TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT

Trinidad & Tobago

3- 17 SEPTEMBER 1999


Leaders:
Jamie McMillan

Jogi Ramlal - Trinidad

Adolphus James - Tobago

Denise, Sheldon and Joel at Asa Wright

DIARY

3rd SEPTEMBER

We arrived in Trinidad at dusk to be met by Jogi, and loaded up into his mini-bus and Singh's car for the one hour drive up to the Asa Wright Centre. The tropical night air was very humid and the sounds of frogs accompanied us on the journey.

4th SEPTEMBER

We awoke to the traditional start at Asa Wright: coffee on the verandah at 6am. There was also the traditional rain shower at that time! This meant that the birds were slow to get going.

However after the rain stopped we saw a few of the many humming birds that are such a feature of the feeders here. We marvelled at the splendid views of White-necked Jacobin in particular, as well as the Tufted Coquette females. Also particularly splendid were the White-beaked and Turquoise Tanagers and the fantastic Purple Honeycreepers. As the sun came out, more and more birds appeared including the Channel-billed Toucans in their traditional toucan tree and the Crested Oropendolas calling noisily overhead.

At around 7.00 am we were joined by Sheldon, one of the Centre's excellent naturalist guides who almost immediately found us a superb male Tufted Coquette perched quietly in a tree. I managed to put a telescope on this bird for superb views. This was just as well, as it was the only time we were to see the male of this species. This dawn feast of birding had lived up to its reputation: by the time we went into breakfast we had seen 36 species from the verandah, most of which were new to the group.

Jogi turned up after breakfast for a short walk up the main drive and we were soon struck with one of the great features of Asa Wright and Trinidad in general, the approachability of many of the birds. Barred Antshrike were hopping around in the car park and actually landing on one of the cars. Great Antshrikes were also much in evidence. Both these species were very skulking where I have them before in Costa Rica. We also saw a pair of Piratic Flycatchers lurking around a Yellow Oriole's nest. These are one of the nests that they take over and piratise, kicking the Orioles out. Soon Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures started to fly about overhead and, amongst them, the only Zone-tailed Hawk of the trip. Jogi soon started doing his Ferruginous Pygmy Owl impressions which were to accompany us throughout our stay on Trinidad. He did manage to lure in a few birds including a Rufous- breasted Wren, but perhaps the best one was (surprise !) an answering Ferruginous Pygmy Owl that we never quite managed to see.

We also took an interest in the plants that lined the drive: the Gingers, the Heliconias, the Nutmeg, Cocoa and Coffee trees that were the remnants of the old plantation here. Strewn across the road were the fruits of a Hog-Plum, a tree much beloved by Parrots and other fruit-eating birds, and some of the locals on Trinidad who make wine from the fruits. One particular fruiting tree, a Melastome, had an excellent mixed flock of feeding birds including a Bay-headed Tanager and a superb male Golden-headed Manakin feeding on the fruits. We also glimpsed an American Redstart, the first of the returning migrants. Also in this area we found several much smaller birds which were quite difficult to see including Golden-crowned Warbler, Blue Dacnis and Tropical Parula.

As it came on to rain again we rushed into the security guard's shelter at the entrance to the drive. I asked Jogi how long the rain would last- he seemed to think that it might go on all day. However we took advantage of a gap in the showers to return to the Centre for lunch. The slower walkers had excellent views of Rufous-browed Peppershrike.

At lunchtime the Centre was very busy with the day visitors, and at 2.30 pm we went down one of the trails towards where we could here the Bellbirds calling. Down the trail we saw a small flock of Red-crowned Ant-Tanagers and some White-bearded Manakin females, but there was no sign of the males at the lek site. The Bellbirds were calling very loudly from the trees above us and it only took a small amount of persistence to see one quite clearly in the trees above. The calls of this bird, one of the loudest in the avian kingdom, were absolutely deafening in the tree right overhead.

We were tempted by signs (and the birds) at this point to go along the "Bellbird Trail", which proved to be rather long and slippery. However it did give us a feel of what a real rainforest was like and we saw the incredibly intricate root systems within the rainforest termite trails, leafcutter ants and various other tropical forest specialities. As we came towards the end of the trail a splendid pair of Violaceous Trogons showed very well. After tea and yet more rain, a few of us ventured out to see the local Agoutis which seemed to be very tame and the first of many Blue-crowned Motmots.

5TH SEPTEMBER

The calls of Bellbirds were echoing up the valley and Grey-fronted Doves called mournfully from the verandah as we assembled at dawn. Lower down the valley rain clouds were gathering, but at the moment it was fine up here at the Centre. Again we marvelled at the full spectacle of birds in front of us, including some spectacular male Yellow Oriole and a flight of Lilac-fronted Parrotlets zooming about overhead but not stopping long enough for us to see properly.

Jogi picked us up at 8.30 am to take us over the top road towards Blanchisseuse. We stopped a little way along the road at an open area and had good views of Red-legged Honeycreeper. We heard Little Tinamous calling from various points along the forest but never actually got to see them.

Up at the open look-out on the top ridge we had excellent views across to the north side of Trinidad. Here were Turkey and Black Vultures soaring about and amongst them a superb White Hawk that gave excellent views. We also had nice views of the Band-rumped Swifts that were plentiful here as well as a Common Black Hawk. The roadside verges were full of flowers, amongst them an intriguing Sensitive Plant which we had fun making react.

The road on from here was quite rough and very narrow and we stopped a number of times without a great deal of success to look for some of the more typical forest specialities. Rain was threatening again, which I don't think helped the bird activity and by the time we got to Blanchisseuse itself for lunch, torrential showers were threatening.

