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A Report from birdtours.co.uk

Jamaica:   8th July 1996 - 22nd July 1996,

Author

David Cooper & Brenda Kay

Itinerary:

8th July :
Landed at Montego Bay at 2pm. The airport is set in marshy habitat with a few pools producing the first few birds. Skipped queue at Immigration as we noticed a new "line" being opened. Straight through Customs and on to Island Cars who were expecting us. A few false starts in the car whilst getting used to no clutch ! Drove to Westgate Shopping Centre via the coastal route missing out the worst of Montego Bay stocking up on a few provisions and checked directions to Orange River Lodge. Found lodge without difficulty with the road inland to the lodge being in better condition than anticipated. Booked in at a cost of 18 per night. Found an excellent Hawk Moth near a light. A superb lodge with panoramic views of the edge of the Cockpit Country. From 4.30 to 6pm birded the road leading up from the lodge. Went back to the lodge and crashed out. A spectacular thunderstorm passed over in the night and also heard a distant Jamaican Owl. (14 new birds seen).

9th July
Awoke at 5am and out by 5.45am when light. Walked the road leading up from the lodge. Tried a couple of trails leading off from the road. Spent some time at a flowering tree watching a Tody, hummers and other nectar feeders. Again found the Hawk Moth whilst sitting out the heat of the day on the veranda overlooking the panoramic view. In the early afternoon walked the entrance road before driving to Rocklands Nature Reserve spending the afternoon feeding the hummingbirds from hand held bottles whilst they perched on our fingers. Met Fritz and arranged for him to take us out the following morning. He said he would attempt to stake out the Potoo and the Owl overnight. Left Rocklands and stopped at a "fast food" restaurant at the Westgate Centre and then returned to the lodge spending the evening there. Went spotlighting after dark but only succeeded in giving the security man his first excitement in two years as I played the tape recorder in vain ! (6 new birds seen).

10th July
Left Orange River Lodge early in order to meet up with Fritz at Rocklands at 7am. However the night security man had lingered to tell me that the Owl had appeared within half an hour of me calling it a night the evening before. As he did not know my room number he said he could not fetch me ! However he did offer to try to find the bird the next evening but alas we were leaving that day. Drove to Rocklands and was pleased to meet Fritz waiting for us and ready to go. Spent the next 3 hours walking the grounds with Fritz with some superb species being seen with excellent views of both endemic Cuckoos proving to be the highlight. However none of the usual daytime perches were being used by either the Owl or the Potoo. Left Rocklands and drove via Ferris Cross and Black River to Mandeville arriving at Marshall's Pen at 1pm moving in to our  self catering accommodation above the barn costing 16 per night. Drove into town and stocked up on food at a supermarket and eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Returned to Marshall's Pen and spent the evening walking the ranch with Robert Sutton who showed us the area where Crested Quail Doves had recently nested. Made two spotlighting sessions but failed to see anything other than the impressive fireflies and the huge Bullfrogs. Went to bed wondering if the time of year was against us seeing the Owl and the Potoo ! (8 new birds seen)

11th July
Out at 5.30am flushing a Barn Owl out of the barn. Headed straight to the hillside spending nearly 3 hours creeping around in the forest fruitlessly searching for the Crested Quail Dove. However did see 4 Ruddy Quail Doves. Returned to the accommodation for half an hour and then back to the hillside spending another 2 hours in the forest until I finally flushed a Caribbean Dove which showed well before disappearing. We then spent the remainder of the morning and the early afternoon walking the ranching land covering a variety of habitats. A heavy downpour was fortunately sat out under a salt lick from where we returned to the accommodation and took it easy during a wet afternoon. Drove in to town filling up with petrol which cost 5 to fill the tank (!) and eat at King Burger. Returned to Marshall's Pen and joined Ann and Robert Sutton for a superb spotlighting session with excellent views of Barn Owl, Jamaican Potoo and Jamaican Owl. Slept easier that night ! (4 new birds seen).

