Monday, March 30, 2015

The Ephemeral Isles (29-30Mar2015)

The Bahamas a truly a special place, especially the "Out Islands".  The pace of life is slow and relaxing, the climate is pretty much perfect and with my mother being here, the food is amazing.  However I have come to grow a new appreciation for it the past couple years with the focus on birds and wildlife in general.  Amazing that such diverse life is capable on a land that is relatively young or at least in terms of landmass.  They call them the ephemeral isles because the sea level has such a drastic effect on the land.  Eons ago many of these islands were connected.  With sea level rising now, who knows if they will be around in a couple thousand years.

Lizards and Anoles on Eleuthera are varied.  I could see myself getting into Lizard identification too.

At Leon Levy Preserve the birding was a little slow in the middle of the day on Sunday.  Black and White Warbler.

The lizarding was great though.

Back at the house a couple of herons posed for me.

Tricolored Heron

I was pretty sure this was a white morph Reddish Egret. Maybe a second year bird.  Bill was dark and not bicolored.  It was too big to be a Snowy and the feet were black.  The dark bill ruled out Great Egret.  Not right for a Little Blue either.

In the evening we went to South Palmetto for sunset and I bagged this Kestrel.

American Kestrel

In the morning today I got up early and headed to Leon Levy.

Red-legged Thrush!!  Very obliging bird but light was still not ideal.

Cape May Warbler

Mangrove Cuckoo!! Could I ask for a better pose?

Finally got some better shots at White-crowned Pigeons.  There was at least 50 roosting around the mangroves.

Prairie Warbler

Bad photo but it shows the size difference between the Reddish Egret white morph and the Snowy Egrets.

In between conference calls (yes I can't get away from work), I went outside and this Western Spindalis was eating some kind of grub next to my Dad's tool shed.

Are you kidding? This bird is face melting.

Another B&W Warbler

Then while on a work call I was looking out the window and saw this guy!  Luckily he was still there when I finished up.


Later in the evening by the lake:

Green Heron

It's too bad my kids have school.  I could totally live down here.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Bahama Bonanza (24-28Mar2015)

First a couple pics from just before leaving home for my vacation.

This Ipswich Savannah Sparrow on Wrightsville Beach had some really yellow loves.

That's right, I still have not photographed a House Sparrow for 2015!

Dolphins playing in the surf.

Wednesday we flew to Nassau Bahamas.  We had a 3-4 hours layover in Ft. Lauderdale and it took every ounce of will power to hold myself back from renting a car and going to get that La Sagra's Flycatcher in Palm Beach or the Flamingos not far from FLL.  Was it will power or my wife threatening to disown me?  Either way I stayed the course and after a couple hours delay we made it to our hotel in Nassau which was just a stopover to our real destination - Eleuthera - A Land Called Freedom.

 My first Bahamas bird was this Yellow-crowned Night Heron outside our hotel room.

In the morning before going to the airport I heard a familiar trill, I believe it was a Gray Kingbird although the light was poor.

Smooth-billed Anis were feeding in the overgrown courtyard next to the hotel.

Thursday we made it to our final destination, my Dad's home for the winter - Palmetto Point on Eleuthera.  And my first real bird on the property was none other than the very common......

Thick-billed Vireo - most times you hear this bird before you see it.  It is very vocal and the call is super distinctive even for an amateur ear birder like me.

Bananaquits are very plentiful at Calypso (my Dad's place) as there are plenty of hummingbird feeders and Firecracker plants not to mention 100 other types of high yielding nectar plants my father planted.

On the first day I already got 2 flyover Magnificent Frigatebirds which I had not even seen last time I was here.  Not sure if there is any scientific validity to the saying that if you see frigatebirds flying over land, you can be sure you are in for some weather.  Well true to form, we had a major thunderstorm the next night.

Calypso Lake was loaded with birds despite the low water level.  This Neotropic Cormorant was a first for me on the lake.  You can just barely see the diagnostic white corner and angle to the area in back of the bill.  Plus it is a more dainty looking bird overall compared to a DC Cormorant.

