26 December 2007 - 2 January 2008
by Paul Jones
My wife and I stayed seven nights at this renowned eco-lodge. The staff was friendly and efficient and we enjoyed good food and comfortable accommodations. Birding highlights included a visit to an Oilbird colony, the almost overwhelming morning display at the feeders below the Center’s famous veranda, wonderful photographic opportunities, and the Scarlet Ibis spectacle in the Caroni wetlands. Our total list was 179, including Pinnated Bittern, Pearl Kite, Long-winged Harrier, Red-bellied Macaw, Bearded Bellbird, Sulphury Flycatcher, Moriche Oriole, nine species of hummingbird and eleven tanagers.
Trinidad measures 80 by 60 kilometres, has a population of 1.3
million and, together with Tobago (its smaller sister island), forms a
stable, English-speaking democracy. The island´s location just
off the Venezuelan coast gives its avifauna a distinctive South
American feel. Although the lowlands have been heavily cleared,
substantial areas of forest remain, mostly in hill country.
Trinidad´s total bird list is 468, but 200 is a reasonable goal for five or six days of intensive birding. Trip timing is important because the resident bird population is augmented by several waves of transient species. From September to April winterers from the north are present, including several American wood warblers and shorebirds. The end of the rainy season brings birds from the south such as Piratic Flycatcher who, in January and February, arrive and begin to nest. There is also considerable localized movement between the island and Venezuela, as birds seek out flowering and fruiting trees. These factors, (together with a desire to escape the northern winter) make January through April the high season for visiting birders.
The Asa Wright Nature Center , a not-for profit trust dedicated to conservation purposes, is nestled in the Arima Valley in Trinidad’s northern range. Set at an elevation of 400 metres on a 526 hectare parcel of forest amid a much larger reserve, the Center’s infrastructure includes a main building (an old plantation estate) and a series of outlying guest cottages. The cottages are not luxurious (in the five star tourist hotel sense of the word) but they are edging in that direction, being large, airy, clean and tastefully furnished. Each unit has a quiet ceiling fan, hot and cold running water, a shower and washroom, and 24 hour electricity (using the same outlets as in Canada/U.S.). The Center is named for the last person to run the site as a working coffee/cocoa plantation - Asa Wright.
The cuisine is Caribbean/Creole, very good, served buffet style and announced by a bell rung by the kitchen staff. Cereal, fresh-baked bread, fresh fruit and omelets were breakfast (7:30-8:30am) standards. Lunch (noon to 1pm) and dinner (7-8pm) included a selection of rice, beans, salad, fresh vegetables and a chicken, fish or beef main (plus dessert!). A locally produced hot sauce was provided for each table and introduced a nice heat to the food. Afternoon tea was served on the veranda at 4pm and featured cakes, coffee (grown and roasted at the Center) and tea. Rum punch was brought out at 6pm. Both the coffee and the punch were strong and good.
We paid the high season rate ($180 USD per person per night) and made our arrangements directly through the Center (firstname.lastname@example.org, 1-868-667-4655). U.S. residents may have to book through Caligo Ventures www.caligo.com which encourages visitors to take a set package that includes a stay in Tobago. Tobago has less bird diversity than Trinidad but it does offer better sea bird watching (including Red-billed Tropicbird) and a few species not found on Trinidad including Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Blue-backed Manakin and White-tailed Sabre-wing.
Getting There - We flew
Continental from Ottawa to Newark, New Jersey and then on to Trinidad,
arriving at 8:30pm after a six hour flight. Customs was friendly and
relaxed but rather deliberate; it took us over an hour to get through.
We later talked to a couple who waited three hours to clear the process
(multiple flights had arrived simultaneously).
The parade of sign-bearing taxi-drivers begins right at the first immigration gates, but we met our transfer (pre-arranged through the Center) outside the airport’s main entrance doors. The 45 minute drive to Asa Wright runs through populated lowlands and then begins to climb and wind up the Arima Valley into the forest. We arrived at the Center after 10:30pm and were quickly settled into our cottage, registration details being left to the next morning.
Health and Safety - Our very cautious travel doctor indicated no special meds or shots were required for Trinidad. The road culture on the island is fairly sensible and although crime is reported as a problem in the capital Port-of-Spain, the Center is secure and the surrounding birding areas calm. Local guides lead all off-site trips, adding an extra layer of safety. The only real problem we encountered was chiggers.
Chiggers are the tiny, almost microscopic, larval stage of a mite.
Found in grassy and shrubby areas from the southern U.S. to South
America, they attach themselves to passing mammals to feed. They do
this by injecting at a skin pore or hair follicle an enzyme that
ruptures skin cell walls and allows the chigger to quickly drink the
fluid within and then drop back into the underbrush. In humans the
preferred feeding sites are at the waistband and around the ankles and
the effect can be to produce small but terribly itchy blisters.
The minimum chigger-avoidance strategy is to tuck your shirt into your pants and the cuffs of your pants into your socks. Rubber rain boots also make it difficult for chiggers to attach, as does spraying your clothing with a DEET-based insect repellent. Pre-treatment of clothing with a permethian spray makes you virtually chigger-proof.
