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Columns : Bird Talk - Erika Gates Last Updated: Feb 13, 2017 - 1:45:37 AM


"Go Wild - Go Birding" on Grand Bahama Island
By Erika Gates
Jun 4, 2014 - 10:33:33 PM

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Grand Bahama Birding Group at Owl Hole track road, left to right: Charmaine Hall, Jill Cooper, Michael Flowers, Judy Dawkins, Delores Kellman, Susan Krupica, Erika Gates, Mary Tarzwell, Jordan Davis Penny Richards, Deana Willamson (Photo: Birder, Christopher Baker )

Freeport, Bahamas - This month's field trip of the Grand Bahama Birding Group began with a survey of a Wilson's Plover nest on Discovery Beach. Each summer we cordon off this area with stakes, caution tape and signs as it has been a favourite nesting area of Wilson's Plovers and Least Terns and eggs and babies could be easily crushed by cars that may park on this dune to enjoy the view.

The first bird to lay its eggs this year on April 25th was a Wilson's Plover and she was sitting on three eggs when we arrived that morning, perfectly camouflaged, blending in with the environment. The nest was monitored over the next weeks and on May 26 (32 days later) the first chick hatched, fully feathered with the markings of its parents, walking around the "scrape" in the sand where its siblings were yet to be born! On the 33rd day the second chick hatched and the next day number three cracked the eggshell!

The following day Mom and Dad were taking the family for an extended walk along the beach.

We continued east to Owl Hole Road, which proved to be a productive site. During the three mile hike through the beautiful pineforest where the highest elevations (68 feet!!) on Grand Bahama can be found, the highlights were 7 Western Spindalis, 5 Olive-capped Warblers, 7 Pine Warblers, 5 Hairy Woodpeckers, 5 Cuban Emeralds, 4 Blue-Grey Gnatcatchers. We were also happy to still find two species of winter migrants: 2 Black-throated Green Warblers and 1 Northern Parula.

 
We proceeded further east to Grand Bahama Nature Tour's trail along Gold Rock Creek adjacent to Lucayan National Park. The trail leads through old stands of native hardwoods, like Milkberry, Mahogany, Hercules Club, Poisonwoods and White Stopper where Antillean Bullfinches and Western Spindalis could be found feeding on succulant berries. A Thick-billed Vireo was seen enjoying fruit and insects as well and several lingering winter migrants like the American Redstarts and Black-throated blue Warblers were fueling up on insects prior to leaving for their nesting grounds up north.
 
This beautiful trail which also showcases four different colors of the endemic orchids, Oncidium lucayanum, better known as the Dancing Lady, ends at Grand Bahama Nature Tour's picnic shelter on Gold Rock Beach. Here we were hosted to a light lunch and beverages while observing a Black-bellied Plover in breeding plumage, obviously undecided weather to return home to the Canadian tundra or to remain a little longer on our Bahamian beaches! Our lunch show also included 2 Magnificant Frigatebirds, 2 Brown Pelicans and 8 Wilson's Plovers.


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Protected Shorebird Nesting Area: A Mother Wilson Plover sitting on three eggs. First chick's first steps. Second chick just hatched and third egg still being incubated. Photos by Erika Gates and Tony Fortunato


We observed the following species that morning, May 3rd, 2014:
 
Discovery Beach
8 Laughing Gulls
7 Northern Mockingbirds
4 Eurasian collared Doves
2 Least Terns
1 Wilson's Plover on nest
1 Gray Kingbird
1 Turkey Vulture
 
Owl Hole Road
7 Western Spindalis
7 Pine Warbler
5 Olive-capped Warbler
5 Hairy Woodpecker
5 Cuban Emerald
4 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
2 Black-throated Green Warbler
2 Black-faced Grassquit
1 Turkey Vulture
1 Black-whiskered Vireo
1 Northern Parula
1 Thick-billed Vireo
1 Red-legged Thrush
1 American Kestrel
 
Driving Grand Bahama Highway
4 Turkey Vulture
3 Common Ground Dove
1 Smooth-billed Ani
1 Great Egret
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Top left: Olive-capped Warbler at Owl Hole Road (Photo: CM); Top middle: Blue Grey Gnatcatcher (Photo: Christopher Baker); Top right: Western Spindalis (Photo: Chuck Seidel); Bottom left: Black-throated green Warbler; Bottom right: Thick-billed Vireo (Photo: Chuck Seidel)


 
Grand Bahama Nature Tour's Trail and picnic site on Gold Rock Beach
8 Wilson's Plover
2 Black-throated blue Warbler
1 Black-bellied Plover
2 American Redstart
7 Ruddy Turnstone
2 Antillean Bullfinch
1 Laughing Gull
2 Red-winged Blackbird
2 Brown Pelican
2 Red-legged Thrush
2 Magnificant Frigatebird
1 Thick-billed Vireo
3 Turkey Vulture
1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
2 Northern Mockingbird

Erika Gates is owner of Kayak Nature Tours (one of the first Eco-Tour businesses in The Bahamas); co-founder of the Ecotourism Association; a published writer; and a Cacique award winner! Her column Bird Talk will enlighten and educate us about birds of The Bahamas, as well as the importance of Ecology. Erika can be reached at gbntours@hotmail.com or (242) 373-2485


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Greater Antillean Bullfinch (Photo: Dr. Clarence Green)


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Grand Bahama Birding Group at Owl Hole (Photo: Birder, Christopher Baker )


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Bird Talk - Erika Gates
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