Lesser Antilles: 9-17 Apr 1995
Section 1 - General information


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Overview

This report is divided into six sections:

Section 1 - Introduction, logistics, itinerary and general information.
Section 2 - Birding sites (Martinique).
Section 3 - Birding sites (Guadeloupe).
Section 4 - Birding sites (Dominica).
Section 5 - Birding sites (St. Lucia).
Section 6 - Annotated checklist.

Introduction

The Lesser Antilles comprise the chain of eastern Caribbean islands stretching from Barbuda and Antigua in the north, southward to St. Vincent and Grenada. This report predominantly covers the ornithologically interesting islands of Martinique, St. Lucia, Guadeloupe and Dominica, which all have single-island endemics as well as other species only occurring on one or two islands. Additional notes are provided for the remaining endemics occuring on Montserrat, St. Vincent and Grenada.

Although in the course of a one or two week visit, only a limited number of species - certainly less than a hundred - can be expected to be seen, this will include several Lesser Antillean endemics, as well as a high proportion of other range restricted Caribbean birds. Two species of particular note are the critically endangered Imperial Parrot (Dominica) and the White-breasted Thrasher (Martinique and St. Lucia). Whether or not one chooses to island hop or pass time on a single island, either will be rewarding, and the scenery on these islands can be spectacular.

This report is based on personal experiences of these islands from 9-17 April 1995, as well as much input from several friends resident on these islands for several years. The Lesser Antilles are not heavily birded, so visitors have a good opportunity to add to the ornithological knowledge of these islands.

Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Taxonomy and nomenclature follow Clements (1991).

Flights and Getting There

Charter and intercontinental scheduled flights are available to Martinique, Guadeloupe and St. Lucia. The former two are served by direct flights from Paris on Air France and probably offer the best gateway for European birders not on a package holiday. As Dominica has no ability to handle large planes, visitors must connect from one of the other caribbean islands - Antigua, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Lucia or St. Martin. An airport departure tax of 10 US$ is levied at St. Lucia and Dominica.

Visas and Entry

Holders of British, American and most European passports do not require an entry visa for any of these islands. Guadeloupe and Martinique are both departments of France and as such are part of the EU. St. Lucia immigration issues a permit for a stay of up to 42 days as standard, but on arrival at Dominica your passport is stamped for however many days you request on the arrival form. You are also required to show a ticket out of the country.

Due to the large amount of drugs, primarily cannabis, available within the caribbean, customs baggage checks are often thorough. Considering that Martinique and Guadeloupe are direct gateways (domestic flights) into Europe one can appreciate the reason. Additionally, both St. Lucia and Dominica ban the import and export of wildlife, foodstuffs, fruits and the like, and it is encouraging to see that parrots are specifically mentioned and advertised on posters at Dominican customs.

Language

French is used exclusively on Martinique and Guadeloupe. Do not expect English to be spoken even in tourist areas. English is the official language on both St. Lucia and Dominica, though locals usually speak a French-based patois among themselves.

Money

The official currency throughout many, including St. Lucia and Dominica, of the eastern Caribbean islands is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (EC$). On these islands, all EC$ notes and coins, regardless of origin, are valid. For practical purposes however, the US$ is widely and readily accepted. The official rate in April 95 was 2.6 EC$ = 1 US$, though some places only offered 2.5 EC$. As one might expect, the French Franc (FF) is used on Guadeloupe and Martinique. Prices throughout this guide are quoted in the currency in which we paid. Credit cards are widely accepted.

Travel and Getting Around

Road conditions vary enormously throughout the islands. The best roads are found on Martinique and Guadeloupe, where their condition is often better than western Europe. The worst roads were in St. Lucia, where a 4x4 is necessary to visit the more remote spots. Roads on Dominica were somewhat between the two - reasonable along the principle round-island road, and adequate away from it. A 4x4 is not necessary on Dominica. Driving conditions also vary.
Martinique
: Drive on the right. The island is fairly well populated, and driving standards were somewhat similar to those one might expect in Paris.
Guadeloupe
: Drive on the right. Driving standards here were the worst encountered. Drivers are extremely aggressive, and travel at ridiculous speeds. One can expect to see fully laden trucks belting along at break-neck speed with no hope of stopping should an unexpected event occur. Cars cut you up at every junction and corner. In short driving here is dangerous - be awake for the unexpected.
St. Lucia
: Drive on the left. Bad, and twisty mountain roads keep speed down throughout the island. No real problems were encountered. All distances and car odometers are measured in miles, not kilometres.
Dominica
: Drive on the left. One interesting feature of driving here is the complete lack of road signs (bends, junctions, speed-limits etc), and town/village names. This is in direct contrast to the Lonely Planet guide (Bendure and Friary, 1994) which states that "Road signs mark most towns and villages, and major intersections are clearly signposted". Evidently their researchers were on a different planet at the time. It was unclear what unit of distance is used on Dominica. We presumed miles, as the lady at Avis didn't know what a kilometre was, even though the car we hired had a km/hour speedometer.

