25 Mar 2010

Birding from The Delphi Club in the Bahamas Part 3

As we had decided not to hire a car I did most of my birding around the lodge. However on one day I hitched a ride into Marsh Harbour with Sandy the General Manager and while he ran some errands I had a look at some gulls. It was blowing a gale and the gulls were all hunkered down on a dock.

The gulls were nearly all Laughing Gulls, a first for me, and within seconds of them seeing me I realised why they were called Laughing Gulls! Listen to them HERE There was one Ringed Billed Gull amongst them and a Lesser Black Backed Gull and a Royal Tern, which was also new to me.

After watching the gulls I made my way to a restaurant called Mangoes and on the way heard a Northern Mockingbird singing away in a tree and flying overhead was an American Kestrel. The American Kestrel is alot smaller than ours and unfortunately I never really got close enough for a decent photo.

On another day my father was having back problems and wasn't that keen on going fishing as sometimes the journey out to the marls was very bumpy if there was a strong onshore wind. So we borrowed one of the Delphi Club Toyota Hilux's and went to visit the Abaco National Park about ten miles further south. It covers 20,500 acres in South Abaco, and is under the management of the Bahamas National Trust. Within this area are 5,000 acres of Pinewoods where the largest populations of the endangered Bahama Parrot survives . In addition to the parrot, there is a great diversity of birdlife which are protected in this area. As a result, the Abaco National Park has been designated an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society and Bird Life International.

We first of all drove to Sandy Point a small village on the east coast where we found both Cattle and Great Egrets walking around the village.
There were also more Laughing Gulls and Royal Terns on one of the piers. I had read that it was a good place to find Piping Plover but all I could find were Turnstones on the beach. So on failing to find them we headed into the National Park along a fairly bumpy road. We stopped every now and again and I got out to see if I could hear or see the parrots. Unfortunately not. I had heard them a number of times back at the lodge and seen a few in the distance flying over the drive but not close up. I also spished to see if I could call in any warblers. On the first attempt an American Redstart came very close and I was able to photograph it.
I was also able to get good views of a Prairie Warbler which I found to be one of the more common warblers around the lodge.

My main aim on this drive was to get to the Hole in the Wall lighthouse which was 20 kilometres down this track which progressively got rougher and more uncomfortable for my father. It is in the scrub by the lighthouse that Kirtland's Warbler has been seen and as it is a fairly rare warbler I really wanted to hook up with one. I was on the point of turning back on the account of my father's anguished moans when the Lighthouse appeared. We decided to continue at that point.

I didn't find a Kirtland's Warbler and infact we had to get the vehicle back in time to pick up the boats so were under time constraints. No Parrots either, hopefully another day.

24 Mar 2010

Birding from The Delphi Club in the Bahamas part 2

In front of the lodge there is a beautiful beach which attracts a certain amount of birdlife. On my first morning I saw this juvenile Yellow Crowned Night Heron and saw it regularly over the week. It seemed to stand behind holes made in the beach by crabs where they hide before dashing to the sea.

Over the week I saw Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret and Great Blue Heron on the beach. The Great Blue Heron is certainly quite a lot bigger than our Grey Heron. It tended to fish in the sea as some of the larger fish pushed baitfish into the shore.

Before I went out to the Bahamas i was hoping to see some different shorebirds so was a bit surprised to find Turnstones and Sanderling being the first ones that I saw.

Then one afternoon it was raining lightly and I thought I would see if there was anything different and was pleased to find some accomodating Wilson's Plover.

There were some American Oystercatcher but I found them difficult to get close to. This is heavily cropped image.

The only other shorebirds that I saw was some were Grey Plover or Black-bellied Plover as they call them over there and a flock of Short-billed Dowitcher out on the marls.

23 Mar 2010

Birding from The Delphi Club in the Bahamas Part one

We had set our alarm clocks for 6.45 as Breakfast at the Delphi club starts at 7.00am. This is to ensure that those that are going bonefishing are away with their guides by 7.45am. I opened our balcony door and the dawn chorus had started. Not that I had a clue to what bird was making what sound. Just after 7.00am the sun began to rise over the horizon it was just fantastic.

After a large breakfast both my father and I had decided not go fishing but to take it easy on the first day. I decided to go on a walk. The drive is a loop of about two miles in length and every morning from 7.30am to 9.30am I would bird this loop. The first bird I saw in the Bahamas was a female Western Spindalis. Below is the male

This bird is also on the front cover of my bible for this trip "Birds of the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands" by Bruce Hallett.
It is a photographic guide of what could be found on the island and information on the breeding birds of the region plus the most commonly recorded migrants that either pass through on their way to other destinations or stay during the winter season. It was extremely helpful for most bird ids and where it could not help me I resorted to the net.

Within five hundred yards of the lodge I had seen two species of woodpecker the West Indian Woodpecker

and Hairy Woodpecker.

I was to see a great deal of both over the week. When I came back to the Lodge and was talking about them and I was shown where the West Indian Woodpecker was making a nest in the lodge itself. Then one of the guests told me that it had even flown into their bedroom!!

On the drive there are the power lines that come to the lodge and on a number of the telegraph poles and lines some Turkey Vultures were sitting.