We had a fine picnic under the shelter of the building as rain gushed through the palm trees and formed torrents on the beach around us. Off-shore we could see Magnificent Frigatebirds and Brown Pelicans amongst other sea birds while even around the building there were a few shore bird waders, including what we took to be Semipalmated Sandpipers. After the rain I had a quick swim in the strong currents and heavy surf off-shore here, but it was really quite difficult to keep one's footing. We also saw our first Short-tailed Swifts, Tropical Mockingbirds and spectacular Fork-tailed Flycatchers.

As the sun came out in the afternoon it really warmed up, and it was bakingly hot as we got out to watch birds at the dump. Here we did strike lucky with the first Rufous-tailed Jacamar shining splendidly in the sunshine and some Yellow-rumped Caciques. Some hot maize fields produced a superb male White-tailed Trogon and further inland we stopped at a valley where parrots were to be regularly seen and had good views of seven Blue-headed Parrots as well as Orange-winged Parrots and a fine male Orange-headed Manakin. We also saw our first Black Grassquit display which earned it the name of the 'Johnny Jump Up' locally (although Maureen preferred the title of 'Jumping Jack Flash').

6TH SEPTEMBER

After heavy showers and thunder overnight, it was a cooler start on the balcony with perhaps less bird activity than we had had earlier in the week.

Jogi picked us up after breakfast again and took us up to the Lalaja road. Here in the dense mountain forest we had much better views of the pair of White-tailed Trogons as well as the more common Violaceous. Bats were flying up and down the road. Jogi identified them as White-lined Sac-winged Bats, which was possible, although I thought they were larger than these. We didn't have to spend long in the dense secondary forest of the Lalaja road before we saw our first Trinidad Euphonias, a male and two females of this highly sought-after endemic. We also had nice views of Long-billed Star-throat, a spectacular hummingbird, and some saw White-bellied Antbird, which came out to Jogi's tape.

The road itself was very rough and had been much churned up by recent rains and flooding. In fact Jogi said that the next time he did it he would probably have to use a four wheel drive! We did make it back for lunch, though. After lunch we had another relaxed afternoon at the Centre walking the trail to the road where we had good views of Golden-fronted Greenlet and the splendid Lineated Woodpeckers that were constantly present here.

7TH SEPTEMBER

It was a hot, sunny start as we headed down to the Aripo Research Station for our first real taste of lowland 'birding' in Trinidad. This is an area of wet pasture, and today in the sunshine it was absolutely full of birds. The waders were absolutely stunning, with over a hundred Lesser Yellowlegs and several Greater Yellowlegs and Pectoral Sandpipers amongst them. A small pool gave us our first views of Wattled Jacana and Striated Heron amongst others, and the first of the lowland passerines including Pied Water- Tyrant, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant and Yellow-hooded Blackbird. Fork-tailed Flycatchers were flying about much in evidence as were two splendid Savannah Hawks.

As the sun got going huge stacks or "kettles" of vultures started to take to the skies. They seem to roost around the dumps and the disused airfields nearby, and fan out from here to cover the whole of Trinidad. One of the most striking features here was one of the muck-heaps on the farm, which, instead of the pipits and wagtails we normally associate with such places, was covered in waders, with Least Sandpiper and a superb Collared Plover the most prominent.

Towards lunchtime we headed east towards the coast stopping for a brief coffee at the Ponderosa Bar in Valencia. However we didn't succumb to the temptations of Chicken-foot Stew or Chicken Gizzard Roti.

Lunch was taken on a wonderful palm-fringed beach at Manzanillo that seems to stretch endlessly to the south. Least and Common Terns were flying off-shore, together with the usual pelicans. The surf here was much more tempting than at Blanchisseuse and it was great to have a swim while Yellow-headed Caracaras flew along the beach.

After a long lunch we headed along the back road towards Nariva Swamp seeing more Caracaras, and stopping on the way to watch a Pearl Kite perched in a tree. Black-crested Antshrikes were one of the next specialities and we were lucky to see two Yellow-crowned Parrots flying overhead.

The Nariva Swamp was hugely productive with excellent views of both and Purple and Azure Gallinules. The place was absolutely stuffed with herons including Great White Egret and many Cattle Egrets. We also did well with one of the most potentially skulking birds of the whole trip, Pinnated Bittern. After seeing our first head and neck at a few hundred yards range we gradually got our eye in and saw more and more of these birds lurking on the edges of the reeds. One bird gave excellent telescope views as it sunned itself right at the edge of a reed bed.

As the sun sank towards the horizon we went back to an area of palms where we waited with rum punches in hand for the Red-bellied Macaws coming in to roost. We saw these well, with a bonus of several Black-bellied Whistling Ducks coming into the same area.

8TH SEPTEMBER

Joel, one of the Centre staff, took us down to the Oilbird cave this morning, always one of the trip highlights to Trinidad. The Oilbirds were performing particularly well, and the first groups had birds flying right towards them. I was surprised that the cave was actually a gorge, and was open at the top giving much more light than I had expected. I was also surprised at how large the birds were. I must say that seeing these almost- mythical creatures peering down from a ledge not more than 20 feet above us was one of the great ornithological experiences I have yet encountered.

On the way back some of us broke off to have another look at one of the trails, at last seeing a male White-bearded Manakin. We also tried to get views of two Bellbirds having a bit of a ding-dong (sorry !).

After lunch there was more heavy rain. This time it had set in for most of the afternoon. Just before the main shower those still on the verandah had incredible views of two Swallow-tailed Kites that came up the valley, soared round and departed over the Centre. After the rain the air suddenly filled with swifts, including the dramatic and huge White Collared Swift. There must have been at least 50 of these birds swooping low in front of the Centre, giving what I think were the best views I have ever had of this widespread but spectacular species.

Jogi picked us up at 4.30 pm. The rain had not let up and it was absolutely torrential as we drove down the road, which by this time had turned into a minor river. At the bottom of the road the rain ceased. Jogi told us it had been dry there all day!

