|Species mentioned in text below are first sightings of endemics (Cuban and Greater Antillean) on our trip.|
|Sat. 3 March – Arrival at Havana (from
Amsterdam via Madrid, both with Iberia), night at hotel Bello Caribe in
western part of this big town.
Sun. 4 March – Some first birds from our balcony (Red-legged Thrush), then hassle-free rental car arrangements (pre-booked) at Cubacar office inside hotel. Easy drive in good new car along quiet highway (Cuban Palm Swift) to San Diego de los Baños at base of the hills, checked in at hotel Mirador (not pre-booked). Reconnaisance of road up hill to La Guïra park, in late p.m. (La Sagra’s Flycatcher, Cuban Pewee, Stripe-headed Tanager, Cuban Bullfinch, Cuban Green Woodpecker, Zenaida Dove).
|Mon. 5 March – After rainy night early visit to La Guïra open forest with pine stands (Yellow-headed Warbler, Olive-capped Warbler, Great Lizard-Cuckoo, Cuban Emerald, Cuban Tody, Cuban Solitaire). Left hotel at noon. Drive South along Havana to highway heading to eastern Cuba, until exit at Jagüey Grande, then South to Playa Larga. Found good casa particular (Osnedy) and met guide Chino at his brother’s house (Greater Antillean Grackle, Cuban Parrot, Cuban Crow).|
|Tue. 6 March – First on our own to border
of large clearing in semi-dry forest c. 3 km W of Soplillar (Fernandinas
Flicker, Grey-headed Ground-Dove) (Chino had other work this morning.)
Then from noon with Chino to Bermejos area far West of Playa Larga (via
Playa Giron), for marsh and (partly open) forest: Cuban Pygmy-Owl,
Gundlach’s Hawk (nest found by us). Some side-tracks during drive back
to Playa Larga (Key-West Quail-Dove), and stop at Cueva de las Peces
restaurant: Bare-legged Owl.
Wed. 7 March – With Chino first to northern border of Zapata marsh North of Playa Larga: Zapata Wren. Then long search (in vain) for Blue-headed Quail-Dove along several tracks near Soplillar and Palpite. At noon, dropped Chino off at his work (national park office near Palpite) and went back to nice forest at northern border of Zapata marsh. Visit to wooden restaurant of Crocodile farm halfway back (Red-shouldered Blackbird). From 3 p.m. with Pedro to Stygian Owl resting near nest. Fruitless search for BHQD again
Thu. 8 March – Left Playa Larga early to be at idyllic hamlet of Rincon (near Bermejos) for Cuban Parakeet but none appeared between 7 and 9 a.m. We should have known how easy they are to be seen at Najasa, later on the trip. A pleasant two hours nevertheless, witnessing the local small-scale farmer business and talking with them. Our best Cuban Pygmy-Owls here, and also Tawny-shouldered Blackbird. Then on to Trinidad alongside Cienfuegos, with several new wetland species at a large reservoir before Cienfuegos (a/o Least Bittern). In Trinidad, got reasonable and friendly casa particular at calle Frank Pais, via friends of friends, living on the other side of the street. Good traditional music at night, in the historic centre. All of the inner town (including our calle Frank Pais) is authentic old Cuban.
|Fri. 9 March – Some sight-seeing in town,
then further East to Camagüey. Then South to Najasa and a bit further to
Pedro Regalado’s house, where we arranged his guidance for the next day,
and (with some luck) a stay in the guesthouse of La Belen nature park. Did
some birding in very late p.m. near Pedro’s house, with nice roost
flights of Plain Pigeon and Palm Crow.
Sat. 10 March – Drove down the now slippery dirt road (after night with heavy rain), for our day with Pedro. First visited a small lake halfway back to Najasa village, and ticked five new wetland species. Then into La Belen park (wooded hills): Giant Kingbird, Cuban Parakeet. Lunch at Pedro’s and back into park: Cuban Grassquit. At dusk visited another roost of Palm Crow, with Fish Bat flying around all the time.
Sun. 11 March – Pre-breakfast walk near headquarters/guesthouse of La Belen, with three warbler trip ticks. Said hello to Pedro and his wife, and then a long drive West again, to Moron on North cost near Cayo Coco islands. Found good casa particular in Moron (address see below).
|Mon. 12 March – Crossing the dam to Cayo
Coco produced 5 new marine species for the trip, and then straight on to
Cayo Paredon Grande East of Cayo Coco proper (Cuban Gnatcatcher,
Thick-billed Vireo, Oriente Warbler). Then to central part of Cayo Coco
itself, at the Jabali cave parking place and nature trail (Greater
Antillean Nightjar). Afternoon at Cayo Guillermo West of Cayo Coco (Bahama
Mockingbird). Back to Moron at sunset.
Tue. 13 March – To Cayo Coco again, and finally got Zapata/Cuban Sparrow at start of road to Flamingo Beach. Lake at opposite side of main road could hold West Indian Whistling-Duck but we were probably too late (Pedro had said it’s a night bird). Trail of Jabali cave again, first part only, as we got lost a bit. Afternoon rest on nice shaded beach of Playa Pilar, far West on Cayo Guillermo. On way back to Moron a few thousand Flamingoes well visible from dam in late p.m.
|Wed. 14 March – Long drive back to Havana,
and spent a few hours at noon on Zapata peninsula again, around Soplillar
mainly, but saw nothing new. Warm welcome at Havana by our relatives from
Thu. 15 March – Sightseeing in Havana. More music.
Fri. 16 March – Outing to Soroa in wooded hills between Havana and La Guïra (where we had started this trip the week before). Beautiful scenery and good birding along track up hill to small summit (mirador). Extremely satisfied by our sighting of Blue-headed Quail-Dove, at last!
Sat. 17 March – More sightseeing etc., and left Cuba in evening, arriving in Amsterdam in the afternoon of Sunday 18 March.
· Hotel Mirador, San Diego de los Baños, below La Guïra nature park. In centre of this small town; see photo in next part of this report.
· Osnedy’s casa particular at Playa Larga (Caneton). Location see map. Phone 059 7133. His wife Leticia made very good meals.
· Chino (Orestes Martinez Garcia), guide for Zapata peninsula. Phone at home after 9 p.m.: 59 5670. Also possible at office: phone 5359 5539, e-mail email@example.com. All in Spanish.
· Casa particular in Trinidad: many! Friendly, with parking garage nearby: José Lugones Callegro, at calle Frank Pais 468 A. Phone 3718.
· Pedro Regalado, guide (ornithologist) for Najasa / La Belen area. See map for directions. Postal address: Apartado Postal 161, Camaguey CP 70100, Cuba. The hamlet where he lives (Manolin) will have phone later in 2001.
· Casa particular at Moron, base for Cayo Coco: Loundes Jimenez Rodrigues, calle Gen. Peraza 19, Moron. Phone 4452. Private entrance, nice house, good food.
Good paladares (private restaurants) in
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