Inter Island: By far the easiest way to island-hop is by plane. Most islands are connected by several flights per day on one or other of several airlines serving the region. The three leading airlines appear to be Air Martinique, Air Guadeloupe and LIAT. From personal, and others', experiences it is apparent that LIAT should be the last choice of the inter-island traveller. It is with good reason that locally the acronym LIAT stands for "Leave Island Any Time".

Car Rental. Car rental is similarly priced on all the islands, though can be slightly more on St. Lucia as agencies there do not offer unlimited mileage. This is not generally a problem though, as it is difficult to cover anything other than small distances. Most, or all, of the major international rental companies, and several local companies are found on each island. On both Dominica and St. Lucia, a European driving licence is not valid, although an international licence can be used on St. Lucia. As such, it is necessary to purchase a local driving permit for a fee of 12 US$, from immigration, the car hire companies or a police station. This procedure is evidently designed to either increase road safety or, more likely, a scam to obtain cash from foreign tourists.
Martinique and Guadeloupe: A Peugeot 106, all inclusive with unlimited kilometres cost around 200 FF/day. We rented through Citer, who supplied an almost new car on Guadeloupe, and about whom we had no complaints.
St. Lucia: The best deal we could find, on arrival at the airport, was with Economy Car Rental. A Sentra, class F, with power-steering and a/c was 70 US$ per day all inclusive with 100 free miles. However, in retrospect, a 4x4 is advisable. A Suzuki jeep was only an extra 10 US$ per day. Unlimited mileage is only available on hires of a week or more.
Dominica: The principle problem here is that none of the hire companies have a counter at the airport - most being in town. Both Budget and Avis provide courtesy telephones at the airport terminal, and will send a car to collect you. Our reservation, made through Avis in Martinique, had not been recorded. This did not present a problem however, though the car we received, a Toyota Match, was in generally poor condition. Over two days the cost worked out at 54 US$/day all inclusive. It is recommended that future visitors rent through Budget, as their office is outside town and very close to the airport.

Petrol. Petrol is readily available on all islands. On Martinique and Guadeloupe prices were similar to Europe, while those on Dominica and St. Lucia slightly cheaper at 7 EC$ and 6 EC$ respectively.

Maps. Good roads maps (1:100,000) of Guadeloupe and Martinique are available at petrol stations and bookshops all over the islands. However, maps are not readily found on Dominica or St. Lucia, and a good map is essential for the later. The best available for these islands are the 1:50,000 World Series maps, published by the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain. Both have excellent detail, including areas of forest marked.

Food. As far as foodstuffs are concerned, Guadeloupe and Martinique are just like France, with a complete range of commodities readily available. Similarly, we encountered no real difficulties in finding provisions, albeit somewhat more limited, on St. Lucia. Dominica is by far the poorest of these islands, and it is difficult to find stores away from the main towns. However, those we visited in Roseau and Portsmouth were adequate. Gastronomically, one of the biggest disappointments was food served in the cafes and restaurants we visited - we had been led to expect great things of the Caribbean. Evidently, expensive restaurants on Guadeloupe and Martinique should provide excellent food, but less extravagant places visited by ourselves, and no doubt future birders, were rather average. Specifics, good and bad, for those places we frequented are given in the birding section below.

Accommodation. Readily available except on Dominica. See the birding section below for details.

Climate and When to go

All the Lesser Antillean islands have a similar climate pattern - tropical, tempered by northeasterly trade winds. The driest period is from January to April, with May seeing the onset of the rains, which peak in July and August. Temperatures fluctuate little throughout the year, and even at altitude a light sweater is more than sufficient. However, one should expect heavy rainfall at any time in the mountains. As the whole Caribbean can experience hurricanes, principally from June to November, it is a good idea to avoid this period if only planning a short trip. For birders, the most attractive time to visit would be probably between March and April, when some North American migrants may be passing through. However, seabird enthusiasts, planning on visiting offshore islets or sailing in the area, might consider April to May a better time when more seabirds are present at their breeding grounds.

