BirdTrax: Latest Sightings

December 2000 to February 2001

Tropicbirds to Herons

The first Longtails (White-tailed Tropicbirds) were arriving from mid-February, but their return was slower than usual with a northerly airflow for the second half of the month. Nevertheless, the first Cahow chick was noted on 26th Feb. Cormorants have been scarce this winter. A Great Cormorant first seen on 19th Dec at Mangrove Bay has been present most of the winter, but only one or two Double-crested Cormorants have wintered this year. All the expected species of herons and egrets have wintered this year with the exception of Cattle Egret. At least three juvenile Black-crowned Night-Herons have been present, most commonly at the Society's Stokes Point Reserve. American Bitterns have been observed in Devonshire and Pembroke Marsh.

Geese to Rails

Of the four Brant Geese that arrived in late Fall, only one remained into December and was still present on the East End Dairy at the end of February. Two immature Snow Geese have also wintered on Mid-Ocean golf course. Sixteen species of duck have been recorded during this season. The less common have included three male Wood Ducks together on Jubilee Road on 7th Jan. A male Northern Pintail first seen on 27th Dec has commuted between Seymour's Pond and Spittal Pond. A Bufflehead has remained faithful to Seymour's Pond since 7th Jan. Blue-winged Teal has been the most common wintering duck species with up to fifty present on Spittal Pond. American Coots have also been very common this winter, with over 150 at Spittal Pond and a further 50 on Jubilee Road. Purple Gallinules, uncommon in winter, have been seen regularly in Pembroke Marsh, Devonshire Marsh East and Jubilee Road. Sora have also been difficult to find, so four at Pembroke Marsh on 25th Feb were a good find.

Birds of Prey to Shorebirds

Ospreys are not uncommon at this time of year and at least two birds over-wintered. Peregrine Falcon was rarely recorded in the winter until the 1990’s; perhaps a sign of global warming that has not driven birds as far south. One wintered at the east end of the island and was still present at the end of February. A flock of 17 Whimbrel has remained at the Civil Air Terminal throughout the season, often observed at close range on low water mudflats at Stocks Harbour. A flock of seven Least Sandpipers at Westover Farm on 27th Dec was unseasonal. Two Forster's Terns at Dockyard on 19th Dec were present into February.

Flycatchers to Shrike

An Eastern Phoebe at Mid-Ocean golf course on 22nd Feb was a good find, but the flycatcher of the winter, if not THE bird of the season was an Ash-throated Flycatcher at Southside. First discovered in November it was still present at the end of February. Ruby-crowned Kinglets are present in most winters, but Golden-crowned Kinglets are much rarer. This winter, the latter species wintered at Spittal Pond and another was seen at Port Royal golf course on 14th Jan. Wintering thrushes have been hard to find. Hermit Thrushes have been noted at Hog Bay Park, Hungry Bay and Spittal Pond, while at least four American Robins have been seen regularly in Walsingham. A Northern Shrike was discovered at the airport on 27th Dec and remained into February.

Warblers to Sparrows

Bermuda's mild climate enables many species of warblers of over-winter. At similar latitudes in the North American continent these birds couldn't survive. At least twenty-four species of warblers were recorded this winter including a Yellow Warbler on 20th Jan, which was in the company of an Orange-crowned Warbler at Port Royal golf course. On the same day, a Prothonotary Warbler was also seen at Wreck Road. Observed on a number of occasions in the Smith’s Hills was a Kentucky Warbler, another extremely rare winter warbler. Sparrows did their best to steal the limelight this winter. The 3rd Dec was one of those red-letter days when a group of visiting and local birders were at the airport enjoying views of the Ash-throated Flycatcher, Merlin Osprey, Snow Bunting and a variety of shorebirds – but the memory will be of three migrant sparrow species - Vesper, Grasshopper and Savannah – all in the same binocular field of view! Other sparrow species have also been recorded, with a Swamp Sparrow at Bartram’s Pond on 1st Jan., a Lincoln’s Sparrow at Warwick Pond on 4th Jan. and a Fox Sparrow at Port Royal golf course on 14th Feb.

