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David Stirling

 

Macdonald Burbidge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr.Rob Butler

 

Karen Shih

 

Madelon Schouten

BIRDING TAIWAN, MAY 2–11, 2005 — A PERSONAL VIEW

 

George Clulow

 

Bill Keay

 

Simon Liao

 

Yang Chung-Tse

 

Allan Ridley

 

Hue Mackenzie

 

Hugh Currie

 

Kijja Jearwattanakanok

 

Peter Candido -

Re-Tern to Taiwan

 

Dave & Carol Roelen

 

Mark Wilkie

 

Phil Rostron

 

Héctor Gómez de Silva

Hanno Stamm

 

 

Terry Wright

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birding in Saint Lucia

Jo Ann MacKenzie

Surrey, British Columbia, Canada

 

 

           

During the last week of November, 2007, a Taiwan International Birding Association delegation traveled to Saint Lucia, West Indies, on a mission of “eco-diplomacy,” to assist the government of St. Lucia in producing a bird book specific to St. Lucia.  At present, the birds of St. Lucia are only illustrated in books on the West Indies.  A Birding in St. Lucia website will also be developed to encourage ecotourism for birding. 

            While in St. Lucia, the team, along with Mr. Tom Chou, Taiwan’s Ambassador to St. Lucia, and local guide, Mr. Adams Toussaint, Forestry Department, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, met with the Prime Minister, the Honorable Stephenson King, at his residence in Castries, the capital city of St. Lucia.  Productive meetings were also held with the Hon. Ezechiel Joseph, Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Fisheries and Forestry, and Mr. Louie Lewis, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism.

             The team found time for birding lovely St. Lucia under the excellent guidance of Adams Toussaint. The first bird we saw on arrival at Hewanorra International Airport at the south end of the island, late in the afternoon of Nov. 25, was Carib Grackle — we would see many more!  The drive from Hewanorra airport to our base for the week, in Rodney Bay at the northern and more populated end of the island, took 1 ½ hours. 

            The next day, after breakfast at our hotel, the Village Inn, where Lesser Antillean Bullfinches and Carib Grackles foraged in the shrubbery and sometimes on the open-air restraurant tables, we began by visiting the Union Nature Reserve, not far from Castries, the capital city.  Among our first birds there were St. Lucia Warbler and St. Lucia Pewee — two endemics almost immediately.  A large hummingbird, Purple-throated Carib, perched in a tree.  Gray Trembler, Black-whiskered Vireo, Scaly-breasted Thrashers were also observed. Our photographers were kept busy.  Leaving the reserve, we drove into the hills above Desbarras village, where we watched for forest birds at an informal roadside over-look.  Continuing eastward across the island toward Grand Anse, we stopped to coax a House Wren out of the forest.  This wren, the endemic subspecies Troglocytes aedon mesoleucus, is a pale bird and perhaps a candidate for ‘splitting’ after more research is completed.  The last stop of the day was at a marshy pond where the shy Masked Duck can sometimes be found, but not that day.

            Very early the next morning, we departed for the Quilesse Forest Reserve, a rainforest that was true to its “rainforest” description, with heavy 10-minute rain squalls about every half-hour.  These mountains offered our best chance for seeing the colourfull, endemic St. Lucia Parrot, and we did — several vocal birds in flight. The parrot represents a conservation success story.  By 1975, as few as 100 individuals survived in the wild, their numbers dwindling due to combined pressures from deforestation and hunting.  The St. Lucia Forestry Department began a nation-wide education program while protecting substantial areas of rainforest, and banning hunting.  The parrot became the National Bird in 1979, the year of St. Lucia’s independence from Britain. St. Lucia Parrot numbers have increased to about 1,000 since then.   We also saw two more endemics in the Quilesse Reserve, St. Lucia Oriole, St. Lucia Black Finch; a Merlin (rare, and a Life bird for our guide, Adams), Crested Antillean Hummingbird, and many Lesser Antillean Swifts.  We walked part of the Des Cartier Trail, where a St. Lucia Parrot perched in a tree overhead, preening after yet another rain squall.  Farther along the trail, we found a Rufous-throated Solitaire.  We ended the day in dry habitat at the south end of the island, where the critically endangered White-beasted Thrasher maintains a precarious existence in shrinking habitat.  That particular spot is near Praslin Bay, just across the road from where the huge Le Paradis Beach and Golf Resort is being constructed.  Unfortunately for some of St. Lucia’s most endangered wildlife, resort and residential development is a major threat.

