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23 - 30 March 1997

by Linda Lee Baker

With a group of 20 from the birdwatching club to which I belong, I departed Fort Myers, Florida on March 23.  Fortunately, we arrived in Miami International Airport early enough to be put on an earlier flight to Trinidad.  That was a stroke of luck, because our original flight never got to Trinidad until the following day.  We stayed on the island of Trinidad for the entire time.  Our itinerary was the standard Caligo Tours "Trinidad in Focus" tour.  Our guides were Jogie & Mahaze (his son) Ramlal.  For the 21 of us, we had 3 vans (the third driver was not a birding guide, just a driver).  We had brought CB radios with us, so that we could communicate between vehicles.  It was a wonderful idea.  Unfortunately, the CB's did not work reliably-we still aren't sure whether it was due to connection problems or some other cause.

Asa Wright Nature Center (AWNC) is a wonderful spot, located in a tropical rain forest on a mountainside.  Before breakfast, I had 18 life birds!!  I must qualify this report---other than Belize, I have not gone birdwatching in that part of the world previously.  Therefore, many birds were new & wonderful.  Since we arrived too late in the evening to do any birdwatching, our birding actually begins on the day following our arrival.

Day 1 was spent walking around the property of AWNC with our 2 guides in the morning.  The afternoon was filled with exploring the grounds by ourselves in small groups.  My companion & I had pre-arranged to meet Sheldon Driggs, one of the naturalists on the AWNC staff, in mid-afternoon at the White-bearded Manakin lek.  The White-bearded Manakins (bird list with scientific names follows this report) were entertaining us with their mating antics of puffing up their feathers & making a sound like small firecrackers, at which time they "popped" around like corn popping!  Fascinating!  With Sheldon, we got a good look at the female Bearded Bellbird & a cursory view of the male-our target birds for that walk.

Day 2 found us looking for birds on the road to and at Blanchisseuse, a beach area on the Caribbean coast.

Day 3 we explored a variety of habitats-hardwood forest, agricultural area (an agricultural research station on old Waller Field, a US army-air force base of WWII), and Trinidad's largest freshwater herbaceous swamp (Nariva Swamp).

Instead of a scheduled free day, 7 of us hired Jogie to take us to search for some of the forest birds that we had either missed or had only brief sightings of.  We returned to the road to Blanchisseuse for the morning.  In the afternoon, we, again, roamed the grounds of the nature center, and, once again, with the able assistance of Sheldon.

On Day 5, we journeyed to the lowland Aripo Savannah & Arena Forest, which were on a different part of Waller Field.  It was eerie to be riding in vans along the runways that had been used by our WWII bombers on their last leg of their flight to the African front & on their first leg home.  5 of us hired Jogie to take us for a night trip to look for Nightjars, Owls, etc.  It was a very successful search & we located Pauraque, White-tailed Nightjar, Common Potoo, and a Barn Owl.

Our final morning was spent on the grounds of AWNC.  About half of us hiked to see the Oilbirds that roost in Dunstan Cave (actually a grotto) on their property.  The hike was down a steep hill, over tree roots, along slippery steps.  Once we got to the area of the grotto, we then had to climb onto and over slippery boulders that led us to a narrow opening, through which we got excellent views of the birds roosting on ledges.  Even though the birds are nocturnal, they seemed undisturbed by the sun shining on them.  After our brief looks, we then had to clamber back up the steep incline & steps in 85 degree-high humidity weather.  However, it was definitely worth the effort.  I was the youngest member to make the trip; the eldest was 86 years old.  That afternoon we went to Caroni Marsh to watch the Scarlet Ibises return to roost.  Besides the Ibises, we got a great view of a Common Potoo.  For the edification of anyone going to Trinidad---they have fire ants there, which definitely sting, if one inadvertently steps on one of the ant hills!!!!  After awakening at 3:15 AM & breakfast at 4:00 AM, we departed for the airport.  While we sat on the plane, a baggage carrier bumped into the side of the plane.  We waited for about an hour for the engineer to certify the integrity of the aircraft for flight.

Impressions: BWIA is an extremely unreliable airline.  Our departure time was changed on our outbound & inbound flights.  Non-stop flights were changed to one- & two-stoppers.  Service during flight was good; food was adequate.  Asa Wright is fabulous!  Besides the lovely setting, birdwatching is superb.  The center has many feeders hanging from the overhang of the veranda and along the walk below the veranda.  There was always at least one, and usually two, naturalists on the veranda during morning coffee, afternoon tea, and evening rum punch times.  They were all very knowledgeable, helpful, and personable.  The rooms are spacious and spotless.  The staff is pleasant and willing to help.  The staff is also extremely trustworthy.  My roommate & I had left a tip without a note for the maid on our second day there.  It was still there, when we returned at day's end.  The following day, my roommate decided to place it in the middle of the floor.  The maid did not take it.  Instead, she picked it up & placed it neatly on the desk!!  Besides the birds that frequent the feeders, there are lots of other species around the property that one needs to search for.

