We spent 22 days on this island after 13 days in Puerto Rico. We could take our time and found all of the 30 endemics and 11 Greater Antillean endemics. A total of 113 species were seen.
At the time of travelling we didn't know the book Ruta Barrancoli by Kate Wallace and others, but it is a book to have, if you read spanish you can download the pdf version on this website : http://dominicanbirding.org/node/3, Kate offered it to us when we met her.
We rent a 4x4 for 65€/day with Europcar, a 4x4 Honda CRV wich was good but not high enough. You can use a normal car for Los Haitises NP, even with the potholed road. A very high clearance 4x4 is the only way to join Barahona mountains and Cachote as the tracks are really bad and have apparently changed these last years.
If you want to find all the endemics you have 6 sites to visit : Los Haitises NP, Cachote, Lago Enriquillo, Rabo de Gato trail, Aguacate area in the Bahoruco mountains, and Alcoa Road near Pedernales. All these sites can be done without guide, and 2 weeks should assure you to tick all the birds.
Note that there is no stress at all at the military posts, they were all very friendly and never asked for baksheesh. It is a easy trip for independant birders (but you need a good car); few birds answered to the tape.
As we had some time we visited Del Este NP, Samana penisula for the whales, Salinas de Bani, Monte Plata... Monte Plata is set a nice green birdy countryside but we missed the Double-striped Thick-knee. We stopped at Laguna de Oviedo but there was nothing special.
LOS HAITISES NATIONAL PARK
In fact you don't need to go inside the national park to find the specialities. We stayed at Hotel Cano Hondo, rather expensive (66€) so we didn't eat there all the time, signposted on the left after the entrance of Sabana de la Mar. From there the fork for the national park entrance in after 8.100km, the hotel is 200m further on. If on a budget, there is a hotel in Sabana de la Mar.
There is a pair of Ridgway's Hawk just behind the hotel. From the entrance gate the restaurant is on the left, and a track on the right ascends to the hotel's entrance; there is a car park at the hotel, but the track continues up until the top of the building, passing a grassy platform on the right in a left bend. Just passed the platform there is trail going up then down, at the wooden gate take on the left down to the fields where the Hawks are. Precautions must be taken to avoid disturbance. The White-necked Crow visits the restaurant. For the Ashy-faced Owl we drove every evening after dusk for 3km along the road from the hotel, the 3rd day we found a pair nesting in a hole at the top of palm trunk exactly 2,300km from the hotel.
From the entrance of the hotel the road continues towards the paddyfields, before the end on the left there is a small stony track borded with trees going to some fields surrounded by rocky hills, then the trail enters in the forest; we saw very few and didn't go to the end but if you have time it can be interesting to go there, the first fields were more birdy (rather muddy).
To see the Hispaniolan Palm Crow we took the southern road n°46 (fresly tarred) until Duvergé, then Baitoa; 5km after Baitoa a group of crows were along the road in the cactus. One week later they were still there. The level was high so very few birds were seen on the lake.
RABO DE GATO TRAIL
A very good trail, we birded it 4 times; from Duverge (west of Baharona) you turn left at the 4th street after the Shell station (Lonely Planet says 5th), go straight, then the tarred road becomes a large dusty track until Puerto Escondido (20-25mn). At the entrance of the town you'll see the yellow-and-green house of the national park, stop here and buy a cheap ticket, wich allows you to go to the Barahonas mountains as many times as you want. Then go straight and at the intersection take left at the sign Rabo de Gato; follow your way and after 1,5km you'll see the Villa Barrancoli, a camp owned by Kate Wallace who leads Tody tours. There are 6 rustic cabins and 2 toilets and showers. The camp was empty but the guard Lalan lives here with his wife Mella. They are very nice and gave us a cabin for 4 nights (800pesos/night). Kate Wallace prefers that people call or email her in advance to book but we didn't. We had our food so we didn't take meals at the camp, we prefer to be free. If it is full there are 2 hotels in Duverge. There is a Least Poorwill in the villa's backyard, he came to the tape at dusk on the right of the restaurant.
The Rabo de Gato trail is in the continuation of the trail leading to Villa Barrancoli, from the camp just follow the track, gravel at the beginning (Broad-billed Tody, Hispaniolan Parakeet, Greater Antillean Bullfinch, Hispaniolan Emerald, Antillean Mango) and soon the trail runs along a river. From here it becomes very intersting, and the 100m before the picnic tables on the left and the 100m after are rewarding for the Quail-Doves; we saw the White-fronted several times, the Key West, and the Ruddy. A Bay-breasted Cuckoo answered to the tape at the picnic tables, then we put the sound very few and only the first note, and he came slowly and in view after 15mn. Antillean Piculet seen a little bit further on, and White-necked Crows sing in the palms in the end of afternoon. This trail was the best birding site of the trip.
