Trinidad and Tobago, April 22nd - May 5th, 2000
Dr Steve M. R. Young


To my baby twins, Max Cornish Radley Young and Rebecca Lucy Radley Young, who, in March 2000, were born too early and tragically died.


Sitting by Rebecca's incubator we had read Bill Oddie's latest book to her. Gripping Yarns included a chapter on birding in this Caribbean holiday destination. It sounded perfect for the last-minute package holiday we suddenly needed; a comfortable beach holiday with some good birding.

With basic gen on just a few sites in Trinidad and Tobago my wife Penny and I booked a straightforward package holiday with Kuoni via Wildwings to the holiday island of Tobago. However I then planned a 3-4 day excursion of solid birding to Trinidad. Three crucial species that had to be seen immediately came to the fore: Red-billed Tropicbird on Tobago and Scarlet Ibis and Oilbird in Trinidad. The latter was discussed at some length in the chapter on Trinidad and Tobago in Oddie's Gripping Yarns.

Our hotel turned out to be Grafton Resort at the SE end of Tobago on the Caribbean coast. With no immediately local gen available I (rightly) thought that most decent sites on Tobago would be fairly accessible and assumed that good birds at nearby Arnos Vale would be present near our hotel. I soon discovered the excellent Grafton Estate Sanctuary on the hotel doorstep.

Field Guides

I bought a copy of A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad & Tobago (Helm) by ffrench and took a copy of A Guide to the Birds of Colombia (Princeton) by Hilty and Brown which I already possessed. The plates in the former were generally poor (especially the doves and flycatchers and lack of raptor flight plates) with a very annoying habit of omitting occasional obvious or common species or removing them to randomly selected portraits or a plate of afterthoughts at the end. The text was generally accurate, detailed and informative however. The latter was better illustrated but obviously less relevant.

Strongly recommended is A Guide to the Birds of Venezuela (Princeton) by de Schauensee, Phelps and Tudor. I bought this on my return when I realized the new version had good plates. This covered all species in T&T plus many others.

Site Guides

I bought a copy of William Murphy's A Birder's Guide to Trinidad & Tobago from Subbuteo Books. This contained useful checklists, time of year abundance charts, target species summaries, useful info' on accommodation and guides' contact details. The site texts were detailed but contained some info' that was either out of date or inaccurate. However for other species it was spot on. Below I have listed observations of mine that contradict Murphy's target species summaries.

Local Guides

Possibly for reasons of genuine security but probably as a (fully justified) means of extracting revenue from eco-tourism, we were advised not to bird the Main Ridge Forest without a guide. We therefore listened to several touting for business on the hotel beach and chose Kelton Thomas of Kelton Tours. He agreed to bird the Main Ridge Forest for 2-3 hours then drive us to Speyside for an afternoon trip out to Little Tobago. We had plenty of time to do both and saw most of the targets for a reasonable $80US each. This included transport in Kelton's car, breakfast in the forest and the boat trip. He wanted to take me to Buccoo Marsh the next day but I easily did this alone by hire car (once I'd unravelled the vague directions in Murphy's guide).

In Trinidad, owner of Pax Guest House, Gerard Ramsawak, planned our few days in Trinidad to achieve as many of my objectives as possible. We made use of the resident guides at Asa Wright Nature Centre (on a guided nature walk) and on the Caroni Swamp boat trip. The former was good but he was hampered by having to do a very slow paced general nature walk which was extremely frustrating since Bearded Bellbirds were calling below us! The Caroni boatman made a bit of an effort when I urged him to do so.

An ex-pat' English birder called Martyn Kenefick was called in by Gerard to take us to the alternative Oilbird cave which is exclusive to Pax Guest House and requires a resident guide. Martyn was highly proficient at identification and found some great birds including a lifer for himself.


The package holiday placed us in the Grafton Resort Hotel which was very comfortable and convenient for the beach and local birding.

Pax Guest House was recommended by Bill Oddie and is set up as the much more affordable (and non-dude) alternative to Asa Wright, for serious birders. We stayed in Room 20 (used by David Attenborough and Bill) which has its own tiny verandah almost amongst the hummingbird feeding plants. Be warned Pax didn't take credit cards when we stayed there and with insufficient travelers cheques to cover transport and guides on top of the accommodation, we wasted hours getting cash in Tunapuna, twice!

Pax Guest House,
Mount St. Benedict,
Tunapuna, Trinidad,
W.I. Tel. (809) 662 4084,


I used a photo-adaptor on my straight Leica APO-Televid 77 scope providing a fixed focal length of c.800mm. Using standard Kodak and Fuji ASA800 and 1000 film in a Pentax MZM manual focus SLR I was able to get rapid shots in very low light level forest floor without a flash.


Thanks to Bill Oddie for pointing us in the right direction. Thanks to Kelton Thomas for a good day doing Tobago. Thanks to Gerard Ramsawak and his wife Oda for a very hospitable stay in great surroundings. Thanks also to Martyn Kenefick for some great birding at Cumaca. And finally thanks to my parents for helping with time and money to make the trip possible.

Observations on Murphy's Target Species in T&T)

Scarlet Ibis (Murphy failed to mention that the spectacular dusk roost of many thousands of birds does not occur in the breeding season when most depart to Venezuela leaving only a few hundred)
Ornate Hawk Eagle (Murphy implies they are easy from the balcony at Asa Wright "especially before 9am." but non-residents are not allowed in until 9 am. Not easy)
Southern Lapwing (easy at Buccoo Marsh)
Pale-vented Pigeon (easy on Little Tobago)
White-tipped Dove (abundant in Grafton Estate Sanctuary)
Green-rumped Parrotlet (common on Tobago)
White-tailed Sabrewing (easy along Top Hill and Gilpin Traces)
Tufted Coquette (only one male seen at Pax amongst several females. Only 1 female at Asa Wright, not easy)
Rufous-tailed Jacamar (not common on Tobago, only seen on Gilpin Trace)
Plain Antvireo (several seen along Top Hill and Gilpin Traces)
Scaled Antpitta (is still present in Trinidad, 1 tape lured at Asa Wright within past year - not by me unfortunately)
Bearded Bellbird (quite easy to see with patience)
Golden-headed Manakin (rather than the "most abundant rainforest species" we found it very hard with one fleeting male in flight at Asa Wright (sign posted lek abandoned) and 1 male perched along road to Cumaca)
Blue-backed Manakin (unusual low altitude birds in Grafton Estate Sanctuary (introduced?). Stay very still and quiet on the trail as the birds are very shy, take a long time to approach the display perch and flush easily. Common along Top Hill Trace but hard to see displaying although audible)
Red-capped Cardinal (2-3 males seen easily in relatively open vegetation along canal in Caroni Swamp)

Tobago Birding Day Lists

Although there are no endemics on either island Tobago holds a few "specialities" which don't occur in Trinidad. Particular targets for me among these were White-tailed Sabrewing and Blue-backed Manakin (at a forest lek if possible), not to mention the tropicbird.

Grafton Resort, Stonehaven Bay, April 22nd

From settling into our comfortable, air-conditioned room from 16.15 until leaving the beach in front of the hotel at about 17.30 I had noted the following:
Brown Pelican (7-8 on a moored fishing boat)
Magnificent Frigatebird (40-50 were drifting east high as we enjoyed our first swim in the Caribbean)
Sandwich Tern (3-4 in bay)
Tropical Mockingbird (2-3 large grey birds warbling like thrushes)
Bananaquit (shrill trilling in the palms outside our room was assumed to be due to hummingbirds until a tiny and immaculate yellow, black and white thing flew into a flowering hedge in a flash of yellow rump and white wing patches. Little did I know how much more I was going to see of it however)
Blue-gray Tanager (4 flew into palms by the room balcony)
Black-faced Grassquit (1 tiny bird on lawn below our room's balcony was the first tick of the trip)

A 30 minute walk from the hotel grounds a little way along the shore road before dark from 17.45 until 18.15 produced a nice flurry of birds:
Rufous-vented Chachalaca (1 was seen in a high tree top just before dark)
Eared Dove (2 birds in the hotel grounds were eventually ID'd by the eye and neck bars plus buff tail tip, despite hopelessly poor plates in ffrench)
Caribbean Martin (6-7 large and graceful martins cruised around low over the hotel)
White-lined Tanager (several black birds zipping about eventually showed a flash of white somewhere on the underwing)
Bare-eyed Thrush (2-3 were piping on steps or in undergrowth along the road)

April 23rd

From 07.00 until 15.00 I lounged on the beach with Penny, reading, swimming, occasionally sauntering up to the beach bar for another cold beer (all inclusive) and watching the odd bird:
Brown Pelican (4-5 offshore)
Magnificent Frigatebird (packs of 5-10 sailed over during the day, some coming quite low and close)
Laughing Gull (10-15 ad. summer birds were drifting about offshore during the day)
Royal Tern (1 passed along beach twice during day)
Carib Grackle (1 on the roof of the adjacent hotel)

