Hi there! Along winter break, we have been taking many walks around the metropolitan area of Puerto Rico. We were introduced to a new PR non-profit organization Estuario de la Bahía de San Juan (will refer them as Estuario later) by some of our SOPI birding friends as well as found their facebook page. Estuario is a non-profit organization focused on managing water quality, water shed restoration and associated ecosystems around San Juan bay, PR. As a part of their education program Estuario lead lots of natural science related classes that includes birding related classes and nature and birding trips. They also do the birding census for Audubon in PR San Juan area. And they do the best thing – Doing back to back birding trips from mid Dec to 1st week of Jan. It can not be better than this.
As we were itching to find more birding places in and around San Juan, Guaynabo area, Estuario trips were our first choices. I could not join some of their earlier trips due to school in session, but this is the first walk I did with them.
So on to the birding walk – This was just a 20 min trip from our home to Paseo Las Curías – a wonderfully designed dam and an unusual one. We started at around 6:30 AM in the morning and met our birding leader Coral and Eliezer from Estuario there. We realized that we met Coral before on one of the birding trip and she was the one who asked SOPI to share the Esturio program details with us. Thank you so much Coral.
It was a little chilly morning for PR standards, but it felt nice. When we reached there, I was surprised to see that Paseo Las Curías was very well maintained. The other places I had went with SOPI were the natural jungles but this was man made and managed dam and hence it was cleaner. It felt really nice to find a place really close to home for birding. Sadly, the lake around the dam has been infested by the ill-native plants, but water management teams were working on cleaning this. The dam has an unusual design as a circular pothole / sinkhole that takes all the overflow of water through it. Lake around the dam is shallow at the edges and bit deep in the middle. If you want to see it, go here.
Now finally the birding part, in the parking lot trees we saw around 3 Bananaquits, 1 Prairie Warbler, and 1 Spindalis. And no, I am not crazy about Spindalises, but I certainly like them. They are so beautiful. The males have a striped black-and-white head with an orange breast and grayish wings. They have some sort of a seet seet call. The Prairie Warbler has a yellow face and breast, and a grayish-brown back. Sadly, I couldn’t get any decent pictures of these.
When we started our walk, we saw a few Gray Kingbirds on the posts. Coral told us that we could possibly see a few Blue-and-yellow Macaws fly-by. We saw a very friendly American Kestrel who I believe wanted to have a photo shoot. I got super close to it and it didn’t get scared at all! We heard Macaws in distance and when we looked around, those were flying around the far trees. Those were some of my first Macaws I have seen clearly. We have seen some while driving around but not a great unclose look with binoculars. They are Yellow in the breast and blue on the back. They were such a sight. We also saw a few Loggerhead Kingbirds and then moved onto near the forested area and saw a few Black-faced Grassquits.
From there, we walked a bit on the streets with local PR houses on each sides. This was like a country side of PR with the feeling of El Yunque, but then also like Guánica. It wasn’t so humid, but also wasn’t so dry. It was in a happy middle. There were so many pet dogs barking and marking their territories. A trick I learned from Eliezer that if we do not get scared and stand unto them and ignore them, they won’t do anything and will just keep barking. Birds – we saw few Grassquits, Pigeons, Hens and Roosters, Bananquit, Gray Kingbird. The only big finds were a woodpecker and Red-tailed Hawk. We were hoping for the Smooth-billed Anis, but they were no where to be seen. So, we decided to comeback.
But as soon as we came out to the nearby foresty spot we were birding, we were greeted by 5 Smooth-billed Anis! They sort of look like a parakeet, but their bill is so obscure that you can almost always identify the Ani. They are complete black and glossy, so in the right lighting, you can see it somewhat metallic green-blue. It was sort of like a meeting at 9:00 sharp!
We then walked back to where we started and spotted some of the same birds we saw on our way forward.
Thank you for reading! I will see you in the next post.
PS: I went recently again to Paseo Las Curías and lake is really getting cleaned. It was fun to visit this place again with my friend Krish.