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WINGS Birding Tours – Itinerary

The Dominican Republic

Monday 28 February to Tuesday 8 March 2022
with Raymond Vanbuskirk as leader
February - March 2023
with Raymond Vanbuskirk as leader

Price: $3,750* (02/2022)

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Although the 30 endemics are a primary focus of the trip, species restricted to the Caribbean, like the threatened West Indian Whistling-Duck, are found here too. 
Photo: Gavin BieberAlthough the 30 endemics are a primary focus of the trip, species restricted to the Caribbean, like the threatened West Indian Whistling-Duck, are found here too. Photo: Gavin Bieber
  • Although the 30 endemics are a primary focus of the trip, species restricted to the Caribbean, like the threatened West Indian Whistling-Duck, are found here too.

    Although the 30 endemics are a primary focus of the trip, species restricted to the Caribbean, like the threatened West Indian Whistling-Duck, are found here too. Photo: Gavin Bieber

  • We should encounter Ridgway’s Hawks near their main stronghold on the island, Los Haitises National Park.

    We should encounter Ridgway’s Hawks near their main stronghold on the island, Los Haitises National Park. Photo: Gavin Bieber

  • The active and often squirrel-like Hispaniolan Lizard Cuckoo is one of the island's more vocal endemics.

    The active and often squirrel-like Hispaniolan Lizard Cuckoo is one of the island's more vocal endemics. Photo: Gavin Bieber

  • Known locally as “quatro-ojos” the boldly marked Black-crowned Palm-Tanager is likely not a tanager at all.

    Known locally as “quatro-ojos” the boldly marked Black-crowned Palm-Tanager is likely not a tanager at all. Photo: Gavin Bieber

  • One of two tody species present on the island, Broad-billed Tody is always a crowd pleaser.

    One of two tody species present on the island, Broad-billed Tody is always a crowd pleaser. Photo: Gavin Bieber

  • Among the 3o endemic species Hispaniola Trogon is perhaps the most gaudy.

    Among the 3o endemic species Hispaniola Trogon is perhaps the most gaudy. Photo: Gavin Bieber

  • A ubiquitous sight in the country, the Palmchat is the only member in the family Dulidae.

    A ubiquitous sight in the country, the Palmchat is the only member in the family Dulidae. Photo: Gavin Bieber

Santo Domingo is the site of the oldest European city in the New World, and the capital city of the Dominican Republic. The country occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island 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 fewer than thirty-two endemic bird species, including Palmchat, the single representative of the monotypic family Dulidae and two species of Todies. Our search for the endemics and regional specialties will take us to the cloud forest, pine savannas, 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 look for the extremely rare Ridgway’s Hawk in lush limestone karst forest. Our visit to the Dominican Republic will be enriched by the gracious hospitality of its people and their excellent Caribbean-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, and those who arrive early may wish to explore the many historic buildings and museums close by. We’ll start the first evening with a visit to a nearby roost of Hispaniolan Parakeets. Night in Santo Domingo.

Day 2: We’ll begin our first full day at 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, 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-Ducks, which can often be found along a small stream in the gardens. Upon leaving the gardens we’ll begin the drive towards the town of Villa Barrancoli and enjoy lunch in the town of Azua. After lunch we’ll bird along the Rabo de Gato trail and around Villa Barrancoli before checking-in for the evening. The hotel accommodations for the evening are a bit rustic, but they ensure we are well positioned for birding some of the country’s best forest habitats early the next morning. Night at Villa Barrancoli Eco Lodge. 

Day 3: Today we’ll leave “dark and early” and make our first foray into the high mountains in the south-central part of the island, beginning with some birding deep inside Sierra de Bahoruco National Park at a site called Zapoten. This site is well known for being the most reliable site on the island for encountering La Selle Thrush, White-winged Warbler, and Western Chat-Tanager. As we ascend, we’ll make a few pre-dawn stops looking and listening for Hispaniolan Nightjar, Least Pauraque and Northern Potoo. Our main target just after dawn will be the very local LaSelle Thrush, which lives in a beautiful but restricted patch of cloud forest. Other highlights may 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. After birding the high elevation broad-leaf forest we will head further uphill into the pines to look for Hispaniolan Crossbill and the insular subspecies of Pine Warbler. After a nice morning of birding, we’ll make our way towards the small town of Duverge, where we’ll be staying for the evening. A bit of birding in the forests around Puerto Escondido may produce Stolid Flycatchers and Greater Antillean Bullfinches. In the dry scrubby forests downslope we should see our first gaudy and charismatic Broad-billed Todies, Yellow-faced Grassquit, and with some luck Flat-billed Vireo. A nearby streamside trail will take us through an excellent patch of humid forest. Birds abound here, and we should see quite a few endemics and a nice array of migrants. With patience we can often locate Key West (and sometimes White-fronted) Quail-Doves walking on the forest floor upslope from the trail. Least Grebes are regular breeders in the pools of the creek, and some of the truly rare birds, such as Bay-breasted Cuckoo, occasionally put in an appearance here as well. Night in Duverge.

