1 - 6 May 1995
by Mark Oberle and Giff Beaton
Monday May 1:
We arrived in San Juan in late morning and were met by our friend, Pepe Ramos. At the last minute he had decided he could not accompany us, so we dropped off our luggage, borrowed his car and headed west toward El Yunque. The main road is being repaired, supposedly in conjunction with a major new visitor center, so we took the well-signed detour. At Cocos Falls (well marked), we stopped and found PR Emerald and a probable Green Mango. We then stopped at the small visitor center and got trail directions for the Mt Britton trail. Toward the top, others have seen the Elfin Woods Warbler, but we only found PR Tanagers, Pearly-eyed Thrashers, occasional PR Todies and lots of Bananaquits.
From the tower on top we did hear one parrot, but it could well have been calling from the captive breeding facility below. Since it was early afternoon, we decided to cover more habitat on the El Toro trail which is the first labeled trail head to the right beyond the barricade at the end of the public road. After a few hundred meters on the trail we encountered two PR Woodpeckers. At a grassy spot we heard a high pitched squeaking and saw a mongoose. We walked about a mile and a half along that trail and encountered PR Tanagers every 100 meters or so. We waited at several overlooks toward sunset, but did not hear any parrots. Just about a quarter mile from the trailhead at a site that gave the first relatively clear view toward the hills to the north, we paused and had a PR Lizard Cuckoo fly in. While we were looking at that, a dull immature (juv.?) Elfin Woods Warbler foraged just under the canopy. We were quite lucky since the general wisdom is that this endemic has become scarce in this mountain range since Hurricane Hugo. We walked back to the car, passing the squawking PR Parrots in the captive breeding facility just out of view. Their squawking in the gathering dusk reminded us of what PR used to be like. At dark we heard a distant PR Screech Owl calling near the old restaurant site, but could not lure it in with a tape. Just north we did have a pair respond vigorously to the tape from a bamboo thicket, but never got a look. After half an hour, we gave up and returned to San Juan for a great paella dinner with Pepe and Ada Pomales.
Tues. May 2:
Pepe Ramos drove us over the new, privately run bridge from Rio Piedras to the San Juan Airport at 5:30AM. COPA flight 110 operated smoothly, with a nice view of the karst hills of PR. We flew right over the Parque del Este National Park peninsula as we approached the Sto. Domingo airport at 6:30AM. We paid a US$10 tourist card fee and got through customs and immigration quickly. Giff exchanged $200 (13.25 pesos per dollar) while Mark fended off hustlers who wanted to reserve a rental car for us. The pleasant woman at Budget had our reservation but said they did not expect us at that hour. She wanted us to drive to the central, capital office to pick up our Daihatsu Feroza four-wheel drive. That would have taken us in the opposite direction we wanted to go and wasted even more of the morning. So we agreed to take a regular passenger car for the day and stop in the airport later in the day to exchange it for the 4WD. This forced us to go toward Bayahibe rather than the Los Haitises National Park area for Ridgway's Hawk, since we might have needed high clearance in the latter area.
After wasting more time in a thorough car inspection with the Budget staff we were driving east along the coast by 9AM. Hispaniolan Woodpeckers, Palm Chats and Antillean Palm Swifts flew overhead. We stopped at one small restaurant that had some uninviting meat under a lamp warmer, and then found another one with a van parked out front. The bacalao fish was fine (prepared in a sauce rather than fried as in PR), but Giff found boiled plantain a bit bland. There was no ice or coffee, so we had warm Pepsis. The toilet near the outdoor kitchen out back was stopped up with sewage and cutlery, but the two species of ants that swarmed over the place were new for both of us. In La Romana we missed a major turn at a completely unsigned intersection (like most such major intersections), but eventually got to the spot where Chris Haney and Jon Andrew had found Ridgway's Hawk in 1989: a hillside leading down from a plateau above Bayahibe. We scanned the coastal plain's dry forest for soaring birds.
After the bottom of the hill but before town, on the right is a dry pasture with big trees and barbed wire that we checked periodically. A little farther down is a fork separating the roads to Bayahibe and Domenicus. We drove multiple times from the fork back up the hill from 11:30-4PM with a break for lunch at the good bus tour restaurant at the top of the hill. We also made a few runs east up the main highway a kilometer before the hill. We only saw 3 Red-tailed Hawks soaring (one being harassed by a Caribbean Martin), some kestrels and frigatebirds. We played the Piculet tape at the fork multiple times without success, but we did see Hispaniolan Emerald, Antillean Mango, Hispaniolan Lizard Cuckoo, Mangrove Cuckoo, Hispaniolan Parrot, Stolid Flycatcher, Black-crowned Palm Tanager, and the three endemics we had seen from the highway. Compared to PR, Bananaquits were a lot less common.
