Birding Trinidad & Tobago 2005
Journal: 28 Jan 05, Asa Wright Nature Center




Jan 26
Jan 27
Jan 28
Jan 29
Jan 30
Jan 31
Feb 01
Feb 02
Feb 03


Bird Photos

Trip List


Oilbird Grotto
Asa Wright Nature Center, Trinidad
After breakfast and some fine birding over coffee on the verandah, we birded our way down to the Oilbird grotto, one of Asa Wright's claims to fame and the best-known Oilbird viewing spot in the world. The grotto is in a stream canyon, and the trail is very well-developed. There were good birds going down to the grotto, with the best views yet of some of the forest floor birds, including a Long-billed Gnatwren, a Rufous-breasted Wren and a Rfous-browed Peppershrike.

Eventually the trail headed down steps to a very narrow slot canyon. in groups of two, we walked down the stream channel to peer at the Oilbirds, perched on rock ledges near the grotto roof. Nocturnal fruit-eaters with a call that makes you look over your shoulder, they are pretty odd critters.

After lunch we drove down to the Caroni Swamp, on the west shore of Trinidad. We birded the upper stretches from the road, finding a Gray Hawk and a Long-winged Harrier, along with the usual swamp birds. After finding a pair of Clapper Rails at the rest station, we boarded a boat and motored through the extensive mangrove thickets. Idling down a man-mad canal, we found a Red-capped Cardinal, a Peregrine Falcon, a Greater Ani, a Short-tailed Swift and a Green Kingfisher. Surprises included a Willet, a Potoo roosted on a tree trunk, as well as a Tree Boa draped over a low-hanging branch.

But the real treat in Caroni Swamp comes at twilight, when the Scarlet Ibises return to their roost. The boat stayed about 200 yards away from the roost as flocks of Scarlet Ibises, as well as Great, Cattle and Snowy Egrets, Tri-colored Herons, Little and Great Blue Herons, and even Yellow-crowned Night Herons, flew overhead to the roost.

Asa Wright, Trinidad

Scarlet Ibis Flock
Caroni Swamp, Trinidad
The Egrets and Herons were nice, but the Scarlet Ibises stole the show. Dark grey clouds hung over the hills behind them, with the late afternoon sun on the birds themselves. The dramatic light effects were impossible to capture on camera, although God knows we tried.

Nancy and I have been fortunate to see a lot of nature's special shows: forty or more brown bears fishing for chum salmon at McNeil River, Alaska; lava flowing into the Pacific Ocean at twilight in Volcanos National Park, Hawaii; a silent waterfall of Black-legged Kittiwakes pouring down the face of their cliff-like rookery in Prince William Sound; and much more. The Scarlet Ibises of Caroni Swamp will always rank as one of those memories.

We finally motored back to the bus and trundled through traffic and back up the slopes of the North Range to Asa Wright, but I think everyone on the ride was still in awe of the nightly ritual of Trinidad's national bird.

Scarlet Ibises
Caroni Swamp, Trinidad

Scarlet Ibises, Egrets and Herons
Caroni Swamp, Trinidad

Updated Sat, Mar 5, 2005