On Saturday, December 20, a group of eighteen people met at the crack of dawn at the “Y”, one of the entrances to the National Park near Hole in the Wall, to perform the annual bird count for the Audubon Society. As they stood, exchanging greetings, a few Bahama Swallows flew over, favoring one of the BTC Towers as a perch.
The weather was perfect for bird watching: calm, sunny and mild. The rarest find of the day was the seldom-encountered Black-Throated Green Warbler. Altogether seventy seven species of birds were noted that day.
After the usual socializing from the returning participants, and the introduction of the new-comers, people were divided into two groups: nine people led by Dr. Elwood “Woody” Bracey took off for the Southern part of the area to be observed, up to Sandy Point. The other nine people, under the leadership of Mr. Reginald Patterson, left for the Northern part which stretched all the way to Long Bay.
Several logging roads of the pine forest were investigated by the North group. There, many warblers were observed: Olive-capped, Pine, Prairie and Palm Warblers to mention a few.
An unusual sight for the pine habitat was a Magnificent Frigate bird flying overhead, and many Bahama Woodstar Humming birds fluttering around.
At the entrance of Gilpin Point, the coppice habitat was the home of Thick-billed Vireos, Common Yellow Throat, Bahama Warblers and the praised Black-Throated Green Warbler.
Further along by the creek, a flock of twenty White- cheeked Pintails surfed the water, a Northern Water Thrush could be heard in the mangroves and an immature Little Blue Heron (white at this stage of its life) flew by, circling the water. An elusive Kingfisher was finally spotted.
Far along the beach Mr. Patterson noticed a large group of seabirds; they were ultimately identified as Sanderlings; a Royal Tern flew by, the only birds spotted on the shore.
By then it was close to twelve; under a cabana, a hammock offered a welcome resting spot; sandwiches and fruits were spread on picnic tables, a perfect setting for relaxing after a several- hour walk. Mr. Perry Mailis, the owner of the property, soon joined the group, mentioning the birds he had sighted in the last few days, among them a Pied-Bill Grebe; unfortunately they could not be included in the count.
Dr. Bracey communicated the findings of his group by email. Many species were common to both groups, such as Loggerhead King Bird, Thick-billed Vireos, Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers and Warblers: Prairie, Pine, Black and White and Olive-capped.
Because the South area included more shore line, many more water and sea birds were recorded there, including the Pied-Bill Grebe. The South group also observed Brown Pelicans, Clapper Rails, Oyster Catchers, several species of Plovers and in the coppice, a large amount of Abaco Parrots and a Painted Bunting.
In both areas, many birds flew too fast for the participants to identify them which probably would have increased the number of species sighted.
However, according to Dr. Bracey, the number recorded is consistent with what was recorded in the Southern part of Abaco during previous years.
The Audubon Society Christmas bird count for North Abaco will be held on January 2.