We exchanged vehicles and left the airport at 6. Giff drove west, through the congestion of SDQ to Barahona. [Between those two towns Chris Haney said it is essentially birdless]. The road signs were very poor, so we missed the new freeway from SDQ to San Cristobal. When we finally got on the freeway for the last mile, vehicles were zipping in all directions regardless of lanes (a steep ditch prevented people from crossing to the opposite lane. We stopped to provision ourselves for camping since we were not sure how long the drive would take. The market was being remodeled, so instead of taking a complicated order, the attendant just let us behind the counter while other customers were attended one at a time. [In SW DR, there were so few restaurants and stores that only in Barahona was there any place for provisions or dining at the odd times we got in to town. Coconut cookies with big chunks of coconut were our memorable hardtack].
In Barahona at 10PM, we asked directions multiple times, but basically continued straight into town and then took a right at the waterfront for a few blocks. Chris Haney and Craig Faanes had recommended a Bogart style old hotel on the beach, called the Guaracuya, but it was closed for remodeling. So we stayed across the street at the Hotel Caribe across the street. Chris had gotten Potoo and Ashy-faced Owl nearby, so we drove south of Barahona continuing on the waterfront road. At 5km south of the hotel and several other points, we played tapes of both species at 10:30, but raised only a coot and some female mosquitoes. The spot that Chris had the potoos on an electric wire was probably at 7 Km south of the hotel where there is a small valley with a view of the ocean and a foot trail leading inland beside a small hut. [Julio Feliz had said you could see potoo by walking that trail. He also mentioned a location called Camino de los Franceses for potoo].
Wed. May 3:
At dawn we drove the road south of town so we could get a better feel for the night bird location and then drove toward El Aguacate. To get to El Aguacate you turn south in Duverge at the first street west of the tiny telecommunications office (a few blocks west of the Shell service station). Just before the road transitions to dirt and leaves town, there is a yellow sign for the Sierra de Baoruco National Park, but it faces a side street. The road climbs along a stream, and gets particularly steep beyond a hydroelectric plant. This stretch, and one other farther up, may be impassable for passenger cars. The best maps we could find showed that this road was only a track, but the maps' supposedly better road to El Aguacate via Laguna en Medio is horrendous according to Haney and Craig Faanes.
In the hamlet of Puerto Escondido the road continues straight and then takes a right at a military check station, where they chatted briefly and waved us through. Just beyond town we had nice looks at a Black-cowled Oriole and a Narrow-billed Tody. Chris had mentioned a key landmark which we missed the first time: this is the intersection of the road to El Aguacate via Laguna en Medio. It is not labeled, but it is the only road intersection above Pto. Escondido and is located 5.5Km beyond Pto. Escondido. We continued on to El Aguacate with just a few brief stops. The soldiers chatted briefly and complained about the Guaraguao (Sharp-shinned Hawks) that ate their chicks. Some 4.5 km beyond the village is a unique place: a flat grassy campsite on the right just before an old rusting bulldozer. We parked there at 9AM and birded that area until early afternoon. The habitat is mixed pine woods on steep ridges and cloud forest with creeping bamboo in ravines.
Solitaires were singing everywhere, but they were ventriloqual and we never chased one down for a look. Although wintering Bicknell's Thrush occurs here, we were too late for any migrant wintering species. Within minutes we saw Broad-billed Tody and both endemic warbler species, and taped in Hispaniolan Trogon. We should note that the White-winged Warbler is uncommon and tough to see. Golden Swallows circled surprisingly close to the road (according to Julio Feliz, this species leaves El Aguacate in July and is found lower down near Pedernales then). We taped in a Chat Tanager just below the bulldozer area, and then heard several above that area. A few Greater Antillean Pewees and Elaenias were in the area, and Pine Warblers sang in the pine groves along the ridges. At least one Antillean Siskin buzzed into a treetop. One of the big surprises was a two-foot long earthworm crossing the road (perhaps forced out by the previous night's rains).
Just below the bulldozer area we encountered a flock of 15 White- winged Crossbills (a distinctive subspecies, L.l. megaplaga) which we could only have found otherwise by walking in the pure pine stands 3-4Km farther up the road.
At noon, Mark thought he heard a La Selle thrush singing in the vines just below the bulldozer, but never saw it. Given that La Selle Thrush, the Quail Dove, and the nightbirds were our only target species at that elevation after the successful morning, we decided to bird the lower thorn forest, buy gas in Duverge, and then return to bird and camp at dusk. At 2,540 feet (3.5 Km toward Duverge from the military post at El Aguacate), Mark heard a Gray-headed Quail Dove's rapid song once while Giff was in the car getting some gear. One kilometer farther toward Duverge at about 2,520 feet, we taped in a Bay-breasted Cuckoo in a broad area of recently cleared road bed (the local name appropriately mimics the call: Cua). This may be the section of road that locals told us was closed by deep erosion after floods in November 1994. At 2:15PM, despite 84 degree F heat, we taped in an Antillean Piculet at 1,640 feet elevation. As Chris had predicted, it was slinking around in the thorn scrub, silently checking out the tape. If it had not called once, we probably would have missed it. Fifteen minutes later, at 1540 feet (30m north of a large yellow sign for the national park, we saw a Flat- billed Vireo fly in to check out our tape of its song. But something else (possibly one of the abundant Black-whiskered Vireo) chased it off before we got a good look.
