On-board Diary: Among Anoles, Cardinals and Great Kaskadees. Sunday, May 8th, 2005

Author: Paloma Larena
Date: May 8, 2005



Yesterday night, the wind and rain hit the Ranger’s deck area again. Nuño commented that the wind speed was at least 30 knots and it is expected to blow with the same intensity today. “Naturally, today we cannot dive either, but it is a sunny day, so we can explore some nature parks on the coast. The best thing for us is to take advantage of daylight, before the weather makes things worse than they are…”Ricardo makes the decision to go to Spittal Pond natural reserve, a bird’s nature sanctuary that our naturalist cook José Peñalver cannot miss. The captain gives him a day off and Indi gets ready to go.

Spittal Pond

As we did in Bahamas, the Oceana Ranger crew gets immersed in the world of birds, whose song could be heard throughout Spittal Pond. That is the name that Bermuda residents give to coastal ponds separated from the sea by a strip of volcanic rock that reveal the origins of the island. In some parts, this separation barely reaches 100 meters wide. In that place, we documented a rather strange mix of tropical and European fauna, since Bermuda is in the middle of nowhere. We confirmed this when we sat on a small cliff. On one side, tropicbirds (Phaeton lepturus) fly over the coral reef, while on the other, glossary ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) and Moorhens searched for food in the interior ponds. A multitude of great kiskadees can also be seen (an invasive species) cardinals, even goldfinches, and ouzels and blackbirds, the latter species, was introduced from Europe.

Anolis grahami

The Oceana team I am accompanying is formed by Ricardo, Mar and Indi. We discovered anoles (Anolis grahami), moving among the branches of a tree. We have in front of us, one of the three reptile species found in Bermuda. Their aspect is similar to a lizard, but larger; it poses for our camera, with apparent ease. Once in a while, its throat swelled up, displaying a striking orange color, hidden from our sight until then. We were enthralled, contemplating the spectacle. “They do that to mark their territory and also to attract the females” whispered one of the experts. At that point, the reptile abruptly jumped, to expel another, smaller reptile, off his territory. Excited- or scared- the assaulted party changed color, assuming a bright greenish tone, and quickly abandoned the area, taking refuge on the tree trunk.

Gallinula chloropus

 

We were also very lucky to see a Great Blue Heron (Ardea Herodias) not far from where a Glossary Ibis (Plegadis flacinellus) was introducing its beak in the mud. But what attracted our attention significantly is the bright color of cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis), with its intense red, a prominent tuft, and black face. The Great Kiskadees (Pitangus sulphuratus) display an intense sulfur yellow around its breast area, and their graceful black and white striped hoods are visible everywhere. This is an invading species, introduced in the 1950’s from Trinidad, to control the reptilian population that was in turn, exterminating beetle species. But as it happens at times, instead of solving a problem, the Great Kiskadees have become a bona fide plague.

Spittal Pond

We also sighted Moorhens (Gallinula chlorophus). Mar enjoyed filming one of them who took time for a bath. When it came out to dry on some branches, we observed their feet, with very long toes, which they use to walk over lacustrine vegetation. A little later, while Mar and Ricardo contemplated the small cliff, Indi came to tell us, excited, that he saw a pair of small Common Ground-doves (Columbina passerine). “The first time I saw them was in Cuba. It is interesting because this is the smallest species of dove in the world, just a little bigger than a sparrow. The second part of its scientific name, passerine, comes from “passer” which would translate into something like “little dove bird”.

 We are back in the Ranger now. We left behind a beach where we observed a group of Turnstones (Arenaria interpres). This is an arenaria species. “There is no competition for resources among arenaria species within a same area; this is in relation to the length of their beaks. Depending on whether theirs is a long or shorter beak, they are able to access different types of invertebrates living in in the mud”, explains Indi.

 Also flying around, we saw a Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea). This species went extinct in the island and was reintroduced in the 1970’s to control land crab populations.