5 - 15 December 1996
by Anna Kopitov
This is my first trip report/list which I have compiled. All of the accomodations were A rated (and pricey). But I must assert that staying at the Asa Wright Nature Center is the nicest treat you can give yourself. The guides are excellent birders and well mannered (esp. Sheldon Driggs). Our main guide Roodal is excellent. He can spot the birds and call them in. His 20+ years off experience are well worth the price. He was trained at Asa Wright by Richard ffrench, expert on Trin/Tob birds and author of Birds of T and T. The only part I did not enjoy - birding from van. This is new to me. And driving and stopping every 20 ft is tiresome. I would prefer to walk 5+ miles. But then we did cover great distances, especially in Trinidad, to see the great variety and number of birds.
AWNC -- the food is excellent; the schedule very haughty - tea at 6am, bfast at 730, lunch at noon, tea at 330p, rum punch at 6p, dinner at 7p. Just wonderful! We were all very spoiled at this point. The birding at the center is exceptional; the trails easy to follow.
The rain stayed with us during the entire trip. Rarely did we see blue skies for very long. The rains however were intermittent and did allow for birding. One other regret was that we had little time to do anything but bird. I would have like to have seen the smaller villages and got a taste for the culture (esp in Tobago where people are very, very friendly and down to earth).
To fly there I do recommend American Airlines as our flight on BWIA was overbooked on the return. I had to run from one side of the airport to the other to try to get onto Americans flight several times because BWIA misinformed us of American availability etc... We were told we might have to spend another evening in Port of Spain (with no birding) this was not acceptable. Fortunately, American had an empty flight plan and we (all 5) boarded, with great relief, the AA flight to Miami.
Because my trip was all inclusive I cannot offer any tips on travel and accomodations. However, Bill Murphy has an excellent web page under Peregrine Enterprises covering most of the above.
Dec. 5th. Arrived Trinidad exhausted but anxious to see birds. Of course, it is very late, dark and none to be seen from van to Asa Wright Nature Center
Dec. 6th Up at 530 am to see the famous 'veranda' at AWNC. Out the door and ferruginous pygmy owl swoops down then up out of sight. Hummingbirds everywhere but just too dark to identify. This day is very exciting there is so much action at AWNC that one knows not which way to look or at what.. It is a 'blinding' display of birds but I did manage to make the following list...
Day 1 AWNC 56 species
Tufted Coquette (female)
Barred Antshrike (female)
Tropical House Wren
Day 2 AWNC/Nariva Swamp (new species listed only)
Total species 80
45 new species for day
Little Blue Heron
Green Backed Heron
Common Black Hawk
**Scaled Dove** possibly the only recorded sighting since 1929
Common Ground Dove
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Day 3 AWNC/Blanchissuese Road Total Sp 67 New 15
Southern Beardless Tyrranulet
Day 4 AWNC/Morne Bleu
Torrential Downpour Trip to Morne Blue was bust - no birds - but lots of water - only 2 new species at AWNC after rain stopped. My boots had about 2 inches of water in them by the time we hiked back out of Morne Bleu. Courney Rooks is much more pleasant than his father (his father is a former hunter turned environmentalists; we hear he is just a bit loud on the walks)
Total 55 species (most from the veranda) New 2
Little Tinamou. This was exciting for me. We two (guide and I) just happened upon the tinamou on the Bellbird Trail just before dusk. It never saw us; we just stood there as it walked just in front of us starting from 12 feet away to within 3 feet away and back up the hill.
As it went up the hill the spadebill landed on a branch within inches and just above the tinamou. Spectacular! With that we called it quits and retreated to the veranda for rum punch.
Day 5 Aripo Savannah and Arena Park Total sp 67 New sp 12
Gray headed Kite
Ornate Hawk Eagle (Juvenile)
Day 6 Our last day at AWNC/Caroni Swamp Sanctuary
Caroni Swamp is incredible. We board our boat to ferry out to the Scarlet Ibis Roosting Island. On the way we see all manner of birds, potoos, ibis, herons, ducks, woodcreeper, and snakes, silky anteater. all the boats are required to stay a distance from the ibis and everyone follows the rules. This is impressive to see that the guides value the ecotourism and the wildlife here.
In the morning we all trekked to the Oilbird cave. This is one of the most accessible caves for oilbird viewing. The birds were numberous, noisy and easy to see. The rocks are a bit slick and the trail somewhat steep but it is easy to observe the birds here. And very thrilling to see this nocturnal bird.
Total 72 New 22
White necked Heron
Tufted Coquette Male! what a sight. I was looking at what I thought was a dry, crumpled up dead leaf at the end of a branch. Then I lifted my binocs and lo and behold it is a male tufted coquette in all his splendor just sitting there. Beautiful! So it pays off to look at all dead leaves just in case.
Day 7 Tobago/Blue Waters Inn/Buccoo Marsh
From the airport we rushed to Buccoo Marsh with Adolphus James our guide and expert birder! Again we run into Richard ffrench and his group. He is a hoot! Adolphus is an expert birder but we think he was a little perturbed to find 5 birders instead of the 4 he was expecting but all was sorted out and we had a good birding day at the Marsh. The Marsh used to be a plantation; this was wiped out during the last hurricane, completely wiped out, so they have opted for ecotourism of the marsh at the plantation. Good option I think. To be honest by now I am completely tired and can't wait to hit the beach!
Total 33 New 14
Day 8 Little Tobago/Blue Waters Inn
Today we all crossed over to Little Tobago by glass bottom boat. The fish at the reefs were as colorful as the birds. We didn't see too many new birds this morning. The rest of my party opted for a trip to St. Giles to see the Tropicbirds coming in at night. I opted for snorkeling on the reefs in order to relax! Much needed relaxation. I did two snorkels, one a drift snorkel and the other at angel reef. Almost took a resort dive course but the snorkeling is so good that I will do more tomorrow. The beach and reefs at blue waters are beautiful! Water warm, the cove clean, private and soothing! An A rating from me for Blue Waters.
Total 21 New 4
Red billed Tropicbird
Day 9 Rainforest Trail
(Again I opted for afternoon snorkeling instead of the trip to Kings Bay for birds, as did all of our group eventually.) We were very fortunate according to Adolphus to see the birds we did; most times you see some but not all rarities sometimes none of the rarities at all (ie Blue-backed Manakin and White-tailed Sabrewing).
Total 27 New 8
Yellow-legged Thrush (calling only; not seen)
Any suggestions on how to organize my trip notes would be welcomed.
Hope this wasn't too difficult a read.
Santa Cruz, CA