Just as we entered Duverge, we realized one tire was flat, and in fact quite shredded. The jack needed grease, and it could not raise the vehicle sufficiently. But we quickly acquired a small following of kids eager to help find scrap lumber and concrete to help raise the car. One kid broke the lug nut off the spare tire bracket. As thanks for the help, we gave the kids a box of crackers, which sparked a cheerful feeding frenzy. We had to put the spare tire inside the already cramped back seat.
We now faced a dilemma. The damaged tire appeared to have dry rot, suggesting that the other tires might be equally precarious. So we decided to bird the area near the highway, but not attempt the isolated mountain road until we had a spare tire. At this point we drove back to Duverge to deal with our tire problem. The "gomera" at the Shell station tried to sell us a used sports car tire of a dramatically different size. He then led us to two friends' houses where there was one tire stored in a hot shed, but it was also the wrong size and the old markings indicated it was at least a decade old.
We turned west of Duverge looking for crows in palm groves. The first road to the right was unproductive. But about 11 or 12Km west of Duverge we found a dirt road going diagonally off toward Lake Enriquillo. There was a very inviting looking fresh water marsh on the left (no luck here), and then some salt flats which had Stilts, 2 White-cheeked Pintail, 8 Least Sandpiper, 1 Pectoral Sandpiper and a Snowy Plover. We turned back and heard Palm Crows near the intersection with the highway. One posed in the top of a palm for photos. There were also several Black-cowled Orioles. We then found a White-necked Crow which flew in and out of view above the palms, possibly interacting with the other crow species. The White-necked Crow has an odd call like an oropendola. (Chris had said that a more reliable area for White-necked Crow was between Jimani and Boca Cashon west of the lake. He also suggested the Palm Crows might reply to tapes, but we didn't try that).
In Barahona, we could only find one used tire similar to ours, but Budget rental car refused to authorize the purchase. We bought it anyhow. But at 7:30PM nobody in town could balance either the original spare or the newly purchased spare. This gave us a top speed of 65kph for the rest of the trip, and a shaky ride at that since the original spare was not balanced. We left the tire to be mounted and went over to Chris' potoo and owl site at dusk. At 7km south of the hotels, we heard an Ashy-faced Owl call once even before we could play the tape, but it never called again. We then checked into the Hotel Caribe. While we had Presidente beers and a surprisingly good meal at the La Rocca restaurant next door, Julio Feliz introduced himself as a natural history guide. We were not initially convinced he was knowledgeable about rarer birds, but agreed to meet him back at the hotel late the next day and arrange to look for Ridgway's Hawk.
Thurs. May 4:
At 12:45AM the hotel clerk called and woke us up just to say that COPA airlines could not confirm our return flight and we should call after 9AM. Mark was so startled by the clerk's phone call, that he never got back to sleep. We left Barahona at 3:15AM for El Aguacate again, munching our coconut cookie breakfast. We flushed a few Burrowing Owls and then, 5 KM beyond Pto. Escondido, we flushed a Lesser Poorwill from the road next to a large irrigated farm. The show stopper of the dawn was a huge tarantula in the road. Beyond the intersection with the Laguna en Medio road, we heard 15 Poorwills calling deep in the thorn scrub, but as Chris predicted, they did not respond to tapes. An Antillean Nighthawk flew overhead, and later Black-whiskered Vireos sang.
We played the Flat-billed Vireo tape at several places, and only in response to that tape did we briefly hear and see two of them. They do look quite like Empidonax, and were initially classified in that genus (Chris had suggested the 2-6km toward El Aguacate, beyond the road intersection to Laguna en Medio, where the thorn forest gets taller, with bromeliads). At 7:18AM and 2,140 feet altitude, the road went through a wide canyon, and we flushed two Hispaniolan Parakeets. We then stopped at several places where isolated orange trees mixed with the low forest. At one bend in the road Giff found two Key West Quail Doves calmly walking across the road. We encountered a party of well-dressed Haitians walking and riding down the road. They looked scared. The soldiers at El Aguacate (3,360 feet altitude) told us that the Haitians were going to work for a week at a farm below. We could see why they wanted to leave Haiti: the steep farmland immediately west of the border was eroding and stripped of trees (except immediately around houses). The contrast with the Dominican forest was dramatic. [The Haitian farmers near El Aguacate at least have land. The official minimum wage in Haiti is supposed to rise to $2.57 per day, but lots of people have no farmland or employment].
