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TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
LESSER ANTILLES: Antigua/Montserrat/Barbuda


7-20 March 2004

by Bill Benner

Go To:

Trinidad
Tobago
Antigua
Montserrat
Barbuda


When Joe and I decided to go to Trinidad for this year’s trip, we also decided to stop along the way to see a little more of the Caribbean for a few extra days.  I had only been to Jamaica as an undergraduate and to the Bahamas on a family trip, and Joe had never been to the Caribbean at all, so this was a new part of the birding world for both of us.  We decided to make this trip partly because I had back surgery a little less than a year ago, so we wanted to go somewhere relatively close to the US, with relatively shorter plane flights (compared to Australia and Madagascar, for example, which were the last two trips).  This two-week trip was not especially strenuous, though there were a couple of long days in Trinidad, and my back was fine.  In addition, I was hoping to visit an area with a good number of new hummingbirds.  These are hands-down my favorite birds, the obsession within the obsession.  I started out the trip with 96 world species of hummers.  We saw 16 species of hummingbirds during the trip, 14 of which were life birds, and all of which were fantastic!  I also hit another milestone during this trip—my 2000th world bird species.  Only 8,000 more to go!

The first part of the report shows our itinerary, with names and contact info for travel, lodging, and guides.  The three guides we used in the Antilles—James “Scriber” Daley, George Burton, and Victor Joseph—were all first rate.  George is not as keen a birder as the other two, but he knew where the birds were and provided a day’s worth of good value.  Mr. Daley and Mr Joseph were both excellent birders and very knowledgeable, and both were nice and easygoing as well.

We saw a total of 231 species for the entire 13-day trip, and heard an additional 3 others.  Of these, 90 were life birds for me.  I have capitalized all bird names in the report to make it easier to notice them.  In the lists, however, capitals indicate species that were life birds for me.  Birds in parentheses in the lists were either seen only by others and not by me, or were heard-only birds.  Numbers in parentheses in the lists indicate number of individuals for the day.

Field Guides:

    A Guide to the Birds of the West Indies, 1st ed., by H. Raffaele et al.  (1998)  I carried this heavy hardbound book with me because I had it;  there is a newer, lighter paperbound version available.  Very good field guide, very helpful species accounts, good plates, good table in back of island-by-island distribution (though it does not separate Antigua and Barbuda).  It got wet in my pack during our downpour on Montserrat and the binding has mostly fallen apart.

    A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago, 2nd ed., by Richard ffrench.  (1991)  Not a great field guide, in my opinion.  Three notable problems:  (1) Many of the plates are a bit poorly done, e.g flycatchers Plate 17 too brightly colored;  birds are small on plates;  etc.  (2)  Many of the birds are not included on the plates!  but are only described in the text.  (3)  Some of the range and abundance data in the text seems a little outdated?  Still, the species’ text descriptions are mostly pretty good, and the descriptive info about the islands is great.

    Birds of Venezuela, 2nd ed., by Steven Hilty.  (2003)  This is a great, new field guide, with much better plates for many of the T/T birds (esp. those plates by Guy Tudor).  I have this book at home but didn’t carry it with me, though I wished I had when I was there.

    Insight Guide to Antigua and Barbuda, 1st ed., L. Gordon, ed.  (2003)  A very helpful little pocket guide, providing a wealth of interesting info about these two islands.  We also relied heavily on the maps and directions in this guide for our day on Antigua.  Basically, we followed “tour 5” from pp81-90, stopping at many of the places mentioned in the guide.

    I also was very interested in the butterflies we would be seeing, and so I brought along two field guides for butterflies:

    A Field Guide to the Butterflies of the West Indies, 1st ed., by Norman Riley  (1975).  This was a great butterfly guide in almost all respects.  It was terrific for the Lesser Antilles.  It was also somewhat helpful for Trinidad.

    Butterflies of Trinidad and Tobago, 1st ed., by Malcolm Barcant.  This was a hard-to-find, out-of-print book that was one of the worst-designed field guides I have ever used.  It has chapters like “Butterflies of the Home Garden,” “Butterflies of the Dusk,” etc., meaning that there is no useful organization.  The illustrations are photographs of mounted specimens, sometimes quite dark, and so there are often no views of undersides.  The skippers are not included at all.  It was helpful, and, surprisingly, helped me to ID a good number of the butterflies I saw.  But it is only worth buying if you like rare books and you can get it for a reasonable price.

ITINERARY:

March 7

BWIA Flight 429 Lv JFK 3:00pm Arr ANT 8:00pm (1 hour ahead) (but, we ended up on different flights via American Airlines…)

Taxi from Airport:  Hilroy Carr  268-773-2575 (cell) (prompt and helpful)

Hotel 3/7-3/10:  Yepton Beach Resort, Po Box 1427, St. John's, Antigua
Tel: 1 (268) 462-2520,  Fax: 1 (268) 462-3240;  www.yepton.com
Check-in: Sun 7-Mar-04, Check-out: Wed 10-Mar-04; Room/unit type: Beach front Deluxe room  COST SUMMARY: Room/unit rate 3/7-3/9: $138.00 per night, Taxes & service fees: $27.94/night;  3 night minimum stay;  adults only?

March 8

Montserrat Ferry (800) 308-7873.  --5:30AM AT DOCK--  $52US weekend/$75US weekday rates
Guide:  James “Scriber” Daley: (arrange price in advance for ½ day oriole/birding tour)  C/o Forestry Division, Department of AgricultureP O Box 272, Brades, Montserrat W.I. Tel:664 491 3412(h)/664 491 2546(w)  Fax: 664 491 9275 Cell: 664 492 2943;  duberry_d@hotmail.com (Scriber says this email is the best way to contact him, or his cell phone)

March 9

Barbuda:  Flight Lv ANT  7:45AM (reservations essential!)

CARIB AVIATION, V.C. Bird International Airport. P.O. Box 318. St. John’s, Antigua  Tel: (268) 462-3147 or (268) 462-3452, Fax: (268) 462-3125

On Barbuda:  George Burton  268-460-0103 (cell) (try first).  Other numbers: 268-773-5940 home; 268-724-0455 cell.  $60 US/person/day.

Return to Antigua:  Flight 5:15pm (approx. time;  George will drop you off at airport on time)

Rental Car: Thrifty Car Rental (800-331-9111) 6pm 3/9 til 6pm 3/10, Rate: $45.00 + taxes, through expedia.com

March 10

Day on Antigua.

Bird Guide:  Victor Joseph, Quarry Hill, Liberta Village, Antigua, W.I.; 268-775-1495.  email: vjosephlib@yahoo.com   $30 US/person for 3 hours;  available 3-6pm Mon-Fri, 6-9am Sunday mornings ONLY.

To Trinidad: BWIA Flight #429 Lv ANT 7:45pm Arr TRIN 9:05pm

Picked up at airport by transport services from Asa Wright

Accommodations through March 17: Asa Wright Nature Center 868-667-4655

March 11-17

    Booked for Full Tour with Caligo Ventures: 800-426-7781 or 914-273-6333, or via web at http://www.caligo.com/trinidad/index.html, email info@caligo.com

There are multiple departure dates throughout the season, but a standard schedule once you are there (as well as additional options).  Please see website for full description of options and packages.  Ten-day package includes field trips, guides, all meals, all transportation on the islands, AND round-trip airfare from New York or Miami.  It cost us an additional $75, I believe, to interrupt our trip by stopping in Antigua for 3 days.  Tips for the guides and drivers, and bar expenses, were the only additional charges.  Guide for field trips (pre-arranged by Caligo as part of tour):  Yogi—EXCELLENT.

    I was a little worried that the pre-arranged package might not be for “real” birders (whoever they are..), but it was great.  Professional, and, we tried for most of the special species, including with tapes if necessary.  If you are interested in mega-rarities like Trinidad Piping-Guan or Scaled Antpitta, you might want to contact them at Asa Wright ahead of time.  According to Yogi, it is possible to arrange a special trip for the guan, for example, if you do it in advance.

March 17

To Tobago: BWIA Flight #1526 Lv TRIN 9:30am Arr TOB 9:55am

Accommodations through March 20: Blue Waters Inn, Tobago 868-660-4341

Guides on Tobago trips (pre-arranged by Caligo as part of tour):  Adolphus James and son Gladwyn.  Both very good.

March 20

BWIA Flight #1541 Lv TOB 2:00pm Arr TRIN 2:25pm

BWIA Flight #424 Lv TRIN 5:40pm Arr JFK 9:50pm (one hour behind)

Other Useful Websites and Trip Reports:
Antigua &Barbuda, and Montserrat:
    http://maybank.tripod.com/Caribbean/StKitts-02-2001.htm
    http://www.camacdonald.com/birding/carantigua.htm
    http://maybank.tripod.com/Caribbean/Caribbean-11-2002.htm
    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g147243-d150653-Reviews-Yepton_Beach_Resort-St_John_s_Antigua_Antigua_and_Barbuda.html
    http://antigua.huge-condo-discounts.com/yepton-beach-resort.html
    http://www.birdseen.co.uk/antigua/antcontent.htm
    http://www.birdtours.co.uk/tripreports/caribbean/lesser-antilles/les-ant2003.htm
    http://www.mindspring.com/~oberle/Barbuda4-02.htm
    www.barbudaful.net
    http://www.visitmontserrat.com/
    http://www.camacdonald.com/birding/carmonserrat.htm
    http://maybank.tripod.com/Caribbean/Monserrat-10-2001.htm
    http://sei.org/o_pva.html#anchor979543
    http://www.caribislands.net/mont.htm
    http://volcano.und.nodak.edu/vwdocs/current_volcs/montserrat/montserrat.html
    http://www.montserrat-newsletter.com/
    http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/Hazards/Effects/SoufriereHills_PFeffects.html

Trinidad/Tobago:
    http://www.eurobirding.com/tripreports/
    http://home.interlog.com/~barrow/
    http://americanbirding.org/cc/cctrtrin1.htm
    http://www.bluewatersinn.com/info.html
    http://www.inct.net/~billmurphy/books.htm

7 Mar 04  Antigua

    Our vacation started off a bit rocky, when we arrived at JFK to discover that our plane was actually not going to Antigua that day but was going to Barbados instead.  So, we were re-routed on American through San Juan, Puerto Rico.  This meant that we arrived in Antigua around midnight, instead of at 8pm as we were supposed to.  Fortunately, we got a nice, dependable taxi driver at the airport who took us directly to our hotel, and we were in bed by 1am or so.  Hilroy, the driver, was happy to be our taxi man for the rest of our stay on Antigua, and gave us his card and cell phone number.  He agreed to meet us and take us to the ferry in the morning, and he was in our hotel parking lot promptly at 5am.Taxi fees for a half-hour ride to the airport or the ferry cost us $15-20 US including the tip.

8 Mar 04  Montserrat

    We were looking forward to visiting Montserrat for a couple of reasons.  First and foremost, it is the home of the endemic Montserrat Oriole, found nowhere else.  But it is also an island with a difficult recent history, due to the unexpected and devastating eruptions of its volcano, the Soufriere Hills, which began in 1995 and continue to this day.  There had actually been an eruption, with a plume rising to 20,000 feet from the collapse of the lava dome, only a few days before our arrival.  The pyroclastic flows from the volcano have either buried or made unsafe or uninhabitable fully two-thirds of the island.  Much of the population was forced from their homes, and many now live in Great Britain or on other Caribbean islands, hoping to eventually return.  The population has decreased from 12-13,000 pre-eruption to as few as 3,500 permanent residents now.  We were looking forward to being able to see for ourselves some of the island-building processes which have shaped this part of the world.  And, we also felt like we were helping in our own small way to provide some needed tourism dollars.

    We checked into the ferry terminal at 5:30am, an hour before the ferry’s 6:30am departure to Montserrat.  There were already a few people waiting, and the ticket people arrived shortly after we did.  Remember to bring both your passport and your customs form to the terminal! as you are leaving the country of Antigua & Barbuda and need to turn in the old form and get a new form to return.  We were leaving and returning on a Monday, but we were still charged the “weekend” rate of  $135 EC/$52 US return (meaning round trip), which seemed like a good deal (vs. the $75 US weekday rate).  We were not charged a departure tax, I believe because we were there for less than 24 hours.  They do not take credit cards, so you will need enough cash.  They did not take reservations when we called ahead, but told us to just show up, which was fine.  I’m not sure if it might be more crowded on the weekends.  We paid in US dollars, as we paid for virtually everything during the next two weeks, without any problems.  Once, on Montserrat, we bought sodas at a local bar and got a grumble and change in Eastern Caribbean (EC) dollars, but basically there was little need for us to exchange any US money.  Small US bills, ones and fives, are helpful for tips, however, and if you pay with larger bills you will get change in local currency.  The exchange rate is presently fixed at $2.60 EC to $1 US.  Credit cards are not always accepted, even at gas stations and restaurants.

    We had arrived the night before at 1am at our resort, the Yepton Beach Hotel, and we had left there at 5am, so we had yet to see Antigua by daylight, and we were excited about what birds the morning would bring.  Dawn was breaking by 6am and we saw our first Antillean birds right away as the darkness gave way—BANANAQUITS and ZENAIDA DOVES, calling and singing even before first light.  CARIB GRACKLES flew into the waiting area and BROWN PELICANS were fishing on the far side of the harbor, as were ROYAL and SANDWICH TERNS.  MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRDS floated overhead.  A GREEN HERON was also fishing near the ferry dock, and we saw several CATTLE EGRETS as well as a GREAT EGRET.  Other common birds seen well this morning, and repeatedly over the next 3 days, included BLACK-FACED GRASSQUITS and LESSER ANTILLEAN BULLFINCHES.  Some of these were great life birds that I was very happy to see, but I will often omit mentioning these more common species in the rest of the report.

