29 Endemic Holiday Getaway
December 3 - 9, 2020
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Jamaica's avian treasures are little known to most of its beach-going tourists. This beautiful, sunny island, with its lovely beaches and friendly people, and known for its rum and reggae, has a rugged interior covered with lush forests that harbor 29 endemic bird species - unique species found nowhere else in the world! Jamaica is home to more endemic birds than any other Caribbean island making it the best-kept birding secret in the tropics! Add to that at least 17 Jamaican subspecies and a host of other Caribbean endemics and you have a fabulous winter birding getaway!
Our itinerary explores the less traveled interior of rolling hills and cool lush rainforests of the Blue and John Crow Mountains in eastern Jamaica. Here we can get ALL of the endemics without enduring the throngs of tourists in other parts of the island. Our experienced local guide knows the best sites for finding Jamaica’s incredible bird life, including Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo (Photo: John Kricher), the rare Crested Quail-Dove, Jamaican Blackbird, and the lovely Black-billed Streamertail hummingbird. We’ll bird the tropical environs of the famous Ecclesdown Road home to Black-billed and Yellow-billed Parrots, Jamaican Becard, Jamaican Oriole, Jamaican Tody (Photo: Gina Nichol), and Jamaican Crow. The beaches we visit will be off the beaten path in more remote and natural settings without crowds (but close to coconuts and rum, if needed). We’ve been blessed with great success on all our previous tours. Our fine-tuned itinerary offers wonderful opportunities to see all of Jamaica’s endemic birds while getting a taste of life, culture, and cuisine of this Caribbean jewel!
Itís time to get away!
29 Jamaican Endemics:
Day 1: Arrival in Kingston, Jamaica
Day 2: Hellshire Hills, Hope & Castleton Gardens
We will then explore the grounds of the lovely Royal (Hope) Botanical Gardens adjacent to the campus of the University of the West Indies. This 200-acre garden is the largest public green space in the Kingston metropolitan region and offers a quiet respite from the bustling city and excellent birding. Several of Jamaica’s endemic birds can be found here, including the stunning Jamaican Tody (Photo: John Kricher), raucous Jamaican Parakeets and Yellow-billed Parrots (Photo: Steve Bird), and the unique Jamaican Mango. The diminutive Vervain Hummingbird, stealthy White-chinned Thrush, known locally as ‘Hopping Dick’, and secretive Northern Potoo all reside here. We may also find wintering North American warblers, such as Northern Parula, American Redstart, Cape May, and Black-and-White also escaping the wrath of winter further north.
Our day concludes at the famed Castleton Botanical Garden in St. Mary Parish north of Kingston. Castleton Gardens, established in 1862, offers 20 acres of semi-open habitat comprised mostly of exotic trees attractive to an interesting array of birds. Endemics, such as Jamaican Woodpecker (Photo: Frank Gallo), Greater Antillean Grackle, Jamaican Euphonia, Jamaican Spindalis, White-crowned Pigeon, and a host of other species have all been seen in these lush gardens. By days end, we’ll have had a wonderful introduction to the special birds of Jamaica!
Days 3 & 4: Blue Mountains
Our lodge is ideally situated on the slopes of a lovely coffee plantation overlooking the extensive natural forest. The lodge’s gardens attract such memorable endemics as Orangequit, dazzling Red-billed Streamertails (Photo: Frank Gallo) which is Jamaica’s national bird, cheeky Greater Antillean Bullfinch, and Bananaquits. Jamaican Owl also nests locally, and either in the evening, or early one morning, we will listen for them around the lodge, and hopefully spy one of these sometimes elusive birds.
Our itinerary gives us time to find and marvel at the colorful avian delights in the area, including the remarkably beautiful Jamaican Spindalis (Stripe-headed Tanager), Jamaican Oriole, Rufous-throated Solitaire, and Sad Flycatcher. We’ll bird fabulous forest trails in search of the elusive White-eyed Thrush and Crested Quail Doves, and the endangered Ring-tailed Pigeon. Jamaican Pewee, Jamaican Tody and Black-faced Grassquits also reside here.
On at least one day, we will head to Hardwar Gap to look for high-elevation bird species, such as Arrowhead Warbler (Photo: Photo Frank Gallo), Jamaican Woodpecker, Rufous-tailed Flycatcher (Photo: Steve Bird), the endangered Ring-tailed Pigeon. Both Chestnut-bellied and Jamaican Lizard Cuckoos reside in these lush hills, beside the haunts of Rufous-throated Solitaire (Photo: John Kricher), and Crested Quail-Dove. We will search among the roaming mixed flocks of warblers and tanagers for Jamaican Euphonia, and both Blue Mountain and Jamaican Vireos, remembering to watch overhead for soaring flocks of White-collared Swift, and perhaps, if we’re lucky, a are Black Swift. Two nights Blue Mountains.
Day 7: Breakfast / Depart to airport
LEADERS: Frank Gallo with local guides.
NOTE: While we aim to follow the itinerary as planned, please note that the itinerary provided should only be used as a guideline. Depending on a variety of circumstances, weather, and local information, the exact itinerary may not be strictly adhered to. This certainly goes for weather dependent parts of the trip, but even visits to land-based sites listed in the itinerary may be missed and other sites visited instead. We are constantly assessing the itinerary with our local contacts, and may we choose alternative sites or activities based on what we determine to be the best for the tour. The guides reserve the right to make changes to the itinerary as they see fit with the aim of providing the best possible and safest experience.