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Posts posted by guy_incognito

  1. After having lunch on the way down the mountain, we braved our way through the Kingston traffic, and headed south of town.  There were a couple water treatment plants we wanted to check out, as well as get towards the Hellshire Hills area.

    Unfortunately, road access was disturbingly confusing, and we completely missed our opportunity at one water treatment plant.  We eventually found our way to the other in the Greater Portmore area.  Lots of birds here, but many are familiar to ABA birders.  Egrets and Herons of all sorts, a few shorebirds, but basically no ducks.  A flock of Bank Swallows was an eBird flag.  We also came across a lot of introduced birds.  Tricolored Munia, Chestnut Munia, Yellow-crowned Bishop, and Great-tailed Grackle.


    Chestnut Munia by mattgrube, on Flickr


    Tricolored Munia by mattgrube, on Flickr


    Great-tailed Grackle by mattgrube, on Flickr



    Late in the afternoon we headed towards the Hellshire Hills area with two targets in mind.  The first came really easily, and we found a few Stolid Flycatchers.  You'll see they look quite similar to the Sad Flycatcher, but they are a little larger, and look closely and the wing pattern.


    Stolid Flycatcher by mattgrube, on Flickr


    Stolid Flycatcher by mattgrube, on Flickr

    We also saw a few Jamaican Mango (hummingbirds) here, but they weren't conducive to nice photos.



    Try as we might, we couldn't find a Bahama Mockingbird.  We found far too many Northern Mockingbirds.  Bahama Mockingbird is only in this south end of Jamaica.  It is also a different subspecies from the other Bahama Mockingbirds found elsewhere in the Caribbean.  Unfortunately this was our one and only change at it. 

    We needed to head back through Kingston and back along that terrible dirt road to our lodge again, so it was another long day by the time we finally got back.  At this point, after about a day and a half, we had picked up 22 of the 27 endemics.  We were feeling cautiously optimistic, but there were still a few tough ones left.

  2. Still in the same Holywell Park area the species list kept accumulating.  Orangequits are pretty common throughout the island, but they can be tough to get a really good look at.  Fortunately, one cooperated here, and gave me my best looks of the trip.


    Orangequit by mattgrube, on Flickr


    Orangequit by mattgrube, on Flickr


    Loggerhead Kingbird in Jamaica seemed to be the equivalent to Tropical Kingbird in other places in Central and South America.  They were everywhere.


    Loggerhead Kingbird by mattgrube, on Flickr


    It's always nice to have an easily identifiable Myiarchus.  There are 3 Myiarchus on the island, and two are endemic, the Rufous-tailed Flycatcher and Sad Flycatcher.


    Rufous-tailed Flycatcher by mattgrube, on Flickr

    Sad Flycatcher looks a lot like a Dusky-capped.  There are no Dusky-cappeds on the island, but there are Stolid Flycatchers which look quite similar, and sound superficially similar.


    Sad Flycatcher by mattgrube, on Flickr


    A relatively well-marked Elaenia is a nice change compared to many Elaenias that are nearly impossible to identify.


    Jamaican Elaenia by mattgrube, on Flickr


    With that success, we were ready to start moving on as the activity was slowing down a bit.  We drove just a bit down the road, and birded near The Gap Cafe.  We got our first looks at one of my major targets.  Some would describe the Jamaican Tody as impossibly cute, and it is hard to argue with that.


    Jamaican Tody by mattgrube, on Flickr


    At a relatively random stop along the road we connected with a few more birds, including stunning looks at another Crested Quail-Dove, and excellent views of a male Jamaican Becard.


    Crested Quail-Dove by mattgrube, on Flickr


    Jamaican Becard by mattgrube, on Flickr

  3. Early the next morning we were off to start our first full day in Jamaica.  We successfully navigated our terrible dirt road in the dark, and headed further up the mountain, arriving a bit after sun up in the Blue Mountains.  We stopped at the Holywell Park area, and would explore here for a bit.  There was a nice combination of forest, as well as some clearings.  We found the clearings to be the most productive, especially in the areas near the cabins (you can stay in the cabins, but we hadn't been able to arrange it before we left).

