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Cuba birdwatching tours with El Chino of Zapata your local guide



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Initial Last Name Area Available Language
R Sanchez Habana Anytime Español, Ingles
I am working on a Cuban birds checklist in German, Italian and French. Birding mainly in Zapata Swamp, and Sierra de los Organos in Pinar del Río. Another birding place in Topes de Collantes-Trinidad. Always looking for endemics birds endangered Bee Hummingbird,Zapata Wren,Zapata Rail, Zapata Sparrow, common Cuban Trogon and Cuban Tody.
Specialist in cuban owls, Stygian Owl and Cuban Pygmy Owl, always in Zapata Swamp, Bermejas, Santo Tomás, La Salina and Hatiguanico River. Don´t forget interesting Gundlach Hawk, endemic Prey, rare to find in Tesoro Lake, Guamá. Pinar del Río is good for Cuban Solitaire, Cuban Green Woodpecker and Bee Hummingbird.
I recomended Route Fermín Z. Cervera begin La Habana, Botanical Garden, travel East Hatiguanico River, Guamá, La Salina, Santo Tomás and Bermejas. Three days, and after Pinar del Río, Viñales,Soroa, Güira, two days, and finally Guanahacabibes Far West, Cuban Tody, Cuban Trogon, Bee Hummingbird and a lot of endemic lizard anolis and boas, genus Tropidophis.


Professional Guides

If you contact a professional Birdingpal guide you must be prepared to pay a fee for guiding services.

Initial Last Name Area Available Language
O Martinez (El Chino de Zapata) Playa Larga, Matanzas Anytime Español, English


I arrange tours for groups and individuals. I agree an itinerary with you and then get a price for the services required – accommodation, flights (from UK only), car hire, local guides, reserve entrances in any combination – from Havanatour UK, a subsidiary of a Cuban tour operator. These services are then booked for you by Havanatour UK who are ATOL bonded for your security. I provide information on finding birds, driving in Cuba, comprehensive directions using Google Earth and any other information you may require. You do not pay for my services as I work on commission for Havanatour. Contact me with no obligation.

Over the course of the last 24 years I have worked with both Chino and Angel as guides with groups of birders, as well as working with them on conservation projects in the Zapata Swamp. They are both superb bird guides who work hard to find the specialities of the area. When I arrive there with a group, I know that they will already have found the best place to see Bee Hummingbird, where the Stygian Owl is roosting and which is the best trail to find quail-doves. I always send individual birders to them because I know that no-one will be disappointed. Essentially, you must (by law) have a guide to bird in the forests and swamps of Zapata and if you want to get the best from your visit, then use Chino or Angel because they are the best – you may even get to see the Zapata Rail although I haven’t… yet!

Feel free to contact me about employing Chino or Angel for your trip and also about the rest of your Cuba tour.
Orestes Martinez (El Chino de Zapata)

REVIEWS AND KUDOS

I enjoyed my guided 10-day birding trip with El Chino de Zapata. I contacted El Chino in hopes of photographing specific birds and the trip was a HUGE success. El Chino picked me up at the Havana Airport and we birded and travelled throughout Cuba including Soroa, Vinales, Playa Larga/Playa Caleton and Trinidad City.

El Chino is an extremely competent guide. He knows how, when and where to call for a specific bird. He is patient and persistent and his persistence pays off.

Chino is very focused and planned out the days in an organized fashion. As it gets very hot in Cuba in June, we birded from 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. rested and birded again after 3 or 4 pm. I was very lucky to photograph the male and female Bee Hummingbird and the Zapata Wren and Zapata Sparrow among the 72 species that we saw at this time of year.

El Chino offers 1/2 day, full day and multi-day bird guiding. Included in the bird guide services were the accommodations, some meals, vehicle, gas for the vehicle, park entrance fees.

Here is a breakdown of our trip: 1st day from Havana to Vinales, we saw and photographed Tawny-shouldered Blackbirds, Yellow-headed Warbler, Cuban Green Woodpecker, Antillean Palm Swift, Crested Caracara, Antillean Grackles, Cuban Black Hawk, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Solitaire.

