By Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader
Fourth in a series about the Delaware Nature Society bird survey trip to Cuba in November, 2010.
Guanahacabibes National Park was my favorite part of Cuba. Named after the original inhabitants of the area, the Guanahatabeys, this area is at Cuba’s western tip and is very remote and wild. We stayed at a dive center called Maria la Gorda, which means “Maria the fatso.” Legend has is that Maria was a prostitute who was captured by pirates and left here on this remote beach many years ago, where she lived out the rest of her years. Pretty strange, huh?
The National Park covers over 1,000 square kilometers and is also designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Not only does this area offer world-class scuba diving, but it contains miles of mangrove swamp, coastal thicket vegetation, and limestone karst forest. We surveyed birds for three wonderful days here, enjoying expert park staff, lots of wildlife, beautiful scenery, and fantastic tropical sunsets.
Of particular interest bird-wise were migrants from North America that we identified. This was potentially our greatest ornithological contribution of the entire two-week trip. The first cold front of the season passed the day prior to our arrival, possibly delivering a fresh crop of migrants from the north. Specifically, we found three species that are not often found in Cuba. The first was a Lincoln’s Sparrow, which is apparently very rare. Our Cuban guide, Osmani Borrego, had never seen one. Next, we found an Eastern Phoebe, classified in the Cuban bird guide as a vagrant. A vagrant means that it does not regularly occur there. Third, we found a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, another vagrant to Cuba, with very few records in the country. All of these were found in the same area on the same day. Maybe these birds are actually more common than what is published in the books, and that more study is needed on their occurrence. Perhaps we made a valuable contribution to Cuban bird knowledge after all.
Enjoy a short video highlighting the scenery and some of the other birds we found while in the remote, pristine, and beautiful Guanahacabibes National Park and Biosphere Reserve.