West Indies & Bermuda: Spring 2023

Spring 2023: 1 Mar–31 May

Andrew Dobson (Greater Antilles and Bermuda)

Anthony Levesque (Lesser Antilles)

Recommended citation:

Dobson, A. & A. Levesque. 2023. Spring 2023: West Indies & Bermuda. https://wp.me/p8iY2g-fNe> North American Birds.

Island ‘firsts’ included Upland Sandpiper and Yellow-headed Caracara for Jamaica; Curlew Sandpiper in the Dominican Republic; Little Ringed Plover and Short-eared Owl in Guadeloupe; and Common Pochard for Saint Martin (French part). The plover and pochard provided the region with only its second records. An Osprey photographed in Barbados was found to have arrived from Scotland. South Polar Skuas passed Bermuda in record numbers. A Cedar Waxwing made an unexpected appearance in Guadeloupe.

Waterfowl to Shorebirds

A female Garganey was present at Saint Lucy, Barbados 20 Mar–16 Apr (Julian Moore). Unusual ducks at Laguna Puerto Diablo, Vieques, Puerto Rico included 15 Northern Shovelers, two pairs of American Wigeon, and two Ruddy Ducks 4 Mar (Daphne Gemmill, Mike Barandiaran). A male Common Pochard photographed at Etang Baie Lucas, Saint Martin 912 Apr provided a first island record and only the second for the Caribbean (Kevin Sammy)—the first record for the West Indies was at Walkers Reserve, Barbados 8 Feb 2011. The long-staying American Flamingo at Laguna Playa Grande, Vieques, Puerto Rico was last seen 12 Apr (Tod Winston). On Vieques, Puerto Rico, the Least Grebe population at the freshwater pond off Rt. 997 4.7 km has grown from a pair (Apr 2021) to 8 birds on 6 Mar (Daphne Gemmill). A Horned Grebe was in St. Georges Harbour, Bermuda 1417 Mar (Jill Raine).

A Pacific Golden-Plover was seen in Saint Philip, Barbados 22 Apr (John Webster). Having first bred in Bermuda in 2021, Killdeers bred again this year with two chicks seen at the Airport Pond 10 Apr (Eva Bottelli). A Little Ringed Plover, the first for Guadeloupe, was photographed at Gaschet Reservoir 1517 Apr (Sandy Sébastien, Joevin Marquèes)—the only other record for the West Indies was a bird photographed at Plage du Bourg, Martinique 17 Apr 2005. An Upland Sandpiper, rarely seen in Jamaica and probably much overlooked, was discovered at Portland Cottage 27 Mar (John Pegden, Dan Pointon). Upland Sandpipers were spotted in Cayman Brac inside the airport field where observers are conducting a 1-year airport wildlife survey. Single birds were present 3 Apr1 May with 3 birds together 18 Apr—these are the first for Cayman Brac and a high count for the Cayman Islands (Nicole Martin, Nick Ebanks). Rare in Cuba, A Marbled Godwit was seen at Cayo Guillermo, Ciego de Ávila 13 Mar (Alejandro Llanes). A Ruff present on ephemeral wetland by the radio tower, Vieques, Puerto Rico since 30 Nov 2022 finally departed 1 Mar (Daphne Gemmill). Photographs were not only obtained of the first Curlew Sandpiper for the Dominican Republic at the Salinas, Peravia 21 May, but also the second record of Ruff (James & Peter Kennerly)—the first record having been discovered at a nearby location on 8 Feb (Neil Hayward)—perhaps the same individual. A Curlew Sandpiper was discovered at Congo Road Private Impoundment, Saint Philip, Barbados 29–31 May (John Webster)—the first to appear on the island for over 20 years. There were several Spring records of White-rumped Sandpiper, including one at St. John Grenada 28 Apr (Eddie Massiah), and one or two birds at Petite Terre, Guadeloupe 2 and 11 May (Anthony Levesque). A Wilson’s Phalarope was on Old Harbour Bay Mud Flats, Jamaica 13 Mar (Ann Sutton, Mark Easterbrook).

