Saturday, 26 July 2014

Part 8 St Lucia and Barbados

Having previously planned to take in a botanical gardens and nature trail in St Lucia, suddenly the idea had less appeal as we had done exactly that in St Vincent the previous day. We were undecided what to do. Once again our arrival in port at Castries was greeted with a lack of bird sightings but one or two did show up as we were docking including an American Kestrel on nearby wires and an over flying Peregrine Falcon. After a leisurely breakfast we decided to explore the local town instead of hiring a taxi. We had docked in the less attractive part of the port, it was much nicer on the other side of the harbour where cruise ships normally stop but we had been beaten to the place by another ship.Now we were in regular cruising waters we were seeing one or two other ships, usually much bigger than we were too.
Castries doesn't have too much to offer, particularly on the birding front. Our access to the beach was blocked by the airport runway, neither of the previous islands we had visited have international flight arrivals, if indeed they have an airfield. St Lucia also seems a step up in the level of commercial activity too.

Devils island to Azores 1192014-02-03
However, we dod find one particular tree that was in the middle of a small patch of green that seemed to attract a few different species.
Bannaquit 2014-02-03
Grey Kingbird
Grey Kingbird 2014-02-03
and Shiny Cowbird
Shiny Cowbird 2014-02-03
Best of all though, Green Throated Carib.
Green throated Carib 2014-02-03 (1)
We decided to go back to the ship for lunch and decide what to do in the afternoon. For once there wasn't a queue so we sailed straight in and sat down, and as was the norm for breakfast and lunch, filling the next available table so as to minimise wasted seating space. Dinner time we always had the same table, the same table companions so I liked the chance to get to chat to some new people at the other mealtimes. This occasion was no different and I was surprised to find that two of our companions had been on the same ship on a 32 day cruise tot he West Indies just before Xmas. Which was their favourite island I asked ? They hadn't got a preference was the reply but later in the conversation I discovered they rarely if ever  actually got off the boat on their cruises. Strange but each to their own!
In the afternoon we wandered back the way we had been in the morning, getting close views of a Little Blue Heron on the waterfront as we went.
Little Blue Heron 2014-02-03 (1)
An afternoon was spent at the distant cruise terminal where we should have been. A few touristy and overpriced gift shops but a nice place to sit,yes, have a beer and watch the world go by. In a way we wasted our day at St Lucia, there again from what I could gather it wasn't that different to St Vincent, just bigger and more commercialised.
Speaking to those who had taken up the option of an official ship Dolphin watching boat trip we had for once missed out. We decided against going because the previous year they had failed to see any and besides, we had only recently been on 3 such trips in Sri Lanka. We would save our cash on this occasion. A bad call, apparently the views they had were stunning !!!!
Anyway, we sailed away blissfully unaware of what St Lucia looked like. By then it was dark !
Next day we arrived in Barbados and I had arranged a day's birdwatching with a local guide.I'd fixed it up via the internet before leaving the UK so there was always an element of doubt as to whether he might turn up but no problems we found him waiting at the dock entrance. I had also read that you would be courting trouble if you wore camouflage in Barbados. I don't but my camera lenses do. Security never said a thing !
As there was space in the car for two extra people, and there was no increase in the $180 fee, it made sense to share, so two birding friends Moss and Robina, joined us for the day and reduced the cost to about £30pp. Not so bad as originally thought.
Of course the advantage of a guide is they have local knowledge. We were soon through the very commercial Bridgetown and off across the island to a location you would never find on your own. It was only a little stream in an agricultural area but it held great views of several species. Well some.
the Sora refused to show in the open !
Sora Rail   2014-02-04
The Little Green Heron was much more obliging
Green Heron 2014-02-04 (2)
as was this Carib Grackle
Carib Grackle 2014-02-04
and pretty Zenaida Dove
Zenaida Dove 2014-02-04
Slightly more distant, a Ringed Kingfisher
Ringed Kingfisher 2014-02-04
We saw one or two other species too so we were off to a good start.
Next stop the beach where there wasn't a lot of activity but I did manage Ruddy Turnstone
Turnstone 2014-02-04
and better still, Semipalmated Plover
Semipalmated Plover 2014-02-04
A beer break, well you have to in that heat , was followed by two more stops. Distant views of all but the rather dull Barbados Bullfinch, the island's only endemic but quite common it appeared.
Lesser Antillean Bullfinch 2014-02-04 (2)
and  although in deep shade, another opportunity for the Antillean Crested Hummingbird
Antillean Crested Hummingbird 2014-02-04
Our guide seemed to think that things were a bit on the quiet side so we headed to what is probably the only bird reserve on the island. Several pools there held some excellent birds, three types of Egret plus both Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs.
Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs 2014-02-04 (2)
Unless they are together i couldn't tell the difference. Likewise the Wilson's Snipe looks similar to our Snipe in the UK as far as I can tell
Wilson's Snipe 2014-02-04
The Common Gallinule really is just a Moorhen !
Common Gallinule 2014-02-04
I guess the purists will assure me of the differences.
There were lots of Least Sanpipers
Least Sandpiper 2014-02-04 (1)
and a whole flock of Solitary Sandpipers
Solitary Sandpiper
Sorry, bad joke, it was as it's name suggests on it's lonesome own.
What a great place but in danger of failing through lack of funding. We gave a donation to the warden before leaving, I wish i could remember the name of the place because for anyone visiting the island it's a must.
Our guide had one final ace to play. A small pond in the middle of a residential area had some special resident breeders and I found this one to give a cracking view.
Masked Duck male 2014-02-04
Not quite as stunning as the male Masked Duck but the female is still a delightful little bird.
Masked Duck female 2014-02-04
All in all it had been a successful day out. Maybe not Claire's cup of tea but it was a treat for me.Back at the cruise terminal gave us an opportunity, as with most stops, to catch up with the internet for free whilst having, well you can guess.
Barbados is certainly very commercial, some of the cruise liners here made ours look tiny.
Devils island to Azores 1362014-02-04
There are a few thousand people on this one. I wondered what it was like on board and what views you might get of any wildlife, there again, if there was wildlife to be seen. Anyway, we were on our little boat which was the last to leave. We headed off in to the night leaving the West Indies and the Caribbean behind. Our journey now felt as if we were going home although we were still two weeks away. There were two more scheduled stops to look forward to in the Azores but first 5 days of Atlantic Ocean in front of us.

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