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Emergent vegetation at Laguna Cartagena hid West Indian Whistling-Ducks, Caribbean Coots, and myriad other waterbirds. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
This week was a remarkably fun and relaxed way to experience Puerto Rico as well as to see all of the island's endemic bird species and many regional specialties. From the remarkable experience with the Puerto Rican Parrots at Rio Abajo to the seaside birding at La Parguera, the birding was great every day, and we experienced good weather throughout, typical of this trip.
After arriving in San Juan, we ate dinner at a Peruvian restaurant near our hotel and Eric outlined the game plan for the week. Everyone returned to get a night of sleep before an early start the next day.
We arose early in San Juan and headed west, arriving at Rio Abajo (a state forest, or bosque estatal) with enough darkness left to track down some Puerto Rican Screech-Owls calling from bamboo patches. Our walk on a wide track through the forest led us to a spot where, after a bit of waiting, we heard and then saw a pair of Puerto Rican Parrots! These birds landed nearby, and we tracked them down and spent about 30 minutes admiring them. This is a critically endangered species that is barely hanging on in the wild -- the birds we saw were being tracked at Rio Abajo as part of a reintroduction program on the island. We continued on to Cambalache, where we had lunch and enjoyed Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoos. The afternoon held in store close views of an American Flamingo at Camuy and White-tailed Tropicbirds zooming around offshore at Guajataca. In the evening, we arrived at our seaside lodging at La Parguera.
The second full day found us walking around La Parguera at dawn, getting our first taste of Yellow-shouldered Blackbirds and other coastal species. In the afternoon, we visited Laguna Cartagena, part of the US National Wildlife Refuge system, where West Indian Whistling-Ducks and a rare Eurasian Wigeon highlighted a nice bit of scrub and wetland birding. At dusk, we found ourselves in dry coastal scrub forest near Guanica, where we were soon surrounded by the sounds of calling Puerto Rican Nightjars as darkness fell.
An early morning start sent us up into the mountains, where we enjoyed the mature forest and endemic-packed environs of Maricao. Among many other birds, this is the home of the Elfin-woods Warbler, and we had repeated and great views. After lunch and a break back at the hotel, we had an afternoon trip to the quiet forest gaps of Susúa. Here, we had a few brief encounters with Ruddy Quail-Dove and an extended visit with two Key West Quail-Doves.
On Day 4, we headed to the saline flats and coastal mangroves of Cabo Rojo. In addition to a welcoming flock of Venezuelan Troupials, we studied large flocks of Semipalmated Sandpipers and Stilt Sandpipers, finding Wilson's Plover, Western Sandpiper, and other goodies. Pulling up stakes at La Parguera, we headed east on the island, stopping at Comerío to find a Caribbean specialty, Plain Pigeon, before continuing on to our lodging on the edge of El Yunque, the charming Casa Cubuy.
Our last full day of birding started with us winding our way out of the mountains from Casa Cubuy down to the coast at the Humacao wetlands. Between here and Fajardo, we stalked around coastal forest, a harbor, and a hotel garden, soaking in new hummingbirds and some great looks at Brown Boobies and Magnificent Frigatebirds. The afternoon was capped off by scope views of Antillean Euphonia in the El Yunque forest above Casa Cubuy. The next morning, we returned to San Juan for our flights back to the Lower 48.
Eric and I had a wonderful time leading this short but sweet trip to a fun and scenic bit of the United States. Thanks to everyone for coming along, and we look forward to our next time together in the field!
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)
EURASIAN WIGEON (Anas penelope)
AMERICAN WIGEON (Anas americana)
BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Anas discors)
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Anas clypeata)
GREEN-WINGED TEAL (AMERICAN) (Anas crecca carolinensis)
This Magnificent Frigatebird repeatedly attempted to borrow a tasty morsel from an immature Ring-billed Gull. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)
LEAST GREBE (Tachybaptus dominicus)
PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)
AMERICAN FLAMINGO (Phoenicopterus ruber)
WHITE-TAILED TROPICBIRD (Phaethon lepturus)
MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD (Fregata magnificens)
Sulidae (Boobies and Gannets)
BROWN BOOBY (Sula leucogaster)
BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)
SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)
This Sharp-shinned Hawk of the subspecies venator circled overhead a few times as we admired from below at Maricao. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)
TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor)
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)
GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea)
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)
GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus)
Cathartidae (New World Vultures)
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (CARIBBEAN) (Accipiter striatus venator)
RED-TAILED HAWK (JAMAICENSIS) (Buteo jamaicensis jamaicensis)
Scaly-naped Pigeons perched out in the open at eye level as we watched from the balcony at Casa Cubuy. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
CLAPPER RAIL (CARIBBEAN) (Rallus crepitans caribaeus)
SORA (Porzana carolina) [*]
PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrio martinicus)
COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)
AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)
CARIBBEAN COOT (Fulica caribaea)
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)
BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)
WILSON'S PLOVER (Charadrius wilsonia)
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)