We went back to the Aripo Research Station where we set up a sumptuous evening meal together with the obligatory rum punches in one of the cowsheds. In a tree nearby Green-fronted Parrotlets, some of the 'cutest' birds you are likely to see, were roosting and preening each other.

As it got dark we headed onto the old airfield at Wallerfield. This is a place where night birds can be easily seen. They like the heat of the old concrete runways, and we were soon watching White-tailed Nightjars and Common Pauraques picked out in Jogi's powerful spotlights. A Barn Owl was an extra treat, a very grey bird, especially around the face. But probably the best sighting was a Common Potoo (Jogi called them 'Pootoos' ) showing the most incredibly green glowing eyes in the spotlight as it hunted from a perch. This was the first time I had actually seen one of these birds hunting: just flying up from its perch to catch a large insect, and falling back down again. Seeing the bird in the telescope reminded me of the old story of the tinderbox, with the dog as eyes as big as dinner plates. Well, here was a bird with eyes of similar size! The other green glow was provided by myriads of fireflies that lit up some of the grass, stems, bushes and trees, "like a Christmas tree" as someone observed.

9TH SEPTEMBER

We had an early start at 6.30 am. to get down to the Aripo Savanna before it got too hot. On the way down Jogi spotted a Striped Cuckoo calling from a roadside tree and we had splendid views of this. Down near the airfield we stopped by a Grey-headed Kite perched in a roadside tree.

At Wallerfield airfield where we had been the night before the trees and bushes were obviously alive with birds. New species here included Masked Yellowthroat, Ruby- topaz Hummingbird and a superb view of a male Crimson-crested Woodpecker. Over the palm trees distinctive Fork-tailed Palm Swifts flew around.

We continued on to the wet pools of the Aripo Savanna proper but there were surprisingly few birds around here and we went on to the Arena Forest. Here we had lunch and a short walk afterwards in this only lowland forest to be found in Trinidad. This produced excellent views of White-tailed Trogon and White-bellied Antbird coming to a tape. We returned for another afternoon walking the trails of the Centre until rain drove us back inside at 5.00pm. In the evening Sheldon, a naturalist guide at the Centre, gave us an excellent and entertaining slide show.

10TH SEPTEMBER

It was a great start before breakfast with a Chestnut Woodpecker giving us superb views on one of the feeding tables.

Apart from a rubbish dump (of course) there is one type of place that must be included in the itinerary of all good bird tours. So, first stop after breakfast were the Trincity Sewage Pools! These were remarkably unscented and were obviously full of birds including Purple Gallinules and Snowy Egrets, with Yellow-billed Terns flying over the dense mats of water hyacinth.

One of the highlights here were close views of Spectacled Caymans lounging about on the banks of the sewage ponds and looking suspiciously well-fed. Jogi then took us onto Waterloo. This is a bit of shore-line of the west coast of Trinidad with extensive mud flats and a Hindu temple. Jogi told us there was to be a funeral in the afternoon, and indeed we saw two funeral pyres laid in readiness, one of which was covered with a tarpaulin. There was some speculation as to whether the deceased had arrived yet or not.

Anyway the birds were excellent here. We had timed it to take advantage of the high tide. Masses of gulls and terns flying around included some superb Black Skimmers performing well over the mud flats. The waders here were superb and too numerous to count, especially the hundreds of Semipalmated Sandpipers with a few identifiable Western Sandpipers amongst them. Other new species included Willet and Short-billed Dowitcher. Herons too were much in evidence, with both Little Blue and Tricoloured Herons, and a line of Yellow-crowned Night-heron along the edge of the main road. One of my personal favourites was the Large-billed Tern that accompanied the Laughing Gulls out on the mud flats.

After some time of alternately watching birds and watching the showers here we drove back along the coast to have lunch in one of the local cafes. Here we had our first experience of 'liming', one of the Trinidad national occupations, which seems to involve hanging about in cafăs waiting for things to happen (no doubt usually waiting for the rain to stop). I decided to give one of the locals a game of pool. The really embarrassing thing was that, although he was nobly trying to let me win, I still ended up soundly thrashed. I rather got the impression that Jogi wasn't a great fan of 'liming'.

He then took us amidst the increasing showers down a rough track around the back to Caroni Swamp. I wonder whether this was his form of revenge for the liming session: the track was so rough that poor Singh in the car was heard to wonder whether we could ever make it back. The mangroves were, however, absolutely full of birds and we saw quite a few Bicoloured Conebills as well as several other mangrove specialities including Straight-billed Woodcreeper.

We bumped and ground our way back along the track to meet our boatman James Modoo (famous for his appearance on Bill Oddie's television programme) at 3.30 pm for our boat trip onto the swamp. Scarlet Ibis were pretty evident all the way and in fact were flying about over our heads as we proceeded down the narrow channel. James's first set piece was to show us a roosting Common Potoo in one of the mangrove trees. It was excellent to have seen this bird hunting in the dark two nights ago and now to see its intricate patterned plumage by day.

Further along several boats blocked the channel. There was a film crew making a television film about reptiles. They showed us a Tree Boa they were busy filming (watch Channel 4 this autumn for the results). We were told that the mad fair-haired bearded naturalist (are there any other kinds ?) who presented the programme had been bitten several times during the making of this film.

It was high tide and so there were few waders around as we settled back to watch the spectacle of Ibis coming into roost and I poured out the rum punches. The light began to improve, and as more Scarlet Ibis poured into their roost, I was amazed at the accuracy of our brochure cover! The Snowy Egrets came in at the lower levels as depicted but, unlike on the cover they soon disappeared into the branches of the mangroves. Scarlet Ibis didn't seem to worry roosting higher up and standing proud so that again the mangroves looked like Christmas trees studied with red decorations. As it got really dark and we headed back it was obvious that this was not the only roost in the swamp. Hundreds more Scarlet Ibis were passing overhead in different directions and flying to different parts of the swamp. Our final birds of the day were a group of four Lesser Nighthawks hunting overhead and the amazing spectacle of between one and two hundred Fork-tailed Flycatchers pouring into a roost.

