Friday, December 16, 2011

Bling Bling

An update on the situation with my lens -
I phoned Nikon Canada yesterday and was told that the repair was on hold pending the arrival of parts required from Japan. I was also told that it usually took anywhere from 2 weeks to 4 weeks for the part to arrive once ordered.
I knew it wasn't going to be an easy fix, i'm not at all surprised that Nikon Richmond sent it to Toronto for repairs.

The estimate for repairs and delivery came out to $600 so it will be repaired, i'm hoping to be back in full effect January 2012, missing a lot of quality shooting opportunities at the moment though.

I suppose this forced break has made me reflect on how much i really love photographing birds and getting out into nature, Audy actually said that maybe i would be happy enough to just go bird-watching, it's just not something i can do though, i would be too miserable if i was ever without a camera when a good bird suddenly posed in front of me in good light.
Sure, i've got the 80-400VR and will use it when i need to (Clay-colored Sparrow) but i don't enjoy using it, my 500mm is a part of me, we have been through so much together - Thailand twice, Texas, Arizona, California, Ohio, Trinidad, Tobago not to mention the frequent weekly after-work/weekend excursions here in BC.
It's weird too, i kind of think that when the lens comes back we will be even closer, it's back was effectively broken, the side impact of tripod falling over broke it into two pieces, there were many broken plastic bits inside the lens as well though the glass and body exterior were spared any viewable damage.
While i didn't break my back, i did damage my spine from years of mountain biking and had surgery and even though i walk with a slight limp now because of it,  it hasn't slowed me down much.
I don't expect that this injury to my 500mm f4 AFS-1 will slow it down either once i have it back in my arms.

I'm old-school, i remember bombing down the steep single-track trails of the north shore back in the early 90's on rigid front forks! = Off-Road Toad bikes reprezent! =  full suspension was still a dream, back then, you really had to know how to ride, nowadays i imagine the kids just bomb over everything on their plush full squishee bikes LOL.

Now to the "bling" part of this post, the crash was so severe that my beloved Jobu BWG-Pro gimbal head suffered. The cast aluminum swing arm attachment was torn in two upon impact, don't quite still know how that happened but i knew that there would be no problem getting a replacement part from Jobu and emailed then with a pic to demonstrate.

Jobu is a Canadian company that specializes in making high quality equipment for professional wildlife photographers. Their Black Widow Gimbal - Pro head was the bomb, and i used it and slightly abused it during it's many adventures. I also loved that it was green.
Anyways, Jobu got back to me right away and one thing led to another and i'd now like to introduce you all to the BWG-Pro 2 head, the ultra-bomb, i'm stoked of course, but what really makes me nod my head in appreciation is the fact that they sent me one of their factory-only green heads as a replacement!

I had seen the Pro 2 head in the stores earlier in the year but it was always in black, the retail colour.

The improved CNC'd swing arm is a big improvement i think and i can't wait to test it out with my 500mm f4 in the new year.

props to Jobu!

My Top Shots of 2011

Every year i start a couple of threads on my local birding forum and ask people to post their top shots of the year.
I thought i'd post my top 3 shots from BC and my top 3 shots from US/World for 2011 on my very own blog.
Hope you enjoy!

Bohemian Waxwing - Maplewood Flats, North Vancouver.
A pre-valentines day gift to me from nature, on Feb 13th :D

Northern Shrike - Iona, Richmond.
This pic was bought by Birdwatching magazine and used in the December issue, gotta like that, right? :wink:

Red Crossbill - Maplewood Flats, North Vancouver.
It was a toss-up between this and a Red-necked Phalarope, crossbill wins cause it was shot on my home turf.