    The ferry departed on time and we were soon speeding across the Caribbean on the smooth and fast catamaran.  A group of about a dozen BROWN BOOBIES were feeding all around us briefly as the ferry speeded through the fish ball that had captured their interest.  Redondo appeared and then receded on our right.  Flying Fish glided away from us.  As we approached the island of Montserrat, we could see the small fan of new land created by the pyroclastic flow that had streamed toward the Atlantic on the eastern side of the island.  Rounding the north point of Montserrat, we were greeted by good looks at my life RED-BILLED TROPICBIRDS soaring above the cliffs.  We had nice views of CARIBBEAN MARTINS overhead as we were pulling into the dock, including great point-blank looks at a male with his dark blue breast and clear white belly.

    We arrived at the dock at Montserrat at 8:30 am, and once disembarking and walking out through the gates we were met by our guide and host for the morning, Mr. James “Scriber” Daley.  He was very nice and very knowledgeable about his Montserrat birds.  He actually works for the Forestry office on Montserrat, studying the Montserrat Orioles on a daily basis.  He also studies the Mountain Chicken, Montserrat’s endemic frog, and he would have taken us out with him that evening on one of his regular frog surveys if we had been spending the night on Montserrat.  As it was, he was our guide for the morning, as he had office work to do in the afternoon.

    And what a morning!  Our destination for the morning was the Centre Hills, the only high-elevation forest which remains undamaged and accessible on Montserrat.  The green-clothed hills rise above and behind the town of Brades, where we had docked.  They are protected, partly because of the frog and the oriole, but also because they provide the water supply now for the still-habitable northern third of Montserrat.  Scriber drove us along, winding upward through little houses and towns, and parked at a trail entrance.  We got out, took our day packs and umbrellas, and followed him into the forest.

    Immediately it felt wonderful to be on a trail in a tropical rain forest once again, coming from our long, cold New York winter.  The vegetation was lush and thick.  Bird songs and peeps were around us, and the day was full of possibilities.  Isn’t this the reason we spend so much time and energy and money, to find ourselves on a glorious morning, starting on a trail into a flickering forest, with life birds dancing in our minds and in the woodland all around us?  It was great!

    It turned out to be a spectacular morning of birding.  Our goal, of course, was the oriole—and we were not disappointed.  Arriving at an area where Scriber knew of a pair, he heard their distinctive calls, and soon had squeaked up for us a female MONTSERRAT ORIOLE.  After some long looks at her feeding and hearing the male nearby, our patience was rewarded with excellent studies of a beautiful male.  The field guide makes this oriole look like a black bird with a yellow breast.  In reality, it is yellow all around the lower body, above and below, with a black head and upper back and black wings and tail.  A strikingly handsome bird.  We would see another male later in the morning on our way back to Scriber’s truck.

    Montserrat Orioles are almost entirely insectivorous, according to Scriber.  He also told us how they make their nests, and how dependent they are on the native Heliconias to be able to do this.  He said that one of the ways that he locates new birds and/or new nesting areas is by looking for the holes that the males make in the Heliconia leaves, possibly as they prepare the leaves for use in nesting.  He is very knowledgable about “his” birds, and he has even been to the island of Jersey to assist the Jersey Trust with their Montserrat Oriole breeding program, where they are working to ensure the future of this great bird.

    But the orioles weren’t the only good birds.  Joe (the real Eagle Eye of our duo), spotted a darkish bird in a shrub top just below us on the forested slope soon after we entered the forest.  It turned out to be a BROWN TREMBLER.  This was the first time in the Lesser Antilles for either of us, so most of the birds we saw this morning were life species, including this one.  We had wonderful looks at the weird Trember trembling and feeding.  Montserrat has several great Lesser Antillean endemics, and we had hoped to see some of them, and indeed we did.  A little later, walking along a gully, Scriber flushed a BRIDLED QUAIL-DOVE, which fortunately perched low down and nearby and allowed us to get fairly good looks.  We got briefly drenched by a strong shower, which added to the rain-forest atmosphere and was soon over, and left us walking through a dripping, steaming forest.

    I had specifically organized this entire trip at least partly to maximize my chances of seeing some new hummingbird species—my favorite birds.  My world list of hummingbirds stood at 96 species prior to this trip.  Zipping by, and eventually perching, ANTILLEAN CRESTED HUMMINGBIRDS became number 97.  These are terrific birds, which we were to see well and often during these 3 days in the Lesser Antilles.  It seemed I never tired of watching them, always hoping for just one more glimpse of that bright streak of a crest if the hummingbird turned in just the right direction.  Another one of my target birds, which we were able to see perched as well as in hovering flight, was #98, the beautiful PURPLE-THROATED CARIB.  This is a really spectacular hummingbird, but it is very difficult to get a good look at the purple throat in the right light, as it seems to prefer the shadowy understory of the forest.  But we saw it very well, and I was extremely satisfied.  The unusual brilliant green wings are very distinctive.  Finally, we stopped at a fruiting tree on the way out which was hopping with birds.  Several PEARLY-EYED THRASHERS and SCALY-BREASTED THRASHERS hopped in and out of view.  As we were leaving the area, one last look at the tree revealed a FOREST THRUSH feeding as well, yet another species that we had really hoped for on Montserrat.  Joe and I got great looks.  An excellent morning full of endemic Caribbean birds.

    Scriber then drove us down the eastern, Atlantic coast of the island to a high point at the northern limit of the exclusion zone.  From our vantage point, we could see the plain below to the south, where in 1997 the pyroclastic lava clouds had flowed all the way from the cloud-shrouded hills far above to our right, down into the sea on our left.  In the process, they had partly covered the island’s airport runway below us, leaving the ferry and helicopter services from Antigua as the only access.  The hot lava and gas burned all of the airport buildings, now just shells (although later Scriber would show us the new airport site being developed on the north end).  It had also partly or mostly buried the towns below, and it was very sobering to learn that there were bodies buried on the plains beneath us, never to be recovered.  Some greenery is beginning to cover the ashy plain, but according to Scriber there are no plans to reopen the devastated southern areas any time soon.

    We took a quick ride to the offices where Scriber works, and he gave us some cards and info about the Montserrat birds.  Then, we paid him, $60 US each for the morning, and he took us to the tourist center in town and gave us some hints about where we could walk in the afternoon.  He left us on the hill above the ferry dock, and we walked around the scrubby hillside and gully for an hour or so, then walked back to the beach near the ferry dock.  Additional birds seen included GRAY KINGBIRD and CARIBBEAN ELAENIA.  The day was fairly hot, and we had a couple of hours to waste before the ferry, but we were very tired from our late arrival the night before, so we mostly lazed by the beach and dozed.  Some excitement was provided at one point as we watched a PEREGRINE FALCON repeatedly stoop on and almost take a fairly large chicken feeding nearby.  The ferry departed about 5:45pm, and we had a glorious sunset cruise back to Antigua, with the little island “kingdom” of Redondo against a painted sunset sky.  Our taxi driver Hilroy met us at the dock and drove us back to our hotel, and agreed to pick us up at 6am and have us at the airport by 6:30am, an hour or so before our flight to Barbuda.

Bird List:

RED-BILLED TROPICBIRD (5)
Brown Pelican (6)
Brown Booby (10)
Magnificent Frigatebird (6)
Great Egret (1)
Cattle Egret (6)
Green Heron (1)
American Kestrel (4)
Peregrine Falcon (1)
Spotted Sandpiper (2)
Sandwich Tern (8)
Royal Tern (10)
(Scaly-naped Pigeon  1 seen by Scriber only)
Zenaida Dove (25+)
Common Ground-Dove (7)
BRIDLED QUAIL-DOVE (1)
(Mangrove Cuckoo  1 heard only)
Smooth-billed Ani (5)
PURPLE-THROATED CARIB (3)
(Green-throated Carib  1 seen by Scriber only)
ANTILLEAN CRESTED HUMMINGBIRD (5)
CARIBBEAN ELAENIA (2)
Gray Kingbird (6)
CARIBBEAN MARTIN (6)
BROWN TREMBLER (2)
SCALY-BREASTED THRASHER (5)
Pearly-eyed Thrasher (5)
FOREST THRUSH (1)
Yellow Warbler (1)
Bananaquit (25+)
Black-faced Grassquit (3)
LESSER ANTILLEAN BULLFINCH (3)
CARIB GRACKLE (10)
MONTSERRAT ORIOLE (3)


9 Mar 04  Barbuda

    We had called ahead, about a week earlier, to reserve our spots on Carib Aviation’s 7:45 am flight to Barbuda, returning that evening.  We had also called George Burton at that same time to let him know we were coming.  He agreed to meet us at the airport.

    Hilroy arrived at the hotel a little after 6am, and we arrived at the Antigua airport at 6:30am.  We waited a while in line; it’s good to get there an hour ahead, because the line moves slowly.  It also was essential that we had called ahead and made reservations, because the flight was full, with a waiting list.  We paid for our tickets at the counter, with credit cards, approximately $72 US return/round trip.

    The low-altitude flight takes only 15 or 20 minutes, and provided us with another look at a BROWN BOOBY.  Quickly we found ourselves on Barbuda—and 50 years back in time, according to most folks.  There are very few resorts on Barbuda, only a few very expensive, exclusive gated ones, I believe, though I could be wrong about this—we weren’t staying overnight, so I didn’t research it very much.  We had been seated on our flight from New York near a few developers who were headed to Barbuda to negotiate some sort of resort development, sadly, so who knows how long it will keep its character.  One of the locals we chatted with sounded as though he might welcome more people, more money, and more excitement.  But for us it was wonderful to spend a day on such an unspoiled paradise.  There seem to be so many “well-developed” touristy Caribbean islands;  it’s a shame to have to convert the few that remain to that bland, homogenized sameness.  But, we are outsiders looking very briefly in, and it’s not up to us.

    Anyway, George met us just outside the terminal building—a small structure next to the runway.  An English couple was also going for the ecotour with George, so the four of us joined him in his van.  We paid him at the outset, $60 US each for me and Joe.  He also took our return plane tickets, and handed them back to us, along with boarding passes, when he dropped us off at the airport at 4:30 that evening.

    George asked what we would like to do, and of course I right away wanted to see the warbler, our Target Bird.  George said he would take us there first if I insisted, but what he wanted to do was to take us first to look at the caves on the northeast Atlantic coast, and then to the lagoon dock for a tour of the frigatebird colony.  Then he said he would head toward the beach with the English folks.  He would drop Joe and I off on the way, in a good spot for the warbler, leave us for an hour or so, then pick us up on the way back for lunch.  Then we would spend the afternoon back at the beach.  We agreed to this plan, leaving it to his judgment, with only a little apprehension about ignoring the warbler until the noontime hours.  Already the slower Caribbean pace was taking hold, and it was easiest to just relax into the day and go with the flow.

    We took a ride through the (only) town of Codrington, which was clean and quiet.  There are only 1200 or so residents on Barbuda, according to George.  We stopped at the restaurant to put in our lunch order for later, then it was off to the north coast.  Codrington sits on the eastern/landward side of Codrington Lagoon, the largest lagoon in the Caribbean, I believe.  The lagoon empties into the sea from its northern, and most secluded end.  A couple of hurricanes in the mid-90’s also opened up temporary channels through the barrier beach that separates the western edge of the lagoon from the Caribbean Sea, but these were now closed again.  The hurricanes were apparently quite destructive, and are still vivid in the minds of the people we spoke with.  The island of Barbuda is flat, with the highest point being only 175 feet or so above sea level and also a long way from the town.  At least one of the recent hurricanes with its winds and flooding had apparently pretty much inundated the town.  It also came during the night, which made it even worse, with babies to evacuate, etc. etc.  The frightening side of paradise.

    But all was perfect during our day on Barbuda, an idyllic day that I will always remember.  We drove along a dirt road north to the cave area, seeing feral (“countable”?) HELMETED GUINEAFOWL along the way.  George parked the van and gave us a little snack of fruit (the local Black Pineapple is great!) and drinks, then sent us on our way up the trail.  We climbed through a small cave, a little adventure.  We emerged high above the water on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic.  No signs of civilization in any direction.  Beautiful RED-BILLED TROPICBIRDS soared overhead and came in for graceful, heart-stopping landings on the cliffs right below our feet.  There were nice butterflies to see on the flowers at the top.  And best of all, Humpback Whales were moving just offshore, and a pair actually breached, leaping completely clear of the water!  Quite a sight, according to Joe, the only lucky dog to see it, though we all got many looks at the whales surfacing, spouting, etc.

    After a pleasant half hour or so here, we climbed back down through the cave to the van, and rode back down to town.  George then took us to the dock and dropped us off for the frigatebird tour.  Visiting the MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD colony turned out to be pleasant and interesting.  We had George’s cooler with us, so soft drinks or beers were available for the short boat ride.  When we arrived at the colony, our guide and boatman jumped out and walked the boat to a little pole and tied us up for a short stay.  The birds were in the midst of their breeding season, so there were some well-grown chicks, and also a number of displaying males with their distended bright red gular pouches.  According to our guide, this is the largest known nesting colony of this species.  We hung around here for 20 minutes or so, then took a ride across the lagoon to the west side and grounded the boat for a pants-rolled-up landing.

