REPORT NO. 17 OF THE LUTMAN'S TROPICS 2000 TRIP

Wednesday, May 3, 2000. St. Lucia Day 5 of 5. Trip Day 27 of 38. I'M GOIN' TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ISLAND, WHERE IT'S SAFE (1970s cartoon "George of the Jungle," spoken in the approximate voice of W. C. Fields).

The 5:00 am alarm goes off, and I tell Sharon I just don't want to go. She says OK, and we sleep till 9. Ahhhhh. Now I'm having second thoughts about wasting a day, and I bounce them off of Sharon. She's OK with going after all. That Sharon.

We go to the store, get stamps, then go to a (get ready) Toys 'N Us store (that's right -- 'N) and get post cards and some souvenirs. Then we take off for the east coast, after I set up my GPS. I love this little guy.

On the way, I try to buy four gallons of gas. We picked up the car with 1/4 of a tank, and must return it with (at least) that much. The tank fills before four gallons. Dangit, too much. I hate when that happens.

At the peak of the Morne (the heights where Government House is located, and where the "cruisers" were buying their souvenirs the other day), the lighting is great, so we stop and I take some photos. Sharon takes a picture of me (I think you can JUST make out my tooth gap) with Castries in the background, and buys a couple of tee shirts. Then off we take.

By 11:05, we've made the turnoff to the highway that's going to transsect the island. We're headed east. By 11:32, we're on the other side of the island, with the little village of Dennery coming up. We can see the ocean (the Atlantic), and we pass the huge American Drywall advertisement sign with St. Lucia's Logo. Amazingly, this huge sign is TILE and it's right in the vertical cut, on the uphill side of the highway.

By 12:01 we have gone past the Hewanorra International Airport, right next to the Club Med, and we can see the Maria Islands, where we hope we can see our terns. We quickly check and we can see they're there, but first we eat our lunch, having parked in the shade on the point of land. It's a nice fresh breeze, but it's warm in the sun. Don't care here in the shade.

After lunch we can see that there are larger brown birds as well as several kinds of terns. We decide that they are mostly SOOTY TERNS*, but there are at least a few BRIDLED TERNS* too. We can also see Roseate Terns, appearing sparkling white in the sun. We figure the darker birds are Brown Boobies again.

At 2:54 pm, we head out, to check at the White-breasted Thrasher habitat Donald showed us. After a bit we are there, and we call and call, but no Thrasher. However, we do get a visual upgrade to a Streaked (or Lesser Antillean) Saltator, plus several neat little Adelaide's Warblers and a pair of Bullfinches.

After coming back to the car to confirm the Saltator (we hadn't taken the book down with us), we go back to check one last time for the Thrasher. We can't separate the wheat from the chaff, but we do get a nice female St. Lucia Oriole. Then it's time to go.

By 5:05 pm, we are back in the room. We eat the watermelon we bought in the market, having kept in in the fridge, and it's wonderful. That night, I go out and get KFC for dinner. Authentic St. Lucia food, as verified by all the St. Lucians I have to wait behind in line.

Lifers Today: Bridled Tern, Sooty Tern.

Most Difficult Bird: Bridled Tern (It was difficult to see the white collar of the neck, and the wing undersides of these birds).

Rarest Bird: Bridled Tern (Donald tells us that night over the phone, that the mix is about 90% Sooty, and 10% Bridled) NOTE: Everybody gets awards when there are only two lifers.

Totals: Today 2, St. Lucia 18+2= 20, Trip 167+2 = 169

St. Lucia has been nice, but staying in a motel full of non-birders has kept us sort of isolated unto ourselves, and we realize that we miss swapping tales with other birders.

Knowing what we know now, we probably would have skipped St. Lucia and used these days as extras for Trinidad and Tobago or Belize -- maybe Ambergris Caye for some snorkeling, as recommended by niece Greta who went there with her husband Brack on their honeymoon a few years ago.

But then we wouldn't have met the Victor brothers. So what are ya gonna do?

Tomorrow it's...

"Back to the US, back to the US, back to the US..." -the Beatles.

Actually what follows in the song is "SR," but since we're going to the USA, and not the USSR, I had to chop those two letters off. It feels really funny to be calling a sort of "time out," for one night in Miami, then it's back down to Belize. This schedule was worked out by Janet Huber, our travel agent, and relieved me from the dread of getting from St. Lucia to Belize by making about 5 Caribbean island stops to get there. Whew. Thanks Janet.

Thursday, May 4, 2000. Trip Day 28 of 38. MIAMI VIA SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO.

We get to the Vigie Airport in Castries at about 5:30 am, and our plane leaves about 6:20 am for San Juan, Puerto Rico. We have an unbelievably long walk lugging our heavy carry-on in the San Juan airport, and there are no porters or rental carts to help us. I think of my roller cart tucked neatly into the back of the RV we rented in Florida. "Hoggeypegaloomer" -- Albert Alligator, from "I Go Pogo."

Flying into San Juan makes me realize what a busy, bustling, modern city San Juan is, especially compared with the cities of St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago. We clear customs in San Juan, and recheck our luggage, then make it to the waiting area for the Miami flight.

We board and arrive in Miami around noon, and the weather is pleasantly warm, breezy, with no humidity. I never knew Miami EVER had days like this. We call the Days Inn shuttle bus, and they pick us up in about an hour and a half, which seems about standard for them, in our experience.

We check in, and roll our gear up on a luggage cart they have. We take showers, call a few people, and I send out a backed-up barrage of email travel reports (Sorry). Don't think I'll be able to do any in Belize.

We enjoy a relaxing evening and get ready for Belize, reviewing some of the birds we might see.

No new birds today.

Final Lifer Sub-Totals: Trinidad 113, Tobago 17, St. Lucia 20.

Tomorrow: The Yucatan Peninsula.

See ya,
Sharon and Bob

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