecting encounter.  I highlighted the field markings to look for on each of them and with physically close species, such as the Carib Grackle (Quiscalus lugubris) and Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis) and the Snowy (Egretta thula) and Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta), images were displayed side by side to emphasize the species differences. For birds such as the Caribbean Elaenia(Elaenia martinica) and Black-whiskered Vireo (Vireo altiloquus) which you may hear before seeing, a recording of their calls and sounds were played to familiarize the group.
We started the birding part of the workshop about 5 pm, a ½ hour later than I expected, but a few nice teaching opportunities presented themselves right away.  One of them involved the first two birds we saw on leaving the classroom, a Barbados Bullfinch(Loxigilla barbadensis) feeding a noisy Shiny-cowbird chick.  In class, we spoke briefly about the cowbird’s brood parasitic ways but mainly with the Carib Grackle as host, but we all were now witnessing something that is rarely seen a Barbados Bullfinch as host.  In the failing light of the afternoon, as the choiring sounds of the Yellow Warblers (Setophaga petechia) punctuated the unmistakable laughter of the Common Gallinules, my bird of the day was confirmed.  
Looking for the Ruddy Duck. Great spotting!
A bird was first seen by one of the mature female members of the group, with her naked eyes, which was waved off initially as just being a rock by another participant.  It turned out to be a male Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis), a rare bird for this island.  Of course, as new birders, most were just happy to see a duck, while the spotter was happy it was not a rock.  I was happy though because it was my 83rd recorded species for the year.  The birding section of the workshop came to an end in the evening’s dwindling light with the promise of meeting again to complete the birding at Walkers.
This was a fun group and my hope is that most of them would take up birding as a hobby and add to the rich data on ebird for the Birds of Barbados.
Here is a list of the birds we saw and heard
1.  Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)
2.  Pied-billed Grebe
(Podilymbus podiceps)
3.  Scaly-naped Pigeon
(Patagioenas squamosa)
4.  Eurasian Collared-Dove
(Streptopelia decaocto)
5.  Common Ground-Dove
(Columbina passerine)
6.  Zenaida Dove
(Zenaida aurita)
7.  Common Gallinule
(Gallinula galeata)8.  American Coot (White-shielded)Fulica americana 
9.  Semipalmated Sandpiper
(Calidris pusilla)
10.Short-billed Dowitcher
(Limnodromus griseus)
11.Greater Yellowlegs
(Tringa melanoleuca)
12.Little Egret
(Egretta garzetta)
13.Snowy Egret
(Egretta thula)
14.Cattle Egret
(Bubulcus ibis)
15.Green Heron
(Butorides virescens)
16.Gray Kingbird
(Tyrannus dominicensis)
17.Caribbean Martin
(Progne dominicensis)
18.Shiny Cowbird
(Molothrus bonariensis)
19.Yellow Warbler (Golden)
(Setophaga petechia [petechia Group])
20.Grassland Yellow-Finch
(Sicalis luteola)
21.Bananaquit
(Coereba flaveola)
22.Black-faced Grassquit
(Tiaris bicolor)
23.Barbados Bullfinch
(Loxigilla barbadensis)