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A Report from

Cuba, Dec 12th-26th 2013,

Jan Landsverk

I can't find any trip report that deals only with the area around the hotels at Varadero. My guess is that that would be useful for some, taking into consideration all the tourists that are here during the winter.

My wife and I stayed at hotel Be Live Las Morlas for 4 nights before we went on the virgin cruise-tour around Cuba plus one stop in Jamaica with Louis Cristal. After the cruise we stayed 3 nights at Mercure Quatro Palma hotel only about one km from Las Morlas. I spent 4 mornings and one afternoon in the vicinity of Las Morlas. I walked to a forest only a few hundred meters east of the hotel close to the sea on the other side, including a mangrove forest. Every morning was a surprisingly good experience with a lot of birds - some new species every day. But the only way of getting them out in the open was to pish. Pishing is a must and gave wondrous results.  Not only did they come out from the forest, but they also came very close (up to one meter), perfect for taking photos. To be able to find more than 70 species in such a small area, was far more than expected and hoped for. Just before reaching the mangrove forest the field was flooded, attracting waders, herons and egrets. In the same area there was also a small lake which I was never able to reach because of the dense forest, but obviously it  attracted many species of birds. I can only refer to the species list at the bottom.

The last morning I spent a couple hours in a nice park 3-400 meters from Las Palmas hotel. I wish I had known about this place earlier. The birds I observed  here only is marked with a ^. Lifers for me is marked with an*.

Except for the day in Havana, we had fantastic weather every single day with air temperature between 28-31 degrees and 28 degrees in the ocean. The beach at Varadero is close to perfect.

Bird List:

At the bottom of the list you find the 3 birds I didn't see at Varadero, but elsewhere in Cuba and the 9 endemics I saw in Jamaica.

I have only used the Helm Field Guide - Birds of the West Indies (2003)

Brown Pelican                               common

Magnificent Frigatebird              common

Ring-billed Gull                            common

Laughing Gull                                common

Caspian Tern                                  2

Royal Tern                                      common

Sandwich Tern                              common

Little Blue Heron                         4

Snowy Egret                                    3

Great Blue Heron                           2

Great Egret                                       3

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron    4

Green Heron                                    2

Cattle Egret                                    common

Killdeer                                               1

Black-bellied Plover                       5

Least Sandpiper                                1

Sanderling                                           1

Spotted Sandpiper                           3

Willet                                                  1

Greater Yellowlegs                          12

Lesser Yellowlegs                             2

Ruddy Turnstone                              14

Clapper Rail                                       3

Neotropic Cormorant                      a few

Double-crested Cormorant           a few

Anhinga                                               3

Lesser Scaup                                     3

Red-breasted Merganser               1

Merlin                                                   1

American Kestrel                               3

Turkey Vulture                                  too common

Plain Pigeon*                                    1

Rock Dove                                         common

White-winged Dove                          1^

Eurasian Collared-Dove                  a few

Common Ground-Dove                    1

Zenaida Dove                                    2

Mourning Dove                                 1^

Rose-throated Parrot*                   1 heard

Smooth-billed Ani                              7

Antillean Palm Swift*                       common

Cuban Emerald*                                     5

Belted Kingfisher                                   1

West Indian Woodpecker*                1?

Cuban Green Woodpecker*               1^

La Sagra's Flycatcher*                       4

Crescent-eyed Pewee*                       2

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                        9

Gray Catbird                                           2

Northern Mockingbird                          common

Yellow-throated Vireo*                      4

White-eyed Vireo                                  3

Cuban Vireo*                                          1

Black-and-white Warbler                     4

Northern Waterthrush                          8

Ovenbird                                                  2

Prairie Warbler                                       10+

Palm Warbler                                          common

Yellow-throated Warbler                     1

Yellow-rumped Warbler                       3

Magnolia Warbler           *                       2

Cape May Warbler*                                  1^

Common Yellowthroat                            9

Yellow Warbler                                          3

Northern Parula                                        10+

American Redstart                                    10

Black-throated Blue Warbler*                5

Cuban Blackbird*                                        1     

Shiny Cowbird                                              4

Greater Antillean Grackle                       common

Tawny-shouldered Blackbird*                1^

House Sparrow                                          common

Black Skimmer                                          40+ at Antilla harbour

Cave Swallow                                            40+ at Antilla harbour

Great Lizard-Cuckoo*                             1 at the isle of Youth

The following species are the endemic or near endemic birds that were seen in Jamaica in less than an hour - at the bird-sanctuary in Anchovy about 10-15 minutes drive from Montego Bay.

Caribbean Dove                               1

Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo                1

Jamaican Mango                             1

Red-billed Streamertail                2+

Jamaican Woodpecker                   1

Loggerhead Kingbird                      2

Orangequit                                        7

Jamaican Oriole                                 2

Yellow-shouldered Grassquit      5


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