    The thin strip of sand that separates the lagoon from the Caribbean was a delicate shade of pink, and as soft as silk.  This was the finest sand I have ever seen on any beach, anywhere.  Looking north, it extended like a pink ribbon into the horizon, with no sign of civilization at all.  The lagoon was on the right, a vivid green, and the Caribbean was on the left, the most amazing aqua blue.  Overhead was the deep blue sky, filled with puffy white cumulus clouds.  I have a photograph of this scene which is now the desktop photo on my laptop, the most perfect tropical island postcard.  We skipped shells across the Caribbean and got our feet wet.  At one point we watched a Kestrel zooming along above the water just offshore.  It saw something and swerved, and suddenly its target, the tiniest little ANTILLEAN CRESTED HUMMINGBIRD, went screaming upward into the sky, quickly losing the kestrel.  If ever I saw a hummingbird say, “Holy #@%!”, that was it!

    Soon we were back on the little boat and motoring our way east across the lagoon, where we docked and tipped our boatman and went on our way with George.  We headed south out of town, and along the roadside south of the airport and south of town George pulled over and Joe and I got out.  George gave us a small cooler with some water and instructed us to hide it under a nearby bush, which we did, and then he pointed out the features surrounding us and said that the warblers could be found on either side of the road.  Our side of the road was a fairly open field with a few clumps of trees, surrounded by dry scrub, with an embankment to the east a few hundred yards.  Across the road was a fenced pasture, but we never ended up going across there.  George said he would be back for us in about an hour to an hour and a half, and he was off with the British folks to the beach.

    It was about 11:30 am and fairly hot.  Still, there was more bird activity than I might have expected.  Of course, our eyes and ears were peeled for our target bird!  We walked to the embankment and up the slope to the top, which revealed a pond, probably used for the cattle we heard nearby.  We headed toward the right atop the embankment, and hadn’t gone more than a few feet before I heard what was unmistakeably a warbler chip note back down to our right in the scrub.  A little pishing and squeaking and we were soon enjoying wonderful looks at our life BARBUDA WARBLER.  It is a very attractive warbler, gray-green above and bright yellow on the face and below, with bright white wing bars.  It feeds quite low in the scrub, it seems, and we got many superb looks at the bird down near ground level.  Very satisfying.

    We spent some more time wandering around this area, hoping for a look at the berlepschii race of the Lesser Antillean Flycatcher.  But, we could not locate one.  We were confused at times by various call notes with which we were unfamiliar and which took time to track down, especially those of the CARIBBEAN ELAENIA.  We walked down around the south end of the pond and then back;  the north end was a little marshy.

    We wandered back out to the road, but no sign of George yet, so we went back into the scrub, this time checking the margins and trails leading into the scrub on our left as we stood with our back to the road.  We were rewarded with stunning looks at our life GREEN-THROATED CARIB, perched breathtakingly in the sunshine in a little clearing.  The green and blue on the bird’s breast was as clear and shimmering as the Caribbean Sea itself.  Hummingbird #99 for me, and one of the most beautiful I have ever seen.

George arrived shortly, and we headed back to town for a great lunch.  The day was really very good value, considering that we were chauffered all over the island, fed, shown birds, and provided with snacks and drinks whenever we wanted from George’s seemingly bottomless cooler.

    After lunch we headed for the beach.  But first we drove past a site that George knew for shorebirds, a little spit of land where they are readying sand for export.  Barbuda’s sand is one of its main exports, apparently!  The little spot was small but productive.  Looking out the van windows at the edge beside us revealed RUDDY TURNSTONE, SANDERLING, SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER, and one WESTERN SANDPIPER with its larger, slightly drooped bill.  On to the beach, where we spent the rest of the lazy afternoon, wandering up and down the edge.  Joe and I took a walk southward to the “other” airport (for the K Club resort, I think…)  Nothing new here, but there were flowers, including aloes, blooming along the gardened edges of the building there, which gave me the chance to spend more time watching several ANTILLEAN CRESTED HUMMINGBIRDS.  Our only worries were avoiding the spiny grass seeds on some of the beach grass.

    About 4pm we packed up and left the beach.  George dropped us off at the airport, and I confirmed with him the phone numbers that I included in the itinerary above.  He says these are the numbers to use to get in touch with him.  He is certainly the man on Barbuda to help you see the warbler, and to provide a nice, relaxing day as well.  He went in the airport office and got our tickets and handed them back to us with boarding passed attached.  We waited a bit, the plane arrived, we boarded, and soon enough we were back on Antigua.

    We had reserved a car at this point to have for the next 24 hours so that we could spend the following day on our own on Antigua.  They were waiting for us at the car rental room at the airport, and the car we got was fine.  We had gone back and forth about whether or not to rent a car while we were here.  We were quite worried about getting lost trying to find our hotel, since the hotel was on the other side (west of) St. John’s.  But, we resigned ourselves to getting lost, and decided to do it anyway.

    And get lost we did—but, really, it was not so bad.  You have to be careful driving in the town, because there are lots of people and vehicles in the streets, and many of the streets have ditches along the side for water that you wouldn’t want to fall into.  The streets are confusing, some are not signed, and some are one-way.  Still, it is Antigua, not London or Los Angeles, and you can’t go too far in the wrong direction before you realize it and stop again and get directions.  Everyone we asked for directions was unfailingly helpful and friendly, though a couple gave us conflicting information.  But it took only about 45 minutes or so to get from the airport to the hotel, vs. 20 to 30 minutes in the taxi, so everything was fine.

We were very happy to have the car the following day, and the freedom to ride around and see some of the island.  Also, when we had told our very nice and helpful front desk clerk that we were on Antigua for birdwatching, she was delighted to be able to provide us with the name and phone number of a bird guide on Antigua.  Unfortunately, he was available only from 3 to 6pm during weekdays, but we decided to make plans to go out with him the following day, which the helpful desk clerk confirmed for us.  This turned out to be a great decision.

Barbuda Bird List:

Red-billed Tropicbird (6)
Brown Pelican (8)
Brown Booby (1)
Magnificent Frigatebird (300+)
Great Egret (2)
Cattle Egret (30+)
American Kestrel (3)
Helmeted Guineafowl (20+)
Ruddy Turnstone (25+)
Sanderling (14)
Semipalmated Sandpiper (10)
Western Sandpiper (1)
Sandwich Tern (6)
Royal Tern (5)
White-crowned Pigeon (4)
Zenaida Dove (12)
Common Ground-Dove (20+)
GREEN-THROATED CARIB (1)
Antillean Crested Hummingbird (12+)
Caribbean Elaenia (9)
Gray Kingbird (8)
Barn Swallow (15)
Yellow Warbler (2)
BARBUDA WARBLER (6)
Bananaquit (25+)
Black-faced Grassquit (5)
Lesser Antillean Bullfinch (1)
Carib Grackle (6)

March 10 Antigua

    The trip report that was most helpful to us on Antigua can be found here.  We did not visit most of the places that are mentioned in the report, but we did use it to find the Christian Valley site.  We went to the Wallings Reservoir as well, but this was with our guide later in the afternoon, so we did not need to locate it ourselves, though we had driven right near it earlier in the day when we made our loop around the southwestern corner of the island.

    A decent map of the island can be seen at http://www.skyviews.com/antigua/anuroadmap.html.  Although this is perhaps not as detailed as you would like if you are striking out on your own, it was adequate for us to navigate our way around for the day, as long as we were willing to get a little lost and do some minor backtracking occasionally.

    We started off the day with an early morning walk around the grounds of our hotel, the Yepton Beach Resort.  This turned out to be a surprisingly productive morning!  The hotel sits in between the beach and a wetland pond, and the pond turned out to be a good place for water birds.  Our room was at the far (east) end of the row of rooms on the upper floor, and standing on our stairway landing provided us with good, though somewhat distant, views over the pond.  Good enough to identify quite a few WHITE-CHEEKED PINTAIL, BLUE-WINGED TEAL, and shorebirds along the edges.  By walking down the stairs and and turning left (east) we were able to get to spots where we could sneak through the shrubs at several points and get close to the bank for views of the birds.  Later we walked down the driveway (west) past the front desk and parking lot and so were able to get around to the open field side of the pond for more views.  Birds seen in and along the water included GREAT and SNOWY EGRETS, TRICOLORED and LITTLE BLUE HERONS, YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, COMMON MOORHEN, BLACK-NECKED STILTS, GREATER and LESSER YELLOWLEGS, and SPOTTED SANDPIPER.  Also, along the top of the driveway in the shrubs that line it as it approaches the entrance at the road, we got great looks at at least 3 MANGROVE CUCKOOS.  The birds were calling and feeding and chasing among the open roadside shrubs, so we got excellent, leisurely, point-blank looks at this often-difficult species.  Then we wandered back to the front desk and the restaurant for a leisurely breakfast!  A very nice morning.  I would highly recommend the Yepton Beach Resort for birders staying on the island.

    We went back to our room to finish packing and got to enjoy nice looks at another GREEN-THROATED CARIB feeding in the Bougainvillea just outside our room.  We checked out of our room at this point and stowed our luggage in the car’s trunk.  Trusting to our map and our sense of having an adventure for the day, we set out for a little tour of the southwestern quarter of the island.  We left our hotel and headed out to the main road, then turned right and traveled southward (rather than left toward St. John’s).  We were following the directions in our Insight guide, following route 5.  We stopped at some of the little cultural spots mentioned, and made our way to the Christian Valley site mentioned in the above trip report.  The dirt roads leading into Christian Valley are a little confusing, but if you look at the geography around you, you are pretty clearly heading southeastward into a broad valley, and eventually the road becomes one road into the valley.  We parked just before the (open) gates, and walked further up the road a while.  Unfortunately, the good forest seems to be higher up the slopes, and either we couldn’t figure out how to get to it, or we hadn’t driven far enough in.  In any case, the only new birds we saw here were a hunting MERLIN, the only one for the trip, some CARIBBEAN ELAENIAS, and GRASSQUITS and BULLFINCHES.  CATTLE EGRETS were abundant on the roadsides as we drove around.  We also saw 2 different soaring BROAD-WINGED HAWKS, of the non-migratory endemic insulicola subspecies, a bird I was happy to see.

    We left the Christian Valley and continued southward, soon reaching the coast in the vicinity of Jolly Harbour.  We stopped and checked out the mangrove pond across from Our Lady of the Valley church, and we stopped and parked there at Valley Church Beach and had a look around.  Antigua boasts 365 beaches, one for each day of the year, so we took a little time for the next couple of hours and stopped at a few of them just to poke around, look for shells, etc.  We drove as far as Old Road, then backtracked to Turner’s Beach and had lunch at the crowded but fun restaurant right on the beach.  It was nice to feel engulfed by beachgoers and the whole tourist thing for an hour or so, and then nice again to leave all of that and go back to our own quieter adventures.  We shared our food with the CARIB GRACKLES and enjoyed making a close-up acquaintance with this bold and energetic little grackle.  After lunch we drove eastward then northward along Fig Tree Drive and made our way back toward the north part of the island.

    We had arranged with Victor Joseph, our guide for the rest of the afternoon, to pick us up at the airport.  Our flight wasn’t until 7:45pm, but we returned the rental car early and checked in our bags and got boarding passes.  This ended up taking quite a while, and we were waiting only a few minutes at the curb when Victor pulled up at 3pm to meet us.  When I had spoken to him the night before, I had told him (with faint hopes, but, what the heck) that we still had not seen 3 “wish list” birds on Antigua—Antillean Euphonia, Scaly-naped Pigeon, and West Indian Whistling-Duck.  Well, he showed us 2 of the 3!

    He drove us south from the airport on a complicated route that took us eventually to Wallings Reservoir, where we parked.  This is apparently the best humid forest on Antigua, and it was here that we hoped we might find the Euphonia.  We climbed upward from the parking area and soon reached the little reservoir.  There were some trees that Victor thought might be productive for Euphonias, but, sadly, they were not around.

    However, Mr. Joseph was such a pleasant birding companion and a great source of natural history information that we really didn’t care very much.  He is a science teacher during the day, and he has done some research on Tobago on Caribbean birds, and he was both helpful and very polite.  We talked about lizards and birds and butterflies.  We saw at least 2 new species of anoles, Anolis wattsi and A. bimacularis.  And along the way we got nice looks at AMERICAN REDSTART, BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER, and BLACK-WHISKERED VIREO.  We even got to show Victor a life bird for him, a very nice YELLOW-THROATED VIREO, that stuck around long enough for him and us to get good looks at all of its identifying marks.  The best birds, however, were a pair of SCALY-NAPED PIGEONS that flew in to some tree tops on the slope beside us.  The looks weren’t the greatest, because the only visible bird was partially obscured by leaves.  But they called constantly, and we were also able eventually to get good looks at the bird’s head and see its red eye and reddish bare eye ring as well its pale bill.  This is a bird we had assumed we were not very likely to find, so it was with a very contented feeling that we trekked back to the car and continued on our way.

    We continued to stop here and there at various spots as Victor drove us to a different part of the island.  Eventually he led us back into what seemed to be private lands with a bewildering criss-cross of roads that meandered along and between a series of small ponds.  The first of these had more WHITE-CHEEKED PINTAILS and BLUE-WINGED TEAL, as well as BLACK-NECKED STILTS and other shorebirds, including SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER.  We came to one little pond which seemed to be the end of this string of wetland spots, and found that in addition to the birds we had been seeing there were our life CARIBBEAN COOTS out on the water.  Very nice looks at the extensive white frontal shield.

