Cuba: Crown Jewel of the Caribbean

From Wednesday, January 8, 2020
To Sunday, January 19, 2020
Bee Hummingbird.  Photo by John Yerger.  All rights reserved. 
Bee Hummingbird.  Photo by John Yerger (all rights reserved).
 

CUBA: the very name evokes a certain mystique. To most Americans, restricted from travel there for half a century, Cuba remains an enigma as big as the island itself.  At 780 miles long, it is the largest island in the Caribbean Sea, and arguably the best preserved.  While other Caribbean islands have been overtaken by resorts and the myriad accoutrements of tourism, much of the Cuban environment remains refreshingly intact.  Over 20% of the landmass is officially protected.  As a result, Cuba boasts the largest tracts of undisturbed rainforest, the largest unspoiled wetlands, and the largest and healthiest coral reefs in all of the Caribbean.  However, hurdles still remain for Americans wishing to experience Cuba’s natural splendors.  We are pleased to offer a unique opportunity to support bird research that will aid in the publication of a new field guide to Cuban birds.  This program will facilitate interaction with local conservationists, study of Cuban culture, and—of course— appreciation of Cuba’s tremendous avian resources.

We will gain experience with most of the 27 endemic species. The impossibly small Bee Hummingbird—called “Zunzúncito” by locals—is not only the smallest bird in the world, but also the smallest warm-blooded animal. With plumage perfectly matching the colors of the country’s flag, it’s hard to imagine a more suitable national bird than the Cuban Trogon.  We will also learn about the role that conservation of the Cuban environment plays in the lives of birds that enrich our avifauna in spring and summer in the United States. Many birds that we consider “ours” actually spend a majority of their lives in the Caribbean. Over 280 species that breed on our continent depend on Cuba and other Caribbean islands to survive either their wintering or migration periods. Our program will not overlook the human aspect of this unique island. Cuban cuisine, cars, and roadside signs are all reflections of the Cuban melting pot that has fused Spanish, African, and Native American cultures. The Cuban people themselves are as warm and inviting as their tropical homeland. Join us this January as we explore the true nature of the nation of Cuba.

 

Length:  12 days

Why this timing:  Avoiding hurricane season.  With typically pleasant Caribbean weather, January is a great month to escape winter in much of the Northern Hemisphere...

What we like most here:  Incredibly friendly people and rich culture!  And, of course, unique birds.

Top birds:  Cuban Screech-Owl, Gray-fronted Quail-Dove, Cuban Green Woodpecker, Cuban Tody, Cuban Martin, Cuban Gnatcatcher, Oriente Warbler, Yellow-headed Warbler, and Cuban Blackbird, are thriving. Others, examples include the stunning Blue-headed Quail-Dove, Gundlach’s Hawk, Fernandina’s Flicker, Giant Kingbird, Zapata Sparrow

Other wildlife:  Cuban knight anole (largest species in the family) and Cuban Tree Frog – 80% of reptiles and amphibians found on Cuba are endemic to the island

Other attractions:  Havana: waves crashing on the Malecón, Hotel Nacional, Museum of the Revolution, Morro Castle and Castle of the Royal Force (16th century forts), Plaza de Armas

Climate:  Typically mild, between 65-80°F.  Storms are normally infrequent, but on a tropical island one must always expect some rain during a visit.

Environment:  Generally flat terrain, with a diversity of habitats: limestone mogotes and Cuba's famous tobacco fields in the west; Zapata swamp, an internationally treasured wetland, in the southwest; palm forests; tropical dry forest; shrubs and fields; mangroves and beaches.

Pace/style of the trip:  Relaxed to moderate pace.  A few long drives due to the limited highways traversing the island.  A few early mornings but typically we’ll go for a walk near our lodging, come back for breakfast, and then hit the road.  Mostly easy walking, too, although some of the roadside birding still involves standing and walking on slight inclines.  We will allow time for our Cuban guide to take photographs and make notes about any birds that we find, in order to advance the research that we are traveling to Cuba to support.

Group size:  Maximum 8 participants; 2 tour leaders

Lodging/meals:  Clean and comfortable lodging throughout, ranging from modern hotels to guesthouses.

Mode of transportation:  Van or minibus.

Health/safety topics:  Essentially crime-free, an extremely safe country even in the major cities.  Few if any health issues to be concerned about here.  Cuba is world famous for its abundance of highly skilled doctors.

 
Leaders:  Luis Diaz & John Yerger
 
Cost:  $5995 – includes all accommodations, all meals, ground transportation and guiding fees beginning and ending in Havana
 
TO REGISTER:  call 1-877-BIRDERS [247-3377] or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
 
 
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