11TH SEPTEMBER

After a final quick look on the verandah we went for an early breakfast and an 8.00am departure to the airport. Our flight left on time and we were soon landing on Tobago and meeting Adolphus, our local guide there.

We took the scenic drive along the south east side of the island facing the Atlantic, via a quick stop in Scarborough for medicines, and arrived at Blue Waters in time for lunch. In the afternoon we enjoined the idyllic location of this place. Off-shore Frigatebirds, Brown Pelicans, Brown Boobies, Brown Noddies and other sea birds were flying. Turnstones and other waders were running in by our feet on the beach. In the late afternoon we walked up the track from the hotel seeing Crimson-crested Woodpecker, a Tobago speciality, and getting superb views of a pair of White-fringed Antwrens.

12TH SEPTEMBER

It was quite a bit warmer here overnight than it had been at Asa Wright, with a minimum of 28§C and probably a 100% humidity. We awoke to the pleasant song of Tropical Mockingbirds and the noisy screeching of Rufous-vented Chachalacas from the trees behind. Elizabeth reported that a Blue-crowned Motmot had actually roosted on her balcony overnight! It was to take turns on other people's balconies in the nights to come.

It was already hot, even before breakfast and we saw several of the local specialities including the Chachalacas, Black-faced Grassquit and Scrub Greenlet as well as a Bananaquit building a nest.

After breakfast we headed out with local boatman Frank Worthington to Little Tobago Island. The forest here is a remnant of the ancient forest on Tobago and contains rather prehistoric-looking giant Anthurium plants. At the top we looked out over the Atlantic side of the island and had a taste of the seabirds that were to come later on. We saw our first beautiful Red-billed Tropicbirds, and Brown and Red-footed Boobies nesting in the trees and rocks across the bay from here.

After lunch we were met by the other boatman, Renă, who was going to take us out to St. Giles Island. At his suggestion we brought forward the trip to this afternoon as the weather could possibly deteriorate later in the week- Hurricane Floyd was working its way north of us. As we rounded the corner out of the shelter of Blue Waters Bay there was quite a bit of swell, however. All along the coast of the Tobago coastline Red-billed Tropicbirds were flying and calling in groups. Brown Noddies seemed to be all around the boat most of the time as we crossed the choppy waters to St. Giles itself, and we had incredibly close views of these, a few Roseate Terns and Brown Boobies.

Renă seemed to delight in taking us close to the natural rock arch of London Bridge and the views of both the islands and the birds here were truly spectacular. On the main island we stopped under a Magnificent Frigatebird colony where the males were displaying their red 'balloons'. The sky above was full of Brown and Red-footed Boobies and Frigatebirds, a truly amazing sight. As we cruised along the north of the island the cloud and the wind were increasing and I think Renă was keen to get back before the weather worsened. It was indeed a choppy ride back but overall a splendid and unforgettable trip.

13TH SEPTEMBER

It was to be a day with Adolphus to take us to the southern end of Tobago. Our first stop was at Pigeon Point, an up-market resort that adjoined the Buccoo Reef. The glass-bottomed boat gave us views of the fish, but it was much better going snorkelling and watching lobsters and Pufferfish just under water. The terns here were notable and included many Royal Terns, something that we had not seen up to now.

After our boat trip we moved to the Grafton Estate for lunch. This is famous for the tameness of its Chachalacas which duly obliged. After lunch Adolphus led us on the trail for excellent views of the lovely Blue-backed Manakins.

Later in the afternoon we headed for the Buccoo Marsh where it was still hot but the air was full of birds. Waders here were particularly good and included both species of Yellow-legs and White-rumped Sandpiper. Green-backed Herons were a good feature here as well. It is interesting that Tobago has the North American form of this species whereas Trinidad has the South American Striated Heron. Here we had both the two species of ducks, White-cheeked Pintail and Black-bellied Whistling Duck. It had been a nice sunny and quite refreshing day after the humidity of the previous week.

14TH SEPTEMBER

Today we headed up to the mountain ridge with Adolphus. It was sunny as we started and we were soon setting off down the Gilpin Trace. We didn't have to go far before we had seen our first Motmot, Jacamar and a fine Collared Trogon. More patience was required for some of the species including Stripe-breasted Spinetail and Plain Antvireo. The really sought after hummingbird, White-tailed Sabrewing, was seen twice but only on the second time did we really see it well.

Adolphus (rather impressively I thought) carried a machete for this walk in a beautifully embossed scabbard. Every good bird tour leader should have one... At various points down the track he wielded this to great effect, but fortunately left enough of the vegetation for us to shelter under in a torrential downpour that hit us on the way back.

We had lunch at the top look-out overlooking the Sisters Rocks where it was superbly cool and refreshing, probably the coolest lunch we had had all trip. A pleasant roadside walk then followed with Adolphus driving ahead of us. We didn't see that many new birds here but a male Collared Trogon was most welcome. On the way back we stopped at the view point overlooking Speyside for photos and in the village for the now traditional bottles of rum to take home.

15TH SEPTEMBER

After having already done the St. Giles trip the whole morning here was free. The trail above the hotel was already very hot before breakfast and we had good views of the Grassquits and Chachalacas as well as a huge snake crossing the trail.

After breakfast it was exceedingly hot and sunny. We were walking over to Speyside village, dodging between the patches of shade. Down at the bridge over the river there was a Southern Rough-winged Swallow, the first one of the trip. We walked up the small trail beside the disused sugar-cane mill which was very nice in the shade. This place was absolutely full of Motmots (a Motmot here and a Motmot there.) as well as Antbirds and others.

