PR Diaries: Trip to San Patricio Forest with Estuario, 12/23/19

Continuing with our December 2019 birding expedition with Estuario we went to San Patricio Forest in Bayamon. When Coral provided the directions a day before and my mom started looking it up on google, we knew we were in for a great surprise.

In the morning, at around 7:00 am, we reached San Patricio Forest. It is still not open to the public, but Eliezer and Coral was able to get the permission for our visit. And I’m so glad that I was able to join them on this trip. We were the first visitors after Hurricane Maria. Hopefully the San Patricio Forest will be open soon for the public.

So, the surprise – San Patricio Forest location – It is dense forest situated in the middle of the city. This is gated and till you go in, you will not know how dense and beautiful this is. It is very close to San Patricio Plaza, and I was very well confused how a forest was there. It seemed like it was a saved region that was planned to be cut down.

We were greeted by the park rangers as they opened the gates for us. We then did spend sometime completing signup formalities and distributing the binoculars to the people who needed it. Park rangers do some experiments there and have also created some interesting planters such as using bamboo itself.

We were also warned to be watchful about some hanging branches those were damaged during Maria and park rangers are still trying to get those cleaned up.

As we started our walk, we saw so many almond shape fruits on the ground. These are called Puerto Rican Almonds and perfectly edible but for some reason no one cares about them. I’ll click picture of the tree and fruit next time for reference.We also found some Passionfruit dropped on the ground and even tasted them. Fresh fruits found in the jungle taste amazing.

Coming to birding that I almost forgot about – we first saw a few Ground Doves, and then a few warblers. We looked closely and these were Northern Parulas around 4 of them . The trees in the San Patricio are very high (may be 50 to 60 ft) and these tiny warblers love to play on the top branches. It makes us very difficult for photographing them. Northern Parulas are fairly common in the area, but they always cheer me up. We also heard and saw some Monk Parakeets flying around. As we moved forward on the trail and made a loop around a part, we saw some flittering on the top branches of one tree. As we observed closer we identified it as male Puerto Rican Spindalis. Then we were watching for the movements nearby in the undergrowth of the forest and spotted an Adelaide’s Warbler. Warblers are some of my favorite birds. 

Northern Parula Male

In this part of the forest, it was moss grown on the road and it was very sweet smell all around that seemed like Basil though it was not Basil. The sweet smell is still a mystery for me to solve. There were also touch-me-not plants in the forest. They are sensitive plants that when you touch them, they will close up. 

We also saw something interesting, on the specific section there were so many Mollusk Shells, it was just impossible to walk there without stepping onto them. Not sure what was causing them to be in numbers in that specific patch.

After the sweet smelling grass/tree area, there was a turn and we stopped to search for the Hooded Warbler, but that didn’t go well. But our sophisticated Grackles made their appearance in the show. It was quite odd that we didn’t see them beforehand, but you know, grackles aren’t that fond of forests. I think they were in this area as this was near the wall around the city neighborhood. So Grackles must be sneaking in to check out the forest life. We scanned the trees for sometime and saw two birds on the top of the tall tree in the bright sunlight. We initially thought these were Gray Kingbirds, but the closer look with binoculars revealed one of them as a Puerto Rican Flycatcher. We also heard a Mangrove Cuckoo but it did not come out to see us.

We decided to return early as my parents had some work. On our way back we kept birding and saw another small bird going in and out on the tall tree branches. This was the Prairie Warbler. One of my other favorite and made my day.

The eBird checklist is here.

In the meanwhile, enjoy some pictures of this lush green San Patricio Forest right in the middle of the bustling city.

Thank you for reading and see you next time!

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