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JAMAICA and GRAND CAYMAN
21 - 31 December 2006
by Jeff Hopkins
I'd been working my way through the Caribbean for short vacations for the past few years and this year it was Jamaica's turn. I contemplated a side trip to Cuba instead, but because of recent anti-Castro posturing by the US government, it became too risky to do that Instead, I added a side trip to Grand Cayman to pick up a few of the other northern Caribbean endemics and vitelline warbler.
My itinerary was:
21 December Fly from USA to Montego Bay
22 December Windsor Cave then drive to Marshall's Pen.
23 December Marshall's Pen, excursion for masked duck
24 December Marshall's Pen in AM. Drive to Portland Ridge then continue to Blue Mountains
25 December Hardwar and Silver Hill Gaps
26 December Drive to Ecclesdown Rd. then continue to Port Antonio
27 December Ecclesdown Rd. then drive to Ocho Rios
28 December Windsor Cave then drive to Rocklands and Montego Bay. Fly to Grand Cayman.
29 December Grand Cayman
30 December Grand Cayman
31 December Grand Cayman. Fly back to Montego Bay
1 January Return to USA
The flight to Jamaica was on United and paid for with frequent flyer mileage. The flight from Jamaica to Grand Cayman was on Air Jamaica. It cost about $350.
I was a little concerned about crime in Jamaica, but I had no problems whatsoever. The people in Jamaica were very friendly and helpful. Other than in Ocho Rios and MoBay I didn't have much problems with touts either. The closest I came to any problems was when a squeegee guy at an intersection in MoBay pounded on my car when I turned the wipers on while he was attempting to wash my windshield. However, listening to the local news on the radio I did hear a lot about crime. It's just that it doesn't usually impact the typical tourist.
In Jamaica I rented a car from Island Car Rentals. It was a Suzuki Liana. The cost was $46 per day plus mandatory insurance ($15/day). In Grand Cayman I rented from Avis. It was a KIA hatchback I forget the model. Cost was $40 per day. No insurance necessary.
Jamaica - If you've never driven a right-hand drive car, Jamaica is not the place to learn. The roads are very winding and narrow. Like in most former British colonies, they use roundabouts (a.k.a. traffic circles or rotaries) on the major roads and in the cities which can be confusing if you've never encountered them before. And there's lots of traffic and pedestrians along the roads.
I used the Esso map, which is pretty good for the countryside and has good street maps of Kingston, MoBay, and Mandeville. The map (and every other road map of Jamaica I've seen) shows route numbers. The roads don't. I never saw one. You will need to know what town you are heading to, because if you find a sign, it will be to another town and will not show a route number. In the cities, the streets are fairly well marked. Also, the Esso map is in miles, but everything else is in kilometers.
It's been said, but I'll say it again: The roads in Jamaica are terrible. They are badly potholed and in some places the asphalt is completely gone. Avoid puddles on the roads. Puddles are just huge potholes filled with yesterday's rain. The worst stretches I encountered were the road from Section to Silver Hill Gap in the Blue Mountains and the road from Perth Town to Sherwood in Cockpit Country. They are in the process of rebuilding the A1 along the north coast, so much of that between Port Antonio and Runaway Bay and again between Falmouth and MoBay are torn up and full of detours most of which are dirt, not paved. Other roads were bad, but not terrible. There were two exceptions: Highway T1, the new toll road from Old Harbour to Kingston and the A1 from Runaway Bay to Falmouth are brand new and in perfect condition. City streets in Kingston and MoBay, at least the ones I drove, were also good.
As suggested, Jamaican drivers are crazy, but predictable. They will try to pass you as soon as the option presents itself, and often when it doesn't. Let them. When you hear a horn being held for longer than a quick toot, you know you are being passed. The custom seems to be when you pass someone, you hold your horn until you are past them (don't ask me why, it's just the custom). You will come to use your own horn liberally, especially on mountain roads. Also, beware of mini-vans, as they are usually route taxis, which means the drivers are especially insane.
You will get lost. Accept the fact and be prepared to deal with it. Ask for directions often. The people are friendly and helpful. Most of the time, you can understand them. One other thing I noticed was that usually the signs on the churches will tell you what town you're in. If not, ask.
Just in case, you might want to think about comprehensive insurance on your rental car. Some insurance is mandatory, but I lost two hubcaps and banged up the front bumper rather badly because the suspension was not very good. The difference between minimum coverage and comprehensive coverage would easily have paid for those. And make sure the car has a good spare tire, a jack, and a lug wrench. You'll need it.
Traffic is pretty bad in the cities on work days. Allow yourself plenty of time to get through them.
Grand Cayman - Piece of cake. The drivers are polite, the paved roads are all signposted, and they are almost universally in good condition (the roads in Barkers National Park are dirt). Downtown Georgetown has a couple of one way streets, but that's probably the worst problem you'll have to deal with (along with parking). I used the map provided by Avis, which showed most roads and many stores and gas stations as landmarks.
Getting Through Kingston - It's been noted elsewhere that the road signs in Kingston are all directing you to other parts of the city. That's true. But there are street signs as well, and if you have a good map and pay attention to the street signs, you will have no trouble getting across Kingston. But just in case, here are some directions for someone heading from Mandeville to the Blue Mountains.
I'm assuming you will be coming to Kingston on the T1 Toll Road. You are trying to get through Half Way Tree, New Kingston, and then Papine. There will be an exit for the airport and downtown before the road ends, but don't take that. You want to take the T1 to its end at the suburb of Six Miles. At that point, the road splits into two in a series of overpasses. Stay left and you will end up on Washington Blvd, which is a divided road with two lanes in each direction. If you end up on Spanish Town Rd, you took the wrong fork.
Washington Blvd. turns into Dunrobin Ave. Stay on Dunrobin until it comes to a T at a sign with directions to several other parts of town, including Half Way Tree. At this point turn right onto Constant Spring Rd. Once on Constant Spring, you will see signs advising that Papine will be a left turn. You first come to an intersection with another major street coming in at an angle on your right. This is Red Hills Rd. Two blocks past this is a traffic light at South Rd. Turn left.
South Rd. only goes a couple blocks and comes to a T at Waterloo Rd. Turn right onto Waterloo. After a few blocks you will come to a traffic light at a major intersection with Devon House on your left. This is Hope Rd. Turn left. Hope Rd. passes through a very suburban commercial district that looks much like one in the US. Stay straight on Hope Rd. past the Bob Marley Museum and it eventually turns into Old Hope Rd. which passes two colleges and the entrance to Hope Botanical Gardens. It eventually comes to a T at the market in Papine. Turn left at the T and the road will pass the National TVET centre on your left. Take the left fork at The Cooperage (the intersection with all the hotel signs) and climb into the Blue Mountains first following signs to Irish Town and then Newcastle.
Additionally, since the road from the Blue Mountains to Buff Bay was out of service, I had to get back through Kingston to the A4 along the southeast coast. That was also fairly easy. Once you get to Papine and Old Hope Rd., just follow the signs to the airport until you hit the coast road (A4).
When you come down from the mountains you'll eventually end up in Papine. Go around the market and turn right onto Old Hope Rd. Once Mona Rd. comes in at an angle on the right, start looking for signs to the airport. Then at a major intersection where Old Hope Rd. turns left and Hope Rd. continues straight, turn left onto Old. Hope Rd. About a kilometer later, the road forks. Take the left fork which is Mountain View Ave. You'll pass the National Stadium on your right, and the road will descend until it comes to a T at Windward Rd. Turn left, and you're on the A4.
Ecclesdown Rd. I've seen several reports that talk about Ecclesdown. Rd, but none that tell you where it is or how to get there. Ecclesdown Rd. is a road that runs into the foothills of the John Crow Mountains on the east coast of Jamaica. It branches off the A4 in the town of Manchioneal and loops back to the A4 just north of the town of Long Bay. I believe the town of Ecclesdown is actually just a clearing and there are no houses. The only town of any size along the road is Reach which is at the Manchioneal end of the road.
Coming from Port Antonio, you'll pass through Boston Bay. Before you come to the town of Long Bay, you'll see a large sign on the right with several destinations on it, one of which is a right turn to Windsor Forest (2 km). Take that turn and set the odometer to zero. A couple of roads branch off on either side, but continue straight to a T (actually more like a curve with a road branching right) at 0.8 km. Turn left at the T and you'll enter the town of Windsor Forest. At the 1 km mark, the road will fork with a small two-story store in the middle of the fork.
Take the left fork and the road will start to climb (the right fork dead ends after passing through the rest of Windsor Forest). Eventually there are no more houses and the road climbs into good habitat. Park anywhere that looks good and scan the hillsides and valleys for flying birds. The road is narrow but I saw very few other vehicles so you should be safe. Eventually the road will start to descend and once houses start to appear again and you see the Drivers River, you've made it to Reach. There's no more good habitat past that point.
Coming from Manchioneal, there is a large sign pointing the way to Reach Falls (or Reich Falls, I forget which) on your left. Turn there and after a few kilometers, the road to Reach Falls will go straight and the Ecclesdown Rd. will turn right. Unfortunately I didn't note the distance from the A4 to the turn. Once again, climb past the houses into the forest and park where you can.
Portland Ridge I had no trouble finding my way through Portland Cottage to where the Bahama Mockingbirds are found. But since some people have, here are some directions.
Heading east from Mandeville (or I should say coming down from Mandeville) you will come to the town of May Pen. Stay on the bypass around the south side of May Pen. After you cross the Rio Minho the only large river you'll cross - you will come to a large roundabout. Go three-quarters of the way around that roundabout and head south to Halse Hall, Hayes, and Lionel Town. You will pass a large bauxite plant on your left and cross a few sets of railroad tracks. Ignore the left turn to Salt River Resort. Just after you pass through Lionel Town you will come to a T. Turn left and set the odometer to zero.
