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Jamaica & Grand Cayman
02 - 10 January 2007
In the taxonomy of Caribbean birds current in
had more endemic bird species than any other West Indian
island. Furthermore, these endemics were reputed to be
easily accessible in a week’s time, so this year I decided
to spend my vacation birding in Jamaica with a one-day side-trip to
Grand Cayman Island. In January, however, these
birds are not quite as easy to find as reputation makes
by Michael R. Greenwald
My method for drawing up an itinerary was to make a list of potential life birds from the bird lists for Jamaica and the Cayman Islands as they appear in Raffaele et al. 1998. I then went through various guidebooks and trip reports from Blake Maybank’s website and others to see where each of the 47 species on the resulting list had been seen. As various locations repeated for each species, an itinerary began to emerge.
My goal for this trip was to see as many life birds as possible, not to amass a large Jamaican or even Caribbean list. For this reason, I did not go anywhere in particular to see shorebirds, nor did I go to places that did not harbor potential life birds. Thus I did not visit Portland Ridge for Bahama Mockingbird nor, since I would be going to Grand Cayman, did I visit the Black River Morass or Elim Pools for West Indian Whistling-Duck.
Read, Michael. 2006. Jamaica. Footscray, Victoria, Australia; Oakland, CA; London: Lonely Planet Publications.
Thomas, Polly and Adam Vaitlingham. 2003. The Rough Guide to Jamaica. New York, London, Delhi: Rough Guides.
Jamaica: International Travel Maps (1:250,000) – Not very useful. Aside from being out-of-date, it is difficult to read and identifies as roads routes that are in fact footpaths.
Jamaica: Esso Jamaica Road Map (1:356,000) – Also out-of-date (1967), but best map available at the time. Moreover, it was free, supplied by Island Car Rentals.
Grand Cayman: ReMax Complimentary Map supplied by Budget Rent-a-Car.
Bird Trip Guides
Wauer, Roland H. 1996. A Birder’s West Indies: An Island by Island Tour. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press – not so much a “where to find birds” book as a narrative travelogue, but useful nonetheless to determine places where species have been seen. Nothing on the Cayman Islands.
Wheatley, Nigel and David Brewer. 2001. Where to Watch Birds in Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press – somewhat derivative, has mistakes, but is useful nonetheless. I carry photocopies of the relevant chapters wherever I go.
Trip Reports from Blake Maybank’s “Birding the Americas” Website
These were far more useful than most travel guides. To those who have written reports, thank you, but most especially, thanks to Blake Maybank for maintaining the website.
Brennan Mulrooney, VENT Tour (18-25 February 2006) – on VENT’s website
Avian Adventures Tour (19-30 March 2004)
Jay Carlisle (4-14 March 2004)
Alex Kirschel (7-15,23,26-28 March 2001)
Gruff Dodd (1-9 September 2000) – essential reading. Don’t leave home without it (although some of the directions are now out-of-date)
Ellen Paul (December 1999)
Gail Mackiernan (22-25 February 1999)
Stephen Greenfield ([November] 1997)
Gail Mackiernan (18-22 March 1995)
David Klauber (5-7 December 2003)
Douglas J. MacNeil (18-22 April 1999)
Bond, James. 1993. Birds of the West Indies. 5th ed. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin – not really a 5th edition (the date on the British 5th edition [Collins] is 1985). The bibliography has been updated at least through 1983, but the taxonomy follows that of the 5th (1957) AOU checklist. For decades this was the best available field guide to the West Indies, but it is now quite out-dated. I own it, but I left it at home.
Bradley, Patricia with photographs by Yves-Jacques Rey-Millet. 1995. Birds of the Cayman Islands. Rev. Ed. Italy: Caerulea Press. Has plenty of useful information but not necessary in the field if you have Raffaele et al. 2003.
Downer, Audrey and Robert Sutton with photographs by Yves-Jacques Rey-Millet. 1990. Birds of Jamaica: A Photographic Guide. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Long out of print, but has some useful information. Photographs are of Jamaican endemics and Caribbean specialties only. In 2009, Dr. Ann Haynes-Sutton published an updated version with photographs of all of Jamaica’s birds. Princeton University Press is the U.S. publisher.
Raffaele, Herbert A., James Wiley, Orlando Garrido, Allan Keith, and Janis Raffaele. 1998. A Guide to the Birds of the West Indies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Limited plumages on the plates, taxonomy is a bit outdated, but the best guide available for the birds of the West Indies as a whole. A bit heavy for field use, but see the field guide immediately below.
Raffaele, Herbert A., James Wiley, Orlando Garrido, Allan Keith, and Janis Raffaele. 2003. Birds of the West Indies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. The field guide version of the above. This book is five years newer, so the taxonomy is more current. Nevertheless, changes have been made even since this book came out. The only guide that you need to carry in the field.
Reynard, George B. and Robert L. Sutton. 1998. Bird Songs in Jamaica. Library of Natural Sounds. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. 2 CDs.
American Airlines from JFK to Montego Bay and return: $296.91 Round Trip
Air Jamaica from Kingston to George Town, Grand Cayman and return: $339.18 Round Trip
Accommodations (for comments and directions, see the daily log below)
Toby’s Resort (Montego Bay)
1 Kent Avenue
P.O. Box 467
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Reservations: (888) 790-5264;
Fax: (876) 952-6591
Marshall’s Pen/Dr. Ann Sutton (Mandeville)
Telephone: (876) 904-5454
Silver Hill Gap
St. Andrew, Jamaica
Telephone: (876) 969-3070 & (876) 924-3075
Ocean View B&B
Telephone (Idris Stokes): (876) 447-6201
Eldemire Guest House (Eldemire’s Tropical Island Inn)
18 Pebbles Way
P.O. Box 482 GT
George Town KY1-1106, Grand Cayman
Telephone: (345) 916-8369; Fax: (345) 949-4595
Fisherman’s Inn Dive Resort
Falmouth, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Telephone: (876) 954-3427; Fax: (876) 954-4078
Jamaica – Island Car Rentals
Telephone: (866) 978-5335
$671.32 for 8 days including $200.00 for nil liability CDW insurance for a Mitsubishi Lancer 4 dr (By all means, TAKE THE MAXIMUM INS. COVERAGE OFFERED – see my comments on driving below) - $354.00/week; 50.57/day plus tax ($66.75)
Grand Cayman – Budget, George Town Airport
(cheapest at the time)
APT Centre Building
Reservations: (800) 227-7368
(800) 568-3019; (787) 791-1805
$82.90/day for a Hyundai Trajet (incl. $3.00 tax, $16.95/day CDW [$2.00 additional because I now had a van instead of a car, $6.95/day “TPLW”[Liability Damage Waiver], $3.00 PAP) plus $7.50 for a Cayman Islands Driving Permit (good for 6 months)
There are four places in the world where your credit card insurance will not cover you: Israel, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Jamaica. I have driven in all but Northern Ireland. I do not understand why Israel and Ireland are on the list, but any insurance company that insures you in Jamaica is trying to draw to an inside straight if it thinks that it is going to make money by selling auto insurance.
Guidebooks will tell you that Jamaicans drive on the left. Wrong! Jamaicans drive in the middle and bear left when encountering an obstacle like a pothole or an on-coming vehicle. At least most of the time they bear left. It is not entirely their fault either. Most roads (there are some exceptions that I will note in the daily log) have crumbling shoulders and are filled with random crater-sized potholes, pedestrians, and animals. Hitting any of the above is a really bad idea. And for North Americans, one is supposed to drive on the wrong side of the road and the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car. The bad road surfaces make driving in Jamaica a very harrowing experience. And by no means should the uninitiated drive at night (though I myself violated this rule – with poor results) because most roads are filled with random crater-sized potholes, pedestrians, and animals. I should also mention that Jamaicans are quite willing to pass on any road, be it narrow or with tight curves, even though MOST ROADS ARE FILLED WITH RANDOM CRATER-SIZED POTHOLES, PEDESTRIANS, AND ANIMALS, AND ON-COMING JAMAICANS ARE DRIVING IN THE MIDDLE!!! Honking can mean anything from “I’m coming around you,” to “Hi there,” to “Get out of my way.”
There are few road signs in Jamaica, and signs for route numbers are almost completely lacking. If you need to ask for directions, ask for the next town. Many Jamaicans have never been outside their own parish and may not be able to tell you how to reach a small town two or three parishes away.
Driving in the Cayman Islands is also on the left, but the roads are good, well marked, and the drivers are well behaved.
The language of both islands is English. However Jamaicans (and all Caribbean islanders) have their own dialect/patois that they use with each other that is otherwise incomprehensible to the uninitiated English speaker. However they also all understand and speak the Queen’s English.
I had been warned that Jamaica was dangerous, especially in the cities. A colleague who had lived in Jamaica even assured me that I was going to be murdered. Despite what the Jamaican Tourist Board and most hoteliers would like you to believe, there is indeed violent crime in Jamaica. There were several murders in the country the first few days that I was there. This means that you need to be cautious, especially in Kingston. If you are staying in Kingston, ask at your hotel about the wisdom of venturing out at night. And there are neighborhoods in both Kingston and Montego Bay where you should not venture at all (see the “Health and Safety” section of any travel guide for a list). On the other hand, nearly all of the violent crime is carried out against other Jamaicans. I was harassed by some youths when I asked for directions to Anchovy, my car was chased and had sticks thrown at it by a girl about 8-10 years old in St. Vincent, and people frequently tried to sell me things, but other than that I had no problems at all, and most of the Jamaicans that I encountered were cordial and pleasant. Birders spend most of their time in rural areas, and these are generally safer than the large cities. Nevertheless, you should be aware of your surroundings and who is around you.
The Cayman Islands are quite safe.
Although December to April is the dry season in Jamaica, specific location is also important. Even in the dry season, it clouded up every afternoon no matter where I was. In the Blue Mountains, the clouds began to roll in by late morning and there were frequent showers in the afternoon.
Jamaica: The currency of Jamaica is the Jamaican dollar (J$), which exchanged at US$1.00 = J$60.00-61.00 in 2007
Cayman Islands: The currency of the Cayman Islands is the Cayman Island dollar, which is fixed at US$1.00 = CI$0.80
On both islands, US dollars are readily accepted at most places, but you will receive change in the local currency. Many places do not accept credit cards, especially in Jamaica. I used American Express travelers’ cheques, which I changed to the local currency in the airports.
