Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Puerto Rico - Friday 16th September, El Yunque

All birding roads in Puerto Rico point to El Yunque, the rainforest that gets 10 feet of rain a year! As you can imagine it's almost always raining. There's even a section of cloud forest at the top.

Well my weather luck had turned, it wasn't raining in the rain forest! Instead it was hot and humid. The first place we stopped we saw Scaly-naped Pigeons:

Even in a protected rain forest the pigeons are terrified of humans...

In the trees in the car park a Grey Kingbird was perched:

We walked a number of trails in El Yunque spotting lots of birds including an Antillean Mango:

Here a female feeding:

Puerto Rican Woodpecker - a very vocal bird when in a group:

Photography in the rain forest is very tricky as it's all dappled light (when there's any sun at all), and I hadn't brought my flash so I apologize for the quality of the pictures but it's the best I could do.

This is a Puerto Rican Tody:

This is a cropped image from the same sequence, bringing the bird much closer to view:

The Tody behaves just like a forest Kingfisher, all chirping and bobbing up-and-down while looking for a meal.

Another endemic spotted in El Yunque was the Puerto Rican Tanager:

The Puerto Rican Emerald is also found only on the island:

Another Antillean Mango, perched and feeding:

You can see from this additional bird the depth of colour in the plumage:

The last endemic from El Yunque, a Puerto Rican Bullfinch:

Life hangs on to any vantage point in the rain forest. This boulder had obviously fallen many years past and was now partly covered by moss, trees, etc.

The rainforest is rich in plant life as well as the birds and insects:

The final trail we took in El Yunque took us to a tower at the top of the mountain, providing commanding views of the surrounds:

We snapped this waterfall on the way back to the car:

El Yunque was a great experience. We didn't see the Puerto Rican Parrot, unsurprisingly as it's now one of the ten most endangered bird species on the planet. We did hear one though and that was a treat in itself!

From El Yunque we had to head to Lajas on the bottom left of the island, so we programmed in the address we had from the booking and set-off. If we were lucky we'd get a couple of hours birding in before sunset.

It turned out that we weren't lucky and the trip proved to be the start of our car trauma. Basically a massive traffic jam south of San Juan (the island has 4 million people which is way way too many for the space, and more cars than people, combined with poor roads and an insane driving culture). We also faced other jams around roadworks, being cut-up and nearly run off the road a couple of times, etc. When we reached the address given, some four-and-a-half hours later, there was no sign of the hotel. We phoned the booking agent who read out the address they had and there was on crucial piece of information they had forgotten to give us. We finally got to our hotel five hours after setting off, tired, stressed and in need of food and drink, so headed into the local town (La Parguera) for pizza and beer.

The hotel (Turtle Bay Inn) was pleasant and one we'd recommend though it's in a weird residential location. The staff were super helpful and friendly - it also has its own bar and plunge pool and is spotlessly clean.



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