Puerto Rico, Day 3

December 10

The failure to see an Elfin-woods Warbler at Maricao yesterday meant another trip there this day. Since we knew exactly where we were going, we made a little better timing and arrived to find that, while still windy, it was much less so than the day before. Optimistic, we went through the gate and passed the ruins, just as before. But this time, we took the trail branching off to the right, hoping it may be more open and sheltered from the wind. But the birds were still hard to come by.

We hadn’t gone too far when we decided to turn around; it seemed like a better play to hang around an open spot like the ruins and hope for a mixed flock to pass by. But on the way back, some Puerto Rican Tanagers could be heard calling. We eventually saw a few, along with a Puerto Rican Bullfinch and a female Black-throated Blue Warbler. But a different-sounding chip caught my attention. It took a little time and effort to find the bird making it, but when I did, I was face-to-face with a gorgeous Elfin-woods Warbler. Well, it was eye-level and less than ten feet away, but it was still fairly obstructed. But my wife was able to get some identifiable pictures.

Elfin-woods Warbler

Elfin-woods Warbler

Yes, I'm shy. Why do you think no one found me until 1968?

There was a little time before lunch, so I thought there would be time to stop at the Susua State Forest. The new Birdwatchers’ Guide to Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and the Caymans claims it’s a good spot for Puerto Rican Pewees. But it also gives incorrect directions, which had us driving several miles down the wrong road. We finally got there, only to find the gate locked. We walked in a little ways, hoping that the trails mentioned in the guide would start shortly inside the gate, but no luck. There was very little shade from the bright noon sun, so we left to grab something to eat. The only birds were a Northern Mockingbird, Puerto Rican Spindalis, and a heard-only Adelaide’s Warbler.

Later on, I wanted to try for some waterbirds at Laguna Cartagena, a National Wildlife Refuge about 20 minutes from Parguera (and that long only because it’s off a dirt road that you don’t want to drive too fast on). The main parking area was found without a problem, but for some reason I had thought open water would have been visible from near the entrance. Nope. A calling Sora meant that there was some water nearby, but vegetation blocked all views. We walked down the trail, hoping for a good vantage point somewhere. Along the way, we were entertained by a couple of Puerto Rican Todies and some Smooth-billed Anis that sounded like something out of Space Invaders (as my wife put it).

Very shortly, we came across a very nice observation tower, complete with a birding couple from Ohio. They had been in Puerto Rico for a few days longer than we had, but until then hadn’t seen another birder. And they were the only ones I saw. Sad.

But we did see lots of birds, including Great and Cattle Egrets, Green and Great Blue Heron, lots of Common Moorhens, and a single Purple Gallinule. Ducks were represented by Ruddy, Ring-necked, and Blue-winged Teal, but not the hoped for White-cheeked Pintail. But I was very glad to see that the two visible coots didn’t have any red on their frontal shields, making them Caribbean Coots, and a lifer for me.

My wife and I bid adieu to the other couple and were walking away from the tower when they called down “West Indian Whistling-ducks!” I had seen them previously in the Caymans, but I wasn’t about to pass up another chance to see “one of the rarest ducks in the Americas” (Neotropical Birds). After a hurried ascent and look through the scope, there they were: two West Indian Whistling-ducks swimming out in the middle of the water.

I’ve skipped another stop that was made, but it deserves its own post

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One Response to “Puerto Rico, Day 3”

  1. Eva Matthews


    Thanks for the link to your Puerto Rico posts. They are getting me all excited for the upcoming trip! I hope I have some of your luck while I’m there.


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