Sunday 10 November 2013

St Lucia Birding Trip

We were staying on the west side of the island between the two peaks, just south of the town of Soufriere. Before leaving London I had booked up a birding tour for both Mrs L and myself, not because we couldn't identify the birds, but because the guides always have a vehicle and are always really good at what they do, especially birding by ear, which being unfamiliar with anything other than Bananaquit I was unable to do. We used St. Lucia Birding, and our guide was a dude called Nerious who picked us up from Sugar Beach at 6am - he was surprised to be starting this late, but I guess when I told the organisers where I was staying they rightly guessed I would be in a rather relaxed frame of mind.

Nerious took us in his jeep past Soufriere and up into the central hills, where we spent the morning looking round various sites close to the village of Font St Jacques. First stop was the Edmond Forest Reserve, which lies on one of the old French colonial roads that traversed the island. It's incredibly bumpy, and should only be attempted in a 4WD, and indeed after a few miles the road has been completely washed away by a landslide and you have to continue on foot to an old citrus plantation. As expected it was great birding, though far from easy. Abandoned, the fruit trees are still there, covered in Spanish moss but still attractive to all sorts. It was here that we saw most of the endemics, including the St. Lucia Oriole and the St. Lucia Pewee. The Oriole was tough, but we eventually got the views we needed. The Pewee was a little stunner, and gave great views. I had debated leaving my camera in the car, but at the last minute had slung it over my shoulder and clipped the monopod to my waist. Good move!

St. Lucia Pewee

Lesser Antillean Saltator

This area also had Brown Thrasher, the Rufous-throated Solitaire, and was the only place we saw Purple-throated Carib. Even late morning there was quite a lot of activity, and this was easily the best birding of the entire trip, and in interesting scenery with nutmeg and all sorts of exotic stuff growing wild. A few locals were around, most gathering flowers for the hotels (they don't chop down their own!) and one guy enjoying his eighth spliff of the morning - a big Rastafari area on the island.

After spending most of the morning here, we moved higher still up onto the plateau near Mount Gimie, the highest point on the island. Here people were growing all sorts of crops including corn and tomatoes amongst the more tropical fruits and vegetables, and we stopped and chatted to a couple of Rasta guys who were busy (in the St. Lucian sense) working, i.e. chilling out and occasionally doing a bit of pottering. We were here to look for Parrots, but the weather was against us with a strong breeze building up and some squalls coming through. No matter, I can always go back! Plenty of other birds of interest though, including Grey Kingbirds, several Blackpoll Warblers, and heaps of Grackles. A superb morning, and we were back at the hotel for a late lunch and some celebratory beverages.

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