Scriber and Hiking in Search of A Rare Glimpse of the Montserrat Oriole
Montserrat island is like a diamond in the rough. Years of hardship have remade this Caribbean travel destination. Once the top choice of jet-setting global celebrities, Montserrat is now something wholly different. Something wilder, more rustic and less posh, though no less beautiful. No less fun, rewarding, and inspiring. Unlike in its heyday, the Montserrat of today demands more than a cursory glance to fully find and appreciate its essence. It demands you enlist the assistance of a man curiously named Scriber.
Who is Scriber?
Born James Daley, “Scriber” got his nickname from his childhood penchant for “describing” everything. As a youth, he even used Describer as his calypso moniker when performing across Montserrat. Over time, it became shortened to just Scriber. Around the same time, he refocused his efforts from soca to the natural world.
For decades, he honed his craft. Scriber learned every trail, bird, frog, bush, and more on Montserrat while working for the island’s Forestry Division. Then in 2010, he opened Scriber’s Adventure Tours to take visitors on hikes through the Centre Hills and the green heart of Montserrat.
I met Scriber bright and early (after a truly ill-timed adventure with Montserrat bush rum) for just such a hike on the Oriole Trail. Named after the national bird, I was promised a sight few locals had ever seen: the Montserrat Oriole frolicking in the wild.
About The Montserrat Oriole
For all the suffering and hardship endured by the people of Montserrat, the natural beauty of the island endures in the marvelous Montserrat Oriole. Critically endangered, it is the island’s only endemic bird species. This is only natural, of course, as the Montserrat Oriole resides nowhere else on earth.
All of Montserrat’s cataclysmic volcano eruptions and hurricanes? Yeah, this special oriole has seen and experienced it all.
More importantly, none of Montserrat’s setbacks were ever too much for the Montserrat Oriole. It never gave up on Montserrat. It never left.
Indeed, you couldn’t pick a better symbol for the resilient people of Montserrat.
For me, though, the question remained: Could Scriber, one of the most prominent Montserratians, help me see one in the wild?
Hiking the Oriole Trail
Right off the bat, Scriber was true to his name — plucking leaves off trees and going into precise (but still captivating) detail into their characteristics, uses, and place in local culture. This, of course, was great. Just a few minutes into our trek and Scriber already had me feeling vibing with the wilds of Montserrat.
Another plus: for the most part, the hike wasn’t too tough. Unfortunately, I was still struggling after the previous night’s libations and my traveling partner, Dave, was fresh off his grueling half-marathon run. Scriber didn’t mind. He just kept excitedly pulling us through the forest pointing out this and that and punctuating his sentences with exotic bird calls of all kinds.
Soon enough, he paused, listened, gave one more call, then pointed. There it was, just about 10 feet above our heads. A golden ball of feathers with a jet-black head and tail. It turned to look us over. I can’t be sure, but it almost seemed as though the bird recognized Scriber as an old friend. They chatted back and forth for a few moments in fits and starts of multiple calls. Then, once their morning catch-up was done, the bird flitted away into the green.
From there, we saw countless other birds, frogs, plants and more on our hike. At one point we even crested a hill for a magnificent vista across half the island. The highlight by far, though, was our brief encounter with Montserrat’s national bird.
How to Hike with Scriber
Hiking with Scriber is one of the best ways to truly experience the natural beauty of Montserrat. Excursions are available to those visiting Montserrat, as well as travelers making day trips from Antigua and other nearby islands.
Learn more about all the excursions that Scriber offers at his website, or follow Scriber on Facebook.
Pro tip: When you go, take it easy on the bush rum beforehand, and say ‘hi’ to that one Montserrat Oriole for me!