Potoo Dreams

moon

As the sun drifts below the horizon and the Jamaican bush is lit up with stars, the Northern Potoos begin to duet. QUAAAA-QUA-QUA-QUA-QUA QUA screams one into the night. Its neighbor responds in kind. As darkness settles over our tents, we fall asleep listening to their song.

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Potoos are very odd birds. (This group of near passerine birds are related to frogmouths and nightjars.) During the day, they are practically impossible to spot, due to their legendary camouflage. They generally freeze at the end of a branch, and their streaky brownish and grayish plumage resembles an extension of their perch. Although we checked many snags while in Jamaica, we could never find a potoo in the daytime.

At night it was another story. Potoos are nocturnal, or active at night, and they like to hunt in open fields at the edge of the forest. They have huge eyes, which glow bright orange when light is shined in their direction. With headlamps, we were able to spot potoos perched on posts hundreds of feet away. Continue reading

Melton West

Melton

Note:  Hey I’m John, a new author with Raxa Collective. I am working as a field technician on an expedition studying the Jamaican Golden Swallow with Justin Proctor and Seth Inman.

While traveling in the Jamaican bush, local people would often pleasantly surprise us. While passing us deep in the bush on a donkey with a pack saddle brimming with yellow yams, a local farmer with a ragged hat and torn work shirt told us about how he just spend the last week in Toronto with his Canadian girlfriend. A group of illegal mahogany loggers, upon seeing our camera equipment, enthusiastically asked us to help them film a music video. But by far, our favorite encounter was with Melton Manuel West.

We met Melton as we set up our camp in the late afternoon near BBQ Bottom Rd. He was walking from his home in the bush to go to the market in nearby Campbells. Like most people we met, he asked us about what we were doing. Intrigued by our project, he declared he would take us to the best places in the bush to see swallows. Then he sat down nearby and just hung out near our camp. At first we were suspicious, and it was a little disconcerting. Yet before he left, we agreed that he could guide us into the hills the next day. Continue reading