BirdTrax: Latest Sightings

January to May 2006

The first five months of the year have once again provided some fascinating records. Bermuda’s first record of a live Grey Heron was confirmed (following the discovery of a dead one last year). The pair of Red-tailed Hawks attempted to breed. Meanwhile, a number of species lingered in Bermuda following the effects of Hurricane Wilma last year, notably Magnificent Frigatebird, Laughing Gull and Royal Tern.

Grebes to Birds of Prey

A pair of Pied-billed Grebe once again bred at Somerset Long Bay. Since the setback in Cahow breeding success following Hurricane Fabian in 2003, this year’s total of 38 chicks is most promising. This year also witnessed the return of the first chicks to have been banded as fledglings, 6 from 2002 and 2 from 2003. Other than Manx Shearwater, few shearwaters were seen before late May. Wilson’s and Leach’s Storm-Petrels were commonly seen well off-shore in Apr and May (AD).  A very early White-tailed Tropicbird was seen at Spittal Pond 30 Jan (PW), but did not return in significant numbers until late February. Two immature Northern Gannets were regularly seen 9 Dec to Mar (PW). A Great Cormorant that wintered in the Great Sound was last seen 11 Mar (AD). Sightings of Magnificent Frigatebirds around the coastline continued until 5 Apr with two over St David’s (GA). A Grey Heron at Spittal Pond 22-27 Apr (DBW) was the first live record for this species in Bermuda. Green Herons are once again actively breeding. A flock of 30 Cattle Egrets were feeding at the Airport in Mar (PW). Several imm. Black-crowned Night-Herons were seen at various locations during the winter months (AD, DBW, PW). Least Bitterns were seen during mid-Apr at Pembroke Marsh (K&RL) and Paget Marsh (DW). Two Glossy Ibis were seen flying over Warwick 8 May and settled at Devonshire Marsh (AD). A Canada Goose was seen over Pembroke Marsh in Mar (TW). Seymour’s Pond hosted a pair of Gadwall 24 Mar- 4Apr (DBW) and a pair of Eurasian Wigeon 29 Dec-11 Mar (AD). A Greater Scaup was on Tucker’s Point GC Pond 13 Mar (EA). A Common Merganser was in Mangrove Lake 13 Jan (JM) and then the Great Sound to Mar (DW). A Red-breasted Merganser was seen at Somerset Long Bay 12 Feb (DW). A Ruddy Duck wintered on Parson’s Road Pond (AD). A Swallow-tailed Kite was regularly seen over Gibbs Hill 7-11 May (TW). Wintering Northern Harriers were last seen at the Airport 5 Apr and Great Sound 7 Apr (AD). The Red-tailed Hawk nest at Morgan’s Point was first noticed in early April (AC). Single Peregrine Falcons were noted 3 May over Flatts Hill (JM) and 15 May over Morgan’s Point (AD).

Shorebirds to Terns

An American Golden-Plover was on mudflats at Stocks Harbour 29 Apr-11 May (EA, PW). Three Semipalmated Plovers and two Piping Plovers wintered at Grape Bay with a Willet. This is the second wintering record of Willet in Bermuda.  Three Piping Plovers were at Grape Bay 1 May (PW). Single Black-necked Stilts were seen at North Pond 23 Mar-5 Apr (GB) and Spittal Pond 22-27 May (PA). A Solitary Sandpiper seen at Jubilee Road 24 Jan (DBW) provided the first winter record for Bermuda. A Red Knot was at Riddell’s Bay GC 4 Dec- 17 Jan (DW).  A Long-billed Dowitcher was at S.Princess Pond mid-Dec to 2 Jan (AD). A smattering of spring shorebirds arrived in May, including a Stilt Sandpiper at North Pond 6 May and single White-rumped Sandpipers at North Pond and Jubilee Road 21 May (AD). At least 20 Laughing Gulls wintered in Bermuda, mainly in the Hamilton Harbour area.  Some were still present into May. A Franklin’s Gull was seen on 11 Feb in Castle Harbour (JM). A Black-headed Gull was last seen 7 Apr in Hamilton Harbour (AD).  There was a movement of Bonaparte’s Gulls in March with 17 seen in Hamilton Harbour 20 Mar (PW). Five Royal Terns wintered, most often seen at Dockyard (AD) with at least three remaining into May. Two Sandwich Terns remained in the Hamilton Harbour area until early February.  Three Forster’s Terns remained in Hamilton Harbour throughout the period (PW).