I took none of these precautions and got nailed early in the trip with 40-50 bites, probably as I passed through a grassy road edge. After the encounter I wore rubber boots in the field and had no additional infestations. Post-bite treatment is limited because once you have noticed the problem it is generally too late to do anything about it, the chiggers having already left. A shower and change of clothing can remove the few chiggers that might have not yet fed. Scratching at the bites is not recommended as it only worsens and lengthens the suffering (a topical analgesic can lessen the temptation). I found the chigger experience fairly annoying but most of the bites faded after a few days (except the ones I scratched). Some people react worse than others and there are apocryphal tales of individuals having to cancel birding trips because they were so badly bitten.
Weather - Trinidad’s rainy season lasts from June to early December. We encountered a few daytime showers, but nothing that warranted putting our raincoats on. Twice during the night there were heavy downpours that ended before morning, making a pleasant rhythm on our cottage’s roof in the interim. Temperature-wise, it never got unbearably hot, even though Trinidad is close to the equator. The Center’s highish elevation probably helped, but even in the open lowlands there was usually a cooling breeze. Dawn was at 6am, by 6:30 there was plenty of light. Dusk came at 6pm, night by 6:30.
Literature - “Birds of Trinidad and Tobago” by Richard ffrench is the standard guide. The text is excellent and the quality of the artwork itself is good, the problem is that many of the reproductions are tiny and a significant number of species and plumages are not illustrated at all. Most birders also bring a copy of Hilty’s “Birds of Venezuela”. Apparently a new guide will be released shortly. For sound recordings, ABA offers a cassette tape with the calls of a few island species. A more complete resource is the three CD set “Bird Song of Trinidad & Tobago” recorded by John Hammick and Richard ffrench. The guides operating out of the Center each had MP3 players loaded with the relevant tracks.
Clothing and Equipment - We
wore the standard tropical birding outfit: lightweight long sleeved
shirts, long pants and leather hiking shoes. We also brought along
rubber rain boots because we had read the trails at Asa Wright could be
muddy. We found the paths to be all quite dry but were happy to have
the boots after our chigger encounter.
In addition to binoculars we also brought a telescope, headlamps and a powerful flashlight. The scope was very useful on the veranda and not all the guides have one, so we were happy we had one along. I did a couple of night walks up and down the Center’s driveway and on one of the better-marked trails. Sightings included a Pink-footed Tarantula, a False Mapepire Snake and sleeping Grey-fronted Dove, Great Antshrike and Bananquit.
Birding at the Asa Wright Center begins on the back veranda of the main building. Overlooking the Arima Valley, and more directly, a series of fruit and nectar feeders, we were quickly able to run up a decent list of species from this location. The feeders are re-filled between 6 and 6:30 each morning, after which a wave of birds appears. A few of the shyer species only showed at dawn, most of the rest were present all day. The Center has trained an impressive group of young guides and at least one of them was usually posted on the veranda. They were very helpful, pointing out a Forest Elaenia and assisting with trickier IDs such as female hummingbirds. The veranda could become fairly crowded, especially as day visitors to the Center arrived from mid-morning on, but the atmosphere was always congenial and there was lots of room to see the birds.
The “Cannot Miss” species around the fruit trays during our visit were: Ruddy Ground Dove, Blue-crowned Motmot, Cocoa Thrush, Bananaquit , White-lined Tanager, Silver-beaked Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Palm Tanager, Green Honeycreeper, Purple Honeycreeper and Crested Oropendola.
The hummingbirds being seen daily at the feeders or in surrounding flowers were, in rough order of abundance: Copper-rumped Hummingbird, White-necked Jacobin, White-chested Emerald, Black-throated Mango, Tufted Coquette, Little Hermit, Blue-chinned Sapphire, Green Hermit and Rufous-breasted Hermit.
The commoner species seen flying above or perched in the forest were: American Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Scaled Pigeon, Orange-winged Parrot, Chaetura swifts, Channel-billed Toucan, Lineated Woodpecker, Great Kiskadee, Bare-eyed Thrush, Violaceous Euphonia, Turquoise Tanager and Bay-headed Tanager.
Our more unusual veranda sightings included Double-toothed Kite,
White Hawk, Merlin, Squirrel Cuckoo and Forest Elaenia.
All the birds around the feeders were exceedingly tame and made excellent photographic subjects; you can simply stand a metre or two from the trays and snap away. To create the illusion that I captured images from deep within the forest, I stood a little more distant from the feeders and photographed birds perched in the shrubbery.
Trails criss-cross the property, ranging from broad walkways to slightly more challenging forest paths. Guests at the lodge are offered an orientation hike down the Discovery Trail and within minutes of stepping off the veranda we saw White-bearded and Golden-headed Manakin. Bearded Bellbirds were cooperative and easy to pick out low in the canopy along the Discovery Trail, only a little ways from the Center. Their loud, un-bell like “Cronk!” sounded from the forest throughout our stay.
We also independently birded the paved driveway into Asa Wright from
the main road, a pleasant fifteen-minute stroll during which we picked
up Rufous-browed Peppershrike.
From the driveway we walked the Bamboo Trail back to the Center, seeing Black-faced Antthrush, Red-crowned Ant-tanager and White-flanked Antwren. Birds in the forest and along the road edge responded well to pishing, squeaking and especially to an imitation of the call of Ferruginous Pygmy Owl (a fairly rapid, emphatic series of whistled "toots"). This is a good skill to hone and I worked on mine by whistling back at a real owl until I could vaguely match its volume, rhythm and pitch. After a couple days I was able to bring in my own small cloud of mobbing birds. I also eventually called in an owl, but not on the Center’s grounds (I think the birds there are “whistled-out”).
