Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Puerto Rico - Sunday 18th September,

Sunday morning started with a dilemma. We knew by then how bad the roads in Puerto Rico can be, especially when occupied with drivers from Puerto Rico... and we needed to get back to the airport in San Juan within five hours of leaving the hotel. Sat nav said three hours via Marico Forest, which we wanted to bird to see the Elfin-woods Warbler. This species was only discovered in the 1950s despite the island having been populated for hundreds of years by that point.

We headed out promptly, passing a car on its side that had been victim of one of the Puerto Rican driving phenomena, that is people driving out of a junction without checking to see if there's any traffic on the road they are entering while usually being on the phone or smoking or both. The firebrigade were trying to extract a human, we couldn't tell the condition, as we passed.

We reached Marico promptly and set about trying to locate said warbler. The accessible part of the forest is actually a picnic area and a small one at that, the described trails are no longer open to the public.

We spotted first another Puerto Rican Tody:



I crept closer to try for a better picture:




Spotted!




Another Puerto Rican Bullfinch. They proved easier to locate than we had expected:




Spotted again!




And then finally at the gate by the power station, movement, a small group of Elfin-woods Warblers. The sighting was fleeting, the light poor but I can prove that we did indeed see them:



The view was pretty dramatic too:




We headed on to San Juan, and arrived with time to spare, however San Juan was under one of the thunderstorms that we'd been seeing all the time but had avoided thus far... so we settled for a nice lunch in the airport including another very rare species in Puerto Rico, the vegetable!


Then it was time to fly...


Puerto Rico is a long way to go for a long weekend. Ideally we would have had a few more days there to try and see more of the species, although we did very well in the time we had, seeing 58 species of which 34 were new lifers and 9 of these were endemics. Driving is very stressful due to the machismo culture and attitude of virtually everyone else with a car and the island feels very crowded too. We were surprised by the charges and practices of the hotels in the more populous areas but delighted with our accommodation in La Parguera. Another point to note, we would have been pretty stuck without my rudimentary Spanish as outside of San Juan finding someone who speaks English is tricky. The bad weather was localised and avoidable so that was a non-issue. Oh and if you do go, remember the mosquito repellent...

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