March 20 - 26, 2010
Becky Marvil

 

 

We arrived in Aruba Saturday afternoon, and spent the rest of the day getting settled into our condo - a nice, small place called the Boardwalk Resort – across the road from the Marriott, which is at the northern most end of the strip of resorts lining the beach. Starting on Sunday, I was able to get out birding every day until our departure midday on Friday. I spent most of my time birding areas relatively close to our resort (within 15 minutes by car) but also found time to explore other locales on the island, like Arikok National Park and Spanish Lagoon. Thanks to Jeff and Allison Wells' website, and their direct correspondence, I found some wonderful places to bird, AND managed to find some new ones as well.


Banaquit, photo by Becky Marvil

Bubali Bird Sanctuary
My first destination was Bubali Bird Sanctuary, which was less than a mile south of where we were staying. The wind blows constantly in Aruba , usually 20-30 mph, so viewing from the tower can be difficult with a scope. But I tried, and was able to pick out birds in the pond I would otherwise have missed. That being said, I was also able to find many birds in and around the tower each time I visited, which was nearly every day. Across from the Phoenix Resort I could also access the mangroves that line the water of Bubali. I searched for the small pond that Mark Eising mentioned in his March 2006 report, but only found a very small wet area. The drainage from Bubali has been changed since 2006, and most of Mark's pond seems to be dried up. I only had a Black-crowned Night-heron and Green Heron there.


Green Heron, photo by Becky Marvil

Below is a combined week-long list from data I entered into eBird for the Bubali area:

Location: Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

Observation date: 3/21/10 - 3/25/10

Notes: Combined sightings from all days, with highest count seen on any visit

Number of species: 33

 

Blue-winged Teal 2

Pied-billed Grebe 3

Brown Pelican 10

Neotropic Cormorant 50

Magnificent Frigatebird 10

Great Egret 7

Great Blue Heron 1

Snowy Egret 2

Little Blue Heron 1

Green Heron 1

Black-crowned Night-Heron 1

Osprey 1

Sora 1

Purple Gallinule 1

Common Moorhen 4

Caribbean Coot 4

Laughing Gull 20

Spotted Sandpiper 1

Bare-eyed Pigeon 30

Eared Dove 10

Common Ground-Dove 6

Brown-throated Parakeet 7

Northern Scrub-Flycatcher 2

Blue-tailed Emerald 2

Gray Kingbird 2

Tropical Mockingbird 5

Yellow Warbler 15

Bananaquit 20

Black-faced Grassquit 1

Carib Grackle 20

Shiny Cowbird 15

Venezuelan Troupial 2

House Sparrow 10

Carribean Coot, photo by Becky Marvil 

 

Blue-tailed Emerald, photo by Becky Marvil

Brown-throated Parakeet, photo by Becky Marvil

I also checked out the beach near Bubali and got the following counts:  

Location: Aruba - Beach near Bubali Bird Sanctuary

Observation date: 3/23/10

Notes: All birds on rock jetties

Number of species: 7

 

Brown Booby 1

Brown Pelican 5

Neotropic Cormorant 2

Magnificent Frigatebird 1

Laughing Gull 240

Royal Tern 4

Sandwich Tern 1

 

Brown Pelican (left), Brown Booby (center), and

lots of Laughing Gulls. Photo by Becky Marvil.

Sewage Plant

On March 24, I was driving around the periphery of Bubali and discovered the sewage plant. At first I drove in and set up my scope to view the many birds crowded in the small, smelly pond. But after 5 minutes, a woman from inside the building told me I needed to stay outside the fence, so I parked the car outside and managed to view and digiscope through the chain-linked fence. Not optimal, but doable. The highlight here was the sheer numbers of birds, all close enough to get great photos. Here's the list of birds I got:

 

Location: Aruba - Sewage plant

Observation date: 3/24/10 and 3/25/10

Notes: Small pond full of birds feeding. Sewage water flowing in.

Number of species: 14

 

Blue-winged Teal 50

White-cheeked Pintail 60

Neotropic Cormorant 5

Crested Caracara 1

Common Moorhen 15

Caribbean Coot 20

Black-necked Stilt 20

Lesser Yellowlegs 9

Ruddy Turnstone 1

Least Sandpiper 3

Black Skimmer 1

Bare-eyed Pigeon 4

Eared Dove 4

Brown-throated Parakeet 4

 

