As any birdwatcher knows, a day looking for birds in a new place is going to result in a good adventure. Add in a different country and driving on the “wrong” side of the road, and you’ll have plenty of adventures…or misadventures as the case might be.
Ted Eubanks and I, Holly Robertson, are currently in Antigua and Barbuda continuing our work on the Caribbean Birding Trail project. Last year we visited the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Grenada to assess the potential for bird tourism and to design an interpretive strategy for the Caribbean using birds as the main focus. Birds offer a variety of storylines that we can use to connect people (locals and tourists alike) to places in the Caribbean. Places that support bird populations, but also the ecosystems services that Caribbean people rely upon for erosion control, fresh water, and much more.
This year we add Antigua and Barbuda to the list, thanks to funding secured by the local non-profit Environmental Awareness Group (EAG) from the Finnish Embassy. The Finnish Embassy also funded the creation of the Christian Valley Birding Trail on Antigua a couple of years ago. EAG’s current grant is intended to help give the EAG some added focus and direction to its bird conservation approach over the next few years.
Hence bringing in Ted Eubanks, a specialist in sustainable tourism and environmental interpretation, to assist in the development of birding tourism in Antigua and Barbuda and to assess in a critical and informed way where the focus of these development efforts should be directed.
Much of this process means hitting the road (wrong side and all) and exploring what these two islands have to offer the traveler looking for birds, nature, authenticity and adventure. Ted and I found plenty of both, while sometimes staring down a Mac truck.
One particularly spectacular stop was at a place called Darkwood in southwest Antigua where more than a thousand birds of a dozen different species congregated to take advantage of food and water. The exact numbers will be entered into eBird, but there have been hundreds of short-billed dowitchers, lesser yellowlegs, semipalmated sandpipers, and stilt sandpipers. There were over 200 black-necked stilts in this pond with nesting well underway. Here is a shot of one small corner of a very large pond, and below a picture of a Black necked Stilt, doing its best to lure us away from its nearby nest.
Tomorrow we will fly the fifteen minutes to Barbuda and explore the island with local birder Junior Prosper. We are excited to go in search of the Barbuda Warbler, the country’s single endemic species (the others are restricted range endemics that occur on other islands). I must admit I’m also keen to see the famous pink sand beaches and in general take in the unique culture that only a small island can proffer. After all, it’s not so much about finding the bird, as it is the journey (and the misadventures) to see it!
All photos by Ted Eubanks