Monday, December 17, 2012

Giant Kingbirds!

After watching day break over the city of Camagüey (home town for our Cuban guide Ray), our merry band from New Mexico Ornithological Society sets out for Finca La Belén in the Sierra de Najasa.

Dawn over Camagüey from the roof of our hotel (Photo by Narca)

La Belén is a protected holding where ranching and ecotourism converge. Here we are seeking the Giant Kingbird... and anything else that crosses our path. One of the first birds we run across is a Cuban Pygmy-Owl. We've found this species throughout the trip: what a treat that has been!

Cuban Pygmy-Owl (Photo by Narca)

Pretty soon the cry comes––a Giant Kingbird has been found! It is actually slightly smaller than southern Arizona's Thick-billed Kingbird, but we'll keep that between us. Their bills are similarly enormous––look at the stoutness here! And compare that to the more slender bill of the Loggerhead Kingbird below. The Giant and Loggerhead Kingbirds are closely related and occur here in the same habitat. The Giant, however, is endangered, while the Loggerhead is abundant. Reasons for the Giant Kingbird's decline are not known, although the loss of large trees for nesting is a likely factor.

Giant Kingbird (Photo by Narca)

Loggerhead Kingbird (Photo by Jerry Oldenettel)

The rest of the morning is relaxed. Our time in Cuba is drawing to a close, and we are savoring the species that come our way. Today a Gundlach's Hawk favors us––among the best views of the trip, although the flying raptor doesn't give me a chance for a photo. Cuban Green Woodpeckers and a Red-legged Thrush are among the birds we'll miss when we leave!

Cuban Green Woodpecker (Photo by Jerry Oldenettel)

Red-legged Thrush (Photo by Jerry Oldenettel)

Butterflies at La Belen are among the best we've seen on the trip.

Cuban Daggerwing, Marpesia eleuchea (Photo by Jerry Oldenettel)

Malachite butterfly, Siproeta stelenes (Photo by Narca)

Around us, the work of the ranch continues, and after an excellent lunch, Janet and Ray even find a pony to ride.

Oxen pull a laden farm conveyance (Photo by Narca)

Janet finds a new friend (Photo by Narca)

We have one more destination today, the Sierra de Cubitas, where we will search for Oriente Warblers, the last of Cuba's three species of endemic wood warblers. So we don't linger long after lunch, as inviting and comfortable as Finca La Belén is!

1 comment:

  1. What a great trip you have had! Your pictures are fanatic.