White-cheeked Pintail, photo by Becky Marvil

Pair of Blue-winged Teal, photo by Becky Marvil

Black-necked Stilt, photo by Becky Marvil

Pond near Boardwalk Resort

During much of the week, I searched for ponds on the island simply because many birds congregate in wet areas, and with my scope, I love to scan and identify the shorebirds and ducks. Lucky for me, on March 22, we went to get some exercise at local fitness club, just inland from the Boardwalk Resort. In trying to locate the fitness club, we came to a dead-end road that overlooked a large pond! Surprisingly, the pond turned out to be just around the corner from the Boardwalk, not more than a 2 minute walk from where we were staying! So each day in the afternoon when the sun was behind me, I scoped out the birds on the pond. Highlights for me were all the Whimbrels, Stilt Sandpipers, beautiful Black-necked Stilts, and the surprise arrival of 3 Black Skimmers. Here is my full list:

 

 

Location: Aruba - pond near Boardwalk Resort

Observation date: 3/22/10 – 3/25/10

Notes: Wonderful pond full of lots of activity, but be careful, I got the car stuck here!

Number of species: 18

 

Pied-billed Grebe 3

Brown Pelican 1

Neotropic Cormorant 20

Great Egret 1

Snowy Egret 3

Tricolored Heron 2

Green Heron 1

Black-bellied Plover 3

Black-necked Stilt 20

Spotted Sandpiper 2

Greater Yellowlegs 8

Lesser Yellowlegs 3

Whimbrel 11

Sanderling 2

Least Sandpiper 5

Stilt Sandpiper 15

Black Skimmer 3

Bank Swallow 1 Not quite sure about this. Hopefully will see the lone swallow again. (Never did!)  

 

Black Skimmer, Neotropic Cormorant, photos by Becky Marvil

 

Pond near Tierra del Sol Golf Course

Another nearby hotspot that I checked out was the pond east of the Tierra del Sol Golf Course at the north end of the island, reached by driving south along the eastern shore from the California Lighthouse (about 2 km). I went to this location on two different days, with good birds each time. My highlight on the second visit was a lone Wilson 's Plover.

 

 

Location: Aruba - pond east of Tierra del Sol Golf Course

Observation date: 3/22/10 and 3/25/10

Notes: Large pond on east side of golf course, and quite close to the ocean (windward side)

Number of species: 20

 

Blue-winged Teal 10

White-cheeked Pintail 15

Pied-billed Grebe 2

Neotropic Cormorant 5

Peregrine Falcon 1

Common Moorhen 2

Black-bellied Plover 10

Wilson 's Plover 1

Semipalmated Plover 5

Killdeer 5

Greater Yellowlegs 6

Lesser Yellowlegs 5

Whimbrel 2

Ruddy Turnstone 4

Semipalmated Sandpiper 2

Least Sandpiper 7

Stilt Sandpiper 12

Tropical Mockingbird 1

Carib Grackle 10

Venezuelan Troupial 1

 

Pied-billed Grebe, photo by Becky Marvil

Carib Grackle, photo by Becky Marvil

Arikok National Park

On two different days I managed to ventured a bit further away and check out Arikok National Park, not a bad drive (maybe 20-25 minutes) if you don't hit rush hour traffic, which I did the second day I visited at 7:30 AM. It's easy to find from Santa Cruz since there are obvious large signs posting which way to turn to reach the Park. The first turn is slightly north of Santa Cruz . My March 21st visit was quite short, but it gave me enough time to explore around the visitor's center and the separate office building, chasing down a Yellow Oriole for a picture, and getting my only glimpse all week of a White-tipped Dove. On my second visit, I had over two hours to wander, so I decided to explore the Cunucu Trail. This nice walk took my entire allotted time, so I never did drive any of the roads in the park. I did momentarily get a little nervous on this solo hike when I heard a strange, humanlike noise, but it just turned out to be some goats that had broken into the “goat-free” area. The Cunucu trail winds through a large fenced-in area, intended to prevent the destructive feeding behavior of the prevalent goats. The highlight along this trail was the pair of Burrowing Owls that posed for me, resulting in some awesome pictures.

 

Arikok National Park headquarters, photo by Becky Marvil

Here's my list of birds seen:  

Location: Aruba - Arikok National Park

Observation date: 3/21/2010 and 3/23/10

Notes: Birded around the visitor's center, and hiked the Cunucu Trail. Rock Pigeons were actually in the town of Santa Cruz in route to Park. Also saw a swallow/martin flying in the distance (dark wings, and whitish belly) but couldn't id species.

