Into the Mountains: Zapoten
Monday, March 11th: We went up into the mountains today to Sector Zapoten to look for the La Selle Thrush and other high elevation birds. It's important to get there early, so we made an alpine start today (2:30am). Most of the travel was on dirt roads.
Since it was dark, we did some nightbirding. It started with Burrowing Owls along the road. We stopped one place that had some other birds. I only heard the Least Pauraque and Ashy-faced Owl, but everyone else got to see the pauraque. I was last to get over, and just too late. No one saw the owl. We tried again later on, but could not get any pauraques close enough to see. Our vehicle also got to see a Chuck-will's-widow perched on a rock.
As we continued on, the road turned into a very rocky streambed—a river of rocks. It was not easy driving. Eventually, we got out of the stream/river and the road was once again a (dirt) road. We continued to climb up to the thrush area.
It was light when we stopped. Gavin set up things for breakfast while the rest of us walked a short way up the road with Miguel. There were thrushes there! A Red-legged Thrush in the middle of the road distracted us, but our target was in the grass on the side of the road—the La Selle Thrush. As we walked back to breakfast, we heard yet another thrush, Bicknell's Thrush. We got brief glimpses of it. While all this was going on, the solitaires were singing their ethereal song. A flock was present, and before breakfast we added Hispaniolan (Greater Antillean) Elaenia, Rufous-throated Solitaire, the striking Hispaniolan Spindalis, and Scaly-naped Pigeon.
An Antillean Euphonia appeared, looking very much like an orange in a tree. We also found White-winged Warbler, Antillean Piculet, Western Chat-Tanager, and Black-faced Grassquit. We also found some Golden Swallows flying around in the same area, but did not get good looks at them.
We left the broadleaf forest and continued on up into the pines (Caribbean Pine). I hadn't even stepped out of the car before hearing the first Pine Warbler of the trip. We soon heard the calls of a female Hispaniolan Crossbill. It wasn't long before we located it and observed it through a scope. Some further searching turned up a male.
We turned around and headed downslope. At a ranger station, I caught up on the Hispaniolan Trogon. We also saw a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Further down, we stopped at the entrance station along the Haitian border. We were standing on the boarder, so some of the birds seen here were actually in Haiti. The only new bird here was Red-tailed Hawk. We also saw a Hispaniolan Orange-armpit Anole here.
The Haitian border is quite obvious as the forest has been removed on the Haitian side. The condition of the farmland there also looks very bad. The Haitian have been encroaching on the National Park, and are currently coming across the boarder, burning down the forest to make charcoal, and carrying back to Haiti. Some of this was going on while we were there. The Dominicans don't have the resources to fortify the border sufficiently to prevent these incursions by the Haitians (as the US experience indicates, this is a difficult thing to do, and complicated by humanitarian considerations). It is sad to see that the forest in the National Park is being destroyed ridge by ridge.
We spotted a Cape May Warbler in one of the small towns near the park, our last new bird of the day. I ended the day with 22 trip birds (total 95) and 14 lifers (39 total).
Club Hotel el Quemaito, Barahona