Grafton Estate Sanctuary

A hotel guest told me about a long abandoned sugar plantation behind the hotel which had been left for posterity as a small nature reserve. The site guide for T&T by Murphy didn't mention this particular patch of forest but since the BBC website info' on Bill Oddie's trip here stated that most of the Tobago specialities could be seen in the grounds of nearby Arnos Vale Hotel (including Barred Antshrike, the motmot and the chachalaca) I decided they could probably be found here also. From 15.30 until dusk at 18.15 I birded what turned out to be a small patch of secondary rain forest containing an initially bewildering number and variety of birds including several classic species. Tall flowering trees were soon seen to be buzzing with minute hummingbirds. I never found out how large the forested area was but the estate was apparently a few hundred acres. To my surprise a local guy at the decrepit "visitor centre" told me the lower trail into the gully could produce Blue-backed Manakin. Although mainly occurring only in the highest altitude forests in Tobago a few are indeed present at this lowland site:
Magnificent Frigatebird (40-50 drifted east in a loose line, high overhead, at dusk)
Rufous-vented Chachalaca (50-60 great noisy fumbling birds were clambering everywhere )
Raptor sp. (1 probable Broad-winged Hawk (common) perched silently)
White-tipped Dove (10-20 were at the feeder and in the forest)
Eared Dove (30+ at the feeder, others found lurking unobtrusively in the forest)
Black-throated Mango (1 male was watched at 5m perched over the higher trail for some time)
White-necked Jacobin (1 gorgeous male after sit-and-wait under high canopy in the gully)
Rufous-breasted (Hairy) Hermit (1 hanging in the air 3m from me)
Ruby-topaz Hummingbird (a black hummer' with ruby red cap and brief flash of orange throat)
Blue-crowned Motmot (1 was suddenly clocked as it fluttered out from its perch beneath the canopy in the gully to seize a large flying insect. Despite the magpie and bee-eater likenesses, the bird's size, heavy bill and relaxed marauding jizz made it "feel" more like a roller. It was seen twice more, when it flew off chuckling like a Blackbird of all things! As I walked back as dark approached I encountered a second motmot with nest material; a pair was clearly breeding in here)
Red-crowned Woodpecker (2 photographed along the entrance track. An easy Tobago speciality!)
Buff-throated Woodcreeper (incessant loud piping from an invisible bird. 1 creeping up vines from the ground)
White-fringed Antwren (a pair below the higher trail. Others were seen very well above the forest floor)
Barred Antshrike (1 large-looking, heavily striped male antshrike perched on a stem. Its pale eye made it look irate and aggressive as did the spiky crest. I noted stout, blunt bill and a warm brown wash over the wings and tail adding to my initial impression of a cross between Wryneck and d'Arnaud's Barbet. Later I watched a rich rufous and buff female in vines over the lower trail in the gully)
House Wren (1 found skulking on the forest floor with barred tail, mottled face and dull super' was initially assumed to be a dull Rufous-breasted purely because ffrench failed to illustrate the common wren)
Scrub Greenlet (2-3 vocal vireos were ID'd as this Tobago speciality)
Yellow-bellied Elaenia (1 was calling raucously by the adjacent hotel on the walk back)
Yellow-breasted Flycatcher (2-3 surprisingly distinct solitary birds)
Caribbean Martin (1-2 drifted over)
Bared-eyed Thrush (2-3 were mewing "will you?" like squeaky cats )
Bananaquit (trilling everywhere, more numerous than House Sparrows)
Blue-gray Tanager (5-6 along entrance track)
White-lined Tanager (1-2 males and several rich chestnut)
I was not surprised not to have seen a Blue-backed Manakin but at least I'd found out where the nearest Barred Antshrike and Blue-crowned Motmot had been. I would return for another crack at the manakin - if it was indeed there.

April 24th

Blue-backed Manakin is the largest and least common of the three manakins in T&T and the only one on Tobago. The Tobago race, atlantica, is endemic to the island being bigger than the Colombian/Venezuelan nominate race with more extensive and brighter crown and mantle patches. Only that morning I'd phoned key Tobago birder Adolphus James who had told me it was hard to see the leks as they are far from trails in the Main Ridge forest. Somewhat gripped off with the Blue-crowned Motmot, Penny joined me for an early morning look at the sanctuary from 06.30 until 08.45. New or notable species were as follows:
Smooth-billed Ani (2 fluttered down to ferret in roadside grass)
Green-rumped Parrotlet (2 flew in to roadside bushes to distract me from the Anis)
Short-tailed Swift (2 very small swifts seen well over the road. Very like Chimney)
Black-throated Mango (1 male perched for Penny's benefit)
White-necked Jacobin (2 males, Penny found the second perched at head height with its back to her and showing his fine white collar - a cracking bird)
Ruby-topaz Hummingbird (female over the entrance track was ID'd by rufous tail)
Blue-crowned Motmot (1-2 were seen ridiculously well. They are apparently much easier to see in Tobago than in Trinidad where they remain in dim forest )
White-fringed Antwren (3-4 were seen )
Barred Antshrike (2 pairs were seen)
Blue-backed Manakin (as we were showing a couple of walkers a motmot I saw the blazing red crown and sky-blue mantle set against the solid black of a fantastic ad. male. It immediately dashed off down into the thickly vegetated gully below the trail. A second later 3 more ad. males flew after the first. As at least 2 males called nearby we stood straining to see the birds through the dense saplings, trunks, vines and fallen timber. Then suddenly I saw one through all the obstructions. Perched on a bare branch just above the leaf-strewn gully floor, the amazing manakin showed off its brilliant red crown and blue mantle which shone out from the jet black plumage. Soon it jumped out of view. As the calling continued we waited and the male reappeared again briefly, bold as brass. This time a second joined it and the two started a bit of a dance, hopping on and between two parallel bare branches c.300mm apart. Although not the full display this must surely have been part of it! Soon the birds had gone again. Not only had we seen several ad. males but I suspected we'd found a lek site and seen something of the dance)
Fuscous Flycatcher (3 sightings of a very unobtrusive flycatcher easily ID'd from the text in ffrench although the stumpy little illustration was irrelevant)
Blue-black Grssquit (1 tiny male in moult or imm. was seen along the entrance track)

Stonehaven Bay

A lazy day on the beach produced the "usual" birds:
Cattle Egret (1 flew in off and disappeared over the palms)
Laughing Gull (c.100 on beach were all immaculate br. pl. ad.s )

Stonehaven Bay, April 25th

Another tough day for a birder on a tropical beach:
Brown Pelican (4-5 were roosting on their favourite moored fishing boats in the bay)
Magnificent Frigatebird (varying attendance at the beach during the day )
Laughing Gull (c.100)
Sandwich Tern (2-3)
Royal Tern (1 flew over once)
Ruby-topaz Hummingbird (1 male in the trees behind the beach)

Arnos Vale Hotel

Bill Oddie's BBC website gen had said the area around this secluded hotel could produce most of Tobago's specialities and in addition people at our hotel had told us of the bird feeders attracting useful sounding photographic subjects. Penny and I took a taxi and from 16.30 until 18.30 we noted the following, either while drinking afternoon tea on the verandah by the feeders or along a walk through the grounds up to a Sunset Point overlooking secondary rainforest and scrub tangled all over the low hilly landscape right down the NE Tobago coast:
Magnificent Frigatebird (many cruising high and low over Sunset Point at dusk)
Yellow-crowned Night-heron (2 birds flew across the beach below Sunset Point)
Rufous-vented Chachalaca (many around the feeder)
Eared Dove (several)
White-tipped Dove (")
Ruddy Ground Dove (1 tiny rich chestnut-buff dove flew up from the entrance)
Green-rumped Parrotlet (1 superb tiny plain bright green bird perched near the feeder briefly)
Short-tailed Swift (3-4 overhead)
Black-throated Mango (1 incredibly dapper, quite lanky female at a sugar feeder)
Copper-rumped Hum'bird (1 at feeders)
Ruby-topaz Hummingbird (2-3 females at sugar feeders)
Blue-crowned Motmot (1 pair coming to the feeder were almost stupidly easy)
Red-crowned Woodpecker (2-3 were coming to the feeder, others along the trail to Sunset Point)
Buff-throated Woodcreeper (1 along the trail, others were calling)
White-fringed Antwren (1 female along the trail)
Barred Antshrike (1 male along trail)
Rufous-breasted Wren (1 seen well by the trail)
House Wren (1 distracted me from the Rufous-breasted)
Fuscous Flycatcher (1 below the trail)
Yellow-bellied Elaenia (1 in gardens)
Yellow-breasted Flycatcher (1 along the trail)
Caribbean Martin (2 over the bay)
Bare-eyed Thrush (2-3 at the feeder, 1 singing by the trail at dusk)
Shiny Cowbird (1-2 gleaming purple/black, dark eyed birds came to the feeder)
Bananaquit ("thousands", I have never come across a more ubiquitous sp.)
Blue-gray Tanager (many at the feeder )
White-lined Tanager (2-3 pairs at the feeder)
Blue-black Grassquit (1-2 jet black males along the trail in the thick)
Black-faced Grassquit (2-3 along the trail)

Drive from Scarborough to Main Ridge, April 26th

The two most important birding sites on the island are the primary lower montane rain forest enveloping the steep but low altitude "Main Ridge" mountain range which rises to 2000 feet along the spine of the island and Little Tobago Island off the northern tip. The latter simply requires taking a day-trip boat from Speyside but the former was arguably best done with a guide, security was a minor aspect but knowledge of calls would greatly improve the efficiency of a few hours birding. Prominent local birder Adolphus James had quoted $120 US to accompany both of us on eight hours solid main ridge birding, leaving another day trip needed to do the island. Several prospective "tour guides" had also solicited business on the beach and mild testing of their knowledge led me to opt for a single day trip with Kelton Thomas of Thomas Tours who agreed to drive us to both sites in his car, take us for a 2-3 hour trek on the Main Ridge then go on to the island. A total of $140 US included the boat fare as well. The only question was how much we would see in the forest but all I really wanted was the "globally vulnerable" White-tailed Sabrewing (see HBW 5, 553), Collared Trogon and good views of Blue-backed manakin, preferably leking. After dropping Kelton's Mum off at work in Scarborough a few good birds were noted on the drive up to the Main Ridge:
Tropical Kingbird (1 flew down onto the road. 2 on wires further on)
Grey Kingbird (4-5 on roadside wires)
Streaked Flycatcher (2 amazingly stonking birds were found by Kelton low in thick trees when we stopped on a bridge)
Yellow-bellied Elaenia (1 on a nest by the bridge opposite the Streaked Flycatchers)
Giant Cowbird (1 single by the road as we climbed up the Main Ridge was seen too briefly flying off to tick, but a pair was immediately found further along the road)

