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!

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