Jamaica is a hotbed of avian endemism in the West Indies. Not only does the ‘Blue Mountain Isle’ offer a superb range of habitats, it is home to a remarkable 28 endemic birds - more than any other Caribbean island. Jamaica is also the only one of the Greater Antillean Islands where we have a realistic chance of seeing all of the island’s endemic birds within a week.
Our March tour is timed to give us the best chance of finding them, along with a host of regional Caribbean specialities and wintering North American birds, too. NEW for 2019, we've included two extra excursions on our itinerary, taking in the coast for White-tailed Tropicbirds and visiting the famous Rocklands Bird Sanctuary. Add a welcome dose of warm Caribbean sunshine, great food and a generous helping of legendary Jamaican hospitality at the excellent Green Castle Estate where we stay - and the allure of a winter break on this bird-rich 'Tropical Treasure Island' is surely irresistible!
Nestling 'twixt the foothills of the verdant Blue Mountains National Park and the azure waters of the Caribbean, the Green Castle Estate offers visiting birdwatchers comfortable lodgings, fine food and relaxed, easy birding in the safe and lush northeastern corner of this ornithological paradise. Twenty-one of the island's 28 endemic bird species have been found on the property - but our price also includes a comprehensive programme of trips in search of those occurring elsewhere on the island. From three stunningly iridescent hummingbirds - viridian-bodied Red-billed and Black-billed Streamertails and the purple-headed Jamaican Mango - to the smart Jamaican Spindalis and sweet Jamaican Tody, the latter looking good enough to lick!
After flying direct to Montego Bay, we travel along the island's picturesque north coast to the Green Castle Estate. Our historical lodgings here form part of a working mix of environmentally friendly tourism and land use that is sustainable and in harmony with the diverse ecosystems that make Green Castle such a special place – and with some excellent birding in the grounds.
A first gentle stroll might discover a Jamaican Mango zapping about outside the windows of your room or we may find ourselves being watched by a pale-eyed Jamaican Vireo or red-crowned Jamaican Woodpecker. Much can be seen in and around the lovely gardens of our guesthouse - and all while enjoying a cup of locally grown coffee, freshly squeezed organic fruit juice... or why not a rum punch or two!
Walking the hill trails on the estate will reveal more of the island's endemic birds, bringing chances of everything from the outrageous Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo and Jamaican Becard to the wonderfully-named Sad Flycatcher and White-chinned Thrush. As a warm Caribbean breeze brushes over you, there may be the temptation of relaxing around the swimming pool or strolling the grounds on your own. But that's the beauty of spending the whole week here: although we offer a full programme of daily birdwatching, you are free to pass on any of the organised walks or excursions and simply choose to do whatever you wish.
To round off our list of Jamaican endemics, we will take day trips from Green Castle into the nearby Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, as well as paying visits to Vinery and to the coast for White-tailed Tropicbird.
The sparsely populated Blue Mountains are of course world famous for their coffee, but they're also a terrific spot to go birding. Walking the road through marvellous cloudforest at Hardwar Gap, with its abundant mosses, bromeliads and tree ferns, we will watch for the tell-tale shaky gait of the furtive Crested Quail-dove - often the most challenging of the island's endemics to see. As Ring-tailed Pigeons sweep over the forest canopy we will also be keen to see the peculiar Jamaican Blackbird and to hear the ethereal song of the Rufous-throated Solitaire.
Named after the Turkey Vultures (known locally as “John Crows”) that teeter across the forested peaks, the John Crows are the easternmost mountains on the island. This limestone area receives quite a bit of rain blown in on the trade winds and is a verdant and very scenic place to spend time looking for birds. Specialities on our day in the mountains here include Black-billed Streamertail (a species found only here), both Yellow-billed and Black-billed Amazon, and Jamaican Crow. We'll also keep our eyes peeled for the monochromatic Arrowhead Warbler.
Returning to Montego Bay at the end of our tour, we'll drop by at the Rocklands Bird Sanctuary - a wonderful opportunity for photography and a great place to get up close and personal with a good proportion of the island’s endemic birds, especially its hummingbirds.
Orangequit, Bananaquit or Jamaican Mango... pick your own favourite and join Limosa guide Mike Crewe for a ‘juicy’ Caribbean tour where the very names of the island's birds sound just as delicious as they look!
Mike led our March 2018 tour to Green Castle, Jamaica and this year's tour will be his second visit there, and his 13th trip to Central America and the Caribbean.