BrownPelican(JereLull).jpg (4483 bytes)SEA AND SHORE
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Seabirds

Brown 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 distinctive pouch.

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 White Bay.

Laughing 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" call.

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.

Magnificent Frigatebird. 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 breasts.

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.

Tropic 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.

Beaches

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.

Reef Surface Colors. 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 darker shades.

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 Street).

To BVI Beaches

CoconutPalmAtSmugglersCoveIcon.jpg (9636 bytes)Coconut 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 Cove (photo: Ray Wilmott).

Seagrape. 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.

Seaside 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.

Manchineel 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 Mangroves

To Wading Birds
To Flamingo
To Great Blue Heron
To Little Blue Heron

Rocky Coasts

Whelk. 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.

Rock Formations

BathsEntrance(Sojourn).jpg (17933 bytes)The Baths. Unique giant boulders form a seashore natural wonder, a top Caribbean destination (photo from Sail Sojourn).

The Caves. The Caves of "Treasure Island" are a fabled place, being only a few feet deep and cozy in size.

The Indians. 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 sites.

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.

Coast Features

Coves.
The Bight
, 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.

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 charterers.

Harbours.
Soper's Hole.
A harbour encased by hillsides, Soper's Hole makes a memorable impression on visitors for its totally unique character.

Road Town is a majestic harbour that forms an amphitheatre "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.

Sounds.
North Sound
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.

To Ashore in the Islands