TOLL FREE USA/CANADA
Getting to Andros Island, The Bahamas is very easy!
We may be slightly off the beaten path, but that's a big
part of our appeal. Even though we're not in the center of a big tourist hub (thankfully!) we're really quite accessible.
(more info on getting to Andros)
Wow, I can hardly wait for next year! We had an outstanding time at Small Hope and I've decided that the best way to describe the trip is to give a day-by-day accounting. The only thing that I won't repeat in every entry is how nice the weather was. We were never rained out and the sun shone everyday. A few cool evenings made a sweater feel good and we even had a fire in the fireplace one night! Next year we will follow a itinerary similar to that described below.
Everyone arrived with all their luggage at Small Hope and we talked logistics while sitting on the outside patio sipping the drink of our choice (Diet Coke for me). The first bird of the trip was a Little Blue Heron that spent the entire week flying from the beach in front of the cabins to the beach in front of the lodge. After the short orientation everyone got a quick walking tour of the grounds highlighting the best birding areas. As if released from a cage, a clapper rail ran across the entrance road to the resort as I explained that watching the road was the best way to see rails. In the evening after dinner there were birds slides and everyone retired early, anxious for the next day's birding.
Early breakfast beginning at 6:30 a.m. included scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit, juice cereal and milk. We were off to the settlement of Staniard Creek by 7:30 a.m. Staniard Creek is a short van ride from Small Hope and is one of the best birding locations in all of the Bahamas. It is a small settlement on the beach, connected to the mainland by a causeway road that cuts right through a dwarf red mangrove forest. We are here in search of Neotropical migrants, Black-cowled Orioles, and first looks at many of the dozens of West Indian resident species that we will see all week long.
Up early and on the road again at 7:30 a.m. This morning we birded in the pine forests and visited one of the island's many blue holes; water-filled limestone sinkholes. In the pine forest we got "soul satisfying looks" at Pine Warblers, Stripe-headed Tanagers, Cuban Pewees, and Loggerhead Kingbirds. The Cuban Emerald Hummingbird doesn't stay in one place very long so we got several repeated glimpses of this little jewel. Bahama Swallows, one of the three species endemic to the Bahamas, flew over the still waters of the blue hole.
We did some shopping during a trip to Fresh Creek and the world famous Androsia batik factory. The self-guided tour of the open-air factory allowed all to see every step of the process that culminates in the production of the beautiful, colorful tropical fabrics that few can leave the island without purchasing. The outlet store next to the factory allows one to buy clothing that still smells of the fresh Bahamian air!
Of course, there was birding. As usual several species of warblers were about in the almond and orchid trees near the outlet store. At the mouth of Fresh Creek we counted over three dozen Bahama Swallows, an endangered species whose world population is estimated at less than 20,000 individuals.
This afternoon we met with the island commissioner to talk about Bahamian politics, health care, conservation, etc. For the political junkies in the group this was definitely a highlight. Mr. Gary Knowles is well spoken and obviously well educated and held the attention of the group for two hours. I could have listened to his assessment of the national political system for several more hours.
The running joke all week has been that whichever species we haven't seen on the trip we would see today. We decided to make today a "big day" which means that we will try to see as many species as we can today. First stop was the San Andros airport and the freshwater pond near the runway. Although the pond is less than half an acre in extent it is always a hotspot for a variety of things including, but not limited to, waterbirds. Today there were Blue-winged Teal, Gadwall, a Ring-necked Duck, American Coots, a Sora, and a Green Heron.
No slide show tonight. I haven't mentioned the slide shows but we have had them almost every night before dinner. The topics included "Origin of Bahamian flora and fauna", "Bahamian plant identification", "Recent arrival and potential impact of Shiny Cowbirds in the Bahamas", and "Are Neotropical migrants really declining?" (the answer is that some are and some aren't, and some are doing different things in different parts of their ranges). The talks were short and informal and given before dinner so that everyone would stay awake. Before each slide presentation we sipped drinks and reviewed the bird sightings of the day. Conch fritters arrived promptly at 6:30 pm (not a minute too soon)!
