Friday, 3 July 2020

The Barbados birds and Birding Report - June

June is normally a slow birding month.  Most of the migratory birds are on their breeding grounds in North America and they are one or two birds to look out for, but this June was extra slow.  But the last couple of days in the month was pretty excited. But before getting into the rarities and other stuff I would like to congratulate Dr. John Webster and his lovely wife Sonia who won the award for the best smile in the Birds Caribbean Global Big Day Awards 2020. I just want to add, if it was a photo of John alone he would not have won the award.  

Birds for the Month
In June, birders on the island recorded 52 species, including four first for the year and a few rare birds.  The four first were a Fulvous Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna bicolor), Roseate Tern (Sterna dougallii), Collared Plover (Charadrius collaris) and a surprise appearance by a Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens). At the end of June 89 species of birds were recorded on the island.

Rare Birds by Parish   * denotes a continuing Bird(s) (Birds from last month)

St. Lucy
  • Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)* This bird is has been around since August 2019.
    Fulvous Whistling-Duck
  • Fulvous Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna bicolor) – seen on the 14th at the Mount Gay Distillery Pond with Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks (Dendrocygna autumnalis) by Mr. L. Larsen. This bird is expected at this time of year.
    Collared Plover
  • Collared Plover (Charadrius collaris) – this tiny plover was seen on the cliff above River Bay on the 28th.
    Brown Pelican
  • Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) was seen on the 28th at River Bay

St. Andrew
American Coot (White Shielded)
  • American Coot ((White Shielded) Fulica Americana)*, 4 at The Walkers Reserve, with a pair actively involved in nest building,  and one at Bawdens, an aggressive male paired with a Red shielded female.
  • American Coot ((Red Shielded) Fulica Americana) the rarer of the two American Coot on island. One bird is at Walkers Reserve and the other is paired with a White Shielded at Bawdens as mentioned above.  

St. Peter
  • Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens) – this is for sure the bird of the month. Photographed in a private residence on the St. Peter coastline. It is rare to see migratory warblers at this time of year with only one June-July record for this species in the West Indies, from St.  Barthélemy on June 2, 2019.

St. Philip

  • Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus)* one bird seen with two Short-billed Dowotichers by John Webster on May 30th. Separating the two Dowitchers is always difficult so I reached out to Guillermo Rodriguez Lazaro of the blog Sub-alpine birding, who wrote a post on identifying dowitchers using the Underwing pattern, he confirmed that one of the birds was indeed a Long-billed Dowitcher. The bird hanged around for a few days and then moved on.
    Grey Heron
  • Gray Heron (Ardea cinerea) was seen in the cow pasture at Golden Grove.
    White-tailed Tropicbird
  • White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus) The first report for the year was on February 4th by Quincy Clarke. Seen on June 1st at Green Point.

Christ Church
Brown Pelican
  • Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) seen at Oistins, sitting on a buoy way out to sea.

St. Michael
  • Pearly-eyed Thrasher (Margarops fuscatus) – a photo and a short video of this bird drinking water were posted on Facebook on the 17th  for identification.  It is the second reported sighting of this species for the year.   

June ended with an increase in birding activity. It no doubts will continue as we approach the business end of the year, the start of the southern migration.  

Monday, 29 June 2020

Wind, Sahara Dust and Good Birding

It was a weekend of wind, Sahara dust, and birds, rare birds.  The strong easterly winds enticed the birders to get out birding, with the promise of rarities and we were not disappointed.  On Saturday morning, my son and I made the rounds on the south coast. Our first stop at The Oistins Fish Market gave us our first rare bird for the weekend.
Brown Pelican @ Oistins
image by Jason Moore
A lone Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), that was sitting on a buoy far out to sea. We made two more stops first at Inch Marlow, where the beach was littered with Sargassum Seaweed, generating that oh too familiar nasty smell of rotting seaweed.  This attracted lots of flies, which inturned attracted Caribbean Martins (Progne dominice), which feeds on flying insects.  We next visited Chancery Lane but the swamp was dry and just a few common birds were there.  Ed Massiah went to St. Philip but saw nothing of interest.  In the afternoon John Webster went north, to The Animal Flower Cave, St. Lucy, and reported two Red-billed Tropicbirds (Phaethon aethereus).

