12 - 27 January 1998
by Bo Boleans
I am, by misfortune, disabled. I am also, entirely through greed, overweight. These two factors combine to create a third; I am by misfortune and my own disposition, indolent. This guide is, then, for those of you who are restricted by disability, or lazy by inclination. This is an essential characteristic of all reports from the "Fat Birder".
This trip to Trinidad and Tobago 12th - 27th January 1998 was based on a chartered holiday flight and my own arrangements for accommodation etc. The flights were £350 each (my wife and myself) with Caledonian, and all accommodation etc. negotiated directly with hotels and the Asa Wright Centre. It was organised firstly, around the availability of space at Asa Wright and an available charter flight. All details of charges and contacts etc. are appended. The plan was for a week on each island based on: do-it-yourself via a hire car, in Tobago, and the organised trips available through Asa Wright, in Trinidad.
The original idea was for a week of intense birding on Trinidad followed by a more relaxing doss in Tobago. With hindsight I might have arranged it the other way round as there are fewer bird species on Tobago, and I would have spent, say, four days there and devoted more time to Trinidad's birding possibilities.
We flew to Tobago, stayed one night at the Kariwak Village Hotel (near the airport), flew the next day to Trinidad (a flight of less than 30 minutes), then stayed a week at Asa Wright and afterward flew back to Tobago. We picked up a hire car at the airport there and then based ourselves at the Blue Waters Inn near Speyside. The choice of the latter was to access Little Tobago. Again, with hindsight, I would not stay that long at the northern end of the island. Whilst it is accessible for Little Tobago and the mountains, it is a long way from other sights to the south. 26 miles did not seem far on the map but proved to be two hours by car (dodging mad drivers and perilous unfenced drops) on a narrow and very windy, hilly road.
We did not miss having a guide on Tobago but would have seen much less had we not taken guided trips from Asa Wright in Trinidad. We had arranged to meet David Rooks to go to Buccoo Marsh and he let us down pleading double booking - we felt certain that this was because a large group (presumably bringing him more income) had tempted him away.
The trip list of 195 was lower than hoped (only by a few) but could have been easily expanded by someone less lazy or more able-bodied. I must be the only visitor to Asa Wright not to go home with oil-bird in their proverbial pocket. The trails are steep in places and hard work in 30 degrees and 90% humidity! Having said that anyone, like me, used to "walking by car" in the UK would have seen 99% of what was on offer. Those of us who quietly wait for birds sometimes outdo those who charge off in pursuit.
Background Information - Books
Richard Ffrench's "A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad & Tobago": I only obtained my copy a short while before going on the trip and only had a few sessions with the plates to aid ID. This was a mistake. What I had not realised was that the plates are in no way comprehensive and, apart from whole families not being illustrated, there were also species missing from plates for no apparent reason. There seems to be no logic. The illustrations are not just the rarities, or just the common ones, but an inexplicable mix. I was lucky that I had taken a guide to Eastern American species that was a boon for waders, herons, seabirds, kingfishers, and migrating N American species etc.
Whilst in T & T I read through the text (which is good) which made me realise that some birds I thought I was mis-identifying were to be found adequately described in the text. I also realised that the "portraits" were of birds not generally illustrated in plates. The illustrations are, in some cases, terrible, for colour and size differential in particular - see the female lined tanager; she is not dull brown but bright chestnut!
Why are so few raptors represented and none in flight? Why no gallinules and why miss out the commonest cuckoo - the smooth-billed ani?
One Canadian couple I met had a guide to the birds of Costa Rica with them which was very useful and better illustrated and set out than Ffrench for tanagers, manikins, etc.
The hummers are not only not big enough to see detail but very confusing. For example, the little hermit illustration leads you to look for a bird half the size of a white-necked Jacobin instead of just ½ an inch smaller! One plate showing Trogons and kingfishers together leads you to very false impressions of size ratios - ok, its all there in the text, but to newcomers to this hemisphere it would help to have a more comprehensive set of illustrations, with a consistency of scale etc.
It is said that the guide to Venezeulan birds is very good (c£35) and worth the investment if you are likely to go to Central or South America again.
Murphy's "A Birder's Guide to Trinidad & Tobago" is excellent for travel background, sites and general info and a necessity if you are to make any independent arrangements. I have not included all sorts of info in this report as it is there in his book (£12-50p). I think it is a must, second only to a field guide.
The Tobago site details for Kilgwyn and Buccoo are not easy to follow and the development of the South of the island make directions out of date. The only answer here is to explore a bit for yourself.
Mark Beever's trip report for Feb - March 97 is excellent and I
this report only as a supplement to it.
Sites in Tobago
There is a road through here to the beach sign-posted for a cement company (a left turning off the main road as you head toward Crown Point about 2km before you get to the pigeon point turning). It stinks with dead fish and is a general dumping ground - nevertheless, there are birds about. I could, frustratingly, hear coots but could not find any - mangroves are hard to bird without a boat.
The track itself goes through what look like half abandoned vegetable patches and it is a good place for the few seedeaters not already trapped and caged by Tobagans. We did see yellow-breasted seedeater and grassquits, a few herons and egrets etc.
It is not easy to find your way to or into this site, but is accessible on foot. We were unlucky as the unusually low rainfall meant that it was much dryer than usual. You can access the back of the site down a rough road and view herons etc. trying to find space in pools crammed with water buffalo.
This is the main tourist area but still the best place for congregations of pelicans, gulls and terns. It is also a good spot for seashore-loving waders. I also saw brown boobies diving into the bay fairly close to the shore. It can be a hassle here if you are outside of the hotel compounds - the only place we had to avoid youngsters trying to charge you for smearing you with unwanted gobs of aloe vera.
I only looked at Pigeon Point when we were still in possession of the hire car just prior to departure. However, if you are based in the area it is a good place to see sea birds. Laughing gulls, terns, and pelicans. Terns are scarce in January but better at most other times of the year. Pelicans, gulls and terns all loaf in the moored small boats.
You can walk from here (left) to a bit of mangrove or drive (right) down the track toward the facilities and on to the beach and then walk on into mangroves. (Others who did had little to report).
Little Tobago Island
Frigates, red-footed and brown boobies, red-billed tropicbirds and a good head of passerines. All the specialist birds can be scoped from Speyside and you will get an occasional close up from them early morning or late evening. The island also has nesting Audobon's Shearwater that you might see in their tunnels with a strong torch. Even these can be seen occasionally from shore, coming in just as the light is dying.
St Gile's Island
Has a small colony of Masked Boobies viewable from a boat trip (I was told).
A paved track, from a turning on a hairpin bend, on the road from Speyside to Charlotteville. This is steep and, at the end, rather hairy. I suggest you park just before the top as the very top has a very tight turning circle where you can only see ocean as you try to turn your car on a proverbial sixpence.
There are lots of open gaps and one side-track that make nice late afternoon birding if you are based at Speyside.
Top birds included barred antshrike, flycatchers, grassquits, white-fringed antwren, and some nice close up parots etc.
