Category Archives: Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico – Bioluminescent Bay

Splashing around in the Bioluminescent Bay creates an eerie blue glow!

The unfortunate name of Puerto Mosquito was bestowed on this natural marvel centuries ago. However, Puerto Mosquito on the tiny island of Vieques (off Puerto Rico’s eastern shore) is now considered one of the best bioluminescent bays in the world.

Mosquito Bay’s eerie, electric blue glow is created by microscopic plant/animal organisms called dinoflagellates. They release energy in the form of light, much the way fireflies do. Several dinoflagellate species are found in oceans worldwide: on the U.S Atlantic coast, the waters around Borneo and the Sea of Japan. Although in some places bioluminescence is seasonal, Mosquito Bay glows year-round, thanks to a plentiful population of the species Pyrodinium bahamense, whose name means “whirling fire.” Only 1/500 inch in diameter, these organisms flash when agitated, probably as a defense mechanism. Each flash last only 1/10 second, yet the collective blue radiance can be seen for miles. The reason for this intensity is Mosquito Bayís high concentration of dinoflagellates… 720,000 per gallon!

The bay is in danger, however, from many angles. The popularity of Vieques has caused ever increasing development which in turn created more pollution in the form of garbage as well as fuel spillage from boats. This pollution can kill the organisms, which has been the case in Puerto Rico’s other bioluminescent bays in Parguera and Fajardo, which are now at 10% of the Mosquito Bay levels.

Light pollution also abounds from the ever-growing population around the bay. Owners of condos refuse to use downward shining lights and allow their spot lights ands street lights to shine in all directions. Though the light does not hurt the organisms, more light equals less intense visibility… which then equals fewer visitors to the bay diminishing its economic value. Tourism is the top product of Vieques and protection of the bay is essential.

The tour boat uses powerful electric motors rather than gas… and the glow from the propeller is the first example of the amazing phenomena that visitors experience.

Mark Martin, a driving force behind the Vieques Historic and Conservation Trust, leads exploratory trips for visitors through Islands Adventures. With help from many individuals and organizations, the he and the Trust have been able to ward off additional development around the bay, but many more battles lie ahead!

text and photos by Kevin Loughlin

Puerto Rico – Pearly-eyed Thrasher

This Pearly-eyed Thrasher was preening after a bath in the morning dew. The Pearly-eyed Thrasher is not a Puerto Rican endemic as it is found on many islands in the Caribbean. An opportunistic omnivore, the thrasher feeds mainly on insects, but also on fruit, lizards, small crabs and other birds’ eggs and young. An aggressiveContinue Reading

Puerto Rico – Cubuy Falls

Few words are needed for this image. The Cubuy River and its spectacular falls lie a short walk down the hill from Casa Cubuy, our lodge for two nights. Along with these incredible views, Casa Cubuy is also the most reliable place to find the endemic Puerto Rican Screech Owl. photo and text © KevinContinue Reading

Puerto Rico – Endangered Species

Yellow-shouldered Blackbirds and female Shiny Cowbird Notice the band on the Yellow-shouldered Blackbird in the foreground? Heavily studied and watched, this Puerto Rican endemic is critically endangered due to habitat loss, nest predation by cats and other introduced mammals, and by nest parasitism from Shiny Cowbirds which arrived on the island within the last century. LaContinue Reading

Puerto Rico – Caribbean Gem

Elfin-woods Warbler, a Puerto Rican endemic. We are now on day 3 of our Puerto Rico: Caribbean Gem 8-day itinerary. And first thing this morning, at the Maricao State Forest, we got the target for the region… the Elfin-woods Warbler. This was my only shot, just as it decided to fly off and disappear. ThisContinue Reading

Puerto Rico – Dash is Done…

Puerto Rican Tody The ‘Dash’ is done. Our Puerto Rico Endemic Dash tour consisted of 5 days and 4 nights of birding all around the island looking for the endemics and specialties. Of the 16 (current number) of endemics — those birds found only on Puerto Rico — we saw 13 and heard two others.Continue Reading

Puerto Rico – Day 3 — a great bird!

Antillean Euphonia A splash of color entered the nearly naked tree this morning, after a frustratingly long wait for the cook to arrive to make breakfast. However, had we left any early we would have missed this wonderful addition to our list! Although the Antillean Euphonia is not a Puerto Rico endemic, it is stillContinue Reading

Puerto Rico – Day 2’s best photo!

Puerto Rican Woodpecker We added quite a few more endemics to our list today, including this very cooperative Puerto Rican Woodpecker who was excavating a nest in a power line pole at Cambalache Forest near the northwest coast. From Cambalache we drove southwest to Maricao and saw the Elfin-woods Warbler, our target for the area.Continue Reading

Greetings from Puerto Rico!

Puerto Rican Spindalis, Puerto Rico’s National Bird Our group arrived in Puerto Rico today for our 5-day Endemic Dash tour and started off with this beautiful splash of color in the waning daylight hours. We spent an hour at Laguna Tortuguero and already have 3 of our 16 target endemic birds and a bunch ofContinue Reading

More Puerto Rico

I saved the cutest for last. Everybody’s favorite — the Puerto Rican Tody is a tiny flycatcher. One of the most colorful and sought after birds in Puerto Rico, it is thankfully one of the most common of the endemics. It is found throughout the country, but easily overlooked due to its diminutive size ofContinue Reading