Sunday, March 9, 2014

St. Maarten - 04 Mar 2014

We woke at 6 and looked out the window to see the Dutch Island of St Maarten. The first birds to greet us were a pair of Magnificent Frigatebirds, followed shortly by a Brown Booby. It was still a bit dark out to chase the birds, so we went for breakfast and returned to get ready for our shore excursion: Butterfly Farm and Island Tour.

I spent some time on our balcony waiting for passing frigates, and was not disappointed. I had several birds soar right past me just feet away. The Brown Pelicans were less cooperative, but one came close enough to photograph, while the Brown Boobies stayed far away. I would also see several Great Egrets, Cattle Egrets, a Snowy Egret, and a Green Heron. Royal Terns were flying over the water, as well.

juv male molting to adult

We booked the butterfly tour because I was interested in trying to see and photograph both Green-throated Carib and Anillean-crested Hummingbirds that would be attracted to the food put out for the butterflies. A short bus ride to the French side of the island (St Martin) brought us to the Butterfly Farm, a screen-enclosed quarter-acre filled with exotic butterflies from all over the world. I walked around and took some photos using the Nikon SB-800 and Better Beamer. The pics came out nice, but a bit overexposed.

I was disappointed that we were only given about 30 minutes there before they ushered us out for our free rum drink. I bolted behind the building into the field where I spotted numerous Banaquits, Zenaida Doves, and a gorgeous male Green-throated Carib. I had trouble trying to focus on the little beauty and only managed a single keeper.

Dozens of Banaquits were chattering in the shrubs and thickets, and coming to the nectar feeders next to the little picnic hut. Next to them a pair of Eurasian Collared Doves were emptying the handing seed feeder.

As I chased them around a single male Antillean-crested Hummingbird appeared in a flowering bush in front of me. I was too close to it to focus, and had to back up in order to get the lens to work. I was too slow to photograph it, but would relocate it just long enough while it perched momentarily. A Lesser Antillean Bullfinch was my only consolation. It is distinguished from the Greater Antillean Bullfinch by having a small red eyebrow patch versus a much larger, longer eyebrow stripe.

I then spotted a female Antillean Crested Hummingbird feeding on some of the flowers out back, and managed a few photos of it in flight, and then perched.  A female Green-throated Carib looks like its male counterpart so the ID was simple.

But we were already boarding the bus for the rest of the tour, so I had no chance for any more pics. Arggggh! As we were pulling away a bright green Iguana appeared in the bushes and I photographed it through the bus windows. We would see many more of these lizards as we circled the 37-square mile island.

We had time for an hour lunch so Robin and I went to a little roadside cafe (Sandra's) and had some chicken and rice. Afterward I walked around a bit trying to get a few pics of the numerous Carib Grackles in the palm trees over the street markets. I also found a Loggerhead Kingbird nearby on an overhead wire.

Back in the bus we passed the great salt pond. Brown pelicans, Great Blue Herons, Common Moorhens, and Cattle Egrets were all I saw.

We then returned to the ship shortly after two and headed to get something to drink. We would soon pull out of port and head onto St. Thomas. We were greeted by a nice evening sunset.

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