Thursday, April 17, 2014

Island Hopping (Part 4 of 8) - Feb 1, 2014 (Barbados incl. Little Egrets)

Feb 1 - Barbados
On this day we reached our furthest point from the United States - Barbados. Not the birdiest nor the lushest of islands, Barbados still provided some really interesting species for us to see.

The island does have an endemic, the BARBADOS BULLFINCH, which we got as soon as we stepped off the cruise ship! That was easy!

Barbados Bullfinch (endemic)


Our first official stop was at a private pond that held a flock of BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCKS and a very cooperative SCALY-NAPED PIGEON. Subsequent stops yielded ANTILLEAN CRESTED HUMMINGBIRDS, GREEN-THROATED CARIBS, SHINY COWBIRDS and a smattering of shorebirds. A cliff at the north side of the island, meant to be a bathroom stop, briefly had a CARIBBEAN MARTIN fly by, a species just starting to trickle into the Lesser Antilles in very small numbers as northbound migrants. One of the small lily-covered ponds known for harboring MASKED DUCKS came through with two males and two females - a life bird for me actually.

Zenaida Dove

Carib Grackle

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Scaly-naped Pigeon

Green-throated Carib

Antillean Crested Hummingbird

drake Masked Duck

hen Masked Ducks

Sora

yours truly at the site of his life Caribbean Martin


Our last couple stops of the day focused on the island's fascinating population of LITTLE EGRETS. Little Egret, the Old World counterpart to our Snowy Egret, was first recorded in the New World on Barbados in 1954. Little Egrets continued to arrive from across the Atlantic in small numbers, to the point where breeding actually began in 1994.

Our stop at the Chancery Lane marsh rewarded us with distant scope views of two LITTLE EGRETS (and six Snowy Egrets, for good comparison). Later, our stop at the rookery at Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary, the site of that original 1994 colony, yielded up to five breeding LITTLE EGRETS among many Cattle Egrets and a few Snowies. We were quite a ways from the colony, so I just did the best I could with photos.

Note here a high-breeding adult Snowy Egret with reddish lores at top left, a Little Egret sticking its neck out from behind the bush at center left, and an unidentified Snowy vs. Little Egret at bottom right...more on this bird later.

Left to right: Julian Moore, John Webster, Eddie Massiah (our guides) and trip participant Roberta Gowing, all enjoying the Graeme Hall Swamp. Roberta is scoping the area where the Little Egrets are breeding.
Regarding that egret at the bottom-right of the photo above...this interesting bird was paired with a typical Little Egret

Here the obvious Little Egret has returned to the nest. It shows gray lores and two long head plumes.

The other bird shows yellow lores (to my eyes), a smaller bill, and lacks long head plumes.

Head shape in this photo and the one below may suggest Little Egret...a bit wedge shaped with peak towards the rear crown, but that peak may be exaggerated by the wind which was blowing right-to-left.


Here the obvious Little Egret has again returned to the nest, with a twig.
So what's going on here? I'm not sure the photos are good enough to tell. Is that bird a Little Egret, Snowy Egret, or even a hybrid? I really wish I had been in a better position to get photos. Interesting stuff though. Thoughts are welcome, as always.

 - Nick

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