After 0.7 km you will come to a right hand turn that is signposted to Jackson's Bay. Turn right. At the 2.2 km mark, you will come to another T with a big sign directing you left to Portland Cottage. Turn Left. The pavement ends, but stay on this road from this point. You will pass through Portland Cottage and along the shore of West Harbour (at which point the road looks like it sometimes may be underwater). At one point there will be a right hand turn uphill to a gate, but stay straight. Eventually the road comes into the thorn scrub which is where the mockingbirds can be found.
Windsor Cave The directions given in Gruff Dodd's and Jim Holmes' reports are pretty good. Just remember that there are about 0.5 km from the Fisherman's Inn to the turn for Martha Brae, and the fork beyond Perth Town to Sherwood Content is signposted to Sherwood. Also, the turn to Martha Brae from the Falmouth Bypass has a sign for a bus stop, but there is no bus shelter there. And don't get off the paved road until it turns to dirt at Windsor.
Rocklands Once again the directions in other reports are pretty good. The intersection with the Texaco station referred to in other reports is where Queen's Drive and Gloucester Ave. (The Hip Strip come together. As noted, turn left at the 4th light after the Texaco station. This is Alice Eldemire Dr. Go two lights and turn right. This is now the A1 coast road to Negril and Lucea. At the second light, in the town of Reading, there will be a signpost to Anchovy. Turn left. You will climb up from the coast for about 2 km into the town of Anchovy at which point there will be a sign pointing to the left for Rocklands. Turn left. Climb up this miserable dirt road and eventually as the road starts to descend, Rocklands will be on your right.
Marshall's Pen Gruff Dodd's directions are spot on with a few notes. There is a concrete bus shelter where you turn off the Mandeville bypass to Marshall's Pen. I did not see a sign about "A Project of Michael Town" at the turn. There is a transformer station in a chain link fence right next to the bus shelter. The turn is actually noted on a yellow diamond sign which shows two roads branching off the main road offset from each other (in other words, not a cross, but a left turn followed by a right turn). The branch heading away from downtown Mandeville is the turn that eventually gets to Marshall's Pen Ranch. The branch heading towards downtown Mandeville is the turn to the neighborhood/development of Marshall's Pen.
Thatchfield Unfortunately, I was told this is private property, so I don't think it's appropriate to provide directions. If you're staying at Marshall's Pen, they can get you there. Masked ducks used to be found in other locations near Black River, so all I can suggest is explore.
In Jamaica, the tourist cities have a good selection of restaurants, despite the fact that the large resorts tend to be all-inclusive. Smaller cities like Port Antonio and Mandeville which don't get much tourist traffic have less of a selection. If you like jerk food, you'll usually find a jerk stand or two in every city. Ocho Rios apparently has a large Indian community (they seem to own most the souvenir stores), so there are a couple of Indian Restaurants there. Fresh fruit and vegetables are often sold along the roadsides.
Fast food is widely available. Burger King and KFC are the most common US chains. You'll find one of each in most cities. I only saw other chain restaurants like Wendy's or MacDonald's in New Kingston. Juici Patties is a good local chain specializing in meat patties, although meat patties are a common snack food at gas stations (especially at Cool Oasis).
The Gap Caf was closed for Christmas, so I took all my meals in the Blue Mountains at my hotel. I didn't see any other restaurants beyond Irish Town.
Personally, I tend not to spend much on meals. My routine is some sort of cake or muffin for breakfast, a sandwich or fast food for lunch, and a sit down meal for dinner. I had no problem with this routine in Jamaica. The usual lunch was a couple of meat patties.
Water is supposed to be safe in the cities, but I didn't try it to find out. Marshall's Pen and Starlight Chalet provided drinking water.
In terms of food selection, Grand Cayman was basically the same as any resort city in the US. There are restaurants of any ethnic variety you can think of and suitable for any budget. I had Thai one night, Tex-Mex another, and tourist restaurant food the third. Supermarkets are common if you want to self-cater.
I used "A Guide to the Birds of the West Indies" by Raffaele, Wiley, Garrido, Keith, and Raffaele as my field guide, and "Where to Watch Birds in Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean" by Wheatley and Brewer as a site finding reference in addition to the various trip reports online. The most-referred-to trip reports were Gruff Dodd's from 2001 and Jim Holmes' from 2006. I used the Lonely Planet guide for my general sightseeing references in Jamaica and the Adventure Guide to the Cayman Islands for Grand Cayman.
I've capitalized the first sighting of each species and any other unusual sightings. A species list with some remarks follows at the end.
Day 1 - 21 December 2006
I headed out at 3:30 AM to catch a 7 AM flight from Philadelphia. The flights from Philly to Dulles and from Dulles to Montego Bay (on United) were uneventful. We arrived on time at about 1:30 in Montego Bay. However, other fights had arrived late and there was a large back-up at Immigration. Beyond that, baggage claim was absolute chaos since the belt normally used by United was in use for one of the late flights, and nobody knew where our bags would come out. I spent a while trying to find my bag, but I finally cleared customs at about 3:00.
I went to Island Rent-a-Car right outside Customs where they had my reservation. Unfortunately, they didn't have a car. They had to get one from the Maintenance area. It would only take 20 minutes - don't worry, mon! Well, it turns out the maintenance area is not on the airport grounds and there was a major traffic jam outside the airport. While I was waiting at the rental parking lot, I did see my first Caribbean species, the first of many Loggerhead Kingbirds.
Eventually, they got a car to the airport and by about 4:00 I was finally on my way to my hotel.
I dropped off my stuff at my hotel (Toby's Resort) and tried to see if I could get to Rocklands before sundown like I originally planned. Along the way I saw a Greater Antillean Grackle or two, several Cattle Egrets, and a swallow (more on that later). But there was just too much traffic and at 5:15 I was only at the southern edge of town where there was still more bumper to bumper traffic heading out of town. Since it was going to be dark by the time I got to Rocklands, I gave up and headed back into town to look for an Esso station to find a map as recommended by all the other trip reports.
There was an Esso station downtown, but there was no way to pull into it, so I continued through town (slowly) and out the other side, past the airport to the town of Ironbridge, where I found an Esso station and bought a map. By then it was dark, so I went back to town, settled in, had some conch chowder and escoveitched snapper at the Pelican Restaurant, then back to Toby's and to bed.
Now about that swallow. The bird I saw was brownish with a dirty breast and a slightly forked tail. The best match was a female Caribbean Martin. However, in talking to Brandon later at Marshall's Pen, he said that Caribbean Martins should have all migrated away in the winter. He suggested it was probably a tree swallow given the location near the harbor or maybe a rough-winged swallow. I'm quite familiar with those species, and I'm quite sure it wasn't one of those. My best guess is this was a martin that didn't get the orders to leave.
Day 2 - 22 December 2006
Today's plan was to check out the sites in Cockpit Country, especially Windsor Cave, to find parrots, than continue south to Mandeville to Marshall's Pen. Depending on how I felt I might even take the Barbecue Bottom Road through Burnt Hill. It didn't happen that way because I got lost. Badly.
I was using the directions in Gruff Dodd's and Jim Holmes' trip reports, both of which started at the Fisherman's Inn on the east side of Falmouth. I started out at 5:30 AM, so it was still dark when I got to Falmouth and I drove right past the Fisherman's Inn. It's not well marked, and not well lit at 6 AM. When I realized my mistake (I got to the Starfish Resort), I turned around and headed back to Falmouth. Just as the bypass split off to the left, I zeroed the odometer. I found the road to Martha Brae and Perth Town and I was on my way to Windsor, passing a roost of Turkey Vultures just before Perth Town. But
I came to a fork in the road, not at 9.2 km as in the other reports, but at 8.7 km. That fork was clearly signposted to Sherwood. But at 9.2 km there was an unpaved road heading to the right. Figuring that this was probably be the correct road, after all, why would the directions warn about a fork that was clearly marked, I turned right down the dirt road when I should have stayed on the paved road. What I didn't recognize is that there is a short distance to get from the Inn on the old road to the new bypass, and I didn't zero the odometer right at the Fisherman's Inn. That difference exactly matched the distance between the right fork and the wrong fork.
Heading up that dirt road started off okay. The road quality wasn't that bad for the first kilometer or two. About 1 km up it, I heard things singing and got out of the car to see what I could find. The most obvious song was a Jamaican Vireo that I couldn't coax into view. I did find my first Bananaquit, A Greater Antillean Bullfinch, A Prairie Warbler, and got dive- bombed by a Vervain Hummingbird. Some squawking nearby turned out to be a small flock Of Olive-throated Parakeets, not the parrots I wanted, and while I was checking them out a Northern Mockingbird came in for a look at me.
I still hadn't gotten the vireo to come out so I tried pishing him out some more. I thought all I get was more bananaquits, but then out popped a nice male Yellow-shouldered Grassquit. This would be the only one of this species I'd see on the trip. Giving up on the vireo I got back in the car.
After a while the road started getting worse. I asked directions from an old couple, but their accent was so heavy I couldn't really understand the answer. So I kept going. And the road got worse. Eventually, the "road" was down to two ruts in the grass. I was driving with one wheel on the grass strip in the middle and one on the edge, to keep hidden rocks from damaging the undercarriage. Eventually the road got a little bit better, but after I got to the distance where I should have been in Sherwood, I concluded I must have taken the wrong fork. So I turned the car around (not an easy task), and headed back to the paved road.
On the way, I heard a Jamaican Crow and got out to look at him. While I did a second flew in to join him. I eventually made it back to the main road, having to negotiate past a furniture truck (!) coming the other way on the way back. Once on the main road, I asked for directions again, and was on my way to Windsor, arriving at Franklyn's shack at about 9:15, with lots of cattle egrets along the way, but no parrots.
And for the record, you do not need to take any dirt roads to get to Windsor. They're all paved, or at least they once were. They are badly potholed and sometimes patched with dirt, but they are paved.
