TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
14th - 24th February 2004
Mike Read, Hampshire
John Fletcher, Jamaica
Saturday 14th February
The flight display screens were not working in the departure lounge until just before we were called to go to the departure gate; they obviously knew we were important! Our Air Jamaica flight was a few minutes late pushing back but we were soon airborne and heading for warmer climes.
The flight went smoothly and just after our scheduled arrival time we touched down at Montego Bay. During the taxi in to the terminal building in gathering gloom, a couple of people saw a Great Blue Heron beside a pool along with a few assorted smaller (unidentified) birds. After a quick passage through immigration and a longish wait for our luggage, we met John Fletcher and our driver Wayne and after a brief pause to pick up David and Jo, we set off for Negril.
After checking in we had a meal before heading back to our rooms for a well-earned night's sleep.
Sunday 15th February
We assembled in the hotel grounds at 7a.m. and there were already a few birds moving about. White-crowned Pigeons were quite frequent and a couple of Bananaquits were pretty active. Out over the bay were 3 or 4 Royal Terns and, though distant at first, we also found a few Brown Pelicans; one eventually flew past at really close range. An Olive-throated Parakeet joined some of the pigeons in a fig tree and then we found our first endemic species, a Red-billed Streamertail that gave tantalisingly brief views.
We set off for the Royal Palm Reserve and during the short journey saw about 10 Cattle Egrets along the way and a few Antillean Palm Swifts near the edge of town. The reserve was a total delight with lots of birds to be easily found.
Smooth-billed Anis a couple of Green Herons and a few Cattle Egrets were seen on the drive in and there was a Great Egret perched on the top of a tree. The boardwalk and viewing platform were slightly wet and very slippery but with care we were able to find a number of good birds, particularly out on the lake. A couple of Pied-billed Grebes frequently dived and there were perhaps half a dozen Limpkins in trees on an island but the biggest surprise of all here was to see about 100 of the rare and endangered West Indian Whistling-Duck. A few Moorhens and what turned out to be our only mammal of the trip were also on the lake and close to the Limpkins was a juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron. We also saw a couple of Belted Kingfishers. On around the boardwalk itself birds were a little less in evidence but we added Jamaican Oriole, Jamaican Woodpecker and American Kestrel and just as we reached the coach, four Glossy Ibises flew past.
We drove back to the hotel by 9.30 and during our wait for breakfast we added a couple of Yellow-rumped Warblers a Cape May Warbler and a Black-throated Blue Warbler. Just before mid-day we left the hotel for our journey to Black River. We had little new during this journey except a few Magnificent Frigatebirds in coastal areas and a small group of European Starlings close to a small town.
We reached Parottee Pond in time for lunch and a bit of birding before heading for our boat trip. At the pond we found an Osprey, at least 10 Black-necked Stilts, Greater Yellowlegs, a few Royal Terns and the usual scattering of herons and egrets. Brown Pelicans and Magnificent Frigatebirds were frequent here and the duck family was represented by a few Blue-winged Teals and an elusive American Wigeon or two.
Back at the Black River a Vervain Hummingbird and a Spotted Sandpiper were new species and a group of egrets and herons were in overhanging trees and they kept us entertained while we waited for our boat. The boat trip itself was great with more views of herons and egrets including Green Herons and Least Bitterns. A Crocodile approximately 10 feet long enabled a very close approach and we saw a number of Ospreys either perched, circling or catching fish. The biggest surprise here was to see an Osprey perched on a dead tree, which flew off at our approach. As we started to leave another raptor landed in the same place and this turned out to be a Peregrine.
After this lovely episode we drove to our hotel at Treasure Beach and were soon enjoying a fine evening meal.
Monday 16th February
Met at 7a.m. for a pre breakfast stroll and were soon seeing some fine birds. Common Ground Doves were soon followed by a beautiful Black-throated Blue Warbler on one of the hummingbird feeders. These feeders were then visited by a Doctorbird (Red-billed Streamertail). In some short grass, a Black-faced Grassquit fed briefly before it was chased off by another and then we saw a Jamaican Mango feeding from some yellow Red Hot Poker flowers. A couple of Turkey Vultures were about early and we also found that a few smaller birds were active namely Jamaican Vireo, Prairie Warblers and both male and female American Redstarts. A few Great Egrets and Brown Pelicans flew over the sea.
