Trip report: Jamaica: The Caribbean Introtour (March 2017) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Sam Woods . This was a set departure tour.

Jamaica conjures many different images to different people: idyllic sandy beaches, James Bond (for this is where he was “conceived” by island resident Ian Fleming, and the jammin’ beats of Bob Marley and other reggae music of that outstanding musical era for this Caribbean island. However, birders often obtain a different angle on such regular holiday destinations, when viewed through an avian-tinted glass. Jamaica is a perfect example of this; while most visitors head straight for the nearest golden sand beach, birders head for the hills, for it is there where the vast majority of the Jamaican endemic birds reside. Jamaica boasts an extraordinarily high list of endemics, indeed the highest of any island in the West Indies, currently standing at 28. These are squeezed onto an island roughly equal in size to the small US state of Connecticut. The country also offers easy birding, and we found that out quickly, racking up all twenty-eight endemic birds in record time, with plentiful breathing room to spare. Among the highlights were Jamaican Tody, the avian equivalent of a precious gem, and a new family for most tour participants birding in the Caribbean for the very first time; a prolonged period of time with a confiding Crested Quail-Dove; the evergreen Red-billed Streamertail, which even gives the array of dazzling hummingbirds of the South American Andes a run for their money; and the brace of endemic cuckoos-the hulking Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo, and multicolored Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo. Not to mention the Jamaican Owl; endemics rarely get more absorbing than owls in my book, and we got to see it twice, and well on both occasions. We started out at a sewage farm in St. Catherine, then onto the limestone hills of Hellshire, west of Kingston; dipped into the wet, endemic-rich forests of the Blue Mountains (where the World famous coffee was also sampled and purchased), and finished off in the foothills of the John Crow Mountains, where the wet limestone forests of the Ecclesdown Road provided our final run of endemics to complete the full set.

THE TOP FIVE BIRDS OF THE TRIP WERE VOTED AS:
1 JAMAICAN TODY
2 RED-BILLED STREAMERTAIL
3 JAMAICAN OWL
4 NORTHERN POTOO
5 JAMAICAN CROW

JAMAICA: The Caribbean Introtour: full report (6.4 MB file; pdf format)