Feb 19-Mar 6, 2012
Jan Wierda

 

Trip report by Jan Wierda, Netherlands from February 19th until March 6th, 2012

 

Title: “Amazing Aruba!”

 

My wife Hetty and I arrived on Aruba at February 19th in the afternoon. We planned to visit our daughter, her husband and 2 sons, who live on the island since September 2011. Everyone in our family is aware of the fact that birding is always my complementary goal, where ever I go. No one was surprised that I brought my binoculars (Zeiss 8x40), telescope (Zeiss 20-60), tripod, camera Nikon 300S and long-focus lens Sigma 120-300 F 2.8. The car rental at the airport went without any problem. Then we went to the place where my daughter’s family is living (Mazurka) close to the Bubali bird centre.

 

Literature, I brought:

  • Helm Field guides: Birds of Aruba, Curaçao ad Bonaire, by Bart de Boer, Eric Newton and Robin Restall (fortunately just released in February 2012)
  • The North American Bird guide by David Sibley
  • Shorebirds of North America by Dennis Paulson and
  • Birds of the Netherlands Antilles by Prof. Dr. K.H. Voous
  • On top I used a copy of Becky Marvil’s trip report of March 2010 (from the great website, see next)
  • All preparation thanks to http://www.arubabirds.com/Arubabirdsphotos-birdinglocationsandbirdsonAruba.htm

 

The First species on the airport, I saw was a Carib Grackle. At Mazurka I saw that evening (until 7 p.m., when it is already dark) the first Bare-Eyed Pigeons and Eared Doves. Also I saw and heard Tropical Mockingbird, and the first 2 Brown-throated Parakeets.

 

Next morning, February 20th, (around the pool) I saw Bananaquits and Black-faced Grassquit.

My son in law (Remy) and I made that morning our first trip on the island to Alta Vista Chappel (North East). Along the coast I saw my first Brown Pelican and a Peregrine above our heads.

 

Peregrine, photo by JW 20-2-12

We took a walk and saw the first Blue-tailed Emerald in the vegetation. A little later we observed a Troupial. On the Chapel roosted some 5 House Sparrows. Also some Common Ground doves flew away.

 

Later on we went to Spanish Lagoon (via the Frenchmen’s pass). Following that road we saw at our right hand a dry area with a pond at the edge. New species followed quickly there: 2 Osprey’s, plenty of Blue-winged Teal and White-cheeked Pintail. Excitement for the first Green Heron which Remy discovered at the border. Observing shorebirds, produced Killdeer, and a large group of (40-50) Greater Yellowlegs and some 25 Lesser Yellowlegs. After some scoping, we found a group of 40 Black Necked Stilt’s. Plenty of Great Egret’s completed the picture.

Lesser Yellowlegs, photo by JW 20-2-2012

 

Black-necked Stilts, photo JW, 20-2-2012

 

After all this birding (whole day in 30+ degrees, mind you!), it was time to go to a nice restaurant. Remy guided us to “De Zeerover” (=Pirate), at Savaneta, a great place for fresh caught fish, shrimps and ice-cold beer! As we were sitting at the boarder of the Caribbean Sea, the birding did not stop. The visit to the restaurant (sitting, eating in the shade with a nice wind), produced 10+ Laughing Gulls, 4 Magnificant Frigatebirds and some 10 Royal Terns. On the riff were 2 American Oystercatchers.

 

Before going home (Mazurka), we checked the backside of Bubali Bird Sanctuary, that produced a flock of (20) Neotropic Cormorants, a Great Blue Heron, some 10 Caribbean Coots and Black-crowned Night-Herons, busy with breeding preparation (flying around with nest material).

 

The species total ended at 30 in 2 days.

 

The next morning, I planned to start at the tower of Bubali’s Bird center.

 

Bubali’s Bird center, February 21st

 

After some scoping I found the first Pied-billed Grebe. Common Moorhen is indeed very common there. Above the pond were (some 20) Barn Swallows flying. I saw the first Snowy Egrets (10 or so).

Snowy Egret, photo by JW 21-2-12

 

 

I was excited about the very first Yellow Warblers, some 5 in total, all seen from the (windy) tower. From the tower I spotted 2 Crested Caracaras, flying around above Bubali. Along the shore Marsh Turtles were taking a sun bath.

Crested Caracara, photo JW 27-2-12

I started to drive around, looking for ‘Salina’s with water. Opposite the Marriot Hotel, I found a good spot. I was very surprised to find a juvenile American Flamingo, standing there.

American Flamingo, photo JW 21-2-12

 

Also a White-tipped Dove flew away, (unmistakable, because of its white outer tail-feathers).

 

I decided to return to the Spanish Lagoon. Next to the species I described on the evening before, I found now a Sora foraging at the edge of the pond, however, unfortunately just for some 20 seconds.

