Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Tea For One - Joe Bonamassa

Seemed an appropriate 'headline' as it may relate to the amount of that particular beverage that is consumed hereabouts, as we are now in serious Coffee Country, the world acclaimed Blue Mountains of Jamaica. In addition, for the past 76 days it has not only been 'Tea for One' but Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner as I have wended my way around the Caribbean and its fabulous Islands. Time is now rapidly running out for my lone venture, as in the none too distant future I will be surrendering my recent title of 'Marco Solo' and rejoining my fellow travelers. In the meantime I have booked a 'suite' (that's similar to a 'shed' only with an inside toilet) for 3 nights at the waterfront El Greco Hotel, Montego Bay, but before that long awaited luxury there are 2 days of hopefully stunning birding to be done.
Having researched some of the best sites across this vast area and recruited Jamaica's #1 driver we were all set to find some birds that can be found nowhere else in the world, there were, not including the Petrel and the Poorwill (Nightjar) considered extinct, a potential 28 of these. Realistically, a 'full house' was never likely but all the same it was going to be fun trying with the Owl, Crested Quail-Dove and at least one of the Flycatchers already mentally eliminated! We didn't have to wait long for the first  as it was no more than a 5 minutes stop to 'twitch'
as we had to pass Hope Gardens anyway.
 From there, the only way was 'up' and leaving the conurbation
at lower altitude we found
in good numbers.
To get to what is considered the best site (thanks to The Fat Birder)
you have to pass through Newcastle,
 where we had brief and not very rewarding views of
(leaving just 2 Flies to find),
and Holywell then stop anywhere along that stretch for a
multitude of chances.
Again from the car
HOODED ORIOLE was spotted, not as yet an 'endemic'
but like so many of the Islands a potential 'split',
among some stunning vistas.
Kingston still visible in the far distance.
Early days yet, but already there were signs that viewing
was going to be hard going which was the case with the only
(Stripe-headed Tanager)
of the day which was both 'endemic' and a World Lifer.
Into the Reserve proper,
and what was thought to be
Wouldn't like to call this one from such poor shots but
a few were seen throughout the day, with lucky confirmation later.
Just below this tiny mountain village we bumped into a birder from
the USA with his local guide who confirmed a couple of our claimed
sighting probably having seen the same birds moments earlier.
JAMAICAN BECARD - (E) and World Lifer
was not in question (no photo) but both the Vireo above and
were both in good supply.
This image was taken later in the day and as yet remains unconfirmed.
No doubting the next little rascal transmitting that metallic 'call' from 
the understory.
I seem to have got my ear in for Todies
and how they react to 'pishing',
so had little trouble coaxing this
JAMAICAN TODY (E) and World Lifer
from cover.
The scenery was simply getting better and better,
breath taking not even getting near.
was also in attendance
in close company with Mother,
and another potential 'endemic' / World Lifer, is this
 Another Jamaican Tody did happen along but far more distant,
bringing the 'end of day total' to c4.
Just to add to the Vireo confussion
BLACK-WHISKERED VIREO was also abroad in numbers.
A single JAMAICAN CROW (E) was seen distantly
flying across a gorge (photo from another time and place)
as was this somewhat closer RED-TAILED HAWK 'thermaling' across a wide valley coinciding with spotting a way-side Cafe where it was thought prudent to try the local brew of coffee. Has to be said, 'it' was almost as good as the 'birding' and I am now resigned to changing my brand to strictly Blue Mountain!
 Little use to man nor beast, this is the very best shot taken of the couple of dozen or so extremely skittish
encountered, and even then only a dull female as I expect you noticed?? Even more frustrating was the fleeting glimpses  of JAMAICAN BLACKBIRD (E) World Lifer thought to be c3 in fact, views of which just about brought up 'the whole'. We were doing alright with still much to come as it was only noon.
At the time of 'firing' it wasn't noticed that the 'blue' adult bird was in this shot, although its presence had been noted,
it was taken more for the interest of the 'moulting' juvenile LITTLE BLUE HERON, of which the Field Guide shows an illustration and had not been seen before.
and so we left the Reserve for lower levels.
Even John Constable or David Bailey would have difficulty portraying this magnificent terrain in a decent light, but for myself there was no doubt at all in voting it the best habitat seen on the whole trip!
was potentially the highlight of the day and met by the maĆ®tre d’ encouraging us with tales of what he had seen here in the past. Lunch was in order and my 'sprinting blocks' were already nailed in to get around the 7 acres garden, but first a meeting with the charming co-owner. Shireen Aga (along with Barbara Walker - no relation to the driver) certainly had this place weighed off for potential and were already reaping the rewards of a most comfortable hotel and Bird Watching Lodge. Again with reference to the Fat Birder who reports having seen 10 'endemics' here during a short stay, with the exception of the 2 x 'extincts', the property claim to have recorded ALL the Jamaican 'endemics' here so surely there was good opportunity to increase the list? Thus far we had not seen either of the Cuckoos, Jamaican Lizard, or Chestnut-bellied (the US birder and Co had seen the later), the 2 x Black-billed's, Parrot and Streamertail, 2 x Flycatchers or for that matter Ring-tailed Pigeon. We had en route seen a number of 'large', 'pale' Pigeons flying above the canopy but none to ID as our quarry but that was soon put right with a wander onto the verandah. There was a pair flying around almost continuously RING-TAILED PIGEON (E) World Lifer, but other than a single
HOODED ORIOLE that was it for the birds, although it has to be noted it was now 13:00 and searingly hot. However, some relief came via Jamaican 'Jerk' Beef Hamburgers with salad and a couple of Red Stripe Beers and a longer look around the property (knowing we where now stood within 'Hooting Distance' of Jamaican Owl - but no chance in daylight)
before starting our 4 hours drive onwards to Montego Bay.
One of several very nice (and doubtless expensive) hotels in the area of PORT ANTONIO.
'Check In' was followed by a shower, another Red Stripe (or twa) and chance to reflect on a day that saw totals of 12 'endemics', 7 of which were World Lifers also to flash up You-Tube and take a listen to the man himself - SUITE!
How come twenty four hours,
Baby sometimes seem to slip into days?
Oh twenty-four hours,
Baby sometimes seem to slip into days
A minute seems like a lifetime,
Baby when I feel this way
Sittin', lookin' at the clock, time moves so slow
I've been watchin' for the hands to move
Until I just can't look no more
How come twenty four hours,
Baby sometimes seems to slip into days?
A minute seems like a lifetime,
Baby when I feel this way. 
PS - while flicking I came across this rather good rendition of a personal favourite Blues, but not quite as good as Chicken Shack feat Christine McVie (nee Perfect).