by Sue Adair
This year (1996) I replaced my participation in the Skaneateles CBC with a trip to the Northern Bahamas (poor me) and the CBC sector leader wanted a trip report. I decided to post it here in case anyone else was interested.
My husband and I spent New Year's week on Elbow Cay, which is a small (~3 mile long) island off of Abaco Island. Abaco is the northeastern most of the Bahamas Islands. While this was not primarily a birding trip, we did see 65 species and I found 17 life birds and one life race (marked with * below).
Most of our birding was done by walking around on Elbow Cay. We took the 8am ferry to Marsh Harbour on Abaco and rented a car on one day. This allowed us to get to the pine forests which are absent on Elbow Cay. We saw the Bahama Woodstar, Greater Antillean Pewee, Olive-capped Warbler and flavescens Yellow-throated Warbler only in these pine forests. We also saw Greater Flamingo, White-cheeked Pintail and Bahama Swallow only at a lagoon on Abaco. [This was at The Great Abaco Bone Fishing Club/The Different of Abaco. It was mentioned in the WINGS catalog or I wouldn't have known to look there. And it *is* different!].
Finally, we saw Loggerhead Kingbird only on Abaco Island. We found La Sagra's Flycatcher, Red-legged Thrush and Bahama Mockingbird only on Elbow Cay. The other West Indian Species were seen on both islands.
In the non-bird category we saw only two mammals - a bat and a rat. We also saw one anole lizard and lots of Curly-tailed Lizards (which actually have curly tails!). Best of all was the snorkeling. We did some off of Elbow Cay but to reach the best areas a boat is necessary. We rented a 17 foot Boston Whaler for 2 days and snorkled at Pelican Cays National Park. There we saw one shark, one sea turtle (Hawksbill I think) and four Spotted Eagle Rays (a beautiful brown ray with a long tail and white spots and ring-shaped markings on its back). Also many, many beautiful fish, very few of which I know the names of. All of these creatures were swimming around in a beautiful (albeit mainly brown and olive colored) garden of Elk Horn Coral, Brain Coral, other corals and sea fans. Definitely worth the trip!
Back to birds. The sixty-five species we found are listed below. FYI, the LaSagra's Flycatcher is not shown in Bond's Birds of the West Indies. It was split from the Stolid Flycatcher which is shown in Bond's guide. Also, the West Indian Woodpecker is called the Cuban Red-bellied Woodpecker in the guide. I looked up these two birds in the AOU checklist because the names didn't match the WINGS catalog listing of birds from their Bahamas trip. The rest of the names are from Bond's guide and I hope they are up to date. I also noted the ease with which we found the West Indian Species (and Smooth-billed Ani, which I haven't managed to find in 3 trips to Florida) below. We found the North American breeding warblers in the 0 - 5 per day range except for Palm and Prairie Warblers which were more common.
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias
Great Egret Ardea albus
Green Heron Butorides virescens
Yellow-cr Night-Heron Nyctanassa violacea
*Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber
Two birds at The Different lagoon.
*White-cheeked Pintail Anas bahamensis
About 15 birds at The Different lagoon.
Blue-winged Teal Anas discors
Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
Merlin Falco columbarius
American Coot Fulica americana
Killdeer Charadrius vociferus
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Laughing Gull Larus atricilla
Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis
Caspian Tern Sterna caspia
Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Common Ground-Dove Columbina passerina
*Smooth-billed Ani Crotophaga ani
Several flocks of 3 to 15 birds in shrubby and open areas.
*Cuban Emerald Chlorostilbon ricordii
Generally available on both islands.
*Bahama Woodstar Callipholx evelynae
3 birds around a flowering shrub off one trail in the southern pine forest of Abaco Island.
Belted Kingfisher Ceryle alcyon
*West Indian Woodpecker Melanerpes superciliaris
2 birds on Abaco, 4 or 5 on Elbow Cay. One came in to roost in a palm in front of our inn each night.
Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus
*Greater Antillean Pewee Contopus caribaeus
3 birds in the pine forests on Abaco.
*Loggerhead Kingbird Tyrannus caudifasciatus
About 8 birds in varying habitats (including the airport) on Abaco Island.
*La Sagra's Flycatcher Myiarchus sagrae
About 5 birds in shrubby woodland and mangroves on Elbow Cay.
Bahama Swallow Tachycineta bicolor
2 birds over The Different lagoon.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea
American Robin Turdus migratorius
*Red-legged Thrush Turdus plumbeus
I saw only one bird in shrubby woodland on Elbow Cay. My husband got to watch one perched about 10 feet from the
deck of our room for 10 minutes (I was beach combing).
Gray Catbird Dumetella carolinensis
Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos
*Bahama Mockingbird Mimus gundlachii
5 birds in shrubby woodland on Elbow Cay.
White-eyed Vireo Vireo griseus
*Thick-billed Vireo Vireo crassirostris
Common on both islands.
Solitary Vireo Vireo solitarius
Blue-winged Warbler Vermivora bachmanii
Northern Parula Parula americana
Magnolia Warbler Dendroica magnolia
Cape May Warbler Dendroica tigrina
Black-thr Blue Warbler Dendroica carulescens
Yellow-rumped Warbler Dendroica coronata
Yellow-throated Warbler Dendroica dominica dominica
*Yellow-throated Warbler Dendroica dominica favescens
One bird in southern pine forest of Abaco.
*Olive-capped Warbler Dendroica pityophila
Abundant (although not very easy to see - they seemed to like to hang out up high in the pine needles) in the pine forests
of Abaco Island.
Pine Warbler Dendroica pinus
Prairie Warbler Dendroica discolor
Palm Warbler Dendroica palmarum
Black-and-White Warbler Mniotilta varia
American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla
Worm-eating Warbler Helmitheros vermivorus
Ovenbird Seiurus aurocapillus
Northern Waterthrush Seiurus noveboracensis
Louisiana Waterthrush Seiurus motacilla
Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas
*Bahama Yellowthroat Geothlypis rostrata
A few on both islands.
*Bananaquit Coereba flaveola
Common on both islands.
*Stripe-headed Tanager Spindalis zena
Two in Abaco pine forests. One in Elbow Cay shrubby woodland.
*Black-faced Grassquit Tiaris bicolor
Abundant on both islands.
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
There they are! The only bird I really feel like we missed was the Cuban Parrot (Psittacus leucocephalus bahamensis (sp?)). Apparently it is most easily found by arriving at its roosting holes very early in the morning (well, I was told it involves arriving early, I assumed this would be at its roosting holes). This would have involved chartering a ferry which was going to be too complicated and expensive so we decided to pass on the parrot.
Elbow Cay/Abaco was a great place to go with a relatively non-birding spouse (like mine) with enough birds to be interesting for the birding spouse. The birdiest place we went was the road north out of Hope Town on Elbow Cay. The only birds I heard sing were the Olive-capped Warbler and the Black-faced Grassquit. Spishing worked *great* everywhere (except on Olive-capped Warblers).
I read that an ABA guide to the Bahamas is coming out soon but it was pretty easy to do without it where we were. I'm an irregular reader of BIRDCHAT, but if you would like to know anything more, send a private e-mail and I'd be happy to respond.