|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Jamaica: 8th July 1996 - 22nd July 1996,
David Cooper & Brenda Kay
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,
Least Grebe - Tachybaptus dominicus
A superb adult and 3 young were present on a small water tank near the barn at Marshall's Pen and were seen daily from the 10th to the 14th. They had been encouraged to breed on the tank by the positioning of a small raft in the centre of the water.
Pied-billed Grebe - Podilymbus podiceps
Seen at Elim Pools where 6 were seen on the 12th and 4 on the 13th and a pair were seen on a roadside pool between Mandeville and Kingston on the 15th.
Brown Pelican - Pelecanus occidentalis
Only seen on the south west coast with 2 seen between Ferris Cross and Crawford on the 10th and 8 seen in the vicinity of Black River and Parotee Beach on the 12th.
Magnificent Frigatebird - Fregata magnificens
Seen on five dates with 2 between Ferris Cross and Crawford on the 10th, 10 at what appeared to be an active breeding colony (although Birds of Jamaica states that it nests Dec-Mar) in the distant mangroves between Black River and Parotee Beach on the 12th, 2 just west of Port Antonio on the 19th, 2 near Falmouth on the 20th and finally 1 at Montego Bay whilst driving to the airport on the 22nd.
Least Bittern - Ixobrychus exilus
A total of 4 were seen at Elim Pools during the evening of the 13th. They were first seen in flight over the reedbed and then climbing the large reeds at the edge of the reedbeds where they perched motionless in full view for the half an hour leading up to dark.
Great Blue Heron - Ardea herodias
The first species seen in Jamaica with an individual seen in flight over the pools at Montego Bay Airport whilst the plane was landing on the 8th followed by a single bird at an estuary just east of Port Antonio on the 18th.
Great Egret - Casmeroides albus
In the vicinity of Elim Pools 40 were seen on the 12th and 20 the next evening with the only other sighting being a lone individual at the Falmouth Pools on the 20th.
Snowy Egret - Egretta thula
An estimated 10 were seen at the Elim Pools on the 12th.
Little Blue Heron - Egretta caerulea
A single bird was seen just south of Montego Bay and 2 were seen in flight at the Orange River Lodge in the evening of the 9th, 1 was seen at the Elim Pools on the 13th and 1 was seen on the drive between Port Antonio and Duncans on the 18th.
Tricoloured Heron - Egretta tricolor
A single bird was seen at the Elim Pools during the evening of the 13th.
Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis
Very common being recorded on every day but two with a maximum daily estimate of 30 on the 12th.
Green-backed Heron - Buteroides virescens
Seen at Elim Pools with 3 on the 12th and 5 on the 13th but not again until San San Beach where 2 were present on the 18th and 1 seen at an estuary just east of Port Antonio on the 20th proving an interesting size comparison alongside a Great Blue Heron.
Black-crowned Night Heron - Nycticorax nycticorax
Only seen at the Elim Pools where 3 were seen on the 12th (including an unfortunate individual clearly distressed as it dangled upside down being caught in a fishing net unfortunately the opposite side of a large channel of water) and 20 were seen mainly appearing at dusk to feed around the pools on the 13th.
Yellow-crowned Night Heron - Nycticorax violaceus
A total of 5 were counted feeding along the beach outside the Port of Call Hotel just south of Black River on the 12th.
Glossy Ibis - Plegadis falcinellus
A party of 15 were seen in flight over the Elim Pools during the evening of the 13th. This species is described as a rare resident in Birds of Jamaica.
West Indian Whistling Duck - Dendrocygna arborea
We felt fortunate to see 16 at the Elim Pools on the evening of the 13th including 3 which although obviously nervous were stood in the middle of the pools in full view at not too greater distance from us, a party of 8 which were seen low in flight (being a peculiar sight as they hold their necks outstretched downwards when in flight) over the pool and were joined by 2 from the pool from where they flew and landed in a large tree at the back of the pools and finally 5 were seen perched in a large tree along the entrance track backlit by the remnants of the sunset proving a fine end to a memorable days birding. Birds of Jamaica describes this species status as "Resident, probably locally common but extremely shy and rarely seen." This species is listed as Vulnerable by Birdlife International (Collar et al. 1994) who state that it has suffered everywhere from wetland drainage and relentless but continuing hunting pressure, so that today its status is precarious.
