Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cuba's Warblers

One of the last outings in Cuba for our group from New Mexico Ornithological Society is a quick trek into the Sierra de Cubitas, not far from the city of Camagüey. It is late in the day when we arrive, and rain showers are threatening.

In the foothills of the sierra, we find a very excited, vocal group of Cuban Palm Crows. See how short the wings are? Much shorter than in Cuban Crow, the other endemic corvid. The palm crows also sound rather like our Fish Crow, unlike the crying-baby call of the Cuban Crow. Fun!

An endemic Cuban Palm Crow (Photo by Jerry Oldenettel)

Soon we are immersed in another big mixed flock of wintering North American warblers, like this beautiful Prairie Warbler.

Prairie Warbler (Photo by Jerry Oldenettel)

Then the Oriente Warblers appear! Jubilation! 

Of Cuba's two endemic wood warblers, the Oriente Warbler replaces the Yellow-headed in the eastern part of the island. Both occur in all types of forest and at all elevations, as long as the understory is dense. Oriente Warblers often conceal their nests in a clump of Tillandsia, a bromeliad.

Oriente Warblers emerge from a tangle (Photo by Narca)

Oriente Warbler (Photo by Jerry Oldenettel)

Yellow-headed Warbler (Photo by Jerry Oldenettel)

The Yellow-headed Warbler has a similarly restricted range, occurring only in western Cuba, but also is in no danger. Indeed we found it to be common in the region around María la Gorda and Guanahacabibes. Look at the size of that bill––quite large for a warbler!

Earlier in the trip in pine forest near Cueva de los Portales, we had found the Olive-capped Warbler, a Cuban specialty that also lives in the Bahamas. Although it occurs only very locally in pine forests, the Olive-capped is fairly common in the right habitat and is not endangered.

Olive-capped Warbler (Photo by Jerry Oldenettel)

We saw few snakes in Cuba, but Jim did find this lovely little boa on the grounds of Hotel Batey Don Pedro. This Dusky Dwarf Boa has an interesting alternate name: the Cuban Giant Dwarf Boa!

Dusky Dwarf Boa, Tropidophis melanurus (Photo by Narca)

As the sun sets once again over Cuba, I celebrate both the people who have graced this trip and the birds––from the super-stars like Cuban Parrot to the familiar, cosmopolitan Great Egret.

Cuban Parrot (Photo by Jerry Oldenettel)

Great Egret (Photo by Narca)

Dave Krueper excelled as our group leader from New Mexico Ornithological Sociey. Cubans––our cultural guide Ray, scientist-guide Giraldo Alayon, bus driver Francisco, and local guides throughout––all added immeasurably to our experience. Thank you, everyone!

Janet Ruth and Dave Krueper at lunch in Havana. In the background are Jerry Oldenettel, Christopher Rustay, Jim Shiflett, 
and Alan (looking away). (Photo by Narca)

Pretty good trip, huh, Bruce?

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