Thursday, July 30, 2009

Meet Tony Johnson

When we were in Antigua, we stayed in the Siboney Beach Club on Dickenson Bay. I couldn't leave (we are heading to Montserrat shortly, dear readers), without introducing its proprietor, Tony Johnson. It is Tony who runs this small hotel with lush gardens which were home to many of the birds I've already posted below.
He is an Australian who fought in the Australian Army in WWII. After years of travelling around doing this and that, he responded to an ad looking for someone to sail their yacht to the Caribbean. This took him to Antigua some 50 years ago. He liked it and hung around, then by chance met an old friend from his London days and they set up business together. In time he built the Siboney Beach Club and has run it since with the philosophy not of trying to make loads of money but having somewhere special to live (hence the lovely gardens) and welcome others.
On our first day, Tony drove a few of us up the bay and led us into the heart of the egret, heron and pelican colony, which was an amazing experience.
Tony likes a life of smoothies and good healthy food and I'm sure he wouldn't mind me saying he is looking pretty good on it - at the age of 85.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Barn Owl near nest site


Barnack Hills and Holes

Dusky Sallow

Essex Skipper

Male Chalkhill Blues, including one being pestered repeatedly by a Marmalade Fly hoverfly

Small Copper

Female Chalkhill Blue

Six-spot Burnets, mating


Roesel's Bush-cricket

Common (Viviparous) Lizard

Barbuda in a few pictures

While we were on Antigua, we were frequently told how the place to go for birdwatchers is Barbuda. Everyone painted verbal pictures of the island's beauty as some kind of must-see paradise. I was certainly looking forward to visiting the frigatebird colony there and perhaps getting a look at its endemic bird, the Barbuda Warbler. Expectations were high.
Barbuda is a curious, strange and odd place a 15 minute flight north of Antigua. The island is rather flat and scrubby, with a massive lagoon covering the top left corner. The population of about 1,500 (nobody seems quite sure, though they could all gather in a few minutes and have a bit of a count), where naturally everyone knows everyone, lives in houses scattered over the island, concentrated in places, while there are amazing, clean white coral beaches all around.
Some beaches are served by hotels such as the Lighthouse Bay Resort, where you pay top dollar for an endless, palm-fringed beach and luxurious rooms with flat screen TVs. And it is just hard to see the connection between the island life and the paticular niche of the tourist market they are aiming at.
Columbus landed here in 1493 when the island had been populated by Arawaks and Caribs for some 4,000 years. The island's sad history also includes being used as a 'slave nursery' by the Codrington family, and the big lagoon in the north-west bears the Codrington name. It is this lagoon which holds a sanctuary for breeding Magnificent Frigatebirds, with some 4,000 pairs nesting in the mangroves.

Codringtoon Lagoon, Barbuda, from the air (the open sea is the turquoise stuff on the left)

Our aircraft for the short hop between Antigua and Barbuda. The hunmmingbird on the tail is a nice touch

Barbuda Airport

This guy was waiting at the boat stop at the lagoon

This type of jellyfish was abundant over the bottom of the shallow Codrington Lagoon. They turn themselves 'upsidedown' in the sand, with the feeding tentacles upward (basically a medusoid behaving like a hydroid). They came in infinite colours and patterns.

Our skilled boatman took us at speed with great precision to the frigatebird colony

Fancy your own beach? This lady and her husband had had the Lighthouse Bay Resort to themselves for a week or so when our group shattered their peace, as we arrived for a lovely breakfast.

Here's the view looking the other way

This is our gang (Weedon in hat at back) at the Lighthouse Bay Resort

American Kestrels were nesting in the palms where we had breakfast

Magnificent Frigatebird youngsters at the colony on the Codrington Lagoon

View from the Highlands

Turk's Cap Cactus at the Highlands

A cave-dwelling Pearly-eyed Thrasher. Jo Finn found this rather worn bird, the only thrasher we saw on the island

An old Barbudan house

The flag of Antigua and Barbuda by the BPM (Barbuda People's Movement) headquarters

This American Kestrel near the Martello Tower near the pink beach which is home to NoMO's bar, had a dodgy left foot (hence the strange grip)

The pink beach outside NoMo's

Norris Morris Harris's cricket bat

NoMo's bar

Why the beach is pink

The shadow of Weedon in situ...