            Unfortunately for me, I was attacked by chiggers*, Trombicula alfreddugesi, while at Quilesse. Unhappily, I’m sensitive to chiggers, and bites on my feet or ankles, irritated by friction from footwear, can develop into large blisters that take about 10 days to two weeks to disappear.  That’s what happened this time.

            On another day, we went to Soufrière, on the southwest coast near Les Pitons, ancient twin volcanic plugs that rise dramatically more than 600 metres (2,000 feet) above the sea.  The Pitons (literally, “spikes”) are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  For those with the time and energy, there is a steep hiking trail up Gros Piton, the larger of the two.  At lunch at Ladera, we watched resident Broadwinged Hawks circle on thermals between the two peaks.  Much nearer to us, two Carib Grackles attacked a large Black Witch moth. The tattered moth escaped and took refuge on a wall beneath some vines where it became almost invisible, blending in with the stones of the wall.  As we left the restaurant, we became aware that an earthquake was in progress, with the ground moving beneath our feet.  It didn’t last long—perhaps 12 seconds—but it felt longer than that!  We learned later that the epicenter of the 7.5 quake (the strongest in the region in 70 years) was well to the north, between Martinique and Dominica, where there was moderate damage, and fortunately, only one fatality.  Damage would have surely been much worse had the epicenter not been so deep (some 90 miles down).

             Not far from Ladera is Sulphur Springs Park, a “drive-in” volcano, with steaming, bubbling volcanic mud.

            East of Castries and about half-way across the island, near Babonneau village, is Rainforest Skyrides Park. Adventurous folk can hike up a mountain, then ride down on zip lines between forest trees.  We preferred the Aerial Tram, both going up and coming down.  The open-air gondolas seat 8 to10 passengers on a slow, quiet journey 130 feet above the ground, with opportunities for birdwatching and photography, through the oldest mature rainforest in St. Lucia.  When our two goldolas reached the top (elevation about 2,000 feet), we found a network of hiking trails through the forest.  On the ride back down, in beautiful clear weather, we could see the island of Martinique to the north.

            Near the end of our time on St. Lucia, we visited Pigeon Island National Landmark, a cultural monument of international civil, military and maritime events of West Indian historical change, in a natural setting.  Small Caribbean Hermit Crabs Coenobita clypeatus, scuttled about, over rocks and up trees.  Gray Kingbirds, Zenaida Doves, Bananaquits. Tropical Mockingbirds, Carib Grackles and Lesser Antillean Bullfinches were everywhere.  Offshore, Brown Boobies and Brown Pelicans could be seen, and overhead, Magnificent Frigatebirds soared.

            St. Lucian endemic birds can be seen without a great deal of difficulty, except for Semper’s Warbler.  This is (was?) a plain-looking bird of the undergrowth of moist forests at mid-elevations.  It is believed that the introduction of mongooses in 1884 (intended to control ship-borne rats), compounded by habitat loss may be responsible for the drastic reduction, perhaps extinction, of the species. Although there have been scattered reports over the past 45 years, here have been no confirmed sightings since 1961. 

            Our visit to St. Lucia was very productive.  Certainly, the island nation has much to offer besides sun, sand and sea.  It is a beautiful island, and I would like to return some day.

            The TIBA delegation to St. Lucia was headed by Legislator Tien Chiu-chin.  Other team members included Liao Shih-ching Simon; Tseng Chiu-wen Hank and Wu Ten-di (bird photographers); Jo Ann MacKenzie and Hue MacKenzie (Canada); Tsai Mu-chi, Hsueh Chi-lien, Tsai Jo-szu Ross; Tseng Shu-kai (Liberty Times, Taiwan) and Chun Chin-kan (Formosa TV).  The two photographers stayed in St. Lucia for four weeks, photographing as many bird species as possible.  Writing for the book and further bird photography will be undertaken by Adams Toussaint.

 

 

* Chiggers are the 6-legged larva of an extremely small (less than 1/50 of an inch long) ectoparasite that lurks in areas of lush, damp vegetation, or crawls on the soil surface until a suitable host is found. Suitable hosts range from small mammals to birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Humans are accidental hosts. Chiggers attach themselves to the skin, hair follicles or pores by inserting their piercing mouthparts. When chiggers attach to humans, they are not usually noticed for some time. During feeding, they inject a fluid into the skin which dissolves tissue. Chiggers feed by sucking up the liquified tissues. The human immune reaction to a bite prevents the chigger from obtaining adequate nourishment, so chiggers that attach to humans are usually dislodged or die within hours.  Itching from chigger bites is usually noticed 4-8 hours after chiggers have attached or have been removed. The fluid injection causes welts to appear which may last for two weeks. 