After getting to Windsor, I walked the muddy path toward the cave picking up several endemics right above the path: Rufous-tailed Flycatcher, Sad Flycatcher, Jamaican Mango, and several Red-billed Streamertails of varying plumages, as well as a Stolid Flycatcher. I saw some movement in a nearby tree that turned out to be a Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo who gave a surprisingly good view, and as I got closer to the fork in the trail, I heard some more Jamaican crows. Unfortunately, once I got to the fork I didn't hear any parrots, so I walked back to the Franklyn's shack, hearing some parakeets along the way, and spotting a Jamaican Oriole and some Smooth-billed Anis back near the car.
I was staring to walk some of the dirt roads near where I'd parked when Franklyn (or Jango as he sometimes goes by) showed up. I explained that I was looking for parrots. He knew a few places where they might be found and he said he'd help me look for them.
We first walked the path back toward the cave and took the left fork up the hillside (the right fork goes to the cave mouth). The trail was pretty quiet except for crows, but we did find another Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo and a Jamaican Euphonia on the way up, and the only Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo of the trip on the way back down. Coming back, at the fork in the trail, Franklyn pointed out a Jamaican Tody in the vines on a tree. An American Kestrel flew across the path and perched in a tree on the opposite side of the field. We then found lots of Zenaida Doves, and another (female) euphonia back near the car. But we didn't see or even hear any parrots.
We jumped in the car and headed down the right fork at the T at Franklyn's shack toward "The Last Resort" and parked at the entrance to a small yard which Franklyn said was where he lived. From there we walked down the road past The Last Resort seeing my first streamertail with full tail plumes, a few more crows, and plenty of grackles, bananaquits, common ground and Zenaida Doves. We also had a brief glimpse of a white-chinned thrush shooting up off the road and heard a Jamaican woodpecker. We got to a small farm plot on the right where Franklyn asked the men working in the field if they'd seen any parrots. They hadn't, but suggested another spot – a nearby orange orchard.
Once back in the car, we drove back to the shack. From there we headed back to the "Welcome to Windsor" sign and down another dirt road to a grove of orange trees. We walked among the trees, where Franklyn pointed out the oranges that the parrots had been feeding on, but once again we came up empty on finding the parrots. He suggested the parrots must be on Christmas holiday, just like I was.
After that I drove him back to the shack, where he asked for something for his guiding services. I offered him J$1000 (about US$15), but he said "I usually get $40 for guiding." So I gave him the $40, and headed off to Mandeville at about 12:30. I found an immature Little Blue Heron in Sherwood as I headed out.
After my earlier adventure, I decided not to take the Barbecue Bottom Rd. and stayed on the pavement. The route I took back was as follows: From Sherwood, take the road back toward Perth Town, but instead of continuing back toward Martha Brae, take the left branch of the aforementioned signposted fork to Duanvale, Kinloss, and Clark's Town. Continue through Clark's Town to Jackson Town, where you turn south onto the A5. This road goes up and down over several ridges and numerous small towns. Since I was a little wiped out, I skipped heading back to Burnt Hill, and eventually I reached Christiana where I got caught in Friday afternoon "only two shopping days before Christmas" traffic.
After Christiana, a few more twists and turns brought me past the big bauxite plant north of Mandeville into town, where my next task was finding Marshall's Pen. I eventually wound up downtown, since the main road I was on was not marked (only the side streets were), but made my way out the other side, found the bypass and started looking for the turn for Marshall's Pen. I found what I thought was the correct turn off the bypass, but when I asked for directions to Marshall's Pen to confirm, two different people directed me to the neighborhood across the street on the SE side of the bypass.
I drove around that development for a few minutes, but eventually came to the realization that the name Marshall's Pen not only refers to the Suttons' cattle ranch, but also to the housing development across the street! That's why the sign saying "Welcome to Marshall's Pen" is on referred to in other reports is on the "wrong" side of the street So at this point, I dug out Gruff Dodd's directions. It turns out the turn I first selected was the right one, but as noted elsewhere, most maps (including the Esso map and the map in Lonely Planet) do not have the roads to get to Marshall's Pen shown correctly. But following the trip reports, I made my way to the right place.
I was met by Ann Sutton who showed me to my room, and gave me a quick orientation of where the better birding areas were. She advised that the owls were already nesting in the large tree in the front "yard" so they'd be quiet and hard to see, but that potoos could be reliably heard calling at night and sometimes even perch in the yard. We discussed species that I still needed to see, many of which she said could be found on the property, but when I mentioned my failure with the parrots, she suggested Ecclesdown Rd. as my best hope since I wasn't planning to head back to Cockpit Country.
One of the targets I'd also hoped to find in the southwest area was masked duck, a species on which she'd been doing some research and monitoring. She advised that up until about four months ago, they were easy to find, but recently they'd all disappeared except for a few on one single small isolated pond in the middle of nowhere. Her assistant Brandon wasn't on site at the moment, but she arranged by cell phone for him to take me (and the other guests if they wanted) to the pond the next afternoon. She also noted that Brandon is the only one allowed to use tape playback on the property, so he would also help with the night birds the next night. After that I paid her for my room (US$50 per night, cash only), and she rushed back inside to pack for her Christmas trip to England, for which she was leaving that night.
I moved my bags into my room, and came back out to bird around the gardens. There were plenty of red-billed streamertails, a couple Of Black-throated Blue Warblers, and a female American Redstart. I heard lots of high pitched buzzy calls, which from previous trips to the Caribbean I figured were probably a mix of bullfinch, spindalis, bananaquit, grassquits, and other similar species, but despite my effort none of these would show themselves. I eventually saw a Jamaican Woodpecker shooting across the parking lot and then turned up a Jamaican Vireo in the owl tree.
By now it was getting dark, so I quickly ran into town for some fast food, them came back to see if I could get a glimpse of the owl. While I was waiting and scanning the tree, the other couple staying there came back from their day of birding. They introduced themselves as Paul and Vicki Duval (from Missouri) then headed to their room for the night. After about another half-hour of fruitless scanning, I did the same.
I did my evening checklist, and found that at this point, even though I never made it to Rocklands, and I'd missed both parrots at Windsor Cave, so far I had 13 lifers and 12 of the 28 endemics. Though I hadn't gotten any of the more difficult species, I felt happy with the day's results (except for those damn parrots).
Day 3 - 23 December 2006
I was up a bit later than usual about 6:30 and had my first lifer before leaving the room, as there was a White-chinned Thrush with some zenaida doves in one of the pastures below my bedroom window. After finding a bananaquit in the bush outside my apartment door, I started wandering around the garden and parking area. The woodpecker I'd seen the night before was perched in a nearby tree calling, and a small group of parakeets and a White-crowned Pigeon flew by. I also found the same warblers as the night before, plus a prairie warbler, and some Black-faced Grassquits as well as the ever-present and noisy streamertails.
After a while, Vicki came out of their apartment, and we started to bird the parking area together. She noted it was a lot less active than the day before. We turned up a mockingbird and a sad flycatcher, which she said they'd seen pretty regularly the day before. A couple of dark birds that flew in and perched in a distant tree took us a while to ID, but we eventually determined they were Eurasian Starlings. She also spotted a small group of swallows flying high overhead, which were probably Cave Swallows according to Brandon.
We chatted a bit with me discussing my plans to go with Brandon to look for masked duck in the afternoon and come back for the owl and potoo in the evening. They already had plans to go to Burnt Hill in the afternoon, but would likely join me in the owl search that night. She also told me about the yellow-billed parrot that perched in the pasture along the entrance road the day before. Damn.
At about 8 AM, I hit the trails on the far side of the garden. On my way down to the more open area of the trail, I had a tody or two that I couldn't coax into view, more bananaquits, and heard a stolid flycatcher plus a song that sounded like a cactus wren (or a car starting) which I later learned was one of the songs of the Jamaican euphonia. When I got to a junction in the trails, I ran into Paul who told me about the various birds he'd already seen that morning, including a crested quail-dove, which he said nearly flew into him.
Just as I was about to move on, he said again that he just saw the quail dove. I thought he meant earlier, but he said, no it was right behind me, walking down the trail just over a rise. He got me on it and we watched that beautiful Crested Quail-Dove as it bobbed its way out of sight, like a spotted (or common) sandpiper. That energized me for the morning.
I headed down the trail that Paul had come from, hoping to have the same luck that he'd had. I turned up a couple of vervain humming birds, one of which was perched and singing. The pasture along that trail was full of black-faced grassquits, and a couple of loggerhead kingbirds played tag with each other. The woods on the opposite side of the trail were too thick to see into, so I headed through the next gate to a narrow open area between two brushy areas. This area was full of bananaquits, plus a nice male redstart.
I headed back to where we saw the quail-dove, turning up a nice male Jamaican Spindalis on the way, then back down the main trail, where I found a small mixed flock. This flock had the requisite redstarts and BT blue warblers, but also had sad and stolid flycatchers (seen this time) and a couple euphonias. While I was watching that flock a Jamaican Pewee flew in and started calling. After watching him flycatch for a while, I headed further back towards the house and turned up a female Orangequit and another woodpecker. A little further on, I heard a bird that sounded just like a black-whiskered vireo, but they're not found in Jamaica in the winter. A bit of searching turned up the culprit - a Jamaican oriole was making the call.
Once back at the house, I took a quick spin through the horse pasture, where there was a large flock of anis, but didn't find anything new. I went to look for Brandon, but he was still asleep (he had taken Ann to the airport the night before and got home very late), so I left a message for him and headed back to my room to clean up. I ran into town to buy gas and lunch, and came back for a siesta.
At 2:00, I dragged myself out of bed and found Brandon. We discussed what I'd seen so far and what I'd like to do for the rest of the day. He was amenable, so I went and got my bins, and he grabbed his scope and gear and off we headed for Black River and the southwest. We didn't really look for birds along the way, since it was a fairly long drive and we needed to get back for the owl at dusk. Brandon did point out a wetland area half way through "Bamboo Avenue" (east of Black River) where he said whistling ducks sometimes perch in the trees though not this time. As we drove by, he also suggested that the Black River Morass was probably full of rails and crakes, but the areas where they could be found are pretty inaccessable, and definitely aren't accessed by tourist trips into the swamp.
