Sunday, 22 May 2011

Antigua (Difficult to class this as Kent)

A holiday in Antigua to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary provided me with my first chance to savour the birds of the Caribbean . Angie and I decided to stay at the Veranda Resort due to the superb reviews this hotel received on the internet and we were not disappointed.  The resort is on Antigua’s somewhat rocky east coast which seemed to be a distinct disadvantage as most of the islands better known birding sites are on the west coast but we hired a car and visited most of the places mentioned in other reports on birding in  Antigua. Also I found few decent sites locally that I’d not seen mentioned elsewhere and these provided some really interesting birds.
Most of my birding was done between 6.00 and 9.00 am, after that we went touring or sunned ourselves on the beach. Whilst touring I did however normally manage to combine the site-seeing with a spot of birding when an interesting site was nearby – that’s how I visited most of the sites on offer.
There are a number of birds that can only be described as common and can be seen just about everywhere – banaquit, Lesser Antillean bullfinch, black-faced grassquit, zenaida dove, common ground dove, grey kingbird, Caribbean elaenia, laughing gull, pelican, frigate bird, and these won’t normally be discussed (despite all being life ticks) unless I managed some decent/interesting pictures of them. They do however provide a constant distraction when you have a camera in your hands and I took hundreds of pictures of them most of which have already been binned!

black-faced grassquit

Lesser Antillean Bullfinch

Grey Kingbird

Zenaida Dove

Common Ground Dove

Day 1.(Thursday 12th)
Early morning birding in the resort.
The Veranda has 2 small beaches one of which ends in a small quite slimy pool (~30 yrds across?) that fills at high tide and slowly shrinks as the tide drops and it dries out - this ended up being my only birding site on the first morning. As I arrived on the beach I flushed a small wader which flew down to the pool. I immediately followed it.

Snowy Egret

As I approached I could already see a snowy egret(a life tick) in residence then I found the first of 3 species of wader – a spotted sandpiper. This was a life first for me and given that it was covered in spots was pretty easy to identify! This bird remained in residence for most of our 10 day stay and eventually I managed some satisfactory pictures.
Spotted Sandpiper

The next 2 waders in residence were somewhat more tricky to id but eventually I decided I was looking at a semi-palmated sandpiper and a Wilson’s Plover(another life tick). In addition, by hiding in some of the scrub on the edge of the pool (and getting bitten to death by bugs), I managed some reasonable images of them both.
Semi-palmated sandpiper

Semi-palmated Plover

Whilst hiding up a green heron came out of the undergrowth and fished on the stream by which the pool fills at high tide. This bird  lived on/around the pool and was seen daily.
Green Heron

Also seen from the beach that morning was a royal term (one of 2 that seemed to live around the resort) plus glimpses of yellow warbler, Antillean crested humming bird and green throated carib – all of which eluded the camera.

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