We then went to a cafă in Speyside where Elizabeth noted that a Frangipani tree was full of huge striped hawkmoth caterpillars. In Speyside itself we watched the ridge for raptors seeing two Great Black Hawk very well before going to lunch at Gemma's Kitchen an absolutely superb meal overlooking the beach here. As we returned to the hotel two Broad-winged Hawks flew over the ridge. We then had a very lazy afternoon indeed soaking in the almost tepid waters of the bay and having a final relaxing afternoon on the beach.

16TH SEPTEMBER

After a lot of rain overnight we had a shower on our early morning walk and for the first time no Chachalacas. After lunch Adolphus picked us up for our journey back down to the airport and our flight back to Trinidad and then home.

My thanks go to our local guides, particularly Adolphus and the Asa Wright guides, to the staff at Asa Wright, and to you, the group, for company, good cheer, and your perseverance in the face of Trinidad rain and Tobago sandflies !

Jamie McMillan

Dorchester,

October 1999

CHECKLISTS

BIRDS

T = Trinidad

To = Tobago

TINAMOUS

Little Tinamou -Heard in forests on 5th, 6th and 9th, and once almost seen ! (T).

TROPICBIRDS

Red-billed Tropicbird -This superb seabird seen from Little Tobago and the St. Giles Island trip, both on the islands, and off the Tobago mainland. (To).

BOOBIES

Red-footed Booby -Breeding on Little Tobago and St Giles Islands (To).

Brown Booby -Common in eastern Tobago. Breeds Little Tobago and St. Giles Islands, where seen well. (To).

CORMORANTS

Neotropic Cormorant -Two at Waterloo (T), and seen at Buccoo (To).

ANHINGAS OR DARTERS

Anhinga -Three seen soaring over Buccoo (To).

PELICANS

Brown Pelican -Widespread offshore (T & To). Peak count over 100, Waterloo

FRIGATEBIRDS

Magnificent Frigatebird -A few off Blanchisseuse (T). Breeds St Giles and Little Tobago (To), where splendid views of males 'ballooning'

HERONS

Great White Egret -A few at Nariva, Caroni and Waterloo (T).

Snowy Egret -Hundreds Caroni Swamp, a few Trincity Ponds (T).

Cattle Egret -Widespread with livestock (T & To).

Little Blue Heron -Widespread in wetlands (T & To), peak count 40 Caroni March (T).

Tricolored Heron -On Trinidad only at or near Caroni Marsh- 50 peak count (T). A few also at Buccoo Marsh (To).

Striated Heron -This South American species (or race if you prefer) is only found on Trinidad. Noted widely in wet areas : Aripo Research Station, Nariva, Caroni, Waterloo

Green-backed Heron -The former's North American counterpart, only found on Tobago, where we saw it each day (To).

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron-Several seen at Waterloo and on the Caroni trip (T). Also seen on Little Tobago, St Giles, and on the Beach and stream at Blue Waters (To).

Pinnated Bittern - An amazing 5 seen at Nariva swamp, mostly just necks, but at least one emerging right out of the vegetation.

IBISES & SPOONBILLS

Scarlet Ibis -over 600 counted at the first roost Caroni Swamp. As we left the roost birds were still pouring in both there, and to roosts elsewhere in the swamp.

DUCKS

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck- 20 Nariva Swamp (T). 10 Buccoo Marsh(To).

White-cheeked Pintail -4 Buccoo Marsh(To).

AMERICAN VULTURES

Black Vulture -Abundant Trinidad.

Turkey Vulture -Common Trinidad.

KITES, HAWKS & EAGLES

Gray-headed Kite -One at the Aripo Savannah (T).

American Swallow-tailed Kite -Super views of two at Asa Wright, 8th (T).

Pearl Kite -One in the Nariva area (T).

White Hawk -One seen well from Blanchisseuse Road, 5th (T).

Common Black-hawk -One Morne Bleu; 3 Nariva Swamp (T).

Great Black-hawk -No confusion between these two species here, as the former is only found on Trinidad, and this one only on Tobago. One perching in the beachside trees, Blue Waters (11th & 13th); one in the Main Ridge Forest; two over Speyside (15th) (To).

Gray Hawk -One imm.Nariva; one Aripo Savanna (T).

Broad-winged Hawk -Two over Speyside and Blue Waters (15th & 16th) (To).

Zone-tailed Hawk -One Asa Wright, 4th (T).

Savanna Hawk -Several at the Aripo Research Station (T).

OSPREY

Osprey -At Nariva, Waterloo, Caroni (max 8 on 10th), with one at Blue Waters (T & To).

CARACARAS & FALCONS

Yellow-headed Caracara-4/5 Nariva area; over 10 on 10th at Trincity, Waterloo and Caroni (T).

GUANS & CHACHALACAS

Rufous-vented Chachalaca-Only on Tobago, excellent views Grafton Estate and above Blue Waters, where its raucous calls were a notable feature of the early mornings.

RAILS, GALLINULES & COOTS

Purple Gallinule -Common Nariva Marsh; also at Trincity Ponds (T), one Buccoo Marsh (To).

Azure Gallinule -Two or three Nariva Marsh (T).

Common Moorhen -Two Nariva, and Trincity (T); abundant Buccoo Marsh (To).

JACANAS

Wattled Jacana -Common at the Aripo Research Station, Nariva, Caroni Swamp (T) and Buccoo Marsh (To).

PLOVERS

Grey Plover -4 at Waterloo (T).

Semipalmated Plover -Frequent on the beaches- at Blanchisseuse and max 40 Waterloo (T); 2/3 daily at Blue Waters (To).