Nighthawk to Waxbills

A Common Nighthawk was over Nonsuch Is. 23 May (PW). A Northern Flicker was at Devonshire Church 1 Mar (SD). A Grey Kingbird was found at Brighton Hill 23 May (DW). A Red-eyed Vireo was at Somerset Long Bay 7 May (EA). A Barn Swallow over Pembroke Dump was unusual 28 Dec-8 Jan (DBW). Flocks of up to 14 birds were noted at several locations 20 Apr (AD, PW). A Veery came to a bird bath in Jenningsland 16 Apr (JM, LM). A Wood Thrush near the railway trail in Somerset provided a rare wintering record 31 Jan- 23 Mar (DW). Two American Robins were seen at Wreck Road 31 Jan (DW). American Pipits have been scarce on the Airport with eight 22 Jan (AD). Few migrant warblers were recorded in the spring, but notable sightings included a Blue-winged Warbler 20 Apr on Paget Is (AD) and Bay-breasted Warbler 7 May on Wreck Road (EA). A Summer Tanager seen in Dec and 24 Feb-12 Mar (SR) certainly over-wintered in the Arboretum. A male Scarlet Tanager was at Somerset Long Bay 2-7 May. A Snow Bunting was present on the Airport 12 Dec-18 Feb (PW).  The largest flock of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks reported was six birds at Emily’s Bay Lane 20 Apr (EA). Indigo Buntings were also common spring migrants in Apr. Bobolinks were scarce migrants with singles at Pitman’s Pond 26 Apr (PJH) and Brighton Hill 20 May (DW). An escaped Black-rumped Waxbill (see photo AD) was seen in Devonshire Marsh 24 Feb-12 Mar (SR)

Observers: Eric Amos, Gerry Ardis, Peter Adhemar, Geoff Bell, Alan Card, Steven DeSilva, Andrew Dobson, Peter Holmes (PJH), Peter Hopkin, Kay & Ray Latter, Jeremy Madeiros, Steve Rodwell, David Wallace (DW), Paul Watson, Tim Wershler, David Wingate (DBW).

June to July 2006

Bermuda’s first live Grey Heron, discovered 22 April was still present. Two Great Egrets and two Little Blue Herons also over-summered (EA). A Tricolored Heron was seen in the East End 24 Jul (PW). Two Glossy Ibis were still present on Jubilee Road 5 Jun (DBW). A late Swallow-tailed Kite was seen at various locations 12-23 June (BL, PH). Five Black-bellied Plovers and one Whimbrel over-summered (PW). A Semipalmated Plover at Long Island 25 June (PW) provided an unusual summer record. An adult Spotted Sandpiper was at North Pond 9 Jun (DBW). Returning shorebirds were at least one week later than usual, appearing in the third week of July (EA, AD). A single Sandwich Tern off Spanish Point and Roseate Tern off North Shore, were seen 20 Jun (PW). A Brown Noddy was in the Hog Fish Channel 15-17 Jun (BL). Sightings of a South Polar Skua may well have been of the same individual 31 May, 6&10 Jun at Cooper’s Point (PW, AD), 2 Jun at Elbow Beach (GA) and 21 Jun off Horseshoe Bay (PW). Amongst returning swallows was an early Bank Swallow at East End Dairy 31 Jul (PW). A Louisiana Waterthrush at Pitman’s Pond 23 Jul (DW) was the first migrant warbler. Common Grackle is very rare in Bermuda. One seen on Nelly’s Is. 31 Jul (PW) had presumably over-summered.

August to December 2006

Fortunately Bermuda was spared any severe storms this season, with Hurricane Florence giving us a close shave on 10th September.  So there was no repeat influx of birds that occurred following Hurricane Wilma last year. There were some notable sightings this fall, including potential first records of MacGillivray’s Warbler and Western Tanager. Bermuda’s third Sandhill Crane put in a very brief appearance. A record four Northern Wheatears and three hummingbirds were seen. Long stayers include Bermuda’s first live Grey Heron and two Red-tailed Hawks.

