Friday, 2 September 2016

Trinidad & Tobago Birding Trip 2016 - Day 5 - Friday August 05th (Tobago)



White-tailed Sabrewing - Campylopterus ensipennis

I never thought that there would have been a problem getting a flight from Trinidad to Tobago,  so I left the booking until a week before we flew out to Trinidad only to find that the dates and times I had been checking was now unavailable – all seats were booked.  The only option we had was to fly out Thursday afternoon, overnight in Tobago, and return Friday afternoon so we took it.  The benefits: I could start birding earlier on Friday and visit more hotspots which I hoped would mean seeing more birds.  The downside: paying for a room for the night out of an already tight budget.  We found a room at a good price which was close to the airport and arranged a rental car which was to be collected the night we arrived.  All was set for the following day of birding in Tobago.    

I awoke around 5:30am to the sounds of my first lifer for the island, a noisy turkey-like bird called Rufous-vented Chachalaca, these birds were everywhere on the island no wonder it is Tobago’s national bird.  I was on the road at about 5:45am and made my first stop at Crown Point, a beach near the bottom of the airport’s runway.  Brown Pelicans and Common Terns were busy feeding close to the shore.  A few more birds were out to sea on a boat but it was difficult to make out their types.  I also added my first Laughing Gull and Grey Kingbird for the trip.

I then went in search of Bon Accord Sewage Treatment Plant, one of the birding hotspots of the island. With no GPS available I followed a map and road signs which lead me to a sign which said Bon Accord Mangroves.  Birding in this area was productive, landing me lifers such as Mangrove Cuckoo, Brown-crested Flycatcher, White-winged Becard and Scrub Greenlet but I could not find the Sewage treatment Plant.

I returned to the apartment at about 8:00am and was back on the road with the rest of the family, at 9:00am.  Our first stop was the Tobago Plantation.

The Tobago Plantation


Black-crowned Night-Heron - Nycticorax nycticorax
The Tobago Plantation was not far from where we stayed.  As we drove into the property there was a large lake on the right side.  Black-crowned Night Herons of all ages were the most numerous birds on the lake followed closely by Anhingas and some Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.  On the Golf course to the left of the guard station was a flock of Giant Cowbirds, a lifer for me.  A local couple was busy photographing the Whistling Ducks and agreed to take me to the Bon Accord Sewage Treatment Plant.

Bon Accord Sewage Treatment Plant 


Least Grebe - Tachybaptus dominicus
I followed the couples to Bon Accord and realized I was just a short distance from the sewage plant earlier.  There were a number of ponds with birds in them.  My target bird, Least Grebe, a lifer, was seen in a small pond close to the back of the plant.  A surprise which brought me some excitement was the presence of two Glossy Ibis, which are rare to the island.  I later reported that sighting to the country’s rare bird committee.  Another first for the trip was a Short-billed Dowitcher.  I spent close to an hour at the treatment plant before saying goodbye to our friends who were taking photographs of the Glossy Ibis.

The detour to the sewage treatment plant caused us an hour and I decided to make adjustments.  We travelled on the east coast towards our next intended stop Argyle Falls some 22 miles away, along the winding roads of Tobago.  We made one stop at Barbados Bay and then was on the road again.  We arrived at Argyle Falls about 12:00 noon and started our tour.

Argyle Falls


Trinidad Motmot - Momotus bahamensis
It was a 15 – 30 minute easy walk to the falls.  The path was covered with a canopy of trees and bamboo with various birds calling.  The lifers I picked out from among the trees were Trinidad Motmot, finally! Cocoa Woodcreeper, White-fringed Antwren and Fuscous Flycatcher.  We spent just over two hours at the falls, it was cool and refreshing.  Our next stop was supposed to be the Speyside Lookout but a wrong turn on leaving Argyle Falls put us onto the Main Ridge Forest Reserve road and because of the time we continued.

