Tour 1: The Perfect Combo

Daily Itinerary + Pricing

Red-legged Thrush (photo©Yves-Jacques Rey-Millet)

Red-legged Thrush (photo©Yves-Jacques Rey-Millet)

Islands we will visit:  Barbados, Dominica, St. Lucia, Trinidad

Overview

The first leg of our tour sees us travel to three of the most spectacular islands in the Lesser Antillean chain in search of several endemics (including two island's critically endangered species of Amazona parrot) , and a host of indigenous regional Caribbean species - ranging from wonderfully vibrant orioles and enigmatic thrashers to delicate warblers and dazzling hummingbirds. The timing of the tour ensures that dotted amonst the myriad local species will be a host of North American migrants overwintering on the islands. For the entirety of the second half of the trip our lodging will be the internationally renowned Asa Wright Lodge on the island of Trinidad. In addition to exploring select trails which traverse the Centre's 1,500 acres of tropical rainforest, we will also use Asa Wright as a base from which to launch birding excursions to various other habitats across the north and west of the country, in search of a wondrous variety of South American species .

This truly is the perfect Caribbean, South American and North American birding combo!

Tour Dates

 November 19th - 29th 2017: Please click here to read the trip report for this tour  

 November 22nd - December 5th 2018:  now accepting bookings for this tour - 6 spaces left! Please click here to learn how you can reserve your space on this tour or to request additional information about this tour.

 

Daily Itinerary

 

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Day 1

BARBADOS

Female Antillean-crested Hummingbird sitting in her almost thimble-sized nest (photo© David Petts)

Female Antillean-crested Hummingbird sitting in her almost thimble-sized nest (photo© David Petts)

Savour the views of the coast with a refreshing rum punch

Savour the views of the coast with a refreshing rum punch

The Bajan Birder meets you as soon as you exit the Arrivals Hall of the Grantley Adams International Airport and escorts you to your hotel, located a mere ten minutes away along the scenic southern coastline of the island. The beauty of this coastline perfectly embodies the appeal which a life in the Caribbean holds for so many, and which has served to make the region one of the most coveted vacation destinations on the planet.  Your beachfront hotel provides you with the perfect setting in which to begin to settle into our "Casually Caribbean" themed tour. After checking in you'll have the opportunity to relax on your balcony and gaze out across the glittering turquoise sea, or cross the road and enjoy a stroll along the white sand beaches before rendezvousing with the rest of the group in the dining hall for our Meet and Greet Dinner. With such local delicacies as pickled seacat, breadfruit coucou and flying fish awaiting our palates, the tone is set for what promises to be as equally delectable a journey for our tastebuds as the rich variety of colourful bird species will be for our eyes.

 

Day 2

Golden Warbler (endemic subspecies of Yellow Warbler) (photo© David Petts)

Golden Warbler (endemic subspecies of Yellow Warbler) (photo© David Petts)

Grey Kingbird (photo©Sam Barone)

Grey Kingbird (photo©Sam Barone)

Our tropical adventure begins early the next morning on the very southern tip of the island at Chancery Lane Marsh. This oasis of thick sedge and aquatic vegetation is bordered by undulating sand dunes and the sparkling turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean to the south, and a vast grassland savannah to the north. The edge of the wetland is punctuated by small groves of Button Mangrove and Australian Pine, where flitting amongst their branches, can be found such local gems as Barbados Bullfinch, Grey Kingbird, Scaly-naped Pigeon, Black-whiskered Vireo and Caribbean Elaenia. Suspended from these trees, thick mats of Wild Cucumber with bright red-tipped fruits prove an irresistible lure to the island's endemic race of brilliant green Anolis Lizard, and in the surrounding grasslands, blossoms of French Cotton and other plants attract butterflies such as Monarchs, Little Yellows, Cloudless Sulphurs and charming little Caribbean Blues. During our time here we also make sure to listen out for the tell-tale warning barks of Green Vervet sentries - which paradoxically may serve to lead us to other members of their troop. As we make our way closer to the center of the wetland, we encounter mixed flocks of North American waders gorging themselves on the healthy population of fiddler crabs to be found buried in the wet clay substrate of the marsh, and are often greeted by the telltale rattle of highly territorial Belted Kingfishers intent on chasing newly arrived migrants from this prime fishing ground.

