Arctic falcon almost sinks Port Royal birdie

  • Unusual visitor: an American woodcock seen last weekend during the annual Christmas Bird Count (Photograph by Erich Hetzel)

    Unusual visitor: an American woodcock seen last weekend during the annual Christmas Bird Count (Photograph by Erich Hetzel)

  • Nothing to fear: Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo junior staff member Rakeysha Robinson feeds a juvenile cattle egret a snack yesterday. Originally an Old World species, it colonised South America in the late 1800s and was first seen in North America in 1952 (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

    Nothing to fear: Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo junior staff member Rakeysha Robinson feeds a juvenile cattle egret a snack yesterday. Originally an Old World species, it colonised South America in the late 1800s and was first seen in North America in 1952 (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)


World famous birder David Wingate witnessed a dramatic falcon strike on a Canada goose on a golf course during the Audubon Society’s 44th Christmas Bird Count.

A society spokeswoman said the fierce — but unsuccessful — mid-air strike at the Port Royal Golf Course was one of the highlights of the society’s 44th count, in which more than 100 different species were spotted. More than 20 per cent were European starlings.

Dr Wingate, who was part of the 1951 expedition to find the cahow, made a career in protecting Bermuda’s wildlife.

Dr Wingate and another conservationist, Steve DeSilva, believe they saw a large and very rare gyrfalcon swooping down and striking a Canada goose at Port Royal Golf Course. The goose escaped, the spokeswoman reported.

The gyrfalcon is a fierce predator usually found on remote cliffs around and above the Arctic Circle in Canada and Alaska and Northern Europe.

The pair also recorded a number of birds of prey, an American kestrel, a sharp-shinned hawk, a merlin and a northern harrier, at the same time on a single hilltop.

One Devonshire resident even spotted a rare American woodcock on their property.

American woodcocks, known in some areas as timberdoodles, are small seabirds native to the eastern United States and Canada, but rarely seen in Bermuda.

The spokeswoman said: “This bird was seen feeding along the edges of a driveway in Devonshire and we were lucky enough to have the resident send us a photo to ask what type of bird it was.

“What a surprise to see that it was not a common bird, but instead a very infrequent and beautiful visitor.”

Birdwatchers at Spittal Pond recorded a marsh wren: a small North American songbird.

While the species has only been recorded in Bermuda once before, in 1996, this one has remained at the park for more than a month.

The spokeswoman said 6,066 birds representing 95 species were seen on December 29, the official day of the bird count.

Another 13 species were seen during the count week, including Bermuda’s indigenous cahow and the endangered piping plover.

The spokeswoman added: “Our total numbers were down from previous years but the variety of species has been in the same range.”

“The Christmas Bird Count is a great opportunity for people interested in birds to take part in citizen science. The National Audubon Society collects all of the data and scientists use it to help assess the status of many bird species over time.”

The spokeswoman said those interested in helping can sign up on www.ebird.org to report their sightings — and if they are not sure about what bird they have seen, they can message info@audubon.bm with a photograph of the bird if possible.

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Published Jan 7, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 7, 2019 at 7:49 am)

Arctic falcon almost sinks Port Royal birdie

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