BirdTrax: Latest Sightings

February to May 2003

There have been a number of interesting birds associated with the water, in a season in which migrant land birds are never numerous. Highlights have included the long-staying American White Pelican and Reddish Egret, a White-winged Scoter, Red Phalarope, Catharacta  Skua, and the first flock of Common Grackles to reach Bermuda.

Petrels to Ducks

The Cahow continues to make a promising recovery (still separate article). Another

Pterodroma sp. flying west 28 Apr provided Steve Rodwell to get good enough views to see dark upper-wings and dark under-wings with white body. Probably a soft-plumaged petrel (Fea's?) - but impossible to be 100%. If only ....  Three Cory’s Shearwaters and three Manx Shearwaters passed Elbow Beach on 23 Feb (AD, SR). As expected, early season shearwater movement was largely confined to Manx Shearwaters with birds moving along South Shore at about one per minute 31 Mar (AD). The best chance of seeing pelagic (ocean-dwelling) birds is to go out at least 4-5 miles off the South Shore. A pelagic trip on the R.V.Stommell  4 May provided the following sightings in 3 hours: Cory’s Shearwater(1), Wilson’s Storm-Petrel (1 attracted to cod-liver oil), Leach’s Storm-Petrel (2 probables), White-Tailed Tropicbird (c.10 offshore), Pomerine Jaeger (3), Parasitic Jaeger (1), Long-tailed Jaeger (1), Arctic Tern (1) (EA, AD et al). The American White Pelican (first discovered 6 Nov 2002) was present throughout the period, seen in various locations in Bermuda but regularly at Spittal Pond. Two Least Bitterns were flushed from Paget Marsh Pond 29 Mar (AD, SR). Bermuda’s first Reddish Egret (discovered 22 Dec) also remained throughout the period – roving between Jews Bay and Mangrove Bay. Green Herons were reported in breeding plumage from Mangrove Lake and Trott’s Pond 30 Apr (EA). A drake Northern Shoveler arrived at Spittal Pond 2 Apr (AD, PS). The White-winged Scoter found in Harrington Sound 7 Feb remained for about a week, but the Surf Scoter with which it was associating, remained until at least 7 Mar. The wintering Common Mergansers were last seen in the Great Sound 21 Mar (DW). A fine male Ruddy Duck was an unseasonal arrival at Parsons Road Pond 20 May (DW).

 

Kites to Terns

A first of several Swallow-tailed Kites was seen over the Smiths Hills 4 Mar. With sightings over the following three weeks, there were probably four individual birds, with two circling together over Port Royal GC 11 Mar with the Red-tailed Hawk (IF, PW). The hawk has remained in Bermuda since Nov 2001 and was last reported over Hawkins Island 26 Apr (PW). A Northern Harrier was still at the airport 22 Apr (AD). The wintering Virginia Rail was still at Parsons Road Pond 2 Mar (AD). A Purple Gallinule was at Somerset Long Bay reserve 2 May (PJH). A Black-necked Stilt was at Spittal Pond 21 Mar to early Apr, at North Pond 16 May (DW), and two at Spittal Pond 26 May (SR). A Solitary Sandpiper was watched being hotly pursued by Merlin at Spittal 26 Apr (AD, SR, PJH). Seven Sanderling were at Elbow Beach 31 Mar (AD). A female Ruff turned up at Spittal Pond 2 May (EA). A scattering of other spring shorebirds included Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper and Wilson’s Snipe. A Red Phalarope was found at Horseshoe Bay 23 Feb with a broken wing. It died in captivity but provided a very rare spring record. Another interesting corpse was discovered 27 Apr. A dead skua was found in Tucker’s Town by Judy Clee. Almost certainly a South Polar Skua its identity will be verified by DNA analysis.  Two recent records of Catharacta skuas in Britain caused doubt as to whether they were dark Great Skuas or South Polar Skuas. DNA testing revealed both to be Brown Skuas (previously unrecorded in Britain!). Jaeger species were recorded from late Apr, with 16 Parasitic Jaegers  recorded from Elbow Beach 22 Apr (AD, SR). All three jaeger species were seen off Cooper’s Point 28 Apr (PW) with a flock of 5 Pomerine Jaeger’s off Elbow Beach on the same day (SR, PJH). An adult Laughing Gull was seen in both Dockyard and St. Georges Harbour 22 Apr (AD, PJH, SR). A Royal Tern was on the outer arm at Dockyard 13 Apr (PJH). The first Common Terns returned to Castle Harbour 31 Mar (DBW) and a Forster's Tern was in the same location 12 May for at least a week (DBW).

