Trinidad Birding Trinidad Birding Trinidad Birding


Trinidad & Tobago
March 26 – April 5, 2008

Leaders:
   Bill Murphy (Trinidad & Tobago)
   Martyn Kenefick (Trinidad)


Click here to view the species list or here to view it as an MS-Word document.

Itinerary
March 26     Arrival
March 27Trinidad: Asa Wright Nature Centre (AWNC)  
March 28Trinidad: Sudama Steps, Brickfields, Waterloo 
March 29Trinidad: Oilbird Cave, Trincity Ponds, Caroni Swamp 
March 30Trinidad: Northern Range 
March 31Trinidad: Aripo Livestock Station, Nariva, Waller Field 
April 1Tobago: South
April 2Tobago: Cuffie River Nature Retreat 
April 3Tobago: Little Tobago Island 
April 4Tobago: Main Ridge 

Tour Participants
      Peter Bradshaw
      Carolyn Brown
      Jay Brown
      John Campbell
      Julie Campbell
      Stanley Epstein
      Sylvia Epstein
      David Hamilton
      Denise Hamilton
      Paul Thomas

This exceptionally fine trip began with an email from Jay and Carolyn Brown of Palmyra, Virginia, formerly of Bethesda, Maryland, where they lived when I'd seen them last. Twenty-five years earlier they had been on one of my early trips to Trinidad & Tobago. In their email they asked me when my next trip was. Since I had nothing scheduled, we worked out a time that fit their schedule. I remembered them as lovely people, and it turned out that they still are! Three other persons -- Peter Bradshaw and Stanley and Sylvia Epstein -- joined the tour at the Brown's invitation. None of those three individuals had ever been on so much as a bird walk before, but all of them became quite expert by the end of the trip. As always, I was excited at the prospect of spending time with some old friends and making some new ones. The trip went off very nicely, with plenty of excellent weather, great food, and the unexpected pleasure of Richard and Margaret ffrench's presence at the Asa Wright Nature Centre during our visit.

We were the first birding group I've organized that was able to enjoy using the excellent new field guide to the birds of Trinidad and Tobago, co-authored by none other than Martyn Kenefick, my friend and our incomparable guide on Trinidad. We all found his guide to be superb. I recommend it highly. Well done, Martyn, and thanks! Here's a shot of the two most famous Trinidad & Tobago field guide authors, Martyn Kenefick and Richard ffrench, sharing a quiet pre-dawn moment on the veranda.



During the tour we found a grand total of 215 species of birds, a very good number for a period during which migrants from North America are not expected – not that we were there to see North American migrants! Included was at least one real rarity – a Grey Heron – along with a lot of excellent sightings of tropical species.

I would like to thank all of the participants – Peter, Carolyn, Jay, John, Julie, Stanley, Sylvia, David, Denise, and Paul – for helping to make this a very productive and enjoyable tour. As always I would like to extend special thanks to Martyn Kenefick for all of the time, energy, and thoughtfulness he put into making this a truly memorable birding adventure.

Photo credits: Of the images that appear in this report, 106 were taken by Paul Thomas, 50 were provided by the Browns, 9 are mine, and one is by the Epsteins. If you want high quality copies of any of them, please contact me and I'll tell you who took them and will put you in touch with the photographer.


Wednesday, March 26
Arrival

Usually on my tours everyone arrives the first evening of the trip and then we assemble as a group at our lodge. This time was a rare exception. Five of us had arrived two days early. Jay, Carolyn, and Peter had flown down on Monday and had been enjoying the cosmopolitan ambience of the capital city of Port-of-Spain.

Peter and Jay battle Indian rotis
at Piarco Airport

Paul and I also had flown down on Monday and had been experiencing the ambience of the remote northeastern coast and several swamplands where Paul had birded while I had collected snail-killing flies for a research associate. David and Denise arrived early Wednesday afternoon, leaving only John, Julie, Stan, and Sylvia to be picked up at the airport that evening. Martyn Kenefick, my friend and our birding guide on the Trinidad portion of the trip, had transported David and Denise from the airport to our Trinidad accommodation, the world-famous Asa Wright Nature Centre (AWNC). Martyn was back at the airport that evening with our driver, Ivan, to greet the arriving participants. Thus the last lot of us arrived at the AWNC late Wednesday evening and finally connected with all of the other participants. Everyone was in great shape for our birding adventure and more than ready for a good night's sleep.

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Thursday, March 27
Trinidad: Asa Wright Nature Centre (AWNC)

Most of us arose very early this morning, coaxed from our beds by the irresistable calls of dozens of tropical birds. Almost everyone appeared on the veranda, the most heavily birded spot in Trinidad, well before the sun had properly illuminated the Arima Valley. Some of the species feeding voraciously on the fruit that had been placed on feeding tables for them included the species shown below as well as eye-pleasers such as Blue-crowned Motmot, Great Antshrike, and Great Kiskadee.

Veranda as seen
from below
Feeding table Bananaquit Blue-gray Tanager Palm Tanager Silver-beaked Tanager White-lined Tanager
Bare-eyed Thrush Cocoa Thrush Green Honeycreeper Purple Honeycreeper
Red-legged Honeycreeper Tropical Mockingbird Crested Oropendola and pendular nests Carib Grackle, female Smooth-billed Ani

Among the nectar-feeding hummingbirds were Little Hermit, Green Hermit, White-necked Jacobin, Black-throated Mango, Tufted Coquette, Blue-chinned Sapphire, White-chested Emerald, and Copper-rumped Hummingbird. Ruddy Ground-Dove was the most common species of dove. It was common everywhere on both islands.

Ruddy
Ground-Dove

Gray-fronted Doves, generally a 'heard-only' species deep in the forest, foraged for scraps beneath the feeding tables. We had a rare view of a Double-toothed Kite, a species that behaves very much like a Sharp-Shinned Hawk, perched atop a distant tree. By the time the breakfast gong sounded we had spotted both Turkey and Black Vultures and the first of many Common Black-Hawks that we would see as they rode the warming air in upward spirals.

Turkey Vulture

We also studied the swifts, trying to glimpse the color of their upper tails and rumps as they dashed about in the air farther down the valley. We managed to identify Band-rumped and Gray-rumped Swifts.

After a hearty breakfast we gathered in the spacious main room where Martyn did an excellent job explaining the Centre's operating procedures, our Trinidad itinerary, and just about everything anyone could have wanted to know about how to get along during our stay. As soon as he was finished we all migrated back to the veranda and started ticking off new species. As always, hummingbirds got top billing, some of them allowing photographs to be taken at arms length. Here are Paul's shots of two of the hummers.

