Sunday, April 14, 2024

Birding in Cuba - February 2024 - Part 8

25 February, 2024
Cayo Coco (Cueva El Jabalí, Laguna Flamencos) - Playa Las Coloradas

     Breakfast at the buffet was enjoyed by all, following which we went to the location popularly known as "The Cave." It is in fact an underground disco, populated by bats during the day when the party-goers are not there, with a reversal at night when the bats are out hunting.
     We always start our visit aboveground with a check of a bird bath and a couple of feeders, where there is much to be seen.
     One of the highlights is a subspecies of the endemic Zapata Sparrow (Torreornis inexpectata), and we were not disappointed.

     A Yellow-faced Grassquit (Tiaris olivaceus) was common, yet always delightful.

     Scanning the surrounding scrubby vegetation was productive, and this Loggerhead Kingbird (Tyrannus caudifasciatus) posed beautifully.

     A Cuban Bullfinch (Melopyrrha nigra) was no less cooperative.

     Red-legged Thrush (Turdus plumbeus) is surely the most handsome of the Turdus thrushes.

     A Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) was not to be outdone, and showed us his most handsome side.

     No visit would be complete without a visit to the bats, and so we descended the stairs - into the cave of mystery and delight!

     There were no crowds of merrymakers to disturb our visit.

     Beth made sure that we were all aware of the rules before entering.

     We did not "violate the principles and ethics of our society." We were the very model of well-behaved Canadians; curious, eager to see the subterranean inhabitants, but innocuous to a tee!
     This is an interesting place, to say the least.

     Mike, generous to a fault, bellied up to the bar and offered to buy everyone a drink.

     Suffice it to say that we went a little batty!

     It was an interesting experience, of that you may be sure, enjoyed by everyone.
     Back into the bright light of day, a male Western Spindalis (Spindalis zena) was a fitting welcome from our journey into the underworld, and a female followed right behind to validate the greeting.

     We boarded the bus and travelled to Laguna Flamencos to see West Indian Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna arborea) See it we did, but the birds kept frustratingly far away, so I have no pictures to share with you. 
      A Neotropic Cormorant (Nannopterum brasilianum) was a little more amenable.

     There was a good variety of shorebirds and other species present, but mostly out of camera range. The following shot will give you an idea of what we were facing.

     On the way back to the resort for lunch we did manage to meet up with a Mangrove Cuckoo (Coccyzus minor).

     After lunch we had time for relaxation (aka siesta, a nap, forty winks) following which we made a short journey to the beach beyond the resort where a wonderful variety of birds awaited us.
     These Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) perched on driftwood were captivating.

     Kathy and Mike had their binoculars trained on everything that moved!

     Is Virgil pondering the next shot or wondering whether he got the last one just right?

       Many Sanderlings (Calidris alba) provided enchantment for all of us.

       A Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla) cruised overhead.

     Kathy kept a close eye on a Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) and was able to photograph the following sequence.

     The premier attraction at this section of the beach is the presence of Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus), a bird under siege at every stage of its life cycle. It is classed globally as threatened and endangered, with a total population of between 7,600 and 8,400 in 2020. It is at a high risk of decline as its shoreline habitat is threatened by pollution, expanding expropriation of its habitat by humans, and rising sea levels.
     It is an incredibly appealing little bird, and we were excited to spot one with a leg marker, clearly visible, and able to be captured on camera.

     When I returned home I submitted a picture and the details of our discovery to the appropriate authorities and was advised as follows:

"David- Yes, this is one of our plovers from eastern Canada – he was banded as a chick in July 2017 at Malbay South, NB.  Originally he was black flag AP, but when the code on the black flag became unreadable, we replaced it with white flag K2 in 2021.  As you noted, he winters in Cuba at Cayo Coco.  In the nonbreeding season he has also been seen in spring 2018 in North Carolina; and in fall: 2018 in Virginia and North Carolina, and 2019 North Carolina.
Great to know he is still alive and doing well!  Thanks for sending in the sighting."

     Piping Plovers have been known to live for fourteen years, but most probably do not survive beyond five years, so this epic little voyager is getting on in years.
     I am grateful to Mike for sending me this map of the migratory route followed by our hero, from birthplace to wintering grounds on Cayo Coco, a distance of 3,050 km.