Main Ridge Forest Reserve

At 07.45 we had breakfast of tea in china cups and a raisin pastry (included in the price!) in the ridge-top clearing at the beginning of Top Hill Trace and enjoyed some good birding at 1300' asl. We then birded this trail continuing straight onto the Gilpin Trace. Fantastically luxuriant forest varied from areas of high closed canopy with epiphytes smothering the trees and relatively open and dark forest floor to others of dense low storey "jungle" with ferns, lianas, rod-like aerial roots, bamboo, palms and heliconias. As Kelton had promised the Top Hill Trace was devoid of any other people and we enjoyed some excellent uninterrupted birding. Towards the start of the Gilpin Trace (the end of our trek) small parties of non-birders were encountered being escorted up to a mile into the forest and back by guys we'd seen on the beach! The trek in fact took four hours and we emerged on the road down the southern side of the ridge at 12.00. I lugged the televid and camera on the tripod with me but the sweat and labour was justified by a couple of shots despite very low light levels:
Rufous-vented Chachalaca (small no.s along the trail)
Broad-winged Hawk (1 flew below us as we drove down the southern slopes later)
White-tipped Dove (plenty along the trail)
Orange-winged Parrot (4-5 separate pairs were seen in flight over the forest from the road)
Short-tailed Swift (small numbers over the road at the entrance to the Gilpin Trace)
White-necked Jacobin (1 male along the trail)
White-tailed Sabrewing (Kelton located the first by its rapid, squeaky double note call within five minutes of entering the forest. Fearing a difficult job finding the large but fast moving hummer' in the confusion of vegetation I followed the call and the bird was rapidly located landing to rest on a liana. Although it was too dark to photograph, the bird showed bright green body plumage merging into rich blue throat and striking white undertail, rather like the closely related jacobin. The sabrewing soon flew to feed at flowers but remained in the area flashing its dazzling white tail as it manouvred. Although nearly extirpated after the '63 hurricane and still very rare, the cracking bird was not at all difficult to find along the Top Hill Trace at least and in all 6-7 were seen. Because the species feeds in low to middle storey (like the hermits) they were often seen very well low over the trail. Also, being large the sabrewing rested often for several minutes and when one perched right by the trail for 3-4 minutes I was able to squeeze off several shots yielding one in which the bird remained still as a shaft of sunlight illuminated it in very low ambient light! )
Rufous-breasted (Hairy) Hermit (2-3 flew very close to us as seems to be their wont)
Copper-rumped Hummingbird (4-5 seen)
Ruby-topaz Hummingbird (10-15 were feeding in low flowering trees)
Collared Trogon (before we'd entered the forest at the start of the Top Hill Trace Kelton pointed out the soft, plaintive call. The softness of the notes, a soothing, understated "corr corr corr corr" implied that the bird was much further off through the forest than it actually was. Suddenly the trogon was close to us and soon the crippler, a lovely male, was found sitting still and bolt upright in a tree by the clearing. Scrabbling on my stomach to avoid obstructing foliage and then aiming the scope/camera I noted the iridescent green upper's extending down the long, square tail beautifully barred beneath. Brilliant red undertail, belly and lower breast and charismatic face were also noted. The trogon often flew very quickly and directly between well concealed perches which made the gorgeously colourful and characterful bird surprisingly hard to see and extremely hard to photograph. A second male was soon discovered nearby. Along the trail another male was picked up as it flew like an arrow through the canopy to perch above us briefly while another called nearby and several others were heard calling. The species was therefore not rare but very easy to miss )
Rufous-tailed Jacamar (Kelton picked up 1 male perched motionless by the Gilpin Trace behind us as we looked for a calling spinetail. Further on a pair was encountered perching high above the trail near nest holes in the sandy bank above the trail)
Buff-throated Woodcreeper (only 1 seen and surprisingly few heard calling)
Golden-olive Woodpecker (1 male was heard tapping and then located on the Gilpin Trace)
Stripe-breasted Spinetail (this infuriating floor-dweller with sprightly "see-saw?" call eluded us a few times until 2 separate birds popped up in response to pishing)
White-fringed Antwren (1-2 only was surprising)
Plain Antvireo (1 stumpy plain grey bird feeding unobtrusively on the open but dark forest floor. 2 further males and 2 females were seen along the trail)
Barred Antshrike (2-3 males were seen)
Blue-backed Manakin (4-5 loose packs of males were encountered along the trails where they were clearly not hard to see. Several were seen very well. 1 green imm. male with red crown was seen near an (unseen) group of dancing adult males. The low mechanical whirring call of full display could be heard just over a vegetated ridge by the trail but we could not see! Although they seemed to display close to the trails they were certainly shy and no display was seen)
Rufous-breasted Wren (2)
Yellow-breasted Flycatcher (4-5)
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher (3-4 in one area. Incredibly weak illustrations in ffrench were just too poor to allow an ID at the time)
Yellow-legged Thrush (4-5 males were seen in thick mid and understorey but were generally very shy and elusive, flying off into forest as soon as they were seen)
White-necked Thrush (1 smart bird suddenly appeared perched below the first sabrewing. Several other very shy and elusive birds were seen dashing for cover - as bad as Zoothera!)
Bare-eyed Thrush (5-6)
Crested Oropendola (2 near the road at the start of the Top Hill Trace)
Bananaquit (several even in primary rainforest)
Blue-gray Tanager (a few)
White-lined Tanager (1 pair along Gilpin Trace)
One or two Red Squirrels were also noted, looking even smaller and redder than European. Unfortunately there was no sign of a Great Black Hawk at a nest site two hours along Top Hill Trace. Penny had got onto a pair of Red-legged Honeycreepers found by Kelton at the start of Top Hill Trace while I was photographing the trogons.

Speyside-Little Tobago Island

A key bird in Tobago was Red-billed Tropicbird, breeding on the steep, cactus and low vegetation covered slopes of this small offshore island jutting out into the tropical Atlantic Ocean. With chicks hatched and growing viewing opportunity was apparently currently optimum. After lunch in a beach-front restaurant in side cooled deliciously by a stiff Atlantic breeze we took one of the small tourist boats at 13.30 for the half hour journey offshore. The return trip at 15.30 thus provided a fairly brief 11/2 hours birding most of which was spent at the "seabird watchpoint". This small wooden platform sat in the saddle between the two higher ends of the island and provided an awesome panoramic view of steep cliffs clad in dense, tough, wind-swept foliage, that slid away to rocks below. A small variety of seabirds was seen on and around the islets in the bay below but, in truth I spent an hour trying to photograph the main target:
Red-billed Tropicbird (from the restaurant 2 tropicbirds were seen flying as a synchronized pair around the islet before Little Tobago. After the short but steep walk up to the watchpoint I was staggered by the awesome sight of up to 15 ad. Red-billed Tropicbirds sailing about the huge, fiercely exposed yet densely vegetated cliffs sloping straight down to the turbulent ocean. Kelton then showed us an adult sitting with a chick at 4m in a fenced-off "nest" by the watchpoint. A well grown, yellow-billed juv. was seen in a another nest nearby. At one point four frigatebirds were chasing a tropicbird one of which suddenly grabbed the Red-billed's right wing in its bill. As the tropicbird howled it almost stopped flying and was momentarily carried through the air by the prehistoric bully )
Brown Booby (many pairs were nesting low on the cliffs)
Red-footed Booby (3 flew behind the boat on the return journey showing glowing white rump and tail behind brown body and wings)
Magnificent Frigatebird (plenty drifting to and from nest sites on St. Giles Island)
Yellow-crowned Night-heron (1 roosting in a tree behind the landing beach on Little Tobago)
{Great Black Hawk} (2 Black Hawks soaring over secondary forest above Speyside were ID'd by Kelton as we sailed out to Little Tobago)
Spotted Sandpiper (Penny found 2 ad.s on the beach below the restaurant)
Laughing Gull (plenty low down on the tropicbird colony cliffs, a few at Speyside)
Pale-vented Pigeon (several on Little Tobago)
Orange-winged Parrot (1 pair flew in from high up the forested slopes behind Speyside)
Brown-crested Flycatcher (1 on Little Tobago)
Crested Oropendola (2-3 were flying back and forth in front of the colony cliffs. 2-3 others were seen closely along path back to the landing beach)
Carib Grackle (10+ inside the restaurant in Speyside)

Drive down Atlantic coast

Black-crowned Night-heron (1 ad. and 1 juv. were found in a shallow open river by the road)

Smith's Island off Atlantic coast

Sooty Tern (50 in the air over the islet were scoped at 800-1000m)

Stonehaven Bay, April 27th

A day on the beach was almost bird-free:
Ruby-topaz Hummingbird (1 male feeding 2m from my head. )
Shiny Cowbird (1 was singing under the eaves of the open air restaurant)

Grafton Estate Sanctuary, April 28th

From 07.20 until 09.00 I birded the lower track in the sanctuary again with the objective of discovering if the spot where the two manakins had shown was indeed a display perch and to try to photograph the dancing birds. I stood for an hour near the end of the track looking down the slope to the bottom of the gully c.40m away. New or notable species were as follows:
Copper-rumped Hum'bird (3-4 came very close as I stood still)
Barred Antshrike (the pair at the start of the entrance track were seen again. They were cracking birds - full of character )
Blue-backed Manakin (1 uttered its explosive single note call as I descended the lower path and was immediately picked up moving towards me. It called again but moved off. I relocated the pair of branches on the gully bottom that I suspected of constituting a "display perch" (lek site) and trained the camera-scope on them at c.40m and waited. For 30 minutes no manakins called then the explosive note tore out of the tangled gully undergrowth. I waited with baited breath focused on the two particular branches. The calls came closer and more often. After 10 minutes I saw a movement near the site and I scanned with bin's. Amongst leaves in front of the perches I could see a red crown on a black head! Explosive calls came often as the manakin bobbed about just out of view. Through the camera I could see little so I watched with bin's until suddenly the stonking little bird leapt up to the branches and started bouncing and fluttering between the two incredibly quickly. Leaves and sticks between it and me reduced clearance for shots but the manakin was almost a blur anyway. As it moved between the points of a triangle, one on each branch and one below (out of sight) I just reeled off a load of shots regardless of slow shutter speed for such a subject, delighted that I had found a display perch. The red crown and blue mantle were just flashing in and out of view. After a few minutes the manakin slowed down and started to hop from side to side low on one branch, as it did so it uttered bursts of very low, soft mechanical cackling, probably the low precopulation "twanging" described by ffrench. We had heard this call from a group of manakins just out of view from the Top Hill Trace in the Main Ridge Forest. The bird seemed to be fluttering or trembling during this phase. Whether or not a female was present I could not see but soon after this stopped the manakin rested for a moment low on the perch, then suddenly darted off low through the undergrowth. The bird was heard twice close to the path on the way back but seen only fleetingly as it vanished from sight)
Brown-crested Flycatcher (1 at the roadside on my return showed pinkish base to bill)