AGUACATE (Sierra de Bahoruco)
This is the site for several endemics and quasi the only reachable site for La Selle Thrush, Western Chat-Tanager, Hispaniolan Highland Tanager; there are several others which can be seen on Alcoa Road site too like Pine Warbler, Hispaniolan Crossbill, Antillean Siskin;
From Puerto Escondido take the road to La Placa (at the intersection for Rabo de Gato); La Placa is after 10.5km, it is a military post where you have to show your entry permit. Be at dawn 1km before the post and put the call of the Hispaniolan Nightjar, they are in this area and can come. At the post there is an interesting trail where we saw Plain Pigeon and Antillean Piculet. Two kilometers after the post the very bad road begins and only a high clearance 4x4 can pass. With the help of Lalan of Villa Barrancoli we rent the Toyota Hillux of a man nicknamed "Allo" in Puerto Escondido, for 3000 pesos with fuel for the day. With this car it was much easy and reassuring to ascend the mountain.
From La Placa, there are 8km until Aguacate, another military post, you pass and follow the road until the best birding site 5km further on. On the way after the post you can stop in the pine area and look for the Antillean Siskin. You are at the limit with Haïti and there is no more forest on the haïtian side. So you leave the car 5km after Aguacate post and bird the road. In early morning the La Selle Thrush is in the area, and we saw several Western Chat-Tanager. The Chat-tanagers did not make the sound that we had on our tape, but made a small tic, tic that we recorded and put on ibc.linxeds.com. Hispaniolan Trogons, Hip. Spindalis, Green-tailed Ground-Tanager, Black-crowned Palm-Tanager, Narrow-billed Tody... But we missed the Hispaniolan Highland Tanager, so we came back 8 days later to Villa Barrancoli (where we met Kate Wallace with a group), rent the Toyota again and did the road a second time, we found the bird very quickly in a flock of Green-tailed Ground Tanager, in the La Selle's Thrush area. It was a peace of luck that the car was free as "Allo" uses it for working.
Very good site for the Eastern Chat-Tanager but you need a high clearance 4x4. We did it with our Honda but it rained during the night and the way back was very difficult and it was just luck that we could do it without any breakdown; it took us 2 hours to make the 16km.
From the village of La Cienaga south of Barahonas, turn right on an ascending white stony track (ask to locals), put on 0, follow always straight when you meet other trails, after 9km at an intersection take right; then you pass an antenna, at 15km there is a sign Visitor's Center, take right and after 1km is the gate of the Cachote Eco-Lodge. It was closed so we slept in the car. There is a trail going in the forest on the left of the road between the southern and the northern gate of the lodge; after the 2nd wooden bridge we put the sound of the Chat-Tanager that we had from a film on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVjD_2NVBLY ; 2 birds came quickly, but they did not sing. Two more we seen further on, and the following morning along the road close to the lodge. Many Rufous-throated Solitaires too in the area.
ALCOA ROAD (ACEITILLAR)
A few kilometers before Pedernales the road passes over another tarred road, which leads on the left to Cabo Rojo & Bahia de las Aguilas, and on the right to Hoyo de Pelempito. We stayed 4 nights in the Hostal d'Oleo Mendez, 800 pesos, and could bird the road several times even at dawn and dusk because it is not far from the town.
Put on 0 at the bridge, and follow this long tarred road. we saw 3 times the Northern Potoo in the lights of the car between 6.2 and 6.9km. We didn't note the km for the beginning of the pine forest, but it is easily found; the first pines are in a right bend, just after there is a trail on the left. We parked here at dawn, there is a very responsive Hispaniolan Nightjar just here.
Further on there is a big sign La Charca on the right; there is a waterhole where the birds come to drink but it had rained so they did not come. Anyway we birded the road around, better bellow than above La Charca rather quiet the 1st day but very good the 2nd : Hispaniolan Parrots, Antillean Siskins, Hisp. Crossbills, Greater Antillean Eleania...
If you continue the road it ends at the Hoyo de Pelempito site, you'll pay an entrance fee to go to a viewpoint where we saw very few. Fifty meters before the gate there is a closed track on the left signposted Sendero de Bahoruco, we birded it during 3 hours, it is only pine forest and we saw Merlin, Golden Swallows, Caribbean Martins, Hisp. Emerald, Hisp. Crossbill, Northern Bobwhite.
When returning back to the main road, if you continue under the bridge towards Cabo Rojo, after a few (6?) kilometers there is a small wetland on the left where a group of White Ibis come to roost at dusk. We saw Clapper Rail too, and a few waders, and Golden Warbler in the bushes on the other side of the road.
