22-27 May 1995
by Thierry Fournet
Most, if not all, North-American wintering species are gone or back home at this time of year, but the end of May has its advantages : very few tourists and breeding seabirds. Anyhow, one day in September at Cape May would probably produce far more North American species than one month in Lesser Antilles ! Obviously, Guadeloupe is not really worth the money for mass ticking, but if you want quiet family holidays and some unusual birds, it may be interesting.
We used the map given with the rented car (from Avis), and were happy with it (IGN 109408). We were based near Saint Anne in Grande Terre. It's one hour quiet driving to extreme North of Grande Terre or extreme South of Basse Terre if you avoid the traffic-jams at Pointe A Pitre. The Island is very small and main roads are quite good, so you can be based anywhere but avoid Pointe A Pitre and Gosier which are not very nice places to stay at. All the island is very well signposted and we had no problem to find our way, either on the road or on the many signposted tracks.
Only 45 species were seen. There are very few identification problems : thanks to island isolation, it's possible to rely on distribution to do a first sorting out. Except in tropical rain-forest, birds are usually tame and approachable.
SHORT SITES GUIDE
Extreme north of Grande Terre : interesting for seabirds and for xerophyte (dry) forest's birds. Best places are Pointe de la Grande Vigie, Pointe du Piton. Small islands between these two capes ("Pointe" is the French for cape) hold colonies of Brown Noddies, Bridled Tern. Also Brown Booby, Red-billed and White-tailed Tropicbird, Fregatebird, ... Look for a viewpoint just west of Pointe du Piton, cliffs on the left hold photogenic Noddies and Bridled Tern.
Pointe des chateaux (extreme east of Grande Terre) : "Chateaux" here means rocky peaks, on which Sooty Tern breed "en masse". Also Yellow Warblers (very many), Tropical Mockingbird, ...
Pointe A Pitre : harbor hold Laughing Gulls, Fregatebirds. Many Black Swifts in town.
Vieux Bourg (west coat of Grande Terre) : interesting for late afternoon visit of the Mangrove, ask for boat Lambada at the harbor (100FF for a 2,5 hours trip, phone 243 360).
Port Louis (west coat of Grande Terre) : interesting for Fregatebirds (many), Royal Tern, Pelican, ... Track along the beach south of village give view to pieces of mangrove.
Maison de la Foret (Basse Terre) : in Basse Terre, on the "Route de la traversee" (the only road which crosses Basse Terre from West to East). There are very interesting signposted tracks which go deep in the tropical rain-forest. Guadeloupe Woodpecker seen there along with more common birds. Important to arrive there early, before tourists.
Corrossol (Basse Terre) : just east of the Maison de la Foret, a "road" (bad track at place) go to the river Corrossol. Wood Thrush seen there, also swifts, American Kestrel, ...
Chutes du Carbet (Basse Terre) : in south-east of Basse Terre a road and signposted tracks goes to the Chutes du Carbet (chute means waterfall in French). Good scenery and a wide range of tropical rain-forest's birds. Extremely IMPORTANT to be there very early.
Birds of the West Indies : essential but a little old-fashioned.
Birds of North America (National Geographic) : essential complement to former.
day 1 : Grande Terre (Les Grands Fonts, Pointe de la Grande Vigie, Pointe des chateaux).
day 2 : South of Basse Terre (Chutes du Carbet, Roches Gravees, Soufriere).
day 3 : North of Basse Terre (Route de la Traversee, Maison de la Foret).
day 4 : North of Basse Terre (Grande Anse).
day 5 : Grande Terre (Pointe A Pitre, Pointe du Piton, Port Louis, Vieux Bourg).
day 6 : Pointe des Chateaux.
* Pied-billed Grebe : 1 west of Saint Anne on a 10m wide pool.
* Red-billed Tropicbird : 4 at Pointe de la Grande Vigie, 7 at Pointe du Piton, 5 at Pointe des Chateaux. Seems to breed at these places. Only distant views obtained.