White-necked
Jacobin
White-chested
Emerald

During the day we birded various areas on the AWNC property, familiarizing ourselves with many of the species with which we'd grow familiar during the course of our trip and getting to know each other.

Entrance sign At the entrance

The AWNC is a former coffee, cocoa, citrus plantation. We spent time examining the coffee, cocoa, and citrus trees and discussing the bane of the cocoa pods, the Red Squirrel. This, the only species of squirrel on either island, gnaws into the pods, allowing a fungus to enter that shrivels and kills the pod.

Red squirrel

We took a break for lunch back at the main house, then continued birding until late afternoon. A real highlight was watching White-bearded Manakins at their communal lek.

White-bearded
Manakin

Also seen on this hike were Bay-headed Tanagers.

Bay-headed
Tanager

This was also the day of our Bearded Bellbird hunt. We hiked downhill past the manakin lek until we arrived at the traditional bellbird calling area. During the better part of an hour we heard bellbirds but couldn't spot one. Finally one of them flew to a perch that was visible through the foliage, and everyone had a good look at it. The same bird, or another one, landed even closer and allowed us all to see every feather as it threw its head back and emitted a series of "BOK" calls. A participant on a former tour accurately described the birds as having a dreadlock beard.

Bellbird quest Bearded Bellbird

We spent some time studying the local House Wrens, which at one time were considered to be a separate species, Tropical House Wren, but which, at this time, are considered to be just a distinct race.

House Wren

Another good find was a Rufous-browed Peppershrike, whose song was easily heard throughout the days we spent in Trinidad but who blended in so perfectly that it was difficult to spot.

Rufous-browed
Peppershrike

At 5 p.m. we enjoyed the traditional tea and pastries on the veranda. By 6 p.m. it was completely dark and we were enjoying the dangerously strong rum punch provided by the Centre. Around 7 p.m. we all trouped into the dining room for a very satisfying dinner, followed by our daily tally-rally. The day had been a rousing success in every way.

We had seen 63 species during the day, all of them new for the trip, of course. In addition to the species mentioned above we saw or heard Ruddy Ground-Dove, Scaled Pigeon, Blue-headed Parrot, Orange-winged Parrot, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, White-tailed Trogon, Violaceous Trogon, Channel-billed Toucan, Chestnut Woodpecker, Plain-brown Woodcreeper, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, Tropical Pewee, Piratic Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Bearded Bellbird, White-bearded Manakin, Golden-headed Manakin, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, House Wren, Rufous-breasted Wren, Long-billed Gnatwren, Turquoise Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Tropical Parula, Yellow Warbler, American Redstart, Giant Cowbird, Shiny Cowbird, and Violaceous Euphonia.

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Friday, March 28
Trinidad: Sudama Steps, Brickfields, and Waterloo

Having a very quiet first breakfast of toast and coffee this morning at the uncivilized hour of 4 a.m. was quite a change for us. We boarded the maxi and made off down Blanchisseuse Road, through sleeping towns at the foot of the mountains and far south to the city of San Fernando before the sun rose. This was a different landscape than any we had seen before. Sugar cane grew on rolling hills for miles around us, with an occasional oil derrick pump slowly bowing and rising in the fields. We passed through the village of La Romain and a few tiny one-house-on-each-side villages before stopping along a mangrove-lined river. Near the bus stood a roofed concrete platform with steps leading down to the river, the edifice that give the place the name "Sudama Steps".

Green-rumped Parrotlets and a variety of long-legged herons and egrets foraged nearby. Cameras were readied, binoculars were strapped on, and with the sun at our backs we began our birding trek along the river, which empties into the South Oropouche. We walked for about a mile with the canal on our right and a vast expanse of marsh on our left, across an irrigation ditch. For the first half mile I tried using my insect net to flush any rails or crakes hiding in the tall grass.

Any rails in there? Birding at Sudama Steps

In the mangroves along the river flitted several tiny birds with long, flattened bills — Spotted Tody-Flycatchers. This is the only easily accessible spot in Trinidad where birding groups can locate this species reliably.

Spotted
Tody-Flycatcher

We spotted Yellow-hooded and Red-breasted Blackbirds in the marsh and a steady supply of Yellow-chinned Spinetails in the marsh grass and along the path.

Yellow-hooded
Blackbird
Red-breasted
Blackbird

Striated Herons were common along the ditch, as were Wattled Jacanas and Southern Lapwings.

Southern Lapwing Wattled Jacana

A family group of 11 Greater Anis was a delightful surprise, constituting the largest group I had ever seen. A Ringed Kingfisher, much larger than the common North American Belted Kingfisher, was a nice treat. Some of the most common species in the marsh were Pied Water-Tyrant and White-headed Marsh-Tyrant.

Pied Water-Tyrant
at nest

Also along the path were Bicolored Conebills, small grayish-blue birds that are partial to mangroves. We watched several Yellow-headed Caracaras fly over the open expanse of marshland, an Osprey, and a single rather distant Peregrine Falcon.

Yellow-headed
Caracara
Osprey

Especially entertaining was a pair of Black-crested Antshrikes that were attracted by playback of their call. The male, with its rakish erectable crest, comically pumped its tail in time with its calls.

Black-crested
Antshrike, male
Black-crested
Antshrike, female

We hiked as far as a deserted picnic area, where amid the weed stems and brush we found a singing Striped Cuckoo and managed to get it in the scope for prolonged, superb views. By carefully scanning the western portion of the marsh we were able to find and observe at least two Long-winged Harriers.

Scanning for raptors

We left Sudama Steps at midmorning and headed into Gulf City, just outside San Fernando, where we feasted on a late breakfast of doubles from our traditional streetside vendor. This was a first for most participants. Doubles are flat fried pieces of dough, two pieces overlapped like a fat figure eight, atop which is applied a mango paste, split channa (chickpeas), and hot pepper sauce. I ordered "slight hot" for everyone, which meant very little of the incendiary pepper sauce. Each person also enjoyed a cold beverage — carbonated pear, orange, or an old-fashioned Coke (= made with cane sugar, not beet sugar).

From Gulf City we headed back north to Freeport, where Martyn confirmed lunch reservations for us at Jenny's Kitchen Corner, a local eatery known for its excellent roti. A roti is a staple Trinidadian food prepared by stuffing rolled dough with ground yellow split peas, cumin, garlic, pepper, and beef, pork, chicken, lamb, fish, shrimp, conch, potatoes, or vegetables, and then sealing and rolling it to distribute the filling.

