Dominican Republic 13th February to 27th February 2007

Dominican Republic page2 | Dominican Republic Butterflys and Moths

This year I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit the dominican republic. The purpose of my visit was a honeymoon after my marriage on 10th February. Bearing this in mind it was never intended for this to be a birding holiday so all 27 endemics were not sought after. My birding experiences abroad these days consist of birding early morning followed by the day spent with my wife. However my camera stays around my neck pretty much all the time.

My equipment for the trip was a nikon d70 with a 70-200mm f2.8 with a 2x converter. My first days results were dissappointing which led to me moaning to my wife about buying a new lens when I got back. Day 2 fixed all this when I set the camera up on much better settings. The problem was the light in early morning coupled with birds shadowed by tree canopy. I remedied this by shutter priority of f 1/125sec. The iso was set to 250 and automatic. This setup ensured no blurring, the correct exposure but just grainy shots early morning which got better as the sun rose. The d70 turned out to be a good choice over the d200 based on battery life and image size (650+ shots on a 2GB disk). The dissadvantage was not having the focus tracking and the 5 frames per second of the superior model.

The habitat was plentiful. Unlike Britain, the dominicans care for and respect their countryside. Because of this I was able to bird on the resort I was staying at and still see plenty of birds. I was situated at the resort of Bahia Principe, Rio San Juan which is on the north side of the island. Most of the birds seen were on the resort which held a small area of wood and adjacent reedbed. It didn't seem worth hiring a car to visit other areas as the surrounding areas seemed vast and very much the same. Some known sites would have been needed to added to the birdlist. Exploring wasn't recommended by the reps as an option.

I had no previous knowledge of what birds to expect so most of them had made up names until I got back. My knack for remembering bird calls and song was an advantage and is essential birding in a new area. The "tsit" call was a familiar one uttered from the tree canopy by several different species. After 2 weeks I was just starting to pick out the subtle differences in them but occasionally it would be from a different species so it was important to check all "tsit" like calls. The Yellow-throated Warbler was a bonus on the last but one day from this. The timing was interesting. Some migration appeared to be going on whereas many were in song, some had chicks and others were nest building.

Below are some of the birds I saw during my stay:

Hispaniolan Woodpecker

Hispaniolan Woodpecker. A common bird on the site and surrounding coutryside. Up to eight birds could often be seen squabbling on one tree. They were noisy and had calls similar to the Green Woodpecker.

Gray Kingbird

Gray Kingbird. Another common bird. This is one of the first birds to call in the morning. As soon as the sky started to change colour, the birds started to their twittering "tik-teerrrr" call. Often seen perched on exposed high branches or flycatching high up or chasing passing butterflys.

Antillean Palm Swift

Antillean Palm Swift
Antillean Palm Swift

Antillean Palm Swift. Another common bird. These ones on the ground appeared to be mating as the same happended minutes before.

Palm Chat

Palm Chat. A common bird which was actively nest building at this time of year. I would often see groups of them so they must be communal. An endemic to the island.


Bananaquit. Another common bird. The song sounded wren like and the call wasa "tsint".

Black-whiskered Vireo

Black-whiskered Vireo (thanks to Jeff Hazel for the id). A single singing bird on the resort also one heard Sosua beach. The song was a simple three note mistle thrush like whistle.

Smooth-billed Ani

Smooth-billed Ani. A bit shyer than the ones I saw in Florida. Another communal bird. A group of 6 on the resort which I only saw twice. The call was a soft "cur-lee", a bit curlew like.

Hispaniolan-lizard Cuckoo
Hispaniolan-lizard Cuckoo

Hispaniolan-Lizard Cuckoo. A superb bird seen on 3 occasions. The third time there was 2 together. Whether they were on passage or just in a different location in the resort is a mystery.

Black-cowled Oriole
Black-cowled OrioleBlack-cowled Oriole Black-cowled Oriole Black-cowled Oriole

Black-cowled Oriole. Three birds seen with just one on the resort. An easy bird to find as it would perched on the top branches of a tree with a "hwee" call.

Cape May Warbler

Cape May Warbler. 3 or 4 on the resort. No sign of them during the rainy spell we had around the middle of the holiday.

Greater Antillian Grackle

Greater Antillian Grackle. A common bird seen all over the resort favouring the restaurants. The Starling equivalent. A vocal bird with a loud call like a squeeky gate.

Yellow-faced GrassquitYellow-faced Grassquit

Yellow-faced Grassquit. I saw a group of these birds whilst on an excursion to the hills on an edge of a plantation.

Common-ground Dove
Common-ground Dove

Common-ground Dove. 3 birds seen at a coastal resort we stopped of at. The birds were walking around in a car park. The above picture is to show the size of the birds next to a house sparrow.