Cambalache came through for us with amazing views of this bizarre and awesome Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)
SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria)
GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)
LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)
STILT SANDPIPER (Calidris himantopus)
LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)
SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (Calidris pusilla)
WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri)
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla)
RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)
ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)
SANDWICH TERN (CABOT'S) (Thalasseus sandvicensis acuflavidus)
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
SCALY-NAPED PIGEON (Patagioenas squamosa)
PLAIN PIGEON (Patagioenas inornata wetmorei)
AFRICAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia roseogrisea) [I]
This tiny and breathtaking Antillean Crested Hummingbird fed in front of us outside our lunch restaurant in Fajardo. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
COMMON GROUND-DOVE (Columbina passerina portoricensis)
RUDDY QUAIL-DOVE (Geotrygon montana)
KEY WEST QUAIL-DOVE (Geotrygon chrysia)
WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)
ZENAIDA DOVE (Zenaida aurita)
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)
YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus americanus)
MANGROVE CUCKOO (Coccyzus minor)
PUERTO RICAN LIZARD-CUCKOO (Coccyzus vieilloti) [E]
SMOOTH-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga ani)
PUERTO RICAN SCREECH-OWL (Megascops nudipes) [E]
Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)
PUERTO RICAN NIGHTJAR (Antrostomus noctitherus) [E]
ANTILLEAN MANGO (Anthracothorax dominicus aurulentus)
GREEN MANGO (Anthracothorax viridis) [E]
GREEN-THROATED CARIB (Eulampis holosericeus)
Puerto Rican Tody is a true gem of a bird, and appears here slightly larger than life size! We saw them in several forests on the island. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
PUERTO RICAN EMERALD (Chlorostilbon maugaeus) [E]
ANTILLEAN CRESTED HUMMINGBIRD (LESSER ANTILLES) (Orthorhyncus cristatus exilis)
PUERTO RICAN TODY (Todus mexicanus) [E]
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)
PUERTO RICAN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes portoricensis) [E]
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
AMERICAN KESTREL (EASTERN CARIBBEAN) (Falco sparverius caribaearum)
MERLIN (Falco columbarius)
We found Puerto Rican Woodpeckers at several sites; no views were better than those at the entrance to the wetlands at Humacao. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)
Psittacidae (New World and African Parrots)
MONK PARAKEET (Myiopsitta monachus) [I]
PUERTO RICAN PARROT (Amazona vittata) [E]
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
CARIBBEAN ELAENIA (Elaenia martinica)
LESSER ANTILLEAN PEWEE (PUERTO RICO) (Contopus latirostris blancoi)
PUERTO RICAN FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus antillarum) [E]
GRAY KINGBIRD (Tyrannus dominicensis)
LOGGERHEAD KINGBIRD (PUERTO RICAN) (Tyrannus caudifasciatus taylori)
Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)
PUERTO RICAN VIREO (Vireo latimeri) [E]
BLACK-WHISKERED VIREO (Vireo altiloquus)
One of the rarest species of birds in the region, these Puerto Rican Parrots lounged around in the subcanopy as we ogled them in our scopes. Unreal! Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
CARIBBEAN MARTIN (Progne dominicensis)
BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)
CAVE SWALLOW (CARIBBEAN) (Petrochelidon fulva puertoricensis)
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
RED-LEGGED THRUSH (EASTERN) (Turdus plumbeus ardosiaceus)
Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)
PEARLY-EYED THRASHER (Margarops fuscatus)
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)
Parulidae (New World Warblers)
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER (Mniotilta varia)
PROTHONOTARY WARBLER (Protonotaria citrea)
ELFIN-WOODS WARBLER (Setophaga angelae) [E]
Elfin-woods Warbler was only described to science in the 1970s. We had great looks from our breakfast spot at Maricao. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)
NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)
YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)
PRAIRIE WARBLER (Setophaga discolor)
ADELAIDE'S WARBLER (Setophaga adelaidae) [E]
Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)
BANANAQUIT (CARIBBEAN) (Coereba flaveola portoricensis)
YELLOW-FACED GRASSQUIT (Tiaris olivaceus bryanti)
BLACK-FACED GRASSQUIT (Tiaris bicolor omissus)
PUERTO RICAN BULLFINCH (Loxigilla portoricensis) [E]
PUERTO RICAN TANAGER (Nesospingus speculiferus) [E]
PUERTO RICAN SPINDALIS (Spindalis portoricensis) [E]
This silky Yellow-shouldered Blackbird was one of the rare species we sought near the coast at La Parguera. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
Emberizidae (Buntings and New World Sparrows)
GRASSHOPPER SPARROW (Ammodramus savannarum)
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
YELLOW-SHOULDERED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius xanthomus) [E]
GREATER ANTILLEAN GRACKLE (Quiscalus niger brachypterus)
SHINY COWBIRD (Molothrus bonariensis)
PUERTO RICAN ORIOLE (Icterus portoricensis) [E]
VENEZUELAN TROUPIAL (Icterus icterus) [I]
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
ANTILLEAN EUPHONIA (Euphonia musica sclateri)
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]
Ploceidae (Weavers and Allies)
NORTHERN RED BISHOP (Euplectes franciscanus) [I]
Estrildidae (Waxbills and Allies)
ORANGE-CHEEKED WAXBILL (Estrilda melpoda) [I]
BRONZE MANNIKIN (Spermestes cucullata) [I]
Our final highlight bird of the trip was this male Antillean Euphonia that we found in the canopy during an afternoon stroll in El Yunque. What a bird to end the trip with! Photo by guide Tom Johnson.
PIN-TAILED WHYDAH (Vidua macroura) [I]
SMALL INDIAN MONGOOSE (Herpestes auropunctatus) [I]
Totals for the tour: 121 bird taxa and 1 mammal taxa