Ruddy Duck - Oxyura jamaicensis
The final species to be seen in Jamaica with 4 being seen on the pools at Montego Bay Airport as the plane prepared to take-off on the 22nd.
Turkey Vulture - Cathartes aura
A very widespread and common species being seen everyday often in good numbers with a daily estimated maximum of 80 recorded on the 9th.
Red-tailed Hawk - Buteo jamaicensis
Singles were seen at Marshall's Pen being mobbed by a Jamaican Crow on the 11th, over Hardwar Gap on the 15th and over the Orange River Lodge on the 22nd.
American Kestrel - Falco sparverius
A widespread species being recorded from all habitats on every day but two with a daily maximum of 6 being recorded on the 19th. Interestingly it has only arrived on Jamaica in the last fifty years and R. Sutton wonders if the disappearance of the Golden Swallow is linked as he has sometimes observed Kestrels taking young Cave Swallows from the colony at Marshall's Pen
Purple Gallinule - Porphyrula martinica
Only seen at the Elim Pools where 2 were seen on the 12th and 1 on the 13th.
Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Only seen at the Elim Pools where 1 was seen on the 12th and 2 on the 13th.
American Coot - Fulica americana
Only seen at the Elim Pools where they were observed feeding young with 4 seen on the 12th and 2 on the 13th. On one occasion an adult American Coot was seen to be extremely aggressive attacking a young Caribbean Coot whilst the adult Caribbean Coot had dived.
Caribbean Coot - Fulica caribaea
Only seen at the Elim Pools where they were observed feeding young with 5 seen on the 12th and 2 on the 13th. It is interesting that such a small pool should hold both species of Coot in what amounts to be very small numbers of both species.
Wilson's Plover - Charadrius wilsonia
A superb individual was observed on a sand bar at Parottee Beach on the 12th.
Killdeer - Charadrius vociferus
Only a single bird seen at a golf course at the Braco Resort just east of Duncans on the 19th.
Common Stilt - Himantopus mexicanus
Around 8 were seen at Parottee Beach on the 12th and 6 were seen in flight on the drive from Port Antonio to Duncans on the 19th.
Northern Jacana - Jacana spinosa
Only seen at the Elim Pools where 6 were seen on both the 12th and 13th.
Greater Yellowlegs - Tringa melanoleuca
A party of 3 were seen on a sandbar at Parottee Beach on the 12th.
Willet - Catoptrophorus semipalmatus
A single individual was seen on a sandbar at Parottee Beach on the 12th.
Laughing Gull - Larus atricilla
A party of 5 were seen at Parottee Beach on the 12th.
Royal Tern - Sterna maxima
A total of 25 were seen in the vicinity of Black River and Parotee Beach on the 12th with 5 seen on the drive from Port Antonio to Duncans on the 19th and 2 near Falmouth the following day.
Least Tern - Sterna antillarum
A party of 15 were seen resting on a sandbar at Parottee Beach on the 12th being an interesting size comparison to the Royal Terns.
Black Tern - Childonias niger
A party of 6 were seen all being in winter plumage at Parottee Beach on the 12th.
White-crowned Pigeon - Columba leucocephala
A common and widespread species being recorded on every day but one with a daily maximum of 30 being estimated at the Orange River Lodge on the 20th.
RING-TAILED PIGEON - Columba caribaea
We were pleased to see 10 of these large and slow flying Pigeons both in flight and perched in the Cockpit Country near Burnt Hill on the 13th but were surprised to see a further 8 at Hardwar Gap on the afternoon of the 15th and 3 there the following morning. This species is listed as Critical by Birdlife International (Collar et al. 1994) who state that it has been greatly reduced in numbers and range over the past 150 years by illegal hunting and extensive habitat loss with the trend continuing with unabating pressure from both hunting and forest clearance.
White-winged Dove - Zenaida asiatica
Small numbers were recorded on six dates being seen at the Orange River Lodge, Rocklands, Marshall's Pen and near Falmouth with a daily maximum of 6 recorded on the 20th.
