Birding With Dr Birdy – Syndicate Forest, Dominica

Actually his real name is Bertrand Jno Baptiste but Dr Birdy has the prescription for finding Dominica’s two endemic parrots and many other birds such as the Antillean Hummingbird.  I contacted him by email and arranged a morning of birding using his car with a pick up at the Tamarind Tree Hotel.  The hotel staff know him quite well as the proximity of the property to the (pink route) Syndicate (Morne Diablotin National Park) attracts many birders.

Dominica map

Since we arrived after dark, I was excited to see how beautiful the island is!

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As we drove to the Syndicate, we saw some seabirds flying by and a few fishermen.img_8058 img_8061 img_8063 img_8065 dscn4390 dscn4389

I can’t quite make this one out.img_8070 img_8073

Antillean Crested Hummingbirdimg_8076 img_8083 img_8088 img_8090

Blue-headed Hummingbird

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We keep driving uphill.dscn4323 dscn4324 dscn4325

A smaller trail leads to the parrot lookout.dscn4326

Don’t worry, you don’t have to hike to the summit.  This is a relatively easy walk through the forest.dscn4328 dscn4329

Dr Birdy leads the way.  Notice that scope?  This was essential to see the Sisserou especially.dscn4330 dscn4331 dscn4336

We were the only ones there.  We set up the scope and got the cameras ready, then it was a waiting game.  dscn4338

Dominica’s most wanted!dscn4339 dscn4340

Rufous-throated Solitaire dscn4348 dscn4357 img_8112

Mostly Red-necked Parrots flying back and forth through the gorge.  Trying to get a photo at a distance was quite a challenge!  If you look very closely, you can see the tiny specks in these photos.  I did my best to enlarge them below.img_8122 img_8125 img_8133 img_8147 img_8173 img_8186 img_8190 img_8199 img_8202 img_8216 img_8239 img_8250 img_8307 img_8329 img_8303

Red-necked Parrot (Jaco)img_8303a img_8306 img_8306a img_8309a img_8311a img_8314a img_8315a img_8317a

This is an Imperial Parrot (Sisserou) flying through but I messed up the only “flight shot” I had.img_8334a

No better luck when trying to digiscope the Sisserou.  I was able to see him perched but couldn’t manipulate my iPhone to find him.

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I barely got the back of his head behind leaves, I had to aim wide angle at the general area so zooming in didn’t produce much.

img_8340a It was getting close to noon and we had a 5pm flight and uncertain bus transport ahead so we had to be satisfied that at least we saw the birds!  We head back towards Portsmouth and Dr Birdy dropped us at a bus stop where we finally did get a bus passing the airport.   dscn4392

It was a great morning and we saw the birds we wanted (even if I couldn’t get a decent shot) and we never would have found the perched parrots without Dr Birdy.  He’s a cool guy and one of the top birding guides in the Caribbean so definitely book him if you want the best chances to see the SIsserou!  He can be reached by email.

Failed Shopping Trip To Kingston, St Vincent

After hiking the Vermont Trail and visiting the Parrot Breeding aviary in the botanical garden, I was hoping to find some kind of knickknack with a Vincie Parrot on it as a souvenir.  This was on a Saturday afternoon and I had trouble finding minibuses to get around, wasted a lot of time waiting.  The scenery was really nice as we drove from the Vermont Trail to town.  I was lucky and got a front seat.

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Upon arrival at the market, everyone had pretty much packed and gone home.  They close early on a Saturday afternoon.dscn4226 dscn4227 dscn4230 dscn4232 dscn4233 dscn4234 dscn4235

I grabbed a taxi to the wharf (where cruise ships dock) as someone told me they had souvenir shops there but unfortunately they were also closed.dscn4236 dscn4237 dscn4238 dscn4239 dscn4240 dscn4241 dscn4242 dscn4243

There was nothing to do but get a taxi back to the hotel as I couldn’t even find a minibus by then!  Lesson learned, find out what time the shops close in advance!dscn4246

Kingston Botanical Garden, St Vincent

After an exhausting hike up the Vermont Trail, I was still keen to see the St Vincent Parrot close up as they are really stunning birds.  I knew that the St Vincent Botanical Gardens has a Vincie Breeding Facility so headed there hoping to see them up close and personal.

