Our altered celebrations are over–black Friday was just weird–and now Christmas descends with the same uncertainties as Thanksgiving. Anyone else feeling a little out of sorts over the scrambled holiday? Finding it a little hard to focus? How about we journey to someplace warm and beautiful where we can escape reality for a short time?
After playing the board game Wingspan on Thanksgiving, my mind has been on birds. What would it be like to travel to exotic locations to observe these amazing and beautiful creations in their habitat? And, what if, while we were on that trip, we also looked for the elusive Chickcharney. Sound fun?
Join us as we go birding and also do some virtual legend tripping. But first, we have to travel to the Bahamas. Who’s up for that?
I mean . . . a virtual trip, of course. Hop on our virtual airplane.
Sit wherever you like. No restrictions here. Someone will be by soon to offer refreshments. Maybe some leftover pumpkin pie. There was plenty of leftovers this year.
While we’re flying, here are some details on the Chickcharney and what you can expect from this trip.
- This flightless critter is said to live on Andros Island.
- It has the face of an owl, the tail of monkey, and has 3 fingers and 3 toes.
- It’s about 3-feet tall and is covered in feathers but looks furry.
- Bahamian folklore suggests these birds roam the deep forest underbrush, but also climb trees, using that peculiar tail for stability.
- It is said they make their nest by joining two pine trees at the top.
Due to copyright infringements, we’re unable to provide you a better image of Andros Island, but for a printable tourist map click here. The red portion of the map above is northern Andros Island. That is where we will be exploring. The pine forests are in the northernmost tip.
At 142 miles long and 40 miles wide, Andros is the largest island of the Bahamas and the fifth largest in the Caribbean. Andros is actually comprised of a number of smaller islands, which are connected by a long straight road that runs nearly 100 miles down the east coast.
Historical Andros Island
The Bahamian Islands were first discovered by Christopher Columbus October 12, 1492, when it’s believed he landed on San Salvador Island. Wikipedia tells us “The Lucayans, a subgroup of the Taíno people, were indigenous to the Bahamas at the time of European encounter.” Throughout the next few centuries, Europeans colonized the islands, bringing slaves from Africa to try their hand at growing cotton. By the mid 1800s most gave up on what turned out to be an unprofitable venture and returned to Europe.
Present Day Andros Island
On Andros Island, you’ll be able to boat, swim, scuba dive, shop, and play. But since most of you are probably bird watchers and cryptid hunters, we will also be hiking the mangrove marshes, pine forests, and the fresh water reservoir to search for the Chickcharey.
Along the way, we’ll be on the lookout for exotic birds; the beautiful, 20 pound, endangered Andros Rock Iguana; and the Andros Boa. To learn more about Bahamian Boas, check out the children’s book: Bahamian Boa: A Tabby Tale. In this story the Five-Finger Fairy, teaches readers about the natural history of these native, but often misunderstood, snakes. This would make a great gift for the reptile lover in the family.
We’ll be landing soon, so fasten your seat belts and put away those winter jackets. It’s a pleasant 78 degrees on the ground. Everyone, take a look out your window.
Before we head out to explore, we’ll check into your home away from home for the next couple days. While most groups fly from Nassau to San Andros daily, we’ve arranged with locals to stay in a couple bungalows along a secluded and groomed beach to the north, nearest the Pine Forests at the very northern tip. Everyone will have a beachside hammock to enjoy the sunrise or sunset. And there will be no major crowds here. You’re welcome!
Search for the Chickcharney
After a relaxing evening on the beach, and a hearty breakfast of fire engine and grits, a local guide drives us into the northern interior to search for exotic birds, wildlife, and the Chickcharney. Guided tours are a fairly new tourist venture on Andros Island, but birding is not. Below is an excerpted quote from Audobon.org. We’ll just assume this author’s adventure as our own while we continue on our virtual journey:
“Do you hear that faint coo?” Johnson asks, as we make our way through short pines and thick undergrowth, dodging around poisonwood trees. “That’s the Key West Quail Dove, one of the most secretive birds we have. They love this thick stuff.”
Walking through a marshy area that’s still sooty from a recent fire, we hear the whining of a Red-legged Thrush, then spot it carrying nesting materials up to the treetops. We also catch sight of a Bahama Yellowthroat; later in the day I’ll see a Bahama Oriole, a Great Lizard-Cuckoo, and a Bahama Woodstar, an endemic hummingbird that sports a bright-purple gorget. Other uncommon birds include the Bahama Swallow, Key West Quail-Dove, and West Indian Whistling-Duck.Tom Clynes. “On Andros Island, the Birding Is Prime and the Crowds Are Sparse.” AUDOBON.ORG. August 28, 2018.
As we journey on, we explore Andros Island caves.
We search along freshwater sources. (Andros has The Bahamas’ only freshwater river, exporting 19-million liters of fresh water a day through Nassau).
And just when we’re about to return to the bungalows we see the telltale sign of the Chickcharney: Two tall pine trees, reaching for the sky, changed course and grew into one another, touching high overhead to create the perfect shelter. Our guide tells us:
“If you treat this impish, mischievous bird nicely, it will grant you good luck, but if you laugh at it, the creature will curse you with the worst kind of misery.”
The trees move. Everyone takes a closer look. And there, ensconced in the boughs of tightly woven needles, is the most unusual bird we’ve seen today. We stay only a few minutes, and no one takes a picture, fearing our curiosity will be mistaken for rudeness. No sense inviting bad luck when we’re at the tale end of hurricane season, a long way from home, and it’s still 2020.
Speaking of home. Are you ready to go back? I know, the escape from reality has been nice, but Christmas is coming. We need to be in the moment to celebrate no matter how interrupted the festivities might be because, regardless of the circumstances, Christmas is still the season where hope begins…
Have you been to the Bahamas? If so, what was your favorite part of the trip?
What are you most thankful for as we head into the new year? (and you can’t say “2020 being over”).
Disclaimer: Depictions of cryptids on our website may veer slightly from traditional descriptions. If you’d like to see more flying cryptids, click here.