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Lesser Antilles - St. Lucia, Dominica & St. Vincent Birding

5 - 14 December 2000

by Barry Cooper and Gail Mackiernan

216 Mowbray Rd
Silver Spring, MD USA
301-989-1828
gail[at]mdsg.umd.edu

Introduction

For birders who wish to see all the Caribbean endemics and specialties, a trip to the Lesser Antilles is a must. Some of the region's most spectacular birds are found on these small islands, as well as some of the most undisturbed habitat. Of the islands making up the Lesser Antilles, we selected St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Dominica as our first stops, because they support the most endemics and “shared island” endemics, including four spectacular Amazona parrots, two bizarre Tremblers, and a variety of finches, flycatchers and warblers. One downside of a trip to this area is that it is rather expensive, with island-hopping flights and tourist-rate food, accommodations and car hire.

We decided to take advantage of an Air Jamaica five-day package deal to St Lucia and extend this by four additional days to include birding trips to both St. Vincent and Dominica. The package was little more than the cost of air fare alone from American Airlines! My brother John Cooper and his wife Doreen flew in from the U.K. to join us for this trip.

The Air Jamaica package cost $719 for roundtrip airfare from Baltimore-Washington International Airport [BWI] to St. Lucia plus nine nights at the Rainbow Hotel at Rodney Bay in St. Lucia. We used the relatively new EC Express inter-island flights from St. Lucia-St. Vincent, St. Vincent- Dominica [via Barbados ] and Dominica-St. Lucia. The total cost of these inter-island flights was $243 per person.

Local forestry employee birding guides were hired for each island as follows:

St. Lucia: Lyndon John - email: LynJohn1 [at] yahoo.com

St. Vincent: Fitzroy Springer - email: springball [at] vincysurf.com

Dominica: Bertrand Jno.-Baptiste - email: dr_birdy2 [at] cwdom.dm

All three guides were excellent birders and were very familiar with the main birding locations on each island. They also made excellent companions. We typically used each guide for half to two-thirds of one day and birded the remainder of the time on each island [usually about another 1 1/2 days ] on our own. It is quite likely that we would have missed several species without the expertise of the guides most notably White-breasted Thrasher, St. Lucia House Wren, Lesser Antillean Euphonia and Red-legged Thrush.

Accommodations

St. Lucia: Rainbow Hotel (part of AirJamaica package) tel: 758-452 0148

Dominica: Springfield Plantation Guest House tel: 767-449 1401 or 767 -449 1224

St. Vincent: Heron Hotel in downtown Kingstown tel: 784 457 2548

We would also like to thank Alleyne Regis of “RARE” for all his help in planning this trip, as well as Colin Anthony Lees of Nature Island Destinations Dominica (nid[at]cwdom.dm) who arranged accommodations and car hire there, and sent us bird lists and other information.

Itinerary

12/5/2000 Travel day; departed BWI at about 8.30 a.m. with brief stop-over at Montego Bay in Jamaica. Arrived St Lucia at about 5.00 p.m. We knew we had arrived at the right place when the Customs agent (upon learning we were bird-watchers) asked us if we were in SL “to see Amazona versicolor.” (This level of awareness is due to RARE's very successful public education programmes in the Lesser Antilles, which have essentially “turned the tide” for the region's endemic parrots and other species.) After checking through customs, we had a rather hairy 1½ hour shuttle bus ride in the dark to our hotel located on the opposite end of the island. Both on SL and Dominica, the main airports are located far from the tourist centres, ostensibly to promote economic development in more remote areas. However, this negatively impacts the ease of transit to and from hotels, as well as car hire.

12/6/2000 Our local birding guide, Lyndon John, met us at our hotel at about 5.15 a.m. Due to a misunderstanding, Barry had not rented a car for the morning and we ended up leaving an hour late crammed into Lyndon's Suzuki 4WD. We drove to the Quillesse Forest Reserve arriving at about 7.45 a.m. and birded this area until late morning. The trail led into very good natural rain forest which in turn resulted in a very good selection of endemic and Caribbean specialty birds. In fact, during this three hour walk we saw the majority of our targeted species including St. Lucia Pewee, St. Lucia Oriole, Grey Trembler, Pearly-eyed Thrasher, Purple-throated Carib, Antillean Crested Hummingbird, St. Lucia Black Finch, Lesser Antillean Flycatcher, Rufous-throated Solitaire, and the recently split St. Lucia Warbler. Lyndon then took us to a site that he had fairly recently discovered for the White-breasted Thrasher. This site was a mere 1/8 mile from the main east coast road and slightly north of Micoud. Unlike the traditional thrasher site near Desbarra, this site was very easy to access. We played the tape and shortly afterwards had excellent views of the Thrasher as it rushed in, trembling its wings and responding very aggressively to the tape, without doubt the birding highlight of the trip. Its behavior was more like that of the tremblers than a North American thrasher. This brushy area was also quite good for other species including the Lesser Antillean Saltator. Finally, we drove to the extreme north-east end of the island and successfully located the St. Lucia race of the House Wren - clearly a very strong candidate for splitting into separate species status, as it differs greatly from the North American species in song, plumage, bill length and behavior.

