Trinidad Feb 16—23, 2017

Posted by Barry Zimmer


Barry Zimmer

Barry Zimmer has been birding since the age of eight. His main areas of expertise lie in North and Central America, but his travels have taken him throughout much of the wo...

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The first morning at the famed Asa Wright Nature Centre is always a memorable one. We gathered on the veranda a little before 6 AM and waited for the sky to lighten enough to see birds. A Cocoa Thrush sang from the forest below, and soon the chips and buzzes of hummingbirds could be heard in the garden. A Rufous-breasted Hermit was first to be seen, and was followed quickly by a White-chested Emerald. A pair of Silver-beaked Tanagers appeared in a small tree behind the bank of feeders. Someone spotted a Tufted Coquette buzzing about the purple-flowering vervain. With its unique punk rocker look, this species is one of the must-see birds of Trinidad. A noisy group of Orange-winged Parrots sailed up the valley and perched in a large ficus overhead. While trying to get the parrots in the scope, the flood gates of birds opened. Spectacular Purple Honeycreepers with improbable yellow legs arrived and were quickly joined by brilliant Green Honeycreepers.

Purple Honeycreeper, Asa Wright Nature Centre, Trinidad

Purple Honeycreeper — Photo: Barry Zimmer


The hummingbird feeders were bustling with activity—a Black-throated Mango, several Copper-rumped Hummingbirds, and a Blue-chinned Sapphire had joined the parade. Cocoa and Spectacled thrushes arrived at the fruit trays, as did several Bananaquits, a pair of White-lined Tanagers, and a female Barred Antshrike. Noisy Crested Oropendolas gurgled from a nesting tree above the Centre, and a handsome Squirrel Cuckoo was scoped in a nearby tree. A fruiting tree to the left yielded an Ochre-bellied Flycatcher and a pair of Turquoise Tanagers. Suddenly a male Ruby-Topaz Hummingbird was seen right below us—its glittering ruby crown and brilliant yellow throat contrasting spectacularly against its dark brown body. This is perhaps the crown jewel of all hummingbirds! The pace of arriving birds was dizzying, and the colors represented were kaleidoscopic. Thus passed the first half-hour of the first day of our Trinidad tour!

Ruby-Topaz Hummingbird, Yerette, Trinidad

Ruby-Topaz Hummingbird — Photo: Barry Zimmer






Of course, our trip to Trinidad was about so much more than just birding from the veranda. During the course of our stay, we visited a variety of habitats and locations. The Discovery Trail running down valley from Asa Wright yielded some of the greatest highlights of the trip. Calling male Bearded Bellbirds, equal parts bizarre and amazing, allowed great studies. Their calls, resonating through the forests like the metallic clang of a gong, can readily be heard from a mile or more away!  Not far away, White-bearded Manakins displayed on their lek, at times no more than ten feet away from us. Snapping, popping, and buzzing around like corn kernels in a popper, their dizzying antics were spellbinding. A fruiting tree along the trail harbored brilliant Golden-headed Manakins and Bay-headed Tanagers on a daily basis. White Hawk, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Guianan Trogon, White-bellied Antbird, and Euler’s Flycatcher were among the many other highlights there.

Bearded Bellbird, Asa Wright Nature Centre, Trinidad

Bearded Bellbird — Photo: Barry Zimmer









On the road to Blanchisseuse, we tallied the likes of Collared and Green-backed trogons, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, the endemic Trinidad Motmot, Blue-headed Parrot, Channel-billed Toucan, Sooty Grassquit, a colony of Yellow-rumped Caciques, and more. The moriche palm forest of Waller Field produced White-tailed Nightjar, a fabulous flock of 40 or more Red-bellied Macaws coming in to roost, the localized Sulphury Flycatcher, and the uncommon Moriche (Epaulet) Oriole. In the Aripo Savanna, we enjoyed such species as Pearl Kite, Savanna Hawk, Green-rumped Parrotlets, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, Pied Water-Tyrant, and Red-breasted Meadowlark among others. Further east, in the Nariva Swamp, we added Cocoi Heron, a very rare Crane Hawk, three wonderful American Pygmy Kingfishers, Black-crested Antshrike, and a pair of Silvered Antbirds. Finally, we birded the west coast of Trinidad. At Waterloo, we found a very early and unexpected Large-billed Tern among such regular fare as Southern Lapwing and Wilson’s Plover. On a boat trip into famous Caroni Swamp, we witnessed 4,000 or more Scarlet Ibis coming in to roost on a mangrove island (a sight none of us will ever forget), as well as a roosting Tropical Screech-Owl, several Green-throated Mangos, and a rarely seen Silky Anteater.

Scarlet Ibis, Caroni Swamp, Trinidad

Scarlet Ibis — Photo: Barry Zimmer


But wait. I forgot to mention our visit to the Yerette hummingbird house where we saw 12 species of hummingbirds including 15+ Ruby-Topaz Hummingbirds and a rare Brown Violetear. I forgot to mention the hike down to Dunston Cave to see and hear the wildly bizarre Oilbirds from fifteen feet away! And what about the wonderful Long-winged Harriers of Warren Road, the Yellow-hooded Blackbirds and Yellow-chinned Spinetails of Trincity, the Masked Yellowthroat in Arima? The list goes on and on. In all, we tallied nearly 200 species of birds during our wonderful week in Trinidad, and left with visions of blazingly red Scarlet Ibis, popping manakins, and calling bellbirds forever etched in our minds.