Green Heron walking on lily pads

Green Heron walking on lily pads

The Bajan Birder then takes advantage of the knowledge and experience gained over the course of 16 years of leading birding tours on the island, by guiding you to a number of secluded and little-known lily ponds in order to get unbelievably close views of the elusive Masked Duck, Caribbean Coot, secretive Sora and Wilson's Snipe. These lightly trafficked, peaceful sites are also favorites of Common and Purple Gallinule, along with Green Heron.

Male Caribbean Martin glistening in the sunlight (photo©Yves-Jacques Rey-Millet)

Male Caribbean Martin glistening in the sunlight (photo©Yves-Jacques Rey-Millet)

From these idyllic ponds we journey through the centre of the island en route to it's northernmost tip. Here, along a stretch of wave-battered clifftop synonymous with this wild coastline, male Grassland Yellow Finches in full breeding plumage erupt out of tussocks of thick grass and hover in midair, wings quivering in frenzied excitement as they perform a series of elaborate courtship displays - carefully choreographed for discerning females. Overhead, Caribbean Martins wheel and dance in the high wind, occasionally stooping into dives that see them skim low over the cactus atop which perch lively Antillean-crested Hummingbirds and Black-faced Grassquits. We explore a range of birding habitats in the north (including a reliable site for Southern Lapwing) before returning south along the eastern coast with its miles of rugged, windswept beaches, to our lunch stop - a quaint establishment frequented by locals, which promises to introduce us to some more sumptuous Barbadian specialties.

Black and White Warblers are among the north american passerines that over winter at Graeme Hall (photo© Sam Barone)

Black and White Warblers are among the north american passerines that over winter at Graeme Hall (photo© Sam Barone)

In the afternoon we make our way to the internationally renowned Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary, to which we will be granted exclusive access.  We are incredibly fortunate to be allowed unrestricted access into this RAMSAR-designated Wetland of International Importance, as the Sanctuary has been closed to the public since 2009. As we stroll along the boardwalk that meanders through the dense expanse of Red and White Mangroves, we are afforded incredible views of a host of indigenous species, including Green-throated Caribs, Carib Grackles, Bananaquits,  Golden Warblers, Shiny Cowbirds and a selection of migrant North American passerines.  We take advantage of prime locations on viewing platforms and of our ideal positions behind observation hides to enjoy unparalleled views of Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Black as well as Yellow-crowned Night Heron and Blue-winged Teal. Three species of egret also inhabit the mangroves, and owing to the absence of daily visitors for the last 8 years, the colony has gradually encroached towards the boardwalk, from where one can now get excellent views of nesting Little, Snowy,  and Cattle Egret..

Dinner tonight will be at the bustling local hotspot of Oistins Fishing Village where we will be spoiled for choice as we walk between rows of colourful shacks with each vendor boasting the freshest Lobster, Red Snapper, Flying Fish....and of course, the coldest beers in the village. As we sit back and enjoy our delicious grilled seafood meal, we are serenaded to the tunes of calypso and reggae courtesy of the live acts on stage.

Hatchlings making a mad dash for the sea

Hatchlings making a mad dash for the sea

After dinner we make our way back to the hotel by walking along the stunning open stretches of moonlit beaches that dominate this southern coast. At this point you have the option of continuing your leisurely stroll along the hotel beach or joining me on an exciting trip to the west coast of the island. Here we meet up with volunteers from the Barbados Sea Turtle Project and assist conservation efforts by helping to search for nesting marine turtles and possibly even releasing turtle hatchlings from B.S.T.P. protected nest sites.

For a list of our Top 20 Species for Barbados please click  here

Day 3

ST. LUCIA

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A true beauty - the St.Lucia Parrot (photo©John Dyson)

A true beauty - the St.Lucia Parrot (photo©John Dyson)

ST. LUCIA

From the moment the dark green silhouette of volcanic St.Lucia comes into view, you know you are in for something special. From your plane window it’s clear that towns and settlements are very much concentrated along the flat coastal areas while the interior is defined by mountainous terrain impractical for large scale development.  Such a topographical deterrent has been instrumental in preserving the extensive pristine habitat so essential for the multitude of bird species that thrive here.

Purple-throated Hummingbird (photo©David Petts)

Purple-throated Hummingbird (photo©David Petts)

We are met at the airport and set off on our exploration of the wilds of St.Lucia. As we drive through small towns and villages the friendliness of the people is very much in evidence with many inhabitants smiling and waving as we pass by. An almost immediate feeling of tranquility  descends over us as we venture further into the least populated areas on the island, and we simply settle back and enjoy the views of this stunningly picturesque island. Our first birding stop offers us quite possibly the best views on the island of all three hummingbird species that reside on St.Lucia. Here, the imposing and absolutely glorious Purple-throated Carib, it’s slightly smaller but equally grand counterpart, the Green-throated Carib, and the dainty Antillean-crested Hummingbird all shift and flit amongst an unbelievably lush landscape filled with flowers of every imaginable colour and scent.

Following this memorable encounter we continue on further into the Northern Range, and are soon birding in the shadow of the majestic 2,600 ft Pitons. Although we are in a mountainous region of the island, it will be the van's engine (not our own) which does most of the work on the day. We drive up a long steady incline to the quaint hilltop village of Bouton, where we are afforded a spectacular view of the surrounding landscape. From here we set out on a leisurely stroll along an established track, lined to one side with an extensive orchard, laden with tropical fruits of every imaginable shape and colour, and on the other with the magnificent swathe of rainforest which sprawls across the majority of St.Lucia's wild Northern Range.

St.Lucia Warbler (photo©John Dyson)

St.Lucia Warbler (photo©John Dyson)

Birding within an ecotone such as this promises to reveal a number of the island's indigenous and endemic species, and it is no exaggeration to state that birds will be all around us. Overhead, Lesser Antillean Swifts effortlessly manipulate the air currents, amongst the trees colourful St.Lucia Warblers peer underneath leaves in search of gorging caterpillars, countless tree blossums attract various species of hummingbirds, overhanging tree limbs represent perfect sites for St.Lucia Pewees to launch attacks on insects, and abundance of fruits ripening in the tropical sun prove an irresistible lure for opportunistic Scaly-breasted and Pearly-eyed Thrashers

The idyllic Foxgrove Inn, a locally run, small hotel surrounded by forested hills and offering a stunning view of the spectacular Praslin Bay and the enchanting Frigate Islands Nature Reserve is our home for the next 4 nights and we arrive in the mid-afternoon in time for a dip in the pool before dinner.

Day 4

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St.Lucia Oriole (photo©David Petts)

St.Lucia Oriole (photo©David Petts)

An early start today is justified as it provides us with the best opportunity to see a bird which for many of us may well represent the highlight of our time on the island - the most beautiful and brightly colored of the Amazonas - the St.Lucia Parrot. In order to get the best views of the island's national bird we venture into St.Lucia's rugged , volcanic interior where within the sprawling Des Cartiers Rainforest the greatest number of sightings of this stunning species have been reported. As we negotiate the well-established trail network which runs through this forest, we are likely to also encounter among others, such gems as St. Lucia Black Finch, Forest Thrush, Lesser Antillean Bullfinch, St.Lucia Oriole and even Rufous-throated Solitaire. While making our way through this pristine site we may also be fortunate enough to come across other inhabitants of the forest such as Lesser Antillean Iguana, Tree Boa, and the island's endemic race of Anolis Lizard.

As midday approaches we begin our gradual descent out of the forested highlands, and down into the oldest town on the island -  Soufriere - where we enjoy lunch and an ice cold Piton lager at a kabawé (local bar). We venture into some of the shops and local stalls that line the coastline of this popular seaside town before making our way to a site renowned throughout the Caribbean. A 20 minute drive from Soufriere, sees us enter the only “drive-in” volcano in the world! While escorted by a guide we explore the base of the crater where the very earth itself appears to come to life in the form of hissing springs and large bubbling mud filled ponds. Despite the fact that this volcano is classed as dormant and is therefore completely safe, this is still an incredibly spine tingling experience and one not to be missed (although as with all tours on this trip you can of course choose not to partake)

The critically endangered White-breasted Thrasher is found only on St.Lucia and Martinique (photo©David Petts)

The critically endangered White-breasted Thrasher is found only on St.Lucia and Martinique (photo©David Petts)

