We visited Duhkxyland for the first time since 2019, when this destination served as Duhkxy’s imaginary personal beach. As dogs often do, he perked up as we approached and gleefully swam ashore to re-acquaint himself. While visiting, I caught a glimpse of bright red and immediately recognized a pair of the distinctive American Oystercatchers.
We first became acquainted with this interesting seabird while traveling down the Inter-Coastal Waterway (ICW) on the east coast of the United States on our way to the Bahamas. We have since seen them on several locations in Grenada. On the ICW we saw small groups, but in Grenada, we have only observed solitary pairs.
Their massive beaks are known to be powerful enough to open large molluscs such as clams and oysters.
Our observations of this beautiful bird led to the answer for a question we had been pondering for some time. What was eating chitons and leaving large numbers of their carcasses around the saltwater ponds on Sandy Island?
Their protective shell is composed of eight articulated sections that facilitates their movement and their ability to curl up like an armadillo when under threat.
As noted previously the seabirds we are observing now (January) are quite different from those that entertained us during March though May last year. As of today, (January 25, 2021), the laughing gulls have not yet appeared and the numbers of terns and boobies are quite low. There are many more pelicans, however, and we have seen several shorebirds we did not see during our visit last year.
The rainy season is coming to an end with rarely more than a few short sprinkles a day. Air temperature has been a bit on the cooler side – may even drop below 80 degrees on occasion. We are enjoying the dryer, cooler weather, and the constant breeze – It was a hot, still, and humid summer.
On January 23rd, 8 new cases of Covid 19 were identified, bringing the total to 147, sadly, with one fatality. There have been no infections found, to date, on Carriacou, the Grenadian island that includes Sandy Island. Thorough contact tracing and quarantines have kept the spread to a minimum and few restrictions other than the requirements of wearing a mask before entering a store and a 10:00pm curfew are in effect.
We love the texts and photos we get from family members and friends – keep them coming. We will be home this spring.
The year 2020 will be remembered for a litany of events we could not have imagined. Our decision to remain in Grenada for its entirety offered the opportunity to live completely removed from the pain and suffering around the world.
Our personal lives oscillate minute by minute, day by day, month by month, between the opportunity of “Living in the Moment” and the depths of despair for our fellow humans, the world, and our country. How is it that we remain so personally protected amid such suffering? Our hearts break at the thought of how much has been damaged and lost.
Today is January 19th. The inauguration of the 46th president of the United States will take place tomorrow. Vaccines to protect the world from Covid 19 are being manufactured and distributed. It truly is the beginning of the end of this nightmare.
Living in the Moment
Our interest in the lives and habits of hermit crabs on Sandy Island has not waned. We have written previously about these beautiful and interesting creatures Footprints in the Sand on Sandy Island. We continue to learn more.
Hermit crabs need fresh water and carry a supply around within their shells. After a rain they generally appear much earlier in the day and you may see them replenishing their supply from vegetation and objects that have accumulated it.
Hermit crabs are the primary reason almost all coconuts found on the ground in Sandy Island have holes in them and are eaten out. It is remarkable that they can tear through the thick outer hull and into the coconut inside. No doubt, the coconut water, in addition to the meat, provides additional motivation for the crabs, especially during the dry season.
We never saw them without the holes and thought it unlikely they could work fast enough to always get to them before we visited the island (at least once, and often twice a day). We knew the hermit crabs can climb the trees. We have seen them apparently sheltering in the burlap-like material that is wrapped around the trees towards the top.
We were fairly certain the crabs must drill and eat out the coconuts while they were still on the tree. We went in search of hermit crabs eating coconuts up in the trees.
First, let us confirm that there are many hermit crabs in the coconut trees. Once we started looking we found them climbing the trees and eating the coconut flowers, as well as the immature coconuts.
And they can climb pretty fast.
And we also saw immature coconuts still in the tree that had already been eaten out.
This concludes our chapter of Living in the Moment – “Mystery of the Lack of Mature Coconuts on Sandy Island” – SOLVED.
We returned to Sandy Island shortly after a new outbreak of Covid 19 cases were reported on the main island of Grenada. Overnight, Grenada went from being categorized as low risk, to high risk; the immediate consequence of which, was that restrictions put in place for visitors from Grenada, made travel between island nations no longer feasible. If the outbreak was not quickly controlled, travel restrictions between Grenada’s own islands (Grenada, Carriacou, Petite Martinique) could also be put in place. In the event we need to stay put for a prolonged period of time, Sandy Island off the coast of Carriacou is where we needed to be.
