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Dominica – Bird’s heaven on earth

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The perfect heaven for birds is the perfect place for birders.

One of the first things you’ll see in Dominica is a Sisserou Parrot–right on the Dominica flag.
The Imperial Parrot – the largest of the world’s Amazona parrots and the Red-necked Parrot (Jaco) are both endemic parrots in Dominica.

The nature island of Dominica is located between Guadeloupe and Martinique on the Lesser Antilles and is home to 176 recorded species of birds, including 4 types of native humming bird and two endemic parrots.

The parrots live mainly in the northern part of the island. The area of Syndicate in the Dominica’s Northern Forest Reserve is perhaps the best known spot to see these two spectacular birds. Thanks to their protected status, and the efforts of The Parrot Research in Roseau, the population is recovering and spreading further south.

Other birds include Blue-headed Hummingbird, Plumbeous Warbler, Forest Thrush, Purple-throated Carib, Lesser Antillean Bullfinch, Antillean Euphonia, and Lesser Antillean Saltator

Furthermore, new resident birds have appeared. Since late 2011 two new species have been noted who’s range previously did not extend to Dominica. Both have now been permanently resident at the mid-west coast:

1. The Bare Eyed Robin (Turdus nudigenis), also known as the Spectacled Thrush, easily recognized by the bright whitish yellow rings around its eyes is not often sighted but is heard frequently, distinctive by its unusual call which resembles a meowing cat.

2. The Red Legged Thrush (Turdus Plumbeous), is distinctive not only by its bright red legs but also by it’s equally bright red beak and rings around the eyes. Often spotted quietly hopping around lawned areas in search of worms and insects.

Dominica provides phantastic birding opportunities in a range of majestic mountainous landscapes, protected areas and habitats – from coastal zones, wetlands and freshwater lakes, to lush rainforest and cloud forest.

Dominica has currently three national parks and two forest reserves.

One of the top spots for birding is Morne Diablotin National Park in the mountainous North of the island – the youngest of Dominicas three 3 National Parks. It is home to the island’s highest mountain, Morne Diablotin, whose summit lies some 1.447 meters above sea level, and to the Syndicate Trail, which is said to be the place to see the most birdlife during a visit to Dominica. It was established in early 2000 and covers over 8,000 acres of land.

It had been created in order to protect the endemic Imperial Parrot.

The Morne Trois Pitons National Park, Dominica’s first national park, was established in 1975 and features an area of 6,857 hectars (16,940 acres) surrounding Morne Trois Pitons, a sleeping volcano with 1.342 meters height. It has been declared a World Heritage Site of outstanding universal value by the UNESCO in 1997.

In 1986, the Cabrits National Park was opened. Its main function is to protect the island’s largest tracts of dry coastal forests, and to preserve its largest wetlands of marsh, freshwater swamp and mangroves. The products of the forest are used, in a sustainable fashion, in the production of some of the island’s handicrafts, medicines, spices and food.

The Central Forest Reserve, the first of its kind in Dominica, was established in 1952, and is inhabited by an abundance of gommier, which grow to heights of almost 36 meters. The wood from these trees is both beautiful and durable, and has been used by the Caribs for centuries in the production of their canoes, and many other crafts.

The largest refuge for the island’s two indigenous species of parrot, the Sisserou and the Jacquot, is said to be in the Northern Forest Reserve, which was opened in 1977, and encompasses some 22,000 acres of land, protecting watersheds, plants and animals. For keen birdwatchers, a visit to this reserve is a must.

Tracing birds is also possible on the Waitukubuli National Trail (WNT, www.waitukubulitrail.com).).
Through the special support of the Waitukubuli Ecological Foundation, financial support of the European Union, the Regional Council of Martinique and the Government of Dominica, Caribbean’s first long distance and longest walking trail, has been developed and showcases the best of Dominica – culture/heritage, local lifestyles, and the island’s rugged terrain and wild nature – rivers, waterfalls, mountains, exotic gorges and rainforests.
The Waitukubuli National Trail is divided into 14 sections and is completely hikeable with the necessary services and facilities. The trail covers 184 km, spanning and twisting the length of Dominica. From Scotts Head in the south to Capuchin in the north, the trail winds from one end of Dominica to the other. Along the way it takes through coastal villages, up woodland hills, into lush rainforest, past waterfalls, down to rivers, back up to the mountains (e.g. the bird-rich Morne Diablotin ) and then down again to the sea. Hiking the WNT hikers learn also learn about Dominica’s history as it passes through traditional Carib villages, ruins of 18th Century French settlements, the renovated Fort Shirley at The Cabrits, secret ‘Maroon’ passages where runaway slaves escaped and many more interesting historical and natural sites.

Thanks to Dominicas terrains it is possible hiking through a half dozen of vegetation zones within one single day – from dry climate to tropical rainforests.
Many hotels and tour operators in Dominica offer birding tours with experts.

Dominica has been awarded one of the 10 best ethical destinations in 2014!
www.ethicaltraveler.org

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