Along the Gulf of Paria we birded from an area known as Brickfields, where the low tide provided excellent conditions for viewing shorebirds. The mud flats provided us with views of many species of herons and egrets, shorebirds, gulls, and terns.

Scanning the mudflats Martyn, Sylvia, and Jay Gulf of Paria mudflats

It was hot in the sun, so we were glad to find shade about half a mile south of us, near a famous Hindu temple built over the Gulf of Paria at the end of a long pier, an area known as Waterloo. In addition to lots of shorebirds, the number of Hindu prayer flags there was amazing. Here we found numbers of Large-billed Terns and a single Yellow-billed Tern perched on pilings, Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night-Herons perched in the mangroves, and more shorebirds.

Temple at
Waterloo
Large-billed
Terns
Yellow-crowned
Night-Heron

Even a Great Kiskadee found the area to its liking.

Great
Kiskadee

Across the Gulf of Paria we could make out the islands between Trinidad and Venezuela and the distant cloud-covered peaks on the Paria Peninsula of Venezuela.

We took time out during the day to visit a Hindu shrine that features the tall statue of the god Hanuman, the Monkey God.

Temple to Hanuman,
the Hindu Monkey God
Hanuman, Peter,
Stanley, and Jay

Our last birding stop of the day was at a very long pier at Orange Valley, where mudflats on both sides of us provided excellent views of shorebirds that included Wilson's Plovers. After checking out all of the shorebirds and other waders we returned to Jenny's. Here we devoured our savory rotis, washed down with the favorite drink of the trip, lemon-lime bitters, then headed back to AWNC. Here a delightful surprise awaited us in the form of Richard and Margaret ffrench, who had just arrived from the U.K. Richard is the author of 'A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago,' the field guide that was used almost exclusively from 1973 until 2008, when Martyn's field guide was published.

Richard ffrench and
Martyn Kenefick
Margaret ffrench Richard, Martyn, and Jay

Sadly, Richard told us that it was his farewell visit to Trinidad and Tobago as his health was failing.

During the remaining daylight we birded around the Centre, finding species such as White-necked Thrush.

White-necked
Thrush

Carolyn was busy photographing some of the plants and flowers on the property.

Torch Ginger
Etlingera elatior
Balisier/Lobster Claw
Heliconia caribaea
Black Stick
Pachystachys coccinea
Coffee
Coffea arabica
Shiny-Leaf
Lantana camara
Heliconia, var.
"Sexy Pink"

We enjoyed our usual tea and pastries and then our 6 p.m. rum punch, then headed back to our bungalows to clean up for dinner. After another fine meal we conducted our tally-rally and discussed tomorrow's activities.

We had seen 107 species during the day, including 68 that were new for the trip, bringing our trip total to 131. Species new for the trip were Little Tinamou, Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Striated Heron, Cattle Egret, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Tricolored Heron, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Scarlet Ibis, Osprey, Long-winged Harrier, Gray Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk, Yellow-headed Caracara, Peregrine Falcon, Common Moorhen, Southern Lapwing, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Wilson's Plover, Short-billed Dowitcher, Whimbrel, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, Willet, Spotted Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Wattled Jacana, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Laughing Gull, Royal Tern, Yellow-billed Tern, Large-billed Tern, Black Skimmer, Rock Pigeon, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Greater Ani, Smooth-billed Ani, Striped Cuckoo, Short-tailed Swift, Ringed Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Black-crested Antshrike, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Spotted Tody-Flycatcher, Pied Water-Tyrant, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, Gray Kingbird, Bright-rumped Attila, White-winged Swallow, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, White-necked Thrush, Blue-black Grassquit, Grayish Saltator, Northern Waterthrush, Yellow Oriole, Red-breasted Blackbird, and Yellow-hooded Blackbird.

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Saturday, March 29
Trinidad: Oilbird Cave, Trincity Ponds, Caroni Swamp

After another tasty breakfast we spent a few minutes absorbing the offerings from the veranda. Every day we were at the AWNC we saw Golden Tegu lizards foraging under the feeders for scraps.

AWNC
feeding table
Golden tegu
lizard

We then enjoyed a leisurely nature hike with resident naturalist Barry to the Guacharo Gorge to view a unique species of bird, the Oilbird. Along the way, in their typical dark jungle habitat, we found our first Red-crowned Ant-Tanagers of the trip. Our visit to the awesome Oilbird Cave was successful. The population of birds in the colony was the largest in recent years. Everyone got good looks at multiple birds inside the dark grotto.

Oilbird

We also found a female Collared Trogon, a Caligo butterfly, and a lovely Heliconia flower along the trail.

Collared Trogon,
female
Caligo
butterfly
Heliconia

Here's the welcome view of the AWNC veranda that we saw as we returned from treks down the valley.

AWBAS veranda

Following lunch, we organized our equipment, boarded our maxitaxi, and headed to the lowlands, stopping first at the Trincity Ponds. Here on the edges of the ponds and in the hyacinth clusters we found lots of Yellow-hooded Blackbirds, Snowy and Great Egrets, and several other species.

Trincity Ponds Water Hyacynth
Eichhornia crassipes

From there we drove to the Caroni Swamp for one of the trip's highlights — the spectacular evening flight of Scarlet Ibis. First we made a comfort stop at the Caroni Swamp Visitor Center, where we made valiant, persistent, futile attempts to attract the endemic race of Clapper Rail where Paul and I had found a pair a few days earlier. Here are some photos of the Clapper Rails that Paul took at this spot the day before the official start of our tour.

Clapper Rail

On the positive side, we were able to enjoy close views of three different Yellow-breasted Flycatchers at that site. My young friend, Shawn Madoo, was our expert boatman for this evening's excursion.

Shawn Madoo

Before we departed down the canal, Shawn and I reviewed the species we wanted to see. He was confident that he could help us find most of them. In fact, almost as soon as we were under way Shawn began picking them out one by one. Right at the Visitor Center he found an American Pygmy Kingfisher. We had a splendid trip, seeing almost every species we wanted to. Shawn found us a Common Potoo, looking very much like a continuation of a branch, a mangrove-loving Green-throated Mango hummingbird, two coiled Cook's Tree Boas, and a Two-toed Sloth (Silky Anteater) curled up in a honey-colored ball, sound asleep.

