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Notes on Birding

25 May - 1 June 1997

by Mark Oberle

I spent the last week of May in San Juan working with Dr Pepe Ramos on our new introductory photo book and CD-ROM of birds of Puerto Rico.  I only got in a few days of field work, and most of those sites have been covered previously in Birdchat trip reports by Gail Mackiernan and others as well as myself (May & Dec 1995).  Here are just a few highlights and minor updates.

On May 27 a Short-eared Owl crossed the autopista 2.7 miles East of the Salinas exit at dusk.  There is plenty of good habitat for this species along the SE coast of PR.  The Caribbean form is a possible split from the North American Short-ears, based on different back color, size, leg feathering and range (Glen E.Woolfenden,  Wayne Hoffman, and William Smith.Asio cf.  domingensis invades south Florida, with comments on the taxonomy of this owl.  Georgia Ornithological Soc./Assoc.  Field Ornith.  meeting, Jekyll Island, GA, Oct., 19 1996)

Cartagena Lagoon in SW PR is still just a thick reed bed, but USF&WS is in the process of restoring the lake there.

The easiest access road is on the west side of the "lake" and offers good savannah birding toward the end.  There is no sign, but you just turn south on the dirt road at the intersection of PR 101 and PR 306 (some maps suggest incorrectly that PR 306 is 3306; the road sign for PR 306 only faces west).

Chris Haney had told me of multiple parrot species in the parking lots of the Inter American University just west of San German.  Mid-afternoon is best.  On May 28 we only had Canary-winged Parakeets.  A US Coast Guard officer told me that that species and Hispaniolan Parrots are readily seen at the USCG base in Old San Juan, often allowing close approach even when someone has tossed feed on the ground.  At the Humacao wildlife refuge between Humacao and Playa de Humacao there were Orange-cheeked Waxbills in reeds at the headquarters pond.  There were lots of White-cheeked Pintails, Least Bitterns, and a Caribbean Coot in the back pond reached by walking toward the ocean from the headquarters and then crossing 2 wooden bridges and taking a right hand trail rather than following the sign to the beach.  At the west end of the back pond there was a distant West-Indian Whistling Duck perched in the mangroves, one of only 20 in the refuge.  The refuge headquarters compound is open 7:30-3:30 weekdays only, but the back pond is reachable by walking the trail that parallels the canal immediately east of the refuge entrance.  That trail leads to the second wooden bridge mentioned above.  The headquarters pond can be viewed from the main highway as well.

We stayed at Hacienda Juanita near Maricao which offered good views of Antillean Euphonia, Black-cowled Oriole, and other common birds, especially in the tall trees near the swimming pool and on the labeled trail immediately west of the swimming pool.  But the best mountain birding was in the state forest rest area at Km 16.2 on PR 120, where we had a singing Elfin Woods Warbler and other endemics.  The forest warden told us that a Mynah had recently killed the nestlings of a falcon above the headquarters office.  He also said that locals there used to put fat from PR Sharp-shinned Hawks now a threatened subspecies) on the sides of their fighting cocks to scare rivals in cock fights.

Later we got so carried away filming Yellow Warblers at Boqueron refuge that we overstayed the 4PM closing time.

Mark Oberle
2690 Briarlake Woods Way
Atlanta, GA 30345-3906

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