Monday, January 16, 2017

CUBA Day 4-5 (01-02Jan2017)

I realized after my last post that I left off all the photos from the afternoon of Day 4 so here is a post starting from that afternoon through the end of Day 5.  After lunch at Playa Larga we headed to a tourist spot called Cueva de los Peces (Fish Cave).  This is a "Blue Hole" or submerged cave that is super deep and supposedly has a connection with the ocean through some deep tunnel.  Its popular with SCUBA divers and SCUBA diver groupies.  Nothing is more sexy than a SCUBA diver.  Anyway we did not go there for the fish or cave or even the SCUBA divers.

Red-legged Thrush - although this bird is common, it was too cool to ignore and I was forced to crush it with my camera repeatedly.

Cuban Green Woodpeckers are also crowd pleasers.

A fly-by Magnificent Frigatebird was nice.  Pretty much the coolest bird in silhouette possible.

This Cuban Green Woodpecker looked like he was bleeding out from his throat but Derb assured me it was just his natural plumage.

WTF!!!! This was too much to process.  Keep in mind we spent the better part of that morning looking all through the forest for one brief glimpse of this bird that was supposed to be ultra secretive.  Then we see this.  Turns out that the restaurant staff from the Cave attraction throws out rice daily and the Blue-headed Quail-doves have learned to come in and party.  This has only happened over the past couple years. Before that finding them was a chore.

Next time I go to Eleuthera at my Dad's place I am going to start spreading rice in the back yard for Key-west Quail-doves.

Unfortunately this is the best picture that I got for a Tawny-shouldered Blackbird, another Cuban endemic.  I kept thinking I would have better opportunities so I didn't spend much time trying to photograph them and then all of a sudden were were on our way to the airport 10 days later.  You can barely see the tawny shoulder under the wing coverts here.

West Indian Woodpecker

On the way to our next stop we saw a Cuban Blackhawk sitting in a tree so we pulled over and quickly found some other distractions.

Yellow-headed Warbler - Cuban endemic and although it was formerly put in the Parulidae family, they are reclassifying to its own family along with the Oriente Warbler which is found further East.

Cuban Blackhawk - little did we know we would see a ton of these later.

Time was running out for New Year's Day so we hurried to our next stop back at Bernabe's house for another crack at Zunzuncito and to give him his gift from the Carolina Bird Club.

Bernabe in the middle with his new hummingbird feeder.

Plenty of Black-throated Blues still hanging out in his Firebush.

Female Cuban Bee Hummingbird

Cuban Emerald

The star of the show - Zunzuncito!

Everyone on these trips tries to be the guy or girl that finds the rare bird that we only see once.  For example Len found the Fernandia's Flicker.  I wanted one so when a group of Cuban Parrots flew overhead before everyone could get on them, I followed the general direction they went and found a large Kapok Tree full of Parrots and Parakeets. Everyone was able to get good looks.  My 30 seconds of fame lasted a bit more than 30 seconds but not much more because we saw the Parrots again a couple times later in the trip.

Cuban Parrot

Finally our last stop for New Year's Day was La Turba in Zapata Swamp for Red-shouldered Blackbird.  This blackbird species that looks pretty much like a Red-winged Blackbird is a Cuban endemic and lives only in this very restricted range kind of like the Yellow-shouldered Blackbird of a little corner in southwest Puerto Rico. Supposedly it can be difficult to find them but we actually found them pretty quickly.

Red-shouldered Blackbird

January 2 was the big day for finding one of the harder to find endemics - the Zapata Wren.  This little wren is very secretive and usually stays well inside the Zapata Swamp (marsh).  The Zapata Rail also inhabits the same marsh but Angel Martinez has been looking for it for 50 years and only seen it 3 times so we were not counting on that species.

Angel did hear a wren pretty quickly once we made it to his pre-determined spot but we had a hard time getting it to come and say hello.

I count myself lucky for getting this one poor shot as I don't think anyone else in the group did get a picture.

Black-and-white Warbler

La Sagra's Flycatcher with a missing/molted tail.

Loggerhead Kingbird

Zapata Sparrow - another Cuban endemic.  Not sure why they call it Zapata Sparrow as we did end up seeing another at Cayo Coco on the North Coast.  However, it was a different looking bird lacking the intense yellow of the sub-species in Zapata Swamp.

Looked kind of similar to Green-tailed Towhee.

Cuban Emerald

Loggerhead Kingbird

American Redstart

Yellow-headed Warbler

Dryas iulia nudeola - commonly called Julia's Butterfly.

On the drive out we flushed a Gundlach's Hawk from the road and only a few of us in the front of the van saw it but we did get out to look for it and ended up finding a Ruddy Quail-dove which flushed and I located.  Unfortunately after quickly snapping this photo I tried to get the rest of the group on it and when I looked away it disappeared. The irony is that this is the most common Quail-dove outside of Cuba but the hardest to find in Cuba.

Colobura dirce or The Mosaic or Dirce Beauty.

We dropped off Angel in Playa Larga and went to lunch.  When we picked up Angel after lunch, he had a surprise for us.  He had ridden his moto over to Soplillar and found a sleeping Greater Antillean Nightjar which may be split in the near future into the Cuban Nightjar.

WOW!!!  This one probably my favorite bird of the trip.

We also got some better looks at Gray-fronted Quail-dove.

Cuban Pygmy Owls are super accommodating and we found many throughout the trip.

I could have kept getting closer and closer but John sneezed and it took off.

Northern Jacana!

We dipped on finding the Fernandia's Flicker that evening but spoiler alert we did find it next morning. Stay tuned for the next Cuban installment.

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