The 2017 hurricane season had 17 named storms. Particularly devastating was hurricane Irma, (180 mph), the second longest duration in Category 5, which ripped through the northern Lesser Antilles obliterating Barbuda (6 Sep) before moving to the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas.All Barbudans were evacuated per government mandate, but the natural systems were left to their own survival devices; and it was feared that all birds, including the endemic Barbuda Warbler, had been blown away after a hellish winds.
Not ten days later, another catastrophic level 5 hurricane would devastate Dominica, Lesser Antilles, and sweep into the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico exacerbating already denuded ecosystems. Recorded as the worst natural disaster in the region from 16 September to 2 October, hurricane Maria, CAT 5; 175 mph, ravaged Dominica, Virgin Islands and devastated Puerto Rico before hitting Dominican Republic, Haiti, Turks and Caicos, and the Bahamas. One young BVIslander was heard to say after emerging from the fractured shell of his home, “I don’t know where I am”.
Bermuda highlights included the first photographic record of Western Tanager, Bermuda’s third Black-capped Petrel, a Rusty Blackbird and an exceptional fallout of Eastern Wood-Pewees. The Lesser Antilles experienced a big fall-out of Blackpoll Warblers and also had a West Indies record of Lined Seedeater at Guadeloupe, and islands records of Ringed Kingfisher and a second record of Eurasian Spoonbill at Barbados.
A Special Account (S.A.) is provided on birds seen at rarely visited San Andres y Providenciales, (Colombia). They occupy a small but exceptionally biodiverse area in the southwestern Caribbean Sea, and anchors that southwest corner of Bond’s Line, meaning they are occupied by West Indian fauna. Its longitudinal alignment with western Cuba may explain their common avian migrant history.
Fig. 1. Tracks of named tropical cyclones of 2017. Courtesy Cyclonebiskit.
Fig. 2 Before and after satellite images of Barbuda showing loss of vegetation. Credit NWS
Nathan Beccue, Geoff Bell, Elwood Bracey Martha Cartwright, Peter Davey, Sergio Luis del Castillo, Frantz Delcroix Duzont, Frantz & Eric Delcroix, Andrew Dobson, Fiona Dobson, Ernesto Ebanks, Ian Fisher, Bob Flood, Peter Flood, Erika Gates, Jeff Gerbracht (JGe), Jay Gilliam, Erich Hetzel, Linda Huber, Christopher Johnson and Marsha Johnson, Averill Jones, Delores Kellman, Anthony Levesque, Tarra Lindo Jeremy Madeiros, Eddie Massiah, Julian Moore, Julian and Jason Moore (J&JM), Neal Morris, Duncan Mullis, Bruce Purdy, Kate Sutherland, Cherie Swaby, Kate Swaby (KSw), Denny Swaby, Pat Warke (PWa), Paul Watson, John Webster, Tim White, David Wingate, Kevin Winter.
Waterfowl through Terns
A Brant and immature Common Merganser were both discovered on Port Royal GC., Bermuda 17-25 Nov (AD). A Cinnamon Teal at Maillis Farms, New Providence, Bahamas caused a stir among birders at New Providence, Bahamas 21 Oct (LH, CJ and MJ, ph.). A record 125 Cahow (Bermuda Petrel) nests were confirmed in Oct/Nov at the start of the Cahow breeding season (JM). A Black-capped Petrel was photographed 5 miles southwest of Bermuda 2 Nov (KW). Unusual in the fall, a Cory’s Shearwater was seen off St. David’s Head, Bermuda 13 Nov (DBW, TW). A Wilson’s Storm-Petrel was seen south of Cooper’s Point, Bermuda 16 Nov (PF, KS). A Magnificent Frigatebird was seen off Pompano, Bermuda 22 Sep (AJ). An adult Masked Booby was photographed off Cooper’s Point, Bermuda 17 Nov (JG) and 26 Nov (AD). An adult Brown Booby was photographed off Fort St. Catherine, Bermuda 19 Nov (KS).An adult White Ibis was at Spittal Pond, Bermuda 11-16 Sep (EH). The second record of Eurasian Spoonbill was found 30 Nov (J&JM) at St Andrew, Barbados.
