Bahama Birding Trip Report(January 2005)

Prairie and Palm Warblers were everywhere. American Redstarts, Northern Parulas, Northern Waterthrushes, Blackpolls, and Pine Warblers frequently showed themselves to our pishing. Magnolias, Cape Mays, and Black-and-whites were less common. A Worm-eating Warbler nonchalantly appeared briefly in front of us before disappearing in the foliage. Ovenbirds crept secretly across the edges of the thickets. We had found many of our favorite warblers in early January.

When the two of us planned our first trip to the Bahamas for January 2-15, 2005, we hoped for warm weather, pleasant scenery, and new life birds. We arranged to spend a week in Freeport on Grand Bahama and scheduled five days on the less developed island of Andros. Emails from Tony White and Andy Pyle provided us with good information concerning the two islands. We were armed with Tony's invaluable A Birder's Guide to the Bahama Islands and the Birds of the West Indies by Raffaele, et al.

Afternoon temperatures in the low 80s greeted us on Grand Bahama. The beaches and water were beautiful but many signs of the hurricanes' fury still remained. Some hotels were closed, many houses were not fully repaired or were abandoned, and uprooted trees commonly lay in clusters. Many people had lost their jobs, at least temporarily, during the decline of tourism. Despite this, everyone was friendly to us and the infrastructure of the island functioned well.

Our first island bird was the Turkey Vulture; these were common every day. A House Sparrow and a Northern Mockingbird were next. Pat soon mastered the adjustments to driving on the left side of the road and the intricacies of navigating the traffic circles, and we set off to find more interesting birds. Locating the endemics at first seemed harder than seeing our familiar warblers. Some of the woods were eerily quiet. The Rand Nature Center has good habitat for endemics and visiting warblers. The abandoned Shannon Golf Course, gloriously overgrown with trees and brush, was our favorite birding area. There we saw large numbers of Smooth-billed Anis, a life bird that we had unsuccessfully chased in Florida. Perhaps our fondest memory of the islands' birds is the image of three anis huddled together, alternately preening one another in the twilight./p>

We enjoyed birding with Erika Gates, the foremost birder on Grand Bahama and president of Kayak Nature Tours Ltd. (http://www.grandbahamanaturetours.com). Erika told us that the hurricanes had a negative effect on the native bird population. Reported numbers of birds were down. Some of the more sought-after birds such as Zenaida Dove were hard to find because they had been dispersed from their usual locations. Only one Bahama Woodstar
(hummingbird) had been found since the last hurricane. Erika expected the bird population to bounce back soon. She provided us with the first views of some of our life birds, gave advice on other birding spots, and graciously spent extra time with us. We added our modest contribution to birding on Grand Bahama by locating an American Robin for Erika. The robin had not been spotted on the recent CBC nor had it been on the birding checklist for the island.

The life birds eventually came in spurts. We added Cuban Emerald (a bright-green hummingbird and one of our favorites), Cuban Pewee, La Sagra's Flycatcher, Loggerhead Kingbird, Bahama Swallow, the secretive Red legged Thrush, the common Thick-billed Vireo, Olive-headed Warbler, Bahama Yellowthroat (similar to our Common Yellowthroat but larger), Bananaquit, the colorful Western Stripe-headed Tanager, Black-faced Grassquit, and the Greater Antillean Bullfinch.

The two of us were able to enjoy the birds of Grand Bahama as we ate breakfast on our balcony at the Island Seas Resort. We thought that our life Kirtland's Warbler had appeared in the thickets close to our balcony. Sanity eventually prevailed as we realized that although the bird lacked the white eyebrow line of the Yellow-throated Warbler, it also lacked the Kirtland's distinctive broken white eye-ring. Yellow-throated Warblers are frequently misidentified as Kirtland's Warblers by optimistic birders in the Bahamas. The resort's beach provided us with good shorebirds including Wilson's Plovers and two Piping Plovers.

We arrived on Andros on the evening of January 10. Andros is less populated than Grand Bahama; we frequently drove for miles without seeing another vehicle. Andros is birdier than the other island, and had escaped the wrath of the storms.

