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CUBA 
Endemics and Caribbean Specialities
13 - 24 February 2020

Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean and supports an impressive 28 endemic species, including the striking Blue-headed Quail-dove, the brightly coloured Cuban Tody and perhaps its most famous resident the tiny Bee Hummingbird, the smallest bird in the world. This tour has been carefully designed to give us the best chance of seeing almost all of these, with only the near-extinct Cuban Kite and the extremely elusive Zapata Rail unlikely. Additionally, there are also a few near-endemic species such as Cuban Parrot and Cuban Emerald which will also be searched for, as well as a good selection of sought-after Caribbean specialities including Red-legged Thrush and West Indian Woodpecker. Add to that a good selection of overwintering birds from North America, including several species of warblers and it's easy to see why Cuba is becoming such a popular birding destination.

Day 1
Meet at the airport for our flight to Havana, then move to our first base in Los Baños. Time permitting, we may manage some evening birding close to the hotel.

Day 2
Today we start our Cuba birding experience in earnest, with a visit to the nearby La Güira National Park, where we will explore the beautiful highland forest. This area is excellent for endemics, including Cuban Bullfinch, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Blackbird and especially Cuban Solitaire, while Cuban Martin - an endemic breeder should also have begun to return to the island by the time of our visit. It also offers perhaps our best chance of seeing the rare Gundlach's Hawk, one of the hardest of all the endemics. We should also find a good selection of Caribbean specialities, including, Antillean Palm-swift, Red-legged Thrush, Scaly-naped Pigeon, Loggerhead Kingbird, La Sagra's Flycatcher and the near-endemic Olive-capped Warbler, as well others such as Red-legged Honeycreeper and Western Spindalis. Meanwhile farmland close to our hotel will perhaps offer our best chance to see the highly-localised endemic Cuban Grassquit, as well as others such as Yellow-faced Grassquit, Indigo Buntings and Blue Grosbeak.

Day 3
Cuba is a large island and today we will be reminded of this, with a long journey to our next base on Cayo Coco. The drive will take most of the day, though we will of course make regular stops, including for lunch, and possibly some new birds! As we near our destination we cross a 17km causeway on to the cay, from where American Flamingo, Brown Pelican and Magnificent Frigatebird are likely to be encountered.

Day 4
We spend the full day on Cayo Coco, where there are several interesting species to find. Cuban endemics include Cuban Black Hawk, Cuban Gnatcatcher and Oriente Warbler, while Caribbean specialities include Bahama Mockingbird and Thick-billed Vireo. Clapper Rail is another feature of these keys, along with several species of waders, gulls, terns and herons. A number of wintering ducks can be found on the lagoons, amongst which we will search for another Caribbean speciality, the globally-threatened and range restricted West Indian Whistling-duck. Additionally, the abundant vegetation on the keys also provides home to several species of passerines, including a host of American Warblers.

Day 5
We'll spend the morning on the nearby Cayo Romano, where in addition to others already mentioned we may find another endemic, the hansome Cuban Green Woodpecker, while others may include the likes of Mangrove Cuckoo and Key West Quail-dove. Afterwards we will drive to our next base in La Belen, Camagüey.

Day 6
A full day exploring the reserve at La Belen, where another endemic - Cuban Parakeet should be located along with the little-known and globally-threatened Giant Kingbird, which following its presumed extinction in the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, is now considered a de facto Cuban endemic. We will also search for the near endemic Cuban Crow, as well as the very similar Palm Crow, while further Caribbean specialities include Plain Pigeon and Tawny-shouldered Blackbird.

Day 7
After another morning birding at La Belen, where birds not already mentioned may include Least Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant or Northern Jacana, we transfer to our final base near Zapata, arguably the richest birding area in Cuba for a four night stay. Many species, including the endemic Cuban Pygmy Owl can be seen in the grounds of our hotel, along with Caribbean specialities such as Greater Antillean Grackle and Great Lizard-Cuckoo.

Days 8-10
Three full days to explore the Zapata area, which holds more Cuban endemics than any other region. High on everyone's wish list will be the tiny Bee Hummingbird, as well as the striking Blue-headed Quail-dove and the elusive Grey-fronted Quail-dove. The delightful Cuban Tody will also no doubt be a major crowd pleaser, while other endemics include Bare-legged Owl, Cuban Oriole and the rare Fernandina's Flicker. Although not endemic to Cuba - being also found nearby on the Bahamas - Cuban Emerald, Cuban Parrot and Cuban Pewee will be much sought-after, along with further Caribbean specialities such as Zenaida Dove, West Indian Woodpecker and Greater Antillean Nightjar.

One day we will concentrate our efforts on the dry woodlands near the tiny village of Bermejas. The birding here is excellent, with mixed flocks of wintering North American warblers, including Black-and-white, Black-throated Blue, Magnolia, Palm, Prairie, Swainson's, Worm-eating and Yellow-throated all possible, along with American Redstart, Northern Parula, Ovenbird and Common Yellowthroat. Amongst these flocks, we also expect to find two further endemics Yellow-headed Warbler and Cuban Vireo.

One day we shall make an early start and drive into the heart of the Zapata Swamp, which we will explore in search of the last of the endemics - Zapata Sparrow, Zapata Wren and Red-shouldered Blackbird. A fourth endemic - Zapata Rail is also present here, but the chances of seeing one is very remote. We should however see a good selection of wetland species, which may include the likes of Limpkin, Belted Kingfisher and Green Heron, while others may include American Kestrel, White-crowned Pigeon and Smooth-billed Ani.

Day 11
After breakfast we'll make our way back to Havana, where we'll have a few hours to explore the city with our guide before heading to the airport for our return flight to the UK, arriving early on day 12.

Havana Extension.
For those who would like to spend a little longer enjoying Havana, you can extend your visit by spending a night in the care-free capital. On day 11, when the others head for the airport, you will check in to a hotel close to the city centre before heading out for the evening. Havana is famous for it salsa music, cocktails and its paladar restaurants and a night out here will surely be one to remember. Next day you have all morning and afternoon to further explore the city, where you can visit a museum or perhaps take a tour in one of the 1950s convertibles. Later you will be taken to the airport for your return flight to the UK. If you are interested adding the Havana Extension to your holiday, please ask for details and prices when booking.

 

 

 

 

 

More Details

Total Cost £  TBA   Price Breakdown
Deposit £  TBA   Air price
£TBA
Single room supplement £  TBA   Ground price
£TBA

 

Whats Included
All Flights, All ground transport, Accommodation, All Meals, Drinking water, All excursions listed in the itinerary and Guiding services throughout.

Not Included
Additional drinks, Insurance and Items of a personal nature.

Group Size
Maximum of 12, including leader.

Leader
Dave Read, plus local guides.

General
The tour will be run at a relaxed pace with no long treks. Some early mornings can be expected, although we will often take some time to rest during the heat of day. The climate can vary from warm to hot and although this is the dry season, some rain is to be expected. There are a number of health requirements and you should consult your GP in this respect. Visas are required.

 

    

 

Financial Protection
Many of the flights and the flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL certificate go to www.atol.org.uk/ATOLCertificate

 

 

Cuban Tody

Cuban Trogon

Oriente Warbler*

Cuban Green Woodpecker

Cuban Pygmy Owl

Bee Hummingbird*

Black & White Warbler

Blue-headed-Quail-dove*

Bare-legged-Owl*

Red-legged Thrush

Western Spindalis

Images marked with *
are courtesy of Aslam Castellón.

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