As elsewhere in DR, the soldier on duty at El Aguacate would not let us take pictures of them or the military area. We drove above and birded the area around the rusty bulldozer until noon and got better looks at White-winged Warbler and Antillean Siskins. We then set up a tent at the campsite to sleep for the afternoon. At 5 we started walking up the road to a spot where Giff had heard a La Selle's Thrush sing while Mark was sleeping. At 6 PM one thrush came in to a tape at 5540 feet, and then at 6:50 two others responded near an isolated white boulder at 5260 feet. The bird's white throat markings illustrated in Bond were not visible in the field.
Back at the campsite area, our fancy dinner of peanut butter and pear juice was interrupted by Greater Antillean Nightjars singing. We followed several down the road and were quite close to one bird that growled in response to a tape (we presumed this was an aggressive growl), but we never saw one (later below El Aguacate a brownish bird did fly through the top of the headlight beam but was not clearly visible). We also played the Stygian Owl song, but got no response. A single meteor from the Aquarid shower zipped overhead. We drove back to Barahona and stopped only for a medium sized frog with a prominent jagged line above its tympanum. We checked in to the Caribe Hotel at 10:30PM. Julio Feliz had left shortly before we had returned.
Fri. May 5:
At dawn we again unsuccessfully checked out Chris Haney's nightbird site. We returned to the hotel for a nap, but Julio Feliz arrived and rang us up at 6:45. He said that Ridgway's Hawks will often soar between 7-10AM, but unlike Red-tails, will stop soaring in the heat of the day [?]. He led us to a hillside 10 Km south of the hotel where a relative of his ran a small shop. We bought some soft drinks and scanned the hillside while the locals watched us. One fellow cleaned his ear with a well-used chicken feather. About 7:30AM Giff spotted a Ridgway's Hawk soaring farther south. We got BVD looks, but never spotted the bird again. At Km 13 we turned inland toward La Filipina and scanned the forested and savannah hills from the dirt road.
Although good habo according to Julio, the cloud cover was moving down and creating poor soaring weather. Julio pointed out a lot of interesting sights such as yautia (taro), higuereta ( an oil plant cultivated for lubricants commercially during WWII), and a tiny wasp nest that looked like a vertical honeycomb. We proceeded all the way to the mine at the end of the road, which was the only place on the trip requiring 4WD. Julio said the road had been passable until someone tried to make improvements. Back at the village, a gem stone, "larimar" (lapus lazuli??) was available for 300 pesos ($23) per pound. Although we told Julio we were content to just stay on the same ridge, he felt we might have a chance for the hawk north of Barahona.
Near La Filipina we did stop and see a flock of White-collared Swifts and heard the introduced Helmeted Guinea Fowl. We stopped near the Barahona market for Village Weaver, but finally found a colony in a palm on the side road just south of the poorly marked turn for Guazara off the main highway north of Barahona. We turned toward Guazara and drove the rough road 9km to a left turn toward the hamlet of Fundo. Well, actually, we missed that turn at first, and when the right fork ended, we stopped to talk to a campesino on horseback who slid to one side of the horse and said he had seen the guaraguao regularly since childhood on the ridges. However, it was not clear that Julio was distinguishing Ridgway's from Sharp-shinned Hawk (Spanish common names are less standardized than English names.
Just beyond the first fork, we bore right (away from Fundo) at another fork in a coffee grove and proceeded up a ridge top road that passes a microwave station. Many adjacent hills had been recently burned. Julio suggested the fires were set by illegal Haitian immigrants for charcoal. Ridgway's Hawks supposedly occur in this area, but at noon we turned back. We gave Julio our extra food and 300 pesos, and then had lunch in the Hotel Caribe restaurant. We headed back to Sto Domingo. Beautiful orange yucca-type flowers bloomed on the dry hillsides.
In western Sto Domingo, we got lost twice: once at the end of the freeway and then at a large traffic circle. So we wound up going through the old port. Any hopes of catching the 6PM American Airlines flight to San Juan were fading. We stopped at a gas station on the east side of the capital to fill up the car. A little boy picked up the gas nozzle which came on. He waved it like a water wiggle and sprayed Mark with gasoline. Instead of throwing it down when he lost control, he just waved it back and forth. Since the boy fled, the official attendant then tried to charge us for the extra 6 pesos ($0.45) for the spilled gas. There ensued a lively debate about who should pay for the gas (we won).
By the time we approached the airport, we could see the American Airlines flight belching its exhaust at us. As we returned the car, a man stood by waiting for us to pass on any extra food. We settled into the airport for the rest of the evening until the 11:15 COPA departure (late). Giff got into an argument with a rude storekeeper who was trying to rip him off for postcards while Mark was watching the luggage. We paid our $10 departure tax. and left on a late departure. Never did Puerto Rico seem more organized!
