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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Trinidad and Tobago, January 27-February 3, 2011,
On this short trip we spent three nights at the famous Asa Wright Nature Center, one night in Grand Riviere which is the best site for Trinidad Piping-guan, and three nights at Blue Waters Inn in Tobago. We had approximately 30 target birds for the trip. By good fortune we had previously met Martyn Kenefick, the author of the newest field guide to Trinidad, and he kindly gave us advice on best places to see our birds. We ended up with a modest bird list of 145, well below the typical total cited. This is due to several reasons: because we had specific birds we wanted to see, we did not stop to see all of the others; rainy weather wiped out a morning and afternoon and part of another morning, and also precluded some stops at rice fields normally visited prior to the Scarlet Ibis tour; our only lowland grassland stop was a brief one at Aripo Agricultural Station; and we did not visit any lowland forest or wetlands. We did end up seeing 25 of our 30 main target birds, including the endemic Trinidad Piping-guan, so the trip was certainly successful.
No visas are required for US citizens to visit Trinidad. Trinidad has a US-style area code of 868, making for easy calling (Skype worked perfectly). English is the official language, although among themselves the Trinidadians speak a local creole dialect as well. The currency is the Trinidad dollar, notated as $ just as the US dollar. To avoid confusion, USD amounts are use in this report even when TT dollars were actually paid. We were warned when checking prices or using credit cards to be sure that the receipts show “TT dollars” as the currency – this will be noted on the bottom of the credit card slip. The exchange rate is 6 TT dollars per 1 US dollar so an unscrupulous merchant could charge 6 times the price you expect to pay if he bills in US dollars and you think it is in TT dollars. There seemed to be cash machines in major towns but we did not try any. The hotels where we stayed all accepted the standard credit cards. We converted some money at the airport and were able to charge nearly everything except for payment to guides and items from small shops. Tours arranged through Asa Wright could be conveniently paid as part of the bill during checkout. We made all of our own arrangements but everyone else we met was on packaged tours. Even with unexpectedly poor weather we saw just about all we wanted in seven days, and those on 10 or 12 day tours told us they felt their trips were a little longer than necessary.
We rented a car on Tobago. While not absolutely necessary, it proved very convenient as we were then able to drive to nearby Speyside for dinner, and do some independent birding and sightseeing. On balance it probably did not cost any more to rent a car than to get transportation to and from the airport to the Blue Waters Inn.
Most of the packaged tours do not make the long trip out to Grand Riviere, but we think it should be a definite stop. Although the Piping-guan is seen on occasion at Morne Bleu near Asa Wright, it is much more likely at Grand Riviere. To us it makes sense to maximize the opportunity to see the only endemic. Also, there are also a few other birds more easily seen there than at other locations. And a visit there from March through August affords a chance to see the sea turtles coming ashore to lay eggs.
We brought along our own scope. It was very useful on the veranda of Asa Wright and at Aripo. The guides do not appear to have scopes and have, at best, a spotting scope. We also had a small iPod player loaded with calls of our target birds. At Asa Wright, I understand that some of the guides use tape but ours simply tried to whistle in birds. Without the iPod we definitely would not have seen White-bellied Antbird at Grand Riviere where our guide did not have a tape. On Tobago, Newton George used his tapes judiciously but effectively.
There are a few things we would do differently. The dry season is supposed to start on January 1, and last year it was very dry. But this year it rained almost every day in January, and the daily rain certainly adversely affected our birding. A trip in March or April would be solidly in dry season, and would also afford the opportunity to see the turtle-laying at Grand Riviere. Some of the migrants will have left for North America by then but for most North Americans that should not be a major issue. Also I would try to arrange some of the tours based from Asa Wright before arriving. We had two full days and a morning at Asa Wright, but because they set up one tour on our first morning and a second on the following afternoon, we did not have a full day available for another tour we wanted (on Blanchisseuse Road). It is possible we could have avoided this by setting the tours up ahead of time. On Tobago, I would stay close to the airport on the night before flying back because it is between 1.5 and 2.0 hours’ drive from Blue Waters to the airport; that meant we had to leave the hotel at 3AM to catch our early morning departure. Fuel supply was an issue on Tobago; the station closest to Blue Waters Inn had none. There are only about 10 stations on the entire island, and most are small, but the one closest to the airport is large and open 24 hours.
