15 - 18 January 1999
by Allen & Nancy Chartier
This trip was part of our 1998 bonus from Allen's work, so was a free trip (the best kind). Airfare and accommodations were paid for, while meals and any additional expenses were on our own. We had recently purchased the ABA Bird Finding Guide to the Bahamas, and had several destinations planned during our visit.
Day 1, Friday, January 15, 1999
We had to get up at 4:00 a.m. for our 6:50 a.m. flight from Detroit to Miami. Our American Airlines flight left about 20 minutes late, but arrived early due to tailwinds. After a one hour layover we took a propeller plane, on American Eagle, to Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas. We arrived around 12:15 p.m., went through the very slow immigration line, passed through customs, and took the 30 minute bus ride to our hotel, the Atlantis on Paradise Island. We got checked in to our rooms then went to the only restaurant that didn't require reservations for lunch (very expensive, $19 per person for a buffet).
After lunch we got our rental car from Budget at Paradise Island airport (a tiny Suzuki for $52 per day, unlimited mileage) and drove it back to the hotel. We walked about three blocks to the Lakeview Road pond, where we saw the resident flock of White-cheeked Pintails, and got our best views ever of Least Grebes. We then walked to the Versailles Gardens and found a few flycatchers, warblers, Bananaquits, Red-legged Thrushes, and others in the ornamental shrubbery. We returned to the hotel, and went to the same restaurant for dinner where we had lunch. It was a mistake that we didn't check the pricing, as it cost $58 for two for another buffet! Well, at least it was convenient, and now that we had a car we would be able to find more reasonably-priced places to eat.
After dinner we went out walking to find some reasonably priced drinks (the 12 oz. cans of pop in the room's honor bar were $2 each!), and some candy bars and snacks for tomorrow.
Day 2, Saturday, January 16, 1999
We had a little trouble getting up early (not surprising given yesterday's early start). We left the hotel by 7:00 a.m. for south Westridge Estates. We found a lot of good birds, including excellent looks at Stripe-headed Tanagers and Bahama Mockingbirds, but not the much sought-after Great Lizard Cuckoo. Apparently the habitat here has been fragmented and this species hasn't been seen here for a couple of years by local birders. There also seemed to be roadside dumps almost everywhere in this area.
We then birded nearby Lake Cunningham, then went to the Nassau Botanical Gardens (entry fee of $1 per person). The best bird there was a Worm-eating Warbler. We went to the entrance to the Ardastra Gardens Zoo, but the price had risen to $12 per person (from $8 listed in the ABA bird finding guide) and we didn't think it would be worth it.
Next we drove to the south-central parts of the island, looking for shorebirds. There weren't many to be seen, and the tide was out and they were pretty far out. The best find of the day was a male and female Bahama Yellowthroat at the abandoned golf course (more like a scrub forest now!) near Coral Harbor. We returned to the hotel around 4:00 p.m., then went again to the pond on Lakeview Road to photograph the ducks and grebes. We went down the street to Alexander's Caribbean Grill to save money on dinner, although it was still $25 for two, and all we got was a burger and a personal pizza.
Day 3, Sunday, January 17, 1999
At the suggestion of Carolyn Wardle, a resident birder whom we had contacted via e-mail prior to the trip, we went to the trail behind the Paradise Island Golf Course first thing in the morning. We didn't find the Pearly-eyed Thrasher reported on the recent Christmas Bird Count, but the birding was good even though they were hacking down large portions of the tiny area of forest that remained.
After one more brief stop at the "pintail pond" we went into Nassau to find Cuban Grassquits. Although the parking lot to Luden's Liquor Store was locked shut (no liquor sales on Sunday), the grassquits were easily found as promised by the ABA guide.
We then went to the north Westridge Estates, which was not covered by the ABA guide, but which seemed to have more intact coppice habitat. In spite of this, we failed again to find the Great Lizard Cuckoo, but did get good looks at LaSagra's Flycatcher among other things. One Northern Mockingbird did startle us for a minute as it gave a rattling call much like a lizard-cuckoo! Unfortunately, lots of roadside "landfills" here too.
