Back in July of last year Yosiel Álvarez noticed that he, and others posting on social media, were seeing Tailed Cecropian Historis acheronta for the first time in Habana. This has always been considered as a scarce resident species in Cuba. On 21 July 2021 however on a visit to Rincon de Guanabo, Habana del Este municipality, he saw more then 200 individuals flying in mangrove forests, coastal scrub and ruderal vegetation near the road. All were flying west above the tree canopy at high speed. There are still some around in the area at this time indicating that have bred locally. The photograph above was taken just last week by Yosiel. What a wonderful opportunity to find the larvae in Cuba - something that has never happened before! The foodplant is thought to be Cecropia. You can read more about Yosiel's observations in the paper he has written here.
Antillean Palm Swifts at Vinales
I've just been sent the above image by some friends who are currently traveling in Cuba. They tell me that they loved watching the Palm Swifts entering the palm thatch on the wall of this building at Vinales. They were seen entering even at the lowest level which is around 2m from the ground presumably as they went to roost in the evening as they wouldn't normally start nesting until about May.
They do also nest in palm trees themselves such as these in Cienfuegos Botanic Gardens.
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
The Yellow-crowned Night Heron is found around the coast and lake shores of the tropics and sub-tropics of the Americas. It feeds mainly on crustaceans (crabs and crayfish) as well as insects and fish. This beautiful and interesting photo of an adult that has just caught what appears to be some sort of marine lamprey was taken a few days ago by Jose Alberto Perez Hechavarria. Well done Jose.
Blackpoll Warbler Setophaga striata is said to be a fairly common transient through Cuba in the autumn and spring, and also possibly occasionally winters on the island. This lovely photo of a female/immature was taken by Roberto Jovel in his garden in Baracoa in early November 2020. He says that in the east he sees them occasionally at the end of October/early November as they pass through on their way south.
During summer they can be found breeding throughout the boreal coniferous forest. They breed nearer to the tundra than any other warbler. Studies have revealed that the spring migration is primarily overland whilst the autumn routes over water were dramatically different. In the fall the birds migrate from their breeding grounds across the northern latitudes. Traveling east they converge on the north-eastern United States south to Virginia where they fatten up feeding on berries, putting on up to 2g per day. Most Blackpolls then fly directly from north-eastern North America over the Atlantic Ocean to their winter range in the northern part of South America with some stopping in the Antilles. This route averages 3,000 km (1,900 miles) over water, requiring a potentially nonstop flight of around 72 to 88 hours. What an amazing feat for a small Nearctic warbler.
A recent study demonstrated how climate change and habitat loss have combined to drive a 600-km northward shift in the breeding range of Blackpoll Warbler over the past 45 years. Even though the species is still extremely abundant across its range, it has been undergoing a significant decline since 1970. The rate of the decline is difficult to asses but assumed to be at least 25% over three generations (10.5 years). Therefore, the species is as a precaution now listed as Near Threatened.
The first Blackpoll Warbler that I saw was on the Isles of Scilly one October back in the 1970's. Sightings on this side of the Atlantic were commoner then they are now. Sadly those days will never return.
What a wonderful talent Brian Bilston is. And what a corrupt load of lying shits there are in this Tory Government. I hope you all remember this when it comes time to vote.
And here is another from Sally Hall written over coffee yesterday morning when the BBC asked what we were doing 20 May 2020.
Pity the Nation
And pity the nation who was once a beacon of democracy and is now a pitiful laughing stock across the world because of our lying self-serving politicians that enable the police to commit the crime of stealing and destroying the banner below because they didn't like its message. They are stripping us of our power to protest.
Cuban Sicklewing - Eantis papinianus
This beautiful picture of a Cuban Sicklewing Eantis papinianus was taken by Dayron Breto Benitez. There are few decent pictures around of this species and fewer still that are taken in Cuba. It is widespread across the island but not common. This one was photographed in the west at San Diego de Los Baños, Pinar del Río just last week on 16 December 2021. In my experience they do not stay long at each flower when nectaring so are hard to photograph and are rapid in flight.
There is a similar species found only at the eastern end of the island, and near Camaguey, called Munroe's Sicklewing Eantis munroei which has a slightly different forewing shape in having a straighter outer margin than E. papinianus and with a barely discernible falcate tip. E. munroei also has more extensive silvery scales over the whole of the distal half of the underside hindwing.
Thank you Dayron for letting me use your photo.
Adapted brilliantly by Brian Bilston from the original written by Rudyard Kipling in 1895.
Or as Ant & Dec put it more simply - we see what you're doing, we're watching you.
For what is said to be a common permanent resident in Cuba it is perhaps surprising that we have only come across the Purple Gallinule Porphyrio martinicus on one occasion. That was back in June 2015 near Vinales in the west of Cuba. We had stopped by the road in an area of rice paddies which is a favourite habitat. Their bright yellow legs and long toes enable them to climb about in the vegetation as well as to walk nimbly across floating lily pads as they hunt frogs and invertebrates or pick at tubers.
These lovely pictures were taken by Deryl Varela Cienfuegos in Matanzas, Cuba. Thank you Deryl for allowing me to use them.
This is the Abstract from a recently published paper describing a new species of snake for Cuba. I have blogged about this before but it has now been formally described and given a name. I have blogged about it before here but then it had not been described.
"The genus Arrhyton is endemic to Cuba, with eight currently known species. A new species, Arrhyton albicollum sp. nov., is described from the karst areas of Gibara, Holguín Province. The new species is closely related to A. redimitum, another eastern species, according to morphology and molecular phylogeny. It differs from all other species of the genus by having a conspicuous, white nuchal band, a contrasting black pattern on the head, a gray-colored body with faint stripes, and a high number of ventral and subcaudal scales. Additional comments on other species include new locality records and information on morphology and relationships."
The curator of the Cuban National Museum of Natural History, Luis Manuel Diaz Beltran, informed on his Facebook account about the finding in the limestone platform of the municipality of Gibara by Alexis Silva Garcia and Jose Raul Suarez Bauza on January 7, 2010.
The new species is barely 350 millimeters long and has a white collar that contrasts with the black of the dorsal surface of the head and the gray to pale grayish-brown body, with lines that are difficult to observe. Likewise, it is genetically related to the Arrhyton redimitum, also from the eastern region, but its look is unique among all the snakes in Cuba, and like the rest, it is harmless and non toxic.
Diaz Beltran pointed out that another characteristic is the conical projection of the rostral scale (that is, right at the tip of the snout).
'The only place where Arrhyton albicollum is known so far is quite impacted by local garbage dumping, the use of caves for various purposes, and the proliferation of invasive plants,' he added.
In his opinion, it is possible that the snake could spread, at least, along the coastal and sub-coastal strip between Puerto Padre (Las Tunas) and the municipality of Banes in the province of Holguin.
The Arrhyton genus is exclusive to Cuba and comprises 20.5% of the snake fauna, which is the largest snake family existing in any of the Antillean islands.
Welcome to our Blog
Here we will post interesting news about what we and others have seen in Cuba.