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JAMAICA 2004

Birdfinders were in Jamaica for a week during March at the invitation of the Jamaican Tourist Board. Although we have offered a combined Cuba and Jamaica tour in the past, we have never offered a dedicated Jamaica tour, so we went there to see what we could do about this! What we found were excellent hotels and lodges, friendly people and wonderful birding.

As well as the normal sites visited by groups, we also visited several new sites and what sites they were! Two of the most difficult species are Crested Quail-dove and Jamaican Blackbird, not only did we have multiple sightings of both species but we also videod them both. In fact, we managed to video over half of the endemic species of the island! On the first morning at Forres Park, shortly after dawn, we saw the endemic Red-billed Streamertail, Jamaican Tody, Jamaican Woodpecker, White-chinned Thrush, Orangequit and Yellow-shouldered Grassquit, as well as the near endemic Vervain Hummingbird, Jamaican Oriole and Greater Antillean Bullfinch. During the day in the hills above, endemic after endemic fell: Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo, Jamaican Pewee, Jamaican Becard, Sad Flycatcher, White-eyed Thrush, Arrow-headed Warbler, Jamaican Euphonia and Jamaican Spindalis whilst Caribbean Dove, Stolid Flycatcher and Loggerhead Kingbird represented Caribbean endemics. On the way back to the hotel we found Crested Quail-dove walking in the road!

The next morning at Hollywell Park, we found both the endemic Blue Mountain and Jamaican Vireos and the Caribbean endemic Rufous-throated Solitaire. Halfway down the north slope of the island we found a Jamaican Blackbird, and in an area we will forever know as 'flycatcher corner', Jamaican Elaenia, Rufous-tailed and Sad Flycatchers and Jamaican Pewee all sat virtually together! Near Port Antonio we saw our first Greater Antillean Grackles and arriving at the beautiful Hotel Mocking Bird Hill, Black-billed Streamertail and Jamaican Mango were immediately added by the swimming pool! Two day down and 23 endemics seen!

An early-morning visit to an excellent rainforest site gave us the Caribbean endemic Antillean Palm-swift en-route, followed by the endemic Black-billed and Yellow-billed Parrots, Jamaican Lizard-cuckoo and Jamaican Crow taking our total up to 27 of the 28 endemics in just over two days! We then had prolonged views of another Jamaican Oriole feeding in bromeliads and just when we though it couldn't get better found another two birds that were quite photogenic! Black-whiskered Vireos were everywhere and we spent an enjoyable lunch break swimming in a truly tropical bay fringed with palm trees. The next day was spent revisiting the previous days' sites and seeing many of the same birds (including no less than three Crested Quail-doves videoed preening in a tree) but in the evening there was a surprise for us, three Jamaican Owls in the garden! It isn't often you can choose which owl to look at but we did that night and you will be able to see the results on the cover of our 2005 brochure!

The next day we visited the famous Marshall's Pen for three nights and enjoyed a relaxing time watching many of the previously-seen endemics again as well as roosting Northern Potoo. At the Royal Palm Reserve we found nearly 30 of the rare West Indian Whistling-ducks whilst at Rocklands bird sanctuary we were privileged to see many endemics at arm's length.

Yellow-billed Parrot

Yellow-billed Parrot