CWAC Count_Sunday 29th July 2018

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Latest BirdLife KZN Midlands newsletter.

Click here to read the latest BirdLife KZN Midlands newsletter.

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BLPN WhatsApp group – Members Broadcast Service

A WhatsApp group has been set up for club members of BLPN by Chris Flannery.  This will be a broadcast message service to notify members of events, activities and interesting sightings in the BLPN area.  Members of BLPN who would like to join the WhatsApp group need to do the following:

  1. Put the number into their list of contacts +27 67 008 6618
  2. Send a WhatsApp message asking to be added with your name.

It is important to understand this is a broadcast service and people can only reply directly to the admins.  Therefore the only messages you receive will be the ones that BLPN sends to the group.

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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week.

See also attached a photo from our nest camera, showing an incubating bird.

Incubating Bird on nest

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

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Pigeon Valley

Report by Sandi du Preez

20 June 2018

It was a very overcast and gloomy day which often made it difficult to see  a bird’s features. After scanning the area around the notice board to look for the Spotted Ground Thrush, we made our way to the little patch of grassland. Here we were treated to a whole lot of Purple-crested Turacos flying back and forth between the trees – such a magnificent sight! Unfortunately we couldn’t go into the reservoir area as Crispin was not with us.

Purple-crested Turaco – Dave Rimmer

Sunbirds were scarce in numbers but we did see five of the six species present in winter at Pigeon Valley: – Amethyst, Collared, Olive, Purple-banded and a Grey Sunbird showing off it’s red pectoral tufts.

Tambourine Doves were calling incessantly from all parts of the forest and Southern Boubous serenaded us the whole morning as well.

Along the central path we had an excellent sighting of a group of very co-operative Terrestrial Brownbuls right out in the open. A Black Sparrowhawk flew overhead.

Terrestrial Brownbul – Dave Rimmer

At one stage a little troop of Banded Mongooses crossed our path and later on a few of us were lucky to see a single Slender Mongoose on the path behind the notice board. Here we thought that we heard a little snippet of a Green Malkoha’s call more than once, but being unsure we had to leave it off the list.

A Crowned Eagle called as we sat down for our picnic. We were very disappointed not to see a Spotted Ground Thrush at all. Someone suggested that maybe Crispin takes them home with him for safe-keeping!!

The count after the walk was 42, but Dave stayed on after we all left and he added another 5 species – so 47 species altogether. Click here to see the list.

Thanks to Dave Rimmer for the photos.

Sandi du Preez

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BLPN-Indoor Meeting Talk by David Swanepoel

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Pigeon Valley Outing

Report by Terry Walls

2 June 2018

 

The morning greeted us with misty rain, which thankfully cleared up shortly before we arrived for the outing.

​Features of the reserve include:

A natural heritage site which has original coastal climax forest in which many of the forest giant, particularly the Natal Elm survive. Oxyanthus pyriformis, Natal Loquat, and Celtis mildbraedii, Natal White Stinkwood,occur almost exclusively in Pigeon Valley.

This is a good birding spot for rare and elusive forest birds e.g.: Spotted Groun-Thrush, Narina Trogon, Green Twinspot and the Buff-spotted Flufftail. The Natal Elm trail around the reserve, up one side of the valley and down the other, is approximately 400m.

(http://www.durban.gov.za/City_Services/ParksRecreation/pnature/Pages/pigeon.aspx)

The target species for some of us included the rare and endangered Spotted Ground-Thrush and the elusive Green twinspot.

We split into two groups to explore the reserve so not all species were experienced by all. Birding was quiet at first but improved as the day progressed, fruiting trees produced a number of richly diverse bird parties. The Pigeon Wood tree near the grassland was particularly productive.

Special treats were: Spotted Ground-Thrush well “spotted” by Kim Bartholomew in it’s favourite territory near the notice board;

Grey Waxbill with their delightful red rumps

and Black Sparrowhawk calling. Yellow-breasted Apails, and Purple-banded Sunbird were also enjoyed. The Twinspots remaind elusive.

Some of the other birds photographed:

On our Walk we came across Richard Boon who pointed out the new Black Sparrowhawk nest which the birds are currently building. They will hopefully start breeding soon. We also came across Crispin Hemson who deserves a mention for his work along with “Friends of Pigeon Valley ” in championing this little gem of a reserve. Visit:(https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfPigeonValley/) to see the work they are doing.