Day 2 birding around Vinales,Olice-capped Warbler, another Cuban Solitaire, Cuban Tody and a family of Cuban Trogons including 2 juveniles.

Day 3 birding around Playa Larga, highlight of the day was photographing the male, female and juvenile Bee Hummingbird.

Day 4 birding in and around Zapata Swamp, success in photographing the Zapata Wren and Zapata Sparrow including La Sagra's Flycatcher, Cuban Pewee, Great Lizard Cuckoo, Red-legged Thrush, Northern Jacana. Later in the afternoon we had a family of Fernandina's Flickers and a Bare-legged Owl.

Day 5 - the specialty was Cuban Oriole.

Day 6 - included Red-shouldered Blackbird (aka as Cuban Redwing Blackbird) and a Cuban Pygmy Owl.

Day 7's excitement was Blue-headed Quail-Dove and a Cuban Parrot. Early morning on our return from Trinidad City

Day 8 I photographed a few Antillean Nighthawks and once back in the forest near Playa Larga I saw the elusive Gray-fronted (headed) Quail-Dove but will have to return to Cuba to get better photos.

I would not hesitate go birding with El Chino for more birds and adventures. Cheers, L.Young, Quebec


I just got back from an 11 day one-on-one birding trip to Cuba with El Chino of Zapata as a birding guide. What an interesting experience that has turned out to be! El Chino is a fabulous guide and really knows his birds. Looking for that elusive Cuban Solitaire wasn't easy but we persevered and were rewarded by having it sing it's beautiful melodious song over and over within 15-20 feet of us - and I was able to film it as well. Also the beautiful Cuban Trogon and the little jewel, the Cuban Tody. Even the very hard to find Bee Hummingbirds showed themselves to us (a few pairs of males and females) within about 20 feet of us and I watched and filmed them for a long time - what "eye candy"!

There were many more birds and I have made a terrific video of them. If you are interested, contact me. El Chino placed me in the Cuban B&B's and I got to know the Cuban people much better this time than when I went with a larger group a few years ago and we stayed in hotels. The food was also great and I never got sick even though I drank tap water and ate a lot of fresh salads and vast amounts of their fresh fruits. All in all it was a once in a lifetime experience and I feel fortunate to have had it! Thanks Chino!!!
E. Froese, Grand Forks, B.C. Canada


Angel Martinez, our local guide in Caleta Buena, is an experienced birdwatching guide and led birding trips every day to see the Blue Headed Quail Dove among with other extraordinary birds. His brother, El Chino, also helped with accomodations in a bed and breakfast that were excellent and right on the beach.

I couldn't have asked for a better guide and service. We had a wonderful time in the Bosque de Zapata on the south side of the island of Cuba. It was very easy to get to from Havana where we rented a car.
Elena Espinosa

Just a note to tell you that we used the services of "El Chino" (Orestes Martinez) last week for a day in Cuba and were extremely satisfied with his expertise. I wish we'd been able to spend more time with him, and indeed hope to return to Cuba in the near future and do just that. Thanks for a great website. Regards, Mary and Dave Lord, Canada.


TRIP REPORT

This review is about my wife and I Birding trip to Cuba 15th thru 30th April 2014, with Birding Pal El Chino of Zapata.

Our flight to Cuba from Toronto was well executed by Air Canada, being the 1st out of the gate at Havana Airport 9-30am we were whisked away to to our down town Havana Hotel in a very comfortable S.U.V. With air conditioning driven by El Chino.

The hotel in Havana was very basic, but gave us a very unexpected surprise at Breakfast such a verity of fresh food put to shame our north American hotel's. Once we exchanged our money at the local bank (cheaper exchange rate then at the Airport) and left Havana for Soroa with stop's on the way, we had bird's, bird's, bird's.