Day 4: We’ll start the morning cleaning up on any species we missed the day before near Puerto Escondido along the La Placa trail. We’ll have lunch and then drive down to 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, lizards, and Plain Pigeon in the very bizarre cactus forest. We’ll watch the sun go down over the ocean as we enjoy a lovely dinner before turning in for the evening at Hotel Quemaito near Barahona. Night near Barahona.

Day 5: Today we’ll focus on the south side of the Sierra de Bahoruco. Our morning will begin with a more leisurely breakfast at our hotel before we drive south stopping at Oviedo Lagoon, where we will make arrangements for a boat trip later in the day. Here we might encounter American Flamingos, Roseate Spoonbills, or a nice array of shorebirds and waders. Also here we hope to find Mangrove Cuckoos and “Golden” Yellow Warblers lurking in the mangroves. From the lagoon, we’ll head further south to the shoreline at Cabo Rojo, where a small marsh often holds wading birds and the local subspecies of Clapper Rail. The bluffs around the cape provide nesting habitat for White-tailed Tropicbirds, and we often encounter Cave Swallows and Caribbean Martins above the cape, or the occasional Brown Booby offshore. After Cabo Rojo we’ll head uphill on the paved Alcoa Road to access an extensive upland pine forest. This forest is reminiscent of the longleaf pine forests of the southeastern United States, but here we’ll look for Hispaniolan Crossbill, Golden Swallow (now a Hispaniolan endemic as the population in Jamaica has disappeared), and Antillean Siskin. On the return trip to our hotel, we’ll take an hour-long boat trip out into the lagoon for close views of their resident American Flamingos, and a selection of breeding waterbirds and wintering waterfowl. Night at Hotel Quemaito near Barahona.

Day 6: Since most birders will visit the Dominican Republic only once, and since not all the endemics perform on command, today’s itinerary will be flexible, allowing us to return to one of the areas visited over the last few days to search for any missed species. We’ll start the day with a community-prepared breakfast at Cachote  before we begin targeting any species we missed in the previous few days. After dinner, we’ll check out some local areas for nightbirds, with the possibility of Least Pauraque, Ashy-faced Owl, “Northern” Potoo, and Chuck-will’s Widow. Night near Barahona.

Day 7: Today is largely a travel day (7-8 hours with a few stops), although we will offer a pre-breakfast trip nearby to look for Eastern Chat-Tanager. We’ll then head east to Santo Domingo for a beachside lunch, continuing on to Sabana de la Mar, on the Bay of Samaná. We’ll have a good chance of encountering an Ashy-faced Owl near our hotel in case we failed to locate it during our time in the Southwest. The hotel here is a real treat, with rushing streams all around the grounds, dried leaves impressed into the stucco walls, and wonderful patios. Night near Sabana de la Mar.

Day 8: For our last morning 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 Hispaniolan Oriole, and we often encounter Ruddy Quail-Doves in the forest understory. If time and conditions allow, we may also take a boat trip out into the bay and around the many limestone islets, stopping to look for White-crowned Pigeons, Hispaniolan Parrots, nesting Magnificent Frigatebirds and various waterbirds. In the afternoon we’ll enjoy a short boat trip near our hotel for a bit of leisurely birding before driving back to Santo Domingo for our farewell dinner. Night in Santo Domingo.

Day 9: The tour ends this morning in Santo Domingo.

Created: 25 October 2021

Prices

  • 2022 Tour Price : $3,750
  • Single Occupancy Supplement : $170

Notes

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Questions? Tour Manager: Stephanie Schaefer. Call 1-866-547-9868 (US or Canada) or (01) 520-320-9868 or click here to email.

* Tour invoices paid by check carry a 4% discount. Details here.

Maximum group size 8 with two leaders.

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