June 19-27, 2012
Leader: Bill Murphy
Click here to view Louise's images
Click here to view Bill's images
This was one of the smallest groups I'd ever taken to Trinidad & Tobago. Size worked to our advantage, as we were more mobile than usual and saw more species of birds than we had seen on the last several trips.
Tuesday, June 19 - Arrival in Trinidad
Our exploration of the twin-island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago began with half of the participants (Louise and May) being thwarted by thunderstorms in Texas. After spending the night in Houston, they joined us in Tobago a day late. Larry and Nikki arrived not long after noon and settled into their accommodations at Sadila House B&B in Arouca. My flight arrived at 8:30pm during one of only three thunderstorms I'd ever experienced in T&T. Torrential rain with thunder and lightning continued periodically throughout the night but had stopped by morning. We awoke to clear skies and to the calls of Grayish Saltators and Yellow Orioles outside our windows.
Wednesday, June 20 - Southern Tobago
Sadila House owner/manager Chaitram Bhola drove us to the airport, where we caught the 9:15am flight to Tobago. Once there, we met our driver for the Tobago portion of our trip, Edric Jeremy. We began our birding on the Caribbean beach at the western end of the runway, where highlights included Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, Laughing Gull, and Roseate Tern. We continued to the Bon Accord ponds, picking up Barred Antshrike, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, Tropical and Gray Kingbirds, and several other common species.
After stopping for cold beverages, we drove to the Tobago Plantations. The large lake at the entrance held a lone Neotropic Cormorant, lots of nesting pairs of Anhingas and their fuzzy white chicks, Great Egret, Least Grebe, Common Gallinule, and the first of several Spectacled Caiman, a kind of alligator, of the trip. Farther on, we found an amazing total of eight Masked Ducks, a cryptic species that often submerges without leaving a trace of a ripple. We also found White-cheeked Pintail and Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks. The highlight was a cooperative and calling Mangrove Cuckoo.
We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Grafton/Caledonia Wildlife Sanctuary. My friend Desmond Wright, resident naturalist at the Cuffie River Nature Retreat, delivered a packed lunch to us there (cucumber/cheese sandwiches on homemade bread, boxed juices, and slices of currant roll). During the afternoon we walked along several trails, finding our first Cocoa Woodcreepers, Trinidad Motmots, and four species of doves. At the traditional 4pm feeding time, a worker filled bottles with sugar water and tossed grain on the ground, attracting scores of doves, Bananaquits, Rufous-vented Chachalacas, Red-crowned Woodpeckers, Barred Antshrikes, and other species.
Afterwards we drove to Cuffie River, where we were met by Regina Dumas, the gracious owner/manager. We unpacked and then watched hummingbirds out front until dark, ticking off all five residents species, including the rare White-tailed Sabrewing. We tallied the day's species and then enjoyed a fine dinner of lentil soup, stuffed baked potatoes, steamed vegetables with ginger, baked seasoned chicken, pumpkin fritters, and for dessert, cherry-coconut ice cream. A Common Potoo perched in its favorite spot about 50 feet from our table on two of our three nights at Cuffie River.
