Monday, 22 August 2016

Trinidad & Tobago Birding Trip 2016 - Day 2

White-headed Marsh Tyrant (F)- Arundinicola leucocephala

Day two called for an early start as we were headed to the mountainous northern range and home to the world famous Asa Wright Nature Centre.  I was honored, thanks to Dr. John Webster who introduced us, to have one of the islands leading birders and wildlife Photographers and an all-around nice guy, Wendell “Stephen Jay” Reyes as a guide.

He collected us at 6:30am for the approximately hour and half drive up the mountain.  The normally busy and congested streets were free of traffic at this time and we were able to have a casual drive as we talked about birds, birding and photography.  He also pointed out a few birds as we drove along.  At one junction we saw a Fork-tailed Palm Swift fly into the dry branches of a palm tree and further along we saw a small group of Black Skimmers, a lifer, and a Fork-tailed Flycatcher.

Asa Wright Nature Centre

Purple Honeycreeper - Cyanerpes caeruleus & Bananaquit - Coereba flaveola
Wendell skillfully navigated the winding road leading to Asa Wright, while my wife and kids were fast asleep in the back seat.  We arrived just before 8:30am, paid our fees and entered.  We were told that the first tour would begin at 10:30am, so we had a few hours to observe birds from the well-known balcony looking over the rain forest, with hummingbird feeders hanging and fruit filled feeding stations just below.  The hummingbirds were plentiful buzzing to and fore.  The most abundant were the White-necked Jacobin and the Copper-rumped Hummingbird.  One of the hummingbirds on my must-see list, the Tufted Coquette, was nowhere to be seen.  Wendell told me that the Coquette was not a species that came to the feeders and he took me to another area on the veranda overlooking the flowers.  This hummer, the second smallest in the world, feeds on Vervain Flowers.  I was able to see the Tufted Coquette just before and just after the tour.  The tour started at 10:30 as promised and lasted for 1 ½ hours.  Our guide, Tonya, showed us the flora and fauna of the rain forest, including the interesting and very busy Leaf cutter ants and a noisy insect called a Cicada which brought the forest alive with sound.   We were able to see most of our targeted species, White-bearded and Golden-headed Manakins, Violaceous Euphonia and the star of Asa Wright, the Bearded Bellbird but we did not see the Guianan Trogon.   We left Asa Wright at about 1:00pm after seeing 31 species most of which were lifers.  It was then on to our next stop, Aripo Livestock Station.

Aripo Livestock Station

Aripo Livestock Station is a working station and permission is needed to enter the property.  That was easily obtained by Wendell, who seemed to be a regular there.  This was a location where birding from the vehicle was necessary as the fields were fenced to secure a breed of livestock called “buffalypso", which looks like a water buffalo, and said to be unpredictable.  One of our target birds at this location was the Savannah hawk which I did not see.  There were hundreds of Black Vultures everywhere but it was the lone Turkey Vulture that got my attention as it was a lifer.  Other lifers included a Piratic Flycatcher, White-headed Marsh Tyrant, Pied Water-Tyrant and Green-rumped Parrotlet to mention a few.  To close off a rather rewarding day I saw a Saffron Finch on the journey back to the guest house.

White-eyed Parakeet - Psittacara leucophthalmus
The day of birding was not yet over however, as Wendell received a telephone call about a rare bird which had just arrived at a location called St. Ann’s.  I had been hoping that he would ask if I wanted to tag along and he did.  The bird we were searching for was a White-eyed Parakeet.  We got to the location just seconds too late and missed the birds but we followed the loud call of this parakeet which led us to a tree where the main flock was situated.  We were able to get pretty good images of the bird in flight and stationary.  I had another bonus, a Boat-billed Flycatcher. This is a bird that is identical to the Great Kiskadee in appearance but has a larger bill and a different call.

This was the last birding stop for day 2 and we headed home for a rest knowing that day 3 would be another long day of birding.

New Species for the Day: 47

New Lifers for the Day: 43

Total Species for the Trip: 73

Total Lifers for the trip: 59

Asa Wright Nature Centre: White-tipped Dove, Short-tailed Swift, White-necked Jacobin, Rufous-breasted Hermit, Green Hermit, Little Hermit, Black-throated Mango, Tufted Coquette, Blue-chinned Sapphire, White-chested Emerald, Copper-rumped Hummingbird, Forest Elaenia, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher,  Bearded Bellbird,  White-bearded Manakin, Golden-headed Manakin, Rufous-browed Peppershrike (h), House Wren, White-necked Thrush,  Silver-beaked Tanager,  Bay-headed Tanager, Purple Honeycreeper,  Green Honeycreeper, Violaceous Euphonia.

