Bird Watching Report 2

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Report from the Field: Birding and Ecology Adventure, January 8-15, 2005 (By Dr. Mike Baltz)

January 2005 - Report on the 8th annual birding and ecology adventure

This year seven participants from all over the States (Arizona, Ohio, Illinois, and Virginia) were treated to great looks at just about every Bahamian specialty during a great week of birding on Andros. There were Bahama Swallows on the wire in Staniard Creek; Bahama Woodstar Hummingbirds at the Methodist Church; and Bahama Yellowthroats in the mist nets. The beautiful Stripe-headed Tanagers were one of the most common birds on the trip this year. And a Bananquit could almost always be found probing flowers in a coconut palm. The most colorful bird of the trip hands-down was a male Painted Bunting, arguably the most colorful songbird in all of North America.

There were many memorable sightings, but the Clapper Rail on the first day of the trip sticks in my head. We found it in the mangroves in front of Small Hope Bay Lodge. It poked along among the prop roots looking for breakfast just a few yards in front of the group. (There were, of course, also Limpkins feeding on snails at the airport and superphotogenic Bahama Mockingbirds.)

The three mornings of mist-netting produced the regular cast of characters including long-distance migrants Ovenbirds, American Redstarts, Worm-eating Warblers, and a Prairie Warbler. The most glamorous capture however, was surely a Key West Quail Dove, twice. This is one of the harder resident species to see and guests were treated to close-up looks at the iridescent green and pink head and back, red iris, and ruddy wings and tail feathers (as the bird flew away after banding).

The group saw 96 species in all during the week and also made time to dive, bike ride, hammock, and hot tub. We're up to 134 species now (and several SCUBA converts). Can't wait for next year. We'll see old friends (birds and guests) and add some new ones. Join me!

Report from the Field: Birding and Ecology Adventure, January 11-18, 2004 (By Dr. Mike Baltz)

Dateline Andros Island, Bahamas: Birding Andros 2004 is a great success!

Weather was great; no rain, cool nights, some wind, and lots of sun.

And the birds cooperated nicely, too. Lots of warblers (17 species). Total for the week was 93 species including 2 new trip species (Black-necked Stilt and Hooded Merganser) bringing the total for the seven years of the trip to 132 species.

This year we birded the agricultural land near the San Andros airport more thoroughly than ever before. The farm provided flocks of Limpkins and a very memorable look at a Great Lizard Cuckoo (one of the trip's money birds). The farm lands also had some uncommon migrants including Northern Harrier and Eastern Phoebe.

A new twist on the trip to the Staniard Creek tidal flats was visiting them at sunrise (necessary to catch the low tide). In addition to the regular shorebirds, including Piping Plovers, we had Reddish Egrets and a bonus Bahama Yellowthroat on the walk in.

The settlement of Staniard Creek gave us great looks at several things. Most memorable birds on this trip was a large flock of Bahama Swallows (low and in great light) and a very cooperative male Bahama Woodstar hummingbird. And the Burrowing Owls were out for our 'Owl Prowl' as usual.

Mist-netting was a bit slower than in some years but everything that was supposed to be there showed-up inlcuding average numbers of Thick-billed Vireos, Greater Antillean Bullfinches, Red-legged Thrushes, Ovenbirds, and American Redstarts. The oldest bird was a male Bahama Yellowthroat that we banded in 1998. That makes him at least 7 years old!

We were joined on the netlines one morning by Eleanor Phillips, The Nature Conservancy's new Bahamas Program Director. Eleanor also ate lunch with the group and showed a great powerpoint presentation on the Conservancy's work in the Bahamas.

The Big Day was the usual mix of birding and sightseeing. We had lunch in Nichols Town and picked-up several new species there including a spectacular male Hooded Warbler. We stopped by Red Bays for baskets and were back at Small Hope in plenty of time to clean-up, get a drink, and get toward the front of the line for conch fritters.

Hope to see you next year!

