St. Lucia
Fregate Islands Nature Reserve

Frigate is the name of the bird, "fregate" the name of their island reserve.

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Time : a half-day or more. Difficulty: 1-2.

Operating Period: August through April, 9-5 daily. Available by tour only. Call the National Trust: 758/453-7656 or 758/455-3099.

Trailhead: On the East Coast in the northeastern section of Praslin Bay .

These twin islands (huge lumps of rock, really) located just a few yards offshore are operated by the National Trust.

Although spelled fregate instead of frigate, the cays were named after the frigate birds that nest here from May through July. Frigates are locally called "scisseau" (scissors) because of their distinctive forked tails.

Frigates, also called great frigates or man-o-war birds, prefer bushes low to the ground for building their nests. The males are noted for bright red throat pouches that they inflate to attract mates.

You are not allowed on the islands themselves but on the 1.5km trail engineered across cliffs and up to an overlook opposite the Fregate Islands.

You return via a strip of fringing mangrove, then pass through a dry ravine and past a small waterfall. The ravine provides a shady canopy of tall bay trees and other dry forest species.

Other birds that can be observed are the Trembler (Cincloerthis ruficauda) and the St. Lucian oriole (Icterus laudabilis). The ramier ( Columbia squamosa) sometimes nests in this area.

If you're lucky, you may also see a beautifully colored boa sleeping on the ground.

Since you are forced to look at everything from a distance, take binoculars and a good telephoto lens. The inflated red throat of a nesting frigate, like that displayed by many lizards, is a sight you'll long remember.

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