Carolyn Wardle of Bahamas Outdoors came to take Robin and me on a half-day birding tour of the southeast corner of Nassau Island.
Since morning light was still a half-hour away I decided to put the Better Beamer and Nikon SB-800 on the Nikon D300 and Sigma 400mm f/5.6 system I'd carry today. I set the camera to ISO 400, Aperture-Priority, -1.0 Exposure Compensation, and Continuous Shooting. The flash was set to iTTL/FP with -1.0 exposure compensation.
quietly perched and allowed a few pics before it flew off. Overhead a Merlin flew by the yard but would not stop, while a Bananaquit foraged in the hedge a few feet away.
A Stone's Throw Away B&B goes under the deck overlooking the west shore of the island, so I quietly crept along the fenceline and spotted a gorgeous male Cape May Warbler foraging in the branches. The flash allowed me to capture this early morning prize!
immature male Bahama Woodstar, the only hummingbird endemic to the Bahamas and the only hummingbird found in Nassau.
Carolyn arrived promptly at 8 and the three of us headed to a small wetland just a few blocks away. A couple dozen American Coot were swimming in the open water, but no Caribbean Coots. A single Greater Yellowlegs was quietly resting on a small sandbar, while a Neotropic Cormorant flew by. We would see a Green Heron before leaving.
perched in nearby shrubbery.
Focusing on the hummers was a challenge, but I managed to get some images that I was very happy with. It would take the male turning his head just the right amount to catch the purple-magenta irridescence in its gorget. Otherwise his throat would take on the typical 'purple-black' appearance.
chased away by a Bananaquit that also attempted to feed from the feeder port.
Bahama Woodstars were attempted before I headed to the seed feeders that were being occupied by a male and female Black-faced Grasquit. Several Common Ground Doves were foraging on dropped seed, while much larger Eurasian Collared Doves were fluttering in nearby trees. Just before leaving we had nice looks at a Green Heron that Carolyn said was typically found with a Yellow-crowned Night Heron that hung around (except today).
squabbling on a nearby lawn.
Prairie Warblers. Carolyn found a Northern Waterthrush but it refused to show itself for any photo opps. Across the street another Black-faced Grasquit perched momentarily before flying off.
dozens of White-cheeked Pintails. As we drove in Carolyn pointed to three Fulvous Whistling Ducks resting on a small mud spit. The all-black wings tipped with white feathers helped differentiate them from the West Indian Whistling Ducks that have more spotted wings.
Digiscoping the now-retreating pintails was a bit of a challenge with two large heads propping up my arms while I attempted to focus and shoot. Still, I managed to capture some memorable images of these lovely, local birds. Several Blue-winged Teal were swimming among them, but I tended to concentrate my efforts on the brighter-colored ducks.
flying out from a nearby branch. I wandered over and was able to get some nice images of the small flycatcher. Note the 'eye-crescents' that give the Cuban (also called Crescent-eyed) Pewee its name. A lovely male American Redstart was nearby and stayed long enough for a quick photo. Other notable birds in the area were Common Moorhens, Neotropic Cormorants, Emperor Goose and Muscovy Duck (both introduced), and a Belted Kingfisher.
Our last stop of the tour was a nearby golf course. We would park on a side road and hike through a wooded trail to get to the little-used links course, where we hoped to find Caribbean Coot among other ducks.
landed in a dead tree close enough to digiscope. So I turned the scope on the perched bird and proceeded to get some images from about 150'. Note the lack of spotting on the breast, and overall 'pale' look to the male bird. They are significantly lighter in appearance and less boldly-marked than birds found here in the States.
Caribbean Coot among several American Coot. Note the all-white face shield with the bright yellow patch high on the forehead. This is in contrast to the dark red spot found on American Coot.
digiscope the bird from about 100'. It was actively diving and visibly more active than the nearby American Coot, but in the end I managed some nice keepers. Trying to digiscope the black duck, white bill and yellow shield was extremely difficult, especially with sunlight almost directly overhead. I underexposed 2 full f-stops in order to avoid blowing out the whites on the bird's face.
Interestingly enough, there has been significant discussion concerning identification of 'apparent' Caribbean Coots sighted in the States. Prompted by recent sightings of a white-shielded coot in Washington State, references have been made to several articles addressing variations in American Coot. David Sibley even posted an article describing the challenge in separating a white-faced American Coot from a 'true' Caribbean Coot.
An Osprey flew in and soared near a pond farther back of the golf course. We watched as it soared and was soon joined by three obviously-annoyed American Kestrels that tried to chase it away.
We tried to look for a White-crowned Pigeon in the woods nearby, but couldn't positively ID one. Several large pigeons flew from the tops of the trees, but were too obscure for us to be sure. We saw a small flock of Northern Bobwhites fly past and near the trees. Mourning Doves and more Collared Doves were nearby. Though we looked we couldn't find a Red-legged Thrush.
a pair of Loggerhead Kingbirds. These large kingbirds are very similar to Eastern Kingbirds, but show a light yellow wash along their sides and undertail. I took numerous photos from just a few feet away w/ the D300, and enjoyed great views. I was then able to set the scope up and get digiscoped images of one cooperative bird from about 20' away. Beautiful birds!
Neotropic Cormorants, an adult and two white juvenile Little Blue Herons, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, a pair of Snowy Egrets, a pair of Killdeer, and several Blue-winged Teal. Common Ground Doves and Bananaquits rounded out the birds in this area.
Cape May, Prairie, Black-and-White, and Yellow-rumped Warblers were actively foraging. At one point Carolyn was watching a Yellow-throated Vireo while I (thought I) was looking at a Pine Warbler. She and I were looking at the same bird, and she was correct. Another Thick-billed Vireo made an appearance, and this time I was able to get a quick photo. I would then spot a Worm-eating Warbler, but it would disappear before I could get close enough to attempt a photo.
perched high in the trees above us. Its most notable feature was the way it cocks its head to one side while it looks for food.
It was now time to head back to town for lunch. We thanked Carolyn for a wonderful outing. And I'll use this space to recommend anyone wanting an insider's tour of the Bahamas Outdoors to contact Carolyn Wardle. We found her to be a delightful host, excellent birder, knowledgeable about the local flora and fauna, and a person with more energy than the two of us. Thank you, Carolyn!