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30 December  2002 - 9 January 2003

by Susannah Morris


12/31 Asa Wright trails
01/01 Aripo/ Arena with Dave and Oilbirds
01/02 Blanchisseuse and night birding with Ramdas
01/03 Flight to Tobago
01/04 Tobago
01/05 Tobago: Speyside and Little Tobago
01/06 Tobago: Speyside
01/07 Back to Trinidad: Pax Guesthouse
01/08 All day birding with Dave: sewage ponds, rice fields, Waterloo Temple, and Caroni Swamp


Ffrench, Birds of Trinidad and Tobago
Hilty, Birds of Venezuela
Rough Guide to Trinidad and Tobago


This trip was a combination delayed honeymoon/ birding trip.  Since my husband isn’t into birding, we compromised and spend most of the time in Tobago on the beach.  Since we were with guides most of the time in Trinidad, we did not rent a car there; however, we did rent one on Tobago since we were more independent there.  The guides were excellent and I highly recommend both Ramdas and Dave.  Their prices are very reasonable and they are excellent birders; hopefully they will have a website up soon so that travelers can pre-arrange trips directly through them.  We stayed at Asa Wright for four nights and enjoyed the birding on the grounds, meeting other birders whom we inevitably encountered in other places, and seeing the oilbirds. We were in room #2, in the main house, and it was very difficult to sleep due to the noise in the corridors, so if you’re a light sleeper ask for a room outside the house.  Since it is so expensive, though, I would recommend to other birders on a budget to stay the three nights minimum to see the oilbirds and then move on to an inexpensive B&B or Pax, and continue to have Dave and Ramdas as guides.  Pax is much more reasonable and the personal attention from Oda and Gerard really makes it unique.  

As far as books, I had bought the Adventure Guide to Trinidad and Tobago to begin with, but the Rough Guide has far more information and seems more current.  


169 bird species


Unidentified snake
Southern Tegu
Other lizards

Red-tailed squirrel

Daily Journal

(somewhat disjointed because I am summarizing what I wrote)

31 Dec.

Woke up at Asa Wright and made for the feeders.  The birds that were to become the “usual” absolutely floored me.  Green and purple honeycreepers were everywhere.  But here’s the list:

Ruddy ground-dove
Purple honeycreeper
Tropical mockingbird
Chestnut woodpecker
Grayish saltator
White-necked Jacobin
Copper-rumped hummingbird
Bare-eyed thrush
Great kiskadee
Violaceous euphonia
Palm tanager
Blue-gray tanager
Silver-beaked tanager
Great antshrike
Rufous-breasted wren
Rufous-breasted hermit

Asa Wright offers an introductory tour with one of their guides, so we walked the trails at 8 am with a lovely guide and saw BARRED ANTSHRIKE, COCOA THRUSH, TROPICAL PEWEE, WHITE-BEARDED MANAKIN (lekking), CRESTED OROPENDOLA, VIOLACEOUS TROGON, GRAY-FRONTED DOVE, NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH, and YELLOW ORIOLE.  The most exciting sighting was BEARDED BELLBIRD male, who sat obligingly in a very good spot for about 5 minutes, calling frequently and making his wattles jiggle.  We also saw the nest of the ORNATE HAWK-EAGLE, where other birders saw the juvenile roosting but we never managed.  Also along the trail saw ORANGE-WINGED PARROTS in an Immortelle tree and a TUFTED COQUETTE male.  
In the afternoon, we hiked up the driveway to Clear Pool.  Along the way, saw LITTLE HERMIT just by the house.  It was pouring down rain for a while.  We hiked the Bamboo Valley Trail, which was steep and slippery after the rain, but very productive.  Saw one snake about 18 inches long, which will have to be identified from the photos.  When the rain stopped, we were going downhill into a valley and at eye level with the treetops, where we saw BAY-HEADED TANAGER, BLUE-HEADED PARROTS feeding quietly in a tall tree, and BOAT-BILLED FLYCATCHER.  Near the main house we ran into a little group of basking Southern Tegu, which are large tiger-striped lizards.  
In the afternoon at the feeders, added a few new birds:
Ochre-bellied flycatcher
White-chested emerald
Shiny cowbird
Golden-olive woodpecker
Turquoise tanager
Band-rumped swift
Green hermit

Walking down Discovery Trail, found one very agitated LONG-BILLED GNATWREN.

1 January: Aripo/ Arena Forest with Dave

Loud party last night up the road!  Didn’t get much sleep.
Departed at 6:30 am, stopped along the winding road:
White-necked thrush
Long-billed gnatwren
Cocoa creeper
Barred antshrike
Ochre-bellied flycatcher
Golden-headed manakin
Rufous-breasted wren
Cocoa thrush
American redstart
Bay-headed tanager
Trinidad euphonia
Broad-winged hawk

Near Verdant Vale:
Blue-black grassquit
Sooty grassquit
Rufous jacamar
Pale-breasted spinetail
Grayish saltator

More along the road:

Pied water-tyrant
Southern lapwing
Spotted sandpiper
Wattled jacana
Green-backed heron
Black vulture
Savanna hawk
Yellow-headed caracara
Rock dove
Pale-vented pigeon
Common ground-dove
Ruddy ground-dove
Striped cuckoo
Smooth-billed ani
Southern beardless-tyrannulet
Yellow-bellied elaenia
Tropical kingbird
Gray-breasted martin
White-winged swallow
Southern rough-winged swallow
Rufous-browed peppershrike
Yellow warbler
Masked yellowthroat
Red-breasted blackbird
Yellow-hooded blackbird
Carib grackle
Shiny cowbird

Aripo Savannah and WWII airfield:

Great egret
White-necked heron
Peregrine falcon
Short-tailed swift
Fork-tailed palm swift
Ruby topaz
White-headed marsh-tyrant
Moriche oriole
Yellow-rumped cacique

Arena forest:

White-bellied antbird
Golden-headed manakin
Red-crowned ant-tanager

And one gray hawk near Asa Wright.

