Category Archives: Holiday

Cruise Birding: Great Stirrup Cay

The itinerary of our Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Spirit called for a day at sea on December 31, 2015. A group of 12 Brown Boobies followed the ship for a while and we watched them hunt flying fish and loaf on the water between feeding. A lifer for us.

Brown Booby
Brown Booby

The first day of 2016 found us on Norwegian Cruise Line’s private Bahamas island, Great Stirrup Cay. We walked the hiking trail a few times and found some birds and other creatures on the way. We added three lifers here: Bahama Woodstar (hummingbird); Bahama Swallow; and Black-faced Grassquit. There were gulls and terns loafing around the beaches and we even found a few overwintering songbirds: Gray Catbirds; Palm Warblers; Yellow-rumped Warblers; and an American Redstart.

Bahama Woodstar on Great Stirrup Cay
Bahama Woodstar

Black-faced Grassquit on Great Stirrup Cay
Black-faced Grassquit

Bananaquit on Great Stirrup Cay
Bananaquit

Black Witch moth on Great Stirrup Cay
Black Witch moth

on Great Stirrup Cay
unidentified little friend

on Great Stirrup Cay
unidentified little friend

The hiking trail was overgrown in places and became hard to follow a few times. It’s really nice to have a nature trail to follow and we wish NCL would take better care of it.

Hiking Trail on Great Stirrup Cay
Hiking Trail on Great Stirrup Cay

We brought along our own snorkeling gear and did a bit of underwater exploring as well.

snorkeling Great Stirrup Cay
Arthur snorkeling

snorkeling Great Stirrup Cay
fishies

snorkeling Great Stirrup Cay
stingray sp.

The island can be crowded at the main beach but we found lots of places where we could relax in peace. It was a great, relaxing start to 2016.

NCL Spirit from Great Stirrup Cay
NCL Spirit and giant Laughing Gulls

NCL Spirit Cruise eBird Checklists: day at sea & Great Stirrup Cay
Boobies following ship
Great Stirrup Cay

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Posted in Bahamas, Cruise Birding, Holiday, Life List, Pelagic, Travel | Leave a comment

Cruise Birding: Ocho Rios, Jamaica

On December 30, our Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Spirit stopped at Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Here we booked a private tour with Carolyn Barrett of Barrett Adventures. We asked for a birding tour but got more of a general tour where we stopped at some random somewhat birdy spots with a binocularless guide. She knew a lot about the island and its wildlife but for the most part identifications were left up to us. This was a bit disappointing. I added seven life species here, including Streamertail (hummingbird); Jamaican Tody; Sad Flycatcher; Bananaquit; Smooth-billed Ani; White-chinned Thrush; and Jamaican Oriole.

White River, Ocho Rios Jamaica
White River in Ocho Rios (photo by Arthur)

Black-crowned Night-Heron
Immature Black-crowned Night-Heron along the White River

Loggerhead Kingbird
Loggerhead Kingbird at Walkers Woods

Walkers Wood, Jamaica
Arthur birding at Walkers Woods

Sad Flycatcher
Sad Flycatcher at Walkers Woods

Jamaican Oriole
Jamaican Oriole at Faith’s Pen

Just a couple of days were left on our cruise! First we’d spend the last day of the year at sea, and then New Year’s Day on Norwegian’s private island in the Bahamas. Post to follow!

NCL Spirit Cruise eBird Checklists: Ocho Rios, Jamaica
White River between St. Mary’s & St. Ann’s
Walkers Wood
Faith’s Pen
St. Ann’s Bay – Arg Byfield Highway
Ocho Rios port area

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Cruise Birding: Chacchoben Ruins from Costa Maya, Mexico

Arthur and I spent the last days of 2015 and the first of 2016 on a 7-night Norwegian cruise around the Caribbean. We had several ports: Costa Maya, Mexico; George Town, Grand Cayman; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; and Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. Birding was not our primary objective for the most part; I added 16 life species over the holiday.

In Costa Maya we opted for a tour of the ruins at Chacchoben which we booked via The Native Choice. In the port area and walking from the ship to the tour guide offices, we found three lifers: Tropical Kingbird; Tropical Mockingbird; and Great-tailed Grackle. At the ruins we noted 10 bird species, including lifers Brown Jay and Great Kiskadee. A Short-tailed Hawk flew overhead and there were spider monkeys in the trees.

ruins at Chacchoben
One of several pyramids at the ruins of Chacchoben near Costa Maya, Mexico

ruins at Chacchoben
One of several pyramids at the ruins of Chacchoben near Costa Maya, Mexico

Brown Jay at ruins at Chacchoben
Brown Jay at the ruins of Chacchoben (photo by Arthur)

spider monkey at ruins at Chacchoben
Spider monkey sp. at the ruins of Chacchoben (photo by Arthur)

Back in port, Magnificent Frigatebirds flew low overhead; this photo was taken with my iPhone!

MAFR over Costa Maya
Magnificent Frigatebirds at the port of Costa Maya

NCL Spirit from Costa Maya
The NCL Spirit at the port of Costa Maya (photo by Arthur)

The next day our ship docked off of George Town in Grand Cayman. Here we booked a snorkeling excursion via the cruise ship. It was a mediocre experience — the snorkel boat left behind a pair of our fellow tourists at the first location and the two spots where we stopped didn’t have much going on sealife-wise. I entered one small checklist here to note the frigatebirds flying around port and House Sparrows that were busy around a church garden. I was surprised when the sparrows got flagged by eBird as rare. Huh?

The following day we planned on birding in Jamaica — see next post!

NCL Spirit Cruise eBird Checklists: Costa Maya & Grand Cayman
Costa Maya port area
Ruinas Chacchoben
Grand Cayman port area

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IMBD @ Disney

The 20th International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) was celebrated last week, on May 12th. Arthur visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, where the day was observed through various activities highlighting many different species of birds.

IMBD
Celebrating International Migratory Bird Day at Animal Kingdom

Guests entering the park could be “banded” and then visit various “stations” in the park to have data taken, like leg length, “bird height,” and migration distance.

bird banding
One of the “bird banding” stations

Throughout the park, stands and kiosks were set up to share information about birds and how people can help them. Providing Purple Martin housing, the importance of shade-grown coffee, and saving shorebird habitat were among the topics shared.

eggs
Egg display

Piping Plover Poster
Saving Piping Plovers of the Great Lakes

Rafiki’s Planet Watch hosted several activities. A new, permanent exhibit on the Whooping Crane program Operation Migration was unveiled. The exhibit includes a retired ultra-light airplane used to teach Whooping Cranes to migrate. Guests were invited to dress up as a Whooping Crane adult and feed food (rubber caterpillars) to a (model of a) baby Whooping Crane.

Rafiki's Planet Watch
Operation Migration and other activities at Rafiki’s Planet Watch

retired Operation Migration plane
Retired Operation Migration ultra-light plane

feeding "baby"
Feeding a baby Whooping Crane

"baby whooping crane"
Baby Whooping Crane statue

An informal program with an eduction Red-tailed Hawk also took place at Rafiki’s Planet Watch.

Red-tailed Hawk program
Red-tailed Hawk and handler

I like how Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrates wildlife-themed commemorative holidays, like IMBD and IVAD. Other upcoming events are listed at the bottom of this post.

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Posted in Disney, Festivals & Events, Holiday | 1 Comment

Merry Christmas!

Oh my gosh, is it Christmas already?

I wish you a joyous feast, if that’s your fancy…

… and harmony in your gathering…

… be it small, or large!

My best wishes to all on Christmas!

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Posted in Holiday | 1 Comment
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