     We were a very happy group.

     In case you ever wondered, there's more to Cuba than palm trees and rum. Just ask any of the people above and they will set you straight.
     Until the next time.....  

    I am grateful to Alan, Beth, Kathy, Mike, Tania and Virgil for contributing their pictures.  
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. The birds of Cuba are very beautiful, David. I fell in love with the Zapata sparrow right away. Hugs and kisses, Marit

  2. Another wonderful day.
    I was delighted to see the bats - and to learn that their accommodation is shared. For once we seem to be getting it right.

  3. Another wonderful post on your Cuba trip! The birds are beautiful, love the photos.
    Take care, enjoy your day and a happy new week!

  4. ...I would prefer to be above ground!

  5. Hi David, beautiful photos of your trip to Cuba. Beautiful birds. Have a nice sunday.

  6. wow...wish I were there to see those beautiful birds...that sparrow looks really cute.

  7. Hari OM
    Oh, my, the Plover was the extra special in an already rather special post today! YAM xx

    1. It really was, YAM. It was heartwarming to learn of his life's journeys.

  8. the red legged thrush looks like one of the wind up plastic toys that wobbles around. and I assume the bats are in a different part of the cave than the nightclub because...guano.

  9. Interesting visit to the bat cave where I would expect to see Batman, Robin, and the Batmobile. Overall a spooky experience!

  10. Hello David,
    What a great series of photos these are from your trip to Cuba.
    The Red-legged Thrush and the Northern Mockingbird are my favorites this time.
    Greetings Irma

  11. I am trying to decide which is the most amazing, the piper that flies that far and the fact you found out it is the one from Canada or all of you inside that most amazing cave. wow. love those bat photos.. super shots of the birds as always, the first one had so much detail, every feather and mark... another great post from Cuba

  12. David, as wonderful as it was to see more of the birds, the bats were the most interesting to me in this post. And, that bar inside made it an even more inviting place.

  13. Forgot to add that Piping Plovers and Sanderlings were often seen on the beaches in Assateague and Chincoteague when we lived in VA years ago.

  14. How absolutely bizarre is that cave, David ! Surely there must be occasions when loud music and bats mix - with, perhaps, unhealthy or young bats lingering after dark. Sounds as if it might be a bit unsanitory too if drinks are served in that environment.

    I found the piece on the Piping Plovers to be very interesting - thank you for the information, and your contribution to science.

    Best wishes to you and Miriam - - - Richard

  15. How fun to really visit a bat-cave, wow! Hugs, Valerie xxxxxxx

  16. That was an excellent adventure! Getting the bird banding info must be spectacular. I do enjoy your trips.

  17. I enjoyed seeing the birds and bats ... great sightings.
    Amazing to read about the Plover too.

    All the best Jan

  18. I prefer to stay above ground..on the shore, too. But thanks for showing us the images of your visit below. :)

  19. David, you put a whole new spin to the term bat cave. Fascinating. Some beautiful birds in this post! Love it.

  20. Piping plovers are protected on the beaches here in part of New England, and they close down parts during nesting season. I don't know how successful they are, but I have seen some at the Aquarium in Boston. And oh my a cave disco. I'm glad the bats at least have a home during the day, but I wonder how the disco changes the environment at night. I know caves (or many of them) are pretty fragile places, Did anyone visit at night to dance? grin. I enjoy seeing these birds. Happy new week. hugs-Erika

  21. What a place! I always like it when I can get background on a bird via its band/ring. Hope all is well. Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  22. What a place! Always like it when I can see the travels of a bird via its ring/band. Hope all is well. Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  23. Enjoyed viewing the photos which were wonderful, well done to those that took those photos. The bar is interesting! Can say I don't care for bats.

    1. I am curious. Have you had an experience with bats to cause you to say you don‘t care for them, or have you just decided that you don’t care for them sight unseen?

  24. hello David
    Every report from you clearly shows that Cuba has more to offer than palm trees and rum. A great country, it's always fun to read your reports and look at the great photos.
    Greetings Frank

  25. Hi David.

    So much to see.

