May 27th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

Last week we had the privilege of joining some friends on their boat for the day, including a snorkel at Baie Longue near the end of the beach by Cupecoy. The sea floor in the area is predominantly sandy, with few rocks to provide a substrate for corals or a habitat for fish, but the water is often crystal clear. As you can see below, there was a large school of palometa which settled in beneath the boat as soon as we dropped anchor.

Although it’s fun to see a large school of fish, they are almost certainly there because they are fed, probably by boats who stop there to let their passengers snorkel. This is, of course, generally seen as a bad idea because it changes the behavior of the fish. In some cases, for example, fish may eat less of their normal food, thereby failing to fulfill their role in the local ecosystem. It also makes them more vulnerable to fishing, which for the palometa may be bad for those who eat them. Palometa that normally travel between the open ocean and the shallows may be more likely to develop higher levels of ciguatera toxin if they learn to stay in the shallows.

Anyhow, the snorkel was quite fun, and I was also able to find a peacock flounder and many juvenile grunts near a small patch of rock, as well as a young southern stingray.

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May 26th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

Last week several of my attempts to survey for sea turtle tracks were thwarted by rain, but finally I did get a day that was merely intermittently drizzly and made the trek out. Although again there were no tracks, it was a good chance to see the island while it was damp. At the small pond near the school in Cul de Sac frogs, snails and flatworms were out and about. There were also plenty of spiders and insects hoping to catch a few rays of sun.

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May 24th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

Here are a couple more sets of photos rounding out my afternoon in Pointe Blanche. There were some peacocks and guinea hens at the little farm above Geneve Bay, and there were hundreds of tadpoles in a spot where rainwater had collected on the road. Included in the photos are a deformed moth and I spider I found in a fallen epiphyte.

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There were also some great views to be had in the area, particularly from the communications towers that overlook Philipsburg and Great Bay. I also noticed that the prison has a terrific view of St. Barths, although I’m not sure the prisoners can see it over the walls of the prison. Overall, it’s definitely the perfect place to explore if you’re in Philipsburg. Also, there’s tons of monkey poop in the area, which I guess means monkeys.

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May 24th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

Theridiidae, the cobweb-weaving spiders, are often found in the webs of other spiders, and in Pointe Blanche the other day I actually found six sharing the web with one silver argiope. These spiders are kleptoparasites, and they typically eat insects caught in the larger spider’s web. To be fair, though, these are often insects that are too small to be of interest to the host spider.

At the moment I am unsure of which species are on the island. It seems that there are probably several different ones, although color variations and sexual dimorphism may make it look like there are more varieties than there actually are.

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May 23rd, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

Smeringopus pallidus carrying a ball of spiderlings.


Not in the Guide



May 23rd, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

After stopping by the museum in Philipsburg for International Museum Day, I took advantage of a brief break in the bad weather to take a little hike up into the hills of Pointe Blanche. Near the top of one unnamed hill, I lifted a large piece of plywood to find dozens of Smeringopus pallidus, many of which were carrying egg sacs or little balls of spiderlings. It was a little tricky to photograph them, because they were bobbing up and down on their long legs. I suppose this is defensive, but while it made it very hard to get photos, I don’t think it would have prevented me from eating them, were I interested in doing so, which I was not.

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May 20th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

Here are a couple more sets of photos from the nearby salt ponds. The first is from the Grand Case Salt Pond, which encircles the airport. Like all the salt ponds, it’s a popular area for a number of bird species, although it can be hard to find a good vantage point to view the pond since much of the area is surrounded by mangroves. (Not that I would have it any other way!)

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The other set of photos is from the pond that is between Grand Case, La Savane and Mont O’Reilly. Although it doesn’t have an official name that I know of, I have started referring to it as Round Hill Pond. It’s the “secret pond” of Grand Case because it’s not really visible from any main road. This pond is mostly ringed by grassy areas, although the stretch closest to Grand Case has mangroves and sea grape trees. This makes it possible to circle most of the pond quite easily.

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May 19th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

In a third post about my last visit to the Grand Case cemetery pond I’m featuring the invertebrates that I encountered there, mostly spiders. I’ve been increasingly interested in spiders, especially since receiving the book The Spiders and Their Relatives of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which was sent to me by one of the authors, Mark de Silva. I’m not sure how one acquires the book normally, but it is excellent. In addition to being surely the only guide of its type for those islands, it is a very good overview of spiders in general. Below are photos of the five or six species of spider I encountered near the cemetery pond, plus a few insects for good measure.

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May 17th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

Egrets aren’t the only critters hanging out at the Grand Case cemetery pond. There are loads of green iguanas (Iguana iguana). Below are photos of a few of them. In the last photo, I didn’t even notice that the iguana I was photographing was sitting on another iguana until I was reviewing my photos on the computer.

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May 16th, 2011 by Marc AuMarc

The pond near the Grand Case cemetery is a favorite roosting and breeding area for a variety of egrets. They seem to really like the mangrove trees that are growing in the middle of the pond, probably because this provides them with some protection from predators that might be able to reach nests in the mangroves on the shore.

I made a couple visits to take photos of the egrets. The first time, I just took a few general shots from across the pond. Although it’s hard to identify the individual birds, these shots show how many egrets are in the area. It also looks like there are so many nests in some of the lower branches that the mangroves have lost their leaves in those areas.

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A couple days later, I took a little tour around the pond to get some better close-up shots. This was a bit tricky, as it required finding passages through the mangroves on the shore, as well as trying to avoid sinking into the mud. I eventually emerged covered in spider webs, but with a bunch of photos of the adults, fledgelings and chicks.

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