12th July
Out at 5.45am and spent next two hours again looking in vain for Crested Quail Dove. Then drove to Elim Pools and on to the Parottee Beach area concentrating around the estuary. At around 1pm it again started to rain so we stopped for an excellent meal at the Port of Call Hotel with the Caribbean lapping right up to the restaurant. Torrential rain then prevailed so we returned to Marshall's Pen driving through flooded sections of the road making for an interesting drive. Returned to our accommodation and watched an incredible downpour. (2 new birds seen).

13th July
Left Marshall's Pen at 4.30am along with Ann and Robert and drove to the Burnt Hill area of the Barbecue Bottom road arriving just before 6.30am. Spent  4 enjoyable hours birding the road with all three hoped for new birds falling within the first half an hour. Heard a distant Crested Quail Dove and spent a considerable time looking for the mythical Golden Swallow which has not now been reliably seen for 12 years in Jamaica with recent reports all almost certainly relating to wintering Tree Swallows or immature Cave Swallows. Robert was the last person to see birds at a breeding site being the nearby Ramgoat Cave but unfortunately that was now over 20 years ago. With reports of the species declining in Hispaniola the future looks bleak. Drove back to Marshall's Pen and spent the early afternoon erecting mist nets for the following day as ringing is carried out every fourth Sunday. Left Marshall's Pen at 4.15pm and drove to Elim Pools spending an enjoyable evening there. Left at dusk driving back to Marshall's Pen but not before rounding off the day watching 5 Whistling Ducks perched in a tree silhouetted against the sunset. Robert and Ann kindly invited us for a meal at the Great House after what had been a long but very enjoyable day. (4 new birds seen).

14th July
Out at 5.30am and joined Robert and Ann who were setting the mist nets. After 10 minutes the first two birds were trapped which proved to be two Todys - the very species I had most hoped to see in the hand. Spent until 10.30 trapping and photographing the birds. Audrey Downer had driven over from Kingston to study the moult of the birds trapped. Drove into town and had lunch in the Mandeville Hotel. Spent from 4pm to 6pm trapping and then went to have a last look for Crested Quail Dove but spent until dark searching in vain. Robert then kindly copied some tapes of the remaining endemics for me and gave me directions on where to look for the species I had not yet seen. We said our farewells to Robert and Ann who had proved super hosts and felt sorry that our time at Marshall's Pen had come to an end as we packed ready to make an early start.

15th July
Left Marshall's Pen at 5.45am and drove towards the Portland Ridge arriving just after 7am. However assuming we had found the correct road after leaving Lionel Town it was in extremely poor condition so we did not make much progress before deciding our small Suzuki hatchback was not up to the task. All Mockingbirds scrutinised after we had turned back proved to be Northern, as expected. Drove into Kingston arriving at 9.30am and drove straight through to the Old Hope Road Shopping Plazas without getting lost (!) many thanks were due for Ann's directions Filled up with petrol and some provisions before ascending the Blue Mountains driving across the Newcastle Parade Ground which was fortunately not in use. Arrived at the 'rustic' Greenhills Guesthouse (13 per night) at midday with the road up the mountains being far better than expected. Spent the next six hours birding the road both below and above the guesthouse and walking the start of the Fairy Glade Trail and Woodside Drive where quite unexpectedly I stumbled across a Crested Quail Dove walking around in the middle of the track at 4.25pm. Returned happy to the Guesthouse, although by now the drizzle had started with mist setting in. Consumed a can of Corned Beef with bread and fruit as the Gap Restaurant was closed. (5 new birds seen).