Here I refer to the road that goes from just south of Roxborough through to Bloody bay taking you past the entrance to Gilpin Trace. In my check-list I refer to it as the Mountain Road.
I found it to be good birding for its entire length with a few tracks, open areas and nooks worth checking each time you pass. I also found one very productive piece of the roadside observable from the car (well, I would wouldn't I). En route from Roxborough to Bloody Bay there is only one patch of bad road-surface where there are usually tethered cows and a small hut. This is approximately 3k up the road between a sharp right hand bend and a left, all up hill. (Even if they improve the road there should be evidence of the new surface and gravel and lumber on the verge to give you a clue).
If you park on the left facing back downhill in the Roxborough direction, there is a slightly open forest edge with several immortelle trees in bloom (they are always in bloom until no more rain is due according to legend - which means all the time).
This site produced 3 red-legged honeycreepers, 2 sabrewing, tanagers, an evening roost of 10 orange-winged parrots, Venezuelan flycatchers, an over-flight by a yellow-legged thrush and more common stuff.
I do not know quite how to label this. It is a stretch of mud where a stream meets the sea (or rather the other side of the main road from the sea) south of Roxborough. One can park on a stretch of loose chippings on the left facing in the Roxborough direction. It is pretty unimpressive but, given the lack of wetland sites anywhere on Tobago, it can be productive. We had our only Little Egret here. Waders, like greater yellow legs, and various herons such as black-crowned and green were also seen.
It is worth a five-minute stop every time you pass. Longer stakeouts proved productive as the, albeit small, area has nooks to hide in, logs to skulk behind and a stream to wander down.
Grafton Bird Sanctuary
I had not come across this in any guide but was told about it by Morland & Charlyn Jones, two intrepid Canadians who I met first at Kariwak village and then later at Asa Wright.
On the Western road from Crown Point (which takes you past Turtle
and the golf course) there is a sign on the right about 1km from the
course, with a steep short track to the reserve. It once boasted
a restaurant (now closed) and is still clearly managed for birds with a
feeding programme. This attracts all sorts to feeders and a table
of fruit including hundreds of bananquits and dozens of palm and
tanagers (a different sub-species to all those you saw in Trinidad),
and the tamest Motmots anywhere. I also saw a red-crowned
(not to be found in Trinidad) on a hummingbird feeder and the woods and
very short trails were productive of woodcreepers, white-fringed
fuscous flycatcher, warblers and very confiding jacaranda. The
place is a great photo opportunity as well as somewhere to pick up
specialisms with relative ease. (Mo & Char saw Blue-backed
but I dipped). (The old restaurant also has accessible clean
Sites in Trinidad
Asa Wright Nature Centre
The centre itself is one of the great birding places in the world. From the veranda one looks down the Arima valley for seven miles where (at night) one can see the lights of Arima town twinkling in the distance.
It is sheer joy to sit, with a cold beer or rum punch in your hand, on the veranda looking down (10 feet) to a variety of feeders attracting spectacular birds all day long. Photographers can have the time of their lives as hummingbirds, honeycreepers, tanagers, motmots, woodpeckers, antshrikes and all manner of other birds come to the feeders. Hummingbirds (and the ubiquitous bananaquits) even come to feeders hung from the veranda at eye level two feet from your face!
The valley will give you views of flying parrots, hawks, orapendulas, flycatchers, bellbirds and toucans with a supporting cast of dozens of others perching in the Cercropia or Immortelle trees or feeding on the flowers of powder-puff bushes and verbena.
The gardens around the Lodge and cottages are full of the commoner species, and a quiet walk back a few yards down the entrance track, or on to any of the trails, may give you unexpected sights of rarer species, or close up views of skulking peppershrikes, displaying manikins, or calling flycatchers. I found that standing quietly along the entrance track, just yards from the centre, gave me stunning views of birds other visitors walked miles to see.
All the staff (with the possible exception of the receptionists) seemed to be working at Asa Wright because they love the natural world. The lowliest gardener would take time out to point out great antshrikes in the bushes or tell you how to recognise the call of a peppershrike.
For the fit and energetic there are a number of trails of varying lengths that can be strolled along for manikin leks, nesting ornate hawk-eagles and calling bell birds as well as the famous oilbird caves.
At times the veranda can seem very noisy to those of us used to the hushed tones of a hide at Minsmere. It disturbs the birds not one whit (I found some rather loud American groups irritating but they never managed to annoy the hummingbirds). At most times of the day one of the centre workers will be around to call out birds as they pass by or visit, and they are always helpful in identifying less easy species. They will draw everyone's attention to any of the more unusual species.
The veranda is occupied from dawn to dusk by birders - each new set of arrivals oohing and aahing just as you will when you first arrive. Within two days you will be confidently pointing out the difference between a green hermit and a black-throated mango to a newcomer even if, like me, the whole family of birds is new to you. (As Mo said to me when he arrived "when I met you two days ago in Tobago you had never even seen a hummingbird in your life, now you're an expert?)
Guided trips from Asa Wright include:
This takes you the length of the road (c. 20kms) running from the centre to the village of Blanchisseuse on the coast with its empty picture postcard beach where you will eat lunch.
All the way along this twisting mountain road are places where one can stop and search the trees and valley views for a whole variety of birds. Some guides come equipped with tapes or their own arsenal of imitations to call in Trogons or Toucans. Along the route they will know the favoured spots and some have ears keen enough to make them stop the car to search for the calling striped cuckoo or distant collared trogon. The road reaches the high points where some of the scarcer birds are to be found such as bay-headed and speckled tanagers or trogons and manikins. If you are lucky you may get a roosting owl or a shy becard.
I did the organised trip and then a second ("private") half day run to get the birds I missed first time around.
Be sure you get one of the knowledgeable guides as my first trip was with a driver who did not know the trip well enough - whilst we saw a lot, my second trip (for half as long) was much more productive.
Aripo Savannah and Arena Forest
This is an all day trip around the savannah off the Eastern main Road via Cumutu village and Waller Field, culminating with time in the Arena forest after lunch.
The morning is leisurely stopping frequently to scan roadside bushes and open areas and takes in Cumutu village for a colony of yellow-rumped caciques. Waller Field has its specialities too, primarily as it has scarce moriche palms attracting turquoise tanagers, sulphury flycatchers and fork-tailed palm swifts. There are also some pools formed from gravel or sand workings and lots of abandoned runways and roads at the old airfield.
Lunch is usually taken as you arrive at the Arena forest (where you may see a roosting barn owl in an abandoned house). The forest itself is old plantation and pretty dense. Tape luring usually brings all three trogons down for crippling views, along with woodcreepers, woodpeckers, tanagers and jacamars.
Nariva Swamp Trip
This is a long all day trip going first to the Agriculture Station then, via Manzanilla, (with its mangroves) to the coast for lunch. There is a seven mile beach of Cocos Bay on the east coast lined with (so they say) a million coconut palms at the end of which one turns into Nariva Swamp travelling along Bush Bush creek.