New for the trip: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, White-cheeked Pintail, Masked Duck, Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Least Grebe, Brown Pelican, Neotropic Cormorant, Anhinga, Magnificent Frigatebird, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Green Heron, Cattle Egret, Great Egret, Tricolored Heron, Little Blue Heron, Broad-winged Hawk, Common Gallinule, Purple Gallinule, Southern Lapwing, Wattled Jacana, Laughing Gull, Roseate Tern, Black Skimmer, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Pale-vented Pigeon, Eared Dove, White-tipped Dove, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Orange-winged Parrot, Mangrove Cuckoo, Smooth-billed Ani, Common Potoo, Short-tailed Swift, White-tailed Sabrewing, White-necked Jacobin, Black-throated Mango, Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Copper-rumped Hummingbird, Trinidad Motmot, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Olivaceous Woodcreeper (heard only), Cocoa Woodcreeper, Barred Antshrike, White-fringed Antwren, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Gray Kingbird, Venezuelan Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Blue-backed Manakin, Red-eyed Vireo, Scrub Greenlet, Caribbean Martin, House Wren, Tropical Mockingbird, Bananaquit, White-lined Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Palm Tanager, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Blue-black Grassquit, Black-faced Grassquit, Grayish Saltator, Giant Cowbird, Shiny Cowbird, Carib Grackle
Thursday, June 21 - Cuffie River Area
No alarm clock is needed at Cuffie River because Orange-winged Parrots and Rufous-vented Chachalacas awaken visitors well before dawn. Sometimes even a Common Potoo joins the chorus. Louise and May had arrived around 1:30am and, quite amazingly, were ready to bird by breakfast.
Breakfast each day at Cuffie River could be selected off the menu: scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, and a variety of other choices, each order individually prepared. After breakfast we engaged in our first hike of the trip, following an old donkey trail for about a mile before retracing our steps. Large cumulous clouds provided shade, which moderated the temperature. Again we nailed all of the hummingbird species before leaving the lodge. We found Black-faced and Blue-black Grassquits to be common, and near the river we had fine views of a male White-winged Becard, a Green Kingfisher, and an Ochre-bellied Flycatcher. Rufous-breasted Hermit hummingbirds were common. A pair of Rufous-breasted Wrens played hide and seek with us for a long time. We saw so many Rufous-tailed Jacamars and Trinidad Motmots that we stopped commenting on them and had lots of practice separating Venezuelan from Brown-crested Flycatchers.
Back at Cuffie for lunch, we feasted on pastelles (banana-wrapped, steamed cornmeal pie containing stewed meat, olives, and raisins), homemade coleslaw, and for dessert, soursop or cherry-vanilla ice cream.
After a siesta until 4pm, we took a hike on a different trail, up the hill across from the lodge. Best birds included a White-tailed Nightjar flushed from the side of the trail, lots of Orange-winged Parrots, Venezuelan and Brown-crested Flycatchers, a pair of Streaked Flycatchers, several Fuscous Flycatchers (which I call Prozac Flycatchers because they always look depressed), Blue-backed Manakin, White-fringed Antwren, a flyover Great Black Hawk, lots of Rufous-tailed Jacamars (all male; the females were incubating eggs in their burrows), Trinidad Motmots, a Cocoa Woodcreeper, and a female Red-legged Honeycreeper.
Dinner included callaloo soup, eggplant au gratin, vegetable-seasoned rice, tossed salad, shrimp in white sauce, and for dessert, soursop ice cream.
Louise and May wanted to see the Common Potoo during dinner, but it arrived after they had retired for the night. Fortunately, they scored the potoo the following evening.
New for the trip: Great Black-Hawk, Gray-rumped Swift, Rufous-breasted Hermit, Green Kingfisher, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Fuscous Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, White-winged Becard, Rufous-breasted Wren, Crested Oropendola
Friday, June 22 - Tobago Main Ridge, Little Tobago Island
After another tasty breakfast of egg-and-cheese omelet, sausage, bacon, etc., Edric drove us to our morning's destination high on the Main Ridge. We rented boots ("wellies") from my friend Junior Thomas at the Gilpin Trace trailhead and spent several hours exploring the dark mature forest at Niplig Trace. At the entrance we found a flock of Red-legged Honeycreepers working over a fig tree full of ripe fruit. Farther into the forest we found Yellow-legged and White-necked Thrushes, including a speckled juvenile of the latter species, and Blue-backed Manakins. The mosquitoes were small but persistent. While in the forest we had an unexpected treat, encountering Newton George, one of Tobago's finest birders.
