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This roadside shelter at Cabo Rojo provided a colorful site for a wonderful field picnic in the southwest of the Dominican Republic. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
Our tour through the Dominican Republic was a nonstop adventure! We drove on some of the bumpiest roads that any of us have experienced, woke up at some very early hours, and along the way managed to find all of the Hispaniolan endemic birds that live in the Dominican Republic (no Gray-crowned Palm-Tanagers here -- they're only over in Haiti).
The tour began in the capital of Santo Domingo, where we settled in to the charming Hotel Palacio in the beautiful Colonial Zone (Zona Colonial). Our first birding was in the lush botanical garden in Santo Domingo, where we had our first experiences with several endemic species like Palmchats, Hispaniolan Lizard-Cuckoo, Black-crowned Palm-Tanager, and more. The West Indian Whistling-Ducks were a special treat, too.
Leaving Santo Domingo, we headed west through agricultural areas and some lowland desert hills, eventually reaching Kate's Camp at the base of the Sierra de Bahoruco, the beautiful mountains of southwestern Dominican Republic and eastern Haiti. Kate's Camp served as our base for a few nights, allowing us to sample the diversity of endemic species between the Rabo de Gato trail at low elevation and the moist montane forest at Zapoten. Here, we saw the incredible deforestation along the Haitian border and (in intact forest on the DR side of the border) picked up such key species as La Selle Thrush, Western Chat-Tanager, Greater Antillean Nightjar, Least Pauraque, Flat-billed Vireo, White-fronted Quail-Dove, White-necked Crow, and so much more. Our only "heard only" endemic was the Hispaniolan Crossbill that called a few times (presumably as it flew over) from the pine forest at Zapoten. However, we made up for it with the gigantic, gurgling, cooing Bay-breasted Cuckoos in the scrub forest in the foothills -- this rare species was a tour headliner for us this year with such incredible views.
Avoiding a peaceful demonstration by locals who were upset that the government hadn't yet paved their roads (the paving crew was only a few YEARS late in starting the promised road improvements!), we wrapped around the Sierra de Bahoruco to Barahona, our next base. From here, we explored the pine forests in the mountains at Aceitillar, leading to wonderful experiences with (Hispaniolan) Palm Crow, Hispaniolan Trogon, Golden Swallow, and Antillean Piculet. Least Bitterns, White-cheeked Pintail, and a solo American Flamingo highlighted an afternoon split between Cabo Rojo and Oviedo Lagoon, and we even had some time to relax by the hotel pool back in Barahona. During the evening hours, we ventured forth and found an Ashy-faced Owl at a nest site in a cluster of palm trees in the hills.
One more bumpy road (it could have been a waterfall that we drove up, in retrospect!) led us up into the dripping clouds of Cachote on our final early morning in the southwest. This enabled us to find the tricky Eastern Chat-Tanager, and also led us to a softly calling Bicknell's Thrush, a secretive species that is tough to find both on its breeding grounds in New England/ eastern Canada, and here on its wintering grounds in the Caribbean. We headed back to Santo Domingo in great spirits.
The last full day of the tour was devoted to giving us the best possible chance to find Ridgway's Hawk, a critically endangered species that now only lives in and around Los Haitises National Park in the eastern part of Dominican Republic. We started off watching Cave Swallows and White-tailed Tropicbirds from some seaside cliffs on the way out of Santo Domingo. Then, upon our arrival at Los Limones, a male Ridgway's Hawk screamed and circled overhead! We met up with our friend and local raptor monitor Timoteo, and he showed us a nest with a female hawk sitting on it. We kept a respectful distance but still managed some killer scope views of this rarest of Hispaniolan endemics. What a great way to wrap up an intense but extremely fruitful week of birding in the Dominican Republic!
I'd like to thank Jesse Fagan for all of his extra efforts in leading this tour with me; his skill in the Dominican Republic really shows, and it was a pleasure to travel and bird with him. To the group -- thank you for your flexibility under some adventurous circumstances. Your good spirits and willingness to adapt made for a fun time and a great tour atmosphere. Please come back and join us on another tour down the road -- we'd love to have all of you.
