Mark Smith Nature Tours
Natural History   •   Birdwatching   •   Flora   •   Wildlife   •   Travel Photography
 

JAMAICA: Nature, Birds and Beach

led by Mark Smith and Ann Sutton

December 6 - 17, 2017

 

hummingbird clip art

Leadership

Mark Smith has led numerous field trips for The Nature Conservancy, Audubon and the Oregon Museum. Since his studies at Oregon State University, he has been working as a researcher and educator for a variety of organizations including the National Science Foundation, Portland Public Schools and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Mark leads tours all over the world for his own tour company. In recent years he has led 10 tours to the Caribbean, with special emphasis on Jamaica.

Ann Sutton is one of Jamaica's foremost experts in ecology, conservation and natural history and is owner/manager of Marshall's Pen, a private nature reserve and cattle property. Her Ph.D. focused on seabird conservation in Jamaica. She has been leading bird tours in Jamaica for more than 20 years and in 2009 published a new photographic guidebook/field guide to the birds of Jamaica, which is readily available and is by far the best book for birds of the Island.

If the group size is seven or less, Mark will lead the whole tour with Ann co-leading for three days.

Accommodations and Transport

Our comfortable hotels, guest houses, and villas are chosen for their proximity to good natural areas and all have attached bathrooms. All meals are included. Transport is by van.

Activities and Expectations

Drives will be four hours or less, with frequent stops. The high mountains at 5000 ft. may be cool (50°F) in the morning, and rain and mud may be encountered, although usually not. Walks will be relaxed and not over three miles. High temperatures may range to the mid-80's, but we typically have a mid-day break.

Cost and Reservations

A deposit of $1000 will hold a space on this tour.

$ 1000 Initial reservation deposit
$1885 Final Payment, due 45 days before departure
$2885 Ground Fare Total
($575) (Single supplement)

Mark’s travel agent is Pam Davis of Willamette Travel
Reach Pam at pamd@wittravel.com,  503-224-0180
Pam will know of local lodgings and extensions in the area.
Mark can also suggest Portland hotels.

Please make the deposit and final payment payable to Mark Smith Nature Tours and send to:

Mark Smith
PO Box 3831
Portland, OR 97208

Phone: 503-475-1978
Email: msmithnaturetours@gmail.com

Cancellations

Any cancellation for which a suitable replacement is found receives a full refund. Other cancellations are subject to the following: forfeit of $500 of ground costs if cancellation is received between 90 and 60 days prior to departure and forfeit of 60% of ground costs for cancellation received within 60 days of departure. Participants are encouraged to consider trip cancellation insurance available through Willamette International Travel.

ITINERARY

Day 1 & 2 Dec. 6 - 7 Montego Bay to Negril
raptor clip art We arrive at Montego Bay in northwestern Jamaica in early afternoon and proceed by van half an hour to a lush estate where feeders host Red-billed Streamertail, Jamaican Mango, Jamaican Euphonia, Orangequit, Jamaican Oriole and many others. Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo, Stripe-headed Tanager and Jamaican Tody are often found on the grounds. We continue to the west coast and settle into our beach hotel at Negril, where we stay for two nights. Here we can unwind on the beach, snorkel, and enjoy some good seafood. Just inland is the Royal Palm Preserve in The Great Morass, with a network of boardwalks that access ponds and wetlands with West Indian Whistling Ducks, Clapper Rail, Purple Gallinule, and Antillean Palm Swift. By the beach are pelicans, Magnificent Frigatebirds, and several terns.
Day 3 December 8 Negril to Treasure Beach
We continue southwest to Treasure Beach where we stay two nights in two large beach houses. En route we'll visit Parottee Pond, Jamaica's richest habitat for wintering shorebirds. Nearby, a small lake may reveal Least Bittern, Least Grebe, Northern Jacana, the rare West Indian Whistling Duck and even Masked Duck.
Day 4 December 9 Alligator Hole and Pond
We depart early for Alligator Hole, where a stream springs from the limestone escarpment nurturing wet-lands and mangroves hosting manatees, and perhaps American crocodiles ("alligators"). The surrounding forests are a good area to find endemic Chestnut-Bellied and Lizard Cuckoos, and migrant warblers. We return to Treasure Beach via the fishing village of Alligator Pond, where we have a seafood lunch on the beach and observe and photograph the colorful boats and fish sellers. Next we stop at Lover's Leap, a grand vista over the Caribbean. In the evening we scan Great Pedro Pond, where northern shorebirds and waterfowl winter.
Day 5 Decemeber 10 Black River Morass and Marshall's Pen
We depart early for wetlands of the Black River Morass, where limpkins and other waterbirds may be found. We reach Marshall's Pen, a private reserve, by lunch time and settle into rooms for two nights in the 200-year-old coffee plantation house (Great House). Meals are sumptuous and traditional, and the tropical gardens and native forest host many of Jamaica's endemics, including Jamaican Owl, Becard and Woodpecker, as well as North American wintering warblers. Owner of the house is our co-leader, naturalist Ann Sutton, who has conducted numerous studies on Jamaican biology, often for the government, and has consulted on films and books.
Day 6 December 11 The Cockpit Country
We rise early for a drive up to the wet limestone forest of the rugged Cockpit Country, where we hope to see the endemic Yellow-billed and Black-billed parrots, Jamaican Crow and Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo. The flora of palms, cacti and orchids is largely endemic, as are many of the butterflies. Due to the extreme natural erosion and collapse of the limestone, the area appears as a mosaic of deep bowls like the cockfighting pits of old. We return to Marshall's Pen.
Day 7 December 12 Portland Ridge to the Blue Mountains
Early departure for the arid limestone scrub of Portland Ridge, the cactus-studded southernmost peninsula of Jamaica, where we hope to see the Bahama Mockingbird, Jamaican Vireo and Stolid Flycatcher. Then we continue east through Kingston, viewing some historic neighborhoods, and up into the cool Blue Mountains for two nights in a quiet guest house. We'll enjoy an evening walk with grand views over the coffee plantation of the rugged Blue Mountains.
Day 8 December 13 The Blue Mountains
Up early to search out the difficult high-mountain specialties, like Jamaican Blackbird, Blue Mountain Vireo, Crested Quail Dove, Arrow-headed Warbler and Rufous-throated Solitaire. The weather is unpredictable, and clouds often cling to the 5000 foot slopes of montane forest. Ferns, orchids and bromeliads festoon the branches, and there are many waterfalls. Worm-eating and Swainson's warblers and Louisiana Waterthrush winter here.
Day 9 – 11 Dec. 14-16 The Blue Mountains to the Port of Antonio area
butterfly clip artA final morning of cool walks before we descend an hour down to the rugged northeast coast, the Port Antonio area, where for three days we settle into beautiful villas overlooking the beach and Caribbean at Frenchman's Cove. These are relaxed days with swimming and snorkeling, and options to explore the nearby Rio Grande Valley and the John Crow Mountains National Park in search of scenery and species we may have missed. One day we have the option to drive east to Hector's River and scan for White-tailed Tropicbirds that nest on the headland.
Day 12 December 17 Port Antonio, Montego Bay, then to the U.S.
We depart this morning and drive the south coast to Montego Bay, where we connect with mid-day flights to the U.S., arriving on the east and west coasts this same evening.
Jamaican Tody
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