Posted by Brian Rapoza on April 03, 2004 at 20:37:36:
On the Tropical Audubon trip to Puerto Rico on March 27-April 1, led by Larry Manfredi, we (Nancy Freedman, Liz Golden, Linda Humphries and myself) were able to find over one hundred species, including every endemic except one. Of course, the one we missed was one of the rarest birds in the world. Following is my trip report. Hopefully, Larry will be able to attach some of the many fantastic photos he took.
Arriving in San Juan, we were greeted at the airport by Greater Antillean Grackles. A lunch stop produced our first Bananaquit, as well as Zeneida and White-winged Doves, Gray Kingbirds, and a Magnificent Frigatebird. Heading to the southwestern part of the island, we first stopped in the Lago Cidra area south of San Juan, home of a small population of Plain Pigeons. We found several of these beautiful birds near the town of Comerio (why they’re called “Plain” is beyond me). While in the area, we also spotted our first Yellow-faced and Black-faced Grassquits, an Antillean Mango, and a pair of adorable Puerto Rican Todys. We then continued on to our mountaintop lodge for the first two nights, the beautiful and historic La Hacienda Juanita, in Maricao.
We birded the grounds of the lodge the next morning, finding our first Puerto Rican Tanager, Puerto Rican Spindalis, Puerto Rican and Black-whiskered Vireos, Puerto Rican Bullfinch, Puerto Rican Woodpecker, Greater Antillean Oriole, Loggerhead Kingbird, Scaly-naped Pigeon, Pearly-eyed Thrasher, and Red-legged Thrush. Puerto Rican Emerald, Green Mango, and a female Antillean Euphonia were spotted right in the courtyard of the lodge. An afternoon drive on Route 120 to nearby Maricao Forest produced (after considerable searching) our first Elfin Woods Warblers, a species only discovered in 1971. A late-night walk on the road above the lodge produced a pair of Puerto Rican Screech Owls, spotted just as the battery of my spotlight was beginning to fade. For me, this was world bird #1000!
The next day, we headed down Route 120 again towards Guanica, stopping to bird along the way. At our most productive stop, we found our one and only Puerto Rican Pewee for the trip, as well as a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a rare migrant on the island. We also heard, but couldn’t locate a Ruddy Quail Dove, despite clambering up (and down again) a treacherously steep hillside. Along the way, we also found another Elfin Woods Warbler, as well as a nesting pair of Puerto Rican Woodpeckers.
We arrived at Guanica Forest in mid-afternoon. Only a few feet past the gate, and within a matter of minutes, we spotted our first Adelaide’s Warblers, Puerto Rican Flycatchers, and six Puerto Rican Lizard Cuckoos! Mangrove Cuckoos were heard but not seen. Further up the road, we found our first Caribbean Elaenia. After stopping briefly at the park visitor’s center, we headed to our lodging for the night in La Parguera. Before Larry even had a chance to check us in, the rest of us were poolside, spotting our first Yellow-shouldered Blackbirds, a beautiful yet endangered endemic most easily seen right at our lodge. We also saw in the nearby mangroves Golden Warblers, the Caribbean race of Yellow Warbler. We finished our day back at Guanica Forest, first hearing, and then getting great looks at a Puerto Rican Nightjar, a species once thought to be extinct.
A drive through La Paguera the next morning produced “Antillean” Clapper Rails, as well as the first of Puerto Rico’s many introduced species, Warbling Silverbills and a single Bronze Mannikin. On a drive around nearby Laguna Cartegena, we spotted Troupials, Pin-tailed Whydahs, and a Yellow-crowned Bishop, as well as our first Caribbean Martins. A visit to the dramatic cliffs at Cabo Rojo produced Brown Booby and American Oystercatcher. Several species of shorebirds, as well as a Gull-billed Tern were seen in or around the nearby salt flats. After lunch in Boqueron, where we spotted a large flock of Orange Bishops, we headed for the cliffs of Quebradillas, on the island’s north coast, where Larry was able to get spectacular video of White-tailed Tropicbirds flying into their nest holes on the face of the cliff. We then drove on to the island’s eastern coast, and our lodging for our last two nights, in Fajardo.
The next morning, we found both Antillean Crested Hummingbird and Green-throated Carib right on the grounds of the hotel. A 1-1/2 hour ferry ride took us to Culebra Island, where we were hoping to see nesting seabirds. We didn’t find any seabirds (other than Brown Booby), but we did spot a pair of White-cheeked Pintails in a puddle at the airport! On the return trip, we had distant looks at what was possibly a Red-billed Tropicbird. After returning to Fajardo, we ended our day at nearby Caribbean National Forest. This spectacular tropical rain forest is the home to one of the world’s rarest birds, the critically endangered Puerto Rican Parrot. Larry had inside information on a possible location to see the parrots, but on this night, it was not to be.
We tried again the next morning, spotting a Ruddy Quail Dove flying across the road as we drove through the forest. We were told by a member of the park’s parrot captive breeding program that during the breeding season, most of the remaining wild parrots could be found on the opposite side of the forest. Because they do not engage in flocking behavior during this time, even there they would be extremely difficult to locate. This bird would have to wait for another trip.
We ended our last day on the island at Humacao Wildlife Refuge, where we found Orange-cheeked Waxbills, White-cheeked Pintails, Caribbean Coots, Antillean Crested Hummingbirds, Smooth-billed Anis, and Mangrove Cuckoos. A drive through Old San Juan on our way to the airport failed to produce any of that area’s many introduced species. A pair of Monk Parakeets at our lunch stop was our 103rd and final addition to our trip list. It should be noted that reaching 100 species is not to be expected on any trip to Puerto Rico. Larry’s experience and planning made the difference on this incredible trip. You can be sure that his next trip to Puerto Rico will be just as productive, and knowing him, he’ll even get that parrot!
Following is the trip list:
Red-billed Tropicbird (possible)
Little Blue Heron
"Antillean" Clapper Rail
Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo
Puerto Rican Screech Owl
Puerto Rican Nightjar
Puerto Rican Emerald
Antillean Crested Hummingbird
Puerto Rican Tody
Puerto Rican Woodpecker
Puerto Rican Flycatcher
Puerto Rican Pewee
"Antillean" Cave Swallow
Puerto Rican Vireo
Elfin Woods Warbler
Puerto Rican Spindalis
Puerto Rican Tanager
Greater Antillean Grackle
Greater Antillean Oriole
Puerto Rican Bullfinch
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