"Tranquility Wrapped in Blue" perfectly describes the Caribbean island of Anguilla. The northernmost of the Lesser Antilles, this 35-square-mile British territory is often considered a playground to the stars, where private jets and yachts sometimes outnumber automobiles. But look past the glitterati, and you'll find 33 pristine, sparkling, white-sand beaches and an abundance of excellent birding.
This little, neatly wrapped package hides a wealth of biodiversity. Anguilla's offshore cays are a mecca for nesting seabirds, with 16 different species present during the breeding season, including Red-billed Tropicbird and Sooty Tern. Four of these cays have been designated Important Bird Areas (IBAs) by Birdlife International.
Anguilla's main island is dotted with more than 20 salt ponds, which were once the center of a thriving salt industry, dating back to the Arawak Indians. Today, they provide critical habitat for resident and migratory water birds. Eleven of these ponds have been designated as IBAs, with large colonies of Least Tern and other seabirds, plus abundant shorebirds, like Semipalmated Sandpiper.
The Anguilla bird list reaches 139 species, including 5 Lesser Antillean regional endemics: Lesser Antillean Bullfinch, Pearly-eyed Thrasher, Caribbean Elaenia, Antillean-crested Hummingbird, and Green-throated Carib. In addition to the island's avifauna, five marine parks support several turtle species, colorful reef fish and corals, sharks, and migrating cetaceans. Many of the island's beaches provide nesting habitat for endangered sea turtles. Text courtesy Jackie Cestero/Nature Explorers Anguilla.
Red-billed Tropicbird © Dave Barnes