Cuba, Day 11, 14 March 2017 - Cayo Paredon Grande, Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo

I'd arranged to meet my guide Odey at the Villa Azul on Cayo Coco this morning. Despite it still being dark when I arrived to pick him up he was ready and waiting by the carpark. He broke the news that he was unable to guide me on the other morning I'd booked with him but that we'd spend today trying to get me all my target species.
We proceeded to drive a further 30 minute to the northernmost tip of Cayo Paredon Grande around the area of the lighthouse. En-route we had Grey Plover, 4 Great Blue Herons (including a white morph) and 2 American Flamingoes. Immediately after getting out of the car a Cuban Gnatcatcher showed briefly before we walked further down a track in search of Bahama Mockingbird. We managed to get some decent bins views of this elusive bird but despite Odey's continued use of a tape (and little too much in my opinion) it wouldn't come closer and eventually disappeared completely. After joining forces with Dutch birder Ruben Vlot and his wife we ventured along the main track and very quickly got onto another target - the rare and range-restricted Thick-billed Vireo. It was interesting to note it had 2 blue rings on its left leg from an ongoing monitoring scheme. Further down the track we had 2 other unringed individuals. What quickly followed was some amazing views of the 4th and final target of the area - Oriente Warbler, another endemic. In the immediate area we also had Prairie Warbler, 2 Western Spindalis, a total of 3 Cuban Gnatcatchers, Palm Warbler, a male Common Yellowthroat, 2 Cuban Bullfinches, Magnificent Frigatebirds, 2 Northern Pintails  over and 2 Cuban Orioles. Next we explored another track that led SE from the lighthouse and quickly flushed a nightjar sp from the path. Having no white in the wings or tail and being pretty rufous got us (and Odey!) very interested. Luckily I managed to re-find it perched on a log and it was nailed as a Chuck-will's-widow. According to Odey this was a first record for Cayo Paredon Grande but reading literature I'm not sure it can be. A nice perched and close Cuban Black Hawk finally put that species to well and truly to bed and 2 Cuban Green Woodpeckers finished things off.

Leaving CPG we stopped very briefly on Cayo Romano where to our amazement Odey taped out a Zapata Sparrow which Ruben had somehow managed to miss at Zapata!        

Thick-billed Vireo

Oriente Warbler


Cuban Black Hawk

Cuban Gnatcatcher

Western Spindalis

Magnificent Frigatebird

 Zapata Sparrow

Parting company with our Dutch friends Odey and I headed for Cayo Coco next. Viewing from a bridge looking over a large lagoon we soon spotted a loafing group of 14 West Indian Whistling Ducks which we were able to get closer to by asking the security guards at the adjacent resort. A couple of Northern Flickers were knocking about the hotel area before we walked some scubby tracks beside the lagoon in search of Mangrove Cuckoo. It wasn't to be as we only saw Cuban Vireo and Cuban Pewee and quickly moved onto the beach at nearby Playa Colorada. This undeveloped stretch of beach can be good for waders but it was high tide when we arrived and we could only find c50 Turnstones, 1 Willet, 1 Semi-palmated Plover and c30 Sanderling plus a fly-over Crested Caracara and Brown Pelican.    

Northern Flicker

West Indian Whistling Ducks

Cuban Vireo

Brown Pelican

Crested Caracara

I dropped Odey off at his digs and drove back to Cayo Guillermo with a feeling that the trip was now about to fizzle out a bit as I'd seen all my main targets with 2 full days to spare! The afternoon was to have been the day I drove to Camaguey and then onto Najasa but I was feeling crap with a touch too much sun and really coudn't have made the long drive. It would have got me 3 new birds, none of which had huge appeal so I decided against it.

Later in the afternoon feeling a little more chipper I went for a short wander along the road just outside of resort entrance - there were plenty of Short-billed Dowitchers and Stilt Sandpipers on the scrape plus Black-necked Stilts flying in and a pair of American Flamingoes.  

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