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Community : Grand Bahama Last Updated: Jan 21, 2018 - 12:06:07 PM

The 17th Annual Grand Bahama Christmas Bird Count
By Erika gates
Jan 21, 2018 - 11:33:37 AM

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Woody Bracey’s (second from left) Westend Team with Martha Cartwright, Becky Marvil, Gena Granger, Tonia Ferguson Melanie Darvill Rudy Sawyer (left to right)

Freeport, Grand Bahama - For the past 17 years Grand Bahama has participated in the so-called "Christmas Bird Count" (CBC), a census that began 116 years ago in the United States and now includes all the Canadian Provinces, the Caribbean, Bahamas, South America as well as several Pacific Islands. On a chosen day between December 15th and January 5th birds are counted within a 15 mile circle from sunrise to sunset.

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count harnesses volunteer power to gather knowledge that may shape conservation policy. The count data is becoming increasingly important not only in documenting current climate change but is predicting its future effects on bird populations. Erika Gates, organizer of the Grand Bahama Count, shares: "I could not be prouder of our local birders who dedicate their time and knowledge to this event, thereby contributing valuable information to the longest running database in ornithology! At the same time CBC is such a wonderful learning experience for our birders as expert birders travel to Grand Bahama to join us!"

The first Christmas Bird Count was held on December 25th 1900 in the U.S. Before then it had been a tradition for persons that liked the outdoors to engage in the Christmas Bird "Hunt". People would go into the fields and forests in teams and shoot any bird they saw. The team that brought in the largest number of dead birds would be the winner! Many persons became concerned about the indiscriminate, senseless slaughter of these beautiful feathered creatures and worried about declines in bird populations. Dr. Frank Chapman, founder of Bird-Lore which evolved into the Audubon magazine, suggested the alternative of counting rather than shooting birds. Thus began the first Christmas Bird Count in the year 1900 with 27 dedicated birders observing and counting birds in the United States!

Bruce Hallett from Atlanta led one of the Westend and Freeport teams again this year. He is an expert in Bahamian birds and an outstanding photographer. Bruce co-authored the American Birding Association's "Bird Finding Guide to the Bahamas" with Anthony White who is remembered fondly by all participants. Bruce also published the first photographic field guide "Birds of the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands". Local birders love to be on Bruce's team as he is not only a great teacher and inspiration to beginning birders but also puts his team at ease with his wonderful sense of humor!

Martha Cartwright’ and Duncan Mullis’ Freeport Team with Marilyn Laing, Rudy Sawyer, Duncan, Tonia Ferguson, Jill Cooper, Martha (left to right) Shelagh Payton-Ash taking photo

Dr. Woody Bracey from Abaco also headed teams on both count days as he has been doing for many years. "Woody" as he is affectionately called, set the record in 2012 by having observed more Bahamian species in one year than any other birder in the Bahamas (242 in total!). Woody is also known for making his team work hard from sunrise to sunset and, once again, his energy and determination paid off: His Westend Team recorded a winning 59 species and in Freeport his team recorded another win on the second day with 56 species!

Other participants that travelled to Grand Bahama to lend support were Becky Marvil who not only runs annual CBCs in Maine but also organizes one of the largest Birding Festivals there. Her birding and recording expertise was appreciated by her fellow team members. Lillian Russell and Tonia Ferguson from the New Providence Bird Club also were greatly valued and shared their birding and recording skills with their Westend and Freeport teams.

Bruce Hallett’s Freeport Team with Gena Granger, Becky Marvil, Melanie Darville, Bridget Davis

Local Freeport team leaders were Martha Cartwright, Duncan Mullis and Erika Gates. Martha also organized the "Tally Rally" dinner at Garden of the Groves and Charmaine Hall together with Bridget Davis co-ordinated the "Potluck" dinner which precedes the count each year during the orientation at Erika and Ed Gates' home.
Unfortunately, the Count Compiler, Bruce Purdy from Destin, Florida, was unable to make it this year due to business commitments. Bruce Hallett filled in for Mr. Purdy and compiled the observations of all teams during the always eagerly awaited "Tally Rally" at Garden of the Groves, followed by dinner at the Garden Cafe.

The number of birds recorded in the Westend area was 71 and the Freeport count area resulted in 100 species. Birders were delighted to find several rarities on both count days - 3 Bonaparte's Gulls,  2 Greater White-fronted Geese, 1 Limpkin, 1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 1 Wood Duck, 1 Tennessee Warbler, 3 Clay-colored Sparrows, 2 Ruddy Ducks and 1 Forster's Tern.

Erika Gates’ (taking photo) Freeport Team with Ben Rose, Delores Kellmann, Alexis Thompson, Barbara Zill, Judith Dawkins, Barry Parker, Letitia Parker, Jacquie Rolle (left to right)

Bruce Hallett’s (third from left) Westend Team with Duncan Mullis, Judith Dawkins, Erika Gates, Delores Kellmann, Lillian Russell, Jill Cooper (left to right)

“Tally Rally” with dinner at the Garden of the Groves Cafe

Woody Bracey’s Freeport Team with Chris May guiding at Pinetree Stables - admiring the horses are Charmaine Hall, Zeko McKenzie, Joshua Davis, Ellsworth Weir, Lillian Russell

Woody’s Freeport Team at the Landfill with Lillian, Zeko, Joshua, Christopher Baker, Charmaine, Jinelle Sturridge and Ellsworth

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