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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tocororo reveals Cuba as a birding paradise

The brilliant blue white and red tocororo is Cuba's national bird.

I've been stopped in the street, at the grocery store, library and at wine tastings by those asking about my recent trip to Cuba.  The story ran on July 13, and by the response I've had I know that many folks still are reading the print editions of The News-Herald.

Most are surprised to learn this was not a journalist- only visit, but a trip that anyone can take. I not only paid for it out of my own pocket but took some vacation time from my job to join Bob Older's Creative Travel group.

 Bob is a Delaware- based travel agent  who secured a license from the US. Treasury Dept. to put together legal trips to Cuba. Licensed companies must develop and stick to an itinerary framed around people to people contacts in Cuba, usually based around a specific subject. Travelers are issued visas, which are presented at every overnight, so both Cuban and American governments can check to see that the itinerary is followed.

Bob speaks only a little Spanish but has developed many valuable contacts in Cuba during the course of leading several trips a year to this previously  forbidden island nation. They are able to interpret for his guests. Older once worked as a chef and has done TV cooking shows so has a special interest in food. That's why the trip I joined had a culinary focus.
Bob Older of Creative Travel hopes to put together a photography and birding trip to Cuba. 

Like many folks, he follows his own passions in developing trips. As an an avid amateur photographer he wants to host a photo based trip. During our visit to Las Terrazas, in the lush Sierra del Rosario mountains, about 45 minutes west of Havana, we were greeted by birdsong and butterflies.

Our six-person group joined a walking and driving tour to learn more about this pristine place, while Bob held back to take photos. Birds that have largely disappeared in other parts of the Caribbean find safety here in Las Terrazas, and Cuba has more than 350 species of birds. Hearing the call co'-co co'-co co' co, Bob knew that the tocororo, Cuba's national bird, was around. He also identified the trill of the Cuban green woodpecker and haunting song of the endemic Cuban solitaire.

It's no surprise to learn that a birding trip is on his wish list for Creative Travel, although dates have not yet been set.  He needs six like-minded travelers to begin the official planning process.

I loved La Terrazas so much I knew I could live there. Find out more about this very special place in the Aug. 10 Travel section. Click on the underlined words above to read my recent story and learn more about Creative Travel

This is a yellow-bellied flycatcher

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not so much into birding, but need to follow your stories to learn more about a place so beautiful you could live there. Looking forward to learning about La Terrazas.

July 28, 2014 at 1:00 PM 

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