The 119th CBC in the West Indies - Bermuda

The Antillean region has steadily added new CBC circles and participation in recent years. Cuba has led the way with great enthusiasm bringing young people to the ranks. Puerto Rico has also provided increased participation throughout the island. There were 22 CBCs this season with a total of 454 participants, some of whom doubled-up with more than one count.  The count having the greatest number of participants was Arecibo, Puerto Rico, was 56 followed by San Juan at 51. The circle with the highest number of party-hours (176.6) was St. Croix, US Virgin Islands followed by Arecibo, PR at 85.33 p-h. The circle with most species, 124, recorded was Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico followed by Arecibo at 123.

In July 2018 Hurricane Beryl visited some of the islands in the Lesser Antilles affected by storms of the previous year, but only limped into the Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands as storm in July leaving habitat essentially untouched and recuperating from the devastation of the previous year.

Bermuda’s 17 participants recorded 95 species in 62.5 party-hours, and reported a far-ranging raptor, a Peregrine Falcon.  One of the more interesting surprises at Puerto Rico was a well a studied Bicknell’s Thrush at Arecibo. This thrush is famously know for wintering at high elevation in Hispaniola. Finding them1. this far east at lower elevations may suggest something other than a miscalculation in migration. Other notable finds in the region include 19 West Indian Whistling-Ducks at Cayo Coco, Cuba and 48 at Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. Ruddy Duck is now well established in the Virgin Islands particularly St. John (48). Another species seeing an increase on St. John is Brown-throated Parakeet (10). Bermuda had another remarkable visitor, a Red Crossbill. San Juan participants recorded an infrequent vagrant, a Double-crested Cormorant.

Gulls in general are quite opportunistic in feeding choices, but in winter they seem to me to almost deliberate in the choice of habitat—ports. Cruise ships make calls at each of these island locations during winter where gulls gather and find various types of refuse or offal. There was time when Lesser Black-backed Gull was rare in the Region, but this season their presence was equal to Ring-billed Gull (Table 1), a more or less regular winter visitor.

Table 1. Comparative distribution (north to south, west to east) of gull species at Bermuda and Greater Antilles during winter 2018-19.

Gull sp.*

Bermuda

Bahamas

Cuba

Haiti

Dominican

Republic

Puerto Rico

Virgin Islands

Total

 

1 CBC

6 CBCs

4 CBCs

1 CBC

3 CBCs

4 CBCs

5 CBCs

 

LAGU

cw**

1127

9

7

20

1

 

1164

RBGU

24

127

 

 

 

1

1

153

HEGU

37

5

2

 

 

1

1

45

LBBG

73

76

 

1

1

3

 

154

GBBG

6

3

 

 

1

 

 

10

Total

140

1338

11

8

22

6

2

 

*Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Greater Black-backed Gull.
** count week

  1. Fall 2018 reports of two Bicknell’s Thrush were received, North Amer. Birds, with careful details of behavior and responses to call-back.

In conclusion, the popularity of birding or annual participation in the community science effort such as the Christmas Bird Count bodes well for monitoring resident and migratory bird populations at a critical time in their life cycles, and more formidably in their survival. Habitats everywhere are under siege from natural and human induced catastrophes.

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