This report is based on my notes from a trip to
Dominica in 1990, so some of the information (and taxonomy!) may well be out
of date by now (July 2002), but I hope that it serves as a taster of what can
be expected. There are more recent trip reports available at www.camacdonald.com/birding/cardominica.htm.
The main birder on the island is Bertrand Jno.-Baptiste, he can be contacted
by email at firstname.lastname@example.org (note
the underline after dr), he is probably the best person to show you the two
endemic Amazon parrots. Peter Evans "Birds of the Eastern Caribbean"
is worth getting hold of before you go. Please feel free to contact me about
any aspect of the trip (email@example.com).
I spent 2 weeks in the Commonwealth of Dominica,
Windward Is., as part of a group of 14 students plus 2 staff from King Edward
VI College, Stourbridge Biology Department. During the 2 weeks we spent a few
days clearing streams, drainage channels and the Emerald Pool in the Morne Trois
Pitons National Park, but I was able to do a fair amount of birding during our
stay. One of the staff, WJ Indge, is an experienced birdwatcher so we were able
to discuss and confirm most of our sightings. The only bird guide I found that
covers the birds of the island is James Bond's "Birds of the West Indies",
which leaves a lot to be desired but is better than nothing. I would also recommend
taking a good North American field guide if you are unfamiliar with the birds
of the region. We had a thoroughly marvellous time in Dominica. It was sometimes
difficult to do as much birding as I would have liked, as I had to fit in with
the activities of the rest of the group, but most of them came with me on the
parrot hunts and were surprisingly patient! Although the species list wasn't
too long I saw more than enough to keep me happy and would have no hesitation
in recommending Dominica as a birding destination.
15/8/90 Gatwick-VC Bird International Airport,
Antigua. Night at Skyline Motel.
16/8/90 Antigua-Dominica Canefield Airport. Night at LaPlaine Agricultural Centre.
19/8/90 LaPlaine-Cabrits Nat. Park (Fort Shirley)
20/8/90 LaPlaine-Emerald Pool (Morne Trois Pitons NP)
21/8/90 Emerald Pool
22/8/90 Emerald Pool
23/8/90 Portsmouth Swamp, Indian River, Cabrits NP, Picard Valley.
24/8/90 Roseau, Scott's Head, Sulphur Springs nr Roseau.
26/8/90 Picard Valley, Coconut Beach.
27/8/90 Emerald Pool
28/8/90 Springfield Guest House and Crop Research Centre nr. Roseau.
29/8/90 LaPlaine-Melville Hall Airport, Dominica-VC Bird Intl Airport, Antigua.
We flew from Gatwick to Antigua (BA) and onto
Dominica via Guadeloupe on the LIAT island hopper. LIAT managed to leave my
luggage behind in Antigua (it was returned to me 3 days later) and had also
omitted seven of our party from the passenger list (we had all bought tickets
at the same time!) and so our party was split into two groups, the lucky ones
flying direct to Melville Hall Airport, my group landing at Canefield Airport,
listed recently in a Sunday newspaper as the most dangerous airport in the world.
But please don't let that disturb you!
Canefield is only a few minutes drive from Roseau,
the capital of Dominica, and probably the best place to base yourself as it
is easier to hire a vehicle from here and the only banks, shops or services
of any size are situated here. However there are a few upmarket hotels further
up the west coast, notably at Coconut Beach just south of Portsmouth and the
Layou River Hotel.
The commonest form of transport on the island
is the Mitsubishi "ute", and if there is a large enough group of you
it may be worth trying to hire one from the locals; we got a local driver to
take us around the island. Dominican roads are generally very good, but are
very steep and winding in places, so what may look like a short journey on the
map may take longer than expected. Dominicans usually drive on the left.
Dominicans are extremely friendly and courteous,
and the island is relatively crime-free. There are few large white-sand beaches,
although the best we found was Coconut Beach, just south of Portsmouth. Dominica
is not the island for you if you are looking for a beach and nightlife holiday!
We were extremely lucky with our accommodation,
as it was arranged for us by the Minister for Education and Sports in exchange
for the work we did at the Emerald Pool, with all meals provided for a minimal
charge. LaPlaine itself was a little out of the way but there was a small recently-opened
supermarket where we could exchange travellers cheques and a Post Office. Dominican
currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar, but its best to take only a small
amount in EC's and the rest in US$ travellers cheques.
1. Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificens. 3 on the 16th over VC Bird
Airport, Antigua, then 2 or 3 on most days subsequently. Common nr. Fort Shirley.
2. Great Egret Egretta alba. Fairly common on Antigua around the airport, also
1 at Portsmouth swamp on the 23rd.
