BirdTrax: Latest Sightings

December 1999 to February 2000

December and the first half of January saw very dry conditions with above average temperatures. January 1st hit 75.4 deg. F (24.1 deg. C). Since mid-January, temperatures have been below average with above average amounts of rainfall. The temperature on January 15th fell to 44.9 deg. F (7.2 deg. C) – the lowest for 50 years. There have been some unseasonal and unusual reports – birds normally found further north or to our south, as well as some arrivals from the other side of the Atlantic.

Petrels to Terns

The first Cahows of the new millennium have already hatched. The exciting news concerning Cahows is the increasing frequency with which they are being seen during the late afternoon from vantage points such as Cooper’s Point. A Brown Pelican has spent much of the winter here, delighting many observers. First seen in the Great Sound on March 29th (MW) it has favoured Harrington Sound and the vicinity of Spanish Point. A Magnificent Frigatebird can pass through Bermuda at any time, but one seen on Jan.8th (AD, KD) at Dockyard was unusual in that it stayed for at least five days. Two European duck species arrived this year. A female Eurasian Wigeon appeared at Camden Marsh on Jan.28th (EA) - present into March, while a much rarer Tufted Duck was identified at Warwick Pond on March 5th (AD). This bird is still present at the time of writing and the handsome black and white duck is the first adult male to be recorded in Bermuda. There have only been three previous records, all in the 1990’s, involving brown females or immatures. Unusual wintering shorebirds included a Greater Yellowlegs and a Long-billed Dowitcher at Pitman’s Pond in Somerset. A single Dunlin was regularly seen at Spittal Pond or at the airport. Lesser Black-backed Gulls are now regular each winter with a high count this year of at least seven individuals on Feb.13th (IF, PW) at the West End. A Forster’s Tern graced Great Bay St. David’s on Jan.28th (DW) where it remained to be joined by another on Feb.2nd.

Owls to Redpolls

While scanning for Cahows off Cooper’s Point on Jan.30th, SD and DW stumbled upon a Short-eared Owl and Northern Shrike. That presumed same shrike stayed in the East End into March and was heard singing at Lover’s Lake on Mar.9th (WF). A Yellow-throated Vireo was an unusual winter sighting on Jan.5th at Ocean View GC (WF). A Horned Lark was amongst a flock of Snow Buntings at the Civil Air Terminal on Feb.12th (IF). Kinglets are always few and far between. The Golden-crowned Kinglet is not recorded every year, so one at Port Royal GC on Jan.23rd (AD) was a good find. American Pipits always seen to favour the short grass of the airport. Three on Dec.4th (DW) had increased to nine by Jan.16th. About 22 warbler species were recorded this winter. The most surprising was a Yellow Warbler seen at St. George’s Cemetery on Feb.16th (PW, IF, DW). Also unseasonal was a Summer Tanager in the Arboretum from Dec.14th to 18th (IF, PW). There was a large influx of Snow Buntings this winter. The highest count was 103 at Clearwater on dec.7th (SD). The rare Pine Grosbeak that arrived on Nov.14th (JM, LM) was still present in the Somerset area in until January. Common Redpolls also arrived. A flock of 15 in St. David’s on Dec.6th (DW) was still present in January.

Many thanks to the following for their sightings: Eric Amos, Andrew and Katrina Dobson, Steven DeSilva, Ian Fisher, Wendy Frith, Jeremy and Leila Madeiros, Paul Watson, Mark Wood and David Wingate.

March and April

Departing birds: The unusual but confiding female Eurasian Wigeon was last seen on 14th April at Camden Marsh while the drake Tufted Duck with obvious ‘tuft’ moved from Warwick Pond to Spittal Pond where it was last seen on 29th April. The Short-eared Owl seen occasionally in the Cooper's Island area was last seen at Cooper's Point on 8th March. A Horned Lark was still present at the Civil Air Terminal on 9th March, while five Snow Buntings were at the same location on 22nd March. The Summer Tanager discovered at the Arboretum in February was still there on 15th March. Three Savannah Sparrows still remained at Kindley Field on 4th May.

