Tuesday, 29 March 2022


It was absolutely bucketing down, raining cats and dogs, torrential downpour – however you want to describe this morning. In a couple of 4-wheel drive vehicles we ascended the Cachote Road for our last gettable endemic – Eastern Chat-Tanager. The rain never stopped as we drove up and on arriving at the appropriate spot it continued. With umbrella in hand we very quickly nailed this endemic, despite the atrocious conditions. The bird showed incredibly well in the driving rain and mist and I think we were very lucky to have had such views. 

What followed was what I can only describe as a farce really, but that’s another story and after the required amount of phaffing and miscommunication we drove back to the hotel, seeing not a lot apart froM one particularly bright male Cape May Warbler. And that was our birding done. I just had to drive 4 hours back to Santo Domingo and our airport hotel, calling into the airport to get the required Covid test for our flights back to Europe via the states tomorrow. And the tour concluded over a few cervezas this evening. Well done chaps!

Sunday, 27 March 2022


We left in the early hours in order to give ourselves plenty of time to search for those pesky nightbirds we were still missing. Well, we didn’t get a sniff of either species until just at sunrise, when we were high up the Alcoa Road and had parked up amongst some conifers, that a Hispaniolan Nightjar responded to the tape and flew over a couple of us before disappearing into the forest. Unfortunately, most of the group were still getting out of the minibus at the time…..! Anyway, this spot seemed like a good place for breakfast and it also had a couple distant Hispaniolan Crossbills and a Hispaniolan Euphonia as well. We were looking for the endemic Golden Swallow, which breeds up here in the abandoned quarries that seem to be everywhere. Despite that we really had to search for this bird and maybe 2 hours later finally found a pair that appeared to be nesting in a hole at the top of a cliff. We were treated to great views as they flew around us and there was much relief all round, especially for yours truly as I was back at the minibus when the birds first appeared! We also saw several Myrtle Warblers up here, as well as another group of Hispaniolan Palm Crows.

White morph Reddish Egret

Dropping back down to the lowlands, we returned to the hotel and picked up our luggage and then drove out to Cabo Rojo once more, but didn’t find anything new. One pool held white-morph Reddish Egret and Little Blue Heron, with a bunch of Snowy Egrets but that was it. Any chance of a Double-striped Thick-Knee would have required a time machine I think! So we drove a few hours up to Barahona and our clifftop hotel, heading out for poorwills once again in the evening drew a blank.

Saturday, 26 March 2022


Set out early on the long drive to Pedernales, down in the south-west corner of Dominican Republic and very close to the border with Haiti. Our first stop was a bit of a mess as we ended up falling foul of the local park ranger at Laguna Rincon for not purchasing entry tickets. Who knew? Shame as it looked a decent area and we heard Spotted Rail, saw flocks of Village WeaversBelted Kingfisher, a Green Heron and a bunch of other previously seen species. So we got out of there and visited Laguna Oviedo, deciding to take a boat trip out onto the lake despite the windy conditions. I’m honestly not sure if it’s worth doing this boat ride again as it takes a good hour’s journey across the lake to get to the best birding area. 

American Flamingo

Royal Terns & Laughing Gulls

Still, it’s a good place for American Flamingo, with over 75 seen, along with Reddish Egret, Little Blue Heron, Common, Caspian and Royal Terns, and a few Laughing Gulls. Flocks of shorebirds were present and it was a little tricky manoeuvring the boat to get a decent view of them but eventually and with some persistence we were able to see Short-billed Dowitcher, Semipalmated Plover, Stilt Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Least and Western Sandpipers, and a Red Knot. I must admit I was grateful when we returned to the small quay and continue driving…!


We then headed to Cabo Rojo and we wanted to be in position for a seawatch in the evening as this is where Black-capped Petrels sometimes congregate before flying inland to their nesting burrows – some of them breed up at Zapoten, high up in the Sierra de Bahorucco. Well, we eventually worked out how to get up to the headland as you can’t drive up there due to a barrier across the road. Once at the right spot we set up scopes and…….well there were distant pteradroma-types constantly breaking the horizon but you couldn’t really say they were Black-capped Petrels so we’ll have to save that one for another trip! There were Brown PelicansWhite-tailed TropicbirdsMagnificent FrigatebirdsBrown Boobies, and cliff nesting Cave Swallows and Antillean Palm Swifts to keep us entertained, with a very confiding Hispaniolan Mango feeding on the cactus flowers right next to us. 


