PR Diaries: 10/26/19 Trip to Finca La Perla Coffee Plantation, Mayagüez, PR with Sociedad Ornitológica Puertorriqueña

When I saw Sociedad Ornitológica Puertorriqueña’s planned trip to Finca La Perla Coffee Plantation on 10/26/19, I got super excited. This was my 2nd trip with sopipr.org and also I have never been to coffee plantation before. So, birding in a coffee plantation built more excitement and I started imagining the trip details and what all kinds would greet me 🙂

As Finca La Perla Coffee Plantation in Mayagüez is more than 2.5 hours drive from our home and birding trip start time was 7:30 am, my parents decided to leave a day early and stay at the nearby place. We choose to stay at Hacienda Juanita another beautiful place. We left Friday afternoon. It was cloudy but a beautiful day. 30 kms before Hacienda Juanita route becomes scenic, and we started seeing few birds and one of them was orange and black – possibly a Puerto Rican Oriole. My dad backed up the car for me to have a quick look, but it flew away fast. There were patches where fog was still on the road in the afternoon, it was magical passing through that. We reached Hacienda Juanita at 4:00 PM. There is a coffee shop in there that has their own plantation best coffee (my parents told me) and their shop is full of antique camera, phones, bottles, keys, phones, typewriters, you name it and it would be there. Over there, I spoke Spanish for the first time outside school! I spoke in Spanish when my dad asked if the coffee was local. The person on the counter didn’t know English, so I translated it into Spanish and said it. We stayed there overnight and had some fun enjoying beautiful scenery, it was rainy and slippery so we could not venture more.

For our trip to Finca La Perla we did start in the very early morning. The drive was beautiful but windy at times. When reached to the provided meeting point, we saw the sign for Finca La Perla and we started taking the route as there was no coffee shop. We drove on the a rocky and bumpy road and when we though there was a gate ahead, we saw another car stopped there. My mom asked him and he said he was not sure if it was safe to go inside the door because of the warning sign there. So, for 15 minutes my parents and the other gentleman tried to figure out if this was the right place or not. Finally we decided to go in and found that indeed was the place, it was the real coffee plantation with the host’s living there. A very beautiful dense coffee and banana plantation it was.

©TheKidBirderPhotography
©TheKidBirderPhotography

We started birdwatching in sometime and I met Gabriel Lugo again. He was leading this walk and I was so happy to see him again. The first birds I saw were some hummingbirds and Bananaquits from the deck. I was interested to see some Antillean Euphonias and asked Gabriel about it. He explained that their population had declined, but where there are fruits on a branch that is thin, they could be found there. Then I inquired about the Puerto Rican Spindalis. He said that they could be anywhere around this coffee plantation. I started hoping to see them soon.

©TheKidBirderPhotography

Our actual trip was going down in the coffee plantation and observe birds on the tall tree and coffee bushes as we can. Due to the rain the path was muddy and we had to be careful while walking else we could slip down. This was new terrain for me and birds were so high in the trees, so I requested my dad to handle camera while I focus on familiarizing myself with the surroundings. When we started walk in the plantation, we saw a White-winged Parakeet (Spanish, Periquito Aliblanco) fly by, a Puerto Rican Bullfinch, Puerto Rican Oriole, Puerto Rican Woodpecker, Black face Grassquit. As it was getting more muddy we decided to turn back. We heard the Spindalis twice but did not see it. We got to see and then saw an female Antillean Euphonia.

After that, there was a Spanish presentation on birds identification with some delicious snacks provided by Finca La Perla hosts. Really thankful for them to open up their coffee plantation for us to have this great experience.

Overall it was a great experience for me. Not so many great bird pictures as I still need to work on my forest bird photography. These little creatures moves so fast. Some blurry pictures to enjoy.

PR Bullfinch
©TheKidBirderPhotography
PR Woodpecker
©TheKidBirderPhotography
Black-faced Grassquit
©TheKidBirderPhotography
Red-tailed Hawk
©TheKidBirderPhotography
Black-faced Grassquit
©TheKidBirderPhotography

Hope you enjoyed this trip details. Thanks to my mom for helping me to add details to this project. Iw ill try to do more posts like this with lots of details.

Bye! See you next time!

Not so related…..But still interesting…..

Hi there! This post isn’t related to birding, but I really want to share it!

