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Jamaica. Lush vegetation, amazing birds, warm climate, good food, great people! It was "tough" waking up to sunrises like this at Green Castle but we somehow managed. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
When compared to the Midwestern winter gloom that all of us would have faced, spending a week in Jamaica was just the respite we needed! With a warm climate, a gaudy avifauna, spicy Jamaican jerk, and a fun group of friends, this really was a great trip filled with smile-inducing memories.
As with any tour, there are things that we didn't expect. Thankfully, all the Jamaican endemics fell into place nicely and in quick fashion! Our birding on the grounds of Green Castle Estate on our first day got us off to a great start with sightings of Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo, Vervain Hummingbird, Jamaican Spindalis, Jamaican Woodpecker, Jamaican Mango, Streamertail, and many others. And who can forget the Jamaican Owl and Northern Potoo we added in quick fashion!
We ventured east into the John Crow Mountains where we encountered a whole new subset of endemic targets like White-eyed Thrush, Black-billed and Yellow-billed parrot, Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo, Jamaican Vireo, and others. Of course, the "Black-billed" Streamertail there was a highlight as well! But when Dwayne spotted the Crested Quail-Dove, we kicked it into another gear! Seeing this "mountain witch" is notoriously difficult but we made it happen. Whew!
The following day we were lucky to explore some areas close to Green Castle that don't often get birded. In Robins Bay we found Louisiana Waterthrush and Green-rumped Parrotlets, Annotto Bay yielded Northern Jacana and a variety of uncommon shorebirds, and in the shade of the mangroves we saw the "Golden" subspecies of Yellow Warbler in fantastic fashion! That afternoon we even had time to check out the old stone tower on the GCE grounds.
The Blue Mountains contain some of the most remote and pristine forests in Jamaica and our fourth full day took us deep inside this bird-rich realm. We connected with the rare Jamaican Blackbird, White-eyed Thrush, Blue Mountain Vireo, and even glimpses of the sneaky Rufous-throated Solitaire. A quick coffee break and a chance to buy some chocolate-covered coffee beans (yum!), a picnic lunch, and before long it was time to head back to Green Castle.
We had a full day to wind our way back to Montego Bay but with a couple of key birding stops en route. At an area near Dunn's River Falls, we bushwhacked into a clearing looking for water (didn't find any) but what we found instead was even rarer! Perched atop a tree were two Plain Pigeons! Although the name doesn't inspire excitement, this was indeed a big moment; this is a very rare and tough-to-find specialty in Jamaica and it was a lifer for almost everyone including Dwayne! What luck! Closer to Montego Bay, we all took turns feeding Streamertails at the famed Rocklands Bird Sanctuary, how cool was that! Both Jamaican Mangos and Streamertails hovered at arms reach and even perched on our fingers. Meanwhile, Caribbean Doves strolled through boldly, grassquits littered the ground, and a sneaky Ruddy Quail-Dove even made an appearance!
We spent the last evening and the following morning at The Mynt in Montego Bay, in the good hands of our host Valerie. With a beautiful dinner by candlelight in the private courtyard and a tasty hot breakfast the next morning, it was a great send-off for our group.
I want to thank all of you for joining forces and visiting Jamaica with Field Guides. Kudos to all of you for your preparedness, major thanks to Dwayne and Raymond who's expertise made it all possible, and to Sharon in our home office who worked on all the logistics. We certainly hope you enjoyed Jamaica and the many avian gems that make it such a special place.
Until next time!
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)
WEST INDIAN WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna arborea)
BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)
RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)
RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)
LEAST GREBE (Tachybaptus dominicus)
PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
WHITE-CROWNED PIGEON (Patagioenas leucocephala)
PLAIN PIGEON (Patagioenas inornata)
"In preparation of landing, please place your tray-tables in the upright position... and get ready for Jamaican lifers!" Here's (most of) the gang descending into Montego Bay on their Chicago flight. What greeted folks was pretty different than what they left behind in the Midwest. Photo by guide Cory Gregory from the balcony of The Mynt.