    Victor drove on just a little further, and there was one more pond around the bend.  We scanned this one as well, and to my complete and utter surprise, Joe soon spotted a pair of WEST INDIAN WHISTLING-DUCKS with 8 little ducklings in tow!  I could hardly believe my eyes, not having dared to hope that we would see this rare and elusive species.  It's hard to know whether it was two females with chicks or one male and one female, but the ducklings were busy feeding and busy ignoring our car across the pond, and the adults had no choice but to stay with their offspring.  They were feeding along the shoreline area in a secluded but not a truly hidden spot, perhaps because of the ducklings.  The adults seemed extremely alert, and perhaps wished they could be somewhere else, but they made no move to leave.  In any case, I was spellbound.  We watched for 5 minutes or so, then left them to their peaceful little sanctuary.

    This would be a difficult area to find on your own, I believe.  I would also be very unhappy to think that my discussion of this would in any way lead to these birds being harassed, so I have been deliberately vague in describing it.  My advice if you want to see them is to do exactly what we did—hire Victor and have him take you to try to locate them.  Victor seemed to be quite familiar with the habits of his local birds, and he would probably be the one who would be most likely to be able to show you where these ducks as well as other birds were hanging out at any given time.  I did get the impression that he sort of thought the Whistling-Ducks might be found where we saw them, and I also got the impression that they are in certain places at certain times but not reliably.  The fact that they had a nice batch of offspring was very encouraging.

    Anyway, after this I was on cloud nine, and I barely remember the trip back to airport.  For me, seeing the Whistling-Ducks had become one of the main highlights of this trip.  I have now seen and had a chance to watch all of the Whistling-Duck species except for Lesser;  one of these years we’ll have to think about Asia for that one.  Victor dropped us off at the airport at about 6:30pm, and we paid and tipped and thanked him profusely.  Our hour-long flight to Trinidad was peaceful and relaxing, on a nearly empty plane.

Antigua Bird List:

Brown Pelican (40+)
Magnificent Frigatebird (30+)
Great Egret (30+)
Tricolored Heron (3)
Little Blue Heron (4)
Snowy Egret (12)
Cattle Egret (100+)
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (2)
WEST INDIAN WHISTLING-DUCK (10)
White-cheeked Pintail (150+)
Blue-winged Teal (40+)
Broad-winged Hawk (2)
Merlin (1)
Peregrine Falcon (1)
Common Moorhen (20+)
CARIBBEAN COOT (6)
Black-necked Stilt (150+)
Short-billed Dowitcher (25)
Greater Yellowlegs (8)
Lesser Yellowlegs (35+)
Spotted Sandpiper (10)
Royal Tern (1)
Rock Pigeon (2)
White-crowned Pigeon (1)
SCALY-NAPED PIGEON (2)
Zenaida Dove (25+)
Common Ground-Dove (25+)
Mangrove Cuckoo (3)
Antillean Crested Hummingbird (12)
(Belted Kingfisher 1  heard only)
Caribbean Elaenia (18)
Gray Kingbird (20+)
Yellow-throated Vireo (1)
Black-whiskered Vireo (2)
Yellow Warbler (2)
Black-and-White Warbler (1)
American Redstart (2)
Bananaquit (50+)
Black-faced Grassquit (10)
Lesser Antillean Bullfinch (8)
Carib Grackle (10)


11 Mar 04 Asa Wright, Trinidad

    This part of our journey actually began the night before, when we arrived at the airport in Port of Spain (15 minutes early!).  It was dark, so, no birding.  We were met right away by Yogi and our driver, taken under their wing, and whisked away for on an hour-and-a-half ride to Asa Wright.  We arrived about 11pm, tired but excited.  A little talk by Yogi explaining our itinerary for the next week, along with cups of welcoming rum punch or juice, and we were assigned our rooms and sent off to bed.  Our room was at the very bottom of the hill, and we were very happy to have it.  There was no view or anything, but it was very quiet, and we had a nice Sanchezia (spelling?) shrub flowering right outside our door which was reliable for the occasional hermit.  We also had a great, bright light a little way up the stairway which was not bright enough to keep us awake but was plenty bright enough to attract wonderful insects.  We had interesting katydids almost every night.  One night we had a huge, wonderful Io-type saturnid moth with pink hindwings, and another night a great, large sphinx moth with equally vivid orangish hindwings.  This first night we took a curious look at the beetles and so forth and then a quick unpack and off to bed.

    The veranda at Asa Wright Nature Center is one of the world’s premier birding destinations.  We had heard and read this before we left, so we were very excited about what the morning would bring.  Now that we have spent a week there, I can also add that everything you have heard about Asa Wright is true—it really is one of the most fantastic birding spots I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.  We spent a week there, with field trips to a number of places as well, and I could have easily stayed for another week, just to enjoy the trails and try for some sightings and photos of the more elusive creatures.  There’s always more to see!

    The veranda opens at 6am for coffee and tea, and then they ring a bell for breakfast at 7:30am.  That first morning, sitting with my tea in a comfortable, civilized manner on my stool next to a hummingbird feeder, I exclaimed with Joe every minute, it seemed, over one beautiful bird after another.  I saw 10 life birds in that hour and half.  It was fantastic!  We were the first ones there, right at 6am.  Harold, one of the guides there, was just finishing filling the feeders.  It was still pretty dark, since it had just finished raining lightly.  Harold came and sat with us, and I blabbered on a bit about hummingbirds and how much I liked them and how the first new species of hummingbird that I saw this morning would be hummingbird species #100 for me.  They must hear this stuff over and over every day.  But he was patient and full of good humor, as were all of our guides there.  He said, “Well, today is your lucky day! because there’s your first hummingbird.”  And he pointed down to the twiggy feeder perch just below us, and there in the broadening light sat my life WHITE-CHESTED EMERALD, hummingbird #100.  It was very fitting that this common hummingbird at Asa Wright would be the 100th one, because it was an abundant species that we saw in numbers every day there.  Every time I saw one, it was always a special bird.

    The birds that first morning before breakfast were a never-ending, ever-changing banquet, as they swooped, flitted, buzzed, soared, foraged, preened, battled, and gulped at the feeders, in the trees around us, and over the slope falling away before us.  I know this sounds a little over the top, but you really have to be there to appreciate just how pleasantly overwhelming these birds are on your first morning.  Some of the most memorable highlights:  Three additional hummingbird lifers, the gorgeous bluish green BLUE-CHINNED SAPPHIRE, the glittering emerald green COPPER-RUMPED HUMMINGBIRD, and the large, dark, and spectacular BLACK-THROATED MANGO.  A pair of beautiful BLUE-CROWNED MOTMOTS feeding right below us, giving us better detailed looks at this species than we had ever had before.  The active and beautiful tanagers, including BLUE-GRAY TANAGER, WHITE-LINED TANAGER, SILVER-BEAKED TANAGER, BAY-HEADED TANAGER, and a lovely male RED-CROWNED ANT-TANAGER.  Distant but intriguing looks at our life CHANNEL-BILLED TOUCANS.  Stupendous views of the large and beautiful CHESTNUT WOODPECKER.  GREEN, PURPLE and RED-LEGGED HONEYCREEPERS all feeding together at one feeder.  And, finally, there were the large and conspicuous CRESTED OROPENDOLAS flying to and from their nesting tree, birds we would get to know well over the next week.

    After breakfast we had a planned walk on the Asa Wright property itself with Harold, the guide we had met that morning.  The walk lasted a couple of hours, and it was full of good birds.  We followed the Discovery trail downward pretty much to its end, and then wandered our way back.  Our first stop was just a few feet beyond the feeders, where we heard a calling FERRUGINOUS PYGMY-OWL up in large tree at the start of the trail.  Soon someone found him sitting in a knot hole, clearly visible from the ground, and we all got great looks.  A bit further, and Harold spotted a DOUBLE-TOOTHED KITE partly concealed in a tree top.  VIOLACEOUS EUPHONIAS were spotted further along;  we would see this species well numerous times over the following week.  We made our way to the open area at the junction of the MotMot Trail, and in this area we had our first glimpses of a male GOLDEN-HEADED MANAKIN, a beautiful bird.  Here we had nice looks at a couple of butterflies as well, including the common Postman, and our only Owl Butterfly (Caligo sp.) of the trip.  But Harold beckoned us just a few yards further, where he had a scope set up to give us lens-filling views of a roosting COMMON POTOO.  This was a great bird, and it chose this same roosting area for the next several days, so we were able to get nice looks at it whenever we happened by.

    The next stop was one of the best.  We stopped and watched the entertaining antics of the WHITE-BEARDED MANAKINS at their lek.  Joe loved these birds, and we went to see them every chance we could during the following week.  They are like popping popcorn—they jump back and forth from perch to perch at ground level in their cleared little arena, sometimes jumping right on to the ground and then bouncing back up, wings snapping.  There were times when the lek would be very quiet, but after lunch was usually a pretty busy time when there might be as many as a dozen or more in action.

    We moved on from the manakin lek this first morning and went further down.  Harold helped us identify our life EULER’S FLYCATCHER low in the undergrowth along the trail.  We saw a pair of WHITE-FLANKED ANTWRENS in this same area.  Toward the end of the Discovery Trail, Harold instructed us to pick a spot and wait quietly.  Soon, one the bonking birds we heard nearby fluttered in and perched almost overhead and began its weird calling—a BEARDED BELLBIRD.  This was a fascinating bird.  It was not just the loud bonking, but it was also the way it held its mouth wide open as it called, and that strange cluster of hairy wattles under its throat.  We heard these bellbirds often during the next week, and a couple of times got good long looks again.

    We meandered back up the trail after this, and headed back toward the main house.  At this point the group sort of fell apart and we went our own ways until lunch.  Joe and I walked back to our room, but not before stopping at the little flower garden at the top of the stairs next to our building to check out the flowering vervains and other shrubs for hummingbirds.  We were not disappointed!  Feeding like a little helicopter in the vervain was a nice female TUFTED COQUETTE.  Five life hummingbirds and we hadn’t even had lunch yet!  We also met Dick Walton and his wife here;  they were in one of the rooms just above us.  Super nice people who we had a chance to visit with a number of times over the next 10 days.  Dick was taking video footage of some of the hummingbirds, and he certainly did have a great spot to do it right outside his bedroom door.  He has a company called Brownbag Productions, and a great website at www.brownbagproductions.com, which sells natural history sound and video products.  I have no personal stake in his company, though I now consider Dick my friend.  But I can say that his products are excellent quality, because he very kindly sent me a copy of his dragonfly identification DVD as soon as we got back, and I have already been studying it to help with my ode ID skills.  It is well done and a great learning tool.

    After lunch Joe and I walked the Chaconia Trail, which Harold had told us was one of the best ones for birds (Chaconia is the national tree of Trinidad).  It was fairly quiet, but we did get some good looks at GOLDEN-OLIVE WOODPECKER and NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH along the little (smelly) stream.  While on my way back to the room, I got some nice looks at y life LITTLE HERMIT feeding in the small red Salvia-like flowers low along the edge of the trail.  This was a split from the Stripe-throated Hermit I had seen in Costa Rica.  Both before and after lunch, we also climbed up to the upper car park to wait by the hedge of flowering vervain, hoping for another hummingbird.  About 3:45 in the afternoon, right on schedule (Harold had said between 3:30 and 4..) we got brief but excellently satisfying looks at a spectacular male RUBY-TOPAZ HUMMINGBIRD.  This is a hummingbird in a whole new color palette, as one of our tour companions said.  It is buffier and grayer, and when the sun catches it, it has a brilliant golden throat and blazing red crown.  Unforgettable!  The time spent waiting for this hummer also provided us with many spectacular looks at male TUFTED COQUETTES, surely the most beautiful hummingbird in Trinidad.

    The evening routine was dinner and then The List, and we kept to this pretty much every night.  Most of the rest of our group of 14 (The Caligo Group, we were called) were less interested in The List.  But Ellyn and Geneva stuck it out with us most nights.  The group was a bunch of very, very nice people, all of us interested in the birds and in just about everything else as well.  Some were more keen birders than others, but all of us, I think, enjoyed the entire trip immensely.  There is plenty to keep the die-hard lister happy (that would be me...) and also plenty for those who want to take a more relaxed and leisurely pace.  It would be a great ten days!

    In most of the rest of this Trinidad section of the trip report, I will be mainly providing brief daily summaries and comments.  I have decided to submit only one annotated list for these 7 Trinidad days.  Hopefully those who are reading this in preparation for their own trip will still get a good idea of what birds they might see on the various days' activities.  I saw 150 species during the 7 days on Trinidad, as well as an additional 5 heard-only or seen-by-others-only birds.  Of these, 54 were life birds for me, a higher percentage than I had expected.

12 Mar 04 Blanchiseusse Road/Blanchiseusse/ Asa Wright Nature Center

    Today was a field trip day, and that meant veranda-watching and a walk before breakfast, then off with Yogi and our van driver at 8:30am after breakfast.  Today's field trip headed up the valley, across the top of the Northern Range, and then down the north side to the coast.  Mainly it was intended to provide us with an opportunity for forest birds that we couldn't see at Asa Wright's lower elevation.  It also allowed us to see a few coastal birds.