Tropicbirds to Terns

A late White-tailed Tropicbird was over Darrell’s Island 22 Oct (AD, PW). Three Masked Boobies were seen off the East End 14 Sep (PW) – probably the result of Hurricane Florence passing on 10 Sep. Another was seen 17 Oct, also off the East End (PW). An American Bittern was at Cloverdale 14 Oct (DBW) and in Paget Marsh 29 Nov (DW). Two Least Bitterns were seen at Pitman’s Pond 14 Oct (AD) and Cloverdale 24 Oct (AD). The long-staying Grey Heron was present throughout the period, mainly in the Tuckers Town area. An immature Black-crowned Night-Heron was seen at Spittal Pond during October (AD, PW). A Brant Goose was present at Daniel’s Head 31 Oct (DW). An immature male Surf Scoter was discovered on Mangrove Lake 27 Nov-31 Dec (EA). The same bird was probably in Castle Harbour 24 Nov (JM). Single Ospreys were seen throughout the period at both ends of the island. A Northern Harrier first was noted at the Airport 15 Oct-31 Dec (PA). A Sharp-shinned Hawk was over Cemetery Hill 28 Oct (DBW). The two long-staying Red-tailed Hawks were present throughout the period. Peregrines were seen at various locations in October. A Virginia Rail was flushed from Kindley Field mangroves 8 Oct (AB, PW). Bermuda’s third Sandhill Crane flew over Long Island 22 Oct (NB, AD, PW). A flock of 23 Semipalmated Sandpipers was unusual at Riddell’s Bay GC 18 Sep (DW). Piping Plovers were noted at a number of locations during the fall and two have over-wintered at Grape Bay and Cooper’s Island respectively. Upland Sandpipers were noted at the Airport 21 Sep (DBW), St. Georges GC 27 Sep (PW), and Heydon Trust 12 Oct (DW). An oiled Baird’s Sandpiper was on Riddell’s Bay GC 10 Sep (DBW, EA). A Dunlin was at the same location in early mid-Sept and another at Spittal Pond 24 Oct (DBW). Buff-breasted Sandpipers appeared at a number of locations. A Long-billed Dowitcher was at Jubilee Road 17 Oct (EA). An adult light phase Pomarine Jaeger flew past Ruth’s Point 11 Sep (PW) following the passage of Hurricane Florence. A Common Black-headed Gull was on the Causeway 29 Oct (AD) while two have been at Dockyard since 15 Nov (PW). A Bonaparte’s Gull was also at Dockyard 15 Nov (PW). At least three Royal Terns were present in the early fall with at least one remaining into December.

Hummingbird to Dickcissel

Hummingbirds were reported from Devonshire 15 Oct (RM), St. David’s 9-31 Dec (LO), and Botanical Gardens 29-31 Dec (LC, AD). As wintering hummingbirds on the US East Coast in winter are invariably Black-chinned rather than Ruby-throated, it is hoped that confirmation of species can be made from photographs. Perhaps as many as 15 Empidonax flycatchers were reported in October, mainly of the Alder-Willow variety. Scarce vireo species recorded included Yellow-throated, Blue-headed, Warbling and Philadelphia. A single Golden-crowned Kinglet was seen at Ferry Point Park 27 Oct-11 Nov (DW) while Ruby-crowned Kinglets were seen at many locations including six on 11 Nov (DW, PW). A record year for Northern Wheatears reflected similar sightings along the Eastern Seaboard. Four birds were seen, with singles at the National Stadium 9 Sep (AD), Heydon Trust 23-24 Sep (DW), St. Georges GC 13 Oct (DBW) and Lukes Farm 6 Oct (DBW). Thrushes were once again thin on the ground. A Swainson’s Thrush was on Nelly’s Island 22 Oct (AD, PW). Hermit Thrushes were scattered widely with at least 12 individuals 28-29 Oct (AD) and there was a small influx of American Robins noted in late October with five on 27 Oct in the East End (PW). At least three Northern Mockingbirds were reported (a rarity in Bermuda). One was at Boaz Island 20 Sep to late Dec (PH), a ‘tail-less’ bird was seen at Tee Street 16 Oct (PJH) and again St. Georges 17 Oct (PW), while a third was discovered in Somerset in Dec (PH). American Pipits arrived from 24 Oct on Cooper’s Island and 28 Oct at Brighton Hill (DW) with a small flock wintering at the Airport (DW). Thirty-four species of warbler were recorded during the season, with a notable fall involving hundreds of Blackpoll Warblers 12 Oct (EA, PW et al). A potential first for Bermuda was a MacGillivray’s Warbler 28 Oct at Paget Marsh (PH). The three-second view allowed Peter Hopkin to note some detail, but it has not been seen again. First year or adult female bird perched up in the dead cedar at the very end of the Paget Marsh boardwalk. At first side-on at the back of the tree, it moved to the front where it was above me looking down. It took a good look at me for about three seconds at 4m range then plunged back into the swamp vegetation. Fortunately I have seen many in Colorado, British Columbia and Costa Rica so it was no problem to identify.The main feature was the broken eye-ring, which was clear white and heavy, rather like a Laughing Gull, above and below the eye, broken front and back. It contrasted strongly with the dark grey lores and greyish ear coverts and bright enough that at such close range I could see the ring with naked eye. Face and breast cold olive-grey beige, much cooler in colour than Connecticut, although darker area around the eye and lores very small. Sharp division on lower breast between breast and with reasonably bright, but not vivid, yellow belly. The underparts were duller between the legs and then brighter cleaner yellow undertail coverts, which were short compared to the tail; thus the bird looked slimmer and better proportioned than the rather stubby Connecticut Warbler. Upperparts were plain brown, quite warm, and with no wing bars, tertial fringes or spots on the ends of the remiges noted. Tail was slightly raised away from me so I did not see the underside, or note the leg colour. Bill short and pale brown, at least on the underside. Size comparison was possible with Yellow-rumped Warblers; it was slimmer and perhaps slightly shorter; a neater bird.