Flycatchers to Waxbills

The wintering Eastern Phoebe was still at Spittal Pond 25 Mar (AD). An Eastern Kingbird photographed at a bird bath in a Warwick garden (NC) was the earliest ever spring record – present for the last week of March and into April. Chimney Swifts were spotted in Apr and May with a maximum of three over Somerset 25 Apr (PJH). The first Purple Martin was at St Georges Dairy 24 Feb (DW). A small influx of American Robins was noted in Feb with eight at Clearwater 9 Feb (KR) and 12 at Heydon Trust 15 Feb (DBW). The wintering Northern Mockingbird remained until at least 5 Apr in Botanical Gardens (AD). Singing warblers are never numerous, but on 2 Mar, a Yellow-throated Warbler was heard singing in Botanical Gardens, Pine Warblers were in song at both Government House and Port Royal GC while a Common Yellowthroat was singing at Paget Marsh. A skulking Kentucky Warbler was hard to view in Ord Road woodlands (SR). A trickle of spring warbler species included Blue-winged, Magnolia, Black-throated Green and Northern Waterthrush. A Summer Tanager was in Botanical Gardens  23 Apr (DW). The wintering Swamp Sparrow was still present at Spittal Pond 3 Apr (DW). Two White-throated Sparrows were singing in the Arboretum in late Mar (GH). A smattering of other spring migrant passerines included Red-eyed Vireo, Dickcissel, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak and Baltimore Oriole. Common Grackles became one of the birds of the spring. A very rare bird in Bermuda with only about six individuals having ever been recorded in Bermuda. Ian Fisher and Paul Watson were thrilled to discover two in Paul’s garden in St. Georges on 7 Mar. Other individual sightings were made in the East End, 12 were seen over Mid-Ocean GC 11 Mar, but on 19 Mar a flock of about 20 grackles was seen in Jubilee Road. The birds, in stunning breeding plumage, remained in Devonshire Marsh until early April. The last reported sighting was from Pitman’s Pond on 12 Apr. A Brown-headed Cowbird (IF) was at Spittal Pond Farm 11 Mar. Both Orange-cheeked and Common Waxbills still survive in Devonshire Marsh, with a flock of more than 12 birds seen in Mar-Apr.

 

For the record, in reply to certain information being published in the local press – neither David Wingate or myself have advocated the shooting or killing in any way of the parrot flock on the loose in the West End. Our message is to educate the public as to the potential dangers of releasing non-native animals into the wild. Claims this flock has been in the wild for 6-7 years are debatable. Reports of this noisy flock of Blue-fronted Amazons first surfaced to the Society in Nov 2001.

 

Observers: Eric Amos, Judy Clee, Neil Couper, Andrew Dobson, Ian Fisher, Wendy Frith, Peter Holmes, Peter Hopkin (PJH), Bruce Lorhan, Jeremy Madeiros, Steve Rodwell, Keith Rossiter, Penny Soares, David Wallace (DW), Paul Watson, David Wingate (DBW).

 

The summer season typically produces a limited number of bird species with one or two surprises. This year was no exception, with Bermuda’s first record of White-winged Dove and the discovery of Green Heron nests. The fall birding season was seriously disrupted by ‘Fabian’ and to a lesser extent by ‘Isabel’.

