In Search of the Grenada Dove

Wilson's Plover click photos to enlarge
Yesterday I went back to the Mt. Hartman area for my second attempt to find the critically endangered Grenada Dove. The first attempt had to be my worst birding day ever. I got severely sunburned, bitten/stung by Lilliputian Yellow-jackets, and lost. I got sunburned because I was out for hours taking the shortcut home. Can’t remember when I’ve been so ill-prepared and stupid. At least I had water.
The second attempt was going to be different. I wore my lucky Ivory-billed Woody t-shirt and not a sleeveless ‘please fry me, I’m stupid’ shirt. The t-shirt acted with double duty as protection from the sun and absorbent cotton for the blisters that were now breaking. I put in new contacts and put sunscreen on over my nearly bloody, peeled nose. I put the bug spray back in my backpack (where it ALWAYS is except for THAT day). I knew where I was going because I had already trail-blazed the place and even if I forgot, I had my navigator with me; Gene had decided to go with me.
The first time I went was from Prickly Bay, this time we were starting from St. Georges, the capital of Grenada. We had come up three days earlier to escape the swells in Prickly Bay.
We jumped on the #1 bus and took it to the ‘tire’ roundabout just past Grand Anse Beach. From there we walked uphill until we reached the Grenada Dove sign where a dirt road forks off the main road. We took the dirt road and I paid attention here because I wanted better views of some Elaenias I saw on my last trip. I was rewarded with lifer #649; Yellow-bellied Elaenia.
We continued down the dirt road toward the Grenada Dove Sanctuary visitor’s center. Instead of stopping this time, we just continued on the dirt road and around the gate that went across it. It is closed to traffic but I was told on my last visit that walking was ok. We made our way slowly down to the mangroves and saw lots of Tropical Mockingbirds, Gray Kingbirds, Black-faced Grassquits, Eared Doves, Zenaida Doves, Grackles, Shiny-headed Cowbirds, and Bananaquits. When we got to the old well at the bottom, before entering the mudflats, we saw a large flock of Common Ground Doves with the Eared and Zenaida. Funny how so many Doves and Pigeons are prolific to the point of being pests and the Grenada Dove will surely be gone from this planet soon if severe measures aren’t taken to save it. It was about this point that we met Dennis. Dennis is a local fisherman who was headed to the mangroves and walked part of the way with us. He told us the Doves weren’t in the section we were in and said they were ‘on that hill’ and pointed the way. “It’s the same way I’m going. I’ll show you the trees they go to.” We followed him into the mangroves, but lost him because I saw a peep creeping through the acacia scrub that grew on the edge of the mudflat. Plovers! I didn’t know what kind but I got excellent views of a pair and heard them protest our presence. They were light and tall and the feature I noticed immediately was the large bill. I got some photos and caught up with Gene. I didn’t look in my field guide then because we were trying to catch up with Dennis.
Acacia on the left, mangroves on the right. I asked Dennis about the acacia and he said they were brought here for coal. I guess that means charcoal.
He was already in his canoe when we arrived, but he got back out and showed us the tree whose seeds the Doves ate. He said in the early morning and the evening, the doves would be under these trees. We thanked him and he went off to catch his dinner. He was right about the doves being on the hill, we could hear them. There was not path or even a good goat trail to the area where we heard them so we headed back. We stopped when we got to the Plovers and I got out the guide and identified them as Wilson’s Plovers; lifer #650.
We got to some old wells and turned right on the dirt road rather than going back the way we came. Hills rose up on both sides. We came to another fork and took the one that headed toward a view of Hog Island. I kept looking up for the Hook-billed Kite. I didn’t see him but I did keep seeing swifts. They were too fast for me to ID. We got to the top of the hill and looked out over the bay. As we turned to head back one of the swifts banked quite close and I saw a light rump. After several sightings and referring to the guide book I was able to ID lifer #651 Gray-rumped Swift.
Looking out to Hog Island.
We headed back and Gene said he was sorry we didn’t see the Dove or the Kite. I said we still had to walk back and you never know. When we reached the bottom of the hill we heard Grenada Doves. One was very close, hidden in the scrub. It called and another answered. They were SO CLOSE, but we couldn’t see them. I know if we went walking just a short way off the road into the scrub, we would have flushed them or seen them move and I would have my Dove, but I am incapable of that kind of birding. We stood under the brutal sun for awhile hoping for a view to no avail. As we walked back, I thought that if I had time, I may try again since I knew exactly where to look. If I could get there early??

Instead of going back up the dirt road to the main road, we followed my previous route to Martin’s Marina in Mt. Hartman Bay and had cold drinks. We noticed Como No was in the marina and went to say hello. Will and Annie are fellow-Americans (Texas) we met in Gibraltar. We had a few Tings and shared cruiser news before heading back to the main road. Gene was not interested in retracing the three hour tour I took from here last visit. We caught the bus at the tire roundabout and went back to St. George.
When the lagoon came into view I said, “Where’s Peregrine?”
“Someone stole her,” says Gene laughing.
“No. Seriously, I don’t see her.”
Peregrine had decided to go for a solitary sail while we were gone. She was caught by the dock guys at the new St. Louis Marina and tied to their docks. Thank God no one was hit and P didn’t suffer any damage. Amazing. We had out adequate scope and hadn’t moved an inch for three days. We had backed down when we dropped and felt very secure. It was embarrassing of course, but not as bad as our other drag in Aden. No doubt we were a good source of gossip for a few days. I hate it when that happens.
We are now still tied to the docks and enjoying the beautiful marina. We will stay here till we head for Bonaire in the next 3/4/5? days. I don’t know whether I’ll try for the Dove again; I’m kind of afraid to see what will happen with a third attempt.
Lagoon at St. Georges. It was a lake when we left. Apparently, we got some strong gusts. We had big winds the night before and didn't move an inch. Beware of anchoring in silt with plow anchors.
Nest of the wasps that either stung or bit me.

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