Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Nature Island of the Caribbean


Roseau, capitol of Dominica

Dominica (pronounced doe-min-EEK-uh) was the island I was most interested in visiting on this trip. Leon and I visited previously about 15 years ago. We had planned a trip to Jamaica, then did some reading and were charmed by the descriptions of Dominica, termed the "nature island of the Caribbean." We went there instead, loved our visit, and looked forward to our return.

First light as we pass the Dominican coast

Our day in Dominica began auspiciously. I was unable to sleep, and got up before dawn. I went out on deck and watched the sun come up while we cruised the length of the island while the skies grew light and the sun rose. Just before dawn, a dolphin swam alongside of the boat and jumped several times off of the port bow. At breakfast, we were treated to a rainbow. Readers of UrSpo's blog will probably recognize the "standing together under the rainbow" pose. It’s very appropriate that Someone (UrSpo's partner) took this photo.


Somewhere under the rainbow

It turns out that we overestimated how long it would take to get off of the ship and on our way. If we had gotten up early, and left as soon as the ship opened for disembarkation, we would have had time to hike all the way up to the boiling lake and the Valley of Desolation. I’m not sure that UrSpo and Someone would have come with us, as they don’t do as much hiking as we do, and that’s a pretty intense hike. So it’s just as well that we opted to do a trip to Soufriere Valley, what the guidebook termed a "mini Valley of Desolation" and had a wonderful time with good company.


Inside the caldera at Soufriere

We hired a cab, expecting a quick pickup and drop-off. Instead, we got a tour guide for the day. We began at Soufriere. The hike is fairly short. It begins in a caldera, and leads up a watercourse flowing with volcano-warmed water. We enjoyed topical vegetation, birds and lizards, but few insects. Dominica is the Caribbean island that has the most volcanic activity, and also the island that has retained the greatest proportion of its native vegetation, which in this case means rainforest. It’s a great choice for Leon and I since he’s a geology geek who loves volcanoes and there’s plenty to entertain my biophilia.


Fumes and heat prevent vegetation from growing on this slope. The small stream at the base of the rocks was too hot to touch here.

The hike culminates in a small, barren valley. The water is emerging here as hot springs, too hot to even touch near the spring’s source. The heat of the water and sulfurous fumes severely limit plant life. There are also fumeroles dotting the valley floor. I did get nice photos of a millipede and a robber fly here.


Millipede


Robber fly

Following the volcanic hike, we climbed Scott Head, a rocky headland that just out of the southwest corner of the island. There were expansive views of the island, sea, and sky. A large flock of frigate birds filled the sky. And there were HUGE grasshoppers everywhere. They were clearly bird grasshoppers (genus Schistocerca, though I don’t know which species this is), so named for their very strong flight. I managed to get some nice shots of an individual that was about 2 1/2 inches long with a wingspan closing in on 5 inches.


The view from Scott Head



The larger but lovely Schistocerca sp.

I got out for a while in the afternoon to go insect chasing. This was fairly disappointing, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s touch to get out of the capital city of Roseau on foot. About all I saw as a bunch of blue lizards. As we sailed out of port late that afternoon, I was treated to beautiful views of the island in the late afternoon light. We’ll definitely be back when we can again spend more time there.


Blue lizard. Probably a Dominican ameivas (Ameiva fuscata).


Bye, Dominica. Scott Head is the rock at the left side of the island.

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14 Comments:

At 18:38, Blogger Lemuel said...

I love the pic of you and Leon under the rainbow.

 
At 21:02, Blogger Ur-spo said...

i don't remember the bugs but i remember the locations.

 
At 07:20, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

Very cool. A British friend of mine is going to be moving there. I guess that's where her folks were born!

 
At 10:20, Blogger Paintsmh said...

Just wandered over from Pure Florida. Your blog is amazing. The pictures are stunning!

 
At 15:16, Anonymous Mark H said...

that's correct, Doug, stunning pictures...and wish we would have been on that hike too. The Caldera's gorgeous........ Thanks for posting about places I haven't been.

 
At 15:38, Blogger Kathiesbirds said...

Doug, Dominica always makes me think of that song the nun sang back in the 60's! Do you know the one? Nice millipede shot there. I saw the most beautiful and large grasshopper at Kartchner Caverns last summer. It was black and green and someone there told me it was called a horse grasshopper. Do you have any idea what I am describing? Don't be surprised if I ask you for help on IDing bugs in AZ now. As you well know, we get plenty of them here. I've just about had it with brown crickets, if you read that post! We've also had a few bark scorpions in our house. Time to chink all the cracks! However, the bugs do bring the birds and because I refuse to use pesticides I get a yeard full of wrens!

 
At 16:50, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Lem- Thanks. Unfortunately, the rainbow's a bit washed out. I've been trying to play around with that in Photoshop, so far to no avail.

Spo- Obviously you didn't have enough rum punch.

Dave- Very cool. Dominica is tiny, so it's surprising to hear of somebody who's from there.

paintsmh- Thanks. Welcome to the Tapestry.

Mark- It would have been fun to have you and Rodger along.

Kathie- Welcome to the Tapestry. Song reference? "Dominica-nica-nica s'en allait tout simplement..."
There is a common grasshopper from Arizona called the horse lubber. I'll bet that's what you saw. As for bug ID- I get requests for that from time to time and am happy to help out where I can. I've been enjoying your blog.

 
At 18:11, Blogger valown said...

Wow, what great photos. Why were there so few insects? I would have thought in habitat like that they would have been all over the place. Great rainbow photo of you and Leon by the way.

 
At 18:33, Anonymous Laura said...

Hi Doug,
I'm also here from PureFlorida, and enjoyed your comment over there about the father and his moth, so I came over to meet a new and interesting blogger.
I'm glad I did, the photos of this country are stunning! I've never been there and enjoyed this tour.

I was curious about that there were so few insects, yet enough birds and lizards abound.
That is interesting. I would guess the bugs are particularly good at camouflage!

 
At 08:38, Blogger BentonQuest said...

Beautiful photos, Doug. I am so envious of you!

 
At 08:55, Blogger Kathiesbirds said...

Ah, Doug! So we do speak the same language! Your reply made me smile. Thanks for the insect info. I'll have to see if I can get a picture of that grasshopper this year. It's very pretty but I was told they bite! Yikes!

 
At 09:48, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Valown and Laura- I don't know why there were so few insects. It may be the time of year. It may be a reflection of the fact that island ecosystems tend to be species-poor. Though that fact would affect the diversity only, not the numbers. It's this sort of question that illustrates nicely how superficial my understanding of Caribbean ecosystems is compared with, say, my understanding of prairies.

Laura- Welcome to the Tapestry. Glad you're enjoying yourself. I always enjoy having Pure Florida readers stop by. FC is great and has a wonderful blog.

Ben- Thanks. Dominica was incredibly beautiful. My photos don't begin to do it justice.

Kathie- You realize that we are both dataing ourselves by getting that particular musical reference.

Horse lubbers can bite, but they are reluctant to do so. You have to grab one and hold it so that it can get at you with its mandibles. Even if you touch one, it's going to jump away if it possibly can instead of biting. The nip is a last resort.

 
At 13:51, Blogger T.R. said...

You are crazy! Your "cruise posts" are fantastic - much more depth and color then my midnight groggy musings. I think I have to go to Dominica -- and next time Ur-spo can't make the hike - call me -- always ready, willing and able!!

 
At 09:30, Blogger Doug Taron said...

tr- thanks. I still like your posting about your recent cruise. From what I've seen on your blog, we have both been similarly bitten by the travel bug.

 

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