Skuas to Spoonbills

It was a record season for sightings of South Polar Skuas passed the island, with at least 16 individual birds. Two of the birds were seen offshore, south of Bermuda 14 May (Miguel Mejias), with the remaining birds being seen from Cooper’s Point. Seabird passage along the south shore of Bermuda peaks in mid-May and with favourable onshore winds at Cooper’s Point, Bermuda, 21 May, a 4hr 20 min seawatch produced an extraordinary seven South Polar Skuas (Paul Watson). The supporting cast included three jaeger species, Pomarine (8), Arctic (1), Long-tailed (17); Wilson’s Storm-Petrel (4), four species of shearwater, Cory’s (37), Great (4), Sooty (621), Manx (10) and a Masked Booby.

A Franklin’s Gull was seen at Patricks Island Roost and Dykes, George Town, Cayman Islands 25 May (Peter Davey). An Iceland Gull was photographed on the Airport Pond, remaining in St. Georges, Bermuda 5–19 Mar (Eva Bottelli). The first record of Brown Noddy for Vieques, Puerto Rico was documented when a flock of 16 flew by the end of Mosquito Pier 26 May (Daphne Gemmill, Cesar Montero). Four rare Sooty Terns were also seen off the end of Mosquito Pier, Vieques, Puerto Rico 30 May (Daphne Gemmill). 144 Least Terns, many on nests with young, were counted at Laguna Playa Grande, Vieques, Puerto Rico 4 May (Erick Bermúdez). A Gull-billed Tern was noted at Reserva Natural de Huumacao, Puerto Rico 27 May (Nichole Bushue). The first Arctic Terns of the season in Guadeloupe were seen at Pointe des Châteaux 10 May (Franzt Delcroix, Romain Demarly), and over Petite Terre 11 May (Anthony Levesque).

Several observers saw and photographed White-tailed Tropicbirds off Puerto Ferro Lighthouse, Vieques, Puerto Rico with a high count of 14 on 6 May (John Martin). One Trindade Petrel made a close pass during a seawatch at Pointe des Châteaux, Guadeloupe 21 May (Anthony Levesque, Romain Demarly, Gabriel Naudet). Spring shearwater passage passed Pointe des Châteaux, Guadeloupe saw 1014 Manx Shearwaters in 2 hours 26 Mar (Gabriel Naudet) and the first Great Shearwater of the season 27 May (Frantz Delcroix, Romain Demarly, Gabriel Naudet). The highlight of a pelagic trip off Cooper’s Point, Bermuda, was a Masked Booby 22 Apr (Michael Hayward et al.). A Brown Booby was seen offshore, south of Bermuda 12 May (Miguel Mejias). Having only previously recorded single sightings of Brown Pelican in Bermuda, the arrival of three together at Shelly Bay, Bermuda 511 May was totally unexpected (LeShun Smith). A Grey Heron was at Bawden irrigation ponds, Saint Andrew, Barbados 22 Mar13 May (Michael St. John). Rare in the Cayman Islands, single Roseate Spoonbills were seen from the Booby Pond, Little Cayman 10 Mar (Sheenagh Mills) and at The Marshes, Cayman Brac 1415 Apr (Lauren Dombowski).

Osprey to Warblers

An Osprey photographed with the leg band KW0 at Bawdens Irrigation Pond, Saint Andrew, Barbados 9 Mar (Michael St. John) created an exciting search as to where it had been banded. It was tracked down to one of two chicks ringed on 23 Jun 2022 at a nest at Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park in Renfrewshire, central western Scotland. The two chicks fledged around 29 Jul. The Osprey was first observed six miles away at Fosters private wetland on 25 Oct 2022 but on that occasion, Mr St John had not been able to read the ring. This provided evidence of the first known Osprey to cross the Atlantic! A Swallow-tailed Kite surprised two observers as it flew over Paget, Bermuda 5 Mar (David Wingate, Joanne Smith).

A Hairy Woodpecker photographed in Paget, Bermuda 3–4 Mar was perhaps the same individual seen in Bermuda’s Botanic Gardens 21–22 Dec (Herb Marshall). Guadeloupe’s first record of Short-eared Owl was found in poor condition at Pointe des Châteaux 10 Aprit was fed with rats and released 14 Apr (Océane Chastanet, Aymeric Gallet et Camille Fauxinstier). An adult Yellow-headed Caracara was found and photographed at Grand Excelsior Port Royal Hotel, Jamaica 24 Mar—a first record for Jamaica and only the third record for the region following two in Grenada in 2020 and 2021 (Emily Hjalmarson, Brett Roberts). A pair of nesting Monk Parakeets were seen at Isabel Segunda, Vieques, Puerto Rico 2 Mar (Daphne Gemmill). A Cedar Waxwing was an extraordinary discovery, photographed on the forest edge at Petit-Bourg Guadeloupe 19 Mar (Mélodie Caussat, Guillaume Henniong)the second record for Guadeloupe and the Lesser Antilles.