Stonehaven Bay

The rest of the day was spent on the beach.
Brown Booby (1 ad. circling close inshore for 3-4 minutes at c.11.00 was somewhat unusual)

Buccoo Marsh, April 29th

Apart from a reservoir on the southern slopes to the Main Ridge, the only other birding sites mentioned in Murphy are next to one another at the SW tip of the island from the airport area, up to Pigeon Point (about to be redeveloped) and round the mangrove fringed bay to Buccoo Marsh. Apart from the chance of late passage American waders and warblers (Kelton Thomas had mentioned a recent Prothonotary Warbler here) I was keen to see Southern Lapwing and Wattled Jacana, guaranteed at the site. We arranged a hire car at the hotel which was delivered to the hotel the previous evening so that I could follow Murphy and do the site before breakfast. Without a map in the guide book I oscillated about the required rusty fence a couple of times and didn't slip under it and walk though the scrub woodland to the "marsh" until 07.20. By 09.00 I had birded as far as described by Murphy and, despite being surprised by the tiny size of the wetland, saw a few good birds. The "picturesque groundskeeper" (Murphy's description) accosted me for $1 US, which I didn't have-so he let me off.
Anhinga (1 flew over the main lagoon, turned and disappeared again)
Great White Egret (1 in marshy pasture area north of lagoon)
Tricoloured Heron (1 seen briefly but closely at the near side of the main lagoon)
Green Heron (up to 10 trundling about between prominent perches)
Cattle Egret (3-4 in the marshy pasture area north of main lagoon)
Yellow-crowned Night-heron (1 flew out of low thick woodland between the main lagoon and the small lagoon (marsh) to the south)
Black-bellied Whistling-duck (20-30 were on the main lagoon or flying over)
White-cheeked Pintail (50+ dabbling about amongst the near continuous Lilly pads)
Osprey (1 rather shabby bird swung over the small lagoon a couple of times)
Common Moorhen (30+ mainly on the main lagoon, several juv.s with all-yellow bills)
Wattled Jacana (30+ very attractive and active "Lilly-trotters" were busy doing just that on the main lagoon, others were in the marshy pasture to the north. Several juv.s also showed green wings, if slightly duller, whitish under's and prominent long whitish super' and dark eye-stripe, distinctive and bearing little relation to ad. plumage (see excellent photo in HBW 3 280)
Southern Lapwing (the main target of the visit proved very easy. Several small groups of 2-3 were approached and latterly 15 were huddled at the near side of the main lagoon )
Semipalmated Plover (3 ad. br. pl. birds)
Lesser Yellowlegs (1 elegant ad. br. pl.)
Spotted Sandpiper (5 ad. br. pl. birds)
Green-rumped parrotlet (2 pairs of these brilliant, manic, tiny parrots were racing between coconut palms in the area between the main lagoon and the northern marsh)
Smooth-billed Ani (1 seen briefly diving into cover in the open area)
Copper-rumped Hum'bird (several, clearly a common and widespread hummer')
Red-crowned Woodpecker (1 drumming on a dead coconut palm in the open area, just as Murphy had promised)
Barred Antshrike (1 pair in the open area,)
Tropical Kingbird (3 showed well in one open tree in a large area of scrub and light woodland beyond the small lagoon)
Brown-crested Flycatcher (2 in low trees by marshy pasture)
Yellow-breasted Flycatcher (1 in low trees by the mangroves beyond the small lagoon, responded to pishing)
House Wren (1-2 in the low trees)
Tropical Mockingbird (plenty)
Scrub Greenlet (2-3 in low trees by the mangroves beyond the small lagoon, responded immediately and vocally to pishing, quite elegant phyllos' warbler-like vireos)
Carib Grackle (1-2)
Northern Waterthrush (1 amongst mangroves at the southern edge of the main lagoon)
Rather surprised at the small extent of the wetland and the very small number of waders (clearly it was now late in the spring) and disappointed not to find a Prothonotary Warbler I left for breakfast having nevertheless enjoyed some good birding.

Pigeon Point

A quick look at this well known classic white sand tropical beach (the only one in Tobago) induced Penny and I to spend the day here and noted:
Royal Tern (5-6 were fishing off the reef that formed a natural pool adjacent to the beach)

Grafton Estate Sanctuary, April 30th

I was in the woodland sanctuary from 07.15 until 09.40 and spent two hours standing camouflaged, motionless and silent on the track above the display perch with the camera-scope focused and primed. The stakeout was no ordeal with a variety of excellent birds inadvertently showing well and coming close. New or notable species as follows:
Short-tailed Swift (2 zoomed in amongst the trees close to my manakin stakeout, calling)
Rufous-breasted Hermit (1 was followed with bin's typically close to the ground during the stakeout)
Blue-crowned Motmot (1 glided down the track on stiff, outstretched wings as I walked back up on my return. It looked at me as it went past 1m away at shoulder height, almost said "good morning" and sailed on down the slope, under a fallen trunk hanging over the track and disappeared round the corner. It was carrying food to its nest; a brilliantly charismatic bird. Another was watched doing its agitated "clock pendulum" tail switching by the entrance track)
Olivaceous Woodcreeper (1 silently appeared in front of me when it flew onto a large tree trunk close to the stakeout. Delighted to see another Tobago speciality (lacking in Trinidad) missed in the Main Ridge forest, I watched the bird hop up the bark then suddenly flicker to a new spot with the speed and flickering, languid agility of a flycatcher)
Blue-backed Manakin (just 5 minutes after I'd set up the tripod-mounted camera-scope a manakin called close by. He was quickly located gleaming red, blue and black in sunny leaves halfway up a spreading tree nearby. Another bird answered his explosive "chee choo" invitation and joined him in the tree but before I knew it the two ad. males darted down to the display site. For the next 15-20 minutes I was treated to a stunning view of the full display. As before each dance started with the birds hopping, with the aid of manically fluttered wings, between three points of a triangle (c.0.5m side) this time however I could see all three points! Regardless of very low light levels reducing shutter speed to 1/10s. despite 1000ASA film, the birds moved so fast and continuously that everything was just a blur of blue, black and red. Suddenly the mechanical whirring twanging call started and the two males started leap-frogging each other on the central branch in a cart-wheeling blur of blue and black fluttering. Incredibly the speed of the cackling call accelerated as the speed of the leap-frogging increased, the birds worked faster and faster until a loud, fruity click call (I was skeptical of it being made by a bird's wings as stated in ffrench) signaled the end of the dance and both birds dashed to nearby cover for a rest. However, within seconds the dancers reconvened and started the whole thing again. At one point a green imm. male, with tiny red crown patch, joined the 2 ad.s, clearly learning the steps. I watched the Blue-backed's perform c.10 dances before they retired. I then waited for an (expected) hour for the manakins' return even though 1 was calling the subdued but fruity "choo" note, unseen, nearby for much of the time. At 09.00 I decided to give it 15 more minutes then leave hoping I'd got one or two unobscured, reasonably focused shots. When 09.15 arrived a bird was calling close by so I hung on. Suddenly a single ad. male appeared on the display perch and proceeded to perform 3 separate dances as if to reward my patience. Between them it paused momentarily on the low bowed branch in full view and I squeezed off shots at every opportunity. It then flew fast and direct to a sunlit branch at mid height, some way off, then disappeared. As I walked back I could hear at least 1 manakin calling from far off up the gully, well off the track; perhaps there was another display perch up there ).
One red Squirrel was also noted during the stakeout.

Trinidad Birding Day Lists

Making Tobago look like a tiny, sleepy desert island, Trinidad was a must, even for just a few days hard birding. Being just over 20 km from Venezuela with a land mass the size of Norfolk and a list of 411 species (247 breeding), Trinidad has a density of bird species as high as anywhere in the world. The remaining two of the three crucial species that had to be seen on the holiday, Oilbird and Scarlet Ibis alone justified the three and a half days off the beach. In addition I was keen to see more antbirds, especially White-bellied Antbird and Black-faced Antthrush, Little Tinamou, American Swallow-tailed Kite, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Bat Falcon, Red-bellied Macaw, Tufted Coquette, White-tailed and Violaceous Trogons, Channel-billed Toucan, Bearded Bellbird, Golden-headed and White-bearded Manakins and Speckled and Swallow Tanagers. I had decided to forget the only (debatable) endemic, Common or Trinidad Piping Guan, which would need at least one full day with a low chance of success. As usual the objectives amounted to a tall order in such a short time but it was worth a try.

