Monday, 14 December 2009

Nature notes from the Caribbean

Osprey returning to feed his young

We've swapped the Thames Riviera, as Taggs Island and environs is called, for a more exotic location with the wildlife to match. Instead of swans and ducks we're surrounded by pelicans, egrets and magnificent frigate birds. The temperature's a little different too - it's in the high 80s here while back home Jack Frost is biting.

Little blue heron joins us for a fish lunch!

It's a different world here in Belize, where time obligingly expands to optimise recreation and relaxation. We've lived in the country twice, some twenty years ago, and revisited in '98, and it is probably our favourite place to be. They say you can never go back, and we had some concerns as to whether we'd still like it here, but little's changed, even in Belize city, and the people here are just as friendly as ever.

Pelican checks out a fisherman cleaning a yellowfin jack

For the last five days we've been unwinding on Caye Caulker, an unspoiled, laid back island of Belize. It's so good to slow down to the local pace, a gentle amble with nowhere to go in a hurry. A pace set by the pelicans and frigate birds that cruise by on the breeze, just like the locals and tourists alike who drift down main street checking out what's hot and what's not!

This magnificent frigate bird stole a sardine head from a gull

We've found an ideal place to pass the time, a bar on the bay called The Lazy Lizard. It has the best of almost everything - clear turquoise water, sunshine, shade, happy people and, best of all, an osprey nest close by. I've been in seventh heaven, watching the osprey bring fish for its partner and offspring while fending off frigate birds, the flying pirates of the Caribbean. It's not often you can sit at a bar, swim in crystal clear water, have fun with the local people, drink rum punch AND take photographs of ospreys on their nest!

Aquabatics are just part of the backdrop

Between relaxing at the bar, swimming, chatting to locals and tourists, and taking photographs, there's always plenty to take in. People watching, something my father loved to do, is great fun here - a few days would provide enough material for a book. As well as the passing boats, canoes, kite surfers and the like, yesterday's high spot was a sailing boat that hit the sand bar before it reached our bar. The poor guys tried really hard to push it into deeper water, hampered by a strong onshore breeze, and after various locals and a small craft tried to rescue them a boat with a serious engine came to their aid and towed them off the sand bar.

Mandingo performs his party trick

Mandingo, a guy with a flare for entertaining tourists, put on an unusual show, too. He took some fresh sardines from a local fisherman (who was busy gutting a huge yellowfin jack) and hand-fed the frigate birds. It was an impressive sight, especially when he placed a sardine in his mouth and one of the frigate birds swooped down and snatched it from his lips. When that party trick was over, Mandingo lured a moray eel from under the dock and enticed an array of colourful fish into the shallow water by the jetty. The price . . . a beer at the bar!

After the moray eel had eaten the smaller fish headed for the fish head

The lazy lizard

Now we know why the bar is called The Lazy Lizard. This little iguana couldn't be bothered to move out of my way and I had to step over him while he just blinked in the sunlight.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Global wetting

A sunny day during a week of rain

For a few brief hours today we enjoyed bright skies and brilliant sunshine. We took advantage of a break in the intermittent yet persistent downpours we've been enduring for several weeks,
to deliver Christmas cards to several friends upstream who live on the next island. Some may question claims about global warming, others question whether climate change is 'man made', but few can deny that the south east of England is getting, wetter, warmer and windier . . . and the rain is more like monsoon rain these days!


This furry felon raids the bird table every day, feasting on the sunflower hearts meant for the finches and tits. Magpies and pigeons also sneak on to the bird table to grab what they can, and that leaves little for the smaller garden birds. Fortunately, I have a window feeder by the kitchen and that helps feed the 'little' birds. No one has told the parakeets that they're not supposed to use the window feeder,though, and one in particular enjoys a leisurely breakfast there most mornings.

Another rainy day in paradise!

Believe it or not this was a colour image! More rain is forecast and the river is flowing faster but is not in spate yet. In fact the river is being well managed at the moment, almost too well as islanders found the levels too low for safety several weeks ago. Some couldn't get off their houseboats! Apparently a sensor failed and river levels dropped too low for most of us.

A new kit on the block

A newcomer to the island, this friendly young moggy spends a little too much time in our garden but he's very sweet. The birds aren't so keen, though. I love cats but am more concerned about the safety of the birds I feed. We seem to have an influx of new cats at the moment, all lovely and all in my garden! I 'm so tempted to stroke them but I do my best to resist the temptation and shoo them away.