Sat. May 6:
Pepe Ramos met us at the San Juan International Airport after we cleared customs. We got a few hours' sleep at his house and at 5:15AM left for the southwest side of the island to Guanica State Forest. Just after sunrise, we birded the thorn forest on PR 333 and walked to the beach at Jaboncillo (about Km 3, marked by a sign to the right of the road). PR Flycatchers, Adelaide's Warblers and Frigatebirds were easy to see. A PR Lizard Cuckoo and 2 PR Vireos called, but kept out of sight. We reached Cartagena Lagoon, with the help of locals (the lagoon area has shrunk, so the directions in Raffaele's field guide are not accurate). We did see Troupial and Loggerhead Kingbirds, but sugar cane grew to the waterline.
We cut our losses there and headed south to the Villa Parguera parador. We walked onto the patio and immediately saw more than a dozen Yellow- shouldered Blackbirds. They have recovered nicely thanks to a cowbird control program (when Mark lived in PR in the 70's, there would typically be only one or two birds at this spot). A pelican landed in the swimming pool and swam with the bathers. We decided to end the morning by driving up PR 120 to higher coffee plantations. Lesser Antillean Pewee occurs in the area, but we did not have time to bird much of the road. At noon, we turned around at 9.1 (2,180 feet altitude) and made a last stop along the road. A PR Vireo treated us to a nice view, just after a Ruddy Quail Dove flew low across the road. A fine ending to our short expedition!
INFORMATION ON SPECIES OF SPECIAL INTEREST
Stygian Owl: Chris has camped near the bulldozer above El Aguacate and heard Stygian owl once. Dod's book suggests it is most vocal in April when dueting occurs. There is no water above El Aguacate and camping can be cool there in winter. Theoretically, a permit is required to camp in the national park (National park office is in Sto Domingo at No. 6 Calle Las Damas, Zona Colonial; tel:685- 1316).
Ashy-faced Owl: looks similar to Tyto alba, but with a grayer face. The AOU checklist suggests it occurs in less open country than the sympatric Barn Owl. In early May 1993, Chris had had a pair of owls fly off a cliff and hover overhead in response to a tape he played at the site south of Barahona that we checked out. Craig Faanes saw one just at Bella Vista near Sosua in the north (see Craig's trip report), but some information suggests it is throughout. Julio Feliz said he had a regular site at El Proyecto, north of Barahona for the owl. A few years ago, Dave Lee and Chris Haney had gone to a roost site that Julio suggested (possibly the same one), but found only pellets.
Spotted Rail: Dod's books describe looking for it in the north, but we are not aware of recent information.
Double-striped Thick-knee: Try grassland areas north and east of the capital. Dod's book suggests that is the place to look. Gray-headed Quail Dove: has been flushed on the road below El Aguacate, but you have to be lucky. Dod suggests some other locations NW of Lake Enriquillo.
Plain Pigeon: is spottily distributed in the north. Simon Gawn reported seeing some behind the Hotel Nueva Suiza in Constanza. Ridgway's Hawk: Annabelle Stockton de Dod did see the hawk in the foothills of the Sierra de Baoruco as we did, but Chris has had no luck there. The book on endangered birds of the Americas by Collar, as well as other sources, suggest that the most reliable location is in the Los Haitises National Park. Chris Haney had suggested that if we failed to find the hawk near Bayahibe, we could go to Parque Los Haitises, but we did not have the requisite 4WD to cover that area well on our first day in DR.
[Directions: go N of San Pedro de Macoris to Hato Mayor and Sabana de la Mar. On a road heading west of there, toward Pedro Chico or Arrajon Chris Haney had a Ridgway's on a snag and WN Crow (but Chris could not remember which road). Los Haitises National Park is a long drive with no nearby lodging].
Lesser Antillean Pewee: in western PR is not so much difficult to find as retiring. Virgilio Biaggi's "Las Aves de PR" states that the pewee is relatively abundant in the SW, but difficult to see. It prefers forest interior and coffee plantations, and less commonly dry scrub. Many locals are not aware of its existence. Because of coloration and ventriloqual voice, it is often hard to locate. Local name is Bobito or little dunce possibly because it is tame and quiet. See the Birding magazine insert on the Maricao state forest for possibly most reliable site.
Puerto Rican Parrot: is rare and not very vocal in the spring while breeding. The USF&WS Puerto Rico Research Station works on the parrot. Michael Meyers was the group leader, and Morris Ford, Keith Pardieck, and Tammy Santiago were the group. Phone number is 809/888-2930. Mark talked to Morris who suggested hiking from road 186 1-1.5miles on the El Toro trail and wait at dawn or dusk (4:30-sunset). But in May they are harder to find, and probably could only be heard. In April 1995, two birders from UK waited 3 days there without luck. They have not roosted regularly near the old restaurant parking lot in last 3 years, but in Feb and Mar 1994 birders have seen them there. Total wild population in spring 1995 was 46. The captive population in El Yunque is going to be split up at a Commonwealth site in Rio Abajo. Apparently the population is rebuilding, but the biologists are going slow so that they produce only young that promote the maximal genetic diversity of the species.