To view the list of birds seen then click here.

Cisticola was also seen in the grassland, but could not be positively identified.

Helmeted Guineafowl, was heard calling….could be an intoduced domestic species in the neighbourhood?

Terry Walls

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Oribi Gorge weekend away

Report by Cheryl Bevan

23rd – 25th March.

We left for Oribi on Thursday in pouring rain and we looked like drowned rats once we had set up camp in the rain.

The rain never stopped until Saturday morning. John and I were the only ones camping.

On Saturday morning we were joined by the Bartlett family and the Risi family- we set off to meet Andy for the Vulture hide at 8:30am.

Hooray sunshine at last.

What an experience, as we approached the hide we had an amazing view of vultures flying overhead. There are about 250 roosting vultures that stay on the cliffs of the Gorge.

Cape Vulture – Elton Bartlett

We then walked down to the cliff edge where they were flying overhead and sitting on the cliff edges, this went on for about 45 minutes – we had spectacular close up views.

Cape Vulture – Elton Bartlett

The whole colony are Cape Vultures and there are a flock of Ravens that co exist with them. Andy had such a lot of information about the Vultures that we could have listened to him for the whole day.

There is a group of students from a German university that come to tag and observe them. One of the very interesting things he told us is that the Ravens open a carcass first, the Vultures sit and watch and then they all tuck in and finish it off.

Another fact that we found very interesting is that the vultures need to bath after eating as their feathers are caked with blood and because they don’t flap their wings (they only glide) they need water to clean themselves.

Andy and the farmer, whose land the hide is on, are doing the most amazing job with these birds. They have now erected a Vulture bath where they go to after eating. Once a week it has to be cleaned out as it is filthy.

We spent 2 hours and could have stayed longer but that is all the time we had.

After that we went down to the picnic site in the Gorge, had something to eat and drink and did a bit of birding for the rest of the afternoon.

It was a very hot day and birding was very quiet nevertheless we identified 36 species (click here to view our list) and among them was African Olive Pidgeon, Cape Rock Trush, Dark Backed Weaver, Tambourine Dove to name a few.

And guess what, Sunday it started raining again.

Thanks to Elton Bartlett for all the photos – you are a star!!

Cheryl Bevan

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BLPN event this Saturday 2nd June 2018

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Sunbird Sunday

The BLPN outing to Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve took place on Sunday 20 May, which started off cool but clear. A group of 12 arrived eagerly at the gate and we picked up several species by call even before we went in. Brown Scrub-robins were calling all over, but not seen, and a few birds were starting to sun themselves on the first trees to greet the sun while a couple of flocks of Thick-billed Weavers flew over. Once in, we drove slowly up the hill, stopping here and there to listen to the rather subdued dawn chorus, although we quickly got Knysna Turaco and the four bulbuls (Dark-capped, Sombre, Terrestrial and Yellow-bellied). An open patch of grassland gave us a few of the grassland specials (Yellow-throated Longclaw, Lazy and Croaking Cisticola) and a Black-headed Oriole in a distant tree. The small dam at the top of the hill was devoid of birds, so we moved on to the picnic site, passing lots of Leontis in flower that were full of sunbirds, mostly Amethyst. Near the office, a Long-crested Eagle posed briefly before heading over the hill. Trumpeter and Crowned Hornbills were on the move and well seen and we were a little surprised to see a small group of Greater Striped Swallows heading north with some intent.

After coffee at the picnic site, we walked around the main dam, which also was devoid of water birds. However, we were excited to hear a covey of Shelley’s Francolins calling near the head of dam close to the Blue Wildebeest. However, we were unable to see them, but it was still good to know that they are around as I haven’t heard them at Vernon Crookes for many years. Further on, we had a nice flypast by a pair of Lanner Falcons, and a single male Malachite Sunbird in eclipse plumage put in an appearance, as did several Greater Double-collared Sunbirds. Olive Sunbirds were also plentiful, both in the Strelitzias and the Leonotis.

After completing the dam loop, we drove across to the “Plains” to find some cisticolas. We did find a nice Jackal Buzzard perched in a tree and a displaying Crowned Eagle in the distance. There were no cisticolas at all, however, so we had to content ourselves with a flock of non-breeding Fan-tailed Widows. A number of Stonechats were quite obliging and more Yellow-throated Longclaws showed themselves. We stopped for a while at the cliffs and gazed down into the “Golden Valley” but it was very quiet and the breeze was starting to pick up.

