I would be lying if i said this was a birding trip as it was my honeymoon and i only left the hotel complex on organised trips on two occasions…………I spent the first two weeks of June 2008 at the ‘Dreams’ Resort, Punta Cana on the SE side of the Dominican Republic. The first week was quite unsettled, with a bad storm on 4th but the second week was roasting, with temperatures on one day reaching 48 degrees celcius! Being my honeymoon my birding was confined to the Hotel grounds, which were very well kept and included two small ponds, and the surrounding shrublands, which were viewed from within the hotel grounds. We took two organised excursions which afforded me a few birds that i would have otherwise not seen (see list below for details). These trips were to Soana Island at the very SE tip of the island and to a Dolphin swimming area about an hours drive to the NE. Niether trip was worth the money by the way! So, below are the 45 species i did manage to see, with a few photos for good measure.
Blue-winged Teal – male visited pond in hotel grounds
White-cheeked Pintail – two captive birds on hotel pond. Two free flying on trip to see Dolphins.
Helmeted Guineafowl – captive/introduced birds only.
Brown Pelican – 3 on dolphin trip. 2 off Soana Island
Magnificent Frigatebird – Common offshore
Great Egret – seen from buses en route to trips in flooded fields and ponds
Snowy Egret – one seen in flooded field en-route to Soana Island.
Cattle Egret – loads everywhere!
Green Heron – common on ponds in hotel grounds
Black-crowned Night Heron – adult seen once at night on hotel pond
Yellow-crowned Night Heron – Adults and juvs seen. Best looked for at dusk on sand dunes! Seen in hotel grounds.
Turkey Vulture – very common over land.
Osprey – one seen en route to Soana Island
American Kestrel – very common in hotel grounds
Common Moorhen – Seen on golf course resort en-route to Dolphin trip
Killdeer – Seen on three occasions within hotel grounds. Also four birds seen at same site as Common Moorhen.
Black-necked Stilt – Pair seen briefly on flooded pool en-route to Soana Island
Laughing Gull – few birds seen from Hotel beach. 10+ birds on Soana Island.
Royal Tern – Seen offshore from hotel beach. Fairly common.
White-winged Dove – seen from hotel grounds in surrounding scrub. Fairly common.
Zenaida Dove – 2 seen from hotel grounds.
Mourning Dove – 2 flew over hotel ground. Four birds en-route to Soana Island. More birds seen but at distance and may have been Zenaida Dove.
Common ground Dove – common in hotel grounds.
Hispaniolan Lizard Cuckoo – Seen regularly from and in hotel grounds. Quite skulking but unmistakable when showed well or called. One of the best birds of the trip.
Smooth-billed Ani – Common. Seen in small groups from and in hotel grounds.
White-collared Swift – Single bird seen over hotel on one occasion.
Antillean-palm Swift – seen everywhere. Very common and nesting in thatched roofs on hotel.
Antillean Mango – Common in hotel grounds. Only hummingbird seen.
Hispaniolan Woodpecker – Very Common. Breeding in hotel grounds.
Antillean Palm Swift, Antillean Mango, Hispaniolan Woodpecker
Stolid Flycatcher – One seen en-route to Soana Island.
Gray Kingbird – Very common. Breeding in hotel grounds.
Black-whiskered Vireo – Seen daily from and in hotel grounds. Quite elusive but loud song is giveaway.
White-necked Crow – Endangered endemic. Four or five birds seen on Soana Island.
Caribbean Martin – One or two seen daily over hotel.
Gray Kingbird and Pearly-eyed Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird – Common, breeding in hotel grounds
Pearly-eyed Thrasher – Two birds seen in hotel grounds. Recently colonised SE of Dominican Republic.
Palmchat – By far the most common and abundant bird seen, breeding in tops of palms in hotel grounds.
Bananaquit – common in hotel grounds feeding on any shrubs with large flowers.
Yellow-faced Grassquit – Male seen on one occasion on edge of hotel grounds. Female seen twice in scrub adjacent to hotel. Heard often but very small and hard to pin down.
Palm Chat and Bananquit
Black-faced Grassquit – male seen on one occasion in scrub adjacent to hotel.
Greater Antillean Bullfinch – very disappointingly only one female seen in hotel grounds. Did not even realize what it was until i studied the only photo i got of it.
Greater Antillean Grackle – Almost as common as Palmchat in hotel grounds.
Shiny Cowbird – Common in small numbers in hotel grounds
Hispaniolan Oriole – common in hotel grounds and adjacent scrub. Stunning bird, very vocal.
House Sparrow – You just can’t escape the little beggars! Fairly common.
Village Weaver – introduced birds seen en-route to Soana Island
Flight time was about 8 hrs. We flew from Gatwick with Thompson Airlines. You need 10 american Dollars to get into the country and 20 to get out! I found that outside of the hotel complex, the Dominican Republic is like a third world country! There is rubbish everywhere, the roads are mostly unfinished or dirt tracks and there appears to be lots of poverty amongst local people. I was advised not to go outside the hotel grounds with my bins and camera.
The actual holiday and hotel was fantastic, very relaxing, great food, friendly people (if you tip them enough!) and superb weather. Oh and the resident birds are pretty superb too!
More photos to be added soon!
Report and photos by Paul Freestone (c) Cornwall Birding