Lesser Antilles part 2: Dominica, 5th – 8th June 2017.   2 comments

This post covers my visit to the island of Dominica (pronounced Dom-in-ee-ka) as part of my tour of the Lesser Antilles.

I had intended to post photos from Dominica, Guadeloupe and Martinique but I had more decent photos of Dominica than I though, so the two French islands will appear in the next post.

 

Compared to Antigua and in particular to the two French islands (which are part of the EU), Dominica is somewhat impoverished, although car ownership seems quite high. It is a mountainous and verdant volcanic island quite unlike Antigua and Barbuda. A former British colony, taken from the French in 1763 and gaining independence in 1978, it gained its name because Christopher Columbus first sailed past it on a Sunday.

 

Our flight from Antigua arrived after dark and we had to cross the island from north-east to south-west to arrive at the island’s capital Roseau, seen here from a boat trip that we took later in the trip.

 

Our hotel was situated on the coast just south of Roseau, it was a long way from the best birding site but decent accommodation is in short supply.

 

Much of our time on the island was spent at or near this viewpoint in Morne Diablotin NP, named after local breeding petrels or diablotins, (their name in turn deriving from their devilish sounding vocalisations). Unfortunately the weather was against us and it rained for much of the time. On the right is our tour leader Mark van Beirs from Belgium. Mark has led more tours than any other Birdquest leader and is capable of leading trips to any part of the world. Indeed I’ve been on no less than 18 tours with him from 1989 onwards. One of the joys of always travelling with the same tour company is that on any given tour there will be several people you already know. Keith, the guy with his back to the camera, was on our Atlantic Odyssey in 2016, although I know Keith from UK birding and we first met in 1980.

 

The main targets were two species of parrot. The smaller Red-necked Parrot was easy to find and perched up on the far side of the valley. However its ‘red-neck’ was harder to see ….

 

…. but can just be seen as a red dot on this photo. Another example of a bird that is named after its least obvious field characteristic.

 

The other species, the larger Imperial Parrot, known locally as the Sisserou, was much harder and it took two morning visits to the view-point before we had tickable flight views. An internet search failed to produce any pics of wild birds but I did find a photo of this captive individual taken by Mikko Pyhala http://www.hbw.com/ibc/u/3849

 

By now the weather on the mountain had turned really bad and we retreated to the visitor centre for shelter.

 

The now familiar Lesser Antillean Bullfinch also sought shelter from the storm.

 

In spite of the weather Keith seems pretty pleased with the outcome.

 

On the return we noticed some Caribbean Martins on wires in this village and stopped for photos, but may have caused a bit of a traffic jam in the process.

 

These chunky hirundines gave excellent views. ….

 

…. but then they exhibited a most bizarre behaviour, stretching out along the wire, presumably drying themselves after the heavy rain. They certainly seemed to be enjoying sunbathing!

 

Around our hotel we found nesting Green Herons. This species is found throughout north and central America but in South America (and Trinidad) it is replaced by the similar Striated Heron.

 

On our second morning we returned to the mountains and in spite of the continuing rain managed flight views of the Imperial Parrot and our first view of Plumbeous Warbler and the Dominica race of House Wren. All of the races of House Wren in the Lesser Antilles deserve to be split as a series of single island endemics as they look and sound different and inhabit forests not human conurbations.

 

We returned to the hotel late morning and in the afternoon took a boat from the adjacent dock.

 

We headed south towards the southernmost tip of the island in search of seabirds and cetaceans.

 

On route we found an American Oystercatcher, a rare migrant from North America and one that even resident birders haven’t seen.

 

Soon we reached Scott’s Head at the most south-westerly tip of Dominica.

 

There were a lot of Magnificent Frigate birds fishing and we soon saw why, a shoal of tuna were pushing small fish up to the surface.

 

Amongst the leaping tuna was a small dark tern (LHS of the photo).

 

It proved to be an American Black Tern. Many in the UK (if not in North America) treat this race of Black Tern as a separate species based on a few morphological differences, but to my knowledge there has been so study of genetics, voice etc and until there is I think they should be considered conspecific.

 

We continued up the west coast until we were level with misty (and wet) Morne Diablotin, the highest point of the island, where we had been birding earlier in the day.

 

Our aim was to find the Sperm Whales that are regularly seen off Dominica and we located two, presumably a mother and well-grown calf. Note the laterally offset blow hole which gives this whale its characteristic blow.

 

They put on a good show before finally diving into the deep underwater trench that lies just offshore.

 

So it was back to the hotel and an early departure the next morning for the airport. I was expecting our flight would take us on to Guadeloupe but no, things weren’t that simple ….

 

…. first we had to fly north, over flying Guadeloupe in the process, spend many hours sitting around in Antigua airport (again) before taking the short hop back to Guadeloupe.

 

No wonder Mark was knackered.

 

Arriving in Guadeloupe was like arriving in France (and technically it was France) French signs, three lane highways and traffic jams. What a shock after the rural simplicity of Dominica.

 

Rather than end this post with a photo of traffic congestion instead let’s enjoy a wonderful sunset from our Dominica hotel at the conclusion of our boat trip.

 

 

2 responses to “Lesser Antilles part 2: Dominica, 5th – 8th June 2017.

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  1. Some nice photos Ian and a good reminder of a very enjoyable trip. I did wonder if the catamaran ferry to Barbuda survived. Very sad to think of the devastation of some of the great places we visited. I’ll look forward to the next instalment.

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