Visit your favourite destinations
|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Dominican Republic - April 11th - 25th 2004 ,
Bird watching in this exotic locale can offer sightings of such great specimen as the Hispaniolan Parakeet, the Bay-Breasted Cuckoo, and the Ashy-faced Owl. The benefits of a trip to a location like this is that even while you're staying in Dominican Republic hotels you have a chance of seeing exotic birds before you even set out for the day! While the same might be said about staying in Cancun hotels or places like that, there is something enchanting about the island experience.
I went to the Dominican Republic with a non-birder friend, with the intention of learning to scuba dive. With this in mind, bird watching was not the main focus of our itinery and I've not been a very active birder in several years. I was also unable to locate a decent book on Dominican birds and therefore most identification has been made after the fact, using Internet resources upon return to the UK. I have been able to identify 28 different species of birds and four species of lizard, most of which were seen in and around Casa Marina Reef Resort in Sosua (north Dom. Rep).
The Casa Marina Reef resort offers excellent value for money accommodation. We went with First Choice Holidays on an all-inclusive basis (cost £629 per person for 2 weeks). The grounds are really nicely kept and our room, 2354, looked out onto a rather large tree.
The food is buffet style and is of good quality (though it got a bit monotonous towards the end). Of the three ą la Carte restaurants, I would say that the Seafood one is the best, followed by the Italian, though the standard is not that much different to the buffet. There are a number of all-inclusive bars at resort, but if you fancy going elsewhere, a good place in Sosua town is La Roca- run by some English ex-pats.
The first two days we were there, we had glorious sunshine. Then the weather turned and for ten out of the fourteen days, it rained heavily most of the time, making the atlantic ocean too rough to dive and visibility to be very poor. Both my friend and I came down with colds and I was unable to finish the dive course due to this combination of factors. I therefore spent more time than expected bird watching at and around resort.
Wildlife in the Resort
From our window, looking onto the tree I received excellent views of a Cape May Warbler, which was a regular visitor. I also saw a Village Weaver on one day and House Sparrows every day. A Northern Mockingbird was a regular visitor to the ground just beyond the tree.
Bananaquits, Common Ground Doves, Greater Antillean Grackles, Palm Chats, Caribbean Martins and Grey Kingbirds are also very common at the resort. Also visiting the resort are two species of hummingbird, the large Hispaniolan Emerald Hummingbird and the tiny Vervain Hummingbird. Best chance to see the Vervain hummingbird is at the second (middle) all-inclusive bar along the beachfront. There was at least one that regularly visited the flowers on the last day I was there. The Hispaniolan Emeralds were seen twice at the resort, once by the main pool sipping nectar from the bushes that make up the hedging and once out the front of the Reef reception drinking from the flowers there. I also saw an occasional Mourning Dove.
At night along the sea front there is a good chance of spotting a barn owl, which regularly patrols this section of beach along with several species of bats. I also saw two Turkey Vultures fly over the resort on one afternoon.
Also at resort are four species of lizard, the Trunk/ground Anole - Anolis cybotes, Trunk Anole Anolis distichus, Santa Domingo Curly-tailed Lizard Leiocephalus lunatus and the Hispaniolan Masked Curlytail- Leiocephalus personatus actites. I managed to get some nice photographs of these. Pictures of the lizards can be found on my website http://www.macrossrpg.com/~ct/Kat/Real%20Lizards.html
|Hispaniolan Masked Curlytail lizard|
Sosua Outside of Resort
Taking a walk, left from the Beach reception and along a main road, I regularly saw Common Ground Dove. There is a heavily wooded area, just off the main road by the lay-by, where I managed to spot a Mangrove Cuckoo, Plain Pigeon, as well as some Vervain Hummingbirds perched on the highest branches. In another tree close to a very run down area I also got a good view of a Black-Whiskered Vireo.
Cabarete and Paradise Island
Regular sightings of Cattle Egrets were had along most of the roads everywhere we went in the Dominican Republic, in particular around Cabarete. I also occasionally spied a Great Egret, and Smooth-Billed Ani and saw both a Snowy Egret and an American Kestrel en route returning from a trip to Paradise Island. Whilst at Paradise Island, I was rather disappointed that there were hardly any birds to be seen in the mangroves. The only birds I did see were a single Great Egret and a Brown Pelican, which flew overhead. There was also an absence of seagulls throughout the trip, with only one sighting of what I believe was an American Herring Gull.
A note about Paradise Island- For anyone who is into wildlife in general, rather than birds in particular, I heartily recommend this excursion. It cost us $45 (booking at the resort but not with First Choice) and offers excellent snorkeling of some beautiful coral reefs. We saw hundreds of beautiful fish including various parrot fish, shoals of Sergeant Major fish and doctorfish, powder blue tangs etc. My friend took some photos and I hope to be able to properly identify the species from these at a later date.
I spent one afternoon horse-trekking in the mountains and was rewarded with excellent views of a red-tailed hawk as well as more Hispaniolan Emeralds and a good chance to see Cattle Egrets up close. I also spotted a Green Heron as we rode back down towards the coast for a ride along the beach.
Puerto Plata Botanical Garden
On the Saturday before returning home, I had given up on the diving due to my cold, so I took a trip to Puerto Plata with a couple I had met at resort. Having first visited the Amber museum, spying a Vervain Hummingbird on the way in, we then took the cable car to the top of the mountain and the botanical garden. The forest was very dense, making bird watching difficult. But on the way up I did see another Turkey Vulture and once at the top we were rewarded with excellent views of a family of Hispaniolan Woodpeckers, as well and a feeding Hispaniolan Emerald. We also saw a giant millipede on the path.
Jo Dale, Norwich, England.