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Greater Antilles: Jamaica, Dominican Republic & Puerto Rico

On this epic multi-island adventure, we travel to three of the islands boasting the greatest number of single-island endemics in the entire Caribbean! The opportunity to bird Jamaica (28 single-island endemics), the Dominican Republic on Hispaniola (31 single-island endemics), and Puerto Rico (17 single-island endemics) on the same two-week tour is, for many birders, a dream come true!

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Price: $

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Leaders:

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Single Room Supplement: $

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Group Size Limit:

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Add a Title

Price: $

TBD

Leaders:

Add a Title

Single Room Supplement: $

TBD

Group Size Limit:

Deposit: $

TBD

This tour includes international flights from Jamaica to Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico, tourism permits in each country, legally accredited drivers for operating tours, and local guides to accompany us while birding at every site. These inclusions may make our price seem expensive compared to similar offerings by other companies.

Accommodation:

Mostly good standard accommodation throughout the tour.

Walking difficulty:

Mostly easy birding, with some uphill walking while we cover ground.

Tour cost includes:

All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.

Tour cost excludes:

Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks, and other items of a personal nature.

We use a certified agent and local guides for all islands on our Greater Antilles tour. This of course comes at a cost, but means improved chances for all specialties, smoother logistics, and more local birders involved!


JAMAICA


Day 1: Arrivals into Kingston International Airport (KIN) followed by our welcome dinner – the first of many delicious meals infused with Caribbean flavours that will be enjoyed on this trip! We will get straight to birding by heading out to look for the local furcata American Barn Owl, Chuck-will’s Widow, Northern Potoo, and Jamaican Owl. Night in Kingston.


Day 2: Departing early, we will make our way towards the arid scrubland in the south of the island. Here, we will encounter many of our first Jamaican endemics, namely Jamaican Vireo, Jamaican Mango, and Yellow-shouldered Grassquit. Other target species in the area include the near-endemic Stolid Flycatcher and the Greater Antillean Bullfinch, and it is also one of only two places on the island where the Bahama Mockingbird can be found. Although there have been unconfirmed reports of Jamaican Pauraque here, there has not been an official sighting since the 1860s. Following lunch at a local eatery, we will make our way towards the internationally renowned Blue Mountains (our base for the next two nights), stopping along the way at a site that promises up-close views of the endemic Yellow-billed Parrot. After dinner, we will have another chance to try for the endemic Jamaican Owl and Northern Potoo. Night in the Blue Mountains.


Day 3: The Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park will be our destination this morning, where we can target the tricky Crested Quail Dove and Endangered Jamaican Blackbird. Other species we will be on the lookout for today include Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo and Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo, Blue Mountain Vireo, Jamaican Elaenia, Rufous-tailed Flycatcher, Jamaican Woodpecker, and the charming Jamaican Tody (which often offers very close encounters). It is also here that we will likely have our best sightings of the majestic Red-billed Streamertail – endemic to Jamaica and the island’s national bird. After spending the entire day in the mountains, we may well have spotted half of the island’s endemics by the time we head back to our lodge! Night in the Blue Mountains.


Day 4: Continuing our exploration of the nearby forests today, we will focus on the thrush trio. Both White-chinned and White-eyed Thrush should provide good looks, but the shy solitarius Rufous-throated Solitaire will take some more work. We should also obtain lovely views of two more endemics: Jamaican Spindalis and Arrowhead Warbler. Departing in the late morning, we will travel northeast through the scenic Buff Bay River Valley and along the north coast to the parish of Portland. Following a tasty lunch, we will have some time for initial birding near the hotel. Night in Portland.


Day 5: Enjoying the aerial acrobatics of breeding White-tailed Tropicbirds along the coast, we will make our way to the single most endemic-rich site in the entire Caribbean – Ecclesdown Road. Here, we will concentrate on species not yet sighted, including Black-billed Parrot, the jet-black Jamaican Crow, and the glorious Black-billed Streamertail (now restricted to the far east of the island, where it emphatically defends its territory from the incursions of its Red-billed cousin!). In addition, the endemic Orangequit should provide excellent views, and other possible endemics include Jamaican Becard, Jamaican Pewee, Sad Flycatcher, Ring-tailed Pigeon, and Jamaican Euphonia, along with near-endemics Greater Antillean Elaenia and Vervain Hummingbird. As the sun sets on our incredible birding journey through this remarkably species-rich island, we will make our way back to the airport for a short 90-minute flight to the second-largest island in the Greater Antilles. Touching down, we will be taken to our hotel in the oldest European city in the New World, and the capital city of the Dominican Republic: Santo Domingo.