From Niplig Trace we drove a short distance back to Gilpin Trace, along which we walked for the better part of an hour, getting superb looks at Stripe-breasted Spinetails and other species. We enjoyed our packed lunch (meat/cucumber/cheese sandwiches on homemade bread, fresh sliced pineapple, and boxed fruit drinks) along the quiet road while sitting on a concrete barrier beneath towering verdant jungle trees.
Our afternoon was a complete contrast to our morning, as we were in full sun most of the time. Leaving the Main Ridge behind, we descended to the Atlantic and drove to the northeastern tip of Tobago, to the village of Speyside. We boarded Wordsworth Frank's glass-bottomed boat, and masterful boatmen Tyrone, Zelonie (Zee), and Zud motored us two miles across aquamarine seas to uninhabited Little Tobago Island. Zee lectured to us about the natural history of the island and then led us on a hike across it. He showed us male and female White-tailed Nightjars resting along the path. From a lookout with a thatched roof, we viewed Red-billed Tropicbirds, Brown and Red-footed Boobies, Bridled and Sooty Terns, and Brown Noddies. We also saw at least five of the island's newest resident species of bird, Scaly-naped Pigeon.
As a bonus, and a first for any of my tours, instead of viewing underwater life through the glass-bottomed boat during our return trip, Zee and the gang treated us to a very slow exploration from the boat of a rocky section of Little Tobago Island's coast. We had very close views of Brown Noddies, a pair of Laughing Gulls with a rotund, flightless chick, Bridled and Sooty Terns, an adult Yellow-crowned Night-Heron hiding in a shady rock crevice, and a gorgeous flock of Brown Noddies, Laughing Gulls, and Roseate Terns resting on an outcrop of black lava.
Thirsty after having spent an afternoon on a desert island, back on shore we stopped at Jemmas Treehouse Restaurant for drinks but found that it was closed on Fridays because Jemma is a Seventh Day Adventist. As a personal favor to a longtime customer, she opened her establishment just for us. Ah, nothing like a cold bottle of lemon-lime bitters (LLB) after a hike!
Edric drove us back to Cuffie River by way of the Windward Road, thus providing us with a circumnavigation of Tobago during our stay. As noted above, the Common Potoo return to its perch during dinner, a fine tropical feast that included curried pumpkin, curried goat, white rice, stewed eggplant, dhal, and for dessert, soursop-coconut ice cream. Special thanks is always due to the excellent cooks at Cuffie River: Carolyn Sylvester and Yvonne Cunningham.
New for the trip: Red-billed Tropicbird, Red-footed Booby, Brown Booby, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Osprey, Bridled Tern, Sooty Tern, Brown Noddy, Scaly-naped Pigeon, Rock Pigeon, White-tailed Nightjar, Collared Trogon (heard only), Golden-olive Woodpecker, Stripe-breasted Spinetail, Plain Antvireo, Yellow-legged Thrush, Spectacled Thrush, White-necked Thrush
Saturday, June 23 - Asa Wright Nature Centre
Another pre-dawn breakfast (5:30am), this time a simple one because of our need to be at the airport for our early flight to Trinidad: granola cereal with milk, fresh orange juice, and toast with guava jelly and butter. Thank you Regina, Carolyn, and Yvonne (and you, too, Earl)!
We arrived at Tobago's A.N.R. Robinson airport early, bade a warm farewell to Edric, and spent our time browsing the few shops that were open. Our 20-minute flight to Trinidad was smooth. Shannon Ortega, our driver in Trinidad, met us at the airport, along with Martyn Kenefick, author of the most widely used field guide to the birds of T&T. We rode from the airport up the Arima Valley to the world-famous Asa Wright Nature Centre in torrential rain. For the first time in memory, the rain was windblown and thus drenching the outermost parts of the veranda. All of our rooms were conveniently located in cabanas adjacent to the Main House. The rain stopped shortly after we arrived, and we birded from the veranda until lunchtime.