Pax Guest House, Mt. St. Benedict, May 1st

In contrast to the famous but expensive, fully booked and apparently rather dude Asa Wright Centre, this fine colonial style guest house, built as such in the days of the Empire, was recommended in Gripping Yarns. Booked over the Internet from the UK and confirmed from Tobago we arrived at c.10.00 to be greeted by the highly sociable birder/owner Gerard Ramsawak. After a tour of the birding verandahs he showed us to Room 20, the one used by Bill Oddie and David Attenborough (the Life of Birds sequence on Turkey Vultures sniffing out buried meat in Trinidad's montane rain forests was filmed right here with the view of the forest clad mountains being from our own tiny verandah). Our room was in fact a virtual annex from the house jutting almost into the forest . While we waited to discuss my target list and the necessary trips with Gerard we birded from various verandahs adjacent to lush flowering gardens and sugar feeders. These looked onto the panorama of steep hills, rising through dense secondary forest into primary forest smothering the high ridges of the Northern Range; the geological start, or end, of the Andes! The gardens seemed to be one of the best hummingbird sites in the country with Tufted Coquette a priority for me but also producing the only recent records of Rufous-shafted Woodstar (from our verandah!). As a raptor watchpoint the guest house was also as good as anywhere in Trinidad. From 11.00 until 13.30 we noted the following:
American Black Vulture (3-5 were sailing about over the forest)
Turkey Vulture (10+ were soaring with the Black)
Ruddy Ground-dove (3-4 were noted scrabbling at a bird table below our verandah)
Orange-winged Parrot (1 pair flew over)
Short-tailed Swift (3 overhead)
Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift (1 seen briefly flying high up the valley opposite Pax. It was soon lost behind large trees in the foreground but I had seen enough. Murphy stated the sp. was rare but most often reported over Mt. St. Benedict)
White-necked Jacobin (1 lovely pair feeding at the verandahs, one of my favorites)
Black-throated Mango (1 pair present, the female posing nicely)
Tufted Coquette (4-5 minute, insect-like hummer's were immediately found quietly drifting around the flowers outside our bedroom window. All were females and Gerard stated that the males mainly appeared early in the morning)
Blue-chinned Sapphire (Penny found 1 male showing startling glistening sapphire in sunshine)
White-chested Emerald (5-6 showed very well at the feeders)
Copper-rumped Hum'bird (c.10 were noted)
[Buff-throated Woodcreeper] (1 calling in the forest below)
Tropical Kingbird (1 appeared in the eye-level trees)
Streaked Flycatcher (2 close to our verandah were breeding under the eaves )
Great Kiskadee (this charismatic flycatcher was everywhere from the airport onwards)
Yellow-bellied Elaenia (2 noted)
Tropical Mockingbird (1-2 noted)
Bare-eyed Thrush (2-3 were at a couple of bird tables with Kiskadees)
Yellow Oriole (1 pair nesting in a fabulous hanging woven "sock" over the road below Pax were visiting a feeder by the main verandah )
Bananaquit (many)
Turquoise Tanager (1 was found by Penny almost immediately. The speed with which the dapper bird was found implied that it was easy but we saw no more here)
Blue-gray Tanager (many)
Palm Tanager (many, like above, were dashing everywhere)
Silver-beaked Tanager (2 females were seen briefly)
White-lined Tanager (1 male)
Having spent an hour queuing for cash in Tunapuna it was mid-afternoon before I managed to secure Gerard's attention on my list of target species, transport and guides. It was only then that I realized I needed three to four full days to properly do the sites required for Scarlet Ibis (late afternoon until dusk), Red-bellied Macaw (one day), Bearded Bellbird, Ornate Hawk-eagle, Channel-billed Toucan, the two remaining trogons and the two remaining manakins (one day) and Oilbird (one day). Since we weren't staying at Asa Wright we would not "qualify" to see the most accessible Oilbirds in the World so I needed Gerard's guide for the site to which Pax has exclusive visiting rights. However this was far from the mountain pass of Blanchisseuse Road/Asa Wright where I had hoped to look for all the forest species. On top of that it was just too late to get to Caroni Swamp that afternoon to sort out the ibis. By now I had squandered the first day despite arriving early! The reality had turned out rather different to the theory, based on Murphy, and I'd hung about just too long in the unrealistic expectation that Gerard would wave a magic wand. Now with just two full days to use I decided to trim Gerard's proposed day in Caroni Swamp and the surrounding wetlands to the evening boat trip, tagged onto the end of a truncated day at the Asa Wright Centre, compromising the latter and jeopardizing birding the Blanchisseuse Road itself. I had to abandon the macaw and use the second day for the Oilbird and hope this produced forest birds missed earlier. Resident guides at Asa Wright meant that we would need just one (compulsory) guide for the Oilbird trip.

Old Donkey Trail & Alben Ride, Mt. St. Benedict

A walk in very dark secondary forest along the former followed by a quick look along the sunnier open hillside woodland of the latter from 16.00 until 18.00 produced the business:
Black Vulture (2-3 sailed low over Alben Ride on a warm breezy evening)
Turkey Vulture (")
Ruddy Ground-dove (1-2)
Orange-winged Parrot (1 pair flew over Alben Ride)
Lineated Woodpecker (1 pair was found climbing pines at the start of Alben Ride)
Buff-throated Woodcreeper (1 carrying food was seen briefly to have a mottled throat)
Black-faced Antthrush (a piercing yet slow and melancholy double note call exploding up from the gloomy open forest floor along the Old Donkey trail in the late afternoon tempted me to imitate it not knowing what to expect. Eventually I caught sight of the crake sized bird walking, like a crake, that was one of my key targets. I kept calling back as we tracked the superb antbird. Birds of Venezuela states "Although hard to see and secretive, it is not wary and responds to its easily imitated deep, melodious, ventriloquial whistle, consisting of a loud explosive note followed by 3 or 4 descending ones")
White-bearded Manakin (I found a dumpy green female manakin perched on a branch by the Old Donkey Trail. As I waited for the male Golden-headed or White-bearded to appear to claim our attention I decided the bright orange legs of the female implied the latter. Within seconds a bold snap had me looking round to find a superb black and white adult male perched still nearby)
Tropical Kingbird (1 by the monastery church above Pax)
Yellow-breasted Flycatcher (3-4 in total)
House Wren (2-3 singing beautifully along the start of Alben Ride at dusk)
Long-billed Gnatwren (1 silent and very unobtrusive bird was picked up in mid-storey foliage along the Old Donkey trail)
Rufous-browed Peppershrike (1 seen along Alben Ride. The grey head, chunky bill and yellow under's, strongly reminded me of Africa's Grey-headed Bush-shrike even though it was a vireo)
Golden-crowned Warbler (4 along Alben Ride were easily detected by very high, thin call)
Blue-black Grassquit (1 pair in Razor Grass below the start to Alben Ride)

Pax Guest House, May 2nd

Despite the comfort of my bed I was unable to resist the flowering gardens and rainforest outside our bedroom window as soon as dawn broke and simply birded from our verandah from 06.00 until 07.15 on a perfect morning. New or notable species were as follows:
Tufted Coquette (after regularly checking 2-3 females I checked another, quietly drifting around at the back of the flower bed and found my first male. I called Penny and we watched the bee-like cracker for just a few minutes until it drifted back into the forest. I didn't try to get a photo but little did I know this would be our only male of the trip!)
Crested Oropendola (1-2 flew hurriedly across the garden always anxious to get out of sight)
Green Honeycreeper (1 dazzling male suddenly appeared opposite the verandah)
Silver-beaked Tanager (1 male was performing small rather frantic flight circuits around the trees opposite. The bizarre splayed silvery blue base to the lower mandible made it nicely distinctive)

Blanchisseuse Road

As we drove up the Arima Valley through fine rain forest one tick was noted.
Southern Rough-winged Swallow (1 large pale "sand martin" by a quarry)