DOMINICAN REPUBLIC


Day 6: A morning visit to a site close to our hotel will give us a fabulous introduction to the avifauna of eastern Hispaniola. In this quiet oasis, we are likely to have encounters with endemic Hispaniolan Woodpecker, Black-crowned Palm Tanager, Broad-billed Tody, Hispaniolan Mango, and Hispaniolan Lizard Cuckoo. The near-endemic Vervain Hummingbird, “Hispaniolan” American Kestrel, Antillean Palm Swift, threatened West Indian Whistling Duck, and the rather dashing Red-legged Thrush can all be found here, along with the unique endemic Palmchat (the sole representative of its family), which constructs gargantuan communal nests in palm trees. From here, we begin our journey west to the impressive Sierra de Bahoruco, on the slopes of which can be found all but two of the island’s endemic species! We make a stop along the way at one of the most productive wetlands on the island. The landscape here is stunning, as vast salt pans, sand dunes, interdunal swales, and mangroves intertwine to provide near-perfect habitat for shorebirds, seabirds, and overwintering warblers. We may see Blackpoll and Prairie Warblers, Waterthrush, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Magnificent Frigatebird, Brown Booby, and a variety of other species of wader, waterfowl, and heron. Night in a small, comfortable hotel in Barahona.


Day 7: This morning, we enter the protected cloud-forests that punctuate this imposing mountain range. Dominated by primary forest, this region is home to the only known population of Eastern Chat-Tanager south of the Enriquillo Basin. Other species possible in this spectacular region include endemics Hispaniolan Trogon, White-fronted Quail Dove, Hispaniolan Spindalis, Antillean Siskin, and Hispaniolan Pewee, plus near-endemics Golden Swallow, Scaly-naped Pigeon, Rufous-throated Solitaire, and “Hispaniolan” Antillean Euphonia. After lunch, we will continue west to a narrow strip of riparian habitat where targets include both Broad-billed and Narrow-billed Tody, as well as Bay-breasted Cuckoo, Antillean Piculet, Flat-billed Vireo, and Hispaniolan Oriole. After a productive day of birding, we head to a small, independently-owned ecolodge located close to our birding sites for the next two days.


Day 8: A pre-dawn start sees us head north to a site deep in the heart of elfin forest, which will give us our best opportunity for encounters with endemics like La Selle Thrush, White-winged Warbler, and Western Chat-Tanager. On our ascent into this montane habitat, we’ll listen out for nocturnal endemic Hispaniolan Nightjar returning to roost. Other highlights may include Hispaniolan Emerald and Green-tailed Warbler, and the insular form of Loggerhead (Hispaniolan) Kingbird. After birding the high-elevation broadleaf forest, we will head further uphill into the pines to look for the gregarious endemic Hispaniolan Crossbill and the insular subspecies of Pine Warbler. Lunch is taken at the base of the mountain, followed by an afternoon to enjoy relaxed birding in the surroundings of our eco-lodge. Spotlighting in this area will hopefully produce Least Pauraque, Ashy-faced Owl, “Hispaniolan” Burrowing Owl, Northern Potoo, and Chuck-will’s-widow, before returning to our lodge for dinner. Night in Sierra de Bahoruco.


Day 9: Our final birding day in the majestic Sierra de Bahoruco will be focused on tracking down any high-elevation specialties not yet seen; potentially the relatively difficult Bay-breasted Cuckoo and Hispaniolan Crossbill. Early evening then brings a further opportunity to go after the nocturnal dwellers in the area before settling into our lodge for a final night in the southwest. Night in Sierra de Bahoruco.


