4:00 AM. I woke up, sort of tired, but also excited. Tired because well, I think you would be tired if you woke up at 4 am. Excited because it was my first CBC (Christmas Bird Count) in Puerto Rico. I have done one of them in California at Ed Levine County Park.
We left at about 5 am. We had to reach the meeting point by 6 am at Playa Surf, then we were supposed to drive to the birding the place from there. One of our birding friend mentioned that beach was calm. I don’t know what they mean by calm, I was amazed by the amount of waves over there. But it was a beautiful morning and sunrise. When the rest of the people came, I was surprised to see most people speaking English. The other bird walks I’ve went with SOPI (Sociedad Ornitológica Puertorriqueña Inc.) were in Spanish. So, this was a good start for me. At least I can ask questions and clear my doubts.
When we went to the actual place, Laura (our birding partner and organizer) told us that where we were birding is privately owned by the government and you need to get permits and all that stuff. There was a big metal gate in front where we parked at the birding site and I was hoping that with all this permission we would have the keys to open the door and walk in. So, here was the first surprise, to start the trip we first had to climb tall metal gate and to get in, sort of like trespassing. Though this was my first time, I liked it though. It rained before, and water still didn’t soak and there were deep mud and puddles all around.
Initially I was so intrigued by walking in the wet water and getting all my shoes dirty, but I got over my apprehension, it was fun. My mom was excited as she was able to find all kinds of Indian Flora Fun around. We heard many birds and saw Bananaquit, Osprey and Egret, but the first highlight was to find a Puerto Rican Tody. Puerto Rican Todies are a tiny, little, endemic species of Puerto Rico. They are scarlet red in the throat, white in the breast, and green elsewhere. I first saw them at El Yunque. It was very close but not the great lighting and environment for me to click pictures.
While we were busy having a good look at Puerto Rican Tody, we heard some parakeets. Though they were far our birding partners identified those as Orange-fronted Parakeet.
Then, we started going uphill. There we spotted an Adelaide’s Warbler and a Northern Parula. They are both warblers: small, energetic, and lively birds. Once we reached the top, we had to “trespass” again. This time, it was harder to climb as tall gate did not had great bars to hold. So I went through space under the gate. Once we did that, we had a 5-minute break for water and snacks. We shared banana bread that my mom baked for us.
From there, we started going downhill. There was a lot of cow dung along the way. It was disgusting. But it was all worth when we spotted a Belted Kingfisher in the distant tree.
Once we reached down, we had to cross many puddles. I liked it. I was surprised by one puddle getting in the way. It seemed deep. My dad helped me cross it. My mom loves photos, so she clicked a lot of photos. We also managed to find a cow behind the bushes.
In between hopping through all the puddles we managed to see a surprise Orange-cheeked Waxbill.
We crossed third tall gate before starting our walk nearing the beach. On the way a birding friend named Jane (she moved from New Hampshire to retire in PR) showed us a noni fruit and sea grapes. These were first time fruits for us. These were not ripe to taste but on our list to explore.
Jane’s husband worked there for monitoring the nest sites of the Leatherback turtles. That’s why she knows so much about the place. Once we entered the beach, Laura pointed out some Semipalmated Plovers and a Sanderling. I first saw the Sanderling when I was 3, when I didn’t even know it. The first time I saw a Semipalmated Plover was at Las Salinas de Cabo Rojo. We also saw a Spotted Sandpiper.
The beach had a quick sand and it was difficult to walk on the beach with shoes on. Even on the wet sand our feet were sinking in the bit before we could take another step. So we decided to take shoes off, but that did not made it any easier.
On the beach, I saw something that could relate to our explorations unit in school: water. And no, I’m not talking about the ocean, although if you guessed the ocean, you were close. It was an estuary. An estuary is where rivers meet oceans. The estuaries are very, very shallow. It didn’t even reach my ankle!
Then, we needed to walk across another estuary. It was a little bit deeper, but not so deep.
We had to walk from there to the parking, which was approximately a kilometer. Once we reached there, Laura got the drivers into her car and drove them to their cars. Then they came back with their own car.
Then we came back.
Thank you for reading and see you next time! As this is a bit long post, I took my mom’s help to update this. We could have written few pages about our experience, but not sure if this would have retained your attentions. So, this is it for now, may be we will expand on this someday.
Happy Birding!! Enjoy the view from top.