Asa Wright Nature Centre

After a slow and frustrating taxi drive which ended up taking nearly two hours thanks to terrible (rush hour?) traffic from Tunapuna to Arima we arrived at the famous birding lodge at a very late 09.20. Despite the fact that Ornate Hawk Eagle and the toucan are especially seen prior to 09.00 the centre doesn't admit non-residents until 09.00. Frustrated by the fact that we'd have to leave for Caroni Swamp at 14.30 I started frantically looking for birds from the verandah while Penny booked us onto the 10.30 guided walk. This was likely to produce the bellbird at least and hopefully the trogons and manakins. In a tiringly continuous and very sweaty four hour birding session, broken only by a ten minute sit-down lunch in the great dining room of the huge colonial house (we should have had sandwiches on the verandah), we noted the following:
Black Vulture (3-5 soaring near and far)
Turkey Vulture (1-2 soaring, as often here, somewhat outnumbered by )
American Swallow-tailed Kite (while following a falcon over the valley side east of the verandah I suddenly saw an enormous "swallow" wheeling about over the carpet of trees. This wonderfully elegant raptor, one of my key targets, was indeed more like a swallow or a frigatebird than a bird of prey. In a moment it had swooped down to the trees and was lost to view. However, as the guided "nature walk" started 2 kites soared and wheeled rapidly over the centre itself, moving west fast)
White Hawk (1 ad. drifted out over the valley from below the centre)
Common Black-hawk (1 pair over the centre)
Falcon sp. (1 probable Peregrine flew east over the valley)
Swift spp. (both Band-rumped and Grey-rumped were feeding overhead according to "the walk" guide, but from below they all looked identical and I had other things in my mind)
White-necked Jacobin (1 male at the verandah feeders showed )
Tufted Coquette (1 female only at the verandah feeders, so much for crippling views of males!)
White-chested Emerald (1-2 at the verandah feeders)
Copper-rumped Hum'bird (1-2)
Violaceous Trogon (with 11/2 hours left we set off along the entrance road to try and locate at least one trogon plus various other remaining targets. Incredibly after 10-15 minutes I heard the low soft calling and succeeded in locking onto a beautifully different yellow and purple trogon. A lovely view of the distinctly small, characterful and gorgeously coloured bird was ID'd as ad. male Violaceous from the small size and undertail barring just visible from above on the outer tail base. Although eyering colour on male White-tailed is not mentioned in ffrench the yellow eyering of male Violaceous is and de Schauensee & Phelps note this, and pale blue eyering in both sexes of White-tailed. Later, in the Citrus orchard (see Murphy) a number of trogons started calling. A pair of Violaceous were eventually found high in the canopy, calling faster than another nearby bird (see below) but seemingly faster than the first (clear) Violaceous )
White-tailed Trogon (at c.14.00 we were in the Citrus orchard, when a passing guide ID'd a trogon that had suddenly started calling. He stated that the slow, measured "chopping" was definitely White-tailed but views were obscured and I failed to note the eyering colour or get a clear view of the broadly white undertail)
Blue-crowned Motmot (1 appeared briefly at the verandah feeder)
[Channel-billed Toucan] (this "common" forest sp., one of my main targets, was heard calling only. To make matters worse the dozing taxi driver said he'd seen one in the "usual dawn feeding" nutmeg tree mentioned in Murphy, 100m below the centre!)
Chestnut Woodpecker (1 flew onto a huge tree trunk in front of me along the start of the Bellbird Trail in the last few minutes)
White-flanked Antwren (1 male showed briefly in mid storey vines along the Discovery Trail. Amazingly, this individual was the only antbird seen here)
Bearded Bellbird (from the verandah I suddenly heard an abrupt call coming, one every 20-40 seconds, from the sea of forest filling the wide valley below the centre; it had to be the definitive clanging of a bellbird. As I set up the scope to scan the top of the canopy and emergent trees I was told that Bearded was one of the few that called from mid-storey rather than tree-tops (not strictly true). As the "guided nature walk" started with all various children and non-birders my (unfounded) fear that the bellbird would stop calling mushroomed. The walk proved to be an excruciatingly slow-paced and very general nature stroll, on which Penny and I found ourselves trapped. After trying not to be rude for 30 minutes as we edged down into the forest I finally snapped when a bellbird "went off" even closer. I went ahead of the group down the (main) Discovery Trail. Another bellbird suddenly called extremely close to me. The loud blast stopped me dead in my tracks, trembling with surprise and anticipation. Every 20-40s. a massively loud foghorn "bock" call echoed through the canopy and mid-storey foliage like a blast from an air horn. I was crazed with the need to see the author of such a sound. I could see that the trees dropped away down a steep valley just 75m from the trail and the bellbird had to be at the outer edge of them. After a series of foghorn blasts the bellbird settled down to a softer and faster clanking "tonk-tonk-tonk-tonk......" call, as if marking time. This call was almost more remarkable because although at a distance it had sounded like a slightly croaking popping, at close range it sounded precisely like a blacksmith pounding an anvil with a steel lump hammer, once every second. The hard, metallic ringing sound was totally unbirdlike and enthralling. I strained and struggled to scan straight through a number of intervening trees as the bird continued to call. I moved up and down the trail seeking vantage points and suddenly, incredibly, I caught the stonker in my bin's, perched in a narrow window of visibility. I stared at the huge starling-shaped bird and was amazed to see that the "beard" was actually a mass of worm-like wattled tendrils dangling from the entire throat. Having lugged all my optics for this eventuality I swapped the camera for the eyepiece and actually scoped the bellbird at c.100m noting the clean white plumage marked by chocolate brown head and black wings. The totally non-camouflaged plumage was typical of a tropical forest, polygamous, lekking species that spent its whole life displaying and trying to mate - what a boy! Soon the bellbird moved and I was left to savour the achievement. After some minutes the group arrived and the guide asked if I'd seen one. As I answered a second bellbird started calling just along the trail so the guide set off to try and locate it. I reclined in smug satisfaction only to hear him announce that this bird was perched well under the canopy near the trail! I joined the others and followed directions to another fabulous bird c.20m away! Now I reassembled the camera-scope and put it to work. Although light levels were low, I kept the motor wind busy as the bird looked about clanking away. One decent picture from this set shows the full chest as if the throat was preparing for another volley . As it turned the wattles swung like strings of beads and although others thought they looked "nasty" I relished this distinctive and peculiar characteristic of the family, in one form or another. I was now able to watch the compact, thrush-sized bird utter its call. With no effort the bill suddenly sprang open, briefly making an obtuse angle between the mandibles and the "bock" rang out. Head-on the neck could look quite slim but the stockiness of the large-headed bird was clear. Eventually the bellbird moved off As we returned I could not resist more bellbird photos. In all 3-4 males were making up this "calling group" and one was soon found low down and close to the trail. In good light I took more shots. One photo virtually captures the classic obtuse angle between mandibles at "full throat" . In retrospect I regarded this as "bird of the trip" - a fascinating looking and performing bird)
Golden-headed Manakin (The signposted "Golden Manakin Lek" down a side trail off the Discovery trail was now deserted and an increasingly desperate search for the third and final manakin ended with a 2s. sighting of a tiny black blob with a drop of gold at its front end hurtling through the Citrus orchard!)
White-bearded Manakin (the signposted "White-bearded Manakin Lek" was located by the Discovery Trail. Just 3-4m beyond the wooden rails of the "viewing gallery" were 3 male manakins sitting on the ground. As I looked and listened I saw a fourth, then a fifth, sixth and seventh until I realized that in-all, 10-15 ad. males were scattered all around in the leaf litter and low on aerial roots, vines, fallen sticks and stems. The crown was very flat and swept out neatly from the small black bill so that, in some poses the manakins looked as if they'd popped black baseball caps on . Every so often one bird would burst into a rapid sequence of zapping from stem to stem via the ground in a rough circuit around what was presumably his cleared "court". The tiny black and white ball bounced and sprang like a firecracker an impression accentuated by the loud snapping noise accompanying the movements. As the bird posed horizontally on a stem before the next bounce the throat feathers were often fluffed up to protrude in a pointed ruff beyond the bill - clearly the white beard and most distinctive. All the other males would sit around unmoved by the displaying bird's antics until one of them would have a go. Since the birds were so confiding or at least tolerant while at display I was able to take a number of shots. One bird perched close to the viewing area in a shaft of sunlight provided a nicely contrasting picture . Occasionally 1 or 2 birds would fly off on loudly whirring wings like a tiny, motor-driven toy. Later I found 2-3 more males displaying at another lek beyond the empty Golden-headed site. males were also seen and heard whirring about generally in the forest)
Streaked Flycatcher (1 noted near the centre)
Great Kiskadee (1 pair around the verandah)
Tropical Pewee (2 calling a shrill "pewee", were ID'd by the guide)
Forest Elaenia (1 small, wing-barred flycatcher showed pale crown patch contrasting with darker crown.)
House Wren (1-2 noted)
Cocoa Thrush (1-2 very bold, richly coloured thrushes at the feeders below the verandah )
Bare-eyed Thrush (several around the centre)
Golden-fronted Greenlet (1 along a trail was my first of this warbler-like vireo)
Shiny Cowbird (1 by the verandah)
Crested Oropendola (3-4 were around several nests hanging near the centre)
Yellow Oriole (1 at the feeders)
Bananaquit (many at the feeders and scattered about the forests)
Purple Honeycreeper (1 male appeared in the top of the hedge by the feeders. Definitely the New World equivalent of sunbird, this was my first and last Purple and was most welcome )
Green Honeycreeper (1 pair was coming to the feeders when we arrived )
Violaceous Euphonia (1 pair was located in a large tree below the centre by, not surprisingly, the musical call/song of varied bright notes)
Bay-headed Tanager (1 with the euphonias)
Blue-gray Tanager (several around the feeders)
Palm Tanager (")
Silver-beaked Tanager (1 pair was visiting the feeders and the male posed perfectly )
White-lined Tanager (1-2 pairs were seen near the feeders and in the forest)

Drive down Blanchisseuse Rd

As we were driving back down the valley towards Arima I scanned various circling raptors. Mainly Turkey and Black Vultures contained one more interesting species at one point:
Plumbeous Kite (1 smallish dark grey raptor with rather rakish wings showed maroon or rather plum bases to the long, slender primaries with bin's at 500+m)

Caroni Swamp

The taxi driver had wanted plenty of time to get through the traffic in time for the 16.00 boat trip on which Gerard had booked us; in fact we arrived at 15.30. My initial frustration at having lost half an hour at Asa Wright only to sit here evaporated when Penny found another superb raptor. I had hoped/presumed that Gerard would have arranged a specific birding trip into the swamp targeting other specialities such as Red-capped Cardinal, Bi-coloured Conebill and able to spotlight for Common Potoo or the (apparently) abundant but elusive Boat-billed Heron after dark. I was again disappointed to find we were on a general ibis trip. However, I expressed my wishes to the boatman fairly vociferously and by our dusk return at 18.30 we had noted the following:
Anhinga (1 in flight)
Great Egret (5-6 were noted along quiet channels or flying over)
Snowy Egret (1 probable on the small ibis roosting island we looked at)
Little Blue Heron (10-15 along channels or flying over)
Cattle Egret (20+ in surrounding fields)
Yellow-crowned Night-heron (3 flushed from channels or in flight)
Scarlet Ibis (the second of the top three trip targets was easily ticked when Penny found 1-2 brilliant red birds fluttering over distant mangroves far to the west of the jetty. One lone ibis was found perching mid-storey within mangroves. By c.16.45 we were moving through wide stretches of water over which ones and twos of ibis were regularly flying at fair height and soon we halted in the middle of a large stretch, presumably to wait for the dusk fly-in, such that it might be. Ones and twos started flying in low over the mangroves to the south, crossing the water and dropping over the mangroves to the north. Soon a flock of a dozen or so ibises came in literally blazing scarlet with the lowering sun on them in perfect light. From now on parties were flying in every minute. Several ibises swung in on a flight course very close to our boat enabling a very pleasing photo of one pair . A number of substantial flocks, of up to 50-60 birds came in, often largely of immature birds. At c.17.45 we moved on in the heightening sunset and motored round to a smaller stretch of water just to the north. In the middle was a small, heavily vegetated island that was literally lit up like a Christmas tree. With the evening sun on it, the dark green foliage was dabbed with Scarlet Ibises that actually appeared to be shining. The forms seemed to shimmer, detached from the foliage like an optical illusion. In all I estimated a mere 250-300 birds had been seen flying in but it had been a spectacle and most gratifying. A lone egret (presumed Snowy) perched amongst the dazzling neighbours.)
Turkey Vulture (2-3 seen)
Long-winged Harrier (A beautiful black, white and grey adult harrier flew in over the arable fields past the jetty at a mere 30-40m. The species is uncommon to rare here according to Murphy and a very pleasing bonus)
Osprey (2 singles drifted over the mangroves)
Spotted Sandpiper (6-7 ad. br. pl. along the sides of muddy mangrove channels)
Common Potoo (the boatman gave directions to a a superb, roosting potoo on the top of a tall, thin dead trunk rising out of the water. >From only 6-8m I noted oddly long, uneven little bill, hooked like a witches finger, protruding from the large head. During my attempts to take a photo the potoo woke up and opened its large eye (which looked dark in shadow) as it ruffled its feathers and moved about a little until it was comfy again)
[Green Kingfisher] (1 calling bird was ID'd by the boatman but my scanning of the mangroves was to no avail- horribly frustrating)
Grey Kingbird (1)
Brown-crested Flycatcher (1)
[Rufous-browed Peppershrike] (1 calling bird was ID'd by the boatman)
Carib Grackle (2-3 were noted)
{Bicolored Conebill} (as we were leaving the roosting ibises a small grey passerine dashed out of the mangroves calling as it flew across the channel and disappeared. It was ID'd by the boatman as this mangroves speciality but I decided my encounter was untickable)
Red-capped Cardinal (after I'd missed 1 male found near the jetty by the boatman he picked up another not far along the main access channel and I locked onto a stunning male in mangroves c.25m away. Soon a second male was seen so that Murphy's description as "rare and elusive" was put to the test. As with most other species, the birds were much better than in ffrench's plate. )

