Thursday, September 7, 2017

Ode to a Dying Island

In the last three days, i was filled with worry.  Hurricane Irma bearing down on St. Martin, an island I own not just one house but two, with a closing of selling one house set for next week.  So instead of watching the Weather Channel my wife drove me to the airport to go bird.  I would be better off without internet.  So away I went.

I saw two lifer birds in what could be assuming the ABA adds what I have in the bank to the checklist, my 800th bird. wasn't so grand a feeling.

Swallow-tailed gull, Seattle Washington, a great code 5 bird from the Galapagos Islands, which I saw a lot of birders I knew, everyone who was anyone was there on Monday.  Some of the people I thought I was friends with gave me the cold shoulder.  I didn't care.  It was at a nude beach BUT this bird is not on my nude life list...honestly, I didn't think about it, I was distracted by Irma.

I flew immediately to Salt Lake and rented a car to drive to Idaho, on Tuesday Morning, I got another lifer, the new Cassia Crossbill, a bird split off from the red crossbill which lives in the Sawtooth National Forest.  I shall be honest, I can add this lifer bird to my sans clothing list btw, as I thought about it, and the forest was pretty sparse of others.

But it still left me hollow.  I went to Shoshone Falls to get a hotdog but they had turned the water off, I can watch water flow for hours...Not today but they did have food though at the park near Twin Falls Idaho.  Tired and worried as the NOAA forecast moved the hurricane turn westward, I drove in a funk back to Salt Lake.  It was a sleepless night at the hotel.

At 0530 I boarded the plane local time, Irma, a hurricane name meaning immense or universal, a really odd woman's name, and one also a derivation of a goddess of war and destruction came ashore on Orient Beach St Martin.  We all drank Scotch in first class as it was a wake for the island.  The earliest I've ever drank hard liquor.

Since then, I watched video of seven story buildings collapse, and many many pictures of the devastation.  Here is a photo from Anse Marcel, one bay north of Orient.

Image may contain: sky, tree, plant, outdoor and nature

I don't know what to do, I sit here in shock, alcohol numbs but it doesn't sooth the pain, I've seen one photo from the Dutch military copter flying over the Orient Beach Village, it looks as bad as the above photo.  many dead, maybe people I know.  It is bad...really bad.

Here is a comment from the Manager at Club Orient, a place on Orient Beach on the French side.

The island is in complete devastation.

Steve has been able to call briefly by cell, but his battery is almost used up. There is no electricity anywhere on the island, and it will be out for the "foreseeable future."
Markets have been cleaned out. There is no food or water to be had.
Housing is gone. Some people have set up camp under the pool tables at the casino. The casino is gone but the tables provide some security/shelter.
There is no gasoline to be found. Cars are not moving. Steve's car is OK, but all the windows were blown out. I'm not sure any roads are open.
Steve and Linda are OK but in shock. Their room started to fall in so they took refuge in the bathroom with their dog. They were not hurt when the floor above collapsed into their unit. 
Bert (head of maintenance) wasn't as lucky. He was cut by flying glass on the head and arms. He was treated by first aid personnel and will be fine. 
About 12 people took refuge at the Grand Case Beach Club (GCBC). 
Anne spent the night elsewhere and has checked in by phone. She is OK. There is no word yet on Florence (reservations). 
Keep in mind communications are sporadic at best.

Bert's son is trying to get to the resort on foot to assess the situation.

I share this with tears in my eyes.  We've had 15 wonderful years, I've seen exactly 100 bird species, a have a field guide to the island birds coming out (for naught) in a month, but with no tourism on this island in the future it is just something to remember it all by.  They are all gone.

One of two forests that has the threatened scaly naped pigeon is totally defoliated, so I assume they are all dead.

The bridled quail dove??

there were only a couple breeding pairs on the sad so sad....

here are just some pictures I had in a file to copy quickly here, too painful to review much more...

So sad, my two house, one I'm certain totally destroyed and the second...??  The closing next week on the other one... that won't happen.  There is nothing to keep the French family on the island.  There is nothing, no hope and no future..not even food and water....they and those with that have means will leave.  

The airport is destroyed so how will they even get off?  IDK, but a cruise ship will need to be taken there....I'm certain that before the French Army gets there that desperate means will become the norm, so we can't go down there any time soon.  Tourists better arm themselves with whatever they can, rebar, boards, knives, sticks....  For us?  Pray...all we can do.  I could post many many photos of the destruction, but it is can't handle it, beyond a is the view I want to remember..  A view gone....that is Club Orient below from deck of out villa, what was a chalet we owned is certainly as well as all the foliage, gone.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars and over 50 trips........sigh...I told you all that there is more to living than just birding and well, this is one thing.  It could have been worse, we could have been there.  If this was last year, I would have had to abandon my big year.....Life Bird 800?   Big F$%ing deal....does 800 birds matter?....that is my thoughts today.

so sad so sad

To my favorite island...St.. was a good run....



  1. I just keep thinking of you every time I see anything about the storm(s).

    1. could have been worse, set to fly on Tuesday next week and that would have been bad to be down there, ugly down there I hear

  2. Sad indeed - my thoughts are with you, buddy. Press on....

  3. Tragic, but glad you and your family weren't there.

  4. I mourn your loss and also the loss of the island's flora and fauna and human inhabitants too. Nature's Reset Button at work, I suppose.

    1. It is just stuff, in reality. We can always get more stuff. it is the unknown that bugs me, like is it still there? Is it how much will the French Insurance company be a pain. Do I have to go down there for that and when? Hard to say...thx for the wishes


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