BirdTrax: Latest Sightings

February to April 2002

Most observers agree that this has been one of the poorest early spring periods for bird sightings. Somewhat of a contrast to the excellent Humpback Whale migration that has been observed off-shore! One can only hope that the lack of birds is not reflected on the North American continent. Sometimes we forget that Bermuda is an isolated 21 square miles in the middle of the Atlantic. Most birds have no right to be here anyway and are only drift migrants many hundreds of miles off course. David Wingate suggests that we may never see the spring passage of birds that he can remember from the past – a probable result of global warming. Many of the frontal weather systems either pass well to our north or simply dissipate before they reach Bermuda. There is therefore less bad weather to bring us the birds. Oh for a return to the Ice Age! Highlights since the last report have included Northern Gannet, the reappearance of the Northern Goshawk, up to three Swallow-tailed Kites, a Ruff, wintering Blue Grosbeak and green parrots!

                                                                                                            

Shearwaters to Rails

A pair of Pied-billed Grebes bred very early at the Society’s Somerset Long Bay reserve. Three chicks were observed on 12th Feb (DW). A nest has also been built at the nearby Pitman’s Pond. Great excitement also centres on the potential breeding success of this year’s Cahows. At least 40 pairs have already hatched eggs, which is a dramatic rise on previous years. The first Manx Shearwater of the spring was noted off Elbow Beach on 16th Feb (SR), while the first Cory’s Shearwater was seen off Nonsuch Island on 3rd Mar (JM, SR). Northern Gannets are uncommon visitors to Bermuda waters. An immature was spotted off Cooper’s Point on 3rd Mar (JM, SR) remaining until at least 10th Mar. Great Egrets roosted this year at Waterville with as many as eight on Duck Island or the moored boats (AD). A wintering Eurasian Teal was last seen at Warwick Pond on 14th Mar (SR). One Swallow-tailed Kite was seen over Trimingham Hill on 27th Feb. and then remained in the South Shore, Warwick area until 15th Mar (RL). Two more Swallow-tailed Kites were seen together over the Smith’s Hills on 7th Mar (JM). Two Northern Harriers remained in the Nonsuch area until mid-Mar (JM, DBW). Two accipiter species soaring together over Castle Harbour on 15th Apr (DBW) were probably the Sharp-shinned Hawk which has over-wintered and the Northern Goshawk which was also seen in on 21st Mar over Nonsuch Island (DBW) and Devonshire 24th Mar (AD).

Shorebirds to Terns

An American Golden-Plover was found roosting on Nonsuch Island on Mar 13 (JM). A Black-necked Stilt was seen flying past the Aquarium on 20th Apr (AD). It was re-located the following day at North Pond where it had joined the Ruff (EA).The female Ruff (a Eurasian shorebird) was discovered at North Pond (WF, SR) on 18th Apr. Eight Sanderling were at Grape Bay on 21st April (AD). Two Least Sandpipers were at Daniel’s Head Farm on 17th Feb (SR). Lesser Black-backed Gulls continued to increase. A record 27 were counted at Dockyard on 10th Mar (WF) with a similar number roosting in the Great Sound the following day (SR). Four Black-legged Kittiwakes were observed moving northeast along South Shore at Elbow Beach on 16th Feb (AD, SR). A pair of Common Terns was back in Castle Harbour on 3rd Apr (DBW). Four Long-tailed Jaegers were seen from Cooper’s Point on 9th Mar (AD, SR).                                                                        