All that was left was to drive 25 minutes into Pedernales to a nice little hotel and it was in walking distance of a great restaurant where we enjoyed some nice cold cervezas and a delicious meal.

Friday, 25 March 2022


Headed out at first light (roughly 06:45am) and drove along the Rabo de Gato Trail in our minibus for a few kilometres to a place where 2 Belgian birders had found a Bay-breasted Cuckoo yesterday. This was our most-wanted bird and knowing how difficult this species is to see in a normal year, let alone during this drought, we were ultra-keen to find it. Sure enough at the designated GPS spot I played the call once and up popped the cuckoo onto a bare branch some way off in the forest. Wow! It remained there for maybe a minute before dropping back down and out of sight. Amazing! So we continued walking further along the trail and stumbled across a wet area of forest caused by a leaking pipe. Whilst here, a guy came and started a generator to operate a water pump and the water started flowing and the large pipe had numerous leaks, one of which was designed to create what was in effect a stream. This area held numerous Key West Quail-Doves (maybe 4 or 5 pairs) and after much searching a White-fronted Quail-Dove, just walking along the forest floor some 40 yards away. Naturally there was panic as we all tried to secure this perfect tickable views, but we all did and there were high fives all round. 

Key West Quail-Dove

This damper section of forest was also to the liking of maybe half a dozen Ovenbirds, as well as Hispaniolan Lizard Cuckoo, Black-crowned Palm Tanager and Greater Antillean Bullfinch. And back at the bus there were 3 Hispaniolan Amazons hanging around in the surrounding trees.

Black-crowned Palm Tanager

Broad-billed Tody


Hispaniolan Parrot 

Returning to Villa Barrancoli for a late breakfast we had really nice views of a Hispaniolan Mango feeding on the flowers around the breakfast area. A male Hispaniolan Emerald also put in an appearance and we’d see it a few more times before we’d leave tomorrow as well. So after breakfast I decided to take a chance and go over to Lago Enrequillo for some Hispaniolan Palm Crows reported recently. Boy it was hot. So hot! At the first location we drew a blank so we decided to find a track down to the water and luckily one such path took us to a goat farm where I randomly played the call and several Palm Crows flew in and landed close by. 

Hispaniolan Palm Crow

After watching them for a bit we drove further along and found another track down to the water where we walked through a patch of tall thorn scrub and it seemed there had been a fall of warblers with Ovenbird, Northern Parulas everywhere, Black-throated Blue, Palm, Common Yellowthroat and American Redstart. Along the shoreline were a few shorebirds such as Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, and a group of Least Sandpipers. Numerous dead trees out in the water were being used as perches for Western Osprey, and both Tricoloured and Great Blue Herons.


Upon return to Villa Barrancoli we saw the Hispaniolan Emerald again before driving back to the same wet area of forest from this morning but drew a blank on any quail-doves but did hear the Bay-breasted Cuckoo. So not a bad day so far. Later this evening we went out after the poorwill and nightjar but despite hearing numerous Hispaniolan Nightjars we just couldn’t locate one in the dense thorn scrub.

Thursday, 24 March 2022

Zapoten - Sierra de Bahorucco - Rabo de Gato Trail

Well I can honestly say that the day up in the Sierra de Bahorucco at Zapoten lived up to all expectations from the hell-ride up the most uncomfortable trail most of us had ever experienced to the plethora of amazing specialities we layed eyes on. What a day! It began in darkness at 4am when we were picked up in a couple of 4-whell drive vehicles and headed up the horrible road that was more like a dry riverbed littered with boulders and jagged rocks. Not nice! After a couple of hours we stopped when Raphael, our local guide, heard an Ashy-faced Owl calling and we jumped out of the cars and found our second owl devouring a large furry creature in a tree below the track. It didn’t take long from here to get to La Selle Corner and we parked just uphill from that spot. The day had just turned and the horizon was getting slowly lighter but looking down the track in the gloom we waited for any sign of movement. After what seemed like an eternity a bird hopped out into the middle of the track….. “La Selle Thrush” Raphael said but we couldn’t see any details, even through the scope. A few minutes passed and the light got better and we could see an orange-rufous colour on the underparts, and so La Selle Thrush was added to our life lists. But then a second bird appeared on the track – Bicknell’s Thrush. Brilliant! 

