Cuba Mar 13—24, 2018
Posted by David Ascanio
The Santa Clara airport was packed with Cubans greeting their relatives who had brought an endless amount of stuff, from plasma televisions to duffle bags loaded with clothes, electronics, and much more. The luggage belt at the airport arrivals seemed more like a storage house than an international airport! Once out of this chaotic situation, we were already searching for Cuban birds. Our goal was to see something special, but the ubiquitous Turkey Vulture showed up right away and was followed by another common and widespread species, the House Sparrow. Thus, these were our very first Cuban birds. But good species started to appear within minutes, and our great Cuban birding experience took off with the widespread and endemic Cuban Blackbird, the wonderful Red-legged Thrush, and the never-stopping Antillean Palm-Swifts nesting in the thatched roof of the hotel’s reception desk. At night, we enjoyed encounters with a Dusky Dwarf Boa, plus several spiders and Cuban Tree Frogs everywhere.
The following day started with a blast of target species and Caribbean specialties. Along with many Cuban Blackbirds and Red-legged Thrush, we were rewarded with scope views of the Cuban Pygmy Owl accompanied by a mob that included Cuban Emerald, the seemingly “plastic-legged” Red-legged Honeycreeper, a pair of Cuban Pewees (they looked more worried than angry!), and an active Cape May Warbler, as well as Yellow-rumped Warbler and Northern Parula. After a bird-active morning, we left towards the north road, to Cayo Coco in Jardines del Rey Archipelago.
On Cayo Coco, Cayo Paredón Grande, and Cayo Guillermo we focused on target species restricted to NE Cuba and some other widespread species. Here we obtained our first view of the brightly-assembled Cuban Tody, plus a pair of Cuban Gnatcatchers (scarce this year, probably due to pairs moved away from the original territory by Hurricane Irma), the common and widespread Oriente Warbler, the wonderful Zapata Sparrow, and the jewel in the crown, the always-secretive Bahama Mockingbird. We also added to our list a good number of waterfowl including several herons and egrets, as well as boreal migrant ducks and teals. Another group well-represented here were the plovers and sandpipers, getting views of 16 species.
Read David’s full report in his Field Report.