3. Green Heron Butorides striatus. Very common, esp. at Roseau Botanical Gardens.
4. Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea. 1 at LaPlaine on the 16th, 2 there on
5. Broad-winged Hawk Buteo platypterus. Seen in small no's on most days, the
only hawk species on the island.
6. Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus hudsonicus. 1 nr Roseau on the 24th, 1 nr Melville
Hall Airport on the 29th.
7. Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularia. Common along the coast and stream banks.
8. Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes. 1 found dead by WJI and 1 at LaPlaine
on the 18th.
9. Western Sandpiper Calidris mauri. 3 on a roadside puddle nr Portsmouth on
10. Laughing Gull Larus atricilla. Common on Antigua but on Dominica only one
at LaPlaine on the 18th and a few around Roseau on the 24th.
11. Sooty Tern Sterna fuscata. 3 offshore at LaPlaine on the 25th.
12. Least Tern Sterna antillarum. Several offshore nr Melville Hall airport
on the 29th.
13. Royal Tern Sterna maxima. 1 at LaPlaine on the 18th.
14. Brown Noddy Anous stolidus. Large numbers seen offshore at LaPlaine and
15. Red-necked Pigeon Columba squamosa. Common in the north of the island around
16. Zenaida Dove Zenaida aurita. Very common.
17. Common Ground Dove Columbina passerina. Very common.
18. Ruddy Quail-Dove Geotrygon montana. 1 at the Emerald Pool on the 21st.
19. Imperial Amazon Amazona imperialis. 2 heard, 1 seen briefly in the treetops
in the Picard Valley on the 26th.
20. Red-necked Amazon Amazona arausiaca. 1+6 in the Picard Valley on the 23rd,
and one heard there on the 26th.
21. Mangrove Cuckoo Coccyzus minor. 1 at the Douglas Bay battery, Fort Shirley
on the 23rd.
22. Smooth-billed Ani Crotophaga ani. Seen daily on Dominica as they nested
in a tree in the middle of the LaPlaine training college. Fairly common elsewhere
throughout the island.
23. Lesser Antillean Swift Chaetura martinica. Seen daily in small numbers.
24. Black Swift Cypseloides niger. Common.
25. Blue-headed Hummingbird Cyanophaia bicolor. 2 on the Emerald Pool trail
on the 21st.
26. Purple-throated Carib Eulampis jugularis. Fairly common in forest areas,
particularly around the Emerald Pool.
27. Green-throated Carib Sericotes holosericeus. Fairly common, seen on most
days particularly around LaPlaine.
28. Antillean Crested Hummingbird Orthorhyncus cristatus. Common at Fort Shirley
Commandants Quarters, and 1 seen at LaPlaine on the 25th.
29. Ringed Kingfisher Ceryle torquata. 1 at LaPlaine on the 20th, and 1 in the
Picard Valley on the 23rd (WJI).
30. Grey Kingbird Tyrannus dominicensis. Seen every day, a common roadside bird.
31. Lesser Antillean Flycatcher Myiarchus obeii. 1 nr. Rosalie on the 21st.
32. Caribbean Elaenia Elaenia martinica. Common nr. Fort Shirley.
33. Purple Martin Progne subis. Seen along the west coast road south of Portsmouth
on the 19th, and above Roseau on the 24th.
34. Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica. 1 at LaPlaine on the 16th and 17th.
35. House Wren Troglodytes aedon. Common around the Emerald Pool.
36. Tropical Mockingbird Mimus gilvus. 1 around VC Bird Airport, Antigua on
the 15th, and 3 at the Botanical Gardens in Roseau on the 24th.
37. Scaly-breasted Thrasher Margarops fuscus. 1 nr. LaPlaine on the 16th.
38. Brown Trembler Cinclocerthia ruficauda. 1 nr. the Springfield Guest House
on the 28th.
39. Red-legged Thrush Mimocichla plumbea. Singles in the Picard Valley on the
23rd and 26th.
40. Rufous-throated Solitaire Myadestes genibarbis. 1 on the Emerald Pool trail
on the 21st.
41. Black-whiskered Vireo Vireo altiloquus. 2 on the 16th nr. LaPlaine.
42. Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia. Common.
43. Plumbeous Warbler Dendroica plumbea. Common around the Emerald Pool.
44. Bananaquit Coereba flaveola. Very common.
45. Carib Grackle Quiscalus lugubris. Common on the western side of the island
and also in Antigua.
46. Lesser Antillean Bullfinch Loxigilla loctis. Common.
47. Black-faced Grassquit Tiaris bicolor. Very common in secondary vegetation
and open grassland.
