Showing posts from April, 2014

Island Hopping (Part 6 of 8) - Feb 3, 2014 (Martinique)

Feb 3 - Martinique On Martinique we targeted two species, one endemic and one nearly so. The Martinique Oriole is a true endemic, while the highly endangered White-breasted Thrasher resides only here and on St. Lucia. We would devote the entire day to searching for these two birds but enjoyed several others along the way. The place to go for the thrasher is the Caravelle Peninsula on the northeast side of the island, where a preserve is located to protect the species. After not much searching we stumbled upon a foraging party of WHITE-BREASTED THRASHERS, which gave us all great looks as they scratched through the shadowy understory. Really great stuff. We watched as the birds approached us more and more closely. White-breasted Thrasher White-breasted Thrasher Further down the same trail we enjoyed a LESSER ANTILLEAN SALTATOR and a couple of "Golden" Yellow Warblers, which on this island are curiously red-headed like most "Mangrove" Yellow Warblers.

Island Hopping (Part 5 of 8) - Feb 2, 2014 (St. Lucia)

Feb 2 - St. Lucia St. Lucia boasts a stellar 5 endemic birds (may vary depending on which taxonomy you use...), more than any other island we visited on this trip. Lucky for us, all of them occur at the Millet Sanctuary/Reserve, which is where we spent our entire time birding with our awesome local guide, Aloysius. Our first endemic came in the form of a female ST. LUCIA BLACK FINCH...not exactly the most brilliant looking bird but we'll take it! This was soon followed by our first of several ST. LUCIA WARBLERS, as bright as the finch was drab. We had killer looks at a foraging and singing MANGROVE CUCKOO (strange to me to see this species at high elevation). After this quick success, we tried a different section of trail just as the skies opened up. Hiking in the slick conditions slowed us down, but the weather wasn't poor enough to keep us from finding a ST. LUCIA ORIOLE followed by the big prize of the day, a ST. LUCIA PARROT, expertly spotted by Aloysius. The weather kep

Icelandic shorebirds, here??

As I write this Newfoundland is currently in the midst (or just in the beginning phases) of an invasion of Icelandic vagrant shorebirds. The past two days have brought double-digit European Golden-Plovers and a pair of Black-tailed Godwits to those crazy Newfies. Today even the west coast of Newfoundland got into the action. Bruce Mactavish is excited and I love it. This is something that happens with some regularity in Newfoundland in April. European Golden-Plover is the most expected of the group of possibilities. By rule these spring events do not translate into excitement here in New England. But will this one be different? Over the next few days the east winds that are sourcing Newfoundland's bounty will back their way into our region. There's no reason why we can't cash in on one of these rarities. It's bound to happen eventually, right? Land masses that stick out to the east would be best...Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, Long Island, certainly Nova Scotia,

Island Hopping (Part 4 of 8) - Feb 1, 2014 (Barbados incl. Little Egrets)

Feb 1 - Barbados On this day we reached our furthest point from the United States - Barbados. Not the birdiest nor the lushest of islands, Barbados still provided some really interesting species for us to see. The island does have an endemic, the BARBADOS BULLFINCH, which we got as soon as we stepped off the cruise ship! That was easy! Barbados Bullfinch (endemic) Our first official stop was at a private pond that held a flock of BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCKS and a very cooperative SCALY-NAPED PIGEON. Subsequent stops yielded ANTILLEAN CRESTED HUMMINGBIRDS, GREEN-THROATED CARIBS, SHINY COWBIRDS and a smattering of shorebirds. A cliff at the north side of the island, meant to be a bathroom stop, briefly had a CARIBBEAN MARTIN fly by, a species just starting to trickle into the Lesser Antilles in very small numbers as northbound migrants. One of the small lily-covered ponds known for harboring MASKED DUCKS came through with two males and two females - a life bird for me actual

Island Hopping (Part 3 of 8) - Jan 31, 2014 (Dominica incl. Fraser's Dolphins)

Jan 31 - Dominica Today featured my most anticipated port - Dominica. I had heard only amazing things about this island, which is often described as unspoiled and ruggedly beautiful. Turns out people were right. Our stay on the island was book-ended by two awesome pelagic experiences.  Our morning arrival was not due until 10am thanks to the super long distance from yesterday's port, St. Thomas. This was unfortunate because we would have an especially short stay on perhaps the birdiest island of our tour. However our late arrival gave us a couple hours of seawatching as we steamed in from the west-northwest. We soon picked up a subadult MASKED BOOBY, followed by a second one, both of which proceeded to hunt flying fish off the port side of the ship for several minutes. The birds would fly at high altitude (often at or above our position on the 10th deck) until the ship kicked up flying fish below, at which point they would drop in altitude and plunge-dive after the fish. The bir