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Birdwatching Magazine’s Cuba Bird Survey 2019 with David Sibley

March 2 - March 12

David Allen Sibley

Birdwatching Magazine’s Cuba Bird Survey
with David Sibley

March 2 – 11/12, 2019

You Are Invited

You are invited on an exclusive, U.S.-led and U.S.-managed birding program to Cuba sponsored by BirdWatching magazine in partnership with the Caribbean Conservation Trust, Inc., with special guest host David Allen Sibley, from March 2-11, 2019.

For the fifth time, BirdWatching magazine, in collaboration with the Caribbean Conservation Trust (CCT), is promoting a birding program to Cuba, the Caribbean’s largest and most ecologically diverse island nation. (Read the trip list from a previous trip here.)

The program is coordinated under U.S. government authorization by Connecticut-based CCT. In early 2018, CCT staff began their 23rd year of managing bird conservation and natural history programs in Cuba. Along with noted author and BirdWatching Contributing Editor David Allen Sibley, our team will include acclaimed Cuban scientist Dr. Luis Diaz, curator of the National Museum of Natural History in Havana, a bilingual Cuban tour leader, and local naturalists in three different birding regions.

The Caribbean Conservation Trust designed this itinerary to take you to Cuba’s finest bird habitats, most beautiful national parks, diverse biosphere reserves, and unique natural areas. We will interact with local scientists and naturalists who work in research and conservation. In addition to birding, we will learn about the ecology and history of regions we visit. Finally, and especially given the ongoing changes in U.S.-Cuba relations, we can expect some degree of inquiry into fascinating aspects of Cuban culture, history, and daily living during our visit.

Where we Travel

Our Cuba Bird Survey begins in the forests surrounding Las Terrazas Community, established in 1968 as a re-forestation and community-integrated development project. In Cuba’s post-revolutionary history, the community has blossomed as a model of sustainability and is currently a prime destination for ecologically based tourism.

Cuba’s Western Mountains include two of the country’s most diverse and dramatic ranges: the Sierra del Rosario and Sierra de los Organos. We will explore an area common to both ranges in search of western-range endemic species such as Cuban Solitaire. A highlight of the trip will be a visit to the magical, unusually beautiful karstic landscape of mogotes — the towering, lushly vegetated, flat-top limestone monoliths that dominate the Organos Mountains. This is the only region in which we will likely see Cuban Solitaire, Cuban Grassquit, Giant Kingbird, and Olive-capped Warbler. Other potential endemic species for western Cuba include Cuban Oriole, Cuban Green Woodpecker, Cuban Pewee, Cuban Pygmy-Owl, Cuban Tody, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Vireo, and Yellow-headed Warbler.

We will also explore the diverse wetland region of the Zapata Peninsula, Cuba’s richest and most important birding destination, located in the historic Bay of Pigs. This peninsula is a Ramsar Convention-designated site (the Ramsar Convention is an international conservation treaty) and is among the most important wetlands in the West Indies. Here, our highly experienced team will lead us through protected areas in Cienaga de Zapata National Park and other natural sites off the beaten track. The Zapata Peninsula covers more than 2,800 square miles and features easily accessible, Everglades-like ecology and habitat. Framed by the pristine Caribbean coastal environment of the Bay of Pigs, the peninsula features vast open swampland, low coastal forests, sparkling white sand beaches, healthy and accessible coral reefs, and refreshing natural limestone pools called cenotesBee Hummingbird, Cuban Black Hawk, Zapata Wren, Zapata Sparrow, Fernandina’s Flicker, Bare-legged Owl, Blue-headed and Gray-fronted Quail-Doves, and Tawny-shouldered and Red-shouldered Blackbirds are among the many birds we will hope to find (three nights).

Cayo Coco and Cuba’s Atlantic Archipelago provide excellent birding opportunities on Cuba’s Atlantic coast. These previously uninhabited and relatively unexplored islands were connected to the mainland by an 18-mile-long causeway in 1989. Cuba’s academy of sciences (CITMA) maintains a research facility here. The barrier islands and keys offer opportunities for: Cuban Gnatcatcher, Oriente Warbler, Thick-billed Vireo, Bahama Mockingbird, and West Indian Whistling-Duck, as well as numerous shorebirds and aquatic birds. We may also see rare endemics such as Zapata Sparrow and Gundlach’s Hawk. Accommodations are in a modern beachfront resort (two nights).

The outskirts of Sancti Spiritus in central Cuba provides a peaceful and welcome location as we move south and east from Cuba’s Atlantic coast. This lovely region is surrounded by lush valleys and foothills of the Sierra de Escambray Mountains. From here we will bird the Escambray Valley, bordered on the north by dramatic vistas of Cuba’s third largest mountain range, and to the south by the Caribbean Sea and its picturesque coastline. A lunch stop in historic Cienfuegos follows our search for Palm Crow and other resident birds.

Our program concludes in Havana, one of Latin America’s best preserved and most compelling colonial cities. You will have an opportunity to enjoy two evenings in Havana. A full-day extension option will include all meals and a guided city tour, including a walking tour of Habana Vieja (Old Havana) and the four original plazas, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. Old Havana is like a living museum and is currently undergoing rapid energetic change. As a special treat, we will also visit the home and private ornithological collection of Orlando Garrido, Cuba’s most prolific living naturalist and senior author of Field Guide to the Birds of Cuba (Comstock Books).

Registration & Trip Costs

Land costs for the 10-day program are $4,875 per person for shared accommodations. Add $525 for a single room. The one-day HAVANA EXTENSION option is $285 per person sharing, with a $75 single supplement and includes all meals, guide services, ground transportation, and a guided exploration of Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most unique destinations in the Caribbean. Trip costs are based on 12 fully paying participants. A lower number of participants may result in a modest small group supplement.


March 2
March 12
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