A Black Vulture was at Pine Ridge Landfill, West End, Bahamas 10 Nov (DM, ph.), who commented “spotted in flight but then immediately settled on the top of the dump; 30 minutes later it went for a brief flight then landing back on the dump in 5 minutes later”.A Northern Harrier was noted 11 Nov (PD) at Meagre Bay Pond, North Side, Grand Cayman.Two American Golden-Plover were reported/ph 19-26 Sep (MC) at Freeport Pine Ridge Landfill, West Grand Bahama. A Piping Plover was at Cooper’s Is., Bermuda 8-15 Sep (FD).A Hudsonian Godwit was found 23 Oct (FDD, ph.) at Matthew Town, Inagua. Another Hudsonian Godwit was reported 12 Oct (EE, DS, ph.) at Safehaven, West Bay, Grand Cayman. Two Long-billed Dowitcher were studied 15 Oct at Barbuda (AL, F&ED, JGe); and another 14 Sep at St Philipp, Barbados (JW). A Ruff was at Jubilee Road 28 Oct-2 Nov (IF,PW), Bermuda. A Baird’s Sandpiper was at Clearwater, Bermuda 28 Aug-2 Sep (PW).
A rare fall sighting of Long-tailed Jaeger 7 Sep was photographed at Pointe des Châteaux, Guadeloupe (AL). A probable Sabine’s Gull was seen during a pelagic trip about 2 miles off St. David’s Head, Bermuda 15 Nov (BF). A Black-headed Gull was present at various Bermuda locations 11-23 Nov (AD). The first Black Tern reported for the season in the Cayman Islands 25 Aug- 1 Oct (KSw, DS, ph.) at Pease Bay Marl Pit, North Side, Grand Cayman and another Black Tern, probably a straggler, was seen 11 Nov (PD) at Meagre Bay Pond, North Side. A Black Tern was found 22 Sep (BP, MC) at Reef Golf Course – Freeport, West Grand Bahama for one the few reports in that region.A Common Tern was reported 11 Nov (PD) at Meagre Bay Pond, North Side, Grand Cayman. A pair of Forster’s Tern lingered 12 Oct- 13 Nov (NB, PD) at Meagre Bay Pond, Pad, North Side, Grand Cayman.
Owls through Flycatchers
Short-eared Owls were seen at Grand Cayman 18 Oct (PD, CS) at Patrick’s at Island Lake, George Town and 15 Nov at the Baptist church, Pedro Castle Road, Bodden Town, “where it was seen at this location in March 2017.”The first seasonal report of Common Nighthawk was 29 Aug (EG) at Reef Golf Course, Freeport, West Grand Bahama “was based upon 5 minute close observation circling one area, seemed larger than Antillean”.Common Nighthawks passed through the Cayman Islands from 13 Sep (PD) at Frank Sound Road, North Side, with a peak passage of 265 birds counted 2 Oct at High Rock Drive track, East End and lasting to 21 Nov. “With practice, the Common Nighthawk can be separated on the wing with great confidence. The longer primaries give a longer-winged look, more pointed, and at certain angles the wing-tips appear curved upwards. The bird is larger than the Antillean and usually pale gray below, unlike the Antillean, which usually appears in varying shades of blackish-tan below.”Antillean Nighthawks were first noticed on fall migration 13 Sep at Frank Sound Road, North Side, through 9 Oct at Savannah Grand, North Side, Grand Cayman (PD).
A Ruby-throated Hummingbird was seen at North Pond, Bermuda 21 Nov (DBW).A rare occurrence of Ringed Kingfisher 21 Sep – 9 Oct, lingered at Woodbourne Shorebird Reserve, Barbados for the first island record, (JM). A Northern Flicker was on Paget Is., Bermuda 14-15 Oct (AD, PW).An unusual finding of a Fish Crow reported 22 Oct (MC, FDD, DK and EG, ph.) at West End, Grand Bahama, included media “listen carefully to vocals to differentiate between American and Fish.” The West End Fish Crow remained there 9-27 Nov (DM), Grand Bahama.Over 30 Eastern Wood-Pewees were recorded at various locations 14 Oct-6 Nov for the highest fallout of this species recorded in Bermuda (AD). A rare sighting of Eastern Wood-Pewee 22 Sep (MC, BP, ph.) was at Reef Golf Course, Freeport, West Grand Bahama, seen “foraging for insects, noted yellow/orange lower mandible, notched tail and two wing-bars and yellow wash to lower belly. White chin. No noticeable eye-ring”. Two Eastern Kingbird were noted 29 Aug (EG, ph.) at Reef Golf Course, Freeport, West Grand Bahama. Perhaps a lingering Eastern Kingbird was seen later 22 Sep (PWa, EG, DK, and MC) at Reef Golf Course, Freeport, West Grand Bahama.