Back at the picnic site, we enjoyed a quiet lunch and enjoyed the scenery. A cisticola nearby caused some interest, with several of the group creeping closer to try to photograph it, which we managed to do. Eventually it obliged by calling and revealing its identity as a Croaking Cisticola. After lunch, the party dispersed after a very pleasant morning, but with a wish to return in spring to try to find more. On my way out, I came across an obliging Hoopoe in a tree and a Collared sunbird in the forest, ending with a pentad total of 63 species, not bad for a near-winter list. There were also few butterflies, only one or two dragonflies, and apart from the Leonotis and a couple of Brunsvigias, very little in flower. Nevertheless, a good outing, as Vernon Crookes always is. A selection of pictures is included below.

Steve Davis

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Burman Bush – Saturday 5 May 2018

We had a good turn out and the weather was not too bad.   The birding was not that great, out total bird count was 43 and of that, at least 20 was only ID’d on call!  At least we are improving on our bird calls.

The best thing of all was that there were no ANTS!!!  Maybe because it’s the start of winter – will have to try a summer visit next year when the birding should be better.

We had visitors from Reno, Nevada in the USA join us: Ken Pulvino and his wife Teri who have been touring our beautiful country.   Hopefully they enjoyed the walk and the talk, the Saturday Chat Show was in fine voice!!   I understand that the first Saturday in May is Big Global Day, we will have to find out more and maybe we can participate next year.

I have set out below the birds seen/heard.   Not one raptor, somebody thought they saw something shoot by but no ID, could have been the Black Sparrowhawk, we did find the remains of a Red-eyed Dove below one of the big trees!   The photos of the two butterflies, at least I think so and am happy to be corrected, are a Blood-red Acraea and a Green-veined Emperor.

Bar-throated Apalis; Black-collared & White-eared Barbet; Southern Boubou; Terrestrial Brownbul;  Dark-capped Bulbul; Grey-headed Bush Shrike; Green-backed Camaroptera; Pied Crow; Darter (flying down to the river); Red-eyed, Rock & Tambourine Dove; Fork-tailed & Square-tailed Drongo; Ashy & Dusky Flycatcher; Sombre Greenbul; Hamerkop; Hadeda Ibis; Bronze Mannikin; Black-headed Oriole; Tawny-flanked Prinia; Black-backed Puffback; Red-capped Robin Chat (aka Natal Robin); Black-bellied & Red-winged Starling; Woolly-necked Stork; Amethyst, Collared, Grey & Olive Sunbird; Little Swift (absolutely masses in the sky);  Olive & Spotted-Ground Thrush; Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird; Purple-crested Turaco; Dark-backed, Spectacled, Thick-billed & Village Weaver; Cape White-eye; Golden-tailed Woodpecker.

Even though the birding was a little sparse, it was an enjoyable morning and as always excellent company.

Thanks to John & David for the photos and also John for collecting our Americans from their hotel and then taking them on for a bit more birding along the Umgeni.

Report by Elena Russell

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Saturday 7th April 2018: Durban Botanic Gardens

A perfect morning for birding, about fifteen birders gathered in the car park. We were a little early as the gates only opened at 7:30.

In the car park we came across a number of birds: Common, Red-winged and Cape Glossy Starling, Speckled Mousebird, and both Red-eyed and Laughing Doves. Close up views of Cape White-eye and Bronze Mannikin frolicking in the pond at the entrance, and of course, Hadeda Ibis, and the much aligned Myna.

Once inside we were loudly greeted by numerous Egyptian Geese and the call of Spectacled Weaver, which was the most prevalent of the Weavers in the garden and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird. Other Weavers seen were Thick-billed and Village. Palm swifts were flying in and out of the large palm trees.

At the lake a vocal Hamerkop landed in spectacular fashion, while Spoonbill, Cattle Egret, Grey and Black-headed Herons were roosting in the tree above the lake. Interaction between Spurwing and Egyptian geese with chicks was quite entertaining.

The pathway up the hill was relatively quiet, a few Southern Black Flycatchers, Dark-capped Bulbuls and Paradise Flycatcher were seen. At the top of the path we found Dusky Flycatcher, Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon) Black-headed Oriole, Fork-tailed Drongo and Amethyst Sunbird; also seen was White-eared Barbet and Tawny-flanked Prinia.