Cook's
Tree Boa
Heading into the
Caroni Swamp

We finally reached the Scarlet Ibis roost, an extensive area of open water where hammocks of mangroves provide secure places for ibis, herons, and egrets to spend the night. We watched flock after flock of these luminescent birds fly in, along with herons and egrets of all kinds, as we ate our AWNC-provided cake and drank our rum punch.

Scarlet Ibis in flight and at roost Paul photographing
Scarlet Ibis
Passing cake David, Sylvia

Afterwards, as Shawn guided the boat back through the labyrinth of mangroves, we were a happy crowd indeed. We thanked Shawn profusely for an excellent trip, reboarded the maxi, and rode back to the Centre. After cleaning up, we enjoyed another wonderful dinner.

Dinner at AWNC

We'd seen 99 species during the day, including 17 that were new for the trip, bringing our trip total to 148. Species new for the trip were Blue-winged Teal, Neotropic Cormorant, Gray-headed Kite, Rufous-necked Wood-Rail, Squirrel Cuckoo, Oilbird, Common Potoo, Green-throated Mango, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, White-flanked Antwren, Black-faced Antthrush, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Golden-fronted Greenlet, Bicolored Conebill, and Red-crowned Ant-Tanager.

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Sunday, March 30
Trinidad: Northern Range

Today we experienced a rainy day, an anomaly in what was considered to be, before global climate change, the dry season. We were prepared, however, and understood that rain is one reason they call the habitat in the Northern Range a rainforest. We used umbrellas during the first part of the day.

Martyn Denise and David

We birded from the veranda from before dawn, relishing the amazing variety of colorful birds streaming through the string of bird feeders below us and at the hummingbird feeders at eye level, mere inches from us. Everyone loved the Barred Antshrikes that appeared from time to time.

Barred Antshrike,
male

The Centre knows how to treat guests properly, setting out strong hot coffee on the veranda before dawn. After an hour we took a break to enjoy a buffet breakfast consisting of the usual three kinds of cereal, slices of fresh papaya ("pawpaw"), cheese, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit juice, and coffee.

Immediately after breakfast we left the Centre in Ivan's maxitaxi. Our destination today was Blanchisseuse Road, at which the AWNC entrance drive ends. We headed north about two miles to the crest of the Northern Range, the easternmost extension of the Andes Mountains. My original plan was to drive directly to the very top of the road that leads to the Textel microwave station atop Morne Bleu, a high elevation spot where birders sometimes find rare species. The view from there is fabulous. To the west you can see the Gulf of Paria and the Caroni Swamp. To the south you can see the petroleum refineries at Pointe-à-Pierre and beyond, all the way to San Fernando Hill National Monument. To the southeast you can see the Central Range. To the east you can see the long rainforest-covered crest of Morne Bleu stretching into the distance. But today was rainy, so we skipped that steep stretch of slippery, smooth tar and instead stayed on the level roadway, birding as we walked, watched, and listened.

Farther along the road we parked at the junction of Las Lapis Trace, which leads down into the Lopinot Valley west of the Arima Valley, in which we were staying. This was another high elevation site that often produces unusual species.

Sylvia and Stanley

We followed Las Lapis Trace for about an hour, past a 90° bend, and headed south into the Lopinot Valley. Here we picked up Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Collared Trogon, and Short-tailed Hawk. A few distant Golden-headed Manakins were visible at their traditional lek deep in the forest. Martyn describes a Golden-headed Manakin as "a little black furry gonk with its head dipped in egg yoke." Martyn also picked out several Swallow-Tanagers, a species of limited seasonal occurrence on the island.

Golden-headed
Manakins
Swallow Tanager

Butterflies were a highlight of this walk, with excellent views being obtained of Clearwings, Blue Emperor morpho, Postman, Sweet Oil, and other large, colorful tropical species.

Clearwing
Butterfly

Before lunch we made one more stop, this time at the junction with Brasso Seco Road, where we had good looks at many species. Martyn was our avian wizard, finding species nearly invisible to the rest of us until he pointed them out.

A minor deity

From the Brasso Seco junction we continued along the very sinuous road through the tiny hamlet of Morne La Croix to a thatched shelter for lunch, which consisted of a hot rice pilaf with large chunks of beef, fresh garden salad with a homemade mayonnaise dressing, watermelon slices, fresh fruit juice, and cold water. While enjoying our lunch we watched for Yellow-rumped Cacique, a species that during the first part of the year sometimes colonizes a lone pine tree within sight of the shelter. We finally found a few, nesting in a tall pine tree just outside the village. Strangely enough, we had some of our best birding during lunch.

Birding at Morne La Croix

Afterwards we returned to the Centre, cleaned up, and then headed for the veranda to enjoy another couple of hours of birding there or along the entrance drive or the trails. Some of us chose to stay behind and enjoy the afternoon relaxing.

Peter on the
upper patio

We enjoyed our usual 4 p.m. tea and pastries and our 6 p.m. killer rum punch, then retreated to our bungalows to clean up for dinner. We'd seen 89 species during the day, including 17 that were new for the trip, bringing our trip total to 165. Species new for the trip were Short-tailed Hawk, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Rufous-breasted Hermit, Collared Trogon, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Lineated Woodpecker, Stripe-breasted Spinetail, Streaked Xenops, Barred Antshrike, Plain Antvireo, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Black-tailed Tityra, Gray-breasted Martin, Speckled Tanager, Swallow Tanager, Golden-crowned Warbler, and Yellow-rumped Cacique.

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Monday, March 31
Trinidad: Aripo Livestock Station, Nariva, Waller Field

Today we enjoyed an early breakfast, birding on the veranda, and then boarded the maxi, left the Centre, drove down Blanchisseuse Road almost to Arima, and then turned east onto the Eastern Main Road to the Aripo Livestock Station.

Pearl Kite

The security guard at the livestock station let us enter. We drove slowly through a disinfectant bath. At the first stop we found open-field species such as Red-breasted Blackbird, White-winged Swallow, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, and a scattered flock of about 30 Grassland Yellow-Finches, some of them nicely teed up and in good view. This is the latest species to have colonized the island of Trinidad from South America. We found a number of spectacular Savanna Hawks, rusty brown with bold black-and-white tails and extremely long legs, typical of grassland predators. Other species we picked up as we walked along the asphalt drive were Wattled Jacana, Southern Lapwing, and Yellow-chinned Spinetail.

