Wednesday, April 27, 2011

4H Homeschooling Newsletter Spring 2011

With Thanks to the Parrotfish

By Sophie Barimo

Have you ever wondered where all those nice tropical and sub-tropical beaches we love to play on come from? Other than rock erosion from storms and some sea plants like Halimeda algae, a good majority comes from Parrotfish . What did you just say? Parrotfish make sand?!

Yes, these beautiful fish use their parrot-like beaks to chomp and graze upon red algae, coral polyps and old coral skeletons called limestone. In this limestone, although we can’t see it, is a protein-rich algae living in the pores. They chew this algae up and ingest it to extract the nutrients, and this they poop out as our beautiful white sand.

Did you know that the parrotfish play an important role in the health of the coral reefs?
When they eat away the algae, they leave a place for crustos coroline algae to settle. Coral in turn needs this hard red alga to settle. In other words, the parrotfish create new real estate for coral to live and grow on.

St Thomas Hummingbirds

By Sophie Barimo

We all know hummingbirds as thrumming, humming, nectar-sucking birds.
Have you ever wondered about the different kinds of species here on St Thomas? With these descriptions, you can look out for these hummers and know who’s who.

The Antillean Crested Hummingbird
The Antillean Crested hummer is the most common hummingbird on the island.
They are also the smallest-sized hummers at around 3.25-3.75 inches long.
The male has an iridescent green, flat crest of feathers that starts at the base of its bill, goes up between the eyes and sticks out the back of his head. His back is iridescent green but the rest of him is a dark brownish grey.
The females have no crest, but still have the iridescent green backside and have a beige- grey underside. The females have distinct white patches at the ends of their tail feathers.

Green Throated Carib Hummingbird
This flashy hummer is a bit larger than the Antillean hummer at 4.5-4.75 inches long.
Males and females look a lot alike. They have beautiful iridescent green throats with a little fringe of tindal blue feathers like a necklace just at the bottom of their throats.
The rest of their chest is black, ending at a beautiful indigo and green tail.
Their bills are long and slightly curved, and their heads and back are iridescent green.

The Antillean Mango Hummingbird
The Antillean Mango hummer is the largest of the three hummingbirds, at 4.5-5 inches long.
They resemble the Carib with their green heads and throats, the difference being that they do not have the fringe of blue feathers and their black chest gives way to a beautiful iridescent violet under tail.
The female has a green back and head, and her front is whitish. She also has white patches on the underside of her tail tips.
The juveniles go through a distinct phase during which they have a black stripe down their whitish heads and chest .

These island Hummingbirds are very territorial. They will chase away intruders twice their size to defend their floral dominions. I recently observed an Antillean hummer buzz bomb a Bannaquit while defending it’s flowering Noni tree. The Bananaquit quickly left the hummers territory.

I hope these descriptions help you identify these beautiful jewel colored birds, and that you enjoy watching them as much as I do.

News of the Absurd

By Sophie Barimo

News Flash
Scientist’s are debating whether the 50 lb hermit crab sited near the WAPA (West Antilles Power Association) plant, is a new species, a sub species, or just a scary mutation. The hermit crab was described as wearing an upside-down barnacle encrusted marine toilet. It was last seen eating from a overturned garbage can at around 2:30 this Friday near the school lunch program building.

Oddly, yesterday, in the vicinity of WAPA ,in Crum Bay. A zodiac dinghy owned by a Mr. Bart Sidebottom was reported shredded and his toy poodle was missing. Police are investigating and have issued a warning to the boat community and WAPA employees. There has also been a traffic advisory issued because of the tourist safaris stopping to look.

Crum Bay fisherman and life time island resident, Liston Gumb, while net fishing for sprat this afternoon said, he heard a tremendous snapping and loud rustling in the tam tams. He said he spotted the creature and commented dryly, “Dat be a mighty big soldier crab.”

One WAPA employee who asked to remain anonymous, gave a frightful account of his run in with the beast. “Last night I was out inspecting some severed power cords for suspected vandalism, when I saw some sparking. I pointed my flashlight , and there was the beast. It had glowing googley eyes and was chewing on a power cord. Before I ran I noticed it was wearing a toilet and was being ridden by a toy poodle.

Police are patrolling the area. If you see this creature, don’t approach it, call 911.


  1. Creativity at it's best.... out from the mouths and minds of babes...

    Rock on Sophie gal!


  2. Sophia, just came across your posts. Glad to see that you are continuing to develop your talents as an artist and still have an amazing relationship with all aspects of nature, especially a continued interest in birds. We met in Belize prior to your move to St Thomas. A group of us (Pat, Sharyn, Ingrid, & Cheryl) are getting together in Feb-Mar to sail the BVI's ... with a layover in STT for a few days. We had hoped to knock on your door to say hi .. but we see that you are in Florida!! Thanks for the info on hummingbirds ... we'll take our binoculars with us. Say hi to your folks for us, good luck with your studies!!