The Lake is holding a population of 20-30 Black-necked Stilts.

Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs are everywhere and sometimes next to each other for a size comparison.

The Bahama Woodstar!  What a great bird and usually very obliging.  This one was feeding on Firecracker (sorry not sure what the proper name is).

Friday we went up to Surfer's Beach and while I was surfing I saw a White-tailed Tropicbird fly right over my head.  Actually, I was not able to see if it was definitely that species but eBird puts that one on the default list.  Red-billed would be rare so I just captured it as White-tailed.  Apparently they nest just north of Surfer's Beach near the Glass Window.

Saturday morning I birded a road called Madera Rd which is supposed to be the best place to bird on Eleuthera due to the older growth trees.  It was nice but to be honest my Dad's place is better I think.  My real target was the very rare Kirtland's Warbler which my brother had seen at this spot just a month ago.

Bahama Mockingbird - just as good a singer as his Northern brethren but look at that tail!

Zenaida Dove

Greater Antillean Bullfinch

Bahama Mockingbird

Louisiana Waterthrush - if you zoom in you can see a relatively unstreaked throat.

All in all the Madera Rd trip was kind of a disappointment.  However, when I got back to Calypso things started to heat up.

Scaly-breasted Munia (Nutmeg Manikin) - not even a bird that is known for Eleuthera?  It was flagged on eBird.  Zoom in and you can see the scaly breast.  Wish the picture was better but a Northern Mockingbird chased him/her away.

Postscript: could this be a recent release?  I see no other reports of this species or the similar Bronze Manikin on Eleuthera.  I will attempt to get better pictures of the breast in the coming days, but I got a very good look with binoculars and it was scaly breasted. I am starting to think Eleuthera is severely under-birded and maybe there are quite a few first records to be had.

Common Ground Dove

Black-faced Grassquit

Then I heard a clicking sound and thought to myself, there is a King Rail down by the lake.  I scanned and scanned and finally found him on the little island in the middle of the lake standing on a tree!  Weird.  He was calling incessantly.  It was the k-kerr call and matched my iPhone call for a King.

I thought it was a King but eBird flags Clapper as more likely.  The lake is somewhat Brackish so who knows.  It did look very reddish to me.

Postscript: It is a Clapper, unless mine is the first record of a King in Eleuthera or the Bahamas for that matter which is unlikely.

Very red for a clapper?

Thinking I would not get any closer to the bird, I kept on birding elsewhere.

Bananaquit - I can't help but keep photographing these obliging birds.

Greater Antillean Bullfinch

Bahama Woodstar

Then the rail showed up on the edge of the lake!  It was not about to show itself in the open but I snapped a few obstructed shots.  I think this is a King, what do you think my faithful readers?

Postscript: maybe too much gray in face, so a Clapper is more likely and that's what I recorded in eBird.

Northern Waterthrush this time.  Note the more creamy color and streaking all over throat.

I was hoping this was a Bahama Yellowthroat but now that I look at the pics I don't think so.  The Eleuthera race has a yellow fore-crown.

Just then my wife called me to Woodstar (the lake house) and said there was a strange bird hanging out next to her and my mom while they were chatting.

La Sagra's Flycatcher!!!! What a crushing bird.  He was perching everywhere around us and coming to within feet of us.  George was sleeping in the hammock and the bird jumped on a chain right next to the hammock literally a foot away from George.

Apologies for the numerous pics but I could not pick a favorite. I usually do not have this problem.

Very short primary projection is diagnostic.

Then if that was not enough, a warbler flock showed up 15 feet away.  I did not know what to watch!

Female Cape May Warbler

Northern Parula

Cape May

Northern Parula

Black-faced Grassquit female I think.

White-crowned Pigeons have been everywhere but I am having a tough time photographing them, they are very shy.

This Yellow-crowned Night Heron was the last bird for the evening.  Only 3 days into my "vacation" and I am running out of species to see on Eleuthera.  Now if I can only get a Kirtland's.