Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Return to Jamaica

On our recent summer travels, one stop took us back to Jamaica - a lovely Caribbean island with a flair for birding with more than two dozen endemic species. While I was privileged to see many of those endemics on a press trip several years ago, it's always worth returning to such a unique location for another look.

Our visit this time was to Ocho Rios, where we took in the sights at Mystic Mountain. I was thrilled to discover, after the lengthy chairlift ride to the top, that Mystic Mountain is also home to a cozy hummingbird garden that is well planted with nectar-rich flowers, supplemented with suitable feeders. During this visit, there were several red-billed streamertails buzzing about (albeit without their namesake streamers, as mid-July is well after the breeding season), but more impressive were the Jamaican mangos. These large, endemic hummingbirds may at first look simple dark and dull, but in the proper light their plumage is riot of subtle color and iridescence. Even on the press trip with the help of experienced guides, I wasn't able to get such wonderful looks at these hummingbirds. In the hour or two we were atop the mountain, I strolled through the hummingbird habitat a half dozen times or more and still didn't get my fill, though they were there with each pass. It's a shame that any visit has to end.

Just seeing a life bird once may be enough to include it on a list, but we can never forget that a quick glimpse is far from really looking at the bird, and there is always more beauty to discover.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Old Habitat, New Lifers

For the first time since Utah became my backyard in 2005, I went back to my old habitat, or close thereof, in Florida. I wasn't a strong birder while living in Florida, and I cringe to think of the birds I missed the easy opportunity to see when a trip to a tropical refuge would be a quick drive away rather than involve crossing two time zones and multiple airports.

This trip wasn't a birding focus - just a family summer vacation - but of course I squeezed a little birding into the mix. My most memorable moments...
  • An osprey on every pole along the central coast; gorgeous birds of prey that I can see in Utah, but never with such amazing frequency.
  • A black skimmer skimming mere feet away as we walked along Cocoa Beach; too fast for a photograph, but the image will never be forgotten.
  • Enjoying the interest my husband showed in my passionate hobby; he's the one person in the world I love to share it with most of all.
  • Three new lifers: red-bellied woodpecker, glossy ibis, and wood stork, with great views of each, though photos only of the stork.
 For just a few hours of birding, it was a wonderful few hours and an amazing birding experience. There are so many birds everywhere, no matter where you travel, it can be your backyard for a few hours!