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)
SMOOTH-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga ani)
Our Jamaican tour netted 11 species of doves and pigeons which is pretty impressive! Here's the rather attractive Caribbean Dove at Rocklands. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
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]
I don't think we'll soon forget the excitement of finding these two Plain Pigeons anytime soon! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
STREAMERTAIL (BLACK-BILLED) (Trochilus polytmus scitulus) [E]
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
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)
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)
KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)
NORTHERN JACANA (Jacana spinosa violacea)
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)
"Do you see the Jamaican Spindalis?" "Oh, it's in a tree with five others!". Birding in the Blue Mountains was downright fun, especially with sightings of White-eyed Thrush, Rufous-throated Solitaire, and others! Here's most of the group intently working on more views. Meanwhile, Denis seems privy to what's going on. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
SANDERLING (Calidris alba)
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)
MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD (Fregata magnificens)
The tiny but feisty Jamaican Tody ranked highly as one of the highlights of the trip. This endemic was seen several times, often with the bright cherry-colored throat standing out the most! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
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)
TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor)
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)
GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea)
The "Red-billed" Streamertail was the favorite of several of us and for good reason! This stunning endemic hummingbird proved to be a highlight on a daily basis. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)
GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus)
Cathartidae (New World Vultures)
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)
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]
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)
YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER (Sphyrapicus varius)
JAMAICAN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes radiolatus) [E]
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)
It may not have had the flashy greens and reds of parrots or todies but this Rufous-tailed Flycatcher was still an important target of ours. This flycatcher is endemic to Jamaica, meaning it's found nowhere else in the world! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
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)
Tityridae (Tityras and Allies)
JAMAICAN BECARD (Pachyramphus niger) [E]
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
JAMAICAN ELAENIA (Myiopagis cotta) [E]
GREATER ANTILLEAN ELAENIA (JAMAICAN) (Elaenia fallax fallax)
JAMAICAN PEWEE (Contopus pallidus) [E]
SAD FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus barbirostris) [E]
RUFOUS-TAILED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus validus) [E]
The two gentlemen flanking Cory were truly instrumental in making this a successful trip. From Raymond, pictured here on the right, who not only drove us but spotted us lifers, to Dwayne, on the left, who knew this island so very well! Thanks to both of them!
STOLID FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus stolidus stolidus)
LOGGERHEAD KINGBIRD (LOGGERHEAD) (Tyrannus caudifasciatus jamaicensis)
Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)
BLUE MOUNTAIN VIREO (Vireo osburni) [E]
JAMAICAN VIREO (Vireo modestus) [E]
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
JAMAICAN CROW (Corvus jamaicensis) [E]
CAVE SWALLOW (CARIBBEAN) (Petrochelidon fulva poeciloma)
EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]
Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
RUFOUS-THROATED SOLITAIRE (RUFOUS-THROATED) (Myadestes genibarbis solitarius)
WHITE-EYED THRUSH (Turdus jamaicensis) [E]
The Blue Mountain Vireo, a Jamaican endemic, can be tricky to see sometimes. And then other times it comes right out into the open like this individual! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
WHITE-CHINNED THRUSH (Turdus aurantius) [E]
Estrildidae (Waxbills and Allies)
SCALY-BREASTED MUNIA (Lonchura punctulata) [I]
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
JAMAICAN EUPHONIA (Euphonia jamaica) [E]
JAMAICAN SPINDALIS (Spindalis nigricephala) [E]
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
JAMAICAN ORIOLE (Icterus leucopteryx leucopteryx)
JAMAICAN BLACKBIRD (Nesopsar nigerrimus) [E]
SHINY COWBIRD (Molothrus bonariensis)
GREATER ANTILLEAN GRACKLE (Quiscalus niger crassirostris)
Parulidae (New World Warblers)
OVENBIRD (Seiurus aurocapilla)
One of the tougher endemics, and certainly one of the rarest, is the Jamaican Blackbird. This was a main target for us in the Blue Mountains and look what was waiting for us! Fantastic! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
WORM-EATING WARBLER (Helmitheros vermivorum)
LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia motacilla)
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER (Mniotilta varia)
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)
ARROWHEAD WARBLER (Setophaga pharetra) [E]
HOODED WARBLER (Setophaga citrina)
AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)
CAPE MAY WARBLER (Setophaga tigrina)
"This clump of mangroves looks good" Dwayne said. We walked in and before long we had a slew of warblers surrounding us! Included was the "Golden" subspecies of Yellow Warbler. Outstanding looks were had by all. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)
MAGNOLIA WARBLER (Setophaga magnolia)
YELLOW WARBLER (GOLDEN) (Setophaga petechia eoa)
BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER (Setophaga caerulescens)
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (Setophaga coronata)
YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER (Setophaga dominica)
PRAIRIE WARBLER (Setophaga discolor)
Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)
BANANAQUIT (GREATER ANTILLEAN) (Coereba flaveola flaveola)
YELLOW-FACED GRASSQUIT (Tiaris olivaceus olivaceus)
Here's our group with the Blue Mountains behind us. Pictured in the front left is local guide Dwayne, and in the front right is guide Cory Gregory. I'm not entirely sure who the photo credit goes to but it must have been Raymond!
ORANGEQUIT (Euneornis campestris) [E]
GREATER ANTILLEAN BULLFINCH (Melopyrrha violacea ruficollis)
YELLOW-SHOULDERED GRASSQUIT (Loxipasser anoxanthus) [E]
BLACK-FACED GRASSQUIT (Melanospiza bicolor marchii)
SMALL INDIAN MONGOOSE (Herpestes auropunctatus) [I]
Totals for the tour: 118 bird taxa and 1 mammal taxa