I had planned a trip to Cuba with my family but they were not happy with going there and said what about the Dominican Republic instead and as I have never been to the Caribbean before I said that sounds great and I started planning my holiday birding. My first step was to check Trip Reports on Cloudbirder and other sites and I was amazed to how little had been reported from the area. I was going Punta Cana and in September it seemed to be a ghost town., So the next plan was to try for a bird guide, I found one on Facebook who called himself Dominican Birder but I found him hard work to get hold of and when I finally did he did not have his own car and wanted me to take a taxi to him and then pick up a hire car, it did not feel right so I had to give him a rain check and call it off. Next I tried the Birding Pals having had great success with them before. The only difference is its 10 dollars now to join and must be a better service you would think. I found a pal in my area and his name was A Calcano, I tried to get in contact with him but he would not answer his emails and when he finally got in touch and found out it was only me he did not answer anymore emails. I found out he is a guide but he did not have the courtesy to say sorry I cannot do it. So no reports or guides and I would have to find out what’s there as I go.
We got there on the 14 September and the flight was late so when we arrived it was dark so sadly no birding on the first day. The hotel was in a complex of four hotels and the grounds were large with a couple of ornamental fish ponds and a beach looking over the Atlantic Ocean. On my first morning I got up to early and was waiting for it to get light. Just after 6 am I started my birding and found it very warm straight away. I went to the beach to look for birds on the sea and picked up two Terns and when I looked through my binoculars I had a shock to find them steamed up. They took a couple of minutes to clear but the terns were long gone.
My first bird was American Kestrel and a cracking male and very shortly after was a Palmchat and a Antillean Palm Swift. I found as it got more light there were birds everywhere and I found a Gray Kingbird and the noisy Greater Antillean Grackle. Also I had Northern Mockingbird, Hispaniolan Woodpecker, Good old Barn Swallow they seem to be all over the world and I finally refound my Terns which turned out to be Royal Terns.
Next bird was one I always wanted to see a Yellow Crowned Night Heron. Tricoloured Heron, Great White Egret, Turkey Vulture, Moorhen same bird as back home but sounding very different, Bananaquit a very smart small bird. I felt more like back home by the minute when I found House Sparrow and Feral Pigeon. Loads of White Cheeked Pintail on the fish ponds also Mourning Dove and Collared Dove and this was the first mornings birding.
Day 2 and I had a great surprise when a female Magnificent Frigatebird flew high over the hotel grounds. When I was walking back I had what I thought was a Dragonfly fly past me to land on a bush and on looking closer was surprised to see a tiny Hummingbird, the second smallest in the world a Vervain's Hummingbird. An amazing sight and only my second every Hummer. I found the very neat and tidy gardens a bit boring and needed to find a wild bit. I came across a small wood and there was benches in there so I sat and watched and got some real good birds. Stolid Flycatcher, my second Hummer a Antillean Mango Hummingbird and another bird I wanted to see a Hispaniolan Lizard Cuckoo and I found these to be fairly common and seen them on most days. Other new birds included my first Yankee migrant a Northern Waterthrush and a couple of Green Herons which were great to watch as they would pick up bread and then dropped it right by their sides and were catching the fish as they feed on the bread.
Day3 and I had booked a Ecological Tour to Los Haitises National Park it was a way for me to see more of the Dominican Republic and hopefully some more birds. It was an impressive place, it had swamps and mangroves and rocky outcrops where the egrets nest. The sky was full of Frigatebirds and Turkey Vultures who were waiting to see of any Egret chicks would fall from their nest.
I went on a boat through the mangroves where I had lots of Green Herons and big numbers of Small Blue Heron and I even had a white morph type. Other birds seen were as follows 1 Black Crowned Night Heron , Snowy Egret , 2 White Necked Crow who made a very strange noise, I thought they were some kind of chicken when I first heard them, Killdeer, 2 Belted Kingfishers, 1 Hispaniolan Pewee. When we got to the breeding colony we saw lots of Brown Pelicans and the male Magnificent Frigatesbirds where just starting to show their red throat sacks. There was the remains of a old bridge and on the posts were lots of Royal Terns and one Sandwich Tern. The guides showed me Weaver birds’ nests but sadly no birds anywhere. Back on dry land and our next stop was to a farm in the mountains where we had lunch and I time for some more birding. I picked up Black Whiskered Vireo and Black and White Warbler and a nice surprise was Antillean Piculet also Common Ground Doves. As we left the mountains we came to a ford, one we had crossed earlier but this time it was a raging river. All the locals where parked up and watching the river and as time went on they were carrying motorbikes across the river. Some cars and vans braved it across but we sat there for two hours before our driver decided to cross, he then put a chain on the front and a tractor pulled us across and that was the end of a cracking day.
This one of the many paths I walked in the morning
Breakfast time for the Herons and Egrets. I walked around hotel for two hours in the morning and a hour in the evening and this is a list of what I had and if common.
My first Endemic was Palmchat, it was very common and you can see why it’s the state bird and I saw it most days. I found the large nests everywhere and it reminded me of Monk Parakeets.
Next bird was Northern Mockingbird and I found them pretty common too and seen them in most parts of the hotel grounds.
Also common was Hispaniolan Woodpecker and I saw lots of them. I found one digging out a nest hole and it looked like he was getting ready to nest but I realised he was digging for grubs and kept bringing out big grubs and flying off and returning, he did this over a dozen times.