After a very successful eight hours of birding with Lyndon, we returned to our hotel and arranged a pick-up at the hotel by Avis Car Rental and rented a four wheel drive Suzuki. In the late afternoon we birded the grounds around the Forestry Dept. Administration a few miles outside of Castries.

12/7/2000 Drove to the Edmond Forest Reserve arriving at about 7.30 a.m. The forest here consists mainly of plantations and was less productive for birds than the Quillesse Forest Reserve. However, there is a good overlook for watching for parrots. As we had only brief overhead flight views of parrots on the previous day, getting better views was our top priority. In less than one hour at the overlook we obtained very satisfactory views of up to ten birds. As we had arrived before the trail was opened, we parked our car at the chained gate. This turned out to be the most productive area for forest birds, particularly the orange grove adjacent to the gate. After leaving the Edmond Forest, we drove to the extreme south of the island unsuccessfully looking for the Savannes Bay Nature Reserve. We eventually drove on to the White-breasted Thrasher site but were unable to relocate the bird [although Doreen believed she had a brief sighting].

12/8/2000 Caught an early flight to St Vincent arriving at the E.T. Joshua Airport at about 7.00 a.m. We were met at the airport by a person from Ben's car rental company and our new guide Fitzroy Springer. After driving into Kingstown to obtain the required driving permit and dropping our bags off at the Heron Hotel, we headed to the rainforest at Vermont Nature Trail. This trail is a steep, but well-maintained 3-mile roundtrip to the parrot observation platform. Most of the specialty species were seen during this walk including Whistling Warbler, Brown Trembler, Lesser Antillean Tanager and the St. Vincent race of the House Wren. At the observation platform, the St. Vincent Parrot proved to be a much easier bird to see than its cousin on St. Lucia with many excellent views of birds in flight. Also seen from the platform were several Broad-winged Hawks and smaller numbers of Black Hawks plus two fly-by Black Swifts seen only by John and Gail. We birded this area until about mid-day and then returned to Kingstown to drop Fitzroy off. Following lunch at the Heron Hotel, we visited the productive Kingstown Botanical Gardens in the afternoon. Scaly-necked Pigeons were quite easy to see here feeding on the date palms, and we also obtained excellent views of a pair of Grenada Flycatchers plus several Bare-eyed Robins.

12/9/2000 Again drove in the early morning to the Vermont Nature Trail. Heavy rain delayed our arrival at the parrot platform, but we eventually obtained excellent views of most of the species seen the previous day, including a pair of perched parrots and a Whistling Warbler feeding a fledgling. Returned to Kingstown for lunch and birded a scrub and mangrove area south of Kingstown in the afternoon. Birds seen included Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Northern Waterthrush and our only Yellow-bellied Elaenias of the trip. We briefly visited the Botanical Gardens in the late afternoon.

12/10/2000 As we had to be at the airport at 9.30 a.m. , we restricted our birding to a short walk around the Kingstown waterfront. The only bird of note was our only Shiny Cowbird of the trip - an immature bird consorting with a flock of Carib Grackles. We arrived at the Melville Hall Airport in Dominica at about 2.30 p.m., after a flight through Barbados. The forested rugged terrain of Dominica is a complete contrast to the flat, developed island of Barbados! Strangely, there are no car rental companies based at the airport. We had arranged for a Garraway rental car to be delivered from Roseau, about 1½ hour drive away. No one from this rental company was there, but fortunately Barry had also arranged with Budget for a car also & they were there with a sedan which we rented and drove to the Springfield Plantation Guest House. Budget later that evening delivered a very good, large 4WD vehicle which was invaluable the following day when our guide took us up some very steep forest tracks.

