Cuba Day 9 #838-#839 on the Road to Cayo Coco

Today I get a wake up call at 5:45. For one of the few times this trip I actually need it. I’m in the middle of a strange dream in which Doc Martin has just learned that Louisa has died in childbirth, but the baby lived. (Must take place after Season 3 in an alternate Season 4.) But I have no idea what happens after that because for once the wakeup call is on time.

We have a plausible buffet breakfast with enough eggs and chorizo to fortify me for the drive to Cayo Coco, about three hours and 180km or so. At the rest stop I give in and buy an ice cream bar. I tell myself it’s just to get change for the restroom, but I could have bought the $0.25 razor instead, or just remembered to bring change from my backpack on the bus. I also amuse myself by investigating all the brand knock-offs in the Oro Negro (Shell colors).

Just before we enter the causeway to Cayo Coco, we are stopped at the first real checkpoint we’ve seen since clearing customs. The car in front of us has to unload all its baggage to be sniffed by a Springer Spaniel, but eventually we get waved through without incident. (This may be a Communist nation, but overall I’ve seen way fewer police than in the U.S. and probably half of the police I did see were just waiting to get on a public bus like everyone else. Cuba certainly doesn’t feel like a police state.)

We arrive at the Sol Cayo Coco around 11:00 AM. It’s a typical Caribbean all-inclusive resort, much fancier than where we have been staying. (The Hotel Plaza in Camaguey looked like it had once been very grand, but had clearly passed its prime.) We can’t check in yet, but we get yellow armbands so we can eat and drink all we want. I want coffee, which I had abstained from prior to the long drive.

We’re too early to get rooms, and lunch isn’t till 12:30 so I bird the grounds some. Nothing too interesting but I do get some nice Royal Tern shots:

Royal Terns

After lunch we meet the local guide about 1:00, who promptly walks us around the corner to a site for not one but two! Oriente Warblers, #838, so named because they only occur in the eastern half of Cuba.

Oriente Warbler

Then it’s on the bus and down the road for Zapata Sparrow again. This one is a different subspecies than we found in Zapata swamp.

We spot some Common Blackhawks on the road:

Cuban Black Hawk, Buteogallus gundlachii, a threatened endemic species of Cuba

And then all the way down the road to Cayo Guillermo, we get out of the bus and find #839 Bahama Mockingbird:

Bahamas Mockingbird

This species is common in the Bahamas, but this is one of the only places in Cuba they’re regularly found. It’s so backlit that I can barely make it out in binoculars and even at +3 it’s not quite right, so I switch into manual mode and go one stop higher.

Bahama Mockingbird

That’s the three target species for the day but on the way back we stop at some ponds near the Hotel Villa Cojimar for shorebirds including Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, and two surprisingly cooperative Clapper Rails:

Clapper Rail, Rallus longirostris

Back to the hotel around 5:30 where we check into our rooms and enjoy the all inclusive bar, though first I photograph a few more Royal Terns and doves.

Dinner is a plausible but not great buffet, followed by a review show I doubt they pay ASCAP royalties on. The dancers try hard, though New York has spoiled me. These folks are not quite ready for Broadway, and the lip syncing to English standards is awful. They do a little better with the Spanish songs.

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