04/05/19, an exciting morning because I was going for the first birding trip in Puerto Rico. I woke up at 5:30 am and was very hyped – We were going to El Yunque. El Yunque is a tropical forest in the area towards the east. It is a haven for birds. I have visited El Yunque through its north entrance before, but it was not for birdwatching. This time we were going with a local puerto rican bird guide named Hilda. She is an awesome person and knows the best spots for bird watching. We met Hilda at Luquillo and planned to go towards El Yunque’s east entrance. While driving towards the first spot, Hilda pointed out the Puerto Rican Woodpecker on a wooden pole. It was an awesome sight to see this woodpecker making its nest on the wooden pole.
After admiring the woodpecker, we moved to our first birding spot. And as we stepped out of the car, I heard so many bird calls. With Hilda’s help, we recognized number of different bird calls, such as the Grey Kingbird, Mangrove Cuckoo, the Puerto Rican Lizard-cuckoo, Puerto Rican Tody, Shiny Cowbirds, Puerto Rican Orioles, Black-whiskered Vireo, and Northern Parulas. As it was the nesting season, birds were busy making nests or taking care of the babies. So, they decided to be focused and only made distant calls. Finally we saw a Shiny Cowbird. Hilda told us a fact that if Shiny Cowbirds are around, there would most likely be a Puerto Rican Oriole around. Shiny Cowbirds harass the Orioles nests and kick out the babies.
While we waited for birds to come out, we saw a Zenaida dove on the wire with a Common Ground-dove.
We enjoyed the glimpse of the Mangrove Cuckoo and Puerto Rican Tody, and an Antillean Mango in the lush tropical forest. We also saw Bananaquit, and then again the beautiful Puerto Rican Woodpecker in action.
As I was clicking the woodpecker, we heard a bird call from the nearby tall tree. Hilda helped identify this as a Black-whiskered Vireo. It was camouflaged with the leaves, but with its movement, we spotted and managed to get this click. This tiny little adorable bird has yellow belly, a white stripe over a red eye and grey head.
We decided to move up in the mountain at our next spot. We were expecting to see a flycatcher in that area as it was spotted before. As we stopped on the spot, I saw a Loggerhead Kingbird perched on the wire. The Loggerhead Kingbird is distinct from its cousin Grey Kingbird due to its bigger size, darker and bulging head in the back and it doesn’t wear a mask.
While following the Loggerhead Kingbird, I heard a familiar call of my favorite Bananaquit. It was coming from the nearby tree and I found it sitting on the bottom branch.
Landscape from the second spot was very scenic. People have houses up there with the clear sights over the forest, city scapes and sea. While enjoying this we found our friend again, the Puerto Rican Woodpecker. I was wondering if it was following me. This friendly fella posed for some of the best pictures of the trip.
As I wanted to see Caribbean Martins and the Puerto Rican Tody, Hilda drove us to the spot where the Caribbean Martins were nesting. The Martin’s decided to hide, may be they were running their house chores. So, we moved to another spot to see a Puerto Rican Tody. As we stopped, we heard a few noises coming from the nearby tree. And we were lucky to find a Puerto Rican Lizard-cuckoo pair in its glory. As Hilda said, you hear it, you see it and you have to see it flying. If you haven’t seen it flying, you haven’t seen the beauty of the Puerto Rican Lizard-cuckoo. I was feeling so lucky to experience it all.
While we were enjoying the cuckoo, Hilda noticed a bird darting across the road. My heart was pumping as it was the Puerto Rican Tody. And I did not had to wait for long. The tiny little, beautiful Tody honored my wish to see him and came out of hiding to greet him. I was struck by its beauty. It kept flittering around for me to follow and then perched on the nearby brach for me to admire its beauty. The Puerto Rican Tody is my favorite bird now and I can watch it all day long.
After I had my heart full with joy of Tody sighting, we drove again to find a flycatcher. As we stopped, again the beautiful Loggerhead Kingbird greeted. This one nicely perched for the picture. I’m so thankful.
At the same time the Loggerhead Kingbird’s cousin, the Gray Kingbird arrived to see him and posed for the party.
In between, we also saw another small bird flittering and got to click. This looks to me like a Puerto Rican Flycatcher. Puerto Rican Flycatcher is slightly smaller in size than the Loggerhead Kingbird and a smaller bill, it also has a light yellow belly and below picture shows it. With picture mapping, Merlin ID also identified it as Puerto Rican Flycatcher. Let me know what do you think.
While I was busy catching the ambiguous Loggerhead / Flycatcher, My dad spotted a humming bird and to our surprise, we saw this Antillean Mango making a nest! It was my first time spotting a humming bird’s nest and a bird tending to it.
As we were spell bound with the creativity of this little creature and busy chatting with Hilda, My mom saw a bird that flew into the trees. We rushed to get the better glimpse of the bird and Hilda helped us identify this as a Puerto Rican Oriole. When we got the good angle with visible yellow parts, we were sure it was a Puerto Rican Oriole.
It was about the end of the trip and we were wrapping up, another tiny little bird flew into the vicinity and I grabbed the opportunity to get few quick shots before it flew away. Again with Hilda’s help, we identified Black-faced Grassquit.
Hilda is super knowledgable about the Puerto Rican Birds, It was so much fun to do birding with her. When I move to Puerto Rico, I’ll sure be birding more with her. She is like my super active and knowledgable grandma. Hilda also gave me a few lessons and I’m sure those will go a long way in my birding life. Those are : 1. Be Patient . 2. To learn about birds use more binocular and less camera. Once you have seen the details and identified it, then transition to use camera. 3. Don’t get frustrated if others have seen the bird and you missed it. Birds will come back again.
I would like to thank Hilda for the best birding time we had and lessons I learned. I would also like to thank my dad for helping me with few pictures, those were difficult to click from my height. Also a big thank you to my mom for helping me edit this longer blog. And yes a big Thank you Mom and Dad, for taking me on this outstanding trip.
And that’s all for my Part 2 of the Puerto Rico Trip, specifically talking about El Yunque. Happy Birding!