Continuing to the Indigenous section we found Red-capped Robin-chat, Kurrichane Thrush, Olive Sunbird, Brown-hooded Kingfisher and Green-backed Camaroptera. Calls of Black-collared and Crested Barbets and Golden-tailed Woodpecker were heard.

We concluded the outing with refreshments at the kiosk where House Sparrow, White-bellied and Collared Sunbird were close enough to see without binoculars. Black Sparrowhawk and Pink-backed Pelican flying over were added to the list. On our way out we came across Yellow-fronted Canary which up to then had eluded us.

Other birds seen were African Pied Cape Wagtail and Woollynecked Stork.

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BirdLife Trogons Newsletter – February 2018

BirdLife Trogons NEWSLETTER – FEBRUARY 2018

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Wakkerstroom Bird Club Newsletter 55

Wakkerstroom Bird Club Newsletter 55

Rocky at Wakkerstroom

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OUTING REPORT MSINSI N.R. WEDNESDAY 28 MARCH

6 birders attended the outing on a lovely sunny day. Msinsi was looking green and lush after the rain and the paths had recently been mown which made for pleasant walking. As we began the walk we noticed many Swifts flying over the sports ground – Little, White-rumped, African Palm, and to our surprise a single Horus Swift! Barn Swallows were also still around, and Lesser striped Swallows and a Familiar Chat were perched on the “grandstand”. An Orange-breasted Bush-shrike called nearby. We had lovely views of Square-tailed Drongos and of course we saw Fork-tailed as well. The grassland area did not produce much this time but in the forested areas we saw or heard Terrestrial Brownbul, Bar-throated Apalis, Black-collared and White-eared Barbets, Green-backed Camaroptera, Tambourine Dove, African Paradise Flycatcher, Sombre Greenbul, Black-headed Oriole, Black-backed Puffback, Red-capped Robin-chat, Natal Spurfowl, Olive Sunbird, Southern Black Tit, Purple-crested Turaco, Common Waxbill, Golden-tailed Woodpecker and others (see attached bird list). We only saw two raptor species – African Goshawk and Black Sparrowhawk. A new species for me in Msinsi was Red-billed Firefinch – not really surprising as they are often seen at Pigeon Valley which is very close by. The Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds were calling non-stop throughout the morning! Undoubtedly, the highlight of the outing was a beautiful male Collared Sunbird which was feeding on the flowers of  Deinbollia, flitting from one tree to the next, feasting on the delicious nectar!

Bronze Mannikin – Dave Rimmer

Collared Sunbird (male) – Dave Rimmer

Interesting fungus – Sandi

Moth caterpillars – Looped Prominent (Rhenea mitchii) – Dave Rimmer

Square-tailed Drongo – Dave Rimmer

Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird – Dave Rimmer

Thanks to Dave Rimmer for the photos. John Bremner also sent me photos but something went wrong on my computer and I couldn’t access them. He is in Kruger Park at the moment so I am unable to ask him to resend them to me (Sorry, John!)

The bird count for the outing was 57. MSINSI N.R. Bird list

Sandi du Preez

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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

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LatestCape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (Click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week.

Also find attached (Click here) for your interest a photo showing the stomach contents of a Bearded Vulture (bottom half of the photograph= opened stomach and the top half= contents). This individual was a juvenile bird found dead in the Eastern Cape last year. The size of the items and the quantity of items found in one bird is quite amazing!

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

http://www.projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
https://twitter.com/vultureproject

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Jamaica

15 February to 7 March 2018

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

Jamaica – MoBay airport

For years I have been wanting to return to Jamaica where I was brought up. Last year we committed to go, choosing this time of the year for best birding. Also the coolest time to go. The last time I visited was 32 years ago and that was only for 4 days – no where near enough.

Click Map of Jamaica to see places we visited – marked using red pins – hover your mouse over the red pins to see details. It is possible to zoom in and out. Map care of Google Maps.

Jamaica is a small island about 140 kms south of Cuba. It is about 225 kms east to west and 80 kms north the south at its widest point. It is extremely hilly away from the coast and has the Blue Mountain as its highest point towards the east of the island near Kingston – its capital city. Population 2.5 million with 40% in Kingston and Montego Bay.