Main Ridge Forest Reserve


Green-rumped Parrotlet - Forpus passerinus
The trip through the forest was birding on wheels; we saw and heard Orange-winged Parrots, two Rufous-tailed Jacamar perched along the road, a Green-rumped Parrotlet on the powerline, Red-rumped Woodpecker on a metal utility Pole and a Great Black Hawk, both lifers.  We made a stop at the reserve’s visitor center which was closed due to water outage.  The guard dog was very friendly allowing us to pet him and tried to prevent us from leaving.  The leaf cutter ant’s super highway through the lawns at the rare of the visitor’s center was a sight to behold and worth a mention in this bird blog.   We were told of a stop just downhill of the reserve where it was possible to see the White-tailed Sabrewing and maybe even the Ruby-topaz Hummingbird.  We drove about a mile or so and came upon a roadside stand with bird feeders setup under a shed and a feeding table with fruit in the background.  I paid $14TT or approx. $2.30US to spend as much time as I wished at the feeding stations.  Two types of hummingbirds were busy visiting the feeders – the White-necked Jacobins and yes the White-tailed Sabrewing.  I was as happy as a kid in a candy store because I was told that it would be difficult to see the Sabrewing as it was in its nesting season.  Disappointingly, there was no Ruby-topaz to be seen, none came to the feeder.  Our drive through the forest took us three hours and we were well behind time but I still wanted to make one more stop - Grafton Estate.

Grafton Estate


White-fringed Antwren - Formicivora grisea
After a series of wrong turns, turn arounds and flat out being lost, thanks to the faulty information fed to me by my navigator and her map.  We finally arrived at Grafton Estate after 5:30pm an hour and a half behind our scheduled time, which was feeding time at 4:00pm.  There were no signs that a feeding took place that afternoon so we took a quick walk on a few of the paths.  In the 30 minutes I spent I recorded two lifers – I finally got the Ruby-topaz Hummingbird but a female, not as colourful as the males, and a Yellow-breasted Flycatcher.


We were now really behind time when we left Grafton around 6:00pm with our check-in time being 6:30pm and our flight due for departure at 8:00pm.  We still had to stop for a quick bite and return the car before heading to the airport.  It was no surprise then, when we missed our check-in time and thus our flight, but was accommodated on the next one scheduled to leave at 8:30pm.  I enjoyed birding in Tobago and will be back for sure. 

New Species for the Day: 29
New Lifers for the Day: 16
Total Species for the Trip: 136
Total Lifers for the Trip: 92



Mount Pleasant: Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Ear Dove, Caribbean Martin

Crown Point: Brown Pelican, Laughing Gull, Common Tern, Gray Kingbird

Bon Accord Mangrove: White-cheeked Pintail, Magnificent Frigatebird, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Mangrove Cuckoo, White-winged Becard, Scrub Greenlet

Tobago Plantation: Giant Cowbird, Black-crowned Night Heron, Green Heron.

Bon Accord Sewage Treatment Ponds: Least Grebe, Glossy Ibis, Short-billed Dowitcher.

Argyle Falls: Trinidad Motmot, White-fringed Antwren, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Fuscous Flycatcher, Black-face Grassquit.

Main Ridge Forest Reserve: Great Black Hawk, White-tailed Sabrewing, White-tailed Sabrewing

Grafton Estate: Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher



Brown-crested Flycatcher - Myiarchus tyrannulus
Tropical Mockingbird - Mimus gilvus

Wattled Jacana - Jacana jacana
Short-billed Dowitcher - Limnodromus griseus
Tricolored Heron - Egretta tricolor
Rufous-breasted Hermit - Glaucis hirsutus

Rufous-tailed Jacamar - Galbula ruficauda
Pale-vented Pigeon - Patagioenas cayennensis
White-tailed Sabrewing - Campylopterus ensipennis
Red-rumped Woodpecker - Veniliornis kirkii

Ruby-topaz Hummingbird - Chrysolampis mosquitus
Trinidad Motmot - Momotus bahamensis

Yellow-breasted Flycatcher - Tolmomyias flaviventris