Monday, February 01, 2010

Puerto Rico Day 1 & 2: Caribbean Gems

The view from the hotel beach

My friend Mike and I arrived the evening before our birding tour in Puerto Rico to avoid any potential weather-related events that might have caused flight issues. He and I toured around Old San Juan, ate some great local food thanks to a cab driver's recommendation, and drank VERY locally at a dive bar - $1.50 Medalla Light! Bird-wise, we only saw the ubiquitous Bananaquit that first day.

We awoke the next morning and, as I opened the blinds of our balcony, a bird took off from the deck. A Greater Antillean Grackle had brought a chicken bone to our balcony and had been eating it there.

Greater Antillean Grackle

We birded around the hotel a bit where we saw more grackles, a Brown Pelican, Red-legged Thrush (the Puerto Rican version of a robin), and Zenaida Dove.

Zenaida Dove

At 12:30, we met our leaders Kevin and Lena from Wildside Nature Tours and the two other tour participants. After a brief food and fuel stop, we headed west from San Juan toward the town of Hatillo. We made our first birding stop at Laguna Tortuguero, a small woodland area next to a large lake. We immediately started hearing and seeing some of our sought after Puerto Rican endemics.

The first endemic we saw was Adelaide's Warbler - a gorgeous bird, but uncooperative for a photograph. Pearly-eyed Thrashers called from the undergrowth and several female Puerto Rican Spindalises (Spindali?) flitted in the limbs of an Orchid Tree. Luck was with us and a splendid male Spindalis joined the party. He stayed just out of view for a while, but then came down ridiculously close to feed on the flower petals of the Orchid Tree.

PR Spindalis with a piece of petal in his mouth

A hummingbird made itself known by buzzing over the canopy of the tree. It was a female Antillean Mango - a specialty of the Caribbean.

Antillean Mango - the leaf is not really stuck to the end of his bill, just bad positioning in the photo

We also saw some familiar birds like Osprey and Northern Parula and less familiar ones like the introduced Orange-cheeked Waxbill. We ended our time there and continued to our hotel for the night. I had a great dinner of some eggplant dish with a delicious side of rice and beans, along with some flan de vanilla for dessert. Yum. We were off to a terrific start! Day 3 was filled with tremendous birds. More on that later.

Go to day 3


noflickster said...

Really beautiful photos, looking forward to the rest of your trip!

Nate said...

That Spindalis is gorgeous, you nailed that shot. Great stuff!

Anonymous said...

Great photos! Can't wait to hear and see the rest of the trip.

Beth said...

Beautiful pics, Babe!

Alberto said...

NIce photos!!! If you like seafood, make sure to eat a "Mofongo" filled with seafood when you head out to the coast. Thats something I miss so much from P.R. Of the 17 endemics IM predicting you will be able to see at least 14 of them so brace yourself its going to be awesome. Have fun!!

Patrick B. said...

Hola Alberto. I am actually back from my trip and we did very well on the endemics. You'll have to stay tuned for my future posts. I did have some mofongo with shrimp. It was AMAZING!