Contributors: Eric Amos, Andrew Dobson, Ian Fisher, Wendy Frith, Bob Machover, Jeremy Madeiros, David Wallace, Paul Watson, Martin Wernaart, David Wingate.

March to May 2001

One of the highlights of this season has been the breeding success of Pied-billed Grebes, a rare event in any year. One pair raise three young at the Audubon Society’s reserve at Somerset Long Bay while another pair raised two more at the adjacent Pitman’s Pond. Hopes are high for this year’s breeding population of Cahows. If the thirty-three hatchlings all survive, this would be a record number. How nice this would be as 2001 marks the 50th anniversary of the Cahow’s re-discovery.

An immature Masked Booby, a very rare visitor to Bermuda’s waters, was seen at Gurnet Rock on 21st March. So far this spring, scanning for pelagic species off South Shore has been disappointing with a lack of favourable on-shore winds. Manx Shearwaters were seen during March, and late April did offer the chance to see jaeger and tern species migrating northwards. Tern species of note included a Royal Tern at Watford Bridge on 29th April and a Roseate Tern off Nonsuch on 11th May. Most wintering ducks had departed by the end of April, so a male Ring-necked Duck on Spittal Pond in May was quite unusual. Not unusual, but never guaranteed in any year is Swallow-tailed Kite. Many people were lucky enough to enjoy views of this magnificent bird that stayed for at least a week, being first noted over Devonshire Marsh on 17th March. A Yellow-billed Cuckoo was seen near Watch Hill Park on 12th May. The Ash-throated Flycatcher first discovered in November of last year was still present at Southside on 11th May. One can only speculate as to where it will end up if and when it finally departs. Its breeding range is southwest USA. The first Purple Martin was reported from Stocks Harbour on 14th March, but not many more have followed. A burst of swallows did occur in April but warblers have been few and far between. It is always a challenge to find warblers in May, but Nonsuch Island struck lucky with a male Blackpoll Warbler, female Yellow-rumped Warbler and two female Common Yellowthroats in mid-May. A Magnolia Warbler as also seen in Walsingham on 11th May. Red-winged Blackbirds are never common in Bermuda, but three males advertised themselves by singing in the Botanical Gardens, Nonsuch Island 16th April and Somerset Long Bay. Five Bobolinks were at Ruth’s Point on 13th May.

Latest news: a Red-billed Tropicbird prospecting nest holes at Nonsuch Island from 18th to 20th May. Sooty Tern hit by aircraft 22nd May. Sandwich Tern in Castle Harbour on 24th May.

Contributors: Andrew Dobson, Rory Gorman, Jeremy and Leila Madeiros, David Wallace, David Wingate and Paul Watson.

June to July 2001

Shearwaters still pass by Bermuda in late June and early July. A pelagic trip on 23rd June counted 22 Greater Shearwaters and 4 Cory’s Shearwaters. Of particular note was a single Manx Shearwater, thought to be the latest ever seasonal record. Non-resident duck species are rarely recorded in the summer, but a Ring-necked Duck was still present at Spittal Pond on 8th June. There have been a number of records of Sooty Tern in recent years. This summer was no exception, with sightings off Nonsuch Island on 16th July and again from 27th to 29th July. A Solitary Sandpiper was seen at North Pond on 5th July. Not only did this date mark the start of returning shorebirds in Bermuda – but this was also the earliest fall Solitary by seven days. A Red Knot at Cooper’s Island on 31st July was probably the only one recorded this year. Semipalmated Sandpiper is uncommon in June but one was present at Spittal Pond on 8th June. The highlight of the season was a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper at North Pond from 29th July to 6th August, only the fourth record for Bermuda and the first since 1979. Most unseasonal was an American Woodcock on 1st June at Dolly’s Bay, the first summer record for this species. A Yellow Warbler on 26th July at Nonsuch Island was the first returning fall warbler species.

Contributors: Eric Amos, Andrew Dobson, Jeremy Madeiros, Leila Madeiros, David Wallace, Paul Watson and David Wingate.

August 2001 to January 2002

For many observers, the fall migration was disappointing in terms of numbers of birds recorded. Whether it reflects a declining number of birds in North America is debatable, but local factors were not favourable for attracting and keeping birds. There were long periods without suitable frontal systems to bring birds from the continent; Warwick and Spittal Pond were bank full all season revealing little in the way of muddy margins; and arable fields were ploughed early leaving little weedy habitat. A number of late season storms, notably Tropical Storm Karen, which became a hurricane as it passed over Bermuda (Oct.11/12) denuded Bermuda of much vegetation. As well as fallen trees, salt spray damaged much foliage, which took some weeks to recover. Nevertheless, there were some real highlights especially in the late fall and winter, including Brown Pelican, Northern Goshawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-breasted Nuthatch, House Wren (2), Bohemian Waxwing, Lark Sparrow and White-winged Crossbill (2).

Shearwaters to Rails

A Cory’s Shearwater (RP) off North Shore, Dec 14 is a rarely recorded species in winter. A Leach's Storm-Petrel (HW) Sept.19 came aboard a tour boat off St. David's and was released the following day. An immature Brown Pelican was first noted at Burgess Point, Jan 8 where it has remained for the month. A Eurasian Teal (AD) found at Pembroke Marsh, Dec 16 was still present in late January. Two Red-breasted Mergansers (AD, SR) at Daniel’s Head, Dec 8 were relocated in the Great Sound on the Christmas Bird Count. The first Northern Harrier (DBW) of the season was noted on the Castle Islands, Oct 18 with at least two present in Dec/Jan. A Sharp-shinned Hawk (AD) at Spittal Pond, Oct 10 was the first of several fall sightings. A Northern Groshawk (WF, DBW) over Abbot's Cliff, Jan 18 was the fist since 1985. A Red-tailed Hawk (DBW, WF) over Alton Hill, Nov 23 was totally unexpected but provided a real treat for those who participated in the Society's fieldtrip around Seaswept Farm. The last two records were in 1983 and 1929! It remained to mid-December. The only Virginia Rail (DBW) of the fall was at Devonshire Marsh, Nov 17. Soras were relatively common, with 10 (AD) an unusually high number at Pembroke Marsh, Dec16.                                                                                                 

Shorebirds to Terns

An American Golden-Plover (AD, SR) at Daniel’s Head, Dec 8 is uncommon in December. Semipalmated Plovers (JM et al) occasionally winter and two were regularly at Daniel’s Head beach. Sightings of the endangered Piping Plover are always noteworthy. They were recorded on Aug 21at the Airport – an aircraft kill (DBW); on Aug 29 at Elbow Beach (SR); on Sept 7 at the Airport (SR); and on Oct 3 at Cooper’s Island (DBW). A Dunlin (JM) was at Daniel’s Head, Nov 13. An American Woodcock (HW) was reported from St. David's, Nov 30. Just as there are increasing numbers on the U.S.east coast, Lesser Black-backed Gulls have become more common in Bermuda in recent years, so a record 19 birds (SR) at Dockyard, Nov 29 was not unexpected. A Black-legged Kittiwake (DW) was present from early Dec into 2002. A Gull-billed Tern (AD) at Dockyard Sept 9 to Oct 8 was a very rare fall record. Forster’s Tern is often recorded in winter and one has wintered this year Castle Harbour, seen regularly along the Causeway. The only Black Tern unfortunately died in captivity at BAMZ on Sep.13.