SOME THOUGHTS ON BIRDING IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
---Birders in the Dominican Republic clearly need a good travel Spanish vocabulary to get along and some resilience to deal with logistics problems in rural areas. If you aren't thus prepared, it is better to go with a tour group.
---Clearly we did not allot enough slack time to accommodate delays, like the tire problem.
---Tapes were essential for pulling in a number of birds in the short time we had available. We used "Bird songs in the DR" by George B. Reynard (Cornell, 1981), and several ARA tapes for PR species. We would not have seen the trogon, Chat Tanager, Flat-billed Vireo, piculet, Bay-breasted Cuckoo, or La Selle Thrush without using tapes.
---People in rural areas seemed quite helpful, but Sto Domingo has a tougher reputation. At least one birder has had equipment stolen there. Unless you like night life, it is best to get out of the capital as soon as you can.
---Theft is of concern. Also, soldiers don't like cameras. In 1981 some almost barred Mark access to the high country near Constanza because of a Nikon (it was only a coincidence that saved the day: Mark had given the post sergeant a lift while he was hitchhiking the day before). Police roadblocks are occasionally the site of shakedowns, but probably not a problem for tourists. Julio had advised us to stop for military but not traffic police check points.
---It is possible to see all of the endemic bird species while based in Barahona. However, from others' experience, Ridgway's Hawk is more easily seen in the Los Haitises National Park. Other birds of interest, like Rufous-necked Sparrow and thick-knees are not found in the southwest.
---Julio Feliz suggested that April and May might be the best months to find the endemic species, and of course most migrants from North America have left by May.
---Julio Feliz is available to lead birders in the Barahona area (Calle B, #3 Baitoita; Barahona; Republica Dominicana; FAX: c/o Hotel Caribe...809-524-4115). He taught himself the local bird calls, knows English and local names, and has preferred stakeout areas. He did subscribe to some odd beliefs like the campesino claim that potoos eat beans. But other colorful tales he described as campesino superstitions, such as the belief that cuckoos are witches who bite babies for their blood. He claimed he had seen a novel species of dipper in December 1994 near the road to El Aguacate with Stephen Martin of Colorado. Julio said it was gray and brown above and yellowish below. It is hard to imagine enough water to support a dipper species in that area, and more importantly, Steve Martin told us later he had no recollection of anything remotely like a dipper. On balance, we had enjoyed Julio's help, but had concerns about some of the local lore he had passed on to us.
---Rental cars with high clearance (4WD) are hard to find. Budget charged us basically $85 per day including discounts. Nelly rent- a-car had them in La Romana but not the Sto Domingo airport (549- 0505/09; you might be able to pre-arrange a drop off at the airport). You definitely don't want a convertible top if you are transporting optics. Public transportation extends to Duverge but not to El Aguacate, but we did see some people at dawn riding motor scooters uphill from Pto Escondido to somewhere.
---Barahona is about to open a new, large landing strip north of town to accommodate charter flights from Canada and Germany. There may be scheduled service at some point as well.
---Lodging: the Hotel Guaracuya (tel:524-2211) may be the cheapest tourist hotel in Barahona when it reopens. The Hotel Caribe was 380 pesos ($US 29) for two (tel:524-4111). There is a much fancier new hotel south of these, the Riviera Beach Resort (tel:524-5111). The Guaracuya and the Riviera are on the beach. We did not check the beach out. Julio Feliz mentioned that there was concern about pollution from a Korean textile mill north of the city, but we don't know if that is a serious problem. All these hotels are on Avenida Enriquillo.
---Malaria prophylaxis is recommended in rural DR; long distance calls can be difficult, so check your long distance carrier for access numbers in DR.
---Seabirds: Julio had mentioned that it is possible to obtain permission from the port authorities to take a launch to the seabird colonies off the southwestern tip of the main island. He said that frigatebirds, boobies, and Audubon's Shearwater nest on Los Frailes and Beata islands. We don't know if these species can be seen well from the adjacent points on the main island under certain conditions.
---Mark had a wristwatch altimeter which he calibrated each night at sea level. An altimeter might be helpful in locating some of the spots mentioned in this report, but we did not recalibrate during the day, so readings could be off by 1-200 feet.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Biaggi, Virgilio: Las Aves de Puerto Rico. 1974 Univ. de PR press. Natural history tidbits and folklore on PR's birds, but not much to add on identification or site information. Spanish.