Number of species: 19

 

Peregrine Falcon 1 May have also had a Merlin

Rock Pigeon X

Bare-eyed Pigeon 15

Eared Dove 10

Common Ground-Dove 20

White-tipped Dove 1

Burrowing Owl 2

Ruby-topaz Hummingbird 1

Northern Scrub-Flycatcher 4

Brown-crested Flycatcher 1

Gray Kingbird 1

Tropical Mockingbird 10
Yellow Warbler 1

Bananaquit 30

Black-faced Grassquit 25

Shiny Cowbird 2

Venezuelan Troupial 8

Yellow Oriole 5

House Sparrow 20

Burrowing Owl, photo by Becky Marvil

Tropical Mockingbird, photo by Becky Marvil

Shiny Cowbird, photo by Becky Marvil

Troupial, photo by Becky Marvil

Spanish Lagoon

The two days I went to Arikok I also visited Spanish Lagoon, since it's not too out-of-the-way in route to and from the Park. It's located just south of Santa Cruz , near Frenchman's Pass. There is a sign on the main road south of Santa Cruz for Frenchman's Pass, to help you reach Spanish Lagoon. Once on that side road, I did make the mistake the first time I visited the Lagoon of not finding the side road to the Lagoon parking area. I didn't realize that the newly paved road to the historic Gold Smelter site is where I needed to turn off, immediately followed by a left turn onto a dirt road to the Lagoon. There is one sign for both the Gold Smelter site and Spanish Lagoon, but I somehow missed that it mentioned Spanish Lagoon on my first visit. The best birds at this spot were the two new warbler species, Black-and-White and Northern Waterthrush , and another pair of Burrowing Owls!

 

Below is my complete list for this area:

 

Location: Aruba - Spanish Lagoon

Observation date: 3/12/10 and 3/23/10

Notes:   Includes the lagoon and walking on trail west of the parking area

Number of species: 21

 

Brown Pelican 1

Neotropic Cormorant 2

Great Egret 1

Snowy Egret 1

Killdeer 1

Black-necked Stilt 3

Lesser Yellowlegs 8

Least Sandpiper 9

Bare-eyed Pigeon 6

Eared Dove 4

Common Ground-Dove 8

Burrowing Owl 2

Northern Scrub-Flycatcher 2

Gray Kingbird 2

Tropical Mockingbird 4

Yellow Warbler 8

Black-and-white Warbler 1

Northern Waterthrush 3
Bananaquit 15

Black-faced Grassquit 8

Yellow Oriole 4

 

Yellow Warbler, photo by Becky Marvil

 

Baby Beach

On March 23, the whole family ventured to the very southern tip of the island, stopping at Baby Beach for a swim. There, lining the rocky ledge bordering Baby Beach , were hundreds of Laughing Gulls, 3 Royal Terns, and at least 500 Sandwich Cayenne ” Terns. I never got the chance to scan the reef islands off Roger's Beach for Bridled or Sooty Terns, or Brown Noddies.

 

Tierra del Sol Golf Course

On my last morning, I decided to try for the Crested Bobwhites that have been seen at the golf course, and was also hoping to reach the nearby pond by walking through the golf course, but I failed with that endeavor. However, while searching for bobwhites near the gate house entrance, I came across 3 Southern Lapwings, much to my surprise, since these are vagrants on the island. And… to add to the excitement, while viewing these three birds, in the background, I noticed two heads pop up out of a sand spit, and realized I was looking at my 5 th and 6 th Burrowing Owls for the week!. Then to top it off, I turned around and 7 Crested Bobwhites walked across the golf cart path. What a great way to end my week in Aruba!

Southern Lapwing, photo by Becky Marvil

Crested Bobwhite, photo by Becky Marvil

 

Final thoughts….

I was hoping to see a Groove-billed Ani or Rufous-collared Sparrow, but no luck. However, I heard a song near our resort that sounded much like my recordings of the Rufous-collared Sparrow, but I was not able to locate the bird, when I returned later, or ever hear the song again. During the week, I spent much time photographing the birds, getting incredibly close pictures of Bananaquits, Yellow Warblers, and Blue-tailed Emeralds. One day at Bubali, a hummingbird kept perching TOO CLOSE for my Nikon D-50 300mm lens camera to focus. How frustrating is that! Digiscoping worked well, but with the strong winds, I was always looking to set up behind a tree or shelter to stop the shaking of the scope.

 

Summary

I had a total of 66 species for the week. The most common birds seen and heard were the Bananaquits (EVERYWHERE!), Bare-eyed Pigeons (constantly flying around, skittish and hard to photograph), Eared Doves (much tamer and easy to approach), Yellow Warblers, and frequent flocks of Carib Grackles. The entire week I never saw another person with binoculars. I did, however, see a few folks at the Bubali tower enjoying the view, and one couple asked a few questions about the birds. Aruba is definitely not a birding destination, even though it has some wonderful protected areas to bird.

