A small group of dedicated bird watchers, among them veteran ornithologists Dr. Elwood “Woody” Bracey and Reginald Patterson, met at the entrance of Cherokee Road at 7 am on Saturday, September 24 for the first bird watch outing of the Fall season. It was organized by Kenderin Mills of The Bahamas National Trust. She too was part of the outing and kept track of the sightings. The records will be sent to ebird.org .
The first stop was a nursery on Cherokee Road, often frequented by many species of birds as it was that morning, although the glare of the rising sun made it difficult to properly identify them. Nonetheless, 22 species were found at the nursery. Among them Cape May Warblers, American Redstarts, Red- Eyed and Thick-Billed Vireos, West Indian Woodpeckers, Smooth-billed Anis, even a flock of Bobwhite Quails and more.
As the group left Cherokee Road on the way to the Abaco Neem Farm, the birders were confronted by a dilemma. Perched on the electric wires were three birds that first appeared to be swallows. However, they stayed on the wires without moving and as the drivers exited their cars to have a closer look and take photos, the birds were still there, an unusual behavior for swallows that swoop back and forth over the road in search of insects. Dr. Bracey managed to shoot a good photo that allowed the birds to be identified as Purple Martins.
Further South near the Abaco Neem Farm, the pine forest was quiet. A few Black-faced Grassquits fluttered in the bushes. Pine and Prairie Warblers flew back and forth from one pine tree to the next. But what caught the attention of the birders was a type of raptor flying high. Was it an American Kestrel, a Merlin, or a Peregrine Falcon? Keith Kemp took some photos, but it was still difficult to decide on the species. Some of the ornithologists were of the mind that it was a Peregrine Falcon, but it was not until the flight pattern, the shape of the wings and the marking on the tail had been closely analyzed that it was agreed that the bird was a Merlin, probably a juvenile.
Flocks of Parrots and Western Spindalis awaited the bird watchers at Bahama Palm Shores, as well as a Great Antillean Bull Finch, an Ovenbird, a Worm-eating Warbler, and a Black-Throated Blue Warbler to mention a few.
As always some of the flycatcher species were present at one location or another. A Gray Kingbird, a La Sagra’s Flycatcher, and a Crescent-eye Pewee were spotted. A bird watching trip would not be complete if Vultures were not seen. One was eating in the middle of Earnest Dean Highway.
Altogether, 35 species were recorded during the trip. The tentative date of October 22 was mentioned for the next BNT bird watching trip.