Day 10: Today, we visit the shores of the largest lake in the insular Caribbean, and the remnant of a channel that once divided Hispaniola into two islands. At this hyper-saline wetland, lying 40 m below sea level, our primary goal is the endemic Hispaniolan Palm Crow, but also White-necked Crow (Hispaniola’s other endemic crow), Hispaniolan Parrot, the globally-scarce Plain Pigeon, Greater Antillean Bullfinch, and Greater Antillean Grackle. There are usually lots of American Flamingo and Roseate Spoonbill here too, and we will slowly bird our way back to Santo Domingo, where we will enjoy dinner in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Ciudad Colonial! Night in Santo Domingo.


Day 11: This morning, we take a scenic drive northeast to one of the jewels in the crown of the Dominican Republic’s national park system: Parque Nacional Los Haitises. Upon arrival, we board a private boat and journey along the mangrove-dominated bays dotted with sea caves and small islets that provide shelter for colonies of seabirds. Here, we also have the best chance for sightings of West Indian Whistling Duck. In the early evening, we will visit one of the most reliable sites on the island for up-close views of the endemic Ashy-faced Owl. Night in Santo Domingo.


Day 12: Today, we will visit one of the last strongholds of the endemic and Critically Endangered Ridgway’s Hawk. Deforestation and hunting have reduced the world population of this species to fewer than 200 individuals, all confined to a relatively small protected area in the northeast of the island. We have an excellent chance of finding this very rare and still-declining raptor before making our way back towards Santo Domingo, where we can visit a Hispaniolan Parakeet roost in the heart of the Colonial Zone before our last dinner on the island. Night in Santo Domingo.


PUERTO RICO


Day 13: Leaving behind the large island of Hispaniola, we will take an hour-long flight to the relatively diminutive neighbouring island of Puerto Rico – the easternmost island in the Greater Antilles and home to at least 17 endemic birds. Upon arrival, we will be whisked away from the sprawling metropolis of San Juan to an intact patch of native woodland (one of the largest lowland tracts of forest in the north of the island). This site supports many of the island’s widespread endemic species and is an especially reliable site for the Puerto Rican Lizard Cuckoo, which is common but can be rather elusive. The well-demarcated trails should provide us with good looks at such species as the striking endemic Puerto Rican Bullfinch, brilliant-green endemic Puerto Rican Tody, Puerto Rican Spindalis, Adelaide’s Warbler, noisy Puerto Rican Vireo, unassuming Puerto Rican Flycatcher, and near-endemic Puerto Rican Mango, along with specialities including “Puerto Rican” Loggerhead Kingbird and Mangrove Cuckoo. Following lunch in the field, we will continue south to the best site on the island to see the Critically Endangered Puerto Rican Parrot, as well as the Endangered endemic subspecies of Broad-winged Hawk. After waiting for the parrot to come in to roost, we will head to the dry coastal forests of the south for Puerto Rican Nightjar and Puerto Rican Screech Owl. We will then have a late dinner at our hotel followed by a well-deserved rest (unless anyone is feeling adventurous enough to take a dip in the bioluminescent bay before bed!). Night in northern Puerto Rico.


Day 14: La Parguera is one of the most reliable areas for Yellow-shouldered Blackbird, an Endangered species that spends a great deal of time feeding off discards from the breakfast table. Indeed, we may be fortunate enough to see it without leaving our hotel grounds! From here, we will head to a well-known site for Puerto Rican Woodpecker before making our way north into the lush montane forests, where the undoubted star of the show is the rare Elfin Woods Warbler, only discovered in 1971! This verdant habitat is also home to many of the island’s other endemics, such as the monotypic Puerto Rican Tanager, Puerto Rican Oriole, and “Puerto Rican” Lesser Antillean Pewee, together with the distinctively iridescent Puerto Rican Emerald and impressive Green Mango. We will also target the Critically Endangered “Puerto Rican” Sharp-shinned Hawk. Night in northern Puerto Rico.


Day 15: An early morning visit to the largest intact tract of deciduous forest on the island should provide us with an opportunity to mop up any remaining endemics before we make our way back towards San Juan. Here, we will enjoy a farewell dinner, and take time to reminisce over what will have been a simply sublime birding adventure! Night in San Juan.


Day 16: Following a relaxed breakfast at our hotel, we will be taken to San Juan International Airport (SJU) for our homeward flights.

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