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Jamaica with Sarasota Audubon

APRIL 2015

Sarasota Audubon asked us to plan and lead another birding trip, this time to the beautiful island of Jamaica. Jamaica offers plenty to do and see for both birders and photographers: 29 endemics, loads of North American winter residents, and other Caribbean residents.
To help us accomplish our goal of seeing all 29 endemics, we enlisted the help of RAJ tours. Led by the wacky but wonderful Wolde, the vivacious Vida, and the delightful Deceita, we had no trouble finding great birds at the great birding locations they took us to. On top of that, our luggage van driver, Dion, was a fantastic spotter. In essence, we had four guides for 12 people: Our success was almost guaranteed.
Although we got off to an inauspicious start the first night at Bay View Eco Lodge (no running water), the birds more than made up for the inconvenience. Jamaican Owl, Red-billed Streamertail, Jamaican Euphonia, Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo, Jamaican Spindalis, Jamaican Mango, Jamaican Oriole, Orangequit, and others got us off to an amazing start.
The next three nights we used Bay View as our headquarters while we ventured into the forested areas of the Blue Mountains in search of Crested Quail Dove, White-eyed Thrush, Jamaican Woodpecker, Jamaican Pewee, Jamaican Vireo, Jamaican Becard, Sad Flycatcher, and Black-billed and Yellow-billed Parrots.
The terrain was flat and easy to walk on and cut through forests that included West Indian Cedar, Bamboo, Ficus, Tamarind, African Tulip, and other fruiting trees that attracted a number of birds.
The most sought-after bird of the trip was the elusive Crested Quail-Dove. We had three fleeting glances of it before one of the guides found a pair on a nest, providing excellent views from a respectful distance. In less than three days we had tallied all 29 endemics and had photo opportunities for almost all of them.
We spent the next two nights at the Starlight Chalet Inn. Situated at 4,000 feet, it offered cooler temperatures and relatively few insects. The star of the Starlight was without a doubt the Red-billed Streamertail Hummingbird. Hummingbird feeders attracted at least eight Streamertails; males, females, and first year birds all vying for attention. The gardens were full of ripening fruit and attracted Orangequits, Bananaquits, Jamaican Orioles, and Greater Antillean-Bullfinch.
The road outside of the lodge provided great looks at the diminutive but beautiful Jamaican Tody, Blue Mountain Vireo, Jamaican Elainia (showing its often concealed yellow head stripe just for us), Arrow-headed Warbler, White-chinned Thrush, and last minute looks at a Rufous-throated Solitaire singing its haunting electric song.
It was a short, sweet trip and Jamaica is calling us back for another visit. Join Sarasota Birding Guides for a return photo tour in April 2016. Check back soon for details and dates. Good Birding,

Be sure to visit the Jamaica Gallery to see this years highlights.