We recently spent 5 days at this boutique hotel situated in the hills overlooking Port Antonio in Jamaica’s northeastern region. My wife, Adrienne Wolf-Lockett, and I are living in Jamaica as Peace Corps Volunteers, so the object of our visit was to relax and bird the 6.5 acre property rather than use it as a base for exploring other birding sites. We were very pleasantly surprised to discover just how “birdy” the property is. We found 19 of Jamaica’s endemics, 5 Caribbean endemics, and quite a few neotropical migrants considered rare on the island, for a total of 63 species.
The presence of scarce migrants no doubt had something to do with Tropical Storm Nicole, which visited the island in late September and apparently altered the regular migratory routes of many North American birds. This fall in Jamaica has seen an explosion of reports of species that generally don’t visit the island, or visit in very small numbers: Upland Sandpiper, Wilson’s Phalarope, Chimney Swift, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Summer and Scarlet tanagers, Swainson’s, Bicknell’s and Gray-cheeked thrushes, and a number of unusual warblers, among others.
Our visit also coincided with the fruiting of a large species of fig tree, several mature specimens of which exist on the hotel grounds. The small red fruits attracted many species and were the focus of much of our birding effort.
Hotel Mocking Bird Hill has a well-deserved reputation for environmentally conscious management, comfortable accommodations, and excellent food. The owners are not birders but are very birder friendly. They’ve planted their extensive gardens with native plants and fruiting trees specifically to attract birds and butterflies. Additionally, the hotel is only about an hour from the premiere birding site on the island, Ecclesdown Road.
We generally birded from about 6:15 a.m. until 8:30 a.m., returned for a delicious breakfast, relaxed, then wandered the grounds some more in the late morning. After lunch we would often sit in the garden and watch the Black-billed Streamertails doing battle, while keeping an eye out for other species. Late afternoons were usually spent walking the private roadway or on the third floor veranda, which affords an excellent view of Port Antonio and the Caribbean in the distance, and tree-top looks at passing birds.
Numbers represent the total seen over 5 days. In many cases, the same individuals were probably present each day. Jamaican endemics are in marked with an asterick *; Caribbean endemics with a plus +.
Magnificent Frigatebird - 6 seen from hotel veranda, cruising over Caribbean coastline.
Great Blue Heron - 1 distantly observed going to roost.
Cattle Egret - 2 noticed flying in valley below west of the hotel.
Turkey Vulture - 9 overhead at various times.
Red-tailed Hawk - 3 sightings, probably the same individual.
American Kestrel - 3 sightings.
White-crowned Pigeon - 28 or more, usually feeding on figs.
*Ring-tailed Pigeon - 43, often clumsily clamoring around outer fig branches
Zenaida Dove - 5 on the entrance road or flying overhead.
White-winged Dove - 1, a flyby.
Common Ground-Dove - 7, usually on the entrance road.
+Caribbean Dove - 4, one seen, others heard.
Ruddy Quail-Dove - 1 seen on driveway in early morning.
Olive-throated Parakeet - 34, small flocks heard or seen in canopy daily.
Green-rumped Parrotlet - 43, small flocks surprisingly common.
*Yellow-billed Parrot - 5 seen on 3 different days, usually in late morning.
Mangrove Cuckoo - 1 seen along entrance road.
*Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo - 2 (same individual?) seen two days along entrance road.
*Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo - 3, a pair and a single, the latter feeding on figs.
*Jamaican Owl - 1 heard on two nights quite close to the hotel.
+Antillean Nighthawk - 1 (late) seen from veranda at dusk.
White-collared Swift - 206, large flock 1 day, 6 on another day.
*Jamaican Mango - 2 in the garden.
*Black-billed Streamertail - 27 sightings. Hard to miss around the pool or the gardens.
*Jamaican Tody – 2, in fig tree and in the garden.
*Jamaican Woodpecker - 15, seen or heard every day.
Loggerhead Kingbird - 23, conspicuous and common.
*Sad Flycatcher - 5 individuals mostly in the gardens.
*Rufous-tailed Flycatcher - 2 individuals seen twice in the gardens.
Northern Mockingbird - 6 seen or heard daily.
Swainson’s Thrush - 1 on entrance road in early morning.
*White-eyed Thrush - 3 singles seen in fig tree on 3 occasions.
*White-chinned Thrush - 40, common and conspicuous.
*Jamaican Vireo - 5, easy to overlook; mostly silent.
Red-eyed Vireo - 1 roosted on an overhanging branch below pool one night.
*Jamaican Euphonia - 36, eating figs or cecropia fruits, singing.
Tennessee Warbler - 1, a good find. Rare in Jamaica.
Northern Parula - 43, many individuals.
Chestnut-sided Warbler - 3, no doubt the same one seen 3 days. Rare in Jamaica.
Cape May Warbler - 13, an expected wintering species.
Black-throated Blue Warbler - 35, several stunning males.
Black-throated Green Warbler - 1 seen from hotel veranda.
Yellow-throated Warbler - 1 seen from hotel veranda.
Prairie Warbler - 6, usually a common wintering species.
Palm Warbler - 2, the same individual seen in the gardens two days.
Blackpoll Warbler - 2, probably the same individual. Rare in Jamaica.
*Arrowhead Warbler - 1 adult in trees along the entrance road.
Black-and-white Warbler - 7, seen on multiple days.
American Redstart - 46, common and conspicuous.
Ovenbird - 3, two seen together on entrance road, 1 in the gardens.
Common Yellowthroat - 1 female, somewhat unexpected in this habitat.
Bananaquit - 38, no doubt under counted.
Summer Tanager - 1 seen from hotel veranda. Rare in Jamaica.
*Jamaican Spindalis - 19, seen every day, either in fig tree or from hotel veranda.
Black-faced Grassquit - 5 in fig tree or near hotel entrance.
*Yellow-shouldered Grassquit - 1 in gardens.
*Orangequit - 53, many feeding on figs but widespread throughout property.
+Greater Antillean Bullfinch - 3 feeding on figs.
Rose-breasted Grosbeak - 1 female seen from hotel veranda.
+Greater Antillean Grackle - 115, multiples seen every day.
+Jamaican Oriole - 17 encountered throughout property.
Baltimore Oriole - 1 female or imm. seen from veranda.