Sunday, February 2, 2014

A "Super Sunday" on St. John

Super Sunday morning coffee on the deck with Smooth-billed Ani, Pearly-eyed Thrasher and Sleepy-head Allyson. 

Several other birds, too, up here amongst the trees, bushes, bamboo and other assorted flora.  One plant, with strong sword-shaped “leaves” pointing in several directions has one blade that stabs horizontally from the hill behind the door. It catches rain.  A Bannanaquit uses it for a birdbath.

Sunday in Coral Bay means brunch at Miss Lucy’s.  Good food and a two-piece jazz band on the gorgeous shore.  But you gotta get past the goats (and sometimes donkeys) to get there.  There are a lot of feral goats here.  Probably hundreds.  One night a herd was so tightly packed filling the road, I expected to see a goat herder someplace.  But no.  The goats were on their own. 

Then, it was off to swim along the mangroves in Princess Bay. (Sorry mom, I did not wait an hour after eating to swim.)  We used no fins because the area is so shallow, and we’d only hit the bottom and stir up sand.  Mask, snorkel and body provided all we needed for a new and memorable experience. 

The mangroves frame the bay.  We just walked in from the road and started floating along. 

The first thing I noticed was how the mangrove walks in super-slow motion.  Closest to the shore, the “trunks” / legs are dug in to the grassy, sandy bottom.  It looks like 4-6 toes supporting one leg -- kinda like those canes old men use that have four feet.  Old barnacles, and even coral crust them up. Then, you notice the ones next out, with toes are not solidly in the sand.  Then there are the ones that do not touch the sand, etc.  Furthest out, you see just a leg stretching out, before the end splits. 

Next, I paid more attention to the thousands of minnows of varying size.  Here, a school of ¼-inch wiggling, tiny shards of mirrored glass.  There, a school of 1.5-inchers with a gold or yellow stripe along the side.  Then, I noticed how the gold and yellow blend in perfectly with the bottom grass, like crab grass, with the flat blades, green and yellow with tan sand dust.  The grass only moves a little with the water current. But, the grass looks like it is moving a lot because the water surface ripples flash the sunlight.  Looking down into the shallow water, it takes a moment to notice that there is a layer of fish above the grass because they blend so well. Underwater, too, the camouflage is good. 

As with other near-shore schools we’ve seen, often a barracuda lurks.  Fish of larger sizes and colors punctuate the minnow schools swimming in, around, through and outside the mangrove-leg labyrinth.  Occasionally, a much larger fish, maybe a foot long, with an exotic shape and/or color comes into view.  A spear gun in hand could have harvested a nice fish dinner for four people.   Thick starfish, maybe 10 inches with spikes on top of their orange or yellow body added some wonder to the swim.

Next, we hopped back into the jeep for a beach.  We returned to Francis Bay with our beach chairs for a couple of hours. 
A couple of squalls came through – 5 minute bursts of rain -- when we’d make sure we tucked under the trees for a bit of cover.

Since we were in the neighborhood, we checked the Annaberg ruins, where slaves, horses, and wind milled sugar.  I took this selfie of us looking over the Leinster Bay Trail toward the British Virgin Islands. 

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