Wednesday, April 30, 2014

San Andres Island hotspots. Part I

The day after our arrival to San Andres Island, our only full day, started with a tasty breakfast at our resort.  We planned a full day visiting touristic attractions along the island coast and the hilly interior, an easy trip considering that this island is only 13 kilometers long.  Before departing, I took some minutes to see (and photograph) some birds walking among the tourists looking for leftovers... they were pretty familiar to us.
Ruddy Turnstone
White-winged Dove
I have to accept that it was a bit weird to see Ruddy Turnstones acting as ground-doves picking each piece of bread or anything else they can eat of the ground... and the White-winged Doves acting like our grackles, taking advantage of any neglect to steal food from the dishes on the tables.  After breakfast, we hired a taxi that showed us some of the most popular touristic attractions of the island... the hotspots.  After crossing the urban center at the north end of the island, we took the coastal road that runs along the island's rocky west coast.  Our first stop was at a museum known as the Island House (Casa Museo Isleña), an old colonial style home, property of the Archbold-Garnica family.
Casa Museo Isleña
Friendly guides explain you the details of living in such a house in the colonial times and give you dance lessons (reggae or calipso).  You can ask them to take the family pictures as well.
Cubilla-Archbold family (and a pirate)
Then, our taxi driver took us to the Morgan's Cave, the entrance to a cave system where supposedly Sir Henry Morgan (we Panamanians know him well) hid a treasure hundreds of years ago.  The cave is right in the entrance of the property..., but this is a touristic island, so they first took you in a guided tour through some little museums showing pirates stuff, coconuts stuff, a traditional dance show and the opportunity to take some photos aboard a pirate ship.  Then, you enter to the cave.
Gloriela at Morgan's cave
However, I was more interested in the property itself.  It had many trees... and birds.  I was already familiarized with the common species... like Bananaquits, Caribbean Elaenia and Yellow Warblers.  Then, I detected my second and third life birds for the trip.  First, a colorful Jamaican Oriole.  It remained me several species of yellow Orioles back in Panama, but this had large white panels in the wings.
Jamaican Oriole
In quick succession,  and more close to the ground, a little group of Black-faced Grassquits were working in some low bushes.  This is mainly a Caribbean species (although also found in northern South America), and one I was expecting.
Black-faced Grassquit (male)
Close to them, a Common Ground-Dove also said present.  I was not expecting this one... probably it simply went unnoticed in the bird lists I read before the trip.  In Panama, this species is restricted to the Dry Arc in the Pacific slope.
Common Ground-Dove (male)
In the way to the next site, we passed through Cove Bay.  In a wooded road, bordered by Bougainvilleas, I detected a movement in one of this flower.  I shouted "STOP" to the taxi driver and we left the taxi.  In a nearby fence, a group of three San Andres Vireos were chasing each other!
San Andres Vireo
I feared that I could not find this endemic, because, as I mentioned earlier, this was a family trip... and was not willing to leave my family to go look for it.  So it was simply GREAT to have this group right by the road!  The San Andres Vireo is completely restricted to this tiny island... and was my main target of course.  Notice the yellow lores, the lack of eyering and the two wing bars.  What a great experience!  We were in the middle of our tour along the island's hotspots... I'll write about other hotspot in my next post.

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