 

In the afternoon the whole family decided to go to Baby Beach (in the South). Sitting along the beach new species were added: 2 Black-bellied Plovers and 10 Ruddy Turnstones.

 

At the end of the day my daughter (Carolien) helped me by finding the first Burrowing Owl, close to our house on a telephone wire. She had seen this owl before in the neighbourhood, but I could not find any the nights before.

 

 

Species Total: 42.

 

Bubali’s Bird center, February 22nd

 

Again I started on the tower. Now I was surprised to find (the one and only) Purple Gallinule there in the vegetation at the edge of the pond. On top I found a Duck that puzzled me and that I photographed. With the help of Jeff Wells, it became clear that this concerned a feral-domestic form of the Muscovy Duck, probably escaped.

 

Later that day, I went to the North of the island, to look for Salina Preserve, that I found on the map. I found it close to Tierra del Sol. I found the place by following the signs for horseback riding. I came in a desolated area, with some small ponds (there twice a day some horseback riders come along), and one large Salina (at the Golf court of Tierra del Sol).   Later on it became clear to me that this Salina can also be approached from the Golf (after asking permission and promise to stay on the roads).

Tropical Mockingbird at Tierra del Sol, photo JW March 2012

 

In the small ponds I found new 3 Least Grebes and on the Salina I found (with very bad light) 3 American Wigeons. I decided to return next morning with hopefully better light.

 

Carolien called me that she found a couple of Burrowing Owl’s (daytime) at Casi Bari. I went there and could make some photographs.

Burrowing Owl, photo JW 22-2-12

 

 

 

Tierra de Sol, Salina, February 23rd

 

I started early and saw now much better the Duck that I noticed the day before. It was an adult male Ring-Necked Duck. I also noticed a female of that species, (some days later, it became clear that no less than 8 juveniles/females were accompanying the adult!).

 

9 Ring-Necked Ducks, photo JW 25-2-12

 

I was rewarded for my early rise by seeing first on the sandy road near the horseback pond at least 5 Crested Bobwhites. Later on I found as well 3 Shiny Cowbirds as 3 Groove-billed  Anis. I found later at the Salina 2 Spotted Sandpipers and the first American Kestrel (seemed to breed there already).

 

American Kestrel, photo JW 25-2-12

 

 

 

Species total at 51.

 

 

 Spanish Lagoon, February 24th

 

After having received some tips from Jeff (make ‘spishing’ sounds for 5-10 minutes!), I went back to the Spanish Lagoon. I found my one and only Gray Kingbird and the first Brown-crested Flycatcher.

Northern Scrub Flycatcher, photo by JW 24-2-12 1

 


Gray Kingbird, photo JW 24-2-12 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Late afternoon I checked the back side of Bubali, where I found the first Northern Waterthrush.

 

Northern Waterthrush, photo JW 27-2-2012

 

 

 Baby Beach, February 25th

 

We went with the family to Baby Beach again, where I could add (2) Hudsonian Whimbrels. When I was scoping, I met another Dutch birder (Ted Post) who gave some useful information about spots and species he had seen. I checked late afternoon a pond opposite the Kite surf school at the beach near the Board walk. This pond produced new species for me; first of all a nice Willet and later on 3 Tricolored Herons.

 

More over, this pond looked great for waders!

Willet, photo by JW 25-2-12

 

 Coast between Parkietenbos and Surfside Beach, February 26th

 

After having dropped off Remy for a day sailing with friends I decide to check out the coast close to the airport. There were nice mangroves over there. I found again Northern Waterthrushes. On top I found 3 adult Little Blue Herons.

 

Driving along Parkietenbos at the trash dump over there, I saw 8 Cattle Egrets, searching food in the trash. It turned out to be the only place where I would see them.

 

Then I went to a new pond, by driving along the Windmill to the back area there. I found as indicated by Ted a Glossy Ibis at the edge of the pond. Also between the egrets over there a small white one with some gray/black feathers; this concerns a juvenile Little Blue Heron.

 

The end of the day I spent looking for waders at the Kite surf pond. That action was successful and produced the first 5 Stilt Sandpipers.

 

Species total at 61.

 

 

Arikok, February 27th

 

This day we planned a visit to the national park Arikok. After having asked in the visitors centre for the best strategy to find Hummingbirds, we walked the Cunucu Arikok (a trail of about 1 km) for some hours. We found again 2 Burrowing Owls and we managed to find and photograph one (juvenile) Ruby Topaz Hummingbird and Blue-tailed Emeralds. On top we added Rock Dove and Northern Scrub Flycatcher.

