Bonaire and the Mysterious Parrot Eclipse
As our cruise adventure headed south out of Dominica, we visited Grenada, Bonaire, and Aruba. Grenada and Aruba were two of the islands that I felt that I got to know the least on the voyage. That’s probably because we did packaged shore excursions on both of those islands. On Grenada, we went sea kayaking.
Remote Beach on Grenada
I enjoyed the kayaking, though I have few pictures. All of our items like day packs and cameras were stored safely on the skiff while we all paddled. I didn’t trust myself not to send my camera into the drink, so I only have a few pictures of the beaches where we stopped. It was very windy that day, which meant that paddling turned out to involve quite the upper body workout. We did see some interesting red seed bugs on the beach in Grenada. As we were returning to town, we encountered a torrential tropical downpour. I actually rather enjoyed that, though I opted not to wander around town on my own before we put out to sea again.
Departing GrenadaWe did not get to Bonaire until early the following afternoon. I spent much of the morning on deck, looking at the sea life. There was a surprising amount to see. The bird life included my first ever view of a storm petrel. I only got a brief glimpse, so I neither have a photograph nor an identification of which species of storm petrel I saw. A small pod of dolphins began playing along side of the ship at one point. Some were jumping more than a full body length out of the water.
As we approached Bonaire, we began encountering hundreds of flying fish- something else I’d never seen before. Again, no photos (alas), but I was really surprised at how well they could fly. They could stay aloft for up to 30 seconds and travel the better part of 100 meters. They flapped their winglike fins, and seemed able to steer. I was completely fascinated by them.
Remnant native scrub vegetation on Bonaire
Towering cacti dwarf the thorn trees
Bonaire, only about 20 miles off the Venezuelan coast, proved to be the unexpected surprise of the trip. I opted to rent a bicycle and tool around a bit on my own. Part of my plans involved insect collecting. I hoped to see other wildlife on the trip, as well, though I didn’t think that there was much chance of seeing either of the island’s endemic parrots. They are mostly confined to the national park on the west end of the island- too far away even by bicycle.
Tree snails. Identity unknown, but likely a Bonaire endemic.
I headed west out of town, and was soon wandering among Bonaire’s scrubby vegetation. True to form with the other islands that I visited, there were few insects. It appeared to be the dry season, as many trees like the gumbo limbos had shed their leaves. The tall, columnar cacti were most impressive. I did get to see, and photograph, the huge arborescent milkweed that I had seen throughout the Caribbean, as well as some cool bone-white tree snails that I saw only on Bonaire. Columella hairstreaks are abundant on the island, and posed nicely for me. Despite much searching, I found no evidence of tiger beetles along the mixed sand/coral/mudflat beaches that I visited.
Strange arborescent milkweed. I've not been able to get an ID.
Milkweed flowers. I saw this species on many of the islands we visited.
Even though the milkweed was strange, some of its inhabitants were very familiar.
On my way back to the cruise port, I noticed a nice patch of native vegetation that I detoured off the road to check out. Wile checking out the vegetation, including lots of native cotton plants, I heard a small flock of birds land near me in a leafless gumbo limbo nearby. Bonairean parrots? Looking up, I saw a beautiful oriole. Not parrots, but beautiful, none the less. But wait- it wan’t just an oriole. The birds were a mixed flock. There were also five parrots mixed in with them. Both native species were present. They even allowed me to get close enough to get a photo that, with cropping, shows them off nicely.
What's in that gumbo-limbo tree?
Troupial (Icteris icteris), a resident oriole.
Yellow-necked parrot (above) and Caribbean parakeet (below)
Tired but quite satisfied, I headed back into port. What could possibly cap off this kind of day? Easy. After we departed from port and had dinner, we were treated to beautiful views of the total lunar eclipse out at sea. Others have posted much better photos of it (I learned that you just can’t get a good shot of the moon on the pitching and rolling deck of a ship), but I have some wonderful memories of its copper-red glow just off the coast of South America.