|Common Ground Dove|
Mangrove Warbler seen in northern South America and Central America.
I headed back to the ship shortly after 10 am. We have an afternoon tour and there was nowhere close to walk to for any decent birding. A mangrove patch was seen along the shoreline just north of the ship but getting there involved hiking through construction zone and I was carrying enough camera equipment to get everyone’s attention. It would not have been a safe place to explore on my own…
Robin and I then disembarked for an afternoon “Sea and See” Tour of the island. Michaela, our tour guide, loaded 33 of us aboard a bus and we drove to the Hilton Curacao, where a semi-submarine boat awaited us. Mean temperature on the island was 85F and stiff Trade Winds blew, which helped reduce humidity.
Once aboard the boat we walked down some steep steps to the underwater portion of the boat where glass windowed hulls greeted us on either side. We sat on benches two-abreast and looked out as the captain motored along the edge of steep reef and dropoff. Sargent Major Fish, Pufferfish, Green Sea Turtles, Yellow-fin Snapper, Butterfly Fish and Pipefish were just some of the dozens of species we saw through the windows. Several species of Parrotfish grazed on Brain Coral and Tan-tipped Corals, which we were told causes severe blistering and burns should one brush up against them. We didn’t see any Lionfish, which also causes month-long blisters should one get stung.
Once the boat portion of tour ended we returned to the Lobby of the Hilton to await a bus trip to the Curacao Liqueur Company (Chobolobo) on the other side of the island. While folks relaxed I looked for Bananaquits among the palm trees just outside the lobby; they were noisy with their hummingbird-like chatter. White-tipped Doves flew by in the afternoon winds, but none came close enough for photos.
We then drove through town and over the Queen Julia Bridge to the shopping district and a stop at the Curacao Liqueur Company. A quick tour of the factory taught us that the orange, green, and blue-colored liqueurs all taste the same but look different due to coloring. Only liqueur shipped in round-bottomed bottles are authentic. The Curacao liqueur is a product of a century of orange trees being planted by the Dutch, only to turn bitter in taste due to the soil (or lack thereof). The trees withered, the fruit dried and produced an alcoholic aroma that was intensified when the rinds were dried and boiled. Blah, blah, blah, yada-yada-yada, and you have the famous blue liqueur! Yummy!
While folks wandered the liqueur shop I ran around the courtyard chasing Bananaquits, and managed to find a migrant Northern Waterthrush skulking in a shady ditch. The bobbing tail was the ID cinched.
We would return to the ship just in time to get some dinner before pulling out to sea. Curacao is a very interesting island, and we fell in love with it by the time our tour had ended. Definitely will be a place to return to in the future…