    We also went out this evening after dinner for a night walk on the grounds with Mukesh, another of the knowledgeable and friendly guides at Asa Wright.  This was a great experience that you shouldn't miss.  Minimal birds, but great for the other creatures at Asa Wright, including up-close looks at palm-sized Trinidad Chevroned Tarantulas—very impressive.  We were shown a nest of stingless bees that is constructed on the east side of the veranda and hangs down to eye level.  Every night the bees close the large, slot-like opening, leaving only a hole, one bee diameter wide, which they guard.  Then, in the morning they open the entire large slot again.  Pretty amazing.  We also got a quick look at a SPECTACLED OWL that flushed from a stand of bamboo along the driveway as we started the walk.

    This day, March 12, had a few other memorable moments.  Joe and I went for a walk before breakfast along the Oilbird Trail, and at one point we heard a godawful caterwauling across the stream that we decided must be monkeys fighting!  When we asked back at the lodge, they told us there were no monkeys on the grounds, and suggested that maybe we had heard the Oilbirds from afar.  We knew right away that they were correct—it was like nothing either of us had ever heard before.

    Another great bird, for me, was the female RUFOUS-BREASTED HERMIT which Yogi showed us, sitting on her nest hanging over the road.  WHITE-TAILED TROGONS were our first major target bird on the Blanchiseusse Road, and Yogi quickly called in a very cooperative pair for us to ogle.  This is a very nice trogon with a mostly white undertail.  Finally, a single, beautiful WHITE-WINGED SWALLOW was sailing around low over the river mouth just east of our luncheon beach at Blanchiseusse, providing good looks for those of us who walked down there to see it.  This is a very handsome swallow, one of the prettiest, I think.

13 March 04, Aripo Savannah and Nariva Swamp

    Today was a big day, our longest and the one involving the most travel.  We had a quick breakfast at 5:45am and then left at 6:30 for the long drive;  the bees by the veranda were still closed up tight.  The plan was to drive first to Aripo Savannah, bird here a while, then continue on to Nariva.  We would bird along our travels as well, and there were multiple sites for birding at Aripo and, especially, in the Nariva area.  The variety of habitats, as well as the distances covered, meant that I saw 16 life birds today, more than any other day except our arrival day in Trinidad.  Some of these birds were beautiful and fascinating specialties.  One interesting life bird was encountered on our way down the Arima Valley toward the lowlands.  A group of swift were wheeling alongside us and across the road at one point, and Yogi pointed out one (at least) within the group that exhibited the paler, larger rump area that differentiated a BAND-RUMPED SWIFT from the more common GRAY-RUMPED SWIFTS.

    At Aripo Savannah, we saw both grassland and water birds in the wet areas around the cattle shed and the fields surrounding them.  These included RUDDY-BREASTED SEEDEATER, PIED WATER-TYRANT and WHITE-HEADED MARSH-TYRANT, and Trinidad's first recorded flock of GRASSLAND YELLOW-FINCHES, which had been spotted a week or two before and were continuing in this area, perhaps to nest?  SOUTHERN LAPWINGS and, especially, WATTLED JACANAS were numerous.  Nice to be able to wander amongst these birds and watch them feeding and interacting.  RED-BREASTED BLACKBIRDS were common in the fields, and were singing and displaying, reminiscent of our Eastern Meadowlarks.  They were common, but to my mind very beautiful birds.  SAVANNAH HAWK was another new species.  This is a handsome, large, long-legged, ruddy-colored open-country raptor, seen well in several places.

    The drive to Nariva Swamp itself started with instructions from Yogi: "Watch the tops of the palm trees for raptors.  Look carefully, and keep looking, because there are a LOT of palm trees to look at."  We went past miles, it seemed, of palms on both sides of the road, though on our left through the narrow strip of trees was the wild Atlantic.  It was a moderately cloudy, rainy day, so we only rarely stopped here and there and got out.  But, birding from the vans, we were able to get very nice looks at more SAVANNAH HAWKS and COMMON BLACK-HAWKS.  In addition, we saw two beautiful PEARL KITES, life birds for me, as well as PLUMBEOUS KITES, GRAY HAWKS, and YELLOW-HEADED CARACARAS.

    We went to a number of places in the Nariva Swamp vicinity.  For me, the best stop by far was at an open, green, grassy marsh just beyond a small farm with a big pile of watermelons on the front lawn.  The edge of the farm property across the little road from where we parked had a small shrub with several sprays of white flowers.  Yogi told us that one of our target birds seemed to use those particular flowers on a regular basis.  We turned our binoculars in that direction, and sure enough, feeding amongst the blossoms was a fantastic WHITE-TAILED GOLDENTHROAT.  This is one of the few hummers that actually prefers open spaces as opposed to forests or gardens.  It was a fairly good sized hummingbird with obvious broad white tips to the tail feathers as it fed and maneuvered.  It zipped closer and landed just across from us in the marsh, so I was able to watch it perched and get very nice looks.  This was my target bird for the day, hummingbird #108, and I had been afraid it would be one that was easy to miss, so I was very happy for the rest of the day.

    There were a number of other good birds, though.  At this same marshy spot we saw a YELLOW-CHINNED SPINETAIL.  Like the goldenthroat, this is also a bird that like the open marshes, even though most of the rest of its family are forest skulkers.  New parrots included GREEN-RUMPED PARROTLET and YELLOW-CROWNED PARROT.  And, in the evening just before sunset, groups of RED-BELLIED MACAWS flew in to roost in the tops of broken palm trunks.  After the macaws had come in and dusk was coming, we loaded up into the vans again and headed back to Asa Wright, arriving just in time for a late dinner and then to bed, checking on the way to see that the bees were closed up tight.

14 March 04, Blanchiseusse Road (AM) and Asa Wright

    On our schedule, this was supposed to be a Free Day, without any planned walk or trips.  But, Yogi had told us he would be willing to take us back up Blanchiseusse Road for the morning if we wanted to do that.  It cost us an extra $30 each, but we were happy to go on another adventure.  We had breakfast a little early and left with him, after checking our bees and finding them open for business.

    We had told Yogi that we had seen almost no ant-type birds so far.  In fact, I personally have never yet anywhere encountered a classic, large army-ant swarm with its attendant ant birds.  There were several of the more difficult species that Yogi spent some time this morning trying to locate for us.  One of our first stops along the road gave us great looks at one of them.  A pair of WHITE-BELLIED ANTBIRDS moved across the slope just below and in front of us.  They kept very low, but the undergrowth was open enough to give us some great looks at this often difficult species.  For me, this was the bird of the day.

    We also tried playing tapes for a couple of the other ant species, but without any success.  Black-faced Antthrush (and Scaled Antpitta) remained elusive.  We did see PLAIN-BROWN WOODCREEPERS, very nice looks.  And some others in our group got nice looks at both WHITE-FLANKED ANTWREN and STREAKED XENOPS.  We saw our only SPECKLED TANAGERS of the trip along the roadside this morning.  In addition, Joe spotted a beautiful BLACK-TAILED TITYRA.  This was the third, and last, Tityra species for Joe and I.  We had missed it the few days before at Asa Wright, so this was another great bird for us.

    The afternoon was spent relaxing and wandering the trails at Asa Wright.  It was a good day for herps.  A Boa Constrictor took up residence on one of the branches just a few feet out from the veranda at eye level, in striking pose;  we were told it took a Cocoa Thrush in the afternoon.  We also ID'ed a tree lizard, Tropidura sp., as well as the (non-poisonous) dendrobatid frog, Mannophryne trinitatus, common at the nature center.  This was a good day for butterflies also.  In addition to the more usual species, we also saw many, many Blue Morphos today along Blanchiseusse Road.  Trinidad has only one species of morpho, so identification is easy, and the butterflies are huge and spectacularly blue, so they are favorites for everyone.  Some other new butterflies for the day included Eurybia halimede, Orange-banded Nymphidium, and, back at Asa Wright during our relaxing afternoon, the only Bamboo Page of the trip.

    We had one other unexpected but very satisfying life bird for the day.  One of the nightly rituals at Asa Wright was rum punches on the veranda in the evening.  Since I don't drink, Joe got to have twice as many rum punches if he wanted them, and tonight he wanted them.  I was feeling good enough just basking in the glow of another perfect day, enjoying the birds at the feeders below us, and noticing that the early bats were just starting to appear at the more shadowed feeders in the fading light.  So, very contentedly we sat side by side looking out over the valley, and we noticed a long-winged dark bird winging its way low over the trees toward us.  A few moments and it was upon us, clearly a nighthawk, long-winged, erratic flight, with no white whatsoever in the wings.  Quickly it zipped past, but not before we had positively ID'ed it as a SHORT-TAILED NIGHTHAWK.  Perfect.

15 March 04, Waller Field and Arena Forest

    Today was another field trip day.  The plan for the day was for us to visit an open, lowland grassland area as well as a remnant lowland forest.  Then we would be back for a late lunch, after which we also had the option to go out again in the late afternoon to the same grassland area for some night birding with Yogi.  Again, this meant an extra fee of $40, but it was definitely worth it.  We had a couple of free hours in the afternoon for rest and relaxation.

    The area we headed to in the morning is an abandoned air field, built by the U.S. during World War II, I believe.  It is guarded now, but we had our own security guards from Asa Wright to accompany us on the evening trip, which was good and which made things seem very secure.  Gaining entrance to the airstrips would require both permission and knowledge of the geography.  Yogi says that the locals have blocked off many of the access roads because they use the airstrips for drag racing, and if they can limit the access to only one or a few entrances then they can charge an admission fee to the races.

    Today was a sunny day, good for raptors.  We saw our only Trinidad PEREGRINE FALCON, as well as a variety of other raptors, including 4 SWALLOW-TAILED KITES.  Vultures were abundant.  Other open-country birds were well represented, such as SMOOTH-BILLED ANI, doves, and another STRIPED CUCKOO.  We stopped at one grassy, open corner and Yogi called in a pair of squabbling MASKED YELLOWTHROATS, and we got fleeting looks.

    We stopped in one of the towns along the way for a ginger beer and restroom break.  Across the street was a busy colony of YELLOW-RUMPED CACIQUES.  These guys were active and colorful.  At one point, a female GIANT COWBIRD flew in while the adult caciques weren't watching.  She spent a few minutes poking her head into holes in the nests covering the treetop, mostly finding either old nests or parts of nests.  Soon, though, she was spotted, and quickly chased off by a couple of irritated caciques.

    There are also some more forested areas that we visited in the same area today.  Some of them seemed to be scrubby, transition areas, others more mature forest, and at least one spot contained a number of Moriche Palms, a specialty tree of the region.  The forest provided excellent looks at BLACK-CRESTED ANTSHRIKE, though we had to work for them.  A pair was building a nest right near the roadside, so they were quieter and more skulking than usual, though we all eventually saw them extremely well.  Our first VIOLACEOUS TROGONS and only WHITE-WINGED BECARD for the trip were in this same area.  We saw a beautiful new butterfly, a swallowtail known as a Cattleheart, black and red and white.  Joe and I found a YELLOW-BREASTED FLYCATCHER, a life flycatcher that we located and ID'ed on our own.  That's something that doesn't always happen for us when we're out with a birding group in the tropics, since by the time we have puzzled out the flycatcher's ID someone else has usually told us what it is.

    Which is the way is was with our other life flycatcher of the day—SULPHURY FLYCATCHER.  This bird, and several others, seemed to be confined to the vicinity of the Moriche palms.  When we went to the palm area in the morning, Yogi found us this species.  We also saw more RUBY-TOPAZ HUMMINGBIRDS—always a treat—and got nice looks at FORK-TAILED PALM-SWIFTS.  In the evening we returned to this spot before sunset, and we were lucky enough to find a couple of MORICHE ORIOLES.  These birds had been nesting in a dead palm frond nearby, so Yogi had hoped they would still be hanging around the area, and they were.  We also got much better looks at RED-BELLIED MACAWS as they came into a fruiting tree very near us and clambered around and ate palm nuts.

    Our night birding trip was really great.  After we watched the macaws and orioles for a while, we returned to Waller Field and parked at the end of one of the roads, where there were places to sit.  We then had a beautiful sunset picnic dinner, and looked through the scope at the planets and stars as they began to appear, until it clouded over.  At one point, a BARN OWL went winging by quite close, the only one of the trip.

    Once it got dark enough, we loaded up, and Yogi drove us to a spot at the end of one of the runways.  We got out, he played a tape, and very quickly we were looking at our life TROPICAL SCREECH-OWL.  The bird had flown in very low and near us, and was not bothered by our light or our attention, so we got terrific looks for as long as we liked.  After a short while, we left this great bird and moved back into the van.  We then started driving along the runways, with Yogi searching for eyeshine with his spotlight.  It didn't take long before we spotted one of what would become many PARAQUES, at first sitting on the runway, then flying ahead and beside us.  We kept searching, and soon we were rewarded with nice looks at that bird's smaller relative, the WHITE-TAILED NIGHTJAR.  Like the Short-tailed we had seen the night before, the females had no white in the wing at all.  The flight style was also somewhat different, being more rambling and erratic than the Paraque.  Finally, we also saw a COMMOM POTOO perched on a stump as well as flying.  After watching the perched, drowsy Potoo at Asa Wright for the past few days during the day, it was nice to be able to compare that to the alert, open-eyed pose of this evening's bird.  After that, Yogi said we had "seen everything!", and we headed back to Asa Wright.

