9 December 2012

Cuba 2012 - Part three

So, when we left it last time, I concluded by announcing that our wedding guests had arrived. These consisted of a small handful of my wife-to-be's close family friends and my best man Mike Feely. Due to their late afternoon arrival, the only correct thing to do was to give MF a brief tour of the complex, visit the beach to look at some sand and the sea and then get tipsy on rum & other delightful alcoholic beverages (all free of course!).
Caribbean brotherly love.
Feely discovers he has crabs...
The next day, 28th April, dawned wet & grey so MF & myself headed for the Eco-Marsh for a spot of pre-breakfast spotting. In a tight 50 minute window we managed to connect with the following species - Tri-coloured Heron, Cattle Egret, Snowy Egret, Great White Egret, Green Heron, Little Blue Heron, Cuban Emerald, 3 Yellow Warblers, 3 Smooth Billed Anis, 2 Spotted Sands, 2 Lesser Yellowlegs, Clapper Rail, Cape May Warbler and some Antillean Nighthawks.
Yellow Warbler
Clapper Rail
Cuban Emerald
After breakfast and with the inclement weather moving out to sea, we headed for an area of different habitat just NW of the resort but still within sight of the  beach bar. This habitat consists of thick scrub, almost mangrove like but without the boggy understorey. Again, it appeared that the preceding shitty weather had dumped an whole plethora of gems. It was here that we experienced the highlight of the trip (birding wise). In just over an hour of easy laid back birding, in a relatively tiny area, we were smothered in yanks. The list reads - 3 Cape May Warblers, 6 female & four male Yank Redstarts, Common Yellowthroat, 2 male Blackpolls, 6 Parulas, 2 Black & White Warblers & a Western Spindalis. At one point, MF announced ''Why isn't there an Ovenbird sat on them branches over there?'' - Within minutes, there was!
Feely watching Yank Redstarts
Cape May Warbler
Mid afternoon was spent catching some rays on the beach and sipping far too many ice cold rum cocktails (this became a recurring theme naturally).
The 29th kinda followed the same pattern with birding around the 'Scrubby Area' in the morning and drinking & perving around the pool in the afternoon. Highlights from the morning however included a fucking corking male Black-throated Blue Warbler, 15 Yank Redstarts (7 males), 5 Parulas, Blackpoll & a Cuban Pewee! The afternoons highlights included some rather skimpy bikinis, 15 Turkey Vultures kettling over the pool and an Anhinga bombing overhead and out to sea.
Yank Redstart
Some Turkey Vultures
The 30th (two days til the beach wedding) once again dawned wet (very wet) but warm. From what I recall, I didn't go out birding in the morning (I think Mike might have done tho). Instead I lazed around in the lobby, drinking rum, playing pool and enjoying not doing much. Just after midday, due to a break in the weather, we met at a restaurant for some grub. This was a very brief gathering though as a proper mental tropical storm swept in and caused us to dash back to our apartment. During a 90 minute spell from 2pm, I witnessed rain and thunder & lightening like I have never experienced before. Stood on the balcony, squinting thru sheets of torrential rain at bolts of lightening hitting the ground only a few hundred yard away whilst having ones ears demolished by the monstrous sound of thunder directly above was pretty exhilarating yet terrifying too!
Before the rain came...
Back at the apartment - wet.
We named this 'Tropical Storm Wank Bastard!'
During this time, a flock of 6 'Yellowleg Sp' flew over to the south, a Zenaida Dove dodged the lightening and an amazing spectacle of over 16 Antillean Nighthawks; normally a crepuscular species, these creatures were swarming around above us in the middle of the afternoon taking advantage of the insects that were being pushed down by the rain! Stunning!

So, with less than 48hrs to go til the ceremony and no sign of a break in the constant precipitation (and now most of the complex flooded), we were becoming increasingly concerned. Would our dream of a gorgeous caribbean beach wedding become a wet nightmare...

To be continued.