We drove out to the extreme western end of the island, looking for gulls and terns, but having no luck. We did some birding in the National Forest near Adelaide, which consisted mostly of Caribbean Pine and an understory of Palmetto (similar to north-central Florida). We then went back east of Nassau to Fort Montagu where Greater Antillean Bullfinches were possible. Not on a Sunday afternoon, however, as there was loud music blaring away and lots of people running around everywhere. We explored the hotel and pond across the street too, again with no luck. There was a Royal Tern offshore, and a good number of Laughing Gulls (although these were easily seen from the hotel too, along with an occasional Ring-billed and Herring). Most interesting were the three Nudibranchs (Sea Slugs) that we found in the shallow water just offshore of the fort.
We got back to the hotel around 4:00 p.m. and reconfirmed our flights and bus ride back to the airport, then went back to Alexanders for dinner.
Day 4, Monday, January 18, 1999
We got up earlier this morning, and went again to the trail behind the Paradise Island Golf Course. We arrived before the walkers and joggers, but there actually seemed to be fewer birds than yesterday. There were Zenaida Doves today, but they were scared off as soon as the golf course maintenance equipment was fired up at around 7:30 a.m.
We went back to the hotel to check out (checkout time was 11:00 a.m., with a $150 penalty for being late!), and packed our luggage into the car to take with us for the day. We went to "The Retreat", the headquarters of the Bahamas National Trust on the northeast side of Nassau, arriving around 9:30 a.m., a half hour after they opened. This is a 12 acre area of gardens and semi-natural forest in the very urbanized city of Nassau, and one of only a couple areas where Greater Antillean Bullfinches can be found on the island.
Almost as soon as we arrived, the maintenance crew started some activities which, unfortunately, involved a chainsaw! Very aggravating! They eventually finished what they were doing after about an hour, but the sound could be heard wherever you were on the property. After it quieted down, we did find the bullfinches.
We stopped at the Wendy's in Nassau for lunch, then went and got gas, which was more than $2 per gallon. Allen had a few photos left on his last roll of film, so he went to the Lakeview Road pond once more to use it up. We returned the rental car and returned to the hotel. We caught our bus to the airport around 2:15 p.m. It was unusual that U.S. Customs was on Bahaman soil, and we passed through before we took off, rather than when we landed in Miami as expected. Our 4:45 p.m. flight took off on time, and we caught our 7:10 p.m. flight from Miami to Detroit. We arrived at the airport around 10:30 p.m., and we got home around 11:00.
The Windsor well-fields were surrounded by a National forest that consisted mainly of this species and palmetto.
This beautiful pink orchid was seen at south Westridge Estates and
pine forest near Adelaide.
Amieva auberi 4
Seen at the Nassau Botanical Gardens.
Cnemidophorus sexlineatus (?) 5
Seen at the Nassau Botanical Gardens. There isn't supposed to be any species of Cnemidophorus in the Bahamas, so possibly this species was introduced from Florida.
Anolis angusticeps 5
Seen at the Nassau Botanical Gardens.
Anolis sagrae 20
Seen at the Nassau Botanical Gardens, Fort Montagu, and other sites.
Curly-tailed Lizard 1
Seen near Luden's Liquor Store in downtown Nassau.
Turtle sp. 3
Seen at the Lakeview Road pond on Paradise Island. According to the ABA Birdfinding guide, the turtles on this island are apparently hybrids (of two species, both of which would be lifers!).
We saw three Nudibranchs in the shallow water off of Fort Morgan. They were dull olive color with black circles on them. We may never identify them, as we don't have a good reference on them.
A total of 80 species was recorded, with 4 life birds. Allen added 32 species to his Bahamas list (which is now 100, after seeing 68 species on Grand Bahama in 1978). In addition, we saw Cattle Egret and Fish Crow at the Miami Airport on our brief stop there. Allen photogaphed his 1500th species, La Sagra's Flycatcher. Lifers are in all caps.
1. Least Grebe
Most were seen, daily, at the pond on Paradise Island. A few were on Lake Cunningham.
Most were on Lake Cunningham, with one on the pond near Fort Montagu.
3. Great Blue
Two were at the pond on Paradise Island and one was at south Westridge.
4. Great Egret
Seen at the pond on Paradise Island, at south Westridge, and at the Nassau airport.
