Saturday, March 27, 2010

Photos from Sheree in Bound Brook, NJ.

Mommy and her baby were on the rail to my neighbor’s porch. Little one looks hungry!
 

Canada Goose at dusk in the Great Swamp, Basking Ridge, NJ
 

I was just wondering if you knew what kind of bird made this nest.
  

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Grenada: Mangrove Cuckoo


Mangrove Cuckoo
Our favorite addition to our birding life lists in Grenada was the Mangrove Cuckoo. One flew over to the tree in front of our cottage the first morning. We didn't see it frequently afterward but enjoyed the ten minutes it visited.

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Grenada: Eared Dove (juvenile)

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Grenada: Yellow Crowned Night Heron

Yellow Crowned Night Heron

A Yellow Crowned Night Heron arrived shortly after sunset every evening in Grenada and walked along the beach catching fish and crabs. If anyone strolled by taking an evening walk, he'd screech loudly and fly to the roof of our cottage. While usually this happened early in the evening, one night he woke us screeching and landing with a loud thud. We took this photo early one morning before he flew off for the day.

Now that we are back in NJ, we are awaiting the return of our black-crowned night herons. Last year we saw our first one in the last week of March so we are hoping to see it return soon.

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Grenada: Smooth-Billed Ani

We spent most of our time in Grenada by the beach looking at the turquoise sea and listening to the waves. One afternoon, Mike saw a group of unusual birds with large bills in a tree on the hill far above our cottage. He recognized them as Anis from our bird books. We decided that the next afternoon, we'd walk up the road to get a closer view.

Just as we were about to leave the next afternoon, a group of Smooth-Billed Anis flew down to our cottage. That was very nice of them, and we got to hear the funny little noise they make too.
Grenada: Smooth-Billed Ani

The Anis hunted in a group among the Bougainvillea shrubs for geckos. We saw one make a successful catch and move to the ground under a tree to enjoy lunch. We offered to get him a rum punch to go with it, but he declined.
Grenada: Smooth-Billed Ani
Grenada: Smooth-Billed Ani


We learned that the Smooth-billed Ani lives in small groups of one to five breeding pairs and all group members incubate the eggs and care for the young. One member of a Smooth-billed Ani group often sits on a high perch and watches for danger while the rest forage. We witnessed this behavior before we did the research, and Chris was sort of speculating that one seemed like the "leader." For such an awkward looking bird, we were very surprised and impressed at their ability to quickly dive into the shrubs and nab one of those fast moving geckos.

Grenada: Smooth-Billed Ani

The Ani looked particularly awkward when its tail and wings blew around a bit in the wind.
Grenada: Smooth-Billed AniGrenada: Smooth-Billed Ani

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We really like this Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren 

Carolina Wren 

The nest building continues and we've seen the female inspecting it.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Carolina Wren Building A Nest

House Wren Building A Nest

House Wren Building A Nest

We had a few spring visitors to the yard this week, including a gold-crowned kinglet, a red-winged blackbird and two Carolina wrens. We can hear the wrens loud and clear every morning. The male Carolina wren is building several nests in hopes of impressing the female. One spot he chose is a drawer in an outdoor sink above the garden hose. Mike put out the birdcam to photograph him as he builds the nest. Here are two of the better photos. We are really hopeful that the female likes this spot so that we get to watch the whole process. Last year we saw the male put many sticks into our duck house, but the nest was never finished and used. We are trying to keep things quiet out there for them so they don't get scared off, which means spring yard clean up will have to wait for a bit, and this seems like the perfect situation for that birdcam that Chris was semi-opposed to.

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Grenada: Yellow-bellied Elaenia

Yellow-bellied Elaenia

GYellow-bellied Elaenia

One morning we took a hike up the hill to the road that runs above the resort to get a closer look at who was hanging around in the trees up there. After all, you can only bird from a lounge chair for so long, and we figured even if we didn't see any different birds we would at least work off some of the extra calories we consumed in the form of those delicious rum punches. We love the birds with the fancy crests, so we were glad to see this little one and tracked it for a while hoping Mike would get some good shots of it. It was eventually very cooperative and settled into some unobstructed poses high in the trees.

