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Jamaican Tody was voted the favorite bird of the tour in a landslide. These charismatic sprites won us over with their vivid colors, bold behavior, and silly vocalizations. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.
Thank you very much for choosing Field Guides for your birding adventure in Jamaica. It was a pleasure birding with all of you. Hopefully you enjoyed birding in Jamaica as much as I do.
Our first day together was primarily focused on getting into position. Two birds stand out however: the pair of Jamaican Crows perched in Runaway Bay and the pair of Northern Potoos that joined us for dessert.
The next morning the endemics came fast and furious on the trails of Green Castle Estate (GCE). Yellow-shouldered Grassquit, Jamaican Tody, Streamertail, Sad Flycatcher, Jamaican Elaenia, Jamaican Woodpecker and Jamaican Vireo were on the list before we even sat down for breakfast. As the day went on, we continued to tally more endemics: White-chinned Thrush, Orangequit, Jamaican Mango, Rufous-tailed Flycatcher, Jamaican Euphonia and Jamaican Becard. A walk down to the reservoir seriously padded our day list with a number of waterbirds. Coots, grebes and ducks were on the water, while Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, Black-necked Stilts and an unexpected Solitary Sandpiper dotted the shore.
Day three began early as we headed to the far eastern end of the island. The John Crow Mountains are the only place where all the endemics can be found. We did not accomplish a sweep in one day (has it ever been done?) but we picked up a number of tricky targets along Ecclesdown Road. Dwayne's trained eyes found us a perched Crested Quail-Dove, the sometimes tricky Jamaican Blackbird showed up almost immediately, a Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo flew right in front of us with a lizard in its bill, we had scope views of the black-billed subspecies of Streamertail, and flocks of Yellow-billed Parrots kept flying by. After an exciting morning in the foothills, we descended to Boston Bay and enjoyed a traditional jerk meal of jerk chicken and pork, plus bammy, festival and other Jamaican treats. The hummingbirds in Port Antonio and the shorebirds at the mouth of the Spanish River helped break up our drive back to GCE and added to our rapidly growing list.
On Wednesday morning we made our way up to Vinery for a pleasant walk. Unquestionably, the highlight of the outing was the multiple encounters with cooperative pairs of Jamaican Tody. Several individuals were so close it seemed as if you could reach out and touch them. Back down in Annotto Bay we added Black-bellied Plover, Osprey, and Northern Jacana to our trip list at the mouth of the Wag Water River. Our afternoon was spent returning to the reservoir at GCE, a habitat tough to come by in Jamaica. After dinner, we took a good day and turned it great by scoring a pair of Jamaican Owls.
Hardwar Gap, up in the Blue Mountains, was our destination for day four. A Crested Quail-Dove walking in the road, a gorgeous male Jamaican Spindalis perched and a Sad Flycatcher at our feet got the outing off to a great start. Hearing and then seeing a Rufous-throated Solitaire was a highlight for many. The bird of the day however, was the obliging Blue Mountain Vireo. I don't think any of us will forget that individual pausing on the broad leaf in the open. Hearing from David Twyman about the operation at Old Tavern Coffee Estate during a tasting was interesting.
Still needing Black-billed Parrot to complete the sweep of endemic species, our destination for our final full day together was Cockpit Country. We managed to score the last target even before we arrived at our birding site -- another clean sweep! It sure made that walk more relaxed from a guide's perspective. Wilson's Plover, Willet, Least Sandpiper, Sandwich Tern, and Lesser Yellowlegs were all added as we made our way back to Montego Bay. We rounded out our adventure with a visit to Rocklands Bird Sanctuary. It was thrilling to be among so many native birds.
I would like to give a special thanks to all the wonderful Jamaicans I get to work with on this tour who worked so hard to make your experience in their country special. I am truly grateful to be working with local guide Dwayne Swaby, driver Raymond Condappa, the staff at GCE, as well as the staff at Mynt Retreat. I hope I get to bird with all of you again someday.
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)
RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)
LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis)
RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)
Vervain Hummingbird is nearly the smallest bird in the world. It's beak is only one centimeter long. In order to reach the nectar in big blossoms like on this Hong Kong Orchid Tree, it has to sneak around to the base. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.
LEAST GREBE (Tachybaptus dominicus)
PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
WHITE-CROWNED PIGEON (Patagioenas leucocephala)
RING-TAILED PIGEON (Patagioenas caribaea) [E]
COMMON GROUND-DOVE (Columbina passerina jamaicensis)
CRESTED QUAIL-DOVE (Geotrygon versicolor) [E]
RUDDY QUAIL-DOVE (Geotrygon montana)
CARIBBEAN DOVE (Leptotila jamaicensis jamaicensis)
WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)
ZENAIDA DOVE (Zenaida aurita)
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)
One of the unforgettable moments of the tour was hearing a pair of Jamaican Owls. Seeing this one so well for about a minute was the cherry on top. Photo by participant Nancy Buck.