Report from the Field: Birding and Ecology Adventure, January 12-19, 2002 (By Dr. Mike Baltz)

Hurricane Michelle hit Andros pretty hard in November 2001 and it wasn't clear how this would effect the success of our annual "Birding Expedition" on the island. While there was ample evidence of the effects of the hurricane on the vegetation of the island (lots of trees on the beach and inland blown over), the birds seemed to have fared pretty well. As in past years, we saw all the residents and the regular suite of migrants: 93 species in all. A very manageable number of species for those that are beginners or intermediate birders with enough West Indian specialties to keep the more advanced birders happy. The results of mist-netting (done each year by the group as part of a long-term monitoring study on the island) also suggested that the resident birds "weathered the storm" well. For example, captures of fruit eating species (usually the species most affected by hurricanes) were not noticeably different from previous years. The highlight of the netting effort was capturing a Bahama Mockingbird that had been banded during the first "Birding Expedition" in 1998. Clearly, this bird (and many others) rode out Hurricane Michelle just fine.

This year's trip coincided with a visit to Andros by scientists from The Nature Conservancy and the International Institute for Tropical Ecology (both of whom met with our group to discuss their work). They were on the island to identify study sites for a study of wintering warblers on Andros that will begin next year. One of the objectives of the study is to find out more about what Kirtland's Warblers do/need on their wintering grounds (the Kirtland's Warbler, one of the most endangered bird species in North America, only winters in the Bahamas). The study sites were all located within the boundaries of a proposed National Park on Andros. Between now and next year, The Nature Conservancy will be working with conservation groups in the Bahamas to assist in making this park a reality. Hopefully in 2003, our group will be able to find Kirtland's Warblers in the new National Park!

January 2002 marked the 5th year for the Andros Birding and Ecology expedition and we are still adding species! The cumulative species list for the trip is 126 and the alumni list is pushing 40!! Rebecca Hamilton, has been on every trip! Heck, her son is now working at Small Hope!! Andros is a wonderful, potentially life-changing, place (just ask Rebecca or me) that is in many was an anachronism in the West Indies. The island is largely undeveloped, the flora and fauna both on land and in the sea are still plentiful, and the Androsians are some of the most friendly and satisfied folks you will ever meet. Come visit the island soon and prepare to have a life-altering experience!

Report from the Field: Birding and Ecology Adventure, January 6-20, 2001(2 sessions) (By Dr. Mike Baltz)

Interest in Small Hope's birding adventure really took off this year with the publication of an article about birding on Andros Island that ran in the May 2000 issue of Wildbird Magazine. We had so many folks interested in experiencing Andros that we offered two trips, Jan 6-13 and 13-20. As usual the combination of great birding, interesting participants with a variety of life experiences, and the beauty of Andros, made for two unforgettable weeks.

Because birds seen and mist-netted are so much easier to describe than insights gained, connections made, or amazing sunrises, only the ornithological details follow.

First and foremost were the warblers: 22 species seen. There is nowhere else in the West Indies where you can see more warblers in winter than in the Northern Bahamas. What's great about the warblers that regularly winter on Andros is that they do not have "confusing" winter plumages. Almost without exception the warblers you see on Andros in Winter will look just like the ones you see passing through your yard in the Spring. In fact, they may be the same ones!

We also got to see lots of resident birds that you can't see in your backyard. We had soul-satisfying looks at all three Bahamian endemics (Bahama Woodstar Hummingbird, Bahama Swallow, and Bahama Yellowthroat) as well as many other specialties including White-cheeked (Bahama) Pintail, Great Lizard Cuckoo, LaSagra's Flycatcher, Bahama Mockingbird, Northern Stripe-headed Tanager, and Black-cowled Oriole. Sounds good doesn't it?!

Of course there was also mist-netting. One of the things that makes this trip special is the opportunity to participate in bird-banding activities which includes helping me take birds out of the nets. This year we banded 101 individuals of 23 different species. Highlights of the netting included catching 2 Swainson's Warblers and catching a female Black-and-White Warbler that I had captured on the same netline 4 years earlier!

