Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Birding Jamaica

Following our visit to Puerto Rico (see following post) we flew to Kingston via Fort Lauderdale in the U.S. for a 7-day tour of Jamaica. At the airport we were met by Wayne Murdoch of Attractions Link, our guide and driver whose services we highly recommend (see here). We arrived after dark at our accommodation for the first 3 nights – the Starlight Chalet in the Blue Mountains, a nicely positioned spot with birdy gardens.

Red-billed Strreamertail
Early in the first morning the first of many specialties and endemics showed. A pair of Orangequits were feeding at one of the hummer feeders along with numerous  Red-billed Streamertails – a stunner of a hummer.

Birding with Wayne Murdoch - Blue Mountains
Also in the garden was a Sad Flycatcher and plenty of American warblers such as Black-throated Blue and Cape May. After breakfast we headed uphill through Hardwar Gap and Blue Mountains National Park, birding the road to 1500m to a few hundred metres beyond the Gap Cafe.

Black-throated Blue Warbler
We found a Jamaican Blackbird (one of the more difficult endemics to find) probing epiphytes about 500 metres beyond the Gap, behaving like no other blackbird. A Jamaican Oriole was similarly probing the moss-laden vegetation.

Sad Flycatcher 
We saw a Ring-tailed Pigeon perched and several others flying over. Jamaican Becard and Jamaican Peewee were seen along with the two endemic thrushes – White-eyed Thrush and White-chinned, the latter much more common.\

White-chinned Thrush
Jamaican Vireos were plentiful and we found a couple of Blue Mountain Vireos without much trouble.

Jamaican Vireo
 Arrowhead Warbler was seen a few times along with Jamaican Euphonia and Jamaican Spindalis. Yellow-shouldered Grassquits were seen in close proximity to Yellow-faced and Black-faced Grassquits.

Loggerhead Kingbird
Other birds seen during a busy morning session in delightful surroundings included plenty of Loggerhead Kingbirds, Rufous-throated Solitaire, Jamaican Woodpecker and Greater Antillean Elaenia.  

Jamaican Becard
In the afternoon, Jamaican Mango was a surprise find at one of the garden hummer feeders. Just 200m from the lodge we flushed a Crested Quail-Dove from the road; the bird was found perched close by for excellent if brief close-up views.

Ring-tailed Pigeon
Our next morning followed a similar plan, though this time we birded as far as Woodside Drive. We had much better views of the Peewee and scored Greater Antillean Bullfinch, Jamaican Tody and Jamaican Elaenia. Another Crested Quail-Dove was flushed.

Jamaican Peewee
We lunched at the café at the pass (where a flyby Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo was seen briefly) before visiting the Dennis Coffee Farm at Section. Organically grown coffee is processed here manually, bean by bean, by a team of energetic Rastafarian men enlivened by the odd puff of ganja.

Jamaican Oriole
We were up very early on our final morning for a fantastic encounter with the trickiest endemic - Jamaican Owl. A bird perched right over our heads in a tree in front of the lodge; it was attracted to the playback of a juvenile begging.

Jamaican Tody
We saw a Rufous-tailed Flycatcher in the garden before packing off and heading north to the coast to our destination for the nest 3 nights - the delightful Bay View Villas eco-resort a little east of Port Antonio.

Rufous-tailed Flycatcher
White-crowned Pigeon was common in trees about the lodge. We were up early for the 45-minute drive to John Crow Mountains National Parks along the Ecclesdown Road further east.

White-crowned Pigeon
We flushed our third Crested Quail-Dove for the trip early in the morning on the way in. We had heavy rain for the first couple of hours but when it cleared we quickly found both Yellow-billed Parrots and Black-billed Parrots in surprisingly good numbers - a total of about 60 Black-billeds and 110 Yellow-billeds.

Black-billed Parrot
We lured a Jamaican Crow into view with the playback of an Australian Raven call.

Jamaican Spindalis
We saw many birds seen earlier in the Blue Mountains including Rufous-tailed Flycatcher, Jamaican Spindalis and Jamaican Elaenia.

Rufous-throated Solitaire
Others included Rufous-throated Solitaire and Black-billed Streamertail, regarded by some as a separate species from Red-billed.

Black-billed Streamertail
During an afternoon drive around Port Antonio we enjoyed close-up views of Jamaican Mango.

Jamaican Mango
Our second morning at Port Antonio was spent walking several well-vegetated roads in the San San area, seeing little of interest other than nice views of Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo. The Chesnut-bellied Cuckoo was inexplicably missed; 28 out of 29 possible targets were seen on what was an excellent trip.

Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo
After leaving Port Antonio our last night in Jamaica was spent in Kingston at the Port Royal Hotel. On the way to Kingston we called into the Castleton Botanic Gardens, where we saw a pair of Jamaican Crows.

Jamaican Crow


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