The Springfield Plantation Guest House proved to be an excellent choice as it is located on about 200 acres of good habitat bordering the forest. Also, as we were there right at the end of the low season, we rented very nice rooms with a marvelous view down to the sea for about $45 per day. The following week, at the start of the high season, these same rooms would cost $100 per day. One down side is that food here is expensive [but very good]. Birds seen on our arrival in the late afternoon included our first Scaly-breasted Thrashers of the trip. Birds seen on the grounds during the next couple of days included Brown Trembler [common], female Blue-headed Hummingbird, together with the more plentiful Caribes and Antillean Crested Hummingbirds, Dominican House Wren, Yellow Warbler, Plumbeous Warbler and Lesser Antillean Saltator. Without doubt, the most unexpected bird was an adult male Mourning Warbler seen only by Gail which could well be a new species for Dominica.

12/11/2000 We left the Springfield Guest House at about 4.30 a.m. to meet with our new guide [Bertrand Jno.-Baptiste] at 5.30 a.m and then drove on to the Syndicate Trail in the Northern Forest Reserve arriving at the trailhead at about 6.30 a.m. The road up to the forest is narrow but well maintained lacking the deep potholes of the roads into the forest of St. Lucia and, to a lesser extent, St. Vincent. After a short easy hike we arrived at the first parrot overlook. Bertrand said that this overlook was the best one for observing the parrots. Immediately after starting on this trail we had very nice views of a pair of Lesser Antillean Pewees. In about 45 minutes at the overlook we saw up to ten Red-necked Parrots and a pair of Imperial Parrots, all flight views. After leaving the Syndicate Trail, Bertrand took us up a very steep, narrow and muddy track that went through an orange grove at the edge of the forest. This trail could only be accessed with a good 4WD vehicle. This trail was a mile or two down the road from the Syndicate trailhead On the way down to this trail we stopped at a couple of good spots for hummers, and we were rewarded with excellent views of at least two male Blue-headed Hummingbirds. This new trail was excellent for birds with a lot more activity than the main Syndicate Trail. Many birds were feeding on the ripe oranges including twenty or more Red-necked Parrots. We also saw three Rufous-throated Solitaires, a Dominican House Wren, several Plumbeous Warblers and our only Red-legged Thrush and Antillean Euphonia of the trip.

We dropped Bertrand off at his home about mid-afternoon. After driving back to our lodge for a short rest we then headed out to the Emerald Pool to check this key Forest Thrush site out in the late afternoon. The Emerald Pool is only about 20 minute drive from the Springfield Plantation Guest House and we planned to arrive there at or before dawn the next morning. While we did not see any thrushes we did hear what we suspected was a Forest Thrush and the late p.m. check of the trails was very useful as it would be almost dark when we planned to arrive the next morning. We noted that there is a new visitor's center and thus a new entrance to the site, and one must walk a while and cross the stream to access the picnic pavilion where other trip reports had found Forest Thrush.

12/12/2000 As planned, we arrived at the Emerald Pool just before dawn. As we started out on the trail to the picnic tables we immediately spotted a Forest Thrush on the trail a short distance ahead of us. We could not detect any coloring but what transpired to be a very distinctive upright stance on long legs and a characteristic trembling of its tail were noted. A second thrush was seen just before the picnic tables and we eventually got countable views in improving light. The second bird was in view on and off for about ten minutes. Finally we split up and worked separate trails and John and Doreen spotted a third thrush quite close to the Emerald Pool.

On the way out at the visitor center, we threw some bread out for the tame Bullfinches and was amazed to have at least six very tame Brown Tremblers plus three Agoutis suddenly appear out of the forest to pick up the crumbs just a few feet from us - great photo ops for Gail and John.

We drove back to the lodge for breakfast and some birding of the grounds, and then we headed out to the large marshland area at Cabrits National Park. This was rather a disappointment. There clearly is a sizeable marsh habitat (sawgrass and mangroves) but we were unable to access it very well -- a short boardwalk would greatly enhance the area for visitors. We did hear a Sora Rail calling and saw a couple of Northern Waterthrushes and a Am. Redstart. We then decided to check out our nearby Dark-breasted Barn Owl stake-out site at the Catholic Church in Portsmouth. Much to our disappointment we discovered that the church tower was undergoing complete renovation with lots of workmen and noise and no roosting Barn Owl [this was confirmed in discussions with one of the nuns and Barry also went into the church and looked in most of the possible roosting spots].

We now drove back to the Syndicate Trail to time our arrival for the late afternoon parrot activity. We arrived at the parrot overlook at about 2.30 p.m. and stayed until about 4.15 p.m. We saw a few Red-necked Parrots flying back and forth and then Doreen and Barry had three Imperial Parrots fly into the trees across the valley from us. While quite distant views, the blue on the heads and upper-breast and red in both wings and tail were clearly seen. After about twenty minutes the birds departed allowing all four of us to see them in flight.