Good birding, and all my best,
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
WEST INDIAN WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna arborea)
This Ashy-faced Owl delighted us in the hills near Barahona, after we'd struggled without seeing any on several previous night outings. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
AMERICAN WIGEON (Anas americana)
BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Anas discors)
WHITE-CHEEKED PINTAIL (Anas bahamensis)
LEAST GREBE (Tachybaptus dominicus)
AMERICAN FLAMINGO (Phoenicopterus ruber)
WHITE-TAILED TROPICBIRD (Phaethon lepturus)
MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD (Fregata magnificens)
BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
LEAST BITTERN (Ixobrychus exilis)
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)
SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)
TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor)
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)
Antillean Palm-Swifts showed off remarkably well in the afternoon sun at our hotel near Barahona, even dipping into the swimming pool for water. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)
WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus)
Cathartidae (New World Vultures)
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
RIDGWAY'S HAWK (Buteo ridgwayi) [E]
RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
CLAPPER RAIL (CARIBBEAN) (Rallus crepitans caribaeus)
SORA (Porzana carolina) [*]
The rarest species of our trip was probably Ridgway's Hawk, which we found on the edge of Los Haitises National Park. This female's big nest (adopted from Palmchats, in all likelihood) was in the crotch of a large palm tree. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)
BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)
SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria)
GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)
LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
SCALY-NAPED PIGEON (Patagioenas squamosa)
PLAIN PIGEON (Patagioenas inornata)
COMMON GROUND-DOVE (Columbina passerina)
Our experience with Bay-breasted Cuckoo in the foothills of the Sierra de Bahoruco was quite marvelous. "La Cua" put on a real show in the canopy of some thorn forest, right above our heads. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
RUDDY QUAIL-DOVE (Geotrygon montana)
WHITE-FRONTED QUAIL-DOVE (Geotrygon leucometopia) [E]
KEY WEST QUAIL-DOVE (Geotrygon chrysia) [*]
WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)
ZENAIDA DOVE (Zenaida aurita)
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)
MANGROVE CUCKOO (Coccyzus minor)
BAY-BREASTED CUCKOO (Coccyzus rufigularis) [E]
HISPANIOLAN LIZARD-CUCKOO (Coccyzus longirostris) [E]
SMOOTH-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga ani)
ASHY-FACED OWL (Tyto glaucops) [E]
This White-fronted Quail-Dove was strolling along the forest floor at Rabo de Gato when we spotted it. Fortunately, instead of flying off, it stopped out in the open and allowed us to scope it for quite some time. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
BURROWING OWL (Athene cunicularia)
STYGIAN OWL (Asio stygius) [*]
Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)
LEAST PAURAQUE (Siphonorhis brewsteri) [E]
GREATER ANTILLEAN NIGHTJAR (HISPANIOLAN) (Antrostomus cubanensis ekmani) [E]
ANTILLEAN PALM-SWIFT (Tachornis phoenicobia)
ANTILLEAN MANGO (Anthracothorax dominicus)
VERVAIN HUMMINGBIRD (Mellisuga minima)
HISPANIOLAN EMERALD (Chlorostilbon swainsonii) [E]
A few high-pitched, insistent-yet-quiet "Veer!" calls revealed the presence of this lovely Bicknell's Thrush at Cachote. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
HISPANIOLAN TROGON (Priotelus roseigaster) [E]
BROAD-BILLED TODY (Todus subulatus) [E]
NARROW-BILLED TODY (Todus angustirostris) [E]
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)
ANTILLEAN PICULET (Nesoctites micromegas) [E]
HISPANIOLAN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes striatus) [E]
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)
