SINT MAARTEN (LITTLE BAY) - Visitors to Little Bay Pond, an official Birdlife International designated Important Bird Area (IBA), can now easily and more safely access the bird observation hut overlooking the pond. The hut’s ramp rails were recently replaced thanks to a donation from Island Gems Charity Foundation.
The hut’s rails were badly damaged from past hurricanes as well as by unknown vandals. The hut, in its totality, needs some more attention. The wood on the ramp to the hut needs replacing, for which more sponsors are needed.
Environmental Protection In the Caribbean (EPIC) Foundation approached Island Gems for support with restoration of the rails. This request was granted, and EPIC sought a welder to fabricate strong and durable metal rails.
Binkie van Es, an avid birder and nature advocate, recently gave members of the all-women Island Gems Foundation a tour of Little Bay Pond and shared the importance of the area and the vital role the birdwatching hut plays. Van Es gave the tour on behalf of EPIC. Taking the tour were Island Gems Alita Singh, Jody Rosen, Asha Stevens, and Ludmilla de Weever.
One of the sad and startling things seen by the Island Gems and explained by Van Es was the death of St. Maarten’s national bird – the brown pelican. A few carcasses in various stages of decay were visible on the edges of the pond. Van Es pointed out that the deaths were often caused by botulism. The group hopes that more attention will be given by all concerned to the health and well-being of these beautiful creatures of our skies.
On a happier note, Van Es pointed out the many bird species that make the pond and its mangroves their habitat. Upon entering the area from the roundabout at the Learning Unlimited School, some egrets, mixed between Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets, can be quickly spotted. With a keen and some luck, a black-crowned night heron can be discerned inside the mangroves along the little canal. This bird hunts on crabs during the night.
Van Es shared that another bird inside the mangroves is the Common Gallinule with its distinctive red bill with yellow tip. Higher up in the mangrove are beautiful little yellow warblers.
At the bird observation hut, birdwatchers have an awesome view of the pond, looking at the brown pelicans resting or diving for fish, Pied Billed Grebes swim around and American Coots with a white face shield, formerly known as Caribbean Coots.
Following the trail to the ocean, there are countless little birds such as Black-faced Grassquits, Lesser Antillean Bullfinches and Bananaquits (the infamous sugarbirds). Also, look out for the aggressive insect catchers named Gray Kingbird. There are plenty of Carib Grackles; the males are black and the females brown. They are not shy at all.
On a very lucky day, Van Es said one may spot the hard-to-find Caribbean Elaenia there, the smallest of the fly catchers.
It is not only on the water and in the mangroves can birds be spotted, also keep an eye on the sky, after all birds do fly, said the avid birder. In the skies, there is the king of gliders - the Magnificent Frigate Bird - soaring overhead.