Challenges of Morne Michel

Lake Peligre as seen from Morne Michel after an evening thunderstorm.

My team spent this past Thursday and Friday in Morne Michel. We arrived mid-morning on Thursday and spent the night, leaving after our survey work on Friday morning. This was our first of three visits to Morne Michel for our research and the physical differences between it and Bois Jolie stuck with me. For starters, Morne Michel has generally more tree cover than Bois Jolie and its terrain is more dramatic, with ravines cutting through steep slopes. The weather in Morne Michel was different as well. Clouds brushed the mountain tops during both evening and morning, which made for some stunning vistas, but also created some challenges for me and my data collection.

When I woke up Friday morning to collect my bird data, a blanket of low clouds hung over the village. Initially I was thankful for the cloud cover. After a hot and sunny hike the day before, I welcomed the cool grey morning. However, as Ephesian and I walked the routes we’d planned, some of the clouds dipped across our paths and made bird-spotting difficult. Soon after that, as the sun rose, this mist became even more difficult to deal with.

When most people think of a sunrise it evokes thoughts of grandeur and natural beauty. After Friday, I can say that for me sunrises also conjure images of blindness and whiteout. As the sun rose, the mist around us lit up, turning the open air above and below us into a bright white sheet. The effect of this was to backlight everything to the east of my bird routes, further complicating bird identification. By slowing our pace Ephesian and I were still able to have a productive morning at the expense of my tired eyeballs.

I’m not sure whether the weather on Friday is standard for Morne Michel, but if it is then Morne Michel is going to be a bigger challenge than Bois Jolie. That being said, I can’t wait to see if the differences between the two villages are reflected in the types of birds I encounter over the rest of my study.

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