19th to 22nd June 2014 - Trinidad Part 1

At the beginning of the trip I was planning on two blog posts, one on the week in Trinidad and one on the week in Tobago.  It quickly became apparent that this wasn't going to work as we were seeing tonnes of birds and taking just as many pictures!  This first post will be on the 4 days spent at the Asa Wright Nature Centre in Trinidad.  It is a glorious place to stay, sitting on the verandah before breakfast each morning watching the hummingbirds drinking nectar and in the evenings, having a beer and recapping the wonderful day we'd just had.

White-necked Jacobin

Crested Oropoendola


Crested Oropendola

Crested Oropendola
After landing in Piarco Airport and navigating the roads up to Asa Wright, we had about 45 minutes of daylight left to do our first bit of birdwatching.  This was my first birding holiday out of Europe and it was an amazing experience to be seeing all these new birds.  I had been worried about identifying remembering he species but was amazed with the speed we were picking up not only the species but also the calls.  I suspect their bright colours may help somewhat!  The first evening we saw a total of 15 species, then had a delightful meal.  The species were all species we would frequently see over the next two weeks (but nonetheless wonderful) so I won't go into detail except a special mention to the amazing Squirrel Cuckoo which quickly became a favourite.

Yellow Oriole

Barred Antshrike

White-shouldered Tanager

Golden-headed Manakin

White-bearded Manakin
The next morning we had our orientation walk, something Asa Wright offer for people staying at the centre.  A guide took us down the main trail, showing us the highlights, including the adorable White-bearded Manakin, the branch sliding Golden-headed Manakin and the impossibly loud Bearded Bellbird.  At the Golden-headed Manakin lek there was also a pair of White-shouldered Tanager which excited the guides as apparently the hadn't been seen for a few weeks.  We passed a White-necked Thrush in a well camouflaged nest about 4 foot up a tree barely a metre from the path.  On returning to the centre, we were lucky enough to see a perched Double-toothed Kite and a Brown Violetear, which would visit the centre a few more times during our stay.  It was also the first time we saw Blue Dacnis, firstly a female that proved a conundrum for the people in the verandah until we scouring the Helm guide we had brought along, then the gorgeous male popped up to confirm the ID.  The centre was also inundated with Honeycreeper, the more common Green and Purple along with a Red-legged seen later in the week.  Today was also the first time I saw a Barred Antshrike - my favourite bird of the trip.  What a darling!

Double-toothed Kite

Black-throated Mango

Purple Honeycreeper

Great Kisskadee

Silver-beaked Tanager

We made a rather last minute trip to go night birding that evening and left slightly earlier to have an hour or so at Aripo Livestock Station first.  Our guide was Dave Ramlal, an excellent and highly recommended guide.  Here we saw our only Yellow-hooded Blackbird, Grassland Yellow Finch, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Wilson's Snipe, Red-breasted Blackbird and Ruddy-breasted Seedeater for the trip all lovely birds.  The night portion of the trip found us a Common Potoo, something I had been worried about missing as well as plenty of Common Pauraque and White-tailed Nightjar.

Brown Violetear

Look at the colour on the throat!

Purple Honeycreeper

Yellow-hooded Blackbird

Tropical Screech Owl

The centre has a great visible (and audible) population of Crested Oropendola, a bird I later found out is classified as a pest!  They have cool hanging nests in the tree across from the verandah and often perch in tall trees by the centre.

Pinnated Bittern

Wilson's Snipe

Awful photo, but Common Potoo!

Gladiator Frog (I think!)

Tufted Coquette

The next morning we got up early to see the elusive Tufted Coquette.  I really need to practice with my camera as I found it impossible to get a photo of the tiny hummingbird but I suggest you google it as it's a super cool looking bird.  We saw our first Channel-billed Toucan from the verandah then it was out for a long day with Dave at Wallerfield, Waterloo and Carli Bay with an evening trip to the infamous Caroni Swamp.

Barred Antshrike <3

Wallerfield was the first brief stop for a species I really was hoping to see.  It wasn't at the nesting site, but we soon saw one perched happily at the top of a tree around the corner, along with plenty of Black Vulture and Turkey Vulture circling in the sky.  The species was a Pearl Kite, a gorgeous tiny raptor.

Pearl Kite

Waterloo is by the sea and there were some waders, plenty of Laughing Gull and Brown Pelican and a Yellow-headed Caracara being mobbed by a Tropical Mockingbird.  The flock of waders included Short-billed Dowitcher, Lesser Yellowlegs, Western Sandpiper and a lone Ruddy Turnstone.  A single Lesser Black-backed Gull was present and the ridiculously amazing Magnificent Frigatebird were above.  Further down the road there were stunning Saffron Finch which were great to watch.

Snowy Egret

Saffron Finch

Carli Bay is a little along the coast and presented a great place to have lunch, complete with a kitten and puppy.  A Rufous-browed Peppershrike kindly appeared during lunch and after we had a small bug filled walk to spot Bi-coloured Conebill.



Straight-billed Woodcreeper

Black-crested Antshrike

The afternoon and evening were reserved for a boat trip in Caroni Swamp to see the Scarlet Ibis come in to roost.  It wasn't the prime season but there were still a few hundred coming in over the time we were there and it was a lovely spectacle.  A couple of other amazing birds we saw whilst there were Green-throated Mango, Pygmy Kingfisher, Black-crested Antshrike, Red-capped Cardinal and our second and third Tropical Screech Owl of the trip.

Scarlet Ibis

Scarlet Ibis
It was another early morning the next day.  This was a big trip, a trip to hopefully see one of the two endemics, the Trinidad Piping Guan.  If we didn't manage to catch up with it today, it was a 3am start the next morning to go to Grand Riviere where they were more frequently seen.  We headed up to Mornebleu with Dave's dad Roodal, it was a great spot.  We had some great close up views of species such as Scaled Pigeon, Plain-brown Woodcreeper, Collared Trogan and Squirrel Cuckoo before Roodal spotted a lone Piping Guan just a small distance away from us.  We had an awe-inspiring time watching it before it flew off.  Two minutes later and it appeared again to perch on a tree right next to the path.  I rather felt like it wanted a closer look at us!  It's a massive bird and so incredibly prehistoric looking.  A must see.

Collared Trogan

Trinidad Piping Guan

Trinidad Piping Guan

Speckled Tanager

Great Antshrike
Back to Asa Wright for breakfast and a trip to the Oilbird cave.  This is a world famous Oilbird cave and it's fantastic.  The Oilbird have the creepiest call and are very sweet looking. It was then a last look out from the verandah before heading south to our accommodation for the rest of the week at Ajoupa Pottery.  On the way we popped into Yerette, a hummingbird paradise where we saw two hummingbirds we hadn't caught up with yet, the Ruby Topaz and Long-billed Starthroat as well as getting extremely close views of all the other common species.



Golden-olive Woodpecker

Blue-chinned Sapphire (I think?!)

Purple Honeycreeper

Red-legged Honeycreeper


Ruby Topaz

Ruby Topaz


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