HELMETED GUINEAFOWL numida meleagris : Rabo de Gato trail
LEAST GREBE tachybaptus dominius : Rabo de Gato trail
BROWN BOOBY sula leucogaster : Parque del Este
BROWN PELICAN pelecanus occidentalis : coasts
MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD fregata magnificens : Parque del Este and Los Haitises NP
GREAT EGRET ardea alba : Los Haitises NP
SNOWY EGET egretta thula
LITTLE BLUE HERON egetta careulea : Los Haitises
CATTLE EGRET bulbucus ibis
GREEN HERON butorides virescens : Rabo de Gato trail
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON nyctanassa violacea : Los Haitises NP
WHITE IBIS eudocimus albus : Cabo Rojo
GLOSSY IBIS plegadis falcinellus : along Duverge road
TURKEY VULTURE cathartes aura
RIDGWAY'S HAWK buteo ridgwayi : Los Haitises NP
RED-TAILED HAWK buteo jamaicensis : Los Haitises NP, Alcoa rd, ...
AMERICAN KESTREL falco sparverius : very common in some areas
MERLIN falco columbarius : Alcoa rd
CLAPPER RAIL rallus longirostris : Cabo Rojo
PURPLE GALLINULE porphyrio martinica
COMMON MOORHEN gallinula chloropus : Los Haitises NP, Rabo de Gato trail
LIMPKIN aramus guarauna : Los Haïtises NP, Rabo de Gato trail
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER charadrius semipalmated : Salinas de Bani
KILLDEER charadrius vociferus : Los Haitises NP
NORTHERN JACANA jacana spinosa
WHIMBREL numenius phaeopus : Salinas de Bani
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER calidris pusilla : Salinas de Bani
WESTERN SANDPIPER calidris mauri : Salinas de Bani
LEAST SANDPIPER calidris minutilla : Salinas de Bani
STILT SANDPIPER calidris himantopus : Salinas de Bani
ROYAL TERN thalasseus maximus : widespread
SANDWICH TERN thalasseus sandvicensis : Salinas de Bani
ROCK PIGEON columbia livia
SCALY-NAPED PIGEON patagioenas squamosa : Rabo de Gato trail, Cachote
WHITE-CROWNED PIGEON patagioenas leucocephala : Los Haitises NP, near Barahona
PLAIN PIGEON patagioenas inornata : La Placa trail, Alcoa road
ZENAIDA DOVE zenaida aurita : PN del Este, Los Haitises, Alcoa rd
MOURNING DOVE columbina macroura
COMMON GROUND-DOVE columbina passerina : Los Haitises and Del Este NP
KEY WEST QUAIL-DOVE geotrygon chrysia : Rabo de Gato trail
WHITE-FRONTED QUAIL-DOVE geotrygon leucometopia : Rabo de Gato trail
RUDDY QUAIL-DOVE geotrygon montana : Rabo de Gato trail, Cachote
HISPANIOLAN PARAKEET aratinga chloroptera : Rabo de Gato trail, Alcoa rd
HISPANIOLAN PARROT amazona ventralis : La Placa, Alcoa rd
MANGROVE CUCKOO coccyzus minor : Parque del Este
BAY-BREASTED CUCKOO coccyzus rufigularis : Rabo de Gato, & along the road above La Placa
HISPANIOLAN LIZARD-CUCKOO coccyzus longirostris : Rabo de Gato, Alcoa rd, Del Este NP
SMOOTH-BILLED ANI crotophaga ani : several sites
ASHY-FACED OWL tyto glaucops : Los Haitises NP
BURROWING OWL athene cunicularia : near Puerto Escondido, Alcoa road
LEAST POORWILL siphonorhis brewsteri : Villa Barrancoli
HISPANIOLAN NIGHTJAR caprimulgus ekmani : La Placa, Alcoa road
NORTHERN POTOO nyctibius jamaicensis abbotti : Alcoa road
WHITE-COLLARED SWIFT streptoprocne zonaris : above the village of La Cienaga
ANTILLEAN PALM-SWIFT tachornis phoenicobia : Parque del Este, Alcoa road...
