Thursday, December 8, 2016

Puerto Rico trip- December 1-5

Puerto Rican Woodpecker, Bosque Estatal de Maricao, Puerto Rico, Dec 4, 2016
I just returned from a brief trip down to Puerto Rico on Monday after five days there. The island contains 17 endemic species and I found all of them (I have marked the endemic species with an 'E'). I arrived midday into San Juan on December 1st and then drove over to the Fajardo area with a brief stop along the way to El Yunque National Forest. Although it was late in the day and I only covered a couple areas briefly I still managed to add six life birds including Greater Antillean Grackle, Red legged Thrush, Puerto Rican Emerald (E), Puerto Rican Woodpecker (E), Puerto Rican Bullfinch (E) and Black whiskered Vireo.
Puerto Rican Tody, PR 983 at PR 988, Puerto Rico, Dec 2, 2016
Scaly naped Pigeon, Ceiba-Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, Puerto Rico, Dec 2, 2016
White cheeked Pintail, Ceiba-Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, Puerto Rico, Dec 2, 2016
Puerto Rican Tanager, Bosque Nacional El Yunque, Puerto Rico, Dec 2, 2016
Puerto Rican Lizard Cuckoo, Bosque Nacional El Yunque, Puerto Rico, Dec 2, 2016
Gray Kingbird, PR 983 at PR 988, Puerto Rico, Dec 2, 2016
Puerto Rican Oriole, PR 983 at PR 988, Puerto Rico, Dec 2, 2016
Adelaide's Warbler, Ceiba-Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, Puerto Rico, Dec 2, 2016
Adelaide's Warbler, Ceiba-Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, Puerto Rico, Dec 2, 2016
On my first full day on the island I hired a guide to explore the El Yunque National Forest and the old Roosevelt Road Naval Station. Before the guide showed up I added two more life birds around the Fajardo Inn where I had a few Pearly eye Thrashers and a group of flyby White winged Parakeets. Once the guide showed up we hit several spots on the way to El Yunque and I added a pair of Puerto Rican Flycatcher (E) at a cemetery plus Puerto Rican Oriole (E), Loggerhead Kingbird, Puerto Rican Tody (E) and Scaly naped Pigeon along the back road into El Yunque. We finished out the morning in El Yunque and I added five more life birds including Puerto Rican Tanager (E), Puerto Rican Spindalis (E), Puerto Rican Lizard Cuckoo (E), Antillean Euphonia and Green Mango. We ran into a few bouts of rain during the morning but nothing that kept us from seeing most everything quite well. Despite much effort to track down an Elfin Woods Warbler we struck out (we might have heard one but it was during some rain and we never were able to track down the bird). After a quick stop for a late lunch we headed south the Ceiba and the old Roosevelt Road navy base covering a variety of habitats and we racked up quite new birds for the trip including White cheeked Pintail, Black faced Grassquit, Bronze Manakin (introduced) and my first new warbler for the trip...Adelaide's Warbler. We heard quite a few of them but my first look at the bird was an individual that came right to the car when we stopped as it fought with reflection in the mirror. The bird was just too close to use the good camera most of the time and decent shots could be easily obtained with the iPhone camera. We finished the day trying to track down a few more target birds but we had no luck. Overall we had a total of 68 species for the day which I was quite happy with. The area near the old base looks so good for a number of species but sadly I noted a high number of feral cats in the area and sadly I'm sure many birds meet their end here.
Elfin woods Warbler, Bosque Estatal de Maricao, Puerto Rico, Dec 3, 2016
Pearly eye Thrasher, Guanica Forest (Bosque de Guánica), Puerto Rico, Dec 3, 2016
Looking south from Bosque Estatal de Maricao, Puerto Rico, Dec 3, 2016
On Saturday I left bright and early from Fajardo to make the long drive out to the west coast of the island with a few stops along the way. My first stop of the morning was down to Guanica where I hiked around for a bit and had some more good looks at some island specialties but I did't add any new species there. Once I was done there I had to decide if I wanted to try my luck heading to the southwest coast to look for shorebirds and waterfowl or head for the mountains instead. I thought the coast might be too crowded and the road into some of the areas too muddy to attempt so I headed up the long and winding road to Maricao. It appeared that I made the right decision when I stopped at a picnic area known to have some Elfin woods Warblers (E) at times. I immediately ran into a group of birds that produced a few warblers (Black and White and Black throated Blue Warblers and then I heard an Elfin woods Warbler calling and then saw it along with at least two others. I got a few marginal photos but I was super happy to catch up with another new warbler species for the trip and one that is quite rare (an endemic species too). I added another life bird at the picnic spot with a calling Lesser Antillean Pewee (a Puerto Rican subspecies that may be a separate species). After another long and winding road down the mountain I made it up to my cottage outside Mayagüez late in the afternoon and I added two more species during a short walk around the property...a pair of Puerto Rican Vireos (E) and Antillean Mango (E). Once the sun went down I had a Puerto Rican Screech Owl calling (E) plus a bunch of frogs.
Puerto Rican Tody, Bosque Estatal de Maricao, Puerto Rico, Dec 4, 2016
Puerto Rican Emerald, Bosque Estatal de Maricao, Puerto Rico, Dec 4, 2016
Puerto Rican Woodpecker, Bosque Estatal de Maricao, Puerto Rico, Dec 4, 2016
Prairie Warbler, Cabo Rojo NWR, Puerto Rico, Dec 4, 2016
Black necked Stilt, Cabo Rojo NWR, Puerto Rico, Dec 4, 2016
Black necked Stilt, Cabo Rojo NWR, Puerto Rico, Dec 4, 2016
Venezuelan Troupial, La Parguera, Puerto Rico, Dec 4, 2016
Yellow shouldered Blackbird, La Parguera, Puerto Rico, Dec 4, 2016
My final full day and my second with a guide started with a visit to the area in and around Maricao. Our primary target for that area was the endangered (and endemic) Puerto Rican Parrot and it took us a lot of looking before we finally ran across a group of four and a bit later another single bird. I was not able to get any photos but we did see them flying away from us plus lots of vocalizations. We also ran across a few more Elfin woods Warblers as well as other endemics I had seen the day before. We dodged a number of rain showers during our time in the mountains and somehow managed to not get caught outside in any downpours.

