Flora and Fauna
Wed 13 Mar 2013 14:40
There has been so much to show you, so many pictures to include that I've not managed to include all of the creatures we've come across since being in the Caribbean. As you know, my photography skills when it comes to wildlife aren't great ( I disagree - Ed), it tends to be pictures of where the animal was, rather than of the animal, but a few were slow enough, or persistent enough, to be snapped.
These amazing caterpillars we saw on Barbados were too engrossed in eating their leaves to avoid me, they were a good 6 inches long, and there were tens of 'babies', all a couple of inches long.
After the Atlantic crossing it was lovely to see land birds again, and to hear their songs. The Caribbean has doves too, but just look at them! Fancy spotted tail coats, purple cravats, pink waistcoats... very swish!
There were crowds of very territorial sparrow type birds everywhere too, squabbling and chasing each other off their patch. We saw some charming little farthing sized birds, with yellow breasts, trilling prettily. We asked one of the locals what they were called "Dem's yellow breasts" came the reply. Huh. I could have told them that! On all the islands we've been delighting in some starling shaped cocky black birds, the males a glossy blue black, the females with a touch of brown, rather like our own black birds, but their song is very different, "de-dah dah tweet tweet!" They are everywhere, and very confident, coming right up close to pick up any crumbs, the males displaying to the females with tail feathers cocked and wings spread. Again, I asked what they were called when we were in Bequia "Dem's black birds" came the predictable reply, but he added "Dey say 'Bequia is Sweet! Sweet!'". And indeed they do, ever since, on all the islands, we've been hearing the refrain "Bequia is Sweet! Sweet!" in our ears, "Sweet! Sweet!".
Ever seen boobies on a buoy? These two tone beautiful agile birds are like gannets, large and powerful, black front half, white tail half with light blue beaks. They fold themselves up like paper darts to dive and, like gannets, just before they enter the water, slip the tips of their wings over their eyes. You have to look really carefully to see it...
Harassing them come the frigate birds, though the boobies are large, the frigate birds are twice their size, dominating the sky. Forked tail trailing, they chase and peck at the boobies, forcing them to regurgitate their catch for them to steal, like playground bullies taking lunch money from the younger kids.
I didn't manage to get any shots of the pelicans we've seen flying, swimming and diving around us as we snorkelled, but there was one on this moored fishing boat, taking pride of place.
There was a strict hierarchy on board, pelican at the front, with black headed gulls behind, then up on the top deck the boobies and royal terns. These are large terns, with the familiar delicate shape in flight and large orange beaks but these chaps have a very distinctive hair style - they look like they're bald on top with just a ring of black hair round the back of their heads. One of them had pretensions of grandeur and snuck onto the lower deck.
Along the shoreline we see innumerable little waders, dodging the surf, quick stepping their trails in the sand, only to have them washed away as the wave rolls in.
I still can't get used to being under tropical trees: walking in the shade of breadfruit trees, banana trees lining the road way, sitting on the sand in the shade of almond trees. This was particularly true in Grenada, where the whole island feels like you're in a botanical gardens. Because it has such a lovely climate all year round the trees are continually in fruit and flower, one feels if you just kept walking you'd find any fruit ripe somewhere amongst the greenery. We saw banana, including those amazingly sweet small fig bananas, citrus, even cashews Matthew! Here are mangoes, sorrel, also called the flower of Jamaica, which they make a juice from, like a fruity cinnamony elderflower and gourds growing green on the tree.
We also saw cocoa growing! Yep, imagine a place where chocolate grows on trees - paradise!
The seeds in the pod are surrounded by white goo, rather like soursop, which we tried, a lovely sharp fruity taste, then they dry the beans, roast, crush them and make... chocolate. What a wonderful tree. Grenada seemed to have every kind of plant imaginable - even an egg bush!
Driving round Grenada I saw cattle egrets actually hanging out with cattle to take the ticks and flies that the cows attract. I'd seen them in estuaries, but never doing the thing they're named for. This cow was tethered next to the runway of a old airport, where they were doing drag racing. They don't usually seem to bother tethering cattle but I could imagine it would have been inconvenient if she'd wondered onto the runway.
High on the top of the ridge on the centre of Grenada there were monkeys. They were used to visitors and this chap actually came and took a banana from me - put his hand on my shoulder as he reached for it. It made me have goose bumps, being touched by a wild cousin. Every where we looked colour burst forth.
What a spectacle.