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Annual Bird Reports

January to May 2004

January and February were particularly stormy, with frequent low pressure systems moving off the East Coast. As a result, the range of northern species occurring in Bermuda has been noteworthy. March and April remained cool, but the lack of any strong south-easterly winds so far this season and a huge high pressure system sitting over Bermuda for much of May, prevented the influx of most spring migrants and put paid to any chance of sea-watching for pelagic migrants. Highlights have included: Three Northern Gannets (a maxima); twenty species of wildfowl (including 10 Snow Geese, Eurasian Teal, Eurasian Wigeon and two White-winged Scoters - Bermuda’s 3rd and 4th); Glaucous Gull; 3 Short-eared Owls (a maxima); Bohemian Waxwing (Bermuda’s 2nd record); Lapland Longspur. From the south, we’ve had Glossy Ibis and Purple Gallinule. From the east a Little Egret (Bermuda’s 3rd) and a possible Grey Heron (a potential ‘first’). Finally, another new species for Bermuda, an adult California Gull, a species that should have been wintering on the Pacific Coast.

Petrels to Ducks

A shearwater sp. (probably Manx) crossed the Causeway during a gale on 28 Jan (EA).  Manx Shearwaters were passing Elbow Beach 16 Mar (AD), but the subsequent shearwater passage has been very sparse due to unfavourable winds. An early White-tailed Tropicbird was seen off the east end of Bermuda 2 Jan (GA). A Northern Gannet at Ferry Reach 8 Jan (PH) was the first of three immature birds to appear in Jan. There are only a handful of previous records for this species.  One of the immature Northern Gannets seen during the winter months was still present in Bermuda waters up to at least 18 May. The long-staying Snow Goose remains at Outerlea Farm despite the other six geese leaving in mid-March. A possible Grey Heron (photo) has sparked much debate since being noticed at Spittal Pond 7 May (EA). If consenus can be reached on separating it from Great Blue Heron, it will be another new record for Bermuda. Bermuda’s third Little Egret was discovered at Spittal Pond 5 Feb (IF) and again present in mid-May despite wandering the island. A Glossy Ibis was present at Kindley Field to at least 19 Mar (AD). Five wintering Canada Geese was a record high for Bermuda, with four at Spittal Pond and one at Jubilee Road 11 Dec-Mar (AD). A female Eurasian Wigeon was at Warwick Pond 1 Feb (EA). Between 30-40 American Black Ducks arrived following a storm on 15 Jan (AD). A male Eurasian Teal stayed on Warwick Pond 25 Jan-Mar (SR). A female Northern Pintail was still at Spittal Pond 8 May (AD). A White-winged Scoter was found at Fairylands Creek 22 Jan (DW) but was picked up dead on 24 Jan. Another White-winged Scoter (1st winter male) appeared at Somerset Long Bay NR 25 Jan –29 Mar (AD, SR). These two birds represent only the third and fourth records for Bermuda. Fourteen wintering Hooded Mergansers is a Bermuda record, with 12 at Spittal Pond and 2 at Warwick Pond (AD). A female Common Merganser was at Watford Bridge 25 Jan (PJH).

