Travel to Jamaica

Saturday, March 12th: I left the house around 7:20am to head to the airport. As I approached the turnpike entrance, I realized I'd forgotten the charger for the computer. Since I had plenty of time and traffic was not heavy, I returned home for the charger rather than buying one at the airport. It was 7:40 when I left again. A run of green lights put me on the turnpike quickly and I parked the car around 8:10. A few minutes later I was dropped off at the Priority check-in area. There was a surprisingly long line, so I used the machines. Pre-check meant a quick trip through the security line and I arrived at the gate 25 minutes ahead of boarding. The plane was there, having arrived earlier from LaGuardia.

Pretty soon, I noticed some unusual activity involving maintenance people. There was a problem with one of the engines. They worked on it a while, but eventually decided we needed a different plane. Fortunately, I have plenty of time to spare today. The leaders are supposed to fly in around 2:30, and we meet with them at Toby's Resort at 6:30pm. No hurry.

They got us a new plane surprisingly quickly. It had just come in from DC and people were deplaning when I arrived at the new gate. It had been scheduled to go to Aruba, and the Aruba folks had to wait in our stead. We left the gate at 11:07, a bit over an hour after our scheduled departure, and finally got in the air at 11:30. By noon, Cuba was in sight, and Jamaica is not far south of Cuba.

We landed shortly before 1pm. I spotted an American Egret in a watercourse by the runway as we taxied it. It was soon followed by an American Kestrel hunting over the field near the runway. Immigration, baggage and customs took about an hour and I was at Toby's Resort by 2. My room wasn't ready. They said about an hour, so I checked out the grounds for birds.

I quickly spotted a Western Loggerhead Kingbird, the first of several in the area. It was followed by Northern Mockingbird. I heard a Bananaquit singing. There turned out to be a number of them around, but it would be some time before I got a decent at one. The Bananaquits here are dark-throated. A Zenaida Dove was nearby on the ground. These too were common at Toby's.

Flyover birds included Snowy Egret and European Starling, then the first of several White-crowned Pigeons. The pigeons sometimes perch where they can be seen. A bit later, a Magnificent Frigatebird soared overhead. Then I noticed a Doctorbird (Red-billed Streamertail) feeding in an Orchid Tree. My first lifer of the trip! I'd been hearing White-winged Dove, and one was soon spotted.

By now it was after three and I checked on the room. Not ready yet. There were also Common Ground-Doves around. I found two young ground-doves hiding in an Orchid Tree. An American Redstart in some Mango Trees was my first warbler of the trip. I was still trying for a look at one of the Bananaquits when I heard a different song, Jamaican Spindalis. I did not get a good look at the bird, just a glimpse without using the binoculars. Some other warbler-sized birds were moving around in the Mangos, but I wasn't getting good looks at them either. A Greater Antillean Grackle flew over.

It was about 4 when I went to check on the room again. The group had just arrived, so that had to wait. Gavin pointed out an Antillean Palm-Swift overhead. Before long I saw a Bananaquit (finally) and heard Northern Parula, and a Little Blue Heron flew overhead, making a couple of passes. Eventually, my room was ready. I heard Black-whiskered Vireo as I got to the door.

I did a little unpacking and washed up, then did some birding from the 2nd floor walkway. The Vireo was still singing, but not seen. Then I noticed a Jamaican Woodpecker fly into a tree. It stayed out on the trunk were I got a reasonable look. Elsewhere on the walkway an American Redstart was bathing in a puddle from some dripping water. Some Cattle Egrets flew over (I think some flew over earlier, but they were a bit far and I didn't get the bins up in time. Finally, I heard some Olive-throated Parakeets. There was also a Macaw calling occasionally, but it must have been a cage bird as it never moved.

Then it was time to go to dinner. I ended the day with 23 species for Jamaica, including 3 lifers. The serious birding starts tomorrow.

Toby's Resort, Montego Bay