June to July 2003

A record 70 pairs of Cahows raised a record 39 young (JM). An immature Masked Booby was videoed accompanying the Bermuda Biological Station’s research vessel during three offshore trips just south of Bermuda in July (JC). Green Heron was first proved breeding in 2002. Two surveys on 27 and 29 July revealed a total of 20 adults and 10 active or vacant nests (DW). A Snow Goose that arrived in the winter continued its stay through the summer period at Outerlea Farm (SR). A Northern Shoveler was present throughout the period at Spittal Pond, the first summering record for Bermuda (EA). The long-staying Red-tailed Hawk was last seen over Daniel’s Head 13 July (PH). Two Black-necked Stilts over Kindley Field 18 June were the first of eight at various locations in Bermuda in late June/early July (PW). Three Willets were in the Great Sound 15 July (AD). First returning shorebirds, Spotted Sandpiper and Least Sandpiper, were seen at Spittal Pond 12 July (DW). A Sandwich Tern flew past Albuoy’s Point 7 June (SR). A further decline in the number of breeding pairs of Common Terns was noted this year with only 18 nests counted (DW). A Yellow-billed Cuckoo (SR) at Spittal Pond 7 June was an unusual summer visitor. A White-winged Dove (AD) in St.David’s 18 to 22 June was the first record for Bermuda (see Newsletter Vol.14 No.3).

 

August 2003

A Cory’s Shearwater was released onto the open ocean 27 Aug (JM), the first of two releases after they ‘crash-landed’ onto a Bermuda-bound cruise ship. A probable Pacific Golden-Plover was at the Airport 26-27 Aug (PW). Photos and descriptions may help to prove only the second record for this species in Bermuda. A Baird’s Sandpiper, rarely occurring in Bermuda, was at the National Sports Stadium 27 Aug (AD, PJH). A Bobolink near Clearwater 27 Sept was one of the earliest ever fall records (AD, PS).

 

September 2003

Hurricane Fabian (5 Sept) failed to provide a fall-out of birds, as the eye passed a few miles to our west. Isabel followed shortly after and blocked any significant arrival of migrants as high pressure developed over Bermuda for most of September with an easterly airstream. About 12 Chimney Swift were seen in Somerset as Fabian strengthened about mid-day on 5 Sept (WF).  Shorebirds arrived on 7 Sept especially on flooded areas like Cloverdale, where 12 species were present. A Buff-breasted Sandpiper was at the Airport 21 Sept (AD). A Wilson’s Phalarope joined a variety of shorebird species at Jubilee Road 21 Sept (SR). A Great Crested Flycatcher was at East End Dairy 8 Sept (PJH).  Good numbers of swallows were present with the main concentrations at Daniel’s Head Farm, Port Royal GC and over the growing vegetation dump on Pembroke Marsh. An above average number of Eastern Kingbirds arrived after Fabian, including a flock of five at Mid-Ocean GC 10 Sept (AD). Warblers have been noticeable by their absence – the worst fall in anyone’s memory. Highlights included two Chestnut-sided Warblers at the A. B. Smith reserve 10 Sept (AD), a Swainson’s Warbler at Port Royal GC 20 Sept (SR), and a number of Kentucky Warblers. Two Common Waxbills were seen at Paget Marsh 1 Sept (AD, PJH).

 

Early October 2003

Just when we were beginning to think the birding fall would pass us by – a rain-bearing front that arrived at the start of the month produced one of the best falls of migrants in recent years. The variety of warbler species was noteworthy, with at least 33 species recorded in the first 5 days of the month. Highlights so far this month have included a Dunlin at East End Dairy 4 Oct (AD), a hummingbird in St. David’s 5 Oct, Northern Flicker at the A. B. Smith reserve 5 Oct (EA), Grey Kingbird on St. George’s GC 4 Oct (AD), Warbling and Philadelphia Vireos at both ends of the island, single Golden-winged Warblers in Salt Kettle 1 Oct (WF) and Wreck Road 2 Oct (WF). A Brewster’s Warbler at Hog Bay Park 5 Oct (EA). A Cerulean Warbler 5 Oct on Tudor Hill (EA). A smattering of the rarer warbler species have included Tennessee, Blackburnian, Swainson’s, Kentucky, Connecticut, Mourning, Wilson’s, Canada and Yellow-breasted Chat. An immature White-crowned Sparrow was on Paget Island 3 Oct (AD).