Hawks to Puffins

A Sharp-shinned Hawk was a surprise over the Hamilton Harbour Islands 9 May (PW). The second buteo hawk reported in the last newsletter was confirmed as another Red-tailed Hawk. Much excitement has followed with the two birds seen displaying together regularly over Morgan’s Point since mid-March. A Purple Gallinule was on Paget Marsh Pond 6 Jan-Mar (AD). A migrant Killdeer was at Outerlea Farm 8 May (JO, DBW). Two Black-necked Stilts arrived at Spittal Pond 7 May (EA) increasing to a maximum of 8. An Upland Sandpiper (photo left) at East End Dairy 25 Apr (DBW) was a nice spring surprise. A flock of 18 Sanderling at Marley Beach 6 Jan was unusual (AD). Few other migrants shorebirds were recorded, but included Solitary, Semipalmated, Least and Pectoral Sandpipers. A Red Phalarope was picked up injured from Point Finger Road 31 Jan (JG) and died shortly after.  The paucity of shearwaters so far this spring has also been mirrored by jaegers. Both Pomarine and Long-tailed Jaegers were seen past Elbow Beach 27 Apr (AD). An adult Laughing Gull was seen in various parts of the island in early May. Of the smaller gulls to arrive, a first-winter Black-headed Gull was at Rockaway 28 Jan (IF, PW) and a flock of 15 Bonaparte’s Gulls was over Spittal Pond Jan (JM, SR). but the gull of the season was Bermuda’s first California Gull, an adult, at Dockyard 1-8 May (PW). A first-winter Iceland Gull was in Hamilton Harbour 3-8 Mar (AD, PW, DBW). A Glaucous Gull flew along North Shore on 15 Jan (JM). A dead Atlantic Puffin was discovered on the beach at Tobacco Bay 14 Mar (PW).

Cuckoo to Bobolink

A Yellow-billed Cuckoo was at Spittal Pond 18 Apr (DBW). At least three Short-eared Owls wintered, with three seen together at the Airport 2 Jan (PW). One of the Short-eared Owls was still at the Airport 18 Apr (DWal). An Eastern Kingbird was seen at Parson’s Road Pond 23 Apr (G&SH). Single Yellow-throated Vireos were seen at Botanical Gardens 13-21 Apr (AD) and AB Smith Reserve 14 Apr (SR). The first of 3 Horned Larks was at Bermuda Airport 31 Jan (EA). American Pipits (14) remained at the Airport 6 Mar (AD). A Bohemian Waxwing was an exceptional find on Port Royal GC 18 Jan (SR), the only record of this species other than a flock of five in 2001. A Yellow Warbler was on St. George’s GC 10 Jan (PW).  Few spring migrant warblers were recorded. A Palm Warbler at Marsh Lane 7 May (AD) was a noteable exception. A Swainson’s Warbler on Morgan’s Point 4 Mar (AD, PS) had probably over-wintered. A Wilson’s Warbler was in the Smiths Hills 4 Mar (DWal).  One Summer Tanager was recorded (DBW) 10 Apr at Pilchard Bay. Two stunning male Scarlet Tanagers (photo) were seen individually at Tamarind Vale 28 Apr (BH) and again in Warwick 6 May (WF). While scanning through a dozen Savannah Sparrows at Kindley Field 19 Mar, a Vesper Sparrow was heard singing and photographed (AD). The last date of the wintering Swamp Sparrows was one recorded at Spittal Pond 28 Mar (AD). A Lapland Longspur was at Bermuda Airport 7 Feb (AD). The first of a small influx of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks was noted at Compston’s Pond 25 Apr (AD). A Blue Grosbeak was at Spittal Pond 18 Apr (DBW). A Bobolink was singing from a fence post at Spittal Pond farm 8 May (SR).

Escapees

The Greater Flamingo, ‘Flo’, has been sighted all around Bermuda, even making a low-level pass along Front Street during the morning rush-hour 15 Apr (LM). A Sulphur-crested Cockatoo was flying around the Bailey’s Bay area on 22 May (AD).

 

Observers: Eric Amos, Gerry Ardis, Andrew Dobson, Ian Fisher, Wendy Frith, Jennifer Gray, John O’Halloran, Gene and Susan Harvey, Peter Holmes, Peter Hopkin (PJH), Bertie Horsfield, Ray and Kay Latter (R&KL), Jeremy Madeiros, Leila Madeiros, Steve Rodwell, Keith Rossiter, Penny Soares, David Wallace (DW), Paul Watson, David Wingate (DBW).

