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A Report from

Galley Bay area Antigua, March 30th - April 6th, 2011,

Tony and Ruth Payne

We had a week’s holiday at Galley Bay, which is situated to the west of the Antiguan capital St. John’s on the Five Islands peninsula. Galley Bay has its own large brackish lagoon which is within the hotel grounds and therefore fairly inaccessible to the wandering birder. As a result,

i) we saw rather different species to those reported on this website in the excellent trip report by Richard Fuller and Rebecca Webb; they mention Galley Bay, but didn’t appear to visit it. Moreover,

ii) we took with us “Birds of the West Indies” (Helm Identification Guides, 1998) by Raffaele, Wiley,  Garrido, Keith, Raffaele, Pedersen and Williams and we would have to take issue with some of that book’s conclusions about the frequency of occurrence of many species on this island (they may have changed these in the Helm 2003 Guide, don’t have this). Apart from sight-seeing trips to St. John’s and around the island, most of our time was spent at Galley Bay and the Five Islands area accessible on foot.

Species seen every day

Magnificent frigate bird, Red-billed tropicbird, Brown pelican, Tricoloured heron (Picture), Little blue heron, Green heron, Cattle egret, Great White egret, Snowy egret, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted sandpiper, Black-necked stilt, Turnstone, Stilt sandpiper, West Indian Whistling Duck (Picture), Bahama pintail, Mallard, Moorhen, American kestrel, White-crowned pigeon (Picture), Zenaida dove, Common ground-dove, Antillean crested hummingbird, Gray kingbird, Lesser Antilles Bullfinch, Bananaquit, Black-faced Grassquit,

Species seen several times in the week

Brown booby, Yellow-crowned night heron, Short-billed dowitcher, Osprey, Broad-winged hawk, Green-throated carib, Caribbean elaenia, Yellow warbler.

Species seen only once

Killdeer, Black-crowned night heron, Scaly-naped pigeon, Mangrove cuckoo, Northern parula, Nutmeg mannikin.

Key differences to previous reports

The West Indian Whistling duck is important because every authority describes them as rare, and Fuller and Webb could not find them at all. However, they are a major feature of the Galley Bay lagoon, with maximum counts of over 20. They are not pinioned (they fly in and out) but some at least are habituated to humans. Groups will follow you down the path and one individual will fly up onto your head; it is not clear whether this is territorial behaviour, or they expect food. They seem entirely diurnal. We understand they can also be seen on lagoons to the north of St. John’s.


Mongoose is everywhere.

We saw humpbacked whales on three days. Look for big splashes on the horizon made by breaching or tail-whacking. Don’t dismiss triangular white objects as the sails of yachts – they may actually be the huge front flippers of a humpback rolling or lying on its back with both flippers out of the water.


Conspicuous butterflies included the Buckeye, the Caribbean (Gulf) fritillary and the Monarch
Conspicuous damselflies included Rambur’s forktail; dragonflies included Banded dragonlet and Tawny pennant

General observations on Galley Bay

Galley Bay is a self-contained, up-market resort (no children), with a bar, spa and three restaurants. It has lots of water activities, as well as cycling, tennis and croquet. We deliberately avoided the beach-front apartments and chose instead to stay in one of the original “Gauguin villas”. Each villa was fenced in and consisted of two rondavels with a connecting roofed area for loungers, plus your own plunge pool. However, their main advantage to us was that they were next to the lagoon.


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