As soon as the rain began to let up, we noticed winged termites rising from the jungle around us. Through our binoculars we found that the emergence extended as far down the valley as we could see, with millions upon millions of winged termites filling the air. They were so thick that several people retreated from the veranda to avoid them. Birds of all kinds were engaging in flycatching. The resident pair of Palm Tanagers on the veranda were simply scooping them up by the beakful from the channels in which the windows fit. In all my years visiting Trinidad, I had never witnessed such a spectacle before.
Lunch today included saffron rice, fried plantain, julienne vegetables (carrots, squash, green beans, peppers, etc.), breaded kingfish with Creole sauce, fresh garden salad, and for dessert, coconut ice cream. Martyn joined us for lunch and then led us on an afternoon walk along the entrance road. Many of the birds we saw were new for us, as they do not occur on Tobago. Among the best birds of the day were White-collared Swift, Channel-billed Toucan, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, and Black-tailed Tityra.
Dinner at Asa Wright is buffet style. Tonight we enjoyed cream of tomato soup, fresh rolls, barbecued lamb chops, spaghetti with vegetables, stewed black beans, fresh salad, and for dessert, pawpaw (papaya) Bavarian (a mousse-like cream).
New for the trip: Plumbeous Kite, Common Black-Hawk, Scaled Pigeon, Gray-fronted Dove, White-collared Swift, Tufted Coquette, White-chested Emerald, Guianan Trogon, Channel-billed Toucan, Tropical Pewee, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Black-tailed Tityra, Bearded Bellbird, White-bearded Manakin, Rufous-browed Peppershrike (heard only), Golden-fronted Greenlet, White-winged Swallow, Gray-breasted Martin, Silver-beaked Tanager, Blue Dacnis, Green Honeycreeper, Tropical Parula, Yellow Oriole, Violaceous Euphonia
Sunday, June 24 - South Trinidad and West Coast
Today was another early day for us, with a 5:30am departure from the centre. A few sprinkles before dawn were followed by mostly sunny skies. Our early breakfast included cereal with milk, fresh fruit juice, and toast.
A two-hour ride took us south, west, and then south again past the city of San Fernando. Along the way we stopped to view a huge Ringed Kingfisher perched on a wire along the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway.
Once at our destination, the extensive marshes bordering the South Oropuche River, we searched along back roads near Ramahut Trace for target species including herons and egrets, hawks, and marsh birds. Fork-tailed Flycatchers were everywhere, as were Blue-black Grassquits, the males performing their "Johnny-jump-up" routines. At one point we had one each of Pale-breasted and Yellow-chinned Spinetails in view in a short bush, and we succeeded in finding a rarity that Martyn had mentioned: Small-billed Elaenia, a lifer for everyone, including the leader. Another unusual sighting was of a female Bobolink, a species that winters in low numbers in Trinidad and which breeds in the northern parts of North America and which never should be in Trinidad in June.
Next came a long hike from Sudama Steps, near the hamlet of Woodland, along a muddy track that ran parallel with the South Oropuche River, with mangroves on one side and open marsh on the other. Here we found most of our target species, among which were Masked Cardinal, Spotted Tody-Flycatcher, and Bicolored Conebill.
By 10am we were ready for another breakfast, so after rinsing a few pounds of mud from each of our boots, we headed into the town of Debe, where we sampled native cuisine at a famous roadside vending stand. Among the wares offered, all deep-fat-fried, were doubles (two flat pieces of fried bread between which was spooned a mixture of chickpeas, mangoes, and spicy sauce), spinach fritters, beef and potato pies, and tennis-ball-sized servings of ground peas filled with the same sauce used for doubles. All of this was washed down with copious amounts of various cold beverages, including the ever popular LLB.
