Travel to Santo Domingo
Friday, March 8th: The trip began in the morning with an 10:10pm American Airlines flight to Santo Domingo. Traffic was not too bad, and I got to the gate over an hour before boarding. We were about 15 minutes late leaving Miami, and arrival in Santo Domingo was about 20 minutes late, 1:40 local time (1 hour ahead of Miami).
I looked for the WINGS leader, Gavin Bieber, but didn't see him. After checking a couple of times, I ended up taking a taxi to the hotel. The only birds I saw on the way in were Rock Pigeons and a small swift, which must have been an Antillean Palm-Swift. Later on, I found out that Gavin's flight had been delayed. He and part of the group had been birding in Puerto Rico just before coming to the DR.
The hotel property formerly belonged to Buenaventura Baez, who was president of the Dominican Republic 5 times between 1849 and 1878. He did not live in the building, but his sons and grandchildren did. One of them, Ramón Baez, was also briefly president of the Dominican Republic in 1914. There were House Sparrows at the hotel, and Hispaniolan Parakeet was heard. My room was on the first floor.
Eventually, I found some of the group having a beer in the courtyard. At 5:30pm we joined up with Gavin and our other guide, local bird and herp expert Miguel Landestoy. The plan was to visit a parakeet roost at the Hotel Ambajador. More parakeets were seen on the way, as was Brown Pelican a pair of Hispaniolan Woodpeckers and more Antillean Palm-Swifts. Traffic was heavy and it took almost an hour to get there. When we arrived at the roost the parakeets were making quite a din. They sound (and look) much like White-eyed Parakeet, more so than the DNA indicates. There may have been 300 of them present at the roost.
After dinner at a nearby restaurant, we returned to the hotel.
Tomorrow we will get serious about the birding. Totals for the trip so far are 6 bird species, including 3 lifers.
Hotel Palacio, Santo Domingo
Jardín Botánico Nacional
Saturday, March 9, 2013: We had breakfast at the hotel and then visited the Jardín Botánico Nacional. It's a very nice botanical garden. We only visited part of it, and it is quite extensive, over 400 acres (compare 83 acres for Fairchild Tropical Garden). One could easily spend the entire day there (we only had a few hours). If you are in Santo Domingo, I strongly recommend visiting the garden.
The birds started to appear right around the parking lot where we found Gray Kingbird, Northern Mockingbird, Black-whiskered Vireo, Greater Antillean Grackle, Palmchat, Prairie Warbler, Northern Parula, American Redstart, and Bananaquit. The Bananaquit here are gray-throated.
We got our tickets and headed into the garden. After walking through a decorative garden area, we headed down a trail through the woods. We soon added Red-legged Thrush, Black-and-white Warbler, and Antillean Mango. A couple of Hispaniolan Lizard-Cuckoos were present, sitting on low bushes and running around on the ground. While looking at one of them, we found Mourning Dove and Common Ground-Dove sitting in the background. A little farther along, we encountered Black-crowned Palm-Tanager and Smooth-billed Ani. A Vervain Hummingbird was sitting at the top of a Royal Palm spike. The stream provided Common Gallinule, about ten West Indian Whistling-Ducks Solitary Sandpiper, Killdeer, Green Heron, Spotted Sandpiper, and Northern Waterthrush. On our return, we found Village Weaver and Ovenbird. When we got back to the main part, we found a large orchid show in progress and a long line of people waiting to buy their tickets.
We encountered several turtles and lizards in the gardens. The turtles were Central Antillean Sliders Trachemys stejnegeri. The lizards included the Hispaniolan Stout Anole, Anolis cybotes, the Northern Hispaniolan Green Anole, Anolis chlorocyanus, and the Dominican Giant Anole, Anolis baleatus.
Drive to Barahona
It was already lunchtime, so we visited a local mail for lunch. After lunch, we stocked up on supplies. We will be staying near the small town of Barahona, and the selection there is limited.
Finally, we hit the road to Barahona. On the way I saw Cattle Egrets, American Kestrels (the local race is dominicensis, one of the lightly spotted forms), and a Turkey Vulture.
It was getting late in the afternoon when we arrived at our lodge. It's on the coast, and I spotted a Royal Tern while relaxing before dinner. There's a small chance of seeing Black-capped Petrel late in the day, but we didn't see any. We did notice Palmchats and a Mango near the hotel. The Palmchats are the national bird, and they seem to be quite common. There are in their own family which is closely related tot he waxwings. They build stick nests in palm trees and are always chattering.
Todays totals were 31 trip birds (total 37). Of those, 8 were life birds (total 11).
Club Hotel el Quemaito, Barahona