DAY 1: Arrival
Arrive at Piarco International Airport in Port-of-Spain and transfer to the Asa Wright Nature Centre and Lodge.
DAY 2: Centre Grounds
Morning begins with the raucous noise of the Crested Oropendola and a host of other exotic sounds. A first-time visitor might see 20-30 life birds before breakfast. Our day will start with a guided tour of the several trails that traverse this rich and diverse wildlife sanctuary. On our introductory walk we should see such species as Violaceous Trogon, Channel-billed Toucan, Chestnut Woodpecker, White-bearded Manakin, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Turquoise and Bay-headed Tanager.
The Centre is situated in a typical valley of Trinidad’s Northern Range. These sites have been traditional centers of coffee, cocoa, and citrus plantations and many of these plants are still maintained at the Centre. Natural second-growth has taken over and festooned the abandoned plantation vegetation with vines and a host of epiphytes. The whole effect is one of being deep in a tropical rainforest. The afternoon will be free to allow you to relax, enjoy the trails and adjust to the tropical sun and heat. Birding from the veranda of the Asa Wright Nature Centre is one of the world’s most pleasant, and exciting, ornithological experiences. Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Tufted Coquette, Barred Antshrike, Green Honeycreeper are among the many species that can be easily seen.
DAY 3: Grande Riviere
Today we will rise early and depart for Grand Riviere. We will arrive before the sun is up and wait for the appearance of the Trinidad Piping Guan, known locally as the Pawi. It is one of the world’s most endangered species, and is endemic to Trinidad. Once hunted to near extinction, the species has been the focus of a considerable local effort to protect the bird and its habitat. The bird has responded well, slowly increasing in numbers and visibility. Visitors to the Pawi’s territory also occasionally catch sight of a Bat Falcon, a Zone-tailed Hawk or a Plumbeous Kite. Breakfast at a small beachside hotel before returning to Asa Wright Nature Centre for a free afternoon.
DAY 4: Blanchisseuse Road/Northern Range
This day sees us on an all-day excursion over the Northern Range towards the seaside village of Blanchisseuse. En route we will look for Swallow-tailed Kite, Common Black Hawk, Ornate Hawk-eagle, Bat Falcon, White-tailed Trogon, and Rufous-tailed Jacamar along with some of the more secretive forest birds such as Silvered Antbird, as well as special tanagers such as Speckled Tanager and Blue Dacnis. Along with rich birdlife, we will also have an opportunity to examine the fascinating world of leaf-cutter and army ants, and photograph orchids and other tropical flora. Depending on the weather conditions and the birds, we will picnic either at a nice spot in the hills near the village of Brasso Seco or on the beach near Blanchisseuse. (Bring a bathing suit, in case we have the opportunity for a swim.)
DAY 5: Nariva Swamp & Bush Bush.
Today we will wind our way out of the Northern Range to Trinidad’s southeaster coast. Our first stop will be Bush Bush, an unique upland island within a region of surrounding lowland grassy savanna similar to the Florida Everglades. There, while walking a circuit under the tall canopy, we will keep an eye out for Moriche Oriole, White-flanked Antwrens, recently reintroduced Blue and Yellow Macaw, as well as Red Howler and Capuchin monkeys.
We will spend the rest of the day birding Nariva Swamp, the largest freshwater herbaceous swamp on the island. Here too we will see a unique mangrove community, made up primarily of the stilt-rooted rhizophora mangrove, which often reaches a height of 80 feet. Along the way we will look first in the lowland habitats for such species as Savannah Hawk, Long-winged Harrier, Yellow-headed and Crested Caracara, Red-breasted Blackbird, Southern Lapwing, White-headed Marsh Tyrant and Green-rumped Parrotlet. In the coastal area we will have an opportunity to look for Pinneated Bittern, Pearl Kite, Azure Gallinule, Wattled Jacana, and Red-bellied Macaw.
DAY 6: Aripo Savannah/Night Birding
This morning’s journey to the lowland Aripo Savannah could provide yet another batch of new species. In the savannah, Plumbeous Kite, Grey-headed Kite, Shiny Cowbird, Giant Cowbird, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Blue-black Grassquit, and Ruddy-breasted Seedeater are likely to be seen. The Aripo Savannah is an area of extremely acidic soil with poor drainage, and is a remnant of what once was a major habitat type of lowland Trinidad. These remnant savannahs are now surrounded by extensively altered landscapes where much sugar cane is grown, as well as small-scale agriculture and housing development sprawl. We will leave the centre in the late afternoon to return to the savannah region for some night birding. Our target species will include White-tailed Nightjar, Red-bellied Macaw, Common Paraque, Common Pootoo, Tropical Screech Owl and Barn Owl.
DAY 7: Oilbird Cave/Yerreté/Caroni Swamp
This morning we will visit Dunston Cave, a beautiful riparian grotto located on the sanctuary, to view the breeding colony of the fascinating nocturnal Oilbird. This is one of the most accessible Oilbird caves in the entire world and access is limited to protect this rare species. On the short hike to the Cave, you could see some of the secretive birds of the deep forest such as Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, Black-faced Antthrush, White-bellied Antbird, and Gray-throated Leafscraper.
We will depart before noon with picnic lunches for Yerreté, an idyllic private home in Trinidad’s Maracas Valley. Only recently opened to the public, the property’s feeder stations offer unparalleled, up-close views of the wide array of Trinidad’s hummingbird species. (Twelve of the island’s 13 recorded species have been seen at the feeders.) An optional slideshow of the owner’s amazing photography will also be shown. From Yerreté, we will depart for the the famous Caroni Marsh, a very specialized mangrove forest that contains several genera and species of mangroves, showing classic examples of plant adaptation in this unique brackish water community. We will seek out some of its more specialized denizens — Neotropical Cormorant, Anhinga, Striated Heron, White-cheeked Pintail, Large-billed Tern, Pied Water-tyrant, Bicolored Conebill, and Red-capped Cardinal. Our day will end with the spectacular flight of Scarlet Ibis returning to their mangrove roosts at dusk, truly one of the world’s most dramatic natural moments. Returning to the boat dock we will search the mangrove-lined channels for the mysterious sounding Common Pootoo.
DAY 8: Return Home
This exciting learning vacation ends this morning as you depart for your flight homeward.