Although this post doesn't relate directly to Vermont birds, I thought some
might be interested to know that I'm wrapping up 2.5 weeks of field work in
the mountains of eastern Cuba, surveying for Bicknell's Thrush with
colleagues from our local partner institute BIOECO. It has been an arduous
but exhilarating expedition, the majority of it in majestic cloud forests
of the remote Bayemesa range, where I'm told it's unlikely any human feet
have ever trod (though it is possible some Taino natives did centuries
ago). Much of our work involved creating a new trail to reach two
relatively inaccessible peaks -- we weren't able to get as far as even the
first of those (Pico Maceo). Chronic rains hampered our progress and made
working with machetes a dangerous proposition. My 4 Cuban colleagues and I
did manage to break some new ground, share some chilly and wet moments,
enjoy one another's company immensely, AND encounter some very cool birds.

Though this was my third trip to Sierra Maestra's highest elevations, the
endemics never cease to captivate. Cuban Solitaires and Cuban Trogons were
never out of earshot, and one simply can not tire of their songs. Cuban
Todies (one of 5 tody species, all endemic to the Greater Antilles) rattled
and scolded frequently, while engaging and curious bands of Oriente
Warblers sputtered and squeaked, often approaching closely. We ran 12 mist
nets on several days and managed to band many of these species (todies and
trogons being our big "miss"), which was very rewarding.

And, several migrants familiar to us in Vermont were present. Most common
were Black-throated Blue Warblers (6 of 33 birds we mist-netted were
BTBWs), and every one we saw or captured was a female. American Redstarts
and Black-and white Warblers were also reasonably common, with smaller
numbers of Cape Mays and No. Parulas. A surprise for all of us was the
capture of 3 Swainson's Warblers in our nets. This species, which breeds in
southeastern N. America, is apparently regular on Cuba, but none of my
local colleagues had ever seen one. And, of course, we found Bicknell's
Thrushes -- not many, only 7 individuals in fact, but this area is clearly
important overwinter habitat for the species on Cuba. We managed to mist
net and band 3 birds in Bayemesa.

If anyone is inclined to see a few photos and a short video, check out
VCE's Facebook page at I haven't
had time to post anything on the VCE blog, but hope to soon. Cuba is a
wonderful island, and its protected areas are in remarkably good shape. I
wish Hispaniola (where the majority of Bicknell's Thrush overwinter)
offered the species similar habitat security!



Chris Rimmer
Vermont Center for Ecostudies
PO Box 420 | Norwich, Vermont 05055
802.649.1431 x202