Collared Plover -Superb views on a muck-heap at Aripo Research Station; 2 at Waterloo (T).

Southern Lapwing -In wet areas on the Aripo Savannah, Nariva and Waterloo, as well as on the old runways at Wallerfield (T). At least 10 at Buccoo Marshes (To).

SANDPIPERS

Whimbrel -One Waterloo (T).

Greater Yellowlegs -4 Aripo Research Station, several at Waterloo (T). A few at Buccoo Marsh (To).

Lesser Yellowlegs -Over 100 Aripo Research Station, several at Waterloo and Trincity (T). At least 10 at Buccoo Marsh (To).

Solitary Sandpiper -One at Aripo Research Station (T). One Speyside, three Buccoo March (To).

Spotted Sandpiper -Common at suitable wetlands and coastal sites. Hundreds going to roost along the mangrove channels at Caroni Swamp (T & To).

Willet -Five at Waterloo (T).

Ruddy Turnstone -Twenty Waterloo (T). Up to twelve at Blue Waters, often just below the bar ! (To).

Short-billed Dowitcher -Twenty at Waterloo (T). Six Buccoo Marsh (To).

Semipalmated Sandpiper-Most of the tricky 'peeps' were deemed to be this species. a few at Blanchisseuse, 3 at Aripo Research Station, hundreds Waterloo (T) and 10 Buccoo Marsh (To)

Western Sandpiper -2 close birds thought to be this species at Waterloo (T). Least Sandpiper -Ten at the research station, two at Wallerfield (T). Pectoral Sandpiper -At least ten at the research station with the other waders on the wet grassy fields (T).

GULLS & TERNS

Laughing Gull -At Blanchisseuse and hundreds at Waterloo (T). Seen each day in Tobago (To).

Royal Tern -Three Caroni Swamp (T). At least 50 near Buccoo Reef (To).

Sandwich Tern -One Blanchisseuse (T). 2 near Buccoo Reef (To). All had black bills with yellow tips (ie were not 'Cayenne' Tern).

Roseate Tern -At least 15 on and around St Giles, with some cracking views. Two Buccoo Reef (To).

Common Tern -Four Manzanillo, 2 Blanchisseuse, several at Waterloo (T). A few off Speyside and Little Tobago (To).

Least Tern -Four Manzanillo (T).

Yellow-billed Tern -Two Trincity, with several at Waterloo (T). Probably two Buccoo Reef (To).

Sooty Tern -A few off Little Tobago; around 10 seen well on the St Giles trip (To).

Brown Noddy -Around 10 seen Little Tobago, with a few regularly offshore at Speyside. Absolutely stunning views of hundreds close to the boat at St Giles.

SKIMMERS

Black Skimmer -Superb views of these skimming at Waterloo (T).

PIGEONS & DOVES

Scaled Pigeon -At Asa Wright & the Northern Range (T).

Pale-vented Pigeon -At Aripo Savannah (T). Seen daily on Tobago, mostly at Blue Waters early morning and evening (To).

Eared Dove -Two Caroni Swamp (T). Six Buccoo Marsh (To).

Plain-breasted Ground-Dove-Heard at Wallerfield (T).

Ruddy Ground-Dove -Very common and widespread, although not seen at Speyside (T & To).

White-tipped Dove -One at Aripo Savannah (T), common on Tobago.

Grey-fronted Dove -Only in the highlands of Trinidad- its mournful single note heard frequently, but only seen well at Asa Wright (T)

MACAWS, PARROTS & PARAKEETS

Red-bellied Macaw -Up to 40 at the roost in Nariva Marsh. Two at Wallerfield (T).

Green-rumped Parrotlet-Up to six at the research station, with other sightings from Wallerfield and Caroni Swamp (T). Four at Buccoo Marsh (To), where it is a relatively new colonist on Tobago.

Lilac-tailed Parrotlet -Up to 25 roosting at Asa Wright, seen well some mornings (T).

Blue-headed Parrot -Seven by Blanchisseuse Road. One over Asa Wright (T).

Yellow-crowned Parrot -Two at Nariva Swamp (T).

Orange-winged Parrot -Noted daily on Trinidad. Seen Speyside and Main Ridge (To).

CUCKOOS

Squirrel Cuckoo -One Lalaja (T).

ANIS

Smooth-billed Ani -Noted daily in both Trinidad and Tobago.

GROUND-CUCKOOS

Striped Cuckoo -One seen well along the road from Asa Wright. One heard Caroni Swamp (T).

BARN OWLS

Barn-Owl -One Wallerfield (T).

OWLS

Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl- Heard on a couple of days at Asa Wright (T).

OILBIRDS

Oilbird -One hundred and forty two birds are known to roost at Dunstan Cave, Asa Wright. We saw at least forty on 8th (T).

POTOOS

Common Potoo -Excellent views of this cryptic species. One with gleaming eyes seen hunting at Wallerfield, and one roosting by day, Caroni Swamp (T).

NIGHTHAWKS & NIGHTJARS

Lesser Nighthawk -At least four flying at dusk, Caroni Swamp(T).

Common Pauraque -At least five on the night drive, Wallerfield (T).

White-tailed Nightjar -Up to twenty, Wallerfield (T).

SWIFTS

White-collared Swift -At least 50 giving wonderful views just before a storm over Asa Wright, 8th, with 3 there the next day. A few at Trincity (T).

Band-rumped Swift -Seen daily (max c20) Asa Wright, with more at Blanchisseuse and Nariva (T).

Gray-rumped Swift -Possibly seen Asa Wright, but certainly identified at Aripo Savannah (T). Good views from the Main Ridge Road (To).

Short-tailed Swift -Widespread, especially in coastal lowlands (T) & Main Ridge (To).

Fork-tailed Palm-Swift -Thirty at Wallerfield (T).

