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20 December 2002 - 4 January 2003

by Barry Levine

I spent two weeks (Dec 20,2002-Jan 4,2003) in the relaxed environs of Grand Bahama, Andros and Eleuthra (3 Bahamian islands).  Wonderous vacation among some of the friendliest people we've met during our travails and travels.  We managed to do some birding, though that was not the only focus of our trip.  There's much to do, especially if one is interested in diving, fishing, snorkeling, shelling, kyacking, exploring caves, blue holes, relaxing on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, or just engaging the locals in pleasant conversation.  Birding is somewhat difficult in that car rental is very expensive.  We paid $60/day, so we had to limit the number of days that we could bird to a couple per island.  We did bicycle and bird for a few days.  No problem there.  The other limiting factor for us, was the price of accommodations.  The Bahamas are pricey especially if you compare them to other locales like Mexico.  It's hard to find hotel rooms for under $80 a night and that was at a reduced rate.  It seems that the tourist industry has been hard hit by 9/11.  We met no other people trying to do it the way that we were.  Most go on tours, which eliminates the need for a car rental.  In some cases that might work out better, but there are not a wealth of birders or birding guides to be found outside of Nassau.  Getting to and from the islands can also add significantly to the budget for the trip.

On Grand Bahama we were fortunate to meet Erica, who is a great resource.  She and her husband run the local Kyack and Nature tour company.  She was willing to show us a Bahamian Woodstar that was nesting in a tree across the street from her house in Freeport.  Certainly a highlight, especially when the female came within 6 inches of my face checking out my red hat.  She also was very helpful in giving us information about Key West Quail Doves, which we saw for a fleeting moment at the site she mentioned.  Grand Bahama has some great places to bird.  Rand Nature Center, Lucaya National Park the area around Garden of the Groves and the West End.  We stayed at Fortuna Resort.  Even though we usually eschew staying at all inclusive resorts, we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.  There was the opportunity to play tennis, basketball and bocce, windsurf, kyack, snorkel off of the beach and dive.  They had nice bicycles which were also included in the daily price.  Important stuff in that bicycle rentals can be as much as $15 per day per person.  They are also located away from Freeport and Lucaya.  Certainly a bonus if you are birding.  One of the best birds seen on G.  Bahama was a vagrant oriole (Orchard?).

Andros is a much less touristed island.  Overall a funkier place on the surface.  We found the people there to be exceptionally nice.  Less expensive than G.  Bahama.  When we rented a car there were no contracts to sign, no red tape.  We were basically given a car that someone wouldn't be using in the next couple of days.  That worked out great for us as we were able to easily see the north and central part of the island in that time frame.  It afforded us the opportunity to go see Bill's Blue Hole and our first Black-Cowled Oriole.  We also picked up the Great Lizard-Cuckoo at Staniard Creek.  Missed the Whistling ducks at the location mentioned in Tony White's book.

Eleuthra was in some ways the best of all worlds.  Nice birds, fantastic beaches with great shells and some reasonably priced places to stay.  We ended up driving the length of the island.  Enjoyed it all, though Harbour Island was very overrun with golf carts.  So much so that it took away from what appears to be a very charming place.  We spent a fabulous day at Cape Eleuthra.  Certainly this was one of the most beautiful spots that we saw during our time in the Bahamas.  Probably the best bird seen on Eleuthra was a very quick look at a Kirtland Warbler seen along a road south of Tarpon Bay at a site that is being researched.  Also of note were: Lesser Black-backed Gulls seen at Tarpon Bay, West Indian Whistling-Ducks with young at a pond on the road in to Ingraham's, just north of Tarpon Bay.

The following is the overall list with general locations where:

GB = Grand Bahama A = Andros E = Eleuthra

1. Magnificent Frigatebird E
2. Lesser Black-Backed Gull E
3. Ring-billed Gull GB
4. Herring Gull E
5. Bonaparte's Gull E
6. Laughing Gull GB
7. Royal Tern GB
8. Sandwich Tern GB
9. Snowy Egret E
10. Great Blue Heron GB
11. Great Egret A
12. Limpkin E
13. Green Heron GB
14. Piping Plover E
15. Wilson's Plover E
16. Killdeer A
17. Black-bellied Plover GB
18. Solitary Sandpiper GB
19. Short-billed Dowitcher E
20. Semipalmated Sandpiper E
21. Willet E
22. American Coot E
23. Common Moorhen GB
24. Least Grebe GB
25. Double-Crested Cormorant E
26. West Indian Whistling-Duck E
27. Ring-Necked duck A
28. Merlin E
29. Peregrine Falcon GB
30. American Kestral E
31. Red-tailed Hawk GB
32. Turkey Vulture GB
33. Osprey GB
34. White-Crowned Pigeon GB
35. Rock Dove GB
36. Key West Quail-Dove GB
37. Mourning Dove E
38. Eurasian Collared-Dove GB
39. Common Ground-Dove GB
40. Zenaida Dove GB
41. Great Lizard-Cuckoo A
42. Smooth-Billed Ani GB
43. Cedar Waxwing E
44. Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher GB
45. Cuban Emerald GB
46. Ruby-Throathed Hummingbird E
47. Bahama Woodstar GB
48. Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker GB
49. Hairy Woodpecker GB
50. Belted Kingfisher A
51. La Sagra's Flycatcher A
52. Loggerhead Kingbird GB
53. Crescent-eyed Pewee GB
54. Bahama Swallow GB
55. Gray Catbird GB
56. Bahama Mockingbird A
57. Northern Mockingbird GB
58. Red-Legged Thrush GB
59. Blue-Headed Vireo GB
60. Yellow-Throated Vireo GB
61. Thick-Billed Vireo GB
62. Black and-White Warbler GB
63. Northern Waterthush GB
64. Louisiana Waterthrush GB
65. Ovenbird GB
66. Prairie Warbler GB
67. Palm Warbler GB
68. Yellow-Throated Warbler GB
69. Yellow-Rumped Warbler GB
70. Olive-Capped Warbler GB
71. Magnolia Warbler GB
72. Cape May Warbler GB
73. Black-Throated Green Warbler GB
74. Pine Warbler GB
75. Kirtland's Warbler E
76. Blackburnian Warbler GB
77. Nashville Warbler GB
78. Bahama Yellowthroat GB
79. Common Yellowthroat GB
80. Northern Parula GB
81. Blue-Winged Warbler A
82. Yellow-Breasted Chat GB
83. American Redstart GB
84. Black-Throated Blue Warbler GB
85. Worm-Eating Warbler GB
86. Bananaquit GB
87. Western Stripe-Headed Tanager GB
88. Oriole sp. GB
89. Black-Cowled Oriole A
90. Red-Winged Blackbird GB
91. Black-Faced Grassquit GB
92. House Sparrow GB
93. Greater Antillean Bullfinch GB
94. Blue Grosbeak E
95. Painted Bunting GB

Feel free to contact me about locations and other information.

Barry Levine

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