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Community Last Updated: Jan 24, 2019 - 12:30:42 PM

2018 Grand Bahama Christmas Bird Count
By Erika gates
Jan 24, 2019 - 11:30:18 AM

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Dr. Woody Bracey with his West End team: Left to Right, Marilyn Laing, Jill Cooper, Duncan Mullis, Martha Cartwright, Louise Durocher, Bridget Davis, Ben Rose, Judith Dawkins, Gena Granger, and Woody (photo taken by Erika Gates)

Jan. 4th  and 5th
For the past 18 years Grand Bahama has participated in the Audubon "Christmas Bird Count", a census that began on December 25th 1900 in the United States. Until then it had been a tradition for persons that liked the outdoors to engage in the Christmas Bird HUNT. People would go out into the fields and forests in teams and shoot any bird they saw. Whoever brought in the biggest pile of dead birds by day's end would be the winning team! Many persons became concerned about the indiscriminate, senseless slaughter of these beautiful feathered creatures and worried about declines in bird populations. Ornithologist, Frank Chapman, an officer in the growing Audubon Society, an environmental movement, called for an end to this barbaric tradition. He suggested that, rather than shooting birds, people should count them instead! So began the Christmas Bird Count in the U.S. in the year 1900 with 27 dedicated birders counting rather than killing them.
Between December 15th and January 5th on one chosen day, birds are counted within a 15 mile radius from sunrise to sunset. This year over 60.000 participants observed and recorded birds in the U.S., Canada, the Bahamas and Caribbean.
Today the objective of the annual count is to monitor the status and distribution of bird populations across the western hemisphere. When results of the count are entered into the Audubon database we begin to gain a clearer picture how bird populations have changed over the years. The information is also vital for conservation. For example local trends in bird populations can indicate habitat fragmentation or signal an immediate environmental threat, such as groundwater contamination or poisoning from extensive use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
Dr. Woody Bracey and Bridget Davis enjoying food prepared by Grand Bahama Island Birders for the orientation get-to-gether

This year 22 birders participated in the West End Count on Jan. 4th while 24 signed up for the Freeport Count on Jan. 5th. The teams met for an orientation and potluck delicacies on the evening prior to the Count at Garden of the Groves. Erika Gates who has organized the Count for the past 16 years welcomed visiting team leaders, Dr. Woody Bracey from Abaco, Christopher Johnson from Nassau and Bruce Purdy from Florida who also compiles the data for the Audubon database. Also travelling to Grand Bahama Island was Sandra Hamilton from Colorado, Marsha Johnson from Nassau and Mike Knowles and Betsy Bracey from Abaco. Erika also remembered Tony White, author of the American Birding Association bird finding guide, "A Birder's Guide to the Bahamas" and long-time resident of New Providence. She went on to say that Tony initiated the first Christmas Bird Count for Grand Bahama Island and personified a love for the Island and its birds.

On the first day of the count the West End teams, led by Bruce Purdy and Dr. Woody Bracey encountered extreme windy conditions and everybody was surprised that 78 species had been found by the end of the day. Two more species were observed during count week at West End - a Reddish Egret by Bruce Purdy and a White Pelican by Christopher Johnson, bringing the total for West End to 80!
Rare species recorded for West End were Fish Crow, Whimbrel, Savanna Sparrow, Willet, Red-breasted Merganser.

Betsy Bracey, Candice Woon and Louise Durocher at the pot luck lunch

The teams of Bruce Purdy, Martha Cartwright, Christopher Johnson and Dr. Woody Bracey set off at sunrise the following day in the Freeport area and weather conditions improved after an initial early morning downpour. By sunset 112 species had been observed while 2 additional species were added during count week, a Long-billed Dowitcher and Western Sandpiper by Bruce Purdy and Erika Gates, bringing the total to 114 species. Rare species recorded were Ruddy Duck, Mangrove Cuckoo, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Wood stork, Tennessee Warbler, Purple Gallinule, Eastern Phoebe, Black Vulture.
After two long but exciting days all participants gathered at Garden of the Groves for the highly anticipated "Tally Rally" and celebrated another good year with spectacular birds, friendships, exercise, and a passion for birds. Credit must be given to Christopher Johnson from Nassau and Martha Cartwright from Grand Bahama who were outstanding first-time CBC team leaders and contributed the highest number of species to the Freeport count - Martha's team 69 and Christopher's team 68!
Everybody enjoyed the hospitality, food and beverages of the Garden Café team under MM's (Manager Mel's) capable leadership throughout the evening!

Long-billed Dowitcher at LIS wetland (photo by Erika Gates)

The rare Whimbrel was also found during the West End Count (photo by Erika Gates)

Tally Rally and Dinner at the Garden of the Groves

One of our favorite species, the Painted Bunting! Three males and three females on the feeder at the Gates' Bird Sanctuary while one is waiting in the wings for his place at the table.

A Fish Crow, one of the rare species photographed by Christopher Johnson at West End

An immature Purple Gallinule (photo by Christopher Johnson)

Team Leader, Bruce Purdy with his West End Team: Left to Right, Christopher Johnson, Arlene Kerber, Sandy Hamilton, Denise Neely, Charmine Hall, Recorder, Melanie Darville, Marsha Johnson, Mike Knowles, Bruce Purdy, Rudy Sawyer and Delores Kellman

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