Saturday, June 22, 2013

St Croix Wildlife

Blanka and I recently visited St Croix. We both took a lot of pictures of the beautiful beach at the resort we were staying at. I'll skip those, and share some pictures of some of the local wildlife. Above are sea urchins in a tidal pool in Davis Bay. The beach was well posted with warnings about avoiding this section, since sea urchin spines really hurt if you step on them!

Sea urchins have large, transparent eggs, which made them an important animal for the study of embryology and development. I was really happy to see them living in their natural habitat.

A Caribbean Brown Pelican sitting on a piece of coral. This bird came to feed over the area near our cabin every morning and evening. It was fun to watch him wheel over the waves, then dive into the surf for a fish. The Brown Pelican recently came off the US Endangered Species List.

A ghost crab digging out its burrow. The crab hides in the burrow for most of the day to avoid the hot sun, but they start to come out towards evening. They are very twitchy, and jump back into their holes whenever they feel threatened. Very amusing to watch them run in the surf, looking for food, then scurry back into hiding.

The resort (and the island in general) had a lot of mongoose. Mongoose were brought to the island to help control the rat population, which was feeding on the sugar cane crop. It didn't work, since the rats were nocturnal and the mongoose weren't! But the mongoose did eat all the snakes on the island, so Indiana Jones can retire to St Croix, worry free.

We took a hike through the rain forest to visit the tidal pools of Annally Bay. See this site for a better explanation of the hike than I could write. Along the path in the rain forest we got to see a bee hive in a tree right next to the path, and an enormous termite 'mound' - also in the trees! On these steep and rocky slopes, with heavy rainfall, there isn't enough soil for the termites to live underground.

We were on St Croix to relax, so there were a few things that I would have liked to do that we skipped. We were staying at Carambola Beach, which is on the northwest of the island. Here, steep hills create a rain forest climate. The eastern end of the island is flatter and more desert-like, with cactus.

The eastern tip of St Croix is Point Udall, which is the easternmost point in the US. It is host to the eastern end of the Very Long Baseline Array radiotelescope. The other end of the VLBA is in Hawa'ii, about 5,000 miles away. I would have loved to visit the telescope, but it didn't seem that they had a visitors center. Phooey.

We also missed a visit to the Salt River mangrove swamp. This was Colombus' second landing spot, in 1493. It looked very cool as we drove by on our way to Christiansted.

St Croix was a beautiful place, and I would love to go back!