A flock of Purple Martins and an Empidonax Flycatcher were only two of the exciting bird species observed during the first-of-the-season South Abaco birdwatching outing. They were among an impressive number of species sighted that day.
Some birds spotted in the Treasure Cay area and on the way to Marsh Harbour by veteran ornithologist, Dr. Elwood Bracey, were also included in the count. All together over seventy five species of birds were sighted by a team of eleven people who met at the office of the Bahamas National Trust in Marsh Harbour at 7:00 am in the morning of September 20.
It was a perfect weather for birdwatching: sunny and calm. Led by local bird watching expert, Reginald Patterson, they visited various areas of mixed habitats such as pine forest, coppice, mangrove swamp, ponds and dumps as well as sandy beaches, all the way to the Sandy Point docks and sand flats.
The first stop was at the Sunnyland Nursery on Cherokee Road. The overgrown nursery with tall grasses, palm trees and fruit trees was populated with many species. It was there that a large flock of Purple Martins was sighted while swooping over the group. There alone, over twenty species were encountered. Bananaquits skipping in the Coconut Trees, House Sparrows perching on dead branches, Smooth- billed Anis calling each other and a variety of warblers fluttering in a fruit tree caught the attention of the birders for quite a long time.
The second-best surprise awaited the bird watchers at the next stop: Big Mangrove where an Empidonax Flycatcher was identified by Dr. Bracey. The little bird with a yellow belly and an eye ring was spotted in a dense coppice area.
Another interesting sight in the same area was that of the reclusive Bahama Mockingbird, spotted by the youngest, perhaps most enthusiastic, member of the group: twelve years old Simon. A Worm-Eating Warbler was also seen there, which is not a very common a sight.
Along the road leading to the mangrove area, the pine forest revealed the usually expected Pine and Olive-Capped Warblers.
Quite a few parrots let their presence be known as they flew with loud shrills over the Bahama Palm Shores Road, to the delight of new birders who were able to take photographs. On the beach a multitude of sea birds ran among the seaweeds, foraging for food. Among them were Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, Least Sandpipers and Semi-Palmated Sandpipers.
By noon, half of the group left for home. The others decided to go on to Sandy Point for a well-deserved rest and lunch at Nancy’s Restaurant, with the intention to keep on birding after lunch. In the far distance from the eatery, Laughing Gulls and a couple of Brown Pelicans were seen through binoculars, hovering at sea, looking for fish.
While waiting for the food to arrive, three members of the group took a short drive to inspect the sand bars. It was not quite low tide, but Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns and Great Egrets among other shore birds could be observed through the telescope. A Belted Kingfisher flew by before hovering and diving for its meal.
After a second trip to observe the flats with the rest of the group, most people were ready to call it a day. A quick trip to the new ferry dock area where three Bobolinks were sighted, marked the end of the outing for everyone except two. By then, over sixty species had been noted.
Dr. Bracey and his neighbor, John Taylor, were still intent on discovering more species and so they did. A Tricolored Heron, a Cattle Egret and a Mangrove Cuckoo at the Sandy Point Lake as well as Green-winged Teals and White-cheeked Pintails at Gilpin’s Point rewarded their tenacity.
According to Dr. Bracey, it was past 6:00 pm when the two men reached home. A tiring, but most satisfactory trip for the birdwatchers.