Jamaica: J$1000 or US$20.00 payable on departure
Cayman Islands: US$25.00 included in my airline ticket
Birding Locations with species targeted for that location
E = Jamaican or Cayman Island endemic
C = Caribbean endemic or near endemic
I = Introduced species
Species in boldface are those that I actually saw OR heard in the named location. Note too that Jamaicans use parish names to identify locations the way Americans use states, Canadians use provinces, or the British use counties. Bird records are similarly kept by parish and this is how locations are given on the Reynard and Sutton CDs.
Rocklands Bird Sanctuary, Anchovy, St. James: Caribbean Dove C, Olive-throated (“Jamaican”) Parakeet (E), Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo E, Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo E, Northern Potoo, Jamaican Mango E, (“Red-billed”) Streamertail E, Vervain Hummingbird C, Jamaican Tody E, Jamaican Woodpecker E, Jamaican Elaenia E, Jamaican Pewee E, Sad Flycatcher E, Rufous-tailed Flycatcher E, Stolid Flycatcher C, Jamaican Becard E, Jamaican Vireo E, Jamaican Crow E, White-eyed Thrush E, White-chinned Thrush E, Arrowhead Warbler E, Jamaican Spindalis E, Yellow-shouldered Grassquit E, Orangequit E, Saffron Finch I, Jamaican Oriole E, Jamaican Euphonia E
Marshall’s Pen, Mandeville, Manchester: Caribbean Dove C, Crested Quail-Dove E, Olive-throated (“Jamaican”) Parakeet (E), Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo E, Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo E, Jamaican Owl E, Northern Potoo, Jamaican Mango E, (“Red-billed”) Streamertail E, Vervain Hummingbird C, Jamaican Tody E, Jamaican Woodpecker E, Jamaican Elaenia E, Jamaican Pewee E, Sad Flycatcher E, Rufous-tailed Flycatcher E, Stolid Flycatcher C, Jamaican Becard E, Jamaican Vireo E, Jamaican Crow E, White-eyed Thrush E, White-chinned Thrush E, Arrowhead Warbler E, Jamaican Spindalis E, Yellow-shouldered Grassquit E, Orangequit E, Saffron Finch I, Jamaican Oriole E, Jamaican Euphonia E
Burnt Hill (Cockpit Country), Trelawny: Ring-tailed Pigeon E, Caribbean Dove C, Olive-throated (“Jamaican”) Parakeet (E), Yellow-billed Parrot E, Black-billed Parrot E, Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo E, Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo E, Jamaican Mango E, (“Red-billed”) Streamertail E, Vervain Hummingbird C, Jamaican Tody E, Jamaican Woodpecker E, Jamaican Elaenia E, Greater Antillean Elaenia C, Jamaican Pewee E, Sad Flycatcher E, Rufous-tailed Flycatcher E, Stolid Flycatcher C, Jamaican Becard E, Jamaican Vireo E, Blue Mountain Vireo E, Jamaican Crow E, Golden Swallow C (not seen in Jamaica since 1980s), Rufous-throated Solitaire C, White-eyed Thrush E, White-chinned Thrush E, Arrowhead Warbler E, Jamaican Spindalis E, Yellow-shouldered Grassquit E, Orangequit E, Jamaican Blackbird E, Jamaican Oriole E, Jamaican Euphonia E
Hardwar Gap, Portland & St. Andrew: Ring-tailed Pigeon E, Crested Quail-Dove E, Olive-throated (“Jamaican”) Parakeet (E), Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo E, Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo E, (“Red-billed”) Streamertail E, Vervain Hummingbird C, Jamaican Tody E, Jamaican Woodpecker E, Jamaican Elaenia E, Greater Antillean Elaenia C, Jamaican Pewee E, Sad Flycatcher E, Rufous-tailed Flycatcher E, Jamaican Becard E, Jamaican Vireo E, Blue Mountain Vireo E, Golden Swallow C (not seen in Jamaica since 1980s), Rufous-throated Solitaire C, White-eyed Thrush E, White-chinned Thrush E, Arrowhead Warbler E, Jamaican Spindalis E, Yellow-shouldered Grassquit E, Orangequit E, Jamaican Blackbird E, Jamaican Oriole E
Ecclesdown Road (Driver’s River Valley), Portland: Ring-tailed Pigeon E, Crested Quail-Dove E, Yellow-billed Parrot E, Black-billed Parrot E, Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo E, Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo E, (“Black-billed”) Streamertail E, Jamaican Tody E, Jamaican Woodpecker E, Sad Flycatcher E, Rufous-tailed Flycatcher E, Stolid Flycatcher C, Jamaican Vireo E, Blue Mountain Vireo E, Jamaican Crow E, Rufous-throated Solitaire C, White-eyed Thrush E, White-chinned Thrush E, Orangequit E, Jamaican Blackbird E, Jamaican Oriole E
Windsor Cave (Cockpit Country), Trelawny: Ring-tailed Pigeon E, Caribbean Dove C, Olive-throated (“Jamaican”) Parakeet (E), Yellow-billed Parrot E, Black-billed Parrot E, Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo E, Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo E, Jamaican Owl E, Northern Potoo, Jamaican Mango E, (“Red-billed”) Streamertail E, Vervain Hummingbird C, Jamaican Tody E, Jamaican Woodpecker E, Jamaican Elaenia E, Jamaican Pewee E, Sad Flycatcher E, Rufous-tailed Flycatcher E, Stolid Flycatcher C, Jamaican Becard E, Jamaican Vireo E, Jamaican Crow E, White-eyed Thrush E, White-chinned Thrush E, Arrowhead Warbler E, Jamaican Spindalis E, Yellow-shouldered Grassquit E, Orangequit E, Jamaican Oriole E, Jamaican Euphonia E
Mastic Trail, Mastic Reserve: Yucatan Vireo, Vitelline Warbler E
Willie Ebank’s Pig Farm: West Indian Whistling-Duck C
Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park: Yucatan Vireo, Vitelline Warbler E
Day 1 – January 2, 2007
I arrived in Montego Bay from JFK on time at 12:45 P.M. on an American Airlines flight, moved quickly through immigration and customs, and headed for the Island Car Rentals booth. At the suggestion of earlier trip reports, I had originally tried to rent from Dhana Car Rental, but Willi Dhana, who was very nice about it, did not want me to leave one of his cars overnight in the Kingston airport parking lot, which is what I had planned to do when I travelled to Grand Cayman Island. Island Car Rentals has an office in Kingston, and after some negotiation over whether or not I would need to turn in the car and take out a new contract (which would have cost me money through loss of the weekly rate), were willing to store the car at their Kingston facility. I then found them to be very accommodating and most helpful. The car, a Mitsubishi Lancer, was in excellent condition. I also took out the nil liability collision damage waiver at US$25.00/day. The peace of mind was worth every penny. When you rent, an agent will go over the car with you, mark all of the scratches, dings, and dents, insure that the car has all of its equipment, and show you how to use the controls. Make sure that s/he records everything. You will be charged for any new scratches, dings, or dents.
I then tried to rent a cellphone at the booth immediately to the right of the Island Car Rentals Booth, but the company was out of phones. I later found that the best way to handle overseas calls is to buy a phone card, but this will not help you if you are stranded and have an emergency.
The next step was to check into my hotel. Many earlier trip reports had suggested the Orange River Lodge in Johns Hall, which, despite being in a place where it would be necessary to re-trace the route, had good birding on the premises. I made numerous attempts to contact them to no avail. I eventually received an e-mail from the parent company (Whittier Group) that said, “Orange River Lodge is closed for refurbishment. We are not sure when the hotel will be reopened.” So I decided to stay at Toby’s Resort at 1 Kent Avenue. It is not fancy, it is unpretentious, but the beds are comfortable, the rooms are clean, and the shower is hot (and, yes, it has a pool). It also has the advantage of being less than 1 mile from the airport, and there is a grocery store within walking distance. Furthermore, I got a deal through Expedia.com. The cost was US$90.53 ($75 plus taxes and service fees) for a standard room for the night. They have food, but it might be more interesting to go into town. To get there, ask directions at your rental car agency for Sunset Boulevard. It is right outside the airport, but there is a roundabout and you want to avoid getting on The Queen’s Drive, which is the main road out of the airport in both directions. Sunset Boulevard is to the right and between The Queen’s Drive and the runway, but you have to go around the roundabout to the left. Take Sunset Boulevard almost to the end. As you approach the end of Sunset Boulevard, you will see a stop sign. Toby’s Resort is on the right 100 meters before the stop sign. A left turn at the stop sign will take you into Montego Bay on Gloucester Avenue, also known as the “Hip Strip.” There are numerous alternatives to Toby’s along both Kent Street (which is the continuation of Gloucester Avenue were you to turn right at the stop sign) and on Gloucester Avenue, but since these are on the beach and some are all-inclusives, they are considerably more expensive. When I travel, I also try to stay in locally owned hotels or bed & breakfasts. Most of the money spent in the large chains or in any foreign-owned hotel leaves the country and does little to help the local economy.
By now it was 2:45, so I decided to check
in, deposit my
gear in my room, and head to Rocklands Bird Sanctuary and
Feeding Station in time for the 4:00 P.M. feeding. During
this process, I saw a Loggerhead Kingbird and 2 Bananaquits
on the hotel grounds. One of the hotel employees was
looking for a ride into Montego Bay, and since I was glad
for the help with directions, I took him with me. To get to
Rocklands, turn right out of the hotel to the above-mentioned stop sign
and turn left on Gloucester Avenue (two-way). As the road becomes
multi-lane, get in the right-most
lane that you can while left-side driving. There is a major
intersection where Gloucester meets Fort Street. This looks
like a roundabout on maps, but if there is a roundabout
there, you will not enter it. You will see a KFC ahead of
you. Turn right at the KFC. This now becomes the Howard
Cooke Boulevard. What looks like a T-intersection on some
maps isn’t. Turn left at the last traffic light onto Alice
Eldemire Drive (it will be fairly obvious which road is the
main road and you won’t see any traffic lights in the
distance ahead of you). You will pass a school on the left
and a shopping center on the right just before you come to a
T-intersection in front of a cemetery. Turn right.
