Birds of Grand Bahama Birding Tour
We had a really good group of birders on this tour with
many excellent sightings for our three day trip. The weather was
unseasonably hot for February and almost like summer weather. This was
unexpected and not what I was hoping for, it is usually dry and relatively
cool at this time of year.
We left Port Everglades at 8:30 a.m. on February 22,
2008 a half hour later than than we were supposed to. On the
way out of the channel we passed by Channel marker 5, we all had great looks
at the GREAT CORMORANT which is spending its second winter off the
We did not have too many birds on the crossing to Grand
Bahama, we did however see four probable AUDUBON'S SHEARWATERS.
They were a little too far away to make a positive I.D., the only other
choice would have been Manx Shearwater. Once we reached the port on
Grand Bahama we meet my good friend Bruce Purdy who helped out with guiding
and driving. We went to one of the abandoned gulf courses near town
and had some good birds. We had the first of many CUBAN EMERALDS,
on one of the ponds there were many LEAST GREBES
as well as
Northern Shoveler, Blue-winged Teal and Green-winged Teal. Sharp-eyed
Rick looked up and picked up some swallows which turned out to be BAHAMA
SWALLOWS, these are always hard to get at that time of year.
This turned out to be the only ones that we saw, we had a total of 5-birds
which gave us great looks. There were a few warblers in some brush
including a White-eyed Vireo and a female/male green PAINTED BUNTING.
We also had a few SMOOTH-BILLED ANIS on the far side of the lake.
We then proceeded to a very nice little park near town (Little George
Hammock?) to see some other good birds. We had many WHITE-CROWNED
PIGEONS and the first of many THICK-BILLED VIREOS
as well as our
first RED-LEGGED THRUSH.
(Turdus plumbeus plumbeus)
It is always a treat to see Red-legged Thrushes as they
are very tame and easy to approach. It really is a beautiful bird!!
We had some Ring-billed Gulls along the beach as well as a Laughing gull but
no shorebirds. We did not see a single shorebird on this trip which is
unusual compared to other trips that I have done. Bruce took us to
another wooded area near the beach where we had excellent looks at a female
BAHAMA WOODSTAR! This is a tough bird to find on Grand Bahama
and I don't see them on every trip, in fact I have missed them on most
This was a great start to the first day of birding on the island, having
found a few
target birds already. The Bahama Woodstar and Bahama Swallows were a
nice treat to get so early in the trip! In the same area as the Bahama
Woodstar, we heard a La Sagra's Flycatcher, we never were able to see the
bird as it was deep in the woods. We had some of the resident race
Blue-gray Gnatcatchers I feel strongly that these birds should be
elevated to a full species. They do not sound the same as the mainland
birds and seem to be a little bigger. I always see them together in
pairs, male and female. If a student wants to make a name for him or
her self, this bird as well as many other Island subspecies should be
studied. I believe there are several subspecies just waiting
to be elevated to full species status!!! We did hear some mainland birds giving their
typical calls. Check out my recording of the Grand Bahama race/species
of Blue-gray Gnatcatcher below!
(Polioptila caerulea caesiogaster)
Click here for a singing bird
We ended the day checking into our motel, we then went
to dinner at Zorba's Greek Restaurant which has excellent food at reasonably
prices, I highly recommend it!
February 23, 2008
We met today at 6:30 a.m. to get a good start on the
birding day. Not long after I left my motel room while walking to the
lobby, I heard a LOGGERHEAD KINGBIRD doing its dawn song.
We were able to locate it singing in a Mahogany tree right in a median in
the middle of the road, out in front of our motel. We all got excellent
looks at this neat bird and we got to hear it sing which is nice.