Next we headed north to Carli Bay on the Gulf of Paria coast, where we found our target species, Saffron Finch, along with an adult and juvenile Gray Hawk and an adult and juvenile Yellow-headed Caracara. Both juveniles screamed fairly continuously to be fed. A few miles farther north, at Orange Valley, the tide was very low, exposing miles of mudflats perfect for resting shorebirds. We found scores of Large-billed Terns, Black Skimmers, Whimbrel, Semipalmated and Western Sandpipers, Scarlet Ibis, and a huge surprise: three American Flamingos, a very rare bird in T&T. A final stop at Brickfield yielded our only Yellow-billed Terns of the trip, along with both species of night-heron and many long-legged waders.
En route back to Asa Wright, we stopped in the city of Arima for the ice cream I had been promising all day. Many flavors were quite unusual, including beetroot and Guinness. I had a scoop of the latter and was amazed at how good it tasted.
For dinner we enjoyed stewed pork, garlic-roasted potatoes, creamed spinach, fresh salad, and for dessert, chocolate pudding with raisins. After dinner, resident naturalist Caleb Walker led a night walk on which we found solpugids, manicou crabs, a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, a Trinidad pink-toed tarantula, and several owl butterflies. [On my next visit to T&T, I plan to bring with me a portable ultraviolet light, with which the centre's naturalists will be able to find scorpions, which fluoresce.]
New for the trip: Little Tinamou (heard only), Striated Heron, Snowy Egret, Scarlet Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, American Flamingo, Long-winged Harrier, Gray Hawk, Yellow-headed Caracara, Collared Plover, Whimbrel, Willet, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Yellow-billed Tern, Large-billed Tern, Squirrel Cuckoo, Striped Cuckoo (heard only), Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Fork-tailed Palm-Swift, Blue-chinned Sapphire, Ringed Kingfisher, Lineated Woodpecker, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Great Antshrike, Small-billed Elaenia, Spotted Tody-Flycatcher, Pied Water-Tyrant, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, Piratic Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Long-billed Gnatwren, Turquoise Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Purple Honeycreeper, Bicolored Conebill, Saffron Finch, Masked Cardinal, Masked Yellowthroat, Red-breasted Blackbird, Bobolink, Yellow-hooded Blackbird
Monday, June 25 - Northern Range
Today we enjoyed a breakfast consisting of three kinds of cereal with milk, bananas, papayas, and eggs before heading straight up the Arima Valley to the Textel microwave relay site. Our first bird was a female Hepatic Tanager, a species found only at higher elevations in Trinidad. We had perfect weather all day, a delightful combination of temperature and humidity with a slight breeze.
From our vantage point high on Morne Bleu, we could see all the way to the Caroni Swamp to the west and past the airport to the Central Range to the south. During the morning we observed lots of graceful Swallow-tailed Kites. A White-bellied Antbird taunted us by coming from the thick foliage to within a foot of a patch of short grass but never showed itself. A low-foraging Bay-headed Tanager was a nice sight, as all we had seen of the species until then were glimpses of the birds high above us in the trees. We also had a mouthwatering view of a Long-billed Gnatwren, whose name is as long as its body.
We spent most of the morning walking and stopping, walking and stopping, down the Textel road, along Blanchisseuse Road, and along Las Lapis Trace, all high elevation sites. We tracked down an elusive Euler's Flycatcher along the Textel road. At Las Lapis Trace, at a lek of Golden-headed Manakins, we watched a group of males pop back and forth among their favorite tree branches. A Gray-throated Leaftosser responded to playback by flying across the track, but repeated efforts to lure Collared Trogons into sight were unsuccessful.
We ate a packed lunch (shepherd's pie, fresh garden salad, homemade salad dressing, sliced watermelon, cold fruit juice) on a concrete barrier along Blanchisseuse Road. We made a brief visit to bumpy Lalaja Road before heading back to Asa Wright so that Louise and May could prepare for their night foray seeking nesting loggerhead sea turtles (a quest on which they were successful, observing emerging baby turtles as well as a female laying eggs).
