Cuba Day 8 #837 Plain Pigeon at Sierra del Chorillo

Day 8, Wednesday. Up early at 5:00 AM for a 6:00 AM departure for Sierra del Chorillo again. As usual we leave half an hour late and aren’t traveling till 6:30 or so. At least when we arrive at the ranch at 7:45 AM this morning we don’t have to spend half an hour looking for a local guide. We get some great looks at both Cuban Parrot and Cuban Parakeets. I find the first Cape May Warbler of the trip though I’m the only one to get on it.

We spend a couple of hours retracing our steps from yesterday, and a lot of time listening to both Cuban and Palm Crows, and I’m getting to know them pretty well. I finally get good, convincing looks at Plain Pigeon so I can count it as #837:

We find Fernandina’s Flicker for probably the fourth time this trip. In fact, we find two, a mated pair. This species really doesn’t seem to be as rare as our leaders think. We’ve had much harder times finding Cuban Tody for instance. Luck of the bird I guess.

But mostly we’re hoping to find the endemic and rare Gundlach’s Hawk, which the local guide saw yesterday morning. No luck though. Some days you get the bird and some days the bird gets you. I do find a couple of interesting butterflies though:

White Peacock

We give up waiting for the hawk to appear and then spend the next hour or so tracing down some sort of sugar cane drink the ranch wants us to try. We find the drink, but the cups are locked up! So we have to put the drink in a bottle instead, and go down the road to the local bar/hotel/swimming pool for cups. Since this is basically pure sugar water, and I’ve already exceeded my annual sugar quota on this trip, I pass.

We leave about 11:30 AM and then have a really nice lunch at a Parador in Camaguey.

No birding in the afternoon, free time instead. I spend it exploring Camaguey on foot and typing up these notes; but this is getting annoying. In three days we’ve had about five and a half hours of total birding time, all of it at one site. That’s a very light Brooklyn Bird Club day trip, not what you expect from a major international tour. This trip is not very well planned. We could have easily skipped the night in Sanctus Spiriti and gone straight through to Camaguey on Monday. Then spent all of Tuesday at Sierra del Chorillo (maybe even sleep there?), and departed for Cayo Coco this morning. Better yet we could have gone to Caya Coco first and then Camaguey, though apparently it’s high season and hotels in Cayo Coco were booked up for these days.

But overall this is far too casual a pace, especially for a destination most of us are only likely to ever visit once. I can’t say I’m likely to sign up for another Audubon trip, unless, like this one, it’s to a location that really can’t be reached otherwise. The major Vent/Wings/Field Guides/etc. tours spend a lot more time birding, and deliver more field hours per vacation day taken.

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