Passerines

Eastern Phoebes were seen on Feb 24th at Spittal Pond (DBW) and on 23rd Mar at both Heydon Trust (DBW) and Kindley Field (SR). The first Barn Swallows were at Cooper’s Point on 23rd Mar (PW), while the first Tree Swallow was over Spittal Pond on 21st Apr (DW) followed by the first Purple Martins in St. George’s on 22nd Apr (DW). A Golden-crowned Kinglet (SR) was found at Compston’s Pond on 23rd Feb (SR). A Hermit Thrush was seen at Port Royal G.C. on 9th Feb (SR).A Blue-winged Warbler was a surprise at Coral Beach on 15th Mar (SR). What may well have been an early spring migrant, a Prothonotary Warbler, was seen at Paget Marsh on 20th Mar (AD, SR). No Swainson’s Warblers had been recorded during the winter, but one at Devonshire Marsh in late Mar (DW) may well have over-wintered. A Swamp Sparrow was seen in Devonshire Marsh on 24th Mar (AD). A single Dark-eyed Junco was at Spittal Pond on 12th Feb (JM, DBW). There have been very few records ever of wintering Blue Grosbeaks, so one at Cooper’s Island 15th Feb (DBW) was a good find. Another Blue Grosbeak was caught by a cat on 2nd Mar and died in captivity at BAMZ. A wintering Dickcissel was last seen on Nonsuch Island on 16th Feb (WF). Common Waxbills escaped into the wild in 1975. A small breeding population remained until the mid-1990s when very few sightings were made. Its stronghold was Devonshire Marsh, so a flock of 12 birds on Jubilee Road on 20th Mar (MD) was not only a surprise but an indication of their continued existence.

While on the subject of escapees – a flock of six green parrots has been seen regularly in the Somerset area, occasionally straying into Southampton. In past years many individual parrots have survived for some time in the wild. It will be interesting to see how long this small flock remains ‘at large’. Please report sighting of these birds or any other interesting sightings to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Observers: Eric Amos, Michael Darling, Andrew Dobson, Wendy Frith, Ray Latter, Jeremy Madeiros, Steve Rodwell, Paul Watson, David Wallace (DW), David Wingate (DBW).

 

April to June 2002

A short period of time to report on since the last newsletter, but there have been some excellent bird records, including Bermuda’s first Mississippi Kite and second Little Egret.

Grebes to Geese

Pied-billed Grebes bred at both Somerset Long Bay (two broods) and Pitman’s Pond (at least one brood). The Cahow (Bermuda Petrel) produced a record 36 fledglings from 65 breeding pairs. Cory’s Shearwater passage saw low numbers passing in May and early June. Greater Shearwaters were uncommon until late May with most birds being well off-shore. Sooty Shearwaters however were seen in good numbers in mid-May with nearly 50 per hour on 23rd May (SR). Manx Shearwaters are early spring migrants, so very few were seen after April. A Little Egret (WF, EA) was the second ever Bermuda record (first in 1985). A superb bird in breeding plumage was at Pitman’s Pond from 24th April to 3rd May. A juvenile bird with an adult Great Blue Heron (PW) on Ferry Reach in June suggested that breeding may well have taken place. At least four Green Herons (WF) birds on 26th May and early June at Trott’s Pond may well have been attempting to breed. A Snow Goose (RB) – a ‘Blue Goose’ at Port Royal golf course on 12th May was the first ever spring arrival of this form of snow goose.

Birds of Prey to Terns

A Mississippi Kite (DBW) over Nonsuch Island 20th May was the first record for Bermuda. The Red-tailed Hawk (DW) was over Morgan’s Point on 27th April (presumed to be the bird seen in December) and was seen again over Paget Island (PW) on 19th June. A Black-necked Stilt (AD) flew over Harrington Sound on 20th April then stayed at North Pond into May. A Eurasian Whimbrel (SR, DBW) at Darrell’s Island on 10th June, the first for about 10 years. Several sightings of Red Knot were made this spring from 21st May into early June. A Ruff (WF, SR) was at North Pond 18th – 24th April. This has been a very good year for Skua sightings with four birds this spring (either Great Skua or South Polar Skua). Off-shore on May 5th (GL), over Nonsuch on 16th May (WF), Devonshire Bay on18th May (SR) and Elbow Beach on 19th May (SR, AD). There was also a good passage of the three jaeger species – Pomarine, Parasitic and Long-tailed Jaeger (see article by Steve Rodwell). A second-summer Laughing Gull was seen throughout the period, while a Royal Tern (AD) flew past Grape Bay on 2nd June and was present all month. A Roseate Tern (EA) was reported from early June. A Gull-billed Tern (AD, EA) was in St.George’s Harbour 16th-17th June, while a Sandwich Tern (PW) was at Cobbler’s Island on 20th June.