From the Asa Wright veranda we continued birding, with Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Forest Elaenia, and Violaceous Euphonia feeding on berries of a Trema tree just outside the veranda. For dinner we had onion soup with rolls, baked kingfish with garlic sauce, yam pie, stewed lentils, fresh salad, and for dessert, coconut ice cream.
New for the trip: Swallow-tailed Kite, White Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk, Little Hermit, Gray-throated Leaftosser, Streaked Xenops, White-bellied Antbird, Forest Elaenia, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Eulers Flycatcher, Dusky-capped Flycatcher (heard), Golden-headed Manakin, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Cocoa Thrush, Hepatic Tanager
Tuesday, June 26 - Eastern Trinidad
Breakfast today included three kinds of cereal with milk, sliced pineapple and papaya, fresh baked bread, hot dog sausage, scrambled eggs, and fresh fruit juice.
This was the only day of the trip during which rain interfered to some extent with our activities, but we did extremely well nevertheless. South of the Aripo Livestock Station, a brief stop yielded our first Boat-billed Flycatchers, while in the extensive wet grassy fields of the station, a Pinnated Bittern could not escape our diligent searching. South American Snipe were constantly in view, displaying in flight overhead and perching on fence posts. Here we found our first Savanna Hawk and Grassland Yellow-Finch, a species found nowhere else in Trinidad. We watched Wattled Jacanas sharing muddy wallows with water buffalo as we waited out heavy bouts of rain in Shannon's maxi-taxi.
At midmorning we drove east to the Ponderosa Bar in Valencia for cold beverages and snacks and then continued south to the Atlantic Ocean at Manzanilla. Because of spitting rain, we at our packed lunch (beef pilaf, fresh tossed salad with homemade dressing, and thick slices of watermelon) in Shannon's maxi.
After lunch, Shannon drove the maxi south very slowly as we scanned the coconut palms for perched raptors. Yellow-headed Caracara was the most abundant species. We also found a Common Black-Hawk and a Gray Hawk. A lone Limpkin was a good pickup, too. At Bush Bush Creek we added an elusive American Pygmy Kingfisher, a Crimson-crested Woodpecker, a pair of Yellow-crowned Parrots, and our first "seen" Black-crested Antshrikes. In Nariva Swamp, we climbed to the second level of a Forestry building and watched a dark-morph Long-winged Harrier hunt for prey below us, with Gray-breasted Martins perched on wires just a few feet from us. As we left the area, we had a brief view of a pair of Crested Caracaras being harassed by a pair of Yellow-headed Caracaras.
From Nariva we headed back north, this time to Waller Field, where a grove of Moriche palms attracts a suite of specialized species of birds. Groups of Fork-tailed Palm-Swifts zipped overhead while squeaking Sulphury Flycatchers flew back and forth over the clearing. The most exciting species of the evening was a very rare Moriche (Epaulet) Oriole, mostly black with patches of yellow, singing while perched in plain sight. A second oriole joined it, and they stayed in the area for quite a while.
Sadly, it appears that the formerly common Red-bellied Macaws have deserted the area, as this was the third macaw-less trip in a row after three decades of finding them here consistently. Fortunately, we had strong rum punch and oatmeal cookies to ease the sting of missing the macaws.
Back at Asa Wright, for dinner we enjoyed potato and celery soup with homemade rolls, jerk pork chops (extremely spicy), macaroni pie, stewed black-eyed peas, fresh garden salad, and for dessert, rum and pineapple mousse.
New for the trip: Pinnated Bittern, Savanna Hawk, Crested Caracara, Limpkin, South American Snipe, Yellow-crowned Parrot, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Black-crested Antshrike, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Sulphury Flycatcher, Grassland Yellow-Finch, Moriche (Epaulet) Oriole
Wednesday, June 27 - Bellbirds/Oilbirds and Caroni National Park
This morning was unique in that we had breakfast at the usual Asa Wright time of 7:30am. We enjoyed custom made omelets at the omelet station, along with Canadian bacon, fresh homemade bread, the usual three kinds of cereal, sliced fruit, and cold fruit juice.
