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The West Indies:

Puerto Rico, Saba, & U.S. Virgin Islands

July 1-14, 1998

Greg Lasley & Cheryl Johnson

My wife and I recently completed a two-week trip to the West Indies which included birding on Puerto Rico,  Saba  (a very small island in the Netherlands Antilles),  St. Thomas  and  St. Johns  in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  I have prepared an account of this trip in the hopes that some of the material below will be of help and/or interest to others traveling in this area.  We benefited from email accounts from others who have birded this region and found many species due to these accounts, particularly on Puerto Rico.  The folks who had posted such accounts on networks such as Bird Chat, or through friends who forwarded the accounts to us, or provided other information we used included Giff Beaton <giffbeaton@mindspring.com>, Martin Reid <upupa@onramp.net>, Walt Wilson <wwilson@usoc.org>, Tom Love <tlove@linfield.edu>, Mark Oberle <oberle@mindspring.com>, Ro Wauer <WauerRo@aol.com>, and Ron Outen <bayleyO@msn.com>.  All of these folks provided information on Puerto Rico or elsewhere which we relied on during our visit.  I hope our meager additional information will be helpful to others.

As an introduction, other than one day of casual birding on Grand Bahama in March, 1997, this was our first visit to the Caribbean.  I do have a lot of birding and traveling experience in much of Mexico as well as some areas of Central and South America, however.  Also, we were able to take advantage of the just published "A Guide to the Birds of the West Indies" by Herbert Raffaele, James Wiley, Orlando Garrido, Allan Keith, and Janis Raffaele which was published just a few weeks before our departure.  It is an EXCELLENT book on the area and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting this region.  We also had the 1989 edition of Raffaele's "Birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands" which was also very useful.  From the accounts we had read, again, mainly concerning visits to Puerto Rico, most birding visits we read about were in the period January-April.  We were able to get away in July, so that is when we went...we did not encounter another person with binoculars at any location during our two weeks.  Still, on Puerto Rico, we managed to find all the endemics in two days except for the critically endangered Puerto Rican Parrot which we really did not look for, to be honest.  The Puerto Rican Nightjar was heard, but not seen.  All of the endemics we found were in the SW corner of the island, and that is where we concentrated our time.
 

Itinerary:

July 1 - Texas to St. Maarten, then flew to Saba.
July 2-5 - The island of Saba
July 6 - Some birding on Saba in the morning, then flew back to St. Maarten, then on to San Juan
July 7-9 - Birding SW Puerto Rico, brief visit to El Yunque Park near San Juan
July 10 - Flight to St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.
July 11 - Ferry to St. Johns, U.S.V.I.
July 12 - Flight back to San Juan, drove to SW Puerto Rico again
July 13 - Morning birding in SW Puerto Rico, then return to San Juan
July 14 - Flight home
 

July 1

Arrived at the St. Maarten airport in early afternoon on a regular American Airlines flight out of Miami.  Quite warm and windy.  Finally got on our WinAir flight to Saba in a DeHaviland Twin Otter, a STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) aircraft and the only type of plane that can land on the short Saba runway.  The flight is 15 minutes from St. Maarten.  The runway is the shortest commercial runway in the world at 1300 feet, and as Ro Wauer says "it is like landing on an aircraft carrier."  We agree!  The runway is built on the only flat piece of land on Saba!  Still, the Twin Otter came to a halt barely half way down the runway...quite an experience!  We have a friend on Saba who is engaged in research with Red-billed Tropicbirds and visiting her and seeing her tropicbird site was the primary purpose of our visit there.  Read Ro Wauer's description of Saba in "A Birder's West Indies".  Saba is a small (5 sq. mile) mountainous island.  Most of the shore is cliffside or steep, rocky hillsides.  There are no beaches so this small island is not visited by the many tourists that flock to other Caribbean locations.  It is a popular spot with sport divers, however.  We spent the afternoon at our friend's home watching Purple-throated Caribs, Green-throated Caribs, Antillean Crested Hummingbirds, Bananaquits, Lesser Antillean Bullfinches, and Black-faced Grassquits visiting her feeders.

July 2-6

We did some general birding on Saba, but spent a lot of time with the Red-billed Tropicbird colonies.  There is a trail described in Ro Wauer's book called the Mt. Scenery trail.  It climbs up to 2800 feet and into Elfin cloud forest.  The trail is a series of over 1000 concrete steps; some steps are many yards apart.  The wet areas of the trail have a lot of very slick moss and algae, and footing can be treacherous...we found it quite difficult going near the top of this trail and we each took at least one spill.  Be very careful on this trail.

