Second day in the Dominican

White-cheeked Pintail

We spent the first day on our vacation catching up on sleep and getting acquainted with the services the resort has to offer. We booked reservations at each of the specialty restaurants (Mexican, Italian, seafood, Oriental, and steakhouse) and arranged a non-birding excursion to Catalina Island. On our second day we spent more time exploring the resort. My goal was to get up early and hit the beach at sunrise to see if I could find some beach birds (gulls, terns, shorebirds, pelicans, frigatebirds) before the beach crowd arrived. Doran decided to come with me, and we did get to see the sunrise. Unfortunately there were still no birds present, and enough people up and walking around to make getting a clear photo of the beach difficult.

Caribbean Sunrise

Caribbean Sunrise

We took a walk around the outer edge of the resort and found a few birds of interest. As usual, the Antillean Palm-Swifts were sweeping across the sky, while Gray Kingbirds were calling from the tops of exposed branches. They sound just similar enough to the Eastern Kingbirds of Ontario that I was able to recognize their calls. We saw a couple of Hispaniolan Woodpeckers, several grackles and Palmchats, and a couple of House Sparrows. The road along the eastern border of the resort was quite birdy, and I saw one Northern Parula and one vireo/warbler that I wasn’t able to identify.

Massage Hut

Palmchat

Doran pointed out a Bananaquit sitting on a fence singing his heart out:

We were in an employees-only area heading toward the resort entrance when we saw a larger bird fly in and chase off a smaller Palmchat. It didn’t move as quickly, and when I saw the eye I blurted out “That’s a cuckoo!” Unfortunately it disappeared before I could see any other field marks. I suspect it was a Hispaniolan Lizard-cuckoo, which is quite common, but didn’t want to count it without being sure.

We made our way around the front of the resort to entrance beyond the lobby. To the left of the lobby is a small building housing a couple of gift shops, a cigar shop, and a currency exchange. There is a hedge there with red flowers in bloom, and to my delight there was a hummingbird visiting the blossoms! It was much larger than the Vervain Hummingbird I’d seen on our first day, and definitely larger than the familiar Ruby-throated Hummingbird of the Northeast. I tried taking a few photos, but the thin cover of clouds made it difficult for my camera to focus on the quick-moving bird. It was a female, of course, with the typical bright green back and white underparts. Still, one image showed the blue and purple colours of the tail feathers, confirming its identity of Antillean Mango! She had a long, black, slightly decurved bill and white on the ends of her tail feathers. She worked her way along the hedge, then flew off to parts unknown.

Antillean Mango

We also saw a pair of Bananaquits in a shrub next to the building. One flew across the path in front of us, followed by a second. When we saw the first bird feeding the second we realized that the second was a juvenile. It stayed in the shrub when its parent flew off to find more food. Bananaquits feed on small insects and spiders, as well as fruits and nectar – I remember seeing a pair visiting a hummingbird feeder in Mexico! You can tell that this is a young bird by the bright orange fleshy gape at the corner of its mouth.

Bananaquit

The most surprising bird we saw was the White-cheeked Pintail. There were four of them, all swimming in the chlorinated swimming pool! They are supposed to prefer salt water ponds and lagoons, as well as mangrove swamps and marshes containing brackish water – why they were in the pool when there was a perfectly good natural pond nearby I had no idea!

White-cheeked Pintail

On our way back to our room we found a Gray Kingbird and a European Collared Dove perching in the trees outside our building. They were both super close, and to my surprise the kingbird had what looked like a dead leaf in its mouth. It wasn’t until I got my binoculars up that I realized the leaf was a butterfly, and that it was eating it! This looked like a new butterfly for me, too, though I haven’t quite identified it yet.

Gray Kingbird with butterfly

European Collared Dove

We spent the rest of the morning relaxing, and while I was reading on the balcony enjoying the warmth, I was surprised to feel the whole building shake. I survived the 2010 earthquake that struck close to Ottawa while I was at work on the 26th floor of my building; I knew what it was immediately. I didn’t see anything online shortly after, but one of my naturalist friends was able to confirm that a 5.3 magnitude earthquake occurred 53 km south of Punta Cana at 9:33 am. Doran was worried about aftershocks, but for me it just another exciting thing about being in the Dominican! Not long after one of the Hispaniolan Woodpeckers landed on a palm tree just outside our room and began pecking at the tree.

Hispaniolan Woodpecker

I was eager for another glimpse of the Vervain Hummingbird in the Lantana garden, so after lunch I headed up there to see what was visiting the flowers. I found a few familiar butterflies, including this White Peacock…

White Peacock

…and this Gulf Fritillary.

Gulf Fritillary

This Tropical Checkered Skipper was a new butterfly for me, but I didn’t have any problems identifying it as it looked quite similar to the Orcas Checkered Skipper I’d seen in Costa Rica. I hadn’t purchased a field guide for insects, but Googling led me to this list of butterflies and moths of the Dominican Republic. There are only two checkered skippers on that list, and one of them has a black background with white spots which clearly is not this fellow. I believe this is a male Tropical Checkered Skipper as the males have many white hair-scales covering the basal area of the upper wings, giving them a very grey appearance. Females have dark brown hair-scales giving them a much darker appearance.

Tropical Checkered Skipper

I wasn’t there long before the Vervain Hummingbird visited the flowers again, and this time I got a much nicer photo! I was really hoping to get a photo of her perching, but she flies off so quickly that I keep losing her against the green foliage. I suspect she doesn’t go very far, though.

Vervain Hummingbird

On my way back to my room I visited the natural pond once more. I didn’t see the pintails, but I did see a few people pointing their phone cameras at something on the rocks where I had seen the turtles the day before. I wasn’t surprised it was a Great Egret, for these large, bright white herons normally aren’t seen from only six feet away!

Great Egret

So far I’ve been happy with the wildlife on the resort. Greater Antillean Grackles and Palmchats are super abundant, Banaquits and House Sparrows seem to like the outer fringes with a few found in the busier areas, and both Eurasian Collared Doves and Mourning Doves can be heard, if not seen, almost constantly. Turkey Vultures are not seen very often – so far I’ve only seen two soaring over the northeastern sky, but egrets fly over that area quite often, sometimes in large groups, heading east. So far I’ve gotten six life birds, and it’s only the second day of our vacation!

Sunset in the Dominican

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