Day tripping - Trinidad style
The following AM I enjoyed exploring the plains and lowland savannas of Trinidad, beginning with a visit to the Aripo Biological Station. Here I learned about "Buffalipso", a hybrid bovine cross between Indian Water Buffalo, and cattle to produce a very heat tolerant creature. Of course, my main interest lie in the birds found in the open areas where these animals grazed though and I enjoyed much better views of the White-headed Marsh-Tyrant (below) & Pied Water-Tyrants. I saw my first Pinnated Bittern peering out of a wet, grassy slough & Grassland Yellow Finches entertained in the pasture brush alongside Blue-black Grassquits. I observed the antics of a young Savanna Hawk begging for food from a distant adult, while Yellow-hooded & Red-breasted Blackbirds sang and displayed nearby.
After this we continued on past some Wilson's Plovers playing in the surf and finally reached a wonderful little agricultural community nearby. The roadside wetlands offered some species that had become familiar to us by now and the area was teaming with more Jacanas, Southern Lapwings, Pied Water-Tyrants, and White-headed Marsh Tyrants. However, hidden amongst these more abundant birds were a few specialty species that we'd only see here during our trip. The first to show was the stunningly, understated Azure Gallinule. Having seen the more brightly-colored Purple Gallinule earlier in the day I expected the duller Azure Gallinule to pale by comparison, but the subtle coloration of this bird was magnificent as it contrasted with its bright yellow bill. Once again a field guide depiction, just doesn't begin to compare to the bird in the field!
As the day wore on we headed back toward Asa Wright with one more stop to make and chances at a few more fun tropical bird species. This would be my last birds I'd enjoy on this trip as I'd leave for Piarco airport at 0-dark-thirty the following AM.
We wound our way off the main highway and out across the abandoned runways of the old US air station, Wallerfield, to search for the Moriche Palm specialists. Four birds in particular are closely linked to this lovely palm species here in Trinidad: the Red-bellied Macaw, Fork-tailed Palm-Swift, Sulphury Flycatcher, and Moriche Oriole.
Orange-winged Parrot digiscoped Wallerfield, Trinidad 29 July 08
Upon parking the car we could hear the raucous call of large Parrots and I immediately saw the Orange-winged Parrots. These are members of the "Amazon" parrots, large with short squared tails. Then just to our left sitting quietly in the palm were 2 beautiful Red-bellied Macaws that David had likely spotted before the car had even stopped!
We saw many other goodies as we searched. There was another Jacamar here (a female this time) and a Black-tailed Tityra, and a pair of Ruby Topaz Hummingbirds foraging alongside Black-throated Mangos. When David finally called, "I have it here!" I raced over to see the lovely Moriche Oriole, a sleek bird in velvety black with a frosted golden crown. This seemed like a fitting way to end a productive and memorable last day of birding in Trinidad. Never fear though, I've skipped ahead and have at least one more Trini-tale up my sleeve for the gluttons who can't get enough of these ramblings! ;p