Stand out's for us Giant King bird, Cuban Emerald, Cuban Trogan, Cuban Black Bird, West Indian wood pecker, Black whiskered Vario. After a night's stay at El Chino's Sister's (Verginia Hospedaje) Casa Soroa which included a excellent Supper and Breakfast with great hospitality, we headed to our next destination Vinales we had very good look's at the Yellow Faced and Cuban Grassquit's along with Snail Kite;s in the rice field's.

We arrived for a two night's stay at Casa De Las Sorpresas, with host Adriana the place was wonderful very quiet being located down a side street, the hospitality and food was very good with Salsa dance lesson's at no charge. The room and out door eating area backed onto farm land we even birded while eating, watching Antillean Night Hawk's and Antillean Palm Swift's

We birded Indian Cave's, Pinalas Park and Mural de la Phrehistoria producing Cuban Vario, Cuban Martin Cuban Bullfinch, Honey Creeper, Olive Cap Warbler, Cuban Pewee, Cuban Tody, Cuban Green Woodpecker, Yellow Headed Warbler all solid good look's along with the Great Cuckoo Lizard, then finally at the end of the day in the Phrehistoria park El Chino tracked down the the wonderful singing Cuban Solitaire that sat there for a great photo session and singing lesson.

With the excellent guiding by El Chino we were on such a high with 58 bird's total, (27) lifer's (14) of witch were endemic's looking forward to going to his home town Zapata the next day.

In Zapata my wife and I stayed at El Chino's Casa with our own personal chef Pedro (one of the brother's), the casa was on the beach side with view's of the bay from the bedroom balcony having excess to the beach for a great cool down swim.

We birded from the balcony during our break's picking up close encounter's of Frigate birds, Brown Pelican's, a flock of Laughing Gull's, white Ibis, American Kestrel ( white Morph) and the amusing cackling Cuban Black bird's.

Zapata forest turned up absolute outrageous look's at Fernandina's Flicker's, Screech Owl's, Cuban Pigmy Owl's, Cuban Parrot all male and female and not to be out done, Bee Humming Bird male female and sitting on a nest just a few feet away (to die for or what).

The next day very early we were taken to the La Turba Area of Zapata Swamp, in the S.U.V. head light's we encountered the Cuban Nite Jar, Yellow Crown Night Heron and a one in a thousand glimpse of a Zapata Rail the car shook with the excitement of that moment, from that time on we were called Lucky, Lucky, Lucky by El Chino.

Once dawn broke we had wonder full eye level fly by's of Zapata Sparrow's, a la's the Zapata Wren eluded us only to be herd out in the marsh.

Our last trip out before going to Trinidad gave us the endemic Grey Fronted Quail Dove, Tawny Shouldered Blackbird and Black Cowled oriole, Key West Quail Dove and almost at our feet a Oven Bird, but the Blue Headed Quail Dove eluded us.

The trip to Trinidad turned up the endemic Red Wing Blackbird and a couple of lifer's Caracara, Anhinga also a female Yellow Warbler. At the marsh land just out side Trinidad showed only a few piper's as the marsh was drying up, we were told that it team's with bird's during the winter month's.

Trinidad's Casa ( Hostal Margarita Pard'on Torres) was excellent staying one night, Trinidad being a tourist town there was a lot of culture and history to soak up.

Our next destination was Belen Farm owned by one of Fidel Castro right hand men they turned it into a resort, nature reserve, horse farm by invitation only. We arrived late afternoon picking up the endemic Palm Crow and Cuban Parakeet's ( flying) .

The next day leaving the Farm a Giant King Bird showed well plus on the road to Cao Coco our next destination we saw lifer's of gull billed tern's and Northern Jakana and several assorted piper's.

In Cao Coca your stay is in one of the resorts were all the tourist hang out , but don’t be fooled the Peninsula is full of birds in Lagoons and cactus laiden dry lands producing several Warblers waiting to migrate including good looks at the Orient Warbler, Zapata Sparrows and the wonderful Cuban Gnatcatcher male & female getting ready to nest. We had lifers of the Spoonbills, Black Hawk, Red Egret, Tricolour Heron and flocks of Flamingo's finishing off with the Bahamas Mocking Bird male & female sub species.