ANTILLEAN MANGO anthracothorax dominicus : most of the sites
HISPANIOLAN EMERALD chlorostilbon swainsonii : Rabo de Gato, Alcoa road
VERVAIN HUMMINGBIRD mellisuga minima : Parque del Este, Rabo de Gato trail
HISPANIOLAN TROGON priotelus roseigaster : above La Placa, Alcoa road, Cachote
BROAD-BILLED TODY todus subulatus : PN Del Este, PN Los Haitises, Rabo de Gato, Alcoa rd
NARROW-BILLED TODY todus angustirostris : Aguacate, Cachote
BELTED KINGFISHER megaceryle alcyion : Rabo de Gato trail
ANTILLEAN PICULET nesoctites micromegas : La Placa trail, Rabo de Gato trail, not easy to find
HISPANIOLAN WOODPECKER melanerpes striatus : widespread
YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER sphyrapicus varius : Alcoa road
GREATER ANTILLEAN ELAENIA elaenia fallax cherriei : Alcoa road
HISPANIOLAN PEWEE contopus hispaniolensis : Rabo de Gato, Aguacate, Alcoa rd, Cachote
STOLID FLYCATCHER myiarchus stolidus dominicensis : Del Este NP, Los Haitises NP, Rabo de Gato
GREY KINGBIRD tyrannus dominicensis : Del Este NP, Rabo de Gato...
LOGGERHEAD KINGBIRD tyrannus caudifasciatus : Del Este NP, La Placa trail
FLAT-BILLED VIREO vireo nanus : Del Este NP, La Placa trail
BLACK-WHISKERED VIREO vireo altiloquus : Del Este NP, Monte Plata
HISPANIOLAN PALM CROW corvus palmarum : Lago Enriquillo
WHITE-NECKED CROW corvus leucognaphalus : Del Este NP, Los Haitises NP, Rabo de Gato trail
CARIBBEAN MARTIN progne dominicensis : Alcoa road on Sendero de Barohuco
TREE SWALLOW tachycineta bicolor : Los Haitises NP
GOLDEN SWALLOW tachycineta euchrysea : Aguacate, Alcoa Road
BARN SWALLOW hirundo rustica : 1 at Cabo Rojo
RUFOUS-THROATED SOLITAIRE myadestes genibarbis : Aguacate, Cachote
LA SELLE THRUSH turdus swalesi : Aguacate
RED-LEGGED THRUSH turdus plumbeus ardiosaceus : seen at several sites
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD mimus polyglottos : seen at several sites
PALMCHAT dulus dominicus : Del Este NP, Los Haitises NP, Alcoa rd and other sites
NORTHERN PARULA parula americana : La Placa trail
GOLDEN WARBLER dendroica petechia : Cabo Rojo
CAPE MAY WARBLER dendroica tigrina :La Placa trail, Alcoa road
BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER dendroica caerulescens : Rabo de Gato, Alcoa rd, Cachote...
PINE WARBLER dendroica pinus : Aguacate, Alcoa rd
PRAIRIE WARBLER dendroica discolor : Los Haitises NP, Rabo de Gato, Alcoa rd
PALM WARBLER dendroica palmarum : Rabo de Gato trail
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER mniotilta varia : various sites
AMERICAN REDSTART setophaga ruticilla : Rabo de Gato, Alcoa rd, Cachote
OVENBIRD seiurus aurocapilla : Rabo de Gato trail, Aguacate, Alcoa rd
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH seiurus noveboracensis : Los Haitises NP
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT geothlypis trichas : Los Haitises NP, Alcoa rd, Monte Plata
BANANAQUIT coereba flaveola bananivora : widespread
ANTILLEAN EUPHONIA euphonia musica : La Placa trail
HISPANIOLAN CROSSBILL loxia megaplaga : Alcoa road, Aguacate
HISPANIOLAN SPINDALIS spindalis dominicensis : after La Placa, Aguacate, Alcoa rd, Cachote
GREEN-TAILED GROUND-TANAGER microligea palustris : La Placa, Aguacate, Alcoa rd....
HISPANIOLAN HIGHLAND TANAGER xenoligea montana : Aguacate
BLACK-CROWNED PALM-TANAGER phaenicophilus palmarum : seen at many sites
WESTERN CHAT-TANAGER calyptophilus tertius : Aguacate
EASTERN CHAT-TANAGER calyptophilus frugivorus : Cachote
YELLOW-FACED GRASSQUIT tiaris olivaceus : Los Haitises NP, Alcoa rd, Monte Plata...
GREATER ANTILLEAN BULLFINCH loxigilla violacea : Los Haitises NP, Rabo de Gato, Alcoa road
GRASSHOPPER SPARROW ammodramus savannarum : Monte Plata
GREATER ANTILLEAN GRACKLE quiscalus niger : Puerto Escondido, Duverge
SHINY COWBIRD molothrus bonariensis : Los Haitises NP
HISPANIOLAN ORIOLE icterus dominicensis : road to Sabana de la Mar, Monte Plata
ANTILLEAN SISKIN spinus dominicensis : Aguacate, Alcoa road
HOUSE SPARROW passer domesticus
VILLAGE WEAVER ploceus cucullatus : Salinas de Bani