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TAS Grand Bahama Birding Tour
March 21-23, 2003


Tropical Audubon Society's Grand Bahama birding trip went very, well, many of the 13 participants were able to see many lifers. We were able to see all of our main target birds all except for Bahama Mockingbird, they are either very shy at this time of year or they just are not there. I feel strongly that these birds must migrant, perhaps to some of the more southern Bahamas. I know that with more time we may have found one. We found some very exciting birds during our visit including what we believe to be one first record for Grand Bahama and a first for the West Indies!! As well as a bird believed to be extirpated many years ago!! Below is a trip report with a list of total birds seen.

Friday, March 21, 2003

We left Ft. Lauderdale on Discovery Cruise Line at 8:00 am for our journey over to Grand Bahama. The sailing was smooth with some pretty good birds seen on the crossing. It was odd that we did not encounter any Northern Gannets the first few miles from shore, we did however see one about three quarters of the way across. Royal Terns kept us company, a Pomarine Jaeger gave us great looks and a Great Black-backed Gull kept up with the boat for a short while. Also seen were Bridled Tern who flew fast past the boat, not many of us got to see it and a Least Tern which did the same. I was able to pick out a fast flying flock of about 6 Blue-winged Teal a few miles from shore. As we arrived into the port in Grand Bahama, we encountered some Laughing Gulls and what we believe to be a first record for Grand Bahama of a Lesser Black-backed Gulls one adult and one first year bird! John Boyd could not find Lesser Black-backed Gull in Tony White's list of birds of the Bahamas, so we assume that it is a first record! As the ship was docking we had great looks at Loggerhead Kingbird, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and a few common warblers in the trees near the dock and many Magnificent Frigatebirds.

Once we cleared customs, we tried to get the vans that I reserved months ago only to be told that no vans were available! What fun it is having 14 people ready to bird but having no vehicles to bird in yet. Well, on to plan B, we rented 3 cars which actually worked out just fine. Once we checked into our motel we were off birding! Our first attempt was to bird the Rand Nature center which was closed when we arrived. We birded the fence line and a little driveway and a school across the street. We got brief glimpses of a Cuban Emerald, we saw a Smooth-billed Ani in the School yard. Pretty slow birding but with record breaking heat, I think the birds were finding shade and relaxing. We then birded a road leading into a Pine forest along the west side of the Rand Nature center. We heard a Cuban Pewee and an Ovenbird we saw a few common warblers but not much else. From here we went to the Garden of the Groves where the late afternoon proved to have much better birding. In the parking lot we had excellent views of Red-legged Thrush. At the near by abandoned golf course, we had a calling La Sagra's Flycatcher and another Smooth-billed Ani. The La Sagra's finally gave some of us good looks after searching for it. The day was pretty much finished at this point and it was time to call it quits. We went back to our motel and ate dinner at a near by restaurant.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

After an excellent breakfast we headed for McLean's Town which is the last town on the east end of Grand Bahama. Last year there was a reported West Indian Woodpecker nesting in a telephone pole in town so this was a bird we hoped for. I don't know when the last reported ones were, but they are listed as extirpated from Grand Bahama. I birded here in May of 1993 hoping with luck to see one, but did not at that time. Our first stop before McLean's Town was to bird the Lucyan National Park which has a cave, Pine Woods, a boardwalk through an area of Mangroves and a trail through some beach Hammock. We were able to find Thick-billed Vireo, Bahama Yellowthroat, Cuban Pewee, Black-faced Grassquit, the Bahamas race of Hairy Woodpecker, a fly by Zenaida Dove and Olive-capped Warbler. All of these birds were seen right along the roadside giving us all great looks. We hoped for Key West Quail-Dove along the beach Hammock without luck, and we hoped for Greater Antillean Bullfinch without luck. After an excellent morning of birding we headed east towards McLean's Town. On the way I spotted some Bahama Swallows flying high above the road in Pelican Point. We stopped here for lunch and were able to get great looks of about 3 dozen Bahama Swallows, one Tree Swallow and one Cliff Swallow which is pretty uncommon here. We then continued towards McLean's Town, stopping at a telephone pole which looked like it could be the one which had the West Indian Woodpecker cavity. No luck here so we continued into town. While driving slowly through town I noticed a bird fly into a Mango Tree the same time that Leo Miller did, and guess what this bird was? It was a female West Indian Woodpecker!! Everyone out of the cars quick before she flies off, she gave us great looks and then flew to a telephone pole for more looks and then it flew a couple of houses down to some short wooden poles in a front yard. After we all walked over to this area, Norman Block was taking photos of one in a Mango Tree while a SECOND bird pecked on one of the short wooden poles in a front yard. Both birds flew to another telephone pole with a nest cavity in it! This second bird was a male! I ran and got my camera and was able to photograph both the male and female on the pole together, the male is higher on the pole, female below! Click here for a photo of both birds: What an exciting find to see two birds that have not been reported in many, many years! Also in town were our first Gray Kingbirds of the year, two were on the wires in town. We went to a small restaurant/bar in town for a cold wet drink to celebrate our exciting find! On the drive back to Freeport we stopped and birded a side road finding a perched Merlin and a fly by Zenaida Dove that not everyone saw. While along this road, I ducked into a hammock and flushed a Key West Quail-Dove and saw another one walking on the hammock floor in front of me. I kind of hated doing this because I know how hard it would have been to get 14 people on one shy bird. We did not encounter any others on the trip. By the end of this day we were all exhausted and ready for dinner and our beds.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Today we spent the early morning birding the parking area of the Garden of the Groves and along the road. We also birded inside the Garden of the Groves as well. Before we arrived at the Garden of the Groves we stopped along the road to find several Bahama Swallows on some phone wires. Also seen here and spotted by John Boyd was the Bahamas race of Yellow-throated Warbler which in our opinion should be a separate species, based on differences between this bird and the one common to the U.S. The yellow on the front of the bird extends all the way down the belly and is much paler in color, the whole bird seems to be an over all paler color. Along the road by the Garden of the Groves we encountered a calling Mangrove Cuckoo which everyone got excellent looks at. Also seen here were, Western Spindalis, Greater Antillean Bullfinch, Thick-billed Vireo, Bahama Yellowthroat, White-crowned Pigeon, Smooth-billed Ani, La Sagra's Flycatcher, Cuban Pewee and Cuban Emerald. After a great morning of early birding the Garden of the Groves opened and we made our way to the entrance booth. As I was waiting to pay my entrance fee I saw a black bird fly into a Black Olive tree about 20 feet above the entrance booth. As soon as I saw it I knew it was a GRACKLE, but which grackle species was this? Everyone got good looks at it and Norman Block and I tried to photograph the bird but it went higher up in the tree and was more obstructed by twigs and leaves. It then went to the very top of the tree and just seemed to disappear, who knows where it went from there. After birding inside the Garden of the Groves we picked up a Least Grebe. After looking into several bird books on the Bahamas and the West Indies I decided the bird was most likely a COMMON GRACKLE which would be a first record for the whole West Indies!!! It is a shame that we were not able to photograph it! A very nice person named Michelle who works in the petting zoo at the Garden of the Groves, called a local birder named Erica who we told about the Grackle, I sure hope that someone else local is able to see it. Erica also told us about an area in Freeport to look for Bahama Woodstar which we found with not too much effort. We had about 4 birds total, most appeared to be females, one may have been a young male. We went to lunch from the Bahama Woodstar sightings and then back to our boat for our journey back to Ft. Lauderdale. On the boat ride back we saw 2 Audubon's Shearwater seen by just about everyone, several Northern Gannets but not too much else.

It was an excellent trip with many lifers seen by many of the participants. Below is the total list of birds seen.

Least Grebe
Audubon's Shearwater
Brown Pelican
Northern Gannet
Magnificent Frigatebird
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Cattle Egret
Little Blue Heron
Blue-winged Teal
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
American Coot
Wilson's Plover
Black-bellied Plover
Ruddy Turnstone
Pomarine Jaeger
Laughing Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Caspian Tern
Royal Tern
Bridled Tern
Least Tern
Rock Dove
White-crowned Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Common Ground Dove
Key West Quail-Dove
Zenaida Dove
Mourning Dove
Mangrove Cuckoo
Smooth-billed Ani
Barn Owl
Bahama Woodstar
Cuban Emerald
Belted Kingfisher
Hairy Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Loggerhead Kingbird
Gray Kingbird
La Sagra's Flycatcher
Cuban Pewee
Bahama Swallow
Tree Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Northern Mockingbird
Gray Catbird
Red-legged Thrush
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-throated Vireo
Thick-billed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Louisiana Waterthrush
Northern Waterthrush
American Redstart
Cape May Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Palm Warber
Black-throated Green Warbler
Pine Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Olive-capped Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Hooded Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler, both races.
Northern Parula
Common Yellowthroat
Bahama Yellowthroat
European Starling
Red-winged Blackbird
Baltimore Oriole
Western Spindalis
House Sparrow
Black-faced Grassquit
Greater Antillean Bullfinch

The probable Common Grackle would be a first West Indies record. The Lesser Black-backed Gull has not been reported from Grand Bahama and Cliff Swallows are pretty uncommon.


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