Friday, March 22, 2019

Cruise to eastern Caribbean

Saint Lucia Warbler, Millet Nature Reserve, St. Lucia, Mar 12, 2019
Saint Lucia Oriole, Millet Nature Reserve, St. Lucia, Mar 12, 2019
Gray Trembler, Millet Nature Reserve, St. Lucia, Mar 12, 2019
Saint Lucia Black Finch, Millet Nature Reserve, St. Lucia, Mar 12, 2019
Saint Lucia Parrot, Millet Nature Reserve, St. Lucia, Mar 12, 2019
Brown Booby, offshore St. Lucia, Mar 12, 2019
Central and southern mountains, St. Lucia, Mar 12, 2019
Mount Gimie, Millet Nature Reserve, St. Lucia, Mar 12, 2019
Back from a successful trip down to the eastern Caribbean on a week long cruise out of San Juan hitting several islands including Saint Lucia, Barbados, Antigua, Saint Thomas and Tortola. We had an early flight out at 6AM on Sunday the 10th just as a snowstorm was arriving. It started snowing just before we left but we got out before getting delayed. We arrived into San Juan around ten and then headed to the ship to start enjoying the warm temperatures. The first full day was an at sea day which was mainly spent reading and relaxing but I did manage to find a few birds including a few White tailed Tropicbirds and Magnificent Frigatebirds as we headed southeast from San Juan toward our first destination of the trip, Saint Lucia. We pulled into Saint Lucia around 7AM and I was one of the first off the ship at around 7:40 where I was suppose to meet up with my guide. On our way into port I picked up my first life bird for the trip with a number of Caribbean Martins flying appeared the stop I was most looking forward to was going to be great but then came the trouble for the day. I arranged to have a guide for the day to track down all the endemics for the island including my main target, Saint Lucia Warbler. When I contacted my original guide a few weeks before the trip he had a change of plans and would be out of the country so he arranged another guide for me and assured me he would be there. I walked all around the area near the port for about 45 minutes with no luck finding him. I had a phone number for him but when I was able to make a call to him it was the wrong number and I could not reach the guide. I tried one more time before finally deciding that the prearranged guide was not going to show so I hired a taxi to take me into the mountains to the Millet Nature Reserve. We arrived there around 9:20 and spent the next three hours on the trails where I managed to pick up all my remaining target birds including Saint Lucia Oriole, Saint Lucia Warbler, Gray Trembler (near endemic, found on one other island), Saint Lucia Parrot (heard several times and seen well but distantly once), Saint Lucia Black Finch plus the local subspecies of Lesser Antillean Pewee.  There were a number of coconut feeders along the trails that attracted lots of Lesser Antillean Bullfinches as well as St. Lucia Black Finch, Gray Tremblers and Pearly eyed Thrashers...this was the first time I have ever seen this type of feeder in all my travels! Despite the snafu with my guide it was nice to finally make it to a location I have talked about going to for years. As we sailed out of Saint Lucia the ship was joined by first two, then three and finally four Brown Boobies.  More details on the search for St. Lucia Warbler and other warblers seen on the trip can be found at the follow:  Warblers during eastern Caribbean cruise.
Laughing Gull, offshore Barbados, Mar 13, 2019
Barbados from ship as we left, Mar 13, 2019
The next stop was to Barbados with the day spent with some morning snorkeling and the afternoon at the beach. Not much for birding all day but did have a group of parakeets fly over the beach as well as a few sightings of the endemic Barbados Bullfinch.
Magnificent Frigatebird, St. John's harbor, Antigua, Mar 14, 2019 
Prairie Warbler, McKinnon's Salt Pond, Antigua, Mar 14, 2019
Yellow Warbler, McKinnon's Salt Pond, Antigua, Mar 14, 2019
Carib Grackle, McKinnon's Salt Pond, Antigua, Mar 14, 2019
Little Blue Heron, McKinnon's Salt Pond, Antigua, Mar 14, 2019
Green throated Carib, Fort James Beach to McKinnon's Salt Pond area, Antigua, Mar 14, 2019
Bananaquit, Fort James Beach to McKinnon's Salt Pond area, Antigua, Mar 14, 2019
Common Ground Dove, Fort James Beach to McKinnon's Salt Pond area, Antigua, Mar 14, 2019
Fort James looking toward harbor entrance, Antigua, Mar 14, 2019
On Thursday we stopped in Antigua and despite my best efforts before the trip to figure out a way over to nearby Barbuda to see the endemic Barbuda Warbler there was just no way to do it in the time we had in port. I will have to make a specific trip down at some point to finally catch up with the bird. We headed to the beach just a short distance from the port and it was near enough to McKinnon’s Salt Ponds for me to make the walk over to it. I spent a good portion of the day walking along the roads and paths between the old fort and the salt ponds and had a nice selection of birds including an unusual for the island Prairie Warbler. I had multiple species either building nests or carrying nest material including White crowned Pigeon, Carib Grackle and Lesser Antillean Bullfinch. Unfortunately some road work around the main part of the pond kept the area closed I was still able to view a portion of the pond and it produced a nice selection of waders and shorebirds.
Sunset, offshore St Thomas, USVI, Mar 15, 2019
The next stop was to St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands where we had a tour consisting of another day of snorkeling. Certainly not a birding day but some great snorkeling with tons of tropical fish plus turtles and octopus on our private tour. I did see a few birds along the way but nothing too unusual.
Brown Boobies, Roadtown harbor, Tortola, BVI, Mar 16, 2019
Sunset, offshore Tortola, BVI, Mar 16, 2019
The final stop of the cruise was to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands and we did a kayak tour where we spent three hours out in the sun exploring a mangrove area and a nearby bay. The damage left from the hurricane was quite evident on this island as well but the mangroves seem to be slowly coming back. Not too much for birds but a couple of American Oystercatchers were nice to see in addition to a handful of waders.  We returned to San Juan on Sunday the 17th bright and early and then it was off to the airport for the flight back home.

Overall for the trip I had a total of 63 species with seven of those being life birds (Caribbean Martin, St. Lucia Oriole, St. Lucia Warbler, Gray Trembler, St. Lucia Parrot, St. Lucia Black Finch and Rose ringed Parakeet).


  1. It's a great range of birds, some of course endemic to St. Lucia. A few years ago friends of mine spent a week there at an all-inclusive resort, but they were able to arrange two days with a local bird guide, and had a fine experience.

    1. It's a great little island with quite a bit of intact rain forest...wish I had a bit more time to explore.