Health

Compared with many other tropical areas, the Lesser Antilles are a fairly healthy birding destination. However, it would be wise to take the usual inoculations and precautions for travelling in the tropics.

References

Primary Field References:

Bendure, Glenda, and Friary, Ned. (1994). Eastern Caribbean - A travel survival kit. Lonely Planet. Packed with travel information, places to stay etc. - we found it very useful.

Benito-Espinal, Edouard, (1990) Oiseaux des Petites Antilles / Birds of the West Indies. Editions du Latanier, Saint-Barthelemy, FWI. Despite its title, this reference covers the resident and common migrant species of Guadeloupe and Martinique only. A good photograph of each species treated, is accompanied by a brief text, distribution map and table of habitat preferences and distribution for all the Lesser Antilles. One nice feature of the book is that it is dual language throughout.

Bond, James. (1960, 1985). Birds of the West Indies. Collins, London. Still the standard field guide for the birds of the region. Aging somewhat now, but still essential.

Curson, J., Quinn, D. and Beadle, D. (1994). New World Warblers. A & C Black. A useful reference, especially the detailed coverage of the Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia complex, which is represented by several sub-species in these islands.

Evans, Peter. (1990). Birds of the Eastern Caribbean. The Macmillan Press Ltd., London and Basingstoke. This is a photographic field guide with information on description, habitat, habits and distribution. Useful.

National Geographic Society. (1987). Field Guide to the Birds of North America (2nd ed). This, or a similar North American guide might be taken as a better reference for migrants than Bond.

Other references:

Blockstein, David E. (1991). Population declines of the endangered endemic birds on Grenada, West Indies. Bird Conservation International. Vol 1:83-91.

Bulens, P., Le Dru, A., Tayalay, G., Bonet, J., and Tanasi, M. (1994). Premiers résultats sur un suivi de l'avifaune de la presqu'île de la Caravelle. Association pour l'Etude et la protection des Vertébrés des petites Antilles. A thorough ornithological survey of the birds of the Réserve Naturelle de la Caravelle, with particular attention to the habitat and ecology of the White-breasted Thrasher, carried out from 21 May to 28 August 1994.

Bulens, P. (1985). Oiseaux de Martinique. Unpublished species list.

Collar, N.J. et al. (1992). Threatened Birds of the Americas. The ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book, Third edition, part 2. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London. Invaluable background reading.

Evans, Peter G. H. (1991) Parrots on Dominica. Bird Conservation International. Vol. 1: 11-32. ICBP. Provides a good overview of the status and distribution of the two endangered, endemic parrots on Dominica.

Faanes, C., (1988). Itinerary for a trip to the Lesser Antilles (31 August - 7 September 1988). Unpublished trip report. Covers Antigua, St. Lucia, Grenada, and Montserrat. Useful by no maps and no scientific names.

Faanes, C., (1989). Itinerary for a second trip to the Lesser Antilles (3-8 May 1989). Unpublished trip report. Covers Guadeloupe, Dominica, and Martinique, Antigua, St. Lucia, Grenada, and Montserrat. Useful by no maps or scientific names.

Faanes, C., (1990). Field Notes from St. Vincent, West Indies (21-22 September 1989). Unpublished trip report. Useful but no maps or scientific names.

I.C.B.P. (1986). Study Report 23. Report of the 1986 University of East Anglia Martinique Oriole Expedition. International Council for Bird Preservation (now BirdLife International).

I.C.B.P. (1987). Study Report 33. Report of the 1987 UEA/ICBP St. Lucia Expedition. International Council for Bird Preservation (now BirdLife International). Very useful information on the ecology, habitat and distribution of St. Lucia's endemic species and sub-species. Contains some excellent sketch maps of the remote north-eastern part of the island which harbours many of the endemics.

Wall, J.W. (1990). Guadeloupe and Martinique Trip Report. (23-25 March & 30 March - 2 April 1990). Unpublished trip report. Includes five maps, some notes on butterflies seen and additionally some birds on a brief stop in Puerto Rico.

Wau, R. (1989). Notes on Birding St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenada (29 May - 4 June 1989). Unpublished trip report. Useful but no maps.

Wau, R. (1989). The Greater and Lesser Antilles. Birding. February 90. pp 42-45. ABA, Colorado. A brief article on the endemic birds found in the Caribbean.

