This report covers a 14-day trip between Nov 17th and Dec 1st centered on the tourist resort of Rodney Bay in the North West of the island, a hire car was booked for 7 of these days and during this time most of the birding was done. The main focus of the trip was to try and see all endemic / restricted range species occurring on the island.
St. Lucia is the best country in the Lesser Antilles for birding as it has 4 / 5 single island endemics plus probably the best selection of Lesser Antillean / Caribbean endemics of all the islands and it is only approx. 28 miles long by 14 wide.
We hired a small Suzuki Jimmy from Drive-A-Matic car rental to get around and this coped admirably with the St. Lucian roads, which were often very rough tracks with the exception of the ‘highway’ that circles the island.
Bird ID and bird guides
Most endemics and sort after birds were easily located with St. Lucian Blackfinch and St. Lucian Oriole being the only ones that proved tricky with both of them requiring 2 visits before they were nailed. We did not use any guides on this trip but we are very grateful to the English birders we met on our first visit to the Des Cartier Rainforest trail, who gave us directions to the Praslin, East Coast Highway site.
A short itinerary follows
17/11/12 – Flight from London Gatwick to Hewanorra International Airport, St. Lucia, transferred to Rex St. Lucian hotel at Rodney Bay. • 18/11/12 – Rodney Bay. • 19/11/12 – Rodney Bay. • 20/11/12 – Pigeon Island & Rodney Bay. • 21/11/12 – Rodney Bay. • 22/11/12 – Toraille Waterfall, St. Lucia Volcano & Anse Chastanet. • 23/11/12 – Whale watching trip from Castries. • 24/11/12 – Grande Anse. • 25/11/12 – Des Cartier Rainforest trail, Praslin & Vieux Fort area. • 26/11/12 – Anse Chastanet & Anse la Raye? • 2711/12 – Cas en Bas beach. • 28/11/12 – Anse Marigot & Union Nature Trail. • 29/11/12 – Praslin, Des Cartier Rainforest trail & Cas en Bas beach. • 30/11/12 – Rodney Bay. • 01/12/12 – Rodney Bay before transferring back to Hewanorra International Airport in the afternoon.
Des Cartier Rainforest trail – This is probably the prime site in St. Lucia for birding as this walking trail passes through some excellent forest which holds most of the islands sort after species. The trailhead is located about 10km inland of the East Coast Highway West of Micoud, look out for the signed turn. Unfortunately after this the road inland regularly split and the best advise I can offer is to try and keep heading West, follow your nose and don’t be afraid to ask for directions without which we would not have found the trail on either visit. We walked the whole trail on both visits but found that taking the left loop at the beginning was most productive and it was along this section that we found the Oriole on the second visit.
Praslin, East Coast Highway – From a small track stretching off the East Coast Highway to the coast we saw both White-breasted Thrasher and St. Lucia Blackfinch, this was the only place we saw either of these species.
Union Nature Trail – This small nature trails starts and finishes from the Union forestry offices and visitor centre located on the road between Castries and Grand Anse, there is a small entrance fee paid on arrival.
Pigeon Island NR – This area is dominated by the ruins of a British Fort and there is an entrance fee to walk around the various trails linking the ruins, some birding is possible amongst the manicured trees but perhaps the biggest draw is the small rocky island to the North on which it is possible to see breeding seabirds in season.
Rodney Bay – A large hill dominates the Southern end of this bay and there is a wide track running along the hillside to a view point, a few of the commoner lowland species are here and if you are staying in one of the Bay’s resorts it could be worth taking a walk here on a day without the car. The start of this track begins behind the Beach bar at the extreme Southern end of the Bay.
Vieux Fort wetlands – A couple of small pools and a large channel at the Western end of the Hewanorra International Airport host a few wetland birds and I have heard that Masked Duck is possible on the pools, this is the only place I saw Eared Dove which were actually on the Airport boundary fence. At the nearby headland of Moule a Chique there are Tropicbirds in season.
Grande Anse – This is another site for White-breasted Thrasher but the Praslin site is much easier to get to and easier to find the necessary birds although the Wren was found easy enough at this location. Rufous Nightjar is also supposed to be in this area but there was no sign on the evening I spent here.
Toraille Waterfall – A tourist spot located near to Soufriere but there are also a few birds here.