After leaving the forest, we realized we should have enough time to stop towards dusk to look over the grassy areas at the Canefield Airport in the hope of finding a Barn Owl hunting. No luck but we did locate the cave near the Hummingbird Inn which other trip reports indicate is a Barn Owl roost site. It was too dark to climb up to the cave and this would be left for tomorrow morning.

12/13/2000 We had a full morning's birding before having to leave to catch our flight back to St. Lucia. We decided to go once more in early morning to the Emerald Pool look for the Forest Thrush. Again we saw the bird in the vicinity of the picnic tables. This bird was feeding on bread crumbs we had placed on the trail A second bird was seen in better light fairly close to where John and Doreen had seen one yesterday. Finally, while feeding the birds by the visitor center, John and Barry were amazed to see a Forest Thrush suddenly appear. The bird came to the edge of the forest but would not come fully out to investigate the bread crumbs.

After leaving the Emerald Pool we drove down to investigate the cave near the Hummingbird Inn. While parking the car on the coast road we were pleasantly surprised to spot a fly-by Brown Booby and an immature Herring Gull, rare in these parts, perched on a buoy offshore. However, no luck with the owl despite the rather difficult climb up and into the cave. One ledge near the entrance to the cave showed some “whitewash” but there were no pellets nor other indications of recent occupancy. Our only reward was seeing a large ground lizard and an agitated Dominican House Wren. Back at the Springfield Plantation Guest House we spent about a couple of hours enjoying many of the endemic species seen previously. After that it was a leisurely drive to the airport and stopping at river crossings hoping, without luck, to see the local race of Ringed Kingfisher. Our flight returned us back to St. Lucia and the Rainbow Hotel for one last night in the Lesser Antilles.

12/14/2000 As we had to be packed and ready to leave on the airport shuttle bus at 11.00 a.m. we decided not to rent a car. As a result, we spent a few rather aimless hours walking around in the vicinity of Rodney Bay. After an uneventful flight we arrived back at BWI Airport in Baltimore at about 9.00 p.m.

Our species list was not huge, in part because we concentrated on forest birds and neglected waders and seabirds, and in part because the avian fauna of these islands is not vast, albeit high in quality. Barry and Gail each saw 23 new species for their Caribbean lists, and John and Doreen about 33, as they had not visited the region before.

Species List

Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificens

Recorded from all three islands with the daily maximum count of 25 birds on Dominica.

Brown Booby Sula leucogaster

Single bird in flight close inshore just north of Roseau [Dominica]

Green-backed Heron Butorides striatus

Seen only on Dominica with up to three birds daily.

Great Blue Heron Ardea Herodias

A single bird on Dominica was our only record.

Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea

Five birds seen on St. Vincent and just single birds seen on St. Lucia and Dominica.

Snowy Egret Egretta thula

Our only sighting was two birds seen on St. Lucia, at the ponds west of the airport.

Great Egret Casmerodius alba

Fairly common on St. Lucia with ten birds seen plus a single bird on Dominica.

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis

Common on all three islands and the most numerous egret species seen.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron Nyticorax violaceous

Two birds seen in mangroves on St. Vincent.

Sora Porzana carolina

The only record was a single bird heard calling in the marsh at the Cabrits NP.

Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularia

Up to eight birds seen on St. Vincent and a single bird on St. Lucia.

Herring Gull Larus argentatus

A single second-third year judged to be of this species seen loafing with Royal Terns on Dominica.

Royal Tern Sterna maxima

Only recorded on Dominica with up to 15 birds seen daily.

Belted Kingfisher Ceryle alcyon

Only recorded on Dominica with about six birds seen over the three days.

Common Black Hawk Buteogallus anthracinus

A total of about six birds seen during our two mornings in the forest at the Vermont Nature Trail in St. Vincent.

Broad-winged Hawk Buteo platypterus

Recorded from the forests on all three islands but most numerous on St. Vincent [about 15 birds seen] and Dominica [about twenty birds seen].

American Kestrel Falco sparverius

Recorded on all three islands with the maximum of six seen during our stay on St. Lucia.

Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia

Recorded from all three islands.

Red-necked [Scaly-naped] Pigeon Columba squamosa

Most frequently seen on St. Vincent & particularly easy to see at the Kingstown Botanical Gardens feeding on date palm fruit with a daily maximum eight birds. Two birds also recorded from Dominica.

Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto

Only recorded in the vicinity of Rosea on Dominica where it appeared to be quite common.

Zenaida Dove Zenaida aurita

Recorded from all three islands but most numerous on St. Lucia, including on the grounds of our hotel. We did not see Eared Dove (Z. auriculata) on any of the islands, although it is supposed to be common on St. Lucia and St. Vincent. An unexpected miss.

Common Ground Dove Colombina passerina

Recorded in small numbers from all three islands.

Jacquot (Red-necked) Parrot Amazona arausiaca

The most numerous parrot species totaling up to forty birds seen during our two visits to the Syndicate Trail in the Northern Forest Reserve [Dominica]. Actually, the most productive area was a steep very rough jeep track 1-2 miles below the Syndicate Trailhead. This very birdy trail went through orange groves along the edge of the forest and the parrots [and other birds] were actively feeding on the oranges. A 4WD vehicle is a must to get up to this area.

St. Lucia Parrot Amazona versicolor

Brief unsatisfactory views of 1-2 birds from the Quillesse Forest trail made a visit to the overlook at the Edmond Forest on the following day critical. After about 30 minutes at the overlook, were rewarded with fairly close eye-level views of three birds flying up the canyon. This was followed by several more fly-by parrots for a total of up to ten birds in less than one hour at the overlook. A superb parrot.

St. Vincent Parrot Amazona guildingii

A truly brilliant bird even surpassing the previous species. This species fully lived up to its reputation as the most beautiful of all of the Amazona parrots. Also it was very easy to see from the overlook along the Vermont Nature Trail. We estimated about 25 birds seen each day including two perched quite close to the trail. The bronze color phase outnumbered the green.

Sisserou (Imperial) Parrot Amazona imperialis

We were very fortunate to see this species on both our visits to the Syndicate Trail. On each occasion the birds were seen from the first overlook platform with two birds on the first date and at least three on the second. Clearly a larger and longer winged bird than preceding species. On the first date, when seen overhead, a combination of slow wing-beats interspersed with gliding and somewhat fingered primaries were reminiscent of a buteo. In fact, the species is not only significantly larger than the Red-necked Parrot but is noticeably larger than a Broad-winged Hawk, the local buteo. On the second date, the birds flew in across the ravine allowing plumage coloring to be seen. This included red in the wings and tail, purplish blue on head and breast and rather dull grayish green upperparts. The green upperparts were noticeably duller than the bright emerald green upperparts of the Red-necked Parrot.

Successfully connecting with all four parrots was a major highlight of the trip.

Caribbean Elaenia Elaenia martinicus

Seen in small numbers on all three islands for a combined trip total of about ten birds. The majority of sightings were in forest or forest edge habitat.

Yellow-bellied Elaenia Eleania flavorgaster

Our only record was of two birds in overgrown pasture south of Kingstown.

Lesser Antillean Pewee Contopus latirostris

A pair seen on both dates we visited the Syndicate Trail just a few yards along the trail from the parking area. While very attractive, this species is noticeably duller on the underparts than the St. Lucia Pewee.

St Lucia Pewee Contopus oberi

We only saw this species in the Quillesse Forest where we had about six birds in three hours. Very similar in size and shape to the preceding species but with distinctly brighter reddish buff underparts compared with the paler and duller buff underparts of the Lesser Antillean Pewee. While this species has not yet been split by Clements, it is treated as a full species by Raffaele in Birds of the West Indies.

Eastern Wood Pewee [prob.] Contopus virens

A bird that appeared to be of this species was seen in a small remnant mangrove swamp south of Kingstown on St. Vincent. A very grey-toned small flycatcher with a dusky upper breast.

Lesser Antillean Flycatcher Myiarchus oberi

Seen in both the Quillesse and Edmond Forest Reserves and in scrub and mangroves south of Castries [all St. Lucia ] with a total of about eight birds. Suprisingly, we did not see this species in Dominica although it is listed as common by Raffaele in Birds of the West Indies.

Grenada Flycatcher Myiarchus nugator

Most easy to see at the Botanical Gardens in Kingstown [St.Vincent] where good views obtained of at least one pair. Quite similar to the Lesser Antillean Flycatcher although with a distinctly heavier bill, brighter plumage and short crest. In all about five birds seen on St. Vincent.

Grey Kingbird Tyrannus dominicensis

A common and widespread species on all three islands predominately in disturbed/ agricultural/suburban habitat.