After breakfast, we drove to nearby Great Pedro Pond. There were a number of Smooth-billed Anis in the bushes while the lake was teeming with birds. Out on the water was a large flock of about 200 Pied-billed Grebes and perhaps ¼ that number of Caribbean Coots while closer to shore were a few Least Grebes. Herons ranged in size from Great Blue to Green while Egrets were represented by Great, Snowy and Cattle. Perhaps the biggest prize for this family were at least 8 Black-crowned Night-Herons which were disturbed from their roost by a man and his dog. The disturbance also flushed out a number of Blue-winged Teals, some Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs (giving a good opportunity for size comparisons) and a flock of about 120 Black-necked Stilts which flew around and gave a superb display of their aerial prowess. To complete the scene, there were a couple of Belted Kingfishers in dead trees on opposite sides of the lake and a couple of Ospreys had a minor territory dispute overhead.
At a smaller pond a short distance from the 'Corna shop' we had even better views of some Blue-winged Teals while both species of Yellowlegs were present as were a few Black-necked Stilts. It was something of a surprise to find 3 species of Plover present namely Wilson's and Grey/Black-bellied Plovers and Killdeer.
We returned to the hotel by about 12 o'clock and after lunch an hour later, we rested until 3 p.m. when we drove to the upper Black River Morass. The fish farm near Newton held a few birds but, apart from a couple of Purple Gallinules, there was nothing exciting. However, as we drove past the 'back' of the farm to get to the Morass, we did catch a glimpse of an Indian Mongoose. Further along the track there was a large number of Cattle Egrets 'following the plough'; we estimated that there were at least 500 present!
Unfortunately, Wayne could not get his bus as far along the track as we had hoped and so we went for a walk along the tree-lined embankment. Birding was good with White-crowned and White-winged Pigeons both being well seen but the Caribbean Dove was not seen by everyone. A couple of Olive-throated Parakeets were seen by some of the group while others looked at an adult Black-crowned Night-Heron. The warbler family was represented by Black and White, Prairie, Yellow, American Redstart and Northern Parula and we also saw Stolid Flycatcher, Jamaican Woodpecker and Mangrove Cuckoo.
Our drive back to the hotel was made in gathering darkness but try as we might, we saw no owls during the journey.
Tuesday 17th February
A pre-breakfast walk around the Treasure Beach Hotel enabled us to get good views of such species as Red-billed Streamertail, Jamaican Mango, Prairie Warbler and American Redstart and a few Royal Terns and Brown Pelicans passed off shore.
We left the hotel at 9.00am and began our journey to Rocky Point on the Portland Ridge. Turkey Vultures were very common and Northern Mockingbirds were fairly frequent. At once place there was a nice group of White-collared Swifts seen overhead. As the bus could not take us as far as we wanted, we began a walk at Rocky Point to search for the Bahama Mockingbird but unfortunately these could not be found. However, other species made up for this and we did manage to see Jamaican Oriole, Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo and a couple of Sad Flycatchers in the bushes, while the coastal lagoon held various herons Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, a small group of Least Sandpipers and three species of plover. As the weather was rather hot, we returned to the bus and after lunch set off towards Kingston. We had only driven a short way when right by the roadside we found a Bahama Mockingbird!
The journey went well and we managed to spend half an hour in Kingston's Hope Gardens where we managed to add Zenaida Dove, Yellow-billed Parrot and an escaped Ring-necked Parakeet to the list. After a forty-five minute journey we arrived at Forres Park to a fruit punch, a warm welcome and a refreshing cold towel each. After a fine meal we slept pretty soundly.