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Bananaquits of Grenada

Bananaquit

After Barbados we spent a week in Grenada. There were quite a few birds near our cottage. The most common is the bananaquit. As we discovered, in southern Grenada, the all black morph is fairly common as well as the more widespread yellow and black bananaquit.

Bananaquit (Black Morph)


Two Bananaquits

This bottom photo shows a typical yellow and a black morph in what we nicknamed the "negotiation bush." When they weren't drinking from the flowers of the White Trumpet Tree, they were often seen in this little bush by our porch doing elaborate dances and maneuvers for or at each other and squealing up a storm. We never did conclude whether it was mating or territorial behavior, hence the nickname negotiation bush. Some of the local people told us they call them "see-see" birds because their little squeal of a song sounds like they're saying see, see.

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Grenada: A Pair of Tropical Mockingbirds

Tropical Mockingbirds

Tropical Mockingbirds

What lovely songsters these mockingbirds were! We heard them from first thing in the morning through to the evening when they would all roost in the White Trumpet Tree in front of our cottage. Their singing is beautiful compared to the shrill little noise the Bananaquits make, and sometimes it seemed like they were purposely trying to outsing them. While not the most colorful of birds, we truly enjoyed the music they made for us.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

A brief visit to Barbados

Due to a change in airline routes, our nonstop flight to our Caribbean vacation required us to switch planes in Barbados. We decided to leave two days earlier and spend some time in Barbados. Our planned vacation was on a beach, so in Barbados we decided to stay in the hillside. After a bit of research, we decided on Lush Life Nature Resort: "a unique nature retreat cradled in the unspoiled hills of the Barbadian countryside. Along with the most inviting views on the island, our secluded eco-escape offers peaceful, cottage-style accommodation and a Zagat rated Caribbean restaurant."


The main building at Lush Life is the Naniki Restaurant: "From its hillside perch Naniki boasts a stunning view of rolling hills, countryside villages and the sparkling Atlantic Ocean. But this is just the beginning. Serving delicious, authentic cuisine from Barbados and neighbouring islands Naniki provides a truly Caribbean experience. Try grilled seafood, poultry or pork served with local favourites like yam, breadfruit and sweet potato."

Lush Life and its owner, Tom Hinds, far exceeded our expectations. The food and hospitality were excellent. There were a few surprises-- all pleasant. We didn't really go for the birds, but there were a reasonable number of the Caribbean varieties. Tom told us that a pipirit "owned" a rock on the property and indeed it did. The pipirit, the local name for the grey kingbird, spent much of the day on one rock or nearby and chased off other birds that came near.


Pipirit or Grey Kingbird



Bananaquit

DSC08554
Female Lesser Antillean Bullfinch

The biggest surprise were the African Green Monkeys that came out every dawn and dusk.
African Green Monkey from Barbados
African Green Monkey from Barbados

While we wouldn't go to Lushlife with the sole purpose of birding, the monkeys alone were worth the trip. The food was great with fresh fish or jerk pork for dinner and saltfish for breakfast. The "coconut bakes" were incredible, and the rum punches were the best we've ever had. There also is an anthurium flower farm on the property.

We also discovered that the owner is a jazz aficionado who has been to some of the clubs in New York that we visit occasionally. Our only regret is that we weren't able to stay for the jazz brunch they host every Sunday. We hope to return next year.

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Bird Watching Caribbean Style

 
We took a trip to a Caribbean island. We didn't plan specifically on bird watching, but some birds found us. It looks like it  will be a nice spring day in New Jersey today so we'll wait a while to post details and bird identifications. Can you name any birds or guess which island we were on from the birds?

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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