“Jah Man (pronounced Jamon)” is something you will hear often when visiting Jamaica. You will hear it as a greeting, an affirmation and as encouragement. And, if you are baffled by the Jamaican accent or dialect, you can safely use it as a reply. When our local driver asked me in Patois, an English-lexified creole language unique to Jamaica, if we would like to go and see Jamaican Owl, I had no idea what he was talking about. “Yu wan cu pan da patoo wid dem big eyes?”. But not to be rude and because I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, I replied “Jah man”. It was a good thing because our driver set off to Hotel MockingbirdHill on the stunning northeast coast of Jamaica, one of the easiest places to see Jamaican Owl. If you’re planning a trip to Jamaica its always helpful to know the local names for the birds!
A Jamaican Owl at Hotel MockingbirdHill
Hotel MockingbirdHill is situated on the beautiful northeast coast of the island nation with stunning vistas of both the ocean and the mesmerizing Blue Mountains. Over 20 of the 28 endemic bird species have been recorded within the hotel grounds. But before you think that this is a massive establishment with extensive grounds, let me emphasize that this place is a small luxury boutique hotel. The kind of place where the food is prepared by the owner, massages are offered, delightful gifts are placed in your room and where the staff are constantly doing whatever they can to pamper you until you start purring like a well-kept Persian cat. But besides all this, the hotel has stunning birds like Black-billed Streamertails and also has a Jamaican Owl roost right next to the hotel. The exact location is unknown but is suspected to be the tree close to the car-park right at the entrance.
The first night at the hotel we did not search for the owl as we arrived late, tired from a long day filming Crested Quail-dove, arguably the hardest of all the 28 endemic birds to find. But I remember hearing the owl in my sleep. And when you hear the distinctive call of this bird, it will certainly wake you up! Energized by this auditory evidence, we set out from the hotel the next evening and immediately heard two owls vocalizing…
After spending the evening with two adult Jamaican Owls, we headed off to our next destination in the Blue Mountains, Forres Park Resort and Spa. This lodge is an excellent base from which to explore the Blue Mountains and hike to the summit of the mountains at 7,400 feet. Ring-tailed Pigeons can be found in the area, along with Rufous-throated Solitaire and all the high altitude endemics of Jamaica.
A Ring-tailed Pigeon, one of the endemic dove species
But what we didn’t expect to find at this altitude was Jamaican Owl and whilst eating dinner we heard this weird, repetitive pleading call. It sounded like a young bird begging for its parents and that’s exactly what our search revealed, a juvenile Jamaican Owl!
Now, if you’ve read my previous posts you will already have been introduced to Aderman, my videographer. Traveling with Aderman is like traveling with a 4-year old. He’s always up to some sort of mischief, whether it be flirting with waitresses, pranking the host (me!) or stealing other people’s clothes and trying them on. Hmmm…I think this is the first time that something of this nature has been posted on 10,000 Birds (If you’re under the age of 21 please do not watch this video as it might just scar you for life!)…
Jamaica is a destination that simply cannot be missed! All the endemics, bar one or two, are relatively easy to find in just a few days and there is so much other cool stuff to do. Every time I hear a Bob Marley song these days, I see images of fascinating island birds. Other images, I try to block out…
A life-long birder and native of South Africa, James Currie has many years experience in the birding and wildlife tourism arenas. James has led professional wildlife and birding tours for 15 years and his passion for birding and remote cultures has taken him to far corners of the earth from the Amazon and Australia to Africa and Madagascar. He is also an expert in the field of sustainable development and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in African Languages and a Masters degree in Sustainable Environmental Management. From 2004-2007 James worked as the Managing Director of Africa Foundation, a non-profit organization that directs its efforts towards the uplifting of communities surrounding wildlife areas in Africa. James is currently the host and owner of Nikon's Birding Adventures TV and he resides in West Palm Beach, Florida.
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