- Trail difficulty: 1-2
- Reserve hours: none
- Entrance fee: none, except to enter the Visitor’s Center
The Aceitillar sector of the 112,488 ha Sierra de Bahoruco National Park is one of the premier birding areas in the Dominican Republic. Lying about two hours west of Barahona, with a good paved road all the way, this southern slope of the Sierra de Bahoruco is served by an excellent road that remains from the bauxite mining operations of Alcoa. The Alcoa road climbs steadily from the dry thorn scrub near sea level, through dry broadleaf forests, until reaching the open pit mines near Las Mercedes and a national park entrance gate. Beyond this point the road continues up in elevation through increasingly moist forests, with some ravines containing true moist broadleaf forest, until reaching pine forest at about 1,100 m elevation. The road terminates for the public at the Hoyo de Pelempito Visitor Center which offers stunning views over a natural depression and the mountains of the Eastern Bahorucos. As can be expected, traveling a transect through distinct habitats along an elevation gradient results in excellent birding over a relatively short distance.
As an integral part of the Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve, the Sierra de Bahoruco is the southern-most mountain range on Hispaniola. The Sierra de Bahoruco National Park was created in 1983. Although nominally protected and one of the more high-profile parks in the protected area system, the park is under constant threat from agricultural expansion, cutting of trees for the production of charcoal, introduced animals, forest fires (most often associated with agriculture), and illegal logging. Poachers of parrots and parakeets are active in the park, and there is substantial illegal hunting of a variety of species.
The Aceitillar sector of the Sierra de Bahoruco National Park lies about two hours west of Barahona, with a good paved road all the way. Portions of this road have many tight curves, some sections have been washed away by floodwaters, and free-ranging cattle tend to congregate in the road, so drive with caution. About half an hour west of Oviedo, just past the signs for Bahía de las Aguilas, you will rise on a bridge overpass. The turn for the Alcoa road is a small dirt connector and the first right turn immediately after the bridge. This improvised connector loops around to the paved Alcoa road; turn left (north, and towards the mountains) to reach Aceitillar and the pine zone.
Sharp- shinned Hawk, Limpkin Zenaida Dove, Key West Quail- Dove, White- fronted Quail- Dove, Ruddy Quail- Dove, Olive- throated Parakeet, Black- billed Cuckoo, Bay- breasted Cuckoo, Ashy- faced Owl, Burrowing Owl, Stygian Owl, Chuck- will’s- widow, Hispaniolan Nightjar, Northern Potoo, Black Swift, White- collared Swift, Hispaniolan Emerald, Hispaniolan Trogon, Antillean Piculet, Yellow- bellied Sapsucker, Greater Antillean Elaenia, Hispaniolan Pewee, Loggerhead Kingbird, Black- whiskered Vireo, Hispaniolan Palm Crow, Tree Swallow, Golden Swallow, Bicknell’s Thrush, Magnolia Warbler, Black- throated Blue Warbler, Yellow- rumped Warbler, Black- throated Green Warbler, Yellow- throated Warbler, Green- tailed Ground- Tanager, Hispaniolan Spindalis, Black-faced Grassquit, Rose- breasted Grosbeak, Antillean Euphonia, Hispaniolan Crossbill, Antillean Siskin
Along the Alcoa road look in the chalky layers of the road cuts for nesting or roosting Burrowing Owls. The road climbs steadily from the dry thorn scrub near sea level, through dry broadleaf forests, until reaching a side road to the left to the small community of Las Mercedes and a national park entrance gate. The very scarce Bay-breasted Cuckoo has been recently reported for the first time on the south side of the Bahorucos near the mines at Las Mercedes.
After passing the park’s entrance gate near Las Mercedes, look for small white kilometer markers on your right. At kilometer 19 (365 m elevation), a walking trail to the right can be followed well into classic dry forest habitat to look for Limpkin, Key West Quail-Dove, Hispaniolan Lizard-Cuckoo, Hispaniolan Pewee, Black-whiskered Vireo, Stolid Flycatcher, and Green-tailed Ground-Tanagers.
At kilometer 26 (745 m elevation), look for another entrance on the left which descends into a very nice moist broadleaf canyon. Here you may find White-fronted Quail-Dove, Ruddy Quail-Dove, both the Hispaniolan and Olive-throated parakeets, Narrow-billed Tody, Red-legged Thrush, and Antillean Euphonia. Bicknell’s Thrush has also been recorded here in winter months.
Continuing on the Alcoa road you enter the pine zone, and just after kilometer 30, look for a national park sign for La Charca. Look for Hispaniolan Emerald, Antillean Piculet, Caribbean Martin, Greater Antillean Elaenia, and especially Golden Swallow and Hispaniolan Crossbill, as well as several species of warblers in season. The Hispaniolan Parrot, Plain Pigeon, and Palm Crow are also frequently seen here.
Once well-into the pine zone, the road again levels off and the road forks. Straight ahead is a locked gate and to the right is another gate. An entrance fee is collected for those continuing on to the Hoyo de Pelempito Visitor Center. This is another place to look for the Hispaniolan Crossbills, as they come in to drink. The visitor center lies 10 km (6.2 miles) further on at the end of this road. This is a favorite spot to view Hispaniolan Parrots in the late afternoon. And if you happen to be returning down the Aceitillar road, listen carefully for the calls of the Limpkin and Hispaniolan Nightjar, and the eye-shine of the over-wintering Chuck-will’s-widow.