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CCNAB Blog-Cuba June 14-24/2016

Hello Visitors,

I am Brian Young's wife Lise and I enjoyed a 10-day guided tour of Cuba in June 2016. My very competent, patient and persistent bird guide is called El Chino de Zapata (aka Orestes Martinez). The quest was to photograph more birds on the ABA list for the website CCNAB and to take pictures of endemic birds of Cuba.

The birding adventures started in Havana and my guide and I ultimately travelled from Havana to Soroa, Viñales, Playa Larga/Playa Caleton and Trinidad City. As we were leaving Havana we spotted our first target birds, the male and female Tawny-shouldered Blackbirds. My bird guide is very gifted at making sounds through his lips and fingers and was able to attract these blackbirds to the closest tree. I was able to get some wonderful pictures of the colourful patch on the male blackbirds. We made several stops along the way and saw the Yellow-headed Warbler, Eastern Kingbird, Cuban Green Woodpecker. I attempted to photograph the Antillean Palm Swift, but this aerobatic bird is so fast and does not seem to perch.

Upon arriving in Viñales, I was treated to the beautiful song of the Cuban Solitaire. This is a splendid vocal bird that is quite difficult to see atop the highest branches of trees. We also happened upon a family of Cuban trogons which included two juveniles and a male and female. This bird is the national bird of Cuba, as it wears the colours of the Cuban flag, green, red and white.

Throughout my trip in Cuba we stayed in casa particulars. These are rooms that are rented out of private homes, sort of the equivalent of our bed & breakfasts accommodations. It was a nice way to meet the Cuban people and get to know their culture.

On the following days we were lucky to see the Olive-capped Warbler, Cuban Tody, Western Spindalis among other birds. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to photograph the male, female and juvenile Bee Hummingbird. The Bee Hummingbird is one of the world's smallest birds and measures 2 ½ inches in length.

To find the Zapata Sparrow and the Zapata Wren involved getting into a rowboat and a boatman polled us through a channel of water to the Zapata Swamp. After a bit of coaxing the Zapata wrens felt comfortable enough to call to one another and I was able to photograph this secretive and shy bird. Three Zapata sparrows were not to be outdone by the wrens. The sparrows came out to pose and be photographed as well. In this wet area we also saw the Cuban Emerald, Cuban Trogon, La Sagra's Flycatcher, Cuban Pewee, Great-lizard Cuckoo, Red-legged Thrush, a juvenile Turkey Vulture and a Northern Jacana.

In a forested area near Playa Larga I was thrilled to see and photograph a family of Fernandina's flickers, two Bare-legged owls dwelling in a dead palm tree. In an area known as The Caves, I was lucky to see a half dozen glorious Blue-headed Quail-Doves. Some of the bird species that eluded me on this trip were the Gray-fronted Quail-Dove, Ruddy Quail-Dove, Stygian Owl, King Rail, Palm Crow and the Black and White-collared swifts. I had success photographing a nesting Greater Antillean Nightjar, Cuban Oriole, Cuban Parrot, Cuban Vireo, Northern Crested Caracara, Cuban Crow, Cuban Black Hawk and a Cuban Pygmy-Owl.

I look forward to a return trip to Cuba in the near future.

Written by: Lise Young

CCNAB Blog Portugal January 18-28/2016

Hello Visitors,

My wife, Lise and I traveled to Portugal in January 2016. This was our first trip to Europe and we were looking forward to photographing European birds that are on the ABA list. We were very pleased with the results, as we were able to capture the photos of more than 100 bird species, of which more than 40 were on our target list.

We began our quest in the wetlands around Alchochete, located 30 minutes from Lisbon, and included mudflats, marshes and saltpans. Some of the birds we photographed included the Common Redshank, Common Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Moorhen and the Common Greenshank, to mention a few. We also saw numerous White Wagtail, European Stonechat and a couple of European Kestrel. We were delighted to catch a glimpse of the magnificent and colourful Bluethroat. In the Cork Oak forests and rice fields we spotted our first of many Northern Lapwings. We also viewed many Glossy Ibis, Gray Heron, Common Snipe and two Squacco Heron.

