We spent the night of day 3 at Hacienda Juanita, a lodge in the mountains on a banana and coffee plantation. It was a bit rustic, but comfortable enough. On the hotel grounds, we listened for the endemic Puerto Rican Screech Owl and heard multiple individuals. One was so close but it was straight up a rock wall that butted against the lodge. There was no way to see it.
The view from the Hacienda Juanita
We woke the morning of day 4 to find that our breakfast was slightly delayed. The cook wasn’t there yet, so we’d have to wait a little. We took the opportunity to do a little birding around the property and saw some of the same species we’d already seen. Breakfast was worth the wait. I had a great omelet and some hot harina cereal. Tasty! We also had good views of a female Puerto Rican Emerald (a hummingbird) from the breakfast table. After breakfast, I was buying coffee in the office when I heard one of the leaders call from outside, “Antillean Euphonia!” While not an endemic, it’s a much sought-after Caribbean species. We all had amazing looks at a male and female checking out bromeliads (that’s where they nest) in a large tree in the parking lot. What luck!
We packed up and left Hacienda Juanita for another shot at the Lesser Antillean Pewee at the nearby fishery. Luck was with us again and it was there, flycatching from a perch over a creek. Neat bird! Too small and far for photos though. The late breakfast turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
We packed into the minivan again and made our way to the coast, specifically Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge. On our way there, the leader saw an odd animal cross the road. We did a u-turn to see what it was and it turned out to be… MONKEYS! Macaques to be exact. There are no native monkeys on Puerto Rico. These are apparently escapes from a feral colony on a nearby island. No one knows how they got to the mainland, according to one local.
Cabo Rojo is a GORGEOUS area in the southwest corner of PR with the turquoise waters of the Caribbean beating against red cliffs that give Cabo Rojo (the red coast) its name. It’s much drier than the rest of the places we had visited. We saw cacti and succulent plants all around.
We got our first taste of shorebirds for the trip at Cabo Rojo with side-by-side Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Ruddy Turnstone, Dunlin, and Spotted Sandpiper. A group of Royal Terns lounged atop a group of pilings as well.
The whole time, the Los Morillos Lighthouse loomed high on a cliff watching over us.
We walked up to the lighthouse to get a good view of the sea. The view was breathtaking.
A Brown Booby soared right over our heads and joined a dozen of its brethren on a large rock in the sea. I had distant views of these birds in Australia, but these views were fantastic, although the light was harsh and my photos reflect that.
We left Cabo Rojo and continued to Laguna Cartajena NWR, a large marsh and home to Caribbean Coots and West Indian Whistling-Ducks. This was one of my favorite stops on the trip. I love waterfowl and wading birds and this place was chock full of them. Caribbean Coots were plentiful along with Common Moorhens, a few Purple Gallinules, Ruddy Ducks, White-cheeked Pintails, and 9 species of waders. We even had a chance to compare American Coots to Caribbean Coots. The Caribbean’s fast shield extends further up the head than the American’s. We looked for the West Indian Whistling-Duck, but didn’t see one. So we planned to return the next day, since we had something big waiting for us.
We left Laguna Cartajena and headed to the town of Parguera, looking for the endangered and endemic Yellow-shouldered Blackbird. They live in the mangroves, but come to a local feeder next to a little store each afternoon. Our timing was a bit late and the birds were already in the mangroves. After much waiting, we did see a few birds silhouetted in a bare tree in the mangroves. These would have to wait for another try the next morning as well.
In the evening, we went to Guanica State Forest, the stronghold of the Puerto Rican Nightjar. Unfortunately, we didn’t hear or see this rare species. It was incredibly windy and perhaps this kept the birds down. After much waiting, we decided to pack it in.
At dinner, we agreed to wake up extra early to try again for the nightjar. More on that in our next installment and more photos from Laguna Cartajena.