Around the cattle barns we studied the Buffalypso, a breed of water buffalo whose name was coined from combining "buffalo" and "calypso", the indigenous music of Trinidad and Tobago. Our driver, Ivan, was very good at following us with the maxi at a reasonable distance. We continued to bird our way up the eastern hill, walking a considerable way and seeing more of the usual species. The habitat at the top was very pleasant, a shady 20-foot-high shrub forest with a few larger trees.

From the Aripo Livestock Station we headed east to the town of Valencia for a much needed rest stop at the Ponderosa Restaurant. Everyone had cold drinks, and I picked up some cookies and crackers for the group. We then began the long, straight drive to Sangre Grande, passing the seasonally flooded forests of the Aripo Savanna. We skirted around Sangre Grande to the west and arrived at our lunch spot, a park along Manzanilla Bay on the Atlantic Ocean. We enjoyed mildly spiced shepherd's pie, salad, fruit juice, and cold water. Afterwards we tossed tidbits of leftovers to the bony, wary Third World dogs.

We spent the first half of the afternoon exploring Mayaro Road, which runs through millions of palm trees, parallel with the Nariva River. We crossed over the Nariva River bridge and continued to its mouth, where we stopped to examine the sandy peninsula tip. A highlight was when Denise spotted a Pearl Kite, one of Trinidad's smallest raptors.

Our final eastside birding was a slow drive along Kernaham Trace, which runs through the southern end of Nariva Swamp. We got very lucky with Azure Gallinule and then with a distant raptor that turned out to be my first Trinidad White-tailed Hawk. Martyn had found the bird in this area recently and had been hoping it would stay for our visit. We continued birding in the area for about an hour, finding the usual marsh birds and water buffalo grazing knee-deep in the marsh.

In late afternoon we headed back north to visit Waller Field, which consists of two long concrete runways and a grid of taxi-ways, part of a World War II U.S. Army base called Fort Reid.

Inside our
maxitaxi
Churchill-Roosevelt
Highway

The area is under heavy construction, with many of the former taxi-ways and runways being closed. We proceeded to a grove of Moriche palms where we found another of our target birds, Red-bellied Macaw, and several other species closely allied with moriche palms. We were fortunate to find a small flock of the macaws that flew in and began feeding on the fruit of the palm trees.

Red-bellied
Macaws

While birding the area and later enjoying rum punch and cake, we found two other species that are very partial to morich palms — Fork-tailed Palm-Swift and Sulphury Flycatcher.

Most of us dozed during our ride back to Asa Wright. We arrived, cleaned up, and enjoyed a slightly late (7:30 p.m.) dinner, during which we celebrated Carolyn's birthday. It was also the birthday of Wendy, a fellow guest at the AWNC who was living on a yacht docked in Chaguaramas, so we celebrated hers as well.

At our tally-rally we found that we had seen 98 species during the day, including 18 that were new for the trip, bringing our trip total to 183. Species new for the trip were Pinnated Bittern, Cocoi Heron, Pearl Kite, Plumbeous Kite, Savanna Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, Merlin, Azure Gallinule, Least Sandpiper, Red-bellied Macaw, Fork-tailed Palm-Swift, Ruby-Topaz Hummingbird, White-bellied Antbird, Forest Elaenia, Sulphury Flycatcher, Red-eyed "Chivi" Vireo, Grassland Yellow-Finch, and Ruddy-breasted Seedeater.

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Tuesday, April 1
Tobago: South

Leaving the Asa Wright Nature Centre is always like leaving an old friend. Today we tiptoed through our morning ablutions, dined quietly in the darkness while the other guests slept on, then loaded our belongings onto a pickup truck and boarded Ivan's maxitaxi for one final ride, this time to the airport. Our destination today was the lovely island of Tobago, some 26 miles northeast of Trinidad. We left the AWNC at 5 a.m., arrived at the airport in plenty of time. With fondness and profound thanks we bid farewell to Martyn, our talented and highly skilled guide, and Ivan, who had safely and comfortably provided transportation for us over so many miles.

Our 20-minute inter-island flight in a Caribbean Airlines Dash-8 took us over Galleon's Passage to Crown Point International Airport.

Dash-8

Caribbean Martin was the first species we saw in Tobago, with the ever-present soaring flocks of Magnificent Frigatebirds being the second species. At the tiny Crown Point baggage claim area we retrieved our luggage, loaded it into a waiting pickup truck, and waved goodbye as it headed to our home for the rest of the trip, the Cuffie River Nature Retreat near Runnemede. Our driver, Bert Isaac, was waiting for us with a spacious maxi-taxi. After a brief pause to visit the washrooms we boarded the maxi and began birding.

Tobago is a quaint island. Everything seems intimate. Driving from place to place on the south end is a matter of a few minutes at most. Our first stop was only two miles away at a very birdy spot called the Bon Accord lagoons, six ponds separated by grassy dikes. The first bird we saw in the pond area was the "bird of the day" — a vagrant from the Old World, a Grey Heron. We initially observed this bird from the maxitaxi as we approached the ponds from the south before turning west to park in front of the gate. I called the group's attention to the tall dark heron standing alone on the concrete dike that bisects the easternmost pond, drawing special attention to the white crown, face, and neck, the white headlights at the bend in the wing, and in particular to the white, not chestnut-coloured, thighs. I repeated these characters as the group was leaving the bus and again as we observed the bird through their binoculars. The heron flushed as we began clambering through the gap in the fence, before any of us had taken a photo. While exploring the ponds we found Whimbrel, Anhingas (also called Snakebirds), a flock of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks with young, a pair of White-cheecked Pintails, Common Moorhens with young, Least Grebes, and many other species.

Black-bellied
Whistling-Ducks
Anhinga, female

In the golden leather fern, Acrostichum aureum, and other marsh vegetation on the south side of the street we spotted Green Herons, familiar from back home; Southern Lapwings, plump shorebirds with a startlingly gaudy wing pattern in flight; Wattled Jacanas with toes so long the birds can walk on lily pads without sinking; and Cattle Egrets, appropriately fraternizing with cattle and snatching up insects flushed by their hooves. Short-tailed Swifts swooped very low and close to us, vacuuming up flying insects.

Least Grebes

The breezes were very strong this morning, and I was struggling to hear bird songs over the roar of the wind. After exploring the ponds we walked along the road beside the ponds, finding several Tobago specialties at a single very productive spot that provided some shelter from the wind. Included was a nondescript Scrub Greenlet, a vireo relative, one of our dozen or so "target" species found on Tobago but not on Trinidad.

