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Day 7 (Wednesday, 18th February)

Rice Fields

The Rice Fields


 
After we had negotiated the early morning traffic of Tunapuna, and located the road South towards Caroni Swamp, the Rice Fields were found quite easily. Despite having taken the wrong set of traffic lights in town, we parked up on a corner, and above the noise of the constant traffic passing by, we spent some time looking over the flat fields, with a view of the hills in the distance. Most obvious birds here were huge flocks of Swifts – initially all Short-tailed, but a search through eventually weeded out Fork-tailed Palm & Chestnut-collared Swift. The latter were obvious due to their different shape, but the chestnut collars could also be seen on some with a little patience and in certain lights. Yellow-hooded Blackbirds were seen early on, with a Giant Cowbird over, joining a group of other congeners on a tree in the distance. Herons in the vicinity were white phase Little Blue, dark phase birds being seen later, and Striated Heron. 3 Limpkins were in the area.


 

Temple

Mud flats

Temple by the Sea across exposed mud

The mud flats looking North

After leaving the Rice Fields, we headed South on the main highway, passing bumper to bumper hold-ups heading in the opposite direction on the opposite side of the road, and turned off to the South-west after 9 miles. We wound our way to eventually find the mud flats of Waterloo. We hit lucky, since the tide was well out, revealing a vast expanse of exposed mud, with a Hindu temple on a promontory to the South side of the flats. It was a case of not knowing where to look first on the mud and sea, with so many different species in large numbers. Directly in front of us, some grounded boats awaiting the next incoming tide were decorated with Laughing Gulls, joined on one by a few Brown Pelicans. A Large-billed Tern was perched on one side of these (a Royal Tern to the other), with a third flying over towards the mud flats. Herons were abundant, with most being Little Blue (which was present in scores over the whole of the exposed mud). Great Blue, Yellow-crowned & Black-crowned Night-heron, Striated Heron, and Great White Egrets added to the list. Waders included Turnstones, Willets, Greater Yellowlegs, with a roost composed of Southern Lapwings, Short-billed Dowitchers, and Semipalmated Plovers. A small collection of impressive Black Skimmers flew in and rested amongst the throng. A handful of Ospreys were perched on driftwood far out in the mud, some feeding on fish.

We ambled along the walkway to the Temple, to get a better look at Neotropic Cormorant, finding yet more exposed mud to the South, although not as expansive or populous as on the northern aspect. However, quite close to the path, on some exposed shingle, was a mixed collection of Western & Semipalmated Sandpipers, and Semipalmated Plover. The majority of the peeps were Westerns, but allowed comparison when close to each other.

Neotropic Cormorant

Southern Lapwing

Neotropic Cormorant

Southern Lapwing

Night Heron

Laughing Gull

Black-crowned Night-heron

Laughing Gull

Brown Pelican

Royal Tern

Brown Pelican

Royal Tern

Snowy Egret

Yellow-crowned Night-heron

Snowy Egret

Yellow-crowned Night-heron


 

Mansion

The "Mansion"


 
After heading into Port of Spain, which is a delightfully aweful collection of concrete, we made the final payment for the hire car, and decided to return to the base of the Aripo Heights before meeting up with our boat for the Caroni Swamp tour. This was a very good decision from the off, since soon after we made the turn from the main highway to the Aripo Village road, a couple of Sulphury Flycatchers were followed by a perched Pearl Kite, on telegraph wires directly above the car. We hadn’t expected to see this scarce bird – this added to the appreciation of a beautifully compact, small and streamlined raptor.

We drove to the bridge which we crossed to find Aripo Cottage, but this time went straight on along L’orange road, and parked up just on the other side of a concrete bridge after about a mile, opposite the entrance of a small “mansion”. This possesses a veranda and manicured gardens, which are reputed to hold over 10 species of hummingbird. We did see a few here, including brief Ruby-topaz & Copper-rumped, with a Plumbeous Kite perched on an exposed bare tree on the opposite ridge of trees, and Yellow Oriole plying to and fro. We left the mansion grounds and followed the track below for about 400m. This produced the usual species already seen for this area, as well as Northern Waterthrush and Golden-fronted Greenlet.

Pearl Kite

White-bearded Manakin

Pearl Kite

White-bearded Manakin


 

Boat dock

Mangroves

Nadoo boat dock

Mangroves

We drove from Aripo Heights around mid-afternoon, found petrol a little easier than last time, and very easily located James Madoo’ s boat dock. We arrived about ¾ hour too early, so found a bit of birding nearby on the marshes. This wasn’t too productive, apart from Yellow-headed Caracara overhead. We decided to wait at the boat dock, whereupon the heavens opened up in a deluge of rain. It looked like a wet journey around the swamp, but the rain stopped about 5 minutes before departure. The seats at the front were kindly dried off for us. The tour only cost us $TT60 each, and we were lucky because the rain had put most people off, leaving only 3 others to share our boat. James was very accommodating, perhaps partly due to the lack of other passengers to see to, and took the pace fairly steadily through the swamp, stopping when some decent birds were suspected. The first bird seen was Black-throated Mango, which just preceded Green Kingfisher, which flew across the front of the boat. Unfortunately, it didn’t land. This is a species that we had hoped for on other trips for some time.

We made our way through some quite narrow channels, with impressive mangroves to each side. The channels widened as we approached the main target of the ibis roost, until we arrived at a wide, open expanse of water. On the way, we saw various goodies, including Straight-billed Woodcreeper, 2 or 3 Bicoloured Conebills (much more impressive in real life than expected), and a resting Tree Boa. Also a little surprising, with the tide quite high, were small collections of waders, such as Short-billed Dowitcher, Lesser Yellowlegs, Turnstone, and Spotted Sandpiper, perched on the exposed mangrove roots.

Swamp

Island

Channel through the swamp

Island roost in lagoon

James docked the boat just after 17:00, tying it to some overhanging branches, facing an island in the centre of the large expanse of water. Small flocks of Snowy Egrets were the first to make their way to roost, and these contained two’s and three’s of Tricoloured Heron. Some Scarlet Ibises had been seen within the mangroves, but the first of the incoming birds was seen around 15 minutes after stopping the boat. Numbers steadily increased until flocks of up to 50 Scarlet Ibis (and similar numbers of Snowy Egrets) were seen to some in. The majority of the Scarlet Ibis flew on to a more distant roost, but many still landed on the island in front of us. Along with the Egrets, the island started to look like a huge red and white berry bush. Something that we noticed as the birds swarmed in was that the Scarlet Ibis tended to fly in over the tops of the trees, compared to the Egrets that hugged the surface of the water. We departed this spectacle well before dark, making it safer to negotiate the maze of mangroves. We were the first of the 3 boats present to leave, with Nadan’s two jam-packed sardine cans following us later.

Boa

Short-billed Dowitcher

Tree Boa

Short-billed Dowitcher

Bicoloured Conebill

Ibis

Bicoloured Conebill

Scarlet Ibis landing to roost

Home

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Introduction

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Day 7

Day 8

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