 

Owls to Bobolink

The long-dead remains of a Northern Saw-whet Owl (JM) were found in Jenningsland on 24th April. A Grey Kingbird (WF, SR) was present at Tudor Farm from 11th – 13th May, while a Red-eyed Vireo (JM) was on Nonsuch Island 11th – 12th May. Barn Swallows arrived in small numbers during the period. There were a few records of Bank Swallow and Cliff Swallow from the East End of the island. A Veery (WF, SR) was a very good find at Ferry Point on 4th May (the latest ever spring record). Several Magnolia Warblers were seen in May, making it the most common spring warbler. A stunning male Blackburnian Warbler (WF) was seen at Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse on 12th May, where it stayed for a few days – a very rare spring migrant. A singing Prairie Warbler (WF) was found at the same site from 12th – 23rd May. This species has never previously been recorded in May. Other May warbler sightings included American Redstart, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush and Common Yellowthroat. Several Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were noted in April and May, but one at Nonsuch Island on 10th June (JM,, SR) was the first ever summer record. A Blue Grosbeak (WF, SR) was at Ferry Point on 4th May, while the only spring Bobolink (EA) was singing at Hog Bay Park on 6th May. Finally, on an exotic note – not only are the escaped flock of parrots (Blue-fronted Amazons) still being seen in the Southampton area, but a pair has raised two young in a cedar tree!

Observers: Eric Amos, Robert Blakesley, Andrew Dobson, Wendy Frith, Jeremy Madeiros, Steve Rodwell, Paul Watson, David Wallace (DW), David Wingate (DBW).

 

July to October 2002

The fall season is the most eagerly awaited time of the year for local birders. Most migrants are predictable in their arrival dates while there are always unexpected vagrants to be found. The fall-out of migrant birds in Bermuda is closely related to weather systems (depressions and associated fronts) moving off the North American continent into the Atlantic, as well as the occurrence of tropical storms. Tropical Storm Cristobal (7/8th August) merged with a frontal trough and brought a large fall of shorebirds. On 9th August, David Wingate counted 16 species at the airport, including Semipalmated Plover (36), Lesser Yellowlegs (22), Semipalmated Sandpiper (54), Least Sandpiper (133), White-rumped Sandpiper (18), Pectoral Sandpiper (24) and Short-billed Dowitcher (46). Sub-tropical Storm Gustav (8/10th Sept) brought swallows and warblers, while a strong cold front (18/19th Sept) brought a scattering of empidonax flycatchers and more warblers. Hurricane Kyle spent many days arcing around Bermuda in late Sept and early October. A rain-bearing front on October 21st brought one of the best fall-outs of Blackpoll Warblers for many years. These long-distance migrants usually fly south, straight over Bermuda, but in bad weather conditions they may well take advantage of a stop-over. These warblers were seen from Lagoon Park to St. Georges, observers reporting “ten in every casuarina I looked at on Port Royal GC” to “a count of over 100 on part of St. George’s GC”. An estimate of 1,000 birds on Bermuda may well be far below the actual number that arrived. By the end of the week, most Blackpolls had departed. The fall of Blackpolls redeemed an otherwise rather poor migration season, which up to that point Eric Amos had described as never seeing it so poor in more than 32 years. David Wingate frequently recalls the fantastic numbers of migrants to be seen on Nonsuch Island alone in the 1960s. The reality is a world of fewer birds and Bermuda has little power to alter the causes of bird population decline in the Americas. Highlights of this fall season include: Red-billed Tropicbird (only the second adult ever to come in-shore); breeding Green Heron (see Newsletter Vol 13.4); juvenile Surf Scoter (the first for 7 years); Red-tailed Hawk (remaining surprisingly elusive); Wilson’s Phalarope (three together at Jubilee Road on 13th Sep); Ruby-throated Hummingbird; Olive-sided Flycatcher; Great Crested Flycatcher; Red-breasted Nuthatch; Ruby-crowned Kinglet (three exceptionally early records); Northern Wheatear; Blue-winged Warbler (an earliest recorded date); Brewster’s Warbler (Blue-Winged x Golden-winged Hybrid); Yellow-throated Warbler (three perched together on a casuarina branch on 14th Oct was exceptional); Cerulean Warbler (three records); and Swainson’s Warbler (about ten records).