Scrub
Greenlet

Both male and female Barred Antshrikes made appearances. We also had good looks at Tricolored Heron, Whimbrel, Brown-crested Flycatcher, countless fiddler crabs, and the lovely Caribbean.

At midmorning we left Bon Accord and drove to the Pennysaver grocery store on Milford Road. Participants always welcome this stop because Pennysaver maintains an Arctic-like temperature. Here we sampled local beverages and stocked up on snacks. Incredibly, a Peregrine Falcon flew over us during this stop.

We drove east to a Hilton hotel/golf course complex called Tobago Plantations. The lake at the entrance to the area hosted diving Least Grebes and fishing Anhingas while the grassy margins held Common Moorhen and Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks. We spent an hour exploring the productive Tobago Plantations sewage lagoons, where we found more Least Grebes, large numbers of Green Herons, more whistling-ducks, and several Purple Gallinues. Frustratingly, we also found a heron that was either a Great Blue or a Grey, but it flushed before we could identify it. Several species of shorebirds were present, including Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs.

From the Hilton we drove to Fort James to see if a the breeding colony of Roseate Terns had returned yet. They had not, but we picked up our first Black-faced Grassquit there while scanning the offshore volcanic rocks for resting terns.

Black-faced
Grassquit, male

At lunchtime we drove north to the Grafton Caledonia Nature Sanctuary, to which Regina Dumas, owner/manager of Cuffie River, had kindly agreed to have our boxed lunched delivered. Waiting for us in the Cuffie River pickup truck was my friend and expert local guide Desmond Wright. In the tranquil setting of a converted cocoa shed we enjoyed sandwiches of homemade bread with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and cucumbers; fresh bananas; a current cake, dense with a mild flavor; and boxed fruit drinks and cold water. We admired the large variety of sizeable lizards in the rafters overhead.

Red-crowned Woodpecker Olivaceous
Woodcreeper
White-fringed
Antwren

Next we headed to Adventure Farm, where we were literally surrounded by hummingbirds, up to six Ruby-Topaz Hummingbirds at a time. This is a favorite spot for photographers and an excellent place to study the subtle differences among species.

Hummingbird feeders

Having been up since oh-dark-forty, the group decided to skip the 4 p.m. bird feeding and instead call it a day and head for our accommodation. Bert drove us through some spectacular hilly areas in central Tobago and through the town of Runnemede to the Cuffie River Nature Retreat.

Cuffie River features a 2-mile-long entrance road that provides an amazing sense of privacy, sufficient to warrant leaving the doors to the rooms open at night. The owner/manager, Regina Sanchez, greeted us and assigned us to our spacious, welcoming rooms.

Cuffie River
Nature Retreat
Reception/dining room
at Cuffie River
Regina and Stanley

Afterwards, in the remaining daylight we viewed a pair of Rufous-breasted Wrens, several Copper-rumped Hummingbirds, White-necked Jacobin hummingbirds, and pairs of Orange-winged Parrots screeching and flying from ridge to ridge. Most of the group took advantage of the unique elevated swimming pool, looking like models in an ad for a tropical paradise with palm trees waving against the emerald jungle.

Daylight during our trip was basically 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a brief bit of dawn and dusk. Thus dinner this evening, as on all evenings, was a nocturnal affair. We enjoyed this repast at a long table in the open-air dining room on the first floor of the inn. Out front, a White-tailed Nightjar used the mercury vapor lamp as a McDonald's, catching flying insects attracted to the light. Food from the adjacent kitchen emerged through two pass-throughs to Yvonne and Carolyn, who delivered it to the tables. On this night as on every night, through the generosity of several of the participants we had wine with our food.

Afterwards we retired to the sitting room to conduct our tally rally. We'd gotten off to a good start, having seen 69 species of birds on our first day on Tobago, including 19 that were new for the trip. Species new for the trip were Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, White-cheeked Pintail, Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Least Grebe, Anhinga, Green Heron, Gray Heron, Broad-winged Hawk, Pale-vented Pigeon, Eared Dove, White-tipped Dove, White-tailed Nightjar, Belted Kingfisher, Red-crowned Woodpecker, White-fringed Antwren, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Scrub Greenlet, Caribbean Martin, and Black-faced Grassquit.

I slept with my patio doors wide open, as I suspect all of us did. I also left the door to my room propped open with a rock, which allowed a very pleasant night breeze to pass through the room. I saw no mosquitoes in my room at any time while at Cuffie River, which might have been the result of having lizards and geckos patrolling our rooms, consuming the critters that would have been dining on us.

Richard's Anole,
Anolis richardii

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Wednesday, April 2
Tobago: Cuffie River Nature Retreat

Today we had a rather rare opportunity for a birding tour — a full, leisurely day to explore the trails in the area of our lodgings, the Cuffie River Nature Retreat. On most days of the tour we would be leaving early and not returning until dark. We didn't need alarm clocks because the Rufous-vented Chachalacas started shouting from the treetops at about 4:30 a.m.

Rufous-vented
Chachalacha

Most of the group gathered in front of the inn at 6:30 a.m. for an optional pre-breakfast bird walk along the Cuffie River entrance road. A variety of hummingbirds were already partaking of the nectar at the hummingbird feeders in front of the inn. We walked slowly down the entrance road for several hundred yards and then dallied at the bridge over the Cuffie River watching Rufous-vented Chachalacas flying from tree to tree, looking like Hoatzins. We continued familiarizing ourselves with the Tobago specialties — Red-crowned Woodpecker, White-fringed Antwren, Blue-backed Manakin, Scrub Greenlet, Caribbean Martin, and Black-faced Grassquit. The usual crowd of Blue-crowned Motmots were visible everywhere around the property.

Blue-crowned Motmot

We gradually wandered back to the inn, where we enjoyed a savory breakfast.

After we'd returned to our rooms and prepared for our morning hike, our excellent Cuffie River naturalist, Desmond, led us on an interesting hike through second-growth forest and beside towering groves of bamboo. As we hiked along the entrance drive to the head of a trail on the south side of the road, he lectured about all things Tobagonian and gave us a feeling for the way Tobago had been hundreds of years ago, when sugar was the equivalent of petroleum is today's world. After a brief bit of clambering over rubble where a small landslide had covered the trail, we followed the old donkey path back in the direction from which we'd come. As it leveled out, the trail looped to the south and then to the west.

