Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Dominican Republic - Villa Barrancola

The road started pleasantly enough, and on the way we saw Burrowing Owl perched on a fence post:

The road got really bad though and I needed both neck cushions but for my knees banging into the vehicle rather than my neck.

We passed through a number of armed checkpoints, all with sleeping guards who had to be roused and continued our ascent, finally stopping after nearly 2 hours of driving but still in absolute night.   We briefly had the space station for company and then the call of the Ashy-faced Owl, an endemic species but we weren't able to locate it.

Dawn broke gradually and it proved surprisingly cold at altitude.   The coffee helped though.

As the light improved we did see La Selle's Thrush on the path and Bicknell's Thrush too, so mission accomplished.   We then spent the rest of the morning through to lunchtime exploring further up the path.  Here you can see the view into Haiti in the full light of morning.   Haiti is much poorer and there the forest has been almost entirely denuded the trees taken and burned for charcoal.   

There's lots of tension along the border as Haitians cross into the DR to cut down trees, which is of course illegal.  One gang had recently shot a border guard who tried to stop them.   On the way down we passed family and a guide between checkposts, entering illegally.   Corruption is rife...

Anyway back to the birding.  We did a good amount of species walking along the trail including Greater Antillean Bullfinch:

Broad-billed Tody:

Greater Antillean Elaenia:

Green-winged Ground-Tanager:

Hispaniolan Pewee:

A normally elusive Western Chat-Tanager:

Hsipaniolan Spindalis:

And finally in full sunshine, a Greater Antillean Euphonia:

Then it was time for the descent which was worse than the ascent as I could see the various precipitous ridges we'd navigated on the way up but in complete darkness!

Meanwhile Helen had caught up on her beauty sleep been talked at by a fellow guest and was generally delighted not to have accompanied us on the trip up the mountain track.

That afternoon we walked out from the 'Villa' for an explore, seeing a few butterflies basking:

White-necked Crows:

And the moon rise:

We were already getting tired of our stay at the Villa and it had become clear that the various other activities we'd agreed to hadn't been booked.  Our host could neither remember what we'd paid, when, for what or what our itinerary was.  I think my persistence had led to us being met at he airport and transported thus far but we'd have to see what lay ahead.  At this point we began to consider curtailing this section of the trip as it promised to be complicated and we'd already pretty much seen all bar one or two of the accessible endemic and regional specialities.

We got the impression from other guests that our proposed tour made no sense from the point we were already at.   Great.


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