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Archive for February 21, 2010

Sunday 21 February, 2010 – Around Camagüey

As well as being a dedicated cactophile, Mike is also a knowledgeable twitcher, or bird watcher to you. This was his second trip to Cuba, the first, in 2004 was on a birding trip and he fondly remembered an excursion to a near by National Park from that trip.

So today was going to be a bird watching trip – no problem.

We managed to miss the turning on the road from Camagüey that Mike had spotted yesterday on our way in. Never mind, we found an alternative route, but the road was not as good as the map had lead us to believe. Never mind – Cliff & I had seen much worse in Brazil

The area around Camagüey is renowned for its agriculture, in particular sugar cane. But it seemed that many fields had been left to go back to nature where an Acacia sp. was the most successful plant to colonise such areas. Dense almost impenetrable fields were the result, with attempts to clear this pest by burning, to little avail. Where the Acacia had been removed successfully, cattle were grazing. There were some impressive looking trees in the scenery. Some had fallen victim to past hurricanes and included huge trees in the Family Malvaceae. There were also some trees that looked like the African Baobab Tree, or the Brazilian Cavanillesia arborea. Does that occur in Cuba? Is it an endemic? More questions to look up when we get home.

S1720 was for images taken along the track from the main road at El Horcon to the T junction where the right turn would take us to Najasa, a journey that took us about one hour. We saw the Cuban Baobab, impressive stands of Royal Palms and an equally impressive tree from the Family Legumaceae? that was heavy with epiphytic plants.  This tree had Orchids, Tillandsia, at least two species, and two species of cactus: Rhipsalis baccifera and Selenicereus pteranthus. What a plant!

A bit farther along the road (still S1720) a similar tree was covered in Spanish Moss – Tillandsia usenoides.

S1721 were shots taken near and inside the National Park at La Belen, or at least the Ranchero tourist part near the park where Mike had done his twitching and would do so again today. We stopped in the middle of a stand of Royal Palms where some peculiar birdcalls told Mike that the large black birds here were the rare and very localised Cuban Palm Crow. I managed to shoot some video of Palm leaves blowing in the wind, but this was more for the soundtrack of this bird’s peculiar call. At the Ranch, we ordered chicken for lunch and were told it would take about an hour to prepare. Cliff and I spent this time at a shady spot around the pool where I managed to snap three pictures of a female Cuban Green Hummingbird. The birds in the pool proved equally attractive. After ninety minutes of waiting, Mike had returned from his bird watching observations, very pleased with what he had seen. It gave me a better insight into how strange our cactus observations must seem to those that do not share our interest. Most of the bird observations left me cold I’m afraid.

The puncture that we had a week ago at Baracoa had been slowly losing air ever since and was almost flat as we arrived back at the hotel – so tomorrow the search is on for a Ponchero to see what can be done.

I’m told that last night’s disco by the pool went on until 2 a.m., despite Cliff’s two phone calls to reception to complain. I’m told that the music was so loud, with a pumping base line that the rooms shook. I, of course, slept soundly through the ordeal.

As we got back from today’s outing, the music was again on, full blast. Cuban Rap music, rather than the traditional stuff. Despite it all, we managed to down a couple of strong Cuba Libra – a.k.a. Rum & Coke in the UK, all before dinner.

As I put today’s Diary notes to bed, all is still silent on the Disco front. Will the music start as soon as I have fallen asleep? I’ll give you Cliff & Mike’s report tomorrow.