Blue-winged Warbler - Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio.
I was using Matthew Studebaker's PDF guide to shooting locations in Ohio and he described a particular area of the park where these warblers were known to have territory every year.
I got looks of them the first day but it was the second day (i went back the next morning) that really stands out to me as one of those special moments.
I made a print of this shot and it turned out really nice if i say so myself :wink:

Purple Honeycreeper - Asa Wright Centre, Trinidad.
This must be my favourite bird from Trinidad.
I was able to get some close looks by working the feeders, it just looks so exotic :)

Copper-rumped Hummingbird - Cuffie River, Tobago.
The hummers on both Trinidad and Tobago were quite amazing, even with a number of species males holidaying in Venezuela, the opportunity for close looks at even the most common species (this being one of them) were worth taking.
I made a print of this gem and it hangs by my desk at work, to remind me of why i work :wink:

Friday, December 9, 2011

Clay-colored Sparrow

Took the 80-400VR out after work today since i needed to do some shooting and it was so nice.
I stayed on the shore and hiked in the snow at Mount Seymour looking for Pine Grosbeaks and White-winged Crossbills, both of which would be lifers. I must have been the only guy in hiking boots up there :lol:
I'd like to say i got a shot of a White-winged Crossbill but photo proof is inconclusive, more than likely Red Crossbill.
Aw well, at least i made it back down without slipping once :)

I decided i need a sure thing to make me feel better, and made my way to West Vancouver to check out the Clay-colored Sparrow coming to a feeder. The address is posted on the Bird Report BC website for those interested.

I was the only person there and would like to thank the owners for their hospitality towards birders, i didn't see them the whole time, but thanks :)



I haven't mentioned yet here that my tripod fell over a few weeks ago now and broke my 500mm f4 lens in two.
Nikon Canada surgeons in TO are working on it as i type these words, my estimate from them for stupidity was $600. 
A lesson learned. 
Now let's hope they fix the lens soon, i'm missing my baby ; )

Monday, November 21, 2011

Snowy Owl

Well, it seems like it's going to be one of those rare winters when we are visited by Snowy owls in the lower mainland.
Audy and i saw our lifer Snowys behind a fence at the golf course in Boundary Bay back in 2007, it was cold back then when i digiscoped them but pretty neat to see. Back then, i wasn't really aware what a problem birders had with photogs when it came to owls but over the years i've grown to understand the concerns.
Of course it's not just photogs but anyone who wants to see a Snowy Owl in the wild around here that could be percieved as a disturbance to these birds. They come down this way i've heard when there is little food up north, they are hungry and when too many people disturb them, they don't feed. I get that.
It was suggested by a well-known birder recently that photogs "should get their shots and get out", i know what he was saying and don't take offense at all, it's when the bird starts getting chased too much that problems arise. I know some spend a lot of time working the birds around here, hoping for flight shots etc. and i want to do this also, but i've decided to wait until i visit their habitat up north.
In places like Barrow Alaska etc. Snowys can be plentiful, all the more reason to take that trip up north one spring.
I definately think everyone should get a chance to see one of these beauties if they so desire, just not sure we (as photogs) should be spending multiple days working these particular birds.

So, since Audy wanted to get out and see these guys we made a morning trip out yesterday and got lucky with one bird.
It eventually flew off and was chased again by a few, but my looks were good enough and since Audy and i were both freezing anyways called it a day.

I'm actually more excited about a non-owl species i'm planning to go after next weekend LOL, they are all good as far as i'm concerned.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Painted Bunting - West Vancouver

It was turning into a lazy rainy friday until i checked the local web board and was surprised to see a Painted Bunting just now reported in the "Vancouver area".
The bird was coming to a feeder on a private property but the owner had to be contacted before birders would be allowed to view it.
I chilled, took a quick nap and Pipit joined me in a cat-nap.
After waking i checked the board again and a number had been released.
A phone call later i was on my way to West Vancouver.
Shock on arrival when i was informed by a somber group of birders that the bird had been chased by a Anna's hummingbird and had flown into a window.
Prognosis wasn't good but the bird was in a shoe box and i decided to hang for a bit, others in the group were dispersing but i had nothing else to do and in a while the owner came out and asked for advice, the bird had come back to life and was jumping round in the box and chirping.
Ultra birder Mike Toochin went in to take a look and came out with the bird in hand.
I am always amazed by the small size of the birds in "real life" as opposed to through my viewfinder.
This bird was no different, soo cute, as Mike was letting it go Super birder Wayne Weber arrived and while i was able to get a look, Wayne saw only the bird taking off into the bush, alas.
We were all relieved that the bird seemed ok, Mike and Sharon left then and Wayne and i hung out and watched the feeders.
The owner was leaving for a bit but was happy for us to remain as long as we wanted, we were grateful.
While we watched the feeders i asked Wayne about meeting Roger Tory Peterson (RTP) way back when.
Having been a birder for over 40 years, Wayne had a few stories and i was happy to soak it in.