 

Observers: Eric Amos, John Caines, Andrew Dobson, Wendy Frith, Peter Holmes, Peter Hopkin (PJH), Jeremy Madeiros, Steve Rodwell, Keith Rossiter, Penny Soares, David Wallace (DW), Paul Watson, David Wingate (DBW).

 

Late October to December 2003

The post-Fabian period has been an exciting one in Bermuda. Two new species were added to the Bermuda list – Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and Le Conte’s Sparrow.  A possible Brewer’s Blackbird would also be a new record for Bermuda and warrants further review.  The variety of bird species continues to impress and the early winter period has continued the trend with an influx of Robins and Redpolls. At least 230 species of birds have been reported in 2003, which represents about 62% of bird species ever recorded in Bermuda.  While space doesn’t allow all the records to be published, some of the more interesting records are made available in the seasonal reports.

 

Herons to Ducks

Migrant heron and egret numbers are lower than recent years. An immature Black-crowned Night-Heron appears to be roosting with the Yellow-crowned at Pembroke Marsh. An American Bittern was at Pembroke Marsh 4 Nov (SR), while the first of the season’s Least Bittern was at the same location on 8 Nov (AD). A Glossy Ibis was at the Airport 15 Dec (DH). An immature Tundra Swan 16 Nov at Cloverdale Pond (AD) was only the 4th recorded in Bermuda.  It  was also seen at Spittal Pond during its two-week stay. Ten Snow Geese are wintering at Outerlea Farm (7) and Mid-Ocean GC (3). A Canada Goose arrived at Jubilee Road 11 Dec (AD) where it still remains. Fourteen species of duck are wintering including Gadwall, American Wigeon (5), Northern Shoveler (3), Northern Pintail (4) and Bufflehead (2). Green-winged Teal has been the most common duck species. A flock of 34 was at Spittal Pond 5 Dec (EA). A flock of 25 American Wigeon flew over Spittal Pond 11 Nov (DBW) and is probably a record count for Bermuda.

 

Birds of Prey to Terns

Northern Harrier at Heydon Trust 16 Oct (R&KL) was a prelude to the best ever winter for this species. At least four birds account for sightings at Morgan’s Point, the Hamilton Harbour Islands, Pembroke and Devonshire Marshes and the Airport. The long-staying Red-tailed Hawk remains in the Paradise Lakes area. A second buteo hawk at Morgan’s Point may well be another Red-tailed (an immature lacking a red tail).

Three Peregrine Falcons were seen together over Port Royal GC 24 Oct (DW, PJH et al).  A Virginia Rail was at Parsons Road Pond in Nov (PW) while an immature Purple Gallinule was at the same location on 4 Nov (SR). At least six Lesser Yellowlegs have been present in December – an unusually high number for winter. A Solitary Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper and Pectoral Sandpiper stayed at Jubilee road before departing in December.  A Pomarine Jaeger flew past Dockyard 28 Dec (PJH). Of the smaller gulls to arrive, a flock of nine Bonaparte’s Gulls was in Harrington Sound 31 Dec (RP), and a single Black-legged Kittiwake was at Watford Bridge 9 Dec (PJH).  A Royal Tern was seen in St.George’s in Dec (PW), while a Forster’s Tern was in the Great Sound 5 Nov (PJH).