Zenaida Dove - Zenaida aurita
Seen on eight dates in small numbers being seen at the Orange River Lodge, Rocklands, Marshall's Pen, the Cockpit Country, Fern Hill Club and roadside sightings on the way back to Montego Bay.
Common Ground Dove - Columbina passerina
A common and widespread species being recorded on every day but one with a daily maximum of 20 recorded on the 9th with birds seen at both the Orange River Lodge and Rocklands.
Caribbean Dove - Leptotila jamaicensis
This superb species was encountered twice in the fortnight with a superb individual with incredibly bright red legs flushed from the ground in forest at Marshall's Pen which alighted on a low branch and remained frozen for around five minutes before disappearing on the 11th and the second individual which was equally superb being seen creeping around in the forest adjacent to Woodside Drive near Hardwar Gap on the 15th. Excellent.
Feral Pigeon - Columba livea
A single individual was seen at Buff Bay.
Ruddy Quail Dove - Geotrygon montana
After poor flight views of a couple at Rocklands I was pleased to obtain excellent views of birds creeping around the forest at Marshall's Pen with 4 seen on the 11th, 2 on the 12th,5 on the 14th including a bird mist netted and finally 1 was seen on the track at Woodside Drive near Hardwar Gap on the 15th. Superb.
CRESTED QUAIL DOVE - Geotrygon versicolor
My most wanted bird in Jamaica on leaving the U.K. so after around 15 hours of creeping around a small patch of forest to no avail at Marshall's Pen where a pair had recently nested I was getting desperate ! However Robert Sutton kindly pointed me in the direction of Woodside Drive near Hardwar Gap with stories of how he had mist netted six in a single morning. On arriving at Woodside Drive at around 3.30pm on the 15th I spent an hour quietly walking the upper part of the drive seeing a Caribbean Dove. I then decided to walk further down to take a quick look at how far the suitable habitat stretched when to my delight I turned the sharp left hand bend at the bottom of the hill and in the middle of the track was a superb adult. As I watched it down to fifteen yards I was quite unprepared for the bird to be continually violently pumping its tail as it walked around virtually in circles. I watched it for around five minutes and left it in the centre of the track to return for the camera which I had foolishly left at the top of the drive. Unfortunately by the time I returned the Dove had vanished although a Ruddy Quail Dove was seen a little further down the track. However the following morning I made sure I was the first vehicle along the road from the Greenhills Guesthouse back to Woodside Drive and was rewarded with a pair walking in the same manner along the "main" road between Holywell Park and Woodside which were watched for around 3 minutes in front of the car before they flew into the forest. I walked Woodside but to no avail and was therefore surprised to encounter another bird walking along the "main" road on our drive back towards Hardwar Gap at around 9am after a few vehicles had passed. This individual was watched walking in the road for 2 minutes when it hopped up onto a small wall along the side of the road and then disappeared into the forest on the other side. This species proved even better than I had expected and was the highlight of the trip. This species is listed as Near Threatened by Birdlife International (Collar et al 1994).
Olive-throated Parakeet - Aratinga nana
A common and fairly widespread species being recorded on nine dates at the Orange River Lodge, Rocklands, Marshall's Pen and a few roadside sightings in fair numbers with a daily maximum of 30 seen at the Orange River Lodge on the 20th.
Green-rumped Parrotlet - Forpus passerinus
This introduced species was only seen at Rocklands where a single individual was watched perched high in a dead tree on the 10th.
YELLOW-BILLED PARROT - Amazona collaria
Only seen near Burnt Hill in the Cockpit Country on the 13th where good views were obtained of a pair and then a single bird. The large bill, white eye-ring and rosy cheeks were all obvious in the field. Unfortunately Birds of Jamaica state that this species is threatened by illegal hunting, collecting for the pet trade and habitat destruction. Indeed along the stretch of the road I was offered a "talking" Parrot by a local who boasted hat he could get me a Parrot whenever I wanted ! I kept my cool and merely told him that Parrots should be left in the wild. This species is listed as Near Threatened by Birdlife International (Collar et al. 1994).
BLACK-BILLED PARROT - Amazona agilis
Only seen near Burnt Hill in the Cockpit Country on the 13th, where good views were obtained of around 30 birds seen both perched and in flight with the red in the wing being a good field character of this species when in flight. Birds of Jamaica state that this species is not as common as the Yellow-billed Parrot and similarly threatened. This species is listed as Vulnerable by Birdlife International (Collar et al. 1994) who state that it suffers from clearance of its habitat, poaching for food and trapping for local trade.
