|Cuban Tody Todus multicolor|
|An endemic Tody for each island...|
|Irie to the max|
The Cuban Tody - what can you say about a bird like this? This teeny tiny shimmering gem of a species was my #1 target for the trip, and Viñales did not disappoint. We had several along the trails on both days, and I was shocked at how confiding they were. I had to back up a few times, as they were too close for my lens to focus. I spent many long, blissful minutes in the company of these truly charismatic birds, watching them forage at their own relaxed pace. Swoon.
I missed out on some other Cuban targets, such as Bee Hummingbird, Cuban Trogon, and Yellow-headed Warbler, but you have to leave some birds on the table for next time, innit. I ended up picking up 30 lifers on the trip, with a good number of regional endemics mixed in there, so I had a blast.
While perhaps a bit of misguided rationalization, I wear the Bee Hummingbird dip as a badge of honour. I didn’t have a tour guide to show me a reliable spot for the world's smallest species - the one pocked with constellations of tripod holes. Freestylin’! Yep, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Again, the week wasn’t designed as a birding trip, but I managed to insinuate quite a bit of birding into it: “Oh look, we’ve ended up right next to this Jardin Botánico, that’s weird. Wanna go in real quick? Huh huh? Wanna go in?”
“¡Muchas gracias!” to my father for lending me his Bushnells, to Chris Lansdell for taking the time to give me the scoop on regional field guides and logistics (I had a good time sifting through the epic Cuba posts on his blog, which helped me get a feel for what would be around: http://chrislansdell.blogspot.ca/search?q=cuba), and especially Matt French, without whom the trip would literally not have happened for me. What is this, an awards ceremony?
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself headed to the West Indies, I would forcefully recommend picking up Birds of the West Indies by Norman Arlott. A superlative field guide, and perfect for the birder who travels light. While it may not feature illustrations of juvenile or in-flight birds for most species, these strategic omissions end up being worth their weight in gold. The book is well-laid out, the descriptions clinically concise, the illustrations are clear and "modern" - and then there’s the size. It is slightly smaller than a DVD case, and light. This portability was very much welcomed, especially when you’re living out of a man purse for a week, heh heh. I also thought it was a neat bit of trivia to spot the inspiration for Ian Flemming’s famous spy in the “Further Reading” section.
Oh wait, what’s this I see on page 96? More Todies you say? An endemic Tody on each large Caribbean island? Damn it, be right back.