On the trail were many Pearly-eyed Thrashers, lesser numbers of Scaly-breasted Thrashers, a few Brown Tremblers, a Purple-throated Carib, Scaly-naped Pigeons, Zenaida Doves, and the ever-present Bananaquits.  We also heard and saw a Bridled Quail-Dove, actually heard several, but only saw one.  Another trail we enjoyed is the Sandy Cruz Trail.  It is much better for walking and the footing is reasonable along this two-hour walk through the forest.  Basically, the same species as previously listed were encountered.  There are just 1100 people who live on this island, and only about 100 vehicles here.  The roads are narrow, with stone walls on either side, so patience and extreme caution in a vehicle is a must.  Saba is not really set up for tourists, but there are a few small hotels and even a handful of rental cars available.  We were extremely fortunate to be able to visit this island and stay with a friend at her home, which made our travels around the island quite easy.
 

Travelers visiting Saba would be well advised to make sure they have reservations for a room, etc., before considering a visit.  There are no endemics on Saba, but we certainly enjoyed the birding here in all aspects, especially such great birds as Purple-throated Carib, the Brown Trembler, Scaly-breasted Thrasher, etc., which are of limited range.  More than 750 Red-billed Tropicbirds nest on the cliffs of Saba, so this was certainly thrilling to watch numbers of these birds daily.  Brown Noddies and Bridled Terns also nest on Green Island, a small rocky island near the airport.  From the airport terminal (a small metal building) you can watch tropicbirds fly by...amazing!

July 6

In the afternoon we left Saba and returned to St. Maarten on a Twin Otter.  The take-off from the Saba runway  was as exciting as the landing.  We certainly used up more than half the runway...one minute you are looking out the window down at the concrete and then as the wheels lift off the ground you are suddenly staring down into deep blue water!  There are 4 or 5 flights a day to and from Saba depending on weather, with 18 passengers per flight, so it seems the pilots become quite skilled at this challenging runway.  Anyway, at St. Maarten we boarded a small American Airlines prop plane for the one-hour flight  west to San Juan, Puerto Rico.  We got our rental car and stayed at a San Juan hotel for the night.

July 7

We were up early and headed west on the "autopista", Rte 22 toward Arecibo.  This is a 4-lane highway much like a U.S. interstate, except that they are toll roads, and there are frequent toll booths where 35 cents or 50 cents are required.  Turning south on Rte 129 we headed toward Lares and finally found our way along narrow, curvy mountain roads to Maricao.  Roadside birds included Gray Kingbird (very common everywhere), Cave Swallows (seen regularly), Greater Antillean Grackles (very common), and a handful or two of Shiny Cowbirds.  At Maricao we got onto Rte120 and headed up toward the Maricao State Forest  at km marker 16.2.  We had read descriptions from others of entering the parking area at the 16.2 km marker and finding Elfin Woods Warbler on the hillside, so we were eager to look over this area.  Still, by now it was midday and bird activity was low; we found little of interest here.  Back onto the highway, we went just a km or so and parked near a microwave tower.  We found a small flock of birds immediately and quickly found Puerto Rican (hereafter PR) Vireo, PR Tanager, Stripe-headed Tanager (Raffaele's new book splits this bird into several species including PR Stripe-headed Tanager, but the AOU has not yet made this change), PR Emerald, PR Bullfinch and Black-whiskered Vireo.

We found a good number of birds along the stretch of road between km 16.2 and 13.0 at any spot you can find to pull over.  Happy to have found some of the PR endemics, we wandered down Rte 120 to Sabana Grande, then found our way to Guanica where we got on Rte 333 and headed out along the coast.  Several previous posts had said that Mary Lee's by the Sea was a decent place to stay, so we stopped there.  Signs along Rte 333 directed us easily to the location.  The phone there is 787-821-3600, Fax 787-821-0744.  We did not have reservations, but had no trouble getting a room for two nights at 80 dollars per night.  Perhaps a bit expensive for many birders, but there are few decent options at any lesser price in this area.  The range of prices was 80-110 dollars at Mary Lee's.

