Friday, November 4, 2011

Trinidad and Tobago Trip Report - Part 3 - Aripo

Oct 20th
We didn't hear a lot of rain the night before and it looked like it would be a nice day, this was good because we were off to the Aripo livestock station that morning, a farm of sorts that held water buffalo among a good variety of wild birds.



Maneed had us walk a strech of the dirt road and we picked up some good species in a short time.



 Striated Heron

Smooth-billed Ani

 Red-breasted Blackbird

White-headed Water-tyrant

Finally i saw my first Southern Lapwings, along with Wattled Jacana, other shorebirds seen included a few Least Sandpipers and a Solitary Sandpiper.


The water buffalo were fun to shoot as well and Audy got a few memorable shots.


Further up the road we got some looks at a harder to find species called yellow-chinned Spinetail.


There were plenty of Black vultures around as well.


We saw one of my target birds Yellow-headed Caracara fly overhead but it never landed for a shot alas, we would see one more in Tobago while being driven on the Caribbean side and never got a shot that time either, struck out as far as caracara's were concerned.

After the livestock station we drove around the Aripo Savannah area a bit stopping at a few spots to shoot birds like 

 White-flanked Antwren

Savanna Hawk

 Squirrel Cuckoo

Yellow-rumped Cacique

The cacique's were fun to shoot as their nest tree was right down a major street with shops and a bar in a small town, at one point a local came up and said "what's all the commotion around here now?" i laughed and explained the nest in the tree across the street. He called the birds by the local name "yellow birds" and said it would be a shame if the tree died, it wasn't in good shape apparantly.

Later at Asa Wright we continued shooting the feeder species.
I had a special session with a White-necked Jacobin thanks to Audy coming into the cabin while i was resting to tell me that she had found a jacobin perch. I had gotten some lousy early morning too dark etc. shots of the species earlier in the morning so it was an absolute pleasure to spend some time with this beautiful hummingbird up close.




Barry was hanging around the veranda and we talked about the morning, suddenly it dawned on me, we were leaving for Tobago early Friday morning, we wouldn't be able to see the Oilbirds it seemed.
Barry was perturbed but said he would look into it. Later we heard that he would take us down to the cave in the early afternoon today, having re-scheduled a small group from England, who would be staying until Sunday.
We were grateful, we would get our Oilbirds after all. Before that however i wanted to nail a few more of the hummers since this was our last day in Trinidad.

Copper-rumped Hummingbird

White-chested Emerald

At 1pm we met Barry and proceeded to walk down to the Dunstan cave, which actually wasn't a cave at all but two cliff faces that come together in a pyramid, there is a stream that runs through it and the birds roost in the dark of the shadows during the day, coming out at night to feed on nectar.
The Oilbird is the only nocturnal bird to rely on echolocation.
It was important to get down to the caves before the afternoon rains began as the trail was extremely slippery at the best of times, it could become a river of mud on the way back if we didn't get back in good order.
Thankfully there was a hand rail almost the whole distance down, i decided wisely to keep the camera in backpack on the way down, even so, i did slip onto my butt once, there was one section of trail that Barry said caused 90% of hikers to slip.
We got down finally and the water was quite deep, my Helly Hanson boots were waterproof leather but the water was higher than my ankles. Who cares, this was likely going to be my only chance to tick Oilbird off my Life List and i wasn't going to let a little water get in the way. 
I would have to be extremely careful setting up my tripod and camera though, dropping it all into the water and rocks would not be good.

Dunstan Oilbird cave


Flash was not allowed with these birds but a flashlight was used by Barry to spot them on the cliff face for me, otherwise it would have been difficult to focus on them.
It was a quick extremely humid session but i was thankful to have seen these unique birds.
the hike back up was a sweaty humid grind for me but there were no slip-ups thankfully.

Tommorow morning we would be leaving Asa Wright for the airport and a short 14 minute flight to Tobago, the next portion of our trip was before us, and we slept well that night, the rains came at night and the sound on the roof was strangely comforting.


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