Trip Report – November 2016
Comments: We were thrilled with how lovely the people were in Jamaica – it certainly made this trip even more special. We were focused on the endemics and managed all of them except for Jamaican Owl – and this we missed mainly because we had some significant storms on the 2 nights we had put aside to find it. Still we were happy and would recommend this as an easy, short trip.
We arrived at Montego Bay and took 2 days to decompress at the Zilara Rose Hall before starting our short trip around the island.
Day 1: We were picked up at our hotel by our guides and did a short drive to the sewage works out side Montego bay. Enabled us to get our first 2 life birds – West Indian Whistling Duck and Greater Antillean Swift plus start adding the normal wetland species to our Jamaica list. Then it was up to Rocklands Bird Sanctuary – which was fabulous. It is a great setup with wonderful grounds and we did really well – with great views of everything.
Jamaican Woodpecker, Jamaican Tody, Orangequit, Red-billed Streamertail, Jamaican Mango, Rufous-tailed Flycatcher, Jamaican Vireo, White-chinned Thrush, Jamaican Tody, Jamaican Spindalis, Greater Antillean Bullfinch, Zenaida Dove, Caribbean Dove and Olive-throated Parakeet.
We then drove across the island to Whitehouse – managed to see our only Jamaican Crow of the trip on the way over and then stopped for lunch at a great beach-side restaurant before heading to our accommodation for the next 2 nights.
An afternoon walk along the roads above our accommodation was also very productive and the rain held off for us. Sad Flycatcher, Stolid Flycatcher, Yellow-shouldered Grassquit, Jamaican Euphonia and Jamaican Oriole were our life birds but we also managed to see 7 different species of North American warblers.
Had dinner at our accommodation which had stunning views over the bay below. Quiet lovely.
Day 2: With an early start we drove to the Upper Black River Morras – a fabulous wetland area. We had 3 targets for us – Spotted Rail, Masked Duck and Least Bittern. The latter showed up within seconds of us arriving. Spotted Rail also made a fantastic show, collecting nesting material, but we didn’t get the Masked Duck even with several hours of searching.
After some roadside jerk chicken for lunch we decided to go the forest above Bluefields and, despite the heat, it was quite productive – and we added two more life birds to our list – Arrowhead Warbler and Jamaican Eleania. Back to enjoy another stunning sunset with dinner!
Day 3: Rather a long drive this morning to Port Antonio so we didn’t start birding until after lunch – once again despite it being the wrong time of day we had a great afternoon. Ecclesdown Road wasn’t dripping with birds but what we had was amazing – Crested Quail-dove, Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo, White-eyed Thrush, Black-billed Streamertail, Yellow- billed Parrot and Ring-tailed Pigeon. We were feeling confident so we tried for the Jamaican Owl in the hotel grounds in the evening but the weather was really stormy and we were not successful.
Day 4: Back to Ecclesdown Road to get the species we missed yesterday – and unbelievably we got all of them!! Black-billed Parrot, Jamaican Pewee, Jamaican Becard, Blue Mountain Vireo, Rufous-throated Solitaire, Jamaican Blackbird and the grand finale – Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo. We worked hard for these birds but were thrilled to have had great views of them all. Unfortunately the storms rolled back in and we didn’t get the owl tonight either.
Day 5: As we had go all our targets we decided to spend our last night back at the Zilara Rose Hall and so drove back to enjoy a little luxury!
Guides & Resources
Field Guide: Photographic guide to the Birds of Jamaica – Ann Haynes-Sutton, Audrey Downer & Robert Sutton
Birdwatchers’ Guide to Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico & the Caymans
Guides: We booked through Jamaica Birding – which was great – but I cannot find them on the internet anymore!
Lonely Planet guide for points of interest.