Oilbirds (a rare, nocturnal, cave-dwelling, echo-locating, fruit-eating nightjar relative) are an important attraction at Asa Wright, with one of the world’s most accessible colonies only a modest walk from the veranda. Visitors staying three nights or more are offered a complimentary tour to the restricted site, with small groups taken on a 30 minute hike to the river gorge where the Oilbirds nest and roost. Two people at a time are lead the final few metres down a series of hand-railed steps into the rock cleft. To further minimize disturbance, viewing is limited to two minutes per person. At the time of our visit no wading in water or special footwear was required.
On our second full day at the Center we joined an 8:30am expedition to see the Oilbirds. They were much bigger than expected and first contact - strange shapes swooping and calling eerily in the half light - was memorable. The guide then directed our attention to birds clinging to the rock face just above our heads. No flash photography is allowed but by setting my digital SLR camera to 1600 ISO I was able to obtain surprisingly good pictures in the glow of the guide’s flashlight.
Field Trips from Asa Wright
- The Center offers a series of half-day and day trips to various sites
across northern Trinidad. They cost between $40 and $65 per person and
sample a number of different habitats. If you want to build your list
over 100 you need to take at least one of them. The trips are lead by
local bird guides working on contract for the Center. They supply their
own vehicle (usually a mini-bus) and the Center sends along water, a
cooler filled with lunch or dinner and rum punch. Our sense was that
all the guides were good, but the one we were most impressed by was
Dave Ramlal (Tel. 868 789-0770). He is a skilled naturalist, tenacious
birder and excellent company.
We did not book any of the trips before we arrived. Instead we chatted with the staff at the Center as to which ones they recommended. We ended up taking the following:
Trinidad Piping Guan - This short morning jaunt makes a quick run up from the Center to a nearby communications tower to search for Trinidad’s only endemic species. We made one dedicated run and three additional attempts rolled into other trips. Guans were seen before and during our stay but we had no luck. Success rates increase when the guides locate a fruiting tree that the Guans are feeding in. Unfortunately the birds clean the trees out in a few days and then move on. Our sense is that a lot of people do see this species, but a lot miss it too.
Blanchisseuse (pronounced blaunch-a-shezz) Road - This longer morning expedition follows a road over the northern range to the ocean, sampling sections of high country forest. Birding is done by stopping, walking and then hopping back in the vehicle to try a little further along. The winding route was almost traffic free during our trip and the over-hanging trees provided a beautiful, cool, sun-dappled shade. Sightings included Grey-headed Kite, Ornate Hawk Eagle, Collared Trogon, Streaked Xenops, Grey-capped Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, Yellow-legged Thrush and Speckled Tanager.
Caroni Swamp is an extensive
Mangrove wetland on the west side of the island. The trip departs the
Center in the early afternoon and the first official stop is the
Trincity Sewage Ponds. While still in transit we had a good bird -
Pearl Kite, perched on a telephone wire along a built up stretch of the
main east-west highway. At the sewage works we saw Long-winged Harrier,
Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Pied Water-Tyrant, Yellow-hooded Blackbird,
Red-breasted Blackbird and two vagrant species from Europe - Little
Egret and Grey Heron.
To survey the swamp we piled onto a barge-like boat operated by Nanan’s Bird Sanctuary Tours (www.nananecotours.com) and set out along an irrigation channel though the Mangrove. A number of other companies run trips into Caroni but not all offer the bird expertise that Nanan´s does. In the swamp, highlights included Green-throated Mango, Greater Ani, Black-crested Ant-shrike, Bi-coloured Conebill and a Common Potoo staked out in a back channel. Two Cook’s Boas were closely observed in the over-hanging foliage. As the sun began to set we reached an open area and moored with a series of other boats. Rum punch and jam-filled scones were passed around and we settled in to watch the Scarlet Ibis arrive at their evening roost site. The birds exceeded expectations, providing a natural spectacle comparable to any we had seen before.
Aripo Savanna - This trip (usually combined with the next two sites - Arena Forest and Waller Field Night Birding) samples open country at the base of the northern range. We birded the grassy fields of an experimental agricultural station and an area of mixed open, scrub and wetland habitat just outside the station’s fenced boundary. Inside the station we had Cocoi Heron, Savannah Hawk, Yellow-headed Caracara, Grasslands Yellow Finch, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater and studying views of Red-breasted Blackbird. Outside the boundary we saw Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Striped and Little Cuckoo, Fork-tailed Palm Swift, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Boat-billed Flycatcher and, in a flooded field of Watercress, Green Kingfisher, Pied Water-Tyrant and White-headed Marsh-Tyrant.
The Arena Forest is a maturing tract of lowland second growth forest bisected by a limited access paved road. Birding strategy is similar to that adopted for Blanchisseuse - periodic stops to sample a variety of locations. Sightings included a close and cooperative immature Grey-headed Kite and good looks at White-tailed Trogon, Northern Scrub Flycatcher and Red-crowned Ant-tanager. The highlight was a very cooperative White-bellied Antbird, taped in to a few metres. On the way to the forest we stopped in a built up area to view a roadside colony of Yellow-rumped Cacique and an accompanying nest thief - Piratic Flycatcher.