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The gardens themselves are lush and beautiful.dscn4196 dscn4197 dscn4198 dscn4199

The aviaries for the breeding facility are in the rear of the garden.dscn4200a dscn4214 dscn4215

Here you can get fairly close to the parrots, especially if they like you and come to the cage wire.  Getting photos is a lot harder as there is a barrier preventing you from going right up to the wire (they don’t want people to touch the birds).  While I did SEE the birds very well, I had trouble getting past the wire to get a photo.dscn4212 dscn4211 dscn4210 dscn4207a dscn4205a

This was the best I could do and it doesn’t come close to doing this amazing bird justice.dscn4222 dscn4221 dscn4218

This shows the set up of the aviaries, see the barrier that keeps you away from the wire.dscn4216

Hiking The Vermont Trail, St Vincent

The highlight of a birding trip to St Vincent is undoubtably the lush tropical Vermont Trail.  Most people of good fitness seem to make it up to the Parrot Lookout in an hour of steady hiking.  Being of poor fitness, it took me about 2.5 hours!

GETTING THERE

From the Beachcomber’s Hotel, I took a minibus to the market.  It was a Saturday morning so they weren’t as frequent and despite my early start, it was 7:30 by the time I arrived at the market.  I was alone, my husband needed a rest day by the pool.  I waited another half hour for the minibus to the start of the Vermont Trail.  I would have had to walk up another hill from the main road so I paid the driver to take me all the way to the entrance.

It costs $5 to enter but there weren’t any staff on hand so I just walked in.  I did pay on the way out.  They seem used to birders doing this.

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HIKING THE TRAIL

It starts out as a pretty well-marked trail with a gradual ascent.dscn4156 dscn4157 The trail gets more challenging as you keep going up.  They do have signs to point the way. dscn4160 dscn4161

There were some parts where I could barely tell which way to go.  dscn4162 dscn4163

Rest area about halfway up.dscn4165 dscn4166 dscn4167a

PARROT LOOKOUT

Finally you reach the parrot lookout.  This is the best place to stop and just listen and wait.  They fly back and forth the valley.  You will hear them first, then try to find them!dscn4172 dscn4173 dscn4174 dscn4175 dscn4178

Along the trail, I saw both Purple & Green-throated Carib Hummingbirds.  Unfortunately I couldn’t get them in decent light.img_7974 img_7974a img_7977a

I was at the Parrot Lookout by around 10am.  They kept me waiting almost 2 hours and I was getting worried I hiked all the way up there for nothing.  Thankfully they appeared and started swooping the valley before noon.  It is really hard to get a good shot unless you are lucky enough to have them perch near you (which I wasn’t).  When they flew against the sky all I got were silhouettes, when they flew against the trees I couldn’t get them in focus – green bird against green tree background and I don’t have that good aim!img_7987 img_7988a img_7993 img_7996a img_8002a img_8003a img_8007a img_8009 img_8009a img_8010a img_8011a img_8019a img_8022a img_8026a img_8027a img_8029a img_8030 img_8040 img_8041a

They stopped swooping after around half an hour so I walked back down to the office, paid the $5 fee and looked around their displays.dscn4181

I wish they would have had smaller ones like this for sale!dscn4183a dscn4184 dscn4186 dscn4185

Of course there were no taxis or buses to take me back down.  Many people will pre-book one but I had no idea what time I would finish as I wasn’t going to leave until I saw the parrots even if it took all day!  Finally a car came and dropped off a staff member and I got a ride back to the main road.  From there I got a minibus back to town.

A Quick Visit To Castries Market

After the birding tour, we had some time to spare so we asked to be the last ones dropped off so we could get a look around Castries while other people were dropped at their hotels.

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We got off at the market which was near closing time but still a few stalls open.  I knew what I wanted – anything with a St Lucia Parrot on it.dscn4109 dscn4111 dscn4112 dscn4113 dscn4115 dscn4116 dscn4117 dscn4119 dscn4121

Maybe someone is tired of shopping?dscn4123

In the taxi on the way to the airport.dscn4124 dscn4126 dscn4128 dscn4129 dscn4131

I love this airline’s logo!dscn4134

The islanders are proud of their native parrot, the St Lucia Parrot!dscn4132

Des Cartiers Trail – The Highlight Of Birding St Lucia

I have already blogged the main part of the birding trip but I think Des Cartiers Trail deserves a post of its own.

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This is a ranger station where you pay to enter the trail although this was included in our tour fee so Vision paid for the group.dscn4039 dscn4040

Good information at the ranger station and restrooms as well.dscn4041 dscn4042 dscn4043

Vision whistling at a bird to lure it closer.  The trail is uphill and challenging for the unfit (like me) but well maintained and relatively easydscn4044 dscn4045 dscn4047 dscn4048 dscn4051 dscn4058 dscn4063

We finally arrived at a small platform where we settled in to watch for St Lucia Parrots.dscn4066 dscn4068 dscn4070 dscn4074 dscn4075 dscn4076 dscn4077 dscn4078

We didn’t have to wait long, the St Lucia Parrots were swooping back and forth in the valley.  Getting a photo was a challenge as they were far away and hard to focus on.  Below you see my best attempts.  Others have been luckier and the parrots perched in the trees near the platform.

