December 29th, 2009 by Marc AuMarc

The ghost condos of Happy Bay are inhabited primarily by wasps, builders of nests in both paper and mud. One notable exception was a large pile of millipede bodies on the porch of one unit. The condos themselves were abandoned near-completion with a just a bit of wiring and finishing left to do. New bathtubs sit in bathrooms waiting to be installed. Was it just an inconvenient hurricane that stopped development, or were there other forces at play?

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December 29th, 2009 by Marc AuMarc

After visiting La Savane, I walked the Rue de Friars’ Bay and some side roads in that area. On the hills above Happy Bay, I tried to photograph the large sulfurs that live on the island, but found it difficult as they would only alight for a moment at a time. The wind made it difficult to capture the small, odd-shaped spiders on the hill as well. In the end, my easiest subject was the largest and most succulent one I encountered.

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December 29th, 2009 by Marc AuMarc

La Savanne is, I suppose, a suburb of Grand Case. I’m not sure if there is an actual town there or just a sign. At any rate, today I spent some hours in a field there and saw many interesting creatures.

My favorites were:

  • A fuzzy, yellow-green beetle.
  • A colorful caterpillar that I had not seen before.
  • A couple different small, green Orthopterans.
  • An impressively regal white moth with black and red markings.
  • Several interesting spiders, including one living in a pocket of web and another that seemed to be guarding an egg case shaped like a spiky ball.

Additionally, there were many familiar butterflies, some other small beetles, some very small freshwater fish and a horse skull guarding a garden.

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December 28th, 2009 by Marc AuMarc

While the bay is usually very calm, this morning in bed we could hear and feel great waves crashing against the sea wall a couple hundred feet away. Below are some photos taken from our telecommunications center, where the ground is approximately 12 feet above the water level. The waves shown were, for this morning, merely average in size.

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December 28th, 2009 by Marc AuMarc

(Madam J, Marc, Stuart (English) and Aure (French) eating dessert.)
Marc: I think these came out okay, it’s the first time I made crépes.
Stuart: These are the dog’s bollocks! Aure, how do you say that in French?
Aure: De crépe.

A few days ago I noticed some chrysalides on the side of our building. they were connected at the bottom, with a line of silk acting as a sling to hold them more or less upright against the building. Two were vacated, one was still occupied. While photographing them, a young boy on a bicycle came by to investigate and we showed them to him. Suddenly, he grabbed the living one, tore it off the side of the building, threw it to the ground and rode off on his bike. Madam J and I collected the chrysalis and I affixed it to our screen using dental floss in a way that approximated its natural orientation.

Last night, while having the diving instructors Stuart and Aure over for dinner, I noticed the polydamas swallowtail (Battus polydamus) checkered swallowtail (Papilio demoleus) crawling on the floor with half-inflated wings. I eventually coaxed it to hang from the curtain, where it might be able to pump its wings out fully, but as of this morning, it seems to be permanently crippled. The front wings are relatively well formed, but the back wings remain crumpled. I also noticed a large wound on its abdomen. We named it De Crépe.

Update: De Crépe is a checkered swallowtail (Papilio demoleus) which is an Asian species that, according to one article was only first discovered in the Caribbean in 2004.

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December 28th, 2009 by Marc AuMarc

After noticing a rising moon between the peaks of Goat Mountain, I have learned that I can take pretty good photographs of the moon.

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December 26th, 2009 by Marc AuMarc

This morning I headed up Goat Mountain (its vastly inferior actual name being First Stick Hill) and walked along the ridge to Bell Hill, continuing out to Bell Point. I returned on the hillside near the sea then climbed what I now call The Valley of Stones to return to Grand Case.

For much of my walk it was cloudy and rainy, so the going was rather difficult. I was also forced to hop several fences en route and traverse a considerable amount of steep, densely forested land. The area seemed very much like jungle, but probably this was mostly because of the rain. Near Bell Point I finally reached an area of grassy scrubland which was much easier to travel and the sun came out. Towards the end of my walk, there was an odd area with many hanging vines at the foot of the Valley of Stones. The Valley was quite odd as well, being comprised of many large boulders on a steep slope.

During the course of my walk I saw many things, some of which I will now list:

  • A colorful fly on a piece of lizard poop.
  • Many white larvae of some sort that seemed to be tended by ants.
  • A mating pair of Great Southern Whites (Ascia monuste). Incidentally, I have found online a great resource for the Lepidoptera of the French Antilles by which I can identify most of the species I have seen.
  • A strange plant with bright orange thorns.
  • A wide variety of spiders of many shapes and colors.
  • Two goats with their heads stuck in the fence. Their horns seem to make it difficult for them to pull their head back between the wire grid. The first was terrified by my approach, but I was able to grab its horns and guide its head back through the fence, at which point it bounded away as fast as it could. The second I had planned to free on my return, but I did not end up returning by in the same direction. Shortly past the second, I found a pile of goat bones right at the fence. I would guess that in most cases the goats are eventually able to free themselves, otherwise there would be very few living goats. Perhaps I can go back tomorrow and see if he is still stuck. I feel some remorse over leaving him.
  • An arboreal plant that was quite common in the forested ridge, living on many different species of tree.
  • A Mimic (Hypolimnas misippus), of which I did not get particularly good photographs. According to the French Antilles Lepidoptera site, “This species comes from the Old World, where females are mimics of the African Monarch, Danaus chrysippus (Linnaeus). It may have been introduced via the slave trade, H. misippus is probably not a permanent resident in all islands where it has been observed.”
  • What seemed to be a very small, blue dragonfly about 1/2″ long. I was not able to get a good photo.
  • A very cute pair of goat kids sheltering in some rocks at the top of Bell Hill.
  • A great number of a caterpillar that I had not previously seen, and a pupa that had been parasitized by wasps.
  • A brown cricket hiding in a dried leaf that may have been used to conceal a chrysalis.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable excursion, although I returned home exceedingly thirsty, having drained my water bottle some time earlier. Photos below.

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December 26th, 2009 by Marc AuMarc

There was an intense rain for the morning and early afternoon of Christmas Day. We could barely see the peaks of Goat Mountain, and any further mountains were rendered totally invisible. It seemed they would last forever, but later the skies cleared up considerably. In the evening, the rain over Anguilla was quite striking, with curved plumes descending from the clouds.

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December 25th, 2009 by Marc AuMarc

Yesterday we visited Fort Louis with Nuzum and Olivia, who were visiting from New York. The fort was built in the early 1700s to protect the harbor of Marigot. Prior to its construction, the settlement was basically a handful of people whose meager crops were regularly stolen by British privateers. After construction of the fort they were able to successfully defend against invasion and the colony began to prosper. Today it is the most intact of the early forts on the island and still offers outstanding views of Marigot and much of the rest of the island and surrounding seas.

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December 23rd, 2009 by Marc AuMarc

Over the past few days, I’ve photographed a few new insects. Two are moths, one is a smallish (wingspan about 2″) sphinx moth and the other is the Spotted Oleander Caterpillar Moth (Empyreama affinis), which is the adult of the fuzzy orange caterpillars I found earlier. Interestingly, the pattern of white spots is shared by caterpillar and moth. The last is a very small insect with white tufts coming out of its rear. I’m not sure what it is, but they are quite small. The actual body is probably only about 1mm long.

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