Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Birding in Cuba - February, 2023 - Part 5

14 February, 2023
San Blas-La Cuchilla - Ranchó Los Pintines - Casa Ana Birding

     We finished breakfast and while waiting to depart for another day's adventures a group of Greater Antillean Grackles (Quiscalus niger) took advantage of a puddle to slake their thirst.

     Our bus awaited, our trusty driver was close at hand.

     We were all elated as we embarked on yet another fabulous day in Cuba, surrounded by wonderful people at all times, with birds galore to satisfy even the most demanding birder.
     Don't you think that Barb looks exceptionally energized today?

     A very familiar Grey Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) was the first species to greet us.

     Our target for the day was the enigmatic and highly entertaining Fernandina's Flicker (Colaptes fernandinae), a range-restricted endemic found in areas with abundant palms.

     A pair of birds flew back and forth and spiralled around a tree enabling great views. It was a special moment for everyone. 
     A Great Lizard  Cuckoo (Coccyzus merlini) was always an exciting find.

     The number of old cars in Cuba is astounding, all kept running with parts manufactured in local welding shops, with determination and ingenuity. Some of these vehicles would no doubt command a high price on the antique car market at home. 

     It looks as though a tourist had hired this one and was taking photographs through the windshield.
     Scrubby woodland with extensive understory is usually good for birding.

     I don't think I have ever seen quite as many Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) perched as we did in Cuba.

     You cannot fail to admit that it is a very handsome bird - ah, c'mon, it's an acquired taste!
     I am confident that this butterfly is in the genus Calisto, but eleven species are found in Cuba, and I am not sure of its specific identity.

     The flower below is very beautiful (aren't all flowers?) but I have been unable to identify it.

     Any view of a hummingbird at any time is exciting, and this Cuban Emerald (Riccordia ricordii) was no exception.

     We saw numerous forms of horse-drawn transportation and for convenience I will group the images here.

     Often the carts are improvised as you may see.

     In Canada people pay obscene sums for jeans with holes; in Cuba it is a necessity when one has nothing else to wear. The embargo and its cruel effect on ordinary people is obscene.

     Husbands and wives help each other. 
     Crested Caracara (Caracara plancus) was seen quite often, but never in a position or close enough for a decent photograph. This one was caught in flight as it flew by the bus.

     If I am not mistaken this butterfly is a Barred Yellow (Eurema daira), a species found from Argentina north to the southernmost regions of the United States.

     Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is a skilled and opportunistic hunter that will eat just about anything it can catch and swallow (and you would be amazed at the size of prey it can get down).

     This individual has perhaps learned that grasslands are rich in rodent prey and makes a good living there.
     We spotted a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron perched quietly in shrubbery.

     I believe that the flower below is Sida acuta, a plant with origins in central America that has become widespread through the pantropics.

     Great Egret (Ardea alba) is a tall, stately bird, common in temperate and tropical wetlands.

     Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) is readily indentifed by its diagnostic yellow slippers.

     A Cuban Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium siju) was very cooperative; in fact, it seemed as curious about us as we were about it - much to everyone's delight, especially Jim's, I think.

     It is by any measure an endearing little bird.
     A tree full of egrets is an impressive sight too.

     Tania had planned for us to have lunch at a farm, as a way to give us additional insight into Cuban life, and also to enable her to spread the benefits of tourism to as many people as possible. I was looking forward to the experience, as was everyone else.

     There was a chance to walk around a little while the final preparations for lunch were made, and a Common Ground Dove (Columbina passerina) stayed a few steps ahead of us.

     Let me confess that my knowledge of wasps is pretty scant, but I enjoy the challenge of trying to identify them. I believe the species below is a type of Potter Wasp (family Vespidae); my principal reference in arriving at this conclusion is Eric Eaton's great book reviewed here. I stand to be corrected, however!

     The flower appears to be Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milli), a species introduced in many warm regions of the world.
     Lunch was an absolutely splendid affair, the fish having been grilled to perfection, and was enjoyed immensely by all.

