Zapata Swamp National Park and Biosphere Reserve is also a RAMSAR site for conserving wetlands of international importance.
(Photos by Narca, except for Jerry's wren)
The wren and the rail are endemic to the Zapata Peninsula, at present time living nowhere else. Two other populations of the Zapata Sparrow live in Cayo Coco and Guantánamo Province. The rail, sadly, is slipping towards extinction, and none have been seen in several years. It suffers from predation by introduced African Sharptooth Catfish, which eat the rail chicks, and introduced Small Asian Mongooses. Our hopes, however, are high for finding the wren and the sparrow.
Our base here is Playa Larga ("Long Beach"), a lovely seaside hotel with scattered cabañas and a resident Stygian Owl. When we pull in, a Great Lizard Cuckoo is prowling the entry way.
A Great Lizard Cuckoo at the entry to Playa Larga
In Cuba, towel-folding gives a new twist to origami.
But Playa Larga is the only place where I've seen them attempt to fold a blanket in this manner!
This origami resembles a Red-throated Loon more than a swan.
The wetlands of Zapata Swamp are even more flooded than usual.
Venturing along roads with flooded sawgrass savanna on either side, we find Zapata's famous namesakes. The sparrow is especially cooperative: a pair observes us, then resumes foraging, until finally we walk away from them! This beautiful sparrow recalls for me the colorful brush finches of Central and South America.
A curious, confiding Zapata Sparrow (not all are so cooperative!)
Zapata Wren (Photo by Jerry Oldenettel)