So, in my class, our teacher selected me and 5 other students for studying about Paul Salopek and his journey, and then sharing it with other students in my class. Our teacher has selected us to start our mission and do the “footsteps”. All the class is doing it, although we are going to do the main parts. If you know about the Out of Eden walk, Please share something about it with me.

If you want to tell any stories about your culture, email me at pranjal.nr.gupta@gmail.com. If you want to learn more about the walk, go here.

Thank you all and see you next time!

PR Diaries: Trip to Cabo Rojo on September 7, 2019 with Sociedad Orintológica Puertorriqueña Inc.

Hi there! I am sorry that posts are getting delayed. The new place, new school with lot of school work and many activities are keeping me busy. Also, we are exploring the new island for more birding activities. This post is about birding with Sociedad Orintológica Puertorriqueña Inc. (https://www.sopipr.org).

Since we moved, me and my mom keeps researching about the local Puerto Rico organizations we could go birding with. So, my mom found about SOPI on facebook and were happy to figure out a shorebird walk and workshop on 9/7/19 at Cabo Rojo. Cabo Rojo is 2.5 hours drive from our place in Guaynabo and the birding start time was 7:30 am. We started early at 5:00 am and my dad drove us right in time to participate in our first exploration with SOPI.

Our birding guide and workshop instructor was Gabriel Lugo. Gabriel is a well-experienced birdwatcher and birding guide and he knows almost all places for birdwatching in Puerto Rico. Gabriel works with SOPI and also runs Wildside nature tours for birding in Puerto Rico. As I’m in Puerto Rico and people speak Spanish here, the birding tour and workshop is expected to happen in Spanish. But language is not the barrier if you are really interested in birding. Gabriel and few others helped translate for us in English whenever it was needed.

So for the real trip, we were near the salt flat beds at Cabo Rojo where we could see many shorebirds. There were many shorebirds, but the ones that are new to me are the Semipalmated Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, and a Snowy Plover. My photos aren’t so good because of the lighting, but seeing them was just a treat.

Semipalmated Sandpiper
Semipalmated Plover
Snowy Plover

Other than shorebirds, it was the home for Troupials. We saw few on the electric pole and flying around.

Troupial

From there on, we went in for a presentation. It was completely in Spanish, so i didn’t understand a thing. But luckily, there were captions in English and Gabriel helped answer questions in English.

After that we drove little further to visit a lighthouse and also saw a Caribbean Elaniea and a Yellow Warbler. They were so cool!

Caribbean Elaniea
Yellow Warbler

From there, it took us 9 minutes to go to a bird festival at the wildlife refuge. There I got a few English and Spanish field guides for the birds of Puerto Rico. They looked helpful for my start of birding in Puerto Rico.

One of my dream bird to see was Red Bishop and I asked Gabriel if he could guide us where to find it. Gabriel guided us to the spot where we can possibly look for Red Bishops. It was nearby so we decided to visit.

When we reached there, it looked exactly the habitat of a bishop: tall grass and wired fence. I was a rice field. We saw the Red Bishop, as well as the Smooth-billed Ani and Cave Swallow. There was one cartoonish moment: there were multiple swallows on a wire. You mainly see that on cartoons!

Smooth-billed Ani
Red Bishop
Cave Swallow
Swallows in a group

And that’s all for today! I will see you next time!

PR Diaries : Trip to Ponce and Guánica – Sep 02, 2019

A little late post but happy that at last after 2 months of settling in my parents got time and we started exploring the various regions of Puerto Rico. So, we decided to go to the south of Puerto Rico and explore the city and beach of Ponce. We chose Ponce because we heard that it had completely different flora and fauna as part of a dry forest than compared to the north of Puerto Rico, that has more of the tropical forest. Also, we heard that Guánica – a dry forest for birdwatching was near it.

As we drove from Guaynabo to Ponce, we started seeing the difference in scenery after a 45 minute drive. The lush green forests were turning into a dry and brown landscape. It was more of plains and plateau structure and hot and dry weather. We saw dry farm lands, banana plantations, melon fields and some dairy farms (we saw cows grazing in some fields).

When we reached Ponce, the first birds we saw were some common Rock Pigeons. The only odd one was with black band on the back of the neck. I think it was an African/Eurasian-collared Dove. Then we decided to explore the boating dock as I was seeing some gull-like birds flying around there.