Targeted efforts in the highlands of southwestern Dominican Republic resulted in the group finding both Eastern and Western chat-tanagers, two of the skulkiest songbirds on Hispaniola. This Western Chat-Tanager was singing its loud, cymbal-like song from the verdant tangles of Zapoten. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
Psittacidae (New World and African Parrots)
HISPANIOLAN PARROT (Amazona ventralis) [E]
HISPANIOLAN PARAKEET (Psittacara chloropterus) [E]
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
GREATER ANTILLEAN ELAENIA (Elaenia fallax)
HISPANIOLAN PEWEE (Contopus hispaniolensis) [E]
STOLID FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus stolidus)
GRAY KINGBIRD (Tyrannus dominicensis)
LOGGERHEAD KINGBIRD (HISPANIOLAN) (Tyrannus caudifasciatus gabbii)
The Hispaniolan subspecies of Loggerhead Kingbird is quite uncommon, so the vocal pair at Aguacate really made us happy. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)
FLAT-BILLED VIREO (Vireo nanus) [E]
BLACK-WHISKERED VIREO (Vireo altiloquus)
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
PALM CROW (HISPANIOLAN) (Corvus palmarum palmarum) [E]
WHITE-NECKED CROW (Corvus leucognaphalus) [E]
CARIBBEAN MARTIN (Progne dominicensis)
GOLDEN SWALLOW (Tachycineta euchrysea)
CAVE SWALLOW (CARIBBEAN) (Petrochelidon fulva fulva)
Hispaniolan Emeralds were amazingly common in the montane forests of Sierra de Bahoruco. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
RUFOUS-THROATED SOLITAIRE (RUFOUS-THROATED) (Myadestes genibarbis montanus)
BICKNELL'S THRUSH (Catharus bicknelli)
LA SELLE THRUSH (Turdus swalesi) [E]
RED-LEGGED THRUSH (ARDOSIACEUS/ALBIVENTRIS) (Turdus plumbeus ardosiaceus)
Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)
PALMCHAT (Dulus dominicus) [E]
Parulidae (New World Warblers)
OVENBIRD (Seiurus aurocapilla)
WORM-EATING WARBLER (Helmitheros vermivorum)
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER (Mniotilta varia)
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (TRICHAS GROUP) (Geothlypis trichas trichas) [*]
AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)
CAPE MAY WARBLER (Setophaga tigrina)
NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)
YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)
BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER (Setophaga caerulescens)
PALM WARBLER (Setophaga palmarum)
PINE WARBLER (Setophaga pinus chrysoleuca)
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (MYRTLE) (Setophaga coronata coronata)
PRAIRIE WARBLER (Setophaga discolor)
BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER (Setophaga virens)
Though most of our views were flybys like this, we did get to watch these beautifully colored parrots in the scope at Zapoten. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
WHITE-WINGED WARBLER (Xenoligea montana) [E]
GREEN-TAILED WARBLER (Microligea palustris) [E]
Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)
BANANAQUIT (CARIBBEAN) (Coereba flaveola bananivora)
YELLOW-FACED GRASSQUIT (Tiaris olivaceus)
GREATER ANTILLEAN BULLFINCH (Loxigilla violacea)
BLACK-CROWNED PALM-TANAGER (Phaenicophilus palmarum) [E]
WESTERN CHAT-TANAGER (Calyptophilus tertius) [E]
EASTERN CHAT-TANAGER (Calyptophilus frugivorus) [E]
We were entertained by quite a few Hispaniolan Spindalis during our morning quest to Zapoten. The bright males sure are striking! Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
HISPANIOLAN SPINDALIS (Spindalis dominicensis) [E]
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
GREATER ANTILLEAN GRACKLE (Quiscalus niger)
HISPANIOLAN ORIOLE (Icterus dominicensis) [E]
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
ANTILLEAN EUPHONIA (Euphonia musica)
HISPANIOLAN CROSSBILL (Loxia megaplaga) [E*]
ANTILLEAN SISKIN (Spinus dominicensis) [E]
It would be hard to top our close views (perched and in flight) of Golden Swallows in the open pine forest at Aceitillar. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]
Ploceidae (Weavers and Allies)
VILLAGE WEAVER (Ploceus cucullatus) [I]
Totals for the tour: 112 bird taxa and 0 mammal taxa