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Birding in Caya Coco, Cuba. February 2019. (Part 2) (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
Birding in Caya Coco, Cuba. February 2019. (Part 2)

On Friday 1 February I was picked up by Paulino López Delgado at 06.30hrs in his red 1955 American Chevrolet BelAir, which dated from the days before seatbelts! This is the reason why I’m never going to become a serious birder, 06.30hrs is just too early! We drove to another hotel to pick a Canadian couple, Mike and Tami, their hotel had our first target, the West Indian Whistling Duck, which didn’t show. We spent a bit of time trying to identify a heron, which eventually Paulino settled on an immature Black Crowned Heron. Setting out towards the mainland, we stopped off the road for a view of a White Crowned Pigeon.

As we drove over the causeway that joins the Caya (or Keys) to the mainland there were large numbers of birds noted, though Paulino was keen on getting to the mainland targets, we’d have time on the way back to get them.

The first place that Paulino took us to was a farm road where we got really good views of the Eastern Meadowlark. There were also many, many Turkey Vultures and Cattle Egrets, and a Little Blue Heron as we drove on into an area with trees and bushes to try for the next targets. Getting out of the car and soaking ourselves in insect repellent, we headed out, with Paulino taking us through the calls and brief glimpses of warblers. The Palm Warbler being the most prevalent, but also Northern Parulas, Common Yellowthroats and Yellow Throated Warblers. A Northern Mockingbird was also around, but Paulino wanted to hurry us along to try see a couple of main targets. A brief view of a Northern Flicker flying off was a bit disappointing at the time, but at least I got to see one properly back at the hotel.

Very shortly afterwards, Cuba’s national bird the Cuban Trogan put in an appearance, as if on order. However, our views were interrupted as the second target showed up. The Cuban Pygmy Owl, active in daylight sat and posed, it even seemed to wink at me at one point. I have to say I went back to the Trogan, to get some closer views, it was new to me, I had seen the owl the previous time in Cuba where it sat outside my hotel room most nights. With the two targets in the bag, and the SD card, we headed back to the car for second breakfast. On the way back another target showed up, the Cuban Green Woodpecker. While we were grabbing a bite, a Merlin put on a show, adding another to the day’s list.

Heading back to the main road we got some more views of the Meadowlarks, very pretty bird and a flock of Smooth Billed Anis. The next part of the trip was to follow a road with a stream alongside, so we started seeing some water based birds, starting with a Limpkin, then a Purple Gullinule and a Common Gullinule or Moorhen as I would call it. Afterwards Paulino stopped at some bushes and provided us with my own personal favourites, the Cuban Tody then the Cuban Emerald Hummingbird. I’d seen both these previously, so although not lifers, are still as good as it gets. Next to show itself was a West Indian Woodpecker.

Paulino then took us to a reservoir where he knew we’d see Snail Kites, which were indeed showing well. A couple of Pied Billed Grebes, a distant Osprey, American Coots, Blue Winged Teal, distant Kildeers, Loggerhead Kingbird, Belted Kingfishers, but the place gave us most of the ardeidae: Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Tricoloured Heron, Reddish Egret and Green Heron.

Onward from there to a village where Cuban Blackbirds put in an appearance, followed closely by a large flock of Tawny-Shouldered Blackbirds. From there to lunch at a nice outdoor restaurant, where an American Kestrel had a nest. Controversially there was a guy with a Cuban Parrot on his arm to provide a photo-opportunity for the tourists. The question was whether it was countable, the Canadians marked it on their list, I’m not so sure. The next stop was unsuccessful, Paulino had taken us to a place where he had seen Palm Swallows regularly, but they decided to give us a miss. And we started back towards the causeway back to Caya Coco.

The need to soak ourselves in insect repellent became necessary as the Mosquitos were out in force wherever we stopped. In no particular order we had both the common Brown Pelican and less common American White Pelican; Roseate Spoonbills, Red Breasted Mergansers, extremely distant Greater Flamingos, Great Crested Caracara, Neo-tropic and Double Crested Cormorants, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Royal Terns, Laughing Gulls, Magnificent Frigatebird, Black Necked Stilt, and finally Willets.

Paulino took us back to the Canadians’ hotel, but again the Whistling Ducks decided not to show. Then finally dropped me off back at my hotel. Somewhere along the way I had also noted Grackle, Mourning Dove, Common Ground Dove and Rock Pigeon, which brought the total of the day’s trip to about 60. A few misses, but plenty of hits. On the guide notes that Paulino had sent he had included “Some of the birds you may see: Cuba’s National Bird, the Cuban Trogon, Cuban Pygmy Owl, Snail Kite, Eastern Meadowlark, Great Lizard Cuckoo, Mangrove Cuckoo, Cuban Blackbird, Tawny-Shouldered Blackbird, Yellow-Faced Grassquit, Cuban Vireo, Cuban Green Woodpecker, Cuban Tody, American kestrel, Cuban Emerald Hummingbird, West Indian Woodpecker, Cuban Flicker, Loggerhead Kingbird, Cuban Pewee, Western Spindalis, Cuban Oriole, Red-Legged Thrush and others. Also different species of resident and migratory birds. So there were a few things missing, such as the cuckoos, even the Red Legged Thrush. But he hit most of his targets and a good deal more. He was extremely professional, very knowledgeable, patient and good company. Altogether an excellent days birding. (Photos to follow)


Well-known member
Trogon, Pygmy Owl, Eastern Meadowlark, Black Crowned Heron, Turkey Vultures.


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Well-known member
Snail Kite with Belted Kingfisher, Cuban Emerald, Limpkin, Purple Gallinule, West Indian Woodpecker.


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Well-known member
Spoonbill, Blacknecked Stilt, Willet, Reddish Egret, Chevy Belair.


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Well-known member
This brings back good memories.

I guess you could get lots of warblers and the Thrush at Cueva de Jabali on Cayo coco quite easily. The place delivered Oriente Warbler, Red-legged Thrush, Black-and-White Warbler, Ovenbird, Grey Catbird, Prairie Warbler, American Redstart, Zapata Sparrow of the varonai subspecies, 2 beautiful male painted buntings all in the course of half an hour late morning.

If going early in the morning, more than 10 Key West Quail-doves can be seen drinking at the dripping points.

location of the Cueva: https://cuba.observation.org/waarneming/view/166269772

If I had just that little bit more time, I would have tried to see the local non-migratory population of Sandhill Cranes near Moron.


David and Sarah
Some good birds seen and photographed

Nice report - we must get to Cuba some time soon.

Do you know if you can hire a car from Cayo Coco?

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