Colorful Hispaniolan Parakeets frequent the grounds of our hotel in Santo Domingo. Photo: Chris Wood
Site of the oldest European city in the New World, the Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola, the second largest island in the Greater Antilles. Dominated by the highest mountains in the Caribbean and ringed by a startlingly beautiful coastline, this varied landscape is home to no less than thirty-two endemic bird species, including Palmchat, the single representative of the monotypic family Dulidae. Our search for the endemics and regional specialties will take us to the cloud forest and thorn scrub of the rugged Sierra de Bahoruco, as well as to the bizarre cactus forest of the Lago Enriquillo basin, which is home to Palm and White-necked Crows, American Flamingos, and various species of herons, shorebirds, and waterfowl. A side trip to the very different North shore of the island will allow us to try for the extremely rare Ridgway’s Hawk. Our visit to the Dominican Republic will be enriched by the gracious hospitality of its people and their excellent Spanish-style cuisine.
Day 1: The tour begins this evening in Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic. Our hotel is situated close to the center of colonial Santo Domingo, which would allow any early-comers to explore the many colonial buildings or museums close by. We’ll start the first evening with a visit to a nearby site for Hispaniola Parakeet. Night in Santo Domingo.
Day 2: We’ll begin our first full day with a visit to the extensive and beautifully maintained botanical garden, centered on a densely forested canyon. A morning walk here provides an excellent introduction to the island’s birds. In addition to the ubiquitous Hispaniolan Woodpecker, we should find Vervain Hummingbird (ostensibly the world’s second smallest bird), Antillean Palm-Swift, the adorable Broad-billed Tody, Red-legged Thrush, Black-crowned Palm-Tanager, and Hispaniolan Lizard-Cuckoo. We can also expect to see the bizarre Palmchat, in a family unto itself, which builds enormous communal nests in palm trees. With some luck we may happen upon West Indian Whistling-Duck, which can sometimes be found along a small stream in the gardens . After lunch and some shopping for picnic supplies we’ll make the long drive to Barahona on the southwestern coast. Night near Barahona.
Day 3: We’ll make a very early start over a rough mountain road to visit the northern slopes of Sierra de Bahoruco National Park. Our main target just after dawn will be the very local La Selle Thrush, which lives in a beautiful but restricted patch of cloud forest. Other highlights might include Hispaniolan Emerald, Hispaniolan Parrot, Hispaniolan Trogon, Narrow-billed Tody, Green-tailed Warbler, White-winged Warbler, Western Chat-Tanager, Hispaniolan Spindalis, and Greater Antillean Bullfinch. We’ll gradually work our way back downhill into drier forest, where we’ll search for the peculiar Antillean Piculet—the only member of its genus—as well as Flat-billed Vireo and the very rare and endemic Bay-breasted Cuckoo. Night near Barahona.
Day 4: Today we’ll focus on the south side of the Sierra de Bahoruco. Our morning will begin with a leisurely breakfast beside Oviedo Lagoon, where we might encounter American Flamingos, Roseate Spoonbills, and a nice array of shorebirds and waders. Also here we hope to find Mangrove Cuckoos and ‘Golden’ Yellow Warblers lurking in the mangroves. From here we’ll head to the paved Alcoa Road and extensive upland pine forest. This forest has always reminded me of the longleaf pine forests of the Southeastern US, but here we’ll look for Hispaniolan Crossbill, Golden Swallow (now found only on Hispaniola), and Antillean Siskin. Night near Barahona.
Day 5: We’ll leave early once again for a second visit to the north slope of Sierra de Baoruco, arriving before dawn to try for Greater Antillean Nightjar and other nightbirds. We’ll then search for any dry forest species missed during our previous visit, and have lunch in a beautiful draw with lush vegetation and large trees, where we’ll have our best chance at seeing Key West Quail-Dove and Bay-breasted Cuckoo. We’ll also visit Lago Enriquillo; lying more than 120 feet below sea level, this intensely saline lake is the remnant of a channel that once divided Hispaniola into two islands. Our primary goal is Hispaniolan Palm Crow, but we may also see an interesting assortment of migrant warblers and possibly Plain Pigeon. Night near Barahona.
Day 6: Since most birders will visit the Dominican Republic only once, and since not all the endemics perform on command, we’ve added a flexible day, allowing us to return to one of the areas visted over the last few days to search for any missed species. If road conditions allow we’ll make a short trip to look for Eastern Chat-Tanager in the eastern side of the Sierra, and then just after dark we’ll check for Northern Potoo and Ashy-faced Owl on the way back to the hotel. Night near Barahona.
Day 7: After breakfast we’ll head east to Sabana del Mar, pausing in Santo Domingo for lunch. We’ll have a good chance of encountering the local Ashy-faced Owl near our hotel if we fail to locate it in the Southwest. Night in Sabana del Mar.
Day 8: Today we plan to search for the critically endangered Ridgway’s Hawk. This formerly widespread species is now extremely local and infrequently seen. By this time of year, adults are usually engaged in nest building, and we hope to have a nest site pinned down. Getting there will likely involve a relatively short but sometimes steep walk—well worth it for the chance of seeing this wonderful raptor at its nest! In the flowering trees we should also see the (soon to be split) Hispaniolan Oriole, and often we encounter Ruddy Quail-Doves in the understory. If time and conditions allow we may also take a boat trip out into the Bay stopping to look for White-crowned Pigeons, Hispaniola Parrots and various waterbirds. In the afternoon we’ll drive back to Santo. Night in Santo Domingo.
Day 9: The tour ends this morning in Santo Domingo.
This tour is arranged by our American partner WINGS
Updated: 04 January 2017