Reports, with Bird Lists, of our Meetings, Walks and Outings

Charismatic Cuba
by Barry Oxley

Date: Thursday 20 September 2018 at 19:30


Thirty-six people attended this meeting at which Barry Oxley made a welcome return to the group and gave an illustrated presentation titled Charismatic Cuba.

It was a travelogue of a bird watching tour organised by Naturetrek. The audience included four members of the RSPB East Berks group who had also enjoyed the tour. The quality of the photographs was exceptional and Barry gave credit to Gerry Studd, an ex-leader of the group, for a significant number of the photographs shown. Well done Gerry!! (for Gerry's take on the holiday and for more pictures, click here)

The presentation showed Cuba to be relatively undeveloped and poor, reflecting its recent history of trade and cultural isolation from the USA since the Cuban revolution in 1959.

Cuba’s inability to import modern cars has resulted in the island having a large numbers of cars, vans and lorries of 1930 to 1950 vintage which have been carefully maintained in running order. A real pleasure for visitors interested in motor vehicles and of special interest to a member of the group on the tour!

An interesting observation made was that the America’s version of a species tend to have brightly coloured plumage and a poor bird song while the European equivalent have dowdy plumage but a wonderful song, reflected in how they communicate when looking for a mate or defending territory.

There are large numbers of flycatchers (king birds), warblers, herons, kingfishers, owls and waders. The bee hummingbird, said to be the world’s smallest bird, was seen several times.

The annual migration of a large number of land crabs from the forest, to spawn in the sea, was an extraordinary sight but very messy due to road kills.

Photographs of the wedding of an American tourist who had found an attractive girl to marry while on the island had an amusing story associated with it! The local taxi driver said that the tourist was in for a shock because the girl had a large entourage of parents, siblings and relatives who were all part of the deal!!! Poor guy!!

As always Barry provided an excellent presentation that was given in a relaxed and entertaining way. He included lots of bird species and a sprinkling of Cuban culture.

In Peter Gaines absence Ken Cottam gave the What’s About report which was provided by Brian Clews:

Eton Wick – one (occasionally two) spotted crakes on flooded field, on and off over last three weeks.

Maidenhead – two whinchat along the Green Way. Peregrine several times on the BT building in West Street.

Cookham – three pairs of barn owls have nested this summer. Yesterday a raven was seen carrying huge corn on the cob!

Little Marlow Gravel Pits – Caspian gull, yellow-legged gull, black swan, up to nine yellow wagtails

Theale Gravel Pit – great white egret, 15 little egrets

Lower Farm – up to seven cattle egrets.


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At the mention of Cuba, most of us think of Fidel Castro, Che Guevera or maybe the Cuban missile crisis, however the avifauna of this, the largest of the Caribbean Islands, also deserves recognition. With around 375 bird species recorded, 25 of which are endemic, this together with a colourful and friendly population ensures a fascinating visit to an exotic destination.

Cuban pygmy owl Cuban trogon
Cuban pygmy owl Cuban trogon


We visit most of the important bird areas, stopping off at a few historical sites and of course interacting with the local people during the process. A taste of the Caribbean spring as we enter our autumn months!

Vintage cars and Fidel Castro image Cuban tody
Vintage cars and Fidel Castro image Cuban tody



Since retiring from his family business in horticulture Barry has travelled extensively in pursuit of his passion for birds, wildlife and the natural world. An active supporter and volunteer of the RSPB and committed to nature conservation, Barry donates all fees to further the RSPB’s work on Otmoor and other chosen conservation projects. He is the local RSPB representative, leads nature tour groups, is a wildlife photographer and has a keen interest in gardening and wild plants.

All pictures are © Copyright. Do not reproduce without permission from Barry Oxley.