Saturday, February 18, 2017

Trip to Florida and Grand Bahama-Part 3: Grand Bahama Feb 9-11


Bahama Warbler, Pine lands east, Grand Bahama, Feb 9, 2017
Bahama Warbler, Pine lands east, Grand Bahama, Feb 9, 2017
Bahama Warbler, Pine lands east, Grand Bahama, Feb 9, 2017
Bahama Warbler, Owl Hole Rd, Grand Bahama, Feb 9, 2017
Caribbean Pine lands, Grand Bahama, Feb 9, 2017
Olive capped Warbler, Owl Hole Rd, Grand Bahama, Feb 9, 2017
Hooded Warbler, Garden of the Groves, Grand Bahama, Feb 9, 2017
I decided to make a slight change from my original plans of hiring a guide for a second day and instead rented a jeep for a couple of days instead to explore some areas on my own. With Sherri doing some other activities on Thursday I had the entire morning into the afternoon free to explore the pine lands east of Freetown in search of the two endemic warblers I missed the day before. As mentioned before these two species (Bahama Warbler and Bahama Yellowthroat) have apparently become very tough to find following Hurricane Matthew that hit the island last October but I was determined to track them down. I headed out just before sunrise to start looking east of Lucayan NP and after one minor missed turn I was on my way (the toughest part was driving on the left...a throwback to the English roots of the Bahamas). The area past the national park was somewhat quiet and there were not any good spots to penetrate into the pines so I decided to head back to a series of old logging roads which had some sightings of both of my target species before the hurricane. I started on a road north of Owl's Hole Road and one of the first birds I noticed was a Bahama Warbler (#1260) crawling its way up the side of a pine much like a nuthatch. I was really not expecting it to be so easy to find the bird after a lot of looking yesterday but luck was with me I guess. The area to the north of the main highway would eventually produce at least four individuals of this species plus I added two more individuals later on in the morning along Owl's Hole Road. Glad to see several individuals made it through the storm and continue to occupy the area. I ran across lots of other expected species but I had no luck finding a Bahama Yellowthroat north of the highway. I then decided to try my luck south of the highway in an area we spent some time in yesterday along Owl's Hole Rd. This proved to be a great decision as I ran across a Bahama Yellowthroat about a half mile down the road. I was pishing and had a yellowthroat scolding from the deep undergrowth but I was fully expecting to find another Common Yellowthroat. I tried a little playback and the bird immediately popped up giving me brief but decent looks at a female Bahama Yellowthroat (#1261) that promptly dove back down and would not show itself again so no luck getting a photo. At this point it was midday and after all morning out in the hot sun I was ready for a break so I headed back to Garden of the Grove to try my luck there and although I didn't find anything new I got much better looks at a Hooded Warbler there compared to yesterday.
Cuban Pewee, Owl Hole Rd, Grand Bahama, Feb 10, 2017
Cuban Pewee, Owl Hole Rd, Grand Bahama, Feb 10, 2017
American Redstart, Lucaya NP, Grand Bahama, Feb 10, 2017
Cuban Emerald, Garden of Grand Bahama B&B, Grand Bahama, Feb 10, 2017
Smooth billed Ani, Reef Golf Course, Grand Bahama, Feb 10, 2017
Our last full day on Grand Bahama dawned much cooler than previous days with temps in the low 60's but the sun quickly warmed us up into the 70's. We took the jeep out to Lucayna NP to walk on some of the trails there before the crowds appeared. Nothing unusual there and we missed on relocating the Barn Owls in their nest hole. The tide was also high when we got there so no luck with marsh birds working through the mangroves. The winds was picking up on our way out there and it they would continue throughout the day which made finding birds a bit tough. Our next stop was over to Owl's Hole Road where we walked for about an hour down through the pine lands and managed to turn up a new species when I found a pair of Cuban Pewees (#1262). No luck finding a Bahama Yellowthroat there despite a lot of effort. Our last stop for the morning was a lunch break and a walk around the trails at Garden of the Groves, which was fairly quiet but still featured some good birds. We then headed back to our lodging to enjoy the remainder of the day. I made a couple of short stops over to the nearby Reef Country Club which added some waterfowl and waders to my Bahama list.
American Kestrel (Bahama race), Reef Golf Course, Grand Bahama, Feb 11, 2017
Belted Kingfisher, Reef Golf Course, Grand Bahama, Feb 11, 2017
Greater Antillean Bullfinch, Garden of Grand Bahama B&B, Grand Bahama, Feb 11, 2017
White cheeked Pintail, Emerald Golf Course, Grand Bahama, Feb 11, 2017
Eurasian Green winged Teal (Common Teal), Emerald Golf Course, Grand Bahama, Feb 11, 2017
Cuban Emerald, Garden of Grand Bahama B&B, Grand Bahama, Feb 11, 2017