The day starts with a slow drive around the Agricultural Station that is very productive of savannah birds including savannah hawks, spinetails and seedeaters. Part of the track runs by hedges holding flycatchers and warblers etc.
There is then an hour's journey through Valencia and Sangre Grande until you cross a river into an area of secondary forest and plantation and the edge of marshy mangroves near Manzanilla. The half hidden pools and ditches can reveal three varieties of kingfisher, antshrikes, woodpeckers and anhinga, etc.
Lunch is taken at an hotel where there are "rest rooms" and then one travels through the palms before entering Nariva Swamp. The palms need to be scanned for yellow-headed caracaras and common black hawk.
The swamp itself isn't much of a swamp in the wet season still less in the dry. There is a creek running beside the very pot-holed road (with fisherman's huts along it) backed by very tall grasses. It is the place for the two gallinules, pinnated bittern and dickcissel. There will be a supporting cast of herons and egrets, jacanas, tyrants and yellow-hooded blackbirds.
The trip culminates with rum punch back in the palm trees as dusk approaches and you wait for 50 red-bellied macaws to come into roost in a stand of coconut palMs.
(Red howler monkeys are not uncommon here - although our trip saw none)
This is a half-day trip that takes you to the swamp via Trincity pools. The day ends with a boat ride along the blue river into the mangroves, and then into open water with mangrove clad islets to see the spectacular roost of 2,000 scarlet ibis - the highlight of the whole holiday and one of the great birding sights anywhere in the world.
Trincity Pools are water treatment lagoons with many egrets and jacanas, yellow-hooded blackbirds and a variety of waterside birds, hirundines and waders. If you are lucky, six feet long spectacled caymen will be sunning themselves on the banks.
The approaches to Caroni Swamp include open savannah with drainage ditches that are productive of a variety of herons and fishing ospreys etc. The dikes hold the famed four-eyed fish.
The boat trip can produce herons skulking in the mangrove, specialist swamp birds such as conebills and woodcreepers, feeding ibis and roosting potoo. In the trees overhead will be sleeping tree boas and occasional raptors. (It is better at low tide but the timing is the luck of the draw).
The high point is the ibis roost but it is also occupied by egrets, herons and night-herons. If you are lucky you will be able to ID boat-billed herons as the come out at dusk and fly over your head as you travel back down the Blue River in the gloom.
Waller Field (night trip)
This trip was not advertised at the centre but word of mouth led us to arrange it privately with a guide. Another great moment, for me, was to see the hundreds of fireflies on the grass strips alongside the old runways.
Lamping can produce two types of owl, nightjars, paraques and potoos and (surprising to me) roosts of waders such as Southern lapwing and semi-palmated plovers. There will also be the chorus of frogs some of which hop across the runway.
This is not somewhere to try when unaccompanied as, it is rumoured, it is still occasionally used as an airport by gentlemen of dubious character importing exotic extracts from South America.
Induction to Asa Wright Trails and free trip to Oilbird Caves
I did not avail myself of these offers so cannot comment first-hand. Nevertheless, others found them worthwhile and, whilst the caves in particular can be taxing for the not so fit, everyone I talked to who had walked the trails were very enthusiastic.
All these trips can be arranged on arrival at Asa Wright - see tips.
(Other sites are to be found in Murphy.)
You can, as I did, organise things privately with the drivers/guides. I took a second trip up the Blanchisseuse road and the night trip was a private venture too. The disadvantage of such trips is that you don't get Asa Wright food supplied, the advantage is that you can go when and where you want to.
Some of the trip itineraries are either frustrating or ill-timed. That is Caroni and Trincity pools might be a good place to take another trip to, at low tide, if the evening visit for the roost coincides with high tide, and the Agricultural Station might have been nice twice as a separate excursion from Nariva. I was not bothered about lunch on the beach at Blanchisseuse or en route for Nariva. It is true that things go a bit dead between 12 noon and 2.00pm but I would rather have a short lunch where there are birds to look at than bathe in the ocean etc.
Side trips can also start as early as you want too.
Your choice of guide may be crucial, ours for most trips, - "Ram" -
see address at end, had tapes to lure key birds and really works hard
you. Another guide "Singh" was really only a driver and did not
Birds by Sites
Trinidad & Tobago 12th - 27th January 1998
(Races indicated by bracket after Latin name, nominate race: (n), otherwise no races indicated in Ffrench) or other researched sources.
1. LEAST GREBE Tachybaptus dominicus (speciosus) 2 at Trincity ponds Trinidad, two at Kilgwyn Tobago
2. PIED-BILLED GREBE Podilymbus podiceps 4 at Trincity Ponds Trinidad
3. AUDUBON'S SHEARWATER Puffinus lherminieri 3 on one occasion and 1 on another, flying into Little Tobago late afternoon.
4. RED-BILLED TROPICBIRD Phaethon aethereus (mesonauta) Numerous around Little Tobago and small numbers Western Tobago beaches.
5. BROWN PELICAN Pelecanus occidentalis (carolinensis) Numerous offshore both Islands, congregations Pigeon Point Tobago, Little Tobago and Blanchisseuse Trinidad.
6. ANHINGA Anhinga anhinga 1 Caroni, 1 at pools near Waller Field Trinidad.
7. RED-FOOTED BOOBY Sula sula Small numbers (twos and threes) off Little Tobago
8. BROWN BOOBY Sula leucogaster (n) Large numbers around Little Tobago easily viewed from Speyside, several seen offshore near Turtle Beach Tobago.
9. MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD Fregata magnificens Large numbers around Little Tobago; also often seen in groups of 2 to 10 over Tobago inland and offshore.
10. GREAT BLUE HERON Ardea herodius Singles in various parts of Caroni
11. GREAT EGRET Egretta alba (egreta) Singles at various places at Agricultural Station, in Caroni Swamp and Nariva Swamp Trinidad, also Kilgwyn Tobago. (Casmodius Alba or Ardea alba in some guides - taxonomic disagreement abounds)
12. LITTLE EGRET Egretta garzetta 1 at Roxborough Pool Tobago.
13. SNOWY EGRET Egretta thula Singletons on approach to Caroni Trinidad.
14. LITTLE BLUE HERON Egretta caerulea Abundant in suitable habitat. Small streams and ditches in Tobago and swamps etc Trinidad.
15. TRICLORED HERON Egretta tricolor (rufimentum) Singletons around Caroni also many birds coming to roost with Scarlet Ibis.
16. STRIRATED HERON Butorides striatus (virescens) Singles often seen in Swamps of Trinidad and coming to roost Caroni. (Controversy as to whether this and below are races or separate species - I favour the latter)
17. GREEN HERON (Sometimes Green-backed) Butorides virescens (maculatus) 1 in Pond near Roxborough Tobago, 1 on beach Pigeon Point, 1 in ditch at Kilgwyn - It is confusable with Tiger Bittern if you try to convince yourself hard enough . Very different from Strirated in Trinidad and Green-backed or strirated elsewhere in Asia and Africa.
18. CATTLE EGRET Bubulcus ibis Abundant both islands. On Tobago every cow I saw had one in attendance (and some goats). On Trinidad more localised to swamps and savannah.
19. BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON Nycticorax nycticorax (hoactli) Singletons - only seen Tobago at Roxborough Pond and Kilgwyn.
20. YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON Nyctanassa violacea
This race apparently confined to Trinidad many seen coming to roost
and singleton at Nariva.
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON Nyctanassa violacea (bancrofti) This race confined to Tobago. 2 Seen only at Roxborough Pool.
21. PINNATED BITTERN Botaurus pinnatus 1 at Nariva - a sighting made by scanning long grass in hope rather than expectation. They are cryptic and unmoving - I had to squint for ages to be sure and invited our guide to do the same as confirmation.
22. BOAT-BILLED HERON Cochlearius cochlearius Two seen flying over in dying light at Caroni; possibly another ten but too dark to be sure.
23. SCARLET IBIS Eudocimus ruber c. 2,000 to roost at Caroni. Prior to roost could be seen in gatherings of 25+ birds feeding in Mangroves. One of the world's great birding sights.
24. BLUE-WINGED TEAL Anas discors (orphna) 2 in flight over Caroni.
25. KING VULTURE Sarcoramphus papa 1 pointed out by guide en route to Asa Wright from Airport - not too sure exactly where.
26. BLACK VULTURE Coragyps atratus (brasiliensis) The commonest of the vultures seen daily on Trinidad at every location - I did not see any on Tobago but am assured they can be seen. 60+ birds around dead dog on a side runway at Waller Field.
27. TURKEY VULTURE Cathartes aura (ruficolis) Flights of 10 or more birds drifting over Northern Ranges in Trinidad and occasionally elsewhere (particularly at dump near Arima City).
28. PEARL KITE Gampsonyx swainsoni (leonae) 1 en route to Caroni from Arima. 1 near Waller Field. 1 near Arima City. - all on telephone/power wires.
29. GREY-HEADED KITE Leptodon cayenensis 1 in flight and then on a tree near Agricultural Station Trinidad.
30. BROAD-WINGED HAWK Buteo platypterus (anfillarum) Several sightings of singletons - Road to Gilpin Trace and Flagstaff Hill Tobago.
31. SHORT-TAILED HAWK Buteo brachyurus One seen several times flying up Arima valley towards Asa Wright Trinidad.
32. GRAY HAWK Buteo nitidus (n) One seen flying high above stream Blanchisseuse Road. Trinidad
33. WHITE HAWK Leucopternus albicollis (n) 1 seen flying over moriche palms near Waller Field in company of black vultures.
34. SAVANNA HAWK Heterospizias meridionalis 5 seen over Agriculture Station. 2 Waller Field
35. COMMON BLACK HAWK Buteogallus anthracinus (n) 1 seen at close quarters among the million palm trees on appraoch to Nariva. 2 seen near agriculture station.
36. GREAT BLACK HAWK Buteogallus urubitinga 2 over Speyside Tobago and singletons on Mountain Road.
37. ORNATE HAWK-EAGLE Spizaetus ornatus 1 flying up Arima valley toward Asa Wright (where they have a nest on one of the trails which I did not see).
38. OSPREY Pandion haliaetus (carolinensis) Several at Caroni and approach to Caroni. At Speyside Tobago and at Pigeoon Point.
39. YELLOW-HEADED CARACARA Milvago chimachima 1 near agriculture station, 3 on Palms on approach to Nariva (feeding a young bird). Singletons elsewhere in Trinidad. 1 near Kariwak village Hotle Tobago.
40. CRESTED CARACARA Caracara plancus 1 on tree by Blue River Caroni.
41. PEREGRINE FALCON Falco peregrinus (anatum) 1 near Trincity Pools Trinidad, one near agriculture station. 1 seen chasing short-tailed swifts over Speyside, Tobago. (seem darker faced than UK birds.)
42. MERLIN Falco columbarius 1 on chicken sheds near agriculture station.
43. AMERICAN KESTREL Falco sparverius 1 flying over Caroni swamp
44. RUFOUS-VENTED CHACHALACA Ortalis ruficauda Abundant on Tobago; heard almost anywhere at dusk - especially on Mountain Road. Best views at Grafton at feeders and in tree when returning hire car at Airport. They also wake you before dawn at the Blue Waters Inn.
45. PURPLE GALLINULE Porphyrula martinica Groups of up to 7 at Nariva.
46. AZURE GALLINULE Porphyrula flavirostris Groups of up to 5 at Nariva.
47. WATTLED JACANA Jacana jacana (intermedia) Many places with water Trinidad. Greatest numbers together at Trincity Ponds - up to 50 birds. Less disturbed by spectacled Cayman than we were.
48. SOUTHERN LAPWING Vanellus chalensis 6 together at Agriculture station. 2 at ponds near Waller Field. Singletons elsewhere Trinidad. Also 5 seen on the airstrip at Waller Field at night.
49. SEMI-PALMATED PLOVER Charadrius semipalmatus 12 on airstrip at Waller Field whilst "lamping" for Potoos and Paraque.
50. RUDDY TURNSTONE Arenaria interpres (morinella) 18 daily on beach at Blue Waters Inn - unconcerned by people wandering within 2 feet of them.
51. SOLITARY SANDPIPER Trinidadga solitaria (n) Singletons at many sites - approach to Caroni, pools at Waller Field, stream by Blue Waters Inn and Roxborough pool, etc.
52. GREATER YELLOW LEGS Trinidadga melanoleuca 1 on pool near Roxborough Tobago.
53. SPOTTED SANDPIPER Actitis macularia Seen in many places on both islands - always one on beach by Blue Waters easy to ID as they look as if they are about to fall over all the time.
54. LEAST SANDPIPER Calidris minutilla 6 at agriculture station Trinidad only.
55. SANDERLING Calidris alba 7 on sand at Turtle beach Tobago.
56. LAUGHING GULL Larus atricilla Up to 50 at Turtle Beach. Others in smaller numbers offshore around Tobago only.
57. ROYAL TERN Sterna maxima (n) 10 roosting on row boats Pigeon Point. 4 in flight Turtle Beach. 2 possibles near Little Tobago.
58. SANDWICH TERN Sterna sandvicensis (eurygnatha) 2 roosting with Royal terns on row boat Pigeon Point.
59. FERAL PIGEON Columba livia All over the place both islands. You have to give them credit for being everywhere in the world I have ever been from the streets of London to the airport in Trinidad!
60. SCALED PIGEON Columba specisa 2 seen in flight over Asa Wright a number of times. 1 on a tree from veranda.
61. PALE-VENTED PIGEON Columba cayenensis (palidicrissa) 4 in gardens near Kariwak village Hotel Tobago.
62. EARED DOVE Zenaida auriculata (stenura) 2 seen on feeders at Grafton and several seen on Grafton Trails. Several on Mountain Road all Tobago.