16 March 04, Asa Wright (AM), Caroni Swamp (PM)

    This morning we again followed our usual routine:  Check the bugs at the light outside the room—a fantastic large Io-type moth this morning!  Make our way up the steps to the veranda, with the lingering bats swooping around our heads.  Check the bees—still closed tight.  Up to the veranda by 6am, then sit and watch the spectacular show until breakfast.  A nice LONG-BILLED GNATWREN was a new visitor, feeding in the powderpuff tree just below us.  It was great to soak in as much as we could on what would be our last long morning of birding here from the veranda.  We had an additional treat this morning.  The guide on duty for the morning casually mentioned that she had a SCALED PIGEON in the scope!  Joe and I had had no success at seeing one of these birds the past few days, despite having others report their sightings, despite having searched along the trails a couple of times.  We were more than happy to dutifully line up behind the scope and wait for our looks at this slightly distant but easily identifiable big pigeon.  A life bird before breakfast always makes for a great day.

    After breakfast, we went with another of the on-site guides on a walk on the grounds, this time down the otherwise-forbidden Oilbird Trail.  The trail winds steadily and fairly steeply downward, and ends up in the creek bottom near a "cave" entrance, really a cleft in the rocks that becomes a dark, narrow gorge where the stream flows through.  A few at a time, we were taken into the gorge, and there, sitting on ledges up in the dark, were those big weird fruit-eating nighthawks, the OILBIRDS.  Some had young which they tried to conceal.  A couple were aroused enough by our presence that they flew around a little and carried on with some of their screeching and howling, confirming for Joe and I that this was indeed what we had heard several mornings earlier.  The floor of the grotto had heaps of regurgitated seeds.  We eased back out, and the next little party took their turn.  Our guide told us that they try to do this Oilbird trip no more than once weekly, though sometimes they have to go in twice in one week to accommodate the visitors.  The small colony here seems stable, she said.  There are currently 7 colonies on Trinidad, but all the others are much less accessible.  An attempt is being made to add ledges to another (nearby?) grotto to entice the birds to use another site as well.

    After our looks at the Oilbirds the cohesiveness of our large group sort of fell apart, and we wandered back upward in small bands.  Along the way, Joe and I and a few others got to hear a nearby calling Black-faced Antthrush, pointed out by our guide.  It remained a heard-only bird for the trip.  A GOLDEN-HEADED MANNAKIN provided nice looks along the way.  Joe and I wandered down to the WHITE-BEARDED MANNAKIN lek for a few smiles before lunch. As we turned to come back, we ID'ed a pair of GOLDEN-CROWNED WARBLERS on the trail.  It seemed they were building a nest in the bank right alongside this busy trail.  Hopefully they won't mind the traffic.

    After lunch, we loaded up in the vans and were off again on another adventure, this time to the Caroni Swamp to the southwest of us, just south of Port of Spain, and near the airport.  This would again allow us to get into some different habitat, with the hopes of some new birds.  Some of the birds we were hoping for this afternoon and evening are much more range-restricted or uncommon on Trinidad, since they are limited to the Caroni Swamp or other wet, western mangrove swamps.

    We had a boat ride scheduled for the early evening, but before we arrived there we stopped at a few sites along the way, once we got to the wet lowlands.  At one spot on a bridge overlooking a large, open wet area, an unmistakable YELLOW-HOODED BLACKBIRD flew in.  It landed briefly, mostly out of view, and then flew out and up the stream.  Hopefully most of the group got to see it, as it was the only one of the trip.  Other birds we saw for the first time included OSPREY and EARED DOVES.

    But it was the boat ride that provided most of the really nice birds.  We were packed on to the boats in an economical but not especially crowded fashion, and our boatman and his young apprentice (son?) soon were ferrying us along the canals through this mangrove maze.  They pointed out the 3 mangrove species—Red with its prop roots, White with the dense mat of thin prop roots, and Black with the lanceolate leaves.  We had barely got going when Geneva, one of the best birders among our group, almost fell out of the boat in her excitement to point out our life RED-CAPPED CARDINAL.  It was lurking low in a bush over the water, and we felt very lucky to see it when we did, as it soon flushed and went up over the bank, and it was the only one we were to see.  Very striking bird.

    For me, the best bird of the day came very shortly after.  I had told our boatman about my hummingbird obsession, so it was with some satisfaction that he pointed out a perched GREEN-THROATED MANGO, and deftly steered the boat to bring us almost right underneath it so that we could get the best looks.  It was great to be able to compare this bird to the Black-throated Mangos we had been seeing daily since our arrival on Trinidad.  The Green-throated does indeed have a green throat, and, just as noticeably, it lacks the bright bluish quality that edges the sides of the central black throat and breast area and that is so distinctive on the Black-throated.  Green-throated Mango seems to be one of the more chancy hummingbirds on Trinidad, so I was feeling GREAT after this sighting.  Hummingbird #109, and my 13th life hummingbird for the trip.  I had dared hope for no more than 10, so I had far exceeded my expectations.

    New birds, and other critters, appeared steadily one after another.  Our guides were absolutely great at spotting the slightest movements or shapes or hearing the briefest chips and knowing immediately what they were.  We got great looks at the uncommon STRAIGHT-BILLED WOODCREEPER after they carefully followed it along the mangrove bank until it popped into view.  A small bird feeding in the sun in an open tangle of branches right out over the water turned out to be a uniquely pretty BICOLORED CONEBILL, a clear powdery gray-blue above and greenish gray below, much nicer than the field guide illustration.  I was lucky enough to spot a little knotted coil on a branch that turned out to be a Cook's Tree Boa, small but nasty-tempered, though this one was preparing to shed and was curled into a dull-colored ball.  Much better was the tiny, unbelievable Silky Anteater that our young guide located hanging from a branch tip out over the water.  It was like a little soft, golden toy with its fists scrunched up into its eyes, undeniably cute.

    We saw a number of GREATER YELLOWLEGS on various sandbars.  We also saw the only SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS and WILLETS that we would see during the trip.  As the sun got lower, we made our way out to a larger lagoon, and there we joined a flotilla of other boats tied up and waiting.  Yogi had packed a big cooler of rum punch on to our boat, which soon became by far the noisiest of the boats there, hopefully not spoiling anything for the other folks.  Soon the objects of our vigil started trailing in, in ever increasing numbers, lines and skeins of dramatic SCARLET IBIS.  They came in flocks, bright red against the dark green mangroves and blue sky and water.  The sunset light on their plumage makes them glow in a way that is unlike any other bird I have ever seen.  One individual bird would be enough;  flocks of 20 and 30 and more at a time joining hundreds more at the roost is a spectacle that I will never forget.

March 17, 2004 (AM)

    This morning we got up early, had our luggage ready to go, ate breakfast a bit early, then left at 7:30 or so to drive to the airport for our flight to Tobago.  The bees were open for business by the time we left, and we did a little more veranda birding, but mostly it was hustling around getting ready to go.  One notable sighting—a perched, tail-pumping LITTLE HERMIT just above the car park as we were waiting to leave, which gave those of us hanging around there some excellent scope views.  I will continue this day's narration on Tobago.

Annotated Trinidad Bird List, March 11 through (AM) 17, 2004:

(Little Tinamou 1 heard only on 3/12)
Brown Pelican (150+ at Blanchiseusse only)
Anhinga (1 each at Nariva and Caroni Swamp)
Magnificent Frigatebird (20+ at Blanchiseusse)
Tricolored Heron (15+ at Caroni Swamp)
Little Blue Heron (1 each at Blanchiseusse and Nariva; 20+ at Caroni)
Snowy Egret (100+ Caroni)
Cattle Egret (seen most field trip days in lowland;  max 200+ 3/13)
Striated Heron (seen several times; max 10 Aripo Savannah)
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (10+ Caroni)
PINNATED BITTERN (2 Nariva; 1 Caroni)
SCARLET IBIS (500+ Caroni)
Black Vulture (seen daily, max 500+ Waller Field area)
Turkey Vulture (seen almost daily; max25+ Waller Field)
Osprey (3 Caroni)
Swallow-tailed Kite (4 each over Blanchiseusse Road and Arena Forest)
PEARL KITE (2 at Nariva Swamp sitting along palms)
Double-toothed Kite (1 perched our first morning at Asa Wright)
Plumbeous Kite (2 each along Blanchiseusse Road and at Nariva)
White Hawk (seen at Blanchiseusse Road, Nariva, and Waller Field;  max 8 Nariva)
Common Black-Hawk (seen almost daily along Arima Valley road, max 10+ Nariva)
SAVANNAH HAWK (6 at Aripo Savannah, 2 at Waller Field)
Gray Hawk (2 Nariva, 1 along Blanchiseusse Road)
Short-tailed Hawk (seen most days at Asa Wright, max 2)
Yellow-headed Caracara (6 Nariva; 2 Waller Field/Arena Forest)
Peregrine Falcon (1 Caroni)
Purple Gallinula (4 Nariva)
WATTLED JACANA (35+ Aripo Savannah cattle ponds)
SOUTHERN LAPWING (9 Aripo Savannah; 10+ Walling Field area)
Semipalmated Plover (12+ Caroni)
Greater Yellowlegs (25+ Caroni)
Lesser Yellowlegs (1 Nariva)
Solitary Sandpiper (4 Nariva)
Spotted Sandpiper (2 each Blanchiseusse and Aripo/Nariva)
Willet (2 Caroni)
Least Sandpiper (19 Caroni)
Rock Pigeon (occasionally in lowland towns; max 6)
SCALED PIGEON(1 from Asa Wright veranda morning of 3/16)
Ruddy Ground-Dove (seen every day, max 20+ near Nariva)
Gray-fronted Dove (1 or 2 every day at Asa Wright feeders)
RED-BELLIED MACAW(45+ seen at Nariva roost;  6 at Waller Field/Arena Forest)
Green-rumped Parrotlet (3 Nariva; 1 Arena Forest)
Blue-headed Parrot (3 along north Blanchiseusse Road)
YELLOW-CROWNED PARROT (4 Nariva)
ORANGE-WINGED PARROT (seen and/or heard every day, max 12+ Waller Field/Arena Forest area)
Squirrel Cuckoo (1 Nariva area)
Smooth-billed Ani (max 125+ Nariva area)
Striped Cuckoo (2 seen Blanchiseusse area, singles heard Nariva, Waller/Arena)
Barn Owl (1 flying at dusk at Waller Field)
TROPICAL SCREECH-OWL (1 Waller Field)
Spectacled Owl (1 flushed along driveway at Asa Wright beginning of night walk 3/12)
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl (1 seen at Asa Wright 3/11)
OILBIRD (Asa Wright;  heard only 3/12;  10+ seen 3/16)
COMMON POTOO (same roosting individual seen several days at Asa Wright;  also one seen perched and flying at night at Waller Field)
SHORT-TAILED NIGHTHAWK (1 seen at dusk from Asa Wright veranda)
Paraque (8 Waller Field)
WHITE-TAILED NIGHTJAR (10+ Waller Field)
BAND-RUMPED SWIFT (1, or more, ID'ed with Gray-rumpeds coming down out of Arima Valley on the way to Nariva)
Gray-rumped Swift (seen every day; max 20+ or more several days along Arima Valley)
FORK-TAILED PALM-SWIFT (10+ seen at Arena Forest area with Yogi)
RUFOUS-BREASTED HERMIT (1 on nest Blanchiseusse Road; max 3 on 3/14)
Green Hermit (seen many days at Asa Wright; max 2)
LITTLE HERMIT (1 or 2 seen most days at Asa Wright)
White-necked Jacobin (seen daily at Asa Wright; max 12+)
GREEN-THROATED MANGO (1 Caroni)
BLACK-THROATED MANGO (seen daily at Asa Wright; max 6)
RUBY-TOPAZ HUMMINGBIRD (1 seen most days Asa Wright; max 4 Arena Forest area)
TUFTED COQUETTE (seen daily Asa Wright; max 12+)
BLUE-CHINNED SAPPHIRE (seen daily Asa Wright; max 8)
WHITE-TAILED GOLDENTHROAT (1 Nariva)
WHITE-CHESTED EMERALD (seen daily Asa Wright; max 12+)
COPPER-RUMPED HUMMINGBIRD (seen daily Asa Wright; max 6)
WHITE-TAILED TROGON (2 Blanchiseusse Road; 1 Asa Wright)
Collared Trogon (3 Blanchiseusse Road)
Violaceous Trogon (2 Asa Wright)
Blue-crowned Motmot (2 seen daily at Asa Wright feeders)
Rufous-tailed Jacamar (2 along Blanchiseusse Road; 3 Arena Forest area)
Channel-billed Toucan (seen most days at Asa Wright; max 3)
Golden-olive Woodpecker (singles seen twice at Asa Wright)
CHESTNUT WOODPECKER (1 or 2 seen many days at Asa Wright feeders)
Lineated Woodpecker (seen several times, including 2 at Asa Wright, Chaconia Trail)
(Stripe-breasted Spinetail heard only on the way to the Oilbird cave, Asa Wright)
YELLOW-CHINNED SPINETAIL (3 Nariva)
(Streaked Xenops 1 seen by others along Blanchiseusse Road)
Plain-brown Woodcreeper (2 Blanchiseusse Road)
STRAIGHT-BILLED WOODCREEPER (1 Caroni)
Cocoa Woodcreeper (seen several days; max 4 Blanchiseusse Road)
Great Antshrike (1 or 2 seen most days at Asa Wright)
BLACK-CRESTED ANTSHRIKE (4 Arena Forest area)
Barred Antshrike (2 Blanchiseusse Road)
White-flanked Antwren (twice at Asa Wright; max 2)
WHITE-BELLIED ANTBIRD (2 Blanchiseusse Road)
(Black-faced Antthrush 1 heard only near Oilbird Cave, Asa Wright)
BEARDED BELLBIRD (seen and/or heard most days, Asa Wright; max 8)
White-bearded Manakin (seen every day at Asa Wright; max 20+)
Golden-headed Manakin (at Asa Wright; max 4)
FOREST ELAENIA (1 Nariva area)
Yellow-bellied Elaenia (1 Arena forest area)
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher (1 each Blanchiseusse Road and Asa Wright)
YELLOW-BREASTED FLYCATCHER (1 Arena Forest/Waller Field area)
(White-throated Spadebill heard only near Oilbird cave)
EULER'S FLYCATCHER (seen 3 different days, max 2, Asa Wright)
Tropical Pewee (seen most days; max 5 Blanchiseusse Road)
PIED WATER-TYRANT (7 Aripo Savannah, Nariva)
WHITE-HEADED MARSH-TYRANT (4 Aripo Savannah, Nariva)
Great Kiskadee (seen daily Asa Wright, max 12)
Boat-billed Flycatcher (1 once at Asa Wright)
Streaked Flycatcher (Blanchiseusse Road above and below Asa Wright, max 2)
Piratic Flycatcher (lower Arima Valley and lowland towns, max 4)
SULPHURY FLYCATCHER (2 Arena Forest area)
Tropical Kingbird (daily; max 50+ drive to/from Nariva)
White-winged Becard (1 Arena Forest area)
BLACK-TAILED TITYRA (1 each Asa Wright and Arena Forest)
Gray-breasted Martin (several days; max 20+ Nariva)
WHITE-WINGED SWALLOW (1 Blanchiseusse; 3 Nariva)
Southern Rough-winged Swallow (2 Blanchiseusse; 6+ Waller Field)
Barn Swallow (12+ Nariva)
Rufous-breasted Wren (heard and/or seen most days at Asa Wright; max 3)
House Wren (heard and/or seen most days Asa Wright; max 3)
Tropical Mockingbird (daily at Asa Wright and elsewhere; max 5)
Cocoa Thrush (daily Asa Wright and elsewhere; max 8)
Bare-eye Thrush (daily Asa Wright; max 3)
White-necked Thrush (heard once and seen once at Asa Wright)
Long-billed Gnatwren (1 Asa Wright once)
GOLDEN-FRONTED GREENLET (seen three different days at Asa Wright; max 2)
Rufous-browed Peppershrike (2 Blanchiseusse Road)
Northern Waterthrush (1 seen several different days Asa Wright)
MASKED YELLOWTHROAT (2 Waller Field/Arena Forest area)
Golden-crowned Warbler (2 nesting along Discovery Trail, Asa Wright)
Bananaquit (ubiquitous; daily max 50+)
BICOLORED CONEBILL (3 at Caroni)
White-lined Tanager (daily at Asa Wright feeders; max 20+)
Silver-beaked Tanager (daily at Asa Wright feeders; max 30+ along Blanchiseusse Road)
Palm Tanager (common Asa Wright and elsewhere; daily max 100+)
Violaceous Euphonia (daily at Asa Wright and elsewhere; max 8)
Turquoise Tanager (several days at Asa Wright; max 4)
Speckled Tanager (2 along Blanchiseusse Road)
Bay-headed Tanager (daily Asa Wright; max 6)
Green Honeycreeper (daily Asa Wright feeders; max 10+)
Purple Honeycreeper (daily Asa Wright feeders; max 15+)
Red-legged Honeycreeper (less common but daily at Asa Wright feeders; max 3)
Swallow-Tanager (2 seen twice along Blanchiseusse Road)
Blue-black Grassquit (common open lowland areas; max 35+ Aripo)
RUDDY-BREASTED SEEDEATER (6 Aripo Savannah)
GRASSLAND YELLOW-FINCH (12+ Aripo Savannah)
RED-CAPPED CARDINAL (1 at Caroni)
Grayish Saltator (1 or 2 most days Asa Wright feeders)
YELLOW-HOODED BLACKBIRD (1 in marshes near Caroni)
RED-BREASTED BLACKBIRD (25+ Aripo Savannah)
Carib Grackle (15+ Blanchiseusse and Nariva)
Shiny Cowbird (occasional Asa Wright feeders; max 2)
Giant Cowbird (1 at cacique colony, town near Nariva)
MORICHE ORIOLE (2 Arena Forest area)
YELLOW ORIOLE (seen several days in several sites; max 2 Asa Wright)
YELLOW-RUMPED CACIQUE (7 near Blanchiseusse; 15+ at colony near Nariva)
CRESTED OROPENDOLA (daily at Asa Wright; max 20+)