I must admit it was nice to have an A/C in the room as this area of the coast was certainly hot.  The rooms are large, with offbeat decor and layout, full kitchen.   Several had a deck and barbeque.   Paradors are like summer cabins; a home away from home where you are still the cook and maid.    At 3 PM, in the heat of the day, we drove to the end of Rte 333 just to look.  I found an eye-level nest of a Gray Kingbird along the roadside, so being the avid photographer that I am, I burned up a few rolls of film of the adults feeding young.  Also along the road were several singing Adelaide's Warblers in the coastal scrub.  We drove back into Guanica, found Rte 334 off of the main highway, and went to the entrance gate to the Guanica State Forest or "Bosque Estatal de Guanica" a dry forest of hilly, coastal scrub and trees.  It was hot and somewhat windy, and they were closing the gate (5 PM) when we got there, so we looked around briefly just to get our bearings and left.  We headed back west to Parguera, which is the site where the critically endangered Yellow-shouldered Blackbird is supposedly most easily seen, on the grounds of the Parador Villa Parguera.

Parking down the street near a seafood restaurant, we walked back along the street toward this hotel, and through the parking lot toward a pool with screaming kids, etc., around us.  I remarked that no self-respecting endangered species would be caught dead in a place like this and was rapidly thinking that this would be a big flop.  My wife pointed to a bird ahead of us on the ground with some of the grackles and said "What's that?"  Looking at the bird in my binoculars, it was immediately apparent that it was a beautiful Yellow-shouldered Blackbird!   It was soon joined on the ground by several others, and we watched as they gathered nesting material and carried it up into palm trees around the hotel grounds.  Up to 6 or 8 of these birds were in the area or flying over while we were there.  We also had a male Antillean Mango on the hotel grounds as well as lots of Magnificent Frigatebirds.  After dinner, we drove along the mangroves and shore to the west end of town.  Along this road we saw several more Yellow-shouldered Blackbirds feeding on scattered bread crumbs (with a flock of Eurasian Collared-Doves where a store owner throws out bread) or perched in mangroves.  At the west end of town at dusk, and the dead end of the road we found about a dozen Antillean Nighthawks over a large, open area, calling constantly as they wheeled overhead, and several more Yellow-shouldered Blackbirds.  We also took a night boat trip into Phosphorescent Bay to see the bioluminescence.

July 8

We got up early and were at the entrance gate to the Guanica Forest before daylight.  The gate is closed and locked until about 8 AM, but you can walk in, which we did, walking about a quarter mile along the road.  We heard 3-4 Puerto Rican Screech-Owls and a distant PR Nightjar calling. The nightjar was quite a way off, way up on the southern hillside and well off the road.  In the thick brush there was simply no chance to see this distant bird.  In the early morning light, we started hearing the cuckoos vocalize.  I have never been in a location with three cuckoo species before, so having calling Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Mangrove Cuckoo, and PR Lizard-Cuckoos calling constantly was a real treat.  We saw half a dozen Mangrove Cuckoos, but could not find a lizard-cuckoo despite hearing them every 5 minutes or so.  Finally, one of these big bruisers landed in a roadside tree and gave us good looks before he flashed off into the scrub once again.

We had 4 or 5 PR Flycatchers along this road as well as numerous singing Adelaide's Warblers, many calling Caribbean Elaenias (at least 15 individuals), several PR Todys (geeze...what a great little bird!), as well as PR Vireos, Black-whiskered Vireos, Zenaida Doves, Com. Ground-Doves, White-winged Doves, Pearly-eyed Thrashers, Yellow-faced Grassquits, PR Bullfinches, and a pair of PR Woodpeckers (another incredible looking bird!).  Finally as it began to warm up we decided to leave here and take a look at the Susua State Forest campground.  In a post Thomas Love made from April 1998, he indicated he had seen Key West Quail-Dove there.  After 25 years of looking at illustrations of this bird in U.S. field guides as a Florida vagrant, I really wanted to see this critter.  The Bosque de Susua is about 10 miles due north of Guanica, but getting there was a little difficult.  Basically, we wandered around many roads, asked a lot of directions, got lost two or three times, but finally got there.  Go east on Rte 368 from Sabana Grande, then north on Rte 365, which deadends in the campground.   Along the way we saw Smooth-billed Ani, a pair of introduced Nutmeg Mannikins, and other typical roadside birds like Gray Kingbird, Greater Antillean Grackle, etc.  We entered the forest from the west side of the preserve, and found the campground.  Saw PR Todys, Adelaide's Warbler, Yellow-faced and Black-faced Grassquits, Black-whiskered Vireos, etc.