Pax Guest House, May 3rd

Brief birding from the bedroom verandah from 07.00 until 07.15 produced another species I was so far lacking.
White Hawk (1 was picked up soaring over the forest up the hillside opposite)
Green Hermit (a large-looking green/brown hummer' suddenly swept in and hovered frustratingly briefly below me showing very long white central tail feathers trailing from long pointed green tail. Coupled with long, decurved reddish bill and clear striped "hermit face pattern" the bird's ID was obvious, presumably a female with the longer tail tips. Only now did I feel able to wear the Pax T-shirt sporting its Green Hermit)

Cumaca Trail and Cave

For the main day trip of our Trinidad visit we were required to employ a guide to take us the remote alternative Oilbird site. Gerard had arranged for English ex-pat. birder Martyn Kenefick to accompany us through what was promised to be the "real thing" - extensive tracts of pristine primary forest which should provide a host of other forest species in addition to the last of the three top targets - guaranteed. In addition I primed Martyn for Channel-billed Toucan, Blue-headed Parrot, White-bellied Antbird, Great Antshrike and Golden-headed Manakin. We set off at c.08.00 in a minibus with driver, on the two hour drive. Since the pot-holed road out to the remote village of Cumaca was so treacherous as it wound along steep hillsides, time was of the essence. The two hour each way trek to the cave would have to be completed by 16.00 to allow us to drive out again before dark. Before we turned off the Eastern Main Road however, a potential lifer was pointed out by MK:
Fork-tailed Flycatcher (1 gangly passerine with trailing double tail streamers was ID'd by MK some way from the road as it flew, silhouetted, over grassland. I decided not to tick it on this view but saw no more!)
On the drive in we stopped on the far side of a tremendous tiny valley of dense mature forest to scan for bellbirds. With a superb panoramic view of no more than 1km in any direction we enjoyed 20 minutes of excellent static birding with scopes. We reached the start of the trail at c.11.15. By 12.30 we had done the steep and slippery but substantially level trek to the shack in "the valley" in heat and humidity that made it surprisingly tough going. I was very glad I had taken MK's advice and not lugged the camera/scope with me. Outstanding views across miles of rolling, continuous and luscious lowland/lower montane forest was made all the more spectacular by MK's comments that he suspected no "birder" had ever been to at least one range of nearby hills. After a welcome bite to eat at the shack we descended into the shallow but dense and humid valley and made our way to "the cave". After a brief but enthralling 5-10 minutes here we started the return at c.13.05 and reached the minibus at 16.00 having done rather well:
[Little Tinamou] (the plaintive, stepwise rising call of 2 individuals was ID'd by MK but the shy, forest floor birds never came close to being seen)
Black Vulture (2-3 were often in the sky)
Turkey Vulture (")
Plumbeous Kite (1 very distant bird far off over the forest was ID'd by MK. Due to the kite's long slender wings and smooth grey plumage it looked almost falcon-like)
Short-tailed Hawk (1 dark phase raptor circling over the road not far from the village caused us to stop and check it out. Although largely silhouetted the buteo showed distinctly truncated, broad tail (somewhat like an African Augur Buzzard))
Grey Hawk (1 ad. circling overhead)
White Hawk (1 noted)
Common Black Hawk (1 well marked, brown streaked imm. bird was watched circling low over the cave valley. 2 ad.s were also noted)
{Scaled Pigeon} (1 pigeon perched high on an exposed tree top at c.150m was silhouetted denying me a view of the heavily patterned plumage so that, although MK ID'd it from size and shape I felt unable to tick it off - frustrating as this was the only one of the trip)
Blue-headed Parrot (10 came hammering into a tree-top over the trail near the end of our return. These excellent smallish parrots were well hidden in the canopy but several showed wonderfully distinct vivid blue head contrasting with green body and crimson undertail coverts. After 4-5 minutes they dashed off again providing this target in the nick of time)
Orange-winged Parrot (6-8 in total were seen flying over along the trail)
Smooth-billed Ani (2-3 were fiddling about in the deep roadside vegetation where we parked)
Ferruginous Pygmy-owl (MK located 1 perched high in the thick tree next to the shack near the cave. The plaintive whistling call of this common species is often imitated by guides to pull in mobbing passerines but this time it was the mobbers that pulled MK onto the owl. The small, dumpy owl which down at us with outraged blazing yellow eyes. Round head complete with false eyebrows on the nape and length of tail the owl was not surprisingly reminiscent of the other Glaucidium I've seen, Pearl-spotted Owlet in Africa. Suddenly the little cracker bombed out of the tree and fluttered off into the dense forest like a manic Little Owl. Along the trail 2 others responded to MK's imitation while attracting passerines)
Oilbird (Our brisk pace had brought us to the well concealed entrance to a small cave surrounded by dense vegetation that had almost blocked the trail. Discarding our boots and socks and rolling our trousers up, the three of us waded ankle deep in refreshingly cool water that flowed out of the narrow cave. Beneath our feet squelched the regurgitated and/or defecated husks and seeds of the fruit eaten by the Oilbirds roosting within. MK had a small head-lamp on and I was armed with just the Pentax compact and a torch. We silently crept c.15m into the darkness until suddenly out of the pitch black silence exploded a cacophony of wailing, screaming and clicking that sounded like a vast colony of seabirds. The appalling sound echoed round the cave to make an incredible din as our eyes became accustomed to the dark and MK's small beam flashed about high in front of us. 10-15 Oilbirds were fluttering about in the gloom. Although I immediately recognized this long-familiar and unique "nightjar" I was enthralled to see them at last, surprised by their large size, accentuated by long, slim wings and tail and amazed by the wild spectacle of sight and sound. Incredibly, while most of the Oilbirds fluttered about in agitation coming towards us and then turning back into the darkness, one bird stayed motionless on a ledge towards the entrance in quite reasonable light. This bird was presumably on a nest and allowed good views. Looking basically like an enormous nightjar, the Oilbird showed the long, deep hooked bill, large dark eye, milk chocolate brown plumage, long broad tail, long primaries and bold white spots spangled all over the wings which I had seen in countless paintings and photos. I tried just two shots of my own but the flash was too weak for the full cave of flying Oilbirds and since I decided not to illuminate the perched bird with the torch (allowing the autofocus to see its object) this picture was also hopeless. Soon another Oilbird was detected right behind the first and then 1-2 more were picked out close by. Unlike the semi-dark gorge dwelling and much visited birds at Asa Wright these Oilbirds only rarely encountered humans and artificial light when an authorized guide brought Pax birders and after just 5-10 minutes MK decided they had been disturbed enough. We crept out into a heavy, yet pleasant downpour)
Grey-rumped Swift (1 was ID'd when it flew below us on the hillock at the shacks. Only slightly greyer rump was possibly more diffusely spread over the tiny swift's rump)
Band-rumped Swift (2 were buzzing about low around the shacks when fairly well cut-off and clean white rump band was noted, making this sp. reminiscent of Little Swift)
Rufous-breasted (Hairy)Hermit (1-2 zoomed about at waist height amongst dense vegetation)
Green Hermit (at least 1 probable was seen by the trail but as with all the hermits they moved so fast and were lost so quickly, good views were hard. I did find 1 feeding more sedately near the minibus when we returned)
Little Hermit (Penny found the only one of the trip)
White-necked Jacobin (1 cracking male)
Blue-chinned Sapphire (2-3)
White-chested Emerald (4-5)
Copper-rumped Hummingbird (many)
White-tailed Trogon (MK found a splendid male sitting in a large open tree next to the shack. As it perched in full view for 5-10 minutes I walked down the slope to face it and noted the diagnostic solid white outer undertail standing out against rich yellow belly and lovely mauve head and upper's. The bird was uttering a relaxed, slow-paced and soothing "cow - cow - cow - cow - cow - cow - cow - cow" call)
Violaceous Trogon (1 male was picked up high in the canopy overhead when I'd seen it fly in. Barred undertail was noted as was a faster "cop-cop-cop-cop-cop-cop-cop-cop" call)
[Rufous-tailed Jacamar] (as we wound our way through the low dense vegetation returning from the cave Penny saw 1, the only one of the Trinidad trip!)
Channel-billed Toucan (during our stop to scan a small beautifully forested valley on the drive in MK picked up a fantastic toucan perched in a broad tree top exactly where a bellbird had just been scoped calling 3-400m away. The great bird was sitting vertically with its enormous black bill jutting out horizontally. The rest of the bird seemed to flow out from behind this as a brightly coloured mount for the bill. The bird sat surveying the forest around it for many minutes like a splendid clown and was the only one of the trip )
Lineated Woodpecker (1 female was distinguished from Crimson-crested by narrow white moustacial stripe)
Plain-brown Woodcreeper (1 literally plain rich brown woodcreeper flew across the trail showing short bill)
[Buff-throated Woodcreeper] (several calling added a definite depth and vitality to the forests)
Great Antshrike (almost as soon as we'd left the minibus a large, stocky rufous female whirred low across the trail in front of me. The bird clambered through bamboo next to the trail calling an antshrike-like churr)
Plain Antvireo (1 male was seen on the trek)
[Black-faced Antthrush] (1 was calling not far from the road inside tall, dark forest on the drive in)
Bearded Bellbird (the foghorn blasts and anvil clanging of 3-4 males were echoing around the valley we stopped at on the drive in. After a while scanning for the mid-storey perching bellbirds MK found one perched right on the top a tree. A second more concealed bird was soon. Others were heard calling at points all along the trail, some near, some very distant. The sound added a crucial richness to the forests)
Golden-headed Manakin (after several had been heard by MK a male was at last found by the road while we stopped to look for a close bellbird. The call was again ID'd by MK and I rapidly located the tiny black manakin in a nearby tree. With bin's a decent view of the bird, perched momentarily, revealed that it was truly golden head. A brilliant gleaming yellow dome cap contrasted wildly with the dumpy silky black plumage elsewhere and the unusual pale yellow eye deliberately blended in with the crown. Soon the active bird dashed off and although a frustratingly brief and photo-free encounter compared with the other two manakins, I was relieved to have seen this well)
Tropical Kingbird (3-4 large, powerful flycatchers were noted)
Boat-billed Flycatcher (2 large, stocky Kiskadee-type were seen high in a bare tree on the drive in. Eventually the failure of the huge white supercilia to meet on the nape, broad bill and lack of rufous in plainer brown wings were noted. 2-3 were seen along the trail)
Great Kiskadee (3-4 were noted)
Dusky-capped Flycatcher (1 high in a tree was ID'd by MK by much smaller size than Brown-crested, sooty head and brown tail)
Tropical Pewee (1 pair was seen well close to the trail when dainty jizz with large head and eye and obvious pink bill were noted)
Yellow-bellied Elaenia (2 noted)
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher (1 was found feeding young along the overgrown trail to the cave. The bird was elusive but I soon realized it was the same vocal passerine we had been unable to ID in the Main Ridge forest of Tobago. MK ID'd it straight away and it all made sense. 1-2 others were also noted)
Southern Rough-winged Swallow (2-3 were seen along the road)
Rufous-breasted Wren (3-4 came in to the dense low bushes by the trail next to which MK stood whistling an imitation of a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl)
Long-billed Gnatwren (1 came in to mob MK's Ferruginous Pygmy Owl imitation)
Cocoa Thrush (1 was followed along the overgrown trail back from the cave)
Rufous-browed Peppershrike (1 was seen near the shacks)
Golden-fronted Greenlet (2 appeared in the passerine gathering at MK's Ferruginous Pygmy Owl imitation)
Crested Oropendola (1-2 were noted)
Northern Waterthrush (I found 1 feeding along a felled tree trunk at the edge of a disappointing patch of cleared forest along the trail)
Golden-crowned Warbler (1-2 were seen but I never got an impression of bright orange crown)
Swallow-Tanager (as we were scanning the small valley on the drive in MK found 1 male perched in a broad, open tree c.150m back down the road. The bird remained still for a few minutes during which the distinctively broad, deep-set bill and black face was seen to be subtly yet obviously reminiscent of a wood-swallow. The unusually bright, light blue of the crown, upper's and breast stood out against the dark foliage behind and white belly cut up between blue flanks. The species is rare according to Murphy and clearly hard to see as this was a lifer for MK as well )
Purple Honeycreeper (1 joined in at MK's Ferruginous Pygmy Owl imitation)
Red-legged Honeycreeper (my first of the trip was picked up in a tree near the road in the valley we stopped to bird. 2 appeared in the bird-filled bushes at MK's Ferruginous Pygmy Owl imitation)
Green Honeycreeper (1 male was found feeding a young bird)
Violaceous Euphonia (2 pairs were seen low over the trail in large trees)
Turquoise Tanager (1 was seen in the valley on the drive in. This attractive little tanager was certainly much more elusive than its larger relatives)
Bay-headed Tanager (1 appeared at MK's Ferruginous Pygmy Owl imitation)
Blue-gray Tanager (several seen along the trail)
Palm Tanager ( " )
Silver-beaked Tanager (2+ males were noted)
Red-crowned Ant-tanager (1 dull rufous immature bird was seen grubbing about near the start of the trail Soon a female appeared for comparison then the richly coloured male showed itself briefly)
White-lined Tanager (several nicely dissimilar males and females were noted, active as usual)
White-shouldered Tanager (2-3 males were encountered around the shacks. This welcome new tanager, my ninth of the trip (and all seen on this trek), was seen to be rather small, dainty and fine-billed)
The trek had thus produced the most important bird of the trip plus 62 other forest species (four heard only) including several crucial birds, in no more than 5 1/2 hours birding.