Our last day in the Bahamas was spent relatively locally and I started the day just before dawn at the Reef Country Club checking the various ponds and edge before the golfers showed up for the day. Nothing too unusual but got some good looks at some birds as well as a few photos. After about an hour and a half at the country club I headed back to our lodging and the gardens right outside our back door. On my second lap around the small garden I had brief looks at a Bahama Woodstar being chased by a Cuban Emerald and this added a final life bird for the trip (#1263). Yesterday our host (and guide) asked if I wanted to go with her to a couple of other nearby golf courses to try to get some other new birds and I figured, why not? We headed out late morning to the Emerald Golf Course where we found a number of new species on the pond there including White cheeked Pintails, Green winged Teal and Black necked Stilts.  Upon closer examination of the teal it turned out to be a Eurasian subspecies of the Green winged Teal (also known as Common Teal) and may be a first record of this subspecies (likely a full species) on Grand Bahama.  The golf course has been closed since a couple of severe hurricanes back in 2003/2004 and the area has become overgrown providing some great bird habitat. We walked along some paths through the dense vegetation and had a very intriguing yellowthroat that may have been a Bahama Yellowthroat but we never got good enough looks to be sure. Although it was getting near noon and I was looking forward to lunch we decided to make one more stop over to the nearby Ruby Golf Course in the hopes of finding some waders but the pond there was quiet so no luck finding anything new. The rest of the early afternoon I spent more time exploring the gardens at our lodging as well as packing for the trip home. We made it to the port to await the ferry and while there got a message that our flight was already cancelled for Sunday due to another big snow storm back home.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Trip to Florida and Grand Bahama-Part 2: Grand Bahama Feb 7 and 8


Painted Bunting, Garden of Grand Bahama Birders B&B, Freeport, Grand  Bahama, Feb 7, 2017
La Sagra's Flycatcher, Garden of Grand Bahama Birders B&B, Freeport, Grand  Bahama, Feb 7, 2017
Red legged Thrush, Garden of Grand Bahama Birders B&B, Freeport, Grand  Bahama, Feb 7, 2017
Ovenbird, Garden of Grand Bahama Birders B&B, Freeport, Grand  Bahama, Feb 7, 2017
Tuesday the 7th started very early with a ferry ride from Fort Lauderdale over to Freeport, Grand Bahama. We left Florida around eight and arrived in the Bahamas just before noon. My main targets for the trip over to Grand Bahama were the two endemic warbler species (Bahama Warbler and Bahama Yellowthoat) plus another near endemic warbler (Olive capped Warbler...also found on Cuba). I also had a list of around ten speciality species that I also hoped to add from Bahama Hummingbird to Key West Quail Dove. Sadly the two endemic warblers have not been reported since Hurricane Matthew devastated Grand Bahama back in October so I would really have my work cut out for me in finding them. After a bit of a snafu in our pick up from the port we eventually made it to our lodging for the next four days, Garden of Grand Bahamas B&B. Despite the damage from the latest hurricane the small garden on site produced some great birds including my first Thick billed Vireo, Cuban Emerald and La Sagra's Flycatcher (species #1254-1256). The garden also featured a couple very tame species that would walk to within hands reach including Red legged Thrushes and Ovenbirds. Many times the birds were so close that I could not focus the camera but instead had to use my iPhone.
Olive capped Warbler, Owl Hole Rd, Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
Pine Warbler, Owl Hole Rd, Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
Yellow throated Warbler, Owl Hole Rd, Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
Black faced Grassquit, Owl Hole Rd, Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
Thick billed Vireo, Lucayan NP,Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
Western Spindalis, Lucayan NP,Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
Cape May Warbler, Garden of the Groves,Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
White crowned Pigeon, Garden of the Groves,Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
Northern Waterthrush, Garden of the Groves,Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
Bananaquit, Garden of the Groves,Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
Cuban Emerald, Garden of the Groves,Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
Greater Antillean Bullfinch, Shannon Golf Course ATV trail, Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
On Wednesday the 8th I hired a guide (Erica Gates) for the entire day to try to track down the above mentioned targets and had some success as well as a few misses. We started out in the pine lands on the way to Owl's Hole looking for pine specialties and after a bit of walking we ran across a mixed species flock that contained at least two Olive capped Warblers. Although we tried to turn up the other two endemic warblers we had no luck here (or any of the other spots we checked over the course of the day). I was certainly happy to get to see, hear and photograph the Olive capped Warbler which became species #1257. The walk along the road to Owl's Hole also produced species #1258 with a pair of Western Spindalis, a couple of unusual for the area Chipping Sparrows plus a number of other expected species. Our next stop was to Lucayan National Park where we explored the area near some entrances to underground caves as well as the nearby mangroves. One of the entrances to the caves produced a couple of nearly fledged Barn Owls in a nest hole, which was a surprise to both the guide and I. After an entire morning out in the pine lands we headed over to Garden of the Groves for lunch and a few hours around the park where we ran across a number of new species for the trip. We finally ran across another new species for me along some ATV trails through an old, overgrown golf course near Garden of the Groves when we turned up a Greater Antillean Bullfinch (#1259).



