Photo credit: Bahamas.com
In advance of my talk this Saturday at the virtual Cape May Spring Festival, I am re-posting one of my favorite posts each day this week.
I've found that when it comes to researching birds in the West Indies, James Bond's name usually lurks somewhere.
The Bahama Parrot, a.k.a. the Abaco Parrot, recently in the news because of Hurricane Dorian, is a case in point.
Mary Wickham Bond wrote about the parrot in "To James Bond With Love," saying that in the early 1930s, James Bond’s search for rare parrots in the Bahamas became a quest.
Although rumored to inhabit Abaco, an island east of Grand Bahama Island, no one had a confirmed sighting of the parrots. When Bond went to the island to investigate, he saw lots of birds but nary a parrot.
The locals, however, swore they had seen them, and told Bond he should look farther down the coast by a place called Eight-mile Bay. Bond decided that finding the parrots would be Job One on his next visit to the Bahamas.
He was advised to contact Dr. Charles Dolly, regarded as the top authority on the Bahamas’ natural history.
Dolly, four decades Bond’s senior, told him he was wasting his time: “You’ll never find parrots. They’re most certainly extinct on Abaco if they occurred there at all.”
Undeterred, Bond proceeded to Eight-mile Bay on a foray that included rain squalls, two boats, twenty miles of hiking, a pack of wild pigs and a near-capsizing that jettisoned all their provisions along the way.
By the time Bond and two fishing guides reached Eight-mile Bay, they had been reduced to drinking the juice from unripened coconuts to quench their parched throats.
The local mosquitos had arrived before them, so they scavenged driftwood from the beach and climbed down into a nearby cave to escape their mini-wrath.
There, when they lighted a fire, they encountered thousands of bats flying past the stalagmites and stalactites.
When they emerged from the cave the next morning, the first thing they saw was an enormous flock of the parrots they had sought.
On his way home, Bond stopped in Nassau and dropped by Dr. Dolly’s home. The doctor was out, so Bond left a feather with the doctor’s wife and said, “He’ll understand.”
A Bahama Parrot that Bond collected for science is in Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. You can read about it here.
The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, Bond's home base, has four more collected in 1933, most likely by Bond.