     We had a chance to chat to the farmer about his operation and before we left he gave us a very enjoyable and informative tour.
      Charcoal is made on the farm and added to the soil to enrich it. 

     It almost made my mouth water to see so many papayas growing on a tree.

     The garden contained a variety of vegetables, all of which were thriving, no doubt as a result of hard work and careful tending.

     The bananas will soon be ready for picking.

     Miriam spotted a Ruddy Daggerwing (Marpesia petreus) as we left and pointed it out to me.

     It had been a thoroughly agreeable visit, topped by a first class lunch eaten outdoors - an event to remember.
     We returned to our accommodations and relaxed for a while, following which we sauntered down to Ana's house to witness the goings-on. I could happily sit there for hours.
    The main attraction is Bee Hummingbird (Mellisuga hellenae), a species that will cause your jaw to drop each time you see it.

Bee Hummingbird ♂

Bee Hummingbird ♀

     How about a few more pictures?

     The Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea) was still at its favourite resting place across the way.

     Northern Parula (Setophaga americana) was a frequent visitor.

     Black-throated Blue Warbler (Setophaga caerulescens) no less so.

     A Cuban Blackbird (Ptiloxena atroviolacea) is not as colourful as the warblers, but is glossy and sleek, and in the right light has a purple tint to its feathers.

     Try as I might, I have been unable to identify this lizard.

     Black and yellow is an attractive colour combination and Cuban Oriole (Icterus melanopsis) displays them to great advantage.

     Bee Hummingbird takes pride of place in Ana's garden, but Cuban Emerald is a very appealing hummingbird also.

     When we left the garden I returned to our casa, but Miriam walked down to the beach with Jim and Barb.
     It's sobering to think that this tranquil spot was the site of a failed invasion.

     The old cars of Cuba are always eye-catching.

     Imagine! We all used to drive barges like that!
     The riot of flowers in every Cuban town and hamlet, every village and city is simply breathtaking.

          The beaches attracted a few people but were certainly not crowded.

     Most people from northern climates associate palm trees with tropical islands, perhaps remembering childhood tales of pirates being marooned. 

     This one has a lot of fruit that looks ready to fall.
     Most mornings we awoke to hear the sound of a rooster crowing, this handsome fellow perchance.

     I have no doubt that he is a great hit with the ladies!
     Another Cuban car.

     A different form of transportation, but the enterprising fellow below was hoping for a sale or two.

     The water towers for the hospital were adjacent to our casa.

     We think that the Barn Owls (Tyto furcata) roosted in a gap in the masonry, possibly the entry to a cavity, but we were never able to establish it for a fact.
     A Great Lizard Cuckoo was a great last bird of the day before we assembled for our usual fine dinner.

Just another great day in paradise!
David M. Gascoigne,
David M. Gascoigne,

I'm a life long birder. My interests are birds, nature, reading, books, outdoors, travel, food and wine.


  1. Il ont l'air d'avoir encore pas mal d'anciennes voitures et beaucoup de transports avec des chevaux. Toujours autant d'oiseaux à découvrir ou revoir. Belle visite! Bonne soirée

  2. How nice to see open water, palm trees and no snow!

  3. Hari Om
    And one is left yet again agape at the variety and texture of all that you saw on this trip, David! Just glorious. On the yellow flower, without context and a little leaf, it could be a number of things... Loosestrife jumped to forefront of mind, but I doubt it could be that in those conditions. YAM xx

  4. Horses are very valuable there.

  5. ..David, you enjoyed the bird of Cuba, I would enjoy the cars of Cuba. The '57 and '60 Chevy and '53 Buick are beauties.

    1. I don't know one from another, Tom, but if you are into old cars, Cuba would be a great place to be.

  6. Hello,
    Another great report on your Cuba Trip! I love all the Hummingbirds and the Great Lizard Cuckoo is one of my favorites. It is neat seeing all the various transportation vehicles, I like the wagon with the horses. Great photos. Have a great day and week ahead.

