Sunday, January 7, 2018
A fine day out in New Providence, Bahamas
Elena and I went to the Bahamas in December. It was my first time there. We had a great time relaxing on the beach and all, and we also took some time for birding.
We were in New Providence (that's the island with Nassau), and we hired a local guide for a day of birding. Some online research led us to Carolyn Wardle of Bahamas Outdoors, and she was just great.
We started at eight in the morning, hitting Montague Foreshore at low tide, where we saw some nice shorebirds including the very confiding Ruddy Turnstone above and the nice Black-Bellied Plover below, and then set about hitting our target species list (which we got using the Target Species feature of eBird).
First we stopped in a residential neighborhood and found Pied Imperial-Pigeons.
It seems that a lot of people in the Nassau suburbs have aviaries, and kept these quite elegant pigeons, and some of them... well, escaped, and set up housekeeping on their own. So now if you drive through this one neighborhood, you can spot these big white pigeons up in the trees.
Nearby, we stopped outside somebody's backyard and saw Bahama Woodstars (the endemic hummingbird of the Bahamas), Smooth-Billed Anis, wintering Prairie Warblers, and Common Ground-Doves. This is the kind of thing that makes it worthwhile to have a local guide--we'd never have gone through the neighborhood on our own, much less stopped at this productive spot.
Then it was off to the Retreat Garden National Park. The Retreat is a small park that used to be the estate of a wealthy couple who willed it to the Bahamas National Trust. They had a famous collection of palm trees, and the whole grounds is great bird habitat. We started finding birds right in the parking lot, where a Cuban Pewee (Crescent-Eyed Pewee) was hanging out. It's apparently his spot, which is another thing we'd never have guessed by ourselves.
Moving through the gardens, we lot a lot of species, many of them Bahama specialties. There were more Woodstars (and Bananaquits who took advantage of the hummingbird feeders as well). We saw Red-Legged Thrush and Loggerhead Kingbirds (who didn't give us a good photo opportunity) and Le Sagra's Flycatcher (who did).
We also good great close-up looks at a very cooperative Thick-Billed Vireo.
I mean, really close looks.
Next, we headed for a youth camp in a semi-rural area, but on the way we stopped in front of a church along a major commercial street. A shop next door had bird feeders, and there, mixed with the House Sparrows...
...were Cuban Grassquits. These pretty little birds were introduced as cage birds, and escapees made their way as streetbirds quite well.
The native Black-Faced Grassquits are much shyer of people; and in fact, we never caught up with one.
By the time we got to the youth camp (also not a place we'd have found on our own), it was getting into the mid-afternoon and bird activity had slowed down. We saw more Vireos, heard a Hairy Woodpecker, and got some excellent views of Loggerhead Kingbirds.
Later, in a pretty stretch of pine-and-palm forest that had been a pine plantation, we got another fine look at a Cuban Pewee.
Our final stop was Hobby Horse Pond, a wetlands trail maintained by the huge Baha Mar resort. There were some more wintering warblers, and a great look at a pair of Smooth-Billed Anis.
A great day out.