The Asa Wright Lodge gets a lot of favorable publicity, and justifiably so. Excellent birding can be had right from its veranda, there are manakin leks and a bellbird roost, and it has the only accessible Oilbird site on its premises. But the main reason for staying there is because the only way to get a trip to see the Oilbirds is to stay there for a minimum of three nights. If that is not an absolute necessity, it is possible to enjoy the other facilities at Asa Wright through a day pass. Staying at Asa Wright is very expensive – over US 400 per night for two. Other than the Oilbirds, the other tours are all away from Asa Wright, for example along the Blanchisseuse Road, at the Caroni and Nariva Swamps, and at the various lowlands forests and grassland sites. We met several others who stayed at Asa Wright for the minimum three nights to do the Oilbird cave but spent other nights elsewhere, and they felt that other places were fine alternatives at lower cost. Because we have not experienced any of those options personally, we do not want to make any recommendations. However, if seeing the Oilbirds is not an absolute priority, an alternative to consider is to work with a local guide to set up lodging other than at Asa Wright, and make a day trip there to enjoy the feeders, flowers, manakin leks and bellbird roost. The other tours can be set up regardless of the lodging location. Another advantage the others mentioned to us is that they had the same guide for several days when they stayed at another lodge. That allowed for continuity – for example, their guide knew what had already been seen. By contrast, we had a different guide for each of our tours and had to tell each of them what we wanted to see.
For more details refer to the Lodging and other Information section.
Note: only a few birds are noted for each location. A more complete list can be found in the Birding Sites section and a full list is at the end of the report.
Day 1, January 27. Our flight from Orlando went via Miami and onwards via Caribbean Airlines to Trinidad. Caribbean Airlines has a very nice web site that makes it easy to select flights. It is a relatively new airline, started up in 2005; its planes were clean and the staff was pleasant. We were picked up efficiently at the airport upon arrival and transferred to Asa Wright. We arrived there at 8PM and learned that the front desk closes at 5PM. They had left our room key for us, but no indication of what our plans would be for the following day. Also, no one to help with luggage.
Day 2, January 28. Breakfast starts at 7:30 and during breakfast I went to the front desk to find out what our plans might be. We were scheduled for an 8:30 orientation walk on Discovery Trail, which is the standard activity on the first morning for guests. We also told the staff we were interested in a trip to Caroni Swamp (Scarlet Ibis roost), a walk along Blanchisseuse Road, and on our final day we needed a transfer to Grand Riviere via Aripo Agricultural Station. The Discovery Trail is not long but passes by the Golden-headed and White-bearded Manakin leks, and also has a site where Bearded Bellbird is usually seen. We saw all of these quite well, but nothing else we had not already seen from the veranda of the lodge. We had several questions about where other of our target birds might be found, but our guide seemed to be new and basically only knew the script for the Discovery Trail.
Soon after we returned from our walk on the Discovery Trail, light rain began and continued on and off the rest of the afternoon. Unfortunately, at lunchtime we learned our walk to the Oilbird cave was not scheduled until the next afternoon, which meant we did not have any full day available for the Blanchisseuse Road trip. We had lunch at noon, spent some time during heavier rain watching birds from the veranda, and ventured along the driveway between Blanchisseuse Road and the lodge checking out spots for Gray-throated Leaftosser and Stripe-throated Spinetail, which we planned to try for in earnest the next morning. We again explained that we needed a ride to Grand Riviere, preceded by an early morning trip to Morne Bleu to try for Speckled Tanager. Near dusk we joined some other guests and waited for Lilac-tailed Parrotlets, which often roost in some trees close to the lodge. However, they did not appear this day, possibly due to poor weather (wind and light rain).
Day 3, January 29. At 6AM we went to the lodge and met a guide named Molly, who we had spoken to the previous day about where the best places might be for the leaftosser and spinetail. On this day she had arrived early to fill the feeders, and kindly offered to walk along the driveway with us to show us some likely places. Once she did, she returned to the lodge and we covered the area and played tape. But we had no responses, again possibly to light drizzle, and then heavy rain began which forced us back to the lodge. After breakfast, several guests made the trip to the Oilbird cave in heavy rain; we opted out as we had seen Oilbirds previously. Those who went to see the Oilbirds reported that they did see a few Oilbirds, but the rain may have pushed them further into the cave than normal. Plus, it was darker than normal due to overcast skies, and the rains had swelled a river that limited access. And, they got drenched – on balance, we were happy we stayed back at the lodge. Just before lunch, we went to ask about our trip to Morne Blue and onwards to Grand Riviere. But now there was a new person at the front desk and she had no idea what we were talking about. So we explained it all again, and she said she’d make arrangements. After lunch we left, in light rain, on a tour with four others to the Scarlet Ibis roost. Along the way we made one or two stops when rain allowed, but did not make all of the typical stops.
