Shortly after I had heard from Douglas about his recent trip I received a contact form through the website from one of the participants on the Boletas tour. It was Pete Smith's first time in Cuba and he has sent me a link to his superb pictures which include the best shot of a male Bee Hummingbird I think I've ever seen! This is the smallest bird in the world and, like those in the the next two pictures, is endemic to Cuba. The feathers on the head are iridescent and usually look black or green, but occasionally if the light catches it right, they show scarlet. Well done Pete. They saw it in the same tiny garden north of Zapata that we saw it when we were there. The local bird guides know where this is. Bee Hummingbird is considered rare and vulnerable and although it is widespread it is also missing from large areas of the island. There is one tree in this little garden on which the birds come to nectar and luckily the lady who owns the garden was persuaded not to cut down the tree, as she had wanted to do, in return for payment from the guides.
And here follow three more superb shots of endemics or near-endemics. The first is Cuban Bullfinch which is a widespread and fairly common resident though sadly it is often trapped and kept in small cages. Humans can be very cruel can't they.
Zapata Wren is a seriously rare bird. It is found only in the northern and central parts of Zapata Swamp and is found in dense saw-grass vegetation with scattered bushes that floods during the rainy season. The total population is thought to be between 600-1700 mature individuals and declining due to to habitat loss despite the protected status of the area (Birdlife International). I see this one is colour-ringed so it looks like someone is doing some work studying them and lets hope their chances improve.
The final picture is a great image of Thick-billed Vireo which is found only on the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Tortue Island off Hispaniola, two other small islands in the western Caribbean and on two of the northern cays of Cuba. It is found in coastal scrubby vegetation and the global population has not been quantified. Many thanks to Pete for sharing.
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Here we will post interesting news about what we and others have seen in Cuba.