Wednesday 18th February
Our pre-breakfast walk at 7.00am proved very productive with Doctorbirds being amongst the first species seen. Within a few yards of the building we had found Prairie and Cape May Warblers and an American Kestrel perched nearby. A little further along the narrow winding track we added Jamaican Oriole, Jamaican Tody and Orangequit; the latter two being endemic species. An American Redstart did the usual thing of flicking its tail from side to side and a Black and White Warbler was seen by most of the group. Two more Endemics then popped up namely White-chinned Thrush and Jamaican Euphonia. An Ovenbird proved quite elusive although most people saw it and then as we made our way back for breakfast, a couple of Red-tailed Hawks circled overhead. The final good birds before breakfast were some Black-faced and Yellow-faced Grassquits and in some bushes right by the hotel was a female Greater Antillean Bullfinch. This latter bird was the first time the species had been recorded so close to the hotel.
At 10.00am we began the bumpy journey towards Abbey Green. Wayne was 'excused duties' today as we needed four-wheel drive vehicles and despite his skilful driving he definitely could not have got his bus where we went. Soon after we crossed the river, we began adding new species and these included Rufous-tailed Flycatcher and Jamaican Pewee, yet two more Endemics. Various warblers that we had already seen were again noted and whilst a number of people watched a pair of Jamaican Todies, the rest of the group found a Black-throated Green Warbler.
We trundled on further and continued to add good birds but amazingly as we rounded one bend in the track, two Crested Quail Doves were wandering about feeding. It was amazing for two reasons: firstly that they were in exactly the same spot that Mike had seen one during his recce two years earlier and secondly that they actually stayed still long enough for everyone to get good views, including through a telescope. This is usually a very flighty species. We completed the journey to Abbey Green and had a nice restful lunch, after which a couple of short walks produced Black and White Warbler and a Stripe-headed Tanager. Another small bird seen looked decidedly like a Mourning Warbler but we could not be sure of its identification and this species is very rare in Jamaica. We drove to another location to try for Jamaican Blackbird but failed to see it, although we did hear Rufous-throated Solitaire. We tried for ages but unfortunately could not find this lovely bird.
During the journey back towards Forres Park we stopped to have a look at a Ring-tailed Pigeon and one of our drivers pointed to a smaller bird nearby which was our first Jamaican Becard. This bird was most co-operative and everyone got good views.
Thursday 19th February
We left Forres Park at 6.00am for some early morning birding at the Hardwar Gap. Unfortunately by the time we reached the prime birding area, low cloud enveloped us and it was raining. We ate our breakfast and then, as the rain had eased considerably, we took a walk along the road. We managed to find Stripe-headed Tanager and a Red-billed Streamertail in the few minutes before the rain began again so we headed back to the bus and decided it was time for a 'coffee visit'. Alex Twyman grows arguably the 'best coffee in the World' (though our local guide John Fletcher might not agree with this!) and, despite our lack of appointment, he and his wife were most welcoming. Alex's commitment to quality coffee was explained most thoroughly and we were all able to taste his lovely product. A Vervain Hummingbird was the only bird that we glimpsed before we left there at 10.15am.
The continuing intermittent rain prevented much birding though we did take a couple of brief walks, which produced Yellow-shouldered Grassquit, Orangequit, White-chinned Thrush and Jamaican Pewee amongst other more common things. Lower in the valley we drove along a river where we saw Cattle Egrets and a couple of Green Herons.
Along the coast road we paused at the Spanish River 'estuary' where we added a few more species for the day. A couple of Pied-billed Grebes and 3 or 4 Moorhens were on some pools, a group of Royal Terns were resting and preening on a small island and local herons included Little Blue Heron, Great and Snowy Egrets.
After a brief stop in Port Antonio, we drove to the Mockingbird Hill Hotel where we received a warm welcome. After settling into our rooms, we had a fine lunch and were able to bird watch from the balcony. In the 'orchid tree' were 2 hummers. Jamaican Mango and Black-billed Streamertail with the latter being a new endemic species for us. Turkey Vultures glided past, Loggerhead Kingbirds called noisily from a treetop and more Orangequits were rather skulking.
At 4.30 we took a gentle walk near the hotel. At the car park, an American Redstart was feeding actively in the trees and a Bananaquit seemed to be possibly nest-building. Along the local roads we found Sad Flycatcher, White-crowned Pigeons and Stripe-headed Tanagers. A couple of Ruddy Quail-Doves flew across in front of us, Jamaican Oriole and Woodpecker put in brief appearances and a couple of Green-rumped Parrotlets completed the days watching.