Access to the roost is via a boat. There are two operators, and we were advised to ask specifically for Shawn Madoo’s boat. This was an excellent recommendation. The other boat operator had at least 40 passengers on board, while we had six of us from the lodge plus five others. I cannot comment on the other operator but Shawn Madoo definitely knew his birds. Also, Shawn’s boat appeared to be a bit narrower and better able to go into some of the mangrove coves. During one of these side trips we had nice views of Black-crested Antbird, Common Potoo, a canopy view of Bicolored Conebill, and the briefest of flybys of American Dwarf Kingfisher. Unfortunately, heavy rain kept us under a tarp for long stretches of the trip, certainly limiting our sightings. One life bird we may have seen was Green-throated Mango, but we only had a silhouette view in fading light, not good enough for us to be confident of its identification. When we arrived at the roost site, the rain had slowed to a drizzle – a nice bit of luck. Along with the other boat, we stopped about 250 meters from the roost site. We did see quite a few Scarlet Ibis come in, but not the spectacular numbers others have reported. I’d estimate about 100 or so, still quite a sight. About ten minutes after we arrived, a small fishing boat motored right up to the roost, flushing all of the birds, even though access is supposed to be limited. Shawn said this is all too common and may be one reason why the Ibis are not as concentrated at this particular location as in the past.
Upon return to the lodge, we had a message that our trip the next morning was all set up for a 6AM departure.
Day 4, January 30. We were awakened by a call at 5:20AM from our guide, Ramdass, who apparently had been told we wanted to leave at 5:30 – when it was pitch dark. We said the correct time was 6AM but we did manage to get up to the driveway before then. He told us he had told the staff at the lodge that 5:30 was too early but was told we insisted on that time! We headed off to Morne Bleu, the location of a large radio tower located several hundred meters higher than Asa Wright. This was cited as one of the more reliable spots for Speckled Tanager, which is not found as low as Asa Wright. But it was drizzling (again) and was very windy atop Morne Bleu. After a short time we decided to try for the tanager along Blanchisseuse Road where the wind was much less and the rain eventually stopped. We made multiple stops without success, along with a few repeat visits up to Morne Bleu. New birds we saw along the road that we had not already seen around Asa Wright included Rufous-breasted Wren, Golden-fronted Greenlet and Bay-headed Tanager. We returned to Asa Wright for lunch and a bit more birding around the lodge and then drove about an hour down to the Aripo Agricultural Station. Here we eventually had scope views of two Ruddy-breasted Seedeaters. Sadly, we also met a man on the grounds of the station who was trapping birds, and who already had a Ruddy-breasted Seedeater in his cage to attract more. Of course this was not allowed but was being done without any interference by the center’s security staff. By the time anyone reads this report, I expect that the seedeaters at the station will have been caught for the caged bird trade. Across the road from the station we had been told of a Pearl Kite nest, located it, and had excellent scope views of an adult kite and two chicks.
We then continued another two hours to the northeastern coastal town of Grand Riviere. The town is known as being one of the best locations for sighting Trinidad’s only endemic bird, the Trinidad Piping-guan (or Tawi, the local name) as well as a prime sea turtle nesting site from Match through August. We stayed at the comfortable Le Grande Almandier hotel, where we also enjoyed dinner and the sound of the surf.
Day 5, January 31. At 6:30 our guide, Nicholas, met us and we started the walk uphill to an overlook on the crest of the road to Monte Video for the Piping-guan. It is possible to drive to the overlook as well, but we had a few other birds to look for so we tried for these on the way up and back. After a short time Nicholas spotted a single Trinidad Piping-guan posing perfectly atop a tree about 100 meters away. We had great scope views for about a minute before it flew down into the valley. Nicholas said he has seen up to 14 guans in a morning, but we saw only this one before continuing down the road another kilometer or so, and then retracing our path with a side trail through the forest. Along the way we picked up White-bellied Antbird, Bat Falcon, and Ferruginous Pygmy-owl.
We were back to the hotel by 10AM and at 11AM we left on the two-hour drive to the airport. We were able to catch an earlier flight and arrived in Tobago at 4PM. We picked up our rental car and drove out to Speyside and the Blue waters Inn, which took about two hours on very winding roads and with very aggressive drivers. We were lucky we arrived on an early flight because making the drive out there at dusk would have been even more nerve-wracking. We had a smooth check-in at the hotel. Newton George had e-mailed us he would be at the hotel (it is near his home) before dinner, and when he did we discussed the next day’s plans.
Day 6, February 1. At 6:30AM Newton picked a total of six of us up in his van and we drove to Gilpin Trace, making several stops en route. We were looking primarily for the birds seen on Tobago but not on Trinidad. This took all morning (for details see “Gilpin Trace” in the Birding Sites and Guides section). In the afternoon we stayed around the hotel, and did a bit of snorkeling.