63. COMMON GROUND-DOVE Columbina passerina (albivitta) Not so common! 4 at Asa Wright 2 at Agriculture station.
64. RUDDY GROUND-DOVE Columbina talpacoti (rufipennis) Very common Trinidad still pretty common Tobago.
65. PLAIN-BREASTED GROUND-DOVE Columbina minuta 1 Agricultural Station.
66. WHITE TIPPED DOVE Leptotila verreauxi (Tobagensis) 2 in scrub near Flagstaff
67. GRAY-FRONTED DOVE Leptotila rufaxilla (hellmayri) 2 Asa Wright
68. RED-BELLIED MACAW Ara manilata 50 coming in to roost in palms near Nariva
69. GREEN-RUMPED PAROTLET Forpus passerinus (viridissimus) 2 Agricultural Station
70. LILAC-TAILED PAROTLET Touit bacavita 4 in seen flight Asa Wright
71. BLUE-HEADED PAROT Pionus menstruus (n) 1 in flight Asa Wright
72. YELLOW-CROWNED PAROT Amazona ochrocephala (n) 2 chased off of roost near Nariva by Macaws
73. ORANGE-WINGED PAROT Amazona amazonica (Tobagensis) Singles and doubles in flight Asa Wright and Blanchisseuse Road. Very common on Tobago; seen over forest and gardens etc. Roosts (up to 10) on road towards Gilpin Trace.
74. SQUIRREL CUCKOO Piaya cayana (insulana) One on Cercropia at Asa Wright.
75. SMOOTH-BILLED ANI Crotophaga ani Common on roadsides everywhere on both islands in groups of up to a dozen.
76. STRIPED CUCKOO Tapera naevia (n) 2 seen on trees in open valley north end of Blanchisseuse Road.
77. BARN OWL Tyto alba (hellmayri) 1 seen at Waller Field on abandoned buildings.
78. COMMON POTOO Nyctibius griseus (m) 1 roosting in mangroves at Caroni, 4 on tarmac at Waller Field whilst "lamping".
79. PAURAQUE Nyctidromus albicollis (n) 6 whilst "lamping" at Waller Field
80. WHITE-TAILED NIGHTJAR Caprimulgus cayennensis (n) 1 whilst "lamping" at Waller Field.
81. BAND-RUMPED SWIFT Chaetura spinicauda 7 above Asa Wright
82. SHORT-TAILED SWIFT Chaetura brachyura (n) The commonest swift on both islands and very evident on Tobago.
83. LSR SWALLOW-TAILED SWIFT Panytila cayenennsis 3 seen flying over Asa Wright.
84. FORK-TAILED PALM SWIFT Campylopterus ensipennis 12 over moriche palms at Waller Field
85. RUFOUS-BREASTED HERMIT Glaucis hirsuta 2 Flagstaff Hill.
86. GREEN HERMIT Phaethornis guy (n) 1 seen at Asa Wright.
87. LITTLE HERMIT Phaethornis longuemareus (n) 1 seen on several occasions, Asa Wright (always favouring yellow flowers).
88. WHITE-TAILED SABREWING Campylopterus ensipennis 2 on immortelle trees Mountain Road.
89. WHITE-NECKED JACOBIN Florisuga mellivora (flabellifera) 1 seen on Immortelle on Mountain Road 3kms from Gilpin Trace.
WHITE-NECKED JACOBIN Florisuga mellivora (n) Up to 4 on powder puff flowers at Asa Wright, singletons agriculture centre, Blanchisseuse Road etc.
90. BLACK-THROATED MANGO Anthracothorax nigricollis (n) Pair regularly at Asa Wright, fairly common elsewhere.
91. RUBY-TOPAZ HUMMINGBIRD Chrysolampis mosquitus Pair in garden adjacent to Kariwak village hotel.
92. BLUE-CHINNED SAPHIRE Chlorestes notatus (n) 1 Flagstaff Hill (also seen at a different time by another birder - apparently unusual to find in Tobago).
93. TUFTED COQUETTE Chlorestes notatus (n) 1 male + 3 females on powder puff flowers at Asa Wright.
94. BLUE-TAILED EMERALD Chlorostilbon mellisugus (caribaeus) 1 Asa Wright
95. WHITE-CHESTED EMERALD Amazilia chionopectus (n) Abundant at Asa Wright and at most levels on Trinidad.
96. COPPER-RUMPED HUMMINGBIRD Amazilia Tobagoaci (erythronota) Singletons at Asa Wright and along Blanchisseuse road
COPPER-RUMPED HUMMINGBIRD Amazilia Tobaci (n) 1 seen in garden adjacent to Kariwak village hotel.
97. LONG-BILLED STARTHROAT Heliomaster longirostris (n) 1 Asa Wright
98. COLLARED TROGON Trogon collaris (exoptatus) 1 along
Road from 6 feet after tape lure.
99. VIOLACEOUS TROGON Trogon violaceus (n) 1 Blanchisseuse rd, 2 Aripo Arena
100. WHITE-TAILED TROGON Trogon viridis (n) 2 Aripo Arena
101. BELTED KINGFISHER Ceryle alcyon 2 seen on stream by Blue Waters Inn. 1 in Mangrove route to Nariva. 1 Buccoo swamp Tobago.
102. GREEN KINGFISHER Chloroceryle americana 1 seen at Caroni. 1 seen on route to Nariva. 2 Blanchisseuse Road.1 Stream by Blue Waters Inn.
103. PYGMY KINGFISHER Chloroceryle aenea (n) 1 Mangrove en route to Nariva.
104. BLUE-CROWNED MOTMOT Momotus momota (bahamensis) 1 seen regularly at feeders Asa Wright. 2 seen at feeders Grafton. 1 seen in woods at Grafton. 2 seen on Mountain Road to Gilpin Trace. Others in flight and en route. Seemed to be more tame and common on Tobago.
105. RUFOUS-TAILED JACAMAR Galbula ruficauda (n) Singletons and pairs Blanchisseuse Road and agriculture station. More widespread or evident Tobago especially Mountain Road and Grafton. Very confiding at Grafton.
106. CHANNEL-BILLED TOUCAN Ramphastos vitellinus (n) Pair on Cercropia at Asa Wright most mornings, 1 in flight Blanchisseuse road.
107. GOLDEN-OLIVE WOODPECKER Piculus rubiginosus (Trinitatis) 1 and 2 on trees close to veranda Asa Wright. GOLDEN-OLIVE WOODPECKER Piculus rubiginosus (Tobagensis) 1 seem on Mountain Road.
108. CHESTNUT WOODPECKER Celeus elegans (leotaudi) 1 seen regularly at feeders Asa Wright and on trees from veranda.
109. LINEATED WOODPECKER Dryocopus lineatus (n) 2 seen at Asa Wright. 2 Near Arima (nest). 1 near Manzanilla (nest).
110. RED-CROWNED WOODPECKER Melanerpes rubricapillus (terricolor) 1 seen on feeder at Grafton.
111. RED-RUMPED WOODPECKER Veniliornis kirkii (n) 1 on small Cercropia Asa Wright
112. CRIMSON-CRESTED WOODPECKER Phloeoceastes melanoleucus (n) 1 (female) seen at/in nest on Blanchisseuse rd (past stream just before village).
