We flew from Atlanta to Santo Domingo and took a cab from the airport ($40 US)to our hotel El Hotel Palacio in the Colonial Zone. Tuesday morning at 5:30 am our guide Steve Brauning picked us up at the hotel (email@example.com). Steve is an American missionairy who has lived in DR for 20 years. Birding is a hobby for him, and he doesn't always have time for a full day of guiding, so we were very fortunate. He knows the local birds very well and is active with the local ornithological society. He charged $200 for the day including breakfast, admission to Ebano Verde Scientific Reserve. We knew that we would miss a few birds by not going to the southwest mountains, but we didn't want this to be totally a birding vacation.
Steve had got permission for us to go onto the private reserve. We arrived just after dawn and began to hike up. We didn't care if we saw the eastern chat-tanager, and mainly wanted a leisurely walk for a few hours, then a return walk. The first part of the trail was pretty easy as it was the dry season and we heard all sorts of birds and saw many of them. The Narrow-billed Tody was an amazing bird, beautiful to see and very loud. The Hispaniolan Lizard-cuckoo, Hispaniolan Spindalis and Green-tailed Warbler were other special birds. We were forunate to see two Hispaniolan Parrots as well as hear and see several trogons. After a few hours the path became steeper, the rocks slicker due to the nearby river and it became harder to see the birds in the lower riparian habitat. So we turned around and returned to the station. We heard the piculet many times, and Steve spotted it, but every time the bird would go to the back of a tree or fly away before either of us got it in our binoculars. We also missed the siskin. After lunch at a comedor on the highway, Steve drove us back to our hotel. It was a perfect day.
On Wednesday we got up, packed and checked out of our hotel. We took a cab (200RD)to the correct parador that had the guagua for Sabana de la Mar, our next destination. We had heard terrible stories about the guaguas, but it was a very pleasant experience. We put our bags beneath our seat, then sat back and enjoyed the scenery for 3.5 hours. During the last 30 minutes the road was unpaved, but the driver had the windows closed and put on the AC. We paid $440 RD for the two of us. There were two reststops at paradors along the way for bathroom and food. Once we were dropped at the station in Sabana de la Mar, we had to get to our hotel Paraiso Cano Hondo, which is 12 km down a rock-strewn unpaved road. The men at the parador said the road was too bad and cars wouldn't go down it (not really true, but the cars we did see were rentals driven by Americans). However, two motocoche (motorcycle) drivers would take us and out bags. Since we had no other choice, we climbed on and had a fun, but somewhat scary, ride to our lodge. Cano Hondo borders the national park and has guides on staff to take you into the park for birding. Our guide Rafael was an authorized government nature guide, and he knew all the local birds, their Spanish, English, and sometimes German, names. He was also knowledgeable about the plants and geology of the area.
Thursday morning at 9 am Rafael led us down the Humid Forest trail from near the lodge into the park. It was about 3 km. We very quickly found the Hispaniolan Oriole. Then we heard a call overhead and saw the Ridgeway Hawk circling overhead. We watched for a while, hoping it would perch on a nearby hill, but didn't see it again. We could have gone on a separate hike to its nest for $100US, but decided we had seen it, and honestly, it looks just like a red-shouldered hawk. We kept hearing the picolet, but again it eluded us. We did find the Broad-billed Tody, just as cute as the other one but with a different call, as well as the Flat-billed Vireo. We had already seen the Palm-chat and White-necked Crow on the grounds. At the end of the trail we were picked up by a boat that took us to limestone caves and through the mangroves back to the dock of the lodge. We picked up some waterbirds during that part of the trip.
That night, Rafael took us on a walk starting at dusk to try to find the ashy-faced owl ($49 US for two people). We walked up and down the road as well as on trails bordering agricultural land to a coconut plantation. We saw fruit bats and Rafael and I saw the owl fly, but Mark didn't. So we kept looking, shining a flashlight into the crowns of the palm trees. Rafael tried making the call, but the owl wouldn't answer. Finally about 8 pm, just before we got back to the lodge, Mark picked out the owl in the top of a broad-leafed tree, just perching. We all got very good looks at it before it flew.
At the airport the afternoon of our return flight we saw a Caribbean Martin. We also observed many Hispaniolan Parakeets in Santo Domingo flying over the roof of our hotel around 5 pm as well as Yellow-faced Grassquits under the eaves of the hotel. In all we had 18 of the endemics and 70 birds.
H=Los Haitises E=Ebano Verde
Great blue heron-H
Little blue heron-H
Cattle egret-in fields everywhere
Black-crowned night heron-H
Common ground dove-E
Greater Antillean Elaenia-E
Bl whiskered vireo-E
Bl throated blue warbler-E
Yellow throated warbler-H
Greater Antillean bullfinch-E
Nutmeg mannikin-fields near Sabana de la Mar