You are now on the A1 highway heading west toward Reading, Hopewell, Lucea, and Negril. After about 6 km from the KFC, you will see a sign indicating that you are entering Reading. Take a left at the next light. This looks like a fairly major road, and in fact it is the B8 highway heading to Ferris Creek on the south coast. It is not marked in any way (although guidebooks and previous trips reports say that it is – I saw no sign). It was at this intersection that I asked a group of boys if this was the road to Anchovy. In addition to telling me that it was, they ran out into the street and tried to grab onto the car asking for a ride. The road to Anchovy was freshly paved and so in excellent condition, but it is steep and very winding. Be careful at the turns. It is about 3-4 km up the road to Anchovy. Look for a small sign indicating a left turn to Rocklands. The road up the hill to Rocklands is about the worst that you will drive on in Jamaica, but it is only .8-.9 km long, so drive carefully and you and the bottom of your car will get there. Rocklands is on the right and there is a small parking area on the left. Park here and walk in. The entire trip from Toby’s across Montego Bay to Rocklands took about 45 minutes with heavy traffic at the intersection by the KFC. Admission to Rocklands is US$8.00. Some birders have complained about the price, but this helps with the maintenance, birdseed, and sugar water.
Rocklands is the estate of the late Lisa Salmon. Over a period of 42 years, she fed birds and encouraged them to allow hand feeding. Since she died in 2000, her family has continued to own the property, but apparently has no interest in living there, so the property continues to be managed by Fritz Beckford, who himself is an excellent birder. You can also arrange for a guided bird walk with him. There is a 4:00 P.M. feeding at which time small bottles are brought out so that the hummingbirds can be hand fed. The (“Red-billed”) Streamertails come in and perch on your finger while you hold the feeder for them with the other hand. Jamaican Mangos will not perch on your finger, but they do come in to the hand held feeders. Seed is scattered and fruit feeders are put out to attract other birds. I stayed for an hour and made arrangements to meet Fritz at 7:00 A.M. the next morning. Birds that afternoon at Rocklands were an American Kestrel, 15 Common Ground-Doves, a Caribbean Dove, 2 Jamaican Mangos, 5 (“Red-billed”) Streamertails, a Jamaican Woodpecker, an American Redstart, 16 Bananaquits, 15 Yellow-faced Grassquits, 20 Black-faced Grassquits, 2 Orangequits, and 2 Jamaican Orioles. On the way back to Toby’s resort I saw 2 Brown Pelicans, 4 Cattle Egrets, and a Turkey Vulture.
After returning to the hotel, I walked to the nearby grocery store to stock up on breakfast food and snacks, ate dinner at Toby’s, and went to bed.
Day 2 – January 3, 2007
I checked out of the hotel at 6:00 A.M. and met Fritz at Rocklands at 7:00. Fritz is not cheap: he charged US$80 for a morning of birding (4 hours), but he provides access to the entire Rocklands estate, and he is an excellent birder with good eyes and ears. By the end of the morning, we had seen 7 Turkey Vultures, 2 Red-tailed Hawks, 3 American Kestrels, a White-crowned Pigeon, 4 Zenaida Doves, 2 Caribbean Doves, 2 Ruddy Quail-Doves, 4 Olive-throated (“Jamaican”) Parakeets, a Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo, an Antillean Palm-Swift, 5 (“Red-billed”) Streamertails, 2 Vervain Hummingbirds, a Jamaican Tody, 7 Jamaican Woodpeckers, a Jamaican Pewee, 4 Sad Flycatchers, 2 Rufous-tailed Flycatchers, 2 Stolid Flycatchers, 2 Loggerhead Kingbirds, 2 Jamaican Becards (Fritz saw the female, I saw the male), 3 Jamaican Vireos, 8 White-chinned Thrushes, 2 Northern Mockingbirds, a Northern Parula, a Black-throated Blue Warbler, 3 Prairie Warblers, 2 Arrowhead Warblers, a Black-and-White Warbler, 2 American Redstarts, 5 Worm-eating Warblers, an Ovenbird, a Common Yellowthroat, 3 Bananaquits, 4 Jamaican Spindalises, 9 Yellow-faced Grassquits, a Greater Antillean Bullfinch, an Orangequit, and 2 Jamaican Euphonias. Fritz also saw a Yellow-shouldered Grassquit, but by the time I had turned around, it was gone. A Northern Potoo that Fritz had staked out was not on his usual perch that day.
Some birders have asked whether or not it is worthwhile to go to Rocklands since all of the birds found there can be found elsewhere on the island. My answer is “yes” for two reasons. First and foremost, there is intense development pressure all over the West Indies primarily from the tourism and mining industries. Anything that we can do to help conservation in the Caribbean benefits the birds (and other endemic flora and fauna) and the hobby that we all enjoy. Many Caribbean bird populations have already been reduced to pathetically small numbers, and several are highly endangered. Even if you do not hire Fritz for a private tour, the $8 entry fee is a very small price to pay to ensure that this one small estate remains a bird sanctuary. It also serves to exemplify the fact that birders are part of the tourism industry and spend money that serves to stimulate the local economy. The second reason is far more mundane: birding at Rocklands is not only a good introduction to Jamaican birding, but takes care of many species on one’s target list. While it is true that all of the species at Rocklands can be seen elsewhere on the island, there is no guarantee that they will be. I saw six species that morning and the previous afternoon that I never saw or heard again on this trip (White-crowned Pigeon, Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo, Antillean Palm-Swift, Jamaican Mango, Worm-eating Warbler, and Jamaican Euphonia), three of which are Jamaican endemics.
I bade good-bye to Fritz at about 11:00
A.M. and headed for
Marshall’s Pen outside of Mandeville. To get to Mandeville
from Rocklands, return to the B8 in Anchovy and turn left
toward Montpelier, Ramble, and Ferris Cross. This is also
the best route to take if driving from Montego Bay to
Mandeville. The road is excellent while you are still in
St. James Parish (about 9 km), but once you cross into
Hanover, it begins to deteriorate. It isn’t awful, you just
need to watch for potholes and broken sections of road. Once you reach
Ferris Cross, turn left on the A2, which
skirts the south of Jamaica as far as Spanish Town. Despite
the fact that this is the main road serving southwest
Jamaica, it too is not in great shape and care is needed. Moreover,
there is a long steep hill near the St.
Elizabeth/Manchester parish line. It is very difficult for
large trucks to make the ascent, so traffic was at a virtual
standstill. When you reach the outskirts of Mandeville, the
A2 turns left on the Winston Jones Highway (referred to on
some maps as the Mandeville By-Pass) at a roundabout. Stay
to the left and get on this highway (which is in excellent
condition). You will soon pass a large service area on your
left and begin to head down a long slope. About 1 km from
the roundabout, you will see a concrete bus shelter ahead of
you on the left (Note that there is a neighborhood
identified as Marshall’s Pen immediately on your right. This is NOT
what you are looking for). Turn left at this
shelter onto Oriole Close. In about 200 meters, you will
come to a T-intersection. Turn right, and in less than 1
km, opposite a bar on the left, you will see on the right
the two stone pillars that mark the drive into Marshall’s
Pen, the home of Dr. Ann Sutton. Dr. Sutton’s late
husband, Dr. Robert Sutton, had built rooms over the garage
in which birders may stay for US$35/night (cash only). The
rooms are equipped with showers and kitchens.
To bird or to stay here, you MUST make prior arrangements with Dr. Sutton. This is where I began to run into trouble. Even though I had made arrangements with Dr. Sutton in July, she had apparently forgotten to write my name in her reservation book, and when I arrived, Dr. Sutton was in England, and there seemed to be no one about. I eventually went up to the rather imposing great house where the staff had no idea what to do with me. They told me to wait until Brandon Hay, Dr. Sutton’s assistant, got home from work, and he would decide what to do. They told me that I was free to bird the grounds for a couple of hours until Brandon got home. The drive from Anchovy had taken me nearly 4½ hours, so it was now 3:20, cloudy, and threatening rain. There wasn’t much about, only 2 Smooth-billed Anis. En route to Marshall’s Pen I had seen a Magnificent Frigatebird, about 30 Cattle Egrets, a Glossy Ibis, about 10 Turkey Vultures, and a Smooth-billed Ani. Not much considering the time, but Jamaica is one of those places where you must keep your eyes on the road while driving or the pothole trolls will eat your car.
Brandon arrived some two hours later and handled the situation with aplomb. There was no one else with reservations for the two nights that I had planned to stay, so even though they had no record of me, Brandon handed me a key, a map of the trails around the ranch, showed me about the guest area, and suggested that I use bottled water because all of Marshall Pen’s water is collected rain water. We talked about what I had seen so far and what I still needed to see in Jamaica. He asked that no tapes be played for Jamaican Owl because it was the beginning of their nesting season, and he and Dr. Sutton did not want the breeding to be disrupted. He also told me that they do not allow tapes to be played by any but themselves at any time of the year in order to control the amount of disturbance of the owls. He showed me the owl tree and told me that I was free to watch. I did not see or hear the owl that night. However, I should have told Brandon that it would all right to wake me should he find an owl. The next evening, he told me that an owl had been calling all night, but as I had already gone to bed, he did know whether or not he should wake me and so decided not to.
Alternative accommodations can be had in the Mandeville area. The Astra Country Inn on 62 Ward Street is managed by Diana McIntyre-Pike. She is in the forefront of efforts to spur “Countrystyle Community Tourism” along the south shore of Jamaica rather than the large-scale, all-inclusive “tourist prisons” that are found on the north shore. She is also among those trying to save the Cockpit Country from proposed bauxite mining. I did not check the rooms, but the meals are acceptable, and the front lobby was certainly most pleasant. To get there from the traffic circle leading from the Winston Jones Highway, take the left onto the Winston Jones and Ward is the first right (nearly opposite the large service area). The Astra is #62 on the left. To get there from Marshall’s Pen (I had dinner there on January 3rd and 4th), go back out to the Winston Jones, turn right up the hill, and Ward is the first left.
