Naturetrek tour to St Lucia, January 2018
In January 2018, I was visiting St Lucia for my sixth time, bringing a Naturetrek group for nine days to enjoy the wildlife of the country. After a night to catch up on sleep at Anse Chastanet, we awoke to the sounds of Zenaida Doves and Grey Kingbirds. Carib Grackles and Lesser Antillean Bullfinches perched nearby in the hope of stealing some breakfast titbits.
Anse Chastanet and Anse Mamin
We met with our hotel wildlife guide Meno to explore the forest estate all morning. As we began Caribbean Elaenias, a Scaly-breasted Thrashers and an Antillean Crested Hummingbird fed in the trees above. A few St Lucia Warblers foraged nearby and we then had stunning views of a Mangrove Cuckoo fanning its tail after the rain. As we headed round a corner to a pool, a very obliging St Lucia Pewee flew round in circles under a tree catching insects.
Suddenly we had a flurry of birds. A House Wren came within a few metres and singing. Above was a Bananaquit and an equally striking St Lucia Warbler. Both have a blend of the same colours, just in a different pattern. A Black-whiskered Vireo was foraging towards the back of the trees, again giving close views alongside another Antillean Crested Hummingbird.
The next day we met with experienced guide Adams Toussaint at the rainforest track known as Des Cartier, part of the Quilesse Rainforest Reserve. We stopped at a viewpoint and to my great delight we had one of the best views I’ve ever had of a Rufous-throated Solitaire. We watched the bird singing and circling round to pick single berries off a fruiting tree.
We then travelled to a site just south of Dennery where Adams looked for a special bird here, the White-breasted Thrasher. The endangered thrasher only lives in two places on the island including this 600-acre site. It is a very shy bird and never comes out into the open. We saw or heard up to six individuals as we passed through their different territories.
With the sunshine now getting very hot, we headed for our last stop, the Vieux Fort wetlands (Aupicon), a large brackish lake just on the edge of the town. As we arrived an Osprey was flying away from us towards the sea. At least half a dozen Common Gallinules and Caribbean Coots were foraging close to the edge of the lake, amongst the sedges. A flock of 15 Lesser Scaup, wintering here from North America, were bobbing together at the back of the lake.
The following day we headed north for the rainforest reserve, the Millet Trail. Joined by our guides Pamela and Justin we had close views of a male St Lucia Black Finch feeding on coconut left out on stakes for the forest birds. A little further along a Grey Trembler was perched up in a tree while a male St Lucia Oriole came in to a tree above us, showing off his yellow bottom and black belly. We retraced our steps back to the centre where a Lesser Antillean Saltator was feeding on some ripe bananas on a tree.
Castries and aerial tram
On day 6 were headed out with Desir (Moby Dick) for a guided boat tour along the coastline north before being dropped off in Castries for our trip into the forest. During the boat journey we saw small numbers of Magnificent Frigatebirds, Brown Boobies, a Peregrine and three Ospreys.
In Castries, we headed for the Rainforest Adventures Aerial Tram tour and met with our guide wildlife guide Jesse. In a nearby Mountain Apple tree we watched a Grey Trembler, a Scaly-breasted Thrasher and a Pearly-eyed Thrasher. We caught up with a Green-throated Carib, our third species of hummingbird to see on St Lucia. Nearby a male Purple-throated Carib was defending ‘his patch’ and looking dapper even in the shade. A Broad-winged Hawk was stood out on a tree preening, looking relaxed and unperturbed by us looking on.
During our tram ride Purple-throated Caribs were common and males were often sat on their favourite perches near where the carriage passed. Half a dozen Lesser Antillean Swifts flew amongst the forest’s emergence level and at one point we were riding above them as they foraged above the trees. Back at Castries we stopped at a nearby Cattle Egret colony containing more than 50 nests in some trees by a lily pool.
By the end of the tour we had seen all the country’s endemic birds plus other species only found in the Lesser Antilles. Alongside the birdlife we enjoyed seeing Pantropical Spotted Dolphins, Antillean Fruit Bats and hearing the ‘bleeping’ evening chorus of Lesser Antillean Whistling Frogs.
Ed Drewitt is a professional naturalist and learning consultant based in the UK, eddrewitt.com.
Ed led the tour on behalf of Naturetrek, naturetrek.co.uk
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