Spring Migrants: Mid-March witnessed a good passage of pelagic seabirds. Manx Shearwaters were moving eastwards at up to 40 per hour on 17th March accompanied by the occasional Cory’s Shearwater. To see storm-petrels it is necessary to go well off-shore. A Wilson’s Storm-Petrel was seen during a whale-watching trip some 11 miles to the southwest just off Challenger Bank on 22nd April. A Brown Pelican (presumably a different bird to the one much earlier in the year) flew past the former Club Med property on 21st April. A Purple Gallinule was present during most of April at Paget Marsh Pond. A Killdeer was seen at St. Georges Dairy on 19th April. A calling Sooty Tern was a great find in the Castle Harbour Islands on 30th March, while a more expected tern - a Royal Tern was in the same vicinity between 8-20th April. Another scarce tern, the Least Tern was in Stocks Harbour on 28-29th April. A passage of Jaegers (Pomarine, Parasitic and Long-tailed) was noted on 16th April from the South Shore – some in pursuit of terns (probably Arctic Tern). A single Eastern Kingbird was watched fly-catching from the airport fence at Clearwater on 8th April while a rare spring migrant, a Grey Kingbird, was at The Talbot Estate on 7th May. Small numbers of Purple Martins and Barn Swallows have been seen throughout April, but a flock of nine Bank Swallows at Seymour’s Pond on 21st April is probably a spring maxima for this species. Three Chimney Swifts were seen flying over Jenningsland on 29th April and a further two were flying over Cedar Grove fields on 31st April. Having previously been seen alive, a dead Grey-cheeked Thrush was taken from a cat in Smith's Parish on 5th May. An American Robin was in full voice in Jenningsland on 17th March. Cedar Waxwings obviously arrived during April with flocks reported in a number of localities including 16 flying above acrobats at the Agricultural Show on 28th April. Jenningsland hosted a Red-eyed Vireo on 23rd April. The Botanical Gardens was the location for a much sort after spring migrant – a male Scarlet Tanager, which was noted on 21st April. A bright male Rose-breasted Grosbeak was seen at Port Royal golf course on 1st April with two more at the end of the month in Jenningsland. On a somber note, the passage of spring shorebirds has almost been non-existent. There are never many warbler species passing through at this time of the year, but they have also been extremely difficult to find. A male Black-throated Blue Warbler is very unusual in the spring, but one was present in the Riddell’s Bay mangroves on 5th May. A singing Dickcissel was a real surprise on 2nd April in Paget.

Summer arrivals: With Cahows established on their nest sites since the beginning of the year, only two other bird species return to Bermuda to breed in the summer months. The Longtail (White-tailed Tropicbird) arrived in small numbers in February but by March and into April were a common sight around our coastline. The Common Tern has become the scarcest of our three breeding bird species. Only about twenty pairs breed and the first returning bird was noted on 1st April at Grotto Bay.

Finally, many people have commented on seeing a Flamingo at Warwick Pond. This bird is the one that has been at Spittal Pond for many years, an escapee from the zoo collection. The bird often seems to get restless at this time of year and has been commuting regularly between the two ponds.

                                           

June: The summer is something of a nadir for birds, between the spring and fall migrations. The resident birds are attempting to raise young and keep cool, while most local birders are similarly seeking the shade, the sea or birding overseas! Man’s migratory pattern is opposite to that of birds – a mass movement in the summer and winter for holiday relaxation. David Wingate and Jeremy Madeiros were honoured to guide two distinguished tourists around Nonsuch Island in June. President Jimmy Carter and his wife were able to add Cahow to their life lists on June 8th and just for good measure recorded Bermuda’s first summering record of Double-crested Cormorant. Unfortunately this bird was found dying in Tucker’s Town on July 9th entangled in fishing line. A Royal Tern was seen at Elbow Beach on June10th and 11th. Also in mid-June, Greater and Cory’s Shearwaters could still be seen passing northeastwards off the South Shore. Non-resident summering birds include Great Blue Herons, Green Heron (2), Osprey (2), American Coot, Whimbrel (8) and an immature Great Black-backed Gull. Very intriguing was the sight of a displaying Green Heron (with another male heard) on 12th South Pond. One was still present on 30th July but there was no evidence of breeding.