Purple-throated Carib Eulampis jugularis

Very common forest hummingbird in both St. Lucia and St. Vincent. Also occurring in smaller numbers outside the forest such as hotel gardens. Interestingly far less numerous on Dominica.

Green-throated Carib Sericotes holosericeus

Substantially less numerous than the preceding species on St. Lucia and St. Vincent. With a total of five birds seen these two islands the ratio was about 10:1 in favor of Purple-throated Carib. While not common on Dominica , the six birds seen on this island slightly outnumbered the preceding species.

Antillean Crested Hummingbird Orythorhyncus cristatus

Common on all three islands although somewhat less abundant on Dominica. The highest density was in forested areas but quite common in the Kingstown Botanical Gardens. A very attractive small hummer.

Blue-headed Hummingbird Cyanophaia bicolor

Three males were seen on red flowering plants along the road just below the Syndicate trailhead parking area. Also a female seen in the garden of the Springfield Plantation Guest House.

Mangrove Cuckoo Coccyzus minor

A total of seven birds seen on all three islands with a maximum of four on St. Lucia. Most of the birds were at the forest edge or in the forest (i.e., not in mangroves).

Smooth-billed Ani Crotophaga ani

Seen on both St. Vincent and Dominica in small numbers in disturbed open country areas.

Black Swift Cypseloides niger

Gail and John and brief views of a pair in flight from the parrot platform on the Vermont Trail on St. Vincent.

Lesser Antillean Swift Chaetura martinica

A flock of about 100 birds seen feeding over small village on the road up to the Edmond Forest Reserve [St. Lucia]. Aside from this our only sightings were about 15 birds seen principally over the forest on Dominica.

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica

The only hirudine seen on the trip and only a few scattered birds on St. Lucia and Dominica.

House Wren Troglodytes aedon [or Antillean House Wren T. martinicensis]

The House Wren complex on the three islands is very interesting with each island having a distinct endemic subspecies. As such, we were very interested in seeing [and hearing] all three races and comparing them with the birds that breed in our garden in Maryland. The following is a brief summary of our observations:

St. Lucia: Seen only in dry secondary growth woodland in the far north-east of the island. Undoubtedly the most distinctive of the three island races. In fact, it is so markedly different from those seen in North America that we feel that this is a strong candidate for full species status. We had excellent views of a single bird that was taped in by Lyndon. The bird had several distinct plumage differences, the most obvious being largely off-white underparts with pale sandy brown upperparts and a obvious fairly long buffish-white eyestripe. The face was pale and the eye prominent in the face. Overall, a distinctly paler and buffier bird lacking any of the grey tones typical in the birds seen in the northern U.S. The bird looked slightly larger and also had a distinctly longer, yellower [particularly lower mandible] and more decurved bill than N.American house wrens. The bird foraged and sang near the middle and upper parts of small trees. The song started with a series of initial, rather squeaky notes, followed by a musical warble, quite unlike song of mainland House Wrens.

St. Vincent: One bird seen and another heard singing with both in the forest from the Vermont Trail. While still quite different in plumage from northern U.S. birds, not as strikingly so as the St. Lucia race. Overall plumage was a warm brown upperparts and breast contrasting with paler off-white belly. No obvious eye-stripe noticed and the bird lacked the grey tones of the N.Am. birds. The song did not resemble that of a House Wren at all, being characterized by a series of loud, melodic downward notes which, when first heard, we misidentified as the song of the Whistling Warbler. The song was repeated constantly, however, in the manner of wrens.

Dominica: This race was the most numerous with eight birds seen and/or heard over our 2½ days on the island. Birds were seen and heard singing at the Springfield Plantation Guesthouse, in the vicinity of the Syndicate Trail and on cliff scrub above the Hummingbird Inn on the east coast. This race appeared to be a fairly uniform, dark warm brown with only limited contrast between the upper and underparts. The wings and tail were very dark, almost seal brown in color. As with the St. Vincent race, the eye stripe was not particularly obvious. The base of the lower mandible was yellow. The song of this race was the most similar of the three races to that of the House Wren we hear in Maryland -- consisting of a few introductory chattering notes followed by a short bubbly trill -- but truncated and somewhat “hurried.”

Rufous-throated Solitaire Myadestes genibarbis

A fairly common forest bird more frequently seen than heard. We estimated 10+ seen or heard on St. Lucia and a similar number on Dominica. Less common on St. Vincent with none seen and only four heard. We noticed that the birds on Dominica had noticeably darker mantles than those on St. Lucia. (Those on St. Vincent have black backs).