Day 7, February 2. The one target bird we had not yet seen that was possible on Tobago was Grey-throated Leaftosser. Newton told us it was possible at Mrs Mills Trace near Englishman’s Bay, but only early. We made a 5:30 AM departure but made a few wrong turns in the dark and, once we got there, did not go as far along the road as we should have and basically arrived at the right place too late. Consequently we struck out, but had a nice scenic drive back to the hotel. We again spent the afternoon at the hotel, taking a glass-bottom boat trip to Little Tobago.
Day 8, February 3. Our flight was at 6:40AM, and the Caribbean Airlines website recommended arriving 2 hours early and no less than 45 minutes early. The hotel was a long way from the hotel, we would be driving in the dark, and we needed to get gas to refill the car and then drop it off, so we left at 3 AM! Leaving so early meant almost no traffic, and being able to see oncoming traffic from headlights, so it was actually not a bad drive to the airport. We did all our chores, and arrived at the airport at 4:45 AM – and there was absolutely no one else there! Around 5 AM a few employees wandered in, and finally at 5:30 they opened a check-in counter – and we were still the only ones there! So much for the required early check-in. No problems with the flight to Trinidad and onward to Miami and Orlando.
Birding Sites and Guides.
Asa Wright Nature Center. The veranda of the nature center has several hummingbird feeders, but not too many birds came to them. Most of the activity was around the various flowering plants just below the veranda, and on platform feeders stocked with fruit. The guides told us that there was reduced activity around the veranda because the birds were finding ample fruit and flowers in the forest due to the wetter-than-normal weather. Over the course of two mornings and one afternoon, we enjoyed excellent views of male and female Tufted Coquettes, a few Blue-chinned Sapphires, Rufous-breasted Hermits, and White-necked Jacobins, and singles of White-bellied Emerald, Copper-rumped Hummingbird, and Long-billed Starthroat. Much more common were male and female Green and Purple Honeycreepers plus a single Red-legged Honeycreeper, Barred Antshrikes, Cocoa and Spectacled (Pale-eyed) Thrushes, Bananaquits, Yellow Oriole, Blue-crowned Motmot, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Crested Oropendola, and Palm, Silver-beaked, White-lined, Blue-gray Tanagers and a single White-shouldered Tanager. Others reported they had seen a range of raptors and flycatchers. There was a scope on the veranda but I do not know if it belongs to the lodge.
The Discovery Trail starts at the base of the veranda and along the path are leks of Golden-headed and White-bearded Manakins. Further down is an area where Bearded Bellbirds are often seen (and is signposted as such). Others seen along the trail were House and Rufous-breasted Wren, Violaceous Euphonia, Lineated Woodpecker, and Golden-fronted Greenlet.
The driveway (actually, road) leading from the gate at Blanchicheusse Road to the center is often cited as being good forest birding, but it was raining every time we ventured on it. The few birds we saw there but not near the nature center included a very wet Common Black-hawk, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, White-flanked Antwren, and Northern Waterthrush.
There is a large tree that extends right over the lodge itself, and Lilac-tailed Parrotlets frequently come in to roost in it at dusk. They did not show up during our stay due to weather.
Blanchisseuse (we were told it is pronounced Blon – cheese – suze) Road is the road that leads from the town of Arima, up and over the Northern Range, past the Asa Wright Nature Center, and on to the seaside town of Blanchisseuse. Most of the tours along the road are all-day affairs as it covers a wide range of habitats and altitudes. We only spent a morning on it, adding Bay-headed Tanager, American Redstart, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, White-necked Thrush, Yellow-Olive Flycatcher, and Cocoa Woodcreeper.
Morne Bleu is the mountaintop site of a transmission tower, located about 15 minutes from the Asa Wright Center. It is usually reliable for Speckled Tanager but strong wind and occasional rain limited all bird activity up there during our visits.
Caroni Swamp is the site of the Scarlet Ibis roost. The tour from Asa Wright starts in the early afternoon and normally makes two or three stops before arriving at the boat launch. There is a visitor center just beyond the boat launch with nice rest rooms. There are two tour operators. We used Shawn Madoo, who on this day had only 11 of us on his boat as compared to the other operator who had 40+. Shawn is also a knowledgeable birder. We were in and out of heavy rain during our trip, but managed to see Black-crested Antbird, Bicolored Conebill, and American Dwarf Kingfisher before reaching the ibis roost. Some Scarlet Ibis were seen even around the visitor center, but the main concentrations came into a few islands.
Aripo Agricultural Station is a lowland, grassland site. It is officially closed on weekends so best to go there on weekdays when access is easy. On weekends, when we went, it required a bit of negotiation to gain admittance. A few of the new birds seen there were two male Ruddy-breasted Seedeaters, Carib Grackle, Grassland Yellow-finch, and Red-breasted Blackbird. Just across the main road from the agricultural center was a Pearl Kite nest.