I had a poor quality tape of Key West Quail-Dove and played it a little, but heard no response.   Later, while we were well inside the campground,  from two or three different directions I heard quail-doves calling quietly from the forest.   We went toward the entrance gate to the campground as one seemed to be calling from near here.  After carefully searching for the vocalizing bird, we spotted it.  A beautiful Key West Quail-Dove on a limb, about 8 feet off the ground.  It was soon joined by a 2nd bird, and the pair afforded us fantastic views and photo ops  for 15 minutes.  I also saw a Lesser Antillean Pewee (which the new Raffaele book splits out as an endemic PR Pewee, a change not yet recognized by the AOU).

We drove back toward Maricao where we found Hacienda Juanita, another parador that was mentioned in previous posts.  This location is at km 23.5 on route 105, just a few miles north of the Rte 120 km 16.2 spot mentioned earlier.  Rte 120 joins Rte 105 on the south side of Maricao.   The intersection is obvious coming from the south; turn left about 1 km or so west.   The entrance is on the right.   We had a nice lunch here and had up close and personal views of the two endemic hummingbirds, PR Emerald and Green Mango in the garden next to the restaurant.  We then drove an hour and a half to the Cueva Clara, Parque National de Cavernas which is near Lares.  This is a huge cave and sinkhole which is a popular tourist site, and very interesting.  The mid afternoon was quite cloudy and as we emerged from the sinkhole I was startled to see a flock of swifts overhead.  They were Black Swifts!  This is a resident species here, but uncommon.  For a U.S. birder used to seeing this species in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, or Washington, this seemed to be a very out-of-place bird, but we watched this flock of 25 or so for nearly an hour.

We later saw some over the parking lot of the park, but the main flock seemed to be over the sinkhole itself, which can only be seen from the tram that takes tourists to the cave.  At Lares, we looked at the map, knowing that we wanted to get back to the Guanica Forest by dusk to try for the owl again.  We shortly discovered that this area of Puerto Rico bears little resemblance to the map.  Roads we found by sight were not on the map, at least not where we found them, and roads that were on the map did not exist in reality.  Be cautions about map use in this area.  It looked as if Rte 128 was a more direct route back to Yauco than returning through Maricao to Guanica on Rte 120.  DON'T DO IT!!!!!!!   The long way around is definitely the short way home in this case.  Unless your ambition is to be the test driver at Consumer Report's pylon course, avoid Rte 128 like the plague!    When we asked for directions in a small town (see route- marking comments below), the gentleman we asked inquired if we were going to Yauco on Rte 128.   When we said, yes, we were, his response was, "I'm sorry."

It was a grueling two-hour ordeal of hairpin curves and turns at 15-20 MPH the entire way.  We had several near-misses along this route as you cannot see around any curve, and some vehicles coming the opposite direction seem to be on your side of the road with a vengeance.  Defensive driving??? ,How about survival driving...it was awful.  Each of the hundreds of curves is an adventure!  You know those commercials about "this is your brain...and this is your brain on drugs".  Well, don't subject your brain to route 128...take the longer way around, it is much shorter in time and far easier on the nerves.  I have driven back country roads all over Mexico, but I've never encountered anything like this road...and hope I never do again.  Anyway, we got to the Guanica Forest gate at dusk, and were able to see PR Screech-Owl about 100 meters in from the gate.

July 9

We left Mary Lee's by the Sea early and drove up to the 16.2 km spot on 120 again (about 45 min to an hour from Mary Lee's).  We were still hoping to see the Elfin Woods Warbler.  Heard several Ruddy Quail-Doves calling (and saw one) near the parking spots along the driveway.  We walked past the little waterfall area, past the entrance drive to the right that leads to the office of the reserve.  There is a gated jeep trail off to the right which seemed gated to prevent cars from driving in.  We walked around the gate through some posts and followed this jeep trail as it went on a fairly level track around the hillside.  Had the expected PR and Black-whiskered Vireos, PR Tanagers, Stripe-headed Tanagers, PR Todys, Scaly-naped Pigeons, Green Mangos, PR Emerald, along this trail.  About 300 meters or so along the trail I spotted some movement in a bamboo thicket near us, and there, finally, was a male Elfin Woods Warbler!  The bird was mostly silent and did not vocalize at any time except for a few chip notes but we got good looks at it for several minutes.  That was the last PR endemic we had not seen except for the parrot. (Actually, we did not "see" the PR Nightjar, only heard it).    Anyway, we enjoyed this bird a while, then headed back to the car.  Near the car we had a pair of vocal Lesser Antillean (PR) Pewees that were very tame and allowed us to approach them within 5 feet for photos.