Aripo Livestock Station: Turkey Vulture, Wattled Jacana, Spotted Sandpiper,  Solitary Sandpiper, Yellow-headed Caracara, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Yellow-chinned Spinetail,  Pied Water-Tyrant, White-headed Marsh Tyrant, Piratic Flycatcher, Southern Rough-winged Swallow,  Blue-black Grassquit, Red-eyed Vireo*, Rufous-breasted Wren*, Long-billed Gnatwren *,  Red-breasted Meadowlark, Yellow-hooded Blackbird.

Saint Ann's Road: White-eyed Parakeet, Boat-billed Flycatcher.

While Driving: Black Skimmer, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Great Egret, Saffron Finch.

White-necked Jacobin - Florisuga mellivora

White-chested Emerald - Amazilia brevirostris

Tufted Coquette - Lophornis ornatus
Copper-rumped Hummingbird - Amazilia tobaci
Golden-headed Manakin - Ceratopipra erythrocephala
Bearded Bellbird - Procnias averano

Crested Oropendola - Psarocolius decumanus
Smooth-billed Ani - Crotophaga ani
Boat-billed Flycatcher - Megarynchus pitangua

White-eyed Parakeet - Psittacara leucophthalmus
Turkey Vulture - Cathartes aura
Piratic Flycatcher - Legatus leucophaius
Wattled Jacana - Jacana jacana

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Trinidad & Tobago Birding Trip 2016 -Day 1

Palm Tanager - Thraupis palmarum

Birding started even before the airplane stopped.  Cattle Egrets were on a fence on the grass fields around the runway; next I saw my first lifer and one of the most common birds on the island, Ruddy-ground Dove.  This dove resembles our Common Ground Dove but has a more reddish-brown colour.  Other lifers seen were Grey-Breasted Martins, which resembles our female Caribbean Martin, and White-winged Swallows.  Other birds seen at the airport were Great Kiskadee, which is also a very common bird for the island, and two familiar birds namely Carib Grackles and Shiny Cowbirds.
Blue-gray Tanager - Thraupis episcopus

We stayed at a guest house not far from the capital, Port of Spain.  Of course I continued my birding and landed a few more lifers at this location including my first bird of prey, a Zone-tailed Hawk.  This bird was soaring with a kettle of Black Vultures but stood out because of its banded tail.  The other new birds recorded were all lifers.  There were the Black Vulture, Tropical Kingbird, Blue-grey Tanager, the beautiful and colourful, Yellow Oriole and a Crested Oropendola

Spectacled Thrush - Turdus nudigenis
The family and I then spent the day at the local zoo (The Empire State Zoo) and the botanical gardens close by.  The zoo showcased a number of the island’s fauna along with a few imports.  We were mainly interested in seeing the imports especially the Giraffes and the big cats. There I recorded a few more lifers.  I saw for the first time the Spectacled Thrush, an interesting pair of Barred Antshrikes, my first swift for the trip, Fork-tailed Palm Swift, Palm Tanagers and a female White-lined Tanager.

Bat Falcon - Falco rufigularis
After concluding our visit to the Empire Zoo and Botanical gardens we took a stroll around the historic Queen’s Park Savannah, the largest open space in the capital.  The field was littered with Southern Lapwings.  Lapwings of all ages were all over the 260 acre property.  I recorded two lifers on that stroll around the Savannah: my first woodpecker, a Lineated Woodpecker and a Bat Falcon feeding on its prey.  This was the last bird recorded on Day 1.

Number of Species recorded: 26

Number of Lifers recorded: 16

List of birds and Locations

Piarco Airport: Cattle Egret, Ruddy Ground-dove, Great Kiskadee, Gray-breasted Martin, White-winged Swallow, Carib Grackle and Shiny Cowbird.

Maraval : Black Vulture, Zone-tailed Hawk, Tropical Kingbird, Blue-grey Tanager, Yellow Oriole and Crested Oropendola

Empire Zoo and the Royal Botanical Gardens: Striated Heron, Fork-tailed Palm Swift, Orange-winged Parrot, Barred Antshrike, Spectacled Thrush, Tropical Mockingbird, White-lined Tanager, Palm Tanager, Bananaquit.

Queen’s Park Savannah: Southern Lapwing, Smooth-billed Ani, Lineated Woodpecker, and Bat Falcon

Here are some of the images from Day 1

Yellow Oriole - Icterus nigrogularis

Blue-gray Tanager - Thraupis episcopus

White-lined Tanager - Tachyphonus rufus (F)

Barred Antshrike - Thamnophilus doliatus

Spectacled Thrush - Turdus nudigenis

Palm Tanager - Thraupis palmarum

Great Kiskadee - Pitangus sulphuratus

Ruddy Ground-Dove - Columbina talpacoti

Bat Falcon - Falco rufigularis