113. PLAIN-BROWN WOODCREEPER Dendrocincla fuliginosa (meruloides) 2 singletons at Grafton
114. BUFF-THROATED WOODCREEPER Xiphorrhynchus guttatus (susurrans) 1 Asa Wright, seen from veranda, 1 on entrance road.
115. STREAK-HEADED WOODCREEPER Lepidocolaptes souleyeti (littoralis) 2 and 1 seen on trees at Asa Wright from veranda.
116. YELLOW-CHINNED SPINETAIL Certhiaxis cinnamomea (n) 2 seen at entrance to Agricultural Station.
117. GREAT ANTSHRIKE Taraba major (semifasciatus) Pair regular at feeders Asa Wright. Several others of both sexes were on tracks. 1 Blanchisseuse Road.
118. BLACK-CRESTED ANTSHRIKE Sakesphorus canadensis (Trinitatis) 1 seen in mangroves en route to Nariva. Pr near Aripo.
119. BARRED ANTSHRIKE Thamnophilus doliatus (fraterculus) 1 en route to Nariva, 1 Blanchisseuse road. Pr. near Arima. BARRED ANTSHRIKE Thamnophilus doliatus (Tobagensis) 1 seen in garden adjacent to Kariwak Village Hotel. 1 Flagstaff Hill.
120. WHITE-FLANKED ANTWREN Myrmotherula axillaris (n) 1 seen near village on Blanchisseuse 2k north of Arima.
121. WHITE-FRINGED ANTWREN Formicivora grisea (Tobagensis) 6 seen at Grafton. Pair on Flagstaff Hill.
122. BEARDED BELLBIRD Procnias averano (carnobarba) 1 seen (on two occasions) on Cercropia at Asa Wright.
123. GOLDEN-HEADED MANAKIN Pipra erythrocephala (n) Several in trees on Blanchisseuse road just up from Asa Wright. 2 on entrance track.
124. WHITE-BEARDED MANAKIN Manacus manacus (Trinitatis) Pair on Blanchisseuse road near stream.
125. PIED WATER-TYRANT Fluvicola pica (n) 2 Trincity pools. Singletons seen around Agricultural Station. Several Nariva.
126. WHITE-HEADED MARSH-TYRANT Arundinicola leucocephala 1 Trincity pools. Several seen at Nariva. 1 Agricultural Station.
127. TROPICAL KINGBIRD Tyrannus melancholicus (chloronotus) Just about any wire on both islands and even more in Tobago where they seem to occupy the Kiskidee niche too.
128. GRAY KINGBIRD Tyrannus dominicensis (n) 1 pointed out by guide at Asa Wright. 2 seen on Mountain Road.
129. SULPHURY FLYCATCHER Tyrannopsis sulphurea 2 on Moriche palms Waller Field.
130. BOAT-BILLED FLYCATCHER Megarynchus pitangua (n) Regular singletons seen at Asa Wright. 1 Agricultural Station. 1 Blanchisseuse Road.
131. STREAKED FLYCATCHER Myidynastes maculatus (Tobagensis) 1 entrance track to Asa Wright. 2 at Blue Waters Inn garden. 1 seen up Flagstaff Hill.
132. GREAT KISKADEE Pitangus sulphuratus (trinitatus) Every wire and tree in Trinidad. (Some introduced around Speyside not seen by me)
133. BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER Myiarchus tyrannulus (Tobagensis) 2 Blue Waters Inn, singletons seen on Mountain Road and Grafton.
134. VENEZUELAN FLYCATCHER Myiarchus venezuelensis (insulicola) Singletons seen on several occasions on Mountain Road.
135. DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER Myiarchus tuberculifer (n) 1 Aripo arena
136. TROPICAL PEEWEE Contopus cinereus (bogotensis) 1 Asa Wright gardens
137. FUSCOUS FLYCATCHER Cnemotriccus fuscatus (cabanisi) 1 Grafton
138. YELLOW-BREASTED FLYCATCHER Tolmomyias sulphurescens (collingwoodi) 2 Agricultural Station
139. YELLOW-BELLIED ELAENIA Elaenia flavogaster (n) Several seen at Asa Wright and Agricultural Station.
140. LESSER ALAENIA Elaenia chiriquensis (albivertex) 2 Agricultural Station
141. SLATY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER Leptopogon superciliaris (pariae) 1 Waller Field 142. WHITE-WINGED BECARD Pachyramphus polychopterus (tristis) 1 Blanchisseuse Road (whilst searching unsuccessfully for the owl roost).
143. BLACK-TAILED TITYRA Tityra cayana (n) 1 on many occasions at Asa Wright
144. WHITE-WINGED SWALLOW Tachycineta albiventa 4 seen around Agricultural Station. 9 Trincity pools.
145. CARIBBEAN MARTIN Progne dominicensis (n) 1 (presumably migrating) with short-tailed swifts near Crown Point.
146. GRAY-BREASTED MARTIN Progne chalybea (n) 35+ Trincity pools. 10+ Agricultural Station.
147. SOUTHERN. ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW Stelgidopteryx ruficolis (aequalis) 2 Trincity pools. 1 seen on wire near Agricultural Station.
148. BARN SWALLOW Hirundo rustica (erythrogaster) 4 Trincity pools.
149. RUFOUS-BREASTED WREN Thryothorus rutilus (n) 2 Blanchisseuse Road
150. HOUSE WREN Troglodytes aedon (Tobagensis) 2 Blue Waters Inn. 2 Grafton. Singletons seen on several occasions Flagstaff Hill. HOUSE WREN Troglodytes aedon (n) 1 seen at Asa Wright, 4 seen on Blanchisseuse Road, 2 Agricultural Station.
151. TROPICAL MOCKINGBIRD Mimus gilvus (Tobagensis) Great numbers everywhere on both islands. Seem most common and tame on Tobago.
152. YELLOW-LEGGED THRUSH Pltycichla flavipes 1 Mountain Road.
153. COCOA THRUSH Turdus fumigatus (aquilonalis) Very common everywhere with trees in Trinidad. Saw none in Tobago.
154. BARE-EYED THRUSH Turdus nudigenus (n) Common on both islands. Seemed more numerous and tame Tobago.
155. WHITE-NECKED THRUSH Turdus albicolus (phaeopygoides) Everywhere on Blanchisseuse road surface especially early morning. (afternoons and evenings they seemed to be replaced by Northern Water-thrushes)
156. LONG-BILLED GNATWREN Ramphocaenus melanurus (Trinidaditatus) 1 skulking by feeders Asa Wright. (hard to see)
157. RUFOUS-BROWED PEPPERSHRIKE yclahis gujanensis (flavipectus) 1 seen at Asa Wright. 1 Blanchisseuse Road. I Aripo Arena (But lots heard calling in hill forests at all times).
158. GOLDEN-FRONTED GREENLET Hylophilus aurantiifrons (saturatus) 1 Agricultural Station.
159. SCRUB GREENLET Hylophilus flavipes (insularis) Singletons seen Mountain Road, Grafton and Flagstaff hill on several occasions.
