Trinidad 2012

Trinidad is the largest and most populous of the 23 islands that make up the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago.  It is also the most southerly of the Caribbean islands, lying just seven miles off the north-east coast of Venezuela.  Trinidad is a mountainous island, with large areas still covered in tropical forest, and is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including mammals such as pygmy anteater, crab-eating raccoon, collared peccary and red howler monkey.  The island is most famous for its 468 species of birds, including huge numbers of the spectacular scarlet ibis, more than a dozen species of hummingbird, three-wattled bellbird, the bizarre oilbird and many species of colourful tanagers and honeycreepers.

We base ourselves at the delightful Asa Wright Nature Centre, which is set in 1,500 acres of pristine rainforest at an altitude of 1,200 feet in the Northern Range.  The Nature Centre was established in 1967 by the land’s owner, Asa Wright, in order to protect the area and to allow research on tropical forest.

Day 01;                     February 13th

We bid farewell to Georgetown this morning, and transfer to the airport for our flight to Port of Spain, Trinidad.  We transfer to the world-famous Asa Wright Nature Centre, set high in the rainforest-clad mountains.  This afternoon we explore the rainforest around the Nature Centre, and enjoy great bird-watching from the veranda as colourful honeycreepers and tanagers come into the feeders.  Overnight Asa Wright Nature Centre.

Day 02;                     February 14th

This morning we have an early start to drive to Oropouche Swamp in southwest Trinidad.  We explore open-country paths around the swamp, which combines mangrove and freshwater marsh habitats, looking for a variety of birds, including pinnated bittern, cocoi heron, yellow-crowned night-heron, long-winged harrier, green-rumped parrotlet, black-crested antshrike, pied water tyrant, white-headed marsh-tyrant, northern waterthrush, both red-breasted and yellow-hooded blackbirds, bicolored conebill and red-capped cardinal.  We then make a short drive to the town of Debe, home of “Indo-Trini”-style food. There the roadside stalls sell “doubles”, a hot and tasty spicy snack that is very popular with visiting birders.  We then retrace our steps north, and then west to look out over a long area of tidal mudflats known as Waterloo.  Depending upon the tide we look for various species of herons and egrets, magnificent frigatebird, brown pelican, osprey, yellow-headed caracara, western and semi-palmated sandpipers, short-billed dowitcher, willet, laughing gull, royal tern and black skimmer.  We stop for a traditional lunch of roti in a local restaurant followed by an early afternoon return to the lodge, in time for birding from the veranda or on the trails.  Overnight Asa Wright Nature Centre. 

Day 03;                      February 15th

Today we explore the north of the island, driving to the highest point that a vehicle can be driven in the Northern Range on the slope of Morne Bleu (2,200ft).  Here we look for speckled, bay-headed and hepatic tanagers; scaled pigeon and channel-billed toucan. There is an outside chance of finding a Trinidad piping-guan, the island’s only endemic species.  At a slightly lower altitude we walk a flat section of quiet, country road through montane rainforest, looking for hummingbirds, including rufous-breasted, green and little hermits, red-rumped and Golden-olive woodpeckers, collared, white-tailed and violaceous trogons, rufous-breasted wren and golden-fronted greenlet.  We continue on a wide trail down into the forest where we will have a better chance of finding birds like black-faced antthrush, white-bellied antbird, gray-throated leaftosser, white-flanked ant wren, and slaty-capped and dusky-capped flycatchers.  Overnight Asa Wright Nature Centre. 

Days 04;                    February 16th

We spend the morning exploring the trails around the lodge, visiting Dunston Cave where a breeding colony of the bizarre oilbird lives.  This colony is the pride and joy of the Asa Wright Nature Centre, and is probably the most accessible oilbird colony on Earth.  The oilbird is in its own family, and may even be in its own order, since it is so unique.  It is a nocturnal species, feeding mainly on the fruit of the American oil palm.  The birds roost communally, clinging to the walls of remote caves, and making their nests on rock ledges.  The chicks become very fat before fledging, and used to be harvested by local people to be boiled up to extract the oil – hence the name oilbird.

This afternoon takes us to one of Trinidad’s most famous wildlife spots, the Caroni Swamp, where we take a boat to see flocks of scarlet ibis returning to their roost in the mangroves.  The scarlet ibis feed on small crustaceans, and it is the carotene pigment in the crustaceans that give the ibis their unique colour.  Caroni is home to lots of other wildlife too, including more than 160 species of birds, crab-eating raccoon, northern tamandua and neotropic river otter.  It is also one of the best places on Earth to see the diminutive pygmy (or silky) anteater, which makes its precarious home in the stilt roots and branches of the mangrove trees.  Overnight Asa Wright Nature Centre.

Day 05;                     February 17th

Today we transfer to the airport for our international flights home.

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