Wau, R. (1990). West Indies Endemics. Birding. August 90. pp 186-189. ABA, Colorado. This follow- up to the previous article is a simple distributional checklist of Caribbean specialities.

Commercial Tape Recordings:

Benito-Espinal, Edouard. A l'écoute des oiseaux de Guadeloupe et de Martinique. Recordings of forty one species. Very useful.

Hardy, J.W., Coffey, B.B. Jr., & Reynard, G.B. (1989). Voices of the New World Nightjars and Their Allies. ARA Records. Only the recordings of Rufous Nightjar and White-tailed Nightjar are likely to be useful in the Lesser Antilles.

Endemics and Specialities of the Lesser Antilles

The West Indies as a whole, has some 160 or so endemic bird species. Of these, about 38 are found regularly breeding within the Lesser Antilles, and include 25 which are solely confined to these islands. Additionally, several species occur whose breeding range is mostly confined to the Caribbean but does include small areas of the surrounding North or South American continents. These include such species as White-crowned Pigeon, Grey Kingbird, Caribbean Elaenia, Black-whiskered Vireo, and Black-faced Grassquit. The following provides an overview of West Indies endemics breeding in the Lesser Antilles.

Caribbean Coot
Scaly-naped Pigeon
Grenada Dove
Bridled Quail-Dove
St. Lucia Parrot
Red-necked Parrot
St. Vincent Parrot
Imperial Parrot
St. Lucia Nightjar
Lesser Antillean Swift
Purple-throated Carib
Green-throated Carib
Antillean Crested Hummingbird
Blue-headed Hummingbird
Guadeloupe Woodpecker
Lesser Antillean Pewee
Grenada Flycatcher
Lesser Antillean Flycatcher
Forest Thrush
Rufous-throated Solitaire
Red-legged Thrush
Brown Trembler
Grey Trembler
White-breasted Thrasher
Scaly-breasted Thrasher
Pearly-eyed Thrasher
Caribbean Martin
Adelaide's Warbler
Plumbeous Warbler
Whistling Warbler
Semper's Warbler
Antillean Euphonia
Lesser Antillean Tanager
Lesser Antillean Bullfinch
St. Lucia Black Finch
St. Lucia Oriole
Martinique Oriole
Montserrat Oriole

Fulica caribaea
Columba squamosa
Leptotila wellsi
Geotrygon mystacea
Amazona versicolor
Amazona arausiaca
Amazona guildingii
Amazona imperialis
Caprimulgus otiosus
Chaetura martinica
Eulampis jugularis
Eulampis holosericeus
Orthorhyncus cristatus
Cyanophaia bicolor
Melanerpes herminieri
Contopus latirostris
Myiarchus nugator
Myiarchus oberi
Cichlherminia lherminieri
Myadestes genibarbis
Turdus plumbeus
Cinclocerthia ruficauda
Cinclocerthia gutturalis
Ramphocinclus brachyurus
Margarops fuscus
Margarops fuscatus
Progne dominicensis
Dendroica adelaidae
Dendroica plumbea
Catharopeza bishopi
Leucopeza semperi
Euphonia musica
Tangara cucullata
Loxigilla noctis
Melanospiza richardsoni
Icterus laudabilis
Icterus bonana
Icterus oberi

Acknowledgements

Special thanks go to my friends Pierre and Françoise Bulens who gratuitously put me up in their home and transported me around Martinique. Pierre, as a long time resident, also provided a wealth of knowledge about birds and birding the area, and accompanied me on these travels. Thanks are also due to Arnaud le Dru who birded and travelled with us, and Philippe Feldmann who assisted greatly on Guadeloupe. Lastly I would thank John Wall and Allan Keith who supplied reports and information from their own travels.

Itinerary and Personal Experiences

7 April. The direct Air France flight from Paris to Martinique left twenty minutes late at 18:30, but arrived on time in Fort de France at 20h30. Although the French are well known for their excellent cuisine, this does not appear to extend to Air France, whose culinary delights on board can only be described as mediocre to bad. Met at the airport by Pierre and Françoise Bulens and transported to their house about 10 kilometres northwest of Fort de France. Crashed out around 23:00.

