Saturday, February 06, 2010

Puerto Rico Day 5: Finding What We Missed

We started around 6:00AM and headed back to Guanica State Forest to try once more for the Puerto Rican Nightjar. We drove to the forest, headed up the road at a closed gate, and stood waiting in the darkness. Actually, it was a bright moon, so it wasn’t really that dark. In any event, it wasn’t long before we heard a “Whirr!” of a nightjar. It was quite close, but deep enough in the dense woods that we couldn’t see it. We heard 1 or 2 others, but never did see one. It was cool knowing that we were hearing a bird that only exists in this small area of Puerto Rico and nowhere else on the planet. We also heard a Puerto Rican Screech Owl.

With one target species down, we grabbed breakfast and then hit the road. This was mostly a travel day to El Yunque, basically across the southern part of PR from west to east, but we did have a few more birding stops to pick up some other birds we hadn’t seen yet. Our first stop was back to the feeder area where we had less-than-desirable views of the Yellow-shouldered Blackbird the day before. This time there were several of them on trees near the feeding station. They were joined by some Shiny Cowbirds, a known nuisance to the blackbird’s population, and also a ton of Eurasian Collared-Doves.

Yellow-shouldered Blackbird

We then went back to Guanica State Forest for some daytime birding. It was quite windy and the forest was very quiet. We were standing around and listening when I saw something move in my peripheral vision. It was a Mangrove Cuckoo!

cuckoo Hello there!

We also had great looks at two Puerto Rican Todies. It’s hard to pick a favorite PR bird, but this one is certainly high on the list. Tody pictures below.



Our next stop was back to Laguna Cartajena NWR to look for West Indian Whistling-Ducks. While looking for them, we found a couple Least Grebes, a bird I hadn’t seen since 2005 in South Texas. I like their beady little eyes. We had terrific views of one West Indian Whistling-Duck flying by, but it landed out of view. The sky was filled with Cave Swallows and I was able to pick out an oddball in the group, which turned out to be a Caribbean Martin. We had a long ride ahead of us and one more birding spot.

Caribbean Coot – Notice how high the white face shield goes up its head.

cattleegrets Cattle Egrets are everywhere in PR

After a bit of a drive, a nap, and a stop at Sizzler (they still have those?), we stopped at a school baseball field in a tiny town. Oddly, this is the best spot in PR to see Plain Pigeon* (what a name!), a rare Caribbean specialty. Sure enough, we quickly found one high in a tree on a hill side. It’s not as plain-looking as its name suggests.

After the pigeon site, we were on the road heading to El Yunque and the Casa Cubuy eco-lodge. We arrived at the lodge after dark. After dinner, we listened for screech owls. We heard one, but the wind and rain were not conducive to finding the bird. This was our last night in PR. Stay tuned for some cool hummingbirds and thoughts on Casa Cubuy in the next installment.

*I think the worst West Indian bird name goes to the Sad Flycatcher.


John said...

That one frame has almost as many Cattle Egrets as I've seen in my entire time birding.

Patrick B. said...

They are very abundant in Central America and the Caribbean Islands. There was a roost near one of our hotels. I watched hundreds upon hundreds pass by my window, but couldn't see the roost from there.

dguzman said...

Wow. Did you look at the pic on the far right in your linked Sad Flycatchers? He looked on the verge of tears!

Patrick B. said...

The question is... was he sad before he had the name or is he sad because of the name?

The Zen Birdfeeder said...

As I looked through the Birds of the West Indies guide recently, I fell in love with the tody! What a great little bird. Lucky you getting to see one!

H├ęctor said...

Hi Patrick,

I'm very happy you had such a great experience in Puerto Rico. I was who originally contacted Charlie of 10,000 birds to dedicate a month to Puerto Rico's biodiversity.

I regret to announce you that just weeks after your trip to the Guanica State forest and listening the endemic and endangered Puerto Rican Nightjar, the Puerto Rican Planning Board approved the development of a wind turbine complex in the Guayanilla Municipality, a dry forest region adjacent to the Guanica forest. This is also habitat of the Nightjar, which has been heard and seen in the area. We have no idea of the impact this development of 25 turbines will have on this and other endangered species, but the future is not promising at all.

I'm really happy you enjoyed your trip here. We would be delighted to have you back. Experiences like yours will surely help instruct governmental agencies about the economic potential of conservation. We need (quite desperately) an international and national assurance of the importance of biodiversity and ecosystems.

Take care and thanks for your posts and AMAZING photos!