 

Bare-eyed Pigon, photo by Becky Marvil 

 

Here is my summary list, including the earliest date and location where each species was found:

 

1

Blue-winged Teal

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

22-Mar-10

2

White-cheeked Pintail

Aruba - pond east of Tierra del Sol Golf Course

22-Mar-10

3

Crested Bobwhite

Aruba - Tierra del Sol Golf Course

26-Mar-10

4

Pied-billed Grebe

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

22-Mar-10

5

Brown Booby

Aruba - Beach near Bubali Bird Sanctuary

23-Mar-10

6

Brown Pelican

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

21-Mar-10

7

Neotropic Cormorant

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

21-Mar-10

8

Magnificent Frigatebird

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

21-Mar-10

9

Great Blue Heron

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

25-Mar-10

10

Great Egret

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

21-Mar-10

11

Snowy Egret

Aruba - pond near Boardwalk Resort

22-Mar-10

12

Little Blue Heron

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

22-Mar-10

13

Tricolored Heron

Aruba - pond near Boardwalk Resort

22-Mar-10

14

Green Heron

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

21-Mar-10

15

Black-crowned Night-Heron

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

22-Mar-10

16

Osprey

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

25-Mar-10

17

Crested Caracara

Aruba - Sewage plant

24-Mar-10

18

Peregrine Falcon

Aruba - pond east of Tierra del Sol Golf Course

22-Mar-10

19

Sora

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

24-Mar-10

20

Purple Gallinule

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

22-Mar-10

21

Common Moorhen

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

21-Mar-10

22

Caribbean Coot

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

21-Mar-10

23

Southern Lapwing

Aruba - Tierra del Sol Golf Course

26-Mar-10

24

Black-bellied Plover

Aruba - pond east of Tierra del Sol Golf Course

22-Mar-10

25

Wilson 's Plover

Aruba - pond east of Tierra del Sol Golf Course

25-Mar-10

26

Semipalmated Plover

Aruba - pond east of Tierra del Sol Golf Course

22-Mar-10

27

Killdeer

Aruba - Spanish Lagoon

21-Mar-10

28

Black-necked Stilt

Aruba - Spanish Lagoon

21-Mar-10

29

Spotted Sandpiper

Aruba - pond near Boardwalk Resort

22-Mar-10

30

Greater Yellowlegs

Aruba - pond east of Tierra del Sol Golf Course

22-Mar-10

31

Lesser Yellowlegs

Aruba - Spanish Lagoon

21-Mar-10

32

Whimbrel

Aruba - pond east of Tierra del Sol Golf Course

22-Mar-10

33

Ruddy Turnstone

Aruba - pond east of Tierra del Sol Golf Course

22-Mar-10

34

Sanderling

Aruba - pond near Boardwalk Resort

22-Mar-10

35

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Aruba - pond east of Tierra del Sol Golf Course

25-Mar-10

36

Least Sandpiper

Aruba - Spanish Lagoon

23-Mar-10

37

Stilt Sandpiper

Aruba - pond near Boardwalk Resort

22-Mar-10

38

Laughing Gull

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

22-Mar-10

39

Royal Tern

Aruba - Beach near Bubali Bird Sanctuary

23-Mar-10

40

Sandwich Tern

Aruba - Beach near Bubali Bird Sanctuary

23-Mar-10

41

Black Skimmer

Aruba - pond near Boardwalk Resort

24-Mar-10

42

Rock Pigeon

Aruba - Arikok National Park

23-Mar-10

43

Bare-eyed Pigeon

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

21-Mar-10

44

Eared Dove

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

21-Mar-10

45

Common Ground-Dove

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

21-Mar-10

46

White-tipped Dove

Aruba - Arikok National Park

21-Mar-10

47

Brown-throated Parakeet

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

21-Mar-10

48

Burrowing Owl

Aruba - Arikok National Park

23-Mar-10

49

Ruby-topaz Hummingbird

Aruba - Arikok National Park

23-Mar-10

50

Blue-tailed Emerald

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

21-Mar-10

51

Northern Scrub-Flycatcher

Aruba - Arikok National Park

23-Mar-10

52

Brown-crested Flycatcher

Aruba - Arikok National Park

23-Mar-10

53

Gray Kingbird

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

22-Mar-10

54

Bank Swallow

Aruba - pond near Boardwalk Resort

22-Mar-10

55

Barn Swallow

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

24-Mar-10

56

Tropical Mockingbird

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

21-Mar-10

57

Yellow Warbler

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

21-Mar-10

58

Black-and-white Warbler

Aruba - Spanish Lagoon

23-Mar-10

59

Northern Waterthrush

Aruba - Spanish Lagoon

23-Mar-10

60

Bananaquit

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

21-Mar-10

61

Black-faced Grassquit

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

21-Mar-10

62

Carib Grackle

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

21-Mar-10

63

Shiny Cowbird

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

22-Mar-10

64

Venezuelan Troupial

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

22-Mar-10

65

Yellow Oriole

Aruba - Arikok National Park

21-Mar-10

66

House Sparrow

Aruba - Bubali Bird Sanctuary

21-Mar-10