Night Birding takes place at Waller Field, an abandoned airbase south of Arima. First stop was an area of Moriche Palm. In the late afternoon light we immediately picked out a Moriche specialist - several Sulphury Flycatcher noisily bickering in the fronds. As the sun began to sink a group of Red-bellied Macaw flew in, providing superb views. In the dying light one of the guides called out “Moriche Oriole!” and, clutching our cups of rum punch, we hurried over to watch and listen to a striking male sing low in a palm. Wayne Peterson, the gracious leader of a Field Guides tour group present at the site confirmed our good fortune, as Moriche Oriole is a tough bird to get. The evening concluded with a somewhat surreal weaving convoy drive around the darkened runways looking for nightbirds. We heard and saw no owls but did have good views of White-tailed Nightjar and Pauraque.
The Nariva Swamp is a wetland area on the east side of the island. To reach it we drove east from Arima to Manzanilla where we had lunch on the beach. From there we headed south along the coast through kilometre after kilometre of Coconut Palm plantation. This habitat was excellent for raptors; without making a concerted effort we saw eight Savanna Hawk, one Grey Hawk, two Common Black Hawk, one Yellow-headed Caracara and one Crested Caracara, a rare bird in Trinidad. We also had great scope views of two Green-rumped Parrotlets sitting out in the open in a low bush - unusually cooperative behaviour for this species.
Exiting the main coastal road we headed inland to the Nariva Swamp - a somewhat beat-up mix of rudimentary houses, irrigation ditches and flooded fields in various states of cultivation. Bird highlights here included plentiful Wattled Jacana, one Pinnated Bittern and a Long-winged Harrier. Several Giant Cowbirds were seen around the houses. We did not visit the area´s more pristine Mangrove section.
Additional Trips - The
Center also offers trips to the Waterloo mudflats to look for waders
and, in April through July, a tour to see nesting Leatherback Turtles.
If we were to do our visit to Asa Wright over we would contact Dave
Ramlal beforehand and work out a series of custom expeditions, rather
than rely completely on the “off-the shelf” ones offered, as good as
they are. A dawn expedition into Caroni and a boat trip through the
Mangrove portion of Nariva (which holds a couple of monkey species -
Red Howler Monkey and White-fronted Capuchin) would be particularly
Closing Thoughts - With a multi-racial staff, excellent facilities and community-based feel, the Center deserves its reputation as a model for other eco-tourism ventures. On the pure birding side, hard-core enthusiasts might be discouraged by the cost and relatively restricted species list. For mellower folks it is an ideal place to enjoy an introductory selection of neo-tropical birds, concentrate on photography or visit with a non-birding partner. For us Asa Wright provided a relaxed and comfortable winter break. The ambience at the Center and our visits to the Oilbird colony and the Caroni Scarlet Ibises were first class experiences.
Annotated Bird List - Trinidad, Asa Wright Nature Center and associated day trips, December 27, 2007 to January 1, 2008 (Common Name - Scientific Name - Status per ffrench - Our sightings)
Annotated Bird List - Trinidad, Asa Wright Nature Center and
associated day trips, December 27, 2007 to January 1, 2008 (Common Name
- Scientific Name - Status per ffrench - Our sightings)
1. Little Tinamou - Crypturellus soui - Uncommon, forest - Heard at the Center and on the Blanchisseuse Road, never seen
2. Brown Pelican - Pelecanus occidentalis - Common, coast - A few distant birds along the beach at Manzanilla
3. Magnificent Frigatebird - Fregata magnificens - Common, coast - Many birds at the ocean, but also seen flying over the Center and Blanchisseuse Road
4. Grey Heron - Ardea cinerea - Vagrant - One, a long-staying bird near the Trincity Sewage Ponds
5. Great Blue Heron - Ardea Herodias - Uncommon, wetlands - One, Caroni Swamp
6. Cocoi Heron - Ardea cocoi - Uncommon, wetlands - One, Aripo Savanna
7. Great Egret - Ardea alba - Common, wetlands - Several sightings
8. Tricolored Heron - Egretta tricolor - Common, wetlands - Many at Caroni
9. Little Blue Heron - Egretta caerulea - Common, wetlands - Many sightings
10. Snowy Egret - Egretta thula - Common, wetlands - Many sightings
11. Little Egret - Egretta garzetta - Vagrant - One, Trincity Sewage Ponds
12. Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis - Common, wetlands, open country - Many sightings
13. Striated Heron - Butorides striata - Common, wetlands - Many sightings
14. Black-crowned Night-Heron - Nycticorax nycticorax - Common, wetlands - Three birds, Trincity Sewage Ponds
15. Pinnated Bittern - Botaurus pinnatus - Uncommon, wetlands - One head view in Nariva, missed by other birders the same day
16. Scarlet Ibis - Eudocimus rubber - Uncommon, wetlands - Observed in small numbers on the trip through Caroni Swamp, when we reached the roosting area they then appeared in the hundreds, making a Mangrove island glow red like a Christmas tree - a truly great natural spectacle