There are few places that I have been in the world that can match the remarkable beauty of the Caribbean, and as is the case with the other Lesser Antillean islands on this tour, St.Lucia's small size means that for a birder and nature enthusiast the range of different habitats that can be visited on one day is truly phenomenal. Having spent the first half of our sixth day exploring moist montane and tropical rainforests and gazing on high elevation specialists such as Antillean Euphonias, we then make a 20 minute drive to the dry woodlands of the east coast in order to search for those species that prefer a drier, low-lying habitat - including one of the rarest birds we are likely to see on the entire trip - the White-breasted Thrasher. And incredibly, we end the day having driven to the highest point in St.Lucia where we are treated to a magnificent aerial display by a resident colony of Red-billed Tropicbirds.

Day 5

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Humpbacks migrate through Caribbean waters

Humpbacks migrate through Caribbean waters

Although the focus of this tour will always be on birds, the variety of other spectacular wildlife on the islands dictates that we regularly seek out some of the other illustrious inhabitants on each island we visit. This morning we set sail on a phenomenal trip under the guidance of an experienced captain and crew on a search for ocean giants! An astonishing twenty species of whale and dolphin have been sighted in the waters off St.Lucia, and we have ensured that your time on the island coincides with the start of many of these behemoths migration through the Lesser Antilles.  Humpbacks, Short-finned Pilots and False Killers are amongst the species that can be seen at this time of year, but the most reliable sightings tend to be of Dominica's resident population of mighty Sperm Whale - the largest toothed whale on the planet. These spectacular animals frequent and feed in the deep oceanic troughs to the west of the island, and use the placid waters of the Caribbean Sea as a calving ground. This promises to be a truly unforgettable wildlife encounter.

After this exhilarating oceanic adventure we return to the shore where we lunch at a local eatery specializing in bakes, roti and fishcake before making our way back to our hotel where we have the option of lounging by the pool, taking a stroll in the gardens or having a siesta. As the sun sinks lower in the sky you have the option of remaining at the hotel or joining me to explore the forest surrounding Foxgrove itself.  The winding road up into the forest and nearby forest trails in themselves offer some excellent bird watching, and will leave you in no doubt as to why Foxgrove is a favorite lodging for birders from around the world. A target for us here will be the largest finch in the world, the mind-bogglingly massive Lesser Antillean Saltator. A beast of a finch, this bird responds readily to spisshing as if to demand who dare enters his realm. This serene site with trickling springs and fern laden gullies is sure to produce other indigenous wonders as well and we’ll enjoy their company until fading light encourages us to head back to the hotel .  We meet at the bar for a cocktail before dinner which will be enjoyed tonight, as every night, on the sweeping open-air verandah. The chef and local co-owner of the hotel is brilliant and having worked most of his life in fine-restaurants in Paris and London returned home to add what he learnt in foreign lands to local cuisine. Prepare your tastebuds  for some delicious creole dishes.

Day 6

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On our final day in St.Lucia we head to the impressive Aupicot Wetlands - a reliable site for overwintering North American shorebirds and waterfowl. Prime shorebird habitat is often limited or restricted to small pockets of fresh water on many of the Caribbean islands, it is often the case therefore that when we do visit sites that provide shorebirds with what they’re after  , we can be rewarded with views of numerous species all feeding together in mixed flocks. Not only are the species varied, but often times they prove to be extremely accessible, and are so intent on feeding that photo and viewing opportunities are very close indeed.

A magnificent spire rising from a flat sea - The makestic Gros Piton

A magnificent spire rising from a flat sea - The makestic Gros Piton

We finish the Caribbean-leg of our trip with, fittingly,  a truly Caribbean experience. Following a scenic drive along the west coast, ensuring that we pull over to bask in a spectacular view of this coast of the island framed by its duel pillars of petit and Gros Piton, we arrive on the popular west coast with its brilliant white sand beaches, pristine turquoise waters and brightly decorated shacks offering every possible concoction of delicious Caribbean cuisine imaginable (and wide selection of local beers). We wind down the afternoon here in the company of calypso and reggae tunes, lunching beneath groves of coconut trees and swaying Australian pines until late afternoon when we take a leisurely stroll (or horse ride should you wish) along the beach famed for it’s stellar views of neighboring Martinique.

