The Monte Plata area consists of open fields and cattle ranches as well as some very large plantations of African oil palms. There is a fairly large population of the island endemic Ashy-faced Owl here. The farmers here do not harass the owls as they recognize their importance in controlling the also extensive rat population. Other avian attractions are the hard-to-find birds that may be found in the open pastures. The grassland habitat is a good place to look for the Double-striped Thick-knee, which in the Caribbean occurs only on Hispaniola, and the Grasshopper Sparrow.
Target species in the Monte Plata area are not easily seen anywhere on the island, but with luck and perseverance can be turned up here. We strongly recommended that you go with a guide who knows the best areas to look, but do not necessarily be discouraged from exploring on your own. Our tips for finding these three species are:
Ashy-faced Owl: The Ashy-faced Owl has been found to frequent oil palm plantations where they feed on rats that in turn feed on the palm fruit. You will want to look during the day for plantations with many fence posts in the palm plantations. Return to these plantations at night with a spotlight and look for the owls.
Double-striped Thick-knee: This species can be seen in the open pastures and fields in this area. We suggest driving around on the outskirts of Monte Plata and inspecting likely fields. Thick-knees prefer to lie low at the shady edges of fields during the day.
Grasshopper Sparrow: Sparrows too seem to be spotty in distribution and have preferences for grassy fields of a particular height. These can best be searched as you look for thick-knees, but sparrows will be partial to longer grass than will the thick-knee.
Double- striped Thick- knee, Ashy- faced Owl, Yellow- faced Grassquit, Grasshopper Sparrow
From Santo Domingo take the coastal highway east towards Las Americas International Airport. Before arriving at the airport, look for a turnoff on the left for Samaná. This road enters a short tunnel, and then a second left turn takes you onto the marginal road. Almost immediately there is a right turn which is the entrance to the new toll road; you will enter at Km 160. Continuing north on the toll road you will pass by a series of exits before arriving at the Bayaguana – Monte Plata exit at Km 134. Go left at the exit, and after a few hundred meters, turn left again at the sign for Indus Palma. After 1.3 km (0.8 mile) you will turn left again at another Indus Palma sign and continue on this road for 3.9 km (2.4 miles). You will generally be heading south, backtracking along the margins of the highway you just left. A set of large tanks on the right signals the presence of the production facilities and offices of Indus Palma.
We recommend that you call in advance to receive permission to drive the plantation roads at night to look for the owl, as well as to inquire of their staff current locations of the thick-knee. Ask for Kiko: 809-547-8591 or 809-547-8551.