Friday, April 16, 2010

WINGS Tour to Jamaica: Day 5, Marshall's Pen and Black River Upper Morass

The first half of today we spent at Marshall's Pen, a working ranch and nature reserve that also has a guest house catering to birders.

We saw lots of Jamaican Spindalis, a bird we never tired of looking at.

The endemic White-chinned Thrush is also common but less likely to sit out in the open.

The Dirce Beauty, Colobura dirce, is in the minority in not being an endemic.

This green jumping spider is probably also not an endemic; spiders are very good at random, long-distance dispersal on their wind-carried gossamer threads.

In the afternoon we did some birding in wetlands areas where we saw a clot of 175 Common Moorhens, Yellow-breasted Crake, American Crocodile, and some nice shorebirds. We got rained on and drove through many pools in the roads. We ended up up at Elim Pools in the Black River Upper Morass with beautiful weather.

West Indian Whistling-Ducks were one of our targets here, a missable bird that we haven't missed yet. We also saw another Least Bittern, Black-crowned Night-Herons, and Purple Gallinule here. But the prize bird, and one of the best of the trip was a Northern Harrier, perhaps only the second record for the island.


  1. A whole series of amazing photos. Sounds like it was quite a trip. I'm no spider expert, but your photo here looks more like a lynx spider than a jumping spider.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Doug. It actually is a jumping spider. I've seen ones like this in the past, and they behave like normal salticids. They also lack the leg spines of lynx spiders.

  3. Hi,
    Good afternoon. Is the Nothern Harrier you refer to the same as Jamaicans call the "Chicken Hawk"?

    Nice pics

  4. Thanks for the comment. With there being so few records of Northern Harrier in Jamaica, it is all but unknown by locals – and therefore doesn't have a local name. The "Chicken Hawk" refers to the island-wide Red-tailed Hawk, whose scientific name incidentally is Buteo jamaicensis. Apparently the first known specimens of this species in Europe were delivered from Jamaica in the late 1700's.

  5. Thanks for your reply on the "chicken hawk". As a Jamaican growing up in eastern Jamaica, I am only familiar with two hawks, the "Chicken Hawk" and "Sparrow Hawk". The Chicken Hawks are known mostly for their high soaring and "screeching" sound. They usually prey on domestic chicken stocks (free range) so most locals are usually less tolerant of them. The sparrow hawk usually preys on lizards and small birds (ground doves, etc).

  6. The "Sparrow Hawk" certainly refers to the American Kestrel, a falcon which is the other common raptor on the island. Interestingly, there are two color forms on the island - white and red. The red ones are rarer, but I see one or two each trip. They will interbreed and some birds are intermediate.

  7. Thanks again, the island is also buzzed with excitement now as a few (relative to Cuba/others) Blue Winged Teal make Jamaica home for the winter. Hoping to get some pictures of our migratory waterfowls when I get the chance to visit the country ...