Friday 20th February
We had our breakfast at 7.30a.m. during which we saw a few Greater Antillean Grackles and a Sad Flycatcher. By 08.40 we were heading for Ecclesdown and on the way we saw typical 'roadside' birds like Cattle Egrets in fields and Turkey Vultures overhead. By 09.15 we were beginning a walk along the Ecclesdown road and things seemed a little quiet. An American Redstart in some dense scrub was the first sighting and then we added American Kestrel and a few Bananaquits, all species we had seen many times before. Orangequit and White-chinned Thrush improved the situation as did our first White-eyed Thrush; things were definitely looking up now .......... as were we! At times, we all felt like we would need a neck massage when we finished the day.
As the birding was improving, even a light shower of rain did not encourage a return to the bus. We just kept right on birding. It proved to be the right decision when we added a few warblers; these included Black-and-white and Northern Parula. This was followed by close views of our first Jamaican Blackbird, 7 Green-rumped Parrotlets and a Jamaican Pewee. A Rufous-throated Solitaire called from nearby but we failed to see it.
To add to the Peewe, other flycatchers appeared including Stolid, Rufous-tailed and a Jamaican Becard. A Crested Quail-Dove in a small clearing caused by a fallen tree was a pleasant surprise and then we reached a location where larger parrots were calling from hidden treetops. Eventually, a Yellow-billed Parrot flew around and landed in a viewable position. Telescope views were enjoyed by everyone before the bird flew then a couple of minutes later, a Black-billed Parrot flew to a different spot and again, we all could see it through the 'scope. Our final new birds of the morning were a couple of Jamaican Crows, which lived up to their local name of Jabbering Crow.
By now, we all felt the need for lunch and during this we were visited by another Rufous-tailed Flycatcher and a group of Yellow-billed Parrots.
We then drove the short distance to Reach (Reich) Falls which everyone agreed was well worth the visit. We returned to the coach and as we finished boarding, a sudden downpour began. A fabulous piece of timing by our illustrious leader!!!
We were then driven to the coast at Happy Grove but the hoped-for seabirds did not appear. We returned to the Mockingbird Hill Hotel where the usual Black-billed Streamertails and Jamaican Mangos could be seen from the bar (not that we were drinking a cooling beer you understand!) and a Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo was also well seen. This completed our days birding.
Saturday 21st February
The Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo provided a suitable early-rise-alarm at 06.05 even though our pre breakfast walk did not begin until 7.00! During the stroll we managed to find Jamaican Oriole, Stripe-headed Tanager, Magnolia Warbler and two species of pigeon; Ring-tailed and White-crowned. The most delightful sighting was to find a pair of Jamaican Todies which seemed to be nest-excavating in a tiny, roadside bank.
After a fine breakfast we spent the rest of the morning relaxing and enjoying further local birding around the hotel. People reported back various species that they had seen including a pair of Yellow-shouldered Grassquits.
We assembled at noon and drove to Berridale where we enjoyed a delicious picnic lunch before embarking on the 2½-hour raft ride down the Rio Grande. This is definitely not white water rafting but a very leisurely and gently journey that enabled us to continue birding as we went. Unfortunately, we were unable to keep the rafts together; raft 'captains' went at varying speeds and so sharing many sightings was not really possible. Birds seen during the trip included Little Blue, Great Blue, Tricolored and Green Herons as well as Great and Snowy Egrets. Turkey Vultures continued their way gently across deep blue skies while below them Antillean Palm-swifts hurried in search of insects. Few other birds were noted but those seen included 5 Greater Yellowlegs, Killdeer and a Pied-billed Grebe. However, the main ingredient of this expedition was a typically Jamaican 'RELAX!'
Back at the hotel we managed a little more birding and relaxing as the sun sank towards the distant Blue Mountains. There were now two Chestnut-bellied Cuckoos in the hotel grounds along with Kingbirds, Mockingbirds, Black-billed Streamertails and Jamaican Mangos while out towards the car park was a pair of Yellow-shouldered Grassquits and a dapper looking Black and White Warbler.
The day finished with another super meal plus wine and a cake to celebrate David's birthday.