Fulvous Whistling-Duck @ Mount Gay
On Sunday I visited two locations in the north, The Mount Gay Rum Distillery Pond and North Point.  At the distillery pond along with 50 plus  Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks (Dendrocygna autumnalis) was a rare Fulvous Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna bicolor) and on the cliff at North Point two more rare birds, a flyover from a Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) and a Collared Plover (Charadrius collaris).
Collared Plover @ North Point
This tiny quick moving plover is becoming a yearly visitor to the island.  To round off a weekend of birding, John shared a photo with us of a bird photographed on the west coast.  The bird had a yellow head, white underparts and a brownish-grayish upperpart.  The bird identification app iBird Pro identified it as a Black-throated Green Warbler, which is rare for the island, but even more so extremely rare for this time of year.

It was a good weekend of birding even with the Sahara dust about. Please stay safe friends, and enjoy your birding. 

More images from the weekend
Roseate Tern 
Carib Grackle
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Hermit Crab in snail shell - bird :)

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Prettiest Egrets On the Island

Cattle Egrets rookery at Half Acre
While passing through the parish of St. Lucy this afternoon, I could not resist the opportunity to visit the Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis) rookery at Half Acre.
five juvenile Black-crowned Night-Herons
The rookery is mainly a Cattle Egret one but I saw five juvenile Black-crowned Night-Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax), suggesting that this nocturnal heron also nested there this year.  A Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) in breeding plumage, two Snowy Egrets (Egretta thula) were wading in the pond just below the nesting trees and three  Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks (Dendrocygna autumnalis) on the bank.  Egret rookeries are noisy and smelly but it presents the best odds of seeing what I consider the prettiest Egret/Heron species on the island, the Cattle Egret in full breeding plumage and I was happy to find many examples there.  As I approached the primary nesting area I startled a mongoose. Mongooses normally prey on anything that falls from nest such as eggs, chicks, even an unsuspecting parent.  The birds were collecting nest-building materials and a few were sitting on nests, but I did not see any chicks.
Cattle Egret in breeding plumage
In prime breeding plumage, everything on the egret that is yellow turns a shade of pinkish red to purple. The normally yellow facial skin at the base of the bill, becomes a rich purplish color, the bill from base to about ¾ of its length turns a bright red,  the yellow iris of the eye, a blood red and the legs pinkish.  Golden plumage on head, breast and back.  I am sure you would agree with me that these are beautiful birds.
Egret collecting nest-building material
Full breeding plumage
Breeding plumage
Egrets nesting tree

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Biggest Day In Birding

The local birders Dr. John Webster, Ed Massiah and I were happy to be apart of this. Just want to big up my team , Flying Pintails.of which. Beautiful video, beautiful people thanks Bird Caribbean . Enjoy

Monday, 15 June 2020

Eared Dove (Zenaida auriculata)

Length: 9.4"(24 cm), intermittent size between Common Ground Dove at the smaller end, and Zenaida DoveHabitat: agrcultrual areas,  arid to semi-arid scrublandarid; Statue: local and expanding range, seen mostly in the dryer eastern parishes - St. Philip and St. John, expanding range to St. Lucy. Comment: A resent natural coloniser from South America first seen in the 1950s. 