Cocoa Thrush Turdus fumigatus

Four birds seen in the forest along the Vermont Trail on St. Vincent. Rather shy and quick to fly.

Bare-eyed Thrush Turdus nudigenis

We saw this species only on St. Vincent where we estimated 15 birds seen. Not a forest bird and seen very well and easily at the Kingstown Botanical Gardens. Suprisingly we did not record it on St. Lucia where it is reported as being quite common per Raffaele.

Red-legged Thrush Turdus plumbeous

Only one bird seen along the forest edge and taped briefly into view. It was seen at the far end of the steep rough jeep track that starts a couple of miles below the parking area for the Syndicate Trail [Dominica]. This bird was quite shy and reclusive quite unlike the bold, unafraid Red-legged Thrushes seen in other parts of the Caribbean [Bahamas, Cuba and Puerto Rico]. Based on our brief view, it also appeared paler with whiter underparts. Possibly this species is a candidate for splitting.

Forest Thrush Cichlerminia lherminieri

One of our major trip target species. Based on earlier trip reports we focused our efforts on seeing this bird at the Emerald Pool [Dominica]. We first visited this area in early evening and heard what we suspected was this species calling [subsequently we confirmed that it was indeed a Forest Thrush calling]. This call is a single rather sharp smacking note quite similar to the sound you get when kissing the back of your hand. We did not see any birds but it allowed us to become acquainted with the trail system which was very useful as we planned to arrive at dawn the next morning. Arrived the next morning while still quite dark and almost immediately spotted a Forest Thrush about 50 yards along the path from the visitor center. It was too dark to detect any coloring, but its distinctive upright posture, long legs and its habit of slightly quivering its tail were noted. A second bird was watched for about ten minutes in front of the picnic tables. With improving light we could detect the large yellowish eye-ring [actually bare yellowish skin which encircles the eye], long yellowish legs and yellow bill. The chestnut brown mottling on the breast and paler belly could just be detected. Finally, we separated along different trails and John and Doreen had a third bird fairly close to where the trail loops behind the Emerald Pool. The next morning we decided again to look for the Thrush and saw three different birds in better light when the rich brown breast mottling was well seen. It was very satisfying to locate several individuals [probably four different birds] of this rare species and our experience with the Forest Thrush was one of the highlights of the trip.

Tropical Mockingbird Mimus gilvus

Fairly common and seen on all three islands with a combined trip total of about 18 birds. A particularly easy place to see this species was the Kingstown Botanical Gardens.

White-breasted Thrasher Ramphocinclus brachyurus

This species, together with the Forest Thrush and the four Amazona parrots, was the top target bird of the trip. We had read the horror stories about the terrible driving challenge just to get into the Thrasher's breeding area as well as the reports that this area has an abundance of fer-de-lances [highly poisonous snake]. However, thanks to our guide Lyndon Johns, seeing this major rarity turned out to be quite easy. Lyndon had performed a breeding survey of the Thrasher and had located a new site near Micoud, further south than the traditional location. Unlike the traditional site, the new location could not be easier to access, being a mere 1/8 mile trail from the main east coast road. We played Lyndon's tape and shortly afterwards had excellent views of the Thrasher as it rushed in, trembling its wings and responding very aggressively to the tape, without doubt the birding highlight of the trip.

Scaly-breasted Thrasher Margarops fuscus

Only seen on Dominica despite being reported by Raffaele as being common on both St. Lucia and St. Vincent. A forest edge species being quite common at the Springfield Plantation Guest House. Our daily estimates were up to ten birds seen each day. Quite an attractive bird.

Pearly-eyed Thrasher Margarops fuscatus

Suprisingly scarce with only two sightings on St. Lucia with one on the Quillesse Forest Trail and one at the White-breasted Thrasher site. We did not realize this species was so uncommon in the Lesser Antilles, having seen them in abundance earlier in Puerto Rico.

Brown Trembler Cinclocerthia rufcauda

A fairly common forest and forest-edge bird in Dominica and less numerous in St. Vincent. Our island totals were eight birds seen on seen on St. Vincent and 26 birds seen on Dominica. The Dominica total may well have some duplication due to our seeing the same individuals particularly at the Emerald Pool and Springfield Plantation Guest House. This highly charismatic bird was quite common at both of the above locations and extremely tame. We were amazed at the feeding frenzy we caused by throwing out breadcrumbs at the side of the Emerald Pool Visitor Center. Almost immediately we had 6-8 Brown Tremblers feeding at our feet along with many Bullfinches and two Agoutis! A superb species and one of the highlights of the trip.

