Monday, 5 July 2010


Up nice and early I arrived at Rocklands at 6.40am. Being a little early I decided to bird the area outside the property. The GRASSQUITS and BANANAQUITS were everywhere as usual, as were the KINGBIRDS. There were also quite a few COMMON GROUND DOVES and WHITE WINGED DOVES, and the STREAMERTAILS and MANGOS were buzzing around in small numbers. Fritz joined me just before 7.00am and we immediately headed off down a track at the back of the property. This path was pretty quiet for birds with only a SAD FLYCATCHER and JAMAICAN ORIOLE different to what had been seen around the house. At the bottom of the track Fritz stopped and listened intently. It didnt take him long to pick out what he was after. Deep in the undergrowth he told me to look at where he was pointing and there was the first star bird of the day, a JAMAICAN TODY. This is easily one of the prettiest birds I've ever seen. Bright green with a touch of crimson, I defy anyone not to fall in love with it. It was one of four birds in the same shrub, all eventually showing extremely well. I could have gone home happy just at that sighting, but there was still a lot more to be seen. As we headed off to a path on our right a noisy flock of OLIVE THROATED PARAKEETS flew overhead. Four of them landed in a tree just ahead of us, and we enjoyed great views. As we were stood watching the Parakeets a small bird whizzed past us and landed in a bush to our left. It took ages for us to locate it but eventually it came out and we saw that it was a JAMAICAN SPINDALIS (or Stripe Headed Tanager). Further along the track Fritz put me onto my third Flycatcher of the trip, a STOLID FLYCATCHER. In the same tree something was calling noisily just above it, a BLACK WHISKERED VIREO. This proved to be the first of MANY of this species. They were extremely common the whole morning. Many of the common species were seen along the track, including ORANGEQUITS and ORIOLES. Frustratingly, a number of JAMAICAN CROWS were raucously calling in the tree tops but were not coming out for us to see. The path then opened up into a bit of a meadow. Cattle were grazing, and CATTLE EGRETS were feeding around their feet. Then a bizarre noise came from deep in the foliage. Fritz immediately sprang to attention, 'MANGROVE CUCKOO' he said excitedly. Apparently they were quite rare in this area so he was desperate to see it. It was moving around a lot in the dense greenery, and despite our best efforts proved just a touch too elusive for us. And it certainly didnt help that the two of us were set upon by a swarm of huge ants . Their bites were absolute agony, and it took ages for us to get rid of them all. We beat a hasty retreat and headed back up the track, but not before a small flock of CROWS landed in a tree right in front of us. Suddenly the pain disappeared.
The next clearing on the path was a small orchard. This was a great place for birds. The most abundant birds were the JAMAICAN ORIOLES, they were everywhere. One bird appeared to be feeding a different bird. It was a SHINY COWBIRD, and I noticed it was a juvenile. It turns out that Cowbirds are parasitic egg layers, much like our Cuckoo, and their main hosts are the Orioles. I never knew that! Other birds seen here included MANGO'S, VERVAIN HUMMINGBIRDS, JAMAICAN WOODPECKER, ZENAIDA and CARIBBEAN DOVES, ORANGEQUITS and the almost annoying BLACK WHISKERED VIREOS. We also saw another brand new bird for me here, and another little stunner it was too. A small, subtle light blue coloured bird, the JAMAICAN EUPHONIA is a wonderful little thing. While enjoying watching the Euphonias, Fritz suddenly realised we'd been birding for over two hours. It was only meant to be a three hour trip! He just smiled, shrugged his shoulders and gave me a look of 'whatever'! We did agree though that it was time we headed back. But we had literally just turned to leave when Fritz heard something new. He quickly put me onto a female YELLOW SHOULDERED GRASSQUIT, a great find as these are very difficult to find. We hung around for a short while and were rewarded when a stunning male came and joined the female. As we were enjoying these birds I noticed two small birds to my right. 'They look like Mannikins' I said to Fritz. They then flew off, just before Fritz got onto them. He said 'I doubt they were Mannikins, I've been birding here for years and never seen them here'. Then the two birds immediately returned to the same spot and guess what, they were NUTMEG MANNIKINS! Fritz was absolutely ecstatic, and vigorously shook my hand. It was indeed the first time he'd seen this species on his patch and he enjoyed every minute of it. Eventually, we had to tear ourselves away from this amazing area, and we headed back the way we came. After about 25minutes Fritz heard something call and stopped dead. He studied the foliage for a few minutes, then pointed and smiled. It took me a few minutes to get onto it but suddenly it came into a view, the supremely cute ARROW HEADED WARBLER. This was a much wanted bird, and I had really hoped to see one on this trip and I wasnt disappointed. After a few minutes another one flew in and joined the first one. I was delighted. We had another quick look in the meadow, and we got yet another new bird , a JAMAICAN ELAENIA. Further along the track yet another new bird showed itself, a very handsome GREATER ANTILLEAN BULLFINCH. We eventually got to the track that led back to the property, but Fritz had one more surprise up his sleeve. We knelt down and he told me to look where he was pointing. I couldnt see a thing! He said 'be patient, it'll eventually move and reveal itself'. So I did just that, and all of a sudden there was movement. It was a gorgeous RUDDY QUAIL DOVE, an extremely difficult bird to see. I was buzzing! I really didnt think I'd see one of these, as I'd read lots of trip reports from people who had missed them. And the amazing thing about this bird was that it was actually sat on a nest! Absolutely incredible. This proved to be the end of an amazing morning. What should have been a three hour trip turned out to be four hours twenty minutes! But Fritz just smiled, as the Jamaicans tend to do. He'd had just as much fun as I had.

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