Netherlands Antilles: A Birding Day In Bonaire



Click photo to enlarge
June 6, 2009
Until yesterday, all the birding I have done on Bonaire has been within walking distance of downtown Kralendijk, where Peregrine is moored. Even without a car or bike or public transportation, I had most of the birds one could expect to find on Bonaire, but I was missing a few I really hoped to get. One was a Pearly-eyed Thrasher. I missed seeing it in the West Indies and I knew Bonaire was my last chance since it is not present on Curacao or Central America. Two other lifers I hoped for were the other resident Hummer: Blue-tailed Emerald (sounds like a fire-cracker) and Rufous-collared Sparrow. Of course I looked forward to seeing the island’s logo, a Flamingo, which would be a good one for my island and 2009 list.
Yesterday Gene and I rented a well used and very dusty Suzuki Jimny for $40.00US from Rento Fun Drive and headed north. A good chunk of the northern part of the island consists of the Washington Slabaii National Park. The rental agent told us we could not take the car into the park because there are no paved roads. I guess you’d have to get a jeep for that. At the northern end of the paved road was the Lagun Goto and we had a good stop there. Most of the birds hung out across the lagoon, but we could see Wilson’s Plovers, Snowy Plovers, Least Terns , Royal Terns, Black-winged Stilts and two Island firsts for me: Flamingo and Tricolored Heron. But best was an Olivaceous Cormorant because I’d forgotten I could see him here. I’m thrilled he reminded me. Lifer #667. The lagoon was quite large and we drove along it, stopping now and then to check things out. I yelled stop to Gene when I saw what I thought might be a grebe. Gene said, no, duck. We stopped and got good views of a White-cheeked Pintail. Lifer #668. We took a little loop drive in the Flamingo Sanctuary and had close up and personal encounters with the Flamingoes. Fantastic birds. My views in Egypt and Spain were nothing like this.

Pearly-eyed Thrasher click to enlarge
After Lagun Goto we went to Dos Pos (Two Wells) where we saw a few Pearly-eyed Thrashers and a Blue-tailed Emerald. #669 &670. We were chastised by a feral donkey. It’s funny. When we first ‘met’ him, we were pulled to the side of the road in the car. He came up and stuck his head in the window and asked us with his eyes for a treat. When he didn’t get one, he wandered down the road. When I got out to look for birds, he was quite a distance. He saw me, Hee-Hawed and ran toward me as if he wanted to chase me off!! He didn't come close, he wasn't dangerous, he was just a bit afraid and wanted us off his path. He eventually did walk past us again while we were out. I was on the right side, so he went by on the left; then he crossed the road and passed Gene who was standing near the car on the left side. I get the impression some of the locals must have carrots or apples in their cars at all times. We saw four feral donkeys and there is a sanctuary on the island for them

We continued on to the only other town on the island; Rincon. We went into a funky little snack shop called the Fui Kee and had Nasi-Goreng and a beer and Coke. I got addicted to this rice dish in Indonesia and was almost as stoked to see it as I was the Pearly-eyed Thrasher.
Fui Kee Snack
From there we drove back down south and around the Salt Works to the Lac. The Lac is a big lagoon protected by reefs. It is on the windward side of the island and the winds were fierce and the sea broke violently on the reefs, but the Lac was flat and wind kiters were having a great time. There were mangroves and I did a little exploring and got two more for my island list; Reddish Egrets and Black-bellied (Grey) Plovers. By this time we were ready for a swim, a beer and dinner so we headed home. On the way home we went through more mangroves where we saw Scrub Flycatchers, Caribbean Parakeets, Yellow Warblers and a Barn Swallow. I knew the Barn Swallows migrated through but was a bit surprised to see one in June. I guess he was too tired to move on, we know how that goes.
I was unable to id a few doves when we arrived here and was lucky to find a small book on the birds of Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire. It's called "Our Birds" and was written by Dr. Bart A De Boer. It's also called "Nos Paranan" and "Onze Vogels" because he has written it in the three major languages of the island; Papiamento, Dutch and English. A tri-lingual book. That reminds me of the old cruising joke: If a person speaks three languages, he's tri-lingual; if a person speaks two languages, he's bi-lingual; if a person speaks one language, he's American.

Dr. De Boer mentions that in October large flocks of swallows and martins arrive from North America and some are so exhausted from the journey they are too weak to eat and perish. Poor little things. If you find yourself in Bonaire and need this book, you can get it at Books and Toys in town.
Caribbean Parakeets
Bonaire Bird List
Bananaquit
Bare-eyed Pigeon
Barn Swallow
Black-Bellied (Grey) Plover
Black-faced Grassquit
Black-winged Stilt
Blue-tailed Emerald
Brown Booby
Brown Pelican
Caribbean Grackle
Caribbean or Brown-throated Parakeet
Common Ground Dove
Eared Dove
Flamingo
Gray Kingbird
Green Heron
House Sparrow
Laughing Gull
Least Tern
Lesser Yellowlegs
Magnificent Frigatebird
Olivaceous Cormorant
Osprey
Pearly-eyed Thrasher
Reddish Egret
Royal Tern
Ruby-topaz Hummingbird
Ruddy Turnstone
Saffron Finch
Scaly-naped Pigeon
Scrub Flycatcher
Snowy (Kentish) Plover
Snowy Egret
Tricolored Heron
Tropical Mockingbird
Troupial
White-cheeked Pintail
White-tipped Dove
Wilson’s Plover
Yellow Oriole
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-shouldered Parrot