Now here comes the surprise – when we went to the dock, there were Terns and lots of Brown Pelicans. I have seen Brown Pelicans earlier but when I closely looked at the Terns – I got the surprise. These were Royal Terns and their juveniles – a brand new bird for me. Some people were hand feeding the terns and pelicans and it was quite a sight to see Terns flying and catching fish from somebody’s hand. Maybe I’ll be able to capture the moment next time. As this was the feeding dock, Brown Pelicans were fearless and flying, roaming all around the humans. This was an amazing picture chance of flying birds and I took the biggest advantage I could take.

Royal Tern
Royal Terns in a group
Royal Tern, Flying
Royal Tern, Flying
Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican

There was this one really cute moment: A Brown Pelican was babysitting some young terns. It may sound odd, although it’s true. Thanks to my mom to point this out to me.

From there on, we went to the beach of Ponce. We didn’t see much, but we saw the Pelicans and Terns. I think they were searching for food. Some were soaring, some were flying. But either way, they were both foraging. One Royal Tern was siting so still and nicely and I got this:

Royal Tern

Just look at that!

After that, I got to see my first male Magnificent Frigatebird! I was so happy to see it! It was soaring high in the sky! The males have a different color than the females because of the throat. The males have a red throat while the females have a white throat. If you are lucky, at the nesting site, the males usually puff up their throat and you can see it’s red throat clearly. It looks weird, although it is hard to see.

Magnificent Frigatebird

From there on we decided to explore Guánica. It was a completely dry place and seems to be full of Acacia trees. It was scorching hot, we got to know that this was birdwatcher’s paradise to find some of the endemic birds of Puerto Rico. But it was soon going to close so we just decided to explore nearby. The forest was brownish and greenish. Since the time I we reached the forest, I was hearing Bananaquits and finally found them. They’re the most common forest bird for me, because every forest I’ve visited in PR till now, I have seen at least a few Bananaquits.

Bananaquit

Although right after that, I saw something that I never saw before, a Puerto Rican Bullfinch. It looked so nice! I only got one picture of it, but it sticks in my memory. It has a red cap and throat, everything else black.

Puerto Rican Bullfinch

From there we went to see the salt flats of Cabo Rojo. It was hot like Guánica but more shore than forest. We saw some shore birds, but decided to explore later. I got to see a few Cave Swallows and lots of Turkey Vulture flying around. Later we figured out that nearby place was the trash dumpyard for Puerto Rico and that is why there were so many Turkey Vultures around.

Salt Beds of Cabo Rojo

Salt is made by drying the sea water. The sea water comes into the lagoons when there is high tide. That gets water trapped inside the lagoons and then it is directed and released to salt beds. Where it is left to evaporate for 1-3 months to crystallize and for salt crystals. These crystals forms big salt chunks. After the drying, salt crystals and chunks are made into a salt “hill” to dry up. Once it is dried, the salt is took for purification, grinding, and packaging, which is then ready to use.

I got to see the big salt fields. and some were pink. Do you know why?

It is because in the salt fields, there is this microalgae that shrimp eat and give shrimp its pink color.

Also, did you know that this salt flat was the first industry in Puerto Rico ?

That’s all for today! See you next time!

I have published my First Birding Book!

Hey you all! I have finally published a book – my memoir of birding in California from 2018 -2019. The book is titled as “Birds Around Us – A visual treat for BirdNerds from the lenses of TheKidBirder”. Through my birding blog and this book, I wanted to show the amazing and beautiful moments I have cherished while exploring and watching them in California. I wish to inspire other kids to be out in the nature, learn about birds and protect these little beautiful creatures from extinction.

The book starts with the story of my birding journey and highlights my main trips. I had many trips with the Santa Clara Audubon Society (http://www.scvas.org) and the Los Gatos Birdwatcher (http://www.losgatosbirdwatcher.com). Here I got to meet my mentors – Allen Royer, Lisa Myers, Mary Wisnewski and others. Among many wonderful trips, my favorite trip was the one to the Merced Wildlife Refuge with Lisa Myers from the Los Gatos Birdwatcher. There I got to see thousands of migratory geese and the highlight would be the Horned Larks. They were so cute! My captures are not great from that trip due to my very small point and shoot camera I was carrying, but the moments are itched in my memory for my lifetime.

Then shows my tips for birdwatching. My favorite one and the one I learned most from was to observe before clicking photos of them. That helped me a lot in my birding life. And then you need to get out and observe the birds in the neighborhood parks, lakes, marshes and wherever you see them. A good binocular is a MUST; not super expensive ones, but also not the toy binoculars.