Jogie & Mahaze were good guides.  They knew where to look for certain birds & tried very hard to produce them.  I felt that their biggest weaknesses were a problem of describing where the bird is for us to locate, and Jogie's inappropriate use of tapes and spotlight.  I understand his desire as a paid guide to locate the birds that we were interested in seeing.  However, he used the birdcall tapes to excess.  When spotlighting for birds at night, he shined the light directly into the eyes of the birds & kept it there for an unnecessarily extended period.  When questioned about the disruption of the bird's nightvision, he stated that he didn't know if it bothered it or not.  Follows is the list of the 156 birds seen by me.  The entire group of 21 people saw 170 species.  Of the 156 that I saw or heard, 110 were lifebirds.  I have marked those that were heard-only (h), as well as non-lifers (*).

If anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask me.  I will try to answer.


Little Tinamou (h) Crypturellus soui
Least Grebe Tachybaptus dominicus
Pied-billed Grebe* Podilymbus podiceps
Magnificent Frigatebird* Fregata magnificens
Anhinga* Anhinga anhinga
Neotropic Cormorant* Phalacrocorax brasilianus
Brown Pelican* Pelecanus occidentalis
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck* Dendrocygna autumnalis
Blue-winged Teal* Anas discors
Tricolored Heron* Egretta tricolor
Little Blue Heron* Egretta caerulea
Snowy Egret* Egretta thula
Cocoi Heron Ardea cocoi
Great Egret* Ardea alba
Cattle Egret* Bubulcus ibis
Striated Heron* Butorides striatus
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron* Nyctanassa violacea
Scarlet Ibis* Eudocimus ruber
Black Vulture* Coragyps atratus
Turkey Vulture* Cathartes aura
Osprey* Pandion haliaetus
Gray-headed Kite Leptodon cayanensis
Plumbeous Kite Ictinia plumbea
White Hawk* Leucopternis albicollis
Common Black-Hawk Buteogallus anthracinus
Savanna Hawk Buteogallus meridionalis
Gray-lined Hawk* Asturina nitida
Short-tailed Hawk Buteo brachyurus
Zone-tailed Hawk Buteo albonotatus
Ornate Hawk-Eagle Spizaetus ornatus
Yellow-headed Caracara Milvago chimachima
Merlin* Falco columbarius
Purple Gallinule* Porphyrio martinicus
Azure Gallinule Porphyrio flavirostris
Common Moorhen* Gallinula chloropus
Wattled Jacana Jacana jacana
Greater Yellowlegs* Tringa melanoleuca
Lesser Yellowlegs* Tringa flavipes
Solitary Sandpiper* Tringa solitaria
Willet* Catoptrophorus semipalmatus
Least Sandpiper* Calidris minutilla
Southern Lapwing Vanellus chilensis
Rock Dove* Columba livia
Eared Dove Zenaida auriculata
Ruddy Ground-Dove* Columbina talpacoti
Gray-fronted Dove Leptotila rufaxilla
Red-bellied Macaw Ara manilata
Green-rumped Parrotlet Forpus passerinus
Lilac-tailed Parrotlet Touit batavica
Blue-headed Parrot Pionus menstruus
Orange-winged Parrot Amazona amazonica
Squirrel Cuckoo* Piaya cayana
Greater Ani Crotophaga major
Smooth-billed Ani* Crotophaga ani
Striped Cuckoo Tapera naevia
Barn Owl* Tyto alba
Tropical Screech-Owl (h) Otus choliba
Spectacled Owl (h) Pulsatrix perspicillata
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl (h) Glaucidium brasilianum
Oilbird Steatornis caripensis
Common Potoo Nyctibius griseus
Pauraque Nyctidromus albicollis
White-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus cayennensis
Band-rumped Swift Chaetura spinicauda
Gray-rumped Swift Chaetura cinereiventris
Short-tailed Swift Chaetura brachyura
Fork-tailed Palm-Swift Tachornis squamata
Green Hermit Phaethornis guy
White-tailed Sabrewing Campylopterus ensipennis
White-necked Jacobin Florisuga mellivora