Grand Riviere is a small town on the north coast. It is not so convenient to reach as there is only one road in and out. It is about three hours from Asa Wright with a stop or two. In the center of the small town there is an intersection with a road heading uphill (south) in to the foothills, posted “to Monte Video). About one kilometer up this road is an obvious crest, and this is the location for looking for the Trinidad Piping-guan. There is even a purpose-build, covered blind that was not open when we were there. It offers a better view, but we saw the bird just fine from the road and our guide said that was typical. It is possible to drive to the crest, but we walked since we did birding along the way as well. To maximize chances for the guan, it is best to arrive at the crest just after dawn. On our way up, we saw a few Short-tailed Nighthawks. Farther along this road is a cultivated area, where we saw Bat Falcon and Ferruginous Pygmy-owl. On our walk back, we made a diversion on a trail through forest where we saw White-bellied Antbird and, closer to town, Trinidad Euphonia.
Gilpin Trace, on Tobago, is a well-signposted forest trail located mid-way along the Roxborough-Parlatuvier Road between the 8 and 8.5 km markers. It can be very muddy, and an entrepreneurial soul was renting mud boots at the start of the trail – which proved to be a wise investment. Finding birds required patience and keen eyes and ears, all ably supplied by our guide Newton George. With his help we located White-tailed Sabrewing, several male Blue-backed Manakins at a lek, White-fringed Antwren, Fuscous Flycatcher, and Stripe-breasted Spinetail. On our way up to Gilpin Trace we had several White-tailed Nightjars, Ruby-Topaz Hummingbirds, Cocoa Woodcreepers, Rufous-tailed Jacamars and, eventually, a confiding Venezuelan Flycatcher. Leaving Gilpin Trace we saw a few pairs of Scrub Greenlets and a very unexpected Scaly-naped Pigeon, perhaps only the third record for Tobago. About 2 km beyond Gilpin Trace on the main road, on the right past the radio towers, is a nature center of some type with restrooms.
Mrs. Mills Trace, off Northside Road near Englishman’s Bay, is recommended as a good site for Gray-throated Leaftosser. However, we made a few wrong turns en route, and arrived too late (this bird likes early mornings). The location is several km up the narrow dirt road, past a main fork in the road at which you bear left, and over a bridge after which there is a steep hill with two nice homes on either side. This is all secondary scrub forest or agricultural land. Follow this road further until reaching forest and from then on is the territory. I estimate it would take 30 minutes from the turn off Northside Road and would not be passable in muddy weather without a 4WD. Among others, there were several White-tipped Doves in this area.
Guides: At Asa Wright, guides are simply assigned to you unless prior arrangements have been made. Ramesh seemed to have a good reputation, and Molly was helpful. Others did not seem to be quite as knowledgeable. Ramdass was our guide for the day we went to Morne Bleu, down to Aripo and over to Grand Riviere and was quite competent. In Grand Riviere, our hotel arranged for Nicholas to lead us and he knew all the birds and locations. He had a spotting scope for the guan, but no sound equipment so we were lucky we had a small tape player or seeing the White-bellied Antbird would have been impossible. His fee was US 34 per person. On Tobago, Newton George was incomparable. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. There were six of us, he knew what we wanted to see, and made sure we all did. His cost was US 60 per person and he provides his own van. Martyn Kenefick, the lead author of the latest bird book, lives on Trinidad but is not currently leading tours there. However, he advised he is happy to help with any birding info on T&T, i.e. sites to visit; likelihood of species being seen, etc. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
Lodging and Other Information.
For US residents, reservations at Asa Wright are all made through Caligo Tours (www.caligo.com) . The lodge serves buffet-style meals and the food was overall quite good and plentiful. Although breakfast officially is at 7:30 AM to 8:30 AM, an early or takeaway breakfast can be arranged. Pack lunches are also available. The rooms are basic but adequate and clean. Tours are arranged through the front desk and can be billed tough the hotel, but the service at the front desk was spotty and we needed several follow-ups to get our tours set up. Overall, the prices at Asa Wright seem very high for what is offered, especially since a day pass is available for visitors that gives access to everything except the Oilbird cave.
Le Grande Almandier (www.legrandealmandier.com) is a family-run hotel located right on the beach at Grand Riviere. From March through August, several species of turtle come on shore to lay their eggs. Rooms are again basic but adequate and ours was air-conditioned. Prices were reasonable at USD 110 per night. They have a nice restaurant and bar on site, which is important since there are few if any services available in the small town.
