San Diego de los Banos, (Pinar del Rio Province) (S)
Lat: 22°37′46′′N 83°24′22′′W, 00 ha, 54 - 663 m ()
Best Time for visit; anytime (December 2016)
Birding Site Guide
Cuba is a wonderful, cheap country with lovely people and great culture and food and the wildlife is excellent and accessible. San Diego de los Banos is located in the NW end of the island 14 km N off autopista Este-Oeste on the 371. This small town is the gateway to the national park and a good place to stay is Hotel Mirador, where we stayed. It has a swimming pool, and a nice dining area if limited menu, but the place is spacious and clean with friendly staff. The only thing that marred our visit was the mourning period for Castro’s death in which no alcohol could be served or sold to nationals (and they wouldn’t serve us tourists in case the locals got angry! We should have bought beer at the airport!). Speaking of the airport, the luggage took about 2 hours to come off our plane (this after a delay at Gatwick), be warned. La Güira is a possible place to re-find Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Cuban race) though the area has in the past been selectively logged. The quest continues at Humboldt National Park (SE Cuba) and elsewhere, read here.
The entrance to the national park is 4.5 km W along the 371 through a former rich lawyer’s estate, Hacienda Cortina (photo of estate sign board) where he had established an arboretum. This area is well worth birding as it offers different habitat to the rest of the park and N American warblers are everywhere in winter.
The park is famous as the place where the caves are located where Che Guevara hid out during the missile crisis. They are well worth a visit and are one of the most accessible places for Cuban Solitaire (photo).
The list includes all birds seen from the town and in the park. Louisiana Waterthrush was most easily seen at the river a few hundred metres from the hotel. Fish ponds along the 371 in this area is where Snail Kite, Limpkin and a good range of water birds could be seen.
Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps, Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus, Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias, Great Egret Ardea alba, Snowy Egret Egretta thula, Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea, Tricolored Heron Egretta tricolor, Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis, Green Heron Butorides virescens, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Nyctanassa violacea, Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura, Osprey Pandion haliaetus, Snail Kite Rostrhamus sociabilis, Northern HarrierCircus cyaneus, Gundlach's Hawk Accipiter gundlachi Endemic Endangered, Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis, American Coot Fulica americana, Limpkin Aramus guarauna, Killdeer Charadrius vociferus, Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularius, Greater YellowlegsTringa melanoleuca, Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia, Rock Pigeon Columba liviaIntroduced species, Scaly-naped Pigeon Patagioenas squamosa, White-crowned PigeonPatagioenas leucocephala Near-threatened, Common Ground-Dove Columbina passerina, Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura, Smooth-billed Ani Crotophaga ani, Great Lizard-Cuckoo Coccyzus merlini Endemic (country/region), Antillean Palm-Swift Tachornis phoenicobia Endemic (country/region), Cuban Emerald Chlorostilbon ricordii Endemic (country/region), Cuban Trogon Priotelus temnurus Endemic, Belted Kingfisher Megaceryle alcyon, West Indian WoodpeckerMelanerpes superciliaris Endemic (country/region), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Sphyrapicus varius, Cuban Green Woodpecker Xiphidiopicus percussus Endemic, Crested CaracaraCaracara cheriway, American Kestrel Falco sparverius, Merlin Falco columbarius, Cuban Pewee Contopus caribaeus Endemic (country/region), La Sagra's Flycatcher Myiarchus sagrae Endemic (country/region), Loggerhead Kingbird Tyrannus caudifasciatus, Cuban Vireo Vireo gundlachii Endemic, Yellow-throated Vireo Vireo flavifrons, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea, Cuban Solitaire Myadestes elisabeth Endemic Near-threatened, Red-legged Thrush Turdus plumbeus, Gray Catbird Dumetella carolinensis, Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos, Louisiana Waterthrush Parkesia motacilla, Black-and-white Warbler Mniotilta varia, Tennessee Warbler Oreothlypis peregrina, American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla, Northern Parula Setophaga americana, Black-throated Blue Warbler Setophaga caerulescens, Palm Warbler Setophaga palmarum, Olive-capped Warbler Setophaga pityophila Endemic (country/region), Yellow-throated Warbler Setophaga dominica, Yellow-headed Warbler Teretistris fernandinae Endemic, Red-legged Honeycreeper Cyanerpes cyaneus, Cuban Grassquit Tiaris canorus Endemic, Cuban Bullfinch Melopyrrha nigra Endemic (country/region), Western SpindalisSpindalis zena, Summer Tanager Piranga rubra, Rose-breasted Grosbeak Pheucticus ludovicianus, Tawny-shouldered Blackbird Agelaius humeralis Endemic (country/region), Eastern Meadowlark Sturnella magna, Cuban Blackbird Dives atroviolaceus Endemic, Greater Antillean Grackle Quiscalus niger Endemic (country/region), Shiny CowbirdMolothrus bonariensis, Cuban Oriole Icterus melanopsis Endemic.
Jamaican, Common or Mexican fruit bat (Artibeus jamaicensis) is found at the caves as are Brazilian Free-tailed Bat, Mexican Free-tailed Bat Tadarida brasiliensis and Cuban Greater Funnel-eared Bat Natalus primus. The Lizard Anolis glaucogularis was seen in the park as was Cuban Slider (terrapin) Trachemys decussata.
Trips can be booked through the people I went with, my friends Nick and Lance who run Birding Abroad: Birding Abroad.