At first sight, we were reminded of the beauty of Carriacou, Sandy Island, and the waters between these two islands. These waters are part of a protected marine preserve (Sandy Island Oyster Bed Marine Park).
Sandy Island and the Marine Park Have Much to Reveal
During our prior stay at Sandy Island (March through June, 2020) the skies were constantly full of seabirds. Initially, flocks of laughing gulls, shortly joined by Brown Boobies, Royal Terns, and small flocks of pelicans. Mixed groups fed upon enormous schools of young fish. These fish were continually assaulted from below the water, as well. Small groups of jacks would arrive like torpedos in formation attacking and gorging themselves on the young fish. Feathered predators would simultaneously attack the disorganized schools until, they too, had their fill.
Having now arrived at the end of December, we found large flocks of pelicans, no gulls, and, on occasion, small numbers of boobies and terns. The jacks and other fish predators are extremely active. We are entertained from sunup to sundown with what appears to be a small underwater explosion followed by a larger plume of the small fish launching themselves in the air.
In addition, individual jacks and occasional barracuda fly out of the water with such force they land 20-30 feet beyond. The most beautiful behavior we enjoy is when schools of small fish, presumably startled by a perceived threat, emerge in unison, fly a short distance, and upon re-entering the water, startle fish from the same school ahead of them who launch themselves, repeating what appears and sounds like small waterfalls over and over again. We have observed this behavior before, both here near Sandy Island and in other locals, but never as often, with schools of fish so large, and the repetitive waves.
Boobies are demonstrating a different fishing behavior. We have routinely seen them fly straight down, fold their wings, and like olympian divers, plunge into the water without disturbing the surface. Moments later they bob to the surface like a cork. We now see them skimming the surface of the water while retrieving a snack. On occasion, they sit upon the top of the water with their heads under water eating fish in conjunction with the assault of the fish from below.
Flora and Fauna on Sandy Island
The island’s hermit crabs that had almost entirely moved underground when we left Sandy Island last June, were now more apparent; but nowhere near the population seen previously. Duhkxy was delighted to find that the white ghost crabs that build burrows at the water’s edge remained plentiful.
He has become more persistent and accomplished in his pursuit of them. Guided by smell, he digs following the tunnel entrance until he unearths the crab. When he gets one out, he delights in chasing them. His play is invariably brief as they are amazingly fast and nearly invisible when they stop moving. In addition, they head for the water and can bury themselves in the sand within a second in wet sand. On occasion, one takes a stand, refusing to move. Duhkxy will bark and howl in dismay which translates to “Cmon, play with me.”
The Sandy Island rats have not revealed themselves, thus far. Perhaps they have moved on (who knows where or how) or Duhkxy has been too busy terrorizing the crabs to hunt for rats and flush them out.
The island vegetation is lush as it is now nearing the end of the rainy season. We enjoy observing blooms and seed pods that were not here earlier.
While examining the sea grapes for hermit crab activity we spotted several beautiful spiders (Yellow and Black Garden Spiders) and what we believed to be egg casings.
Several days later our suspicians were confirmed as one of the egg casings had released hundreds of newborn spiders. The following day they had all dispersed.
Sandy Island itself, had also changed. The beaches are frequently transformed depending on storms, and are now wide and shallow in slope. We often observe many small fish in a line at the last reach of the waves, having been left to die on the beach to the delight of the ghost crabs.
We are sharing this idyllic spot with as many as 24 sailing vessels in comparison to the few (2-5) during the 3 month lockdown earlier in the year. Our coveted mooring that we learned some sailors refer to as Ice Floe’s mooring, is occupied. We find it desirable, as it is the closest to a beautiful shallow reef perfect for snorkeling, as well as to the beach for us to swim ashore without the need to launch our dinghy.
We are safe, our days are full, interesting, and pass all too quickly. We miss home and our family and friends and hope to return in April. 2020 has been a year bearing no resemblance to one we have known or might have imagined. The human suffering weighs heavily and our hopes for 2021, are for Americans like ourselves who have thus far been spared the worst of 2020, to open our eyes and take action to alleviate this suffering and to address its causes.
May this new year be the beginning of the best and most well spent year of our lives.