5. Snowy Egret
Seen at the pond on Paradise Island on the first day.
One was at the pond on Paradise Island and two were in mangroves near Carmichael Village at the south end of the island.
7. Green Heron
Two or three were at the pond on Paradise Island, one was at the Nassau Botanical Gardens, and one was at South Beach.
8. Mallard 2
Seen briefly at a pond near south Westridge Estates.
9. White-cheeked Pintail
Resident at the pond on Paradise Island, probably the only place in the world where this species is so approachable.
Both were at the pond on Paradise Island, but were not visible on every visit.
11. Redhead 2
Both were on Lake Cunningham.
12. Lesser Scaup 15
All were on Lake Cunningham.
13. Ruddy Duck
Two were seen on one occasion at the pond on Paradise Island, and one was on Lake Cunningham.
The race in the Bahamas has almost pure white underparts, which made them look a lot like a Pearl Kite. One was seen at a regular perch on a TV antenna on Paradise Island, two were at Carmichael Village at the south end of the island, and one was in downtown Nassau.
15. Merlin 1
One was hanging around the Versailles Gardens on Paradise Island, and was seen several times in the surrounding area.
16. Common Moorhen 9
Most were at the pond on Paradise Island, and one was on a small pond near the Nassau airport.
17. American Coot 83
About 8-10 were at the pond on Paradise Island, while most were on Lake Cunningham.
18. Limpkin 1
Seen adjacent to the Paradise Island Golf Course.
19. Black-bellied Plover
Most were on the reef at South Beach. Several were offshore of Fort Montagu.
Seen on the reef at South Beach.
Most were on the reef at South Beach. One was heard near Carmichael Village and one was heard on Paradise Island.
Heard near south Westridge Estates.
Seen on the reef at South Beach.
24. Ruddy Turnstone 14
Two were at the reef at South Beach and the others were on the beach at Fort Montagu.
Seen on the reef at South Beach.
All were on the reef at South Beach.
27. Short-billed Dowitcher 25
All were on the reef at South Beach.
28. Laughing Gull 265
Seen in many coastal areas throughout the island, with most near our hotel and at Fort Montagu.
Two were along the beach west of Nassau and one was at our hotel on Paradise Island.
30. Herring Gull 2
Both were at our hotel on Paradise Island.
31. Royal Tern
Seen near Fort Montagu.
Seen on Paradise Island and around Nassau primarily.
33. White-crowned Pigeon
Seen in most forested areas, but mostly shy and difficult to observe since they're hunted on the island.
34. Eurasian Collared-Dove 522
Introduced several years ago, and clearly has become very successful. Seen every day in every area we visited. Most common in cities and towns.
35. Zenaida Dove 8
Seen only along the trail adjacent to the Paradise Island Golf Course.
36. Mourning Dove 2
Seen flying over the road near the Nassau Botanical Gardens.
Seen in most habitats each day except for very urbanized areas.
38. CARIBBEAN DOVE 5
Introduced to this island many years ago from Jamaica and islands offshore of Central America. One flew across the road our first afternoon on Paradise Island. Another was flushed and seen briefly at the Versailles Gardens. The others were at The Retreat in Nassau, with one bird finally being very cooperative giving us good views.
39. Mangrove Cuckoo 1
Seen briefly at north Westridge Estates.
Seen in open brushy areas every day.
41. Bahama Woodstar 15
Seen on Paradise Island, Westridge Estates, the Nassau Botanical Gardens, and The Retreat. Endemic to the Bahamas.
Seen along the trail near the Paradise Island Golf Course.
One was on Paradise Island and the other was at Fort Montagu, both over salt water.
Seen briefly along the trail adjacent to the Paradise Island Golf Course.
Seen at south Westridge Estates. This bird, of the endemic Bahaman race, gave a call unlike any I've heard Michigan birds give.
46. Cuban Pewee 15
Seen on Paradise Island, north and south Westridge Estates, the National Forest near Adelaide, and The Retreat.
Seen well at the Versailles Gardens our first afternoon.
48. LA SAGRA'S FLYCATCHER 15
Although we heard one on Paradise Island our first afternoon, our first looks were at south Westridge Estates the next day. We also had good looks at south Westridge Estates and in the National Forest near Adelaide.
