Day 1 - Travel day and arrival in Havana. We will be transferred to our hotel. Night in Havana.
Day 2 - Morning departure, after breakfast, and we will make our way to San Diego de Los Banos. A scenic drive of about 90 minutes to the west of Havana, San Diego de Los Banos is a small village, known for its mineral springs and a budding ecotourism industry. This bird-rich region can yield up to 100 species of birds, several of which are endemic to Cuba. Cuban Solitaire, Cuban Pygmy-Owl, Olive-capped Warbler, Giant Kingbird, Fernandina's Flicker, and Gundlach's Hawk are species which we may encounter. Other common Caribbean birds to watch out for include Cuban Blackbird, Antillean Palm-Swift, and Yellow-faced Grassquit, to name a few. With any luck, we may spot a Stygian Owl roosting during the day. Night in Vinales.
Day 3 - This morning we will visit Las Terrazas, a small community, and biosphere reserve, next to the Sierra del Rosario mountains. This area was once completely cleared for cultivation and agriculture, but after its designation as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO, it has been left to go wild. You can wander around the old overgrown coffee plantations and still see some of the old signs and derelicts from an age gone by. Some exciting birding is to be had here at Las Terrazas as well. Large, and powerful White-crowned Pigeons hurry above the treetops, and Zenaida Doves, a species quite similar to the Mourning Dove, can be found here as well. One of the most extravagant looking birds of Cuba, the Great Lizard Cuckoo, is also found here. Cuban Emeralds hover and feed from colorful flowers. Cuban Trogons and Cuban Todys, two of the most sought-after and iconic Cuban birds, can be found here at Las Terrazas. Three woodpeckers, the Cuban Green Woodpecker, West Indian Woodpecker and Fernandina's Flicker are possible, as are Cuban Pewee, La Sagra's Flycatcher, Loggerhead Kingbird, Black-whiskered Vireo, Yellow-headed Warbler and Cuban Bullfinch. Night at Zapata Swamp.
Day 4 - Full day exploring La Turba, part of the famous Zapata Swamp. Zapata Swamp is certainly the best birding area in Cuba, and quite possibly the entire Caribbean Region. Out of Cuba's 23 endemics, the swamp supports all but three, and the swamp has tallied over 270 species of birds total. One of the main targets this morning will be the smallest bird in the world, the Bee Hummingbird. We will visit private gardens where this rare and sought-after gem can be found. Along other trails, our guides will take us to places where we hope to find Zapata Wren, Zapata Sparrow, Fernandina's Flicker, Cuban Nightjar, Stygian Owl, Bare-legged Owl and Red-shouldered Blackbird. Night at Zapata Swamp.
Day 5 - Our explorations of the Zapata Swamp area continue today, with a visit to the Bermeja fauna refuge. A variety of trails through the cabbage palms and mangroves often produces several endemic bird species, including Cuban Parakeet, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Tody, Cuban Nightjar, Bee Hummingbird and Fernandina's Flicker. Cuba's two endemic owls, Cuban Pygmy-Owl and Bare-legged Owl can be found here as well. Blue-headed, Gray-fronted, Key West and Ruddy quail-doves are all possible at Bermeja, as are other birds like Cuban Pewee, Cuban Vireo, Cuban Oriole and Red-legged Thrush. A number of warblers that breed in North America and spend the winter in Cuba can be found at Bermeja, such as Ovenbird, Northern Parula, Black-and-white Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler and Yellow-throated Warbler to name a few. Night at Zapata Swamp.
Day 6 - After a bit of birding in the morning, we'll depart after lunch for Camaguey, Cuba's third largest city, with over 330,000 residents. Founded in 1514 by Spanish Colonists, Camaguey was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 because of its irregular maze-like city planning, designed to confuse would-be attackers. We will pay a visit to the Cienfuegos Botanical Garden, one of the best places to find the rather rare and endemic Gundlach's Hawk. Smooth-billed Anis and Great Lizard Cuckoos, both members of the cuckoo family, can be found at the gardens. Cuban Green and West Indian woodpeckers can be seen working on the trees, while Western Spindalis sing their high-pitched songs from within the foliage. Cuban Blackbirds and Greater Antillean Grackles are quite common, and we'll keep an eye out for the tiny Yellow-faced Grassquits. Night at Camaguey.
Day 7 - This morning, we make our way to another biosphere reserve. This one is at Najasa, in Camaguey province. Birds to watch for here include Plain Pigeon, Palm Crow, Cuban Crow, Cuban Parrot and Cuban Parakeet, to name a few species. Wetland areas are home to Purple Gallinule, Northern Jacana, a variety of herons and egrets, Neotropic Cormorant and perhaps Least Grebe. After lunch, we'll make our way to Moron, which is just 30 miles from Cayo Coco, making it an excellent base from which to launch our explorations. If time permits, we may visit one of the nearby birding locations today. Lagoons in the area are home to a nice variety of waterbirds including wintering waterfowl, Limpkin, Black-necked Stilt and Anhinga. Night at Moron.
Day 8 - Today we will visit Cayo Coco, the second largest key in Cuba. This island is known for its white sand beaches and coral reefs, though much of the key is covered in semideciduous forest, and mangroves. Over 200 species of birds have been found at Cayo Coco, including many Cuban rarities and several firsts for the country. We will be searching for birds like Roseate Spoonbill, Key West Quail-Dove, Cuban Gnatcatcher, Oriente Warbler, Mangrove Cuckoo, Great Lizard Cuckoo, Western Spindalis, Cuban Bullfinch and a distinct race of Zapata Sparrow. Beaches and sea-watch will yield birds like Laughing Gull, Royal Tern, Sanderling, Brown Pelican, Reddish Egret, Piping Plover, and Magnificent Frigatebirds. Lagoons will have wintering shorebirds, such as Stilt Sandpiper, Black-bellied Plover and Greater Yellowlegs. Lagoons at Cayo Coco are also home to one of the largest populations of American Flamingos in the Caribbean! Night at Moron.
Day 9 - Today we will be at Cayo Guillermo, another tropical island in the Jardines del Rey archipelago. This island has plenty of sandy-coast vegetation and extensive mangroves. The endemic cubensis subspecies of Thick-billed Vireo can be found here, as well Bahama Mockingbird and Mangrove Cuckoo. Waterfowl to look for includes the West Indian Whistling-Duck, as well as wintering species from USA and Canada like Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon and Red-breasted Merganser. Scanning through shorebirds on the beaches and lagoons should yield birds like Semipalmated Plover, Ruddy Turnstones, Red Knot, Stilt Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher and Willet. Clapper Rails and Common Gallinules can be found in wetlands and Cuban Black-Hawk is fairly common here as well. Night at Moron.
Day 10 - Our last full day in Cuba is partially a travel day as we make our way back to Havana. Depending on what we have not yet seen, we will make some birding stops along the way back. Night at Havana.
Day 11 - We will be transferred to Havana International Airport and this marks the end of our great Cuban birding adventure.