 

Passerines

A Black-bellied Cuckoo at Hog Bay Park 18 Oct (AD, SR et al) was the only one of the Fall. A Short-eared Owl on Cooper’s Island 16 Nov (AD) was the first of at least three fall and winter records. A hummingbird species was reported in St. David’s 5 Oct. At least two Northern Flickers have wintered. The first was seen at the A.B. Smith Reserve 5 Oct (EA) while one has regularly be seen at Port Royal GC with other sightings at Riddell’s Bay(SR), Morgan’s Point (AD,DW) and Smith’s Hills (JM). The latest ever Empidonax  Flycatcher (Alder/Willow type) was at Heydon Trust 23rd Nov (DBW). An Eastern Phoebe has wintered at Spittal Pond for the second year running. A Grey Kingbird was on St. George’s GC 4 Oct (AD). The first Scissor-tailed Flycatcher for Bermuda was discovered at Port Royal GC 24 Oct (PJH, DW) – see separate article. Thrush species were very sparse this fall. An influx of American Robins occurred in mid-Nov with a flock of about ten birds remaining on Morgan’s Point during the winter. An American Pipit was at Spittal Pond in early Dec (DW). Thirty-six species of wood warbler were recorded this fall. The only two not to be seen this year were Townsend’s Warbler and Louisiana Waterthrush. Among the unusual warblers, there were Golden-winged Warblers in Salt Kettle 1 Oct (WF) and Wreck Road 2 Oct (WF), a Brewster’s Warbler at Hog Bay Park 5 Oct (EA), and a Cerulean Warbler 5 Oct on Tudor Hill (EA). A Chestnut-sided Warbler at Ferry Point Park 14 Dec (SR) provided only the third wintering record. Other unusual winter records were a Blackpoll Warbler (DW) at Lagoon Park 28 Dec and a Kentucky Warbler at Morgan’s Point 31 Dec (AD, PW). At least eleven species of migrant sparrows have been recorded this fall and early winter. Pride of place goes to the discovery of Bermuda’s first Le Conte’s Sparrow at Pembroke Marsh 17 Nov (NB et al) – see separate article. Clay-coloured Sparrows are uncommon, but there were reports from Lagoon Park (PJH), St. Georges (PW) and two together at Wreck Road 1 Nov (WF). A Lark Sparrow was a surprise on Horn Rock 1 Dec (JM).  Four December Swamp Sparrows certainly creates a winter maxima with reports from Lagoon Park (DW), Morgan’s Point (AD), Paget Marsh (DW) and Spittal Pond (AD). The first Snow Bunting was reported from Boaz Island 9 Nov (PJH). Two Blue Grosbeaks at Spittal Pond Farm 14 Dec (AD, JG) provided a rare winter record. A Red-winged Blackbird was at Jubilee Road 15 Dec (MB et al). A possible Brewer’s Blackbird was reported from Botanical Gardens 13 Nov (PJH). A Purple Finch was seen on St. George’s GC 17 Oct (PW. NB et al). An influx of Common Redpolls in mid-Dec provided sightings from Dockyard to St. Georges with the largest flock (9) at Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse 14 Dec (EA). Three Pine Siskins (the first since 1986) were seen on Morgan’s Point 14 Dec (EA).

 

Escapees

Greater Flamingo ‘Flo’ escaped from BAMZ again in mid-Sept. and has taken up residence at North Pond. Flo is the same bird that was at Spittal Pond for many years before becoming entangled in a kite string at Warwick Pond and taken into care. A splendid male Orange Bishop was at Devonshire Marsh 11 Nov (AD).

 

Observers: Eric Amos, Margaret Bain, Ned Brinkley, Andrew Dobson, Wendy Frith, Jennifer Gray, Dale Hines, Peter Holmes, Peter Hopkin (PJH), Ray and Kay Latter (R&KL), Jeremy Madeiros, Ron Porter, Steve Rodwell, Keith Rossiter, Penny Soares, David Wallace (DW), Paul Watson, 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

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Cockroach Island Bermuda, Audubon Nature Reserve Bermuda

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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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