Owls to Waxwings

The remains of a Long-eared Owl were found at St. George’s Cemetery, Nov 14 (SR). Unfortunately, there are more records of dead Long-eared Owls than live ones in Bermuda. Common Nighthawks were indeed more common this fall. The flock of 14 birds (AD) was reported from Belmont GC, Oct 1. A Northern Flicker (SR) was seen at St. George’s GC, Nov 3. A scattering of Yellow-bellied Sapsucker records included two together (AD) at the Arboretum, Nov 1. One or two Eastern Phoebes are recorded annually, but this fall there were at least six individuals with two over-wintering at Spittal Pond and Kindley Field. Cliff Swallows arrived in good numbers this year. A record flock of up to 40 birds (PW) was at the East End Dairy, Aug 26. The less common vireos were hard to find. A Yellow-throated Vireo (AD) was seen in the Botanical Gardens, Oct 14. A Warbling Vireo appeared briefly (AD, SR) on Port Royal GC, Sept 22. A Philadelphia Vireo (AD) was at Coral Beach Club, Oct 10, and a Blue-headed Vireo (SR) was in the Arboretum, Nov 3. Red-breasted Nuthatch is a real rarity in Bermuda. One at Ferry Point Park, Nov 10 (SR et al) was only the 6th record in 30 years. Equally rare is the House Wren. Visiting birder Ian Fisher discovered one at St. George’s Cemetery, Nov 4. It was then obvious that two birds were present (both singing males), which remained into 2002. A Golden-crowned Kinglet (DW) was at Ireland Island Cemetery, Dec16. Thrushes seem to become harder to find every year, so any thrushes are worth mentioning. A Grey-cheeked Thrush (AD) was at Tudor Farm, Oct 27. Swainson’s Thrushes (AD, JM) were seen at Jenningsland, Paget Island and Port Royal GC between Oct 7-9. An American Robin (JM) was observed in Penhurst Park, Oct 8. A Northern Mockingbird (RB) was reported from Port Royal GC, Nov 10. American Pipits (AD) arrived at Kindley Field, Jan 5. Three Bohemian Waxwings (JG) were seen on Dec 28 at Dock Hill – a new record for Bermuda. The eventual five birds were last seen on Dec. 6th

Warblers to Crossbills

Of 38 warbler species recorded in Bermuda, all but Townsend’s and Cerulean Warbler were recorded this fall. A single Golden-winged Warbler (DW) was at Horseshoe Bay, Sept 15. A Palm Warbler (DBW) at Ferry Reach, Sept 7 was the earliest record by about 6 days. Swainson’s Warblers were more common than usual. Three in a day in Somerset (DW) on Sept 26 was most unusual. A Yellow Warbler (SR) at Port Royal GC, Jan 26 and a Kentucky Warbler (JM) in the Smiths Hills, Nov 29 and still present in December both provided rare wintering records. Three Summer Tanagers (AD et al) on St. George’s GC Sept 30 was unusual and one found in Botanical Gardens (DW) on Jan 21 was exceptional. A flock of nine Scarlet Tanagers on Ocean View GC, Oct 3 was also noteworthy. The only Chipping Sparrow (IF) was at St. Cemetery Hill, Nov 13. Clay-coloured Sparrows were recorded at Lagoon Park, Sept 18 (DBW) and Kindley Field, Oct 27 (SR). A Lark Sparrow (EA) at Ferry Point Park, Oct 22 was only the 5th record for Bermuda. Song Sparrows (SR) were seen at Kindley Field, Oct 27 (two birds) and Lagoon Park, Nov 18. A Snow Bunting (SR) was seen at Little Head Park, Nov 14. A Dickcissel (DBW et al) was on Nonsuch Island, Nov 12, while one at Prospect Fields (SR) on Dec 12 was one of three individuals seen in December. Two Red-winged Blackbirds (AD, PH) were recorded during the annual CBC at Spittal Pond, Dec 16. An immature Brown-headed Cowbird (AD et al) at East End Dairy, Oct 6 was seen during the Audubon bird camp. A pair of White-winged Crossbills (JH, AD) at Astwood Park, Nov 14-17 provided another extremely rare bird record. An Evening Grosbeak (GP) was present in Botanical Gardens, Dec 31 to Jan 5.

Observers: Eric Amos, Robert Blakesley, Andrew Dobson (compiler), Ian Fisher, Wendy Frith, Jennifer Gray, Junior Hill, Jeremy Madeiros, George Peterich, Steve Rodwell, Paul Watson, David Wallace (DW), David Wingate (DBW), Helge Wingate

Longtail in flight Bermuda

Longtails

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Bluebird in flight, worm in mouth, bluebird box

Bluebirds

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Cahow in flight Bermuda

Cahows

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Cockroach Island Bermuda, Audubon Nature Reserve Bermuda

Audubon Nature Reserves

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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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