A few years ago, bird watching was not on my list of vacation activities. But after driving past the sign to Rocklands Bird Sanctuary, my curiosity got the better of me. Rocklands is located about 30 minutes’ drive from Montego Bay going west along the main road towards Reading in a place called Anchovy in the parish of St. James.
I really didn’t know what to expect when we turned off the main road on to a very bumpy drive leading to the sanctuary but I was about to find out. Rocklands Bird Sanctuary was opened in 1962 by Lisa Salmon. Ms. Salmon, who was known as the “Bird Lady,” passed away in 2000. Rocklands is now managed by the husband and wife team of Fritz Beckford, a long time guide, and Claudette, his wife. Fritz has been at Rocklands for more than 20 years now.
When I arrived, he welcomed me to the porch and I sat, uncertain what to do next. A couple from Florida who was there ahead of me, saw my uncertainty and smiled. The husband began telling me about their trip – they had arrived by ship that morning, specifically to visit Rocklands, and were on their way to Mexico. As he talked, his wife added little details to their story. We were still talking when Fritz gave me a small water bottle with a sugar water mixture and told me to hold it in one hand and keep the index finger of my other hand out.
You mean, that’s all I have to do?
Hmm, I don’t know about this, I think to myself.
The birds must have read my mind as within seconds, a hummingbird landed on my finger, zoomed in on the pin-size opening in the water bottle and started drinking. It happened so quickly, I gasped.
It was that simple. I relaxed, and another bird landed.
It was an unbelievable experience. As the bird landed, I felt my body shift and the tension, which I didn’t realize was there, disappeared. I had no choice but to relax and feel the peace that came over me. I looked at the couple sitting across from me and we all started chuckling.
I don’t remember how long I stayed at Rocklands Bird Sanctuary — I didn’t stay for the guided walk — but I left feeling like my mind had been blown.
Some of the Birds You Can Expect to See at Rocklands Bird Sanctuary
- Jamaican Mango
- Black-faced Grassquit
- Yellow-faced Grassquit
- Jamaican Woodpecker
- Jamaican Parakeet
Rocklands Bird Sanctuary is an easy 30 minute drive if you’re staying in the Montego Bay area, about an hour from Negril.
Hours: Monday to Saturday – 10 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
For more information, call Claudette or Fritz Beckford, 876-952-2009 or 876-871-4759
Other Birding Spots/Tours
With some 200 species, more than 20 of which are endemic to the island, bird watching isn’t limited to Rocklands Bird Sanctuary. Here are a few other locations and tours that you can arrange:
Best Months for Bird Watching
December through June are the best months for bird watching as more birds are visible. In the mornings, I wake up to several birds calling in the trees nearby. I am not yet able to identify the calls but there are at least 5 distinct ones.
Have you ever been birdwatching? How many species of birds can you identify?