16th July
Torrential rain and very windy all night due to Hurricane "Bertha" passing to the east of Jamaica. The rain eased a little at 6.30am so we drove towards Woodside Drive. On the way 2 superb Crested Quail Doves walked 15 - 20 yards ahead of us down the road. With the use of an umbrella I walked Woodside and Greenwich Drives but the rain hampered birding. Returned to the Guesthouse and surprisingly saw another Crested Quail Dove walking along the road ahead of us near Holywell National Park. Lloyd the caretaker at Greenhills told us that the tropical trough was situated over the island and that it was very unusual to see so much rain - even in the Blue Mountains. The rain continued so we decided that as we had seen all the "required" species to quit the mountains a day early and head for San San (a site for the single remaining endemic we had not seen) via Buff Bay and Port Antonio. Whilst asking the cost of staying at the Dragons Bay Villas (too expensive) I managed to see 2 Black-billed Streamertails in five minutes. The endemics had all fallen in eight days - seeing them had proved far easier than expected. We finally booked in to the Fern Hill Club which had superb views overlooking the coastline at a cost of 20 per night. We enjoyed a good meal in the Hotel Restaurant. (Final new species seen).

17th July
The edge of Hurricane Bertha hits Jamaica with torrential rain and wind all night with constant thunderstorms. As day broke the wind eased but the torrential downpour and spectacular thunderstorms continued. Spent much of the day playing pool and watching the storms. Weather finally improved at 5.30pm so we walked the grounds of the Fern Hill Club seeing a superb full adult male Black-billed Streamertail. Thunderstorms and rain soon started again at dusk and continued all night. Decided to eat a meal of Corned Beef, Bread and Fruit which we had bought in case of having trouble eating in the Blue Mountains.

18th July
Still raining at dawn for the first few hours but then weather rapidly improved. Spent day relaxing with a visit to San San Beach but no seabirds to be seen as a result of the weather. Again dined in the Restaurant.

19th July
Woke early and walked grounds of the Fern Hill Club. Then packed and drove to Duncans enjoying the coastal scenery along the way although few birds seen. Stopped to eat in Burger King at Ochos Rios which in our opinion was the worst tourist resort we passed through resembling a large building site and the only place we were offered Ganja despite only being there for half an hour. We booked into the Paradise Guesthouse at Duncans visible from the main road costing 13.

20th July
Drove on towards Montego Bay stopping briefly at the Falmouth fish ponds but too full of water presumably after the storms. No waders seen. Stopped at MacDonalds and then headed to the Orange River Lodge spending the afternoon watching Pigeons hoping for a Plain Pigeon to fly past but no luck. Eat a good meal in the Hotel Restaurant.

21st July
Spent a couple of hours watching Todys along the entrance road. Heard Jamaican Owl !

22nd July
Headed for the airport handing over car and checked onto the plane,

 

Systematic List:

Least Grebe - Tachybaptus dominicus

Pied-billed Grebe - Podilymbus podiceps

Brown Pelican - Pelecanus occidentalis

Magnificent Frigatebird - Fregata magnificens

Least Bittern - Ixobrychus exilus

Great Blue Heron - Ardea herodias

Great Egret - Casmeroides albus

Snowy Egret - Egretta thula

Little Blue Heron - Egretta caerulea

Tricoloured Heron - Egretta tricolor

Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis

Green-backed Heron - Buteroides virescens

Black-crowned Night Heron - Nycticorax nycticorax

Yellow-crowned Night Heron - Nycticorax violaceus

Glossy Ibis - Plegadis falcinellus

West Indian Whistling Duck - Dendrocygna arborea

Ruddy Duck - Oxyura jamaicensis

Turkey Vulture - Cathartes aura

Red-tailed Hawk - Buteo jamaicensis

American Kestrel - Falco sparverius

Purple Gallinule - Porphyrula martinica

Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus

American Coot - Fulica americana

Caribbean Coot - Fulica caribaea

Wilson's Plover - Charadrius wilsonia

Killdeer - Charadrius vociferus

Common Stilt - Himantopus mexicanus

Northern Jacana - Jacana spinosa

Greater Yellowlegs - Tringa melanoleuca

Willet - Catoptrophorus semipalmatus

Laughing Gull - Larus atricilla

Royal Tern - Sterna maxima

Least Tern - Sterna antillarum

Black Tern - Childonias niger

White-crowned Pigeon - Columba leucocephala

RING-TAILED PIGEON - Columba caribaea

White-winged Dove - Zenaida asiatica

Zenaida Dove - Zenaida aurita

Common Ground Dove - Columbina passerina

Caribbean Dove - Leptotila jamaicensis

Feral Pigeon - Columba livea

Ruddy Quail Dove - Geotrygon montana

CRESTED QUAIL DOVE - Geotrygon versicolor

Olive-throated Parakeet - Aratinga nana

Green-rumped Parrotlet - Forpus passerinus

YELLOW-BILLED PARROT - Amazona collaria

BLACK-BILLED PARROT - Amazona agilis

Mangrove Cuckoo - Coccyzus minor

Smooth-billed Ani - Crotophaga ani

JAMAICAN LIZARD CUCKOO - Saurothera vetula

CHESTNUT-BELLIED CUCKOO - Hyetornis pluvialis

Barn Owl - Tyto alba

JAMAICAN OWL - Pseudoscops grammicus

Antillean Nighthawk - Chordeiles gundlachii

Jamaican Potoo - Nyctibius griseus

Black Swift - Cypseloides niger

White-collared Swift - Streptoprocne zonaris

Antillean Palm Swift - Tachornis phoenicobia

JAMAICAN MANGO - Anthracothorax mango

RED-BILLED STREAMERTAIL - Trochilus polytmus

BLACK-BILLED STREAMERTAIL - Trochilus scitulus

Vervain Hummingbird - Mellisuga minima

JAMAICAN TODY - Todus todus

JAMAICAN WOODPECKER - Melanerpes radiolatus

JAMAICAN ELAENIA - Myiopagis cotta

Greater Antillean Elaenia - Elaenia fallax

JAMAICAN PEEWEE - Contopus pallidus

SAD FLYCATCHER - Myiarchus barbirostris

RUFOUS-TAILED FLYCATCHER - Myiarchus validus

Stolid Flycatcher - Myiarchus stolidus

 

JAMAICAN BECARD - Pachyramphus niger

Loggerhead Kingbird - Tyrannus caudifasciatus

Gray Kingbird - Tyrannus dominicensis

Cave Swallow - Hirundo fulva

Caribbean Martin - Progne dominicensis

JAMAICAN CROW - Corvus jamaicensis

Rufous-throated Solitaire - Myadestes genibarbis

WHITE-EYED THRUSH - Turdus jamaicensis

WHITE-CHINNED THRUSH - Turdus aurantius

Northern Mockingbird - Mimus polyglottos

Black-whiskered Vireo - Vireo altiloquus

JAMAICAN VIREO - Vireo modestus

BLUE MOUNTAIN VIREO - Vireo osburni

Yellow Warbler - Dendroica petechia

ARROW-HEADED WARBLER - Dendroica pharetra

Bananaquit - Coereba flaveola

JAMAICAN EUPHONIA - Euphonia jamaica

Stripe-headed Tanager - Spindalis zena

Black-faced Grassquit - Tiaris bicolor

Yellow-faced Grassquit - Tiaris olivacea

YELLOW-SHOULDERED GRASSQUIT - Loxipasser anoxanthus

Greater Antillean Bullfinch - Loxigilla violacea

ORANGEQUIT - Euneornis campestris

Saffron Finch - Sicalis flaveola

JAMAICAN BLACKBIRD - Nesopar nigerrimus

Greater Antillean Grackle - Quiscalus niger

Jamaican Oriole - Icterus leucopteryx

References :

Collar, N.J., Crosby, M.J. and Stattersfield, A.J. (1994) Birds to Watch 2, The world List of Threatened Birds. Cambridge: Birdlife International.

Downer, A. and Sutton, R. (1990) Birds of Jamaica, A Photographic Field Guide. Cambridge.

 

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