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  • Writer's pictureHummingbird Retreat

Week 51

Wildlife wonder- Scarlet Ibis

One of my favourite walks here is to go down to Levera National Park and walk along the beach, passing the mangroves that surround the lake, known as Levera Pond. It is a haven for numerous birds and when I asked the Tourist Information, in the capital, about bird watching they said that this was the best spot on the island.

When I was last there I saw a beautiful, elegant white heron which is the juvenile version of the blue herons that are here. There are various wading birds such as the great egrets, green herons, great blue herons, little blue herons, bitterns and black-crowned night herons. As I come towards the end of my ‘First Year in Grenada’ blogs I realise how many more wildlife wonders I could share with you but you will just have to come to Grenada and see them for yourselves!

The most striking wading bird here is the Scarlet Ibis which is very rare and is more often seen in Trinidad and Tobago, where it is their national bird. When they are young they are brown, grey and white and then as they mature they gradually turn into the vibrant scarlet bird shown in the photo.

They are about 50 – 60 cm in length and they have a wingspan of about 50 cm. They spend most of their time wading in water to find food such as insects and shrimps. As strong flyers, these birds can fly long distances, in a classic V formation like geese, reaching speeds of about 25mph and flying for up to about a month at a time. They stay in flocks of about 30 birds and they can live for up to about 16 years.

Grenadian Gift – Music and dance

You can’t go far in Grenada without hearing some upbeat music that will get your feet tapping or some laid-back reggae to encourage you to relax and ‘lime.' The little white minibuses that bounce along the roads, full of people, always have their music turned up high so that conversation is almost impossible and instead, passengers sit back to enjoy the views to the musical soundtrack. As we travel around the island, it is common to pass small bars with large speakers and music and dancing are a key part of Grenadian life whether that is at a party or in a church.

I have passed a number of buildings, in which I can hear a lesson going on with children learning how to play the steelpans, which are a traditional Caribbean sound along with the African drums. There are usually steelpans and drums being played at carnivals, festivals and at various hotels and tourist sites and there are workshops available to learn how to play. If I go into the House of Chocolate, I often meet a friend of mine called Monty who teaches the African drum and is keen for people to understand the significance of this important instrument in Grenadian heritage. There are several groups that keep these musical traditions alive such as the local Tivoli drummers and the Conception dancers.

These traditional dances and music are not just entertainment, they are an important tie to Grenada’s African roots. Hosten’s cousin, Winston Fleary, is pictured in the centre of the photo below. He was instrumental in keeping the traditional Big Drum Dance alive in Carriacou. This dance, shown in the photo above, is danced barefoot with the African wide skirts that the dancers hold and swirl around to the beat of the drum. By researching the dances in Western Africa and comparing them to the dances of Carriacou, Winston was able to identify which areas in Africa the enslaved people of Grenada came from. When he first saw the Grenadian dances from his childhood, being danced on African soil it was a poignant moment of reconnection to the past and a sense of belonging. His work helped Grenadians to connect to their African roots, which was featured on a BBC Radio 4 programme about his work and he was made a Cultural Ambassador for Carriacou by Grenada’s Ministry of Culture.

Reflections from the Retreat

Last week was a very significant and special time to be in Grenada as the island celebrated 50 years of independence. The celebrations started last October and continue throughout the year with numerous events such as various concerts, a calypso competition, a flag relay around the island, historical and art exhibitions, an ecumenical church thanksgiving service and numerous local parties and festivals.

The day before Independence Day is called National Colours Day and everyone is encouraged to wear the red, green and gold of Grenada. I visited Grenville that day, wearing my colours, and saw three different marches of school children, all in their Grenadian colours and waving flags which was such a soul-stirring moment, seeing their pride and excitement. The next day, February 7th was the culmination of all the events with the Independence Day Parade and Cultural Show. I went to the large National stadium along with thousands of others to join in the festivities and I am so glad I saw it first-hand to soak up the atmosphere and join the celebrations.

At the stadium, there were various stalls of local artists, crafts and food. This ‘All Things Grenadian’ exhibition included stall holders selling jewellery, natural oils, candles, artwork and lots of other beautiful things. The crowds, dressed in Grenadian colours, soon packed the stadium with people overflowing onto the steps and cramming all possible areas to get a view of the events. The entertainment lasted about 8 hours and started with traditional parades with a brass band and various troops including the military, police and youth organisations. It was great to see a little Caribbean twist to these parades with some of the military in their smart white uniforms adding some Grenadian freestyle dancing to entertain the crowds.

It was moving to see the jubilation and respect shown to the Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell who gave a stirring speech and the Governor General read out a message from King Charles III. In it, he said that ‘whenever I have met Grenadians anywhere in the world, I was struck by your resilience, the strength of your community, and by your shared determination to make a positive difference.’ (Hearing that made me wonder if he remembered meeting Hosten on two occasions when he visited Christchurch in East London). There were various special guests including leaders from other Caribbean islands and South America and the President of Ghana, which felt a special connection with Grenada’s ancestry.

The evening continued with various traditional dancing and musical numbers and a motorcycle display. One of the tourist trains that is used for tours, circled the stadium, on which were riding a number of centenarians whose names and dates of birth were announced as they held onto the slow-moving train and waved their flags. As the evening progressed there was a concert performed by Grenadian musicians that went on late into the night but the highlight for many was the first drone show in Grenada. This was a very impressive show using over 500 drones, depicting the history of Grenada and celebrating its achievements, along with a celebratory fireworks display.

Each parish is hosting various events and as I live in St Patricks, our events focus around St Patricks Day next month. There will be a sports day, quiz, concerts, a cooking competition, a health and wellness day, tree planting for primary school children and a school debate for secondary schools, amongst other events and I’m sure there will be plenty of music, dance and rum flowing.

The theme for this independence is ‘One People, One Journey, One Future’ and I feel honoured to call myself a Grenadian citizen and be welcomed into this community of ‘one people.’ Grenada feels a youthful and optimistic country with exciting potential for its future. It is a privilege to be here at this moment in time as Grenadians work together to build and develop under the leadership of a young, dynamic prime minister, shown below. Dickon has a genuine heart for his nation, a personal faith that keeps him grounded and a passion to see things develop and so it will be interesting to see what the future brings.

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