We followed this fairly easy trail over hill and dale, birding wherever we found avian activity. Pale-vented Pigeons and White-tipped Doves were plentiful. The squawk of Orange-winged Parrots was a constant acoustical companion. It seemed like every 100 yards brought another Blue-crowned Motmot and Rufous-tailed Jacamar into sight, both species often with insect prey in their long bills. We practiced identifying birds by call, especially such species as Scrub Greenlet, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, White-fringed Antwren, and Rufous-breasted Wren, all of which were more easily heard than seen. A real highlight of the trip was finding a White-winged Becard, a species found only once before on my tours.

White-winged
Becard

This was a hot day, but four brief showers cooled the air briefly as they passed. By lunchtime the bird activity had quieted down. The drone of cicadas provided the main acoustical accompaniment to our hiking. We retraced our route back to Cuffie River, arriving just in time to shower and then enjoy a lunch of lasagna, garden salad with homemade dressing, and ice cream for dessert. The afternoon was free for individual exploration, catching up on postcards, relaxing, and snoozing. Some of the participants visited Castara Bay for snorkeling. Some of us hiked up the trail across from Cuffie River and found some confiding Blue-backed Manakins as well as a stunning adult Great Black Hawk that was attracted to my taped call of the manakins.

Great Black Hawk

At our after-dinner tally rally we came up with a total of 53 species seen during the day, including seven that were new for the trip, bringing our trip total to 209. Species new for the trip were Great Black Hawk, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Fuscous Flycatcher, Venezuelan Flycatcher, White-winged Becard, and Blue-backed Manakin.

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Thursday, April 3
Tobago: Cuffie River Nature Retreat, Little Tobago Island

Breakfast at Cuffie River today consisted of toast made from thick homemade bread, bacon, scrambled eggs, granola and other kinds of cereals, slices of watermelon and pineapple, delicious omelettes, hotdog-size Vienna sausages, fresh fruit juice, and coffee. On our morning bird walk we found a Fuscous Flycatcher and a very cooperative Venezuelan Flycatcher directly over the entrance road. The latter species is frequently missed because of its unpredictable nature, so we were glad to have found it.

Venezuelan
Flycatcher

During our stay at Cuffie River we repeatedly saw one or more immature Blue-backed Manakins, which sported crimson topknots in conjunction with the drab plumage of a female.

Blue-backed Manakin,
adult male
Blue-backed Manakin,
young male

At 8:30 a.m. we boarded Bert's maxi and wound our way back out the two-mile-long entrance road. We headed north and turned east at the fishing village of Parlatuvier. Here are some of the happy travelers.

Sylvia Paul Denise and David Denise

We climbed the Roxborough-Parlatuvier Road up to the Main Ridge, proceeded down the other side to Roxborough on the Atlantic, and then followed the Windward Road northeast to Speyside and the Blue Waters Inn.

I'd asked my friend, Wordsworth Frank, to have his glass-bottomed boat ready to depart at 10:30 a.m. We met him at the Blue Waters Inn.

Old friends -- Bill Murphy
and Wordsworth Frank

We made use of the washrooms, bought postcards and cold beverages, and relaxed for a little while.

Julie and John Pre-boarding preparations

When we were all ready, we walked to the end of the pier to board the boat.

Frank's boat Preparing the boat

Among our boatmen for the day were Dion Adams, who on one of our previous trips had spotted Tobago's first American Oystercatcher, and Shane, a longtime fixture on Frank's boat. We departed at 11 a.m. and crossed Batteaux Bay first to the lee side of Goat Island, passed around the south end of Goat Island, and then made a straight run for Little Tobago Island. The wind had been strong all week and the rollers were as high as I had ever seen them. We made the two-mile crossing without incident but without stopping to view the coral and other marine life through the glass bottom. Visibility was low because of the silt stirred up by the waves, so we were not missing anything. We started seeing Red-billed Tropicbirds long before we rounded Goat Island, an auspicious start for our day's adventure.

We tied up to the concrete pier on Little Tobago Island and disembarked.

Arrival on
Little Tobago Island

With the high seas, this endeavor proved to be a challenge but we all got to shore safe and sound. That is, except for Bert, who stopped on the pier to answer a call on his cell phone. A rogue wave completely drenched him, head to toe.

The day was already hot. The leeward side of Little Tobago Island was very humid, as it always is. Huge Anthurium hookeri plants dwarfed us as we climbed the 140 steps along the trail that led to the former warden's cottage. Lizards of various species scurried away at our approach. Along the way I pointed out Gumbo Limbo or Tourist Tree, Bursera simaruba, whose name comes from its red peeling bark, and Silver Thatch Palm, Cothrinax argentata. Chickens (Red Jungle Fowl), which have lived independently on the island for some 150 years, scratched at the dry, crumbly earth. Paul said that there was no reason not to consider it a countable species.

Red Jungle Fowl

Being an entomologist I noticed some flesh flies hovering along the trail and stopped to investigate. They were checking out a dead fledgling Audubon's Shearwater, the only one we saw (and did not count). We found unoccupied burrows of Audubon's Shearwaters under the anthurium root balls, but nobody was home.

Arriving at the top of the trail, we rested near the warden's house, from which point we had a terrific view back across Goat Island to Tobago. A mixed flock of Blue-gray Tanagers, Tropical Mockingbirds, Brown-crested Flycatchers, and Yellow-bellied Elaenias greeted us. From there we proceeded to the first of two overlooks, from which we looked down several hundred yards to the thundering rollers coming in from Senegal. We studied the circling boobies, picking out both Brown Boobies and Red-footed Boobies. The real highlight, though, was all of the Red-billed Tropicbirds in flight. I knew that the view would be even better at the second outlook, to which we proceeded. En route we stopped to examine clumps of tall green bamboo, gigantic specimens of Anthurium hookeri, and the occasional Virgin Orchid, Caularthron bicornutum, none in bloom at this time of year.

Birds nesting on the windward side of the island have all the food they need right at their doorstep, as several ocean currents meet there, producing an upwelling of nutrients and an endless supply of small fish. When we reached the lookout we saw more goose-sized Brown Boobies and Red-footed Boobies in flight and perched on rocks below. Several tropicbirds landed clumsily among the cactus and scrub covering the cliffside to our left. Others passed very close in front of us, allowing terrific photographs to be obtained.

Red-billed Tropicbirds

While the participants were viewing and photographing the tropicbirds I led a few of them at a time slightly off the trail to view an exceptionally unconcerned White-tailed Nightjar that was resting on the ground.