  7. A wonderful narrative on your Cuban trip. The birds are beautiful to see as is the everyday sights of Cuban living. The carts used for transportation are unique and creative. I like the Pygmy Owl and the tree full of egrets. Thanks for sharing, David.

  8. Yes David, you said it. All flowers are beautiful!
    I'm sorry, but I do not know the name on the yellow flower. I don't know much about Cuban flora. I love to see the hummingbirds.
    Hugs and kisses, Marit

  9. Definitely 'another great day in paradise!'
    Fabulous photographs, what a great trip.

    All the best Jan

  10. Wonderful pictures, most especially of the Pygmy Owl.

  11. The hummingbirds are amazing. I wish we had such a variety here, but I am glad we at least have hummingbirds. And you have some lovely other bird photos too. It must have been a nice escape from this continuing winter. hugs-Erika

  12. Love the great variety of birds but the owl is pretty special. A beauty to be sure.

  13. Beautiful photos of everything. Old cars can be repaired more easily than these newer ones of today where you need machines to tell you the problem mostly.
    The owl, what a beauty and so clear as well.

  14. I devoured every photo! That lizard looks similar to the wild anoles we always saw in Florida. Thanks for sharing your trip with us. :)

  15. What a great series of photos from your trip David.
    The Fernandinas Flicker the Cuban Pygmy Owl and the Hummingbirds are my favorite.
    Nice picture of the transport with the horses.
    Greetings Irma

  16. Another fabulous report, I kept thinking each bird was my fave and then another one and another one, but I think the humming birds won in the end.! Love all the old cards, too, and the enterprising carts people make. Poverty is always sad to see. Thanks for sharing your adventures, hugs, Valerie

  17. Todas las personas, que han viajado a Cuba, de vacaciones desde España. vienen hablando muy bien , de sus gentes.
    Veo las maravillas , de este lugar. a través de tus fotos.No estoy tentada a pasar tantas horas metida en un avión.

  18. For some reason I can't reply to comments on my blog, and you mentioned in your comment on my blog-cleaning the snow off the bird feeders. FYI-I went out yesterday and cleaned off my feeders 3 times during the storm yesterday. The birds did appreciate it. Much more than I appreciate all this snow-smile. hugs-Erika

  19. What an interesting place! I liked looking at the Cuban vehicles of all kinds, that vulture, the Blue Warbler, the Bee Humming Bird, the delightful fish meal. It's all great!

  20. Hello David, I was replying to your email when it suddenly disappeared. I thank you for your explanation concerning K. L. and the Greylag.This is why I couldn't comment, Could not connect to reCapture service.Please check your internet connection and reload to get a reCapture challenge
    This time I tried again with no trouble at all, and I don't know what the reCapture meant!

    Another wonderful Cuba post. I have enjoyed seeing all the birds, in particular the charming Pygmy owl, the beautiful Hummingbirds, the Lizard cuckoo, with it's striking red eyes, the Black-throated Blue Warbler, and the black and yellow bird, which I can't recall the name of right now. I admire the make do and mend attitude of the Cuban men which we seem to have lost, although it was so in my childhood. I enjoyed seeing the different types of horse driven carts, and the old cars. The picture of Barb.and her lovely smile,is delightfully energised and I also liked her Maple leafed T shirt. It's a colourful post David with the flowers and fruit as well, and the grilled fish meal looked very appetising. In your narrative it really shows through how kind and hospitable everyone is and this is so pleasing to read about.
    All the best Warm Hugs.

  21. Absolutely love all your photos, but have to say my favourite is the little pygmy owl :)

  22. It really does look like Paradise, David. Fantastic birds, beautiful scenery, interesting transport, and it sounds as if the food is pretty good too!

    I want to see a Cuban Pygmy Owl in the flesh!

