Jonathan Franzen’s Quest for the Endemics

  • 0

Jonathan Franzen’s Quest for the Endemics

Jonathan Franzen in the bush

In the September edition of Condé Nast Traveler, novelist Jonathan Franzen shares an honest and amusing account of his recent week-long endeavor to see 33 endemic species on two Caribbean islands. For anyone who considers themselves a birder, has been to the Caribbean, or has suffered travel mishaps, you will find yourself chuckling and nodding as you read.

Franzen also seems to intuit perfectly what the Caribbean Birding Trail is all about. He says this about birding in the Blue Mountains in Jamaica:

It is…a pleasure in itself to walk in a place with abundant and diverse birdlife. It’s a way of connecting with a past in which nature was more whole, not fragmented, not degraded—birds being the most visible indicator of a healthy ecosystem. Bird-watching often has the added charm and virtue of taking you to parts of a country that most travelers never visit.

Indeed, a birding trail is about more than just showing the way to places where birders can add a tick mark to their list. They are about using birds symbolically to represent an entire ecosystem or a place in time.  What is more, birds are a portal to places, people and culture one might not otherwise experience.

Later in the article, Franzen makes another poignant observation, this time about the illusions of Caribbean travel. Each year Americans (and others) flock to to the islands to escape reality and enjoy luxuries in a paradisal setting. Franzen turns this on its head by saying that, in actuality, “reality is what lies to the south.” ‘Reality’ is where environmental protection is insecure and endangered species hang precariously in the balance as a result of weak political interest. Of course, this will only become evident to travelers if they deign to step outside of the resort and cruise bubble. Unfortunately, many do not.

So, does the author meet his goal and see all 33 endemic species on two islands in seven days? Read the article and find out!


Leave a Reply

What We Do

Through birds we connect you to the extraordinary places, diverse cultures and people of the Caribbean.

There are countless fascinating stories to be told through birds. Discover an island's bird life, and you will discover Caribbean heritage.

Support the CBT

The Caribbean Birding Trail is a project of BirdsCaribbean, a 501(c)3 non-profit.


    Translate from:

    Translate to:

Caribbean Birdwatch

Catch up on past issues of Caribbean Birdwatch, a feature in Liat's Zing magazine that highlights the region's birding hotspots.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: