Friday, 24 July 2009

Lesser Antilles: 2. Montserrat

On Montserrat we were the guests of Carol and Margaret at Olveston House, owned by Sir George and Lady Martin. It proved to be the perfect base from which to explore the island with our bird guide James 'Scriber' Daley. Much of the island has been off limits since Mount Soufrière erupted in 1997 causing all but 3000 or so of the 12000 population to flee the island but we were shown the devastation wrought on Plymouth, Montserrat's once vibrant capital, from a boat skippered by Troy of the Green Monkey Inn & Dive Shop.

Scriber took us to the best sites on the island to see the endemic and endangered Montserrat Oriole. The trails were sometimes challenging but we were rewarded with great views of Orioles, Forest Thrush, Bridled Quail-Dove, Brown Trembler, both Purple-throated and Green-throated Caribs, plus Scaly-breasted and Pearly-eyed Thrashers. From the cliff top at Lookout Point we could see distant Red-billed Tropicbirds, while Caribbean Martins flew above us.

A trip to the Botanical gardens was hosted by Lady Fergus, Director of the National Trust of Montserrat, who showed us a short film detailing some of the conservation work being undertaken in collaboration with the RSPB, Kew Gardens, London Zoo and the Durrell Foundation on Jersey. Work that seeks to protect the environment where endangered species such as the Montserrat Oriole and the Mountain Chicken Frog can be found.

Pie, one of the gardeners, took time out to show us the flowers and trees in the collection then climbed a palm tree to harvest coconuts for us, which he promptly and expertly prepared. I was surprised by the taste of the fresh flesh – so different to shop bought fruit.

No comments: