Trinidad separated from the South American Mainland as recently as 1,500 years ago! The island hosts extensive wetlands, rainforest covered mountain ranges, savannahs, mudflats, dams, and the best; sewage ponds!! It all adds up to fantastic birding.
Bird highlights include male Oropendolas sticking their heads between their legs, rattling their wings and beaks, while giving a most peculiar song to impress the girls, and they do impress them. The females will build meter long nests (some can reach nearly 3 meters long) for the most impressive male who may have a harem of up to 20 females!
Crested Oropendola Psarocolius decumanus © Peg Abbott Naturalist Journeys
Then there are Pepershrikes that are often heard but rarely seen, or Woodcreepers and Antbirds following trails of Army Ants. Manakins buzzing about, clearing their own dance spot in the forest floor, or sliding along a thin branch (they invented the moonwalk, not Michael Jackson); again all to impress the ladies. To top it off there are the showy birds like Scarlet Ibis, Red-Breasted Blackbirds, Turquoise Tanagers, White-necked Jacobins, and Purple Honeycreepers.
Purple Honeycreeper Cyanerpes caeruleus : © Greg Smith Naturalist Journeys
Then there are the strange birds like the Bearded Bell Bird that can be heard miles away with its toll like call, or the Antshrikes ending their call with a sound like a windup siren that suddenly lost power. Though the ultimate in the strange category are the Devilbirds or Oilbirds that live like bats in caves going out at night to feed on fruit using echolocation to navigate through the dark forests.
Oilbird Steatornis caripensis © Greg Smith Naturalist Journeys
I stayed on Trinidad at the world famous Asa Wright Nature centre where one can sit all day on the Veranda over looking the valley and just watch the hummingbirds and honeycreepers coming to the feeders, the antwrens picking through the leaf litter or the hawks and vultures soaring overhead. You can wake to the sound of Oropendolas squabling or the peppershrikes calling. Leaning over the balcony you can watch woodcreepers creeping, hummingbirds humming and bellbirds tolling.
Tufted Coquette Lophornis ornatus © Mukesh Ramdass AWNC Naturalist Journeys
Some top birding sites include:
Arima Blanchisseuse Road (Map)
The road from Asa Wright down to the sea at Blanchisseuse is 19 kilometres of birding, Tanagers and Trogons, Toucans and Manakins, Cuckoos and Jacamars to name just a few. The highest Point of this road where it passes from the leeward to the windward sides is about 2,000 feet above sea level and is know for high elevation birds such as Speckled and Blue Capped Tanagers, and is good for migrant Warblers.
This is an all day trip around the savannah off the Eastern main Road via Cumuto village and Waller Field, culminating with time in the Arena forest after lunch. The morning is leisurely stopping frequently to scan roadside bushes and open areas and takes in Cumutu village for a colony of yellow-rumped caciques. Waller Field has its specialities too, primarily as it has scarce moriche palms attracting turquoise tanagers, sulphury flycatchers and fork-tailed palm swifts. There are also some pools formed from gravel or sand workings and lots of abandoned runways and roads at the old airfield. Lunch is usually taken as you arrive at the Arena forest (where you may see a roosting barn owl in an abandoned house). The forest itself is old plantation and pretty dense. Tape luring usually brings all three trogons down for crippling views, along with woodcreepers, woodpeckers, tanagers and jacamars. (Cumuto is best early morning or late evening when it can also produce many Red-bellied Macaws and Ruby Topaz.)
© Bud Ferguson Caligo Ventures
The most relaxed watching anywhere with veranda feeders, acres of secondary forest to wander and the most accessible colony of oilbirds in the world.
Green Honeycreeper Chlorophanes spiza © Greg Smith Naturalist Journeys
Caroni Rice Fields (Map)
The entrance to the Rice Fields is just across the highway from the area where you get the boat for the Caroni Swamp tour. It is best during the Hurricane Season from July to November, though is worth a look anytime of the year. It hosts many migrant birds travelling both north and south to and from wintering grounds and some spend the austral winter there. Pintails, Whistling Ducks, Godwits, numerous Sandpipers, Bitterns, Herons and Plovers may be found here.
Take a boat ride along the blue river into the mangroves, and then into open water with mangrove clad islets to see the spectacular roost of 2,000 scarlet ibis with a supporting cast of boat-billed and tri-coloured herons, potoos and caracaras.
There is a seven-mile beach of Cocos Bay on the east coast lined with (so they say) a million coconut palms at the end of which one turns into Nariva Swamp travelling along Bush Bush peninsula that juts out into the Swamp. The swamp itself isn’t much of a swamp in the wet season still less in the dry (this is due to unregulated farming in the swamp). There is a creek running beside the very pot-holed road (with fisherman’s huts along it) backed by very tall grasses and sedges – The road the creek runs along is called Kernahan Trace. It is the place for the two Gallinules, Pinnated Bittern and Dickcissel. There will be a supporting cast of Herons and Egrets, Tyrants and Yellow-hooded and Red-breasted blackbirds. The trip culminates with rum punch back in the palm trees as dusk approaches and you wait for over 50 Red-bellied Macaws to come into roost in a stand of Moriche palms.
This is a series of Host Homes located in Brasso Seco, Paria, along with a lodge that will be constructed in 2002. This is a rural community and offers excellent forest birding along roadsides and trails that have little or no traffic. Bellbirds, Toucans, Blue Dacnis, Bay-headed or Turquoise Tanagers, Green Purple or Red-legged Honeycreepers are among the list of showy birds found here. Since this is on the windward side of the Northern Range many Raptors may be see gliding on the thermals. Paria Springs also has a guesthouse in Grande Riverre, Le Grand Almandier, and this area is the best for viewing the Trinidad Piping Guan (Pawi). Also from March to July Leatherback Turtles can be seen nesting on the beach.
Not far from Port of Spain, located on the hills overlooking the Caroni Plains it offers, it also offers good birding from its balcony both in its feeders and the forests. A walk along its trails can produce many passerines and at times nesting Raptors may be seen.
Point-a-Pierre Wild Fowl Trust (Map)
Dedicated to the conservation of wetland birds, it is located in the centre of an oil refinery. It has a main lagoon, which a guided tour can be taken around and offers good views of Whistling Ducks, Anhingas, Cormorants, Green Herons and sometimes a Red-capped Cardinal or a Saffron Finch may make an appearance.
The Southern Half of Trinidad has many great birding spots, however, unless you are in Trinidad for a significant amount of time, the birding is not so different to North Trinidad as to be worth the long drive. If you do go down there Fullarton Swamp, Icacos and Trinity Hills can be productive.
Trincity Ponds (Map)
Near to the Capital these old sewage ponds should also only be visited as a group as some birders have experienced problems with theft! [I have just been told that recently a fence, with a gate and gateman have been installed so theft is no longer a problem here]. A series of old concrete tanks with waterbirds etc. Great for waders, hirundines, grebes, and passerines. Watch for Caiman, which slide away into the water to get out of your way. Our guide said Look, a caiman. to which an American birder asked Is it in flight?.
Waller Field (Map)
Lamping on this old airfield can produce two types of owl, nightjars, paraques and potoos and (surprising to me) roosts of waders such as Southern lapwing and semi-palmated plovers. There will also be the chorus of frogs some of which hop across the runway. This is not somewhere to try when unaccompanied as, it is rumoured, it is still occasionally used as an airport by gentlemen of dubious character importing exotic extracts from South America.
Waterloo (Temple in the Sea) (Map)
These are mudflats that are exposed at low tide; so check the tide table in the newspapers. This can produce rare Gulls, Terns, Skimmers, Sandpipers, Plovers, Herons and lots more. Often well over 1,000 birds can be seen feeding on the mudflats. If you have the time going further south from here during low tide and check various coastal spots may be rewarding.
Major Source: © Fatbirder
Map Source: Googlemaps™
Photo Source: © Naturalist Journeys