In addition to single-day trips, Attractions Link also offers extended tours, including five- to fourteen-day tours for birders. The “Ten Days Jamaica Birding Extravaganza” is billed as a (relatively) leisurely way to see all of Jamaica's 28 endemics – and lots of other Caribbean species. We took this tour in April, 2013 to do just that. We wanted a guided tour of Jamaica's birding hotspots, but on an extended basis to give more opportunities to try to ensure finding all of the endemics. This is not to say that the birding pace is that relaxed; it is a birding trip after all. Birding commenced around 0500h each day in order to reach prime birding habitat when the birds were most active. But, we were able to relax on many afternoons, and had the luxury of taking some time out on various days. For example, much of one day was spent on a bamboo raft on the Rio Grande River but, even here, although all we had to do was sit back and enjoy the scenery, we were treated to close-up views of herons, egrets and shorebirds along the the river's edge. Similarly, a visit to the beach at Frenchman's Cove on another day, had to include a walk around the gardens where Yellow-Crowned Night Herons were feeding at the edges of the ponds just metres from the paths. But, the stars of the show were surely the renowned birding spots such as Old Mine Trail, Hard-war Gap, and Ecclesdown Road. Having a local guide to such places is a huge benefit for non-residents. Not only do these individuals know how best to access the locations, they also know specific spots where target birds can be located. These include places where birds were seen on recent tours, or birds that have been observed by other local birders. Such knowledge is invaluable to visiting birders and is why we often use local bird guiding services. We were not disappointed in our tour of Jamaica. Wayne Murdoch, the owner of Attractions Link, was our guide for most of the tour. Wayne really knows his way around Jamaica - and how to avoid most of the potholes on the mountain roads! He also knows the best birding locations and has a wide network of contacts for birding information. At Forres Park in the Blue Mountains, our guide was Lyndon Johnson, a young birder with excellent skills for hearing and locating specific species. Between them, our two guides found all 28 endemic species for us. We had good views of many of these birds, even some of the more difficult targets. Who could forget driving around a bend on a forest road and Wayne stopping abruptly because a Crested Quail-Dove was stationary in the middle of the road?! Similarly, we vividly recall listening to the weird and wonderful burbling calls of a Jamaican Crow flying overhead, a bird that the Jamaicans very aptly call the Jabbering Crow. The only endemic we didn't actually see was the Jamaican Owl. We heard this bird calling early one morning but, even with a powerful flashlight, were unable to locate the bird. But, we trust our eyes to identify birds, and so have no reason not to similarly trust our ears – especially when we know that the bird is known to be present in the specific location. So, we count all 28 endemics as having been “identified” on our trip. Or, have we just left a little room to require a second visit to Jamaica? Time will tell...
Alan and Carol German
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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