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Annual Bird Reports

A Magnificent Frigatebird was in Hamilton Harbour, Pembroke 18 Oct. A Brown Booby flew past Nonsuch Island 10 Dec (DBW). A Brown Pelican, the first to winter in Bermuda, was present in Jews Bay until early March. A Pacific Loon, the first record for Bermuda, was found at Grape Bay, Paget 21 Aug but died in captivity at BAMZ. A Gyrfalcon, the first record for Bermuda, was found on Nonsuch Island 25 Nov-26 Dec (DBW). An American Woodcock was at Paget Marsh 17 Dec (EA). A Gull-billed Tern was on Spittal Pond, Smiths 28 May. A Brown Creeper was on Port Royal G.C. 18 Oct (DW). A Scarlet Tanager at Admiralty Park 17 Dec was the first winter record for Bermuda (AH, PW).

Observers: Eric Amos, Andrew Dobson, Andrew Harford, Paul Watson, David Wallace, David Wingate.

A Magnificent Frigatebird was in Hamilton Harbour, Pembroke 25 Oct. Three immature Northern Gannets were seen during the 91/92 winter (only 5 previous records) but two were picked up and died in captivity at BAMZ. A Brant Goose was on Mid-Ocean G.C., Hamilton Parish 31 Oct 1990 to 24 Apr 1991. A Pectoral Sandpiper was at Warwick Pond 14 Dec (EA). A Swallow-tailed Kite was at Port Royal G.C. for a week in early Mar. Single Corn Crakes were found in Southampton 24 Sep (road kill) and rescued from a cat in St.David’s 2 Oct. A Yellow-billed Cuckoo was at Hog Bay Park 14 Dec (SDS). A Ruby-throated Hummingbird was in Paget 2 Nov with two further birds at Wreck Road and Paget Marsh during the 91/92 winter (EA). A Wood Thrush was in the Arboretum, Paget 15 Oct (AD). A Townsend’s Warbler was at Astwood Park, Warwick 22-23 Sep. An Evening Grosbeak was at Port Royal G.C. Southampton 6-9 May(AD).

Observers: Eric Amos, Steven DeSilva, Andrew Dobson, Paul Watson, David Wingate.

Two Greater White-fronted Geese, the first record for Bermuda, were at East End Dairy, St Georges 22 Dec 1989 to Feb 1990 (EA). An American Avocet was on Spittal Pond, Smith’s 20-29 Oct (AD). A Brant Goose was on Mid-Ocean G.C., Hamilton Parish 31 Oct 1990 to 24 Apr 1991. A Long-tailed Duck was at Spittal Pond 19-24 Nov before being found dead. An Ash-throated Flycatcher, the first record for Bermuda, was on South Shore dunes, Warwick 26 Dec 1990 to 19 Apr 1991 (SA). A Glaucous Gull wintered at Morgan’s Point 89/90. A Red-breasted Nuthatch was on Port Royal G.C. 17 Oct (AD, PW). A Lark Sparrow, the first record for Bermuda, was found on the Talbot Estate, Southampton 19 Sep (EA). Two Blue Grosbeaks wintered for the first time in Bermuda (89/90).

Observers: Eric Amos, Stacey Amos, Andrew Dobson, Paul Watson, David Wingate.

David Wingate

From the late 1950s through the '70s, I conducted extensive searches for fossil bird bones in Bermuda's caves, and other sites, with the goal of describing Bermuda's pre-colonial avifauna in greater detail. While most of the bones were found as loose deposits of recent (Holocene) origin on the floors of caves and represented species like the Cahow, Audubon's Shearwater and small owl, which were reported by the first settlers, a few older deposits exposed by blasting in the government quarry in 1960, hinted at a much more diverse avifauna in the early Pleistocene, including a flightless crane, a flightless duck and several species of marsh birds in the rail family.

Of particular interest in the government quarry was a beach rock deposit extending to seventy feet above present day sea-level. A similar aged beach rock on the Castle Harbour Islands contained the bones of adult and nestling short-tailed albatross, confirming that the species once nested in Bermuda, even though albatrosses were not previously known in the North Atlantic later than the Pliocene.

Concurrent geological research on the age of Bermuda's carbonate rocks and their deposition in relation to the sea-level fluctuations of the Ice Age (which is being carried out by Hearty, Vacher, Pascal and other geologists worldwide), has revealed that this high sea stand occurred at the end of the interglacial period known in Bermuda as the 'Upper Town Hill Formation'. The recent get-together of Storrs Olson, from the Smithsonian (who is describing the pre-colonial avifauna in collaboration with me), and geologist Paul T. Hearty, who has been documenting evidence for the same seventy-foot high inter-glacial sea stand in the Bahamas, brings our work to the final stage of correlating the geology with the different ages of the bird bone deposits. Sophisticated dating techniques now confirm that the
high sea stand occurred 400,000 years ago, plus or minus 30,000. It is our conclusion that this drowning of most of Bermuda at that time was the main cause of extinction for the more diverse early Pleistocene avifauna.

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Photos courtesy of Andrew Dobson, Paul Watson, Chris Burville, Ras Mykkal, Jennifer Gray, Rosalind Wingate, Rick Slaughter and others.

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