Sunday, December 16, 2012

Guanica 12/7: Looking Around

After a long, traffic jammed drive from San Juan Airport, over the mountains, to the southwest coast on Thursday, we arrived at the Copamarina after dark, Shari driving the final 6.5 km on PR-333, a twisting narrow road that hugs the coast, black as pitch except for the headlights of the careening cars coming at you in the middle of the road. Harrowing. So, aside from some Greater Antillean Grackles in the Hertz parking lot and a Great Egret along one of the highways, we didn't see any birds the first day.
Photo: Shari Zirlin
I was up early on Friday and immediately toured the grounds of the hotel which face onto Caribbean waters. Brown Pelicans, a Royal Tern, and an egret were all in the bay. The first year bird I picked up (not counting the grackles from the day before since I wasn't counting) was a Pearly-eyed Thrasher up in a palm tree.

Later, while I was eating breakfast al fresco, I watched the resident grackles hop from table to table, looking for what they could cadge. I saw one steal a Splenda packet and jump down onto the lawn to tear it open. Another one came to try to steal it away. I imagine they were pretty disappointed nutrition-wise. These clowns of the Caribbean seem to have a lot more personality than the grackles back home, but that's likely because they're exotic to me. In Puerto Rico, they're just a nuisance.

Mid-morning, a little too late for productive birding, we drove up to the Bosque Estatal de Guanica, otherwise known as Bosque Seco, otherwise known as the dry forest. Before the road starts to climb the mountain to the forest there was a field full of Cattle Egrets. Cattle Egrets make their living following large hoofed animals, eating the bugs kicked up as the animals walk along. In this field there were no cattle, but there was a tractor with a tiller and we watched an interesting adaptation, with the egrets following behind, some practically between the wheels of the plow, snapping at whatever flew up out of the ground. A tractor probably provides them with a lot more food a lot quicker than some slow moving animal.

Cattle Egrets living dangerously
Photos: Shari Zirlin
As I suspected it was getting too hot to find many birds in the forest, but, aside from the ubiquitous Turkey Vultures, every bird we did find was a year bird: Puerto Rican Tody, Gray Kingbird, Banaquit, & Antillean Euphonia.

Finally, on our get-reacquainted tour, we drove to a pond that is on the road that runs along the side of the hotel. Two years ago we were able to walk along the edge of the pond quite far, getting good views of waterfowl and waders. This year, the pond was much larger, flooding the trail and a good portion of the parking area. The rains this year, a worker in a boatyard across the street explained, have been particularly heavy for this normally dry area of the island. So birding the pond became a chore, standing at two points about 200 feet apart to get good angles. Nowhere could you do a full "sweep" of the pond with your optics. However, there were plenty of birds there, including White-cheeked Pintails among the egrets, herons, yellowlegs, stilts, Blue-winged Teal and one Common Gallinule.

Sitting on our balcony in the afternoon, I once again admired the bark of the eucalyptus trees that grew a few feet away. I don't know of any tree with purple, red and green bark. They look like color field paintings. Photos don't do them justice, but here's one:

1 comment:

  1. Cattle egrets might be worldwide?? Love the bark!