25th-29th January 2014
Eleuthra, Bahama Islands
My final week in the Bahamas was spent on the island of Eleuthra. This very long and narrow island has a totally different character, with scrub and hardwood coppice replacing the pinewoods that dominated the other three islands on my tour.
Bahama Mockingbirds were very common, very vocal and very inquisitive in places, giving me numerous opportunities to photograph them.
Despite its name, Mangrove Cuckoo is much more likely to be encountered in scrub and hardwood coppice. They are generally a very quiet and unobtrusive species but can be quite inquisitive. The one in the photo below seemed especially curious about what I was doing and landed less than 2m from my head while I was photographing a lizard, probably hoping to grab it for lunch! I didn't need the big lens for this bird, which was lucky because I had a 24-105mm attached at the time. First time I've ever used that lens for close-up bird photography!
Mangrove Cuckoo (Coccyzus minor)
Red-legged Thrush (Turdus plumbeus)
Red-legged Thrushes are not as common on Eleuthra as they are on Abaco, Andros or Grand Bahama, but I ironically found them easier to photograph there than on the other three islands.
Both Zenaida Doves and White-crowned Pigeons were fairly common but, since both species are actively hunted, they were generally very shy and wary.
Brown Racers are by far the commonest snakes found in the Bahamas, and I found several individuals sunning themselves along the roadsides and tracks on Eleuthra.
Like most other members of its genus, Argiope argentata decorates its web with a highly visible cruciform zigzag-patterns, known as stabilimenta. You might think that by drawing attention to itself in this way may make it easy prey for predators, but research has indicated that the opposite it true. By placing itself in the centre of its web with its legs extending out at the same angles as the stabilimenta, the spider may be creating the illusion of appearing significantly bigger than it actually is, thus deterring many predators, especially gape predators like lizards, from tackling it. Also, by increasing the visibility of its web, large animals (including humans) are less likely to blunder into it, saving the spider from having to waste valuable energy and resources in repairing and rebuilding its web.
male Cuban Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei)
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