Adult: head has a grey crown, black line behind the eye,bronzish  iridescence patch on neck

Upperparts olive- brown, black bill with black spots on 

underparts brownish red,  reddish-pink legs

female is duller than the male

Immature birds are greyish-brown, very dull, streaks on the breasts and sides of the neck

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Afternoon Birding in St. Andrew

Juvinile Green Heron from Bawdens
I did a few hours of afternoon birding in the parish of St. Andrew on  Saturday  June 6th, and even though it was overcast and rainy, not the best conditions for photography, it was good for birding.  I made two intended  stops, first at Walkers Reserves at Belleplaine, and then at Bawdens Irrigation Ponds and an impromptu stop at a bridge on my way home.  At the end of the afternoon of birding in St. Andrew I saw 25 species. Here is a synopsis of my afternoon.

Caribbean Martin
I arrived at Walkers Reserve at 2:30 and stopped first at the north pond.  The most numerous bird in the pond were Common Gallinules (Gallinula galeata), including one unoccupied nest.  An adult Green Heron (Butorides virescens) was standing motionless among the reefs while a Snowy (Egretta thula) and Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta) waded along the far bank. I moved on then to the south pond and from the lookout point, I saw lots of Common Gallinules of all ages, 129 individual birds was my final tally.  A few   Caribbean Martins (Progne dominicensis) were hawking over the pond for insects and some time swooping down for a quick drink.  The number of Pied-billed Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) are steadily increasing there, I saw 14 birds, including 4 chicks who were being fed by a parent and another bird was sitting on a nest.
Monarch Butterfly on the flower of Cow’s Thistle
 I was briefly distracted from my birding when a beautiful Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) lit on the flower of Cow’s Thistle (Tridax procumbens) but then it was back to the birds on the pond. The main birds I wanted to see though were the American Coots (Fulica americana).  Even though this species is considered to be a rare to semi-rare migrant, for more than a year a few birds lingered at Walkers, increasing the likelihood of nesting there. This would be a big deal, since the last record of this bird breeding on the island was in 2007, but as the defunct Caribbean Coot (Fulica caribaea) (explained here).  I was excited when I saw one of the birds carrying nesting material but the nest  would have to be at an infancy stage. 
Laughing Gulls
As I was preparing to leave the rain came and soon after, nine Laughing Gulls (Leucophaeus atricilla) flew into the south lake adding just one more bird to my checklist.  In total I saw 20 bird species and 202 individual birds in the hour and a half I spent at Walkers. From there my next stop was the irrigation ponds a Bawdens.

Irrigation Ponds at Bawdens

Pied-billed Grebes and chicks
Bawdens is just over a mile and a half away from Walkers. The pond system there is made up of two irrigation ponds next to each other, with the smaller and more shallow of the two attracting the most birds. For a few weeks now I have been monitoring a few birds there: a pair of American Coots (Fulica americana) whos behavior led me to believe breeding is imminent, a Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata) sitting on a nest and a family of Pied-billed Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) with very young chicks. 
American Coot (white shielded)
The American Coots are an interesting pair represented both morphs of this species, the male, an aggressive white shielded, and the female red shielded. The male behaved extremely aggressive towards the Gallinules that shared the pond. Running them away from a cluster of grass that the female frequents.  On Saturday, I saw the male carrying what seen like nesting material to the grassy area but I was unable to confirm visually a nest.  The Common Gallinule that was sitting on the nest now had 4 chicks about a week old.  I watched as one of the adult birds brought food to the adult sitting on the nest, and later the family went out for a swim. Speaking of family, I was surprised by the size of the four Pied-billed Grebe chicks who were no more than 3 weeks old. These are now about the size of the smallest parent. I saw a new nest with eggs that look a lot like a Grebe’s nest.  Could this be the nest of this female Grebe who just had chicks? It looks like it. I will keep monitoring.  I saw 13 species at Bawdens.

Masked Ducks
On my way home I got a bonus bird, a Masked Duck (Nomonyx dominicus), well three of them, a male and two females.  These ducks topped off a fine evening of birding in the parish of St. Andrew. 
Stay safe and enjoy your birding.  

