Posts Tagged ‘urban animals’

A Short Walk in Aruba

1 September 2019

Aruba lies on a diagonal (per conventional maps) in the south Caribbean Sea. On its sheltered southwest side live most of its people. A city called Oranjestad serves as its capital and main port. This is where I walked during my recent visit.

freewinds-trip-20190817-15-aruba-tourist-poster

For family and others that might have a sense of this, Aruba is just a bit larger than Beaver Island (largest island in Lake Michigan).

The climate in Aruba is similar to Sacramento. Average annual rainfall is just 19 inches, though this can vary considerably. Average temperature is in the 80s, and because it is so close to the equator, this varies little year round. Thus, the plants there do not really experience seasons, and I found many with new flowers, wilted flowers, and fruit all on the same plant at the same time. The island is at about 12 degrees north, compared to 38 degrees north for Sacramento and 32 degrees north for San Diego.

As mentioned earlier, it has a mixed Spanish/Dutch heritage (not including the original inhabitants who came from South America). Most islanders speak Papiamento as their first language, a Portuguese-based Creole brought in from Portuguese Africa. It also uses a lot of Spanish words and some Dutch words. And so we see the buildings that are typical of these towns have a Dutch-European flare:

freewinds-trip-20190817-34-aruba-shop-building

The above building is near the center of the shopping district, and the ones shown below are just a few blocks away.

freewinds-trip-20190817-26-aruba-havenstr

The shopping streets have the “nice” trees of this area, acacia and various others. Here is a typical acacia:

freewinds-trip-20190817-30-aruba-acacia-tree

Notice the pods, marking this plant as a legume. Legumes are known in the plant world as being “nitrogen fixing.” This means that they can serve as hosts to a kind of bacterium capable of removing nitrogen from air in the soil. The plant then uses this nitrogen in its leaves and seeds, also leaving much of it in nodules on its roots. When any of these plant parts die, they fertilize the soil, assuming the dead parts are left on (or in) the ground.

Here we have the flowers for this tree. You see here almost no petals. Unlike their cousins the locusts that grow farther north, the acacias are adapted to dry weather and that means different flowers.

freewinds-trip-20190817-37-aruba-acacia-flowers

Here is another tree seen on the shopping streets. I have not been able to identify it.

freewinds-trip-20190817-32-aruba-tree

There was a persistent chirping coming from many of these trees, but it was difficult to identify its source. That is because the bird responsible for the noise is quite small and prefers to stay inside tree foliage. It is known as the bananaquit and is very common in these regions. I finally saw one sitting out on a palm across the street and did my best to get a picture of it.

freewinds-trip-20190817-45-aruba-bananaquit

I walked out towards the edge of the shopping district, where buildings and plants changed a bit. The buildings got more run-down, and the plants became more indigenous. I don’t know about the animals, though!

freewinds-trip-20190817-52-aruba-rooster

It seems these free-running chickens know to stay out of the shopping areas. This rooster is sitting in a tree that is very common in this area, and which I have identified as a tropical mesquite. Mesquites do well in arid regions. They are causing ranchers considerable trouble in the southern United States because they crowd out grazing grasses which feed cattle better and also hold soil better. But, that is a different issue.

Here the mesquite don’t seem to be causing any particular problems. And as they are also leguminous, we again have nitrogen fixing happening where they grow.

freewinds-trip-20190817-60-aruba-probably-mesquite

Given the opportunity, mesquite will “lay down” and shade a considerable area. Notice also the traffic barriers, or bollards, which are seen all over these islands. Variations of these are used in many cities to deter vehicles from entering certain areas.

A closer look at these trees reveals the characteristic pinnately-compound leaf (arranged like a feather; pinna = feather) and seed pods.

freewinds-trip-20190817-61-aruba-mesquite-with-pods

freewinds-trip-20190817-53-aruba-mesquite-tree-branch

On photographing more of these trees, I came upon this odd image, mostly a shadow from my viewpoint. I brought out a little detail by running auto-color-correct on the image.

freewinds-trip-20190817-57-aruba-lizard-in-tree

As I continued my walk, I saw many more of these lizards, which all look basically like iguana to me.

I walked back into town along a sort of drainage ditch. It was well-kept but definitely had the appearance of a drain. Along the way I ran across several more showy plants and a few animals. I have not identified this tree with lovely yellow flowers:

freewinds-trip-20190817-35-aruba-flowering-tree

This, however, is a cordia. It has some other common names. According to articles, the fruit is edible but not tasty.

freewinds-trip-20190817-71-aruba-cordia_sebestena-flowers-and-fruit

Right at the water I found this bush, a seagrape.

freewinds-trip-20190817-68-aruba-seagrape-tree

And hanging above my head, coconuts:

freewinds-trip-20190817-69-aruba-coconuts

In a park near the harbor for small boats, I saw this lizard. It did not seem too concerned about me being there, and was quite patient while I photographed it.

freewinds-trip-20190817-91-aruba-lizard

Likewise, a brown pelican, sitting just a few feet away. The pelicans are just one of many sea birds that frequent the coast. Another one – more difficult to photograph – is the frigate bird, constantly soaring near shore.

freewinds-trip-20190817-93-aruba-pelican

The harbor and similar tourist amenities weren’t stressed in this post, but here is a view of it:

freewinds-trip-20190817-25-aruba-LGSB-bridge-and-harbor

I found the area for the most part quiet and unchallenging. A nice place to go to “get away from it all.” It is not particularly pricey, though the cost of flying there can be several hundred dollars. For some, it is their favorite vacation destination.