    Best wishes to you both - - - Richard

    1. This may be sacrilege, Richard, but I think it might even be more endearing than Little Owl.

    2. I'll have to take your word for it, David.

  23. What an unusual lizard!
    Beautiful picture of the Fernandina's Flicker. Also like the old car. Nice report!

  24. So much beauty in Cuba and I never even thought of going there. About the jeans. Swedish people also go in jeans with holes in them. Very popular. I still don´t understand it.

  25. What a wonderful trip!....beautiful pictures....I love the old cars in Cuba....Abrazotes, Marcela

  26. You have a great talent for seeing things. I’m glad that you shared these treasures with us.

  27. Wonderful photos and observations of Cuba. Those cars are like new but old!

  28. A number of years ago, PBS had a special about the classic cars of Cuba. It seems like it's really quite a thing and well done -- they look great. (So does that very cute pygmy owl!)

    1. It's a question of necessity, Jeanie. The embargo has been maintained for so many years that the Cubans are unable to buy parts so everythign is custom made and the cars are maintained in immaculate condition. We were passengers in a 1952 Buick on a previous trip to Cuba that had one million, four hundred thousand miles on it! I bet not a single part was original!

  29. Very professional series of photos of our feathered friends ~ great vintage cars too ~

    Wishing you good health, laughter and love in your days,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  30. Querido David es un verdadero placer viajar a través de tan espectaculares fotos y tan estupendo comentario. Me deja boquiabierta la gran cantidad de aves que hay. También las plantas y flores son preciosas. Me alegra ver que estáis felices. Un fuerte abrazo para ti y para Míriam.

  31. Wow, you got some fantastic shots! Especially of hummingbirds, so notoriously difficult to capture on film. I've never been to Cuba but I know that Canadians LOVE to go there as a winter getaway!

  32. Another thrilling post. I am so happy that you blog about your travels. It is all so fascinating. Thank you, David.

  33. Your birding adventure is always interesting with so many things to see. From birds, butterflies, flowers and different modes of transportation, you have it all here in this post.

  34. Hello David, All those colourful birds big or small are amazing. A great post in wich you tell all there was to see. Seeing so much green and nature I do believe there is not that much damage done to nature by weed killers and that is good. Am I correct?
    Warm regards,

    1. I am not sure what degree of chemical spray is used, Roos, but it is probably extensive in the sugar cane fields. I will see if I can find out.

  35. I am so glad you wrote on my post today, I see you found a matching bougainvillea in Cuba. I have seen your name many times on several of my blog friends. Cuba is a lot like our climate and most of the birds we have here in Florida are like these today. My hubby wants to go to cuba just to see the old cars. he is 86 and these are the cars he loves. we both enjoyed every single photo today. thanks for dropping by and I am glad I returned your visit. happy birding.

  36. A fabulous series of photos David. I looked at each and every photo intently. The hummingbird in flight was amazing. I rarely get to see them, these were a real treat. So many beautiful birds, fauna, little critters and other interesting sights. Thank you so much for sharing them.

  37. Gracias por tan maravilloso reportaje. Abrazos.

  38. You definitely have made me want to visit Cuba.

  39. Hello David,
    All these carts cobbled together by the people are very practical, that's the main thing.
    And yes Cuba is the country of old cars, it is true.
    The warblers are always so beautiful, these two are wonderful.
    This hummingbird is such a beautiful little thing.

  40. I'm probably too old to ever understand why anyone would spend money for ripped jeans. It's just beyond me.
    As you said - another great day in paradise. Beautiful birds galore. The Bee Hummingbird is such a stunner - I must admit that I didn't even know that there are blue hummingbirds. What a beauty!

  41. I'm enjoying your Cuba posts - such an array of spectacular images! But I do have to disagree with you on the good lucks of the Turkey Vulture!

  42. Hi David - how right you were 'another great day in paradise' ... thank you - cheers Hilary


Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that the land on which we are situated are the lands traditionally used by the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral People. We also acknowledge the enduring presence and deep traditional knowledge, laws, and philosophies of the Indigenous Peoples with whom we share this land today. We are all treaty people with a responsibility to honour all our relations.