    One of the first birds was a poor look at a female Arrowhead Warbler.  By the time I figured out what it was it was too late to get a photo.  Fortunately we'd see several more of these.  Not too much further down the trail a friend laid eyes on a female Jamaican Becard, another high quality endemic bird.  A friend who had visited Jamaica before had missed the Becard, so we were happy to get it on the scoreboard so quickly.


    Jamaican Becard by mattgrube, on Flickr

    In this area and just further down the trail towards some cabins we had some really excellent birds.  More Arrowhead Warblers, Jamaican Vireos, Rufous-throated Solitaire, Ring-tailed Pigeon, White-chinned Thrush, Jamaican Spindalis, and Blue Mountain Vireo.


    Rufous-throated Solitaire by mattgrube, on Flickr


    Jamaican Vireo by mattgrube, on Flickr


    White-chinned Thrush by mattgrube, on Flickr


    Ring-tailed Pigeon by mattgrube, on Flickr


    Blue Mountain Vireo by mattgrube, on Flickr


    Blue Mountain Vireo by mattgrube, on Flickr


    Blue Mountain Vireo by mattgrube, on Flickr


    Unfortunately, one of the others slipped on the muddy hillside and took a gnarly sprain to his finger.  Amazingly it didn't seem to be broken, but it was nasty, bruised and swollen for the rest of the trip.

  4. Arriving at Stewart Town at 2 pm clearly isn't ideal, but we'd make the best of it.  Early there wasn't a lot of activity as we walked along the old road that heads into the forest.  One of the first birds we stumbled upon was a quality bird, though, a Yellow-shouldered Grassquit.  This species is more arboreal than many other Grassquits, which was true of this female.  We had to double-check our field guide to make sure we got the ID right since the female is not nearly as dramatic as the male, but the rusty undertail coverts confirmed the ID.


    Yellow-shouldered Grassquit by mattgrube, on Flickr

    He heard plenty of noisy parrots and parakeets.  In Jamaica there are two endemic parrots, the Yellow-billed Parrot and Black-billed Parrot.  There is also the Jamaican race of Olive-throated Parakeet, as well as introduced Green-rumped Parrotlets.  Some of the first that we saw perched in a tree were the Parakeets, which I'd seen before in Mexico.


    Olive-throated Parakeet (Jamaican) by mattgrube, on Flickr

    In this area we started picking up some more quality birds.  We saw our only Greater Antillean Elaenia of the entire trip, and got our first looks at Jamaican Tody, Jamaican Vireo, Jamaican Oriole, Jamaican Spindalis, and Streamertail.  The lifers were really racking up!


    Greater Antillean Elaenia by mattgrube, on Flickr


    Jamaican Oriole by mattgrube, on Flickr


    Streamertail (Red-billed) by mattgrube, on Flickr


    Streamertail (Red-billed) by mattgrube, on Flickr


    Jamaican Woodpecker by mattgrube, on Flickr


    Further down the trail we didn't connect with too much, so we turned around, knowing we still had a long way to travel for the rest of the day.  There were still a few nice surprises, though.  First we heard, and then finally got some views of Jamaican Crows.  Next, some obscured looks at the skulky Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo.  I only ever saw one more during the trip, and that one was only in flight.


    Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo by mattgrube, on Flickr

    Next, my friend scored big when he heard some leaves rustling in the forest and was able to spot the highly desired Crested Quail-Dove.


    Crested Quail-Dove by mattgrube, on Flickr

    Last, we finally saw some parrots perched, and got some decent looks at Black-billed Parrot.

