With Bonaire’s tourism as yet on hold at the beginning of 2021, it was still up to the island’s local birders to find and record rare bird sightings. Hopefully, as tourism returns to the island, Bonaire’s visiting birders will begin to add to the rare bird sightings!
eBird and Observation reviewer, guest author Peter-Paul Schets provided a semi-annual summary of the rare bird sightings for the second half of 2020. Today, he speaks about the unusual sightings on Bonaire in the first six months of 2021.
Bonaire Rare bird sightings January through June 2021.
Unfortunately, the year 2021 started with strong COVID-measures still in force. This meant there were only a few visiting birders, so the locals had to find the birds. And they did once again!
Bird-wise, the year started sadly with the only two rare birds washed ashore and dying soon after being found.
The first one was a Cory’s Shearwater, which was found on January 12 and died the same day. This species was only recorded once before on Bonaire, in November 2017, and the fate of that one was equally sad, as it died soon after being delivered to Bonaire Wild Bird Rehab.
The other rare sea bird was a Red-billed Tropicbird, which was found on January 28 and died the next day. In the same period, two rare sea birds were found dead along the coast of Curaçao, namely a Manx’s Shearwater–the first for the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao)–and another Red-billed Tropicbird. This leaves one to wonder what was happening at sea; it is certainly worrying.
In the months of February and March, birding was slow and no rare birds were recorded.
The month of April meant migration time and chances to find great birds. And this happened!
Wintering birds such as the Sora (last record on April 4th), Merlin (April 14th), and Belted Kingfisher (April 18th) left to the north, whereas some great birds passed through the island and stayed for a while on Bonaire.
On April 4th, Susan Davis had a brief view of a Northern Parula at the birdbath in her own garden, and, on this very same day, Steve Schnoll found a Rose-breasted Grosbeak at Dos Pos. Both species are rather rare are on Bonaire, especially in spring.
On April 11th, a beautiful male Scarlet Tanager in bright red and black breeding plumage was found and photographed at Seru Largu by Ava Wuyts. What a great find for a young, 11-year-old birder!
Black-throated Green Warbler in summer plumage.
But no doubt, the best observation of all was the male Black-throated Green Warbler in summer plumage which was photographed by Jolande Gietman in her garden in Rincon on April 26th–a really stunning bird!
Wells (Birds of Aruba-Bonaire-Curacao, 2017) mentions five prior records of this species for Bonaire, four of these in spring (April and May). But so far it had never been photographed on Bonaire. So congratulations to Jolande!
Terns, boobies, and kingbirds, oh my!
In the last week of April, several more rare or scarce birds were recorded, such as a juvenile Sooty Tern by Steve (April 24th), one Masked Booby, and even six Red-footed Boobies by Sietse Nagelkerke (April 29th), and a Tropical Kingbird at Lac by Sietse (April 29th). Most likely the same individual kingbird was seen by Steve the next day at the same location.
The first ten days of May brought some great birds to Bonaire too, just in time for Global Big Day. On May 7th, Steve found two Brown-chested Martins (only the second record of this species for Bonaire after the first record occurred in June 2019) and a Bobolink in summer plumage at the pond near the entrance to Washington-Slagbaai National Park. We are accustomed to seeing large flocks of Bobolinks in October, all in non-breeding plumage, but in spring it is truly a rare one.
Unusual spring migrants include an American Golden Plover.
Only one day later Susan had a nice find with an American Golden Plover (rare in spring) and an anonymous birder spotted a female American Redstart at Dos Pos.
Also on May 8th, Sietse recorded the last Northern Waterthrush of this season, at Lac Cai.
The first six months finished nicely with a Black Tern, a Shiny Cowbird, and a Baltimore Oriole.
In the first week of June, three additional rarities were recorded.
Visiting birder Wim van Zwieten had a great find when he saw and photographed an immature Black tern at the Cargill saltworks on June 3rd. The last record of this species on Bonaire was in September 2012.
Only one day later Wim found a Shiny Cowbird at LVV, still a rare bird for Bonaire (unlike Curaçao and Aruba).
The last great bird of 2021’s first half was a male Baltimore Oriole, recorded and photographed by Martijn Hickmann.
One may only wonder at what birds the next six months will bring to Bonaire. Hopefully, traveling will remain possible, as I am always looking forward to my next visit to Bonaire, its birds, and their watchers. Let’s hope COVID somehow will be under control shortly.
About the Guest Author, Peter-Paul Schets.
Peter-Paul is a Senior Inspector for the Law Enforcement Council. He lives in The Netherlands with his wife and enjoys family visits from his two sons and their families, including three grandchildren.
Peter-Paul has recorded seven new species for Bonaire, and also four new species for Bonaire’s sister island, St. Eustatius.
When not birding on Bonaire, he is hiking along canals, dikes, waterways, forests, and other great birding habitats in the European Netherlands.
He has contributed many of his bird images to the Bonaire Bird List.
Stay up-to-date with Bonaire’s rare bird sightings.
Stay up-to-date on what rare birds are observed by visiting the Bonaire Rare Bird Sightings page. Bookmark it for the future!
(Images courtesy of Ava Wuyts, Jolande Gietman, Susan Davis, and Martijn Hickmann.)