Palm Tanagers are now established in Grenada and two birds were banded at Belmont Estate 2 and 15 Mar (Kenrith Carter, Kate Charles). Rare on Vieques, Puerto Rico, a Baltimore Oriole was seen in Monte Santo 9 May (Cesar Montero); while another was seen at Petite Terre, Guadeloupe 5 May (Eric Delcroix). A Nashville Warbler was a good find along Canaan Land Road, Grand Cayman 422 Mar (Matt Southgate). Rare on Vieques, Puerto Rico in spring, a Magnolia Warbler was noted at the Navy HQ Quebrada 3 Mar (Daphne Gemmill). A Bay-breasted Warbler was photographed at Calle El Conde, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic 21 Apr (Anne Heyerly). Both rare in the spring in the Bahamas, a Blackburnian Warbler was photographed in the Garden of The Groves, Freeport, Grand Bahama 15 May (Bridget Davis), and a Chestnut-sided Warbler was photographed at Ocean Cay, Bimini 16 May (JoAnn Girard). Unusual in Cuba, two Wilson’s Warblers were photographed at Aguacate, Cienfuegos 14 Mar (Ángel Arias).

Report processed by Andrew Keaveney, 20 Aug 2023.

Photos–West Indies & Bermuda: Spring 2023

An Osprey bearing a leg band ‘KW0’ was photographed on 9 March 2023 at Bawdens Irrigation Pond, Saint Andrew, Barbados. It was ringed on 23 June 2022 at a nest in Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park, Scotland—the first known evidence of an Osprey crossing the Atlantic. Photo © Michael St. John.

A Yellow-headed Caracara photographed at Port Royal, Jamaica on 24 March 2023 was an outstanding find. Not only a first for the country but only the third record for the reporting area after two records in Grenada. Photo © Emily Hjalmarson.

When James Kennerley discovered and photographed a Curlew Sandpiper at the Salinas, Peravia on 21 May 2023, he was thrilled to discover it was the first record for the Dominican Republic. Photo © James Kennerley.

Amongst the flock of shorebirds observed at the Salinas, Peravia on 21 May 2023 that included a Curlew Sandpiper, another Eurasian species was discovered—a Ruff—only the second record for the Dominican Republic. Photo © James Kennerley.

Three Brown Pelicans were present at Shelly Bay, Bermuda from 5–11 May 2023. Previously, only single birds had ever been seen in Bermuda. Photographed here on 8 May. Photo © Eva Bottelli.

A record year for sightings of South Polar Skuas in Bermuda, with at least 16 individual birds. Two of these birds were seen offshore, south of Bermuda on 14 May with the remaining sightings made from Cooper’s Point from 19–31 May 2023. Photographed here on 14 May, south of Bermuda. Photo © Miguel Mejias.

One of three Upland Sandpipers seen at Cayman Brac Airport on 18 Apr 2023. This was a record count for the Cayman Islands. Photo © Nicole Martin.

A Little Ringed Plover, the first for Guadeloupe and only the second for the West Indies, was at Gaschet Reservoir 15–17 Apr 2023. Photographed here on 16 Apr. Photo © Frantz Delcroix.

A Cedar Waxwing made an unexpected appearance on the forest edge at Petit-Bourg, Guadeloupe 19 Mar 2023. It provided the island with only its second record. Photo © Mélodie Caussat.

Rare in the Cayman Islands, a Roseate Spoonbill at The Marshes on Cayman Brac 14–15 Apr 2023 provided a good photo opportunity. Photographed here on 15 Apr. Photo © Nick Ebanks.

A Short-eared Owl was found in poor condition at Pointe des Châteaux on 10 Apr 2023. It was fed with rats and released from Barrage de Gaschet on 14 Apr. This was the first record for Guadeloupe, photographed here on 14 Apr. Photo © Frantz Delcroix.