St.Maarten Is For The Birds!

Bird watching is becoming big business in the tourist industry these days, and enthusiastic ornithologists are always seeking new destinations to enjoy their favorite hobby. Fortunately, St. Maarten/St. Martin has plenty of fine-feathered friends to go sleuthing out- both indigenous and migratory- and there are organizations in place to help you find them. Les Fruits de Mers Association is one of them.
    
Founded in 2013, Les Fruits de Mer is a non-profit association based in Grand Case. Their mission is to promote awareness of ecology, culture and sport through discovery, inspiration, and education. Mark Yokoyama, a co-founder of Les Fruits De Mer and author of “The Incomplete Guide to the Wildlife of Saint Martin” says, “Birding, both as a hobby for residents and as a source of tourism revenue, is growing rapidly in the Caribbean. Enjoying wildlife deserves to be a core part of the Caribbean experience, and we are delighted to be working together with BirdsCaribbean to make this happen. Events like our recent Migratory Bird Festival give everyone the chance to experience the joys of wildlife watching. And tools like the books we create and guides to birding sites make it easier for people to learn about the local nature. We also strive to get into the local schools in cooperation with SXM Wildlife with projects and workshops to create a future generation of nature enthusiasts!”

The annual Migratory Bird Festival is a free, annual public event coordinated by Les Fruits de Mer and the University of St. Martin, always held in October. There are 164 species of recorded birds on this island, and many of them are migratory. They travel thousands of miles from all over the globe to spend the winter here. (Like smart visitors who come to escape the cold and snow!) The 2015 event featured guided birding tours, multimedia presentations, bird-themed art activities, and much more. And one of the highlights at this year’s event was 
A Heritage Salt Walk” with Dr. Jay Haviser founder of SIMARC- the St. Maarten Archaeological Center. The salt ponds have not only played a big part in the island’s history, but they are also responsible for attracting so many different types of waterfowl.

If you’re not on island in October, you can always take a guided birding walk with Seagrape Tours. They will take you around the natural reserves where you will find the most different species, and you can also check out the island’s best birding trails at Caribbean Birding Trail’s website.

Did you know that the Brown Pelican is the national state bird symbol for both sides of this island? It’s a fascinating creature to watch, and you can easily spot them alongside the beaches.  For lots more about St. Maarten/St. Martin’s fine feathered friends you can download your own Birds of Sint Maarten ID card at Sea Grape Tours website, or visit Les Fruits de Mer’s book page for free books about  birds, their habitats and habits.

Happy Bird Watching!