Suddenly a flash of red flew towards the feeder and we realized it was the bunting.

It disappered for a while and we weren't sure if it had flown off, there was a bush obscuring part of the feeder and finally we moved our position to the other side of the driveway to get a better angle.
Suddenly i spotted the bird poking it's head out of the bush.
It's a bit of a skulker and was in the bush the whole time we were wondering where it was.
At that point i was able to get a couple of decent shots, the other times (around 4 while we were there) it would fly directly onto the feeder and i suppressed the trigger finger, a branchy perch was desireable.

Painted Bunting - West Vancouver November 18th, 2011

It was getting cold and my bare fingers were feeling it, Wayne and i were both satisfied with our brief looks and left, happy that the bird seemed fine, my concern was for the cold night ahead of it, if the juncos and sparrows can survive though, this guy has a good chance too, i hope.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Trinidad and Tobago - Part 7 - back to Trini, Divali, and the Final Chapter

Oct 26th
We met Max again and he drove us back to the airport in the morning, our flight was at a decent time for a change, no need to hustle anymore, we were in the end stretch.

 one final shot from Tobago

Our flight back to Trini went off without a hitch, soon we were in a cab on our way to the Holiday Inn Express Piarco, a hotel about 5 minutes drive from the airport. It is also really close to the Trinicity shopping mall but we weren't sure if it would be open today, you see, it was a national holiday, an east indian festival called Divali and a festive time when candles are lit. I was glad that my online reservation was found as i couldn't remember if i actually made it, i was 90% certain, it's not like the hotel was full up anyways.
We crashed for a bit in our room, taking note of the television, sweet.
First though, we took a shuttle bus to the mall looking for a bite to eat, we were both hungry and the Holiday Inn didn't have a restaurant. We found a KFC and tried the fried chicken, it did taste a little different than what we get up here but still the same fast food when all is said and done.
It was interesting to see a large group of KFC staff out back of the restaurant practicing a dance routine, they were taking it seriously, chanting loudly "So Good!" and "KFC!" while doing some sort of chicken dance, i'm not kidding LOL.

Later back at the hotel we tucked in for a night of foreign television. Ever since watching spanish TV in Mexico we have been hooked on local TV.
In Trinidad, there were east indian channels, american channels and a south american version of  TLC.
I was pleased to be able to watch some episodes of a travel show i only ever get to watch when travelling myself, Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, i think i first saw it in Arizona or Texas and love the food and travel angle, he seems like a cool dude as well.

Since it was Divali we decided to watch a sub-titled east indian Bollywood film, some kind of Cinderella story with an evil step-mother and step-daughters, naive husband who seems easily way-layed, a coniving uncle (and his doofiish henchman) and a godess named Laxmi watching over our innocent Cinderella.
The best part was the ending when the evil uncle got his eyes clawed out by a hawk, now that's justice.

Oct 27th
Ok, it's go-time, destination home.
We took the shuttle back to Piarco for one last visit, checked our bags and made sure then were checked all the way back to YVR (i didn't know that we would all have to claim our baggage in TO no matter what as it was our port of entry), i was hoping to streamline things, we had two hours when we arrived in TO before our flight to Vancouver took off, if everything went smoothly, it was doable, at least that's what my travel agent told me LOL.
It looked promising, our flight was at it's gate, a crew was at the ready and soon enough we were boarding the craft.
When we were just about to leave the captain came on and announced that they were going to hold back a few minutes as a "part" was loaded onto the plane, apparantly, TO had called and were desperate for a part, i couldn't help laughing to myself, thinking that this must be the part for our plane from 10 days ago, finally getting it fixed i see, Trini-time and all.

There wasn't much of a delay and soon we were taxiing onto the runway. Another announcement from the captain, "flight crew prepare for take-off, we are next in line" then...we did nothing, the plane just idled for like 15 20 minutes before another announcement from the captain, "i'm sorry, there seems to be a problem with one of our hydraulics, we will be pulling back to our gate to look at it".
It turned out that it would take 2 1/2 hours to replace the hydraulic, test it etc. and i knew right then that a fly had appeared in the ointment, yet again.
There was no way we were now going to make our connection.
After everyone had been off-loaded from the plane back into the terminal and given lousy sandwiches i asked the desk about my missed connection, they made some calls to TO and were lucky to secure something for me, it would all be taken care of in TO.
So i relaxed, i wished my ipod battery had not died just then because there is nothing more irritating than drunk Canadians sitting behind you.
These two guys were just having fun, that's cool, i just wish they weren't so loud, my headphones blocked out most of the chatter thankfully, just no tunes.