Once we passed through Black River (Rock Pigeons!), it was clear we were near the coast, because I saw my first Magnificent Frigatebird of the trip. As we passed Parrottee Pond, Brandon pointed out some Lesser Yellowlegs, A Royal Tern, and a Great Egret. After a turn off the main coastal road, we found a small pond which had a Glossy Ibis, a Few Black-necked Stilts, and a Common Moorhen. Eventually, we wound up in the town of Top Hill where we turned onto a very sandy road between some large pastures, and a few minutes later Brandon had me pull off to the side.
As he set up his scope we checked out the birds on the pond and found several American Jacanas, more moorhens, many Blue-winged Teal, and our target, Masked Ducks. We watched several of them dive up and down for a while in the scope, marveling at the blue color of their bills. We also checked out another pond across the road, where there were more moorhens, teal, and jacanas, and a large group of American Coots (no Caribbean Coots – we checked).
Brandon explained that the pond was actually on private property but they had permission to survey it. The property was a ranch called Thatchfield, and Robert Sutton had actually worked there before he owned Marshall's Pen. Brandon also made an offer to me. If I wanted we could try another nearby pond for yellow-breasted crake. We could check quick, but if we didn't find one right off the bat, we'd have to move on, otherwise we couldn't be back to the house in time for the owl at dusk. I figured we'd give it a go, so we headed north of Black River to a pond Brandon called Spring Pond. On the way we turned up a Snowy Egret and a Brown Pelican at Parrottee Pond.
When we got there, Brandon commented that the water level was much higher than usual which would make our crake hunt that much more difficult. There were plenty of common moorhens, and three Least Grebes, but after several passes over the vegetation we didn't see any crakes come into view. Brandon also pointed out a crocodile in the middle of the pond, and noted he's seen two there at one time.
When our allotted time was up, we packed up the gear and headed back to Mandeville. No time for birding along the way again, though Brandon saw a yellow-crowned night-heron at the wetland at Bamboo Avenue. We arrived back at Marshall's Pen just after dusk. I ran into my apartment, grabbed my flashlight and headed out to the parking lot. Paul and Vicki were already waiting, and Brandon came out soon after that with his tapes and a spotlight.
Brandon explained that they did not know the exact location of the owl nest, but it was likely in the largest part of the trunk. He also said we'd have to be very lucky to see the owl, since the young had not yet fledged. Once the young birds fledge, they're all over the place calling back and forth, but until then the adult birds were very quiet. Our best chance would be to get lucky and catch the male bringing in some food for the female.
He tried the owl tape a few times and got no response. Then he tried the potoo tape and also got no response. We wandered through the garden and along the entrance road almost halfway to the paved road, trying both tapes, unsuccessfully. Brandon suggested that we break for dinner, and reconvene at 8:00 to try again, so I made a quick fast food run into town, and was ready for another try. Unfortunately, that try was as unsuccessful as the earlier try. No sign of owl or potoo.
Brandon suggested that if we wanted, if the owl was heard any time during the night, he could send Isaiah, one of the ranch workers, to wake us up. I agreed with that plan, as did Paul (Vicki opted out), so at about 9 we all headed off to dreamland.
Day 4 - 24 December 2006
I was awakened by a knocking on the door of my apartment. "Hello!" I called out. "De owl callin'," replied Isaiah. I didn't bother to check the time, but quickly dressed, grabbed my flashlight, and headed for the owl tree. As he walked with me to the parking lot, Isaiah told me the potoo was calling, too.
At the lot we found Paul and Brandon already assembled. Brandon quickly scanned the tree, then tried the tape again. Nothing. Now he was frustrated. "It was just right there, on that branch, ten minutes ago!" he said. We tried again and again, and finally we heard a grunt right above our heads. Brandon turned on the light and scanned, but came up empty. That was our best chance, and I figured we were just out of luck.
Brandon then tried the potoo tape nd got a response! It was distant, but it was clearly a potoo. A couple more tries and we had two of them calling back and forth. At one point Isaiah said "Who him say waaaah?" which gave me a chuckle, and Brandon explained it was the potoo. We walked into the garden, tried the tape one more time, and with a quick scan of the spotlight, Brandon picked out the Northern Potoo sitting on a branch calling. I'd seen them before (in Belize and the Dominican Republic), but this was the closest I've come to one and I'd never seen one calling before. A definite "life look."
Brandon suggested that we try the entrance road one more time for the owl. This was my best chance at seeing the owl, and it was the main reason I was staying at Marshall's Pen, so there was no way I was going to pass up the offer. We headed down the entrance road trying the tape, and just before we were about to turn around, we heard a hissing noise in response to the tape! One more try with the tape, and it came closer. Isaiah pointed to the tree it flew into, and the spotlight revealed a juvenile Jamaican Owl. Brandon said it was a young male from the pitch of its call, and it was probably from last year's brood. We kept the spotlight on it for a little while longer, and it continued to hiss at us, so we turned off the light and left it alone.
At this point I took a look at my watch. It was just past 5 AM. I'd agreed to meet Paul for a morning birding session, so it was unlikely I was getting any more sleep (I didn't), but I went back to my room and rested a bit, still giddy from our looks at the night birds. As I was packing my suitcase, I noticed a couple White-winged Doves in the pasture below my window. Paul and Vicki said they were common there, but I hadn't seen any until then.
At 6:30 I met up with Paul and we headed down the trail that we'd birded the previous day. We really didn't find anything much different from what I'd seen the day before, except for a fly-by white-crowned pigeon. The vervain hummingbirds were in the same place, as well as the kingbirds and black-faced grassquits. We did hear a chestnut-bellied cuckoo call but it was deep in an inaccessable part of the woods.
Paul told me about another trail where he'd seen a few arrow-headed warblers the day before, This was an endemic I still needed. I figured I'd give that trail a quick go before I had to leave, so Paul and I split up. At that trail head I found another Jamaican pewee and of course a BT Blue warbler. When I got to the wooded area on that trail, I found a couple of todies zipping back and forth across the trail, but no sign of the arrow-headeds. At about 8:30, I went back to my room, showered and by 9:30 I was on the road.
My next stop was Portland Bight. Once I located the turn southward from May Pen to Hayes and Lionel Town, I found my way to Portland Cottage rather easily (it's pretty well signposted) and headed through town. Just beyond town was a wet area that was part of Portland Bight. This had a couple white egrets that turned out to be snowies, but no shorebirds that I could find. After a while the road continued past a paved intersection and into the thorn scrub, where I started hearing mockingbirds.
The first few birds I found were all northern mockingbirds, so I decided I'd give the tape a try. Another northern jumped up in response to that, but soon after that a Bahama Mockingbird perched in the tree right near me. It was huge! Based on the field guide, I thought I'd have a problem distinguishing it from the northerns, but it was quite different. I stayed there for 15-20 minutes watching the bird jump around that one tree, but when it flew off, I decided to get out of the heat, and head on.
I took the coastal road through Salt River back to the A2, and very soon after reaching that, turned onto the Toll Road. I stopped for a couple Juici Patties and some gas on the west side of Kingston, and a couple of pictures of the Bob Marley Museum in New Kingston (it was closed for the holiday), and then pushed on to the Blue Mountains without much difficulty getting through Kingston (the Esso map is pretty good on that count).
With a quick stop at the Newcastle parade ground, I was at Hardwar Gap at about 1:30. I stopped at the ranger station to see if anyone was around and if they were available for guiding, but there was nobody home. It looked like the visitor center was being remodeled, as it was full of wood and sawdust. So I decided to push on to my hotel at Silver Hill Gap.
Once I crossed the gap, the road was wet and enveloped in fog. I made it down to Section pretty easily, spooking the occasional thrush off the road, but the road from Section to Silver Hill Gap was probably the worst road I encountered in all of Jamaica. It was an extremely muddy dirt road (although some hints of asphalt in a couple places indicated it was paved long ago). It was also badly potholed. It took me about 15 minutes to go the 1-2 km from Section, bottoming-out several times along the way.
When I got to Starlight Chalet I was pretty much exhausted. So I checked in and relaxed on the balcony outside my room, reading the copies of various trip reports I'd brought with me and watching the fog roll by. There were a few hummingbird feeders next to the balcony, which attracted the occasional red-billed streamertail and bananaquit, but there wasn't much bird activity over the valley below the hotel, other than a kettle of vultures. I was also hoping to see some ring-tailed pigeons (or maybe a parrot?) in flight, but with the fog, the best I could do was a single distant pigeon that was probably a ring-tailed. I figure it was too light colored to be a white-crowned.
After a while, all of the other guests who were at the hotel when I arrived left, and just after they did I started hearing what I though were the sounds of their horns honking on the narrow mountain roads. After a few minutes I realized it wasn't horns, it was rufous-throated solitaires calling! I started getting a bit antsy and decided to wander up into the flower garden on the hillside behind the hotel.
I could hear all kinds of chip notes coming from there. There were several bananaquits, BT blue warblers and redstarts, of course, but I also turned up a female Common Yellowthroat and an Ovenbird. I continued up the hill seeing more of the common species, then walked down the driveway on the opposite side. I had to climb over a small barbed wire fence at the bottom, because the gate was locked, and I found myself at the end of the entrance road of the hotel.
I walked across to the hillside opposite the entrance and heard some activity. I pished a bit, and out flew a Jamaican Becard, who shot across the opening below me and into the canopy on the far side! This energized me even more, so I decided to walk a bit of the road toward Section.
Just beyond the driveway, where the forest was thicker, I found a white-chinned thrush on the road, but the brushy hillside heading steeply up from the road seemed to have more activity. I could definitely hear some solitaires on the hillside, but there were a few birds much lower down. Finding a couple todies was easy, but with a bit of work, I saw some movement in the brush was a Jamaican vireo (a much more satisfying look than at Marshall's Pen). Immediately after finding that, out popped a Blue Mountain Vireo. Pushing my luck, I tried to coax in a solitaire by imitating its song, but he was having none of that.