Several earlier posts talked of a spot near Cidra for Plain Pigeon.  This area is southwest of San Juan off of the autopista, Rte 52.  THIS IS NOT A QUICK SIDE TRIP.   Several posts said to exit Rte 52 at Rte 172 on the south side of Caguas, proceed west to Cidra and go north on Rte 172 to km 1.5 (1.5 km from junction with Rte 156, near Comerio, about 12 km north of Cidra, NOT 1.5 km from Rte 52 or Cidra) and pull into the parking lot of the Escuela Superior Sabana (Escuela Maria C. Santiago).  Plain Pigeons have been reported here in numbers roosting, etc., in the late afternoon.  We got here on a hot, windy day at noon...groan...things did not look good.  An introduced Pin-tailed Whydah flew in to look us over, but after scanning a lot of trees near the parking lot of the school, we saw no Plain Pigeons.  We walked out onto Rte 172, and noted movement in a tree directly over the entrance to the parking lot, and there was a pair of Plain Pigeons that came out onto a wire to look us over.

We made our way back to Caguas on Rte 156 and found this a far easier drive than Rte 172.   It is shorter (14 miles) and has less traffic, as you avoid the congestion and road construction in Cidra, and the route is well-marked through Agua Buenas, unlike the hide-and-seek in Cidra.  Still, it takes a while (about an hour with traffic) to get to this pigeon location from the autopista at Caguas.   Rte 156 is the next exit north of Rte 172.   Arriving back in the San Juan area, we briefly visited El Yunque, officially The Caribbean National Forest.  It was crowded with tourists and our time was limited, so knowing that the PR Parrots were not in areas open to the public, we drove around a little and looked at the beautiful forest, but did little walking or birding.  Back to San Juan for the night.

July 10

My wife has an old friend from law school who is currently living on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, so we left San Juan and flew to St. Thomas for a visit.  Same common roadside birds here as on PR, with Gray Kingbirds, Pearly-eyed Thrasher, Bananaquit, etc.  That afternoon our friend took us on a 3-hour sailboat cruise around some of the small islands off the east end of St. Thomas.  From the sailboat we saw at least 100 Brown Boobies, 30+ Magnificent Frigatebirds, and a good number of Sandwich Terns, a few Royal Terns, Brown Noddies, Bridled Terns, Brown Pelicans, etc.

July 11

We took the 8 AM ferry to St. Johns, U.S.V.I., a 20 minute ride.  (Every hour on the hour from both ends, $3 per adult.)    We rented a Suzuki 4wd for $55 for the day (with A/C), and the three of us drove the island sightseeing.  Right where you get off the ferry are numerous rental car places...no problem.  We stopped at Cinnamon Bay, where we walked the "self-guiding nature trail" (a typical trail with no "self-guiding" signs or markers to be found).  Along the trail we saw at least 3 Bridled Quail-Doves.  These birds would simply walk out onto the trail in front of us and walk along casually.   We saw them quite well.  Scaly-naped Pigeons and Zenaida Doves were common, and a couple of White-crowned Pigeons flew by.  In Raffaele's 1989 book on PR and the Virgin Islands on pages 214-215, he gives a description of a trail around Mary Point Pond (at Francis Bay) which we walked.  Along this trail we saw 5 White-cheeked Pintails, 2 PR Flycatchers (a PR endemic known to get to the Virgin Islands), 3 Antillean Crested Hummers, several Great and Snowy Egrets and Little Blue Herons, Lesser Antillean Bullfinch, Black-faced Grassquits, etc.  At another salt pond, we found 5 Wilson's Plovers (resident), and a pair of adult Least Sandpipers (already back from the north?).

July 12

St. Thomas.   On the way to the airport, we stopped by a salt pond and saw about 10 White-cheeked Pintails, more Wilson's Plovers, and a dowitcher.  I suspect a Short-billed due to bill length, but it was silent and in poor light...another early southbound migrant I suspect.  Left St. Thomas and arrived back at San Juan.  We wanted another look at Elfin Woods Warbler and wanted to try those wooded mountains again, so we drove the 3 hours back to the Maricao area.  We had called Hacienda Juanita two days earlier and made reservations for the night.  We arrived at Hacienda Juanita in the afternoon (phone 787-838-2550, fax 737-838-2551) and checked into our room (80 dollars).  The rooms here are very small and spartan, which is strange considering the fairly nice grounds and restaurant.  But still, it was adequate, if expensive for the very minimal accommodations.   The accommodations definitely suffer in comparison to Mary Lee's.   The restaurant was VERY slow that night, and it took an hour and a half from the time we ordered till we were served dinner, which was marginal at best.  This surprised us since several days earlier we had had a lovely lunch here.  We had at least 5 PR Screech-Owls calling after dark.   I got a light on one of them, but they were hard to see in the thick leaves of the trees.

