Feb 29-March 21, 2016
Brown Pelican - Aruba, Feb/March 2016 © Erik Neuteboom
Subject: Birdwatching report
Date: Between February 29th and March 21st 2016
Equipment: Sony Cybershot HX-300 and Olympus TG-4
Author: Erik Neuteboom from The Hague, The Netherlands, born October 3rd, 1960.
Aruba is generally known for its wonderful white beaches and crystalclear sea, every year many (mainly American) tourists travel to Aruba to enjoy the pleasant tropical atmosphere. But this small Caribbean island is also interesting for birdwatchers. Because it features a huge variety of birds, around 200 different species. This is including a wide range of migrating birds, from the American Kestrel to the flamingo, incredible for such a small island!
Tropical Mockingbird - Aruba, Feb/March 2016 © Erik Neuteboom
In the late Eighties I visited Aruba for the first time, due to the fact that my wife’s parents lived there. They were Dutch but Hetty was born and raised on Aruba, she used to say proudly “mi ta Arubiano” (“I am Arubian”). From the very first moment I was blown away by the beautiful beaches, local food (‘cuminda crioyo’), delicious fish meals and welcoming people.
Bare-eyed Pigeon - Aruba, Feb/March 2016 © Erik Neuteboom
Soon I discovered the breathtaking coral reefs that host many different fishes, often with amazing colours and odd shapes (like the trumpetfish and trunkfish). So at first I focussed on snorkling, mainly in the northern area, at Malmok and Arashi. But since a few years I am more and more into birdwatching, thanks to a friend who organizes birdwatching trips and asked me to take pictures for his website.
Bananaquit - Aruba, Feb/March 2016 © Erik Neuteboom
During my most recent visit on Aruba I decided to concentrate more on spotting birds and trying to make pictures of as many different birds as possible. On the Internet I read information about all those birds and I checked the best places to watch birds. I was lucky that the house where I stayed, during my three weeks holiday, is surrounded by the so-called ‘cunucu’, the distinctive Arubian countryside. This cunucu delivers mainly cactus and other dry vegetation but also birds of prey, like the Crested Caracara (wara wara) and falcons like the American Kestrel (kini kini). Almost everyday I noticed these birds of prey in the air or on a cactus from our house. And of course birds like the Trupial, Bananaquit (barika hel), Tropical Mockingbird (chuchubi) and different pigeons/doves visited our garden during the day. These birds love to be treated on pieces of bread and fruit and show their appreciation with funny sounds. And even the Ruby-topaz Hummingbird landed on our bushes at some days, wow, what an astonishing creature!
Troupial - Aruba, Feb/March 2016 © Erik Neuteboom
Now let’s make a trip to the very interesting places on Aruba for birdwatching, I would like to start with the northern part, the area between the Malmok beach and the California Lighthouse. Along this shore you will notice many diving Brown Pelicans and low flying Royal Terns. In the early morning the mighty Osprey will come very close to the coast, I have seen three at one moment, goose bumps!
Carib Grackle - Aruba, Feb/March 2016 © Erik Neuteboom
Now let’s travel to the Bubali Bird Sanctuary, near the ‘high rise’ hotels and in front of the Dutch Mill. In the center there is an observation tower, with some patience you will see many different birds, from herons to falcons. But also smaller birds like the Banaquit, Yellow Warbler (in the trees) and Trupial. The best spots in this area are the pools on the borders, along the highway where birds like the Great Egret and Lesser Yellowlegs are searching for food.
Great Egret - Aruba, Feb/March 2016 © Erik Neuteboom
The next goals are the rock formations Casibari and the smaller Ayo, more in the southern part of Aruba. Here the Crested Caracara often appears and in the bushes hummingbirds can be seen, along Trupials, doves/pigeons and Bananaquits.
Crested Caracara - Aruba, Feb/March 2016 © Erik Neuteboom
Finally we pay a visit to Arikok, the national park that borders the southern coast. Unfortunately it has been hit severely by the ‘boa constrictor terror’. Years ago imported boa constrictors escaped from private collections on Aruba, multiplied very quickly and then started eating many animals on the island, from small lizards to the huge Crested Caracara bird of prey. This turned into a real disaster, especially Arikok that looks pretty desolated because the boa constrictors (their estimated amount is between 5000 and 10000 .. !) have eaten many Aruban Brown-throated Parakeet (Prikichi). These birds are known for their funny high sounds, now there is silence, very sad. But with some luck you will see the Crested Caracara, Trupial, Bananaquit and even hummingbirds, especially on the cactus with beautiful yellow flowers. Take your time on these places, wait and be lucky! Another interesting Arubian bird is the Shoco Shoco, a wonderful brown owl (Aruban Burrowing Owl) that often lives in the cunucu on the ground.
Aruban Brown-throated Parakeet - Aruba, photo from 1992 © Erik Neuteboom
I hope my report will be a boost to discover the often underrated Arubian nature and do some fine birdwatchting. The best time is in the early morning when the sunlight is not too sharp. And between 1800 and 1900, just before dawn when the American Kestrels, Crested Caracaras and Ospreys do their hunting. It’s exciting to see them circling around, praying and then diving to their prey, catching lizards and small birds.
Yellow Oriole with Bananaquit - Aruba, Feb/March 2016 © Erik Neuteboom
I am sure you will enjoy birdwatching and hopely stumble upon a Crested Caracara, hummingbird or shoco shoco. But if you don't, just notice the early morning habits of the playful Trupials and the sugar loving Bananaquit, then you feel happy and relaxed, birds on Aruba are wonderful and fun!
Troupial - Aruba, Feb/March 2016 © Erik Neuteboom