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

Grand Bahama Birding Group following Spring Migration
By Erika Gates
May 29, 2015 - 11:10:31 AM

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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 done!

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 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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