March 17, 2004 (continued), Tobago

    We left Trinidad a little late due to storms between the two islands, so we were out of the airport and ready to leave Tobago by about 10:30 or 11am or so.  Adolphus James and his son Gladwyn, our guides for the next two days, met us just outside the airport building.  As we waited for the luggage to be stowed, Joe and I found our first Tobago life bird, a SHORT-TAILED SWIFT sailing overhead.  We boarded the bus and we were off.  This was a newer, nicer bus than the smaller Japanese vans we had been using at Asa Wright.  The bus windows were larger, important when you're 6'4" and have a hard time scrunching down in the seat far enough to see out the window.  The bus also had an intercom for Adolphus to entertain us with as we rode along.

    The plan was for us to go to a wetland area known as Buccoo Marsh after we left the airport, as it was close by.  This is a sewage treatment plant, I believe—surely a must-see destination on every birder's itinerary!  Then, we would drive to the far (northeastward) end of the island to our hotel, have a late lunch, and have the rest of the day free to swim, snorkel, relax, etc.

    Along the way to the marsh I was immediately impressed by the drier climate here than in Trinidad, at least at this end of the island.  More like Antigua, it seemed, or one of the other smaller, drier Caribbean islands.  This being an island off the coast of an island, I expected and saw fewer species than I had seen on Trinidad.  We saw 81 species during our three days here on Tobago, and heard an additional 3 others.  Eleven of those 81 species were life birds.

    Buccoo Marsh was a very birdy place, even though we were there in the middle of the day.  As soon as we parked and got out of the bus we were seeing nice birds.  A RED-CROWNED WOODPECKER was going in and out of a hole in a palm.  Two LAUGHING GULLS, the only two gulls of the entire two-week trip, were resting on a dike in one of the pools, as was a lone BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCK.  Three LEAST GREBES were in an adjacent pool.  A total of 13 WHITE-CHEEKED PINTAILS were in the ponds.  A GREEN HERON flew by;  we had left the Striated Herons back on Trinidad.  We saw some nice shorebirds here as well, including 2 WHIMBRELS and 2 WILSON'S SNIPE.

    The drive northward and eastward to Speyside was very pleasant, following the coast road through small towns, listening to Adolphus describe his island.  There had been a terrible and disastrous hurricane on Tobago several decades ago, in 1963, Hurricane Flora.  Tobago lies outside the main hurricane belts, so it rarely gets such storms, but this one was apparently bad by any standards.  It destroyed 3/4 of the crops on the island and almost all of the trees, except for a few sheltered tiny pockets of forest.  Agriculture had been Tobago's primary economic focus before that.  After the hurricane, the government decided not to fund the rebuilding of the agriculture sector but instead to focus on tourism.

    We arrived at the Blue Waters Inn just beyond Speyside.  I was very happy with this hotel.  It is literally on the beach, the rooms are comfortable and very breezy!, the food was good, and the grounds and nearby areas were great for walking, swimming, birding, etc.  We checked in, dropped our stuff in the room, and came back for a nice lunch.  Along the way, we saw our next life birds, the national bird of Tobago, the RUFOUS-VENTED CHACHALACA.  There were a few of these hanging around on the hotel grounds most of the time.  In the morning, they set up the usual chachalaca racket very early, and that noise is now mingled with my memories of the rush of waves on the beach and the curtains blowing in the wind.

    After lunch, Joe and I went snorkeling.  We were a little disappointed to find the water fairly murky and the reef along the bottom of the easily accessible area right outside of our room fairly trashed.  Still, we saw some good things, and we spent a very pleasant hour in the water.  A large Spiny Lobster was a nice find.

    After that we decided to go for a walk along the Starwood Trace, the road/trail that runs along the hill up behind the hotel.  There was a map of the trails in our room, a nice touch.  The map didn't stop us from getting lost, but it still helped us quite a bit.  The trail starts from the water wheel down the road from the hotel, and returns via the dirt road that you pass on the way to the water wheel (Starwood Trace).  When you start on this main trail from the water wheel, it climbs and meanders, and eventually continues around to the left and the north (or west) toward some unknown destination, with a steep drop developing to your right.  What you want to do instead is climb up the open, grassy slope to the right of the trail before it makes this big left turn, before the valley begins on the right.  There is no clear trail up the hillside, but you walk through the open patches until you get to the top of the hill, aiming for the track that follows the spine of the top of the hill and leads back southward and eastward toward the dirt road (Starwood Trace).  If you come to a little metal tower, you are going the right way.  Resign yourself to getting a little lost and you'll be fine.

    This was a very good area for birding.  One of the first birds that we saw as we entered the trail after passing the water wheel was, for me, one of the main target birds on Tobago, a beautiful WHITE-FRINGED ANTWREN.  This is a very elegant antwren with subtle and striking plumage.  The Starwood Trace area seemed quite reliable for this bird, as we saw two of them at various spots during each of our 3 walks up here.  (And, though I didn't realize it until I got home and tallied up my life birds, this antwren was world life bird #1999 for me.  The next lifer I saw would be number 2000.)  Other nice birds seen on this evening walk included WHITE-TIPPED DOVE, a fantastic RUBY-TOPAZ HUMMINGBIRD, YELLOW-BELLIED ELAENIA, BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER, and BARRED ANTSHRIKE.  We headed back up the road in the fading light and returned to hotel for a great buffet dinner.

18 March 2004, Gilpin Trace, Tobago

    We got up for breakfast quite early, serenaded by RUFOUS-VENTED CHACHALACAS.  A good continental breakfast was waiting for us in the dining room.  Having filled up on cereal, fruit, etc., we were armed for the day.  Adolphus and Gladwyn met us out front in their beautiful bus, and we were off.  We drove southward back along the coast, and then turned inland at Roxborough and took the Roxborough-Parlatuvier Road that eventually passes over the crest of the mountains and descends again down to the Caribbean (though we weren't going that far.)  We saw a few nice birds along the way, including several GIANT COWBIRDS as we got up into the hills.

    The morning's serious birding started, however, when we reached the higher elevation areas.  Here, we parked the bus along the road and got out and walked.  One of our target birds here was Venezuelan Flycatcher, a Myiarchus species that was possible, for us on this trip, only here.  The area along the road was fairly open, which was better for searching for them than the forest where we were going would be.  The roadside afforded us views down the hillside to our right or up the slope to our left.

    It was along this slope that the next life bird appeared.  Large, darkish hummingbird, flashing white tail—WHITE-TAILED SABREWING!  Hummingbird #110 for me, and, though I didn't know it at the time, my 2000th world bird!  For a hummer nut like me, having this Near-Threatened, range-restricted hummingbird turn out to be my 2000th bird makes this trip seem even more perfect than it already was.  I couldn't ask for a better milestone.

    We never found a Venezuelan Flycatcher, but I no longer really cared so much.  I had found my target bird, and everything else was icing on the cake.  Still, there were a lot more birds to enjoy.  The roadside walk yielded PALE-VENTED PIGEON, BROAD-WINGED HAWK and GREAT BLACK-HAWK, many ORANGE-WINGED PARROTS, a lone GREEN-RUMPED PARROTLET, a beautiful COLLARED TROGON right over the road, and a nice STREAKED FLYCATCHER.  There were a seemingly large number of RUFOUS-TAILED JACAMARS as well, striking birds flycatching and posing with little concern for us.

    We got back in the bus, drove a short way, and arrived at the Gilpin Trace trailhead.  Adolphus advised us that the trail probably wouldn't be too muddy, because if it were, then the folks who are usually renting boots would be open for business, which they weren't.  I had brought an old pair of sneakers in case of muddy days, but they were back in the hotel, so I was sorry that someone hadn't mentioned any sooner that this was a notoriously muddy trail.  So, be alerted—this is a good place for your boots.  Actually, it did turn out to be fairly dry, and what mud we did pick up was fairly easily wiped off when we got back out.

    We set off along the trail, which follows a stream into the forest.  This was beautiful tropical rain forest, with a good number of birds.  WHITE-TAILED SABREWINGS, while not exactly abundant, were fairly common.  Once, a short way into the forest, I saw one bathing in a pool in the stream.  It hung just over the water in a sunlit pool and repeatedly dove in and came out splashing, over and over, fanning its tail, twisting and turning.  Never have I watched a hummingbird with more happiness.  At another point Gladwyn showed us where he had seen the active nest of a Sabrewing just two days before, in a spot where it had hung for weeks.  Now it was gone, not just the birds, but the entire nest had been removed somehow.  Predation?  Humans?  No one knows.  We ended up seeing 7 Sabrewings altogether, and I was extremely satisfied.  RUFOUS-BREASTED HERMIT was also fairly common in the forest.