Blue-winged Teal – 1 female at Vieux Fort wetlands
Green Heron – 1 roadside bird on the East Coast Highway near Praslin
Cattle Egret – Quite common near fresh water and also accompanying Cattle
Great Egret – 1 was on the Golf Course pools near to Cas en Bas
Little Blue Heron – Regularly seen on beaches around the island such as Vieux Fort wetlands & Cas en Bas
Snowy Egret – 2 were seen on the island, 1 at Vieux Fort wetlands and 1 at Cas en Bas
Magnificent Frigatebird – Commonly seen around the coast
Brown Booby – Commonly seen around the coast, a few were also present on the breeding rock North of Pigeon Island
American Kestrel – Regularly seen at the roadside and often perched on overhead wires
Peregrine Falcon – 1 seen flying over Rodney Bay from the Hillside on the Southern end of the Bay
Osprey – Single birds seen at the following locations, Vieux Fort wetlands, Rodney Bay and Cas en Bas
Broad-winged Hawk – Scattered birds across the island, mainly seen at the roadside whilst travelling
Sora Rail – 1 seen on the pools at Vieux Fort wetlands
Common Moorhen – Only seen in Cas en Bas area, 1 on a concrete pool near the beach and 2 on the Golf Course pools
Semipalmated Plover – 1 on Praslin Bay was the only one of the trip
Common Snipe – 1 on the pools at Vieux Fort wetlands
Spotted Sandpiper – Regularly seen on beaches such as Praslin Bay, Cas en Bas and Anse la Raye
Ruddy Turnstone – Only seen on rocky shoes such as Rodney Bay, Praslin Bay and Cas en Bas
Sanderling – 1 seen at Praslin Bay
Royal Tern – Regularly seen around the coast
Pomarine Skua – 1 seen from the Whale watching trip sailing out of Castries
Rock Dove – Feral Pigeons were only seen around Castries, especially around the small airport
Scaly-naped Pigeon – Only seen around reasonable forest for example on the Des Cartier Rainforest trail
Eurasian Collared Dove – Only seen around Pigeon Island and Rodney Bay
Eared Dove – At least 4 were seen on the Southern boundary fence of the Hewanorra International Airport
Zenaida Dove – Seen everyday, common and often quite tame
Common Ground Dove – Often seen in Coastal lowland area such as Rodney Bay and Cas en Bas
St. Lucia Parrot – Small noisy groups were often seen around the Des Cartier Rainforest trail on both visits
Mangrove Cuckoo – 1 was seen just North of Cas en Bas with another on the forested hillside South of Rodney Bay
Lesser Antillean Swift – Small groups were seen from the watch-point on the Des Cartier Rainforest trail on both visits, 2 other groups were seen over forested valleys North of Soufriere
Purple-throated Carib – This species was only seen in forested inland areas such as the Des Cartier Rainforest trail and around the Toraille Waterfall
Green-throated Carib – This species was common in the coastal lowlands such as around Rodney Bay and Cas en Bas
Antillean Crested Hummingbird – Slightly less common that the previous species but often in the same locations
Belted Kingfisher – A female was seen in Rodney Bay and another unsexed bird at Praslin Bay
Caribbean Elaenia – 2 were around Toraille Waterfall and at least 2 were on the forested hillside South of Rodney Bay
St. Lucia Pewee – The first was seen at Grande Anse, other birds were seen on the Des Cartier Rainforest trail
Grey Kingbird – Commonly seen away from the Mountain Rainforest
Lesser Antillean Flycatcher – Only one of these large flycatchers seen and this was at Grande Anse
Black-whiskered Vireo – 2 seen during my stay, one at the Praslin, East Coast Highway site and the other on the forested hillside South of Rodney Bay
Barn Swallow – Small groups were doted about around the coast for example at Moule a Chique and Cas en Bas
House Wren – 2 were seen at the Toraille Waterfall, and 3 more were at Grande Anse
Tropical Mockingbird – Only a handful seen all trip, most were around Rodney Bay and Pigeon Island
White-breasted Thrasher – One of the birds of trip a pair were easily seen at the Praslin, East Coast Highway site
Scaly-breasted Thrasher – Reasonable numbers were seen on the Des Cartier Rainforest trail, on the forested hillside South of Rodney Bay and on the Union Nature Trail
Pearly-eyed Thrasher – The only one of the trip was seen at Grande Anse
Brown Trembler – 1 probable was seen just outside the hotel in Rodney Bay with another at Grand Anse and 1 on the Union Nature Trail
Grey Trembler – 2 were seen well on the Des Cartier Rainforest trail, both Tremblers were excellent birds
Rufous-throated Solitaire – A single bird was seen at the Des Cartier Rainforest trail on the first visit and others were heard on the second
Bare-eyed Robin – 1 at the Des Cartier Rainforest trail, 2 on the Union Nature Trail and another on the forested hillside South of Rodney Bay were the only ones seen
St. Lucia Warbler – Easily seen on the forested hillside South of Rodney Bay and at Grande Anse, the odd one seen at other sites such as the Toraille Waterfall and the entrance to the Des Cartier Rainforest trail
Northern Waterthrush – The only migrant warbler seen all trip, this was at Grande Anse
St. Lucia Oriole – We had to work a little harder to see this endem. than most of the others, finally caught up with it on the last visit to the Des Cartier Rainforest trail and it was seen feeding high up in the canopy, quite illusive!
Shiny Cowbird – Small groups were seen at Pigeon Island and on the Golf Course near Cas en Bas
Carib Grackle – Commonly seen in most habitats
Bananaquit – Common anywhere there are trees
Grassland Yellow Finch – Only one was seen and this was in flight over a large meadow north of Cas en Bas
Black-faced Grassquit – Commonly seen in grassland and forest edges, for example seen at Rodney Bay, Grande Anse and the Praslin, East Coast Highway site
Lesser Antillean Bullfinch – Very common, seen everyday and at most sites
St. Lucia Black Finch – Another tricky bird, we only saw one male on the second visit to the Praslin, East Coast Highway site
Lesser Antillean Saltator – quite an impressive bird and seen at lowland coastal sites such as Pigeon Island and the forested hillside South of Rodney Bay
Small Indian Mongoose Herpestes auropunctatus – This introduced species was seen a number of times including twice on the forested hillside South of Rodney Bay and crossing the access roads to the Des Cartier Rainforest trail.
Fraser's Dolphin Lagenodelphis hosei – The commonest Cetacean seen on the Whale watching trip with one large pod seen for quite a while not to far out from Castries
Melon-headed Whale Peponocephala electra – Around 4 of these small whales were seen lolling at the surface often not far from the very active Dolphins