So we arrived back in Canada, i was relieved, hey at least we were back home, just a quick hop across the country and we would be home. First however, we needed to find out about a new flight, since we had indeed missed the one that left at 11pm. When we de-boarded we were given a breakfast voucher and told we would be staying at the Sheraton located right in the airport, alright! finally something good, it was a nice hotel, really plush, we were a hop and a skip from the domestic terminal and even though we had to collect our luggage, it was all there in one piece.

We slept after watching a bit of TV.

Oct 28th
Our new flight was the next morning, at 7am, we got up early, went to the terminal and checked our bags, picking up our boarding passes and seat allocations. All things going smoothly i was relaxed.
I bought a coffee from the Starbuck's and we waited, our flight was on time and soon we were in line to board.
Things took a weird turn at this point, our boarding passes did not correspond with something in their computer so this ice-cold woman behind the counter takes our passports and says "please wait there on the side for a moment". We watched as every single passenger was boarded and finally, when the plane was ready to take-off they started looking at the problem with our passes. I was confused, i explained that we were supposed to fly but missed our connection due to the mechanical with Caribbean Air, this woman didn't really want to hear it and plunked away at the keyboard a bit and finally announced that we didn't actually have tickets for this flight as Caribbean Air had never paid Air Canada for it. WTF?
It got really bad when they took our luggage stubs and called down to the ground crew that our bags would have to be removed. I was pretty crushed, after everything, we were getting screwed again, so close to home and now it seemed so far after all.
Suddenly an angel appeared before me, a supervisor came over to find out what the delay was, i pleaded with her to look at my flight iinerary from my travel agent, "please look, see? this was our flight number last night.."
She typed it into her computer and right away our names came up on the screen, "well, here they are, didn't you look here?!"  she asked the ice-cold woman, another guy working there piped in at that point as well and said "i think we should let them board", i looked at my angel and said in a defeated voice "please let us go home" and next thing we know, we are ushered onto the flight, finally homeward bound.
 I figure we were literally seconds away from missing that flight, we never even got our luggage tags back it was that touch and go.

Well, we were in the air and actually this connection was better than arriving at 1am like we were originally supposed to, it would have meant an expensive cab ride home, instead, arriving at 11:30am we could just take the Canada Line and Seabus back home to North Vancouver.
I still felt uneasy the whole flight back, we were so close to missing that flight i couldn't relax.
I watched the final installment of the Harry Potter franchise, Deathly Hallows part 2 and having read the books, was happy to see the conclusion, Harry had to deal with a number of challenges in the film, i couldn't help but think of the challenges we faced this trip as well, nothing really major in the big picture, but enough to keep us on our toes.

We arrived back in Vancouver, the wind was cold, much colder than in Trinidad but we were glad to be home, Pipit our cat had himself recently arrived back home from his holiday at mom's so it was a happy reunion for all.
Little did i know that i would spend the next 7 days processing the shots Audy and i took (as i said, almost 400 shots posted on Flickr) and writting this magnum opus of a trip report, 7 parts?! LOL.

For those interested to see how many of my target birds we were able to photograph, below is the wishlist and what we got. (N for no, Y for yes, S for seen but not photographed)

trinidad piping guan N
rufous-vented chachalaca Y
white-faced whistling duck N
muscovy duck N
comb duck N
white-cheeked pintail N
red-billed tropicbird Y
red-footed booby N
masked booby N
scarlet ibis Y
limpkin N
american flamingo N
king vulture N
ornate hawk-eagle N
yellow-headed caracara S
bat falcon Y
clapper rail N
wattled jacana Y
southern lapwing Y
buff-breasted sandpiper N
upland sandpiper S
eskimo curlew N
large-billed tern N
cayenne tern N
yellow-billed tern N
scaled pigeon N
pale-vented pigeon Y
eared dove N
lilac-tailed parrotlet N
striped cuckoo N
squirrel cuckoo Y
greater ani N
smooth-billed ani Y
oilbird Y
common potoo Y
white-tailed sabrewing Y
rufous-breasted hermit Y
green hermit N
little hermit N
brown violetear N
white-necked jacobin Y
blue-chinned sapphire N
white-chested emerald Y
copper-rumped hummingbird Y
long-billed starthroat N
tufted coquette Y
guianan trogon Y
collared trogon Y
green-backed trogon N
trinidad motmot Y
rufous-tailed jacamar Y
channel-billed toucan S
ringed kingfisher S
american pygmy kingfisher N
golden-olive woodpecker Y
chestnut woodpecker N
great antshrike Y
black-crested antshrike N
barred antshrike Y
scaled antpitta N
white-throated spadebill N
streaked flycatcher N
boat-billed flycatcher N
white-headed marsh tyrant Y
bearded bellbird H (heard only)
white-bearded manakin Y
blue-backed manakin Y
golden-headed manakin Y
tropical mockingbird Y
spectacled thrush Y
silver-beaked tanager Y
blue-grey tanager Y
turquoise tanager Y
bay-headed tanager N
speckled tanager N
blue dacnis N
red-legged honeycreeper N
purple honeycreeper Y
green honeycreeper Y
bananaquit Y
saffron finch N
red-capped cardinal Y
red-crowned ant tanager N
golden-crowned warbler N
crested oropendola Y
giant cowbird N
red-breasted blackbird Y
violaceous euphonia Y
trinidad euphonia N

Final tally of species photographed - 94 species (8 actual days of shooting)

It's done, i get my every-day life back now, Maplewood here i come. : )

Trinidad and Tobago - Part 6 - Newton George

Oct 25th
We were excited to be getting away from the sleepy Cuffie River Lodge for a morning out with Newton, he was going to take us around the southern portion of the island and we began with the "hilton" ponds.
I had told him that one of my major target birds was the White-cheeked Pintail, i love ducks and any chance to add to the collection i savour, unfortunately, the Caribbean duck was not to be found.
We did get a pair of Masked ducks but i missed getting a shot of the pretty male as they both ducked into the reeds quite fast when we approached. I did get a shot of the female, this species wasn't new to me as we got a pair of females in south Texas in '09, just not as close as these were.

Other ducks we shot included Blue-winged Teal (not shown) and a flock of Black-bellied Whistling ducks on the old golf course.

We picked up Least Grebe (not a new species for us) but were excited to get our first Purple Gallinule.

Cattle Egret posing nicely

Another good bird we got was White-fringed Antwren, we cleaned up getting both species, the Trinidad only White-flanked earlier and now this Tobago only specialty.

I was quite pleased to nail some decent shots of Wattled Jacana, while i did get shots of them at Aripo in Trinidad the looks were too distant, at the "hilton" ponds, the light and scenario were much better, cool.

I scooped Newton with one bird that day as well, while viewing the Blue-winged teals i noticed a godwit in among them, i asked him "what's that godwit there, is that a Hudsonian?"

He looked and i think the bird took him a bit by surprise, he said "hmm, i think so.." , he asked me to send him a shot of the bird as i guess it is considered a rarity on Tobago, my Kenefick guide says "uncommon passage migrant in Trinidad, most records Aug - Oct. No recent sightings from Tobago". Score!

 On the way out Newton stopped his maxi and told us that he thought he saw an Upland Sandpiper, this bird would have been a lifer for me but the looks were so distant and the pics a little too unIDable that i will wait for a better look one day before checking it off my list. Newton also said he had recently seen a Thick-knee in the same field although we of course didn't this time.
Part of our mission that day was to find an ATM so i could pay Newton, he was charging us $150 US for the half day and it was a much better deal than if we had organized something with the Cuffie River Lodge.
The ATM situation in Tobago was a little funny that day, it seemed every ATM we went to was not working, or the door would not open to enter the terminal area, something telecommunications related was down that day, Newton said no worries and he would drive us to Scarborough later to use the Scotiabank machine. The other Canadian bank down there is RBC by the way.

We checked out Crown Point, the southern tip of the island later and i shot some Brown pelicans in flight.