Went on the oilbird walk, where we saw a few adults and two juveniles.  Surprisingly large birds.  Also saw some tent-making bats safely hanging under a big leaf.  Got a great photo.

2 January: Blanchisseuse with Ramdas

At Asa Wright, from the verandah, a large flock of LILAC-TAILED PARROTLETS came in and stayed for a while.  Also a SQUIRREL CUCKOO.

We were actually in a car with Jerry, following Ramdas who had a family of four on the tour.  This tour goes along the road to Blanchisseuse, on the northern coast.  You have the option of going all the way to the coast for a dip, but we opted out.  
Only listing new birds now because this report is way too long!

Common black-hawk
Turkey vulture
Short-tailed hawk
Ornate hawk-eagle
Little hermit
Collared trogon—5 males, very close looks.  
Channel-billed toucan
Golden-olive woodpecker
Plain-brown woodcreeper
Great antshrike
Black-faced antthrush
Olive-sided flycatcher
Dusky-capped flycatcher
Golden-fronted greenlet
Tropical parula
Golden-crowned warbler
Speckled tanager
Blue dacnis
White-shouldered tanager
Slaty-capped flycatcher

Night birding with Ramdas and Dave, who had two crazy Brits in tow:
On the way to the airfield:

Pearl kite
Lineated woodpecker
Gray hawk

At the airfield:
Fork-tailed palm swift
Red-bellied macaw
Yellow-headed caracara
Sulphury flycatcher
Barn owl
Tropical screech owl
Common pauraque
White-tailed nightjar
Common potoo

3 January

Ramdas took us to the airport.  I got “doubles” at the cart just outside the airport—they’re eggy pancakes with potato and chickpea curry inside, and they’re delicious.  

Got to Tobago and went to the beach.  Another street food recommendation: potato and channa roti at Miss Esme’s on the beach.  Mmmmm.  Staying at Kariwak Village in Tobago, which turns out to be a haven for British couples with young children.  

4 January:

Morning on the beach at Canoe Bay, which is fairly secluded.

Brown pelican
Magnificent frigatebird
Black-faced grassquit

In the afternoon, we visited Grafton Bird Sanctuary at feeding time (4 pm):

Bananaquits by the dozen
Rufous-vented chachalacas
Blue-crowned motmots—5 eating on the table inside the pavilion
Red-crowned woodpecker drinking from hummingbird feeder

I also saw a Venezuelan flycatcher along the trail.

Dinner at Under the Mango Tree in Black Rock.  EARED DOVE on the lawn.

5 January:

Drove from Crown Point to Speyside, where we stay at Speyside Inn. We stopped in Scarborough to go to the market, but very few stalls were open because it was Sunday.  

Got on the 2 pm boat to Little Tobago.  Frank’s glass-bottom boats do two tours, 10am and 2pm, from Blue Waters Inn.  The tour includes hiking on Little Tobago and snorkeling just off Goat Island.  It costs US $ 17 per person.  

At Little Tobago, the highlight is the breeding colony of RED-BILLED TROPICBIRDS, which are present in the hundreds.  Just gorgeous.  The guide walked us down to peek into three nests; I felt that this was unethical, but the birds seemed fairly undisturbed.  Could also see BROWN BOOBIES flying lower, near the water.  

Snorkeling was fabulous, and I wish I were better at identifying fish.  We definitely saw parrotfish, hogfish, and bluefish.
I was very seasick on this boat despite taking Bonine.  If you are prone to seasickness, do NOT look through the glass bottom at all.  

6 January:

Lazy day.  

7 January:

Arrived at Pax and stared at the feeders.

8 January:

On the balcony in the morning:

Black-throated mango
White-chested emerald
Palm tanager
White-lined tanager
Blue-gray tanager
Grayish saltator

Oda had said that they often see white hawk in the morning, but I had no luck.  

David picked us up at 8:30.
Sewage ponds:

Numerous caimans!
Pied water-tyrant
Wattled jacana
Yellow-hooded blackbirds
White-winged swallow
Gray hawk
Common moorhen
Blue-gray tanager
Least grebe
Little blue heron
Green-backed heron
Short-tailed swift

Rice fields:

Pinnated bittern
Snail kite
Long-winged harrier
Masked duck (1 female)
Osprey (6+)
Southern lapwing
Yellow-throated spinetail

Waterloo Temple:

Witnessed a Hindu cremation, which was interesting.  The temple is quite beautiful; although it is closed on weekdays you can see inside through the large stained glass windows.  

Olivaceous cormorant
Royal tern
Black-crowned night-heron
Peregrine falcon
Southern lapwing
Black-bellied plover
Semipalmated plover
Lesser yellowlegs
Ruddy turnstone
Least sandpiper
Laughing gull
Great kiskadee

Caroni Swamp:

Of course the highlight was watching about 1,500 scarlet ibis come in to roost on a small island in the swamp.  No picture can do them justice—seeing those birds in the sunlight is just awesome.  Looked for red-capped cardinal along the way with no luck.

Tricolored heron
Black-crested antshrike
Bicolored conebill
Blue-winged teal
Green-throated mango
Gray kingbird

Susannah Morris

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