Strangely difficult to find. One was at south Westridge Estates and one was in the National Forest near Adelaide.
Seen in coppice and scrub every day, but tended to skulk in the brush. Excellent views along the trail near the Paradise Island Golf Course and at The Retreat.
51. Gray Catbird 17
A skulker in brush and coppice. Found at south and north Westridge Estates, the Nassau Botanical Gardens, on Paradise Island, and at The Retreat.
52. Northern Mockingbird
Seen in most habitats in all areas we visited.
Good views at south Westridge Estates. Also seen in dry scrub at north Westridge, the Nassau Botanical Gardens, and near Adelaide.
Most were seen and heard at south Westridge Estates. Also found at the Nassau Botanical Gardens, near Adelaide, and The Retreat.
Found at south and north Westridge Estates, as well as Paradise Island, near Adelaide, the Nassau Botanical Gardens, and The Retreat.
56. Northern Parula 5
Seen at south Westridge, Paradise Island, and near Adelaide.
Seen on Paradise Island, south Westridge, and the Nassau Botanical Gardens.
58. Cape May
A few seen in most areas of coppice. Also seen in trees around Fort Montagu.
59. Black-throated Blue
Seen at various sites on Paradise Island, and one at The Retreat. Two males and two females.
60. Yellow-rumped Warbler 23
Most were in a flock at the abandoned golf course near Coral Harbor. Others were at south Westridge Estates and on Paradise Island.
61. Blackburnian Warbler 1
Seen at the abandoned golf course near Coral Harbor.
62. Yellow-throated Warbler 2
Seen on Paradise Island our first afternoon only. These birds were of the migratory race, not the distinctive resident Bahamas race.
63. Pine Warbler 3
Seen (and heard singing) in the National Forest near Adelaide. The resident Bahaman race.
64. Prairie Warbler 32
Encountered in all areas of forest and scrub wherever we went.
65. Palm Warbler 160
Virtually everywhere, including in downtown Nassau and at our hotel on Paradise Island. All that were seen were of the Western "race."
66. Black-and-white Warbler 12
Found at north and south Westridge, the Nassau Botanical Gardens, and near the Paradise Island Golf Course.
Seen in most forested areas, and scrub, in all areas we visited. Most were females, with a few 2nd year males, and a couple of adult males. Heard singing a couple of times.
One was seen well at the Nassau Botanical Gardens, and the other was seen well at north Westridge Estates.
Seen in most areas of scrub, and occasionally ornamental plantings. Some in forest.
70. Northern Waterthrush 1
Seen along the trail adjacent to the Paradise Island Golf Course.
71. Louisiana Waterthrush 1
Seen on two occasions at the overlook at the pond along Lakeview Road on Paradise Island.
Most were in various areas on Paradise Island. One was at the abandoned golf course near Coral Harbor.
A male and female, male seen very well, were at the abandoned golf course near Coral Harbor. Endemic to the Bahamas.
Surprisingly, none were seen our first afternoon on Paradise Island. Very common thereafter, in all areas we visited.
75. Stripe-headed Tanager 24
Most common at south Westridge Estates, where we had excellent views. Also seen at north Westridge, near Adelaide, and The Retreat.
76. Indigo Bunting 1
Seen briefly in a scrub thicket near the Paradise Island Golf Course.
77. CUBAN GRASSQUIT 20
Seen very well in downtown Nassau, at the parking lot of Luden's Liquor Store. This species has been introduced to this island for many years.
78. Black-faced Grassquit 149
Common in all shrubby and coppice areas throughout.
79. GREATER ANTILLEAN BULLFINCH
Loxigilla violacea 6
Found after about an hour and a half of searching the 12 acres of The
Retreat in Nassau. Three were seen well, two males and a female. Three others were heard giving their call, which closesly resembles a White-throated Sparrow's call.
80. House Sparrow 23
Seen around human habitations only, on Paradise Island, at the Nassau Airport, and in downtown Nassau.
One dead rat (Rattus norvegicus)!
Managing Editor, Michigan Birds & Natural History
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Inkster, MI 48141