For a List of our Top 20 Target Species for St.Lucia please click here and scroll down the page to St.Lucia

Day 7

DOMINICA

The threatened White-crowned Pigeon is a prize for any birder (photo©Yves-Jacques Rey-Millet)

The threatened White-crowned Pigeon is a prize for any birder (photo©Yves-Jacques Rey-Millet)

This morning we take a 45 minute flight to the "Nature-lover's Caribbean Island". With it's seemingly innumerable waterfalls and a river for every day of the year coursing through it's vast tracts of primary rainforest, Dominica is a nature-lover's dream. We spend the next three days birding throughout what is one of the least developed and hence most bio-diverse islands in the Caribbean, and one which provides a snapshot of what many of the more developed islands of the West Indies would have looked like in years gone by.

Red-legged Thrush (photo©James Hanlon)

Red-legged Thrush (photo©James Hanlon)

This island's ancient forests represent prime habitat for several endemic and indigenous regional species, and after being met by pre-arranged transport and taken to our hotel to freshen up, we spend the afternoon targeting such forest-dwellers as White-crowned Pigeon , Red-legged Thrush, Lesser Antillean Saltator, Red-breasted Grosbeak and Blue-headed Hummingbird and Plumbeous Warbler (two near-endemics -  found on only one other island).  These dense forests, peaceful mountain streams and surrounding river valleys also serve to attract a host of dazzling butterflies, from Zebras and Southern Dagger Tails to Clench's Hairstreaks and Polydamus Swallowtails.

After a fabulous day spent in the lush rainforest of the island's heartland we are driven to one of Dominica's hidden and most beautiful bays, where we stroll along the black sand beaches and swim in the peaceful waters of the Caribbean Sea before heading back to our apartments for a sumptuous creole dinner and complimentary wine.

Day 8

Red-necked Parrot (photo© Bertrand Baptiste)

Red-necked Parrot (photo© Bertrand Baptiste)

Despite the highlights of the first day, the second has the potential to be even more rewarding. Dominica is unique in the Lesser Antilles in that it is the only island with two endemic species of Amazona parrot, both of which are on the IUCN List of Threatened Species. With the sun still low in the sky we arrive in the spectacular Morne Diablotin National Park in the north of the island. As we make our way along trails through the forest, we listen for the raspy high pitched squawk of the Jaco (local name for the Red-necked Parrot), which serves as an effective means of our honing in on the position of this inquisitive and highly gregarious bird.

The morning continues with our venturing deeper into the park, (taking time along the way to connect with such secretive species as Spectacled Thrush, Dominica's local race of House Wren and Ruddy Quail-Dove), but as we drive through sheltered valleys and up into tranquil montane and elfin forests, the changing landscape signals a shift in our focus; for here we enter the realm of the largest and rarest member of the Amazona genus. The total population of the truly magnificent and regal Sisserou or Imperial Parrot now numbers a mere 300 individuals, and to have the privilege of seeing one of the last of it's kind within such vast tracts of unspoiled forest is truly an experience to treasure. The gentle pace of this tour allows us the opportunity to remain in Diablotin in the company of it's plethora of weird and wonderful forest species for a substantial amount of time; walking the trails, relaxing in the gently flowing forest streams and plunging waterfalls and even enjoying a delicious rainforest-themed pick-nick.  

 

For a List of our Top 20 Target Species for Dominica please click here and scroll down the page to Dominica

  

Day 9

TRINIDAD

Barred Antshrike (photo© Sam Barone)

Barred Antshrike (photo© Sam Barone)

Violaceous Euphonia (photo© Sam Barone)

Violaceous Euphonia (photo© Sam Barone)

Trinidad is truly fabulous - the only place where West Indies birds and animals overlap the ranges of Amazonian species. The island's proximity to South America, coupled with the fact that in the past it was physically a part of the landmass of the continent, helps explain the huge variety of South American species which can be seen here, and often nowhere else in the Caribbean. It is a very special island indeed, and every morning for the remainder of our tour we will be waking in one of it's most spectacular birding locales - the world renowned Asa Wright Nature Centre. Located in the heart of the Arima Valley in the Northern Range of the island, the Eco Lodge is perfectly nestled within bands of primary and secondary rainforest and hence ideally placed to attract a plethora of bird species. 