 

June-July

The highlight of the season has been the successful translocation of Cahow (Bermuda Petrel) chicks to a new breeding site. Translocation had been agreed upon even before Hurricane Fabian (Sept 2003) destroyed a number of nesting burrows. Of 29 fledglings this year, 14 chicks were translocated to Nonsuch Island and all fledged successfully. The same practice will be continued in coming years and gives hope to a continuing increase in breeding pairs in more suitable habitat.

A pair of Pied-billed Grebes again nested at Somerset Long Bay N.R. Bermuda (DW). An ad Red-tailed Tropicbird was seen at Nonsuch Is. Bermuda 21 Jul (JM), possibly the same bird as in 2001 and 2003. Green Herons, which were first proved breeding in Bermuda in 2002, bred in a number of new locations, with a total of about 12 pairs (AD). A Snow Goose remained at Outerlea Farm, Bermuda to 31 Jul+(AD). A male Wood Duck was at Pembroke Marsh, Bermuda 20 Jun (PH, SR). A female Hooded Merganser at Spittal Pond, Bermuda 28-31 Jul+ (DW) provided the first-ever summer record. The pair of long-staying Red-tailed Hawks was seen throughout June over Morgan’s Point, Bermuda (AD, DW). A Purple Gallinule was found dead in Southampton, Bermuda 23 June (DW). Summering shorebirds on Bermuda included Black-bellied Plover (3) and Whimbrel (4) at Bermuda’s airport (EA, PW), single Sanderling on Nonsuch Island (JM, DW) and the first summering record for Pectoral Sandpiper at Spittal Pond (AD, EA). Black-necked Stilts departed North Pond, Bermuda 23 Jul (DW). Bermuda’s first fall shorebirds were noted in early July with Lesser Yellowlegs at Spittal Pond 3 Jul (EA), Spotted Sandpiper in St David’s 10 Jul (PW), Western Sandpiper at Spittal Pond 19 Jul (DW) and Pectoral Sandpiper at Compston’s Pond 9 Jul (AD). Three imm Laughing Gulls were at Dockyard, Bermuda 6 Jun (AD).  A Franklin’s Gull was picked up dead at Clearwater Beach, Bermuda 1 Jun (GP). A Gull-billed Tern was at North Pond, Bermuda 18-21 Jun (EA). A Roseate Tern was in Castle Harbour, Bermuda 10 Jul & 21 Jul (DW, JM). Hurricane Fabian, which hit Bermuda 5 Sep 2003, must have devastated the local breeding population of Common Terns because only 6 of the 17 pairs returned in 2004 and these failed to breed. This is the first record of total breeding failure in 50 years of observation (DW).

Observers: Eric Amos, Andrew Dobson, Peter Hopkin, Jeremy Madeiros, Steve Rodwell, Paul Watson, David Wingate.

 

July to November

The fall period in Bermuda starts in July, with the first shorebirds heading south, and continues through to November with ducks and sparrows. All observers agree that this has been a very poor year in terms of total numbers of birds seen. Although weather systems were not favourable over Bermuda for much of the peak migration period, alarm bells have been sounding for some time on the North American continent for the decline in breeding birds. Nevertheless, a large variety of birds was recorded in Bermuda this fall.

 