HUMMINGBIRDS

Rufous-breasted Hermit-On both Trinidad and Tobago. Noted daily at Asa Wright (T) & Blue Waters (To).

Green Hermit -At Asa Wright (T).

Little Hermit -At Asa Wright (T).

White-tailed Sabrewing-Two seen at Gilpin Trace in the Main Ridge Forest (To).

White-necked Jacobin -Daily at Asa Wright (T).

Black-throated Mango -Seen daily Asa Wright (T).

Ruby-topaz Hummingbird-Three at the Aripo Savannah (T).

Tufted Coquette -Daily at Asa Wright, with superb male seen on 4th (T).

Blue-chinned Sapphire -Daily at Asa Wright, with a few records elsewhere (T).

White-chested Emerald -Daily at Asa Wright, with a few records elsewhere (T).

Copper-rumped Hummingbird- Widespread on both islands (T & To).

Long-billed Starthroat -Seen 3 days at Asa Wright and Lalaja (T).

TROGONS

White-tailed Trogon -On the Blanchisseuse Road, Lalaja and Arena Forest (T).

Collared Trogon -Great views of two males Main Ridge Forest (To).

Violaceous Trogon -Seen 4 days in the mountains (T).

MOTMOTS

Blue-crowned Motmot -Common and very approachable- actually roosting on some clients' balconies at Blue Waters !(T & To).

JACAMARS

Rufous-tailed Jacamar -Good views at the Blanchisseuse dump, Aripo Savannah (T), and Gilpin Trace (T & To).

TOUCANS

Channel-billed Toucan -Seen daily at Asa Wright, and in the mountains (T).

WOODPECKERS

Red-crowned Woodpecker-At Speyside and on the Main Ridge Forest (To).

Golden-olive Woodpecker-Seen 4 days at Asa Wright (T). Two at Main Ridge Forest (To).

Chestnut Woodpecker -Eventually, great views at Asa Wright on one of the feeders, on 8th and 10th (T).

Lineated Woodpecker -Daily at Asa Wright, with others seen Aripo Research Station (T).

Crimson-crested Woodpecker-Excellent views of male, Wallerfield (T).

WOODCREEPERS

Pale-brown Woodcreeper-Seen Asa Wright and Lalaja (T).

Cocoa/Buff-throated Woodcreeper -Noted 5 days (T), 3 days (To).

OVENBIRDS

Stripe-breasted Spinetail-In the Main Ridge Forest (To).

Yellow-chinned Spinetail-In marshy areas (T).

ANTBIRDS

Great Antshrike -Excellent views at Asa Wright, where seen daily (T).

Black-crested Antshrike-Three near Nariva, with others at Arena Forest and Caroni Swamp (T).

Barred Antshrike -Common in scrub and woodland (T & To).

Plain Antvireo -Two in the Main Ridge Forest (To).

White-fringed Antwren-Only on Tobago at Speyside, Grafton and Main Ridge Forest (To).

White-bellied Antbird -At Lalaja and the Arena Forest (T).

Black-faced Antthrush -Seen well at Asa Wright (T).

COTINGAS

Bearded Bellbird -Constantly heard. Good views when persistent, Asa Wright (T).

MANAKINS

Golden-headed Manakin-At Asa Wright and other mountain sites (T).

Blue-backed Manakin -Best views of two males at Grafton, with another the Main Ridge Forest (To).

White-bearded Manakin-Seen 4 days at Asa Wright, with good views of a male on the Oilbird day. Another male at the Aripo Savannah (T).

TYRANT FLYCATCHERS

Ochre-bellied Flycatcher-Seen daily on Trinidad, at Asa Wright, Blanchisseuse, and Aripo (T)

S. Beardless Tyrannulet -Noted 3 days in the mountains,Trinidad (T).

Forest Elaenia -Noted 3 days in the mountains,Trinidad (T)

Yellow-bellied Elaenia -Seen on Little Tobago and at Blue Waters (T)

Yellow-breasted Flycatcher-Two Wallerfield, and another Arena Forest (T). Two Blue Waters, including one injured on the road (To).

Fuscous Flycatcher -Heard and glimpsed, Main Ridge Forest (To).

Tropical Pewee -Scattered records (T).

Pied Water-Tyrant -In wet grasslands (T).

White-headed Marsh-Tyrant-In wetlands (T).

Brown-crested Flycatcher-One Caroni Swamp (T) Seen daily at Blue Waters and other sites on Tobago (To).

Tropical Kingbird -Widespread and common (T & To).

Fork-tailed Flycatcher -This dramatic migrant from South America seen at Blanchisseuse, Aripo Research Station, Arena Forest, and Caroni Swamp, where a staggering 150+ seen going to roost (T).

Gray Kingbird -Noted daily around Tobago (To).

Boat-billed Flycatcher -Common Trinidad. (T)

Streaked Flycatcher -Seen in the mountains on two days (T)

Piratic Flycatcher -Another South American speciality, noted 3 days in the mountains (T)

Great Kiskadee -Common on Trinidad. Noted two days Speyside (To).

Black-tailed Tityra -Noted 3 days at Asa Wright (T).

SWALLOWS

White-winged Swallow-In the lowlands of Trinidad (T).

Caribbean Martin -Noted daily on Tobago, with at least 10 each day around Blue Waters, and a few on St Giles (To).

Grey-breasted Martin -Common in Trinidad.

S. Rough-winged Swallow-One with the Caribbean Martins at Speyside, 18th (To).

Barn Swallow -Widespread on both main islands (noted 7 days), with intriguing records of cliff-roosting (? breeding ) birds on Little Tobago and St Giles (T).

WRENS

Rufous-breasted Wren -Seen at Asa Wright and nearby (T). A few at Gilpin Trace (To).

House Wren -Common and widespread (T). Seen Blue Waters and Grafton Estate (To).