Northern Scrub Flycatcher, photo JW 27-2-12

 

 

 Blue-tailed Emerald, photo JW 27-2-12

Ruby Topaz Hummingbird, photo JW 27-2-12

Bananaquit, photo JW 27-2-12

 

Arikok, February 28th

 

Next morning I returned to national park Arikok; I did not enter the park, but decided to invest time in finding Orioles in the neighbourhood of the visitors’ centre. After one hour I had the luck that a Yellow Orioletried to chase away the Troupial that I was observing at that moment. They are really yellow, but not easy to find.

 

After this completed mission I tried my luck again at the sea near Palm Island (from the edge of the refinery). I was rewarded by a light Pomarine Jaeger that flew slowly to the South.

 

The end of the day I spent at the Kite surf pond. This time new waders were present. I saw 10 Least Sandpipers and 5 Semipalmated Plovers. Also the number of Stilt Sandpipers increased to 21.

 

California Lighthouse, February 29th

 

Inspecting the beaches and riff’s produced (finally) a group of 8 Cayenne Terns. Following Helm Field Guide, I will call them Cabot's (Cayenne) Tern. The bills I saw varied from completely yellow to black, with a yellow end.

Cabot's (Cayenne) Tern, Photo by JW 29-2-2012

 

In the afternoon I tried my luck again at Spanish Lagoon. This time however I tried to come to the backside of the pond. To my surprise I found a sign for not allowing motor vehicles.  This turned out to be a very promising trail. Silence, scrub, mangroves; time for serious birding!

Making ‘spishing’ sounds produced in one hour 2 Northern Waterthrushes and (for me) an astonishing Black & White Warble and on top (identified via a photo shot), a female Northern Parula .

 

Northern Parula & Black & White Warbler, photo’s by JW March 2012

 

 

Species total at 71.

Trail Spanish Lagoon, March 1st until March 5th

 

As I was focused to find more warblers (and to photograph them), I spend daily several hours in this new spot. It was the highlight of my trip. No disturbances, spending hours between the mangroves, that’s birding!

 

At the end it produced one more (male) Northern Parula, at least 2 American Redstarts and a beautiful male Prothonotary Warbler.

 

American Redstart & Prothonotary Warbler, photo’s by JW March 2012

 

 

Kite surf pond, March 1st

 

In the afternoon I found at the wader’s spot 6 Short-billed Dowitchers.

Stilt Sandpiper & Short-billed Dowitcher photo by JW February 2012

 

 

 

Coast Oranjestad, March 4th

 

After the shopping at the Superstore, I searched again the buoys in the sea over there. This time I finally found my missing species, a Brown Booby, far, but 100%.

 

Baby Beach, March 5th

 

One day before leaving the island, we decided to relax the morning at Baby Beach, (but a birder always brings his equipment!). At searching the sea from Rodger’s beach I saw a flock of over 500 Sooty Terns.

Troupial, photo by Carolien Gaarthuis-Wierda March 2012

 

Summary

I had a total of 76 species for the 2 weeks. The highlights for me were the warblers at the trail at Spanish Lagoon, the waders at the Surf kite pond and the surprises from the sea. I had a lovely time on the island with my family. All the time I was amazed by new spots on this Lovely Island, Aruba, that produced new species almost every day!

 

Thanks to Jeff Wells, for support and thanks to my family for all the patience while waiting for me..

 

Jan Wierda

jan.wierda@ziggo.nl , Netherlands

 

 

Sequence of species seen following the Checklist of Aruba by Jeff Wells,

#

Species

first date

first location

Status

Total seen

1

Pied-billed Grebe

21-feb

Bubali

C

30+

 

2

Least Grebe

22-feb

pond Horseback

U

3

 

3

Brown Booby

4-mrt

Coast Oranjestad

C

1

 

4

Brown Pelican

20-feb

Alta Vista Chapel

C

50+

 

5

Neotropic Cormorant

20-feb

Bubali

C

100+

 

6

Magnificent Frigatebird

20-feb

Savaneta

C

30+

 

7

Great Blue Heron

20-feb

Bubali

C

10+

 

8

Great Egret

20-feb

Spanish Lagoon

C

50+

 

9

Snowy Egret

21-feb

Bubali

C

30+

 

10

Little Blue Heron

26-feb

Airport coast

C

5

 

11

Tricolored Heron

25-feb

Kite surf pond

C

5

 

12

Cattle Egret

26-feb

Parkietenbos dump

C

8

 

13

Green Heron

20-feb

Spanish Lagoon

C

8

 

14

Black-crowned Night-Heron

20-feb

Bubali

C

10+

 

15

Glossy Ibis

26-feb

Windmill pond

R

1

 

16

American Flamingo

21-feb

Marriot pond

V

1

 

17

American Wigeon

22-feb

Salina Tierra del Sol

R

12

 

18

Blue-winged Teal

20-feb

Spanish Lagoon

C

100+

 

