CU, Santiago de Cuba: Birding was not my hobby

Going to Cuba again this year was not originally part of my plans, but when I had to cancel postpone for an unknown date a trip up North, my itchy fingers instead found a last minute ticket, to a Southern Destination.

La Sagra's flycatcher
La Sagra’s flycatcher

I visited Cuba in the past (if you would like to see posts about old Havana, or learn about Havana, or Bellamar Caves), but this time would be in the South of the island, in the region of Santiago de Cuba.

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret is a small heron, usually found near grazing mammals. It is only half the size of a Great Egret. Can be seen in fields rather than streams, eating insects and other small animals found on the ground in grassy fields

It was our first flight with Cubana airlines, and I didn’t know what to expect. Various reviews were about lateness, as other flights to Cuba. But even with a little delay, they were able to recover some time. After the attendants came around with some drinks and they were asking for money even for a glass of orange juice, I was very surprised to see they offered free dinner. After 4 hours in the air, we finally arrived, happy to easily find our luggage, but not before going through another security check. If you think that security check is done only when you embark on an airplane, you are wrong. The security in Santiago de Cuba is more than diligent, and they asked us to take off our shoes, belts, etc. once again. They checked again our hand baggage, like they could be any different than the previous check. This was something new to us, never experienced an after landing security check in other airports in Cuba.

Spotted sandpiper
Spotted sandpiper

Spellbound by the greenery, beguiled by the ocean, I couldn’t ignore the amazing sunset on the first evening. And also I couldn’t stop noticing the time of the sunset (around 5pm), since we were the last ones to leave the beach. By the time we got to our rooms it was almost dark, and by 6 pm it was pitch-dark. Things taken for granted for locals, it was a mystery for me. I didn’t realize in the beginning, but there is such a simple explanation why the dark falls so fast after sunset. At low latitudes, the sun sets perpendicular to the horizon, while at higher latitudes, the sun can set at a more oblique angle, allowing it to remain close to the horizon after sunset for a longer period of time. So, if you are looking for a sunset photo close to the Equator, you don’t have a lot of time until the sun goes totally beyond the horizon. And also the sun rises perpendicular, so the quickest sunrise as well.

Greater Antillean Grackle
Greater Antillean grackle – their yellow eyes are the only non-black body part.

Never mastering to catch birds with my camera in the past years, it was time for a change. This year was generous to bring me a new camera and lots of birds on the way (see another post about birds and wildlife). Still having troubles identifying them, I’m doing my best not to miss any.

Common Ground-Dove
Common Ground-Dove

There are around 368 species of birds found in Cuba. Around 25 species of bird are endemic.

Turkey vulture
Turkey vultures are known to be able to smell carrion from over a mile away which is very unique in the bird world.

While I didn’t go to Cuba to watch the birds, I simply couldn’t ignore them since they came basically on my way.

Black-throated blue warbler - male
Black-throated blue warbler – male
Palm warbler
Palm warbler
Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird – The Mockingbirds are known for their singing abilities. A male mockingbird can learn up to 200 different songs.
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