Cockpit Country and Morass

Thursday, March 17th: We started very early this morning, 5am. Those of us who were staying in the house had an unpleasant surprise. We were locked in! It later turned out that there was a key, but we didn't know where it was (next to one of the doors) and which door to use. At that point Ann Sutton appeared and let us out. She had arrived overnight from her Cuba trip, and would join us birding today. She has sometimes been one of the guides for the WINGS Jamaica trip, including last year.

Cockpit County at Burnt Hill

We headed to the Cockpit Country near Burnt Hill. There's a road there into the Cockpit Country that gets little vehicle traffic. We drove in a bit and then stopped for breakfast. Although there was no vehicle traffic, we did encounter people on foot and bicycle. One of the latter was speeding along and very surprised to see our vans in the road. Fortunately, she avoided hitting both us and our vehicles.

We started noting birds while having a field breakfast: Western Loggerhead Kingbird, Jamaican Woodpecker, Common Yellowthroat, etc. We walked some distance on the road. I measured on it on the way back and found we walked about 1 1/4 miles from the vans, then back. Birds seen on our walk included Olive-throated Parakeet, Ring-tailed and White-crowned Pigeons, Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo, Black-billed and Yellow-billed Amazons, Jamaican Euphonia, White-eyed Thrush, Rufous-tailed Flycatcher, Vervain Hummingbird, Red-billed Streamertail, and Jamaican Tody. Other birds were heard singing, including Rufous-throated Solitaire. More importantly, we finally saw the Blue Mountain Vireo! At that point we had only one endemic left to see, Sclater's Elaenia. (Well, it's an endemic if you use the my TiF list, but not if you use the AOU, IOC, Howard and Moore, Clements, or HBW/Birdlife lists, which consider it a subspecies of Greater Antillean Elaenia. I expect them to catch up eventually.)We weren't done seeing birds and added Yellow-shouldered Grassquit, Jamaican Crow, Black-throated Blue and Prairie Warblers before leaving. Oddly enough a Little Blue Heron flew up on top a house as we came of the Cockpit Country.

Upper Black River Morass

We returned to Marshall's Pen for lunch. After a break, we headed out again to visit some wetlands along the upper Black River, the Upper Black River Morass. The area is also known as the Elim Ponds.

We saw quite a few birds here, including a number that are new for the trip. On the way, there were Cattle Egrets. We found another Gray Kingbird. Then the waterbird action got serious. Glossy Ibis, Black-necked Stilts, Limpkin, Spotted Sandpiper Osprey, Northern Jacana, Great Blue Heron, American (Great) Egret, Belted Kingfisher (others had seen this earlier, but not I). Some Smooth-billed Anis were around. We added Green Heron to the trip list. In the water, were Blue-winged Teal, Common Gallinule, and Pied-billed Grebe, and then our first of 2 female Masked Ducks. Some swallows came by, Northern Rough-winged Swallow and Bank Swallow, as well as some Antillean Palm-Swifts. There were American Coots. Some Olive-throated Parakeets flew into a distant tree. We also noted Mourning Dove (didn't see many of these in Jamaica).

A couple of Least Bitterns called. A bit later one appeared at the edge of the tall vegetation. More swallows flew, this time Barn Swallows. Then we found some Black-crowned Night-Herons, followed by Spotted Rails. I think we had four by the time we left. I had seen this species previously in the Dominican Republic, a WINGS trip that Gavin led. Oddly enough, those are also the only two times that Gavin has seen Spotted Rail. A Sora came out on the mud near the vegetation. We also saw some Purple Gallinules. Finally, as it was nearly time to leave, a Common Barn-Owl flew out and perched where we could all get a good look. Then it flew to another perch just before we left. We returned to Marshall's Pen for dinner.

A short walk after dark did not turn up any new species.

Today I totalled 63 species including 1 lifer, bringing the trip total to 115 species including 29 lifers.

Marshall's Pen, Mandeville