48. Streaked Saltator Saltator albicollis. Common around Fort Shirley and LaPlaine.
The only mammals present on the island are Wild Pig (scarce), Agouti (common
at the Emerald Pool and the Picard valley; I saw 3 in total), Black and Brown
Rat, House Mouse, opossum and 12 spp. of bat. The island is full of lizards
(c.10 spp.) and there are 5 species of snake, all non-poisonous (including a
boa constrictor). We saw 2 snakes, 1 at East Cabrits and 1 on the Morne Diablotin
trail, which our companions referred to as "Grove Snakes". Butterflies
weren't quite as spectacular as I had expected although I did find an enormous
owl butterfly at the Emerald Pool. We also found an enormous stick insect and
several katydids in our dormitories, and some of the cockroaches were quite
horrendous, but surprisingly we weren't bothered by mosquitoes, or anything
else for that matter. The plant life is rich and varied, as you would expect
from an island with the highest percentage of rainforest cover in the Caribbean,
and would certainly keep any botanist enthralled. There are several coral reefs
around the island and it is listed in the top 5 diving destinations in the world.
Cabrits National Park: This area has just been
designated as a National Park, and consists of a small peninsula to the north
of Portsmouth. Fort Shirley is situated on the peninsula and can be found by
taking the road out of Portsmouth that runs north along the edge of the bay,
past the "Purple Turtle" Beach Club until the road peters out at a
new pier development. Park here and walk up the hill towards the fort and explore
the various trails. Mangrove Cuckoo can be found fairly easily at the Douglas
Bay Battery, the Commandants Quarters produced Antillean Crested Hummingbird
and the area around the car park is very good for Streaked Saltator and Caribbean
Elaenia. Frigatebirds also patrol the skies. Indian River trips can be arranged
through locals at the main road bridge over the river in Portsmouth. This may
be worthwhile as I am told that Belted and Ringed Kingfishers are present, and
there is a considerable amount of mangrove swamp in the area. We only spent
a short time here, but I would have liked to explore further.
Parrots: The rainforests of Dominica contain two
endemic Amazon parrots; the Imperial (Sisserou) and Red-necked (Jacquot). Of
the two, the Jacquot is the more numerous. Sisserou is very difficult (there
are only about 60 left in the wild) and don't be disappointed if you see neither
species. The main areas I visited were around the Picard Valley in the Syndicate
Estate near Morne Diablotin; take the western coast road and turn right 4-5
miles north of Colihaut, just north of the hamlet of Dublanc. The track is marked
"Morne Diablotin 4-5 miles" but is very bumpy and a 4WD may be necessary.
Follow the track along; after a couple of miles a track joins in from the left.
Both parrot species can be seen from the road in this area; we were also taken
to an observation platform that overlooks the Picard Valley although only 1
Jacquot was heard and another seen briefly from this platform. It was only as
we were driving away that we saw 2 fly into one of the large trees in the estate
behind us, and as we stopped another 4 flew in. We heard 2 Sisserou and saw
one briefly in the same area on the 26th. Early morning and late afternoon is
best for both species, but be prepared to make a few visits in order to see
Emerald Pool: This place really is a must even
if you don't pick up many new birds here. We spent a few days here assisting
the Forestry Dept. in the maintenance of the trail and clearing the stream channel
and the pool itself of rocks and silt brought down from a quarry upstream. Take
the eastern coast road north of LaPlaine and inland from Rosalie. After 15-20
minutes past Rosalie, the Emerald Pool and Carib Territory are signposted on
the right. Take this road and the entrance to the pool is a few hundred yards
on your left. Walk along the trail to the Emerald Pool (a circular ½
mile trail); the pool itself is incredible but the general area held Blue-headed
Hummingbird, Purple-throated Carib, Rufous-throated Solitaire, Plumbeous Warbler,
and I saw my only Ruddy Quail-Dove of the trip here as it flew across the road
at the trail entrance. House Wrens are also fairly common here.
Other sites: The Botanical Gardens in Roseau are
well worth a visit as Green Herons patrol the lawns, Smooth-billed Anis are
common and it should give a good introduction to the birds of the island e.g.
Black-faced Grassquit, Bananaquit, Lesser Antillean Bullfinch, both Caribs.
I also saw some of my few Tropical Mockingbirds here, and Purple Martin.
Three sites I didn't have time to visit were the
Boiling Lake, the Freshwater Lake and Trafalgar Falls, all popular with the
few tourists that visit the island - we were due to visit Trafalgar Falls but
heavy rainfall the day before our visit had made the trails unsafe. After returning,
I was told that Layou River Mouth, Canefield and Pointe Michel are good for
White-tailed Tropicbirds. They are reported to nest on cliffs near Roseau -
late afternoon may be best.
Many thanks to Dr. Peter G.H. Evans for his help
and comments on an early draft of this report.