Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Jamaica Thursday to Saturday

Thursday 10th January
Green Castle Estate

Keith and I were up early and after a coffee on the porch watching the sun come up we headed to Waterfall Trail where I was anxious to see Worm-eating Warbler and avoid any marital harmony. We missed the bloody Warbler but had an enjoyable morning birding before returning for breakfast minus said warbler.

After breakfast Joy and I were joined by Darleen as we walked down the access track towards the sea in an attempt to bird a different habitat, we walked for about 90 minutes and got as far as the Lookout Tower before there was a little clear ground. We saw a few good birds on the walk including Northern Mockingbird, another Mangrove Cuckoo and a few American warblers.

The afternoon was spend reading and swimming in the pool, before at 4.00pm Keith and I went for another session birding where we saw Antillean Palm Swift but not a lot else.

After dark we were joined once again by Dwain for a night walk were we saw Jamaican Owl and had great views of Northern Potoo perched on a stump and striking a pose.

American Kestrel

American Wigeon

The beach

The pool and view

Jamaican Mango

Keith and I

Joy and I

Friday 11th January
Green Castle Estate

Another early morning session with Keith saw us find an American Warbler which we got poor views of and remained unidentified! On the way back a Ruddy Quail-dove flew past us!

We decided to go to the beach travelling in the back of a flat bed truck on a mattress which was strangely enjoyable. The afternoon was spent reading and swimming. Keith, Joy and I revisited the Reservoir where we added a few species and best of all Keith found a Worm-eating Warbler which I saw!

Saturday 12th January
Green Castle Estate to Montego Bay

We awoke early and partook in our habit of drinking coffee on the porch watching the world go by which included 13 Olive-breasted Parakeets. Too soon our transport arrived, so we said our goodbyes to the staff and headed to the airport to drop off the Ann and Darleen who had earlier flights, which then left us with a few hours spare, we visited Montego Sewage Ponds which added a few species to the holiday list, with a few waders on view before we ourselves had to head to the airport catch our flight home.

In reflection it was a great trip, we saw all the endemics plus a view other species, plus more importantly it was at an easy pace with plenty of time to relax. Green Castle Estate is the place to stay, it is the best of both worlds and the holiday will live long in the memory.

Least Grebe
Green Castle Estate staff
Red-billed Streamertail
The sunset

Jamaica – Tuesday & Wednesday

Tuesday 8th January
Green Castle Estate

This morning we explored yet another trail to try and find the two further endemics that were available on us on the Green Castle Estate, these were Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo and Jamaican Pewee which we located without too much trouble. A single Pewee and two Cuckoo responded to a tape lure and showed really well in the trees above our heads, unfortunately this back breaking birding was taking its toll on Dudley and he had to retire to his room to rest his back.

After breakfast we followed the access road before taking a track to the John Davy lookout which is a historic site where some of the original inhabitants of Jamaica lived, it is apparently an important archaeological site and has been excavated in the past, although now it has been reclaimed by the jungle. Dwain was very informative and as we looked down at the Orchid sheds he told us that it had been very successful until a Hurricane caused a lot of damage, then when they were repaired that disease had then effected the Orchids which resulted in them being abandoned!.

After lunch we made good use of the Swimming Pool and generally relaxed in a wonderful venue. The staff were brilliant and couldn’t do enough for us , the food was good, healthy and plentiful and barely four hours passed between meals! The Estate House was so quiet during the day, you could hear a pin drop, at night it was a little different when the wildlife started up!

In the afternoon we revisited Waterfall Trail where to cut a long story short I missed out on a Worm-eating Warbler which Joy managed to get on, it didn’t cause a problem, some you win, some your lose.

Wednesday 9th January
Hardware Gap, The Blue Mountains

Another early start involving two breakfasts, the drive though was not as long and we met up with Roger again in his home territory of the Blue Mountains. At this point we only needed to see a further three endemics which were all on today’s agenda. The first proved no problem, we saw uptown 30 Ring-tailed Pigeons immediately. We basically birded alongside the road with the van following all the way up to Hardware Gap, we saw a single Blue Mountain Vireo leaving just the Jamaican Blackbird to compete the set, but this bird was proving elusive. We were giving up hope so we stopped for lunch, we were checking out a few promising trees when Roger located a single Jamaican Blackbird feeding low down in a tree.