* White-tailed Tropicbird : only one at Pointe du Piton.
* American White Pelican : one seen (and photographed) at Port Louis. Very rare in lesser Antilles (not recorded in Guadeloupe according to first reference).
* Brown Pelican : some near the coasts on Basse Terre, c. 8 at Port Louis.
* Brown Booby : 3 at Pointe du Piton, 2 at Pointe des Chateaux.
* Magnificent Fregatebird : some near the coasts everywhere, especially numerous and photogenic at Port-Louis. Perhaps the most spectacular bird of Guadeloupe. 10+ at roost near Vieux Bourg.
* Green Heron : abundant and widespread near fresh water.
* Little Blue Heron : 2 imm. coming at roost near Vieux Bourg.
* Snowy Egret : abundant in the mangrove (100+ coming at roost near Vieux Bourg).
* Cattle Egret : following huge increase in the New World, now the most abundant heron of Guadeloupe.
* Osprey : 2 in the mangrove north of Port Louis.
* American Kestrel : 2 in Grands Fonds, 1 at Corrossol, 1 at Pointe Noire.
* Common Gallinule (Moorhen) : 2 at Grand Etang (near Chutes du Carbet).
* Laughing Gull : 10+ Pointe des Chateaux, 5 Port Louis, several Pointe A Pitre harbor.
* Bridled Tern : some breeders at Pointe du Piton, in the colony of Brown Noddy.
* Sooty Tern : c. 100 at Pointe des Chateaux.
* Royal Tern : 5+ at Port Louis, both adults and first-years.
* Brown Noddy : 50+ at Pointe du Piton.
* Red-necked Pigeon : a few here and there on wires.
* Zenaida Dove : a few in Grande Terre.
* Common Ground Pigeon : widespread in Grande Terre, abundant at Pointe de la Vigie.
* Lesser Antillean Swift : 2 at Corrossol, 3 at Grande Anse in Basse Terre.
* Black Swift : 1 at Corrossol.
* Purple-throated Carib : only in Basse Terre, where widespread, abundant in tropical rain-forest. Very photogenic at the (very nice) botanic garden on the road to Chute du Carbet (Jardins de Saint Eloi). Green-throated Carib : Only seen in Grande Terre, where widespread.
* Antillean Crested Hummingbird : widespread from sea level to tropical rain-forest.
* Guadeloupe Woodpecker : 1 seen briefly at the Maison de la Foret and a few heard. A few heard at the Chutes du Carbet and at Corrossol.
* Grey Kingbird : common in Grande Terre on wires, rare in Basse Terre.
* Stolid Flycatcher : rather rare, very few in Basse Terre and Grande Terre.
* Lesser Antillean Pewee : only 1 near Saint Anne.
* Caribbean Elaenia : the most widespread "flycatcher", abundant at the Pointe des Chateaux.
* Purple Martin : a few on the coast in Grande Terre, abundant at Pointe A Pitre.
* Tropical Mockingbird : only 1 at Pointe des Chateaux.
* Scaly-breasted and Pearly-eyed Thrasher : a few in tropical rain-forest (Chutes du Carbet and Corrossol). Not always easy to separate due to elusive habits.
* Tembler : abundant in tropical rain forest, where often the only bird visible!
* Forest Thrush : only 1 at Corrossol, very briefly.
* Black-whiskered Vireo : 1 at the beach of Anse du Souffleur in Grande Terre.
* Yellow Warbler : widespread and locally abundant (eg. Pointe des Chateaux).
* Plumbeous Warbler : abundant at the Chutes du Carbet.
* Bananaquit : perhaps the most widespread and the most exasperating bird of Guadeloupe, its hushing call can become upsetting when you look for other birds.
* Carib Grackle : widespread and locally abundant.
* Lesser Antillean Bullfinch : widespread and abundant everywhere, incredibly tame at times (will take bread on your table).
* Black-faced Grassquit : widespread in gardens and savannah.
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