    46982202951_39eb9b2b64_c.jpgBlack-billed Parrot by mattgrube, on Flickr


    In all, we picked up about 17 lifers at Stewart Town, so it was a pretty good way to salvage the day.  https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S52123308


    We had about 3 more hours of driving to finally reach our lodge in the mountains north of Kingston.  Unbeknownst to us ahead of time, our final surprise was discovering that our lodge was a kilometer off the main road along a muddy dirt road with large rocks and ruts to navigate.  We were seriously concerned whether our little rental car was even going to make it.  After a few dicey moments and surely many scratches to the undercarriage we were relieved to have survived and thrived during our first day in Jamaica.

  5. We planned to leave early to get to the airport, unfortunately, we soon found out that our first flight was delayed by at least 4 hours for mechanical issues.  This meant there was absolutely no way to get to Jamaica that evening.  Instead the airlines got us part way, and we spent the night in Charlotte, NC.  The next morning our flight was also delayed, this time because they put too much fuel on the airplane.  Serious, too much fuel...  We had to wait for a truck to come back and take fuel off of the plane, and then we had to wait for them to deice the plane.  I swear there couldn't have been a single trace of ice on the plane by the time we got to the deicers.  I clearly didn't have any patience left, knowing that we were now gonna be another 1.5 hours late, and my friend was already there in Jamaica waiting for us.

    We had the first day carefully planned, but that all was erased since we were now finally in Jamaica at noon.  My prediction came true, and the first two lifers of the trip occurred while we were still packing up the rental car.  Lifer #1 was Greater Antillean Grackle, and #2 was Antillean Palm-Swift.


    Antillean Palm-Swift by mattgrube, on Flickr

    As Jamaica had prior British influence, cars drive on the left.  Fortunately my friends had some experience, and we were quickly and relatively safely on our way out of the airport at Montego Bay.  We decided we'd head straight towards our first major birding spot at Stewart Town.  En route we did make a quick stop just to do a bit of reconnaissance.  The original plan was to stop at a spot near Falmouth to look for the morning flight of pigeons, but we were now 6 hours too late for that.  But since it was on the way, we would survey the area in anticipation to hopefully be there later in the trip.  Here we ran across some of the more typical birds that we'd see during the rest of the trip like Smooth-billed Ani, Prairie Warbler, Bananaquit, and Northern Parula.  A few White-collared Swifts flew over, too.


    White-collared Swift by mattgrube, on Flickr

    From here we left the nice roads and got our first taste of what much of the driving would be like for the rest of the trip.  Basically lots of potholes, narrow streets, and tight squeezes to get around cars and trucks all over the roads.  It is a miracle we never blew a tire on a pothole or got in a fender bender.

  6. One of my good birding friends had recently moved out of the area.  He finally had a week off from work, and after throwing around a bunch of different ideas, we finally settled on Jamaica.

    None of us had ever done much in the Caribbean before, so even though the absolute number of lifers possible isn't the same as we could get in a week in a new area within Central or South America, it still provided ample opportunity for new birds.  Since my friend is still on a tight budget, the ability to do a self planned trip rather than paying for a guide also was a big factor.  The number of new birds to look for in the Caribbean is manageable, whereas going someplace new like Colombia is almost too daunting, and you really should be using a guide for all those really secretive species you'll never find on your own.  With that said, most anyone you ask would still say that you really should hire a guide if you are going to Jamaica.

    In total there are about 150 species endemic to the Caribbean.  Some of these are fairly widespread throughout the Caribbean, but there are also a lot that are endemic to only one island.  Jamaica has 27 endemics, which really is very impressive considering it is a small island.  Both Hispaniola and Cuba have about the same number of endemics.  Those are both larger islands, and some of those species are very difficult to get.  Fortunately, with planning and luck, many diligent birders to Jamaica are able to see all 27 endemic species.

  7. 9 hours ago, meghann said:

    Glad you got to go see the celebrity! Were there a bunch of birders at the library?

    Thanks.  I wasn't able to find a way to sneak out from work until the 3rd afternoon, so there was a relatively small group of about 20 people for much of the time.  The first couple days had a lot more, and I suspect tomorrow will be busy, since it will be the first weekend day available.

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