Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Birds of Dominica: Blue-headed Hummingbird (male)

This bird is endemic to Dominica

Birds of Dominica: Antillean Crested Hummingbird (male)

As the head turns, the green of the crown becomes apparent until...

...suddenly, the crest flashes incredible turquoise when momentarily flattened and held at the right angle

Birds of Dominica: Lesser Antillean Pewee

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Mini-Common Darter

This Common Darter had presumably emerged from our pond this morning. It is a fraction of the size of a normal specimen (that is my thumb, folks), a sort of dragonfly 'runt'. Its left forewing hadn't emerged very well, and I suspect it may not survive long.

Emerald Damselfy: 15th garden dragon

One of two male Emerald Damselflies which were patrolling our garden's pond this morning. This is the 15th species to have visited the pond since its construction a little over two years ago.
(The others are: Banded Demoiselle; Large Red Damselfly; Common Blue Damselfly; Azure Damselfly; Blue-tailed Damselfly; Common Darter; Black-tailed Skimmer; Four-spotted Chaser; Broad-bodied Chaser; Hairy Dragonfly; Emperor Dragonfly; Southern Hawker; Migrant Hawker; Brown Hawker)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

More from Antigua & Barbuda

I found a few more photos which I hadn't posted before. Most are from Barbuda but the lizard, pelican and hummer were on Antigua. Enjoy.

Magnificent Frigatebirds

Antillean Crested Hummingbird

Ground Lizard

Brown Pelican

Upside-down, benthic jellyfish in Codrington Lagoon

Monday, August 03, 2009

Montserrat Part 3: Montserrat Orioles

Montserrat has its own endemic bird, the Montserrat Oriole, probably the rarest bird I have seen. Their stronghold was known to be the Bamboo-rich areas in the south, and after this area was destroyed by volcanic eruptions, there were severe worries about the survival of the species.
However, new populations were discovered at suitable altitudes in forests in the north. Thanks to the work and considerable sacrifice of the likes of Scriber our superb guide while on the island, the population is being monitored and the researched.
With Scriber's excellent help we encountered several birds in a few family parties relatively easily in the Centre Hills, and we even found a male feeding young which Scriber didn't previously know about.
These are my best efforts at DSLR shots of the birds (please forgive them, the light is poor in the forest...)




Montserrat Part 2: Views of Plymouth

In the mid-1990s the Soufriere Hills Volvano, which dominates the southern part of the Caribbean island of Montserrat, became active. In 1997, the big one came and the people of the southern part of the island, including the capital Plymouth were forced to flee. Up to 29 people sadly lost their lives (19 were recovered, but another ten remain missing), but for the rest life was never to be the same again. Plymouth itself was buried beneath mud-slides and even this year pyroclastic flows made incursions into the area. Places such as St Patricks were simply taken out completely.
Some two-thirds of the population no longer lives on the island, with the majority now staying in the UK (Montserrat is a British Oversees territory). The rest have rebuilt their lives in the northern half of the island.
In a bid to never lose life again from the activities of the volcano, roughly half the island is designated an exclusion zone and no one is allowed in there.
You can see the devastation, however from the sea, and we took a boat trip southwards down the west coast from the lush richness of the north of the Emerald isle, past mating turtles, Brown Boobies, Roseate Terns and Brown Pelicans to see the old capital for ourselves.
The sight of the small town is rather overwhelming and emotional. Former residents cry for hours when they see their old home, but even for strangers such as ourselves, this was tear-jerking stuff. I don't think I have ever really set eyes on a disaster area before, but this is how Plymouth appears.
As you get closer, the first thing that strikes you is the acrid sulphurous fumes, a reminder if needed that this volcano is still very much active. Then as you round the latest wooded promintory, the grey mass of abandoned buildings held within a fug of volcanic cloud is devastating.
Every building in the town of grey is buried at least one storey deep. And on some slopes, boulders the size of houses stand next to the hulks of former homes.
Cows and bulls graze the cemetery on the edge of town and a pelican stands oblivious garden to the old pier.

Montserrat Part 1

After leaving Antigua (a bit delayed by rain) we headed south-west to Montserrat, home of the hemi-mythical Montserrat Oriole. Our accommodation for the three nights there was in the house of Georrge Martin of Beatles fame! He used to stay up there when his studio, Air Studios, was active, but now he and his wife come along for about a month each winter (The husband of the lovely Margaret Wilson who made our food there apparently taught Sting to windsurf while he was up there recording).
While you are pondering on me diving into GM's pool under the Caribbean sun, here are some photos...

Olveston House, George Martin's home where we had the pleasure of staying (I had Sir George's bedroom!)

Iguana grazing before he went to check out the poolside

An iguana enjoying the edge of George Martin's pool at Olveston House

Young American Kestrels in the garden of Olveston House

View south from Olveston House (the big volcano is hidden in cloud behind this smaller hill)

George Martin's Air Studios were housed in the building in the middle left of this photo (I think...)

A sort of darter, I believe

New housing in the north of the island

Long-tailed Skipper

A Jack Spaniard wasp. The locals seem to use this name for all wasps we saw...

Bridled Quail-dove

A pipe-living lizard

Our first Montserrat Oriole was on our guide Scriber's car...


This bug came to visit us at Ziggy's Restaurant on our last night

Scriber congratulates his cousin Stephen Daly on yet another excellent flight shot

Scaly-breasted Thrasher

Some kind of spiny fruit

Brown Trembler on its nest stump

A grass

Ground orchid

Elephant ears

A grasshopper at the cliffs in the north

Scriber scans the cliffs for Red-billed Tropicbirds

There were three Red-billed Tropicbirds past these cliffs when we arrived, but they didn't reappear

Scaly-naped Pigeon. In Antigua, White-crowned Pigeons were dominant, but on Montserrat Scaly-naped Pigeons were much commoner

The rainbow of hope

Magnificent Frigatebirds

Our boat trip south to see Plymouth (see above) was with Troy of Green Monkey Dive Shop at Little Bay Beach