The last three days we spent back in Zapata taking a day off we piked up the elusive Blue Headed Quail Dove at Cueva De Los Peces.

On the last day a trip to Zapata Swamp gave a whole halve hour of the Zapata Wren male & female with El Chino having some great photo opportunities.

On the way back in the forest we came across a flock of parakeet's feeding in a tree with eye level viewing for 20 Min’s or more, what with the Cuban Orial, Flying- Scaly- Naped Pigeon, Whistling Ducks, White Crown Pigeon and White Wing Dove, also a Singing King Rail.

We had 38 endemics (including females) missing out on he Gundlach's Hawk, having 72 lifers for a total of 153, that included at 3.30 am on the way to the airport for departure at the Crocodile Farm parking lot, a female Stigmi Owl in the flash light with a male calling near by, and believe it or not as we just left there... in the head lights... a Barn Owl.

What a finish to a great trip birding for our 1st time with a Birding Pal, El Chino Of Zapata was a talented and gracious birder and would recommend him to anyone, our experience was bird-o-lishious, being the # 1 Birding Pal in Cuba.

Thank you once again for a wonderful trip.
Regards Marion & Michael.






A Kirkconnell Junior Havana, La Habana anytime English, Spanish


Hi, my name is Arturo Kirkconnell Jr, and the one by my side is my father Arturo Kirkconnell, the author of the Field Guide to the Birds of Cuba. He established the actual birding itineraries in Cuba.

I have been birding and travelling through all the country with my father since I was 12 years old participating on his bird research as his field assistant.

The first tour I lead was for British birders eight years ago and since then I’ve been doing it. At present I am 28 years old and I am working on the bird application for the Cuban Field Guide.

I can show you all of the Cuban endemics, including the Bee Hummingbird (the smallest bird in the World), Blue-headed Quail-Dove, Fernandina's Flicker, among others, also Nearctic and others Neotropical birds that can be found. Also other birds that are best searched for in Cuba like West Indian Whistling Duck, Olive-capped Warbler, Bahama Mockingbird, Thick-billed Vireo and many others.

Bill and Nancy's Testimonial:

We had never used birding Pals before, but we luckily managed to arrange a trip with Arturo Kirkconnell, a Cuban Birding Pal Professional Guide.

We were totally pleased with our 14 day trip. Arturo, like all great birders, seemed to have eyes in the back of his head and could name that spot in the sky
from the flicker of a wing or the shadow cast, whether driving or walking!

Arturo began our trip with a great breakfast stop that produced many endemic species, and the trip continued with spontaneous and planned stops in diverse habitats,
each producing new species.

All our lodging and meals were excellent as well.

Our trip was so totally enjoyable we are looking forward to making a return trip and exploring other parts of the island.

Arturo is completely personable and professional and enjoyable.

Regards
Nancy and Bill


Area: Zapata Swamp, Camaguey, Cayo Coco


Area Birds:
all of the gettable Cuban endemics and special birds

Leon and Rachel's Testimonial

Arturo,

We did not know quite what to expect on our Cuban birding adventure, but it surpassed our expectations in every way.

Not only did we see and hear an abundance of beautiful birds but also we met some lovely people and covered great distances of interesting country in the car.

It was a pleasure to go birding with you from start to finish. Thank you for being so patient and good humored with us, especially when we forgot, got mixed up or made up new names for your birds.

It was so nice to meet your family too. You have a beautiful wife, Anet and two lovely children, Adam and Alexa and we wish them all the very best.

We were honored to meet your father and it was a huge privilege to bird with him. He has taught you well.

You are very professional and he is right to be proud of you.

We will have many great memories of our once-in-a-life-time Cuban birding tour to help sustain us through our frigid Canadian winters thanks to you.

We wish you every success in your future endeavors and hope that we may see you and Anet in Oakville/Toronto.

Gracias Arturo,
Leon and Rachel

Read move Testimonials here:
www.kirkconnellbirds.com/about-us/testimonials



Interests:
birding
Web Site: kirkconnellbirds.com



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