Sunday 22nd February
Overnight showers had cooled the air a little and one or two light spells of rain seemed to be pushing good numbers of White-collared Swifts through the area; rather appropriately the local name for this species is 'rainbird'.
We had decided to walk a different part of the Ecclesdown road today and by 9.30am we were disembarking from the air-conditioned bus into another hot Jamaican day. Stripe-headed Tanager was the first species found and shortly afterwards we heard the familiar call of a Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo but unfortunately it was not as bold as the birds at Mockingbird Hill and we never did see it. American Redstarts, Jamaican Oriole and Orangequits were seen and a Jamaican Crow or two were heard. Then we found a new species for the trip, an unmistakable Common Yellowthroat complete with its subdued, winter plumage, lone range style mask!
Further on, we paused to identify a Northern Parula when a pair of Jamaican Elaenias perched nearby. In typical flycatcher fashion they landed, looked around, flew off to catch a passing insect but then moved to a new perch. This made them difficult to get everyone on to but in the end, everybody had at least fair views. And we had now seen 26 of the 28 endemic bird species!
Delightful Jamaican Todies were found in a couple of locations along this walk but were not as approachable as 'our' birds back at the hotel. Large Rufous-tailed Flycatchers were also seen at a few places along the roadside and Jamaican Vireos and Euphonias completed the morning's birding.
We returned to the hotel for a latish lunch before we did a variety of things in the afternoon. Some went to a nearby private beach and had a good time swimming, sunning and birding, while others completed the day just looking at the birds around the hotel, from the swimming pool or from the bar!
Monday 23rd February
Local birding relaxing and breakfast filled the time before our departure towards Kingston and our flight homewards. Many of the usual birds were seen and these included Jamaican Mangos, Black-billed Streamertails, Chestnut-bellied Cuckoos and Jamaican Todies.
By 10.15am we were on our way but did not relax our search for birds but only found Loggerhead Kingbirds, Cattle Egrets and Turkey Vultures before we reached Buff Bay an hour later. After a brief pause, we left the main coast road and began the climb along the river valley towards the Hardwar Gap. A Little Blue Heron stood on a riverside boulder and an American Kestrel was perched on a tree top but then, as we paused to take photos of the lovely river, a Belted Kingfisher flew from an open perch to a more concealed location. Beyond Alex Twyman's coffee plantation house, we began a walk along the road and were almost immediately rewarded with our best views of a couple of Jamaican Euphonias. We were now back into the Red-billed Streamertail region of Jamaica and had soon seen a few of these. We then heard a Jamaican Vireo singing but could not see it although an Orangequit and a male Greater Antillean Bullfinch proved more co-operative. A calling Jamaican Tody alerted us to its presence and in the end we found a pair of them. Everyone was delighted to get our final views of this gorgeous little species.
We had a slightly late picnic lunch before one final search for birds along the 'Woodside' track. A couple of White-chinned Thrushes and a Stripe-headed Tanager were quickly found and then another smaller bird was seen skulking in nearby undergrowth. After some difficulty the bird was identified as an Arrow-headed Warbler; yes, we were now looking at (or rather glimpsing!) our 27th endemic bird species. Rather satisfied with this, we went back to the coach and were soon heading onwards to Kingston. Another very brief stop produced nothing and by 4.45 we were relaxing and freshening up before going to Devon House for a celebratory meal.
All too soon the airport beckoned and with farewells and final thanks to John, our local guide, and Wayne, our driver we entered the terminal building at Norman Stanley airport. After an easy check-in, we were soon waiting for our midnight flight back to the U.K.
Tuesday 24th February
As we boarded the plane for our flight home some members of the group adjusted their watches to British time. The recent good meal meant that we were uninclined to partake of another meal at 5.00 o'clock in the morning! The service was speedy and the flight was smooth and we were soon able to settle down to a 'mornings' sleep. As we approached Heathrow we were served breakfast ооооо. at lunch time. The journey was completed and the baggage arrived and we all bade our farewells before heading on our journeys home in typically dull and wet British weather!