Later we checked out the Grafton Santuary and i was able to get some shots of a species i had given up hope of seeing this trip - Blue-backed Manakin, Newton delivered with this bird!

Later still, we checked out the Adventure Farm, a pay-to-play private location full of hummingbird feeders. The entrance fee wasn't too steep and one could purchase a delicious home-made mango shake while watching the frenzy.
It was a frenzy, i hadn't seen this much activity since Asa Wright, they had chuncks of fruit and a lot of cool species were coming in. They even had a bell they would ring when feeders were re-stocked and the birds would come in. I loved shooting here, for me, the big draw wasn't the hummers, it was the Blue-grey tanagers amd Spectacled Thrush, as well, how can you go wrong when a Cocoa Woodcreeper presents itself soo close to you and on an unusual perch? The red-crowned Woodpecker made an appearance at one point, great perch, great light IMO.

At one point i heard Newton scolding the owner for chopping down a banana tree that used to be near the feeders, it used to be a great perch, i think a lot of their business was bird photographers like myself, they were trying to accomodate more photogs and i admit, they had the birds coming in to become a major draw.
We saw our only Ruby-topaz Hummingbird of the trip there, a female that would perch high up in a tree.

As well, hermits and mangos were prevalant as well, i avoid shooting them at hummingbird feeders but Audy got a few nice shots.

 Black-throated Mango - female

Black-throated Mango - male

Well, we got to an ATM machine that worked finally and Newton brought us back to Cuffie River, a successful outing and one i am glad we took, we added quite a few birds getting out like we did, Adventure Farm was a nice way to wrap things up.

I took shots of one more species this trip, and it was on the entrance road back to Cuffie River, there in a tree near eye level were the elusive Orange-winged Parrots, two of them at that. I grabbed a few shots from the window of the vehicle before we continued on to the hotel, and the packing up of suitcases, and paying off of food tabs etc.

When all was said and done, Cuffie River was expensive, they charged a lot for the meals (which weren't all that spectacular to begin with), everything was calculated, and a 15% VAT tax along with some other tax was added to the total.
I couldn't help noticing in the managers office that she herself had internet access, that must be where she occupied her time, because i never saw her the whole time we were there.
would be nice to have some WIFI for guests, get with the times people.

If i were to do it again, i would spend no more than 1 night at Cuffie, just enough to get the White-tailed Sabrewing, it's not worth the cost, we just looked at our CC bill for Cuffie and it's kind of crazy, had i known before....

Tomorrow we would fly back to Trinidad and spend a quick night at the Holiday Inn Express before jetting back home on my birthday, the 27th.

Trinidad and Tobago - Part 5 - Cuffie River

Oct 23rd
Max our driver pulled up to the Manta Lodge at around 8:30am and we piled our luggage in and took in some of the scenery on the Caribbean side of the island.

It was nice, postcard nice, there was one secluded bay that Max said the king of Quatar liked to pull up into on his yacht and spend a week, living i guess, like a king.

The Cuffie River Wilderness retreat was tucked away in the Runnemeade valley and was supposed to be quite birdy, the food was also supposed to be amazing, we would soon find out.
It was quiet when we pulled up, we would be the only guests the whole visit. The owner was away and her sister was going to look after us, which was fine. The hotel is modern yet rustic, clean and spacious, most importantly, with showers that flowed hot water.  The property seemed pretty overgrown and i couldn't see any obvious trails to wander down, once we walked down to the small bridge beyond their gate but other than seeing a jacomar and a few egret down by the water there didn't seen to be much.
The front of the hotel had 4 hummingbird feeders put out but no fruit was provided like at Asa Wright.
There were numerous Copper-rumped hummingbirds that seemed especially aggressive and protective about their chosen feeders, lots of bananaquits, a couple of Tropical Mockingbirds, and a couple of Trinidad Motmots along with a White-tipped Dove or two.
Blue-grey Tanager was seen as well by the elevated pool next to the hotel.

 our spacious and open room

No room keys were needed here the owners felt so secure about their location i guess, that and the guard and dog posted out front every night helped as well i guess.

