BIRDS IN PARADISE
Grab your binoculars for an eco-adventure to the islands of North and Middle Caicos
An archipelago of 40 islands and cays boasting the slogan, “Beautiful by Nature”, the Turks and Caicos is a dream come true for naturist. The two largest islands in the chain, North and Middle Caicos, are islands of abundant natural beauty. North and Middle Caicos have remained largely undeveloped, and retain a quiet, rural, village atmosphere.
On the northern coast, the islands feature a mixture of dramatic cliffs and caves interlaced by miles of stunningly beautiful and secluded beaches. In the heart of the islands, fertile soil gives birth to a lush vegetation of fruit trees, pine forests and farmland. To the south, one of the UK’s largest Ramsar sites for protected wetlands runs through a good portion of North, Middle and nearby East Caicos, resulting in approximately 210 square miles of uninhabited and unspoiled marine and terrestrial ecosystem, making these islands an eco-adventurers paradise, with bird watching at its heart.
These areas host a variety of native and migrant bird species such as the rare whistling duck to sandpipers, plovers, osprey and pink flamingos. In fact, North Caicos boasts the largest flock of flamingos in the Turks and Caicos Islands at the aptly named “Flamingo Pond Nature Reserve” where the pastel-colored birds frolic in their natural habitat.
Should you take a quick daytrip over to North and Middle Caicos via the TCI Ferry (only $50 round trip), be sure to take a binoculars and a camera to capture all the action. Whether you book a guided tour of the islands or rent a car and self-explore, here are a few stops recommended by Turks and Caicos National Museum for amazing bird finds:
· In Kew, the Government Farm is a good place for Anis, Cattle Egrets and migrants.
· A walk in Oak Tree Park in the centre of Kew may reveal a variety of bird life, including warblers and Cuban Crows.
· At Wades Green Plantation a number of land birds, including the Key West Quail-dove and migrating warblers can be seen.
· At the eastern end of North Caicos, before the causeway to Middle Caicos, the road passes through an extensive marsh of low Red Mangrove bushes which offers good opportunities to see a variety of water birds, including White-cheeked Pintails.
· The Conch Bar Village Pond, part of the Conch Bar Caves Nature Reserve, attracts a family party of West Indian Whistling Ducks, a rare bird that gets its name from a distinctive whistling call.
· Along the dramatic coast at Mudjin Harbour in Conch Bar, look out for Pelicans, Osprey, Kestrel and various scrub birds.
· Bambarra Beach is another good place to see Pelicans
· On a trip to Lorimers towards the residential end of Middle Caicos, you’ll come to Haulover Field Road which passes through recovering tropical dry forest, and is a good place to spot the greater Antillean Bullfinch and Thick-billed Vireo endemic sub-species, as well as Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Bahama Woodstars, Bananaquits and other scrub birds.
Both North and Middle Caicos are the best also for spotting the Cuban Crow, a bird restricted to the Caicos Islands and Cuba, and the Bahama Woodstar, shared between Turks and Caicos and The Bahamas.
To assist your bird watching adventure while visiting the Turks and Caicos, grab a copy of the guide booklet, “Bird Watching in Paradise – Middle & North Caicos; Turks & Caicos Islands: A guide to birdwatching and heritage sites”, with full color photographs of birds, maps and guiding text, can be purchased from the National Museum gift shop and other outlets on island. The guide series also features individual booklets for bird watching in Providenciales, South Caicos, Grand Turk and Salt Cay.