However, the suitcase wasn’t here to see birds, we were. Sue had been to Trinidad 15 years earlier so she wasn’t going to get nearly as many Lifers as me. I arrived with 949 and was really hoping to get at least 51 new species to hit 1000. And that happened on our hike to find the rare and secretive Oilbirds, on our final day at the Asa Wright Nature Centre. Interesting story behind their name too, as Jesse, our guide pointed out. Once upon a time people would spear the young birds and render them down, because the high fat content of the young birds would produce a lots of good oil for torches and the like. They are also the only nocturnal, fruit-eating bird and find their way using echolocation, just as bats do.
They live in a riparian grotto on the property of the Nature Centre and on our final day there we got to take the hike to see them. It was a pretty good hike up and down wet, muddy and slippery trails to the grotto, and we saw plenty of birds along the way, but once down in the grotto, feeling like we were in an Indiana Jones crusade, and after wading through a little stream, we finally got to see one of three prized bird species of Trinidad:
Some of the nearly 200 Oilbirds of Dunston Cave. The Oilbird was species 1000 since I began birding in January 2012.
Entrance to Dunstan Cave, home to Oilbirds
January 4, 2018:
We began our trip birding on the balcony of the Asa Wright Birding Centre last Thursday with a Bearded Bellbird in one of the guide’s scopes, number 952. The balcony is also one of the best places in the world to see a wide variety of hummingbirds up close and personal. I added 16 species that afternoon from both the balcony and a walk around the grounds.
Day 1, 16 Lifers:
January 5, 2018:
The next day we were given a guided tour of the grounds with Elizabeth. She took us to a few good locations and pointed out birds we would never have seen or identified on our own, including the beautiful Golden-headed and White-bearded Manikins. We even saw both male and female Bearded Bellbirds up close. Elizabeth was so excited because people rarely see the females since they don’t make a loud call like the males. After lunch, Sue and I found a Guianan Trogon on our own. That evening, with our private guide and local bird expert, Mukesh, we went to the old airfield for looks at the Moriche subspecies of the Epaulet Oriole, one of the few places this species can be found. We also got to see a beautiful Sulphery Flycatcher.
Day 2, 9 Lifers:
|Epaulet Oriole (Moriche)|
January 6, 2018:
After breakfast on the third day, we hit the road, literally. Blanachisseuse Rd, leading north in a loop from the nature centre provides great birding along a narrow and scary road. I sat in front full of anti-nausea meds as we wound our way around from village to village stopping along the way to bird in a variety of high altitude forest locations. Highlights were Long-billed Gnatwren, White Hawk, a Bat Falcon and a beautiful Speckled Tanager, which flew before I could get a photograph. We got great, but distant looks at both male and female Bellbirds, which even long-time Trinidadian birders have rarely seen. We got rained on frequently, but often there was a rainbow to go along with the amazing vistas.
Some of the views and birds from the day:
Day 3, 11 Lifers:
|Common Black Hawk|
Janurary 7, 2018:
Day four at Asa Wright was another day of driving from destination to destination in search of a wide variety of lower elevation species. Our eventual destination was to Nariva Swamp, where we got to enjoy birds such as the White-headed Marsh Tyrant, Pied Water-tyrant, Yellow Oriole and Yellow-chinned Spinetail. Once again, our guide for most of the trip, Mukesh, was able to hear and spot birds we didn't even know were close by. Sure we did okay on our own from time to time, but having local guides is what put me at 999 birds going into our last day at Asa Wright Nature centre.
Our view of the Caribbean Sea while we ate lunch on the way to Nariva Swamp:
White-headed Marsh Tyrant:
Day 4, 13 Lifers:
|Southern Rough-winged Swallow|
|White-headed Marsh Tyrant|
January 8, 2018:
It was our final evening at the Asa Wright Nature Centre where the food and views were equally spectacular, when we took a boat trip to see the second of three species that were one of the main reasons for coming to Trinidad, the Scarlet Ibis. That morning we had seen the Oilbirds and I had finally seen the Blue-chinned Sapphire hummingbird On the way to the Ibis we stopped to get close-up looks at a beautiful Red-breasted Meadowlark,(ie blackbird) and the striking Masked Cardinal, just outside Caroni Swap. The Scarlet Ibis come in to roost there every evening. Birders from all over the world take the boat trip at dusk to witness the spectical of the more than 500 Ibis as they arrive. Many, like me, sipping a rum punch.
Sue, me and our guide to the Oilbirds:
Red-breasted Meadowlard,(Blackbird as it is locally known):
Day 5, Lifers:
January 9-10, 2018:
The Inidana Jones of Birding:
View from our Hotel:
And the star of the show, the Trinidad Piping Guan, or Pawi as it is locally known:
Day 6 and 7, Lifers:
|Trinidad Piping Guan|
We left Trinidad both adding lots of Lifers. Sue had 17, but I added 65 and am now at 1012 all time. Sue will need a trip somewhere she's never been to catch and pass me on the Life List again. Perhaps I'll sit that one out ;)