Dominican Republic - 16th - 23rd November 2015

Published by David Ousey (david.ousey AT


Our normal holiday in November is usually to Sharm el Sheik in Egypt, but with all the recent trouble in that part of the world we had to choose a different location. After a lot of searching we decided to go to the Dominican Republic. Our hotel was the Natura Park Beach in Bavarro about 25 minutes by car north of Punta Cana airport. About 100 yards before the hotel entrance the Laguna Bavarro Nature Refuge is situated. Our hotel was very good in all tourist aspects and it also has lots of pools and walk areas around its inner perimeter that hold many birds. There are a number of captive species, Flamingo and Peacocks, that seem to attract other species to the pools. Great Egret, Green Heron, Tricolored Heron, Night Heron & Common Gallinule (Moorhen) seemed to be quite used to people passing close by. The gardens also had the numerous Palmchat, Hispaniolan Woodpecker, Mourning Dove, Northern Mockingbird, Antillean Palm Swift and a few American wood warbler species. The field guides I used were, "Birds of the West Indies" by James Bond and "Birds of North America" by National Geographic Society.

My daily routine birding was up at 6-30am, just ahead of sunrise, walk through the hotel & gardens to the Bavarro Nature Refuge and return around 9-30am. At 3-30pm another trip to the Bavarro Nature Refuge or hotel gardens till 5-30pm. On the beach during the day, Magnificent Frigatebird, Royal Tern, Osprey & Turkey Vulture were the only birds seen due to lots of aquatic activities going on.


A mid afternoon arrival at our hotel didn't leave much time for birding but 12 species seen with the common Gray Kingbird, Greater Antillean Grackle & Cape May Warbler the highlights.


An early morning walk up the beach (west) and into the palm "jungle" was, having forgot to apply liberal amounts of insect repellent, I was duly well bitten by the local insect population!! Be warned or start scratching. A few waders on the coral edge of the sea were:-6 Wilson`s Plover, 5 Solitary Sandpiper (rather defying their name) & 18 Ruddy Turnstone. A strange sight for myself was 2 American Kestrels chasing an Osprey along the beach. Lots of butterflies moving along the beach area on all days. A single Mongoose type mammal was also seen? The uncommon Loggerhead Kingbird was also a nice addition. Yellow crowned Night Heron, Brown Pelican, Prairie Warbler, American Redstart were also seen. In the afternoon, on a pool in front of our hotel, a Least Grebe was teaching 3 juveniles how to catch prey items, great to watch. At Bavarro Nature Refuge:- Pied Billed Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Cattle Egret, White Cheeked Pintail, Laughing Gull, Belted Kingfisher, Cave Swallow, Northern Waterthrush & Bananaquit made up my species total to 39.


After a fairly quiet evening for "small" birds in the Refuge, I wasn`t quite ready for what I discovered in the early morning! Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Cape May Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow Warbler were all seen in the first hour, all feeding in suitable trees, bushes. What a start to the day, I came back every morning of the holiday to enjoy this spectacle. The refuge is not that big but, with patience (maybe, better on your own) you can enjoy lots of bird species. Walking along the mangrove covered path to the jetty area certainly gives you the jungle feel about it. When you reach the jetty a good lookout area is too be had, with various herons & egrets stationed all around the lake along with:- Ring necked Duck, Ruddy Duck, Snowy Egret, American Coot and the noisy Belted Kingfisher. On the small lake before the hotel a pair of Least Bittern chased each other around before disappearing into the vegetation right in front of me, quite a morning`s birding. Species total up to 52. An afternoon stroll around the hotel area produced: Antillean Mango and a cracking male American Redstart, watched for over 5 minutes as it chased insects. Let's hope it caught some of the one`s that had tried eating me! 53 species.


On the refuge early morning again and no let up in American wood warblers this time adding:- Black & White Warbler, Parula Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Black Throated Blue Warbler (female) but the real star this morning was being able to watch a Mangrove Cuckoo catching and eating a large green lizard, don't think the lizard enjoyed it much though! A Hispaniolan Pewee was seen fly catching, then a Hispaniolan Oriole was enjoyed. The small wooded area became alive with birds with a Black Crowned Warbler Tanager being seen. A check of the lake area revealed Great & Little Blue Heron and 2 fly by Common Ground Doves rounded off another good mornings birding on the refuge. Whilst walking back 3 Smooth Billed Anis seemed to be engaging in some mating display as they ignored me and allowed fairly close scrutiny. Another Antillean Mango was enjoyed in the hotel gardens. 64 species now seen.


The lake area was covered first and most of the "regular" herons & egrets being present, but a couple of West Indian Tree Duck were seen, along with Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, Yellow Crowned Night Heron. The Brown Pelicans were putting on a show as they crash dived into the lake trying to catch their breakfast, what great sight. Then a Sora Rail came out from under the mangroves and fed along the water`s edge. At the small wooded area:- Magnolia, Prairie, Parula & Yellow Warbler were present. The walk back had a couple of Greater Antillean Grackle and a pair of American Redstart. What seemed like a family party of 3 Osprey were seen on the beach in the afternoon. 66 species now seen.


