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Annual Bird Reports

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).

On Monday December 23rd 2002, 12 birders spent a total of nearly 90 hours in windy, often blustery but warm conditions, counting 99 species and 9769 birds. Four new species were added to the 232 species recorded since the counts began in 1975. Wendy Frith bravely did her count while suffering from the flu and Steve Rodwell “knackered” (as he put it) his back while peddling over much of St Georges. As usual we recorded a marvelous eclectic mix of birds that originated in many geographic locations in the United States and Canada and even a couple from Europe.

From Europe we had the Northern Lapwing and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. From the Gulf of Mexico came the Reddish Egret. From the prairies of Canada or NW United States - the White Pelican. A Painted Bunting from coastal North Carolina is usually in Florida or Central America at this time of year, while the Summer Tanager and Orchard Oriole, are seldom recorded outside of the tropics in winter. There was also a green & yellow Budgerigar – presumably an escaped cage-bird. The Reddish Egret was discovered by Dave Wallace the night before the count but not seen again until December 31st – when everyone had just about despaired of ever seeing it.

Most of the birds had already been discovered but several were surprises. Andrew Dobson added a Tree Swallow and a Northern Harrier. Bruce Lorhan and James Tatum supplied two Least Bitterns and a totally unexpected pair of Common Mergansers. Ron Porter added the Summer Tanager. Jeremy Madeiros counted 620 pigeons at the farm at Outerlea and this boosted the high count for these controversial birds by more than 400 to 1235, which was also the count for the ubiquitous Kiskadee. David Wingate and new recruit Eugene Harvey, together with the Bird Control Officer Dale Hines, added a Short-eared Owl at the airport. We found 19 species of warblers but the abundance of these long-distance migrants, although better than recent years, is still low when compared to the numbers that wintered on the island in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The lone Cape May Warbler on this year’s count is the most extreme example of this dramatic decline.

I also noted, while surveying Paget Marsh, the death, presumably by drowning, of most, if not all, of the Bermuda Cedars. The browned trees, many of which are hundreds of years old, really stand out when looking down on the marsh. This can only be an indication of the rise of the sea level and the long-promised Global Warning. (See Vol.13 No.4). Results of the Bermuda CBC are available to everyone at www.audubon.org/bird/cbc

December 2000 to February 2001

Tropicbirds to Herons

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

Geese to Rails

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

Birds of Prey to Shorebirds

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

Flycatchers to Shrike

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

Warblers to Sparrows

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

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

March to May 2001

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

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

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

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

June to July 2001

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

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

August 2001 to January 2002

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

Shearwaters to Rails

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

Shorebirds to Terns

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

Owls to Waxwings

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

Warblers to Crossbills

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

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

On Sunday 16th December, the Bermuda Audubon Society carried out its 27th Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Eleven members of the society, all experienced birders, were out from dawn to dusk counting every bird they could find on the island. Results of the count were compiled by Eric Amos and sent by computer to the National Audubon Society in the US, which collates all the results for the Americas, something they have been doing for 102 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 to the effects on bird populations of global warming and habitat loss. Our numbers were slightly down this year, but that was mainly due to the weather, dull conditions and a stiff breeze for much of the day. We did manage 88 species of birds, which is an average number for a CBC in Bermuda. Over 7,500 birds were counted altogether. 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.

Two species had never been recorded on the CBC before. House Wrens very rarely reach Bermuda from the North American continent, but one heard singing at St. George's Cemetery was one of two    

birds known to have arrived there this winter.    

A Blue Grosbeak on the Heydon Trust property was unexpected. Seen commonly in the fall months, this species has usually migrated far to our south for the winter. Other unusual birds found on the count included a Black-legged Kittiwake (a small gull), a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (a woodpecker) and two Red-winged Blackbirds. Nearly twenty species of tiny wood warblers were also seen.

The count day was not without incident. One observer, who had better remain nameless, was bundled into the back of a police car following the report of a prowler in a neighbour's property. Fortunately he didn't fit the description and was immediately released. Another participant lost his bike keys and later lost his field guide (both were recovered some days later!)

Results of the Bermuda CBC are available to everyone 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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