Suddenly, time was running out for the group from MAX REBO BIRDING TOURS...we only had a couple days left in Puerto Rico, and the time had come to leave the southwest corner of the island, where many of the island's hotspots are located. Today we would bird a couple less popular spots, starting with Bosque Susua. Why? Geotrygon. I had never seen any kind of Geotrygon, and Bosque Susua is known as one of the best places in Puerto Rico to find both Key West and Ruddy Quail-Doves. To my astonishment, I got great looks at a cooperative Key West Quail-Dove on an overgrown trail northeast of the picnic area.
Now this was a seriously juicy lifer. The photos do not do the bird justice at all...the blue cap struck me like a punch in the throat. I'm still surprised I didn't start coughing up blood while looking at this bird. Though obviously not an endemic, this was one of the species I wanted to see the most, and considering how fucking skulky they are I couldn't have been happier with the looks at this confiding crippler of the shadows.
Afterwards I wandered south past the picnic area back on to the access road, and saw a wide road/trail with a gate across it going southeast. This turned out to be a pretty appealing birding trail that paralleled a river (heck of scenic), and seems like just as good a place as any to bird here. About ~250 feet past the gate I had another look at a Key West Quail-Dove, but that would be the last Geotrygon for the day.
Friendly Puerto Rican Todies provided me company.
I am still having difficulty grasping these bizarre and indisputably fantastic birds. Does anyone know what their closest relatives are? From my understanding, that situation is fairly muddled.
A number of Red-legged Thrushes were along the trail as well. We ended up with a pretty solid checklist for the site that morning, with other highlights being Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoos, Lesser Antillean Pewee (only found at one other site on the trip), Antillean Euphonia (only found at one other site on the trip) and Puerto Rican Oriole (found nowhere else on the west side of the island on the trip).
Dipper Dan did some Oscar Mike ebirding while we worked our way up the west coast, and directed us to the Puerto Higuero lighthouse in Rincon. At first it seemed bleak and windy, but eventually we started finding some new birds.
A flock of disgusting Pin-tailed Whydahs fed on the lawn, but the more interesting exotic species was a pair of slightly less disgusting Saffron Finches, which was yet another reluctant lifer for me.
Not disgusting at all was this Zenaida Dove trotting around proudly.
A flock of Cave Swallows foraging next to the lighthouse contained a single Northern Rough-winged Swallow, new for the trip. The Cave Swallows were much more interesting though. Other birds of note here were a few flyby Brown Boobies and a pair of American Oystercatchers on the rocks below.
The best birding here was in the forest across the street from the lighthouse - look for the trail that starts on the edge of the cleared area. This was only one of two spots we birded on the trip that had a lot of North American migrants.
A Puerto Rican Woodpecker threw some cripple our way at the beginning of the trail.
The woods quickly began coughing up birds. Hooded Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Ovenbird and White-eyed Vireos were all new for the trip! I fucking love trip birds and eastern neotrops, in case you have not figured this out by now. We also had redstarts, parula (above) and Prairie Warblers. Not a bad little patch. Of course if you are from the eastern U.S. you will not find this patch very tempting, but we were relieved to sate our fierce warbler hunger.
Believe it or fucking not, I was into herps before I was a bird addict. I still don't know shit about herps, but I am an admitted herp sympathizer (as opposed to a herp synthesizer). This is the one and only herp from the trip (other than green iguanas, which are jaguar-sized and therefore not herps) that I have bothered to identify.
Look at the size of that fucking dewlap, wow! This is a barred anole (Ctenonotus stratulus).
After our modest victories at El Faro, we barged northeast to be at Rio Abajo for sunset. Of course, this was to get Puerto Rican Parrot. To make a short story extra short, the forest here was mature and really nice to walk through, but the only one of us who really saw the parrot was Officer Searcy, and his looks were poor poor poor poor poor poor poor. There are hardly any canopy openings...I'm surprised folks actually see them so regularly. I heard them well (free-flying birds, not the enclosed birds at the end of the road), but that is nothing to write home about. Considering that all the wild birds here were released here recently, I wasn't too bummed to not get looks, but I wasn't reveling in this defeat either. Good news for the parrot and for birders - a third flock will soon be holding it down in the Maricao forest.