White-tailed
Nightjar

I was also able to show everyone a very close tropicbird at her nest under a clump of Anthurium. After everyone had seen all of the species they had hoped to see, we headed slowly back across Little Tobago Island to the pier. The glass-bottomed boat, which had been anchored some distance from shore, returned to pick us up. Dion did us a great favor on the way back by steering the boat precisely over what may well be the largest brain coral in the world, appropriately named "Einstein". How he can quickly locate a spot like this in an enormous expanse of open water always baffles me.

Once back at the Blue Waters Inn I bought the boatmen a traditional round of beverages while the group enjoyed ice cold Cokes and other drinks. We headed back south a few miles to the village of Speyside, where we had lunch reservations at Jemma's Treetop Restaurant. Here, seated comfortably a couple of yards above the waves, we sat in the cool breeze enjoying our marinated kingfish, chicken, and lemon-lime bitters.

Reboarding the maxi, we drove up the hill above Speyside to a marvelous overlook where we parked for a photo opportunity. From there we headed back to Cuffie River by way of the Windward Road and Mount St. George and then across Tobago through the towns of Moriah and Runnemede. After dark we gathered to watch the White-tailed Nightjars behind the inn and to listen to a Common Potoo calling in the distance. Dinner was as sensational as it had been on each of the previous nights.

We'd seen 56 species during the day, including three that were new for the trip, bringing our trip total to 212. Species new for the trip were Red-billed Tropicbird, Red-footed Booby, and Brown Booby.

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Friday, April 4
Tobago: Main Ridge

An early morning departure is important if one is to arrive at a prime birding spot at the best time of day to see the greatest number of species. Thus it was that just after dawn and after a savory breakfast of bacon/sausage melange, scrambled eggs, toast, and fresh fruit juice we boarded Bert's maxi and left Cuffie River. Our target birds were three tough-to-get ones: White-tailed Sabrewing hummingbird, Yellow-legged Thrush, and White-throated Spadebill. We drove past a 130-foot Kapok or Ceiba, Ceiba pentandra, tree along the road, amazed at the 40-foot circumference of its buttressed roots.

We drove directly to the Gilpin Trace trailhead, which is situated at roughly the highest elevation attainable by road anywhere in the Main Ridge. Gilpin Trace was the only spot on Tobago that was not ravaged by Hurricane Flora in 1963. After we'd rented our rubber wellies from a roadside entrepreneur, we disappeared down the rainforest trail into the gloom. In deep shade we birded quietly, stopping frequently to look and listen. Philodendrons of several varieties, including Swiss-cheese philodendron, climbed the towering trees. Tree ferns overhung the trail, and a prehistoric fernlike plant called Spikemoss or Selaginella covered the steep trail sides.

As we walked I pointed out tropical plants and insects along the trail, including members of the berry-producing melastome family, popular with birds, and a Costus species with a thick, reddish, tubular flower stalk, locally called Red-hot Poker. Very conspicuous were black-and-green moths with long white swallowtails, the White-tailed Patch (Page). Mosquitoes were present in small numbers, tiny but persistent.

Birds were fairly vocal this morning. With little difficulty we located such species as Plain-brown and Olivaceous Woodcreepers, Stripe-breasted Spinetail, and White-necked Thrush, findable but a challenge to see in the dim jungle light.

Plain-brown
Woodcreeper

One of the most common birds along this trace was a Tobago specialty, the Blue-backed Manakin. We heard many of them but saw only a few; fortunately we'd seen them already while in Tobago. Rufous-breasted Hermit hummingbirds were common, squeaking loudly as they blazed past us at waist height. We were able to find all three of our target species: several White-tailed Sabrewing hummingbirds (tick!), one or two Yellow-legged Thrushes (tick!), and even a tiny, furtive White-throated Spadebill. Along the trail we found many ripe figs that had fallen or been knocked to the ground by feeding parrots. We birded slowly along Gilpin Trace for several hours before returning to the maxi.

My usual lunch spot, a forestry building on an overlook that offered a panoramic view of the Caribbean and the Main Ridge, had been torn down since my last visit, so we enjoyed our packed lunch (sandwiches of homemade bread with sausage or baloney and cheese with cucumber, fresh fruit, boxed fruit juice, bottled water) at the Gilpin Trace trailhead shelter.

After lunch we continued birding along the Roxborough-Parlatuvier Road. An interesting non-bird we observed was a huge boa constrictor on the roadside. Paul got close enough to it, and was patient enough, to get this remarkable shot, complete with the tongue investigating scents in the air.

Boa constrictor

Also along the roadside we found several pairs of gorgeous Rufous-tailed Jacamars, looking like foot-long hummingbirds.
Rufous-tailed
Jacamar

Gray Kingbird was also fairly common on exposed perches.

Gray Kingbird

We retraced our morning route a few miles and then stopped to bird along Niplig Trace (which is Gilpin spelled backwards). The trail was more than a bit muddy but the area looked primeval and was exciting to explore. All in all we had an excellent afternoon exploring this rarely visited area. In midafternoon Bert drove us back to Cuffie River, where we enjoyed our last afternoon packing, catching up on our notes, writing postcards, and otherwise enjoying this paradise.

Barred Antshrike,
female
Brown-crested
Flycatcher
Orange-winged
Amazon
Ruby-Topaz
female

There was a constant flow of hummingbirds at the feeders. It was fascinating to compare the gaudy plumages of the more colorful species with the somber tones of the Rufous-breasted Hermit.

At our after-dinner tally we determined that we'd seen 62 species during the day, including three that were new for the trip, bringing our trip grand total to a very respectable 215. Species new for the trip were White-tailed Sabrewing, Yellow-legged Thrush, and White-throated Spadebill.

We conducted a humorous little ceremony during which I officially bestowed the title of "Genuine Birder" on Peter, Stanley, and Sylvia, who had become rather accomplished birders during the trip. Talk about a stupendous first birding experience! Essentially every species they had seen had been new for them. Their walks in Central Park would never be the same!

Because it would have been impossible the next morning for some of us to drive to the Tobago airport and fly to Trinidad in time to catch our homeward flight, on this evening John, Julie, and I bade farewell to the Cuffie River manager and staff and to all of our other tour participants, then rode to the Crown Point airport. We caught the 9:20 p.m. flight to Trinidad, stayed overnight at Sadila House B&B, and the next morning got to the airport in plenty of time to catch our flight back to the U.S.

Thus the trip concluded rather like it began, with some participants departing the next morning and some continuing on in Tobago for several more days.

Carolyn relaxing post-trip

The trip may be over, but the memories will last a lifetime. What an adventure!

As they say in Trinidad & Tobago,
--Until, mon!

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