17. Black-bellied Whistling-Duck - Dendrocygna autumnalis - Uncommon, wetlands - A single flock of twelve in Nariva
18. American Black Vulture - Coragyps atratus - Abundant
19. Turkey Vulture - Cathartes aura - Abundant
20. Osprey - Pandion haliaetus - Common, wetlands, coast - Seen at the Trincity Sewage Ponds, Caroni, Nariva
21. Gray-headed Kite - Leptodon cayanensis - Uncommon, forest - We had good luck with this bird, five in one day and seven sightings in total including two dark immature birds perching below the canopy, five adults high overhead doing their Black Vulture-like flap, flap, glide flight
22. Pearl Kite - Gampsonyx swainsonii - Rare, open country - One, perched on a telephone wire in an industrial area along the Churchill-Roosevelt four lane highway
23. Double-toothed Kite - Harpagus bidentatus - Uncommon, forest - One, from the veranda, perched on a dead tree down the valley
24. Long-winged Harrier - Circus buffoni - Uncommon, wetlands - Two, immaculate male at Trincity Sewage Ponds, dingier bird at Nariva Swamp
25. White Hawk - Leucopternis albicollis - Common, forest - Seen from the veranda and along the Blanchisseuse Road
26. Common Black Hawk - Buteogallus anthracinus - Common, forest - Seen daily
27. Savanna Hawk - Buteogallus meridionalis - Uncommon, open country - One at Aripo and eight along the road to Nariva Swamp
28. Gray Hawk - Buteo nitidus - Common, open country - One adult Waller Field, one immature Nariva Road
29. Broad-winged Hawk - Buteo platypterus - Uncommon, forest - One, Blanchisseuse Road
30. Short-tailed Hawk - Buteo brachyurus - Common, forest - Five sightings
31. Zone-tailed Hawk - Buteo albonotatus - Uncommon, forest - One, Arena Forest
32. Ornate Hawk Eagle - Spizaetus ornatus - Uncommon, forest - One seen, one heard, Blanchisseuse Road
33. Crested Caracara - Caracara cheriway - Rare, open country - One, Nariva Road near the abandoned coconut factory
34. Yellow-headed Caracara - Milvago chimachima - Uncommon, open country - one at Aripo Savanna, one along the Nariva Road
35. Merlin - Falco columbarius - Uncommon, forest - Three sightings
36. Limpkin - Aramus guarauna - Uncommon, wetlands - Heard at Aripo
37. American Purple Gallinule - Porphyrio martinica - Common, wetlands - One, Nariva
38. Common Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus - Common, wetlands - One, Trincity Sewage Ponds
39. Wattled Jacana - Jacana jacana - Common, wetlands - Many sightings
40. Southern Lapwing - Vanellus chilensis - Common, open country - Many sightings
41. Greater Yellowlegs - Tringa melanoleuca - Common, wetlands - Three at the Aripo Watercress fields - We did not devote any time to shorebirds, but those interested in seeing North American waders can arrange a trip to a mud flat area (Waterloo) that holds a variety of species
42. Solitary Sandpiper - Tringa solitaria - Common, wetlands - One, Aripo, one, roadside pond, Arena Forest
43. Spotted Sandpiper - Actitis macularia - Common, wetlands - Many sightings
44. Least Sandpiper - Calidris minutilla - Common, wetlands - Four at a manure pile at the Aripo agricultural station
45. Rock Dove - Columba livia - Uncommon, open country - Many around habitation
46. Scaled Pigeon - Columba speciosa - Common, forest - Several at Asa Wright and along the Blanchisseuse Road
47. Ruddy Ground Dove - Columbina talpacoti - Abundant
48. Grey-fronted Dove - Leptotila rufaxilla - Common, forest - Seen daily at the Center
49. Red-bellied Macaw - Orthopsittaca manilata - Locally common - Six, late afternoon, Waller Field, eight, Nariva Road
50. Green-rumped Parrotlet - Forpus passerinus - Common, low forest, semi-open country - Three,Aripo, two, Nariva Road
51. Lilac-tailed Parrotlet - Touit batavica - Common, forest - One flock of twenty along the road to Arima from the Center
52. Blue-headed Parrot - Pionus menstruus - Common, forest, semi-open country - Several sightings
53. Orange-winged Parrot - Amazona amazonica - Common, forest - Many sightings, the most conspicuous parrot
54. Squirrel Cuckoo - Piaya cayana - Common, forest, semi-open country - Two sightings, Discovery Trail near the Center
55. Little Cuckoo - Piaya minuta - Uncommon, wetland - One sighting of two birds, Aripo, called in by Dave Ramlal
56. Greater Ani - Crotophaga major - Uncommon, wetlands - One bird at Caroni
57. Groove-billed Ani - Crotophaga sulcirostris - Abundant
58. Striped Cuckoo - Tapera naevia- Common, semi-open country - One bird at Aripo, called in by Dave Ramlal
59. Ferruginous Pygmy Owl - Gaucidium brasilianum - Common, forest - An interesting phenomena, they were extremely vocal at the Center and we were hearing them all the time from point blank range but they would not reveal themselves or respond to imitations - however, a pair in a Bamboo clump along the Aripo boundary road immediately zipped in to investigate my whistled imitation and showed very well - perhaps they are taped out at the Center (but obviously still present)
60. Oilbird - Steatornis caripensis - Rare, forest - Excellent views at Asa Wright
61. Common Potoo - Nyctibius griseus - Uncommon, forest, semi-open country - One, a staked-out bird at Caroni at its day roost
62. Pauraque - Nyctidromus albicollis - Common, semi-open country - Four at Waller Field
