Plants & birds of the Bahamas

Last year, I used my newly opened birding eyes to begin to discover a whole new world of birds in the brush of the low-lying islands of the Bahamas.  Far from the jungles of Panama where I got my first taste of bird watching, this is an entirely different climate and terrain.  The avian life here is slowly revealing itself to me.  

Mara & Bill have also introduced me to the plant life in the Bahamas that has proved just as intriguing as any other form of nature watching.  This knowledge actually helps complete the picture of what brings the natural world to life in a given area, something to aspire to for jungle vegetation and coral in the reefs.  It is wonderful to have friends that share in a love of nature.

We took a typical island trail around a salt pond to the dunes and windward side beach, watching birds and getting a primer on the plant life.  Many were known to me, such as the silvery Buttonwood trees or the rows of round Sea Grape leaves.


Sea Grape

Others were omnipresent but I didn’t know their names ~ Wild Rosemary, Bay Cedar, Soap Bush, Seven-year Apple, Mosquito Bush.

Wild Rosemary

Bay Cedar

Soap Bush

Seven-year Apple

Mosquito Bush

Lignum Vitae is the national tree of the Bahamas and was exported from here and Jamaica for its use as a hard wood.  The hinges of the Erie Canal were made from this wood.  

I like the way the tree expands horizontally to create a lush green canopy and its smooth green leaves with no visible markings.

There are always a few cacti and this Tree Cactus caught our attention, presumably referring to its bark-like base.  

Our most amazing find was a clearing of Turk’s Head cacti that Bill & Mara had discovered years ago.  

These are indigenous to this area and the Turks & Caicos and are stunningly beautiful.  


The fuzzy red and white cap continues to grow to produce flowers once the cactus stops growing and these caps reminded someone of the Fez of the Ottomans, hence the name.


A few had fruit on them that grow from the cap and resembled a pink candy corn!  

The tangy taste and little black seeds are almost reminiscent of a kiwi fruit ~ very tasty.  

During recent walks, I remembered to take my super-zoom camera to check out the birds more closely.  They were all enjoying the nectar from the Bay Cedar blooms, along with the goats, flies and butterflies.

The bananaquits are common and this one was taking a drink from a flower right in front of me, paying me no mind.

Warblers are also common…

… the Palm Warbler

… the Yellow-rumped Warbler

… plus I found another warbler, oddly named the Northern Thrush, on the ground, taking a sip from the pond.

This female Bahama Woodstar hummingbird was flitting around for a while so I snapped away to see if I was lucky enough to catch her in flight.

Along the salt pond were some distinctive birds that looked like sandpipers, but had bright orange legs and angular white and dark bars on their wings in flight.  These were Ruddy Turnstones that use their slightly upturned beaks to overturn rocks for foraging.

At one point, we re-entered the salt pond and saw an awkward bird running back to the far shoreline.  Mara noted that it looked almost flightless and I recalled the body size and features (long straight beak, long neck, short body/rump, stocky legs) enough to look it up that evening and find that it was a Clapper Rail; a shy, hen-like marsh bird.

The next day I went back with my camera to try to spot him again.  Like dejá vu, I walked to the edge of the salt pond quietly taking another photo, when zip ~ he runs right back to the same spot.  Excited to spot this bird again, yet bummed that I missed the photo again, I backtracked to try and regroup and was lucky enough to spot movement on the water-line in the brush right below me (dead in the middle of below photo).

Thankful for my super-zoom camera, I was able to snap a few photos to positively identify him as a Clapper Rail.  These are elusive birds and also have a distinctive, loud call that I’ve heard before ~ so an exciting find!  I’ll tend to be on a better lookout and remember to bring my super-zoom around the salt ponds from now on.

© M&M 2016