January 18th-25th, 2010 – Cuba Revisited……Again

There are many good reasons to go to Cuba: warm temperatures, balmy northeast Trade Winds soughing through the palm trees, amazing snorkeling, friendly people, great food and, of course, interesting birding.

Marg and I returned to Santa Lucia for the (I think) 7th time. Sure, there’s good arguments to explore other areas but…we’ve come to know a lot of the people there so it’s almost like visiting family. Further, I’ve birded the area pretty intensively and I’m always interested to see what changes each year will bring in species diversity and numbers.

I would refer the reader to previous blog entries to get a fuller description of the geographical area (January 19-26, 2009 and February 2-15, 2008. In the January 19-26th entry you can find an attached Cuban Bird Checklist as well as pictures of: Oriente Warbler, Stripe-headed Tanager, Yellow-throated warbler, Black-necked Stilt and American Avocet, all taken by Neil Taylor), . Briefly, Santa Lucia (which is on the coast north of Camaguey) sits on a sand isthmus. On one side is the Atlantic and on the other is a long, relatively narrow (1/2 – 1 km wide) brackish lagoon which has a small outlet to the sea at La Boca in the west and at Santa Lucia toward the eastern end. These outlets only connect at very high tides (or when hurricane-induced storm surges breach the isthmus). This year, because there had not been any hurricane activity in the area in 2009, the water levels in the lagoons were down – making for excellent shorebird conditions.

Weatherwise we couldn’t have asked for better: high20’s/low 30’s during the day and ~20 at night. Generally clear skies and no rain.Humidity….comfortable.)

    Species List (with commentary):

Least Grebe – La Boca reservoir
Magnificent Frigatebird – 1 over lagoons just east of La Boca
Brown Pelican – over lagoons and ocean
Brown Booby: new “life lister” for me. Seen over the deepwater channel leading from Neuvista Bay to the open ocean.
Double-crested Cormorant
Neotropical Cormorant – both cormorants seen over/in lagoons
Great Blue Heron
Reddish Egret
Tri-coloured Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Cattle Egret
Little Blue Heron
Green Heron
[all the egrets/herons common]
Roseate Spoonbill – 4 seen in small lagoon just across causeway
White Ibis – 2 seen with Roseate Spoonbills and a single bird over lagoon by La Boca
Greater Flamingo – 230+ seen on one day in lagoon west of Tararaco but ~70 seen each day I looked
Blue-winged Teal – La Boca reservoir
Northern Shoveler – reservoir
Ruddy Duck – reservoir
Turkey Vulture – plentiful and ubiquitous
Osprey – over lagoons
Crested Caracara – saw a dramatic chase: Caracara chasing a Turkey Vulture until the latter disgorged some food it was carrying which the Caracara chased to the ground
American Kestrel – only 1 seen
American Coot – reservoir
Wilson’s Plover – up to 20 seen on mudflats just west of Tararaco
Killdeer – common in small numbers
Black-bellied Plover – common; one group of at least 174 seen in eastern lagoons (and have been seen by me in the same area in large numbers for several years now)
Black-necked Stilt – common, especially in lagoons being used for salt production (ie, just south of the hotel)
Lesser Yellowlegs – plentiful
Greater Yellowlegs – plentiful
Dunlin – group of 8 seen in lagoon close to Santa Lucia
Ruddy Turnstone – on beach and in lagoons
Sanderling – on beach and in lagoons
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper – common along edges of salt lagoons
Spotted Sandpiper – 1 at La Boca reservoir; 1 in lagoon west of Tararaco
Short-billed Dowitcher – common; usually mixed in with Stilts
Laughing Gull – in lagoons and over ocean/beach
Royal Tern – usually over ocean/beach
Caspian Tern – over lagoons
Mourning Dove – one seen
Rock Pigeon – Tararaco
White-winged Dove – in scrub across from hotel
Common Ground Dove – common in sem-open habitats
Smooth-billed Ani – more numerous this year than in others (e.g., 29 seen on one outing)
Great Lizard-Cuckoo – saw 2 in scrub south of lagoons; in scrub forests south of the lagoons. These are impressive birds – take your ‘ordinary’ cuckoo and expand it 5 times.
Mangrove Cuckoo – new life lister for me; in close proximity (place and time) to the Lizard-Cuckoos.
Cuban Emerald
Belted Kingfisher
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Cuban Green Woodpecker – on Sabinal Island
West Indian Woodpecker- 2 pairs checking out the concrete telephone poles
La Sagra’s Flycatcher
Cuban Pewee – common on Sabinal Island
Loggerhead Kingbird – common in forest/scrub edges
Cuban Vireo – more commonly heard than seen
Cuban Gnatcatcher – responds readily to ‘pishing’
Gray Catbird
Red-legged Thrush
Northern Mockingbird – common and ubiquitous
Yellow Warbler – 1 by edge of lagoons toward La Boca
Cape May Warbler – common at the resort (saw 6 in one small area)
Prairie Warbler – common in scrub/forest across road
Black-throated Blue Warbler – a lovely male protected a fruit tree at the resort; both males and females in forest/scrub
Northern Parula
Western Palm Warbler – in all environments (resort, scrub/forest edges, lagoon levees, even open fields)
Yellow-throated Warbler – a brilliant male hung out just outside our balcony
Common Yellowthroat
Ovenbird – forest
American Redstart – male in resort; males and females in forest
Oriente Warbler – found in small groups (had 6 at one time respond to ‘pishing’)
Stripe-headed Tanager – on Sabinal Island
Cuban Grassquit – along scrub edge
Yellow-faced Grassquit – along scrub edge
Cuban Bullfinch- Sabinal Island
House Sparrow – around habitations
Greater Antillean Grackle – common and ubiquitous
Cuban Blackbird
Black-cowled Oriole- 25+ in a loose flock around fruiting trees on Sabinal Island.

Leave a Reply