Indeed such is the sheer variety of wondrous South American species residing in this vast protected valley that many birders might well be content to sleep in a hovel and eat nothing but bread and butter for the duration of their stay. But after experiencing the comfort of Asa Wright's cottages, the unbelievable peace and tranquility of the bungalows set amongst brilliantly blooming tropical gardens, and sampling the delectable tastes of the award-winning meals (all of which, plus tea/biscuits and rum punch, are provided on a daily basis) one will be left in no doubt as to the degree of "sacrifice" which will have to be made in order to enjoy the species on offer.

A phenomenal five days await. 

The aptly named Long-billed Starthroat boasts a bill almost as long as it's body (Photo©John Dyson)

The aptly named Long-billed Starthroat boasts a bill almost as long as it's body (Photo©John Dyson)

Upon arrival we are escorted to our cottages nestled within the very heart of the forest and following a siesta make our way to Asa Wrights unquestionable focal point - it's mythical verandah overlooking a rainforest that appears to stretch to the horizon. Here we spend the remainder of the afternoon. It may seem as though it would be difficult to stay on a verandah when there is a sweeping expanse of rainforest before you, but wait until you set foot on this verandah. There are visitors who stay at the lodge for a week and never leave this place. This truly is one of the most spectacular tropical wilderness experiences in the western hemisphere, if not the world. It is no exaggeration to state that here breathtakingly beautiful birds are quite literally at your fingertips. A mind boggling 13 species of hummingbird, each seeking out the life giving nectar of the brightly-coloured flowers and feeders dangling from the rooftops flip, zip and dance all around us. Skittish Long-billed Starthroats, dazzling Ruby Topaz, pugnacious White-necked Jacobins and many others greet us at our every turn. Vibrant Yellow Orioles, hypnotic Purple Honeycreepers and splendid Violaceous Euphonias add to the swirling melee of tropical colours on show. Choose an elegant mahogany chair, sit back and soak it all in, we have all afternoon. As the shadows lengthen, afternoon tea, complete with selection of cake and brownies, will be brought to you and at 6 o'clock why not gravitate towards the bar for a complimentary rum punch to enjoy while watching the sun set on what truly will prove to be a day in paradise. 

Day 10

Simply stunning - male Tufted Coquette (photo© Sam Barone)

Simply stunning - male Tufted Coquette (photo© Sam Barone)

As we wake to a morning chorus of varied and wonderful birdsong we rendezvous at a reliable site for witnessing the aerial displays of male Tufted Coquettes. In a land of hummingbirds, this species is hard to beat. Elegant orange sideburns, punctuated by deepest green spherical orbs, a perky, fiery crest and a plucky demeanour that only fuels his popularity amongst his adoring public make this an encounter to savour. 

 

 

Blue-gray Tanager (photo© Sam Barone)

Blue-gray Tanager (photo© Sam Barone)

After an extensive and delicious buffet breakfast we set out along the appropriately named Discovery Trail in search of such South American delights as Channel-billed Toucans, Green-backed and Collared Trogons, Trinidad Motmots, Golden-headed and White-bearded Manakins , antwrens, antshrikes,  and a host of different species of brightly colored tanagers .

 

 

 

Hours of blissful birding while away, but as the trails all interconnect and surround the Lodge, we are never far from home, and can opt to head back to the peace and tranquillity of the verandah, or our cottages at any time. This being said, we all want to ensure that we are presnet and accounted for when it's time to  take the half hour walk down to Dunston Cave. On our way we are sure to keep a lookout for two of the the most abundant and popular non-bird species at the Lodge - the Red-rumped Agouti and impressive Golden Tegu Lizard. However once at the entrance to the cave , the noise emanating from it's interior ensures we rapidly shift our focus back to birds, in preparation for an encounter with one of the most bizarre avian species you will encounter on the entire trip. The primary reason why the World Wildlife Fund made a large contribution to the establishment of the Asa Wright Centre in the 1960's was in order to protect one of the most accessible colonies of Oilbirds in the region, and we are about to come face to face with it. I won't go into too much detail on the spectacle that awaits us, only to say that it is a truly unforgettable sight.