St. Lucia Parrot

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St. Lucia Oriole

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St. Lucia Parrot

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St. Lucia Oriole

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St. Lucia Parrot

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St. Lucia Oriole

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Purple-throated Carib

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Purple-throated Carib

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Birding Day Trip Around St Lucia

Since we only had one full day in St Lucia, I had organized a birding day trip with our lodge, A Peace of Paradise.  The company is WIldLife Ambassadors and our guide was Vision, who was very knowledgeable about the island’s birds and managed to find most of the endemics for us.

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Our first stop was near Mamiku & Praslin where we saw several endemics.  The lighting was bad but I tried!  eBird Listdscn4029 dscn4030 img_7651 img_7662 img_7666 img_7681 img_7686 img_7693 img_7697 img_7705 img_7717 img_7723 img_7729 img_7771 img_7772 img_7774

Next stop was to be the highlight of the trip – Des Cartiers Trail and will be on a separate post.

The third stop was Eau Piquant Pond where we saw a number of waders and sea birds.

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The birds weren’t the only ones fishing!img_7945 img_7950 img_7953 dscn4089 dscn4090 dscn4091 dscn4093

We stopped here to buy sandwiches/takeaway for lunch.dscn4095

The final stop was on a hill top overlooking the sea.  At this point, the group went for a walk but it was so hot I decided to stay behind and relax a bit.dscn4097 dscn4098 dscn4100 img_7954 img_7956

We then drove back to Castries dropping off birders at their hotels along the way.  Since we were catching a plane to St Vincent, we asked Vision to drop us in town so we could do some shopping, then get a taxi to the airport.

Guided Walk For Visitors At Asa Wright Nature Centre

If you are a day visitor at Asa Wright Nature Centre, you will get a 90 minute nature walk included in your admission and this should not be missed!   Our guide came to collect us and led us down the stairs out to the main trail.  It was a small group, just me and two other ladies.  My husband decided to rest on the verandah.

Tegu Lizard

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Agoutiimg_7302 img_7208 img_7211

Proceeding down the trail, the guide pointed out some local plants.dscn3880 dscn3889 dscn3891 dscn3894 dscn3896 dscn3899 dscn3900

A very shy Golden-headed Manakinimg_7319a img_7327a dscn3903 dscn3904

Plump little White-bearded Manakindscn3907 dscn3912 dscn3916 dscn3918 dscn3921 img_7395 img_7377a img_7341a img_7346

Beards are clearly in style at Asa Wright’s as this Beared Bellbird shows off!img_7351a img_7358a img_7360a dscn3926 dscn3928 dscn3929 dscn3931

Going back, there is a slight incline but manageable.

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Wake up!  How can my husband doze off with all those hummingbirds around?dscn3945

Birding The Verandah At Asa Wright Nature Centre

Whether you are a lodge guest or a day visitor at Asa Wright Nature Centre, you will be amazed at the beauty and variety of birds seen on the verandah.  Lazy birding at it’s best!  Hummingbirds need to feed every 15 minutes so don’t worry if you miss one, he’ll be back so you can keep trying for those stunning photos!  There are guides available to help you identify the birds.  This is my eBird list, not bad for about 5 hours!

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Bananaquit, Violaceous Euphoniadscn3875

Turquiuse Tanagerimg_7123a img_7154a img_7159

Blue-grey Tanagerimg_7474 img_7165

Purple Honeycreepersimg_7148 img_7141 img_7194a img_7197 img_7187a img_7183

Silver-beaked Tanagerimg_7181 img_7279 img_7423

White-chested Emerald img_7430 img_7436a

Copper-rumped Hummingbird img_7450 img_7464 img_7506

Crested Oropendulaimg_7649a img_7641a img_7639a img_7632a

Palm Tanagersimg_7480 img_7482 img_7491 img_7502

White-necked Jacobinimg_7516 img_7129 img_7136

Crested Oropendulaimg_7170a img_7173 img_7249
Long-billed Starthroat img_7256a img_7260a img_7267 img_7268 img_7271 img_7146 img_7212

Tufted Coquettesimg_7238 img_7294a img_7295a img_7519a img_7520a img_7523a img_7530a img_7532a img_7533a img_7552a img_7559a img_7560a img_7561a img_7583a img_7562a