Our next stop brought us down to the south coast with an mid afternoon stop around La Paguera where we had a few coastal species as well as a few Yellow shouldered Blackbirds after lots of looking around the town. We also found our first Venezuelan Troupials and Indian Silverbills (both introduced species).

Some heavy rain showers came in as we continued along the coast heading towards Cabo Rojo but thankfully missed us at the crucial time right before sunset and we were treated to a spectacular double rainbow and a fantastic sunset as loads of shorebirds and waders enjoyed the mudflats as hundreds of swallows wheeled overhead and dozens of Prairie Warblers moved past. Despite much effort to find a Puerto Rican Nightjar we didn't have any luck. We ended our day after the sunset and we started the drive back to Mayaguez. We arrived at the mall where I dropped off my car in the morning and were rewarded with another new bird as we had an Antillean Nighthawk calling overhead (very few hang around the island during winter). I was starving at this point so I grabbed some food and as I started eating I got a text from owner of the cottage I was staying at saying the power was out due to a tree falling across the road and they were not sure if power would be restored any time soon....not a great way to end the day as no power (and no a/c) for the night didn't sound good at all. I decided to make the drive back to see what the status was before booking another nearby hotel. I arrived and the road was blocked as they worked on restoring power. As it looked like I was not getting back in any time soon I decided to head south to try once again for Puerto Rican Nightjar and I had better luck this time scoring a second nightjar species for the day and finding the last endemic species for the island! I finally made it back to the cottage around nine and the power was restored and the A/C was working again!

I woke up fairly early on Monday to make the long ride to the airport and before leaving the cottage I had a screech owl calling once again. As I started my journey north on Rt 2 I followed up in a tip from my bird guide about a family West Indian Whistling Ducks which I had brief views of through the vegetation....adding a final lifer for the trip.

As mentioned above I found all seventeen endemic species on the island and got photos of many of them. In addition I had a number of Caribbean specialties that occur in just a handful of other locations. Overall for the trip I found a total of 97 species with 35 of them being life birds bringing my life total to 1243.  A very successful trip as far as I'm concerned and a nice reprieve from the cold of early winter back at home. It was a nice warm up to come additional tropical trips to come this winter.

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