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.

Saint Vincent Amazon Parrot (Amazona guildingii)

The Saint Vincent Amazon (Amazona guildingii) also known as Saint Vincent Parrot, is a large, approximately 40 cm long, multi-colored amazon parrot with a yellowish white, blue and green head, greenish-bronze upperparts plumage, and violet blue-green wings.

This bird is from the St Vincent Botanical Gardens breeding centre.

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Artistic renditiondscn4183a

And if you are at the Parrot Lookout, this is what they look like!  Snap fast!img_8030

The Saint Vincent Amazon is endemic to the heavily forested mountains of the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent.  Most birders find them (with patience) at the Vermont Trail Parrot Lookout.

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LEARN MORE ABOUT ST VINCENT AMAZON PARROTS

Wikipedia

Word Parrot Trust

Birdlife

Neotropical Birds

VIDEOS

No one seems to have filmed them in the wild but there are a couple clips from the breeding centre.

 

Saint Lucia Amazon Parrot (Amazona versicolor)

The Saint Lucia Amazon (Amazona versicolor) also known as the Saint Lucia Parrot is a species of parrot in the family Psittacidae. It is endemic to Saint Lucia and is the country’s national bird.

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I did my best to get photos of them as they flew by in pairs but it was hard to focus on them against the green background but at least I got the colours!img_7870a img_7860a img_7861a

This beautiful St Lucia endemic is most easily seen at Des Cartiers Trail in St Lucia.

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LEARN MORE ABOUT ST LUCIA PARROTS

Wikipedia

World Parrot Trust

Birdlife

Neotropical Birds

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

VIDEOS

How lucky to get this close to one!

Conservation efforts to save the parrots.

The 25 Best Caribbean Islands?

I have already been to Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel and I’ll be visiting Trinidad, St Lucia, St Vincent, Dominica & Puerto Rico soon for birding – and I am sure birding wasn’t a criteria in this review but it is interesting as a sample of what rich people are looking for in a Caribbean island!

From the list below, I have bolded the islands which have endemic parrots as that is my top interest, though some other islands also have decent birding.

  1. Puerto Rico
  2. Dominican Republic
  3. St Marteen
  4. Curacao
  5. The Bahamas
  6. Jamaica
  7. St Barts
  8. Cayman Islands
  9. US Virgin Islands
  10. St Kitts and Nevis
  11. Aruba
  12. Barbados
  13. Martinique
  14. Antigua and Barbuda
  15. Montserrat
  16. St. Lucia
  17. Trinidad and Tobago
  18. Turks and Caicos
  19. British Virgin Islands
  20. Guadeloupe
  21. Dominica
  22. Grenada
  23. Anguilla
  24. Haiti
  25. St. Vincent and the Grenadines

See me in Jamaica!

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See me in Grand Cayman!

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Cuban Amazon Parrot (Amazona leucocephala)

The Cuban Amazon (Amazona leucocephala) also known as Cuban Parrot or the rose-throated parrot, is a medium-sized mainly green parrot found in woodlands and dry forests of Cuba, the Bahamas and Cayman Islands in the Caribbean.

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There are four subspecies of the Cuban amazon:

  • A. l. leucocephala (Linnaeus, 1758). Present throughout Cuba, including Isla de la Juventud (formerly known as Isla de Pinos).
  • A. l. bahamensis (H. Bryant, 1867), also called the Bahama amazon. Two extant populations in the Bahamas; one on the Abaco Islands and one on Great Inagua (with sightings from nearby Little Inagua). Now extirpated populations were present on the Acklins and Crooked Islands and possibly also elsewhere in the Bahamas.
  • A. l. caymanensis (Cory, 1886), also called the Grand Cayman amazon. Restricted to Grand Cayman Island.
  • A. l. hesterna Bangs, 1916. Now restricted to the island of Cayman Brac, but formerly also on Little Cayman.

The birds I saw while on our cruise were the Cayman Parrot subspecies.  Now that Cuba has opened up to tourism, we should be hearing about more sightings of the nominate subspecies as well!

Cayman parrotLEARN MORE ABOUT CUBAN/CAYMAN PARROTS

Wikipedia

World Parrot Trust

Birdlife

Cayman Islands Government

VIDEOS

This video was taken in the same aviary we were in back in 2008.

And here are some in the wild in Grand Cayman.

 

Reminder: Only One Month Until The Parrot Lover’s Cruise

If you have been thinking about joining this fantastic cruise, don’t delay as it’s only a month away!  It’s pretty easy to get to Puerto Rico using airline miles and spend a few extra days pre or post cruise as well!

If you are a dedicated conservationist, eco-tourist or birder who has been looking for an excuse to ease your spouse/partner into the adventure; this is soft ecotourism at its best!  What could be easier than boarding a luxurious cruise ship in San Juan and relaxing at sea while you cruise to a different Caribbean island just about every day.  Many of these islands have native parrot populations and there will be other bird species too.  And best of all, your participation benefits the World Parrot Trust’s conservation efforts!

Parrot Lovers Cruise

In order to participate in the seminars and dedicated birding excursions, you must book with the official travel agency, Carol’s Travel Time.

Locals Show Pride In The St Lucia Amazon Parrot (Amazona versicolor)

The Saint Lucia Amazon (Amazona versicolor) also known as the Saint Lucia Parrot is a species of parrot in the Psittacidae family. It is endemic to Saint Lucia and is the country’s national bird.

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Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist montane forest. It is threatened by habitat loss. The species had declined from around 1000 birds in the 1950s to 150 birds in the late 1970s. At that point a conservation program began to save the species, which galvanised popular support to save the species, and by 1990 the species had increased to 350 birds.  Although the population in Saint Lucia is small it is still expanding.

It isn’t possible to get to St Lucia exclusively using airline miles as they are only served by small regional carriers such as LIAT and Caribbean Airlines (nice livery!).  St Lucia is a popular port on Caribbean cruises so why not choose a cruise that visits this lovely island?