14 July 2011

Birding El Yunque and Beyond

Our next stop in our Puerto Rican journey took us to El Yunque, the rainforest.  On the way we stopped at the Farjardo Inn to catch a glimpse of a hummingbird or two.  We were lucky to catch a very messy Antillean Crested Hummingbird in the parking lot.  After our hummer we drove up, up, and up into the cloud forests of El Yunque where we found our accomodations at Casa Cubuy Ecolodge to be just the thing for two road weary travelers.

El Yunque is a beautiful oasis in Puerto Rico.  We were lucky to be staying on the northern side of the island and away from the masses of people at the National Park entrance.  Instead we found quiet and solitude.  We spent our days swimming in beautiful pools near the waterfalls of two rivers Rio Sabana and Rio Cubuy. 

We also found a few birds along the way.  While eating at the local Casa Cubuy resturant we heard the Puerto Rican Screech-owl.  The next day we watched Scaly-naped Pigeons fly around the mountains as we ate our breakfast.  Below is a very rough photo of my lifer Puerto Rican Emerald that Emily and I found near the waterfalls.  Can you find it?  It's just a dark shape in the green foilage but it was a nice hummer and it gave it great looks.

Another Puerto Rican specialty, the Puerto Rican Tody came within feet  of us each day as we descended the switchback trails that led to the waterfalls below our ecolodge.  In the photo below you can see the bright green back of this cute endemic bird.  This little lollipop of a bird has a bright red throat and a white belly. 

Outside of our door each morning we were serenaded by Bannaquits.  This one was trying to find a mate.  We even had the chance to watch some nest building while we were there.  Needless to say, I could've stayed at Casa Cubuy forever.

Our time at El Yunque came to a close and we skipped a plane to Vieques.  Here we picked up two more lifers for my trip: Carribean Elania and Nutmeg Manniken.  More posts are coming about Vieques.  This was our beach portion of the trip and you better believe I will have a few posts about the tropcial blue-green waters.

From Vieques we stopped once more at the main entrance of El Yunque but the crowds of people and cars lined up was not the cloud forest that we had remembered so we only stayed a short time.  We did have more looks at the Pearly-eyed Thrasher (seen above).

On our last day in Puerto Rico we toured the two national parks inside the city, Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristóbal.  At El Morro we found a very cooperative Caribbean Martin.  I had seen this bird on the power lines my first full day birding but it was nice to get looks at it without a freeway of cars zooming by.   

San Juan was a beautiful walking city and despite the heat it was lovely spending the day taking in the sights and sounds.  Plus those Martins cruising outside El Morro didn't hurt either.  I'll have more photos of San Juan if you're interested in the historical side of things. 

Next week I'll post a full list of all the birds we found in Puerto Rico!

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