I've just returned from Saint Lucia, after being invited back by Anse Chastanet Eco Resort for the second time. Last time I was commissioned to showcase the amazing bird life that can be found on the island, which you can read about here. This time it was more of a holiday as a thank you for the previous job and for getting features out in UK birdwatching magazines to help promote the resort and island. I took my camera just in case and I'm glad I did as there were a few surprises in store...
Firstly, I arrived to find that critically endangered HAWKSBILL TURTLES were hatching right on the Anse Chastenet beach! Meno (pictured) told me that it was the second time that week hatchlings had been emerging and that there was at least one more batch of eggs that could hatch any day. Amazing!
The next surprise was the rain. The rainy season was pretty late and when I arrived, everyone was talking about how dry it had been - but that was about to change. It bucketed down from the second day, but fortunately the rain in Saint Lucia isn't as bad as in the UK and the showers are usually pretty short during the day, and they don't stop the sun from shining. In fact it provided some nice opportunities to capture some images like this spotted sandpiper on Anse Chastenet beach, where I used backlight from the early evening sun to highlight the raindrops.
There were a couple of birds I wanted to see this time that I didn't manage to see on my first trip, and top of the list was the rufous-throated solitaire or "mountain whistler" as it is known locally. I'd heard them singing previously at Des Cartiers, but I knew that the Edmund Forest Reserve was supposed to be better and there was a good chance of seeing some Jacquots there too. We only had a few hours to walk the trails, but we saw plenty of parrots (although too distant for pictures) and Smith who was guiding was red-hot at calling the solitaires down by whistling their song.
My next big surprise was an osprey fishing in the stream at Soufriere, just outside the resort. Meno had seen it in the early morning on the way in to work, so I thought I'd chance it the next day, knowing full well that the likelihood of it still being there was pretty remote. My luck was in though and although we didn't see it catch anything, it made a few attempts and some very close fly-bys. What a bird!
On the last morning of the trip, I went to Bouton to look for parrots, and found a golden apple tree with one feeding in it just before sunrise. It left just before it was light enough for pictures, so I spent the rest of the morning waiting and hoping that they'd return. Unfortunately, my luck had run out and they didn't show, but I kept myself busy watching this grey kingbird trying to swallow these fruits that were just a little bit too big to fit down its throat. Normally they are flycatchers, and I hadn't seen them do this before - it would toss the fruit in the air and open its bill as wide as possible, hoping it would land at the right angle to swallow. It must have tried for about 20 minutes, before it finally got it down!
If you are interested in seeing or photographing the birdlife of Saint Lucia, I am currently putting together a list of contacts for future tours, so please get in touch. Massive thanks to Karolin and Nick for the invite, Jonathan, Meno and all the resort staff for making sure we had such a great time.