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 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.

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