Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cuba's Guanahacabibes National Park

Eager for our best chance to see a Bee Hummingbird––the world's smallest bird––we head to Guanahacabibes National Park and Biosphere Reserve near María la Gorda. The region is important for its coral reefs, 4 species of sea turtles, spiny lobsters, and 11 species of birds endemic to Cuba. Its 150 square miles harbor about 100 lakes.

Entrance to Guanahacabibes National Park
(Photos by Narca, except for Cuban Emerald)

Right away we are finding wonderful Cuban birds, like this Western Spindalis. The Cuban spindalis is one of a species complex that may eventually be split, as understanding of their genetics advances.

Western Spindalis

La Sagra's Flycatcher is much like other Myiarchus flycatchers that nest around Portal.

La Sagra's Flycatcher

And this Eastern Phoebe looks just like... an Eastern Phoebe! What is this bird doing in Cuba? It's only about the fourth record for the country! Yesterday Arturo Kirkconnell and his group from Massachusetts Audubon found this rarity, and it is still here today.

Eastern Phoebe is a great rarity in Cuba.

The insects at Guanahacabibes are dazzling, too.

Orthemis sp. (Antillean Red Skimmer) 

Doug Danforth (who noticed that Roseate Skimmer does not have a red face) has sent me a note on this dragonfly, after consulting with Dennis Paulson. Dennis writes: "It is what we have been calling 'Antillean red,' a red species looking very much like discolor that occurs all over the Greater Antilles and into southern Florida...." The bottom line is that this Cuban skimmer has not yet been officially described, and DNA work on this species complex is underway. Thanks, Doug! I can always count on you for elucidating dragonflies.

We saw Common Ringlets, Calisto herophile, in many locales.

We are impressed both by the efforts here to regenerate native forests and by the outreach programs which involve local schoolchildren. Several people in the group have brought school supplies which we leave for the reserve's programs.

And the great giveaway of baseballs commences! Several people––Janet, Pat, Rich––have brought something like 50 baseballs and a glove. Throughout our trip, the kids who receive this largesse can't contain their excitement.

And what about those hummingbirds? Plenty of big Cuban Emeralds are buzzing around.

Cuban Emerald (Photo by Jerry Oldenettel)

And, yes indeed, here is the prize! Bee Hummingbirds! I was only able to photograph a female, and only her nondescript front––her back blazes with turquoise. Rich Wagner shot an excellent photo of the Bee Hummingbird, showing some of that turquoise on her flanks and back. Click here to link with his blog.

Dave's devotees are all very happy at the end of the day, and some are clamoring for a toast with Vitamin R!

A tiny Bee Hummingbird, about 2 inches long, bill and all. Think about it!

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