My family and I took a quick get-away trip to Aruba last week. As I am the only avid birder in the family and it was a short trip I had limited opportunity for pure birding, but it was enjoyable none-the-less! Prior to the trip, I downloaded the birding list from this site and checked all the birds that were pictured in my North American guide. I then hi-lighted the common species not pictured and printed images from the internet and brought them along. In retrospect I should have brought pictures of the common terns and gulls as I am not proficient at differentiating them.
We stayed at the Divi Golf and Beach Resort, which was quite nice. The golf course and surrounding lagoons offered up daily Brown Pelicans, Neotropical Cormorants, Common Moorhens, Caribbean Coots and Pied-billed Grebes in modest numbers. (Many Iguanas sunning every morning also.) Two to three Black-necked Stilts were there daily, and I saw a Green Heron, a few Great Egrets, and a Black-Crowned Night-Heron. On the first morning I was delighted to see a Southern Lapwing poking around on the greens on the far side of the lagoon, and on the last night we watched a Black Skimmer fishing and tiny bats flying about as we ate dinner at Mulligans. (Definitely more memorable than the food.)
On the grounds of the resort (and at other landscaped locations) the Carib Grackles, Eared Doves, homely Bare-eyed Pigeons and noisy Bananaquits abounded. Small mixed flocks of Common Ground Doves, Black-faced Grassquits and House Sparrows frequented the roadsides and pathways and seemed most active in the mornings. One Tropical Mockingbird (of which there were many) utilized the acoustics of the covered hotel walkways to project his song beautifully throughout the entire building. Nice way to know it’s time to wake up and grab the binoculars!
I saw the flashy Troupials sporadically. The ones I saw were solitary and appeared to favor high open perches from which to project their melodious song. I caught only fleeting glimpses of what I presume were Blue-tailed Emeralds despite the abundance of flowering plants around the hotels. We watched a noisy flock of 10-12 Brown-throated Parakeets feeding in a “grape” tree across the street from Sr. Frogs Restaurant. I caught only glimpses of small groups in flight elsewhere on the Island.
My visit to Bubali was disappointing as I did not have my binoculars with me (we were on the way to Super Foods- awesome grocery store!) I suspect visiting Bubali in the morning is best in order to have the sun at your back. There I saw a handsome Gray Kingbird perched along the dirt drive, and was able to ID three White-cheeked Pintails by borrowing a fellow birder’s binocs. (BTW- only other birder I saw while on the Island.) Bubali was crawling with Caribbean Coots and Moorhens and I also saw a Green Heron, Great Egret, 2 Yellow Warblers and several small shore birds.
Our Trip to Arikok Park was enjoyable. I recommend taking a few moments to study the displays and learn about the area. We saw Grassquits, Bananaquits, mockingbirds, Bare-eyed Pigeons, a Gray Kingbird in a gnarled “grape” tree by a Boca and 3 Crested Caracaras and a Troupial down by the Wind Turbines. There are, unfortunately for the habitat, innumerable goats and a few donkeys in the park as well. Watch out for small lizards that skitter towards the shade of your car as you pass.
Anytime you look out to sea on the leeward side of the Island you will see Magnificent Frigatebirds hanging in the wind. Small groups of Brown Pelicans are common as well as Laughing gulls and several types of terns. (I failed to identify any of them.) I saw one Brown Booby towards the North end of the Island.
We biked on the rugged northern windward side of the Island (from the Chapel to the Light House) and though it was beautiful, I saw few birds- mostly Bare-eyed Pigeons. Then again, I was concentrating on surviving the bike ride…
For Birding in Aruba I recommend renting a car. Check out the Parks as well as the tucked-away places like the salinas north of the High rises, the golf courses, Spanish Lagoon and maybe even the land-fill that can be seen from the Airport (not sure how to access it). Wear short sleeves, plenty of sun screen and hold onto your hat!