In summary, I was quite wowed. Watching the waning moon’s light shimmer over the water as the constant Trade Winds swept back the coconut palms was a magical experience. (Lorca writes Cantaran los techos de palmera). I suddenly got the whole Gauguin thing (even if he was in that other ocean): I didn’t wear socks for a week, drank rum, let my hair go curly, and didn’t want to come back…. Meanwhile, to the birds!
Jetting by, American kestrels were a daily sight; once a male and female pair nicely perched on a coconut palm for comparing and contrasting. Another regular was the Gray kingbird, whose bill demotes our kingbirds to prince status. Green-throated Caribs, large hummingbirds with delicately curved bills, were here and there dipping into the super-saturated flowers. Overhead near and far, Magnificent frigatebirds, the Man o’ war bird, soared pterodactyl-like: an extraordinary sight I would never tire of. Brown boobies too, were occasionally seen; in Pirate’s Bight at Norman Island several of them were whitening a rock with their guano. An American oystercatcher, Belted kingfisher, and Spotted sandpiper, birds I know from more familiar habitats (they’re Brooklynites, too), were all seen around the little stretch of mangrove on the bay. Both species of dove, Zenaida, which is somewhat similar to our Mourning, and the surprisingly tiny Common ground-dove, also ambled by.
In the National Park that surrounds Virgin Gorda Peak (1395ft), I saw something that I first thought was a Black-faced grassquit, but once I saw several of those two days later, I thought it might be a female Lesser Antillean bullfinch instead — but this one didn’t make it to my life-list because I couldn’t be sure in retrospect. (A distant naked-eye glimpse of a Tropicbird also didn’t make the cut since I couldn’t be sure it was Red-billed. A bin-less glimpse of a Greater Flamingo, on the other hand, on Prickly Pear Island, was unmistakable, although it was too far away to be a satisfying view).
Flocks of Smooth-billed anis, looking like grackles from a distance until that enormous bill came into focus, passed through; one day they flew towards us on the balcony to land in the trees nearby. Their whiny alarm-like calls stick in the mind. On our last morning, I was looking out a bathroom window and saw a male Antillean crested hummingbird working the aloe flowers right outside. The flat iridescent green crest flashed in the morning sun like some flamboyant warrior’s shield.
Can we have a reprise of the Pearly-Eyed Thrasher?