We continued our trek to Mertola, which is a marvelous medieval town, with castles, beautiful landscapes and the meandering Guardiana River. We were guided by an excellent and very informative bird guide named Domingos Leitão. We birded in the village and saw many bird species including the Hoopoe, Song Thrush and Jackdaw. Domingos directed us to the Castro Verde Plains, which are the most important dry-grassland areas of Portugal. As well as the Great Bustard, many other rare birds live in these grasslands: Griffon, Black Vulture, Golden, Bonelli's and Spanish Imperial Eagles, Little Bustard and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Calandra, Thekla and Sky Larks as well as the Spanish Sparrow.

Portugal's landscape is beautiful and we saw a variety of trees which included orange and lemon trees, almond and olive trees as well as cork trees. We proceeded to drive south to the eastern part of the Algarve. We visited the Castro Marim Nature Reserve near the border of Spain. We spotted large numbers of Greater Flamingo, Spoonbill, Little Egret, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Kentish Plovers, etc.

Finally we drove to the seaside town of Tavira. We explored the peninsula of Sagres and saw many seabirds at Cape São Vicente, which is the most south-western point of Continental Europe. We saw some Black Redstart, Ring Ouzel and the Red-billed Chough including two Little Owl, that were perched on the roofs of abandoned farm buildings.

The Portuguese were very friendly, the grilled seafood was excellent, the landscape beautiful and we had a lot of opportunity to photograph a multitude of birds. We hope to return one day!

October 2013

Hello Visitors,

I spent three wonderful days from October 15th to 17th, 2013 photographing waterfowl at Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park in Scotland Neck, North Carolina. I was looking for specific birds to add to this website and I was not disappointed. This park boasts over 2,000 ducks, geese, swans, and other exotic birds from around the world. It is a joy to enter the various aviaries and watch and enjoy our fine-feathered friends up close. I strolled through various aviaries that had birds from the continents of North America, South America, Africa, Australia and Eurasia. The staff was extremely friendly and informative. The founders of the park, Ali and Mike Lubbock, went out of their way to make sure that I could find and photograph our wish list of birds. They offer a membership which entitles one to visit as often as they wish for one year and they also have a photo pass which enables photographers to unlock keyhole windows in the fencing to allow unobstructed views and photo opportunities of the birds in their habitat. It is a very easy 30-minute drive from Yarboro, NC to Scotland Neck and there are numerous restaurants in the area. This is a wonderful wonderland of waterfowl not to be missed. If you require additional information please visit: http://shwpark.com

June 2013

I traveled and spent over three wonderful weeks in June 2013, birding and photographing birds in beautiful and magnificent Alaska. I planned to photograph birds on Adak, one of the Aleutian Islands, followed by ten days of birding from Anchorage to Seward to the Denali Highway with my wife Lise and a further week on St Paul Island, which belongs to the Pribilofs.

I started my trip in Anchorage, Alaska and spent a few hours watching birds in the Westchester Lagoon and along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. The lagoon and trail are located near the shores of Cook Inlet. Lesser Scaups, Arctic Terns, Mew and Glaucous Gulls, Red-necked Grebes, Ring-necked Ducks, Orange-crowned, Wilson's and Yellow Warblers, Northern Shovelers, Green-winged Teals and Mallards were some of the birds that were seen.