Last days are always a little depressing. Back to the "real world". Many in the group were still going strong; snorkeling, kayaking, and beach combing. There is so much to do here! I have a feeling that many in the group will be returning. I hope to see you next year!
(Warning: This is my version of the group list, your list may look different).
Least Grebe SHBL Ponds Pied Billed-Grebe1 SC, SHBL Ponds Brown Pelican SHBL Beach Great Blue Heron1 SHBL mangroves, FC boat ride Green Heron SHBL mangroves, LHC, SA ponds Little Blue Heron2 SHBL mangroves, FC boat ride, SC Reddish Egret FC boat ride Great Egret SHBL mangroves, FC boat ride Snowy Egret1 SHBL mangroves Tricolored Heron SHBL mangroves Yellow-crowned Night Heron SHBL mangroves Least Bittern1 SHBL mangroves White Ibis1 Davis Creek mangroves Gadwall SA ponds Blue-winged Teal SA and SHBL ponds Northern Shoveller FC boat ride Ring-necked Duck SA and SHBL ponds Lesser Scaup SHBL ponds Turkey Vulture Everywhere! Red-tailed Hawk Road to Red Bay Osprey2 SHBL, SC, FC boatride Peregrine Stafford Creek Bridge Merlin SHBL dump American Kestrel SC, SHBL beach Limpkin SA ponds and vicinity Clapper Rail SHBL mangroves Sora SA pond Common Gallinule SHBL ponds American Coot SA and SHBL ponds American Oystercatcher SHBL beach Black-bellied Plover SHBL beach Ruddy Turnstone SHBL beach Lesser Yellowlegs SHBL beach Dowitcher SHBL beach Royal Tern SHBL beach Mourning Dove SA ponds Zenaida Dove SA ponds Eurasian Collared Dove SC, SHBL Common Ground Dove* Everywhere Key West Quail Dove SHBL coppice Rock Dove SC Mangrove Cuckoo SC Great-lizard Cuckoo heard near SHBL dump Smooth-billed Ani Everywhere Bahama Woodstar FC airport Cuban Emerald pine forest Belted Kingfisher SC, SHBL, Fresh Creek boat ride Yellow-bellied Sapsucker SC, SHBL Loggerhead Kingbird SC wellfield rd, road to Red Bay LaSagras Flycatcher* SC wellfied rd, SHBL coppice Cuban Pewee* SC wellfield rd, SHBL coppice Bahama Swallow CBH, FC bridge Northern Mockingbird* Everywhere Bahama Mockingbird* SHBL coppice Gray Catbird* Everywhere Red-legged Thrush* CBH, SHBL coppice Blue-gray Gnatcatcher2 pine forest, SHBL coppice House Sparrow LHC Thick-billed Vireo* Everywhere Bananaquit* Everywhere Black-and-White Warbler* SHBL mangroves and coppice Worm-eating Warbler* SHBL mangroves and coppice Tennessee Warbler SC Northern Parula Everywhere Yellow-throated Warbler Everywhere Yellow Warbler2 SC Black-throated Blue Warbler* SC wellfield rd, SHBL coppice Magnolia Warbler SC Cape May Warbler Everywhere Yellow-rumped Warbler SA ponds Pine Warbler2 pine forests Prairie Warbler* Everywhere Palm Warbler* Everywhere Ovenbird* SC, SHBL coppice Northern Waterthrush SC, SHBL mangroves Swainson's Warbler* SHBL coppice Common Yellowthroat* Everywhere Bahama Yellowthroat heard in SHBL coppice Hooded Warbler LHC American Redstart* Everywhere Red-winged Blackbird SHBL mangroves Black-cowled Oriole SC, SHBL dump Northern Stripe-headed Tanager Everywhere Shiny Cowbird SHBL Summer Tanager SC, LHC Greater Antillean Bullfinch Everywhere Black-faced Grassquit Everywhere Savannah Sparrow SA ponds
1 Extent to which species breeds on the island is not clear
2 Local populations supplemented by migrants during winter
Terms w/ a * = Species caught in mist nets
FC = Fresh Creek
SC = Staniard Creek
SA = San Andros
SHBL = Small Hope Bay Lodge
LHC = Lighthouse Club
CBH = Church's Blue Holes