Birding with Michiel Oversteegen

Michiel is famous in Aruba for his bird images, he posts everyday on his Facebook page, he also tells dramatic stories about the winged residents of our island: A female blue-tailed emerald, a hummingbird, trying to outwit a troupial and protect her nest from this arch enemy’s destruction, three baby shoco owls peek out of their burrow near the California lighthouse, as a fleet of muddy, blue UTVs thunders over their little heads, flying, like they are in a rush to somewhere, a great egret, fluffing his dazzling white plumage before taking off, an American oystercatcher, in action, breaking a shell open with his powerful red bill, apparently in nature breakfast is served all day, and danger is ever-present, like sunshine.  

We asked to join Michiel on his adventures one day, and last Friday 7am we met at the Alhambra parking lot for a three to four-hour bird watching experience.

You too can schedule a trip, Michiel is now a fully licensed, insured, certificated private nature tour guide, available via:, check it out. Recommended!

We have about 270 different species registered, explains Michiel, which is an amazing variety for an island with a surface area of just 70sqm, but due to Aruba’s geographic location, migratory birds visit Aruba during both cycles, North to South and South to North. In addition, Aruba is just 15miles from the coast of Venezuela, and therefore we see a lot of their migrants and shoot-overs from the Latin continent.

What did we see? We saw a dozens of species, hundreds of birds. Michiel took us on a short spin behind the butterfly farm, bordering Bubali Plas, then up the California lighthouse and along the trail behind the dunes, then down to the beach to watch the brown pelicans preen – I could have sat there the whole day, watching how they arrange and re-arrange their feathers, methodically grooming then drying their wings. It is a fascinating, never-ending chore. From the beach we went to the ruins of the gold smelt at Balashi, down a trail to the salina, up mosquito lane to a dense jungle teeming with crab, below, and birds above! We ended our tour at Huchada bakery with a well-deserved coffee and pastechi, in Santa Cruz.

I suspect Michiel has a soft spot for the Peregrine falcon, he picks him up from the distance like he has a special peregrine-dar, and his pictures reveal a raptor with intelligent doe eyes and spectacular undercarriage coloring.

Michiel is a fountain of knowledge and he sees birds everywhere and points them out, he talks about their mating habits and diet, likes and dislikes, he takes pictures incessantly with a x600 zoom, and is a tireless champion of nature protection here. Which can be very frustrating.

What we learned: We don’t do anything to protect our nature, and there is a lot of illegal activity going on as the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Transportation and the minister of Infrastructure go ahead granting exploitation permits and ignoring Lawlessness in Optima Forma, as Michiel calls it.

And parliament? They don’t question anything. The island’s recent spatial plan, ROP2019, designating green areas, restricted to low impact traffic, is IGNORED.

The Shoco population, for example, Aruba’s national symbol, protected by law, favoring the area behind the lighthouse, is suffering, more than 10 nests have been destroyed in this relatively small area during the past few years.

I don’t understand, says Michiel, if there is a trail in the wilderness, why do the tours have to blaze a new different one each time, if they kept to a designated route, they would prevent this relentless crisscrossing of the landscape that crushes everything beneath the sand, from eggs to sources of food.

I keep talking about it every day, until someone listens.

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November 21, 2020
Rona Coster