63. White-tailed Nightjar - Caprimulgus cayennensis - Common, semi-open country - Two at Waller Field, approachable to one metre
64. Band-rumped Swift - Chaetura spinicaudus - Common, forest - A variety of Chaetura swifts are present on Trinidad and they pose a tricky ID problem. In different light conditions the rump colours of the species can vary tremendously, so we were most confident making our identifications under the supervision of local guides. Our best looks at Band-rumped Swift were at the lunch stop near the waterfall along the Blanchisseuse Road
65. Gray-rumped Swift - Chaetura cinereiventris - Common, forest - Several guide-assisted sightings
66. Short-tailed Swift - Chaetura brachyuran - Common, forest to open country - Seen at Caroni and Aripo, after watching swifts for a few days we could independently identify with confidence this fairly obvious species
67. Fork-tailed Palm Swift - Tachornis squamata - Uncommon, open country - One sighting, fifteen to twenty birds near the Aripo Watercress fields
68. Rufous-breasted Hermit - Glaucis hirsute - Common, forest - One, Bamboo Trail
69. Green Hermit - Phaethornis guy - Common, forest - One, in flowers near the Center
70. Little Hermit - Phaethornis longuemareus - Common, forest - Daily sightings, zips low and quickly between groups of flowers
71. White-necked Jacobin - Florisuga mellivora - Uncommon, forest - Common at the Center’s feeders
72. Green-throated Mango - Anthracothorax viridigula - Uncommon, Mangroves - One in Caroni
73. Black-throated Mango - Anthracothorax nigricollis - Common, open forest - Seen daily at the Center, not very conspicuous
74. Tufted Coquette - Lophornis ornatus - Uncommon, forest - Seen daily around the Center in the flower beds, mostly females but at least two males scoped and studied at close range, a great little bird
75. Blue-chinned Sapphire - Chlorostilbon notatus - Common, forest - Seen daily around the Center, not particularly conspicuous
76. White-chested Emerald - Agyrtria brevirostris - Common, forest, semi-open country - Conspicuous at the Center’s feeders
77. Copper-rumped Hummingbird - Amazilia tobaci - Common, all habitats - The default hummingbird
78. White-tailed Trogon - Trogon viridis - Common, forest - Seen or heard daily, seemed to be the commonest trogon
79. Violaceous Trogon - Trogon violaceus - Common, forest - Heard more often than seen, several sightings
80. Collared Trogon - Trogon collaris - Common, forest - Seen along Blanchisseuse, up to three in one day
81. Ringed Kingfisher - Ceryle torquata - Rare, wetlands - One at the Trincity Sewage Ponds
82. Green Kingfisher - Chloroceryle Americana - Common, wetlands - One, Aripo Watercress fields
83. Blue-crowned Motmot - Momotus momota - Common, forest - Seen daily around the Center, call a single hoot
84. Rufous-tailed Jacamar - Galbula ruficauda - Common, forest - Several sightings
85. Channel-billed Toucan - Ramphastos vitellinus - Common, forest - Seen daily at the Center, a dawn telescope scan down the Arima Valley would pick up one or two
86. Red-rumped Woodpecker - Veniliornis kirkii - Common, forest - One, Discovery Trail, a small, slender woodcreeper-like woodpecker
87. Golden-olive Woodpecker - Piculus rubiginosus - Common, forest - Several sightings
88. Lineated Woodpecker - Dryocopus lineatus - Uncommon, forest - Seen daily from the veranda
89. Crimson-crested Woodpecker - Campephilus melanoleucos - Uncommon, low country forest - One, Waller Field
90. Pale-breasted Spinetail - Synallaxis albescens - Uncommon, semi-open country - One taped in at northern end of Blanchisseuse Road
91. Stripe-breasted Spinetail - Synallaxis cinnamomea - Common, forest - Two taped at the com tower on Blanchisseuse Road
92. Yellow-chinned Spinetail - Certhiaxis cinnamomea - Common, wetlands - Obvious at Trincity Sewage Ponds, Aripo and Nariva
93. Streaked Xenops - Xenops rutilans - Common, forest - Two sightings, Bamboo Trail and Blanchisseuse Road
94. Plain-brown Woodcreeper - Dendrocincla fuliginosa - Common, forest - Heard only along Blanchisseuse
95. Cocoa Woodcreeper - Xiphorhynchus susurrans - Common, forest - Three sightings, Oilbird Trail, Blanchisseuse and Arena Forest - Note: considered separate from Buff-throated Woodcreeper (X.guttatus) by some authors
96. Straight-billed Woodcreeper - Dendroplex picus - Uncommon, Mangrove wetland - Heard only at Caroni
97. Great Antshrike - Taraba major - Common, semi-open country - Seen daily around the feeders
98. Black-crested Antshrike - Sakesphorus Canadensis - Common, Mangrove, semi-open country - Six in Caroni, three at Aripo - a great bird
99. Barred Antshrike - Thamnophilus doliatus - Common, semi-open - Many sightings
100. Plain Antvireo - Dysithamnus mentalis - Common, forest - One sighting, singing male taped in on Blanchisseuse
101. White-flanked Antwren - Myrmotherula axillaris - Common, forest - Two sightings, Blanchisseuse, Bamboo Trail
102. White-bellied Antbird - Myrmeciza longipes - Common, forest - Two sightings, Arena Forest, taped in, a reliable location for an interesting bird, reminiscent of a south Asian jungle babbler
103. Black-faced Antthrush - Formicarius analis - Common, forest - One seen, Bamboo Trail, many heard Blanchisseuse Road
