It’s now been several months since we last shared any news on the Smithsonian Institution’s expedition to search for the Golden Swallow (Tachycineta euchrysea) in Jamaica, where no sightings have been reported since 1989 — and even that report is a little questionable. While the Hispaniolan subspecies of the Golden Swallow is labeled as vulnerable, the Jamaican subspecies is labeled as critically endangered and possibly extinct, so this research trip is designed to lend some more finality to the issue. If our team of three positively identifies a Golden Swallow in Cockpit Country or the Blue Mountains between mid-January and late March, it will be the first confirmed sighting of the species in Jamaica in several decades, and new conservation efforts might be kick-started into action. If during our pair of one month trips to these two isolated areas of Jamaica we don’t see any signs of the Golden Swallow, the ornithological community can move a little closer to declaring the Jamaican subspecies of Tachycineta euchrysea extinct.
We’ve got most of our gear out on tables in Justin’s office, where we’re sorting through everything to make sure our packs will be as light as possible and verify that we have both everything we’ll ever need and nothing we’ll never need. As we check all our gear, we’re also discussing logistical information like how we’ll get around Montego Bay for the first day and what chain of events we should follow during the initial 48 hours in Jamaica. Today we insured our trip for medical emergencies, scheduled a meeting with the gear wizards at Cornell Outdoor Education for tomorrow, and started accomplishing other tasks like stitching together map images for future lamination, compiling research methodologies for avian point counts and live mammal trapping, and finding out where to do certain shopping on the ground in MoBay, as locals call it.
I’ll leave a description of our gear for a future post, but you can get a rough idea of our equipment from the photos above. In a month and a half, the three of us hope to have positive reviews of every piece of gear we took down to Jamaica, and no reviews for items like the emergency bivouac or first aid kit!