Another potential first for Bermuda was a Western Tanager seen by David Wingate at Ferry Point Park 21 Oct. This bird hung around for some 10 mins, allowing the following description. David wrote: As this is a first Bermuda record and I didn't have digiscope to photo it, here is my descriptive documentation as written in my field notebook BEFORE I returned to the car to check the National Geographic Guide. "Size and greenish yellow head and underparts colour of Scarlet Tanager, but possibly bigger with yellowish rump. Typical tanager bill, pinky yellow, darker above and on tip. Darkish legs. Diagnostic feature was two bold wingbars on otherwise grey green wings. Bold yellowish front wing bar and narrow whitish rear wing bar, those coverts distinctly white tipped. Also white edges on tertials. Back slightly darker mottled grey green, not the smooth green of a Scarlet." I did not know (or recall) before I checked the guide that Western IS slightly larger than Scarlet and does have a paler yellowish rump, so noting these features without that awareness corroborates the diagnostic field mark which was the bold wing bars. Neither did I recall that the fore and aft wingbars are differently coloured, so my noting this is further support of correct identification. Indeed the field marks were so clear and distinctive that it was most likely an immature male if not even an adult male in winter plumage! In all other respects it was classic tanager jizz including the fact it was apparently catching and eating Polistes wasps which were common in the area. I encountered it at 1100hrs on the railway trail where the path from main road crosses it into the enclosed yellow fever cemetery. It was at eye level on dead snag and then in Jumbie Bean, all in full sunlight with sun at my back at 20' - 25' range. I had excellent repeated views for next 5 -10 minutes before it moved deeper into the thicket and I became distracted by a cell of migrants, mainly Indigo buntings moving through the same area.

Scarce sparrow species included Clay-coloured (6-12 Oct Pitman’s Pond (DBW); Song Sparrow at Bailey’s Bay 13 Nov (PW); Swamp Sparrow and Dark-eyed Junco 22 Nov Ferry Point Park (PW). A Snow Bunting was discovered on Castle Island 17 Dec (JM, LM). Dickcissels were present at Cedar Grove 30 Sep (EA), Paget Island 8 Oct (AD, PW), Port Royal GC 16 Oct (AD) and Lukes Farm 17 Dec (EA).

Photographic proof of a significant Bermuda record has just been received. On Jan 2, 2005 an American Visitor, David G Smith, reported what he was sure were three White Pelicans flying east to the north of Spittal Pond. He gave a detailed account of them. And that same day Audubon member Heather DeSilva reported three white pelicans flying towards the east. Eric Amos recently received a digital print sent to him by a resident of Southampton (off Buck Island). It is dated 1 Jan 2005 and clearly shows three White Pelicans.

Observers: Gary Allport, Eric Amos, Peter Adhemar, Nicholas Barton, Ann Brown, Lisa Clark, Andrew Dobson, Peter Holmes (PJH), Peter Hopkin (PH), Kay & Ray Latter, Bruce Lorhan, Jeremy Madeiros, Leila Madeiros, Robin Maraira, Louise Olander, David Wallace (DW), Paul Watson, David Wingate (DBW).

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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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