I then flew to my next destination, the island of Adak, which is in the Bering Sea. I boarded a boat along with a several other birders for a four-day pelagic trip with our guide and owner of Zugunruhe Birding Tours, John Puschock. Once out at sea on the M/V Puk-uk, sailed by Captain Bill, we were able to photograph among many bird species,Whiskered Auklet, Ancient Murrelet, all three species of the Northern Pacific Albatross namely, Laysan, Black-footed, Short-tailed and seen but not well-photographed the Mottled Petrel and a second year-cycle Slaty-backed Gull. Upon my return to Adak, I stayed in accommodations in Little Michael's Lodges & Rentals and was warmly received by Cynthia who helped me out on numerous occasions including vehicle rental. I spent the next few days birding on land and was able to photograph, Rock Ptarmigans, Bar-tailed Godwits, Rock Sandpiper, (Hepburn's) Gray-crowned Rosy Finch, Dark-morphed Parasitic Jaeger.

I joined up with my wife Lise, and we set out on our road trip. Our first stop was at the Kenai Wildlife Viewing Platform at the end of Boat Launch Road, where we spotted Arctic Terns, dark plumaged Brant and Whimbrels. We continued towards Seward and boarded a boat from Kenai Fjords Tours called Captain's Choice Tours, which specializes in taking small groups of people interested in photographing wildlife and birds. As we made our way across Resurrection Bay, we spotted Orca and Humpback Whales and Sea Otters, all enjoying the waters. I was able to photograph the Whiskered Auklet and the Kittlitz's & Marbled Murrelets. Upon our return to the shores of Seward, I photographed the Wandering Tattler which was also on my target list. We toured around Cantwell and saw and heard many Arctic & Wilson's Warblers and the Gray-cheeked Thrush. We came upon a very accommodating and photogenic Willow Ptarmigan. We took a side trip to the Denali National Park and viewed the majestic peak called Denali (aka Mount McKinley). We spotted a Grizzly Bear and an impressive looking Bull Moose. We stepped off the shuttle bus and spent a few hours in Polychrome Pass looking for the elusive Northern Wheatear in the tundra-like area. This bird remains on my wish list.

I then flew to St. Paul Island for a few days of birding with St. Paul Island Tours/TX Corp. which included several guides during my 5-day stay. Among the many birds I photographed were the: White-tailed Eagle, Lesser White-fronted Goose, Parakeet and Least Auklets, Horned and Tufted Puffins, Buntings, Longspurs, Phalaropes, Snowy Owl, Short-eared Owl, Pacific Wren, Red-faced Cormorant, Red-legged and Black-legged Kittiwakes and Harlequin Ducks. Also seen were Steller Sea Lions, Caribou and Northern Fur Seals and the known island fox.

November 2011

From November 22-29, 2011, Lise and a friend went to Cayo Coco, Cuba for birding, rest and relaxation (in that order). They spent a splendid week birding in and around Cayo Coco, Cuba. An excellent local bird guide named Paulino Lopez Delgado took them to find as many birds as possible within 2 full days and 2 half days. Paulino picked them up at the La Laguna resort in a beautiful refurbished 1955 Chevrolet Belair and drove them around Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Romano and on the mainland. While birding with this knowledgeable guide they found 106 species of birds, many of them endemic to Cuba. Of note, in the province of Camaguey they saw the Zapata Sparrow, Thick-billed Vireo. Some of the birds seen near Cayo Guillermo were the Bahama Mockingbird, Limpkin, White Morph Great Blue Heron, Reddish Egret Dark Morph and juvenile Flamingos. At the Wild Boar Cave in Cayo Coco, Lise took some fantastic photos of a male and female Painted Bunting, the cute little Cuban Tody, Yellow-faced Grassquit and the Red-legged Honey Creeper. They were treated to four wonderful birds on one specific tree on the mainland, these included the Mangrove Cuckoo, Cuban Pygmy Owl, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Green Woodpecker and nearby they found a pair of Northern Jacanas and two juveniles. On the way back to the resort they took great pictures of a secretive Clapper Rail. All in all, it was a fantastic trip, weather-wise and bird-wise. If you wish to contact Paulino, here is his email address: jefe.cac.tcc@solmeliacuba.com Cell: (53)52673207 Home: (53) (33)520279

Stay tuned for more adventures.
Regards,
Brian Young


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