Thursday, 25 February 2016

Cuba self drive. January/February 2016. Part 3 . Moron and surrounds. If at first you don't succeed.......!

We had booked in to our excellent Casa in Moron for 4 nights so we had another two days to fill before moving on. The second day turned out to be as disappointing as the first. Investigating Lonely Planet suggested attractions we found nothing of interest at and as the weather was dull but warm we decided to call a halt early and head back to look around Moron, try for a WiFi connection and catch up with home.
My only photos of the day, a rather poor attempt at  Smooth-billed Ani
Smooth-billed Ani    Cuba
Something I had previously seen but more common in Cuba than Costa Rica it seemed to me.
Another well seen species through out the trip was the Turkey Vulture but not often on the ground and in the right place for a photo.
Turkey Vulture    Cuba

Bureaucracy in Cuba is all a bit different to what we are used to. You have to be prepared to queue to get in to some shops and offices, and then perhaps take a seat and wait some more. Most places employ someone on door duty. 
I duly joined the queue to enter the place you purchased internet access cards, then waited in a row of seats for my turn to approach the counter. Must have been at least 25 minutes in total. All in vain. They didn't have any!!!! Sold out, or at least I think they were. Again, not being able to communicate with anyone made life more difficult, less interesting and basically more likely to misinterpretation.
We spent the rest of the afternoon reading, something I try to leave as a last resort but I have to say the book I had been recommended from Claire's Kindle collection was an excellent and highly entertaining read.
"The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window and Disappeared" by Jonas Jonasson ... a must read IMO!
Only a tad disappointed, we still had weeks left to go so an early set back wasn't a problem however we were a bit undecided what to do with our third full day so it being the only decent bit of beach we had found, no matter the crowds we would head back to Cayo Guillermo again with Playa Pilar the ultimate destination. Ignoring the still distant Flamingos I stopped at a bit of open lagoon/dried mud just beyond the hotel zone when I spotted some movement.
Getting out of the car had the Black-bellied Plovers scurrying away.
Black-bellied Plover    Cuba
but right in front of me, a pair of Least Sandpipers were unmoved.
Least Sandpiper     Cuba
Right next to them a pair of Semi-palmated Plover
Semi-palmated Plover    Cuba
Things were suddenly looking up on the birding front ! The light was poor so I decided to move on, there would be more opportunities later in the day on the return journey. Priority was to get Claire settled happily even if the weather wasn't exactly sunbathing material, the sea not the mirror calm surface of two days previous. In fact it was not only a bit dull, it was fairly windy. 
Playa Pilar, Cayo Coco   Cuba
The plus side , well for me anyway, it was also virtually deserted when we arrived a bit earlier than the previous visit. I headed off with the camera, Claire on a sunbed.
I had spotted a few small birds from the raised walkway over the dunes so I was keen to investigate.
The short distance between the car park and the restaurant gave me several species over the next few hours.
Palm Warbler
Palm Warbler    Cuba
Prairie Warbler
Prairie Warbler   Cuba
Greater Antillean Grackle
Greater Antillean Grackle    Cuba
Common Ground Dove
Common Ground Dove   Cuba
For a change I walked over to the headland building site which gave views of Cuban Emerald which I was delighted to find but couldn't photograph as they were too quick, however, standing on the low cliff above the sea I was equally delighted when two Osprey slowly glided by giving me a thorough investigation as they passed.
Osprey    Cuba
Returning once more to the boardwalk I spotted a track leading off from the car park so decided to investigate there next. The car park attendant warned me to be careful where I walked, I got the message very quickly despite the lack on a common language. I hadn't to walk very far to see the first human deposit left right in the middle of the path, however in 25 yards everything was clear.
A bird flitted across the path and landed ever so close. 
Cuban Pewee
Cuban Pewee     Cuba
Then I spotted it, so well camouflaged but I wasn't quite sure. Cuban Emerald or could it be Bee-hummingbird. It looked just like the latter's illustration in the cover of the Helm Guide from recollection but surely not. It couldn't be that easy could it ? For a start it wasn't that small. 
Cuban Emerald   Cuba
Later checking I discovered it was a female Emerald, never mind, still a great capture. My first!
I must have covered half a mile or so and I was getting closer and closer to the building site at the hotel end of the beach so I turned back. The area along the track here was disgusting, the many construction workers obviously are not provided with toilet facilities. Yuk! However, the effect was positive in that the supply of flies increased the attraction for flycatchers. The Cuban Pewee, wonder how it got it's name.
There were a few about!
Cuban Pewee     Cuba
Talking of flies, the good news was there were no mosquitos. Strange but I can only imagine that near to hotels they are using powerful sprays to stop them breeding.
Anyway, returning along the track I found the other half of the pair of Cuban Emeralds. They are not exactly uncommon in Cuba.
Cuban Emerald   Cuba
I was more than happy with this image so from then only only flight shots appealed, but they are a different matter altogether!
Back on the beach Claire was feeling the cold so we decided to head to the restaurant for a refreshment but it also decided to rain and once it had passed over we returned to the car .
A Loggerhead Kingbird appeared from a bush at the edge of the carpark.
Loggerhead Kingbird    Cuba
The sun was creeping out from behind the clouds, I asked Claire if she minded if I had one last quick check of the boardwalk whilst she read in the car.
My reward, a Cuban Blackbird.
Cuban Blackbird    Cuba
Driving back again I asked and was granted leave to stop and check out the Plover lagoon. They had now all disappeared, disturbed by traffic perhaps, who knows, anyway they might have gone but the lagoon on the other side of the road a little further on held several birds.
Willet      Cuba
Reddish Egret
Reddish Egret    Cuba
and Tri-coloured Heron
Tricoloured Heron    Cuba
Of the birds seen on these two lagoons, only the Heron would be seen again during the next month.
The Keys delivered on expectations after all but for how long who knows. There are vast areas that are still undisturbed but access isn't easy. 
Cuba 2016
What it's like within the hotel compounds I wouldn't know. Staying in one you have more opportunity than I did to both get out early and to seek out places you can get to on foot.
Some birds are not put off, my only decent White Ibis photo opportunity was right outside a hotel entrance.
White Ibis     Cuba
Time will tell no doubt.
The birds on the causeway will still be there no doubt.
Claire was good enough to again hang around while I took a final opportunity to capture some images, again I didn't get much more of an opportunity with several of the seen species here, particularly the Red-breasted Merganser.
Red-breasted Merganser   Cuba
and Ring-billed Gull, 
Ring-billed Gull    Cuba
neither of which I saw again. I had been so close to the Gull the previous visit too! Never mind.
Adding Laughing Gull
Laughing Gull    Cuba
Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican     Cuba
Double-crested Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant    Cuba
and Royal Tern
Royal Tern    Cuba
had been a good haul overall.
The next day we had a long drive ahead but it was one that exited me. We would end up in Playa Larga at the top end of the Bay of Pigs, right next door to the Cienaga de Zapata national park.
Cuba's top birding spot. Home of many endemics. Bring it on!

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