Finally, while this is far from a "hard-core" birding trip, it is always fun to keep track of how many species we see. During the first week we tallied 104 species (a trip record) and had a two- week total of 108 species. While a week spent birding somewhere in Central America would yield a higher species count, the quality of looks that you get at Bahamian birds is unparalleled. Islands are famous for tame wildlife and Andros birds are no exception. We actually had a Bananaquit land on someone's head as we walked along a trail.

Next year's trips promise to be just as exciting at this year. We are always adding new species to the trip list (this year's additions included Wilson's Plover, Western Kingbird, and Chuck-will's-Widow) and visiting new birding sites. The March trip is particularly exciting because summer residents (like Gray Kingbird, Black-whiskered Vireo, and the terns) will be arriving then. In addition, I expect to find some exciting migrant species that are stopping-over on Andros after having spent the winter in South America. Of course, there are Kirtland's Warblers to find as well!

Report from the Field: Birding and Ecology Adventure, January 8-15, 2000 (By Dr. Mike Baltz)
Sunset Birds

This year's trip was notable for the summer-like weather and the record number of bird speicies that we saw during the week-102! With the exception of the last day -The Big Day--every day was sunny and calm, which made snorkeling and diving even more tempting than usual. A major front moved into the Bahamas on the 14th, bringing overcast skies and producing sustained northerly winds of 35 mph. This weather worked in our favor however, as we saw several rare or uncommon birds that were likely forced south in front of the weather (see below). These rarities are always fun to find!


Kevin Karlson, a writer/photographer for WildBird Magazine, joined the group this year. (His story is slated the May 2000 issue. Be sure to check it out!) Kevin is a phenomenal birder with a real passion for bird identification. His most notable accomplishments were picking a Tree Swallow out of a group of Bahamian Swallows and noticing an Eastern Phoebe (first record for the island) hiding in a hedgerow near the San Andros Airport. This year alone we added three species to the island's bird list. We saw all three of the bird species endemic to the Bahamas (Bahama Woodstar Hummingbird, Bahama Swallow, and Bahama Yellowthroat).

Yellow Bird
Tree Frog

Bahama Woodstars seemed unusually plentiful this year and we were treated to watching a male Woodstar displaying for two females in Staniard Creek. We also caught a male Bahama Yellowthroat in the net for the second year in a row. Another target bird for many visitors to the Bahamas is the Great Lizard Cuckoo. These large, prehistoric looking/acting/sounding birds are quite secretive and often difficult to see. The group was lucky enough to see these great birds several times. I never ceased to be amazed at how tame many of the resident birds are on Andros. There were many times that Red-legged Thrushes, Stripe-headed Tanagers, Greater Antillean Bullfinches, and LaSagra's Flycatchers were too close to use binoculars!


The migrants did not disappoint: We saw 18 species of migrant warblers. Prairies, Palms, Redstarts, Parulas, and Cape Mays were common to abundant. There are few places in the Neotropics where you can see as many species of eastern wood warblers. We recaptured a female American Redstart and a Northern Waterthrush, both of which had been captured the year before! I can't wait to find out what next year has in store for us. Maybe we will find a Kirtlands Warbler, one of the most endangered bird species on the planet whose exclusive wintering grounds are the Bahamas. I hope you are along for the fun!


For Mike Baltz' diary entries from the January 1998 trip click here.



