Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Cuba cuatro – Out and about in Viñales, February 14-18, 2018

Our view from the casa of the valley's iconic limestone mogotes hills - not the worst place to sip a coffee and read (and bird, of course)
Local heroes of the revolucion
The creepy Jardin Botánico de Viñales...

male Yellow-faced Grassquit Tiaris olivaceus
female Yellow-faced Grassquit Tiaris olivaceus
West Indian Woodpecker Melanerpes superciliaris
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Antillean Palm Swift Tachornis phoenicobia
Antillean Palm Swift Tachornis phoenicobia
Tennessee Warbler Leiothlypis peregrina
Black-and-white Warbler Mniotilta varia
Cuban Green Anole Anolis porcatus
  The most common species seen on the 2.5 hour Havana-to-Viñales drive were Turkey Vultures (201, honestly) and Cattle Egrets (97, and not a bird more). Also spotted were scattered Great White Egrets, Brown Pelicans, local icterids, doves, and several American Kestrels.
  Viñales was a charming little town, quiet enough most nights, except Valentine's, the weekend, and on days ending in "-day." On those nights, the streets throbbed with ersatz Gangnam Style and a chorus of thirsty cardiac palpitations emanating from migratory gaggles of European ladies in search of ephemeral couplings in the well-muscled arms of the local lovesmiths, who get four haircuts a week, and perfected Blue Steel at the age of four. That, perhaps, is a story for another day.
  The roof of our casa offered calming views of the valley’s iconic limestone mogotes cliffs, and a decent amount of bird action at the right time of day. It was there that I had my first surprise views of Yellow-faced Grassquit, a lovely species. A pair came up to scout for seeds at my feet. Also seen from the casa were a constant dozen Antillean Palm Swifts, a similar number of Turkey Vultures, handfuls of Cuban Martins, and single digits of White-winged Doves, Cuban Blackbirds, Greater Antillean Grackles, and Palm Warblers. On the 14th, 120+ Snowy Egrets streamed past on their way to a roost at dusk.
  On the morning of the 15th, I woke to a bizarre yet somehow familiar agitated chuckling coming from just outside my bathroom window. I peered through the slats and saw a medium-sized bird reacting to low overflights from a Turkey Vulture. After about ten minutes, the bird finally broke cover and flew up to a nearby telephone post. It was my first and only West Indian Woodpecker of the trip. My attempts to get record shots from the window attracted the attention of the old woman hanging up laundry outside, a few feet from me. “I’m an...observador de aves!” I sang cheerfully. She looked at me like I had two heads. I smiled. She did not. I closed the slats and went back to bed.

Jardin Botánico de Viñales, February 18, 2018
Turkey Vulture-8+
American Kestrel-2
White-winged Dove-2
Antillean Palm Swift-9
Cuban Emerald-2, including a female on a nest
La Sagra’s Flycatcher-2
Loggerhead Kingbird-1
Red-legged Thrush-6+
Northern Parula-2
Tennessee Warbler-1
Black-throated Blue Warbler-3
Palm Warbler-4
Black-and-white Warbler-1

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