MOCKINGBIRDS

Tropical Mockingbird -Common on both islands in the lowlands. Not seen at Asa Wright (T & To).

THRUSHES

Yellow-legged Thrush -A single record near Asa Wright (T).

Cocoa Thrush -Common in Trinidad. (T).

Bare-eyed Thrush -Noted daily in Trinidad and Tobago. (T & To)

White-necked Thrush -Only seen at Gilpin Trace (To).

OLD WORLD WARBLERS & GNATCATCHERS

Long-billed Gnatwren -Seen 3 days at Asa Wright (T).

PEPPERSHRIKES & VIREOS

Rufous-browed Peppershrike-Seen well at Asa Wright on two occasions, 4th; also heard at Aripo and Caroni (T)

Chivi Vireo -One on Little Tobago (To).

Golden Fronted Greenlet-Seen at Lalaja and Asa Wright 6th (T).

Scrub Greenlet -Only on Tobago, where seen Blue waters and Grafton (To).

NEW WORLD WARBLERS

Tropical Parula -One Asa Wright, 4th (T).

American Redstart -The first migrants appearing, with three records, a fem/imm. at Asa Wright, 4th, and two adult males at Nariva (7th) and Caroni (10th) (T).

Masked Yellowthroat -Seen well at Wallerfield, 9th. (T).

Golden-crowned Warbler -Seen two days at Asa Wright and Lalaja (T).

BANANAQUITS

Bananaquit -Very common, frequenting forests, bars and restaurants ! (T & To).

TANAGERS AND HONEYCREEPERS

Bicolored Conebill -At least twenty, Caroni Swamp (T).

White-shouldered Tanager-Seen on two days in the mountain forests (T).

White-lined Tanager -Common, noted each day on Trinidad and 3 days Tobago (T & To).

Red-crowned Ant-Tanager-Seen one afternoon at Asa Wright (T).

Silver-beaked Tanager -Common on Trinidad (T).

Blue-grey Tanager -Very common, the Tobago birds noticeably bluer (T & To).

Palm Tanager -Common and widespread. Noted each day. (T & To).

Trinidad Euphonia -One males and two females- Lalaja Road (T).

Violaceous Euphonia -Widespread in the hills, where noted each day (T).

Turquoise Tanager -Noisy flocks were a welcome sight each day on Trinidad, as they usually carried other species with them (T).

Speckled Tanager -Only on the Blanchisseuse Road (T).

Bay-headed Tanager -Widespread in the hill forests (T).

Blue Dacnis -Regularly seen in the hill forests (T).

Green Honeycreeper -Seen daily on Trinidad, mainly at Asa Wright. (T)

Purple Honeycreeper -Seen 6 days on Trinidad, mainly at Asa Wright. (T)

Red-legged Honeycreeper-Two Blanchisseuse Road (T). 4 Main Ridge and 2 Speyside (To).

FINCHES, SEEDEATERS & GROSBEAKS

Saffron Finch -A fine pair at Aripo Research Station (T).

Blue-black Grassquit -"Johnny Jump-up" locally (dubbed "Jumping Jack Flash by one member of the group !). More common on Trinidad, but seen regularly Tobago (T & To).

Black-faced Grassquit -Widespread on Tobago. (To).

Grayish Saltator -Seen mainly at Asa Wright on 6 days (T).

AMERICAN ORIOLES & BLACKBIRDS

Crested Oropendola -Common (T & To).

Yellow-rumped Cacique-In the Trinidad lowlands. Seen at Blanchisseuse and Aripo Savannah (T).

Yellow Oriole -Common Trinidad. (T).

Yellow-hooded Blackbird-Only in wet areas in Trinidad. At the Aripo Research Station, Nariva Swamp, Trincity Ponds and Caroni (T)

Red-breasted Blackbird -At least three at the Aripo Research Station (T).

Carib Grackle -Common in the lowlands. Also liked hanging about in certain restaurants (T & To).

Shiny Cowbird -Widespread, and seen daily (T & To).

Giant Cowbird -Two Nariva Swamp (T).

MAMMALS

Red-tailed Squirrel -Regularly seen Asa Wright and mountain forests (T)

Red-rumped Agouti -Regularly seen Asa Wright (T).

Common Opossum -Nocturnal. Two at Wallerfield. One on road near Asa Wright (T).

Tent Bat -One in Philodendron leaf tent at Asa Wright (T)

Sac-winged bat sp. -Probably these seen hunting by day along forest roads (T)

Other bats -Lots of small bats around the feeders at Blue Waters. An intriguing report of a fish-eating bat off Blue Waters late one night (To).

OTHER GROUPS

Tree Boa -One shown to us by film crew, Caroni Swamp (to be shown C4 autumn 99 !) (T)

Spectacled Cayman -Several Trincity, Waterloo and Caroni (T)

Golden Tegu Lizard -The prehistoric-looking creature frequently seen coming to food at Asa Wright (OK, the one that wasn't wearing a Travelling Naturalist T-shirt). (T)

Gecko -Among lots of unidentified lizards, geckos were often seen at Asa Wright in the evenings (T)

Four-eyed Fish -A shoal of this Caribbean peculiarity cruising offshore at Waterloo. (T)

Land Crab -Several at Asa Wright. (T) Traps set for these seen at Buccoo Marsh(To)

Ants -An Army Ant swarm seen at Lalaja (T). Leaf-cutter ants seen everywhere.

Morpho Butterflies -Among many butterflies, these were perhaps the most spectacular.

Long-tailed Skipper -A very common butterfly.

Hawk-moth caterpillars -Worth mentioning, huge yellow/black/orange striped creatures on a Frangipani Tree at Speyside. They appear (unidentified !) in one of the tourist board leaflets !


© The Travelling Naturalist 1999