The Green Hills Field Station is a scenic property located in the Blue Mountains of south western Portland. It comprises a renovated, unfurnished guest house with a residential garden at the front of the house, woodland and a small subsistence farm at the back of the house on sloping terrain with a few trails and gullies. The surrounding land is used primarily for coffee production.
The Green Hills Field Station is said to have had its brush with British celebrity, Ian Fleming, the creator of the James Bond spy character. It is well documented that Ian Fleming, who lived as a long-term resident in Jamaica, was a birdwatcher. He named his fictional character after the American author of “Birds of the West Indies,” first published in 1936. Story has it that Fleming birdwatched in Holywell and the surrounding environs of the Blue Mountains, and possibly stayed at Green Hills Field Station as a guest.
The area is considered to be extremely rich in bird life with at least 57 resident and migrant species, including 22 of Jamaica’s 30 breeding endemic species. The quiet, cool (sometimes cold) clean air adds to the tropical appeal of the cloud/mist forest area within which the Field Station lies. The Green Hills Field Station can accommodate overnight visitors with bedrooms, kitchen, tank water and electricity.
The property has a few lookout points that could cater to the different types of birdwatchers. For birdwatchers with young children, the elderly and physically challenged, the wrap-around porch which is adjacent to the garden and woodland vegetation provides easy and close viewing.
Some birds of particular interest are the charismatic national bird—the Red-billed Streamertail, the fairly tame population Black-faced Grassquits that come if you throw feed, sometimes inclusive of the odd Jamaica Euphonia, and the unusual eerie whistle of the Rufous-throated Solitaire. We are confident that a diversity of nectar, fruit and seed eaters could be attracted to the patio if feeders were placed at strategic points. The picturesque view of the mountains also is ideal for sighting falcons, swifts and swallows. If the porch does not offer enough contact with the outdoors then we recommend lookout points in the backyard that overlook remnant woodland sloping downwards to a gully. The presence of tall trees wrapped in climbing vegetation and of feeding trees provide an area teeming with hummingbirds, flycatchers, orangequits, vireos and warblers to name a few. A bench could be added for a more comfortable viewing.
For the more adventurous birder who wants to hike, there is a partially maintained trail that can be cleared by a resident warden. Parts of this trail are steep although navigable and some of the native vegetation has been displaced by invasive (Dicranopteris sp.) fern. While an absolute bother, the fern serves as an educational opportunity to talk about a problem of the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, namely invasive species. Additionally the trail does need some development and signage but we believe it could add another birdwatching experience to the property.
Part of the adventure of the Green Hills Field Station is the road trip to get there through the hills of northern St. Andrew into Portland. Before leaving Kingston, be sure to get the telephone number of the resident caretaker, Mr. Lloyd Garricks. The site is approximately one hour by car from the urban centre, Papine Square. Visitors will go on a meandering ride pass Hope River, towards Gordon Town, and then turning left at the forked road to continue on to notable landmarks such as Strawberry Hills Resort, through Irish Town into Newcastle where one drives through the Jamaica Defence Force Outpost. From there on it is roughly 20 minutes to your destination. You cannot miss the entrance to the Holywell Recreational Park which is the last major landmark before you reach Green Hills. It is a straight drive and after about 5 minutes slow down and look for a house with a bright pink roof, set a little off from the road on the left-hand side. If per chance you arrive at a fork in the road called “Section”, then you have passed Green Hills Field Station.
There is presently no fee attached to entering, however, permission to visit the property must be sought and granted by the Natural History Museum of Jamaica by contacting the Director (Mrs. Tracy Commock) at [email protected], Tel. #: 876-922-0620. Once you arrive, you will be greeted by a jovial caretaker of the property who is willing to assist when the need arises. One of the main features of the property is a wooden guest house with a surrounding porch which offers a semi-panoramic view of the area. Also built into the property is a beautiful garden as well as a number of birding trails with varying degrees of difficulty that together offer a very rustic experience.
The Green Hills Field Station can accommodate overnight visitors with bedrooms, kitchen, tank water and electricity. Contact the Director of the Natural History Museum of Jamaica, Mrs. Tracy Commock, at [email protected], or call: 876-922-0620.
Visitors can discover the unique experience of birdwatching by planning private excursions or engaging the services of local bird tour experts to accompany you in the field. Tour guide services can be obtained from organizations such as Arrowhead Birding Tours, Sun Ventures Tours and the Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust as well as from members of the NGO, BirdLife Jamaica.