Here are the birds saw

  1. Masked Duck - Nomonyx dominicus
  2. Pied-billed Grebe - Podilymbus podiceps
  3. Scaly-naped Pigeon - Patagioenas squamosa
  4. Eurasian Collared-Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
  5. Common Ground Dove - Columbina passerina
  6. Antillean Crested Hummingbird - Orthorhyncus cristatus
  7. Common Gallinule - Gallinula galeata
  8. American Coot - Fulica americana
  9. Semipalmated Plover - Charadrius semipalmatus
  10. Ruddy Turnstone - Arenaria interpres
  11. Greater Yellowlegs - Tringa melanoleuca
  12. Laughing Gull - Leucophaeus atricilla
  13. Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
  14. Snowy Egret - Egretta thula
  15. Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis
  16. Green Heron - Butorides virescens
  17. Gray Kingbird - Tyrannus dominicensis
  18. Caribbean Martin - Progne dominicensis
  19. Shiny Cowbird - Molothrus bonariensis
  20. Carib Grackle - Quiscalus lugubris
  21. Yellow Warbler - Setophaga petechia
  22. Grassland Yellow-Finch - Sicalis luteola
  23. Bananaquit - Coereba flaveola
  24. Barbados Bullfinch - Loxigilla barbadensis
  25. Black-faced Grassquit - Melanospiza bicolor

Monday, 1 June 2020

Rare Birds Update: End of May

You would have noted that an update for April was never posted, this is because of the lockdown that was in place because of COVID-19 that kept everyone at home and hence no rare birds were recorded.  Those restrictions were slackened, to a point that allowed for limited birding during the month of May.  The local birders, as if  making up for the lost time, submitted 52 completed checklists, with over 50 species to ebird including a few rare birds.  Most of the long-stay rare birds like the Ruffs (Calidris pugnax) that were present in March moved on sometime during the lockdown.

Here are the rare birds sightings for the month: 
*continuing Bird(s) (Birds from last month)

St. Lucy

Glossy Ibis in full flight
  • Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)* This bird is enjoying the Bajan hospitality it was with us since August 2019.

St. Andrew

  • American Coot ((White Shielded) Fulica Americana)* the once Caribbean Coot  (Fulica caribaea) is making its mark in this parish and is now being seen at two locations, 4 at The Walkers Reserve and one at Bawdens. The likelihood of breeding is very high.
  • American Coot ((Red Shielded) Fulica Americana) the rarer of the two American Coot was seen in the same pond at Bawdens mentioned above.  I suspect these pair are preparing to nest.

St. Philip

LB Dowitcher for the back of John Webster's camera 
  • Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus) one bird with two Short-billed Dowotichers seen by John Webster on the 30th. Separating the two Dowitchers is always difficult so I reached out to Guillermo Rodriguez Lazaro of the blog Sub-alpine birding, who wrote a post on identifying dowitchers using the Underwing pattern, he confirmed that one of the birds was indeed a Long-billed Dowitcher.

Christ Church

  • Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) was seen at Oistins on 25th which is rare for the time of year. We normally see Common Terns around the middle of August.

We saw two birds last month that were not rare birds but rare looking birds.

  • Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola) seen at Walkers, St. George. Unlike our regular Bananaquit, which has yellow underparts, this bird shows a yellow breast down to half the belly, the other half greyish which gradually graded into a white rear underpart. This is the 3rd time I have seen this bananaquit or one like it but I checked my new Birds of The West Indies by Kirwan, Levesque, Oberle, and Sharpe to see if any of the Caribbean subspecies matched this plumage type but none do.
  • Green Heron (Butorides virescens) seen at Redland, St. John which showed an uncharacteristic   white belly instead of the customary greyish one.  This may be a simple case of leucism but it gave the bird a unique look.

That is it for the month of May as we roll on into June. Please stay safe, practice physical distancing, and continue to enjoy your birding.

Feel free to contact me, Julian Moore(, John Webster (, or Ed Massiah ( to report any rare bird sightings, or if you need assistance identifying a bird we would be happy to help.