Tuesday 11 December 2012

Tobago - round the island trip

Southern Lapwing
Tobago is an island of two halves - the hilly north east, and the flat south-west. As previously mentioned Mrs L and I were staying in the hilly part, and in doing so were treated to gazillions of superb forest birds. But this was at the expense of all those species that lived in the flat bit. Once again I turned to Newton George and his trusty minibus (with an engine taken from a WW2 bomber). A day trip with Newton costs US$80, and is once again excellent value, plus he also buys lunch. Another early start, but no Mrs L this time - all birded out apparently - instead two additional passengers, David and Grete, fellow Blue Waters Inn residents, and mildly interested in birds.

Green Heron
The trip is literally around the island - clockwise. An early start is needed as we needed to get all the way down to Crown Point, where the airport is, and it's a drive of at least an hour. Our first stop was the Plantation Estate, a Wentworth wannabe, with a plush hotel, posh golf course, and then ridiculously affluent houses dotted around the place. We headed for the adjacent sewage ponds......


Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Wattled Jacana

I missed Masked Duck by mere seconds, not sure I can count the ripple, but the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were much more obliging. Plenty to look at here, including Wattled Jacana, Least Grebe, Moorhens, Purple Gallinules and Anhingas. On the drive down, now in full-on listing mode, I enquired of Newton whether Mangrove Cuckoo was a possibility. He said he hadn't seen one for a long while, and not on any recent visits, so we were all quite surprised when he pointed at a tree and started running. We ran too, or tried to, and there in the aforementioned tree was the most glorious obliging and stunning Mangrove Cuckoo, eagerly devouring monster caterpillars. My lens was less than ideal in this situation, with a fairly large bird hopping about in the branches right above my head, but I tried. Pretty awesome experience whatever.

This was probably the best birding area of the morning, with numerous Southern Lapwings, Cattle Egrets, Great White Egrets and Jacanas seen as we drove slowly around the golf course. Other places visited included the Bon Accord Sewage Ponds, unfortunately past their best - overrun with an invasive water weed. There were birds everywhere though, as we drove a series of small lanes with ditches at the side. Tri-coloured Heron, Great Blue Heron, Spotted Sandpipers were the main inhabitants, but the trees also held a Brown-crested Flycatcher, lots of Green-rumped Parrotlets, and amazingly my first Blackpoll Warbler ever - yep, probably a dozen trips to the US and never seen one. A brief stop near the coast added Laughing Gull, Brown Pelican, and both Royal and Sandwich Terns sitting on a curiously-named boat, as well as White-winged Swallow on a football field, with numerous Short-tailed Swifts overhead.

Our next stop was the Grafton Sanctuary - habitat similar to the Main Ridge. The path was seriously degraded, a sign of neglect, and whilst there were many birds, including Cocoa Woodcreeper and several Blue-backed Manakins, we were unable to go to far and reluctantly turned back - Gilpin Trace was much better - we actually drove back though that area on our way back but didn't have time to stop. Plenty of mossies at Grafton, and a large population of Rufous-vented Chachalacas, sitting around like chickens, not really bothered by us at all. This was the height of the day though, and after fighting my way up and down the trail with the full set-up on a tripod I was exhausted and just needed to flop - photographic opportunities everywhere and I couldn't be bothered! Lunch was taken.

The west side of the island is very scenic, fabulous views out into the Caribbean Sea, and we slowly wound our way back towards Speyside before crossing the Main Ridge back to Roxborough as per the previous trip. Lots more birds en route, including Yellow-headed Caracara, Ruddy Ground Dove, Eared Dove and Carib Grackle. The best birding was undoubtedly the morning period though, everything quietens down significantly by mid-morning. We were back at the hotel by 4pm for a well-deserved swim and rum punch.

Englishman's Bay
Round the Island List
Rufous-vented Chachalaca
Black-bellied Whistling Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Masked Duck ripple
Least Grebe
Brown Pelican
Magnificent Frigatebird
Brown Booby
Black-crowned Night Heron
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Green Heron
Cattle Egret
Little Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
Great White Egret
Tri-coloured Heron
Yellow-headed Caracara
Wattled Jacana
Purple Gallinule

Spotted Sandpiper
Southern Lapwing

Laughing Gull
Sandwich Tern
Royal Tern
Eared Dove
Pale-vented Pigeon
Ruddy Ground Dove
Green-rumped Parrotlet
Orange-winged Parrot
Mangrove Cuckoo
Smooth-billed Ani
Short-tailed Swift
Rufous-breasted Hermit
Copper-rumped Hummingbird

Trinidad Motmot
Belted Kingfisher
Red-crowned Woodpecker
Cocoa Woodcreeper
Barred Antshrike
Tropical Kingbird
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Grey Kingbird
Blue-backed Manakin
Barn Swallow
White-winged Swallow
Tropical Mockingbird
Blue-grey Tanager
Blue-black Grassquit
Blackpoll Warbler
Crested Oropendola
Giant Cowbird
Carib Grackle

1 comment:

  1. Some great shots - getting v jealous. Just planning a honeymoon so I think T&T may be on the short list, (or Costa Rica...)