July: Fall migration is far more evident from August but there are always some early arrivals in July. This year was no exception with a Belted Kingfisher on Nonsuch on July 2nd. The first shorebirds soon followed with a Black-necked Stilt in the company of a Lesser Yellowlegs at Spittal Pond on July 4th. The last remaining Cahow departed on July 10th. The first migrant warbler was predictably a Louisiana Waterthrush in Jenningsland on July 18th. At the end of July and the beginning of August there was a large fall of Barn Swallows. Certainly the largest influx in recent memory, they were found in every part of the island and day counts of 100 birds could easily be made.

August: A Common Nighthawk seen neat Shelly Bay on August 1st remained for several days. A Bridled Tern in Castle Roads on August 4th may prove to be the bird of the fall. Although it only lingered for a short time, it was the first record since 1978. Throughout August the expected species of shorebirds and warblers arrived for a brief stopover. One good "tern" deserves another, and an “all black” Black Tern in Castle Harbour on August 18th duly obliged. A Peregrine Falcon was at the same location on August 19th. Also on the 19th, a Black-billed Cuckoo on Nonsuch Island, and an endangered Piping Plover at Castle Harbour.

September: A flock of American Black Ducks flying over Eastern Blue Cut on Sept.5th is the earliest fall date for that species. The water level in ponds around the island has been very high his year, providing little mud-flat habitat for shorebirds. The brief exposure of mud at the eastern end of Warwick Pond from 6th to 8th Sept. did provide a feeding area for a daily count of 100 small peeps, mostly Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers. Views of a possible female Painted Bunting at Bartram's pond on Sept.9th proved inconclusive. However, THE birding event of the season was the fall out from “Florence” – a minimal Category 1 hurricane that passed to our northwest in the early hours of Sept. 16th. This "gale-in-the-night" (rather than "nightingale") was followed closely by a cold front, the combination of the two weather systems producing one of the best fall-out of warblers in many years. During the following days, mixed flocks of warbler species could be found around the island especially in casuarina trees and mangroves. Most evident were Black-and-white Warblers and American Redstarts amongst over 30 warbler species recorded at that time. Species such as Blackburnian Warbler and Chestnut-sided Warbler, usually hard to find in the fall, were easily found in a variety of locations. Although warblers may have stolen the limelight, other avian delights were to be found in overgrown fields such as those at Hog Bay Park. At least 300 Bobolinks were seen feeding in pumpkin fields with up to 25 Baltimore Orioles on Sept.18th (probably a record day count for the latter species). Newly arrived shorebirds also found the refuge of Bermuda, establishing themselves on golf course fairways in particular. Of note were sightings of separate Ruff at St.George's Dairy and Mid-Ocean golf course on Sept.16th and a rarely recorded species, Baird's Sandpiper, at the airport on the same day. A Northern Harrier was also at this east end location on Sept.19th. A flock of 30 Cliff Swallows at St. George's dairy coincided with the arrival of a cold front weather system on Sept.27th. What will October bring?

Many thanks to the following for their sightings: Eric Amos, Jimmy Carter, Bobbii Cartwright, Andrew Dobson, Graham Lamb, Jeremy and Leila Madeiros, Ron Porter, Paul Watson, Martin Wernart and David Wingate.

October to November 2000

October was one of the wettest on record with 8.72 inches of rain. One casualty of the weather was the cancellation of the annual bird watching camp, not once, but twice! Nevertheless – an impressive 137 species were recorded on the October World Bird Count. Wet weather continued into November with another 3 inches of rain in the first two weeks. So what did all this wet weather bring us?

Cahow to Herons:

The most alarming report of the month concerned the finding of Cahow remains on the Baselands on 2nd Dec. (DBW) almost certainly the result of a Peregrine Falcon kill. A probable Northern Gannet flew along North Shore on 24th Nov. (SD). Many Great Blue Herons arrived on 22nd Nov. including 15 at Spittal Pond and 6 on Nonsuch (DBW)

Wildfowl:

Perhaps the highlight of the season was the arrival of four Brant Geese at St. George's Dairy on 31st Oct. (LG). All immatures of the B.b.horta race, only two remained after 2nd Nov. There have only been three previous records of Brant Geese since the first was recorded in the mid-1960s. Jubilee Road attracted a Canada Goose on 2nd Nov. (AD) which was relocated on Port Royal GC in the company of an adult Snow Goose. The latter goose first arrived at Somerset Long Bay on 17th Nov. (DW). An immature Snow Goose was recorded in St. George’s Harbour later in the month (PW). There were 13 Green-winged Teal in Devonshire Marsh and a further 32 on Spittal Pond on 22nd Nov. (DBW) but most had departed the following day. A drake Eurasian Wigeon (JM) was on Nonsuch Island freshwater pond on 14th Nov. More than a dozen duck species had been recorded by the end of November. American Coot numbers grew steadily during November, with over 120 on Spittal Pond and 40 in Devonshire Marsh.