8 April. An 04:45 start with Pierre for the 45 minute drive across the island to the Caravelle Peninsula for dawn. We first birded one of the less accessible wooded ravines, away from the usual public access, quickly finding two to three White-breasted Thrasher, including a nest. After a couple of hours we walked the trail system near the ruins finding several more and a single Martinique Oriole - just past the information board informing visitors about the Martinique Oriole. Left at around 11:00 as the heat of the day started to kill bird activity. Our next stop was drinks at the house of Arnaud Le Dru, a licensed ringer, on the outskirts of Fort de France. Whilst having a punch on the terrace, much to my amazement, a Martinique Oriole appeared in the garden. After lunch, around 15:00, and still very much in the heat of the day we drove a short distance up the coast and turned inland to La Demarché, a small area of hacked-over mid elevation forest where one might find several montane species. Although we didn't see the Blue-headed Hummingbird which has occasionally be found here, Rufous-throated Solitaire was fairly common, and we found Lesser Antillean Pewee and two more Martinique Oriole. Evening at chez Pierre.

9 April. An even earlier start with Pierre and Arnaud to drive up to Plateaux Boucher in the central highlands to erect mist nets before dawn. We chose the forest clearing just below the summit trail to Piton du Carbet where we spent an enlightening morning. Birds caught and seen in the hand included numerous Bare-eyed Thrush, Lesser Antillean Bullfinch and Black-whiskered Vireo, as well as a single Rufous-throated Solitaire, Purple-throated Carib and Ruddy Quail-Dove. A pair of Grey Trembler were present for most of the morning around the clearing. I did briefly try the rather muddy trail to the summit, but saw little. After lunch Pierre and I departed to the airport for the Air Martinique flight to Guadeloupe, which left twenty minutes late at 15:30. On arrival at Pointe-à-Pitre we quickly collected our pre-arranged hire car from Citer, and drove with Philippe Feldmann. a local birder, to the Vernou area, where in the last hour of the day we quickly found Plumbeus Warbler, Pale-eyed Thrasher and the beautiful Guadeloupe Woodpecker. Dinner with Philippe, and overnight at the Mont Fleuri guesthouse in Vernou (250 Fr/double inc. breakfast).

10 April. Up at 05:30 for the short drive to the Corossol picnic area. Heavy rain showers prevented much birding, but between the downpours we were able to take a short walk along the access road, but observed little activity. We resorted to sheltering under the picnic shelters and scanning the forest along the river, and whilst doing so had excellent views of a Forest Thrush feeding around the rubbish bins. This species does indeed appear to be shy, and although we had heard two singing in the same area the previous evening, they failed to respond to tape playback. Brown Trembler was also seen picking crumbs off the tables. Around 08:00 we gave up on the rain and returned to the Fleuri for breakfast. From here we had wanted to spend time in the mountains, along the cross-island road between Vernou and the west coast. However, as the rain was fairly persistent at altitude we continued to the west coast at Point Noire, and drove the track inland toward la Couronne. At least this side of the mountain was dry. Forest along this track was fairly productive with Lesser Antillean Pewee, American Redstart, more Guadeloupe Woodpecker, and several calling Quail-Dove sp. which defied attempts to locate them.

By 12:00 the temperature was soaring so we commenced our drive to the north of Grande Terre stopping en route for chicken and chips (84 Fr) at a roadside stall. Our first destination was the mangroves just north of Port-Louis where we found a few migrant shorebirds but little else of interest. From here we continued north stopping at the headlands of Pointe de la Grande Virgie, Pointe du Piton and Pointe du Lagon in the hope of finding Red-billed Tropicbird, but were unsuccessful. Night at Monte Fleuri again, with dinner at a small cafe in Petit Bourg (130 Fr).

11 April. A bit of a late start at 06:00 found us walking a trail on the north side of the road just past the Corossol river crossing, where the only new bird seen was Lesser Antillean Flycatcher. As activity was rather lacking we decided to partake of an early breakfast at the Fleuri. At this point we debated the merits of a mad rush to the airport to try to get on the earlier, morning flight to Dominica, but eventually decided against it, opting to try the Maison de la Forêt trails instead. This was, in retrospect, a good decision - while on the trails we had excellent views of Bridled Quail-Dove - our only sighting of the trip. On our return, finding the airport proved to be difficult due to inadequate sign-posting.