Pied billed Grebe Seen on 15th at the Royal Palm Reserve, about 200 were on Great Pedro Pond on 16th, 2 on 19th at the Spanish River and 1 on the Rio Grande on 21st
Least Grebe At least 5 on Great Pedro Pond on 16th
Brown Pelican Seen on 15th, 16th and 17th in various coastal areas
Magnificent Frigatebird Seen on the first 3 days in various coastal locations and then seen on 19th near Mockingbird Hill Hotel
Great Blue Heron Noted on 15th, 16th, 17th, 19th and 21st
Great Egret Seen on the same dates as the previous species
Snowy Egret Seen on the same days as the previous 2 species
Little Blue Heron Seen on 7 days in small numbers
Tricoloured Heron Noted on 4 days in small numbers
Cattle Egret Seen every day
Green Heron Seen on 15th at the Royal Palms Reserve, on 16th at the Black River, at Spanish River on 19th and many during the Rio Grande Rafting trip on 21st
Black-crowned Night-Heron 2 at the Royal Palms Reserve on 16th then at least 8 at Great Pedro Ponds on 17th and at least 2 at the Upper Black River Morass later the same day
Least Bittern 3 seen during the Black River Boat trip on 15th
American White Ibis 1 at the Royal palm Reserve on 15th and another at Parottee Pond later the same day
Glossy Ibis 4at the Royal Palm Reserve on 15th and a further 16 or more during the Black River boat trip that afternoon
West Indian Whistling-Duck About 100 of this rare species at the Royal Palm Reserve on the morning of 15th then no further sightings for the rest of the tour
Mallard A single bird was seen on 15th at the Royal Palm Reserve
American Wigeon 1 at Parottee Pond on 15th was the only sighting
Blue-winged Teal Just seen on 15th & 16th with the best sightings at Salt Spring Hole on the latter day
Turkey Vulture Noted every day with the largest numbers on 17thas we journeyed to Forres Park
Red-tailed Hawk Noted on 6 days with the most sightings being 4 on 18th during our day in the Blue Mountains at Abbey Green
Osprey At least 4 on 15th and also seen on the next 2 days
Peregrine A single bird well seen during the Black River boat trip on 15th
American Kestrel Seen every day with an unusual brown breasted form at the Hotel Mockingbird Hill on 22nd
Limpkin There were at least 6 at the Royal Palm Reserve on15th
American Purple Gallinule Seen at the Royal Palm Reserve and on the Black River on 15th and then on the fish farm near the Upper Black River Morass on 16th
Moorhen Seen on 15th at Royal Palm Reserve and on the Black River boat trip then seen the following day and on 19th
Caribbean Coot At least 30 seen on Great Pedro Pond on 16th
Northern Jacana Seen at the Royal Palm Reserve and on the Black River boat trip on 15th and also seen on 17th
Black-necked Stilt About 10 at Parottee Pond on 15th then at least 120 at Great Pedro Pond and a few at Salt Spring Hole on 16th
Spotted Sandpiper Noted on 15th, 16th and 17th at the western end of the island and then 4 during the Rio Grande rafting on 21st and 1 on the beach close to Mockingbird Hill Hotel on 22nd
Greater Yellowlegs Seen on the first 3 days in various wetland locations and then not seen again until 21st when there were 5 along the Rio Grande
Lesser Yellowlegs Only confirmed on 16th when we saw a few at Great Pedro Pond and Salt Spring Hole where a direct comparison to their larger cousins aided identification
Wilson's Plover 3 on 16th at Salt Spring Hole and 3 on 17th as we walked at Rocky Point
Grey Plover 1 on 16th at Salt Spring Hole and 2 at Rocky Point the following day
Killdeer Noted on 4 days with the most being 4 at Salt Spring Hole on 6th
Least Sandpiper A group of small waders at Great Pedro Pond on 16th was probably this species and there were 8 in the lagoon close to Rocky Point on 17th
Laughing Gull About 20 seen at the start of our Black River boat trip on 15th
Royal Tern Frequent in coastal areas on the first 3 days and also seen on 19th and 21st
White-crowned Pigeon (Baldpate) Seen every day except 18th
Ring-tailed Pigeon (Ringtail) Seen on 18th on the way up to Abbey Green and also seen on 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd
Feral Pigeon Only noted on 18th, 19th and 21st
White Winged Dove Only seen in small numbers on 16th, 17th, 18th and 21st
