Pelican. Rebounding from near
extinction in 1960, the brown pelican has a number of breeding colonies
on Guana Island (photo: (Jere Lull)). Often seen diving headfirst from considerable
heights to feed on schools of sprats and fish fry in places as
varied as Cane
Garden Bay and
Little Apple Bay, the brown pelican scoops fish up in its
Superb flyers with wingspans of
up to seven and one-half feet, pelicans fly together in
single file, wingbeats in unison.
In photo at the top, the dark water background is a
massive school of fish fry at Jost Van Dyke's
Gull. The gull commonly found in the
islands is the exquisite
laughing gull, which is smaller at 16" long than the 24" Herring Gull,
well known from other seascapes (where it has noticed the cultural
adaptation of the human not to harm wildlife by stealing the larger
creature's beach food right under its nose).
Often seen on sandy spits,
the laughing gull is named for its excited "ha, ha, ha, ha"
With its strong, hooked bill adapted to
its omnivorous scavenging, this seabird feeds on
seafood such as fish and crabs as well as "scraps" opportunisticly taken
from everything from fishing boat to pelican operations--in
the latter case sitting on the bigger bird's head and catching small
fish as the pouch is drained.
The ruler of the seashore sky, this splendid flier glides effortlessly
on the trade winds with
its 7-8' long, pointed wings and deeply forked movable tails,
earning it the nickname "scissor tails," or "siso" in patios.
But this ruler is also a pirate, using its long hooked
beak and flying skills to cause other birds to drop their catch, which
the frigatebird catches in midair, a necessity due to its wettable
feathers making it unable to take off from water. These creatures truly
amaze as they hover, quarrel and otherwise put on magnificent airshows
The male's solid black adult plumage contrasts
dramatically with the bright red throat sacs. The female is black also,
with white breasts and sides, while all the young have white heads and
Nesting in colonies, often in mangroves, the species is
well represented in the BVI on
Great Tobago and
Anegada. They can sometimes be seen where fishermen regularly clean
their catch, such as at the
entrance to the Soper's Hole dingy channel, adroitly diving to catch
thrown scraps before they hit the water.
Bird. Identified by their long
streaming white tail feathers, half again their size, tropic birds feed
at sea without seeing land for months during the summer and fall, before
returning to nest from December until June on rocky cliffs. Poor
walkers, they like to jump right into the air from their cliff-side
nests, then dive into the water to feed on squid and flying fish.
A fascinating ecosystem where the sea and
shore meet, beach environments also include adjoining reefs and rocky
shores, often in the same cove or bay. While beach plants are highly
resistant to salt spray, they often are actually nourished by a dome of
fresh water riding over the heavier salt water.
From afar, reefs shimmer in many hues of blue and green, from navy blue
in the deeper water to light blues, light greens and turquoise in the
shallower places. Rocks and the reef itself appear in brown hues and
Added to the composition is the Cerulean blue of the
tropical sky reflecting back from the water's surface.
But it is the luminosity of the whole reef area that can astonish
viewers in the right light, especially air travelers. Reflecting back
spectacular glints in the sun, these emerald hues seem to glow from
their own inner light.
"No See Ums."
Invisible biting insects that strike on beaches in the late afternoon
and evening, "no see ums" inflict bites that resemble mosquito bites in
effect, especially on the lower legs.
Skintastic by Off and Skin So Soft
by Avon are often used to ward them off. Also, Rocou Oil is said to be
effective (available from Sunny Caribbee Spice Co. at Road Town's Main
To BVI Beaches
Palm. That veritable symbol of the
Caribbean, the Coconut Palm was once a mainstay of native
peoples, its fronds and logs used to make roofs and walls of
primitive houses, tied together with rope made from its husk.
Hurricane resistant in the sense that its
fronds are expendable, the trunk is rarely blown over. Coconut is widely
used in cooking.
These palms are from Smuggler's
Found at the top of beaches, the seagrape, depending on conditions,
forms a variety of interesting sculptural shapes from low thickets to
full blown trees sometimes acting as shade canopies. Noted for its
robust, dark green leaves, its flower stalks produce clusters of edible,
though sparse and sour, dark red grapes that make a nice jelly or jam.
Almond. Close to the Seagrape is
found the Seaside or Indian Almond, providing dense shade with its
horizontally layered branches and bunches of large dark green leaves
(old leaves turn bright red before shedding). Tiny white flower clusters
precede the edible, edged, flattened nuts. Tolerant of sand and salt,
the Almond is found in places like
Brewer's Bay campground.
Tree. Also found close to the beach,
especially Cooper Island's
Manchioneel Bay, this tree's
sap, said to be used by the Carib Indians to poison their arrows, causes
severe skin blistering and, if in the eyes, at least temporary
blindness. If contacted, immediately wash yourself. The shiny little
green apples are poisonous as well.
Do not sit under this tree for shade and
avoid touching or burning the branches as well.
Fortunately, this tree is the only one
that is dangerous on Caribbean beaches.
With shiny dark green leaves folded at
the midrib similar to a pear, on a widely branching, spread-out frame,
the Manchineel tree is identified by a pin-head size raised dot at the
juncture of the leaf and its stalk.
To Wading Birds
To Great Blue Heron
To Little Blue Heron
The West Indian Top, or locally the Whelk, is a sea snail that lives on
rocks just at the tide line (collecting
whelk). Chosen by humans as a
deliciacy to be savored as food, the whelk is
also favored for its shell by hermit
crabs, who use them for their home, as well as kids, who play with
them as spinning tops.
A natural version of the child's toy, the West Indian
Top earns its name from the resemblence seen in its beautiful shell.
Favorite ones are prized for the near symmetry and artistry of the
shell's markings against its spiraling grooves.
Baths. Unique giant boulders form a
seashore natural wonder, a top Caribbean destination (photo from
The Caves of "Treasure Island" are a fabled place, being only a few feet
deep and cozy in size.
A unique rock formation, the Indians consist of four
sculpted rock pinnacles reaching 50' up to the surface and another 50'
above the surface. One of the BVI's top three diving and snorkeling
The Dogs. A group of islands
in the middle of the Sir Francis Drake Channel off Virgin Gorda's beach
coast, the Dogs are a national park and very popular dive and snorkeling
site, especially The Chimney.
a nautical term for sizing the end of a line so it appears similar in
layout to The Bight at Norman Island, is a delightful
protected cove for mooring and anchoring near The Caves, the Indians and
the Willie T II. Other coves are distinguished by being perhaps a little
more cozy than bays.
Cane Garden Bay
is a classic bay in an island land filled with bays.
Deadman's Bay on Peter Island. A
another bay is the shape of a cove, a favorite for overnight stays by
A harbour encased by hillsides, Soper's Hole makes a memorable
impression on visitors for its totally unique character.
Town is a majestic harbour that forms an
"floor" for the surrounding small mountains.
Great Harbour on Peter Island was the place the
R.M.S Rhone, just outside the Harbour, lost her massive
3000 pound anchor before steaming out to be blown onto the Salt Island
reef in a 1867 hurricane.
is a magnificent body of water with a rich history and a leading
Caribbean sailing location for tall ships and small dinghies alike.
Eustatia Sound, near the North Sound, is a popular
destination, especially for snorkeling.
Ashore in the Islands