Birding the Americas Trip Report and Planning Repository
Return to the Main Index

Return to the South America Index
Return to the Trinidad and Tobago Index


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

Scaled Pigeon
Ruddy Ground-Dove
Lilac-tailed Parrotlet
Orange-winged Parrot
Squirrel Cuckoo
Smooth-billed Ani
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
Rufous-breasted Hermit
Green Hermit
White-necked Jacobin
Tufted Coquette (female)
Blue-chinned Sapphire
Copper-rumped Hummingbird
Long-billed Starthroat
Violaceous Trogon
Collared Trogon
Blue-crowned Mot-Mot
Channel-billed Toucan
Chesnut Woodpecker
Lineated Woodpecker
Streaked Xenops
Great Antshrike
Barred Antshrike (female)
Forest Elaenia
Yellow-bellied Elaenia
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher
Yellow-breasted Flycatcher
Tropical Pewee
Great Kiskadee
Boat-billed Flycatcher
Streaked Flycatcher
Bearded Bellbird
White-bearded Manakin
Golden-headed Manakin
Tropical House Wren
Long-billed Gnat-Wren
Cocoa Thrush
Bare-eyed Trush
Golden-fronted Greenlet
Rufous-browed Peppershrike
Tropical Parula
Turquoise Tanager
Bay-headed Tanager
Blue Dacnis
Green Honeycreeper
Purple Honeycreeper
Violaceous Euphonia
Blue-gray Tanager
Palm Tanager
Silver-beaked Tanager
White-shouldered Tanager
White-lined Tanager
Red-crowned Ant-Tanager
Yellow Oriole
Crested Oropendola

Day 2  AWNC/Nariva Swamp (new species listed only)

Total species 80
45 new species for day

Snowy Egret
Magnificent Frigatebird
Pinnated Bittern
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Cattle Egret
Green Backed Heron
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Pearl Kite
Common Black Hawk
Savanna Hawk
Zone-tailed Hawk
Peregrine Falcon
Purple Gallinule
Azure Gallinule
Southern Lapwing
Wattled Jacana
Solitary Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Rock Dove
**Scaled Dove** possibly the only recorded sighting since 1929
Common Ground Dove
Red-bellied Macaw
Greater Ani
Rufous-tailed Jacamar
Southern Lapwing
Red-rumped Woodpecker
Yellow-throated Spinetail
Black-crested Ant-Shrike
Black-faced Ant-Thrush
Pied Water-Tyrant
White-headed Marsh-Tyrant
Tropical Kingbird
White-winged Swallow
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Tropical Mockingbird
Yellow Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler
Golden-crowned Warbler
Grayish Saltator
Blue-black Grassquit
Ruddy-breasted Seed-eater
Red-breasted Blackbird
Giant Cowbird

Day 3 AWNC/Blanchissuese Road   Total Sp 67  New 15

White Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Bat Falcon
White-chested Emerald
White-tailed Trogon
Stripe-breasted Spinetail
Buff-throated Woodcreeper
Silvered Antbird
Southern Beardless Tyrranulet
Euler's Flycatcher
Black-tailed Tityra
Northern Waterthrush
Speckled Tanager
Sooty Grassquit

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.

White-throated Spadebill

Day 5 Aripo Savannah and Arena Park   Total sp 67 New sp 12

Gray headed Kite
Ornate Hawk Eagle (Juvenile)
Gray-fronted Dove
Green-rumped Parrot
Striped Cuckoo
Barn Owl
Short-tailed Swift
Fork-tailed Palm-Swift
Gray-throated Leaftosser
Plain-brown Woodcreeper
White-bellied Ant-bird
Masked Yellowthroat

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

Least Grebe
White necked Heron
Boat-billed Heron
Scarlet Ibis
Fulvous Whistling-Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Gray Hawk
Yellow-headed Caracara
Common Moorhen
Spotted Sandpiper
Upland Sandpiper
Mottled Owl
Common Potoo
Straight-billed Woodcreeper
Plain Antvireo
Gray Kingbird
Yellow-hooded Blackbird
White-necked Thrush
Bicolored Conebill
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

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
White-cheeked Pintail
Lesser Scaup
Rufous-vented Chachalaca
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Ruddy Turnstone
Red-crowned Woodpecker
Golden-olive Woodpecker
White-fringed Ant-wren
Black-faced Grassquit
Carib Grackle
White-tipped Dove

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
Brown Booby
Red-footed Booby
Chivi Vireo

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

Brown Pelican
White-tailed Sabrewing
Fuscous Flycatcher
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Blue-backed Manakin
Rufous-breasted Wren
Yellow-legged Thrush (calling only; not seen)
Red-legged Honeycreeper

Any suggestions on how to organize my trip notes would be welcomed.

Hope this wasn't too difficult a read.

Anna Kopitov
Santa Cruz, CA

Birding Top 500 Counter