Monday, 28 June 2010


The Rocklands Bird Sanctuary is nowhere near as flash as it sounds! Basically its a patio on the side of someones house in the mountains about 20 minutes away from Montego Bay. But it is a very famous place for visiting birders (and non-birders), as it allows exceptionally close views of some of the local birds in relative comfort, and also gives people the chance to feed the Hummingbirds from the hand. Trust me, this is a mesmerizing experience.
We arrived at 2.45pm, just in time for the 3.00pm feeding. Immediately the place was buzzing with birdlife. LOGGERHEAD and GREY KINGBIRDS were everywhere. WHITE WINGED DOVES and COMMON GROUND DOVES were numerous, and very loud. A JAMAICAN ORIOLE was singing in a tree to our left. A JAMAICAN WOODPECKER was hammering away in a tree to our right. BANANAQUITS and GRASSQUITS were whizzing past our heads in all directions. We had only just gotten out of the taxi! We were met by the caretaker Fritz. He'd been in charge of the sanctuary since the 90's when the owner, an old english lady whose name I should really know, passed away and left the premises in his protection. He led us to the feeder station/patio and sat us down. He sprinkled a handful of seed on our laps and told us to relax. Within seconds we were surrounded by tiny little birds. First to arrive were BLACK FACED GRASSQUITS. At first they were feeding at our feet but it didnt take them long to jump on our laps. They were soon joined by YELLOW FACED GRASSQUITS. Then the BANANAQUITS arrived. It was amazing. We enjoyed the dazzling display for around 20 minutes then Fritz handed us both a little bottle of sugared water which he told us to hold in front of us. Again it didnt take long for the birds to arrive. A pair of stunning RED BILLED STREAMERTAILS buzzed around us, tentatively at first. They kept coming to investigate the bottles then whizzing away just when they seemed to be ready to feed. Frustrating but exhilerating at the same time. Then from out of nowhere a glorious male JAMAICAN MANGO muscled past the timid STREAMERS and made a beeline for my bottle. It had absolutely no fear, and happily drank away without a care in the world. It was fascinating to see its tiny little tongue lapping away at the sweet liquid literally inches from my face. It was an experience I'll never ever forget. Then the STREAMERS finally let down their guard and started feeding from Maria's bottle. For what seemed like an eternity we both sat there awestruck as the Hummingbirds took turns to feed from our bottles. I was only snapped out of my little trance when something flew past and landed on the balcony to our right. It was a female ORANGEQUIT, and it was feeding on some fruit that had been put out while we were enjoying the bottle feeding. It was then joined by a JAMAICAN ORIOLE. Then in a tree behind the fence a gorgeous ZENAIDA DOVE landed and started singing. At this point Fritz asked if I wanted a little walk around the grounds and of course I jumped at the offer, while Maria stayed behind and enjoyed a cool drink. Almost immediately Fritz pointed out a small songbird perched in a small tree. I got my bins on it and identified it as a SAD FLYCATCHER. It gets the name from its call, and it did indeed sound very mournfull. A little further along the track and another flycatcher was seen, this time a RUFOUS TAILED FLYCATCHER. Bigger and browner than its sad cousin, it was also a lot more showy. Then something flashed past us and landed in a tree behind us. It took us quite a while to locate it but Fritz eventually spotted it and put me on it. It was a WHITE CHINNED THRUSH, quite similar to our own Blackbird but with a few pale areas. Then on the way back to the balcony Fritz pointed out a stunning bird in the undergrowth, a CARBBEAN DOVE. As Doves go this ones a belter. So in a brief 30 minute walk around the gardens he managed to get me 4 lifers! He then told me he done a longer 3 hour walk around a Nature Trail just behind the premises. And of course I arranged to go back the next day............

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