Zenaida Dove 2 on 17th at Hope Gardens in Kingston was the only sighting
Common Ground Dove Seen most days
Caribbean Dove Seen on 5 days with the compost heap at Hotel Mockingbird Hill being a favoured place for the species
Crested Quail-Dove 2 near Abbey Green on 18th stayed long enough for 'scope views and another was seen at very close quarters on 20th near Ecclesdown
Ruddy Quail-Dove 2 on 19th at Hotel Mockingbird Hill was our first and we then saw small numbers on the following 3 days
Yellow-billed Parrot About 8 seen in Hope Park, Kingston on 17th and then we saw good numbers, in a mixed flock of more than 50 'billed parrots' a Ecclesdown on 20th
Black-billed Parrot Only seen at Ecclesdown on 20th in the company of their Yellow-billed cousins
Olive Throated Parakeet 1 seen at the Seasplash Hotel in Negril on 15th, 2 at the Upper Black River Morass on 16th and 3 on 18th near Forres Park
Green-rumped Parrotlet 2 on 19th near the Hotel Mockingbird Hill and at least 7 at Ecclesdown on 20th
Ring-necked (Rose-ringed) Parakeet Just a single feral bird seen in Hope Park on 17th
Mangrove Cuckoo Just a single sighting at the Upper Black River Morass on 16th
Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo (Old Man Bird) First seen on 20th at the Hotel Mockingbird Hill and then noted on a further 3 days there
Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo (Old Woman Bird) 1 on 17th near Rocky Point then heard at Mockingbird Hill on 21st and glimpsed at Ecclesdown on 22nd
Smooth-billed Ani noted on 6 days
Antillean Palm Swift About 40 seen in the Negril area on 15th. Also seen on 16th and 21st
White Collared Swift At least 10 seen during the journey to Rocky Point on 17th, a singleton on 21st during the raft trip and then good numbers passed the Hotel Mockingbird Hill during breakfast on 22nd
Jamaican Mango Frequent; noted on 7 days with the most frequent sightings from the bar at Hotel Mockingbird Hill!
Red-billed Streamertail Commonly seen on the first 5 days and on the way to the airport on 23rd
Black-billed Streamertail Only seen at Hotel Mockingbird Hill and in that general area on 5 days from 19th
Vervain Hummingbird The least frequently seen hummingbird though we did start with 8 on 15th. Only noted on 4 other days
Belted Kingfisher 5 sightings on 15th especially on the Black River trip. Also seen on 4 other days.
Jamaican Tody This delightful little bird was seen on 4 days with the first ones being near Abbey Green on 18th. Those seen near the Hotel Mockingbird Hill were the most reliable and on one occasion, they were seen excavating a nest
Jamaican Woodpecker Seen or heard every day except 17th
Jamaican Becard A female was watched for ages near Abbey Green on 18th then at Ecclesdown on 20th, another one was seen and our driver, Wayne showed us a nest from the previous breeding season. Another old nest was found near Mockingbird Hill but no birds were sighted.
Loggerhead Kingbird Common and quite noisy! Seen every day
Stolid Flycatcher Just 3 sightings; 1 on 16th at the Upper Black River Morass, 1 on 18th on the journey to Abbey Green and 1 on 20th at Ecclesdown
Sad Flycatcher 2 on 17th at Rocky Point were our first and we then saw the species on 18th, 19th,20th and 23rd
Rufous-tailed Flycatcher First seen on the way to Abbey Green on 18th then at least 3 at Ecclesdown on 20th where we also saw the species on 22nd
Jamaican Pewee Seen on 18th on the way to Abbey Green and also seen on 20th and 22nd at Ecclesdown
Jamaican Elaenia 2 seen well at Ecclesdown on 22nd
Northern Mockingbird Common; seen every day except 18th
Bahama Mockingbird Just a single bird seen as we left Rocky Point on 17th
White-eyed Thrush Seen on 20th and 22nd at Ecclesdown
White-chinned Thrush Seen every day from 17th onwards
Jamaican Crow 2 seen on 20th at Ecclesdown and heard at the same location on 22nd
Rufous-throated Solitaire Heard on 3 days but unfortunately we did not see this lovely species
Starling A group of about 6 individuals were seen on 15th during the journey to the Black River area
Jamaican Vireo Noted on 6 days in various locations
Blue Mountain Vireo 2 at Ecclesdown on 20th and also seen at the Hardwar Gap on 23rd
Black and White Warbler Noted on 5 days .... and Malcolm saw one eventually!