From the veranda we had an excellent scope view of a Double-toothed Kite perched down the valley. This bird-eating raptor has habits similar to North America's Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks. At 8:30am, resident naturalist and longtime friend Molly Calderon led us on a morning hike down the Discovery Trail to visit leks of Golden-headed and White-bearded Manakins and to track down the elusive Bearded Bellbird, which we had been hearing since our arrival.
Molly succeeded on all counts and added several other new species to our trip list as well, including Green-backed Trogon, Black-faced Antthrush, and Red-crowned Ant-Tanager. The latter is one of the few tanager species that only rarely visits the feeding tables at Asa Wright. We continued over hill and dale to Dunstan's Cave, where we found downy gray Chestnut-collared Swift chicks in their cliffside nest, along with Oilbirds perched on ledges in their deep, dark crevice. Molly also identified a fly-over Gray-headed Kite and an immature Ornate Hawk-Eagle.
For lunch we enjoyed tender stewed lamb, ochro (okra) rice, fried eggplant, Creole stewed lentils, fresh salad with homemade dressing, and for dessert, a heavy custard-like raisin-studded cake.
In midafternoon, Shannon picked us up for our last excursion, to view Scarlet Ibis flying to roost in the mangroves of the vast Caroni Swamp. Asa Wright's CEO, Veronica Simon-Wallace, joined us on this excursion. When we reached the Caroni Visitors' Centre, we found a wedding rehearsal in full gear, with loud radio music blasting from the guard's station. This commotion made it impossible to try finding the endemic race of the Clapper Rail, so instead we made use of the bathrooms and studied the excellent photographs of swamp wildlife in the visitors' centre while waiting for our boat driver, Shawn Madoo, to ready our boat.
Once we were all aboard, Shawn headed to a spot where he could show us Masked Cardinal, since not all of us had seen the ones we had spotted on our South day. Shawn also showed us a Green-throated Mango hummingbird and a Straight-billed Woodcreeper, both of which are mangrove specialists, and five different Cook's Tree Boas coiled above us among the branches of the mangroves. Near the ibis roost, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs foraged on mudflats beside Yellow-crowned Night-Herons.
The evening spectacle began right on cue. We tied up to some mangroves as flock after flock of Scarlet Ibis flew in, accompanied by Great, Snowy, and Cattle Egrets and Tricolored and Little Blue Herons. Overhead, hundreds of loosely organized Fork-tailed Flycatchers winged deeper into the swamp for the night. The light was perfect, golden-red, which made the ibis appear luminescent. The strong rum punch and cookies we had brought with us made the experience all the more enjoyable.
Our final dinner, back at Asa Wright, was a local favorite called buss up shut -- a layered pastry dough served with a variety of curried vegetables and meat, with coconut custard for dessert.
New for the trip: Gray-headed Kite, Double-toothed Kite, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Ani (heard only), Oilbird, Chestnut-collared Swift, Band-rumped Swift, Green-throated Mango, Green-backed Trogon, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, White-flanked Antwren (heard only), Black-faced Antthrush, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager
So ended our exciting visit to Trinidad & Tobago, the land of the hummingbird. We had identified 210 species of birds (eight heard only), along with a wide variety of butterflies and other insects, arachnids, reptiles and amphibians, and mammals. We had visited almost all of Tobago and all but the distant south of Trinidad. Louise and May and Nikki and Larry left for the airport at 3:30am, while I stayed on for three days of birding and exploring.
I think we'll long remember the good times we had, especially our time at Cuffie River, which is always a highlight of any tour. Sometimes I think I should make a banner to wave as we leave there, saying "Regina, we love you!" At least that's what I hear from the participants. In any case, thanks to everyone who made this tour possible, and I wish you all good birding.