Blue Waters Inn (www.bluewatersinn.com) is in Speyside, in the northeastern corner of Tobago – about as far away from the airport as possible. It seems that every birding group stays there. A key reason is that the primary guide, Newton George, lives nearby, so it is convenient for him if clients stay there. The hotel rooms are a step or two above the two listed above – larger, and all with an ocean view. Their web site mentions snorkeling, but the snorkeling off the hotel beach is poor. The better snorkeling is closer to Little Tobago and reached through one of the three boat operators based at the hotel. The beach itself is nice with a beautiful view of Little Tobago. The main restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner, and lunch is served at the bar (which is really just part of the restaurant). One area that could use improvements is consistency of meal quality. We had one breakfast that was good and another that was terrible. One day we had a sandwich for lunch that was very good and the next day the exact same item was inedible. One member of our group ordered fish and was not pleased, but someone else who ordered the same received a nice piece of fish that appeared to be a completely different meal. And one time they simply lost one meal order. It is possible to walk from the hotel to the nearby town of Speyside for dinner, but it is about a kilometer away on an unlit road, and I would not recommend it. We had a car and drove to town one evening and had a nice meal at the Birdwatcher’s Restaurant. The distance from the hotel to the airport is also a disadvantage, and it could make sense to relocate to a hotel in Scarborough, closer to the airport, the day before leaving.
We rented our car on Tobago at Esterphan Auto Rentals, located walking distance from the airport (they pick you up at the airport). E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, tel: 868-639-9973.
Field Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago, by Martyn Kenefick, Robin Restall and Floyd Hayes (Yale University Press) is the most recent field guide. We had the first edition published in 2008 but we understand a 2nd edition is in the works.
Locations and numbers of birds seen are given except for the common birds seen in various locations and unlikely to be missed on a multiday tour. Subspecies are given when known. Note that there is a dearth of seabirds, lowland forest birds, and grassland birds because we did not visit those habitats.
Rufous-vented Chachalaca (Ortalis ruficauda), noisy and common on Tobago.
Trinidad Piping-Guan (Pipile pipile), one seen on the Monte Video road near Grand Riviere. They tend to perch, sometimes briefly, atop trees at the crest, soon after dawn.
Least Grebe (Tachybaptus dominicus), common on a few ponds in Trinidad.
Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus), common around Little Tobago, easy to see from Blue Waters Inn.
Red-footed Booby (Sula sula), one seen from Blue Waters Inn, more common on boat trip to Little Tobago.
Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), common.
Neotropic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus), common.
Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga), common.
Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens), not common but quite a few seen.
Great Egret (Ardea alba), common.
Snowy Egret (Egretta thula), common.
Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea), several seen at Caligo Swamp.
Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor), several seen at Caligo Swamp.
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), common.
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (Nyctanassa violacea), one on a pond near Blue Waters Inn, two perched near Gilpin Trace.
Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber) – about 100 seen perched, another 100 or so in flight, at Caligo Swamp.
Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus), common.
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), common.
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), several seen.
Pearl Kite (Gampsonyx swainsonii), one with chicks on a nest near Aripo Agricultural Station.
Common Black-Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus), one on Asa Wright driveway.
Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus), several along Blanchisseuse Road.
Gray Hawk (Buteo nitidus), great perched view from Asa Wright veranda.
Yellow-headed Caracara (Milvago chimachima), common in lowlands.
Merlin (Falco columbarius), one on Tobago.
Bat Falcon (Falco rufigularis), a pair on Monte Video beyond crest.
Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinica), a few in some wetlands en route to Caligo Sawmp.
Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus), a few in some wetlands en route to Caligo Sawmp.
Limpkin (Aramus guarauna), one in a wetland en route to Caligo Swamp.
Southern Lapwing (Vanellus chilensis), common in lowlands.
Wattled Jacana (Jacana jacana), common in all wetlands.
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius), the most common sandpiper.
Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria), one, of course.
Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca), several in lowland wetlands.
Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) – common at Blue Waters Inn.
Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla), the common gull.
Rock Pigeon (Columba livia), common.
Pale-vented Pigeon (Patagioenas cayennensis), common.
Scaly-naped Pigeon (Patagioenas squamosa), a most unexpected perched bird on Tobago, listed as only third record. Newton was ecstatic.
Eared Dove (Zenaida auriculata), common.
White-tipped Dove (Leptotila verreauxi), several seen in open forests such as along Mrs Mills Trace.
Green-rumped Parrotlet (Forpus passerinus), several small flocks on both islands.
Orange-winged Parrot (Amazona amazonica), common.
Greater Ani (Crotophaga major), one at Caroni Swamp.
Smooth-billed Ani (Crotophaga ani), common.
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium brasilianum), a pair of rufous morph birds on Monte Video road beyond crest in Grand Riviere.
Short-tailed Nighthawk (Lurocalis semitorquatus), a pair when walking up to crest on Monte Video road.
White-tailed Nightjar (Caprimulgus cayennensis). Common on roads at night and mornings on Tobago.