The grounds of the Lighthouse Yacht Club and Marina at Fresh Creek, our motel, were filled with birds. Sherron discovered 3 Greater Antillean Orioles (Black-cowled Orioles) near the entrance road. It was probably our favorite bird of the island. Warblers were also abundant throughout this island.

Small Hope Bay Lodge is the favorite motel for many birders. It offers tours and has excellent birding habitat. For a week every January, Mike Baltz (mbaltz@tnc.org) has a group of birders based at Small Hope Bay Lodge for mist netting and banding as well as birding throughout Andros. Mike had graciously offered us the opportunity to visit with his group at the mist net area and to photograph birds as he banded them. This gave us our only look at a colorful Key West Quail-Dove. We enthusiastically clicked away as Mike held up the various birds. Mike exchanged bird-sighting information with us during the rest of the week.

We had the opportunity to meet with Prescott Smith, a leading environmentalist and renowned fishing guide in the Bahamas and the owner of Stafford Creek Lodge. Prescott showed us a Greater Antillean Oriole's nest on his property. Ben Bohl, director of the environmental studies organization FORFAR, introduced us to several members of his group who were knowledgeable about birding.

The town of Stanyard Creek is excellent for shorebirds and endemics. We found at least three Bahama Woodstars there. The duck pond at the airport at San Andros also provides good birding, especially in the summer months when West-Indian Whistling Ducks are present. We searched extensively for the elusive Great Lizard-Cuckoo, a much larger cuckoo than any of our three species, but unfortunately couldn't find it.

Despite our disappointment about the cuckoo, we greatly enjoyed the climate, the people, and the birds. The Bahamas may not have a great number of endemics, but for those of you who might be suffering from warbler-deprivation during the winter, it's a great place to see many of your favorites. — by Pat and Sherron Lynch

Species List
Blue-winged TealAmerican OystercatcherBlue-gray GnatcatcherHouse Sparrow
Red-breasted MerganserBlack-necked StiltAmerican RobinLeast Grebe
Northern BobwhiteGreater YellowlegsGray CatbirdReddish Egret
Pied-billed GrebeLesser YellowlegsNorthern MockingbirdLimpkin
Brown PelicanSolitary SandpiperEuropean StarlingWhite-crowned Pigeon
Double-crested CormorantWilletCedar WaxwingKey West Quail-Dove*
Great Blue HeronSpotted SandpiperNorthern ParulaSmooth-billed Ani*
Great EgretRuddy TurnstoneYellow Warbler (Bahamian race)Cuban Emerald*
Little Blue HeronSanderlingMagnolia WarblerBahama Woodstar*
Tricolored HeronWilson's SnipeCape May WarblerCuban Pewee*
Cattle EgretLaughing GullBlack-throated Blue WarblerLa Sagra's Flycatcher*
Green HeronRing-billed GullYellow-rumped WarblerLoggerhead Kingbird*
Black-crowned Night-HeronHerring GullBlack-throated Green WarblerBahama Swallow*
White IbisGreat Black-backed GullYellow-throated WarblerRed-legged Thrush*
Turkey VultureRoyal TernPine WarblerBahama Mockingbird*
OspreyForster's TernPrairie WarblerThick-billed Vireo*
Red-tailed HawkRock PigeonPalm WarblerOlive-capped Warbler*
American Kestrel (cuban race)Eurasian Collared-DoveBlackpoll WarblerBahama Yellowthroat*
MerlinMourning DoveBlack-and-white WarblerBananaquit*
Clapper Rail (heard)Common Ground-DoveAmerican RedstartWestern Stripe-headed Tanager*
Common MoorhenYellow-billed CuckooWorm-eating WarblerBlack-faced Grassquit*
American CootBelted KingfisherOvenbirdGreater Antillean Bullfinch*
Black-bellied PloverYellow-bellied SapsuckerNorthern WaterthrushGreater Antillean Oriole*
Wilson's PloverHairy WoodpeckerCommon Yellowthroat(Black-cowled Oriole)
Semipalmated PloverWestern KingbirdIndigo Bunting 
Piping PloverWhite-eyed VireoPainted Bunting 
KilldeerHouse WrenRed-winged Blackbird 
* Denotes Life Birds

Image Gallery

Mission of 3RBC

To gather in friendship, to enjoy the wonders of nature and to share our passion for birds!