Day 3 – January 4, 2007
This was my day to bird the Cockpit
Country. From past
reports, I understood that the best place to do this was
from Burnt Hill and the Barbecue Bottom Road. Here is where
not being willing to drive at night became a problem. I
left Marshall’s Pen at about 6:15 and arrived at Burnt Hill
at 8:20. I have no clue how Gruff Dodd made the trip in 1
hr. 10 min., but obviously it can be done more quickly than
I did. To get there from Marshall’s Pen, go back to the
Winston Jones Highway (A2) and turn left. Continue through
the roundabout at the top of the hill, and as you head down
the hill, look for a left hand turn; it should be the first
left. You should be heading toward Kendal. This is not a
major highway, and so I drove for a while not sure that I
was on the right road. I finally stopped and asked someone
(Note: From Michael Schwartz at Windsor Great House via
Gruff Dodd – When you ask someone for directions, begin with
“Good morning” or “Good afternoon.” Jamaicans are much more
formal than Americans and find a simple “Hi” rather off-putting).
Finding that I was on the right road, I continued
to a confusing intersection just past the Pickapepper
When you get to the intersection, turn right and then left toward Spauldings and Christiana. The road forks in Walderston, and I think that you can get to Christiana either way, but I went right, toward Spauldings. At Spauldings, you will need to take a left and then shortly, another right to go through Christiana. You now want to head for Lorrimers, Wait-a-Bit, and Albert Town. Somewhere along the way, it may have been in Dump, there was a fork, with the good road going straight uphill and a narrower road bearing to the right and down. It is this right fork that you want (I again had to ask for directions). Continue on to Albert Town. As you approach Albert Town down a grade, there is a hairpin turn to the left and uphill toward St. Vincent. Take this left turn. If you find yourself in the center of Albert Town, turn around. When you go through the center of St. Vincent, you will come to a T-intersection. Go right. This road is very badly potholed, unpaved, and full of goats. Once you negotiate the route and get out of St. Vincent, the road, though still unpaved, becomes quite good. Follow this until you get to an intersection at a bridge. This is Burnt Hill.
I parked here, but was very nervous about leaving the car unattended for long. By walking back up the hill toward St. Vincent, you will see an open expanse across a valley, giving good views across, albeit into the sun. There were many parrots flying about, some coming quite close, but all those that I saw were Yellow-billed. If close enough, the maroon throat and the pale face caused by the white eye-ring and forehead are quite apparent and are sufficient to distinguish this bird from the Black-billed. The parrot show stopped at 9:40, after which there were none. I walked a bit in both directions from the bridge and tallied about 20 Turkey Vultures, a Ring-tailed Pigeon (heard only), 3 Zenaida Doves, 10 Yellow-billed Parrots, 9 Smooth-billed Anis, 7 (“Red-billed”) Streamertails, a Sad Flycatcher, a Stolid Flycatcher, 2 Jamaican Vireos, 6 Jamaican Crows (this is the number that I actually saw. From the sounds, I am sure that there were many more), 2 Rufous-throated Solitaires (perched but not singing), a Cape May Warbler, a Black-throated Blue Warbler, an Ovenbird, a Common Yellowthroat, a Bananaquit, 2 Jamaican Spindalises, a Yellow-faced Grassquit, 2 Greater Antillean Bullfinches, and 3 Jamaican Orioles. By 10:40, it was quite hot and activity had dropped to nearly zero, so I decided to head back to Marshall’s Pen. From the bridge, one can opt to continue straight ahead to Barbecue Bottom and ultimately emerge at Clarks Town, or turn left at the bridge to Spring Garden and then left again to get back to St. Vincent, or simply retrace your route back to St. Vincent. I chose the latter option and arrived at Marshall’s Pen at 1:15.
Birding slows down considerably during the afternoon, and I had brought some work with me, so I worked, rested, and did some birding around Marshall’s Pen. There wasn’t much about save for 8 Cattle Egrets, a pair of Zenaida Doves, a Caribbean Dove (on a fence post as I drove in), a (“Red-billed”) Streamertail, a Loggerhead Kingbird, a Yellow-faced Grassquit, and a Jamaican Oriole.
That evening just before 6:00 outside the Astra Guest House there were 2 Cattle Egrets, 2 American Kestrels, a flock of 11 Olive-throated (“Jamaican”) Parakeets, and a Jamaican Crow.
Day 4 – January 5, 2007
This morning I was planning to bird around Marshall’s Pen itself. I arose at 6:00 A.M. and began to get dressed. At 6:02, precisely the moment that I was stark naked, a Jamaican Owl called outside my window in the back of the garage but out of my range of vision. The bird called five more times, exactly the amount of time it took me to put on my clothes and get out the front door. It did not call a seventh time. Even though the bird had to be in one of four trees, I could not locate it. Brandon later told me that the owls roost inside the bromeliads and that the bird was probably calling just before it went to roost.
There are several trails throughout the ranch (this is a working cattle ranch, so watch for cattle), and Brandon had given me a map, so I immediately went to the trail identified as good for Crested Quail-Dove. This leaves from the garden near the parking area, and so is quite convenient for an early morning walk. I only wish that the quail-doves had felt the same way. I found none. For the next 4½ hours, I birded several of the trails and pastures and found a Little Blue Heron, a Cattle Egret, a Turkey Vulture, an American Kestrel, 4 Zenaida Doves, a Ruddy Quail Dove (heard only), 12 Smooth-billed Anis, 3 (“Red-billed”) Streamertails, a Vervain Hummingbird, 3 Jamaican Woodpeckers, 2 Jamaican Pewees, a Rufous-tailed Flycatcher, a Stolid Flycatcher, a Loggerhead Kingbird, a Jamaican Becard (male), 2 Jamaican Vireos, a White-chinned Thrush, 4 European Starlings, 2 Black-throated Blue Warblers, a Prairie Warbler, an Arrowhead Warbler, a Black-and-white Warbler, 3 American Redstarts, a Common Yellowthroat, a Bananaquit, a Black-faced Grassquit, 2 Orangequits, and 2 Jamaican Orioles.
At 10:30, I checked out and headed for
Hardwar Gap in the
Blue Mountains. To get to Hardwar Gap, get on the Winston
Jones Highway (A2) heading east. Once you get past
Mandeville, the Winston Jones ends, but continue east on the
A2 toward Kingston. At about May Pen, a new toll highway,
then identified as the T1, heads toward Kingston but which
did not appear on any then-current map. Despite the toll
and the fact that this road parallels the A2, you should
take it. First, it is like any interstate (or motorway) in
North America or Britain. It is four lanes wide with a
median strip, and the road is in mint condition. Second,
the toll is quite cheap. Finally, because it is a toll
road, no one takes it. So the driving is very pleasant and
you can relax.
The problem comes when you get near Kingston because it is not clear where to get off. Because the highway is new, and because it was not then on any map, there was no way to know that the western part of what had been George Washington Boulevard on the Esso map is now the Nelson Mandela Highway. This is the A1, but none of the exit signs tell you that. This is where you need to get off. Follow the Mandela Highway eastward (toward Kingston) and it will become George Washington Boulevard and then Dunrobin Road. Follow this to Constant Spring Road and turn right. You are now heading toward Half Way Tree, where you will want to turn left on Hope Road, but which you cannot do (see below). The other possibility (which is the one that I took and which is not recommended) is to continue on the toll road through Portmore, and after the Portmore toll (where I asked directions), take the first exit.
This is Hagley Park Road (or it may be labeled “Marcus Garvey Drive,” which, if you take it toward Half Way Tree, becomes Hagley Park Road when it crosses the Spanish Town Road), which you should take all the way to Half Way Tree (the traffic was awful). The problem is that although Hagley Park Road becomes Hope Road, you cannot continue onto Hope Road from Hagley Park Road. If you come in on Hagley Park Road, you will need to turn left on Eastwood Park Road (with the rest of the traffic)m go one block to South Odeon where you will turn right, then one block to Constant Spring Road where you will turn right again. If you followed this route or if you came in on Constant Spring Road, you will not then be able to take a left onto Hope Road, so you will now continue one block to Southmere Road where you must turn left (most of the traffic will be doing likewise). Follow the traffic around to Hope Road where you can now turn left. You are now heading toward the neighborhood of Papine. Continue on Hope Road. Pass King’s House and the Bob Marley Museum. At a major intersection with a gas station ahead of you on the left (I stopped at this gas station for gas and some snack food; this is the last area for gas), Barbican Road comes in on the left, and Old Hope Road comes in on the right and continues straight ahead (that is, if you continue straight ahead, Hope Road becomes Old Hope Road). You should continue straight ahead. Continue past Hope Botanical Gardens until you come to a roundabout/T-intersection in Papine. Turn left. You are now on the B1, but there is nothing to tell you this. You will then pass a TV station on the left and the left hand turn onto Skyline Drive. Continue straight ahead. The left after Skyline Drive is in a small settlement called the Cooperage. There are signs here pointing left to various restaurants including the Gap Café. Take this left. You are still on the B1.
Continue for about 16km. Occasionally you will cross old washouts that look as if they are partially undermined. If you are a believer, pray; if not, well, remember that whatever happens to you isn’t happening to you in some parallel universe. You will pass through the parade ground of the army post at Newcastle. It is another 2 km to Holywell National Park at Hardwar Gap. I continued through the gap for about 5 km to the village of Section in order to stay at the Starlight Chalet. To get to Starlight Chalet, you need to take a hard right on a very rough unpaved road toward Silver Hill. The Starlight Chalet is on the left about 1-2 km down this road. Be careful on this road; it is not paved and it is full of deep potholes. Assume that all “puddles” of water are wells. Avoid them as you would a pothole. All road maps show the B1 as continuing past Section on to Buff Bay on the north coast. However in August 2006, a landslide washed part of the road away and it had not been repaired.
The Starlight Chalet is a wonderful place to stay. I stayed in the cheapest room ($65.00/night – one night deposit required), which, though very small and with weak water pressure, was clean, comfortable, and had a balcony that provided spectacular views. It gets a bit chilly in the mountains and it rains frequently, so bring a sweater and rain gear. The hotel puts out feeders and the well-kept grounds attract birds. That first evening I heard or saw 3 (“Red-billed”) Streamertails, 2 Rufous-throated Solitaires, a White-chinned Thrush, and 2 Black-throated Blue Warblers. There was also an untold number of Olive-throated (“Jamaican”) Parakeets calling from the pines down the road toward Silver Hill. The only place to eat is at the hotel’s own restaurant. The meals were decent enough, and dinner cost US$18.50 including US$2.00 for a Red Stripe. A 10% surcharge is added to the total bill, which is pretty much standard in Jamaica. They also lock the outer gate at night, so if you do stay here and want to leave early in the morning, be sure to arrange to have the gate opened at whatever hour you wish.