Common Potoo (Nyctibius griseus), one at Caroni Swamp.
Chestnut-collared Swift (Streptoprocne rutila), common around Asa Wright.
Band-rumped Swift (Chaetura spinicaudus), common around Asa Wright.
Rufous-breasted Hermit (Glaucis hirsutus insularum), common around Asa Wright, also seen elsewhere.
Little Hermit (Phaethornis longuemareus), a few seen along Blanchisseuse Road.
White-tailed Sabrewing (Campylopterus ensipennis), one perched, others in flight along Gilpin Trace.
White-necked Jacobin (Florisuga mellivora melliflora), at Asa Wright feeders.
Black-throated Mango (Anthracothorax nigricollis), two along Blanchisseuse Road.
Ruby-topaz Hummingbird (Chrysolampis mosquitus), several along road to Gilpin Trace.
Tufted Coquette (Lophornis ornatus), both males and females were star performers at Asa Wright.
White-chested Emerald (Amazilia brevirostris), only one at Asa Wright feeders.
Blue-chinned Sapphire (Chlorestes notate), at Asa Wright feeders.
Copper-rumped Hummingbird (Amazilia tobaci), ssp erythronatus, only one at Asa Wright; ssp tobaci, widespread on Tobago.
Long-billed Starthroat (Heliomaster longirostris), only one at Asa Wright feeders.
White-tailed Trogon (Trogon chionurus), one at Blanchisseuse Road.
Violaceous Trogon (Trogon violaceus), several along Blanchisseuse Road.
Collared Trogon (Trogon collaris), one on Blanchisseuse Road.
Blue-crowned Motmot (Momotus momota bahamensis), one from Asa Wright veranda.
American Pygmy Kingfisher (Chloroceryle aenea), one zipping by at Caroni Swamp.
Rufous-tailed Jacamar (Galbula ruficauda ruficauda), common on Tobago.
Channel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos vitellinus vitellinus), one along Blanchisseuse Road.
Red-crowned Woodpecker (Melanerpes rubricapillus), a female near Roxborough.
Golden-olive Woodpecker (Colaptes rubiginosus), ssp trinitatis at Blachisseuse Road; ssp tobagoensis at Gilpin Trace.
Lineated Woodpecker (Dryocopus lineatus lineatus), two (same individual?) around Asa Wright.
Stripe-breasted Spinetail (Synallaxis cinnamomea terrestris), one at Gilpin Trace.
Plain-brown Woodcreeper (Dendrocincla fuliginosa meruloides), several on Blanchisseuse Road.
Olivaceous Woodcreeper (Sittasomus griseicapillus griseus), one on Gilpin Trace
Cocoa Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus susurrans susurrans), several along road to Gilpin Trace.
Black-crested Antshrike (Sakesphorus canadensis trinitatis), male and female at Caroni Swamp.
Barred Antshrike (Thamnophilus doliatus doliatus), a pair from Asa Wright veranda.
Plain Antvireo (Dysithamnus mentalis andrei), one on Blanchisseuse Road.
White-flanked Antwren (Myrmotherula axillaris), one along Asa Wright driveway.
White-fringed Antwren (Formicivora grisea tobagensis), several at Gilpin Trace.
White-bellied Antbird (Myrmeciza longipes longipes), one male off Monte Video Road near Grand Riviere, others heard.
Yellow-bellied Elaenia (Elaenia flavogaster), a few on Tobago.
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher (Mionectes oleaginous pallidiventris), one seen along Blachisseuse Road.
Yellow-olive Flycatcher (Tolmomyias sulphurescens berlepschi), one seen along Blanchisseuse Road.
Tropical Pewee (Contopus cinereus bogotensis), three along Blanchisseuse Road.
Fuscous Flycatcher (Cnemotriccus fuscatus cabanisi), one at Gilpin Trace.
Pied Water-Tyrant (Fluvicola pica), one seen at a marshland en route to Caroni Swamp.
Venezuelan Flycatcher (Myiarchus venezuelensis), several seen along road to Gilpin Trace.
Brown-crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus tyrannulus), one near Blue Waters Inn.
Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus trinitatis), common.
Boat-billed Flycatcher (Megarynchus pitangua), one seen near Grand Riviere.
Streaked Flycatcher (Myiodynastes maculatus tobagensis), several along Blanchisseuse Road.
Piratic Flycatcher (Legatus leucophaius leucophais), in farmland on Monte Video Road beyond crest
Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus satrapa), common.
Bearded Bellbird (Procnias averano carnobaba), several heard, one seen very well perched, at site along Discovery Trail at Asa Wright.
White-bearded Manakin (Manacus manacus trinitatis), several heard and seen at lek along Discovery Trail at Asa Wright.