104. Bearded Bellbird - Procnias averano - Common, forest - Easy to see/hear at the Center, heard along the Blanchisseuse Road
105. White-bearded Manakin - Manacus manacus - Common, forest - Many sightings including lekking birds along the Discovery Trail
106. Golden-headed Manakin - Pipra erythrocephala - Common, forest - Same as above
107. Southern Beardless Tyrannulet - Camptostoma obsoletum - Common, semi-open country - One Aripo, one Waller Field, located by voice
108. Forest Elaenia - Myiopagis gaimardii - Common, forest - One, just below the veranda
109. Yellow-bellied Elaenia - Elaenia flavogaster - Common, semi-open country - Many sightings in the lowlands
110. Ochre-bellied Flycatcher - Mionectes oleaginous - Common, forest - Seen daily around the Center
111. Slaty-capped Flycatcher - Leptopogon superciliaris - Uncommon, forest - Two sightings along the Blanchisseuse Road
112. Northern Scrub-Flycatcher - Sublegatus arenarum - Uncommon, semi-open country - One, Arena Forest
113. Yellow-breasted Flycatcher (Ochre-lored Flatbill) - Tolmomyias flaviventris - Common, forest - Sightings at Asa Wright, Blanchisseuse, Aripo, Arena
114. Bran-colored Flycatcher - Myiophobus fasciatus - Common, semi-open country - One, road down to Arima from the Center
115. Euler´s Flycatcher - Lathrotriccus euleri - Common, forest - Several sightings at the Center and along the Blanchisseuse Road, the guides key in quickly on the distinctive song of this inconspicuous species
116. Olive-sided Flycatcher - Contopus cooperi - Uncommon, forest - One on a wire at the com tower
117. Tropical Pewee - Contopus cinereus - Common, forest edge - Frequent sightings
118. Pied Water-Tyrant - Fluvicola pica - Common, wetlands - Conspicuous at Trincity Sewage Ponds, Aripo and Nariva
119. White-headed Marsh-Tyrant - Arundinicola leucocephala - Common, wetlands - Seen at the Aripo and Nariva, not as conspicuous as Water-tyrant
120. Bright-rumped Attila - Attila spadiceus - Uncommon, forest - Heard along Blanchisseuse
121. Dusky-capped Flycatcher - Myiarchus tuberculifer - Common, forest - Several sightings, listen for the mournful call
122. Brown-crested Flycatcher - Myiarchus tyrannulus - Uncommon, forest - One sighting
123. Great Kiskadee - Pitangus sulphuratus - Common, semi-open country - Many sightings, nesting near the veranda
124. Boat-billed Flycatcher - Megarynchus pitangua - Common, forest edge - One sighting, picked up by voice, Aripo
125. Streaked Flycatcher - Myiodynastes maculates - Common, forest edge - One, Blanchisseuse
126. Piratic Flycatcher - Legatus leucophaius - Common, semi-open country - One, an early migrant at the Cacique colony
127. Sulphury Flycatcher - Tyrannopsis sulphurea - Rare, Moriche Palm - Four at Waller Field, noisy and conspicuous, easy to distinguish from Tropical Kingbird by prominent white throat
128. Tropical Kingbird - Tyrannus melancholicus - Common, open, semi-open country - Many sightings
129. Black-tailed Tityra - Tityra cayana - Common, edge forest - A pair at lower end of Blanchisseuse, a cooperative single at the Waller Field Moriche Palm area
130. Gray-breasted Martin - Progne chalybea - Common, open country - Many sightings
131. White-winged Swallow - Tachycineta albiventer - Uncommon, open country - Good numbers at Trincity Sewage Ponds, Aripo, Nariva
132. Southern Rough-winged Swallow - Stelgidopteryx ruficollis - Common, open country - Many sightings
133. Rufous-breasted Wren - Thryothorus rutilus - Common, forest -
Several sightings, an attractive bird
134. House Wren - Troglodytes aedon - Common, semi-open - Many sightings, including around the Center
135. Tropical Mockingbird - Mimus gilvus - Common, open - Many sightings
136. Yellow-legged Thrush - Platycichla flavipes - Common, high forest - One sighting, Blanchisseuse
137. Cocoa Thrush - Turdus fumigatus - Common, forest, semi-open - Many sightings
138. Bare-eyed Thrush - Turdus nudigenis - Common, semi-open - Many sightings
139. White-necked Thrush - Turdus albicollis - Common, forest - Several sightings, Blanchisseuse, Discovery/Bamboo Trails, often heard singing
140. Long-billed Gnatwren - Ramphocaenus melanurus - Common, forest, forest edge - Several sightings, always in dense tangles, responded well to pishing, squeaking and Pygmy Owl imitations
141. Golden-fronted Greenlet - Hylophilus aurantiifrons - Common, forest - Several sightings along Blanchisseuse and at Aripo and Arena Forest, inconspicuous in appearance and behaviour
142. Rufous-browed Peppershrike - Cyclarhis gujanensis - Common, forest - Sightings of family groups along the Asa Wright driveway and at Waller Field, picked up in the tree tops by the “do you wash once a week” song, pished, squeaked and Pygmy-owled down to almost eye-level
143. Yellow Warbler - Dendroica petechia - Common, semi-open country - Several sightings
144. American Redstart - Setophaga ruticilla - Common, forest - Several sightings
145. Northern Waterthrush - Seiurus noveboracensis - Common, forest - Several sightings
146. Masked Yellowthroat - Geothlypis aequinoctialis - Common, wetlands - Taped in at Aripo, outside the fence
147. Golden-crowned Warbler - Basileuterus culicivorus - Common, forest - Several sightings