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Trip to Florida and Grand Bahama, Part 1: Florida Feb 5-6


White Ibis, Green Cay Wetlands, Boynton Beach, FL, Feb 5, 2017
Palm Warbler (western), Evergreen Cemetery, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Feb 5, 2017
Black throated Blue Warbler, Richardson Park, Wilton Manor, FL, Feb 5, 2017
White eyed Vireo, Richardson Park, Wilton Manor, FL, Feb 5, 2017
Anhinga with nest material, Green Cay Wetlands, Boynton Beach, FL, Feb 5, 2017
Blue winged Teal, Green Cay Wetlands, Boynton Beach, FL, Feb 5, 2017
Just back from a week or so in Florida and the Bahamas and it was a great trip with warm, sunny weather and some great birds.  We headed down to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday the 5th arriving there midday to sunny and warm weather. After a quick bite to eat we made a couple brief stops to look for some unusual species being seen in the Fort Lauderdale area (including a Bananaquit, Black throated Gray Warbler and Hooded Warbler). The first stop was at Evergreen Cemetery to try to find the Black throated Gray Warbler which I eventually found traveling with a mixed species flock but I missed getting a photo of it after a brief look and never managed to track it back down. Lots of other warblers in the cemetery including Yellow throated, Prairie, Palm (both western and eastern) and Yellow rumped Warblers plus Northern Parula. Our next stop was a bit more to the north to Richardson Park where I managed to hear the Hooded Warbler but missed on finding the Bananaquit (thought I might have heard it once but could never see it). Despite missing the Bananaquit I was happy to find the Hooded Warbler and a female Black throated Blue Warbler as well as a few Blue crowned Parakeet (an exotic species that was introduced to the area and appears to be established) plus a Spot breasted Oriole (a long established exotic in south Florida). The parakeet and oriole were both new species for me becoming #1251 and #1252. Our final stop in the afternoon was even further north up to the Green Cay Wetlands, which is a fantastic spot for bird photography. We spent a couple hours there and added a number of species but nothing out of the ordinary. Overall for the afternoon of the first day I had a total of 63 species with ten species of warbler (adding Common Yellowthroat and Pine Warbler for the day at Green Cay).
Wood Stork, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Boynton Beach,  FL, Feb 6, 2017
Purple Gallinule, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Boynton Beach,  FL, Feb 6, 2017
Black and White Warbler, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Boynton Beach,  FL, Feb 6, 2017
Orange crowned Warbler, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Boynton Beach,  FL, Feb 6, 2017
Gray headed Swamphen, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Boynton Beach,  FL, Feb 6, 2017
Neotropic Cormorant, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Boynton Beach,  FL, Feb 6, 2017
Yellow throated Warbler, Evergreen Cemetery, Ft Lauderdale, FL, Feb 6, 2017
Blue crowned Parakeet, Evergreen Cemetery, Ft Lauderdale, FL, Feb 6, 2017
Red masked Parakeet, Evergreen Cemetery, Ft Lauderdale, FL, Feb 6, 2017
The first full day of vacation we spent in Florida hitting a few new spots as well as repeat visits to a couple others. We started at Wakodohatchee Wetlands in Boca Raton. The man made wetlands there are a smaller version of the Green Cay Wetlands we visited yesterday and held a few new species. The rarest bird there was a continued Neotropic Cormorant that has been present on and off for a couple years now. The area also featured a large congregation of nesting Wood Storks (over a hundred individuals present) plus a number of nesting Anhingas, Double crested Cormorants and Great Blue Herons. It was great to see so many storks nesting here as this species has been in decline. Beyond the nesting species I ran across a mixed flock containing a number of warblers including my first American Redstart, Black and White Warblers and Orange crowned Warbler. We left the wetlands late morning and made it over to the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center along the coast. Very quiet bird wise due to the crowds but still managed to add one more new warbler, a Northern Waterthrush. Even without many birds it was still interesting to see work being done there on sea turtle research as well as sea turtle rescue. After a brief stop for lunch we returned to Richardson Park once again to try to find the Bananaquit I missed the day before but once again struck out. In fact I had no luck finding anything unusual there so we moved on to another repeat visit, this time to the Evergreen Cemetery in Fort Lauderdale. My goal here was to try to get some photos of the Black throated Gray Warbler there. Despite much effort I never managed to find the bird but did have another nice mixed species flock and got some additional photos. All was not lost for the stop as I added another established exotic to my list with a group of Red masked Parakeets flying past which I managed to get photos of as well as photos of a few Blue crowned Parakeet. Overall I ended up with 77 species (with three life birds and nine new species to my state list) in Florida in just a few days with 14 species of warblers among the total.