 

Day 11

Brilliant White-necked Jacobins are one of several species of hummingbird seen every day at Asa Wright (photo© Sam Barone)

Brilliant White-necked Jacobins are one of several species of hummingbird seen every day at Asa Wright (photo© Sam Barone)

The next morning sees us step out of our cottages into tropical gardens awash with colours and floral fragrances of every imaginable description . 

 After another hearty breakfast we are collected from the Centre and driven to the vast expanse of wilderness that is the 1,788 hectare Aripo Savannah. This impressive area of open grassland and cemented clays makes for an astonishing change from the lush forests of Asa Wright, and as the habitat differs, so too do the birds.

Great Kiskadee (photo© Sam Barone)

Great Kiskadee (photo© Sam Barone)

In the grassland, we look for Red-breasted Meadowlarks and the very local Grassland Yellow-Finches. The skies overhead are thick with dozens of Black Vultures soaring effortlessly on tropical thermals, and Savanna, Short-tailed and Zone-tailed Hawks as well as over-wintering Merlins and Peregrine Falcons also tend to frequent this area. Tropical Kingbirds and Great Kiskadees make the most of the abundance of insects irresistibly drawn to the hides of scores of grazing "buffalypso" (local name for the water buffalo x cattle hybrid). Although rarely seen, these central grasslands are also home to other mammalian species such as Red-brocket Deer, Armadillo and Prehensile-tailed Porcupine, while at the edge of the savannah, minuscule Green-rumped Parrotlets and Red-bellied Macaws jostle and squawk in groves of 100 foot Moriche palms.

Tonight, dinner is followed by an optional exploratory night walk in search of species of owls and nightjars as well as a host of tree frogs and other nocturnal wildlife whose croaks, grunts and whistles all serve to add to the cacophony of calls so characteristic of evenings in the tropics.

Day 12

We wake to enjoy a stroll along the reserve's northern ridge, affording us fabulous views of the surrounding valleys. Thanks to our lofty viewpoint, we are soon enjoying an early morning encounter with Rough-winged Swallows and Gray-breasted Martins, as well as hundreds of White-collared, Band-rumped, and Short-tailed Swifts. Over the years it has also become increasingly possible to connect with one of Trinidad's two endemics - the secretive Trinidad Piping-Guan from this location.

 

Wattled Jacanas (photo© Sam Barone)

Wattled Jacanas (photo© Sam Barone)

After returning to Asa Wright Lodge we take our sizeable packed lunches and make for Nariva Swamp. Located near Trinidad's east coast, this largest freshwater swamp on the island (and RAMSAR designated Wetland of International Importance) is well worth the hour-long drive. The swamp boasts a variety of diverse vegetation types, with huge areas of tropical forest, palm forest, mangrove, and marshland. We journey to those areas most likely to yield the greatest number of sightings. Amongst others, we visit a reliable site for Blue and Yellow Macaws and have the opportunity to see over 20 species of heron and bittern, as well as 3 species of whistling ducks and an abundance of overwintering shorebirds. We hope for good views of Yellow-chinned Spinetail and Striped Cuckoo and stay constantly on the lookout for a number of other species including Pied Water-Tyrant and White-headed Marsh-Tyrant. We will even have the potential for sightings of Red Howler Monkeys and the extremely rare West Indian Manatee

When we return to Asa Wright, and after enjoying a well earned cup of tea and sampling from the daily selection of cakes and biscuits, we make our way down to Dunston Cave, all the while on

Day 13

Ornate Hawk Eagle photographed at Asa Wright  (photo© H.P. Nelson)

Ornate Hawk Eagle photographed at Asa Wright
 (photo© H.P. Nelson)

Crested Oropendola (photo© Sam Barone)

Crested Oropendola (photo© Sam Barone)

After another morning waking to the wondrous sights and sounds of bellbirds, pewees and, oropendolas we journey into the Arena Forest along well worn trails, in the hopes of getting views of some truly astonishing species - from the hauntingly beautiful White Hawk, majestic Ornate Hawk Eagle and impressively coiffed Crimson-crested Woodpecker, to the much coveted Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Gray-headed Kite and Euler's Flycatcher. When we eventually break cover, our eyes shift skyward in the hope of getting glimpses of those effortless manipulators of the air currents - Swallow-tailed Kites and Bat Falcons. After such a morning we will be in need of an equally impressive afternoon if we are to finish our tour on a high. Fortunately in the north west of the island, Trinidad has just such a location. 