160. SHINY COWBIRD Molothrus bonariensis (minimus) Common both islands (open land and verges) and often associated with cattle
161. GIANT COWBIRD Scaphidura oryzivora (n) 2 seen on Agricultural Station. 1 Flagstaff Hill.
162. CRESTED OROPENDOLA Psarocolius decumanus (insularis) Numerous at Asa Wright and Blanchisseuse Road in nesting colonies (usually in immortelle trees) and in Hills of Tobago.
163. YELLOW-RUMPED CACIQUE Cacicus cela (n) Nesting colony of 12 pairs in tree between police station and health centre at Cumutu village. Also seen on Blanchisseuse road.
164. CARIB GRACKLE Quiscalus lugubris (n) Abundant on verges etc on both islands most numerous in cafes by airport in Tobago.
165. YELLOW-HOODED BLACKBIRD Agelaius icterocephalus (n) 7-10 at Trincity pools, 6 Nariva. (always associate with vegetation choked still water).
166. YELLOW ORIOLE Icterus nigrogularis (Trinitatis) Singletons seen most days at Asa Wright. 2 Blanchisseuse road. 1 Agricultural Station and 4 at Nariva.
167. RED-BREASTED BLACKBIRD Sturnella militaris (n) 6 seen at Agricultural Station. 2 Waller Field. 2 Arima in fields.
168. YELLOW WARBLER Dendroica petechia (n) 1 seen at Asa Wright. 4 seen on Agricultural Station. 1 at Aripo on verge.
169. NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH Seiurus noveboracensis (n) Numerous singletons along length of Blanchisseuse Road.
170. AMERICAN REDSTART Setophaga ruticilla (n) Pair Blanchisseuse Road.
171. BANANAQUIT Coereba flaveola (leuteola) The sparrows of the islands very, very numerous. (Despite which one American lady with organised party, after six days at Asa Wright, asked me what that little stripy yellow and black bird was.)
172. SWALLOW TANAGER Tersina viridis (occidentalis) 2 in flight at highest point of Blanchisseuse Road (migrating?).
173. BICOLORED CONEBILL Conirostrum bicolor (n) 2 pointed out by guide up Blue River Caroni.
174. PURPLE HONEYCREEPER Cyanerpes caeruleus (longirostris) Up
to 6 at feeders Asa Wright. Several seen along Blanchisseuse
Singletons often on flowers elsewhere in forests.
175. RED-LEGGED HONEYCREEPER Cyanerpes cyaneus (Tobagensis) 2 males and one female along Mountain Road feeding in imortelle trees.
176. GREEN HONEYCREEPER Chlorophanes spiza (n) Several pairs always at seen Asa Wright feeders. 2 Blanchisseuse road. 2 near Arima.
177. BLUE DACNIS Dacnis cayana (n) 2 on Cercropia at back of cottage 18 (where we stayed) at Asa Wright.
178. TRINIDAD EUPHONIA Euphonia Trinitatis 1 Asa Wright by entrance track.
179. VIOLACEOUS EUPHONIA Euphonia violacea (rodwayi) 2 (pr) in powder puff flowers from veranda Asa Wright.
180. SPECKLED TANAGER Tangara guttata (Trinitatis) 4 Blanchisseuse Road.
181. TURQUOISE TANAGER Tangara mexicana (vieilloti) 2 in Moriche palms Waller Field.
182. BAY-HEADED TANAGER Tangara gyrola (viridissima) 6 Blanchisseuse Road.
183. BLUE-GRAY TANAGER Thaupis episcopus (berlepshi) Very abundant in all habitats - Tobago. BLUE-GRAY TANAGER Thaupis episcopus (nesophila) Very abundant in all habitats - Trinidad.
184. PALM TANAGER Thraupis palmarum (melanoptera) Abundant both islands in woods and gardens etc.
185. SILVER-BEAKED TANAGER Ramphocelus carbo (magnirostris) 6 - 10 daily at Asa Wright
186. RED-CROWNED ANT-TANAGER Habia rubica (n) Pair at Asa wright feeders.
187. WHITE-LINED TANAGER Tachyphonus rufus Abundant Trinidad at all wooded sites. A few in woods and gardens Tobago
188. GRAYISH SALTATOR Saltator coerulescens (brewsteri) 2 Asa Wright. I Agricultural Station
189. STREAKED SALTATOR Saltator striatipectus (perstriatus) 1 seen in scrub at Agricultural Station.
190. DICKCISSEL Spiza americana c. 1000 over rice and grass Nariva
191. BLUE-BLACK GRASSQUIT Volatinia jacarina (spendens) (Known locally as "Johnny jump-up" because of its habit of hopping three feet into the air out of the grass.) Common in grassy country and road verges Trinidad. Less common but widespread Tobago.
192. BLACK-FACED GRASSQUIT Tiaris bicolor (omissa) Common Tobago in grass, gardens, and woodland glades etc.
193. YELLOW-BELLIED SEEDEATER Sporophila nigricollis (n) 1 seen in allotments? Near Kilgwyn swamp.
194. RUDDY-BREASTED SEEDEATER Sporophila minuta (n) 4 seen at gate to the Agricultural Station.
195. RED-CHEEKED WAXBILL Group of 30+ at Trincity pools
only noted recently - presumed to be feral but breeding following
Appendix 1 Useful Addresses Etc.
(All numbers prefixed with 00 868 from UK unless otherwise stated)
Air Caribbean (For Flights between islands) 809 623 2500 Fax 809 623 8182
Asa Wright Nature Centre PO Box 4701 Arima Trinidad 667 4655 Fax: 667 4540 http://www.webcom.com/awnc/welcome.html (NB There is no telephone actually at the Lodge)
Blue Waters Inn Batteaux Bay Speyside Tobago 660 4341 Fax: 660 5195 http://www.bluewatersinn.com/
Fear Not (Glass bottomed boat to Little Tobago) David Roberts 809 660 4654
Kariwak Village Hotel Crown Point PO Box 27 Scarborough Tobago 809 639 8545 Fax: 639 8441
Lady in Red (Car Hire & Taxi) Carmen Duncan Signal Hill Tobago 639 6380
"Ram" (Driver/Guide) Soordeo Ramdass Temple Village Blanchisseuse Road Arima Trinidad
David Rooks Nature Tours (For guided trips Tobago) PO Box 348
Tobago 639 4276 Fax: 639 5440 http://www.trinidad.net/rookstobago
Rates for Asa Wright (as @ Winter 97/98)
$(US) 105 based on double occupancy or $(US)139 based on single occupancy. These rates include 10% service charge, three meals a day + afternoon tea and a rum punch! They also include an orientation tour down the tracks and a trip down to the oilbird caves (these take place twice each week only).
Asa Wright Field Trips
These are either $(US)25 for a half day or $(US)50 for a full day
Caroni which is $(US)50 for half a day but includes the cost of the
trip. All trips take food etc. with them for patrons.
They also say this is subject to a minimum of three people going on a trip but, in practice, 2 is sufficient - or even one in special cases.
The reception staff need a bit of a push and will try to fit you into their schedule rather than make arrangements to suit you if you are not insistent (insistent, not rude like some US guests I heard).
Rates for Blue Waters
Single room $(US)115 Double room $(US)130 Breakfast $(US)9 Dinner/Breakfast $(US)31 (Air conditioning $(US)6 per day)
All inclusive of service and taxes.
All books mentioned available from Subbuteo: Pistyll Farm Nercwys
Mold Flintshire CH7 4EW 01352 756551 Fax 01352 756004
Appendix 2 - Tips
Do not pre-book your hire car in Tobago.
I did and it wasn't there to meet me, as arranged, at Tobago airport. This was a blessing as I then had more offers than I could cope with - all at better rates than I had been quoted in advance. "Budget" is very expensive. The "Lady in Red" will be hovering around you as you emerge from the airport. Her deal was the best we could make, nevertheless, I took the trouble of writing things on her form (like all inclusive in the section about insurance, and making sure there was no further space to fill on the credit card slip) as she will make the best deal for herself too. It cost us £20 a day which is terrific value for a jeep (all the cars are automatic and I like a stick shift) albeit one with a noisy exhaust and a reluctance to make the steepest hills in second gear.
Incidentally the only gas station North of Scarborough is tucked away in Roxborough so fill up as soon as you hire your vehicle.
Driving is only on the left if you have to avoid another road user, and the younger locals will ride your tail unless you slow to let them pass. Do so when you can. The desire to pass is often indicated by a blown horn.
Book in advance but pay in situ. It is (slightly) cheaper to pay when you collect tickets but availability can sometimes be limited.
There is some resentment about. Much more so than I experienced in Gambia or Goa.
With one exception people were friendly towards us. Trinidad is supposed to have its human dangers and the papers are certainly full of horrific crimes (murder, kidnapping, and rape & buggery). Being with guides and only going to country sites seemed completely problem free and the airport is safe and patrolled.
Thus cocooned it is hard to say how vulnerable the traveller might be but normal precautions apply. There are some very poor and desperate people in Port of Spain.
Tobago is supposed to (still) be virtually crime free. You may feel intimidated by shouts as you drive by and people stepping into the road to flag you down for a lift or to sell you something. It is hard to judge as the accent is so strong in the country that you do not know what the shouts are. With the exception of the aloe vera incident, I found contact very friendly and pleasant.
I think that the treatment of the hotel staff by some visitors is appallingly rude and I found common courtesies much appreciated. This may account for the somewhat dour reception in hotels. (If you watch some people ignore staff and hear others ask impertinent and inane questions you feel ashamed to be a traveller).
Take less clothes
Asa Wright and the hotels all had washing services returning your gear within 24 hrs (ironed in the case of Asa Wright). All were very cheap too - a matter of pence. You need to change a number of times daily because of the heat but can re-cycle your favourites this way and have less to carry. I found no occasion to "dress up", as everywhere is very informal. In the dry season there is no need for heavy boots either.
It is hot! Cotton absorbs so do not take artificial fibres.
I only used my scope because I did not take a boat ride to Little Tobago (so scoped it from Speyside) and the odd time to scope Roxborough pools or distant birds at Asa Wright.. At most sites it was either unnecessary or not possible. Even at Trincity pools you can walk close enough for good views with just the bins. I would still have mine "in case" but make your own choice.
The T & T system is unique in my experience and all the adaptors we had were useless. They use a very small three-pin plug with flat pins. This meant we could not re-charge our video batteries or use a hair dryer, mind you a hairdryer is a waste of time in that heat).
There aren't any in Tobago - in fact any sort of shop is hard to find except tourist traps in the hotel area. The only place to buy anything else is Scarborough.
Do not buy on the plane or in Barbados if you use my route. Everything was incredibly good value in the Tobago departure lounge. Cigarettes (UK brands) at c.£6.00p for 200, good Cuban cigars at silly prices, good rum at less than £3.00p a 75cl. bottle, perfume 2/3rds of the plane price. If you are a smoker get you supplies at Gatwick as you will find little choice until Tobago duty free on your way home.
Asa Wright feeds you well all day even if you go out on trips they take food with them (even your evening rum punch)! (They will also cater for veggies like me if you ask).
I was not happy with the all inclusive meals package at the Blue Waters Inn - as eating out is cheap I suggest keeping your options open. You can eat there at any meal anyway and take the daily rate that is so near the "all-in" as to be worth the flexibility. Jemma's in Speyside was good and I enjoyed lobster that would have not been affordable at home.
Do not believe the assurance that mosquitoes are not a problem in the dry season. I was bitten to pieces at Asa Wright and my wife was equally fed upon at the Blue Waters Inn. Get a knockdown spray for your room and a good deterrent to spray yourself with (i.e. DEET from your local BA clinic). We sprayed with Boots best and it made not a happ'eth of difference. Also take an anti-histamine cream with you to soothe the itchy bites. Half the problem is not the "mossies" but small biting flies that attack the ankles.
Chiggers did not get me but if you want to avoid them DO NOT WALK IN
LONG GRASS WITHOUT COVERING YOUR LEGS and then shower as soon as
Chiggers are tiny mites that soon drop off, but the site of their
themselves is said to itch for ages and more intensely than any other
you've ever had. (Trinidad only - no chiggers in Tobago).
The hotels were pretty well bug-free and so was Asa Wright. But the occasional nasty does crawl up the plug hole so check your bathroom and empty your boots. I was assured that the small spiders in Trinidad could not break the skin and that the tarantula's bite is not deadly but only painful. There are tarantulas and scorpions hiding up handrails etc. We had no close encounters.
There are four poisonous snakes in Trinidad (and 24 harmless ones in Tobago). I saw a bush-master at the start of the entrance track at Asa Wright and the guides were sufficiently afraid to make me wary. There was also (according to others) a sleeping Fer-de-Lance beside one of the trails. Bites can be survived if you get medical attention and normal precautions should not produce unfriendly fire. Tree boas were seen overhead in Red Mangroves at Caroni.
There are all manner of fascinating flying and creeping things (including very big beautiful butterflies) but they know their place and stay clear of those with phobias.
Lizards of many types abound - big monitor types at Asa Wright and even bigger Iguana types in Tobago (I saw one three feet long, 10" round and bright green). Long-legged lizards that race away on stilts and tiny jewels too. Tree boas seen at Caroni.
One of the most wonderful sights I have ever seen was at Waller Field on our night trip. As darkness fell we were surrounded by hundreds of flashing fireflies (lightening bugs?). They went on sparking like tiny flash bulbs for hours and some were consumed by paraques and nightjars. In the headlights we sometimes thought we were closing in on a potoo etc. to find it was an enormous frog!
Asa Wright has cute squirrels and agouti coming to the feeders.
Four-eyed fish (a type of mud-skipper) seen in dikes and Caroni swamp - they have eyes above the water and eyes below so as to feed and look out for hungry herons!