148. Bananaquit - Coereba flaveola - Abundant everywhere
149. Bicolored Conebill - Conirostrum bicolor - Common, Mangrove - Seen in Caroni from the boat along the water’s edge
150. White-shouldered Tanager - Tachyphonus luctuosus - Uncommon, forest - One, Discovery Trail
151. White-lined Tanager - Tachyphonus rufus - Common, forest - Many sightings, rufous brown birds at the feeders are females of this species
152. Red-crowned Ant-Tanager - Habia rubica - Several sightings, Bamboo Trail, Arena Forest, Blanchisseuse Road
153. Hepatic Tanager - Piranga flava - Uncommon, forest - One male at the com tower off Blanchisseuse
154. Summer Tanager - Piranga rubra - Uncommon, forest - One female seen at lower end of Blanchisseuse, identified by voice (“pity-tuck” call)
155. Silver-beaked Tanager - Ramphocelus carbo - Common, semi-open country - Many sightings, the two-toned, reddish brown birds at the feeders are the females of this species (and not Red-crowned Ant-Tangers)
156. Blue-gray Tanager - Thraupis episcopus - Common, semi-open country - Many sightings
157. Palm Tanager - Thraupis palmarum - Common, forest - Many sightings, nesting on the veranda
158. Trinidad Euphonia - Euphonia trinitatis - Uncommon, forest canopy - One, road to Center from Arima, listen for plaintive, piercing “wee wee” call
159. Violaceous Euphonia - Euphonia violacea - Common, forest - Many sightings
160. Turquoise Tanager - Tangara mexicana - Common, forest - Several sightings
161. Speckled Tanager - Tangara guttata - Common, forest - Blanchisseuse Road only
162. Bay-headed Tanager - Tangara gyrola - Common, forest - Many sightings
163. Blue Dacnis - Dacnis cayana - Common, forest - Several sightings
164. Green Honeycreeper - Chlorophanes spiza - Common, forest - Many sightings
165. Purple Honeycreeper - Cyanerpes caeruleus - Common, forest - Many sightings
166. Blue-black Grassquit AKA Johnny Jump Up - Volatinia jacarina - Common, open country - Many sightings, roadside scrub
167. Ruddy-breasted Seedeater - Sporophila minuta - Uncommon, semi-open country - One sighting, a singing male inside the fence at Aripo
168. Sooty Grassquit - Tiaris fuliginosa - Common, edge forest - Two sightings along the road from the Center down to Arima
169. Grassland Yellow Finch - Sicalis luteola - A recent arrival on Trinidad - Good numbers inside the fence at Aripo
170. Grayish Saltator - Saltator coerulescens - Common, forest edge - Several, heavy roadside brush
171. Yellow-hooded Blackbird - Agelaius icterocephalus - Common, wetlands - Trincity Sewage Ponds, Aripo, Nariva
172. Red-breasted Blackbird - Sturnella militaris - Common, wetlands - Sightings near Trincity Sewage Ponds, Aripo and Nariva
173. Carib Grackle - Quiscalus lugubris - Common, semi-open country - Many at Caroni, Aripo, Nariva
174. Shiny Cowbird - Molothrus bonariensis - Common, semi-open country - Sightings at Aripo and Nariva
175. Giant Cowbird - Molothrus oryzivorus - Common, semi-open country - Only sighting at Nariva near the marsh houses
176. Moriche Oriole - Icterus chrysocephalus - Rare, Moriche Palm - One, singing at dusk from a Moriche Palm, Waller Field
177. Yellow Oriole - Icterus nigrogularis - Common, forest, semi-open country - Several at the Center, commoner in the lowlands
178. Yellow-rumped Cacique - Cacicus cela - Common, semi-open country - Five or six birds displaying at a roadside colony on way to Arena Forest
179. Crested Oropendola - Psarocolius decumanus - Common, forest - Many sightings
Trinidad Piping-Guan - Pipile pipile - No luck!
Azure Gallinule - Porphyrio flavirostris - The guides indicated this species had not been seen recently at Nariva
Eared Dove - Zenaida auriculata - I belatedly learned that the place to look for this bird is around the boat launch at Caroni
Short-tailed Nighthawk - Lurocalis semitorquatus - Seen some evenings off the veranda, just as bats appear at dusk. The upper car park at the Center, again at dusk, was also recommended as a viewing point
Gray-throated Leaftosser - Sclerurus albigularis - We saw their active, triangular shaped nest holes along the Blanchisseuse Road and Asa Wright driveway embankments, but even the MP3 player could not produce a sighting
Spiders, Lizards, Mammals
Pink-toed Tarantula - Avicularia avicularia - One on a night walk out the Asa Wright driveway
Trinidad Chevron Tarantula - Psalmopoeus cambridgei - One, extracted from the end of a hand railing on the hike to the Oilbirds
Gold Tegu - Tupinambis teguixin - This largish lizard was common around the Center
False Mapepire or Cat-eyed Night Snake - Leptodeira annulata - One on a night walk out the Asa Wright driveway
Cook´s Tree Boa - Corallus cookie - Two sightings from the boat in Caroni, fairly conspicuous curled up in branches overhanging the water
Red-tailed Squirrel - Sciurus granatensis - One on the com tower road
Red-rumped Agouti - Dasyprocta leporina - A frequent presence underneath the bird feeders below the veranda
White-lined Sac-winged Bat - Saccopteryx bilineata - This day-flying bat was an interesting and frequent sight in shaded forest
Fruit Bat sp. - Just at dawn small fruit bats were making furtive visits to the feeding trays below the veranda