The most significant disadvantage to staying at the Starlight Chalet is the 6-7 km distance back to Hardwar Gap. The road back to Section takes about 20 minutes, and from there it is another 20 minutes or so back to the gap. Alternative accommodations can be found at the Barbecue Heritage Gardens about 1 km below Newcastle, a rental house that looks open and well-kept, but which, despite many attempts, I was unable to reach by phone from the US. The Gap Café rents a room for J$5000(=US$83.33)/night, and the Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust rents three self-catering cabins in Holywell National Park itself. The smallest of the three rents for US$55/night; deposit is required. You can also camp in the park. Reservations can be made through the Trust at 29 Dumbarton Ave., Kingston 10 Jamaica, Tel. # (876) 920-8278 or Jamaicaconservation@gmail.com. This latter option is probably the best for daybreak birding, albeit not nearly as comfortable as the Starlight Chalet, and you must cook your own food.
Day 5 – January 6, 2007
I left Starlight Chalet at 6:20 A.M. to the sound of singing Rufous-throated Solitaires and Blue Mountain Vireos and headed directly to Holywell National Park (small entry fee). I decided to park there (the lot is behind the hill to the right immediately after the entry booth) and bird along the B1, which is also supposed to be the best way to find Crested Quail-Dove, my principal target bird that morning. I walked up and down the road for about 3 hours, nearly to Newcastle and back, with no luck at finding the quail-dove. I did see or hear a Zenaida Dove, 7 (“Red-billed”) Streamertails, a Vervain Hummingbird, a Sad Flycatcher, a Rufous-tailed Flycatcher, 2 Jamaican Vireos, 7 Blue Mountain Vireos, 9 Rufous-throated Solitaires, a White-eyed Thrush (this bird was sitting in the road like a White-chinned Thrush. I saw the white eye, but the bird flew off immediately, so it was but a fleeting look. It was the only White-eyed Thrush that I saw on this trip, and so it has gone on my “better view desired” list), 7 White-chinned Thrushes, 2 Northern Parulas, 3 Black-throated Blue Warblers, a Prairie Warbler, a Palm Warbler, an Arrowhead Warbler, 8 Bananaquits, 3 Jamaican Spindalises, a Yellow-faced Grassquit, 6 Orangequits, and 4 Jamaican Orioles.
On this side of the mountain, the sun does not hit the road until about 9:00 A.M., at which time the birding begins to slow. The Gap Café opens at 9:30, and so I stopped there for brunch. I had a new camera and as I sat I experimented with taking pictures of (“Red-billed”) Streamertails at the hummingbird feeders. I then headed back to the park, looked about the cabins, and then decided to hike the Waterfall Trail. This trail has been reported as good for Jamaican Blackbird, another bird I was hoping to find in the Hardwar Gap area. I did not find the blackbird, but at one point I looked up to see a Greater Antillean Elaenia silently watching me. I returned the favor. This, together with the blackbird, was one of two species that Brandon Hay had told me not to expect to find, so I was glad to see it. At one point while in the trees, I heard a loud flapping overhead. I got into the clear just in time to see the banded tail of a Ring-tailed Pigeon going over the ridge: another BVD. In addition to the pigeon and the elaenia, I saw a Red-tailed Hawk, 10 (“Red-billed”) Streamertails, 2 Jamaican Vireos, 2 Blue Mountain Vireos, a Rufous-throated Solitaire, a Tennessee Warbler, 2 Black-throated Blue Warblers, and 2 Greater Antillean Bullfinches.
By the time I got back to my car, it was 1:30 and cloudy with rain threatening. I had some lunch in the car and decided to try birding the B1 north of the gap. Gruff Dodd had mentioned a spot 1.3 km north of the gap where he had seen Jamaican Blackbirds so I decided to try it despite the hour. There were a couple of ravines that looked like good habitat (numerous bromeliads [“wild pines,” which gives the bird its local name, Wild Pine Sergeant]), but I was pretty sure I had the right one. By now (2:15) it had started to rain lightly, so I decided to sit in the car with the window slightly lowered and organize my notes. Within 3 minutes I heard a distinct “check” note, jumped out of the car, and ran to the ravine edge to see two birds that looked very much like all-black orioles feeding in the bromeliads. Sometimes we do get lucky. I watched them until they flew down the ravine, saw a White-chinned Thrush that was feeling ignored, and headed back toward Section to buy some coffee beans for my wife.
Back at the Starlight Chalet, I found a Loggerhead Kingbird, a Rufous-throated Solitaire, 3 Black-throated Blue Warblers, and 2 American Redstarts. The parakeets that I had heard the previous night were not present.
Day 6 – January 7, 2007
At 7:30 A.M., I checked out of the Starlight Chalet and headed back to Holywell where it was already fairly windy. I had not yet seen the quail-dove, so I decided to bird the road again. Still no quail-dove (a Jamaican couple who were also birders had stayed at the Starlight Chalet the previous night said that they often see the bird just before sundown), but in the next hour I saw or heard 10 (“Red-billed”) Streamertails, a Sad Flycatcher, a Loggerhead Kingbird, 2 Jamaican Vireos, 3 Blue Mountain Vireos, 2 Rufous-throated Solitaires, an Arrowhead Warbler, a Common Yellowthroat, 2 Bananaquits, and 4 Orangequits.
After an hour, I decided to hike the Oatley Mountain Trail, which despite the interesting habitat had surprisingly few birds. In the hour and a half that it took to bird the 2 km loop I saw a (“Red-billed”) Streamertail, a Jamaican Pewee, a Jamaican Vireo, a Blue Mountain Vireo, 2 Rufous-throated Solitaires, an Arrowhead Warbler, an American Redstart, and an Ovenbird.
At 10:00, I took one last pass on the road, but it was already late. I saw only 5 (“Red-billed”) Streamertails, a Loggerhead Kingbird, a Jamaican Vireo, a Swainson’s Warbler (in the road – I think that birds come down to drink and glean insects from the gutters), 3 Bananaquits, and 2 Jamaican Spindalises.
I then left for the Kingston Airport for my flight to Grand Cayman. To get to the airport, the Jamaican birders suggested that I go via Old Hope Road, which turns into Slipe Road, which becomes Orange Street, which ends at St. William Grant Park. I was then to work my way east of the park onto East Queen Street, which becomes Victoria Avenue, which becomes Windward Road, which ends at the Sir Florizel Glasspole Highway, a left turn brings you to the roundabout to the airport. I then asked about the safety of getting off Old Hope Road at Mountain View Avenue, a simpler and shorter route, but Mountain View is one of the neighborhoods that guide books say to avoid. They said that this is a major street and at 1:00 on a Sunday afternoon it ought to be okay. I therefore took this route. The road was virtually empty as were the sidewalks: this is a very rundown area. Mountain View comes to a T-intersection at Windward Road. Turn left at Windward and then left again at the Sir Florizel Glasspole Highway, and continue to the roundabout to the airport. There is a gas station just before the roundabout. The airport road is the road to Port Royal, ¾ way around the roundabout. I dropped the car at the Island Car Rentals lot and went to check in for my Air Jamaica flight to Grand Cayman. Kingston Airport was more like a bus station [Addendum: This airport has been completely re-built; it is now a very modern facility], and check-in took forever with a lot of pushing and shoving. The plane was also late.
I was due to arrive on Grand Cayman at 8:25, but arrived closer to 9:00 P.M. I quickly cleared immigration and customs and headed for the Budget Rent-a-Car office (actually Cayman Rent-a-Car, which is a Budget licensee). To get to the office one must leave the airport building, turn left, walk to the end of the building, and cross a street and a parking lot. There was only one person working and there was someone in front of me. The process took forever. Although I had reserved a Nissan Sentra, the only vehicle they had was a Hyundai Trajet (which added $2.00 to the CDW). They also sold me the required Cayman Islands Driving Permit ($7.50). By the time I left, it was 10:00 P.M. I had no trouble wending my way through George Town to find Eldemire’s Guest House at 18 Pebbles Way in South Sound. Tootie, the owner-manager, had left a key for me and by 11:00, I had settled in. The bed probably could have used a new mattress and the shower was a bit weak, but the A/C worked and the room was spotless. Moreover, at $124.90 (payment required in advance), this was the least expensive accommodation on the island. The room did precisely what it was meant to do – it gave me a clean place to shower and sleep for the night, and Tootie was very accommodating through the entire reservation process.
An alternative place to stay is the Turtle Nest Inn on Bodden Town Road (South Sound Road changes its name several times as it goes around the island. Bodden Town Road is one of those names; it is the same road that you left town on). It costs more than Eldemire’s (but still moderately priced by Cayman Island standards) and it is much closer to the birding areas. It looked to be quite nice as I passed it. The disadvantage is that if you are with non-birding family members, it is very removed from the shopping and nightlife of George Town.
Day 7 – January 8, 2007
I left Eldemire’s early, and so never did meet Tootie. I left her a note thanking her for making everything work at her end, and headed for the Mastic Trail to find Yucatan Vireo and Vitelline Warbler. I had allowed only 4½ hours to do all the driving, visit three birding areas, and find all of my target birds. It was tight, but it was enough. I had no trouble finding the South Sound Road at 6:30 A.M. and headed eastward seeing showers ahead of me. What did surprise me, however, was the volume of traffic; fortunately most of it was headed westward toward George Town. At Frank Sound Road, I turned left. Look for signs to the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. Because of speed limits, it took about 50 minutes to get there from George Town. Continue until you see a firehouse on the left. The next left is the road to the Mastic Trail (it may be called Mastic Road – I did not write down the name). If you reach the Botanic Park on the right, you have gone too far; turn around and go back. Just after the road turns to dirt, you will come to a closed rope gate, which you may pass through, but be sure to close the gate behind you. There is a small parking area ahead on the right. The trail leaves from the parking area and crosses through thickets, scrub, and boggy spots. As one approaches the “mountain” and the woods, the trail becomes rough underfoot (wet karst), so I was glad that I was wearing hiking boots. These look bizarre in the West Indies, but I have never been sorry that I have had them with me. Along the way I could hear construction that sounded as if it were coming right up to the edge of the reserve. I also saw or heard a Caribbean Dove, 7 Cuban Parrots of the Grand Cayman race, a probable West Indian Woodpecker, a LaSagra’s Flycatcher, 4 Northern Mockingbirds, 4 Gray Catbirds, a Northern Parula, 2 Vitelline Warblers (although these were heard only. They did not respond to my spishing and I could not coax them out. A desire to get to the pig farm forced me to abandon the effort), 3 Palm Warblers, a Black-and-white Warbler, 3 Bananaquits, a female Western Spindalis, and 16 Greater Antillean Grackles.
