Puerto Rico, Day 4

December 11

Having seen two of my three most wanted Puerto Rican birds the day before (Elfin-woods Warbler and Yellow-shouldered Blackbird), I was feeling much better. I knew I no longer had a chance to get the nocturnal birds this trip, but there were several others that I had a good shot at this day.

Our cruise embarked around 5pm from San Juan, but we wanted to get on early so as to familiarize ourselves with our home for the next week. Even with the drive time to San Juan, that left several hours to fill. And I knew just the place…

We arrived at Guanica State Forest at 9, and proceeded to the main parking area. The visitor’s center was undergoing renovation, but there was a small temporary structure setup and manned by two gentlemen. After disclosing my interest in birds, I found out that one of them is in charge of the bird banding operation at the park. Given our limited time, he suggested that we walk the Granados trail, which looped around from the headquarters.

Guanica State Forest, Puerto Rico

Guanica State Forest
Is it just me, or does this look like something out of Middle Earth?

The first, and most common, birds were Adelaide’s Warblers. But it wasn’t too long before I heard some pewee-like sounds. I couldn’t find the bird, so I played the call a few times from my phone. It didn’t take long before a dark bird swooped in and perched right beside the trail, giving me a great look at my first Puerto Rican Pewee. It was a much richer color than I was expecting.

Further along, the same thing happened with a Puerto Rican Flycatcher. Even with playback, though, it didn’t cooperate as well as the pewee. Also in contrast to the pewee, this myiarchus flycatcher was much duller than those I’m used to in the U.S.

The other star had to have been a very cooperative Puerto Rican Tody. We were finally able to get some good pictures, including this one my wife took. These birds are scarcely larger than hummingbirds, and have to rank among the cutest birds I’ve ever seen.

Puerto Rican Tody

Other birds seen along the trail include: Puerto Rican Bullfinch, Pearly-eyed Thrasher, Black-faced Grassquit, and Bananaquit. I heard another Puerto Rican Lizard-cuckoo, but it must have been very shy.

While driving out, a large-ish bird flew over the road and into a tree on the other side. The tail could only have been that of a cuckoo. Excited, I grabbed my binoculars expecting a lizard-cuckoo finally. Instead, I saw a bird with a black mask and cinnamon belly. The disappointment of it not being the endemic didn’t last long as this was my first Mangrove Cuckoo. Especially since it perched out in the open for me, and was still there as I reluctantly drove off. You know it’s a great birding spot when you get lifers when you’re trying to leave!

Mangrove Cuckoo

On the way back to San Juan, I took a detour through Comerio to try for Plain Pigeon. It’s not the most straight-forward route, and certainly not quick. With my smart phone I was able to limit misturns to just one, and arrived at the school ballfield at 1. According to the birdfinding guide and trip reports, this baseball field is the best place to see these birds, which are scare in Puerto Rico. I scanned the trees around the field for 15 minutes, but the target refused to show itself. There were plenty of other doves present, though, in the form of Rock Pigeons, Zenaida Doves, and a single White-winged Dove.

With that, my birding in Puerto Rico was concluded. I tallied 50 species, of which 19 were life birds. I saw 13 of the 18 endemics, and heard two others. Totally missed were the Puerto Rican Parrot, Screech-owl, and Oriole (from the recently split Greater Antillean Oriole complex). The Puerto Rican Nightjar and Lizard-cuckoo were heard only, which I don’t usually count for life birds. But I have included them in the list, for the sake of completeness.

The trip list (endemics in bold):

  • West Indian Whistling-duck
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Cattle Egret
  • Green Heron
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Sora – heard only
  • American Purple Gallinule
  • Common Moorhen
  • Caribbean Coot
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Eurasian Collared-dove
  • White-winged Dove
  • Zenaida Dove
  • Mourning Dove
  • Common Ground-dove
  • Mangrove Cuckoo
  • Puerto Rican Lizard-cuckoo – heard only
  • Smooth-billed Ani
  • Puerto Rican Nightjar – heard only
  • Green Mango
  • Puerto Rican Emerald
  • Puerto Rican Tody
  • Puerto Rican Woodpecker
  • Puerto Rican Pewee
  • Puerto Rican Flycatcher
  • Gray Kingbird
  • Puerto Rican Vireo
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Pearly-eyed Thrasher
  • European Starling
  • Cape May Warbler
  • Black-throated Blue Warbler
  • Adelaide’s Warbler
  • Elfin-woods Warbler
  • Black-and-white Warbler
  • Bananaquit
  • Puerto Rican Tanager
  • Puerto Rican Spindalis
  • Black-faced Grassquit
  • Puerto Rican Bullfinch
  • Yellow-shouldered Blackbird
  • Greater Antillean Grackle
  • Shiny Cowbird
  • House Sparrow
  • Bronze Mannikin

Continue on to the first stops on the cruise – the US Virgin Islands

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