The hour delay on our LIAT flight to Dominica at 13:50 was referred to as slight by the captain. Easily cleared customs and immigration at Roseau, Dominica and was also able to get a driving permit at the airport. Not so smooth though was to find that no car reservation counters can be found at the airport, and the Avis (who do supply a telephone) office in town did not have a record of our reservation. This proved not too great a problem though, as they were able to provide us with a rather clapped-out Toyota Match, which had all four indicator covers broken, and looked as though it had done 100,000 more kilometres than were on the clock. Nevertheless, it did hold together for the duration of our trip, the only problem being clutch slippage on steep sections of road. The journey north to Portsmouth took just over an hour, but finding reasonably priced accommodation proved difficult. Eventually we ended up at Mammies on the beach which at 40 US$/double was grossly overpriced for the basic facilities provided.

Had we not spent so much time looking for accommodation we had planned to drive up toward the Syndicate Estate to try for parrots, but as the time was getting on toward 16:00 we opted to investigate the dry forest of Cabrits National Park. Although Bridled Quail-Dove occurs in the park, we heard none, though Scaly-naped Pigeon was common. The fortifications themselves are rather pleasant, with excellent views across the bay toward the central mountains. Dinner at the Mango restaurant in Portsmouth town was good, but being a tourist area, has too many hassles with locals wanting to be guides, begging etc. In retrospect don't stay in this area (see birding information below). An awful night's sleep with noisy music, dogs and people through till 04:00.

12 April. Up and out 05h00, only to find some idiot had blocked our car in the driveway. The only solution was to knock on other room doors till the culprit was found. Fortunately this didn't take too long, but for sure we were not the most popular people on the block! The access track to the Syndicate Estate is marked from the main-road, which we followed for about 7 kilometres until the road became too bad for our two-wheel drive. En route we had excellent views of an Upland Sandpiper running around on the road in the car headlights. A few Red-necked Parrot were seen flying past where we parked, but we were unsure about where the main viewpoints might be.

We spent an abortive hour trying the steep and muddy trail to the Morne Diablotin summit, but gave it up when it became evident that we were not going to obtain any decent views from inside the forest. We continued to explore the main access track within the banana plantations, and were about to give up when a local nature guide with four tourists drove past and explained where to find the viewpoints. Over the next couple of hours we obtained excellent views of at least fifteen Imperial Parrot from the rather precarious viewpoints over the ravine. We can only surmise that we were incredibly lucky that the area immediately below the viewpoints had fruiting trees. We also saw a single Blue-headed Hummingbird along the forest trail. Feeling immensely pleased at having seen the two endangered parrots in the first morning we returned to Mammies, willingly checked out, and drove south to Roseau, where we spent an hour in the Botanical Gardens photographing the captive parrots and admiring the flattened bus beneath the giant baobab that came down on it during the severe hurricane David in 1979. The afternoon was spent birding the highland area above Roseau at Morne Macaque where we saw few birds and were caught out in a huge downpour. Overnight at the Nello Inn adjacent to the airport, which at 25 US$/single was ten orders of magnitude better than Mammies, and highly recommended.

13 April. Having no particular reason to get up early, laid in till 06h00, and then headed south to Scott's Point at the far southern end of the island. The idea had been to look for passing seabirds, but other than a single Barn Swallow, a Sand Martin and a small group of unidentified whales far out, the place was dead. As the heat was intense here already by 08:00 we birded the forest around the sulphur springs just inland till about 10:00 when we returned to Roseau to take breakfast at the Green Parrot Restaurant (good value at 19 EC$ for the two of us) along the waterfront. Still with further time to kill we took the winding road up to the Middleham Estate above the airport. Returned the car to Avis and arrived at the airport by 12h45. The LIAT flight to Martinique was only 40 minutes late this time. Overnight at Chez Pierre.

14 April. Another early start to arrive at Caravelle for dawn and set up mist nets. Although on this occasion fewer birds were caught, those caught and ringed included four White-breasted Thrasher, and a male Antillean Crested Hummingbird, weighing just four grammes. After lunch, Pierre, Arnaud and myself took the 14h10 Air Martinique flight to St. Lucia, a short hop of only 15 minutes. Having no pre-arranged car reservation we checked several agencies and obtained a car from Economy Car Rental, which offered a larger Toyota for 70 US$/day inclusive of 100 free miles. To our horror the girl on the counter told us that the coastal road south was under repair and not passable, and that we would have to drive all the way around the island to reach the south. Not wishing to spend hours driving around the island we decided to try it, and although one section was marked "4x4 and trucks only" we easily traversed it. Much of this west coast road has now been re-paved, and when completed will offer good driving conditions - in stark contrast to most of St. Lucian roads.

