Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dry Forest 12/13: Puerto Rican Bullfinch

I was determined that we'd go to the dry forest early enough to find some birds. On Thursday we got up to the headquarters a little before nine, not ideal, but still early enough, I thought, to find some birds moving around before it got too hot. We started out on the trail we'd been walking and found nothing. Cutting our losses we went back to the parking lot. The attendant at the sign-in booth suggested we take the Ballena Trail to find birds.
View from Ballenas Trail
Photos: Shari Zirlin
This trail goes south down the side of the mountain, to PR 333 near a point in Bahia Ballena. It wasn't too steep, the trail was fairly wide, allowing you to back up to find a bird in the trees, and there was a decent amount of shade. As we started walking down the trail we heard birds couldn't find them. Fortuanately, by this time we recognized some calls: Gray Kingbird, Bananaquit, Puerto Rican Tody.

We weren't far along the trail when we saw a black bird fly across from one stand of trees into another. I knew, just knew, it was a good one, and when Shari said that she'd seen red on it, I was even more certain. She found it in the back of a tree a little higher than eye level. Fortunately, it moved slightly when I started looking and went into a patch of sunlight. I saw the red on its head and throat and the huge beak and it was what I thought the moment I saw it fly--a Puerto Rican Bullfinch.

It is a 2 km trail but seemed longer. The bay was in sight but we never seemed to be close to reaching it. Once we got down to a flat area and still didn't see the road ahead we decided to turn around. It was a very good walk for endemic species. In addition to the bullfinch, we also had Puerto Rican Woodpecker, Puerto Rican Flycatcher, Puerto Rican Tody and Adelaide's Warbler.

Walking back up the trail I spotted a bird on the ground. (Interestingly, aside from ground doves, you don't see many birds on the ground in Puerto Rico.) It was an American Kestrel and Shari refound it after it flew up into the trees.


  1. You know, American kestrels are such handsome birds ... I used to see them regularly on wires next to the road, but haven't so much in recent years???

    1. That's because their numbers are down dramatically, probably due to vanishing open space where they like to hunt insects and little critters.