Bond, James: Birds of the West Indies. 1985. Collins. Illustrations and text leave a lot to be desired, so hunt around for other sources.
Collar, NJ, et al: Threatened birds of the Americas: the ICBP/IUCN Red data Book, 3rd edition, part 2. 1992, Smithsonian Inst. Press. This book has detailed chapters on several of the rarer species.
Dod, Annabelle S.: Endangered & endemic birds of the Dominican Republic. 1992. Cypress House, Ft. Bragg, CA 95437. 207pp. Has some interesting anecdotes about endemics.
Dod, Annabelle Stockton de: Aves de la Republica Dominicana. 1978. Museo de Historia Natural. Printed by: I.G. Manuel Pareja, Montana, 16 Barcelona, Spain. 332pp. Interesting natural history background in Spanish. Can be purchased at the Museum on the Plaza de Cultura.
Hoyo, Josep del; Elliott, Andrew; Sargatal, Jordi, eds.: Handbook of the birds of the world, vol 2. 1994. Lynx edicions. Has a good illustration and text on Ridgway's Hawk.
Isler, Morton & Isler, Phyllis: The Tanagers: natural history, distribution and identification. 1987. Smithsonian Press.
Lack, David: Island biology illustrated by the land birds of Jamaica. Univ of Calif. Press. Lots of inter-island Caribbean species comparisons.
Raffaele, Herbert A: A guide to the birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. 1989. Princeton.
Tyrrell, Esther & Tyrrell, Robert: Hummingbirds of the Caribbean. 1990. Crown Publishers, NY.
DR Trip report by Craig Faanes (1990): available from ABA Sales.
DR trip report by Simon Gawn (for areas near Sto Domingo and north). His current address is in ABA directory.
Some of the DR car rental places might sell good maps, but Budget didn't. We bought a DR map published by Berndtson & Berndtson from a travel bookstore in Sta Barbara, CA: 805-963-4438.
Contact us for day by day trip list.
2690 Briarlake Woods Way
Atlanta, GA 30345
[Internet address may change soon]
320 Willow Glen Dr.
Marietta, GA 30068
TRIP LIST INCLUDING BOTH HEARD AND SEEN BIRDS
(LARGER NUMBERS ARE ROUGH ESTIMATES)
DATE IN MAY, 1995
NAME | 1 2 3 4 5 6 | Total
Country--->| PR DR DR DR DR PR
Pied-billed Grebe | 0 1 0 0 0 0 | 1
Magnificent Frigatebird 0 20 0 0 0 20 | 40
Brown Pelican | 0 2 0 0 0 4 | 6
White-cheeked Pintail | 0 0 2 0 0 0 | 2
Little Blue Heron | 0 0 0 0 0 1 | 1
Great Egret | 0 10 2 0 0 1 | 13
Cattle Egret | 0 1000 200 0 4 100 | 1304
Green Heron | 0 1 1 0 1 0 | 3
Black-crowned Night-Heron 0 0 0 0 0 1 | 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk | 0 0 2 3 0 0 | 5
Ridgway's Hawk | 0 0 0 0 1 0 | 1
Red-tailed Hawk | 1 3 1 1 2 2 | 10
American Kestrel | 0 10 12 0 8 4 | 34
Helmeted Guineafowl | 0 0 0 0 1 1 | 2
Northern Bobwhite | 0 0 0 1 0 0 | 1
American Coot | 0 1 1 0 0 1 | 3
Least Sandpiper | 0 0 8 0 0 0 | 8
Pectoral Sandpiper | 0 0 1 0 0 0 | 1
Black-necked Stilt | 0 0 51 0 0 0 | 51
Black-bellied Plover | 0 0 1 0 0 0 | 1
Killdeer | 0 0 5 0 0 2 | 7
Snowy Plover | 0 0 1 0 0 0 | 1
Royal Tern | 0 1 0 0 0 0 | 1
Rock Dove | 20 10 4 0 50 10 | 94
White-crowned Pigeon | 0 0 2 0 0 0 | 2
Scaly-naped Pigeon | 50 0 40 40 50 6 | 186
Mourning Dove | 0 4 50 20 20 0 | 94