Toward Soufrière we saw a pair of St. Lucia Oriole fly across the road. Not wishing to spend the night in Soufrière town - assuming that, quite correctly, to be noisy - we opted to stay at the Khayere Pann ($100/triple inc. breakfast), a rather pleasant guesthouse perched on the side of the hill just before Soufrière. Dinner at Captain Hooks, a small restaurant just on the corner approaching Soufrière, was good food, but not worth the hour wait and the 20 US$ each we paid.

15 April. We left the guesthouse at 05:00 and drove the six miles (no kilometres in St. Lucia) toward Edmund Forest reserve above Soufrière. Even at that time of day, people were around to ask when we got lost. Eventually we reached a landslide across the road, that would have prevented even a 4x4 going any further, so we walked the last mile to the reserve entrance. Hurricane Daniel during 1994, has completely wrecked this last section of road to the reserve, which will be very expensive to repair, if ever. Although, once you find it, the main forest trail is well maintained, we explored several wrong forks initially. We did however obtain some brief views of St. Lucia Parrot as they flew over occasionally. We also found St. Lucia Oriole and a couple of St. Lucia Black-Finch near the entrance. By 11:00 hunger called. En route to the car we had superb views of a St. Lucia Parrot flying past along the access road. Following a quick lunch at the guesthouse we took a short siesta from the heat of the day before heading out again along the west coast road, northward to Anse la Raye. We birded a couple of the roads heading inland from the coast without much success. Our main reason for exploring this area was to look for suitable area where the St. Lucian race of the Rufous Nightjar might occur. We were strangely rewarded well before dark with a single bird which had been flushed from beside a track where some locals were working. Oddly, although remaining until dark, no further nightjars were seen. Overnight at the guesthouse once more.

16 April. All trips have bad days, and this was going to be ours. The day again started at 05:00, with us ascending the hills toward Edmund Forest - this time in the rain. We spent a couple of fruitless hours walking the road hoping for more parrots, eventually seeing a solitary pair, before returning for an excellent breakfast at the guesthouse. Our plan was to drive over to the northeast side of the island and search the various ravines near Grande Anse for St. Lucia Wren, St. Lucia Nightjar and White-breasted Thrasher. From the map, we had decided that Babonneau, although small, might offer the possibility of accommodation for the night. On asking at the village shop we were directed to a large house, newly constructed, which looked quite OK. However, no one seemed to be around, and after banging on a few doors a dwarf appeared. Asking if we could stay the night, he relied "five minutes, I'll go get the boss". After ten minutes of hanging around, an enormous american cadillac - ridiculously out of place on the mountain roads of St. Lucia - drove slowly past, reversed and stood about ten metres away. The black tinted glass prevented us from viewing whomever was inside, watching us. After a good minute the car slowly drove off. To us, this whole situation had drugs written all over it, so we quickly left.

Continuing toward Grande Anse we became, despite our good map, completely lost, and after an hour on terrible roads arrived at Desbarra. Locals then took great delight in telling us that our car would not be able to make it to Grande Anse. They were right - and all other tracks we tried required a 4x4. Feeling somewhat frustrated we decided to forgo the pleasures of seeing White-breasted Thrasher, and drove instead to the headlands of the northwest coast. This also proved to be pointless exercise, as the whole area is a maze of private estates offering no opportunities for viewing from the cliffs. We looked at Pigeon Island National Park, but it was like Blackpool on a bank-holiday weekend. With little else to explore we called it a day, returned to the airport, and luckily caught the evening Air Martinique flight back to Martinique.

17 April. Although this day had originally been planned for St. Lucia we used the opportunity to visit, yet again, Caravelle - this time primarily in search of seabirds. En route we spent a couple of hours around the La Manzo reservoir, seeing very little. From the ruins at Caravelle we trekked across the peninsula to the northeast coast where we found at least six Red-billed Tropicbird exploring the cliffs for nesting locations. Heading further west we inspected the breeding colony of Bridled Tern by the meterological station, also seeing a few Roseate Tern. By 11:00, we called it quits and headed back to Fort de France. Afternoon spent at leisure. Evening Air France flight to Paris left on time at 20h20. All-in-all a highly successful trip.

Section 2 - Birding sites (Martinique).
Section 3 - Birding sites (Guadeloupe).
Section 4 - Birding sites (Dominica).
Section 5 - Birding sites (St. Lucia).
Section 6 - Annotated checklist.