The bobolink and the Bahama Swallow
The May fieldtrip of sixteen
birders from the Grand Bahama Birding Group led by Erika Gates, resulted in 34
species and mixed emotions about several of the birds observed during their
trip to the eastern part of Grand Bahama.
Their first stop at the
Pelican Point settlement evoked excitement as many in the group had not seen
the striking male Bobolinks which travel in flocks from their wintering grounds
in the Argentinian grasslands and grain fields to the Northern U.S. and Canada
to raise their families. They only linger a few days on Grand Bahama, passing
through to rest and feed on seeds and berries, their favourite food easily
crunched up with their conical bills. The birders were able to observe a mixed
flock of 35 males and females.
Another happy sight was the
circling of endemic Bahama Swallows over Pelican Point of which more were seen
later on that morning during their walk down Crabbing Bay Trail. As the word
“endemic” indicates, this bird can only be seen in the Bahamas and many a
visiting birder travels to the Bahamas to glimpse this species. The Bahama
Swallow even received a place of honour on our Bahamian 40 cent stamp!
A Semipalmated Plover and an Indigo Plover - Birders on Crabbin Bay Trail
The birders continued east to
the diverse Crabbing Bay Trail that offers shorebirds along the shoreline and
forest birds in the wooded areas. Foraging along the shoreline was a group of
12 beautiful Semipalmated Plovers in striking breeding plumage. These birds
spend the winter in the Caribbean and the Bahamas, however, we seldom see them
in their breeding plumage which they develop just prior to returning to their
summer breeding grounds as far north as the Arctic Circle.
The group was happy to see
another “transient” that returns home to the Eastern United States from South
America in the spring, visiting us in the Bahamas to rest and “refuel” for a
short period of time. There is no doubt that the male of the Indigo Buntings is
of the most beautiful blue color any bird “wears”!
Numbers of the insect-eating
Blackpoll Warblers with their distinctive yellow legs were seen that day as well
and these birds always evoke sad feelings – simply because their passing through Grand
Bahama in the spring signals the end of migration. They are the last species to
undertake their incredibly long journey from Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina up
to the forests of the Canadian Provinces, the Northern Territories and Alaska! They
also remind us that we will have to wait until October before the miracle of
migration begins again in reverse!
But wait, there is the joy of
watching our own resident Bahamian birds in the summer. In addition there are
those species that only visit us during this time of the year, coming from the
south to raise their families right here, like the Gray Kingbird, the Antillean
Nighthawk and the Black-whiskered Vireo of which 7 had arrived in the area of
the Crabbing Bay Trail for us to see!
Reaching the end of Crabbing Bay Trail: from left to right - Penny, Duncan, Judith, Jordan, Linda, Charmaine, Peter, Louise, Nikki, Erika, Betty, Bridget, Chas, Mary, Deana, (Jahim taking photo)
Black Whisked Vireo and young; and a Blackpoll Warbler
The final highlight of the
trip came when Duncan Mullis was presented with the “Birds of the Bahamas”
certificate. Duncan observed 153 species since he began birding five years ago.
He not only developed a great passion for birding but also documents the birds
observed with photography which is sometimes necessary when a species is seen
that has never been recorded on Grand Bahama. Congratulations Duncan, well
Like Duncan, many members of
the Grand Bahama Birding Group submit their observations into the largest data
base in ornithology at Cornell University, called eBird. This effort has
contributed to Grand Bahama Island leading in number of species, bringing more
visiting birders to our island.
Interested in our list of 34
species for the day? Please look up www.ebird.org - and please join – it’s free, but be careful
– it’s addictive!
Duncan Mullis is presented with award certificate by Erika Gates
Erika Gates is
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
firstname.lastname@example.org or (242) 373-2485