Showing posts from March, 2012

Cuba - Part 7 - The search for the Zapata Sparrow

'Twas an earlier start today in order to try and get Cuban Nightjar on the road down to Latuga where we hoped to see more endemics. Unfortunately there were no nightjars and it seemed that when we got to the Zapata Wren site, there were none of them showing either. We could hear a couple but Angel's tape lure just wasn't working. So I tried the call on my iPhone and hey presto! Relatively great views of this very localised and secretive species. I didn't manage any photos but with a bit of luck Mark will have one I can use (he's far quicker on the draw - I'm too busy trying to find the bird!).
Anyway there were a few Red-shouldered Blackbirds in the area (and Tawnies just to confuse) as we headed off to the site for the sparrows. We were basically on a track surrounded by deep ditches that led off to all point of a huge expanse of Sawgrass bog. We searched for the sparrows but to no avail - was this species going to be our bogey bird having missed it at Cayo Co…

Cuba - Part 6 - Quail Doves and Bee Hummingbird

After another marathon journey we reached our final stop on our birding tour of Cuba - Playa Larga on the Bay of Pigs. A thunderstorm was brewing and a few Frigatebirds had been displaced up to the head of the bay where our accommodation was. The Casa Particular we stayed at was small but comfy. They served wonderful food and was the best value for money we had on the trip. Egrets at breakfast! We were on the world famous Zapata Peninsula where there are large tracts of unspoilt woodland and marsh - you can't get anywhere near most of it but all the special birds of the area could be found within a few miles of Playa Larga. However that few miles could and did take ages to cover as the tracks we went down were, well, I was amazed the car came back in one piece. As at La Belen, it is mandatory to have a guide if you go off the main roads in the area. Ours was Angel - he asked us for a list of the birds we wanted to see and we set off! First target Quail Doves and Bee Hummingbird. …

Cuba - Part 5 - La Belen

The guys got up early enough on our last day to finally get to grips with the Yellow-crowned Heron and so we set off for a final attempt at teh Sparrow and Quail Dove which was only partially successful as Rob got the latter on the deck whilst Mark and I had flight views only. And still no sign of the sparrows. So after a quick breakfast (yes, food!!!) we checked out of our relatively luxurious accommodation and headed south-east to the other side of Camaguey and the finca at La Belen. The drive was relatively uneventful until the last 30km which took us an hour and a half. Before that we'd passed through several countries and US states including Florida.
Once we arrived at La Belen, we were allowed through the gates and started birding immediately - new birds came thick and fast; exciting ones like Plain Pigeon and Cuban Crow!!!! Actually, the calls of the Cuban Crows were something else as they sound more like gobbling turkeys giving a weird atmosphere to the place.
Soon we wer…

Cuba - Part 4 - Cayo Coco birding

So this is what a Caribbean holiday is meant to be like........
Not on your nelly! There were birds to be had! We planned to start early at the "Wild Boar Park" where there were some drinking pools in amongst the dense forest of the cays at which we might get a glimpse of all sorts of birds including Key-West Quail Dove and Zapata Sparrow. There was no sign of the lads at their room so I made my way to the car park quietly and had my first tick of the day with this Yellow-crowned Night Heron walking along the path in front of me in the dim pre-dawn light (iPhone picture!) I got to the car and no-one was there so I traipsed back to the rooms and knocked on their door a little harder - they'd overslept! Without too much more of ado, we got to the first destination in time to see lots of birds - Oriente Warbler were very noisy and conspicuous along with Todys, Spindalis and all manner of American warblers.

There was no sign of the doves or sparrow in three hours of scannin…