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February 2002

by Al Schirmacher

I recently returned from a series of business meetings on Paradise Island, Bahamas.  I had a few opportunities to walk both on on Paradise and also New Providence Island (about 10 hours in the field, but most time spent walking through highly inhabited areas to get somewhere).  Some observations and a trip list follow:

* The natural areas were heavily fragmented on these two islands, so diversity and numbers of birds were less than I had anticipated.

* Was refreshing to see a number of "old friends", particularly warblers - although a bit personally bizarre to see them in very different environments than my native Wisconsin (gee, Palm Warblers in palm trees!).

* Utilized White's excellent ABA book for location determination, and also Brudenell-Bruce's older field guide as a reference.  Birded Ardastra Gardens (zoo), Botanic Gardens (closed due to storm damage, worked the outside fringes), Bahama National Trust (Retreat), Fort Montagu, Lakeview Drive (ponds) and Versailles Gardens.  The latter two were the best areas on this trip, although missing much of the Botanic Gardens and poor (mid day) timing at Bahama National Trust certainly impacted my birding.  Could not access the golf course on my one attempt.

* Due to the age of B-B's guide, some of my nomenclature may be dated - would welcome updates from anyone reading this post.

* Airport security varied greatly, although being shoeless on two occasions was unique!  Was warned to be at the Nassau Airport three hours early on my return flight, then the various checkpoints only took 15 minutes.

* For beauty, the Bahama National Trust was unparalleled (but small).  However, the islands as a whole reminded me of a mix of Wisconsin Dells, Orlando and Acapulco - rather than a great choice for an eco-vacation.  Bring truckloads of cash - very pricy!  (Ate a lot of pizza to keep costs down.)

* Contrary to public relations, it does rain in February (at least twice, maybe three times in six days) - and get below 70 degrees.

Trip List (lifers in bold)

* Least Grebe (very dark, very small, and almost tame in the Lakeview ponds)
* Neotropic Cormorant
* Great Blue Heron
* Green Heron
* Great Egret
* Tri-colored Heron
* White cheeked Pintail (again, almost tame)
* American Kestrel (common)
* Common Moorhen (same as Pintail & L. Grebe)
* American Coot
* Ring-billed Gull (not common)
* Laughing Gull (very common)
* Royal Tern (saw one tern in six days)
* White-Crowned Pigeon
* Eurasian Collared Dove (far too common, has performed a coup on these two islands - hope they don't establish here!)
* Rock Dove (less common than EC above)
* Smooth-billed Ani (called "crows" by the islanders, and for good reason)
* Bahama Woodstar (seen at most locations)
* Red-legged Thrush (common, unique appearance with red eyes and legs)
* Bahama Mockingbird (only one)
* Loggerhead Kingbird
* La Sagra's Flycatcher (called "Stolid" in B-B)
* Greater Antillean Pewee (or perhaps Cuban Pewee - anyone know current name? - can't find on list)
* Northern Mockingbird (omni-present, and vocal)
* Thick-billed Vireo
* Bananaquit (enchanting black, white & yellow bird, quite common)
* Black-faced Grassquit (boring lifer, if there is such a thing)
* Yellow-faced Grassquit (enchanting story, supposedly there due to a plane crash - quite a striking bird)
* Yellow Warbler
* Cape May Warbler
* Yellow-rumped Warbler
* Prairie Warbler
* Palm Warbler
* Yellow-throated Warbler (five in a tree brought my life total to seven -not exactly common in WI - highlight of that birding stop!)
* American Redstart (second most common, after Palm)
* House Sparrow

May have heard a Greater Antillean Bullfinch at Bahama National Trust - song fit the book's description, as did it's "deep brush" evasiveness - never got more than a glance - and can't find it on my Thayer's checklist.

From a birding perspective, not the ideal location - but as a diversion from day to day business meetings at a beachfront hotel (don't swim or do other "beachy" things), enjoyed the opportunity to be there.

Al Schirmacher
Dane County
Madison, WI

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