The purpose of our trip was not only nostalgia but also included a week’s intense birding. Jamaica does have 26 endemic species so we hoped to see as many as we could among all their other birds. Click here to see a list of the Jamaican endemics.

We arrived in Montego Bay and spent a day there recovering from the long journey prior to the start of the week’s serious birding. The hotel grounds got us into the birding mode with many new species for us to identify. Among those was the Red-billed Streamertail. He was very obliging and we could approach within a metre before he got nervous and flew. He had his perches so we were able to study him closely.

Mystery Warbler?

What am I? An Arrowhead Warbler maybe?

The next day we were collected mid-day joining with two other couples who had just arrived. Our driver took us to Green Castle Estate in Robin’s Bay some two and a half hours away. Here we were based for the next seven nights.

We drove most of the way along the coast. Nostalgia set in. I was expecting to see change but was really disappointed to find that the entire beach side of the road to the sea was now houses, hotels or holiday resorts. Access to all the lovely beaches now belonged to someone and it was clear that local Jamaicans no longer had the easy access they used to have to enjoy their own beaches. Sad but that is what tourism does to lovely places.

About half way we had a pit stop next to a very popular “Pattie” shop. I encouraged all in our party to try a pattie or two. In the store they have a much larger choice than I remembered – the lovely flaky pastry could now be filled with a choice of fillings other than the mildly spiced mince of yore. All agreed they were delicious.

As we got closer the weather changed and the rain started. The north east side of the island – being closest to the Blue Mountains (7200 ft) – is the wettest part of the island and as a consequence the most lush. This rain continue on and off for the week we were there.

And the storm hit us

Eventually we reached Green Castle Estate. Here we met the two other couples in our group – 10 of us in all.

The accommodation was basic for some (us) and a bit more luxurious for others. From our room we had to go out onto our sloping balcony to enter our sloping bathroom – quite unique.  However the views were spectacular and from our vantage point we could see the sea and the mountains beyond.

Green Castle Estate has 1600 acres of mainly forest with numerous walking trails – good for birding (if a bit muddy). Many of the endemic species have been seen on the property. Much of our time was spent on the estate with a guide to take us around.

However two days were set aside to explore the Blue Mountains and the John Crow Mountains near Ecclesdown. These trips were scheduled to find any of the missing endemic species we had not seen on the property. Both these trips required an early start – 04h30 – as the drive up the mountains – though short in distance – took a good couple of hours.

Here are some of the birds seen on the property.

 

And here are photos of birds seen in the mountains.

At the hotel we experienced some of the local Jamaican dishes which at times were quite spicy but tasty.

One evening Richard – the GC owner- took us around the property to find the Jamaican Owl. We heard it close to the accommodation and followed it from one area to the next but never actually saw it despite being close.

During our stay Jonathan Rossouw and his friend Malcolm arrived – staying for a few days to find endemics to get Jonathan over the 9000 mark – which he did with ease as he only needed about three more to do so.

On the day set aside to go to Ecclesdown with the guide I was not feeling well so Sally and I did not go. The rest of the group had great sightings of many of the endemic species we had not seen so far.

Friday – our last day – was a relax and sightseeing day. But Sally and I re-arranged our car hire to come on Thursday instead of on our last day – Saturday – so that we could explore the Ecclesdown Road area by ourselves on Friday.

The evening before heading for Ecclesdown we bumped into Jonathan Rossouw and his friend Malcolm and they very generously gave us precise details of where to go and what to expect to see in the various sections of the road. And very precise they were. Many thanks to them both for being so generous with their time and advice.

We also saw the Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo (a massive bird in flight and perched); a fleeting view of the Crested Quail-Dove; Yellow-billed Parrots in flight as well as a number of other species already seen.

 Lunch at the jerk pork restaurant in Boston town on the way back.

On the way back we stopped at a river crossing and saw a few new species of waterbirds.

There was one species which we enjoyed seeing – unlike back in South Africa where they are all so similar – and that was the Warblers – mainly winter migrants from America. They were colourful and for the most part quite distinct.

After a hectic week it was time to relax, birding nowhere near as intense. We headed for the area around Ocho Rios to see Fern Gully and the famous Dunns River Falls.

Fern Gully was very impressive – a seven km drive climbing up a twisting narrow road through a forest of ferns on either side.