Warblers through Seedeater
Thirty-three species of wood warbler were recorded in Bermuda during the period, including a Canada Warbler at Ferry Point 16 Sep (PW) and single Swainson’s Warblers at Shelly Bay Marsh, 22 Oct (NM) and Paget Is. 14 Oct (PW). A Blackburnian Warbler seen AL 25 Oct at Gaschet reservoir, Guadeloupe was the 4th island record, (fide AL, ph.). Above average numbers of Bay-Breasted Warblers (25+) and Golden-winged Warblers (8) were reported from various Bermuda locations Sep 3-Nov 6 (AD, EH, DBW, PW).Two Kirtland’s Warblers were at 26 Oct at South Eleuthera, Bahamas (FDD, ph.). Fifteen Blackpoll Warblers 14 Oct dropped in at St Lucy, Barbados (J&JM) while 21 were counted at Pointe des Châteaux, Guadeloupe (FDD), and 235 were counted during 2 hours of active south migration at Deshaies, Guadeloupe (AL). A Wilson’s Warbler was ph 7 Sep (SLd C) at La lisa, arimao, La Habana, Cuba.Bermuda’s second record of Western Tanager was photographed at Ferry Point Park, Bermuda 26-29 Oct (IF, PW).A Lark Sparrow was photographed at Clearwater, Bermuda 29 Aug. A Swamp Sparrow was seen on St. Georges GC., Bermuda 5 Oct (PW). Single Clay-coloured Sparrows were seen at Riddell’s Bay GC., Bermuda 24-25 Oct (IF, PW) and Ferry Point, Bermuda 2-3 Nov (PW). A Clay-colored Sparrow was seen 30 Sep (EG, MC, ph.) at Garden of the Groves, Freeport, Grand Bahama. A Lincoln’s Sparrow was found 27 Oct (TL, ph.) at Lighthouse Pump Canal, Inagua, and another at ph 21 Nov (MC, DK, et al., ph.) at Taino Beach/St Georges Park, Freeport, Grand Bahama. A Clay-colored Sparrow was found 30 Nov (EB, ph.) at Old Citrus Farm, north, North Abaco, Bahamas. An adult White-crowned Sparrow was a good find at Ferry Point Park, Bermuda 6-7 Oct (PW).An American Goldfinch was noted 30 Sep (MC) at LIS Wetland & School Grounds, Freeport, Grand Bahama.A Brown-headed Cowbird was at ‘Garden of the Gates B&B’ 24 Oct (EG, ph.), Freeport, Grand Bahama. Six Bobolink 2 Oct (TL) were seen at St. Philips Community Center, Inagua.A Rusty Blackbird (only the second record since 1975) was on Mid-Ocean GC, Bermuda 14-21 Nov (GB). An outstanding find of a Lined Seedeater located 06-07 Sep at Pointe des Châteaux, Guadeloupe provided the first Caribbean occurrence (F&ED, ph AL).
Table 1. Fall 2017 excursion to Islas San Andres y Providencia (Levesque and Massiah).
29 Oct, 2 Nov
Acadian Flycatcher (1)
Cave Swallow (1)*
San Andres Vireo (90)**
28 Oct, 2-3 Nov
Mangrove Vireo (27)
31 Oct, 2 Nov
Gray-cheeked Thrush (16)
28- 31 Oct, 2-3 Nov
Gray-cheeked Thrush (2)
Swainson’s Thrush (60)
28-31 Oct, 2-3 Nov
Swainson’s Thrush (7)
Warblers (23 species)
28-31 Oct, 2 Nov
Lincoln’s Sparrow *** (1)
* First Colombian National Record
** Endemic to San Andres
*** Second Colombian National Record
Report processed by Byron Swift, 29 Dec 2020.
Photos–West Indies & Bermuda Fall 2017 Hover on each image to read the caption.