    I would have skipped those bats.
    A bit scary.
    Beautiful animals and birds to see

    I really like that Red-legged Thrush.

    Greetings from Patricia.

  26. Great photos. Your pictures are just so wonderful, thank you.

  27. Beautifully photographed David.
    Both the birds and the landscape.
    Groetjes Tinie

  28. I love your seaside pix but I would most definitely have freaked in the cave -- even with the bar!

  29. Hola, hola, que tal!
    good evening, dear friend o`mine!
    I love this look where the bats dance to the rhythm of the echo of the cave,
    Cuba is a paradise of feathers and flights. There are melodies in the air, the birds provided an unparalleled show,
    brown pelicans perched on driftwood,
    and the piping plover... a treasure in danger.

    Your travel diary is an encounter with life in all its splendor,
    and i'm glad you share all this wonder with us.
    Greetings and happy start to the week ⸝⸝> ̫ ⁢⸝⸝ ʕ•⩊•ʔ ฅ^•ﻌ•^ฅ ◕⩊◕ッ

  30. Your day by day trip reports continue to be delightful! Piping plovers do nest in Sleeping Bear Dunes in MI and are most recently doing WELL!!
    best, mae at

  31. Hello David, what wonderful birds did you see and the Bats in the cave are also verry interesting. Sorry for my late respons.
    Take care,
    Love from Belgium

  32. I am enchanted by the photos and birds from Cuba. David, you have wonderful, unforgettable memories from every trip to Cuba.
    I love your fantastic reporting!

  33. The attraction of the fauna is seen after the concentration of the group.

  34. So there really is a Batcave! Wonderful pictures. I must go back and revisit this post. The pictures combined with your commentary conveys a wonderful story..Thanks for sharing your journeys..

  35. What an interesting bat cave/disco. Beautiful photos, as always--I particularly enjoyed the pelicans on driftwood--Mother Nature's artwork!

  36. Irrational or not, I don't particular care for these creatures. Maybe this fear, this dislike were inculcated in me when I was a child. Who knows!

  37. Hi David - wonderful to see the bats ... and what a useful doubling of usage of the caves - fascinating to see. While the little Piping Plover and its journey ... birds are amazing at the travels they make. Great that he's got an ongoing record of his various journeys. Lovely photos from all and sundry - thank you ... cheers Hilary

  38. I'm seriously jealous of all the exciting bird sightings you enjoyed in Cuba, David. The cave is interesting, indeed. So when you say "disco" by night, does that mean they dance down there in the cave? I bet the acoustic is actually great. Years ago we went to the Carlsbad Caverns which is also famous for its bats (but no disco). We went into it via the steep trail, the caverns were fascinating and they even have a cafeteria down there. Back up we could take the elevator - just to think that they built that there. - In Germany close to my hometown there is a cave that has always been used for concerts, mainly jazz. The acoustic is out of this world. - As you know, we have the Snowy Plover here and I'm afraid its situation is not much better than the Piping Plover. Every year, parts of our beaches are closed off during nesting season, but unfortunately there are so many people who either feel entitled or have no clue. It is so frustrating. Hugs - Carola

    1. Piping Plovers nest at a few locations in southern Ontario, and the areas of the beach are cordoned off and volunteers are present round the clock.

  39. Otro gran reportaje de tu viaje a Cuba, me gusta todo. Pero es normal una discoteca en una cueva de murciélagos? Abrazos fuertes querido amigo David.

    1. Very unusual, Teresa. I can’t think of anywhere else that this happens.

  40. Querido David es sin duda muy curiosa la cueva de los murciélagos, aunque me entristece el use que le dan, no creo que a los pequeños murciélagos les beneficie.
    Las fotos y todas las aves preciosas. Besos para ti y para Miriam.

  41. Wow that Bat Cave is interesting though |I am not sure that I would like to have a drink down there. I see what just a few bats can do with the urine and droppings on our car parked in the barn which we keep covered most of the time!!
    Gros bisous, Diane

  42. What an interesting post and I love the bat cave, great photos. To me though is the interesting story of the Piping Plover. What an amazing bird and it is doing so well. There are some pretty birds in Cuba.
    Bisous mon ami Diane


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