Green-throated Mango Anthracothorax viridigula
Black-throated Mango Anthracothorax nigricollis
Ruby-topaz Hummingbird Chrysolampis mosquitus
Tufted Coquette Lophornis ornatus
Blue-chinned Sapphire Chlorestes notatus
White-chested Emerald Amazilia chionopectus
Copper-rumped Hummingbird Amazilia tobaci
White-tailed Trogon Trogon viridis
Collared Trogon Trogon collaris
Violaceous Trogon Trogon violaceus
Blue-crowned Motmot Momotus momota
Rufous-tailed Jacamar Galbula ruficauda
Channel-billed Toucan Ramphastos vitellinus
Golden-olive Woodpecker Piculus rubiginosus
Chestnut Woodpecker Celeus elegans
Lineated Woodpecker* Dryocopus lineatus
Plain-brown Woodcreeper Dendrocincla fuliginosa
Straight-billed Woodcreeper Xiphorhynchus picus
Buff-throated Woodcreeper (h) Xiphorhynchus guttatus
Gray-throated Leaftosser Sclerurus albigularis
Streaked Xenops Xenops rutilans
Great Antshrike Taraba major
Black-crested Antshrike Sakesphorus canadensis
Barred Antshrike Thamnophilus doliatus
White-flanked Antwren Myrmotherula axillaris
White-bellied Antbird Myrmeciza longipes
Black-faced Antthrush Formicarius analis
Bearded Bellbird Procnias averano
Golden-headed Manakin Pipra erythrocephala
White-bearded Manakin Manacus manacus
Forest Elaenia Myiopagis gaimardii
Yellow-bellied Elaenia Elaenia flavogaster
Yellow-breasted Flycatcher Tolmomyias flaviventris
Olive-sided Flycatcher Contopus borealis
Tropical Pewee Contopus cinereus
Pied Water-Tyrant Fluvicola pica
White-headed Marsh-Tyrant Arundinicola leucocephala
Tropical Kingbird* Tyrannus melancholicus
Sulphury Flycatcher Tyrannopsis sulphurea
Boat-billed Flycatcher* Megarynchus pitangua
Streaked Flycatcher Myiodynastes maculatus
Piratic Flycatcher Legatus leucophaius
Great Kiskadee* Pitangus sulphuratus
Black-tailed Tityra Tityra cayana
Rufous-browed Peppershrike Cyclarhis gujanensis
Golden-fronted Greenlet Hylophilus aurantiifrons
Cocoa Thrush Turdus fumigatus
Bare-eyed Thrush Turdus nudigenis
White-necked Thrush Turdus albicollis
Tropical Mockingbird* Mimus gilvus
Rufous-breasted Wren Thryothorus rutilus
House Wren* Troglodytes aedon
Long-billed Gnatwren Ramphocaenus melanurus
White-winged Swallow Tachycineta albiventer
Gray-breasted Martin* Progne chalybea
Southern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx ruficollis
Barn Swallow* Hirundo rustica
Yellow Warbler* Dendroica petechia
Golden-crowned Warbler Basileuterus culicivorus
Red-capped Cardinal Paroaria gularis
Bananaquit* Coereba flaveola
Bicolored Conebill Conirostrum bicolor
White-shouldered Tanager Tachyphonus luctuosus
White-lined Tanager Tachyphonus rufus
Red-crowned Ant-Tanager* Habia rubica
Silver-beaked Tanager Ramphocelus carbo
Blue-gray Tanager* Thraupis episcopus
Palm Tanager Thraupis palmarum
Violaceous Euphonia Euphonia violacea
Turquoise Tanager Tangara mexicana
Bay-headed Tanager Tangara gyrola
Blue Dacnis Dacnis cayana
Green Honeycreeper Chlorophanes spiza
Purple Honeycreeper Cyanerpes caeruleus
Red-legged Honeycreeper* Cyanerpes cyaneus
Swallow-Tanager Tersina viridis
Saffron Finch Sicalis flaveola
Blue-black Grassquit Volatinia jacarina
Ruddy-breasted Seedeater Sporophila minuta
Grayish Saltator Saltator coerulescens
Crested Oropendola Psarocolius decumanus
Yellow-rumped Cacique Cacicus cela
Yellow Oriole Icterus nigrogularis
Yellow-hooded Blackbird Agelaius icterocephalus
Red-breasted Blackbird Leistes militaris
Carib Grackle Quiscalus lugubris
Shiny Cowbird* Molothrus bonariensis
Giant Cowbird Scaphidura oryzivora

Linda Lee Baker,
Bonita Springs, FL

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