(Tyannus caudifasciatus bahamensis)
After we got our great looks at the Loggerhead Kingbird we
headed out of town for more birding. We headed to an area that has a
Blue Hole named "Mermaid Hole". The trail going into Mermaid hole has
had Key West Quail-Dove in the past. We were on the trail early and
looked hard but did not see any Key West Quail-Doves. We had another
calling La Sagra's Flycatcher that only gave us brief views. Also seen
here were Thick-billed Vireos which gave us good looks. I believe at
Mermaid Hole we had our first BANANAQUIT, we saw a few others as
(Coereba flaveola bahamensis)
As we were
walking out the trail we had excellent looks at a GREATER ANTILLEAN
Greater Antillean Bullfinch
(Loxigilla violacea violacea)
The bird stayed in view and let everyone get great
looks at it before it flew deeper into the hammock. We saw a freshly
cut trail going into a hammock a little west from Mermaid Hole, Bruce said
that it was a survey trial. This huge area along the beach is supposed
to be developed, what a total shame, I sure hope that it does not happen.
Along this trail we were able to get great looks at our first WESTERN
SPINDALIS the green backed race.
(Spindalis zena townsendi)
We saw many pretty species of butterflies as
well as this beautiful day flying moth called "Faithful Beauty".
Bruce new about
some ruins of an old house west of Mermaid Hole. We found a trail
going back into the hammock and found the ruins of the old house. We
saw some more birds but no new specialties here. From the ruins we birded
more along the road and then drove to Owl Hole another Blue Hole that is
connected to Mermaid Hole. We birded a burned over area where we
finally got great looks at several LA SAGRA'S FLYCATCHERS.
La Sagra's Flycatcher
(Myiarchus sagrae lucaysiensis)
We birded the road here and then walked up to Owl Hole
very slowly and quietly in hopes of seeing a Barn Owl that has
nested here for years. We saw the Barn Owl and three newly hatched
It looks like two young but is in fact three.
We had good looks at our first BLACK-FACED GRASSQUIT in this area
which sang for us in some small trees.
We birded the road near Owl Hole for a while longer seeing
some of the same birds that we already had seen. It was getting close
to lunch time so we headed to High Rock for lunch at Diamond Sunrise
Restaurant on the beach.
Diamond Sunrise Restaurant
(Yummious in the tummious)
This small restaurant has excellent food which I highly
recommend. It is right on the beach so the views are wonderful.
Most of the group had Cracked Conch which was the best Cracked Conch that I
have personally ever had!! After an EXCELLENT lunch we continued on to
Mc Lean's Town in hopes of finding the West Indian Woodpecker that I saw
with a large group of birders, before the hurricanes of almost 3-years ago.
I showed the group the nesting holes of the West Indian Woodpecker that
nested here, but we could not find any birds. We then headed back
towards Freeport and birded along the way. We took a side road that
went close to the beach, we found our first and only BAHAMA YELLOWTHROATS
at this location. We had two males and one female with the males
giving us the best looks. Look at the huge bill that these birds have!
We then birded along junk yard road where there are many
abandoned cars in the pinewoods. This area is west of Mc Lean's Town
on the north side of the road. We finally located the first of many
OLIVE-CAPPED WARBLERS here.
We hoped for some Cuban Pewees here but we did not have
any luck. We birded a couple of other areas along the road going back
to Freeport, but did not see any other specialties that we needed. It
was not until we got closer to town when Bruce stopped at one of the many
round abouts for a staked out BAHAMA MOCKINGBIRD. It was
starting to get dark so I was wondering if we were going to have luck
finding the bird. But luck was with us and we did find and get great
looks at a Bahama Mockingbird.
Bahama Mockingbirds are not easy to come by in the winter
time, I truly believe that the birds migrant to more southern islands.
This may explain why it is so difficult to find in the winter months.
This was an excellent end to a long day of birding. We were all tired
and hungry and looking forward to dinner. We ate at Shenanigans in
town for some great food and drinks!
