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ROCKLANDS BIRDFEEDING STATION

So, when was the last time you saw a hummingbird up close and personal?

At the Rocklands Feeding Station, in the town of Anchovy, not only will you see them, but youšll feed them too!

After bouncing slowly down a rock strewn path that passes for a road, a small sign hanging before a green gate announces the fact that you have arrived at the Rocklands Bird Feeding Station, in the village of Anchovy, high above the hustle and bustle of Montego Bayšs city streets. Upon entering the property, the first thing you notice is a softening quietness ­ city sounds have been replaced with the murmur of wind rustling through the trees, the gentle voices of the housešs inhabitants, and the chirping of birds who see you long before you see them. Your eyes are drawn up overhead, or to the side along the walkway, feasting on the rich assortment of tumbling, vining, blossoming greenery - both wild and potted.

The home and grounds belong to Ms. Lisa Salmon, a Jamaican woman from Kingston, who purchased the property in the 1950šs. She began feeding the local birds and soon was nicknamed "The Bird Lady." She opened her land to the public in 1962, and visitors from around the world have been making the trek to her front door ever since.

Miss Salmon, now in her late 90šs, is not always able to make an afternoon appearance, but Fritz, her very capable caretaker and Rocklandsš guide, will willingly share any and all knowledge he has with both the curious tourist, and the hard-core birder. I myself knew nothing about the Sanctuary other than seeing the sign for it whenever I passed by on my inland way to Negril, and the only thing I knew about Jamaican birds was that the Doctorbird is one of the national emblems, and I had caught a quick glimpse of one previously when sitting quietly on a friendšs verandah one day. Fritz was quietly patient, and dealt capably with my multitude of questions

At first, I caught myself holding my breath, ducking my head nervously, flinching as iridescent bodies flashed and zipped and dive-bombed just inches from my face. Soon however, I remembered that these miniature kamikaze pilots were what I came to see, and it was then easy to relax and enjoy naturešs show.

You will first be invited sit in a chair on the flower covered patio, holding a small "baby bottle" in your left hand, using one finger of your right to make a perch for the hummers to land on, waiting for the moment when one of these little flashers drops in for a drink. Hummingbirds of varying sizes and colors seem to buzz by in minutes, but the one that steals the show is the adult streamer tailed hummingbird. Brazenly, a tiny flashing emerald bundle of energy swoops and darts before you, two long sweeping black tail feathers arched gracefully downward, bright red bill eagerly seeking out the bottle in your hand.

The commotion continues as the heftier Mango hummingbird and others vie for their share of the sugar water libation. It is virtually impossible to not smile, or enjoy this brush with nature. An open palm filled with millet seed ­ a favorite snack for the grassquits and finches ­ brings a whole new wave of delightful guests. This is happy hour, bird style!

For planning the best time of day to attend (may vary according to weather, molting season, number of other tourists there), call Fritz ahead before booking. (952-2009) He did mention that late summer is sometimes the worst time to go, as the molting season is in full swing, the birds look a little ragged, and not as many show up. I went about noontime, and the station closes their gates by 4:30 or 5:00. You may call and set up an appointment for bird walks, tours of the property, or just come for a feeding. Moneys charged go towards the preservation and care of the twenty some acres of woodland, as well as toward food for the birds.

This is not the place to go if you are in need of fast paced excitement or exotic thrills. But, it was a most delightful way to spend a few hours, just sitting and breathing in the fresh air, listening to naturešs sounds, staring down at the city, and, as the Station is in the hills not more than fifteen or twenty minutes outside Montego Bay, when done, you can then go down into town and indulge yourself in the happy hour refreshments that fit YOUR palate!

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