Observers: Eric Amos (EA), Bermuda Audubon Society (BAS), Andrew Dobson (AD), Dewi Edwards (DE), Wendy Frith (WF), Jeremy Madeiros (JM), Julie Nicholson (JN), Bernard Oatley (BO), Steve Rodwell (SR), Penny Soares (PS), David Wallace (DW), Paul Watson (PW), David Wingate (DBW).

 

November 2002 to January 2003

The winter months have brought some extraordinary birds to Bermuda and provided local birders with many new species to add to their list. Highlights of this winter season include Bermuda’s first-ever American White Pelican and Reddish Egret; Black, Surf and White-winged Scoters; Common Mergansers; Northern Lapwing (Bermuda’s 3rd); Long-eared Owl (2nd live record); Northern Rough-winged Swallow; Northern Mockingbird (2); Audubon’s Warbler (Bermuda’s 3rd); Painted Bunting (Bermuda’s 4th); and Orchard Oriole.

Tropicbirds to Ducks

The first White-tailed Tropicbirds (Longtails) were seen incredibly early this year, perhaps the result of unseasonably warm temperatures at the beginning of January. Birds were seen at Spittal Pond 5 Jan (RH) and again on 10 Jan (KR). A Brown Booby flew past Ferry Point 3 Dec (PS). An immature Northern Gannet was off St. David’s Head 17 Nov & 26 Nov (NB, JM). An immature American White Pelican at North Pond 6 Nov-Jan (DO) furnished the first record for Bermuda. Observers eagerly await the origin of this banded bird. Bermuda’s first Reddish Egret was discovered at Somerset Long Bay 22 Dec (DW) and remained in the Somerset area throughout Jan. An immature Black-crowned Night-Heron was at Devonshire Marsh 6 Jan (DW). A Snow Goose discovered on the Christmas Bird Count (JM), stayed into the New Year. At least 16 duck species have been seen this winter. A superb male Wood Duck has split his time between Parsons Road Pond and Spittal Pond. Three female Gadwall have been seen and a minimum of 16 American Black Ducks. At least 4 Northern Pintail have been seen at various locations since 5 Nov (DE, PS). Green-winged Teal has been the most common migrant duck including a flock of 38 at Parsons Road Pond 9 Nov (AD). A female Greater Scaup at Sea Swept Farm 27 Jan (DW) was the first since 1996. A Black Scoter was viewed at close range in Somerset Long Bay 4 Jan (WF, DW). An immature male Surf Scoter I Jan (AD) at Frank’s Bay later took up residence behind the Aquarium in Harrington Sound. It was joined by a White-winged Scoter 7 Feb (DBW) – the only previous record was in 1967, when two birds were also in Harrington Sound. Two Common Mergansers first seen off Spanish Point 23 Jan (BL, JT) remained in the Jews Bay area throughout much of Jan. As many as nine Red-breasted Mergansers were present, including a flock of six seen regularly off Daniel’s Head.

Birds of Prey to Rails

A Northern Harrier discovered on the Christmas Bird Count (AD), stayed into the New Year at the Airport. The elusive Red-tailed Hawk first seen 23 Nov 2001 was last seen 5 Nov (DE). A Peregrine Falcon has over-wintered at the east end of the island. The following is an extract from AD’s diary for 14th Dec “Peregrine Falcon causing havoc amongst gulls in the middle of St. Georges Harbour for about 10 mins. Followed to Ferry Reach from where it flew at fence height across the road to the airport. The Lapwing took flight - but then returned to mob the peregrine that was quartering the airfield. The lapwing’s persistence paid off as the peregrine (a young male) lost interest and flew off over the prison farm”. A Virginia Rail 13 Jan (PW) at Parsons Road Pond was initially found with a first-winter Purple Gallinule. The latter bird was found dead next to the Pond 22 Jan (AD) and is now in the BAMZ collection.