Since it was getting dark, and the fog was pretty thick, I wandered back to the hotel seeing a few black faced grassquits along the entrance road.. They asked me what time I wanted to have dinner ad what I'd like to have. It was at this point I realized I was the only guest! Rather than further inconvenience them on Christmas Eve, I opted for an early meal. While I was waiting, I heard a flock of parakeets in the evergreens down below the hotel.
The curried goat with rice and peas was delicious. They even offered me a glass of home-made sorrel, a Jamaican Christmas tradition. After dinner, I finished reading the remaining trip reports and did my checklist for the day. I had a few endemics left, several of which I could find in the mountains, although the key target for the day was the blackbird.
Day 5 - 25 December 2006
Up with the dawn on Christmas morning, and off to Hardwar Gap, forcing white-chinned thrushes off the road as I drove. It was a beautiful sunny morning and I'd decided I'd first check out the Waterfall Trail. After one false start (don't follow the signs that say "water"), I found the trailhead.
Except for white-chinned thrushes and a lone common yellowthroat, the first portion of the trail was surprisingly quiet. I suppose that's because it overlooks some open agricultural areas. Further on, as the trail became more wooded, a small dark bird that perched briefly beside the trail turned out to be a Rufous-throated Solitaire. Soon after that I found my first and only White-eyed Thrush of the trip, when he flew up off the path and onto a branch in the canopy on the hillside below me. Once in the thicker woods, I heard a Ruddy Quail-dove that was in too deep to see, then found a mixed flock of warblers that included the usual suspects. I also heard some swifts screaming above me, but the canopy was too thick to see what it was.
I decided not to hike the last, steepest part of the trail, and turned around and headed back. At a spot that looked good for blackbirds, I stopped and pished, and in came a couple spindalis and then an Arrow-headed Warbler. As noted by others, they really do look very different from black-and-white warblers, and their behavior is very different as well. After that I had a surprise when another solitaire come in to check out the activity.
As I continued, I heard some more swifts screaming above me. The call was that of white collared, but the only birds I saw before they flew out of sight were Black Swifts. I guess it was a mixed flock, though I only saw the one species. The last stretch of the trail proved as quiet as it did on the way in, so once back at the picnic area, I decided I'd check out some suitable blackbird habitat areas along the Gap road.
Gruff Dodd's trip report mentioned that he'd seen blackbirds at a spot about 1.3 km north of Hardwar Gap, so I headed there first. That site was pretty quiet, so I headed back up the road and heard a mixed flock at a ravine about 0.3 km north of the Gap. That spot first turned up a couple euphonias, a yellowthroat, and all three species of hummingbird. Then in flew a Jamaican vireo chasing a Blue Mountain vireo. A male bullfinch flew across the road (I was hoping for a better look at a becard), and when I turned back to the ravine, up pops A Jamaican Blackbird! It perched for a few minutes at eye level then flew across the road. It was in beautiful light and I could see the blue glossy color and its reddish-brown eye before it flew up into the canopy and out of sight. Spectacular.
Having found the hardest endemic, I could now relax. I decided to park the car at the Gap Caf and walk the stretch of road up to the Park entrance. The only bird I found was a rufous-tailed flycatcher, and as I walked the road, a car stopped and asked me if I was waiting for the Caf to open. When I said I was birding they replied, "That's good, because they're closed for the holiday." I birded the road a bit more with only the usual warblers found and then headed back to the hotel.
Just before Section, I saw several small birds fly up from the bushes on the side of the road. I pulled over to check them out and found a small mixed flock. Again there were a few euphonias and bananaquits, as well as a Black-and-white Warbler and a redstart. While checking them out, in flies another Jamaican Blackbird. This one wasn't as obliging as the earlier one, but still paused long enough to be seen well. I really couldn't have hoped for much more, so I headed back to the hotel for lunch and a siesta.
At about 3, I decided to walk the paved road below the hotel. I found a nice fruiting tree that attracted several spindalis, a pewee, a Jamaican vireo, and a nice Jamaican mango. I also heard the same flock of parakeets as the night before, but they stayed out of sight.
A delightful fish dinner wrapped up a wonderful day.
Day 6 - 26 December 2006
During my time in the mountains, I'd been advised that the road down to Buff Bay was still not officially opened, although a route taxi driver told me there were two "makeshift" roads bypassing the washouts. Having seen the quality of the real roads, I was nervous about attempting a makeshift road. I realized to get to my next stop, Port Antonio, I'd have to go back through Kingston, and up around the East Coast. Since I'd already seen the blackbird, I arranged to check out early (6:30) and be on my way. I did see a frigatebird and a brown pelican along the way, but I didn't stop for any birding, since I was hoping to get to Ecclesdown Rd. in time to see some parrot activity.
Unfortunately, the coastal road was in really horrible shape, plus I made a couple of wrong turns along the way. Once I got to Manchioneal, I found a large sign pointing to Reach Falls. I asked someone at the turn-off if the road went to Ecclesdown, but he said it only went to Reach, and I'd have to go up to Long Bay to get to Ecclesdown. This turned out to be wrong, and cost me another half-hour of birding time. I got up to Ecclesdown at about 11.
Once I got there, I found some activity, but no parrots. There were plenty of zenaida and common ground doves with white-chinned thrushes on the road. I drove until the road crested and started to descend again and parked. For a while I heard plenty of streamertails, but the only hummer that showed itself was a mango. Eventually after walking the road a bit, I got a look at a male Black-billed Streamertail, although the bird I saw didn't have full length tail streamers. Other birds I saw on the walk were white-crowned pigeon, orangequit, sad flycatcher, oriole, arrow-headed warbler, ovenbird, spindalis, vervain hummingbird, bullfinch, and the only Mangrove Cuckoo of the trip. I also heard what I thought was a solitaire, but the habitat didn't strike me as high enough for them.
On the way back out, I heard some activity and stopped about a kilometer closer to Windsor Forest. While the passerines had moved on, as I was walking back to the car, a big green bird flew into the top of a tree. Finally a parrot! I looked from all angles and couldn't find him. I tried the tape, and he responded to the Black-billed Parrot tape. Unfortunately, he was buried in good, and refused to come out. Better view desired. I also had a few Jamaican crows come into the tree while I was trying to coax out the parrot.
It was about 1:30 at this point, so I made my way on to Port Antonio. On the way, I saw one of the more unusual sightings for the trip: a great egret walking along the top of a stone fence. Once at my hotel (guest house, actually), I spent some time relaxing on the balcony, overlooking the bay at Port Antonio, during which time I had several soaring birds, including a frigate bird and an adult Red-tailed Hawk.
Later in the afternoon, I decided to head up to the Mockingbird Hill Hotel for a better look at the blackbilled streamertail. While enjoying a nice pina colada on the balcony, I saw several young male birds, and a female, but no adult males. The only other birds seen there were grackles, bananaquits, and a very aggressive mockingbird in the parking lot.
From there I headed to Boston Bay, for an authentic jerk chicken dinner, and then back to my guest house's balcony. I had a few Antillean Palm Swifts fly by while I was tallying up the days results.
Day 7 - 27 December 2006
I got to Ecclesdown Rd. at first light, and parked at a spot where I could look down on the valley and spot parrots in flight. I heard plenty of parrots calling across the valley, but they were in the trees and weren't flying. While I was waiting for them to move, in flew a flock of six Green-rumped Parrotlets that briefly foraged in the trees above me before flying off. Next came a fly-by Ring-tailed Pigeon. Not a good look, but OK. This was followed by my first male orangequit and a solitaire (I guess they are found there).
Finally the parrots were moving. The first flock looked and sounded like black-billed, as did the second. The third was a flock of five Yellow-billed Parrots flying low. A few more flocks flew by, and then I moved on.
I stopped at another point on the road where I heard parrots again, and found a fruiting tree full of at least 30 Black-billed Parrots. They were flying all around the tree, screaming at each other, and just having a feast. I watched them for 20 minutes or so, unsuccessfully trying to pick out a yellow-billed. After a while they started flying off, a couple at a time.
At this point I only needed one more endemic, Jamaican elaenia, so I focused on finding it walking the road some more. I stopped anywhere there was appropriate habitat, but only turned up the more common species. I then drove the road hoping to spot pigeons perched by the roadside, but once I made it to Reach, that was the end of the habitat. So I continued through Reach to Manchioneal, then headed north, back though Port Antonio to Ocho Rios, arriving at about 2 PM.
I spent the rest of the day being a tourist. The only birds of note were a couple of palm swifts.
Day 8 - 28 December 2006
My flight to Grand Cayman was scheduled to leave at just before 6 PM, so I had one last day of birding in Jamaica. I decided I'd try Windsor Caves a second time, in hopes of getting a better look at yellow-billed parrot and ring-tailed pigeon. I also thought I might have a shot at the elaenia, but I also knew I'd have a second chance at Rocklands. On the way, I had A Great Blue Heron flying along the coast.
The open areas from Franklyn's shack up to the hillside were a lot less productive than the week before. There were fewer hummingbirds and flycatchers and no cuckoo. The crows and anis, however, were present and accounted for, and I did have two black-billed parrots fly over.
The hillside trail was a little more productive than a week before. At the beginning I found a few pigeons/doves in the trees, but they all turned out to be zenaidas. Further up the trail I found several todies and an orangequit, along with the usual warblers. Then as I came around a bend to a more sunlit part of the trail, standing in the middle of the trail was a Crested-quail Dove, lit up by the sun. The colors were just amazing! I took a few steps toward it, and it took a few steps away. After watching it stand there a while longer, I decided to turn around and head back down, rather than bother it some more. The walk back down was pretty uneventful.
