April 17, 2015, Boston Bay, Jamaica — My flight out of Panama didn’t lift off until 9:30 this morning, so Guido and I spent a couple of hours after dawn birding the mangroves near Panama City (and we found two new birds, a Garden Emerald and a Blue-footed Booby). The past three days have been incredible: I saw 299 species of birds in Panama, 69 of which were new additions for my big year—and three of which (Sapayoa, Spiny-cheeked Antshrike, and Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo) were unexpected bonuses. I have to thank Guido Berguido for being so on-target; if you’re ever looking for a good bird guide in Panama, send him a note and say hi for me (he can be contacted through advantagepanama.com).
By lunchtime, I was in…Jamaica! I hadn’t originally planned to do any Caribbean island birding during this adventure, but, after maxing out on new birds in Colombia, decided to add a very quick trip here. Jamaica has 28 endemic bird species and a few others I probably won’t see anywhere else this year, so it’s worth the extra journey.
An old friend of mine, Liz Ames, happens to be finishing a three-month field research season in Jamaica (studying competition between Yellow Warblers and American Redstarts on their wintering grounds), and she picked me up along with three members of her field crew—Jay, Tom, and Barbara. They collectively decided to take a three-day vacation to do some big year-style birding, and we’re hoping to make a clean sweep of Jamaica’s endemic birds in the next 48 hours. This afternoon the five of us drove from Montego Bay to Boston Bay, past Ian Fleming’s Goldeneye estate, and stopped en route at a place called Frenchman’s Cove where an endemic Jamaican Owl was staked out on its day roost. We are staying tonight in a bamboo hut by the beach with a white-sand floor and a carving of a naked woman by the door. It’s good to be among friends in an island paradise.
New birds today: 24
Year list: 2068