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  Field Notes From
Cuba's Wild Side

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From Author and Photographer Steve Winter

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photograph by Steve Winter


Cuba's Wild Side

Field Notes From Author and Photographer Steve Winter

Best Worst Quirkiest
    One of the best things about a natural history expedition is when something unexpected happens. For two weeks I was in the Zapata swamp with biologists who were estimating the crocodile population density in specific parts of the swamp. They used bait to lure Cuban crocodiles into a designated area to be counted.
    I was photographing a crocodile they had just captured when someone heard another crocodile in the distance. There was bait not too far from us, maybe about 30 feet (nine meters) away. All of a sudden we saw a crocodile jump all the way out of the water at it. It was about eight feet (two meters) long. The first thing I said was, "Please do it again, please do it again, please do it again." In a way I felt it was going to happen and knew I'd better be ready. And sure enough, it did it again, and I got three frames. One is a double page in the magazine [See pages 72-73.].

    We got to the viewing platform at about nine in the morning to see the largest flock of Caribbean flamingos in the New World. We could see them nesting in the distance. So we walked for a couple of more hours and reached the site at about 11 a.m. By that time the light was so bad that I had nothing to shoot. I said, Well, if I can't shoot till 5, we just have to wait.
    It was the middle of June and more than a hundred degrees (38°C). We didn't have enough water. And I had gotten the Cuban flu the day before, so I felt terrible. We were out there battling mosquitoes and trying to fight our way through mud that came up to our waists at times. It was absolute hell.

    I'd heard about Cuban boas eating bats and thought it could be an incredible picture. So we went to a cave in the far eastern part of the island where there were four million bats of 12 different species. I didn't know where the snakes would be located, so I had no idea what this picture would entail. At 7:30 p.m. the bats started coming out. Then we saw the boas hanging off the tree branches. So many bats were flying out that they would just start grabbing for them. We listened in the dark for the screeching sound the bats made when the boas constricted and then ate them.


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