From there I drove to Rocklands, arriving just before noon. I was met by Fritz in the front entrance. I told him that I was looking to see an elaenia if he could find one. He said that they sometimes sit in the tree right over our heads, although when we checked we only turned up a rufous-tailed flycatcher. He said he'd get his binoculars, and we could walk the trails to see what we could turn up.
As we headed down the trail, we saw a couple of warblers deep in the brush. Fritz first suggested they might be arrow-headed, but after getting a good luck we discovered they were Worm-eating Warblers. A little further on we had a Ruddy Quail Dove slowly walking up the hillside. After that, Fritz jokingly asked me "what kind of warbler is that?" pointing to a warbler about 5 feet away from us. It was an arrow-headed warbler that was too close to even focus the binoculars. Fritz said it was one of the best views of one he's had, too.
Along the way, we turned up loggerhead kingbird, sad and stolid flycatchers, and another pewee, which got Fritz excited. We were definitely racking up the flycatchers, but we still needed the target of the day. Finally, Fritz says "What's that flycatcher?" pointing to a bird with its back to us. I said I thought it was just a sad flycatcher, but he took a second look and said, "No, it's an elaenia." Of course the bird moved right after that, but he got me on it, and I could see it was a Jamaican Elaenia, the last of the endemics!
After that we headed back to the house, where I paid Fritz for the walk ($50 US). After that I came back to the porch, where I watched the feeders for a while, seeing plenty of orangequits, a Jamaican woodpecker, a white-winged dove, and lots of bananaquits and grassquits. There was a family on the porch feeding the streamertails and mangos. Fritz sprinkled a little seed on one girl's lap, and a black-faced grassquit hopped up on her and started feeding. I also noticed several Yellow-faced Grassquits picking up any spillage. After the family headed down onto the trails, I picked up a feeder bottle myself, and got one streamertail to perch on my finger, and a mango to feed from the bottle, but he wouldn't perch.
At about 2:00 I thanked Fritz again for his help in finding the eleania, and headed off for some lunch and then to the airport. My flight to Grand Cayman was actually via a connection in Kingston. When I went to get in line to check in, the agent told me my flight Kingston was delayed and I needed to go to a different counter to get on the earlier flight (there were three flights to Kingston leaving within an hour). They put me on the 5:00 flight instead of the 6:00, but when he handed me my boarding passes, I saw the Kingston Grand Cayman flight was also delayed by 3 hours.
I rushed through immigration, only to find that the new MoBay Kingston flight was now delayed as well. This gave me a little time to contact the guest house in Grand Cayman, but the phones at the airport would only take credit cards, and wouldn't let me contact AT&T. I sent the hotel an email and flew to Kingston. While in Kingston airport I saw a man make a cell phone call to his wife who was picking him up in Grand Cayman. I asked him if I could use his phone to call my hotel, and he was obliging. I arranged with the owner to have a key left for me, so I wouldn't have to keep the staff awake.
We were the last flight out of Kingston that night, but once we finally took off, the flight went smoothly. Immigration and customs in Grand Cayman were a breeze, but since we'd arrived so late, the rental car counter was closed. I took a taxi to the guest house, found the keys exactly where they were supposed to be, and dropped into bed at 12:30.
Day 9 - 29 December 2006
I slept in this morning. I was up at 7:30.
I had a quick breakfast, then called Avis and arranged for someone to come pick me up at 8:45. They were early. We're not in Jamaica anymore! They took me to the airport office, where they very quickly processed my paperwork and gave me my car. I stopped at an ATM at the strip mall right near the airport to get some Cayman dollars, then I was on my way to the east end of the island.
I first made a run down Beach Bay Rd. where I found a Caribbean Elaenia, who showed his white crown patch very well in response to my pishing. I also tried some of the clearings near the end of that road where new developments were going, but that was pretty quiet. I then went to Mastic Rd. and parked where the road turned to mud. The bushes there were full of smooth billed anis and a Palm Warbler popped up on a barbed wire fence near where I parked. I walked the dirt road from there to the trailhead of the Mastic Trail, without turning up anything else. Since I wasn't really dressed for a hike, and it was very hot, I decided I'd head back to the car
Before heading back to the Frank Sound Rd., I noticed a dirt track that lead to the edge of a mangrove lined pool. I drove up that road and found over 30 coots, all of which proved to be American and three Pied-billed Grebes. I also heard a Belted Kingfisher, but couldn't find him.
From there, I moved on to Willie's Pig Farm to see the ducks. I parked at the farm and walked toward the waters edge, sending a few common ground doves scurrying. I found 50 or more blue-winged teal, who flew away from me when I got too close, and a Green Heron, but that was it. Then suddenly, from behind the pig barns a couple of West Indian Whistling-Ducks flew past me and landed behind the mangroves along the lake. Eventually a dozen ducks came out from behind the barns and joined the first two. None of them landed within sight, but they still gave good views in flight.
Satisfied with that sighting, I drove back out to the main road, and snuck behind the little grocery store to scan the ocean, where I found a royal tern flying by. Then I drove to Rum Point and Cayman Kai, scouting for more habitat, or ocean views, but it was pretty much just high-end developments. I couldn't even see the ocean through the yards of the houses.
So I headed back beyond Hutland to Further Rd., which is the road that leads to the northern trail head of the Mastic Trail. It appears that the road used to end at the trail head, but there is now about a half-kilometer of a new concrete slab road that leads further into the heart of the island. Looks like more development is planned for there, too. There wasn't much activity at the end of the road, so I came back out a bit and found a mixed flock.
A little pishing brought in a La Sagra's Flycatcher and a yellow-faced grassquit. A yellow and black warbler turned out to be a prairie warbler, not a vitelline, and a vireo-like call eventually turned out to be that of a Yucatan Vireo. The last bird that appeared was a female Cuban Bullfinch. Happy with this productivity, I eventually worked my way back to the north shore Rd., and when I got to Frank Sound Rd. kept heading east to the far end of the island. At one point, I saw a dirt road heading inland and decided to give that a try. It dead ended after a little while, but on the way out I found a flowering tree with a couple of bananaquits and my first Vitelline Warbler.
I continued around the east end of the island seeing very little birdlife, but lots of construction and real estate "For Sale" signs and eventually came to Farm Rd. On the Avis map, this road is shown going into the interior with a trail at it's end. That trail is shown as connecting to High Rock Dr. which also goes into the interior from the coast road. However, in fact the roads meet and basically form a loop. The route is mostly through farm land (funny, that), but there are some brushy and swampy areas which proved productive.
The first stop I made only turned up a mockingbird and some palm warblers, but a second stop was better with a pair of Western Spindalis. Near the intersection of the two roads, I heard a call like a white- eyed vireo, which was probably a thick-billed vireo. When I stopped the car I heard a second one, but no amount of pishing could coax them into view. Eventually, I made it back to the coast road, and headed back into town.
When I neared Georgetown, I headed onto South Sound Rd. hoping to find some accessible mangrove areas. I eventually found one area (that was at the end of another road for a future development) where I turned up a common moorhen, a few more blue-winged teal, and three black-necked stilts, but no passerines. Not finding any other habitat to explore, I headed back to my room for a quick siesta.
Having read a report which suggested a visit to Barker's Swamp (now Barker's National Park), I decided to combine that with a exploration of the 7 Mile Beach area to look for somewhere for dinner that evening. I made it to Barker's and found a couple of dike roads to walk. There were many palm warblers and one or two yellow warblers down one road. The other road only had a couple of grackles and more palm warblers, though I did hear a lesser yellowlegs fly over.
As it neared sunset, I headed back into town for dinner, chuckling at a Pennsylvania weather report on the big screen TV that commented on how unusually warm it was there (at 7 ). After dinner I headed back to the guest house for an early night.
Day 10 - 30 December 2006
Today was my morning to hike the Mastic Trail. I left the guest house just before dawn, and made it to the trail head at first light. On the way, I found a large (100+) flock of egrets at Meagre Bay Pond. Most of them were snowies, with maybe 10-20 great egrets, and a tricolored heron thrown in for good measure.
At the parking spot for the Mastic Trail, there were fewer anis than the day before, but definitely more activity. Most of what I could see were palm warblers and mockingbirds, but I also head a familiar call - Gray Catbird. There were several of them in the scrub leading to the trailhead.
Some thoughts on the Mastic Trail. Although there is not much of a change in elevation, the Mastic Trail is not an easy hike. The mangrove section of the trail was naturally very muddy. The upland forested portion of the trail is spent walking over jagged coral rock. In all areas, the trail is very narrow and the footing is uneven. In several places you have to climb over fallen trees. While the mosquitoes were not bad, the high temperatures and humidity made it essential to have plenty of water.
Back to the birds. The first part of the trail which goes through thick thorn scrub was pretty quiet, with only more catbirds. However, once the trail switched into a mangrove area, birds started appearing. I had common yellowthroat, american redstart, white-winged doves, and of course, Caribbean elaenias.
As the land rose up out of the mangroves and became more forested, the birds changed again, and I started to hear parrots. Eventually I got close to a pair. I could tell they were right over my head, but I couldn't see them. Oh not again! Fortunately, when I walked slightly further down the trail and looked back, there they were, two Cuban Parrots, who couldn't be bothered by my presence. They were just 10 feet off the ground. After I got my fill of them, I turned around to continue along the trail, and discovered a West Indian Woodpecker working on the tree right in front of me at eye level. He was so close I could see the pattern in his crown feathers without binoculars!
I kept going down the trail, and vitelline warblers were singing everywhere. Some people have described their song as a prairie warbler song with a final falling note. However, I came up with a more memorable mnemonic. If you've ever watched a professional darts match, there is a man who announces the score after each player throws. It always seems to be the same guy, no matter where the match is being held. When a player gets a perfect score, the announcer will emphatically say "One hundred and eighty!" with the emphasis on the "eigh." That's exactly what the song sounded like (Ok, so I guess you had to be there.)