July 13

There is a nature trail (about 1/4 mile long, I guess) at Hacienda Juanita.  We walked this trail and had PR Woodpecker, a Red-tailed Hawk, Red-legged Thrush, PR Tanagers, PR Tody, Stripe-headed Tanagers, Black-whiskered Vireo, PR Vireo, etc.   We found about 5 Antillean Euphonias feeding in a mistletoe clump in a tree near the manager's house.  In mid morning, we drove back to the 16.2 km marker on Rte 120, walked back to where we had the Elfin Woods Warbler on the 9th, and found 3 of them within 100 feet of each other...great little bird.

On the way back to San Juan, we stopped on the campus of the Interamerican University in San German to look for Canary-winged Parakeets.    Exit Rte 2 at San German (several large shopping centers; K-Mart, Baskin-Robbins, etc).    Go south to Rte 102, turn right and continue to the campus.   You know you are close when you come to the fast-food restaurants lining the street.   The gate is on the right.    Drive past the athletic fields on the right near the gate.   At the T intersection, turn left.    The road winds down to a track with covered bleachers.   We found the resident introduced Canary-winged Parakeets in the trees across the street.   We returned to San Juan north and east on Rte 2, which joins Rte 22 (autopista) at Arecibo.

Some overall comments on birding Puerto Rico are in order.  We found Puerto Rico fairly easy to get around in.  The U.S. dollar is the standard currency, and English is spoken by many people, even in small towns.  With just a little Spanish you will do fine.  Roads are generally good, but in the mountains can be VERY twisty and curvy.  In the mountains and country, the roads are mostly well-marked and easy to follow, but in the small towns and cities it can be a problem.  You can be following a certain route entering a town, and not know that it makes a turn in town, since it is unmarked.   One-way streets exacerbate the problem.   We got turned around and lost several times in towns, but eventually found our way.  Defensive driving is a must.    On the autopistas we had several people pass us on the right on the shoulder.  The speed limit is 55, but even at 70 people would sometimes pass us in the lane to our left and on the shoulder to our right AT THE SAME TIME.     This took getting used to, I must say.  Generally, however, traffic was a little easier going than Mexico.  The autopistas are great if they are going the way you want to go, virtually like U.S. interstates.  You can make good time on them compared to the very slow progress on mountain roads.  There were times that it took 2 hours to go 50 km on some mountain roads.  The entire island of Puerto Rico is only 100 miles long, but I suspect if you took the interior mountain roads the whole way it would take you at least two days to make that 100 miles!

Birding was fairly easy in most places.  The more difficult species of the endemics, or the ones which required the most effort to see would be the Elfin Woods Warbler (unless you get lucky like some have), PR Lizard- Cuckoo, PR Screech-Owl, and PR Nightjar (all these are easy to hear, can be hard as heck to see).  I think the parrot is out of the question unless researchers eventually find an area open to the public where the birds (only 30 -50 left I understand, and the forest is vast) can be seen.  The Green Mango, PR Emerald, PR Vireo, PR Tanager, YS Blackbird, PR Tody, PR Bullfinch, PR Woodpecker, PR Flycatcher, and the Stripe-headed Tanager (which may be split into the PR Stripe-headed Tanager) and the PR Pewee (which may be split from the Lesser Antillean Pewee) were all fairly easy to find in the right habitat.  I realize that our visit in July may differ somewhat from other birders' visits in the winter and spring...for example we had no migrant warblers, etc.  Still, even in July we had little trouble seeing most of the endemic birds fairly easily.  Strangely, we missed Black-cowled Oriole, Loggerhead Kingbird, and Troupial, which are apparently seen regularly along the route we took.

Anyway, I hope this is of some interest to birders heading to Puerto Rico or other nearby areas.

Sincerely,

Greg Lasley
Secretary, Texas Bird Records Committee
        (Visit the TBRC at http://members.tripod.com/~tbrc/)
Editor, Texas Region, ABA/Audubon Field Notes
305 Loganberry Ct., Austin, TX  78745-6527
Telephone:  (512) 441-9686
email:  glasley@earthlink.net