This site will look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.





January 2009

Che Building
Ernesto "Che" Guevara

We went to Cuba, January 7-19, 2009, on a bird survey trip, sponsored by the Caribbean Conservation Trust, Gary Markowski Director ( The license to go to Cuba was issued by the U.S. Department of Treasury. We had to fly to Cancun, Mexico, and then to Havana.

There were 11 people in our group, plus guides, and Flat Stanley (see pictures below). We covered the whole island (see map below), looking for and counting the number of each bird species seen. Some days we had 6-hour van rides to get to the next birding place.

Our birding guide was Arturo Kirkconnell, who co-authored the "Field Guide to the Birds of Cuba". Arturo is one of the curators of the National Museum of Natural History of Cuba, which is situated in Havana. At each national preserve, we would pick up the local guide to show us were the target birds were.

My Cuba life bird list is given below, but the birds seen in the largest numbers were Turkey Vultures, Cattle Egrets, and Palm Warblers. The sky was always filled with Turkey Vultures, and the ground was covered with Cattle Egrets, especially where they were cutting sugar cane. Every cow had an Egret, and the "rich cows" had two or more. The Palm Warblers, being much smaller and of a brownish color were not as obvious, but were plentiful.

We arrived one day early, and had a guided tour of old Havana (see pictures below; unfortunately, I did not take notes on the names of the buildings). It was clearly very grand in the old days, but today it is very run down. Everything needs painting and fixing. There is some renovation going on in some of the old town squares, and they look grand again.

In the country side, there was a lot of evidence of the recent hurricanes. Many houses were without roofs, or had plastic sheeting covering them, and many trees were broken or down.

There are not enough buses in the country side, so people used one-horse two-wheel taxies that hold 3 people, or 4 wheel wagons that held 8 people, or dump trucks that held many people standing with no cover. People stood by the road side waving money, hoping that someone would stop for them. Government cars are supposed to stop for people. In the towns there were also pedicabs. In Havana, there were some fancy horse drawn carriages as taxies.

What cars there are, are mostly from the 1950's, and were used as taxies (see pictures). There are some modern cars from several countries. The Havana city buses are mostly from China. There were many nice tour buses about.

We had very good food, and too much of it. We got full meals at lunch, and of course at dinner - squid, shrimp, fish, pork, beef and chicken - usually grilled. Dessert most often was a tropical fruit puree with a piece of cheese on the side - not great. One night we got ice cream, and thought it to be the greatest dessert on earth.

At the smaller hotels, we received a welcome drink, either a Cuba Libre (rum, lime and Coca-Cola) or a Mojito (lime, mint, sugar, carbonated water, and rum). The Mojito is best, but not great. There wasn't much rum in them.

The Cuban music was great. Almost everywhere that we ate there would be a band of 3 to 8 musicians. For some time now, I have had on my iPod a CD by the Buena Vista Social Club, an old time Cuban group. In 1996, Ray Cooder went to Cuba and rounded up all of the old group, and they made a CD, did a tour around the world, even to Carnegie Hall. Two years later, a movie (Buena Vista Social Club) was made about this reunion that includes a lot of their music, interviews, and views of Havana. It is available as a DVD.

A Cuban boy (Carlos Eire), who was sent to the US at the age of 14, shortly after Castro took over, watched this movie as an adult. However, it made him so sad to see the poverty that after 15 minutes of watching, he cried and returned the movie. He is the author of "Waiting for Snow in Havana", a book about growing up rich in Havana, and coming to the US poor. He is now a Professor of History and Religious Studies at Yale.

Now back to birding.
The group saw 139 species. I saw 126 species, of which 36 were life birds. Of these, 23 were endemic to Cuba. I also saw 3 birds that may become life birds, and are "in the bank". For example, Arturo has petitioned the AOU for the Cuban Meadowlark. Two other birds under consideration are the Cuban Broad-winged Hawk and the Cuban Flicker.

LIFE BIRDS SEEN (E) = Endemic)
Gundlach's Hawk (E)
Cuban Blackhawk (Common) (E)
Cuban Broad-winged Hawk (BANK)
Plain Pigeon
Key West Quail-Dov (E)
Gray-fronted Quail-Dove (Gray-headed) (E)
Blue-headed Quail-Dove (E)
Cuban Parakeet (E)
Cuban Parrot (E)
Great Lizard-Cuckoo
Bare-legged Owl (E)
Cuban Pygmy-Owl (E)
Stygian Owl
Cuban Nightjar (Greater Antillean) (E)
Cuban Emerald
Bee Hummingbird (E)
Cuban Trogan (E)
Cuban Tody (E)
West Indian Woodpecker
Green Cuban Woodpecker (E)
Cuban Flicker (Northern) (BANK)
Cuban Pewe (E)
La Sagra's Flycatcher
Giant Kingbird (E)
Cuban Vireo (E)
Cuban Palm Crow (Palm Crow) (E)
Cuban Crow
Cuban Solitaire (E)
Red-legged Thrush
Olive-capped Warbler
Yellow-headed Warbler (E)
Oriente Warbler (E)
Cuban Bullfinch
Cuban Grassquit (E)
Zapata Sparrow (E)
Tawny-shouldered Blackbird
Cuban Meadowlark (Eastern) (BANK)
Cuban Blackbird (E)
Cuban Oriole (Black-cowled) (E)
Zapata Rail (E)
Spotted Rail
Cuban Macaw (E)
Antillean Nighthawk
Fernandina's Flicker (E)
Ivory-billed Woodpecker
Thick-billed Vireo
Cuban Martin
Bahama Swallow
Zapata Wren (E)
Cuban Gnatcatcher (E)
Bicknell's Thrush
Red-shouldered Blackbird (E)
Chestnut Mannikin (I)


Hotel Nacional - Havana

Cemetery for the Elite





Old Harbor Fortress


Book Sale in the Park

We Had Lunch

Ship Terminal






Flower Girls For Pictures



Lots of Tour Buses

Girl Celebrating Being 15


Symbol of Havana (Top)


Hemingway's Bar

Hemingway's Hotel Top Flr.

No US Flag at Airport

Old Cars






Countryside Taxies





Havana Taxi

Che's Hideout Cave



Chamber Maid Art


Resturant Art







Group Pictures


Flat Stanley, Pat, Arturito, Arturo

Marion and Kendric

Nearing Havana - Last Day

Final Banquet

Guanahacabibes Beach

Che Is Everywhere

Some Beach Trails Were Difficult

Restaurant Cat on Marion's Backpack


Restaurant Music

Cuban Parrots (E)

Cattle Egrets, Sugar Cane

West Indian Woodpecker

Camaguey - Hotel






Camaguey Logo
Old Water Pot

Invasive African Acacia

Small Bay Near Havana

Ceiba Tree (huge)

Plowing Tobacco

Wrapper Tobacco in Tents

[ TOP ]