February 24, 2008
Today was a day that we were going to bird far back into
the pinewoods, in hopes of seeing birds that we have missed. This was
also to try and find the Brown-headed Nuthatch which should be elevated to a
full species!! We
started out driving slowly by the Garden of the Groves, I spotted two
ZENAIDA DOVES in a Royal Poinciana Tree. Since we were in two
vehicles it was hard to get both vehicles on the birds. We did have
2-way radios but these were sometimes hard to hear. Some of the group
got on the birds, others did not. The doves are very, very skittish
and very hard to approach. The birds flew into the Garden of the
Groves. Bruce talked to the security guard on watch who graciously
allowed us to go in to look for the doves and any other birds. The
Garden of the Groves used to be a very, very nice botanical gardens until
the hurricanes hit almost three years ago. It suffered heavy damage to
the trees and foliage and is closed to the public. We had many
White-crowned Pigeons in the gardens as well as several La Sagra's
Flycatchers. Several Cuban Emeralds were present as well as Red-legged
Thrush. We finally proceeded to the dirt road on the north side of the
main road to look for more pineland species, this is in the opposite
direction of Owl Hole. As we were driving in I heard a CUBAN PEWEE
singing, it was pretty far off in the pinewoods. It only gave has
brief views in the distance. We finally decided to walk into the
pinewoods to get closer, I recorded the song and was able to bring the bird
into a pine right over our heads! A couple of others in our group did
not want to risk walking into the woods because of the abundance of
Poisonwood. I was able to coax the bird right to the edge of the road,
after I was able to get a good recording. We all were able to get
great looks at the bird.
(Contopus caribaeus bahamensis)
While looking for the Cuban Pewee, I was able to spot two ZENAIDA DOVES
on the opposite side of the road. They were very skittish but
allowed us to get good scope views. Now everyone in the group was able
to see one of these pretty doves that some had missed before. We drove
about 8-miles on many different dirt roads looking for Brown-headed Nuthatch
and the resident race of Yellow-throated Warbler. We stopped in a area
of the infamous "Rusty Drum", one of the last areas where Brown-headed
Nuthatches have been seen. Below is a group photo with the rusty drum
(Sitta pusilla insularis)
Photo taken on February 24, 2007
We did not see any Brown-headed Nuthatches or the resident race of
Yellow-throated Warbler, we sure tried hard though.
Yellow-throated Warbler (Bahamian Race)
(Dendroica dominica flavescens)
Photo taken on August 7, 2006
The photo below shows you how different the birds look, much, much
different! Do these two birds really look like the same species??
Yellow-throated Warbler (mainland race, white lores)
(Dendroica dominica albilora)
Photo taken on April 14, 2005 at the Dry Tortugas.
The Yellow-throated Warbler is a very good candidate for full species
status, I totally agree that it should be a new species. It acts more
like a Black-and-white Warbler than a mainland Yellow-throated Warbler.
It is often seen feeding on the trunks of pine trees as in the photo above.
The yellow on the underside goes all of the way to just about the under tail
coverts. We unfortunately did not see any on this trip, I have had
them on all of my previous trips so I was disappointed that we did not find
We had a very, very good trip over all, seeing almost every expected species
except for Key West Quail-Dove which is always a tough bird especially after
the hurricanes. The group was an excellent group who really enjoyed a
full day of birding. The worst part of the trip was eating at both
McDonalds and Burger King on the last day due to time constraints!!!
Oh well, we did so well on the birds I guess we needed to suffer a little
We had a total of 78-species seen including 17-species of warbler.
A list of species seen below.
||HAIRY WOODPECKER (resident race)
||CUBAN PEWEE (saw one and heard one)
||LA SAGRA'S FLYCATCHER
||LOGGERHEAD KINGBIRD ( 3-birds?)
|LEAST GREBE (West Indies race)
||BAHAMA SWALLOW (5-birds)
|Audubon's Shearwater (probable 4-birds)
||Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (both races)
|Great Blue Heron
||BAHAMA MOCKINGBIRD (One bird)
|Little Blue Heron
||Cape May Warbler
||Black-throated Blue Warbler
||Black-throated Green Warbler
|Red-tailed Hawk (resident race, pale birds)
||Yellow-throated Warbler (mainland race)
|American Kestrel (resident race, very pale on belly)
||PINE WARBLER (resident race)
||BAHAMA YELLOWTHROAT (3-BIRDS)
|ZENAIDA DOVE (4-birds)
|Mourning Dove (not very common)
||GREATER ANTILLEAN BULLFINCH (1-bird)
||Painted Bunting (1-bird, female/male)
|BAHAMA WOODSTAR ( one bird, perhaps two)
||GREAT CORMORANT (Ft. Lauderdale)
||Double-crested Cormorant (Ft. Lauderdale)