Sunday, April 17, 2011

Da Bahamas, mon

Greetings fellow bird nerds. Just recently returned from a cruise to the Bahamas with my mom. We visited Grand Bahama, Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay.

First stop was Grand Bahama where we booked an excursion to visit Lucayan National Park. I was excited and hungover all at once. It was supposed to have a 40-50 minute nature walk that went through pine woodlands... this was not the case. Our leader knew nothing about the wildlife around, only a few plants that he blabed about for a while. He also tried to tell us about some of the science behind the island, but all he kept saying was "carbon dating", even for samples of fish and inverts taken from the caves today. So, left to fend for myself, in the middle of the day, I skipped out on most of the cave presentations and got my bird on. Lucky for me, a few birds were still braving the heat, including a nice La Sagra's Flycatcher.
I scored this Western Spindalis while the leader was busy saying something else about caves that I didn't care about.
Western Spindalis of a subspecies
Not really a whole lot else to report from the day, except the wintering warblers were still present in pretty good numbers. I found Worm-eating Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo (a decent bird for GB I guess), Thick-billed Vireo (lifer). I also got flashed by a male Cuban Emerald as the leader stopped the van to say something else. Not the best of looks, but it'll do. Also had a Manatee in the water where we kayaked through a Mangrove swamp. It was quickly obvious that I wouldn't be seeing all the birds I had wanted, so instead of getting frustrated, I decided to relax and just have fun.

After a night of drinking and dancing with a few new "birds" that I had found, I arrived to my room at promptly 6:15am to catch an hour of sleep before the Nassau experience. My mom didn't seem amused. We made our way to the taxi and I told him we wanted to go to The Retreat. He had no idea what I was talking about, but said he did, and took us to the complete other side of the island. He dropped us off at 9am and told us he would be back at 1:30. Of course, this place also lacked any pine woodlands (aka there goes my best chances for Loggerhead Kingbird, Cuban Pewee and any other pine woodland birds). This place was called Clifton Heritage National Park, and besides the Coppice dominated habitat, was pretty sweet. One of the first birds I saw was this female Bahama Woodstar.
Also managed to pick up this Bananaquit.
One of the most common birds in this habitat was Thick-billed Vireo. They really were everywhere. I even manged to get a pretty good shot of one.
Again, La Sagra's Flycatchers were pretty easy, especially since they were calling often.
Everyone kept telling me how common Red-legged Thrushes are in the Bahamas. I don't know if I was just not in the right area or if I was too tired and out of it to notice them, but it took me a couple hours to find even one. They are quite the arousing bird!
Finally managed to find one Black-faced Grassquit as well.

Had a few species that hit a little closer to home. This Northern Parula posed nicely for the camera. Too bad the light wasn't a little better.
 This Prairie Warbler hasn't quite got his full breeding plumage back.
This Ovenbird really didn't care for me pishing everywhere I went.
One bird that I really wanted to see was the Bahama Yellowthroat. I finally found a Yellowthroat in some Coppice habitat that was away from any water. Unfortunately it turned out to be a Common Yellowthroat. Talk about a buzz kill.
Most hated Common Yellowthroat of all time
I also found a few butterflies that would actually sit and let me take their picture. This Julia was pretty cool, and quite common in a few areas.
Also came across this really cool looking skipper, Zestos Skipper, which is apparently extirpated from Florida but still found in the Bahamas. Have a few other pics of butterflies, including one small dark skipper, but haven't taken the time to ID them yet.
At 1:30 our bus driver never showed up. 2:15, still nothing. The people at the National Park called us a taxi that wouldn't be around for at least another hour. Luckily, one lady working at the park offered to drive us all the way to the other side of the island to our boat, but she needed gas money. Not a problem, we paid her a nice sum of money since we just wanted to get back.

The next stop was Great Stirrup Cay where we decided to go beaching and snorkeling. Since I was going on a whole 2 1/2 hours of sleep that day, I passed out in the chair in the shade by the beach until noon. Snorkeling was awesome, the diversity of fish was truly amazing. There was some interesting looking habitat on the Cay, but by this day I was too burnt out to try to find anything new.

All in all, not a bad cruise despite missing a few prime birds. Guess I'll have to go back!

Stay tuned for another blog post from Florida and the Everglades.

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