Petrels to Terns

The first Cahow returned 14 Oct (JM). About 16 Cahows were seen from Cooper’s Point late afternoon 3 Nov (AD, PH). Double-crested Cormorants were not noted 25 Oct (EA). An American Bittern was at Seymour’s Pond 3 Nov (EA). The long-staying Little Egret was at Hungry Bay 6 Sept (DBW). A Canada Goose seen over St.David’s 4 Oct (GA) settled at Outerlea Dairy. A male Eurasian Wigeon joined American Wigeons at Spittal Pond 25 Oct (EA). A flock of 12 Ring-necked Ducks was on Parsons Road Pond 1 Nov (DW). A summering Hooded Merganser remained into the fall. October birds of prey included at least two Ospreys and four or five Peregrine Falcons. One of the ‘resident’ Red-tailed Hawks was photographed 13 Sept at Ports Island (DW). A Virginia Rail was taken into captivity at BAMZ 8 Nov (JG). Summering Black-necked Stilts remained into mid-July. The shorebird passage was not as dramatic as in some years. The lack of mud-flats at either Spittal or Warwick Ponds did little to attract birds. The first shorebirds arrived in early July. Notable sightings included: Willet 4 Sept at Dockyard (AD), Western Sandpiper 19 Jul (DBW), Baird’s Sandpiper 12 Sept at East End Dairy (DBW) and 23 to 26 Sept at Astwood Park (AD), and a Curlew Sandpiper at Spittal Pond 17 Oct (AD). A Black-headed Gull 29 Oct to17 Nov was first seen in Castle Harbour (DBW). Most other gulls, including Lesser Black-backed, arrived in late Oct and Nov. A Black Tern was seen off Cambridge Beaches 29 Sept (PW).

 

Nighthawks to Buntings

A flock of six Common Nighthawks was over Belmont Hills GC 17 Oct (AD). A Ruby-throated Hummingbird was a lucky find at Stokes Point NR 27 Sept to 15 Oct (AD). A Northern Flicker was calling loudly at Port Royal GC 29 to 30 Oct (DW). It has been a good year for flycatcher records. More than a dozen Eastern Wood-Pewees were scattered widely. Amongst the empidonax species, there was one Yellow-bellied Flycatcher 17 to 21 Oct at Coral Beach Club (DW) and two Acadian Flycatchers at Ferry Point 16 to 18 Oct (AD) and Hog Bay Park 18 Oct (AD). A Great Crested Flycatcher remained at Stokes Point Reserve 29 Sept to 3 Oct (DBW). A Yellow-throated Vireo was at Coral Beach Club 17 Oct (DW), while a Blue-headed Vireo was in Walsingham Jungle 15 Oct (JM). The number of swallows has been disappointing. A Northern Rough-winged Swallow was at Wreck Road 5 Oct (EA, DW). A late Bank Swallow was over Daniel’s Head Farm 6 Nov (AD, DBW). A Red-breasted Nuthatch video-taped at Fort Scaur 16 to 17 Oct (EA). Single Golden-crowned Kinglets were at Fort Scaur 13 Oct (DW) and the Arboretum 16 Nov (DW). Thrushes are now so scarce that it will soon be possible to record all sightings in the report. An early American Robin was at Port Royal GC 16 Oct (DW). A Northern Mockingbird was a surprise at Spittal Pond 17 Oct (DBW). An American Pipit was seen at the Airport 3 Nov (PW). Although 35 warbler species have been recorded this fall, their numbers have been depressingly low. Two Golden-winged Warblers were reported, at Cemetery Hill 16 Oct (AD) and Riddell’s Bay GC 30 Oct (DW). A smattering of migrant sparrow species arrived in October as well as a Snow Bunting 30 Oct on Horn Rock (JM). Indigo Buntings have been very common, with one flock containing about 150 birds at Heydon Trust 18 Oct (DW).

Observers: Eric Amos, Gerry Ardis, Andrew Dobson, Wendy Frith, Jennifer Gray, Peter Hopkin, Jeremy Madeiros, David Wallace (DW), Paul Watson, David Wingate (DBW).

On Saturday 18th December, 18 members of the Society carried out the 30th Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Most were out from dawn to dusk counting every bird they could find on the island. Results of the count were entered directly into a data base on the National Audubon Society’s website in the US, which collates all the results for the Americas, something they have been doing for 105 years since the first count.

The purpose of the count is to look at the health of bird populations and to determine whether there are any long-term trends with particular species. The count may well provide evidence of the effects on bird populations of global warming and habitat loss. In Bermuda, we average about 8,000 birds of about 90 species. There are many more birds on the island, but the observers walk similar routes each year covering as much of the island as they can in the time available.