 

        

TRIP RESULTS, Saint Lucia, West Indies, November 26–Dec. 2, 2007

 

Endemics: BOLD       Endemic subspecies: *          Lesser Antillean regional endemic: **

 

 

Brown Pelican                              

Pelecanus occidentalis occidentalis

Brown Booby                               

Sula leucogaster leucogaster

Magnificent Frigatebird                

Fregata magnificens

Great Egret                                  

Ardea alba egretta

Little Blue Heron                          

Egretta caerulea

Snowy Egret                                

Egretta thula brewsteri

Cattle Egret                                  

Bubulcus ibis ibis

Green Heron                                

Butorides virescens virescens

Osprey

Pandion haliaetus carolinensis

Broad-winged Hawk                    

Buteo platypterus rivierei

American Kestrel                         

Falco sparverius caribaearum

Merlin

Falco columbarius columbarius

Wilson’s Snipe                            

Gallinago delicata

Spotted Sandpiper                       

Actitis macularius

Greater Yellowlegs                      

Tringa melanoleuca

Royal Tern                                   

Thalasseus maximus maximus

Rock Pigeon                                

Columba livia

Scaly-naped Pigeon                     

Patagioenas squamosa

Eurasian Collared-Dove               

Streptopelia decaocto

Eared Dove                                  

Zenaida auriculata rubripes

Zenaida Dove                               

Zenaida aurita aurita

Common Ground-Dove                

Columbina passerine antillarum

ST. LUCIA PARROT                           

Amazona versicolor

Mangrove Cuckoo                        

Coccyzus minor

Lesser Antillean Swift                   

Chaetura martinica **

Purple-throated Carib                   

Eulampis jugularis **

Green-throated Carib                    

Eulampis holosericeus holosericeus

Antillean Crested Hummingbird         

Orthorhyncus cristatus exilis

Belted Kingfisher                          

Megaceryle alcyon

Caribbean Elaenia                        

Elaenia martinica martinica **

ST. LUCIA PEWEE                          

Contopus oberi

Gray Kingbird                               

Tyrannus dominicensis vorax

Lesser Antillean Flycatcher          

Myiarchus oberi sanctaeluciae*

House Wren                                 

Troglodytes aedon mesoleucus*

Tropical Mockingbird                    

Mimus gilvus antillarum

White-breasted Thrasher              

Ramphocinclus brachyurus sanctaeluciae*

Gray Trembler                              

Cinclocerthia gutturalis macrorhyncha*

Scaly-breasted Thrasher              

Allenia fusca schwartzi*

Pearly-eyed Thrasher                   

Margarops fuscatus klinikowskii*

Rufous-throated Solitaire              

Myadestes genibarbis sanctaeluciae*

Bare-eyed Thrush                         

Turdus nudigenis nudigenis

Black-whiskered Vireo                  

Vireo altiloquus barbatulus

Antillean Euphonia                        

Euphonia musica flavifrons

Yellow Warbler                              

Dendroica petechia babad*

ST. LUCIA WARBLER                         

Dendroica delicata

Blackpoll Warbler                          

Dendroica striata

Bananaquit                                    

Coereba flaveola martinicana **

Black-faced Grassquit                   

Tiaris bicolor

ST. LUCIA BLACK FINCH                  

Melanospiza richardsoni

Lesser Antillean Bullfinch              

Loxigilla noctis sclateri*

Lesser Antillean Saltator               

Saltator albicollis albicollis **

Carib Grackle                                

Quiscalus lugubris inflexirostris*

Shiny Cowbird                               

Molothrus bonariensis minimus

ST. LUCIA ORIOLE                            

Icterus laudabilis

 

 

 54 SPECIES

 

 

 

N.B.  SEMPER’S WARBLER, Leucopeza semperi, a rather plain-looking, ground-dwelling, mountain rainforest species is critically endangered.  There have been no confirmed reports since 1961.  

 

 Other wildlife observed

 

ST. LUCIA ANOLE                             

Anolis luciae

Barbados Anole                             

Anolis extremis

Saint Lucia Anole

Anolis luciae

Black Witch (moth)                          

Ascalapha odorata

butterfly sp.                                     

Pieridae family

Caribbean Hermit Crab                   

Coenobita clypeatus