Shorebirds to Gulls:

With the large amount of rainfall, flooded areas have seen the prolonged stay of many shorebird species. The flooded fields along Jubilee Road have hosted a wide range of species well into November, including: Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper and Pectoral Sandpiper. On 21st Oct. there were 26 Common Snipe at the same location – many more were probably hidden out of sight. A first-winter Black-headed Gull was on the Dockyard jetty 22nd Oct (AD)

Flicker to Pipits:

A Northern Flicker was a surprise on Vesey Street on 31st Oct. (JM). An Eastern Wood-Pewee was at Fort Scaur on 25th Oct. (AD). An Eastern Phoebe was in Devonshire Marsh on 1st Dec. (DBW). Also at Fort Scaur, a Great Crested Flycatcher on 24th Nov. (SF). The flycatcher of the fall was an Ash-throated Flycatcher (MW), only the third ever recorded in Bermuda. First seen on 21st Nov., it was still present in mid-Dec. Kingbirds have been scarce, but all three species turned up at Mid-Ocean GC. Western Kingbird 12th Oct. (AD), Eastern Kingbird (DBW) and Gray Kingbird (DBW). Both Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets were present at Spittal Pond on 1st Dec. (DBW). Thrush species have been very difficult to find, so a Swainson's Thrush in Jenningsland on 8th Oct. is noteworthy (JM). Fewer of the less common migrant vireos have been reported this year. A Yellow-throated Vireo was present in Jenningsland from 6th to 12th Oct. (JM) with another at the Bio Station on 1st Dec. A flock of 20 American Pipits was seen at the airport on 5th Nov. (AD).

Warblers to Buntings:

Swainson's Warbler's were reported from a number of locations including Port Royal on 4th Oct. (AD), Hog Bay Park on 25th Oct. (AD) and Spittal Pond on 2nd Nov. (AD). Late reports of Kentucky Warblers suggest that they may over-winter. One was at Hog Bay on 13th Nov. (WF) with another in Smiths Parish on 10th Nov. (JM). Yellow-breasted Chats are always scarce but one was seen at Fort Scaur on 1st Nov. (WF). Of the 38 species of warblers to have been recorded in Bermuda, the only species not recorded this year was Townsend's Warbler (an extreme rarity). Fall migration also witnesses the passage of migrant sparrows, some of which will over-winter. Reports this season include the regulars like Chipping, Savannah, Grasshopper, Lincoln’s and White-throated as well as the less common including Clay-coloured Sparrow on 8th Oct. at Hog Bay Park (AD), White-crowned in late Oct. at Port Royal GC (MA), Fox Sparrow on 13th Nov. in Hog Bay Park (WF), Swamp at the Bio Station on 1st Dec. and single Vesper Sparrows on 13th Nov. at Hog Bay Park (WF) and 2nd Dec. on the Baselands (DBW). The first Snow Bunting was reported from Clearwater on 31st Oct. (PW).

Also of note in the migration season was a Question Mark butterfly in Somerset on 14th Nov. (DW) – a very rare migrant to Bermuda.

Many thanks to those who have contributed their sightings: Marc Allaire, Eric Amos, Bobbii Cartwright. Andrew Dobson, Lisa Greene, Stephen Furbert, Peter Holmes, Bruce Lorhan, Jeremy and Leila Madeiros, Penny Soares, David Wallace (DW), Paul Watson, Martin Wernaart, David Wingate (DBW)

Longtail in flight Bermuda

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Bluebird in flight, worm in mouth, bluebird box

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Cahow in flight Bermuda

Cahows

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Cockroach Island Bermuda, Audubon Nature Reserve Bermuda

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BHS building Bluebird boxes

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Acknowledgements:

Photos courtesy of Andrew Dobson, Paul Watson, Chris Burville, Ras Mykkal, Jennifer Gray, Rosalind Wingate, Rick Slaughter and others.

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