We started walking down the track but didn’t get far before a burst of activity in the trees next to us revealed itself as Hispaniolan Trogon. Not one. Not two but at least 3 individuals. As we watched these, a Rufous-throated Solitaire was found and the scope views were superb. At one point a La Selle Thrush appeared right next to the solitaire, and then a Hispaniolan/Antillean Euphonia was found, followed by a Greater Antillean Pewee that literally seemed to follow us up and down the track. Returning to the cars we had our picnic breakfast and were entertained with our first Green-tailed WarblerHispaniolan Emerald, several Hispaniolan Woodpeckers, and a few previously seen American wood warblers. 

Green-tailed Warbler

So continuing our walk uphill we quickly nailed one of our most wanted species, Western Chat-Tanager with a pair moving across the hillside above us. They never came out into the open but we were able to watch them for a couple of minutes. We’d already had brief views before breakfast but they weren’t really tickable so these views were superb. Then the first of a few White-winged Warblers decided to cross the track and skulk close by, allowing everyone to enjoy perfect views eventually, more Green-tailed Warblers showed before we had our first decent looks at Narrow-billed Tody. In fact we saw the tody several times along this section of the track and as we tracked one of them down a Hispaniolan Spindalis was spotted above us – this was one of only two sightings of this species during the whole trip here in Dominican republic. We also saw Antillean Piculet, Black-crowned Palm Tanager, Hispaniolan Pewee, Black-and-white Warbler, Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue Warbler and several Cape May Warblers. 


But we still had a few birds to find so drove lower to an area of pines where Hispaniolan Crossbill usually resides. We didn’t get any response to the call here so began walking lower, finding our only Antillean Siskin of the trip right beside the road, a brief Hispaniolan Emerald, and eventually we found 3 Hispaniolan Crossbills. Phew! 

Antillean Siskin

Hispaniolan Crossbill

Several Pine Warblers were feeding very close to the ground and yet more American wood warblers were seen, with a Loggerhead Kingbird calling in the distance. 

Pine Warbler

So we drove lower, targeting Bay-breasted Cuckoo. We stopped numerous times, played the call but failed to get a response. A pair of Hispaniolan Lizard Cuckoos came in one time I was playing the other cuckoo’s call, and we did get mind-blowing views of a male Hispaniolan Euphonia and a Loggerhead Kingbird as well but not a lot else. So we decided to return to Villa Barrancoli and walk along the Rabo de Gato trail once again. 

'Hispaniolan' Loggerhead Kingbird

Antillean or Hispaniolan Euphonia - you decide...!

This was a good move as it turned out as we found a few Hispaniolan Orioles feeding in a large flowering tree. Further on a few Hispaniolan Parakeets were spotted feeding nearby, and there was also Stolid FlycatcherFlat-billed VireoGreater Antillean BullfinchBroad-billed TodyMangrove CuckooPalm Warbler (and several other American wood warblers we’d seen numerous times), and a White-necked Crow. David T also saw a Key West Quail Dove too.

Flat-billed Vireo

Greater Antillean Bullfinch

Stolid Flycatcher

In the evening we headed out to look for Least Poorwill and Hispaniolan Nightjar. In windy conditions we heard both species, and saw a Northern Potoo and a Burrowing Owl.


At the end of the day we’d seen 22 Hispaniolan endemics. Wow!

Wednesday, 23 March 2022


This was mainly a travelling day as we drove for around 8 hours to Villa Barrancoli, our base for the next 3 nights. The first section of the journey was not pleasant as the road went through numerous small villages complete with the unsufferable speed bumps and in parts, the road was more pothole than tarmac. But after a couple of hours we made it on to the main highway and all was good, with Antillean Palm Swifts and a Peregrine Falcon the only birds of note. We stopped for lunch in Bani and brought provisions for the next few days in a big supermarket there, eventually arriving at Villa Barrancoli around 4pm. Kate Wallace was there to greet us and after introductions and figuring out how the water system works we were oit walking along the famous Rabo de Gato Trail. Kate informed us tha the region was suffering a long-standing drought and that White-fronted Quail-Dove and Bay-breasted Cuckoo just weren’t around. Bugger! But we’re not the sort of folks to give up without a fight..!

Hispaniolan Pewee

Practically the first birds we found was our first Hispaniolan Pewee and the endemic  Flat-billed Vireo in the same tree. The only other birds of note were a Palm Warbler and a pair of Black-crowned Palm Tanagers. That would have to do for today, so we returned to the lodge and enjoyed a fine evening meal. 

