Between June 8 and 12, 2009, SMBC staff traveled to Jamaica where one of our graduate students, Herlitz Davis, is conducting field work on birds in coffee. His project is in its second year, and the focus is on predicting how bird communities in agroforestry systems will respond to climate change.
By choosing coffee farms managed in different ways at different elevations/rainfall zones, he can compare avian life history strategies and survival within agricultural landscapes. The rainfall gradient associated with the different elevations mimics what will occur as climate change alters the long-term weather patterns predicted by climatologists.
While walking the coffee area of Ramble Hill Farms and other properties including Abbey Green and Forres Park in St. Thomas and St. Andrew Parishes, respectively, we saw and heard a number of birds.
One of the more tame and unflappable species is the Jamaican tody, a small, stout green, red, and white bird that nests in road cuts or river banks.
By waiting alongside the hole it makes in a road cut, one can watch the parents alight on a branch close to the entrance and then disappear into the hole carrying insect prey in their bills for their young hidden deep inside. The small tunnels often have right-angle turns to prevent predators from finding the eggs or the young todies.
We met with some of the farm owners who have graciously allowed Herlitz to conduct research on their properties. One farm at a lower elevation (400 meters) in St. Thomas Parish, called Ramble Hill Farms, not only produces coffee, but also provides Smuckers with much of the mango it uses in its mango chutney.
Each year when the mangoes ripen, dozens of local residents find jobs as the fruits arrive by the truckload at Ramble Hill Farms. They work until after dark to get the fruits peeled, sliced into chunks, and placed in a brine solution in large sanitized barrels that get shipped to Smuckers in the US.