Mangrove Cuckoo - Coccyzus minor
A single individual showed well along the track leading to the Elim Pools on the 13th.
Smooth-billed Ani - Crotophaga ani
Fairly widespread being recorded on eight dates in small numbers from scattered locations with a maximum of 8 being seen near the Portland Ridge on the 15th.
JAMAICAN LIZARD CUCKOO - Saurothera vetula
A superb individual was taped into view at Rocklands on the 10th and proved to be one of the highlights of the trip as it perched in full view for around a quarter of an hour. On reacting to the tape (which it did several times) it would fly past us to with in a matter of a few feet. At the same time around another 3 individuals started to call in reaction to the tape. On leaving the area possibly a different individual was flushed along the edge of the forest. Clearly this species reacts extremely well to tape playback. The species was never seen again although it was heard at Marshall's Pen where Robert Sutton mentioned it has increased over the last few years and is now as common as the larger Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo.
CHESTNUT-BELLIED CUCKOO - Hyetornis pluvialis
This huge and impressive species was seen on five dates with 1 at Rocklands on the 10th, 1 on the 11th, 2 on the 13th and 1 on the 14th at Marshall's Pen often around the garden at the front of the Great House and finally 1 in the forest just above the Greenhills Guesthouse on the 15th.
Barn Owl - Tyto alba
A single individual was flushed from the barn beneath the accommodation at Marshall's Pen in the early morning on the 11th and the same or another was spotlighted in the evening. An individual was found dead on the road near Elim on the 12th and finally 1 was seen at Marshall's Pen again near the barn in the early morning of the 14th.
JAMAICAN OWL - Pseudoscops grammicus
A superb individual was expertly taped into view by Robert Sutton at Marshall's Pen where it gave good views in a close tree before flying off into the forest during the evening of the 11th. The species was also heard at Marshall's Pen on both the 14th and 15th although not looked for.
Antillean Nighthawk - Chordeiles gundlachii
Only seen at Marshall's Pen where 3 were seen on the 10th and 2 on the 14th. They started to fly a good half an hour before dark in good light on both occasions and therefore could be seen well.
Jamaican Potoo - Nyctibius griseus
A superb individual was taped into view and spotlighted by Robert Sutton down to 50 yards at Marshall's Pen on the 11th. It was perched high along the edge of the forest for around five minutes before flying low over the forest. However Robert relocated it after around 10 minutes when it was again watched for around five minutes before we felt that it was only fair to turn the spotlight out. A superb species proving to be a highlight of the trip.
Black Swift - Cypseloides niger
A loose party of 6 were watched feeding low over Marshall's Pen during a squally shower during the afternoon of the 11th, 3 were seen near Burnt Hill in the Cockpit Country on the 13th and 3 were seen feeding low over the Fernhill Club east of Port Antonio on the 17th.
White-collared Swift - Streptoprocne zonaris
Surprisingly only a single individual was positively identified during the trip being at Burnt Hill in the Cockpit Country on the 13th however several distant Swifts were left unidentified at Hardwar Gap which were probably this species.
Antillean Palm Swift - Tachornis phoenicobia
This smart species was widespread being seen every day but two in fair numbers with a daily maximum of 20 being seen on the 13th.
JAMAICAN MANGO - Anthracothorax mango
Fairly widespread being seen in small numbers at the Orange River Lodge, Rocklands (feeding from hand held bottles of sugar water), Marshall's Pen (including one mist netted), Burnt Hill in the Cockpit Country (where one was watched persistently hovering catching midges from a large swarm) but not seen in either the Blue Mountains or the east of the country. A daily maximum of 8 was recorded on the 9th.
RED-BILLED STREAMERTAIL - Trochilus polytmus
A superb but common and widespread species being recorded on every day but the two spent in the east of the island. The 12 or so males coming to feed at hand held sugar water bottles at Rocklands were a particular highlight as were the 4 mist netted at Marshall's Pen on the 14th.
