Mar 19, 2017 - Panorama II
The DER below is from the expedition to Cuba that began on March 15, 2017.
Today was full of wonderful wildlife watching, both on land and underwater. Rising before dawn, a portion of our group joined two very knowledgeable local bird guides to walk through several protected woodland areas in the Zapata National Park region of southwest Cuba. Concurrent with searching for endemic bird species, the guides also shared ethno-botanical uses for a number of forest plants.
Zapata National Park is a designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve because of its tremendous ecological diversity as well as thoughtful human activity and management. Zapata is home to over 350 bird species, the greatest diversity of any group of terrestrial vertebrates on the island; 26 species are endemic, occurring nowhere else. This morning binocular-bearing explorers spotted 27 different bird types, including a number of those unique to Cuba. Among the highlights were treetop groups of parakeets, the colorful Cuban trody and trogon, two different sleepy-looking owls, Cuban orioles dining on banana plants, and multiple tiny hummingbird species.
After our early-morning bird observations and a visit to the Bay of Pigs Museum, the majority of us got into the water at Punta Perdiz to explore the near-shore coral reef. Snorkeling and scuba diving from the water’s edge, we swam among elk-horn and brain corals as well as gorgonian fans and barrel sponges. Schools of snapper and tangs circled, while parrotfish took bites of the reef in search of their desired algae. The lucky among us spotted long-nosed trumpetfish, barracuda or tiny fan worms.
An arts-filled afternoon and photography tutorial rounded out the day. Overnight we sail from Cienfuegos to Trinidad to continue our travels along the south coast of Cuba.