19

White-cheeked Pintail

20-feb

Spanish Lagoon

C

100+

 

20

Ring-Necked Duck

23-feb

Salina Tierra del Sol

V

9

 

21

Osprey

20-feb

Spanish Lagoon

C

18

 

22

Crested Caracara

21-feb

Bubali

U

12

 

23

American Kestrel

23-feb

Salina Tierra del Sol

C

9

 

24

Peregrine Falcon

20-feb

Alta Vista Chapel

U

8

 

25

Crested Bobwhite

23-feb

pond Horseback

C

5

 

26

Sora

21-feb

Spanish Lagoon

U

1

 

27

Purple Gallinule

22-feb

Bubali

R

1

 

28

Common Moorhen

21-feb

Bubali

C

20+

 

29

Caribbean Coot

20-feb

Bubali

C

50+

 

30

Black-bellied Plover

21-feb

Baby Beach

C

12

 

31

Semipalmated Plover

28-feb

Kite surf pond

C

15+

 

32

Killdeer

20-feb

Spanish Lagoon

C

20+

 

33

American Oystercatcher

20-feb

Savaneta

U

8

 

34

Black-necked Stilt

20-feb

Spanish Lagoon

C

50+

 

35

Greater Yellowlegs

20-feb

Spanish Lagoon

C

250+

 

36

Lesser Yellowlegs

20-feb

Spanish Lagoon

C

200+

 

37

Willet

25-feb

Kite surf pond

U

1

 

38

Spotted Sandpiper

23-feb

Salina Tierra del Sol

C

25+

 

39

Hudsonian Whimbrel

25-feb

Baby Beach

C

40+

 

40

Ruddy Turnstone

21-feb

Baby Beach

C

20+

 

41

Least Sandpiper

28-feb

Kite surf pond

C

30+

 

42

Stilt Sandpiper

26-feb

Kitesurf pond

U

21

 

43

Short-billed Dowitcher

2-mrt

Kitesurf pond

U

6

 

44

Pomarine Jaeger

28-feb

sea Palm Island

R

4

 

45

Laughing Gull

20-feb

Savaneta

C

200+

 

46

Royal Tern

20-feb

Savaneta

C

200+

 

47

Cabot's (Cayenne) Tern

29-feb

California Lighthouse

C

8

 

48

Sooty Tern

5-mrt

Rodger's bay

C

500+

 

49

Rock Dove

27-feb

Arikok

C

10+

 

50

Bare-eyed Pigeon

19-feb

Mazurka

C

100+

 

51

Eared Dove

19-feb

Mazurka

C

100+

 

52

Common Ground Dove

20-feb

Alta Vista Chapel

C

50+

 

53

White-tipped Dove

21-feb

around Marriot pond

U

3

 

54

Brown-throated Parakeet

19-feb

Mazurka

C

80+

 

55

Groove-billed Ani

23-feb

Salina Tierra del Sol

U

6

 

56

Burrowing Owl

21-feb

Mazurka

U

5

 

57

Ruby Topaz Hummingbird

27-feb

Arikok

U

4

 

58

Blue-tailed Emerald

20-feb

Alta Vista Chapel

C

20+

 

59

Northern Scrub Flycatcher

27-feb

Arikok

U

3

 

60

Brown-crested Flycatcher

24-feb

Spanish Lagoon

U

3

 

61

Gray Kingbird

24-feb

Spanish Lagoon

U

1

 

62

Barn Swallow

21-feb

Bubali

C

50+

 

63

Tropical Mockingbird

19-feb

Mazurka

C

50+

 

64

Northern Parula

29-feb

trail Spanish Lagoon

R

2

 

65

Yellow Warbler

21-feb

Bubali

C

40+

 

66

Black & White Warbler

29-feb

trail Spanish Lagoon

U

1

 

67

American Redstart

1-mrt

trail Spanish Lagoon

U

2

 

68

Prothonotary Warbler

2-mrt

trail Spanish Lagoon

U

1

 

69

Northern Waterthrush

24-feb

Spanish Lagoon

C

10

 

70

Bananaquit

20-feb

Mazurka

C

100+

 

71

Black-faced grassquit

20-feb

Mazurka

C

20+

 

72

Carib Grackle

19-feb

Airport

C

200+

 

73

Shiny Cowbird

23-feb

Salina Tierra del Sol

U

3

 

74

 Troupial

20-feb

Alta Vista Chapel

C

50+

 

75

Yellow Oriole

28-feb

Arikok

U

1

 

76

House Sparrow

20-feb

Alta Vista Chapel

U

20+

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Status: (following the Checklist of Aruba by Jeff Wells)

C= Common

U=Uncommon

R=Rare

V=Vagrant

 

Total is seen during the 16 days of my stay. Exact number is shown if of interest, if applicable a + for estimation is added.