BLACK-BILLED STREAMERTAIL - Trochilus scitulus
Within five minutes of a stop at the Dragon Bay Villas near San San two males were seen at an orange flowering bush in the grounds (one lacking streamers and the other with half grown streamers). We were then treated to prolonged views of a stunning fully plumaged adult male which was holding territory around the flowering shrubs around the "Mahogany Villa" (the Villa at the very top of the hill) at the Fern Hill Club on the 17th and a single female was seen at the Fern Hill Club on the 18th. However, somewhat of a concern was a male lacking streamers seen at the Fern Hill Club which when first seen appeared to have a black bill but closer scrutiny revealed that this individual had a dull red basal half to the bill. The red was far duller than any Red-billed Streamertail that had previously been seen, although I have to admit that I did not pay particular attention to every previous Red-billed Streamertail and may therefore have overlooked the fact that other Red-billed Streamertails lacking streamers displayed dull coloured bills ? However this individual may represent a dreaded intergrade / hybrid bird. Whilst in Jamaica I was told by a local birder that "Red-bills" have been seen as far east as Reach Falls where they are extremely aggressive chasing off the male "Black-bills". I know Robert Sutton was concerned by this news as he feels that with the continued range extension of the Red-billed Streamertail along with its aggressive nature it may cause the Black-billed Streamertail to become increasingly rare and threatened.
Vervain Hummingbird - Mellisuga minima
Birds were recorded on five dates with individuals seen at Rocklands, Marshall's Pen, Greenhills Guesthouse, Fern Hill Club and the Orange River Lodge. This species is truly tiny which I learnt to my cost as I had originally mistaken two female Red-billed Streamertails for this species on our first afternoon at the Orange River Lodge as the red on the bill is often restricted to the underside of the bill. However there is no mistaking the Vervain when this insect sized bird is actually seen.
JAMAICAN TODY - Todus todus
I had looked forward to seeing this species and was not disappointed as they are truly charming. It proved to be a widespread species being seen on nine dates in small numbers recorded at Orange River Lodge in the forest by the entrance barrier (an adult was watched for long periods feeding a fledged youngster on the 9th and surprisingly still on the 21st), Rocklands, daily at Marshall's Pen (including 2 mist netted on the 14th) and at Woodside Drive in the Blue Mountains.
JAMAICAN WOODPECKER - Melanerpes radiolatus
A common and widespread species being seen on every day apart from three with good numbers seen at the Orange River Lodge, Rocklands, Burnt Hill in the Cockpit Country, Marshall's Pen with a daily maximum of 10 being seen on the 9th.
JAMAICAN ELAENIA - Myiopagis cotta
The only two seen were at the Orange River Lodge during the morning of the 9th with 1 seen briefly along the road up the hill leading away from the entrance barrier and a second individual watched for around 10 minutes which was hunting from the low trees around the entrance barrier.
Greater Antillean Elaenia - Elaenia fallax
Despite Robert Sutton informing me that this species would be common around Hardwar Gap in July we only managed a single individual at the very top of Woodside Drive on the 15th.
JAMAICAN PEEWEE - Contopus pallidus
Surprisingly only recorded on four dates with 2 seen at Marshall's Pen on the 11th, 1 seen near Burnt Hill in the Cockpit Country on the 13th and 1 along the road just above the Greenhills Guesthouse.
SAD FLYCATCHER - Myiarchus barbirostris
A widespread species being seen on eight dates in small numbers at Orange River Lodge, Rocklands, Marshall's Pen, the Blue Mountains and around San San with a daily maximum of 4 seen on the 15th. Often confiding.
RUFOUS-TAILED FLYCATCHER - Myiarchus validus
This large species was only seen on four dates with 1 seen sharing a wire at the back of the Orange River Lodge with a Sad Flycatcher on the 8th, 4 at Marshall's Pen on the 11th with 1 on the 12th and 3 mist netted on the 14th. In the hand they consistently snapped their powerful bills.
Stolid Flycatcher - Myiarchus stolidus
Only seen at Rocklands during the morning of the 10th where a total of three were seen with the first being only seen briefly but fortunately a pair performed much better later. It seems strange as to why this species is often only seen at Rocklands in the north of the country ?