    We were lucky with the other Tobago "endemics" as well.  YELLOW-LEGGED THRUSH appeared several times, at first just the female, then nice looks at an adult male.  The other great bird was BLUE-BACKED MANAKIN.  At first it seemed like we weren't going to actually see any, since we kept passing spot after spot where Adolphus would say things like, "Well, there used to be a manakin lek right here, but they don't come here any more."  But eventually we ran into a female, then fleeting looks at a male, and then, finally, wonderful looks at a male foraging in the open in a little tree on a slope just above us.  This is a large mannakin, seeming a good bit bigger than the two species we had seen on Trinidad.

    In this same open slope area, we finally caught up with a nice STRIPE-BREASTED SPINETAIL, a bird we had heard but not seen on Trinidad.  This one was a skulker, but it was feeding in the bare branches of a fallen tree, so we were able to see it very well.  Another nice bird that we caught up with in the forest here was WHITE-THROATED SPADEBILL, an active little flycatcher that seemed to be determined to stick to the thickest leave tangles, though we eventually got excellent looks at it.  PLAIN ANTVIREO was yet another life bird here that we saw well this morning but hadn't managed to see on Trinidad.

    We left the forest around noon or so, hoping to get back to the Blue Waters Inn in time for a late lunch and some watery relaxation.  Since we hadn’t yet seen the Venezuelan Flycatcher, and we were a little ahead of schedule, I asked if we could stop again by the roadside in the right spots and check for a few minutes.  We did, and we didn't see any flycatchers, but everyone did get good looks at RED-RUMPED WOODPECKERS flying back and forth across the road, along with RED-CROWNED and GOLDEN-OLIVE WOODPECKERS to compare.  Back to the Blue Waters for lunch.

    After lunch, Joe and I went snorkeling again for a while, though I spent less time in the water today and more time relaxing in the room, starting to organize my digital photos a little.  In the late afternoon, about 4:30 or so, Joe and I again went for a walk along the trails above Starwood Trace.  We saw many of the same birds as we had the evening before, including 2 more WHITE-FRINGED ANTWRENS.  But we had another nice surprise as well.  We had decided that there weren't really that many more life birds that we could expect here in the lowlands, but one that we could try for was a little flycatcher.  Because we now knew the route, we spent more time than we had yesterday looking for little flycatcher-type birds, and trying to put ourselves in places where we though such birds would hang out.  And it paid off, because low along a hedgerow at the bottom of an open grassy slope, a little flycatcher flew a few feet and perched on an open branch.  It was a brownish color, and with a strangely flat head, along with two diagnostic whitish eyebrow marks—a FUSCOUS FLYCATCHER.  This was another very satisfying life bird, since we saw it and identified it ourselves after a successful quest to find it.

    After this, we continued our way back, and then walked along the Starwood Trace for a short while before making our way toward the hotel.  We passed a flowering tree at eye level just a few feet off the road that had a couple of hummingbirds.  One of these was a lovely COPPER-RUMPED HUMMINGBIRD that perched just a few feet away and turned this way and that, giving us great looks at its glittering grass-green underparts and beautiful copper rump in the setting sun.

19 March 2004, Little Tobago and Speyside

    This was our final full day on Tobago.  The plan was to leave the dock in the morning with our guide and boat for a tour of Little Tobago island.  We had a nice breakfast, and then met the boat at 9:30am.  We had brought our snorkeling gear, but the boat owner, and our leader for the day, told us that we would only be "dry snorkeling" this morning—meaning looking at the reef through the glass bottom boat we were on as we went out to Little Tobago and back.  We departed, and went first to Angel Reef, which runs along the landward side of Goat Island.  Goat Island is the small island you see just offshore from the Blue Waters Inn;  Little Tobago is the larger island behind it.

    Our boat went slowly along over the reef, and we got some very nice looks at some very pretty fish.  The highlight came as we were nearing the end of the reef, when a Spotted Eagle-Ray appeared under the boat.  This creature is like something from a dream!  The young boatman did a good job of steering the boat to keep us over it for awhile.  Beautiful creature.
    After that it was off to Little Tobago.  We landed here and got a short history of the island from our guide Frank.  The island's previous owner had been a bird and nature enthusiast, and one of his projects had been to introduce birds-of-paradise to his island.  He actually did this, releasing dozens of birds (unfortunately I forget which species...)  These birds persisted and probably bred for as long as a few decades, but they have all died out now, so we weren't going to see any.  The island, though, had been left to the people of Tobago as a bird sanctuary.

    We followed Frank up the trail.  RED JUNGLEFOWL were scratching in the undergrowth (I can't bring myself to put them on the list, though Frank says they are a well-established "wild" population.)  BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS seemed pretty common.  We got a good look at a snake, a small orangish-tan colubrid that Frank called a "Cascabel" or something similar.  He said it is the only snake on Little Tobago, so it shouldn't be hard to track down in the field guide.  Lizards that looked similar to the Ameiva on Trinidad were also common.

    We stopped for a while at a run-down cabin on the hill above the landing site.  Here there were some water troughs, and many birds were coming in to drink.  We saw a number of TROPICAL MOCKINGBIRDS and COCOA THRUSHES, but also several a couple of BLUE-CROWNED MOTMOTS and the beautifully bright blue local race of BLUE-GRAY TANAGER.  YELLOW-BELLIED ELAENIAS and BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS were also around.  We left here and continued onward to the top of the cliff.  Spread below us was a panorama of sea and seabirds.  The most numerous were the RED-BILLED TROPICBIRDS and the BROWN BOOBIES, but scattered among them were smaller numbers of RED-FOOTED BOOBIES, my only life birds for the day.  We made our way back to the boat after this, then back to Tobago, a short ride.

    Frank said that if we wanted to go snorkeling at the reef in the afternoon we could go out again with the boat, for a $15 fee.  Joe and I did this, as did 3 others from the group.  Angel Reef is much nicer snorkeling than the cove at Blue Waters.  We were told to watch the current when we jumped in, but it must have been slack tide or something, because we were there an hour and a half or so, and there was no current at all, just the back and forth of the waves.  The corals were nice, with 7 species seen, but it was the fish out here that stole the show.  We identified over 20 species of fish, and those were just the ones that we could ID.  There were beautiful huge Queen Angels and French Angels, the fish after which the reef is named.  Also lots of parrotfish, damsels, triggerfish, surgeonfish, etc.  After we came back to the dock at the Blue Waters, we jumped back into the water in the cove, and the fish were pretty good there as well.  We saw a gigantic parrotfish at one point, a wary monster who was over a meter long, the largest parrotfish I have ever seen.

    Today was Joe's birthday, so after dinner we had a birthday cake, very thoughtfully provided, for free, by the staff at the Blue Waters.  We all had a good time—Joe had a really good time.  Presents included a stone tortoise and a bird made out of very cleverly folded palm leaves.  It was the Caligo Group's last night together, so we all enjoyed ourselves.  Unfortunately, the rest of the group had to get up at 3AM (!) the following morning in order to catch their 6:30AM flight to Trinidad.  Joe and I didn't have a flight until 2PM, so we didn't have to leave until 11AM.  We all said goodbye and went off to bed.  It really was a great group of people!

March 20 2004, Tobago

    Joe and I slept in a little this morning, but we still went out fairly early to walk for a couple of hours along the Starwood Trace and the trails above the hotel again.  No new birds this morning, but we did again see two different WHITE-FRINGED ANTWRENS.  The other nice bird for the morning was RUBY-T0PAZ HUMMINGBIRD.  We saw four different individuals, and got to see some great, breath-catching flashes from a couple of them as they perched or fed.  It was a fitting ending to a marvelous trip.

    Our flight back to Trinidad and then to New York was uneventful.  We arrived back to snow on the ground and a cold, cloudy spring, hut with lots of great memories!


Annotated Tobago Bird List, March 17-20, 2004

Least Grebe (3, Buccoo Marsh)
Red-billed Tropicbird (offshore from hotel, max 40+ Little Tobago)
Brown Pelican (1 every day offshore from hotel)
RED-FOOTED BOOBY (25+ Little Tobago)
Brown Booby (daily offshore from hotel, max 25+ Little Tobago)
Anhinga (6 Buccoo Marsh area)
Magnificent Frigatebird (daily; max 500+ swirling in the distance over St. Giles Island)
Great Egret (7 Buccoo Marsh)
Tricolored Heron (3 Buccoo Marsh)
Little Blue Heron (2 Buccoo Marsh)
Snowy Egret (100+ Buccoo Marsh)
Little Egret (1 Buccoo Marsh; regular here, per Adolphus)
Cattle Egret (daily; max 40+ Buccoo Marsh)
Green Heron (6 Buccoo Marsh)
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (1 Buccoo Marsh)
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (1 Buccoo Marsh)
White-cheeked Pintail (13 Buccoo Marsh)
Great Black-Hawk (3 Gilpin Trace)
Broad-winged Hawk (4 Gilpin Trace and mountains)
RUFOUS-VENTED CHACHALACA (daily on hotel grounds; max 10+)
Common Moorhen (5 Buccoo Marsh)
Southern Lapwing (15+ Buccoo Marsh)
Wilson's Snipe (2 Buccoo Marsh)
Whimbrel (2 Buccoo Marsh)
Greater Yellowlegs (4 Buccoo Marsh)
Lesser Yellowlegs (2 Buccoo Marsh)
Spotted Sandpiper (3 Buccoo Marsh, also daily along hotel roadside)
Ruddy Turnstone (daily in hotel bar! max 50+)
Least Sandpiper (1 Buccoo Marsh)
Laughing Gull (2 Buccoo Marsh)
Rock Pigeon (a few in the towns; max 8)
Pale-vented Pigeon (along hotel and nearby roadside; max 4)
Eared Dove (12+ western end of island, Buccoo and airport region)
Ruddy Ground-Dove (a few near airport)
White-tipped Dove (daily on hotel grounds; max. 6)
Green-rumped Parrotlet (1 Gilpin Trace)
Orange-winged Parrot (18+ Gilpin Trace)
Smooth-billed Ani (5 along roadside toward Gilpin Trace)
Gray-rumped Swift (30+ Gilpin Trace)
SHORT-TAILED SWIFT (1 Tobago airport)
Rufous-breasted Hermit (3 Gilpin Trace)
WHITE-TAILED SABREWING (7 Gilpin Trace; world life bird # 2000!)
White-necked Jacobin (6 Gilpin Trace)
Ruby-Topaz Hummingbird (daily along hotel roadside; max. 4)
Copper-rumped Hummingbird (1 or 2 daily along Starwood Trace; 5 Gilpin Trace)
Collared Trogon (1 Gilpin Trace)
Blue-crowned Motmot (3 Gilpin Trace; 1 Little Tobago)
Red-crowned Woodpecker (1 Buccoo Marsh, 3 Gilpin Trace)
Red-rumped Woodpecker (2 Gilpin Trace)
Golden-olive Woodpecker (1 Gilpin Trace)
STRIPE-BREASTED SPINETAIL (1 Gilpin Trace)
(Olivaceous Woodcreeper heard only Gilpin Trace)
(Cocoa Woodcreeper heard only Gilpin Trace and trails above hotel)
Barred Antshrike (Gilpin Trace and trails above hotel; max. 6)
PLAIN ANTVIREO (2 Gilpin Trace)
WHITE-FRINGED ANTWREN (2 seen daily on trails above hotel, Starwood Trace)
BLUE-BACKED MANAKIN (5 Gilpin Trace)
Yellow-bellied Elaenia (trails above hotel daily; max. 2)
Yellow-breasted Flycatcher (1 Gilpin Trace)
WHITE-THROATED SPADEBILL (1 Gilpin Trace)
FUSCOUS FLYCATCHER (1 trails above hotel)
Brown-crested Flycatcher (daily along hotel roadsides; max. 3)
Streaked Flycatcher (1 Gilpin Trace)
Tropical Kingbird (2 Gilpin Trace, 1 near hotel)
Gray Kingbird (1 Buccoo Marsh)
Caribbean Martin (8 Tobago Airport; 25+ along the way to Gilpin Trace)
(Rufous-breasted Wren heard only Gilpin Trace)
Tropical Mockingbird (daily on hotel grounds; max 8)
YELLOW-LEGGED THRUSH (4 Gilpin Trace)
Bare-eyed Thrush (trail above hotel, and Little Tobago; max. 2)
White-necked Thrush (1 Gilpin Trace)
Red-eyed (Chivi) Vireo (3 Gilpin Trace; 3 Little Tobago)
Scrub Greenlet (2 trails above hotel)
Yellow Warbler (2 Buccoo Marsh)
Bananaquit (ubiquitous; max. 40+)
White-lined Tanager (4 Gilpin Trace)
Blue-gray Tanager (trails above hotel; Little Tobago, where these birds are brighter blue; max. 15+)
Palm Tanager (hotel grounds; max. 10+)
Red-legged Honeycreeper (4 Gilpin Trace)
Blue-black Grassquit (Starwood Trace and trails; max. 15+)
Black-faced Grassquit (Starwood Trace and trails above hotel; max. 6+)
Carib Grackle (several near airport)
Shiny Cowbird (trails above hotel; max. flock of 15+)
Crested Oropendola (hotel area; max. 6+)

Bill Benner
Glen Cove, NY
billb55@aol.com

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