Gray Trembler Cinclocerthia gutturalis

We saw four individuals on St. Lucia including a couple on the Quillesse Forest Trail and singles at the Edmond Forest and the woodland walk by the St. Lucia Forrest Administrative area. This species appeared a little larger than the Brown Trembler with grayer upperparts and distinctly paler underparts. Not tame like the preceding species.

Black-whiskered Vireo Vireo altiloquus

Small numbers of this species seen in the forest areas of St. Vincent and Dominica.

St. Lucia Warbler Dendroica delicata

The St. Lucia race of the Adelaide 's Warbler has been recently split by the AOU and given the common name of St Lucia Warbler. According to Raffaele the birds on St. Lucia inhabit forests principally at middle and higher altitude. That is exactly where we found this species to be most numerous with the majority of sightings from the Quillesse Forest trail. During our two mornings in the forests we estimated we saw or heard about twelve birds.

Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia

A total of five birds seen on Dominica including a pair at the Springfield Plantation Guest House. The birds were of the Lesser Antillean race [not N. American winter visitors] as the males had fairly obvious red crowns.

Whistling Warbler Catharopeza bishopi

An extremely attractive and unique species seen quite commonly in the forest along the Vermont Nature Trail on St. Vincent. The birds were singing vigorously and responded well to our tape. During the two mornings on this trail we estimated we saw at least six and heard at least twelve others. This included nice views of an adult with an immature bird.

Plumbeous Warbler Dendroica plumbea

A fairly common forest warbler on Dominica with our estimated two day total of eleven birds. We saw it both at the Syndicate Trail and Springfield Plantation Guesthouse. At the latter site an immature was accompanying an adult. Much more attractive than the illustrations in the field guides.

American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla

Just one record of an immature/female seen in mangroves at Cabrits NP.

Northern Waterthrush Seiurus noveboracensis

Three birds seen in mangroves with two on Dominica and a single bird on St. Vincent.

Mourning Warbler Oporonis philadelphia

Undoubtedly the most unexpected species recorded on the trip. Gail had excellent views of an adult male which responded to pishing and flew up and perched in plain sight. It had been in a damp brushy area just in front of the Springfield Plantation Guest House on Dominica. Rafaelle lists this species has having occurred in the Virgin Islands and Greater Antilles but not the Lesser Antilles.

Bananaquit Coereba flaveola

A common and widespread species on the three islands. As such, we made no estimate of numbers and merely ticked it on the daily log. Quite variable in coloring which included a very distinctive all black form in the forest of St. Vincent. Interestingly the coastal form on that island was of the traditional yellow & black coloring.

Lesser Antillean Tanager Tangara cucullata

About six birds of this attractive tanager were seen in the forest along the Vermont Nature Trail on St. Vincent, including a small party feeding at a fruiting tree just in front of the parrot platform.

Lesser Antillean Euphonia Euphonia musica

Despite being present on all three islands, we had a hard time with this species eventually having very nice views of a single male bird on the steep trail [previously described] below the Syndicate Trail on Dominica. A very attractive species.

Lesser Antillean Saltator Saltator albicollis

Seen mainly in scrub and forest edge habitat on both St. Lucia and Dominica. Fairly common on both islands.

Black-faced Grassquit Tiaris bicolor

We only recorded four birds on St. Lucia, increasing to an estimated thirty on St. Vincent and very common on Dominica. On the latter island we judged it to be the second most common species after the Lesser Antillean Bullfinch.

Lesser Antillean Bullfinch Loxigilla noctis

An extremely common and widespread species on all three islands. The amount of red on the face varied, being least on Dominican birds (which often lacked the red eyebrows).

St. Lucia Black Finch Melanosspiza richardsoni

Two females seen on the Quillesse Forest Trail and a single male seen briefly at the White -breasted Thrasher site were our only sightings. Constant tail-bobbing, longish pink legs, and ground-oriented feeding are quick clues to distinguish from very common and superficially similar Bullfinch.

Carib Grackle Quiscalus lugubris

Abundant on St. Lucia but surprisingly scarce on St. Vincent and Dominica.

Shiny Cowbird Molothrus bonariensis

Suprisingly, our only sighting was of an immature bird consorting with Carib Grackles in downtown Kingstown [St. Vincent].

St. Lucia Oriole Icterus laudabllls

We saw 2-3 birds of this very attractive species on the Quillesse Forest Trail and singles at the White-breasted Thrasher site and the Edmond Forest.


Copyright © 1992-2012 John Wall