A count of 30 American Coot, 20 Pied Billed Grebe, 12 Brown Pelican, 4 Lesser Scaup, 16 Ruddy Duck,2 Blue Winged Teal, 10 Great Egret & a fly over of 12 Cattle Egret started the day off at the refuge. When 4 Tree Swallows flew past me it made the early start well worth it. Common Yellowthroat, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Magnolia, Prairie & Parula Warbler made up a good morning on the refuge. Then a Yellow Faced Grassquit was seen whilst watching the antics of the Greater Antillean Grackle. The Antillean Palm Swifts were seen close up as they were building / coming out of their nests in a palm coved roof, great to watch them close up. The evening visit held:- 2 Forster`s Tern and a real bonus in a diminutive Least Sandpiper feeding along the shoreline.


Only one of last night`s Forster`s Tern were present this morning, up to 6 Lesser Scaup. The viewing area from the jetty does not cover the whole of the Laguna Bavarro so this could account for the changes in quantities etc. of the wildfowl. Around 20 Tree Swallows passed through in the time I was present, quite a sighting. The real star bird this morning was a Hispaniolan Lizard Cuckoo on view for about 10 minutes and allowing fairly close observation, what a gem of a bird and a likely candidate for the, "Bird of the Holiday". The wood warblers were again out in force with a particularly showy Black & White Warbler creeping around the trunks of the smaller trees. Magnolia, Prairie & Parula Warbler also. A curious call was heard which turned out to be a couple of Greater Antillean Bullfinch, who were quite resplendent in their Black and rufous plumage. In the evening my wife came onto the reserve with me (don't think she enjoyed it though) when a couple of Osprey then a Magnificent Frigatebird male, with a very noticeable red throat patch flew over, a Merlin then landed on a look-out tree for around a minute, it had me thinking for a while that bird, more used to seeing them in England not the West Indies! Up to 70 species.


Last full day in the Dominican Republic and my final trip to the refuge were I managed to see 39 species. 2 West Indian Tree Duck, 1 Laughing Gull, 1 Forster`s Tern, all the regular heron /egret species, Least & Pied Billed Grebe`s, American Kestrel, 5 Belted Kingfisher, up to 25 Palm Chat, Common Yellowthroat, Black & White, Cape May, Prairie, Yellow and Yellow Throated Warblers seen. Greater Antillean Bullfinch, Ovenbird & Northern Waterthrush. Then finally a Flat Billed Vireo seen near the refuge entrance as I was about to leave, what a cracking bird to end with! This place has given me lots of pleasure and is certainly worth spending time in, the staff are also very friendly and you should give them a small entrance fee. 150 + Antillean Palm Swift and around 50 Turkey Vultures rounded of a cracking holiday.

72 species seen, 20 new one`s for myself.

Species Lists

List of Bird Species seen
1.West Indian Whistling Duck
2. Ruddy Duck
3. Ring-necked Duck
4. Lesser Scaup
5. Blue-winged Teal
6. White-cheeked Pintail
7. Pied Billed Grebe
8. Least Grebe
9. Rock Dove
10. Mourning Dove
11. Common Ground Dove
12. Antillean Palm Swift
13. Antillean Mango
14. Smooth-billed Ani
15. Mangrove Cuckoo
16. Hispaniolan Lizard Cuckoo
17. Sora
18. Common Gallinule
19. American Coot
20. Brown Pelican
21. Least Bittern
22. Black-crowned Night Heron
23. Yellow- crowned Night Heron
24. Green Heron
25. Cattle Egret
26. Great Blue Heron
27. Great Egret
28. Tricolored Heron
29. Little Blue Heron
30. Snowy Egret
31. Magnificent Frigatebird
32. Wilson`s Plover
33. Ruddy Turnstone
34. Least Sandpiper
35. Solitary Sandpiper
36. Laughing Gull
37. Forster`s Tern
38. Royal Tern
39. Turkey Vulture
40. Osprey
41. Hispaniolan Woodpecker
42. Belted Kingfisher
43. American Kestrel
44. Merlin
45. Gray Kingbird
46. Loggerhead Kingbird
47. Hispaniolan Pewee
48. Flat-billed Vireo
49. House Sparrow
50. Black-crowned Warbler Tanager
51. Ovenbird
52. Northern Waterthrush
53. Black-and-white Warbler
54. Common Yellowthroat
55. American Redstart
56. Cape May Warbler
57. Northern Parula
58. Magnolia Warbler
59. Yellow Warbler
60. Black-throated Blue Warbler
61. Yellow-rumped Warbler
62. Yellow-throated Warbler
63. Prairie Warbler
64. Hispaniolan Oriole
65. Greater Antillean Grackle
66. Bananaquit
67. Yellow-faced Grassquit
68. Greater Antillean Bullfinch
69. Cave Swallow
70. Tree Swallow
71. Palmchat
72. Northern Mockingbird