Sunday 20 December 2015 82 °F
On Wednesday, the Emerald Princess' port of call was Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands. Tuesday was a day at sea, so although it was extremely relaxing and enjoyable, there is nothing to post about for that day. Wednesday was also enjoyable - but in an action-packed and very birdy way!
My dad and I disembarked the ship at about 8:15 in the morning so that we had a nice chunk of time for birding on Grand Turk. My mom and Pearl stayed back for most of the morning and then later joined us for snorkeling.
My dad and I birded the island by foot, focusing on the salinas (saltwater ponds/mudflats) that dot the island, which are great for shorebirds (many of which are winter residents that migrate to Grand Turk every year from arctic Canada) and other aquatic species. The first salina we visited, Hawke's Nest Salina, proved to be very productive for shorebirds.
RUDDY TURNSTONES, SANDERLINS, LEAST, SEMIPALMATED, and WESTERN SANDPIPERS. The white stuff is not snow (it was a pleasant 80 degrees!), but salt buildup due to the salty nature of the salina.
RUDDY TURNSTONES, SANDERLINGS, WESTERN SANDPIPERS, and a life bird for me: 2 STILT SANDPIPERS which are the birds in the water in the middle of the photograph:
We then somewhat followed the Grand Turk Birding Trail, which leads through areas of native scrubland and occasionally past various ponds and salinas which are the most productive spots for birding on the island. At one point, we found these two lizards alongside the trail:
Female AMERICAN KESTREL:
Female GADWALL (left) with a female BLUE-WINGED TEAL (right):
Female BLUE-WINGED TEAL (left) with a LESSER YELLOWLEGS (right):
Then, I found my lifer WHITE-CHEEKED PINTAIL, a beautiful resident duck of Caribbean islands:
Here is another pintail with two BLUE-WINGED TEAL on the right:
Two more WHITE-CHEEKED PINTAIL:
Nonbreeding-plumage SPOTTED SANDPIPER:
Horses roam free on Grand Turk, and this photo captures the ambience of the island nicely in my opinion. Notice the white CATTLE EGRET underneath the horse on the left, feeding off of insects attracted to the horses.
LITTLE BLUE HERON, haven't seen this bird since Panama in November of 2013:
Nonbreeding-plumage BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER, which loses its black-bellied breeding plumage in the winter:
This SMOOTH-BILLED ANI, a type of cuckoo native to the Caribbean, was a life bird for me:
My dad and I saw a sign for Columbus Landfall National Park:
And just beyond that sign was a beautiful vista of the Caribbean Sea:
We then picked up a cab, who first took us to a Salina he knew about where one can find flamingos. We succeeded in finding a solitary AMERICAN FLAMINGO, a life bird for me!
Then, he took us to Bohio Beach, which was probably the most beautiful beach we had ever visited.
It was great for birding, too, with salinas right behind the resort full of shorebirds and other species. This beautiful male YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER even perched right on the bathroom for a nice photo:
Then, my mom and Pearl joined my dad and I and we went on an hour snorkeling excursion where a guy took us in his motorboat to a buoy. He gave us an hour to snorkel there and informed us that the area around the buoy was one of the best snorkeling spots on Grand Turk. It was astounding! A huge school of fish greeted us immediately as we entered the water, with brilliant yellows and iridescent hues shimmering through the crystal-clear water. Continuing back another twenty feet, we encountered a huge underwater drop-off from the coral reef that revealed a deep blue vastness reminiscent of scenes from the movie "Finding Nemo." The coral on top of the underwater wall was breathtaking and the schools of multicolored fish were absolutely stunning. A group of a dozen yellow-patterned medium-sized fish swam by while a dazzling, tiny blue fish weaved its way through the coral. This snorkeling experience was second only to the Great Barrier Reef in February of 2014.
After snorkeling, my parents lounged around on lounge chairs, my sister played in the sand, and I went birding again in the salinas (salt ponds) behind the resort.
BLACK-NECKED STILTS (left) with one nonbreeding-plumage BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (right):
Cute SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS:
This TRICOLORED HERON foraged astonishingly close to me and allowed for a gorgeous photo shoot:
This CAPE MAY WARBLER, a winter resident from the Canadian boreal forest, also was very cooperative:
A female or immature-type MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD flew by the beach:
LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL:
All too soon, it was time to get back on our ship, the Emerald Princess.
As we departed Grand Turk, I took some photos from the back of the ship. Here is the island. Take note of one of the salinas at which I birded on the right side of the photo:
I even spotted this small shark from the ship. Glad I didn't spot him when I was snorkeling!
And my best spot of the day was this MASKED BOOBY, a life bird for me, that must have been over a mile away from the ship. This is a pelagic (largely sea-faring) species, so I was super excited to spot it!
It was a fantastic day on the beautiful island of Grand Turk. I identified 36 species of birds in total, including 5 life birds for me (see full list below).
World Life List: 875 Species (5 life birds, see list below)
- indicates a life bird
36 species + 1 other taxa:
- White-cheeked Pintail
- American Flamingo
- Masked Booby
Little Blue Heron
- Stilt Sandpiper
Lesser Black-backed Gull
- Smooth-billed Ani
Cape May Warbler