Blue-backed Manakin (Chiroxiphia pareola atlantica), several males displaying at lek on Gilpin Trace. Perhaps the highlight of the trip.
Golden-headed Manakin (Pipra erythrocephala), several at lek along Discovery Trail at Asa Wright.
Scrub Greenlet (Hylophilus flavipes), seen flitting about, in singles or pairs on Tobago.
Golden-fronted Greenlet (Hylophilus aurantiifrons), only a few, usually high, at Asa Wright and Blanchisseuse Road.
Rufous-browed Peppershrike (Cyclarhis gujanensis), one along Blanchisseuse Road.
Southern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx ruficollis), several at Aripo Agricultural Station.
Rufous-breasted Wren (Thryothorus rutilus), ssp tobagensis along road to Gilpin Trace, ssp rutilus along Blanchisseuse Road.
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon), ssp albicans, sometimes split as Southern House Wren, common.
Yellow-legged Thrush (Turdus flavipes xanthoscela), one on Gilpin Trace.
Cocoa Thrush (Turdus fumigatus aquilonalis), common at Asa Wright feeders
Spectacled Thrush aka Bare-eyed Thrush (Turdus nudigenis), common at Asa Wright feeders
White-necked Thrush (Turdus albicollis), one along Blanchisseuse Road
Tropical Mockingbird (Mimus gilvus tobagensis), common
American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla), one along Blanchisseuse Road
Northern Waterthrush (Seiurus noveboracensis), common along roads
Golden-crowned Warbler (Basileuterus culicivorus), one along Blanchisseuse Road
Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola luteola), common
Bicolored Conebill (Conirostrum bicolor), a pair at Caroni Swamp
White-shouldered Tanager (Tachyphonus luctuosus flaviventris), one definite male at Asa Wright
White-lined Tanager (Tachyphonus rufus), common
Silver-beaked Tanager (Ramphocelus carbo), common
Blue-gray Tanager (Thraupis episcopus), ssp nesophilus, common on Trinidad; ssp berlepschi, common on Tobago.
Palm Tanager (Thraupis palmarum), common
Turquoise Tanager (Tangara mexicana vieilloti), a few at Asa Wright
Bay-headed Tanager (Tangara gyrola viridissima), common along Blanchisseuse Road
Blue Dacnis (Dacnis cayana), a few at Asa Wright
Green Honeycreeper (Chlorophanes spiza), common at Asa Wright
Purple Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes caeruleus), common at Asa Wright
Red-legged Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes cyaneus), one at Asa Wright
Blue-black Grassquit (Volatinia jacarina), common
Ruddy-breasted Seedeater (Sporophila minuta), two males, one gray and one first year plumage, at Aripo Agricultural Station.
Black-faced Grassquit (Tiaris bicolor), common around Roxborough, Tobago.
Saffron Finch (Sicalis flaveola), a few at Aripo Agricultural Station.
Grassland Yellow-Finch (Sicalis luteola), a few at Aripo Agricultural Station.
Red-crowned Ant-Tanager (Habia rubica), one male along driveway at Asa Wright.
Red-breasted Blackbird (Sturnella militaris), common at Aripo Agricultural Station.
Carib Grackle (Quiscalus lugubris), common at Aripo Agricultural Station.
Yellow-hooded Blackbird (Chrysomus icterocephalus), several near Caroni Swamp.
Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis), common.
Giant Cowbird (Molothrus oryzivorus), a few en route to Caroni Swamp.
Yellow Oriole (Icterus nigrogularis trinitatis), several at Asa Wright and Grand Riviere.
Yellow-rumped Cacique (Cacicus cela), common.
Crested Oropendola (Psarocolius decumanus), common esp at Asa Wright.
Trinidad Euphonia (Euphonia trinitatis), distant view of a pair high in canopy at Grand Riviere.
Violaceous Euphonia (Euphonia violacea), common.
A few of the birds we hoped to see and which we missed, not all of which would have been life birds for us, included Ornate Hawk-eagle, Lilac-tailed Parrotlet, Green-throated Mango (may have seen one at Caroni Swamp), Gray-throated Leaftosser, Northern Scrub-flycatcher, Speckled Tanager, and Red-capped Cardinal. I am certain that the wet weather affected most if not all of these potential sightings and that they are all possible under better circumstances or with more time.
Once again, many thanks to Martyn Kenefick for his advice when planning this trip and for his original recommendation to visit.
Some photos from the trip:
Top row, left to right: male Green Honeycreeper; young male Green Honeycreeper; Crested Oropendola;
Middle row, left to right: view of Blue Waters Inn; Bale-eyed Thrush; Agouti.
Bottom row, left to right: male Tufted Coquette; male White-shouldered Tanager; Rufous-vented Chachalacas.