Next up the trip to Grand Bahama....

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The end of January brings in some geese


Greater White fronted Goose, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Jan 31, 2017
Greater White fronted Goose, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Jan 31, 2017
Cackling Goose, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Jan 31, 2017
Canada Goose with white on neck, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Jan 31, 2017
Canada Goose with white on neck, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Jan 31, 2017
Graylag x Swan Goose hybrid, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Jan 31, 2017
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 31, 2017
After spending most of the last several days inside fighting a cold I finally got so stir crazy I had to get out a little this morning.  The weather turned cold overnight with lows in the teens which rapidly refroze several bodies of water with even a bit of ice on the reservoir at Winsor Dam.  I spent little time out of the car but nevertheless still had some great birds for the end of January.  My first notable sighting was a Northern Shrike along North East St in Amherst which stayed teed up long enough to get a look at but as soon as I tried to get the scope set up to take a photo it dropped out of sight.  The area looks perfect for a shrike to stay in so hopefully some others get a look at it too.  I then made a quick stop at Orchard Hill at UMASS where I successfully caught up with the juvenile White crowned Sparrow that Keenan found there a few days ago.  As I was on the hill I got a text from Keenan telling me he had several hundred geese on the playing fields at UMASS with more birds coming in.  I made it back to the car and drove down to the campus pond for a quick look around before heading over to meet Keenan.  I was quickly looking through the couple hundred geese there when I got another text from Keenan telling me a Cackling Goose just came in.  I quickly made the short drive over to the fields and got on the sleeping Cackling Goose as well as the hybrid Greylag x Swan Goose that was discovered at the campus pond a few days ago.  As we were trying to find some other unusual geese among the hundreds of Canada Geese more geese continued to arrive in small groups with the total eventually reaching 1403 Canada Geese.  Among one of the groups was a Greater White fronted Goose that showed quite well as it fed and slept on the far right side of the flock.  The geese were still present when I left and from other reports it appears the geese eventually headed over to the campus pond.  I was starting to have the effects of the cold catch up with me again so I headed for home to get Wilson so we could get a walk in before the snow arrived and I still had some energy left.  The snow started a little earlier than the forecast called for (late morning instead of early afternoon) so our walk was cut short.  I did manage to find one more good bird at home when I had a Winter Wren down along the brook (my first for the year...very unusual to not have more of this species around).  Ended the month with 84 species despite not being out for most of the last week.