Cuba - February 2013

Published by Paul Davis (davispm AT tiscali.co.uk)

Participants: Paul Davis

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Photos with this report (click to enlarge)

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Black-necked Stilt
Black-necked Stilt
Cuban Pigmy Owl
Cuban Pigmy Owl
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-faced Grassquit
Yellow-faced Grassquit
Cuban Green Woodpecker
Cuban Green Woodpecker

I flew from Gatwick with Thomson airways, approx 9 hours. Transfer took about an hour and and I spotted huge numbers of Turkey Vultures right away. On route I also saw an American Kestrel and a few Smooth-billed Ani.

I chose this hotel as it has extensive grounds, a lagoon and a couple of nature trails. I had a couple of hours of daylight to kill, so went for a quick stroll. I had close encounters with Cuban Blackbirds, a Greater Antillean Grackle, a Cuban Vireo and several Northern Mockingbirds.

The next morning I got up at dawn and wondered down to the bridge that crosses the lagoon. The lagoon appears to be tidal, so at times was just mud, which smelt a bit unsavoury, but attracted a lot of birds. I visited at least twice a day, every day, dawn and dusk being the most productive. Every day I saw Red-legged Thrushes, Black-necked Stilts, Lesser Yellowlegs, American Coots, Great White, Cattle and Snowy Egrets, Great Blue, Green and Little Blue Herons, Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night Herons and Common Moorhens.

In the mangroves surrounding the lagoon were several different migrant Warblers, including Yellow-throated, Palm, Yellow, Cape May and Black-throated Blue. Most days I also spotted American Redstart, although I never really got a decent photograph and Yellow-faced Grassquit.

Near one of the many restaurants on the resort was a small bird table, which every morning was topped up with old crusts and fruit. This attracted good numbers of Red-shouldered and Cuban Blackbirds as well as Greater Antillean Grackles and numerous cheeky House Sparrows. On the palm trees in the grounds I spotted Cuban Green Woodpeckers and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. Other lagoon visitors were Blue-winged Teal, Least Grebe, Spotted Sandpiper, Common Yellowthroat and countless Turkey Vultures.

In some of the quieter corners of the grounds I common encountered Loggerhead Kingbirds and Common Ground Doves and on the sunnier days Cuban Emerald Hummingbirds. On one early morning, just outside my room, I got very close to a Great Lizard Cuckoo, feasting on a Green Anole and also a Mangrove Cuckoo. I think because the birds come across people so often they are much more approachable and thankfully easier to photograph.

I only had a week at the hotel. I can imagine that there could be a many other species visiting at other times of the year. On my last day I saw my first Cuban Oriole and another birder kindly pointed me in the direction of a fabulous Cuban Pygmy Owl, which allowed me to get very close and get some nice pics. The world's smallest bird, the Bee Hummingbird eluded me, but it was spotted by others staying at the hotel.

This is a great hotel to stay at, to see, some of Cuba's commoner species at close quarters. There were also many beautiful butterflies in the grounds and one rather large Tarantula in my bedroom, but not for long. I did get a snap of it before I put it outside though.

Species Lists

American Redstart
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Palm Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
House Sparrow
Cuban Vireo
Yellow-faced Grassquit
Cuban Oriole
Cuban Blackbird
Red-shouldered Blackbird
Cuban Emerald Hummingbird
Cuban Green Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Northern Mockingbird
Red-legged Thrush
Greater Antillean Grackle
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Lesser Yellowlegs
Black-Necked Stilt
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Green Heron
Great White Egret
Snowy Egret
Cattle Egret
Blue-Winged Teal
Least Grebe
Spotted Sandpiper
Turkey Vulture
American Kestrel
Cuban Pigmy Owl
Smooth-billed Ani
Mangrove Cuckoo
Great Lizard Cuckoo
Common Ground Dove
Loggerhead Kingbird
Olivaceous Cormorant