SMOOTH-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga ani)
MANGROVE CUCKOO (Coccyzus minor) [*]
CHESTNUT-BELLIED CUCKOO (Coccyzus pluvialis) [E]
JAMAICAN LIZARD-CUCKOO (Coccyzus vetula) [E]
NORTHERN POTOO (CARIBBEAN) (Nyctibius jamaicensis jamaicensis)
WHITE-COLLARED SWIFT (Streptoprocne zonaris pallidifrons)
ANTILLEAN PALM-SWIFT (Tachornis phoenicobia phoenicobia)
JAMAICAN MANGO (Anthracothorax mango) [E]
VERVAIN HUMMINGBIRD (Mellisuga minima minima)
STREAMERTAIL (RED-BILLED) (Trochilus polytmus polytmus) [E]
STREAMERTAIL (BLACK-BILLED) (Trochilus polytmus scitulus) [E]
The coloration of the endemic Jamaican Mango is very unusual among hummingbirds. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
SORA (Porzana carolina)
COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)
AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)
BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)
WILSON'S PLOVER (Charadrius wilsonia)
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)
KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)
NORTHERN JACANA (Jacana spinosa violacea)
Everyone getting glimpses of this skulking Blue Mountain Vireo seemed like a victory, until it perched on this leaf in the open and really blew our minds. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)
LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)
SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria)
GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)
WILLET (Tringa semipalmata)
LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla)
ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)
SANDWICH TERN (Thalasseus sandvicensis)
This Black-billed Parrot was part of a flock of over a dozen that we came upon while driving the last morning. Seeing this bird well kept the Field Guides clean sweep of the endemics on a Jamaica tour alive. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.
MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD (Fregata magnificens)
BROWN PELICAN (SOUTHERN) (Pelecanus occidentalis occidentalis)
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)
SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)
LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)
GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea)
The orange throat patch on this male Orangequit is obvious in this image but most often in the field it goes undetected. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)
GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus)
Cathartidae (New World Vultures)
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
RED-TAILED HAWK (JAMAICENSIS) (Buteo jamaicensis jamaicensis)
BARN OWL (AMERICAN) (Tyto alba furcata)
JAMAICAN OWL (Pseudoscops grammicus) [E]
JAMAICAN TODY (Todus todus) [E]
Jamaicans call the Jamaican Oriole: "Auntie Katie." It's musical song was heard frequently throughout the tour. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)
JAMAICAN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes radiolatus) [E]
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
AMERICAN KESTREL (HISPANIOLAN) (Falco sparverius dominicensis)
MERLIN (Falco columbarius)
Psittacidae (New World and African Parrots)
BLACK-BILLED PARROT (Amazona agilis) [E]
YELLOW-BILLED PARROT (Amazona collaria) [E]
GREEN-RUMPED PARROTLET (Forpus passerinus) [I]
OLIVE-THROATED PARAKEET (JAMAICAN) (Eupsittula nana nana)
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
JAMAICAN ELAENIA (Myiopagis cotta) [E]
JAMAICAN PEWEE (Contopus pallidus) [E]
I still can't believe how good our looks were at Sad Flycatcher during our walk right after breakfast in the Blue Mountains. I thought this bird was going to land on my boot. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.
SAD FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus barbirostris) [E]
RUFOUS-TAILED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus validus) [E]
STOLID FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus stolidus stolidus)
GRAY KINGBIRD (Tyrannus dominicensis)
LOGGERHEAD KINGBIRD (LOGGERHEAD) (Tyrannus caudifasciatus jamaicensis)
Tityridae (Tityras and Allies)
JAMAICAN BECARD (Pachyramphus niger) [E]
Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)
BLUE MOUNTAIN VIREO (Vireo osburni) [E]
JAMAICAN VIREO (Vireo modestus) [E]
BLACK-WHISKERED VIREO (Vireo altiloquus altiloquus)
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
JAMAICAN CROW (Corvus jamaicensis) [E]
Al spotted this Crested Quail-Dove, a.k.a Mountain Witch, for us up near Hardwar Gap.
CAVE SWALLOW (CARIBBEAN) (Petrochelidon fulva poeciloma)
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
RUFOUS-THROATED SOLITAIRE (RUFOUS-THROATED) (Myadestes genibarbis solitarius)
WHITE-EYED THRUSH (Turdus jamaicensis) [E]
WHITE-CHINNED THRUSH (Turdus aurantius) [E]
Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
JAMAICAN EUPHONIA (Euphonia jamaica) [E]
JAMAICAN SPINDALIS (Spindalis nigricephala) [E]
Streamertail is Jamaica's national bird. Not a bad choice I'd say. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
JAMAICAN ORIOLE (Icterus leucopteryx leucopteryx)
JAMAICAN BLACKBIRD (Nesopsar nigerrimus) [E]
SHINY COWBIRD (Molothrus bonariensis)
GREATER ANTILLEAN GRACKLE (Quiscalus niger crassirostris)
Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.
Parulidae (New World Warblers)
WORM-EATING WARBLER (Helmitheros vermivorum)
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER (Mniotilta varia)
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)
ARROWHEAD WARBLER (Setophaga pharetra) [E]
AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)
CAPE MAY WARBLER (Setophaga tigrina)
NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)
MAGNOLIA WARBLER (Setophaga magnolia)
YELLOW WARBLER (GOLDEN) (Setophaga petechia eoa) [*]
BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER (Setophaga caerulescens)
PRAIRIE WARBLER (Setophaga discolor)
Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)
BANANAQUIT (GREATER ANTILLEAN) (Coereba flaveola flaveola)
YELLOW-FACED GRASSQUIT (Tiaris olivaceus olivaceus)
BLACK-FACED GRASSQUIT (Tiaris bicolor marchii)
ORANGEQUIT (Euneornis campestris) [E]
GREATER ANTILLEAN BULLFINCH (Melopyrrha violacea ruficollis)
YELLOW-SHOULDERED GRASSQUIT (Loxipasser anoxanthus) [E]
SMALL INDIAN MONGOOSE (Herpestes auropunctatus) [I]
While Jamaican Tody was the runaway favorite, Jamaican Owl, Blue Mountain Vireo, and Jamaican Spindalis tied for runner-up.
Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo and Black-billed Parrot also received multiple votes.
Totals for the tour: 112 bird taxa and 1 mammal taxa