Zenaida Dove | 1 0 0 0 2 5 | 8
White-winged Dove | 1 10 6 3 15 4 | 39
Common Ground-Dove | 5 7 100 10 10 10 | 142
Gray-headed Quail-Dove| 0 0 1 0 0 0 | 1
Key West Quail-Dove | 0 0 0 2 0 0 | 2
Ruddy Quail-Dove | 0 0 2 0 0 4 | 6
Hispaniolan Parakeet | 0 0 0 2 0 0 | 2
Hispaniolan Parrot | 0 7 60 40 50 0 | 157
Yellow-billed Cuckoo | 0 0 0 2 5 0 | 7
Mangrove Cuckoo | 0 1 3 1 2 2 | 9
Bay-breasted Cuckoo | 0 0 2 0 0 0 | 2
Hispaniolan Lizard-Cuckoo 0 1 3 0 5 0 | 9
Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo 1 0 0 0 0 1 | 2
Smooth-billed Ani | 0 5 20 0 10 10 | 45
Ashy-faced Owl | 0 0 1 0 0 0 | 1
Puerto Rican Screech-Owl 5 0 0 0 0 0 | 5
Burrowing Owl | 0 0 1 5 0 0 | 6
Antillean Nighthawk | 0 0 0 1 0 0 | 1
Least Poorwill | 0 0 0 16 0 0 | 16
Greater Antillean Nighthawk 0 0 0 20 0 0 | 20
White-collared Swift | 0 0 0 0 30 0 | 30
Antillean Palm-Swift | 0 200 25 6 15 0 | 246
Antillean Mango | 0 1 1 2 3 2 | 9
Green Mango | 1 0 0 0 0 0 | 1
Hispaniolan Emerald | 0 1 3 6 2 0 | 12
Puerto Rican Emerald | 4 0 0 0 0 1 | 5
Vervain Hummingbird | 0 0 0 2 1 0 | 3
Hispaniolan Trogon | 0 0 25 10 0 0 | 35
Narrow-billed Tody | 0 0 6 2 3 0 | 11
Puerto Rican Tody | 20 0 0 0 0 10 | 30
Broad-billed Tody | 0 0 15 30 0 0 | 45
Antillean Piculet | 0 0 1 0 0 0 | 1
Puerto Rican Woodpecker 6 0 0 0 0 0 | 6
Hispaniolan Woodpecker| 0 20 15 15 3 0 | 53
Greater Antillean Elaenia 0 0 3 4 0 0 | 7
Greater Antillean Pewee 0 0 0 2 0 0 | 2
Hispaniolan Pewee | 0 0 6 0 0 0 | 6
Stolid Flycatcher | 0 7 10 5 2 0 | 24
Puerto Rican Flycatcher 0 0 0 0 0 6 | 6
Gray Kingbird | 50 10 15 6 10 20 | 111
Loggerhead Kingbird | 0 0 0 0 0 2 | 2
Palm Crow | 0 0 4 0 0 0 | 4
White-necked Crow | 0 0 1 0 0 0 | 1
Flat-billed Vireo | 0 0 1 3 0 0 | 4
Puerto Rican Vireo | 0 0 0 0 0 4 | 4
Black-whiskered Vireo | 30 15 40 10 20 50 | 165
Palmchat | 0 100 30 4 70 0 | 204
Rufous-throated Solitaire 0 0 40 40 0 0 | 80
Red-legged Thrush | 0 0 10 5 2 2 | 19
La Selle Thrush | 0 0 1 5 0 0 | 6
Northern Mockingbird | 0 50 40 0 4 5 | 99
Pearly-eyed Thrasher | 35 0 0 0 0 3 | 38
Golden Swallow | 0 0 20 15 0 0 | 35
Caribbean Martin | 1 2 0 0 0 20 | 23
Bank Swallow | 0 0 0 0 1 0 | 1
Barn Swallow | 0 0 0 0 0 1 | 1
Cave Swallow | 0 2 0 0 0 100 | 102
Village Weaver | 0 0 0 0 10 0 | 10
Antillean Siskin | 0 0 3 5 0 0 | 8
White-winged Crossbill| 0 0 15 0 0 0 | 15
Yellow Warbler | 0 0 0 0 0 3 | 3
Adelaide's Warbler | 0 0 0 0 0 30 | 30
Pine Warbler | 0 0 10 4 0 0 | 14
Elfin Woods Warbler | 1 0 0 0 0 0 | 1
Ground Warbler | 0 0 1 10 0 0 | 11
White-winged Warbler | 0 0 2 3 0 0 | 5
Bananaquit | 100 5 2 3 4 30 | 144
Puerto Rican Tanager | 45 0 0 0 0 6 | 51
Black-crowned Palm-Tanager 0 1 15 6 4 0 | 26
Chat Tanager | 0 0 4 6 0 0 | 10
Stripe-headed Tanager | 2 1 0 0 0 1 | 4
Antillean Euphonia | 0 0 5 0 0 0 | 5
Yellow-faced Grassquit| 0 0 6 2 10 2 | 20
Black-faced Grassquit | 2 2 0 0 1 0 | 5
Puerto Rican Bullfinch| 15 0 0 0 0 10 | 25
Greater Antillean Bullfinch 0 1 10 1 1 0 | 13
Troupial | 0 0 0 0 0 2 | 2
Black-cowled Oriole | 0 0 5 0 2 0 | 7
Yellow-shouldered Blackbird 0 0 0 0 0 10 | 10
Greater Antillean Grackle 100 0 6 0 0 100 | 206