Thursday, April 14, 2016


Photo: Shari Zirlin
The middle of Tobago Island is a forest preserve meant to protect the island's water sources and has been kept out of development since 1776! This kind of foresight and continuous enforcement is nothing less than astonishing to me. I can only imagine what kind of excuses and assurances of safety American entrepreneurs would come up with for various schemes to trash the forest. 

After leaving the Cuffie River guest house, we drove a little north, past Castara Bay where we got our first Royal Terns of the season, then turned inland and climbed to the highest point on the island, in the preserve. Just after that we stopped and took a walk along a very old trail that once led to a farm. The trail, muddy, narrow, and serpentine, must have been some walk just to get home, but we weren't going to walk its length. With luck we'd find the 3 target species fairly quickly. And the first one we did. Probably not more than a couple of hundred yards in, Kim heard a YELLOW-LEGGED THRUSH and then spotted it. Shari managed to get one documentary photo of the bird.

The 2nd one proved a bit harder to find, but eventually we sighted 4 WHITE-TAILED SABREWINGS, a species of hummingbird that until the late 60's was thought to be extinct and was rediscovered after a hurricane revealed an area that they were using. It would be endemic to Tobago if a few weren't sometimes found in Venezuela

Our third species was more frustrating. Just as Asa Wright has a couple of manikin leks, so does this trail, these used by the BLUE-BACKED MANIKIN, and while we heard perhaps 2 or 3, we unable to sight one. This manikin is now analogous to the Elegant Trogon we only heard in Arizona. Hearing "counts" but it would be so much better to actually see one.

In that same vein, we were able to finally see a couple of species that until then were "heard only," like Stripe-breasted Spinetail and Rufous-breasted Wren.
12 species
Pale-vented Pigeon  1
Rufous-breasted Hermit  1
Trinidad Motmot  2
Cocoa Woodcreeper  1
Stripe-breasted Spinetail  1
Yellow-breasted Flycatcher  1
Rufous-breasted Wren  1
White-necked Thrush  1
Bananaquit  1

On the way to our next stop we passed through a town called Delaford, where we recorded our first, and only, Black-faced Grassquit of the trip.

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