Then to Dunns River Falls.

Entrance to Dunn’s River Falls

One look at the hoards of tourists and we turned around and left. We had been told there was another Falls at YS on the south coast which compared favourably so we planned to go there instead.

Lunch and dinner were had at Mammee Bay beach – we were able to enter as we stayed at a house in that complex. A bay I used to visit with fond memories and it did not disappoint. There were a variety of seabirds to challenge us and some obligingly sat on a distant fish pot to test our skills.

This overnight stay was on a Saturday and we were entertained with a number of weddings taking place on Mammee Bay and adjacent beaches.

Negril was our next destination after one night in Mammee Bay.

Along the way we came upon my family’s favourite swimming beach at Discovery Bay. Now all cordoned off and inaccessible sadly.

We drove past some swamps along the way, stopped to view the birds:

On the way we popped in to Rocklands Bird Sanctuary near Montego Bay. We were told that the Red-billed Streamertails dined from your fingers. We had to go. The views were spectacular and the birdlife abundant. Even a Jamaican Woodpecker put its head out of its nest hole for us.

At Nigril we had 4 nights in an apartment in a complex between two nudist hotels – catering for the over 50s it appeared!! The Point (our complex) is situated at the north end of the seven mile beach of Negril – at the extreme west of Jamaica. Virtually all seven miles is now surrounded by establishments of one sort or another. Shame. It has lost a lot of its charm.

Here we lazed by the sea and met up with an old school friend of mine (from Jamaica days) and his wife – Bruce and Patti. They had lived and worked in Nigril years yonder and so knew their way around despite the enormous changes they experienced after 14 years of not re-visiting the island.

Some birds seen in the grounds.

We spent time together, lazing on the beach, testing the local restaurants and exploring the south coast off the beaten track. On one of our excursions we visited the Blue Hole, Homer’s Cove and Little Bay. (See map)

Blue Hole is situated SE of Nigril inland from the coast. The Blue Hole is a fresh water spring about 6 metres wide and 6 metres below ground level. There are trees surrounding it. The local guides scamper up the trees and then throw themselves down into the Blue Hole doing somersaults in the process. For us it was a challenge climbing down the vertical ladder to the water.

Homers Cove and Little Bay are quaint bays mostly unspoilt by tourism fortunately.

Despite being told that the Royal Palm Reserve had been closed for years, Sally and I decide to see for ourselves and do some birding along the way.

Our first challenge was to get there. The road in is through the swamps and in one place it had flooded over. Not knowing how deep it was, I tentatively started driving through. Sally went silent and suggested not to proceed each time the car took a dip. Being a typical man I ignored her and much to my surprise we just got through with the water level up to the door at times.

A little further along we came to the entrance gate – closed of course. However we could see the old reception some 200 metres or more straight ahead and there was someome on a bicycle coming our way. We were let in and managed to get permission to look around despite the boardwalk having the odd hole and wobbly railings – not nearly as bad as we were led to believe.

The groundsman took us round and his bird knowledge was exceptional. He knew all the sounds and his eyesight was sharp. It was a wonderful setting in the wetlands, interesting boarded walkways and even a tower above the lush canopy. Here we got good sightings of two of the endemics we had dipped on while at Green Castle Estate – the Jamaican Elaenia and the Jamaican Euphonia. We had good views of the Spotted Sandpiper, West Indian Whistling Duck and Northern Jacanas.

After our stay at Nigril we headed for Treasure Beach further round the south coast. We drove through Savanna La-Mar, past Bluefields and Black River. Most of the places we passed have been built up – as expected I suppose, despite the south coast not being renowned for tourism.

Our base for the next three nights was at The Two Seasons Guest House – inland from the coast. Our hostess, Christine, could not have been more obliging. Excellent local breakfasts to boot.

On arrival a Vervain Hummingbird greeted us – hovering in the flowers at the entrance.

Vervain Hummingbird

The plan here was to visit several local attractions: YS Falls, Bamboo Avenue (a road through over 4 kms of bamboo either side), Black River and a bird tour upstream as well as  Alligator Pond.

The first day was a long day – a bit longer than we had planned. We headed for YS Falls. driving through Bamboo Avenue to get there. They only opened at 09h30. We arrived early and spent time enjoying the scenery, birds and race horses.