On to Willie Ebank’s Pig Farm: Retrace your steps back to Frank Sound Road and turn left. At this point, I do not know if my odometer was recording miles or kilometers, but I presume the former. If not, think of the following numbers as “odometer units.” From the Botanic Park, it is 2.1 miles (or odometer units) to the North Side Road. Turn left at the T-intersection toward Hutland. Go another 2.8 miles to Chisholm’s Store and then left again. 1.2 miles farther, look for a dirt road on the left. Take this – don’t hit the whistling-ducks. As I emerged at the pig farm, there were West Indian Whistling-Ducks everywhere. In addition to 57 West Indian Whistling-Ducks, I saw an American Kestrel, a Common Moorhen, a Royal Tern (while en route), 3 White-winged Doves, a Smooth-billed Ani, and a Gray Kingbird.
I then decided to try the Botanic Park rather than return to the Mastic Trail. It is worth birding the entry road into the Botanic Park. This is good woodland that has not yet been subjected to the British belief that things won’t grow properly unless they are suitably tended, and it is free. Along the road I saw 2 Thick-billed Vireos, 2 Yucatan Vireos, and 3 Vitelline Warblers (all singing frequently) even though it was now 10:00 in the morning. I decided to go into the park anyway however. The park opens at 9:00 A.M.; the entry fee is CI$8 (=US$10). This is a rather charming place with several gardens laid out in proper formal British style. There are several paths and ponds that are worth birding. Time would not allow me to bird the Woodland Trail, but it looks promising. There is also a snack bar and gift shop. From 10:15-11:15, I saw a Pied-billed Grebe, 6 Common Moorhens, 4 Common Ground-Doves, a Caribbean Dove (heard only), 3 Smooth-billed Anis, 3 LaSagra’s Flycatchers, 4 Yucatan Vireos, 6 Northern Mockingbirds, 4 Palm Warblers, 3 Bananaquits, a Western Spindalis, and 2 Cuban Bullfinches. I also saw (upper front-view only) a warbler that was consistently singing the song of a Vitelline Warbler. However the face markings were very much that of a Prairie Warbler (black eyeline, moustachial stripe, and line bordering the underside of the auriculars, and the auriculars were not darker than the rest of the face as one would expect on a Vitelline) as were the black streaks along the flanks. I did not see the under-tail coverts or the back. I know the song of the Prairie Warbler reasonably well though I currently live north of their range, and I had been hearing Vitelline Warblers all morning long, and this certainly sounded just like a Vitelline. So perhaps this was a Prairie Warbler that thought he might get lucky on his wintering grounds if he learned the song of the Vitelline Warbler, although it seems unlikely that a Prairie Warbler would be singing this exuberantly in the Cayman Islands in January. On the other hand, this could have been a Vitelline Warbler with a healthy number of Prairie Warbler genes (or vice versa). I would welcome any comments.
By now I had to return to the airport to turn in the rental car and check in. The Re/Max map provided by Budget shows all of the Esso and Texaco stations on the western third of the island, and there is an Esso station near the west end of the runway just before the turn to the airport. It is also a good place to buy snack food. I turned in the car (check your receipt carefully. Although it did not matter since there was less than a day involved, when I got home I found that they claimed that I had had the car for nearly 19 hours, which was nearly 5 hours longer than I actually had it and 2 hours longer than I spent on Grand Cayman), and ran to the Air Jamaica check-in desk only to find that the plane would be at least an hour late.
The plane arrived in Kingston nearly an hour late, and the person from Island Rental and I had trouble finding each other. The result was that I left Kingston at close to 5:00, which meant that I would be driving in the dark. I had planned to bird the Ecclesdown Road in the Driver’s River Valley the next morning, so I had made reservations at Hotel Jamaican Colors in Long Bay for that night. However when I e-mailed a confirmation to them prior to my departure, I received no response. I therefore called ahead from the Starlight Chalet the night before I left for Grand Cayman, and the proprietor, Martine Bourseguin, told me that she had a large group coming in and would not honor my reservation (I have found and heard that this is not uncommon in the Caribbean: “reservations” are merely helpful hints for the management). However she had made reservations for me at Ocean View B&B in Hector’s River, about 10 miles south of Long Bay and so that much closer to Kingston. To get to the east coast of Jamaica from Norman Manley (Kingston) airport, take the road toward Kingston. When you get to the traffic circle at Harbour View, go ¾ of the way around the roundabout and head toward Bull Bay, Yallahs, and Port Morant. This is the A4, which goes around the east side island to Annotto Bay. East of Kingston, the road was in reasonably good condition in most places, although I had to ask for directions at a couple of points. The stretch between Amity Hall and Hector’s River (identified on maps as the “Ken Jones Highway”) is also in reasonably good condition and quite deserted. “Reasonably” is the key word here. The road had seemed quite good, and so I had confidently been driving at nearly 40 mph (10 mph below the posted speed limit of 80 kph [50 mph]) when a troll hidden in a pthole reached up and ate my tire. I did not know how far I was from Hector’s River (it turned out to have been about three miles), so there was nothing to do but use my owling lamp for light while I changed my tire. Of the six cars that passed me in the process, two did stop to ask if I was all right. I got myself into Ocean View at about 8:00 P.M. Ocean View B&B is managed by Idris Stokes and Errol Bennett. They have six rooms, two of which have en suite bathrooms. I took one of the latter. Idris made a light dinner for me, for which I was most grateful, as there was no open place to eat in the village. The room was impeccably clean, but the shower is a handheld nozzle. Errol told me that in season (March-June), White-tailed Tropicbirds can occasionally be seen from the balcony over the front door. I told them that I would be leaving too early for breakfast, but Idris insisted on packing something for me. The cost for all of this was J$3000 (~US$49) plus J$300 for the dinner.
Day 8 – January 9, 2007
The morning’s target area was Ecclesdown Road in the Driver’s River Valley. This road is best birded from the north end, but a relatively late start meant that it would be more efficient to bird from the south. To reach the southern end of the road from Hector’s River, go north on the A4 toward the village of Manchioneal. In ~2km, look for signs for Reach Falls on the left and turn left toward the falls. If you reach Manchioneal, you have gone too far. After the left turn, the road forks. The left fork takes you to Reach Falls, but you should take the right. This is the Ecclesdown Road. Continue up the steep grade to the height-of-land, after which you should stop at any good habitat to bird. I reached the height-of-land at about 7:45 and birded the road for just over three hours when I again reached houses near the village of Hartford. Along the way I saw 3 Turkey Vultures, a Red-tailed Hawk, 3 Common Ground-Doves, 2 Zenaida Doves, numerous parrots a long way off across the valley and too far away to identify, 2 Chestnut-bellied Cuckoos, 3 (“Black-billed”) Streamertails (whose whirr sounds somewhat different to my ear than that of the “Red-billed.” I wonder if anyone has checked this on a sonogram or oscilloscope. This may have been a mere acoustic aberration), a Jamaican Woodpecker, a Rufous-tailed Flycatcher, 4 Loggerhead Kingbirds, 2 Jamaican Vireos, 4 Blue Mountain Vireos, 4 Jamaican Crows, 2 Rufous-throated Solitaires, 3 White-chinned Thrushes, 3 Northern Parulas, a Black-throated Blue Warbler, an American Redstart, and 2 Jamaican Orioles.
Then began five of the most grueling hours of driving during my entire time in Jamaica. After entering Hartford, I more or less kept bearing right until I again reached the A4 just north of Long Bay. From here to Ocho Rios, the road was tortuous and in terrible condition, and I was never able to go more than 20-25 mph [Addendum: This road has been much improved between Port Antonio and Ocho Rios] and took a wrong turn in the town of Port Maria. At Ocho Rios, the road became an improved highway, and the driving was very easy. Since I still had several birds that I had not seen, I decided to stay at Fisherman’s Inn in Falmouth and go to Windsor the next day. Because the highway has been re-routed slightly, Fisherman’s Inn is now along the old road into Falmouth but can be seen from the new highway. The inn was all but empty, which was good because I had no reservations. At US$125.00/night, however, I thought it over-priced. The air conditioning in the room was weak, and one had to be careful in order to keep the sand-flies out of the room. But it was clean, right on the water, and very convenient. I ate dinner at the inn where the food was acceptable, but at $22.77, also rather over-priced. Note that the inn gets very good (albeit few) reviews on TripAdvisor.
Day 9 - January 10, 2007
Because of the new highway, Gruff Dodd’s directions from Falmouth were no longer useful at the Falmouth end (the old road is blocked by a large dirt pile). I therefore went west on the A1 looking for the most likely turn-off to Martha Brae Rafting. Finding a left turn, I took it and eventually came to a road to the right that crossed a bridge into the village of Martha Brae. I understood this to be the road that Gruff Dodd said not to take and so continued straight ahead. I asked someone if this was the road to Perth Town and finding that it was continued on. At Perth Town, bear right at a fork in the road and continue to Sherwood Content. The road comes to a T-intersection where you should turn right. The road through Sherwood Content was in terrible condition. At the end of the village, the road forks, but think of it as a left turn to Windsor. Take this left and continue straight ahead for about 5 km. Just before you get to Windsor, there is a sharp turn to the right. Ignore the turn and continue ahead for a few hundred meters and park by Franklyn’s (Dango’s) shack at a four-way (all dirt roads) intersection.