The knowledge that we are heading there is enough to make birders the world over green with envy. For our final phase of the tour we will be traveling to none other than the internationally-renowned Caroni Swamp (in 2015 renamed the Winston Nanan Caroni Bird Sanctuary)

We hire a comfortable flat-bottomed boat and begin our journey. To delve deep into the very heart of an established mangrove-dominated habitat in this manner is akin to being transported into a prehistoric ecosystem where everything appears to have been frozen in time. Mangroves have been on the planet for 250 million years and with their pattern of intricate aerial roots and interlaced overhead branches, the trees themselves almost appear to be shielding us in a protective embrace from the rigors and stresses of the modern world.

The Bajan Birder getting to grips with a Red-tailed Boa. (Photo by: Sateesh Venkatesh)

The Bajan Birder getting to grips with a Red-tailed Boa. (Photo by: Sateesh Venkatesh)

Unsurprisingly, the tranquility and sanctitude of such a place attracts an astonishing variety of birds and other wildlife; and dusk is the best time to see them. We encounter numerous herons, with possibly the most common being Little Blues and Tricoloureds.  Wattled Jacanas walk delicately across lilies, Masked Cardinals flit frantically from one mangrove branch to another, and roosting Tropical Screech-Owls patiently await the setting of the sun. In the skies above Short-tailed Hawks, Osprey and Yellow-headed Caracara effortlessly soar. However the swamp's inhabitants are by no means restricted to birds alone. It's banks are an ideal basking site for Spectacled Caiman, the mangroves' branches offer prime hunting for Cook's Tree Boa, and although Silky Anteaters and Crab-eating Raccoons share the Screech-Owls' fondness for nocturnal foraging, they can occasionally be seen during the day, securely curled up in the mangrove's embrace.

As the sun dips further in the sky, long-legged waders begin to fly in low over the water from the surrounding marsh; Cattle, Great, and Snowy Egrets, Little Blue and Tricolored Herons, and sometimes even a few Glossy Ibis arrive and serve to decorate the emerald-colored mangrove islands. But all of this serves as a precursor to the arrival of the Scarlet Ibis, and our bearing witness to a truly unforgettable sight. As we sit in our boat enjoying our rum punches and biscuits, the sky slowly begins to be patterned by the first few bright-red arrivals making their way towards us out of the east. But ones and twos soon give way to flocks of dozens of these resplendent birds, shifting and contorting in one rhythmic mass overhead, each individual negotiating the best approach to its preferred roost before nightfall.

Sitting, safely nestled within the extraordinary beauty and tranquility of the Caroni Swamp, we watch as wave after wave of ibis slowly transform the verdant mangroves into soft hues of subtle pinks and vibrant reds, and it is here that we draw to a close our remarkable journey through the islands.

For a List of our Top 20 Target Species on Trinidad please click here and then scroll down through the list of islands to Trinidad

Day 14

Flight back to Barbados and homeward journey.

Thank you

The Bajan Birder

 

Pricing

Tour Dates: November 22nd - December 5th 2018

Number of Species that will possibly be seen on this tour: 376

Number of Endemics likely to be seen on this tour: 27

Number of species indigenous to the Lesser Antillean and South American region likely to be seen: 211

Number in Group: 10-12 clients + The Bajan Birder and Co-leader Keith Clarkson

Tour Price: US$ 4,467 per person (based on Double Room Occupancy Rates and full complement of 12 clients) (Single Supplement i.e. if you would prefer to have a single room there is an additional charge of US$239)

Included in Price: All flights between islands and internal ferry charges between islands, local taxes, airport departure taxes, all accommodations, pre-arranged food and drinks (non alcoholic), transport to and from destinations on the islands, park admission fees, local guides fees, hotel and restaurant service charges

Not Included in Price: Your flights to and from Barbados, extra charges incurred for overweight or additional pieces of luggage on international or internal flights; travel insurance; laundering services; alcoholic beverages (with the exception of complimentary rum punch at Asa Wright Nature Centre)

Terrain and Pace: We cover a diverse range of terrain on this trip, however there are no steep ascents and trails are primarily well maintained and relatively level. Any light to moderate ascents are conducted at a slow, steady pace with plenty of opportunities to rest along the way.