Just after a wooden footbridge over a wet area, I had a Thick-billed Vireo fly across the trail and perch on a branch in the open. As the trail got more stony and less muddy, I had a Northern Waterthrush walking along the trail, and a female black-throated blue warbler, but after that things quieted down since it was getting quite hot. I got as far as trail marker 15, and decided to turn around. It took me about 45 minutes to get back to the car, walking at a fairly steady pace with minimal birding. The only bird I stopped to look at for any long period was a woodpecker that turned out to be a Northern Flicker, not another West Indian. The local race is very different from our east coast subspecies, being much more spotted on the belly and rump.
I was hot, sweaty and exhausted, and it was about 11 AM, so I went back for a rest and some air conditioning. Later in the afternoon, I decided to explore some of the roads closer to town. I saw a trip report from 2003 that mentioned Poindexter Rd., so I found that and checked it out. There was very little habitat left there most of it was being cleared for new developments. I then tried to find the Michael Gore Sanctuary, and after a couple of false starts nearly winding up at Her Majesty's Prison I found it. At the sanctuary, I found a green heron, the expected coots and moorhens, a yellow warbler, and a flock of anis.
Another report talked about a radar dome behind the airport where owls were seen. I decided I'd figure out how to get there in case I wanted to come back later that night. Surprisingly, a road continued past the airport and the radar tower to a shooting range. Just past the shooting range in an area shown on the Avis map as Breezy Castle, there was a pool and some roads through the mangroves This turned out to be a very good spot. I heard a lesser yellowlegs at the pool, and while I couldn't find it I did see a Spotted Sandpiper and a Semipalmated Sandpiper.
Just then an Osprey flew in and landed in the water. When I drove closer, he flew off, but I also discovered a tricolored heron and an adult little blue heron along one of the channels. I was getting hungry (I'd skipped lunch), so I called it a day, and went for some dinner. By the time I was done, it was dark so I went back to my room (and watched "Hockey Night in Canada").
Day 11 - 31 December 2006
I had one bird left that I hadn't seen: Caribbean dove. I figured the only chance I had for it was the Botanic Park, since I wasn't about to hike the Mastic Trail again. Knowing that they didn't open until 9 AM, I slept in, but arrived at the Park just as the gates were opening.
I headed straight for the nature trail there. Once again, there were plenty of vitelline warblers and bananaquits singing. I quickly found common ground doves and the only zenaida dove I'd see on Grand Cayman. In the thorn scrub area of the trail I had a gray catbird and further along I had a flicker. The pond had the expected coots and moorhens, a few blue-winged teal and a pied-billed grebe. When I got to the end of the loop, I hadn't seen a Caribbean dove, so I decided to take another pass at it. That second lap added a nice male black-throated blue and a Yucatan vireo, but no dove.
Since a trip report had mentioned seeing Caribbean dove at Willie's Pig Farm, I decided to give that another try. There were no Caribbean doves there, just common ground doves, but I did get a great look at a West Indian Whistling Duck perched on a fence behind the pig barns. Heading back along the north shore road, I noticed some birds sitting just offshore on some pilings, which turned out to be royal terns.
I made one more stop on the way back into town at Pedro Castle to see if there might be some tropicbirds around, but there weren't, so I headed in town for lunch. While waiting for my lunch at Hammerhead's Brew Pub, I noticed several shorebirds running along the sand, and also saw a Laughing Gull flying around. After lunch I checked out the shorebirds, and they all turned out to be Ruddy Turnstones.
I gave up on the dove, and spent the rest of the afternoon being a tourist. I went to Hell and sent a few postcards then visited the Cayman Turtle Farm (which was also crawling with turnstones). My evening flight back to Jamaica was on time. I arrived back in MoBay at about 10 PM and took a taxi to my hotel.
JAMAICA PART 2
Day 12 - 1 January 2007
First bird of the year: bananaquit.
I pretty much relaxed at the hotel except when I went wandering "The Hip Strip" to look for someplace to have lunch (Tony's Pizza!). Birds seen on the hotel grounds included zenaida dove, red-billed streamertail, loggerhead kingbird, black-faced grassquit, and northern mockingbird.
I headed to the airport after lunch, since my hotel was going to charge me $20 to stay an extra hour. The room was only $80! While waiting at the airport, I saw a cattle egret walking the grass.
The flights home were fine. The MoBay to Dulles flight was on time and the commuter flight from Dulles to Allentown was delayed by 20 minutes, but I was home in my own bed at 11:30 refreshed and ready for my next trip.
Least Grebe (tachybaptus dominicus) Three birds seen at Spring Pond near Black River (JM)
Pied-billed Grebe (podilymbus podiceps) Seen regularly on small ponds (GC)
Brown Pelican (pelicanus occidentalus) One bird seen near Parrottee Beach and a flock of 6 along the north shore near Ocho Rios (JM)
Magnificent Frigatebird (fregata magnificens) Single birds each near Parrottee beach and flying above Port Antonio (JM). Regularly seen above the coastline (GC).
Great Blue Heron (ardea herodias) One birds seen flying near a coastal pond between Falmouth and Montego Bay (JM).
Great Egret (ardea alba) Scattered birds seen in appropriate habitat (and one walking along a stone wall) throughout the island (JM). Common in appropriate habitat including 10+ at a wetland along the south coast (GC).
Snowy Egret (egretta thula) One bird at Parrottee Pond and another at Portland Bight (JM). The common white egret in Grand Cayman. A flock of over 100 seen at a wetland along the south coast (GC).
Little Blue Heron (egretta caerulea) Seen both days in Sherwood/Content near Windsor Caves and one near Parrottee Pond (JM) A single bird seen in the Mangroves behind Owen Roberts Airport (GC)..
Tricolored Heron (egretta tricolor) Pond along the south coast, Willie's Pig Farm, and behind Owen Roberts Airport (GC)..
Cattle Egret (bubulcus ibis) Extremely common (JM). Only one on an inland pastures (GC).
Green Heron (butorides virescens) One bird at Willie's Pig Farm, and another at Governor Gore Wetlands (GC).
Yellow-Crowned Night Heron (nictanassa violacea) One bird seen by Brandon (and not me) at a wetland along Bamboo Avenue (JM).
Glossy Ibis (plegadis falcinellus) One seen at a pond near Top Hill south of Black River (JM).
West Indian Whistling-duck (dendrocygna arborea) Up to 20 seen one day and three seen another day at Willie's Pig Farm (GC)
Blue-winged Teal (anas discors) a few seen in the ponds south of Black River (JM). Common on ponds in Grand Cayman with over 100 seen near Willie's Pig Farm (GC).
Masked Duck (Nomonyx dominica) Five birds seen at the pond on the Thatchfield property south of Black River. These were formerly more common in the SW, but according to Ann Sutton, they disappeared from all of the known locations in the summer of '06 except for this one remote site (JM).
Turkey Vulture (cathartes aura) Common. Roosts of 10-20 birds seen on the road to Windsor Caves (JM).
Osprey (pandion haliaetus) One bird seen in the mangroves behind Owen Roberts Airport (GC).
Red-tailed hawk (buteo jamaicensis) One bird seen soaring over Port Antonio. Another bird over Rocklands (JM).
American Kestrel (falco sparverius) One at Windsor Caves, one at Marshall's Pen, and one along the SE coast near Port Morant (JM).
Common Moorhen (gallinula chloropus) A few at the ponds in the southwest (JM). Common in numbers on all ponds (GC).
American Coot (fulica americana) A couple at a pond on the Thatchfield property south of Black River (JM) Common including a raft of 30+ near the Mastic Trail parking area (GC).
Black-necked Stilt (himantopus himantopus) A few birds seen on a pond near Parrottee Beach (JM). 3 seen near a edge of a new development in the South Swamp area (GC).
Lesser Yellowlegs (tringa flavipes) One at Parrottee Pond (JM). Heard at Barkers National Park and behind Owen Roberts Airport (GC).
Spotted Sandpiper (actitis macularia) One behind Owen Roberts Airport (GC).
Semipalmated Sandpiper (calidris pusilla) One behind Owen Roberts Airport (GC).
Ruddy Turnstone (arenaria interpres) Numerous on the rocks in downtown Georgetown as well as near (and at) the Cayman Turtle farm in West Bay (GC).
Laughing Gull (larus atricilla) One flying next to Hammerhead's Brewpub in downtown Georgetown (GC).
Royal Tern (sterna maxima) One at Parrottee Pond (JM). One seen along the North Coast near Hutland, and a few perched on posts along the south coast near Bodden Town (GC).
Rock Dove (columba livia) Scattered birds in urban areas (JM).
White-crowned Pigeon (patagioenas leucocephala) A couple at Marshall's Pen, one near Hardwar Gap, and a third at Ecclesdown Rd. (JM)
Ring-tailed Pigeon (patagioenas caribaea) A single bird seen in flight on Ecclesdown Rd. and a second possible fly-by at Starlight Chalet in the Blue Mtns. Better view desired. (JM).
White-winged Dove (zenaida asiatica) A few at Marshall's pen and a single bird on the feeder at Rocklands (JM) A few on the Mastic Trail (GC).
Zenaida Dove (zenaida aurita) Common (JM). One bird at the Botanical Park (GC).
Common Ground Dove (columbina passerina) Common in both countries though moreso in Jamaica.
Crested Quail-dove (geotrygon versicolor) One seen and another heard at Marshall's Pen, and a third bird seen in beautiful sunlight on the trail at Windsor Cave (JM).
Ruddy Quail-dove (geotrygon montana) One bird heard at Hardwar Gap and another seen at Rocklands (JM).
Olive-throated Parakeet (aratinga nana) Common at all inland wooded habitats (JM).
Green-rumped Parrotlet (forpus passerinus) A flock of 6 seen at Ecclesdown Rd. According to Brandon from Marshall's Pen, they were formerly common there, too, but haven't been seen in a while (JM).
Yellow-billed Parrot (amazona collaria) A flock of five seen at Ecclesdown Rd. Heard on the second try at Windsor Caves (JM).