When I got there, Franklyn said that he
would watch my car
for me as I walked straight on toward Windsor Cave.
Uphill from Franklyn’s shack is the Windsor Great House owned by Michael Schwartz and Susan Koenig. However on this day, Michael and Susan were away in Kingston. I birded the trail that went over the little bridge toward the cave. Approaching the cave, the trail goes steeply downhill at a height-of-land; however, the trail forks and another trail goes up the hill to the left. I followed this for about 300 meters. Time being short, I then returned to the Great House, on the way to which I met Dwayne (also called “Hoggie,” but he doesn’t like it), who works as an assistant to Susan Koenig. For $30, he offered to show me a roosting Northern Potoo. I thought the price a little steep, but he knew where the roost was and I didn’t, and in the remaining time, I wasn’t going to find it on my own. We got to the site and found the bird very quickly. While I was setting up a camera shot, a Crested Quail-Dove appeared behind me. However instead of quietly tapping me on the shoulder, a loud “Hey, hey, hey” from Dwayne spooked the bird. Nevertheless, he did identify flying Black-billed Parrots for me as well as the chip note of a fly-by Chestnut Munia.
This area is quite birdy and in 3 ½ hours I managed to find (with some help from Dwayne) a Little Blue Heron, a white phase Reddish Egret, 2 Cattle Egrets, 6 Turkey Vultures, an American Kestrel, a White-winged Dove, 4 Zenaida Doves, 5 Common Ground-Doves, 2 Olive-throated Parakeets, 2 Black-billed Parrots (better view desired), 2 Chestnut-bellied Cuckoos, 4 Smooth-billed Anis, a Northern Potoo, 3 (“Red-billed”) Streamertails, a Jamaican Tody, a Jamaican Woodpecker, a Jamaican Elaenia (a bird that I had not yet found on the trip), a Sad Flycatcher, a Jamaican Vireo, 2 Jamaican Crows, a Northern Parula, a Black-throated Blue Warbler, a Common Yellowthroat, 3 Bananaquits, 2 Yellow-faced Grassquits, 4 Black-faced Grassquits, 3 Greater Antillean Bullfinches, a Greater Antillean Grackle, 3 Jamaican Orioles, and heard a Chestnut Munia.
At 11:30, I tipped Franklyn J$100 (in retrospect, probably too little) and retraced my route to the A1 and headed for the airport in Montego Bay. There was considerable delay because of construction on the Montego Bay end of the new highway, but I arrived in plenty of time for my 4:45 flight, turned in the car (the insurance covered the mangled tire in the trunk), and left for home.
SPECIES SEEN OR HEARD
E = Jamaican or Cayman Island endemic
C = Caribbean endemic or near endemic
I = Introduced species
Taxonomy conforms to the 7th AOU Checklist (2003), 50th (2009) Supplement. This is the same standard used by the American Birding Association. Major differences with other lists are noted.
West Indian Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna arborea C
57 at Willie Ebank’s Pig Farm on Grand Cayman on January 8th.
Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps
1 in the pond at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Garden on Grand Cayman on January 8th.
Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis
2 as I was driving from Montego Bay to Reading on January 2nd.
Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificens
1 while driving along the A2 on the southwest coast while en route from Rocklands to Mandeville on January 3rd.
Snowy Egret Egretta thula
1 along the north coast in Falmouth on January 10th.
Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea
1 at Marshall’s Pen on January 5th and another in the stream between Windsor Great House and Windsor Cave on the 10th.
Reddish Egret Egretta rufescens
1 white phase along the stream between Windsor Great House and Windsor Cave on January 10th.
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Abundant on the coastal plain and at middle elevations as high as Marshall’s Pen and Windsor Cave (both of these upland locations also have a large number of cattle). It was difficult to count while driving, but the largest number that I saw on any given day was 30 on January 3rd when I drove from Montego Bay to Marshall’s Pen.
Glossy Ibis Plegatis falcinellus
On January 3rd, I took a short loop off the A2 through Carmel, in part to get out of the traffic on the A2 and in part because that route would take me, however briefly, through part of the marsh that makes up the Black River Upper Morass, and I thought that something interesting might fly over. It was on this loop that I saw the only Glossy Ibis of the trip.
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
Abundant in the lowlands and middle elevations but difficult to count while driving. Largest number was 20 on January 4th.
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
2 at Rocklands on January 3rd, 1 along the Waterfall Trail on the 6th, and 1 on Ecclesdown Road on the 9th.
American Kestrel Falco sparverius
Seen every day that I was in the lowlands or in middle elevations including the Cayman Islands. Highest number was 3 on January 3rd.
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
1 at Willie Ebank’s Pig Farm on Grand Cayman and another 7 on the pond at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park on the same island, all on January 8th.
Royal Tern Thalasseus maximus
1 flying along North Side Road on Grand Cayman on January 8th.
White-crowned Pigeon Patagioenas leucocephala C
1 at Rocklands on January 3rd.
Ring-tailed Pigeon Patagioenas caribaea E
1 heard at Burnt Hill on January 4th and another of which I saw only the tail on the Waterfall Trail in Holywell National Park on the 6th. Much better view desired.
White-winged Dove Zenaida asiatica
1 at Rocklands on January 3rd, 3 at Willie Ebank’s Pig Farm on Grand Cayman on the 8th, and 1 at Windsor on the 10th.
Zenaida Dove Zenaida aurita C
Seen in small numbers most days in Jamaica; none on Grand Cayman. The largest number was 5 on January 4th: 3 at Burnt Hill and 2 at Marshall’s Pen.
Common Ground-Dove Columbina passerina
Very common in some places, absent from others. The most that I saw on any one day was 15 at Rocklands on January 2nd, and then 4 there the next day. I then saw no others until I got to Grand Cayman on the 8th where I saw 4, and then 3 on Ecclesdown Road on the 9th and 5 at Windsor on the 10th.
Caribbean Dove Leptotila jamaicensis C
1 at Rocklands on January 2nd and 2 there the next day; 1 at Marshall’s Pen on the 4th and 2 on Grand Cayman on the 8th (1 on the Mastic Trail and 1 heard in the Botanic Park).
Ruddy Quail-Dove Geotrygon montana
2 at Rocklands on January 3rd and another heard at Marshall’s Pen on the 5th.
Olive-throated (“Jamaican”) Parakeet Aratinga nana (nana)
Although this taxon has occasionally been split as the endemic “Jamaican Parakeet” retaining the scientific name Aratinga nana, all major authorities now recognize the species as Olive-throated Parakeet. Clements 6th ed. with 2009 revisions, Howard and Moore 3rd ed. with 8th corrigenda, Handbook of the Birds of the World and Zoonomen treat the Jamaican form as an endemic subspecies.
4 at Rocklands on January 3rd, 11 at the Astra Guest House on the evening of the 4th, a large flock heard in the pines opposite Starlight Chalet in the Blue Mountains on the 5th, a 2 at Windsor on the 10th.
Cuban Parrot Amazona leucocephala (caymanensis) C
Clements 6th ed. with 2009 revisions, Howard and Moore 3rd ed. with 8th corrigenda, Handbook of the Birds of the World and Zoonomen treat the Grand Cayman form as a subspecies endemic to Grand Cayman Island. They similarly treat the form on Little Cayman (extirpated) and Cayman Brac as the subspecies A. l. hesterna. Raffaele et al. (1998, 2003) use “Rose-throated Parrot” as the common name.
7 on the Mastic Trail on Grand Cayman on January 8th.
Yellow-billed Parrot Amazona collaria E
10 at Burnt Hill on January 4th.
Black-billed Parrot Amazona agilis E
2 seen in a rapid fly-by at Windsor on January 10th.
Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo Coccyzus pluvialis E
2 on Ecclesdown Road on January 9th and 2 at Windsor on the 10th.
Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo Coccyzus vetula E
1 at Rocklands on January 3rd.
Smooth-billed Ani Crotophaga ani
Seen most days at lower and middle elevations in both Jamaica and on Grand Cayman. Greatest number was 12 at Marshall’s Pen on January 5th.
Jamaican Owl Pseudoscops grammicus E
1 heard at Marshall’s Pen at 6:02 A.M. on January 5th.
Northern Potoo Nyctibius jamaicensis
1 on a roost at Windsor on January 10th.
Antillean Palm-Swift Tachornis phoenicobia C
1 at Rocklands on January 3rd.
Jamaican Mango Anthracothorax mango E
2 coming to a hand-held feeder at Rocklands on January 2nd.
(“Red-billed”) Streamertail Trochilus polytmus (polytmus) E
There is no consensus regarding the specific status of this taxon and the next. The AOU has consistently recognized the two as the single species Streamertail Trochilus polytmus. This is also the judgment of the BOU 7th ed. with 2009 supplement, both editions of Sibley and Monroe, and Downer and Sutton (1990). Clements treated the two as a single species in his 1st through 4th editions. In the 5th edition, Clements split the two taxa into separate species and the committee maintained this position through the 6th edition with 2007 revisions. In the 2008 and 2009 revisions, the Clements committee again reversed itself and treated the two as subspecies of T. polytmus: T. p. polytmus and T. p. scitulus. Howard and Moore, IOC World Bird Names, Zoonomen, and Raffaele et al. (1998, 2003) treat the two as separate species, T. polytmus and T. scitulus as do Haynes-Sutton, Downer, and Sutton (2009). Ann Haynes-Sutton states that she follows the taxonomy of Clements 6th ed.
This endemic is Jamaica’s national bird and the red-billed form is abundant everywhere on the island except in the northeast. I saw the bird every day except of course on Grand Cayman and on Ecclesdown Road; several came in and perched on my finger at Rocklands. The highest count was 17 in the Blue Mountains on January 6th, but all of my numbers could be low.
(“Black-billed”) Streamertail Trochilus polytmus (scitulus) (E)
See taxonomic notes for (“Red-billed”) Streamertail. I counted 3 on the Ecclesdown Road on January 9th, but judging from the constant whirring, this number is almost certainly too low.
Vervain Hummingbird Mellisuga minima C
2 at Rocklands on January 3rd, 1 at Marshall’s Pen on the 5th, and another along route B1 in Hardwar Gap on the 6th.