 

Shorebirds to Swallows

An immature Northern Lapwing at the Airport 25 Nov to mid-Jan (DW) was the 3rd record for Bermuda (previously 1957 and 1987). A flock of 22 Sanderling were on Grape Bay 23 Dec (AD). Individual Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper and Short-billed Dowitcher have over-wintered. Of the less common gull species, at least four Bonaparte’s Gulls have been seen, mainly in the Great Sound area. One Common Tern has lingered throughout the period, while three Forster’s Terns have remained in the Great Sound since 10 Nov (BAS). A roosting Long-eared Owl at Fort Scaur 18 Nov (SF) provided the 2nd live record for Bermuda since the 19th century! A Short-eared Owl was found dead in Sandys Parish 9 Nov (JG). A second was at Daniel’s Head 17 Nov (EA), while a third was found injured at the Airport 23 Nov (DH) but died in captivity at BAMZ bird rehab center. Another then appeared or moved to the Airport area over Christmas. A male Ruby-throated Hummingbird was at Jenningsland 24 Nov (JM) and another (most likely Ruby-throated) at Paddock Drive 10 Nov (D&KH). An Eastern Phoebe over-wintered at Spittal Pond. A Great Crested Flycatcher was at the Biological Station 26 Nov (EA), the latest fall record by two days. A late Tree Swallow was at John Smiths Bay on 23 Dec (AD). A rare immature Northern Rough-winged Swallow was at Parsons Road Pond 1-2 Dec (AD, SR). There have only been about ten records of this species since the first was recorded in 1976. Amazingly, it was present with a Bank Swallow 1 Dec (the latest date for this species by 25 days!).

Kinglets to Orioles

Kinglets have appeared in good numbers this winter with at least seven Ruby-crowned Kinglets and two Golden-crowned Kinglets. At least six Hermit Thrushes have been recorded in Dec/Jan. A small influx of American Robins was noted in various locations from 8 Nov (DE). A Northern Mockingbird at the Biological Station 20 Nov (EA) was the first since 1996. Another appeared in the Arboretum 2 Dec (DW), staying into the New Year. A flock of 16 American Pipits 14 Dec (AD,SR,PS) were at Airport. An Audubon’s Warbler at Port Royal GC 16 Nov (NB) provided the 3rd Bermuda record for this sub-species. A total of 21wood-warbler species was seen at Port Royal GC 24 Nov (SR). Two Prothonotary Warblers have over-wintered at Riddell’s Bay and Camden (AD). A Summer Tanager 23 Dec at Coney Is. (RP) was quite unusual. A Vesper Sparrow was at Kindley Field 16 Nov–early Jan (SR, DE). A Swamp Sparrow was at Paget Marsh 12 Nov (SR, DE) while another wintered at Spittal Pond. There was a small influx of Dark-eyed Junco from 8 Nov (JG, DW). Three Snow Buntings were at Dockyard 10 Nov–Dec (BAS). An immature male Painted Bunting at the Biological Station 19 Nov–late Dec (PW) was only the 4th record since 1971 and the first fall record. A Dickcissel was at Southside 16 Nov–Dec (SR). An immature Red-winged Blackbird was at Port Royal GC 10 Nov and joined by another in Dec (SR, EA). An Orchard Oriole 20 Dec (EA) at the Biological Station was the first ever winter record.

Observers: Eric Amos, Bermuda Audubon Society (BAS), Ned Brinkley, Andrew Dobson, Dewi Edwards, Wendy Frith, Stephen Furbert, Jennifer Gray, Dale Hines, Robert Hollis, Dorte and Kevin Horsfield, Bruce Lorhan, Jeremy Madeiros, David O’Neill, Steve Rodwell, Keith Rossiter, Penny Soares, James Tatem, David Wallace (DW), Paul Watson, David Wingate (DBW).

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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The Bermuda Audubon Society
P.O. Box HM 1328
Hamilton HM FX
Bermuda