While in Aruba, we decided to do a Bucuti & Tara recommended Bird watching trip. It was described as a 5-6 hour trip around the island with a local professional photographer and bird expert, and boy was it great.

Michiel Oversteegen met us on time at 7am at Bucuti Monday morning. He was thoughtful enough to email me a few days prior and recommend having Bucuti provide some food as the excursion started before breakfast would be available. To our surprise, once Francesco at Bucuti learned we were doing the trip, he offered to have food brought to our room the night prior. We were given meats, cheeses, breads, orange juice and more.

Right away, we could see Michiel was truly a bird enthusiast. I think he was more excited to start than we were. He asked us what we were hoping to see and we replied, an owl and flamingo. Other than that we were happy to see whatever he wanted to show us. Within 20 minutes, we were at the Burrowing Owl’s home!! The owl was much smaller than we could have ever imagined. So small that as Michiel and I were taking pictures, my wife was still trying to spot him. Michiel explained there are many burrows around the island, but the tourism industry is affecting their habitat. Actually, he explained the tourism industry is affecting many of the local species environment. It would seem the Aruba government doesn’t enforce the protected areas very well, and are often damaged by tourists. In our opinion, the damage isn’t on purpose by tourists, it’s just a lack of knowledge. Michiel is very passionate about protecting the island’s wildlife.

Throughout the day, Michiel would drive us from spot to spot showing us what Aruba has to offer. We saw various birds such as pelicans and terns. I was amazed to find a Brown Booby as well!

We continued on to the mangroves and saw the most colorful hummingbirds we have ever seen. We even visited two other owl’s nests.

One of the stops was to the Bubali Bird Sanctuary. This is actually very close to Bucuti, maybe even walking distance if you can stand the temperatures. Here we observed various water birds like Muscovy Ducks, Cormorants, and Herons. One rare sighting that happened just before we were going to leave was the Purple Gallinule. I managed to grab some great pictures of it leaving the area.

We then went in search of the Caracara. This took us off-roading for 30 minutes or more along the ocean on dirt paths. We spotted an Osprey with a fresh kill, and a protective Oystercatcher. The Oystercatcher was hilarious. She had a nest nearby in the rocks and did not enjoy us being there. She first ran, then flew up to us, angrily making her calls at us. She even flew directly next to the drivers window as we drove away from her. As we drove away to let her be, the trip was nearing its end. We didn’t spot the Caracara, but it’s a great reason to come back again another day.

On the drive back to the hotel, Michiel quickly stops and turns into a dry barren parking lot. He says he saw a flamingo. We see nothing but the Rosette spoonbills that were there earlier in the morning. But sure enough, in between them was a juvenile flamingo. We expected a flamingo to be pink, but since this one was young, it has not eaten enough shrimp to turn its coat pink. Michiel said this was a lucky sighting as the Flamingo can be here a day or two and then move on to Bonaire, a local habitat for it.

Michiel reminded us both about how knowledgeable a Safari guide is. While on previous safaris, our guides seemed to have laser vision to spot everything big and small. Michiel’s knowledge of bird calls was the most impressive. We would be driving with the windows down and he would be calling out birds that he heard along the way. He could explain their breeding habits, where they are typically located, even tell the owls apart from one another. Truly impressive. We certainly hope to come back for another day birding in Aruba.

The following is a list of the birds spotted on this trip (hopefully I identified them correctly as it was a lot to take in!)

Purple Gallinule, Common Gallinule, Blacks-faced Grassquit Bananaquit, Bare-eyed Pigeon, Tropical Mockingbird, Venezuelan Troupial, Roseate Spoonbill, American Kestrel, American Oystercatcher, Osprey, Neotropic Cormorant Black crowned Night Heron Muscovy Duck, American Coot, Brown pelican, Green heron, Black-necked stilt, Tricolored Heron, Killdeer, White-rumped Sandpiper, Brown Booby, Royal Tern, Least Tern, Laughing gull, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Ruby-topaz hummingbird, Blue-tailed Emerald hummingbird, Burrowing Owl, Caribbean Elaenia, Yellow Warbler, Gray Kingbird, American Flamingo, Black Skimmer

Below are some more photos from the trip.

Photos from my trip to Aruba in 2021