I thought they were wonderful and the ease with which they fly on the wind made up for their ugliness. Sometimes they would fly within a few yards of the lodge. On one morning I saw about four sitting on the steps down to the beach and I spent twenty minutes approaching them very slowly and got to within a few yards of them.

From the Lodge to the main road there are two types of habitat. Firstly there is the Coppice which is a mixture of hardwoods and broadleaf trees and then there was the Pinewoods. the Pinewoods are made up of Caribbean Pine of which the Bahamian variety can grow upto 80 feet. There is also an understorey of thatch palms, some ferns and various grasses.

Along the road I came across my first Hummingbird and it was the Cuban Emerald. I was hoping it would be the endemic Bahama Woodstar but sadly I never saw one on my trip. I did see the Cuban Emerald on many occasion and I found them very difficult to photograph because they rarely were ever still.

I did however see the endemic Bahama Swallow which regularly flew past the lodge and lived in the pine trees at the beginning of the drive. I also saw my first Barn Swallow of the year flying over the pool. When I was talking to Robin Lane a fellow guest about the swallows he said he had seen a swallow type bird flying in and out of the eaves of the house but he felt it looked larger than a swift or swallow. Well a couple of days later I saw it and it was bigger and stockier than anything I had previously seen and it turned out to be a Purple Martin.

14 Mar 2010

The Delphi Club at Rolling Harbour

I arrived on Great Abaco Island after an eight and three quarter hour flight from London to Nassau and then a half hour flight to Marsh Harbour. Our connections were so tight that we ended flying to Marsh Harbour without our luggage which we were assured would follow the next day. My father and I were then driven by taxi the twenty miles to The Delphi Club where we were staying. It was around 6.00pm and we didnt see one bird on the journey. It is a wonderful lodge in the style of the 18th Century Plantation houses similar to those in the south of the United States. It is situated on a bluff at Rolling Harbour on the east coast of the island looking westwards to the Atlantic. It overlooks a stunning white sandy beach with the turquoise seas beyond.

This Lodge is the inspiration of Peter Mantle who owns the wonderful Delphi Lodge in Co Mayo.(Below)
It had been his dream to replicate the idea of his fishing lodge in Co. Mayo to the Bahamas. The result of which is The Delphi Club at Rolling Harbour. It is absolutely fabulous.

We arrived and were shown to our room, there are eight rooms with six on the ground floor. The room is the width of the building and has a small deck on the seaward side. After we had freshened up we went upstairs and were warmly welcomed by Peter and his wife Jane in the form of a gin and tonic from the bar. In both of the lodges the bar is an honesty bar that is to say you make your own drinks and write down what you have to be totted up at the end of the week.

Some of the weeks guests were on the same flight as us from London but on a different flight to Marsh Harbour , which was delayed and we were not sure they were going to arrive that evening so we went ahead with dinner.

Dinner at the Delphi Club is usually started by canapes coming around the guests before sitting around a long table where all the guests sit wherever they like similar to a large dinner party.

It immediately gives the feeling of a large house party. The food is simply excellent. The Chef Gareth Reid is from Northern Ireland and had been working at Delphi in Mayo for four years and before that had worked with the Michelin starred chef Tom Aiken in London.

The other guests did eventually arrive and fortunately for us had picked up our luggage as well for which we were extremely grateful.

Each evening after dinner the General Manager Sandy Walker finds out who is going fishing the next day and makes up the pairings to go out on the boats and arranges their lunch arrangements.

After this had been done My father and I headed off to bed exhausted.

3 Mar 2010

Killard NR

I was out at Killard NR again and the tide was very high and there were Redshank, Greenshank, Turnstones, Purple Sandpipers and Ringed Plover feeding on the tiny flies that were on the rotting seaweed. I was lying there waiting for the waders to get closer when a Peregrine flew along the shore and all the waders flew off and I got this Greenshank as it flew by.


As well as the waders there were quite a number of Meadow and Rock Pipits on the seaweed as well.



I also got this Pied Wagtail having a stretch.It was surprisingly confiding.

1 Mar 2010

Not a Cattle Egret!

Latest sightings from BirdGuides, 28 Feb at 23:29

28/02 23:29 DOWN : Cattle Egret, Dundonald [A]
by river in Moat Park (for 16th day)

It was a beautiful morning this morning and I had received the above email during the night from Birdguides. Dundonald is a suburb of Belfast. My first inclination was that it was a Little Egret as I have only ever seen Cattle Egret in open land next to animals, In Italy around Water Buffalo and in Africa feeding with Giraffe. They are seen in Ireland but I never have.

So I parked in the Macdonalds car park and walked along the stream. Lots of litter, 2 Grey wagtail and eventually a Little Egret.

If you are into Bird Photography this bird is fairly approachable for a Little Egret. if you get too close it will fly perhaps a hundred yards further down the stream.

I then headed home and stopped off at the Castle Island Hide on the River Quoile. The view out the front of the Mourne Mountains covered in snow was wonderful.

The water levels were very high and out on the water there were about twenty Goldeneye displaying. Suddenly a flock of about fifty Lapwing took to the sky and I looked over to see what had spooked them expecting a Sparrowhawk or possibly Peregrine but no even better in my opinion flying over the rushes on the far side of the bay was a Hen Harrier. It was nicely backlit but too far away for a decent image.This is a heavily cropped shot.