By Judy Haughton-James
On November 4, 1961 my identical twin sister Janine and I arrived in the world at the Port Maria Hospital in the parish of St.Mary on the Caribbean island of Jamaica. A few days later we were taken on the 61/2 mile uphill journey to start life with the rest of our family on our farm in the cool hills of Boyne Park. This was the beginning of almost 47 years of glorious country life filled with bliss, peace and tranquility.
Today as I reminisce on these years that ended on October 16, 2008, when my twin sister passed away, it is our interest in birdwatching that brings back some very special memories. Living in an environment where there was a wide wide variety of trees and flowers guaranteed regular visits by our feathered friends. As a matter of fact even when we were not yet out of bed in the morning the chirping of birds heralded the break of dawn. During spring time they became our handy 'alarm clock' as we knew that it was just after 5 a.m.
Whenever we sat on our verandah we were not only caressed by a cool breeze but a breathtaking view of hills and mountains with the blue sky and Caribbean sea seeming to hug each other. In the midst of this our feathered friends appeared in a dazzling array of colours. The top 3 for us were among those that would win any popularity contest among Jamaican bird lovers. Taking top spot was our national bird the Jamaican Streamer Tail Hummingbird. You would have no doubt as to how he received his national status. He moves swiftly with his iridescent green plumage shining gold or electric blue in the brilliant sunshine of our 'Island in the sun.' Equally alluring are his 8" - 10" long black tail feathers.
The Bananaquit and Jamaican Tody take the next 2 spots with the Bananaquit boasting black, white and yellow feathers while the Jamaican Tody's chubby body is blessed with vivid emerald green on the upper parts and an outstanding scarlet throat.
There were many occasions when we didn't even have to see one of our country's handsome birds, The Jamaican Woodpecker, to know that he lurked in our midst. The tapping of a strong beak against a tree trunk had our eyes roaming as we attempted to glimpse him relishing his favourite dish of ants on a coconut tree.
This love of birds took on greater proportions as we started collecting stamps, postcards, pictures, calendars and just about any item with a bird on it. However a huge display unit filled with figurines of birds from around the world now takes pride of place in our living-room.
As I sit looking at this collection I see a special memorial to my twin. What else can I do but shout "I am proud to be a country woman!" Only such an environment could have given me these treasured memories.