So…. Villa Barrancoli… What can you say? In my opinion it is delightful. Rustic but delightful. We had hot showers, flushing toilets, good food, birds in the garden. It’s nothing plush and it is designed for birders. The cabins are a bit on the small side when there’s two people sharing one but it is ok. We even had an extra night here from the normal two that most groups do and everyone thought it was fine. Can't wait for tomorrow's trip up to Zapoten....

Tuesday, 22 March 2022

Hitting the Ground Running in Dominican Republic

Up and out for 7am in search of Ridgway’s Hawk. We headed over to the usual area where we heard the hawk in the distance behind a dense woodland which we couldn’t navigate around due to the stream becoming a torrential river due to recent heavy rains. As we scanned the surrounding area we picked up Hispaniolan Woodpecker, many PalmchatsHispaniolan MangoBlack-crowned Palm TanagerVervain Hummingbird, and watched a White-necked Crow uttering its raucous and more than slightly comical call. 


Hispaniolan Woodpecker

At breakfast the heavens opened and the first of many heavy showers put in an appearance. This was all well and good whilst we were at the lodge having breakfast but once out in the field we had to take shelter many times. On top of that, we had to wade up to our knees numerous times to reach the clearing where a Ridgway’s Hawk was hanging out, thanks to the knowledge of local guide Juan Cespedes. And what views we had of this super rarity – flying overhead and landing in a tree right next to us. 

Ridgway's Hawk

In fact it was present the whole time we birded the large clearing where West Indian Whistling Duck, a cracking Antillean Piculet posed nicely for ages, Black-and-white Warbler, Northern Parula, American Redstart and a fine Cape May Warbler were all seen well. Not a bad haul and there was much relief all round at seeing the hawk, in fact we had a thoroughly enjoyable time despite getting soaked with numerous extremely heavy showers and wading through the river and across the flooded field. We returned to the quirky hotel to dry off and had an hour or so until lunch. 

West Indian Whistling Duck

Antillean Piculet

In the late afternoon after a siesta we walked down the lane into the open area and beside the fields where we found a pair of Hispaniolan Lizard Cuckoos posing beside the road. Another cracking Cape May Warbler was at eye-level feeding in a tree, with a Broad-billed Tody close by. 

We also found a flock of Village Weavers mixing with a colony of Palmchats. Next to us was a tall ‘stump’ of a palm tree with numerous holes in it being inhabited by 7 male and a female Hispaniolan Woodpeckers. We walked up behind the lodge but couldn’t find anything else new, but did enjoy some very close perched Turkey Vultures (so ugly!) and another tody. So we decided to have an early dinner – must admit fitting in 3 sit-down hotel meals into my stomach in a day is not easy!

Hispaniolan Woodpeckers

 After dinner we drove back along the entrance road and enjoyed crippling views of Ashy-faced Owl to make it a 10 endemic day!

Ashy-faced Owl

Sunday, 20 March 2022


This was just a travelling day and we even had a lie in as we didn’t leave for San Juan Airport until 9am. Our flight to Punta Cana was delayed and we didn’t touch down in the Dominican Republic until 4.30pm, to be greeted by a wall of noise from a local band and an airport buzzing with a multitude of people. Our first endemic Palmchats outside the car rental centre were very much appreciated by everyone and a well-timed boost. The only other bird of note was an Antillean Swift seen on the drive, which saw us arrive at the equally bizarre and delightful Altos de Cano Hondo in the dark at 8.30pm. But a few beers later and we were all ready for what tomorrow would bring….. more lifers!

Saturday, 19 March 2022


So with all major targets done and dusted here in Puerto Rico we had a ‘spare’ day to simply go birding and try and mop up some more of what’s on offer…. We began by checking out the Lajas Fields, with the first road impassable due to the recent heavy rain, but the second road was much better. A Grasshopper Sparrow was seen very well perched in some bare branches at the edge of a field beside the track and was certainly much appreciated by Lars. As we drove back to the main road we passed a pair of African Collared Doves and a flock of around 20 non-breeding Pin-tailed Whydahs….. Where are we again? Next up were the lagoons at Cabo Rojo again, but this time we were looking into the sun, so drove further along the track where a pair of ‘Caribbean’ Clapper Rails paraded around right beside our van and showed extraordinarily well. Wow!
The track swung away to our left and eventually ended at the back of the lagoon, allowing us much better light to scope the large flock of shorebirds. Our only Hudsonian Whimbrel and a Grey Plover were passed as we drove in as well. Out on the lagoon we scoped mainly Least Sandpipers and could pick out a few Western Sandpipers, whilst a Wilson’s Plover and some Sanderling were scoped just before a Merlin dashed onto the scene and chased an unfortunate peep across the sky in front of us, forcing the flock to wheel and turn in the sky making for an amazing spectacle. A couple of Little Blue Herons were also scoped here and a pair of Caribbean Elaenia’s were far more obliging than yesterday’s birds. 