Species Jan, 1998 Jan, 1999 Jan, 2000 Jan, 2001 Jan, 2002
Least Grebe X X X X X
Pied Billed-Grebe X X X X X
Brown Pelican X X X X X
Great Blue Heron X X X X X
Green Heron X X X X X
Little Blue Heron X X X X X
Reddish Egret X X X X X
Great Egret X X X X X
Snowy Egret X   X X X
Tricolored Heron X X X X X
Yellow-cr'nd Night Heron X X X X X
Tricolored Heron X X X X X
Cattle Egret X X X X X
American Bittern       X  
White Ibis X X X X X
Glossy Ibis   X      
Northern Pintail         X
Gadwall X X      
Mallard       X  
Blue-winged Teal X X X X X
Green-winged Teal     X    
Bahama Pintail     X X X
Northern Shoveller X        
Redhead     X    
Ring-necked Duck X   X X X
Lesser Scaup X   X X X
Ruddy Duck     X X X
Turkey Vulture X X X X X
Red-tailed Hawk X   X X X
Northern Harrier     X    
Osprey X X X X X
Peregrine X     X  
Merlin X X X X X
American Kestrel X X X X X
Limpkin X X X X X
Clapper Rail X X X X X
Sora X     X  
Common Gallinule X X X X X
American Coot X X X X X
American Oystercatcher X        
Black-bellied Plover X X X X X
Semipalmated Plover   X X X X
Piping Plover       X  
Sanderling     X X X
Wilson's Plover     X X X
Killdeer     X X  
Least Sandpiper     X X X
Western Sandpiper     X X X
Semipalmated Sandpiper       X X
Spotted Sandpiper   X X X X
Ruddy Turnstone X X X X X
Lesser Yellowlegs X   X X X
Greater Yellowlegs     X X  
Short-billed Dowitcher X   X X X
Common Snipe   X      
Ring-billed Gull         X
Royal Tern X X X X X
Mourning Dove X X X X X
Zenaida Dove   X X X X
Eurasian Collared Dove X X X X X
Common Ground Dove X X X X X
Key West Quail Dove X   X    
Rock Dove X X X X X
White-crowned Pigeon   X X X X
Mangrove Cuckoo X X X X  
Great-lizard Cuckoo X X X X X
Smooth-billed Ani X X X X X
Bahama Woodstar X X X X X
Cuban Emerald X X X X X
Barn Owl     X    
Burrowing Owl   X X X X
Chuck-Will's Widow       X  
Belted Kingfisher X X X X X
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker X X X X X
Hairy Woodpecker     X X X
Western Kingbird       X  
Loggerhead Kingbird X X X X X
LaSagras Flycatcher X X X X X
Cuban Pewee X X X X X
Eastern Phoebe     X    
Bahama Swallow X X X X X
Tree Swallow     X    
Northern Mockingbird X X X X X
Bahama Mockingbird X X X X X
Gray Catbird X X X X X
Red-legged Thrush X X X X X
Wood Thrush     X    
American Robin   X      
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher X X X X X
House Sparrow X        
Thick-billed Vireo X X X X X
White-eyed Vireo   X      
Yellow-throated Vireo X X X X X
Bananaquit X X X X X
Black-and-White Warbler X X X X X
Worm-eating Warbler X X X X X
Tennessee Warbler X     X  
Northern Parula X X X X X
Yellow-throated Warbler X X X X X
Yellow Warbler X X X X X
Black-throated Blue Warbler X X X X X
Magnolia Warbler X X X X X
Cape May Warbler X X X X X
Yellow-rumped Warbler X X X X X
Black-throated Green Warbler   X X X  
Pine Warbler X X X X X
Prairie Warbler X X X X X
Palm Warbler X X X X X
Ovenbird X X X X X
Northern Waterthrush X X X X X
Swainson's Warbler X     X  
Common Yellowthroat X X X X X
Bahama Yellowthroat X X X X X
Hooded Warbler X X X X  
Wilson's Warbler       X  
American Redstart X X X X X
Red-winged Blackbird X X X X X
Black-cowled Oriole X X X X X
Baltimore Oriole   X     X
N'th Stripe-head'd Tanager X X X X X
Shiny Cowbird X     X X
Summer Tanager X     X  
Indigo Bunting   X X X X
Painted Bunting   X X X X
Greater Antillean Bullfinch X X X X X
Black-faced Grassquit X X X X X
Savannah Sparrow X X   X  
Total Species (127) 90 87 102 108 93
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