YS Falls name sign

Some birds also stole our attention while we waited:

Red-billed Streamertail – female

We were taken to the Falls by tractor and were very impressed when we got there. Very verdant and magnificent falls down the gorge. Sally even went for a swim even though the water was very nippy. On arrival we were greeted by interesting signage.

Ganja sign at YS Falls

Sally got up to a bit of magic lifting water into the air with her open down-facing hand and then letting go. Watch this:

And then just as we were leaving a Louisiana Waterthrush appeared.

Louisiana Waterthrush

On the spur of the moment we decided to drive up to the Cockpit Country. A very scenic uphill drive to Accompong. In some ways we regretted that we did not spend a night or two up there as we could probably have organised a bird guide to take us into the Cockpit Country to find more of the endemics we had missed earlier.

Next we headed for Black River to take a touristic boat tour up river. On the way we passed through Middle Quarters where they sell spicy prawns by the packet – now in the many touristic style farm stalls. However we never stopped to try them. I remember them well and the lips burning after guzzling too many.

At Black River I managed to talk one of the boat drivers to give us a private bird tour up river. Here we saw a huge heronary occupied by various species of Egrets – Cattle and Snowy mainly with a few Great Egrets.

Also a crocodile.

And on the mid stream lillies American Purple Gallinules, Common Moorhens, American Jacanas, Great and Little Blue Herons.

A number of Gulls and Terns kept us nosing in our books to try and ID them.

Laughing Gull

In Treasure Beach there are two popular places to go – to eat and swim – Jack Spratts and Jakes. We treated ourselves to meals at both as well as a local restaurant we had been told about. One thing notable was that eating out was expensive wherever you went and the quality of the food was often below standard – except of course if you found a local establishment.

Sally with G & T at Jake’s enjoying the sunset

Treasure Beach

Early one morning on our way to Alligator Pond we went to investigate the Pedro Ponds. This required a tortuous drive down a farm track which ought to have been accessed in a 4×4. We managed very slowly in places eventually driving into a field by the ponds where we saw someone fishing.

Here, we had good if not distant sightings of a number of water birds. Least and Pied-billed Grebes, American and Caribbean Coots, West Indian Whistling Ducks and a number of Herons including an immature Black-crowned Night-Heron.

On the way to Alligator Pond we saw a sign to Lover’s Leap. Being in no hurry we went to investigate and find out its story. It turns out that it involved two slaves – a male and female. They were madly in love.

One day their “owner” decided he wanted to bed the female. Neither were enamored by the idea so they escaped only to be hunted down to this location. Rather than being taken by the “owner” they jumped off the steep cliff face into everlasting paradise.

Smooth-billed Ani

On to Alligator Pond. And to a highly rated restaurant – Little Ochie. Arriving early we had a drink on the beach and watched all the fishermen returning in their motorised fishing canoes. As each boat arrived many people descended on it and the haggling began. Not only was it interesting to watch but it brought a numerous sea birds with it – Magnificent Frigatebirds, Brown Pelicans, Terns and Gulls.

The restaurant was yet to open for lunch so we decided to take a drive further along the coast to return later for lunch. The car park was empty when we left but two hours later there were over 50 vehicles and there was no room in the restaurant. Apparently people drive the two hours from Kingston to have lunch here. We had taken a drive to see the Alligator Hole where both Alligators and Manatees are sometimes seen.

The next morning we left after a full breakfast and headed inland to Mandeville where I was brought up. This was nostalgia for me. Arriving early, I tried to find my way round the town which I once knew like the back of my hand.

Once I got through all the new suburbs and we got into the centre, memories returned. The old market and Court House were still there but much had changed and it was hugely busy.

Both Cinemas had gone as well as the Manchester Clubhouse. The Mandeville Hotel was now something else – a Teacher’s Trainiing College. However my old school DeCarteret College – was still there though massively changed, as was my sisters’ old school – Bishops Girls.

I managed to find 4 of the 6 homes we lived in. The haunted Headly House was for sale so we went in and had a look around and came back later to eat our patties on the verandah. Our first house in Villa Road was still there but refurbished, our New Green Road house was lost in a development and may have been demolished, our home in Ingleside still remained as majestic as ever, our Little Dolls house we found by chance despite being told it had been demolished and our Millais home on the way to Spur Tree was nowhere to be seen among all the new homes.