Sunday, 28 August 2016

Trinidad & Tobago Birding Trip 2016 - Day 3 - Wednesday August 3rd

Scarlet Ibis - Eudocimus ruber

The plan for the day looked set; we were headed to the Pitch Lake at La Brea, Waterloo and finishing at Caroni Swamp, all on the west coast of Trinidad.  What I did not take into account was the distance, road works and traffic diversions.  

A friend, after hearing our intentions to visit the Pitch Lake and Caroni Swamp volunteered to take us.
We were being picked up at 9:00am so I decided to explore/bird the steep hills outside the guest house.  It was an hour and a half hike to what I thought was the top, and back.  I was surprised to see two new lifers, Plumbeous Kite (Wendell Identified it) and two Rufous-tailed Jacamar sitting on the powerlines.

We left the guest house later than planned sometime after 9:30am and anticipating traffic jams in the capital we made our way north through the mountains of Diego Martin to Santa Cruz, San Juan and onto the Main Highway that leads down the west coast of the island.  I was trying as much as possible to get some birding in, even seeing two raptors, but it was hard to get a good look at them going over 80mph.  It was ok with the birds I was familiar with but not so with the others.  After a few traffic diversions, stopping for directions and even getting lost, we arrived at the Pitch Lake just after midday.

The Pitch Lake    (about the Pitch Lake)

Black Skimmer - Rynchops niger
The bird which dominated the area was the Black Vulture.  They were everywhere! But the birds which got my attention were the Black Skimmers, more than one hundred of them.  This was the second time for the trip I was seeing this bird but this was the closest I have been and I could really now see the peculiarity of this bird.  Another bird I have seen quite often on this trip and was able to get pretty close to was the Yellow Caracara.  My first rarity for the trip though, according to the field guide was the Scaled Dove; however, Wendell had told me that I would see it.  This was a medium sized dove, about 5”-7” in length, a scaled appearance with white on the outer most tail feathers.  I reported this sighting along with images to the Trinidad and Tobago Rare Bird Committee.  Along with the Scaled Dove I had three other lifers, Black-crested Antshrike, Yellow-bellied Elaenia and a Golden-fronted Greenlet, and two first for the trip, Osprey and Greater Yellowlegs.  The tour of the Pitch Lake lasted for an hour and a half and we were back on the road about 2:00pm with the next stop being lunch at a mall in the city of San Fernando some twenty-five miles away.  On our way to the Pitch Lake I was given the task to remember the turnoffs and the route back to the highway since we had to make some detours because of road repairs.  Normally that would not have been a problem but I was birding from the navigator’s seat and did not take adequate mental notes.  Needless to say we got lost after we left Pitch Lake.  Cumulatively we lost a lot of time and could not make our stop at Waterloo.  We were also a little late for the Caroni Swamp Tour, but our host, Joan, called ahead and the last boat waited for us.

Caroni Swamp

Scarlet Ibis - Eudocimus ruber
I did my research on the Caroni tours and knew straight off that this time of the year I was not going to see thousands of Scarlet Ibis because this was their breeding season.  I also knew the importance of selecting the correct tour guide and made reservations with Nanan’s Sanctuary Tour for the Thursday (day 4) of our trip but with last minute changes in our plans we had to cancel and we left it up to Joan to make arrangements.  Our tour guide was definitely not a birder but being late, we had no other options.  He gave us information on the mangrove and the Scarlet Ibis, he stopped for two tree boas and then motored on; I asked about a Little Blue Heron I saw but no response came back.  We finally reached the view of the Scarlet Ibis and the show put on by the drastically reduced numbers of Scarlet Ibis flying into roost was fantastic, you could just imagine what it would be like out of breeding season.  It is a must-see so look out for Caroni Swamp Part 2 sometime in the future.

So, on a day planned for 12 easy lifers, I tallied only 8 and the next day, day 4, was planned as a shopping day.  I was a little disappointed but happy because the family enjoyed our two stops for the day and that mattered most.   

New Species for the Day: 14
New Lifers for the Day: 08
Total Species for the Trip: 87
Total Lifers for the Trip: 67

Maraval - Plumbeous Kite, Rufous-tailed Jacamar
Pitch Lake - Golden-fronted Greenlet, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Black-crested Antshrike, Scaled Dove, Greater Yellowlegs, Osprey.
Caroni Swamp - Scarlet Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron,  Tricolored Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron.

Here are some of the images from Day3

Black-crested Antshrike - Sakesphorus canadensis
Scaled Dove - Columbina squammata

Blue-black Grassquit - Volatinia jacarina
Yellow-headed Caracara - Milvago chimachima
Yellow-bellied Elaenia - Elaenia flavogaster
Yellow-hooded Blackbird - Chrysomus icterocephalus
Barred Antshrike - Thamnophilus doliatus
Black Skimmer - Rynchops niger
Scarlet Ibis - Eudocimus ruber
Scarlet Ibis - Eudocimus ruber