Lesser Antilles part 3: Guadeloupe and Martinique, 8th – 11th June 2017   1 comment

This post, the third covering my island hopping Lesser Antilles tour, concentrates on the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, both overseas departments of France.

 

As I mentioned in the last post, from Dominica we had to overfly Guadeloupe to Antigua then return to Guadeloupe hours later. Similarly on our onwards flight to Martinique we had to overfly Dominica!

 

Guadeloupe is a department of France and hence has all the benefits of belong to the EU, something we are carelessly discarding in Britain. It consists of two island Basse Terre (seen in the distance) and Grande Terre joined by an isthmus and a series of bridges.

 

The capital Pointe-a-Pietre straddles the isthmus leading to the major traffic jams at rush hour.

 

Our birding at Guadeloupe was on the slopes of the mountains in the south-west of Basse-Terre. In fact all of our birding took place at this single picnic site beside the river.

 

Just on dawn several Bridled Quail-doves walked around the clearing. We had seen one before on Montserrat but the views here were so much better ….

 

…. however the light was poor that early in the morning, so these pics aren’t very sharp.

 

Other species we saw included Pearly-eyed Thrasher ….

 

…. and we had multiple views of the usually skulking Forest Thrush.

 

We had seen Plumbeous Warbler on Dominica but here one posed for photos.

 

We also saw our first Purple-throated Caribs.

 

We were surprised when this Mangrove Cuckoo appeared carrying a cricket ….

 

…. presented the cricket to a nearby female, copulated ….

 

…. and then perched on a branch with a smug look on his face.

 

The bird of the morning was Guadeloupe’s only endemic bird, Guadeloupe Woodpecker.

 

On an earlier post I uploaded images of birds that I have seen on my birthday, well it was my birthday today and this bird was a fantastic birthday present.

 

So it was goodbye to the glade by the river and goodbye to Guadeloupe as well, we returned to the airport and flew to Martinique.

 

Our flight from Guadeloupe to Martinique wasn’t on the local island carrier LIAT but on an Air France Jumbo, direct from Paris and on route to French Guiana.

 

Martinique, like Guadeloupe was like a slice of France transported into the Caribbean, but a rather dull, hot and sticky slice at that. We drove to a peninsula on the east coast of the island and checked into our hotel.

 

Situated on the side of a steep hill, the multiple steps caused consternation for some of the group members.

 

It was getting late in the day so a quick look around the immediate vicinity and a chance to photograph Zendaida Dove was about all there was time for.

 

The following morning we took a short drive down the pLa Caravelle Peninsula

 

…. where Lesser Antillean Saltator showed well. It is  found on several of the central Lesser Antilles but we only saw it here and on St Lucia.

 

More widespread was Antillean Crested Hummingbird which we saw on most of the islands.

 

Golden/Mangrove Warblers are a bit of a conundrum. Taken together with Yellow Warbler (the species that turned up at Portland in August) they fall into three groups, the migratory Yellow Warbler from North America, in which the male has a chestnut streaked breast and a yellow head, the sedentary Mangrove Warbler of the coastal mangroves of Central America and northern South America, which has an entirely chestnut head and Golden Warbler of the islands of the Caribbean where the male shows a little chestnut cap. OK you say, clearly they are three separate species, the trouble is in the Lesser Antilles the Golden Warblers look just like Mangrove Warblers with a complete chestnut head but aren’t associated with mangroves. As a result, despite the morphological differences the two resident forms are considered one species and only the migratory Yellow Warbler is split off.

 

Carib Grackles are a bit of a puzzle as well. Birds in the Lesser Antilles look different from those of northern South America and the females in the central Lesser Antilles are much paler than those in the more northerly islands. Nice as they were the bird we really wanted to see was ….

 

…. White-breasted Thrasher, a species known only from Martinique and St Lucia. Our views were reasonable but the birds remained partially hidden so I have used a photo from the Internet Bird Collection taken by Mikko Pyhla http://www.hbw.com/ibc/u/3849

 

To see the remaining Martinique goodies we had to leave the coast and head for the misty mountainous interior.

 

Unfortunately we had heard that the road from the east coast to the interior had been blocked by a major landslide, sufficiently large that it was marked on the maps, so we had no alternative but to drive back south and head inland from a different direction, a detour that must have taken about an hour. At least the roads were good and unlike Guadeloupe, not congested.

 

In due course we reached the mountains and it didn’t take us long to find the goodies ….

 

Whilst walking the mountain road we found Martinique’s endemic lizard, the Martinique Spotted Anole.

 

We spent quite a time watching this lovely Blue-headed Hummingbird ….

 

It stayed perched motionless on the same branch for ages and because the branch was situated by a hairpin bend we could watch it from many different angles

 

As always with hummingbirds, their colours are only revealed when the light strikes them at a certain angle, so in this pose the blue head becomes black and the gorget lit up like a police car’s strobe lights.

 

Joseph shows his video of the hummer to Mark and Keith.

 

In due course we found our main target, the endemic Martinique Oriole. Initially our view was of a bird directly overhead ….

 

…. but later we got a view that placed less of a strain on the neck ….

 

…. and we could watch it as it preened.

 

Before we left we returned to the La Caravelle peninsula ….

 

…. but we didn’t get to see anything new, just a chance to photograph the widespread Tropical Mockingbird.

 

Then it was time to move on again, this time to the island of St Lucia, which will feature in the next post.

 

 

 

One response to “Lesser Antilles part 3: Guadeloupe and Martinique, 8th – 11th June 2017

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  1. So many cute little birdies!

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