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Birds of Grand Bahama Birding Tour
February 22-24-2008

 

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 coast here.

Great Cormorant
(Phalacrocorax carbo)

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,

Cuban Emerald
(Chlorostilbon ricordii)

and on one of the ponds there were many LEAST GREBES

Least Grebe
(Tachybaptus dominicus)

 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

Thick-billed Vireo
(Vireo crassirostris)

 as well as our first RED-LEGGED THRUSH.

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 trips!

Bahama Woodstar
(Calliphlox evelynae)



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! 

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
(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.

Loggerhead Kingbird
(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 well.

Bananaquit
(Coereba flaveola bahamensis)

As we were walking out the trail we had excellent looks at a GREATER ANTILLEAN BULLFINCH.

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.

Western Spindalis
(Spindalis zena townsendi)

 We saw many pretty species of butterflies as well as this beautiful day flying moth called "Faithful Beauty".
 

Faithful Beauty
(Composia fidelissima)

 

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 young.

Owl Hole

Barn Owl
(Tyto alba)


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.

Black-faced Grassquit
(Tiaris bicolor)

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!

Bahama Yellowthroat
(Geothlypis rostrata)

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.

Olive-capped Warbler
(Dendroica pityophila)

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 Mockingbird
(Mimus gundlachii)

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.

 Cuban Pewee
(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 between us.

Brown-headed Nuthatch
(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 one.

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 bit!

 

We had a total of 78-species seen including 17-species of warbler.  A list of species seen below.

Blue-winged Teal HAIRY WOODPECKER (resident race)
Northern Pintail CUBAN PEWEE (saw one and heard one)
Green-winged Teal LA SAGRA'S FLYCATCHER
Ring-billed Duck LOGGERHEAD KINGBIRD ( 3-birds?)
Lesser Scaup White-eyed Vireo
LEAST GREBE (West Indies race) THICK-BILLED VIREO
Pied-billed Grebe BAHAMA SWALLOW (5-birds)
Audubon's Shearwater (probable 4-birds) Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (both races)
Brown Pelican RED-LEGGED THRUSH
Magnificent Frigatebird Gray Catbird
Great Blue Heron Northern Mockingbird
Great Egret BAHAMA MOCKINGBIRD (One bird)
Little Blue Heron European Starling
Green Heron Northern Parula
Black-crowned Night-Heron Magnolia Warbler
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Cape May Warbler
Turkey Vulture Black-throated Blue Warbler
Osprey Yellow-rumped Warbler
Sharp-shinned Hawk Black-throated Green Warbler
Red-tailed Hawk (resident race, pale birds) Yellow-throated Warbler (mainland race)
American Kestrel (resident race, very pale on belly) OLIVE-CAPPED WARBLER
Merlin PINE WARBLER (resident race)
Common Moorhen Prairie Warbler
American Coot Palm Warbler
Laughing Gull Black-and-white Warbler
Ring-billed Gull American Redstart
Royal Tern Ovenbird
Rock Pigeon Common Yellowthroat
WHITE-CROWNED PIGEON BAHAMA YELLOWTHROAT (3-BIRDS)
Eurasian Collared-Dove Hooded Warbler
ZENAIDA DOVE (4-birds) BANANAQUIT
Mourning Dove (not very common) WESTERN SPINDALIS
Common Ground-Dove BLACK-FACE GRASSQUIT
SMOOTH-BILLED ANI GREATER ANTILLEAN BULLFINCH (1-bird)
Barn Owl Painted Bunting (1-bird, female/male)
CUBAN EMERALD Red-winged Blackbird
BAHAMA WOODSTAR ( one bird, perhaps two) House Sparrow
Belted Kingfisher GREAT CORMORANT (Ft. Lauderdale)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Double-crested Cormorant (Ft. Lauderdale)

 

All photos above are Copyrighted by Larry Manfredi

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