JAMAICAN BECARD - Pachyramphus niger
As with all Becards an excellent species with fine views of a male seen perched calling from the top of a dead tree along the road leading up the hill from the Orange River Lodge on the morning of the 9th. When the bird called it would flick its wings. The bird was still present on its perch when we walked back down the road later in the morning. The next day Fritz located a female which was seen well in the forest at Rocklands. Having seen two in two days we were surprised to not see another during the rest of the trip especially as they have frequently been recorded at Marshall's Pen by previous visitors.
Loggerhead Kingbird - Tyrannus caudifasciatus
This species proved to be common and widespread being seen on every day but two with a daily maximum of 10 recorded on the 11th.
Gray Kingbird - Tyrannus dominicensis
A common and widespread species being seen on every day but three with a daily maximum of 8 being recorded on the 15th.
Cave Swallow - Hirundo fulva
This species proved to be common and widespread often to be seen flying in flocks being recorded on nine dates in scattered locations with a daily maximum of around 80 being estimated at Marshall's Pen on the 11th where a colony breed in the barn under the accommodation.
Caribbean Martin - Progne dominicensis
A single female was seen perched on overhead wires and then in flight along the road between Black River and Parrottee Beach on the 12th. The winter range of this species has yet to be determined.
JAMAICAN CROW - Corvus jamaicensis
Only seen at three sites although on six days with a pair present daily in the early morning and evening at the Orange River Lodge favouring the palm trees at the back of the pool area, a single individual watched mobbing a Red Tailed Hawk in flight at Marshall's Pen on the 11th and a pair near Burnt Hill in the Cockpit Country on the 13th. This species has an extraordinary series of vocalisations.
Rufous-throated Solitaire - Myadestes genibarbis
A superb species proving to be much more common in the Hardwar Gap area than expected with 12 being seen on the 15th and 4 seen the next day with many more heard.
WHITE-EYED THRUSH - Turdus jamaicensis
Another superb species proving much better than expected with 2 being seen at Marshall's Pen on the 10th followed by 4 seen in the Hardwar Gap area on the 15th and 2 along Woodside Drive the next day.
WHITE-CHINNED THRUSH - Turdus aurantius
A widespread species being seen on ten days in small numbers at Orange River Lodge, Marshall's Pen (including 1 mist netted on the 14th), the Hardwar Gap area and around the Fern Hill Club with a daily maximum of 4 being recorded on four dates.
Northern Mockingbird - Mimus polyglottos
Common and widespread being seen on eleven dates with a daily maximum of 10 being seen in the Portland Ridge area on the 15th.
Black-whiskered Vireo - Vireo altiloquus
A common and widespread species being seen on seven dates although often heard calling "John Chewit" throughout the day usually being the only bird calling during the heat of the day. Many were seen feeding young birds. Birds were seen at the Orange River Lodge, Rocklands, Marshall's Pen (including 1 mist netted on the 14th) and around Hardwar Gap with a daily maximum of 5 recorded on the 9th.
JAMAICAN VIREO - Vireo modestus
Recorded less frequently than expected and only seen on four dates with 2 at Rocklands on the 10th, 1 at Marshall's Pen on the 11th, 2 near Burnt Hill in the Cockpit Country on the 13th and 4 seen in the Hardwar Gap area on the 15th.
BLUE MOUNTAIN VIREO - Vireo osburni
A party of 3 were watched for around half an hour as they fed in wild Ginger Lillies and the low ranches of small roadside trees between the Greenhills Guesthouse and the Hardwar Gap Restaurant during the afternoon of the 15th. A huge bill on this bird - even for a Vireo. A couple of birds were heard but not seen near Burnt Hill in the Cockpit Country on the 15th. This species is listed as Near Threatened by Birdlife International (Collar et al. 1994).
Yellow Warbler - Dendroica petechia
A superb male showed well in a dead tree next to the track at Elim Pools during the evening of the 13th.
ARROW-HEADED WARBLER - Dendroica pharetra
A superb species being seen on four dates with a family party of 3 watched for a quarter of an hour as the adults fed the young bird at Rocklands on the 10th, a single adult seen in bushes next to the road near Burnt Hill in the Cockpit Country on the 13th, a superb adult female mist netted at Marshall's Pen on the 14th proving to be the highlight of the day spent ringing and finally a total of 5 were seen during the afternoon of the 15th in the Hardwar Gap area. Excellent.