The place wasn't cheap, there was no fridge of hotplate in the room and the location, far removed from the main road meant that we didn't have any options as far as eating and would be relying on the home cooking, which we would pay for when the bill was tallied.
Our first lunch didn't start off so well though, we were served some mush steamed in banana leaves, it was supposed to have chicken in it but honestly  couldn't taste any. I prayed to myself that all the food wasn't going to be like this. I appreciate good food as well, I married a Thai and of course enjoy most Thai cousine, i like a bit of spicy too, so i'm no prude when it comes to trying new things but here's the thing, we were birdwatchers, out every morning, sweating and shooting, carrying my 500mm lens and tripod is like exercise at the best of times, after all that energy burned, my palate is not craving to be challenged, it just wants something easy to eat, and a ice cold Carib beer to wash it all down with afterwards.

The soup was good in Trinidad and Tobago, not usually being a soup eater i would grab seconds, it was always that good (or maybe i was always really hungry LOL).

So why do birders come to Cuffie River?
Well, the main draw i suppose is the White-tailed Sabrewing, a large hummingbird not easily seen elsewhere. and not on Trinidad at all. The other bird not found on Trinidad is the Rufous-vented Chachalaca, there were many of them on the property, this was my 3rd chachalaca species photographed by the way.

 female White-tailed Sabrewing

male White-tailed Sabrewing

Rufous-vented Chachalaca

Got some other decent shots of hummers and hermits as well at Cuffie.

 Copper-rumped Hummingbird

The Copper-rumps on Tobago are apparantly a different sub-species from their Trinidad neighbors, i couldn't tell much difference, except that they seemed more aggressive. We were told later that since all the male Ruby-topaz hummingbirds were all on vacation the Copper-rumps could get away with it, once the Ruby-tapaz came back, they would take back their role as dominant species.

One other bird species we never saw anywhere else was Black-faced Grassquit, a species that reminded me of our Dark-eyed Oregon juncos.

Rufous-breasted Hermit

A really tough species to get standing still, got some lousy looks at Asa Wright but when Audy spotted this hermits "secret" perch i knew i could get a decent shot.

Trinidad Motmot

The motmots were quite tame at Cuffie River i have to admit.

Oct 24th
This ended up being pretty much a rest day for us, there was a small bit of rain in the morning and since yesterday, no new birds had come to the feeders. Actually, Audy spotted a White-necked Jacobin but it only seemed to come early in the morning. After nailing the species at Asa Wright i was happy to take a pass at trying for it. I spent time reading a BBC Wildlife magazine someone had left in the library and wondered why this type of magazine wasn't available here in Canada as it was a good read.
I noticed that Desmond, the award-winning nature guide employeed by Cuffie seemed to double his duties as a groundskeeper when not guiding people around the property.
We would have loved to take an introductory walk around the grounds with Desmond, apparantly his knowledge of the local plants and herbs, along with bird ID skills are impressive. I didn't think it was fair then, that we, who were spending 3 nights at the lodge ($240 US a night - no WIFI or TV), with no other guests around, were ignored because we didn't shell out an additional $120 US for a "3 hour walk around the grounds" with him. At least at Asa Wright, an introductory walk was free, and Dunstan cave was free after 3 nights, Cuffie should consider making Desmond available to paying guests (or at least provide a property map with trails marked), as it is, we didn't know where to walk and just hung out around the hotel or pool. Our one interaction with Desmond was when the shower knob stripped a thread or something and spun freely, i asked Desmond about it and he went and fixed it for us.

We did get our first shots of a Red-crowned Woodpecker, another of those species not found on Trinidad.

We spent a lot of time trying to shoot the Orange-winged parrots that would fly in large groups overhead us, it became a mission of Audy's to get an ID'able shot of them, before i nailed one down low on a branch our last night this was Audy's best effort.

After dinner we were treated (as we were every night) to the antics of a White-tailed Nightjar, who would perch close to a light post, hawking insects, right in front of our dinner table, that was pretty cool.
The first night i attempted to get a shot or two under the natural light of the light post but it illuminated everything this unnatural green colour so i used some fill-flash at low power instead to snap a few shots, the nightjar didn't notice at all, it was pre-occupied by guarding it's perch from another nightjar that would attempt to land every now and then.

Tomorrow we would be heading out with Newton George, the guide we had run into in Speyside, we would be checking out the "Hilton" pond complex. i put the word in quotes because it's not actually a Hilton anymore but i think most birders will always know it by that name.

The Waiting Area

The Waiting Area