Black-billed Parrot (amazona agilis) A single bird the first day and then a flock of thirty the next day in a fruiting tree at Ecclesdown Rd. Two seen and more heard on the second try at Windsor Caves (JM).
Cuban Parrot (amazona leucocephala) A few birds along the Mastic Trail. The birds I saw had a lot more pink on the belly than shown in the field guide (GC).
Mangrove Cuckoo (coccyzus minor) One seen at Ecclesdown Rd. (JM).
Jamaican Lizard-cuckoo (saurothera vetula) One bird along the trail at Windsor Cave (JM).
Chestnut-Bellied Cuckoo (hyetornis pluvialis) Two seen at Windsor Cave and another heard at Marshall's Pen (JM).
Smooth-billed Ani (crotophaga ani) Fairly common in brushy areas throughout the country with a flock usually at the residential area at Marshall's Pen (JM). Common in all open areas (GC)
Jamaican Owl (pseudoscops grammicus) An immature spotlighted along the entrance road to Marshall's Pen was probably the bird from last year's nesting. Another adult bird heard at the main tree at the great house was seen by Brandon but only heard by us (JM).
Northern Potoo (nyctibius jamaicensis) They appear to be pretty common at Marshall's Pen. One bird spotlighted and several others heard calling in response to tape (JM).
Black Swift (cypseloides niger) A small flock over the Waterfall Trail at Hardwar Gap (JM).
Antillean Palm-swift (tachornis phoenicobia) A few seen in Port Antonio and Ocho Rios (JM).
Jamaican Mango (anthracothorax mango) Seen at Windsor Caves, Marshall's Pen, Hardwar Gap, Ecclesdown Rd. and Rocklands, though in much smaller numbers than the streamertails (JM).
Red-billed Streamertail (Trochilus polytmus) The common hummingbird seen in pretty much any suitable habitat though only one or two females seen (JM).
Black-billed Streamertail (Trochilus scitulus) Several at Ecclesdown Rd. and a few at Mockingbird Hill (JM)
Vervain Hummingbird (mellisuga minima) Scattered birds at Windsor Cave, Marshall's Pen, in the Blue Mountains, and Ecclesdown Rd. (DR).
Belted Kingfisher (ceryle alcyon) One each near the Mastic Trailhead, Willie's Pig Farm, Barkers National Park (GC)
Jamaican Tody (Todus todus) Fairly common, though often heard rather than seen. Found at Windsor Cave, Marshall's Pen, Silver Hill Gap, Ecclesdown Rd. and Rocklands.
Jamaican Woodpecker (melanerpes radiolatus) Fairly common. Seen at Marshall's Pen, in the Blue Mtns, on Ecclesdown Rd. and at Rocklands. Also one heard at Windsor Cave.(JM).
West Indian Woodpecker (melanerpes superciliarus) One seen on the Mastic Trail (GC).
Northern Flicker (colaptes auratus) One seen on the Mastic Trail and another at the Botanic Park. A much more heavily spotted subspecies than the typical one in eastern North America (GC).
Jamaican Elaenia (myiopagis cotta) Surprisingly difficult to find. The only one I saw was at Rocklands, although another guest saw one at Marshall's Pen (JM)
Caribbean Elaenia (elaenia martinica) Common (GC)
Jamaican Pewee (contopus pallidus) One seen each day at Marshall's Pen. Also one seen at Rocklands (JM).
Sad Flycatcher (myiarchus barbirostris) Numerous at Marshall's Pen. A few others seen in the Blue Mtns., Windsor Cave, and at Ecclesdown Rd. (JM)
Rufous-tailed Flycatcher (myiarchus validus) One each at Windsor Cave, near the Gap Caf and at Rocklands (JM).
Stolid Flycatcher (myiarchus stolidus) One seen at Marshall's Pen. Also heard in the Blue Mtns. and at Rocklands (JM).
La Sagra's Flycatcher (myiarchus sagrae) Only one seen along Further Rd. (GC)
Loggerhead Kingbird (tyrannus caudifasciatus) Extremely common (JM). Only a handful seen in various habitats (GC).
Jamaican Becard (pachyramphus niger) One male seen in flight at Silver Hill Gap. Better View Desired (JM).
Caribbean Martin (progne dominicensis) Supposedly not present in winter, but I'm pretty sure the bird I saw near the harbor in MoBay was a female or immature of this species. (JM).
Cave Swallow (pterochelidon fulva) A few birds over Marshall's Pen one morning. They supposedly roost under the guest house there, but I didn't see any birds going under it (JM)
Gray Catbird (dumetella carolinensis) Common in thorn scrub habitat, such as at the beginning of the Mastic Trail or at the Botanical Park (GC).
Bahama Mockingbird (mimus gundlachii) One bird at Portland Ridge (JM)
Northern Mockingbird (mimus polyglottus) Common bird in both countries.
Rufous-throated Solitaire (myadestes genibarbis) Numerous in the Blue Mtns. and slightly less so at Ecclesdown Rd. Several birds seen (JM).
White-eyed Thrush (turdus jamaicensis) A skulker that's reportedly hard to find if it's not singing. Only one seen along the Waterfall Trail at Hardwar Gap. Fritz heard one during our walk at Rocklands (JM).
White-chinned Thrush (turdus aurantius) Common inland. Only one seen at Marshall's Pen, but numerous in the Blue Mtns., along Ecclesdown Rd., and at Rocklands. Any black bird flying up off the road in the morning is likely to be this species (JM).
Jamaican Crow (corvus jamaicensis) Only seen in Cockpit Country/Windsor Cave and at Ecclesdown Rd. but numerous at those locations (JM).
European Starling (sturnus vulgaris) A few birds seen each day at Marshall's Pen (JM)
Thick-billed Vireo (Vireo crassirostris) A couple birds heard on the East End loop and one bird seen well along the Mastic Trail (GC).
Jamaican Vireo (Vireo modestus) Scattered birds seen at Marshall's Pen and in the Blue Mtns. One also heard in Cockpit Country (JM).
Blue Mountain Vireo (Vireo osburni) One at Silver Hill Gap and one north of Hardwar Gap (JM).
Yucatan Vireo (vireo magister) One bird along Further Rd. and one at the Botanic Park (GC).
Northern Parula (parula americana) Not common but seen regularly at Marshall's Pen, the Blue Mtns., Ecclesdown Rd. and Windsor Cave (JM)
Yellow Warbler (dendroica petechia) Common in mangroves (GC). Should also be common in the same habitat in Jamaica, but I didn't spend any time in the right habitat.
Black-throated Blue warbler (dendroica caerulescens) The common warbler in Jamaica (JM). One on the Mastic Trail and one at the Botanic Park (GC).
Prairie Warbler (dendroica discolor) Uncommon but regular in wooded habitats (JM). One seen along Further Rd. (GC).
Vitelline Warbler (dendroica vitellina) Common in all habitats except mangroves. Numerous and noisy along the Mastic Trail (GC).
Palm Warbler (dendroica palmarum) The common warbler in Grand Cayman (GC).
Arrow-headed Warbler (dendroica pharetra) Uncommon. One in the Blue Mtns. one along Ecclesdown Rd., and a crippling view of one at Rocklands. You'd think they could be mistaken for Black-and-Whites, but they are very different looking and they don't climb along branches like B&W's (JM).
Black-and-White Warbler (mniotitla varia) One female in the Blue Mtns. and one male at Rocklands (JM).
American Redstart (setophaga ruticilla) Common although slightly less so than BT Blue (JM). One seen on the Mastic Trail (GC).
Worm-eating Warbler (helmitheros vermivorus) Two birds seen at Rocklands (JM).
Ovenbird (seiurus aurocapilla) Several seen in the Blue Mtns. Also one at Ecclesdown Rd. and one at Windsor Cave. (JM)
Northern Waterthrush (seiurus noveboracensis) One seen on the Mastic Trail (GC)
Common Yellowthroat (geothlypis trichas) A few seen in the Blue Mtns. (JM) One or two along the Mastic Trail (GC).
Bananaquit (coereba flaveola) Common in both countries. Jamaican subspecies has a charcoal grey throat.
Jamaican Euphonia (euphonia jamaica) Common in all wooded habitats, although more often heard than seen (JM)
Jamaican Spindalis (spindalis nigricephala) Several seen at Ecclesdown Rd. and Rocklands Singles seen at Marshall's Pen and Windsor Cave (JM).
Western Spindalis (spindalis zena) Seemed to be more common than its Jamaican cousin. Seen everywhere but the Mastic trail, with several seen at the Botanic Park (GC).
Yellow-faced Grassquit (tiaris olivacea) Only seen at Rocklands but numerous there (JM). A single bird seen along Further Rd. (GC).
Black-faced Grassquit (tiaris bicolor) Common and probabaly overlooked (JM).
Yellow-shouldered Grassquit (loxipasser anoxanthus) Only one bird seen when I got lost on the way to Windsor Cave (JM).
Orangequit (euneornis campestris) Not nearly as common as other reports indicated, though numerous at Rocklands. Also seen at Marshall's Pen and along Ecclesdown Rd. Except for Rocklands, only females seen (JM).
Cuban Bullfinch (melopyrrha nigra) One female seen along Further Rd. and a male seen at the Botanic Park (GC).
Greater Antillean Bullfinch (loxigilla violacea) Relatively common. Seen at Marshall's Pen, in the Blue Mtns., along Ecclesdown Rd., and at Rocklands (JM).
Jamaican Blackbird (nesopsar nigerrimus) Two individuals seen near Hardwar Gap (JM).
Greater Antillean Grackle (quiscalus niger) Common (JM) Not as common but still pretty regular (GC).
Shiny Cowbird (molothrus bonariensis) Two birds flying across the road near Falmouth were likely this species which is expanding its range (JM).
Jamaican Oriole (icterus leucopteryx) Relatively common. Seen daily in wooded habitats. They have one song like a black-whiskered vireo (JM).
Whitehall, PA USA
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