Bananaquit - Coereba flaveola
This species proved to be common and widespread being seen on nine dates with birds being seen at the Orange River Lodge, Rocklands, Marshall's Pen (including 2 mist netted on the 14th), the Hardwar Gap area and around the Fern Hill Club at San San with a daily maximum of 10 recorded on the 9th.
JAMAICAN EUPHONIA - Euphonia jamaica
This smart Euphonia was seen on eight dates proving to be fairly common and widespread being seen at the Orange River Lodge, Rocklands, Marshall's Pen (including 1 mist netted on the 14th) and around Hardwar Gap with a daily maximum of 6 recorded at Rocklands on the 10th.
Stripe-headed Tanager - Spindalis zena
This superb Tanager was only seen on six dates being scarcer than expected with 1 at the Orange River Lodge on the 8th, 1 at Rocklands on the 10th, 6 near Burnt Hill in the Cockpit Country on the 13th, 10 in the Hardwar Gap area on the 15th and 6 there the next day and 2 at the Fern Hill Club at San San on the 19th.
Black-faced Grassquit - Tiaris bicolor
Only seen on four dates with 20 coming to feed at Rocklands on the 9th and 10 the next day, 1 trapped at Marshall's Pen on the 14th and 2 near Hardwar Gap on the 16th. However, probably under-recorded as most Grassquits with the exception of Yellow- shouldered were left unidentified after the first few days.
Yellow-faced Grassquit - Tiaris olivacea
Only noted on the first four days with 1 at Orange River Lodge on the 8th, 2 at both Orange River Lodge and Rocklands on the 9th with 2 at Rocklands on the 10th and 2 at Marshall's Pen on the 11th. However see note under the last species.
YELLOW-SHOULDERED GRASSQUIT - Loxipasser anoxanthus
Far commoner than expected with 2 males seen in song at Rocklands on the 10th, 1 female seen at Marshall's Pen on the 11th, 4 seen near Burnt Hill in the Cockpit Country on the 13th, 2 mist netted at Marshall's Pen on the 14th and 1 seen near Hardwar Gap on the 16th.
Greater Antillean Bullfinch - Loxigilla violacea
A superb species being recorded in small numbers on seven days with sightings at the Orange River Lodge, Rocklands, Marshall's Pen (includind a single young bird trapped on the 14th) and around Hardwar Gap with a daily maximum of 4 recorded on the 15th.
ORANGEQUIT - Euneornis campestris
This species proved to be common and widespread being seen on nine dates at Orange River Lodge, Rocklands, Marshall's Pen (including 4 trapped on the 14th), around Hardwar Gap and San San with a daily maximum of 6 seen on the 15th.
Saffron Finch - Sicalis flaveola
Surprisingly only a single male was seen - along the track to Elim Pools on the 12th.
JAMAICAN BLACKBIRD - Nesopar nigerrimus
After booking in to the Greenhills Guesthouse we walked down the road to try to find a ravine which Robert Sutton had told us was good for this species. Within five minutes walk just past a house called Rottweilers we found a Blackbird in an epiphyte on a large branch overhanging the road which having dislodged presumably its prey dropped to the ground perching on the road 12 yards in front of us for around a minute from where it flew back up to another epiphyte where we watched it emptying the contents in full view for around half an hour being confiding and completely ignoring our presence. I could hardly believe our luck with what is often considered the hardest endemic to find. However this proved to be our only encounter with the species. The bird showed a striking deep blue gloss in the field. This species is listed as Near Threatened by Birdlife International (Collar et al. 1994).
Greater Antillean Grackle - Quiscalus niger
Seen on eight dates often proving common along the road and around supermarkets etc. with a daily maximum of 25 recorded on the 13th. Always present around the Westgate Shopping Centre at the southern end of Montego Bay.
Jamaican Oriole - Icterus leucopteryx
Another species which proved to be common and fairly widespread being recorded on six dates in good numbers being seen at Orange River Lodge, Rocklands, Marshall's Pen and around the Hardwar Gap with a daily maximum of 12 recorded on the 10th. One can only hope that this species will not be adversely affected by the recent arrival of the Shiny Cowbird in Jamaica.
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.