The next section of the book you get to enjoy the pictorial beauty of the birds I watched and was able to click at various locations. This also includes the short description so you can learn a bit about them.

At the end comes the species accounts for my California birding. Overall I have seen 132 birds being in the Bay Area and around. This is to demonstrate, that you really do not have to travel so far to start your birding journey. Weekend morning 2-3 hour trips are good enough. Also, you need a good camera but really not the DSLR to start your birding photography. I started with 20x point and shoot (which clicked decent photos) and now have 83X point and shoot camera (clicks really nice pictures). Being a kid, I cannot handle more weight than this. But this does not stop me from birding and photographing.

My favorite click is this immature male Rufous Hummingbird visiting my yard.

Rufous Hummingbird

My book It is currently listed on sale for three ways: The hardcopy magazine format (a really nice format and my favorite), the pdf of the book, the ebook (which is viewable on any device), and the Ipad version (is the same as ebook, but only viewable on Ios devices).The link to buy this book is here: https://www.blurb.com/b/9581571-birds-around-us.

Hope you buy and enjoy reading my book !! Happy Birding Bird Nerds 🙂

Photography Class with Bill Walker

In my short trip to California from Aug 20-23, 2019, I was lucky to participate in the photography class with Bill Walker. Bill is a great bird photographer and you can follow him at http://birdwalker.com. This class was organized by Lisa Myers from losgatosbirdwatcher.com. I also got to meet Mary Wisnewski after a long time. Class was divided into two parts – 1. An evening classroom session and 2. The filed trip. In the evening class with Bill, I got the refresher about some of the basics I already knew: auto-focus, manual mode. Bill also discussed about what we need to do on the field to get our lighting correct – such as exposure ( which is how much light is getting in), shutter speed (which is basically the same ting as exposure besides it clicks faster), and ISO (which is sensitivity). Bill then taught us about histograms and how to read them. He told us that angle is very important because if you took a photo in a bad angle, you won’t like the picture. The background is important too, because of the background, you may or may not like the picture. Then after you’ve been on the field, you should delete the bad pictures you took because you will enjoy the good pictures even more. Then you should crop the photos. Also there are some ettiequte you need to follow while out on the field so that you do not scare the birds and do not damage their natural habitat.

Bill decided to have the field trip at Palo Alto Baylands Duck Pond at the early Sat morning – 7:30 am. We all were there on time. We first got to see some night-herons, and juveniles,

Black-crowned Night-heron

Then we went to the marsh area where we saw many shorebirds such as the American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Long-billed Curlew, and more. There were many Mallards too. It was overcast that time, so Bill told us that we should lower our shutter speed, or which how fast our camera takes them.

Long-billed Curlew
Mallards

From there, we went to the EcoCenter, the place where swallows nest every spring. There were the swallows flying around, but none were in the nest. In the distance, We saw a Northern Harrier flying and that started masses of shorebirds flying. On the pond which the shorebirds landed, there was a Great Blue Heron.

Great Blue Heron

Nearby, there was a lake with Least Sandpipers and Egrets. Over there, I tried taking some flight photos, but they came out terrible.

Least Sandpiper
Snowy Egret

Then we went to the marsh/lake right next to us and that’s where I saw the Western Sandpiper. It looked so alike to the Least Sandpiper but the reddish band on the back and size is different. Compare it with the Least Sandpiper and try finding the difference!

Western Sandpiper

We then headed to a park in San Jose to meet Allen Royer my Birding Mentor and guide. It was so nice to see him. I also met Ann and Andew (another birder who started his passion at the age of 5 and currently in college and still follows bird watching.) I hope to do birding with him sometime in New York Central Park.

And that’s all for now! See you in the next post! Here’s a group shot:

Top Bird Photo Album 3

Western Bluebird (Martial Cottle Park, San Jose, CA)
Puerto Rican Tody (El Yunque National Forest, PR)
Puerto Rican Lizard-cuckoo (El Yunque National Forest, PR)
Killdeer (Martial Cottle Park, San Jose, CA)
Anna’s Hummingbird (Santa Clara Water Center, San Jose, CA)
Red-tailed Hawk (Santa Clara Water District, San Jose, CA)
Loggerhead Kingbird (El Yunque National Forest, PR)
Grey Kingbird (El Yunque National Forest, PR)