Jamaican Tody Todus todus E
1 at Rocklands on January 3rd and another at Windsor on the 10th.
Jamaican Woodpecker Melanerpes radiolatus E
1 at Rocklands on January 2nd, 7 there on the 3rd, 3 at Marshall’s Pen on the 5th, 1 on Ecclesdown Road on the 9th, and 1 at Windsor on the 10th.
This was heard on the Mastic Trail on Grand Cayman and was either a West Indian Woodpecker (Melanerpes superciliaris) or Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus), both of which are common on the island.
Jamaican Elaenia Myiopagus cotta E
1 at Windsor on January 10th.
Greater Antillean Elaenia Elaenia fallax C
This was one of two species that Brandon Hay told me not to expect to find, so I was very happy to see one on the Waterfall Trail in Holywell Park on January 6th.
Jamaican Pewee Contopus pallidus E
1 at Rocklands on January 3rd, 2 at Marshall’s Pen on the 5th, 1 on the Oatley Mountain Trail in Holywell National Park on the 7th.
Sad Flycatcher Myiarchus barbirostris E
4 at Rocklands on January 3rd, one each at Burnt Hill on the 4th, along the B1 in Hardwar Gap on the 6th and again on the 7th, and at Windsor on the 10th.
Rufous-tailed Flycatcher Myiarchus validus E
2 at Rocklands on January 3rd, one each at Marshall’s Pen on the 5th, along the B1 in Hardwar Gap on the 6th, and on Ecclesdown Road on the 9th.
LaSagra’s Flycatcher Myiarchus sagrae C
1 on the Mastic Trail and 3 at the Botanic Park on Grand Cayman on January 8th.
Stolid Flycatcher Myiarchus stolidus C
2 at Rocklands on January 3rd and one each at Burnt Hill on the 4th and Marshall’s Pen on the 5th.
Gray Kingbird Tyrannus dominicensis
1 at Willie Ebank’s Pig Farm on Grand Cayman on January 8th.
Loggerhead Kingbird Tyrannus caudifasciatus C
Seen daily in Jamaica except on January 10th. Greatest number was 4 on Ecclesdown Road on the 9th.
Jamaican Becard Pachyramphus niger E
2 at Rocklands on January 3rd and 1 at Marshall’s Pen on the 5th.
Thick-billed Vireo Vireo crassirostris C
2 along the entry road to the Botanic Park on Grand Cayman on January 8th.
Jamaican Vireo Vireo modestus E
Seen every day in Jamaica except January 2nd. Greatest number was 4 in the Hardwar Gap area on both the 6th and 7th. At least one bird was seen at each birding location in Hardwar Gap.
Blue Mountain Vireo Vireo osburni E
9 in the Hardwar Gap area on January 6th, most of which were heard only, 4 in the same area on the 7th, and 4 along Ecclesdown Road on the 9th.
Yucatan Vireo Vireo magister
2 along the entry road to the Botanic Park on Grand Cayman and 4 more in the park itself on January 8th.
Jamaican Crow Corvus jamaicensis E
7 at Burnt Hill on January 4th, 4 on Ecclesdown Road on the 9th, and 2 at Windsor on the 10th.
Rufous-throated Solitaire Myadestes genibarbis C
Heard much more frequently than seen. I saw several and heard many more, but never saw one singing. The first was a bird at Burnt Hill that flew in silently and perched on a branch just over my head. 2 at Burnt Hill on January 4th, 2 at Starlight Chalet on the 5th, 12 in the Hardwar Gap area (including 2 at Starlight Chalet) on the 6th, 4 in Hardwar Gap on the 7th, and 2 on Ecclesdown Road on the 9th.
White-eyed Thrush Turdus jamaicensis E
1 poorly seen (better view desired) along the B1 in Hardwar Gap between The Gap Restaurant and the entrance to Holywell Park on January 6th.
White-chinned Thrush Turdus aurantius E
8 at Rocklands on January 3rd, 1 at Marshall’s Pen and 1 at Starlight Chalet on the 5th, 8 along the B1 in the Hardwar Gap area on the 6th (they hop along the road in the early morning), 5 along the B1 in the Hardwar Gap area on the 7th, 3 on Ecclesdown Road on the 9th.
Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottus
2 at Rocklands on January 3rd, 1 outside Eldemire Guest House, 4 on the Mastic Trail, 6 at the Botanic Park, and 1 at the airport on Grand Cayman on the 8th.
Gray Catbird Dumetella carolinensis
4 on the Mastic Trail on Grand Cayman on January 8th.
European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
4 at Marshall’s Pen on January 5th.
Tennessee Warbler Vermivora peregrina
1 on the Waterfall Trail in Holywell Park on January 6th.
Northern Parula Parula americana
1 at Rocklands on January 3rd, 2 along the B1 between The Gap Restaurant and the entrance to Holywell Park on the 6th, 1 on the Mastic Trail on Grand Cayman on the 8th, 3 on Ecclesdown Road on the 9th, and 1 at Windsor on the 10th.
Cape May Warbler Dendroïca tigrina
1 at Burnt Hill on January 4th.
Black-throated Blue Warbler Dendroïca caerulescens
Seen nearly every day in Jamaica with the greatest number being 8 on January 6th on both sides of Hardwar Gap.
Prairie Warbler Dendroïca discolor
3 at Rocklands on January 3rd, 1 at Marshall’s Pen on the 5th, and 1 on the B1 between Hardwar Gap and Newcastle on the 6th.
Vitelline Warbler Dendroïca vitellina C
2 heard on the Mastic Trail, 3 seen either on the entry road to the Botanic Park or in the park itself on Grand Cayman on January 8th, but see my comments for that date concerning the identity of one of these birds.
Palm Warbler Dendroïca palmarum
1 on the B1 between Holywell Park and Newcastle in Hardwar Gap on January 6th; 3 on the Mastic Trail, 4 in the Botanic Park, and 2 at the airport on Grand Cayman on the 8th.
Arrowhead Warbler Dendroïca pharetra E
2 at Rocklands on January 3rd, 1 at Marshall’s Pen on the 5th, 1 on the B1 between Holywell Park and Newcastle in Hardwar Gap on January 6th, another in the same location and another on the Oatley Mountain Trail in Holywell Park on the 7th.
Black-and-White Warbler Mniotilta varia
1 at Rocklands on January 3rd, 1 at Marshall’s Pen on the 5th, and 1 on the Mastic Trail on Grand Cayman on the 8th.
American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla
Seen every day in Jamaica except January 4th and 10th. The highest count was 3 at Marshall’s Pen on the 5th. I did not see or hear any on Grand Cayman.
Worm-eating Warbler Helmitheros vermivorum
5 at Rocklands on January 3rd.
Swainson’s Warbler Limnothlypis swainsonii
1 sitting in the road (!!) on the B1 between The Gap Restaurant and the entrance to Holywell Park on January 7th.
Ovenbird Seiurus aurocapilla
1 each at Rocklands on January 3rd, Burnt Hill on the 4th, and the Oatley Mountain Trail in Holywell Park on the 7th.
Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas
1 each at Rocklands on January 3rd, Burnt Hill on the 4th, Marshall’s Pen on the 5th, on the B1 between The Gap Restaurant and the entrance to Holywell Park on the 7th, and at Windsor on the 10th.
Bananaquit Coereba flaveola
If you don’t like Bananaquits, stay out of the West Indies (Cuba is safe). I saw these on both islands every day except January 9th. The highest number was 18 on the 2nd.
Western Spindalis Spindalis zena C
1 female on the Mastic Trail and a male in the Botanic Park on Grand Cayman on January 8th.
Jamaican Spindalis Spindalis nigricephala E
4 at Rocklands on January 3rd, 2 at Burnt Hill on the 4th, 3 on the B1 between The Gap Restaurant and the entrance to Holywell Park on the 6th, and 2 in the same location on the 7th.
Cuban Bullfinch Melopyrrha nigra C
2 in the Botanic Park on Grand Cayman on January 8th.
Yellow-faced Grassquit Tiaris olivaceus
15 at Rocklands on January 2nd and 9 there on the 3rd, 1 at Burnt Hill and 1 at Marshall’s Pen on the 4th, 1 on the B1 between Newcastle and the entrance to Holywell Park on the 6th, and 2 at Windsor on the 10th.
Black-faced Grassquit Tiaris bicolor
20 at Rocklands on January 2nd, 1 at Marshall’s Pen on the 5th, at 4 at Windsor on the 10th.
Greater Antillean Bullfinch Loxigilla violacea C
1 at Rocklands on January 3rd, 2 at Burnt Hill on the 4th, and 2 (m/f pair) on the Waterfall Trail in Holywell National Park on the 6th.
Orangequit Euneornis campestris E
2 at Rocklands on January 2nd, 1 there on the 3rd, 2 at Marshall’s Pen on the 5th, 6 on the B1 between Newcastle and the entrance to Holywell Park on the 6th, and 3 at Windsor on the 10th.
Jamaican Blackbird Nesopsar nigerrimus E
Another bird that Brandon Hay told me that I probably would not find, but I did find two 1.3 km north of Hardwar Gap (that is, between the gap and Section) at 2:15 PM on January 6th.
Greater Antillean Grackle Quiscalus niger C
16 along the Mastic Trail on Grand Cayman on January 8th and 1 at Windsor on the 10th.
Jamaican Oriole Icterus leucopteryx E
Seen at all locations (albeit not every day) in Jamaica. The highest count was 4 at Burnt Hill on January 4th and a like number on the B1 between Newcastle and the entrance to Holywell Park on the 6th.
Jamaican Euphonia Euphonia jamaica E
2 at Rocklands on January 3rd.
Chestnut Munia Lonchura atricapilla I
1 heard at Windsor on January 10th.
Missed Birds (includes birds that were heard only or for which a better view is desired)
Note: I generally do not use tapes. I used none on this trip
Ring-tailed Pigeon E
Crested Quail-Dove E
Black-billed Parrot E
Jamaican Owl E
White-eyed Thrush E
Yellow-shouldered Grassquit E
Chestnut Munia I
Birds that I did not look for but would like to have seen
Green-rumped Parrotlet I
Saffron Finch I
Yellow-crowned Bishop I
Michael R. Greenwald
661 Judson Street Road
Canton, NY 13617