By the time we made our way back down to the coast it was time to return to the Estate for a quick dip in the pool and a relax having seen all the endemics that Jamaica had to offer. The next couple of days were down to us to bird on our own which I was looking forward too.

Jamaican Pewee
The Blue Mountains
Jamaican Blackbird
Ring-tailed Pigeon

Jamaican Pewee

Jamaican Tody

JAMAICA – Saturday to Monday

Saturday 5th January
Manchester to Jamaica

Dudley and Mary travelled up from St Albans and stayed the night as we had an early start his morning. We arrived in Manchester a little after 8.00am parking the car and catching the shuttle bus to the Airport where we met up Keith and Lyn the remainder of the UK contingent in the terminal. The flight was fine and I watched on of the worst films I have ever seen “The Meg” avoid at all costs.

We landed in Montego Bay nine hours later where the two Americans Ann and Darleen had been patiently waiting for us. I first met Ann in Brazil in 2005 and being a long-standing friend of Dudley and Mary I had met her in the UK a few times. Darleen (a friend of Ann’s)  a lady in her 80’s was as fit as a butchers dog, during the course of the week she left most of us standing and was amazingly resilient. I felt so sad when see told us about coming home from a weekend away to find her house had been burned to the ground during the Californian fires a couple of years back.

At the airport we saw a couple of Magnificent Frigatebirds and Zenaida Doves. Our driver Raymond got us loaded up and started on the three hour drive to Green Castle Estate which lay 100 miles to the west along the north coast of Jamaica. After what seemed forever we turned off the main road and followed a rough track for about three miles with a brief stop for a Barn Owl before we arrived at the Estate House which was our base for the next week.

The staff were waiting for us and showed us to our rooms, which were well equipped and very pleasant. We then returned to the dining room for a light meal to be joined by a Northern Potoo that flew in to take advantage of the insects attracted to the lights around the complex.

Sunday 6th January
Green Castle Estate

We were met by the resident guide Dwain, after a pre-breakfast at 7.00am he took us for a walk around the gardens. The birds came thick and fast with Jamaican Spindalis, Red-tailed Streamertail, Vervain Hummingbird, Jamaican Woodpecker, Jamaican Mango, Jamaican Vireo, Sad Flycatcher, White-crowned Pigeon, Jamaican Euphonia, Jamaican Oriole and Loggerhead Kingbird, most of which were endemics.

After breakfast we explored the Waterfall Trail one of many trails on the estate. We saw further endemics plus a Mangrove Cuckoo, Greater Antillean Bullfinch, Orangequit, Yellow-shouldered Grassquit plus a good scattering of American Warblers were Parula Warbler and American Redstart were surprisingly rather common.

Jamaican Spindalis
Loggerhead Kingbird
Sad Flycatcher
The view from our room

Monday 7th January
Eccesdown Road, John Crow Mountains

We had an early rise this morning rising at 4.00am were the staff had provided tea and coffee and some fruit (pre-breakfast) before our drive to the extreme west of Jamaica to the John Crow Mountains, we stopped on the way to pick up our guide Roger who was our guide for trips away from Green Castle.

We arrived at Eccesdown Road a little after sunrise where we partook in our second breakfast of the day with some rather tasty porridge! Again the birds came thick and fast with both Black-billed Amazon and Yellow-billed Amazon seen before we had walked far. The rest of the morning was spend searching for endemics and dodging the frequent rain showers. One of the hardest endemics to find is Crested Quail Dove and most of us managed to get views of a perched bird.

The other restricted range endemic was Black-billed Streamertail which we saw really well, very similar to Red-billed Streamertail apart from the obvious. The most impressive bird was a Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo one of two endemic Cuckoos that Jamaica has to offer.

Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo
Sad Flycatcher