The journey from Ile du Salut to Grenada was to take nearly two days including a full day at sea but for once we were rewarded with the good sightings. First to arrive were a small group of Masked Booby .
This was more like it, we were entertained by their hunting and diving around the boat for quite some time and not before long they were joined by a lone Red Footed Booby
who stayed with us long after the others had disappeared.Watching the hunt for flying fish was fascinating.
The Flying Fish gives an extremely high speed wiggle of its tail fin to propel it further than the original flight path would take it but the Booby skims the water low to presumably try and avoid detection and take the fish unawares.
Great fun and a challenge trying to catch the action.
Another photo first for me was a single passing Pomarine Skua
It was certainly the best day at sea to date and by this time we had had a lot of them, 13 to be precise. We were anticipating the morning preceding our midday arrival at St Georges,Grenada would be even better as we passed closely by Trinidad and Tobago but again and to our disappointment there was little to see until we approached our port of call. Very distant Frigatebirds but little else. Seen sitting on the dock itself we got views of Brown Booby and Brown Pelican
but that was all to show for our visit to Grenada. Claire and I had opted for our last organised ship's "tour", seduced by the idea of a sailing catamaran that was going to take us out snorkelling, then to a beautiful sandy beach to swim or sunbathe. Rum Punch would be served ! Sounded both fun and idyllic. We were told that the boat might not be exclusively used by our cruise and others might be on board. I decided to leave all my camera gear on the ship. What a mistake ! We had incredibly close views of both Brown Booby and Pelican, both sitting on the water and close fly pasts. I was kicking myself. Firstly, the catamaran was exclusively ours, secondly the snorkelling was a personal disaster !
Having not tried snorkelling for over 30 years, and not being a good swimmer either, I found the whole experience awful. Mask full of salty water, stinging eyes,lungs full of seawater inhaled via the snorkel. I abandoned the attempt within 5 minutes and settled for drinking the punch instead. We were still well within sight of our cruise ship and when the snorkelling was halted we returned past it and dropped anchor just off a well populated beach in St George. My fault but once again a bit of a frustrating day that had set us back another £100 for a few hours. Cruising can get expensive !
A wander around St George before we sailed and that is about as much of Grenada as we saw.
The next day we were due in to Kingstown,St Vincent with no fixed plan.One of my birding pals,Jerry and his partner Julie agreed to accompany us on a shared taxi tour.I had identified two places I wanted to go, the Botanical Gardens which I knew Claire would enjoy and a walk in a forest. My friend Jerry had earmarked a potential site of a river estuary. Together we negotiated with the first taxi driver we found and came to an agreeable figure. I can't remember exactly how much , but for a full day it was a lot cheaper than a ships tour.
The Botanical Gardens gave us views of one or two species.
Black Faced Grassquit
and best of all, Antillean Crested Hummingbird
The Botanical gardens also have a breeding project for the highly endangered St Vincent Parrot. We could hear them squawking in their cages but we didn't go to take a look. We wanted them in the wild and the forest walk I had identified was the best chance of seeing them. Off we set in anticipation, stopping just the once to get some shots of a perched Broad Winged Hawk.
Our taxi driver dropped us at the beginning of the walk, the Vermont Nature Trail which was a circular route and we agreed a rough time we would be back, about 2hours later. The path was quite tricky but was route marked well and had lots of information about the type of vegetation we were in, firstly secondary forest then true rain forest.
Fortunately very little rain before eventually we reached the viewing station were the best opportunity of sighting the Parrots might occur and true enough, before not too long we spotted a couple flying some way off. They were calling from much closer but in the dense forest we could't see them. Suddenly Jerry said "there, on that bush" .I focused the camera and pressed the shutter button as the bird flew. I now have a stunning record shot of an empty bush, Jerry meantime got the picture ! Can't win 'em all !
Our taxi was waiting for us and , before heading to his suggestion for a lunch, we stopped for the inevitable thirst quencher. Out in the middle of nowhere in a delightful little bar shack another taxi approached and the occupants were some of the other birders from our ship,Richard,Dominique and Martin. We were able to advise them on the suitability of the path, and the fact that it was quicker to go the reverse direction to reach the parrot view point. We later discovered that they hadn't had quite the relaxing day we had as when they returned to their taxi it was nowhere to be seen They waited a good while but as the sun started to go down they faced the inevitable long walk to try and find a way back to the ship.Now in almost darkness and much to their relief, the taxi eventually returned and picked them up on the road out of the park. It appears that he'd decided to go in search of his girlfriend for some afternoon delight and the time had gone by unnoticed as it does I suppose ! It does show the perils of self guided tours though...if you miss the boat it's your problem, it sails without you.
Anyway, we had no such problems, a late lunch in a delightful little cove where they filmed much of "Pirates of the Caribbean" and where many of the film props still remain gave views of Frigatebird
and Brown Booby, whose fishing style is more akin to a Gannet, diving from height.
We paid a visit to the river estuary after lunch but with little luck from a photographic point of view other than to record a stunning sunset.
Not the most successful of days from a bird photography point of view but a most enjoyable one.
As we returned to the ship for our evening departure I wondered what the next couple of days would bring.
Ahead of us we had St Lucia and Barbados, the latter might just be the best of the trip as I had organised a bird guide !