Winter Warblers and Endemics
February 19 – 28/ March 1, 2022
Cuba’s Western Mountains, Bay of Pigs (Zapata Peninsula), Northern Archipelago, Escambray Valley and Havana
You are invited on an exclusive, U.S. led and managed birding program to Cuba! The program is managed by the Caribbean Conservation Trust, Inc. (CCT), which is based in Connecticut. In early 2021 CCT staff began their 25th year of managing bird conservation and natural history programs in Cuba. Along with CCT Ornithologist Michael Good, our team will include a bilingual Cuban tour leader and local naturalists in 4 different birding regions. They will guide you through some of the best bird habitats in Cuba, the Caribbean’s largest and most ecologically diverse island nation. In attendance for the entire trip will be Jim Wright, author of The Real James Bond, A True Story of Identity Theft, Avian Intrigue, & Ian Fleming.
CCT 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 the regions we visit. Finally, and especially given the ongoing changes in U.S. – Cuban relations, we can expect some degree of inquiry into fascinating aspects of Cuban culture, history, and daily living during our visit.
According to BirdLife International, which has designated 28 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Cuba, “Over 380 bird species have been recorded in Cuba, including 26 which are endemic to the island and 29 considered globally threatened. Due to its large land area and geographical position within the Caribbean, Cuba represents one of the most important countries for Neotropical migratory birds – both birds passing through on their way south (75 species) and those spending the winter on the island (86 species).“ More recently, Nils Navarro, scientist, author/illustrator of Cuba’s only illustrated field guide to endemic birds, has identified a total approaching 400 bird species recorded in Cuba.
Our itinerary provides opportunities to see many of Cuba’s endemic species and subspecies, as listed below. This trip will also focus on the many migrant species that migrate north to Cuba to breed (from the south), and from Cuba to the north in the spring (endemic species and endemic subspecies in italics):
Bare-legged Owl, Cuban Oriole, Bee Hummingbird, Blue-headed Quail-Dove, Gray-fronted Quail-Dove, Cuban Black Hawk, Cuban Blackbird, Cuban Bullfinch, Cuban Gnatcatcher, Cuban Grassquit, Cuban Green Woodpecker, Cuban Parakeet, Cuban Parrot, Cuban Pewee, Cuban Pygmy-Owl, Cuban Solitaire, Cuban Tody, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Vireo, Fernandina’s Flicker, Giant Kingbird, Gundlach’s Hawk, Eastern Meadowlark, Cuban Nightjar, Red-shouldered Blackbird, Tawny-shouldered Blackbird, Oriente Warbler, Yellow-headed Warbler, Zapata Wren, Zapata Sparrow, Cuban Crow, Palm Crow, Cuban Emerald, Bahama Mockingbird, Thick-billed Vireo, & Western Spindalis.
Other species of interest include:
Great Lizard-Cuckoo, La Sagra’s Flycatcher, Loggerhead Kingbird, Olive-capped Warbler, Key West Quail-Dove, Ruddy Quail-Dove, Zenaida Dove, Stygian Owl, West Indian Whistling Duck, American Flamingo, Wood Stork, Roseate Spoonbill, and a great variety of wading birds, and numerous other migratory and resident species.
WHERE WE TRAVEL
Our Cuba Bird Survey begins in the forests surrounding Vinales Valley, among Cuba’s most dramatic landscapes. Cuba’s Western Mountains include two of the country’s most diverse and dramatic ranges: the Sierra de la Rosario, & Sierra de los Organos. We will explore an area common to both ranges in search of western range endemic species of birds and other fauna. The Western Mountains includes habitat unique to much of the world that is often captured in photos and paintings of rural Cuba. Here we will encounter submontane seasonal rain forest, pine forest, and tropical karstic forest. A highlight of the trip, we will visit 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 the Cuban Solitaire, Cuban Grassquit, Giant Kingbird, & Olive-capped Warbler. Other potential endemic species for western Cuba include Cuban Oriole, Cuban Blackbird, Cuban Green, Woodpecker, Cuban Pygmy-Owl, Cuban Tody, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Vireo, & 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 (international conservation treaty) designated site, and is among the most important wetlands in the West Indies. Here, the best local guides 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 2800 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 swamp land, low coastal forests, sparkling white sand beaches, healthy and accessible coral reefs, and refreshing natural limestone pools called cenotes. Bee Hummingbird, Cuban Black Hawk, Zapata Wren, Zapata Sparrow, Fernandina’s Flicker, Bare-legged Owl, Tawny- shouldered and Blue-headed and Grey-fronted Quail Doves, Red-shouldered Blackbird are among the many birds we will hope to find (3 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 causeway completed in 1989. Cuba’s academy of sciences (CITMA) maintains a research facility here. These barrier islands and keys provide unique opportunities for: Cuban Gnatcatcher, Oriente Warbler, Thick-billed Vireo, Bahama Mockingbird, West Indian Whistling Duck, as well as numerous shorebirds and aquatic birds. This region also provides additional opportunities to see rare endemics such as Zapata Sparrow & Gundlach’s Hawk. Accommodations are in a modern beachfront resort (2 nights).
Sancti Spiritus, the Escambray Valley and Caribbean Coast 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 it’s picturesque coastline. A lunch stop in historic Cienfuegos follows our search for Palm Crow and other resident birds.
Our program concludes in HAVANA, among the most authentic colonial cities in the Americas. Upon our return to Havana at the end of the birding program, you will have the option of spending two evenings in Havana, one of Latin America’s best preserved and most compelling colonial cities. Our full day EXTENSION OPTION in the city will include all meals, a guided city tour, including a walking tour of Habana Vieja (Old Havana) and the 4 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 the Field Guide To the Birds of Cuba.
Registration, Trip Costs, Terms, and Conditions
Land costs for the 10-day program are $ 3,895.00 per person for shared accommodations, with an additional $ 550.00 for Single supplements. The 1 day/night Havana extension option is $ 225.00 per person sharing and $ 275.00 per single traveler. Reservation forms are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, and must be accompanied by a $ 700.00 deposit payable to Caribbean Conservation Trust. Enrollment is limited to 12 travelers. Fewer participants may result in a reasonable small group supplement.
What is included:
CCT Cuba Bird Survey Programs include the following: all accommodations, all meals in Cuba beginning with
dinner on day 1, ending with breakfast on the last day of the program, guide services, most tips (guides, drivers, naturalists and restaurant and bell staff), airport/hotel transfers, ground transportation, bottled water, some drinks, admission fees (itinerary only), U.S. Department of Treasury authorization documents, and program management services which include the provision of all pre- and post-program materials, a full-time Cuban bilingual guide, bilingual Cuban naturalists, and a fulltime driver. Program fees help support Caribbean Conservation Trust’s bird conservation efforts in Cuba.
Travel to Havana, Cuba; Cuban Visa ($75.00) and Cuban health insurance (required by law and approximately $3
per day); items of a personal nature such as laundry, phone calls, additional beverages, bar and housekeeping tips, etc., U.S. passport fees, meals or accommodations outside Cuba, or other fees not listed in the program.
We suggest flying from south Florida to Havana with JetBlue, Southwest, or American Airlines. We aim for the earliest departures in each direction. We will provide all of the information necessary to make booking these flights simple & secure. Flight costs range from $ 275.00 – $ 350.00 round trip.
Regarding payment for the land portion of the tour, a $ 700.00 deposit is due as soon as possible to reserve space on these programs. This can be paid by wire transfer, check or money order payable to:
Caribbean Conservation Trust
353 West Todd Street
Hamden, CT 06518
Please do not write Cuba on the check memo or any electronic payment format.