A bumpy, uncomfortable drive to the lighthouse at Cabo Rojo was rewarded with stunning views of several White-tailed Tropicbirds wheeling around the cliffs. And one pair landed briefly allowing us to scope them. Wow! 

White-tailed Tropicbird

After breakfast we drove an hour east and visited the Antillean Crested Hummingbird stake-out where within minutes of our arrival we were watching at least 3 of these stunners feeding right in front of us. After our poor result on the first day we were elated with our success! 

Antillean Crested Hummingbird

A sudden downpour prompted an early exit and we headed to Humacao on the east coast, where the reserve was shut of course (at 3.30pm can you believe it?) and all we got for our efforts was a Brown Booby out at sea after a search for White-winged Parakeet drew a blank. We toasted our success tonight with beer and mojitos and looked forward to the next leg of our journey….

Friday, 18 March 2022


I wasn’t sure how today would pan out and in all truth it didn’t start too well as we searched for the endemic Yellow-shouldered Blackbird by walking along the mosquito-ridden Mangrove Trail in La Parguera. No blackbirds of course but Northern WaterthrushPrairie Warbler and the endemic Adelaide’s Warbler showing well for everyone. About an hour later we eventually nailed the tricky blackbird when David C spotted 4 flying past us and perching a bit distantly in the treetops, but what a relief I can tell you! 

    So we hot-footed it back just in time to the hotel for breakfast before heading up into the dry forest of Guanica where I’d been doing some research and it seems the tricky Antillean (Puerto Rican) Euphonia has sometimes been seen… Not often but a few times over the past ten years. Long odds I know but I didn’t fancy driving back up the winding lanes to Maricao tomorrow. Anyway, a Pearly-eyed Thrasher showed well in the car park as we set off on the long, hot and uneven trail into the dry forest. Adelaide’s Warbler was numerous, as was Puerto Rican Tody, and we also saw a pair of Puerto Rican Bullfinches but I was on a mission. 

Pearly-eyed Thrasher

Puerto Rican Tody

    We had walked just about halfway along our chosen trail when I heard the unmistakeable call of an Antillean Euphoniaand we managed to track a group of at least 3 down, with one particular male stopping in a large tree next to the trail for a good few minutes. I just couldn’t believe it and what an adrenaline rush to finally see this last endemic/race. Oh yes life is good! Walking on and buoyed by our success we managed to get on a calling Caribbean Elaenia in the dense vegetation before returning to the minibus. 

Depending on who you follow this is Antillean Euphonia or Puerto Rican Euphonia

    Leaving here it was about 40 minutes drive to Laguna Cartagena, seeing our first Yellow-faced Grassquits en-route – and what a time we had from the tower overlooking the main lagoon. Best of all were half a dozen West Indian Whistling Ducks, along with a few Least Grebes and 4 Ring-necked Ducks – something of a rarity here. Other goodies included Purple Gallinule, 8 American Wigeons, lots of Blue-winged Teal, many Ruddy Ducks, a Sora for David C, Black-crowned Night-heron, Glossy Ibis, Western Osprey, Glossy Ibis and other common species. 

   From here we headed over to Cabo Rojo but the gate was just being closed to the lighthouse as we arrived at 5pm so stopped to look at a flock of Stilt Sandpipers just to piss the guard off! As we were there a flock of Least Sandpipers flew in and landed right in front of us. Another access road into Cabo Rojo was good as we stopped on the approach road and birded the grass and acacia scrub where we had the bizarre combination of Indigo BuntingBlack-faced GrassquitOrange-cheeked Waxbill and a few Red Bishops skulking in the scrub, with Venezuelan Troupials serenading us from the treetops, a White-crowned Pigeonperched up nearby (again found by David C who was on fire today), and a pesky couple of Grasshopper Sparrows calling away but failing to show. Out on the lagoons a flock of 100+ mixed ‘peeps’ held mainly Least Sandpipers, with several Westerns and one or two Semipalmated Sandpipers mixed in to round off quite a good day, despite missing lunch – sorry Gordon!