Northern Parula 3 on 16th at the Upper Black River area then seen on 3 consecutive days from 20th
Yellow Warbler Seen on 16th at the Upper Black River Morass and heard the following day at Rocky Point
Black-throated Blue Warbler Frequently seen; noted on 7 consecutive days from 16th
Arrow-headed Warbler Seen, after a lot of searching, at the Hardwar Gap on 23rd. This was the last of the 27 endemic birds (out of 28) that we found
Ovenbird Just a single sighting at Forres Park on 18th
Black-throated Green Warbler Just a single sighting on the way to Abbey Green on 18th
Prairie Warbler Seen fairly frequently on 5 days
Cape May Warbler A single bird on 15th at the Seasplash Hotel was our first with other sightings at Forres Park on 18th and at Mockingbird Hill Hotel on 21st
Yellow-rumped Warbler Just a couple seen at the Seasplash Hotel on 15th
American Redstart Common; seen every day from 16th
Common Yellowthroat Just a single bird at Ecclesdown on 22nd
Bananaquit Common; seen frequently every day
Orangequit Seen on 6 consecutive days from 18th. This species was only encountered at the eastern end of the island though it is more widespread than our sightings suggest
Jamaican Euphonia First seen at Forres Park on 18th then noted on 21st, 22nd and 23rd with the best sightings reserved for the latter day when we saw one very well at the Hardwar Gap
Stripe-headed Tanager Seen on 6 consecutive days from 18th when we had our first sighting at Abbey Green
Jamaican Oriole This lovely bird was seen every day except 23rd
Jamaican Blackbird 2 well seen at Ecclesdown on 20th
Greater Antillean Grackle Seen every day except 18th with the closest views occurring during breakfasts at the Mockingbird Hill Hotel
Greater Antillean Bullfinch A female at Forres Park on 18th was unusual there then we also saw the species at Abbey Green later that day as well as on 22nd and 23rd
Yellow-faced Grassquit Just a handful of sightings on the first 4 days
Black-faced Grassquit Seen on 4 days
Yellow-shouldered Grassquit Somewhat elusive with a single brief sighting on 19th 'beyond' the Hardwar Gap but then we had a few sightings at the Mockingbird Hill Hotel on 21st and 22nd
(Mourning Warbler - a bird possibly of this species, was seen at Abbey Green on 18th but we could not be totally certain of the identification and as there are only a couple of previous sightings in Jamaica, we thought it best not to include it in the total but it is mentioned here for completeness)
Mouse Species An unidentified spp. was seen at Treasure Beach Hotel on 16th & 17th and also at Forres Park on 17th.
Rat Species Seen near the Forres Park feeders on 17th and 18th.
Indian Mongoose One seen on 16th at the Black River Upper Morass.
Terrapin Species Two on 16th at Salt Spring Hole.
American Crocodile One seen at close quarters during the Black River boat trip on 15th.
Lizard At least two different species seen in wide variety of locations throughout the trip.
What a fabulous trip this was! Warm sunshine, cold wine and beers and a lovely relaxing time was had by all. This was the perfect antidote to the dull British winter weather. The ideal place to shake off SAD unless of course you want to see Sad Flycatcher! We saw 106 bird species and this included 27 out of the 28 endemics; excellent for the first Travelling Naturalist tour to Jamaica. This was greatly facilitated by our local guide John and by our driver Wayne.
The Royal Palm Reserve near Negril was a wonderful start with approximately 100 of the Rare and Endangered West Indian Whistling Duck seen. Everywhere we went the welcome was warm and friendly and Forres Park is well worth a mention as was Milly's cooking there. Our final port of call was the hotel Mockingbird Hill which was wonderful (especially the coconut and garlic soup!)
I am already looking forward to the next time I lead a tour there and I also look forward to having the pleasure of your company on future tours elsewhere.