This year we managed 7075 birds of 92 species (with a further six species in count week). The total number of birds was down on recent years, due in no small part to the successful culling of feral pigeons which are posing a serious threat to longtail nesting, not to mention the problems they cause to farmers. The weather was windy and wet at times, but the variety of species seen was impressive. Had the count not taken place on the 18th, the Kirtland Warbler would probably never have been found – one of 20 warbler species, including a rarely seen Townsend’s Warbler in count week. Two hummingbirds were seen (probable Ruby-throated) at Port Royal GC and Orange Valley. Also unseasonal were Tree and Barn Swallows at East End Farm. A Dickcissel on the Talbot Estate was a good sighting. If a similar count was carried out every weekend – just imagine what would be found!

Results of the Bermuda CBC are available to everyone at www.audubon.org/bird/cbc

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).

Bermuda’s 29th CBC was held on Sunday 14th December 2003. Seventeen local birders were out in the field, most of them from dawn to dusk, counting every bird they could find. Our efforts were part of a huge count being carried out by about 2,000 other groups throughout North America, Central America and even a few in South America. Each group tallies all birds found during a 24-hour period between December 14th and January 5th in a designated 15-mile diameter circle. The focus of this year’s census is to gauge the health of bird populations of the North American boreal forests that extend from Alaska to Eastern Canada. A number of forest species including the Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker and White-throated Sparrow are present in Bermuda this winter. However, local birders were particularly keen to see how Hurricane Fabian had affected resident bird populations.

The weather forecast for the 14th sounded good, but at dawn, things looked less than promising with overcast conditions and one or two heavy showers. However, the skies cleared giving bright sunshine and good viewing conditions for most of the day. So what did we find?

  • 9,630 individual birds (very similar to last year’s 9,769)
  • 104 species of birds (99 in 2002)
  • Four new species for count day (the same as last year)
  • European Starling was the most common species (23% of the count)
  • 240 species have now been record on the CBC in Bermuda since 1975

There had been speculation as to the effects of Hurricane Fabian on local bird populations, but I am pleased to report that there was no great change in the number of our local birds compared to previous counts. In fact two of our invasive species recorded their largest ever totals - Great Kiskadee and Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon). It is always rewarding to add new species to the count day. Each year it becomes more difficult, but this year we were able to add four more species. Cahows are not always present in mid to late December, but they have been more active this year, perhaps due to the disruption caused to their breeding grounds by Fabian. David Wingate and Gene Harvey managed to see two birds flying over the ocean from Cooper’s Point, while Jeremy Madeiros had four birds over the Cahow islands after sunset. Paul Watson, counting from his boat in the Paradise Lakes area was able to add the elusive Red-tailed Hawk (now into its third year in Bermuda). Steve Rodwell flew in from New York at lunchtime and immediately started his CBC count in St. Georges. His reward was the first count day Chestnut-sided Warbler. The fourth new record, and perhaps the biggest surprise, was the re-discovery of a Le Conte’s Sparrow at Pembroke Marsh by Bruce Lorhan and James ‘Charlie Brown’ Tatham (see separate story). There were many other good birds too. Members might be surprised to know that 10 Snow Geese were recorded as well as one Canada Goose and 14 species of duck. An impressive 22 species of warblers were noted, including two Yellow-breasted Chats. Other surprises included two Blue Grosbeaks, ten Common Redpolls and three Pine Siskins. Perhaps the most tantalizing sighting was a possible Bicknell’s Thrush at Hog Bay Park. It is once again of considerable concern to report the great number of feral cats, chickens and terrapins seen throughout the island. One cat was actually watched swimming across the narrow part of the pond at Spittal Pond nature reserve.

The results of our count, part of the 104th Annual National Audubon Society count of birds in the Western Hemisphere and other parts of the World, will shortly be available on their web site at www.audubon.org/bird/CBC

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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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