Eastern Main Road

As we drove back west on the main road along the base of the Northern Range MK pointed out one more useful lifer.
Yellow-headed Caracara (1 harrier-like raptor was flapping along parallel and close to the road over a cane or cereal crop)

Pax Guest House, May 4th

Several birds were seen from the bedroom verandah before breakfast or from the main verandah during breakfast:
Grey-headed Kite (2 were found circling over the ridge above Pax by MK)
Plumbeous Kite (1 dark, rakish bird flew low and fast past the Pax verandah looking much more businesslike than the average kite)

Parula Trail, Mt. St.Benedict

With a return flight to Tobago leaving at 14.00 I had one morning left in which to find the remaining "common" Antbird which had eluded me (White-bellied) plus a number of common residents still waiting for me on the mount. MK joined us for some good birding along the Parula Trail (reputedly the best for antbirds) on a pleasant morning and from 08.10 until 10.45 we saw the following:
[Little Tinamou] (at least 2 were calling from deep in forest floor cover not far from the trail. The plaintive whistling wail rising in slow steps was most tantalizing and frustrating since we had no chance if seeing the shy (heavily hunted) bird)
Black Vulture (2-3 soared close overhead or actually below us when MK and I climbed the fire tower along Alben Ride for a tremendous view over the plains beyond Tunapuna and up the forested hillsides above Pax)
Turkey Vulture (several low overhead)
White Hawk (MK found an obvious bird perched in a treetop 100m from us along the Parula Trail. The very smart bird of prey allowed a reasonable photo but it hardly deserved Murphy's accolade as "possibly the World's most beautiful raptor")
Ruddy Ground Dove (1-2 by the monastery church allowed close approach)
Orange-winged Parrot (the usual couple of pairs flew over. Frustratingly MK had seen the also "usual" small flock of Lilac-tailed Parrotlets bomb past as he'd walked up to Pax earlier. Although they look superb in the field guide MK said the birds usually show as calling bullets offering little or no view of their tail or other finery)
Squirrel Cuckoo (1 c.25m away in trees down the slope calling. I saw why the lifer was so-named as it quickly scampered along the treetop branches in a horizontal posture with its chestnut tail streaming out behind, just like a huge red squirrel)
Short-tailed Swift (2-3)
Lineated Woodpecker (1 female found by Penny showed well on a trunk at 10m)
[Barred Antshrike] (1-2 calling)
White-flanked Antwren (1 female was pointed out by MK hanging on a vine)
[White-bellied Antbird] (MK ID'd rather too distant, very high, descending whistled notes in secondary forest along Parula trail as coming from my last target species. Both MK and GR regard this trail as one of the best antbird sites in the country and at least 2 birds were present and calling. MK advised against my bothering to stalk a bird that had been calling in the gully below as I'd flush it before I saw it. Unfortunately no bird emerged from the ground cover within view after a couple of hours. Incredibly, a month later, Penny "confessed" to having seen a brown thrush-sized bird with white underparts in flight along the Parula Trail. It was clearly a White-bellied Antbird - one of the less enjoyable instances of my wife gripping me off)
Brown-crested Flycatcher (1 ID'd by MK)
Southern Beardless Tyrannulet (MK located 1 over the Parula Trail by its high, thin "three blind mice" call)
[Long-billed Gnatwren] ( the surprisingly loud rattled trill call heard)
Cocoa Thrush (1 feeding very unobtrusively in leaf litter by Parula trail)
Chivi Vireo (3-4 "Red-eyed Vireos" were seen well along trail. Apparently common on both islands and clearly considered a separate sp. by ffrench yet not mentioned by de Schauensee et. al.)
Golden-fronted Greenlet (3-4 attractive, quite buff-headed birds were seen well)
Crested Oropendola (1-2 in flight over the trees)
Tropical Parula (practically the first bird we saw as we started along the Parula Trail was a gorgeous singing male Tropical Parula of the race elegans. The trilling song was very reminiscent of Wood Warbler. Another singing male and a few duller females made at least 2 pairs present)
Golden-crowned Warbler (1 more subtle but attractive warbler)
Red-legged Honeycreeper (1 male seen in virtual silhouette)
Blue Dacnis (MK found 1 bright turquoise/blue female with 1 imm. male by the road. Considered one of "the usual species" (responding to Ferruginous Pygmy Owl imitations) by Murphy, these were the first and last of our trip)
Trinidad Euphonia (MK ID'd the high thin call and I saw the author to be a pale bellied female euphonia in a treetop)
Violaceous Euphonia (1 pair)
White-shouldered Tanager (1 pair was seen, the female being a very dissimilar green and white to the male)
Agouti (1 small "hog" was seen ferreting about in the undergrowth)
Red Squirrel (1 richly coloured animal was seen briefly darting through branches)
At 11.00, 72 hours after arriving at Pax, we finished birding in Trinidad with a surprisingly modest 104 species under the belt. However, what the list lacked in quantity it made up for in quality.

Stonehaven Bay, May 5th

Our last full day in Tobago was spent on the beach; the usual birds were present as we dozed, read and swam.
Magnificent Frigatebird (up to 40 were picking up discarded fish from beach)
Laughing Gull (450-500 were in rafts or on the beach and, judging by the noise they were making, found something hilarious)
Royal Tern (1 flew low over as we swam)

Trip List

In just three and a half full days birding, several early mornings and a few late afternoons I managed to see 13 of my 17 top priority target species.
[Little Tinamou] Cumaca, Mount St. Benedict
Red-billed Tropicbird Little Tobago
Brown Booby Little Tobago, Stonehaven Bay
Red-footed Booby Little Tobago
Brown Pelican Stonehaven Bay
Anhinga Buccoo Marsh, Caroni Swamp
Magnificent Frigatebird common (Tobago)
Great Egret Buccoo Marsh
Snowy Egret Buccoo Marsh
Little Blue Heron Buccoo Marsh
Tricoloured Heron Buccoo Marsh
Green Heron Buccoo Marsh
Cattle Egret common
Black-crowned Night-heron Tobago Atlantic coast
Yellow-crowned Night-heron Little Tobago, Arnos Vale, Caroni Swamp
Scarlet Ibis Caroni Swamp
Black-bellied Whistling-duck Buccoo Marsh
White-cheeked Pintail Buccoo Marsh
Black Vulture common (Trinidad)
Turkey Vulture common (Trinidad)
American Swallow-tailed Kite Asa Wright Nature Centre
Grey-headed Kite Mount St. Benedict
Plumbeous Kite Arima Valley, Mount St. Benedict, Cumaca
Broad-winged Hawk Grafton Estate Sanctuary, Main Ridge Forest
Short-tailed Hawk Cumaca
Grey Hawk Cumaca
White Hawk Asa Wright Nature Centre, Mount St. Benedict, Cumaca
Common Black Hawk Asa Wright Nature Centre, Cumaca
{Great Black Hawk} Speyside
Long-winged Harrier Caroni Swamp
Osprey Buccoo Marsh, Caroni Swamp
Yellow-headed Caracara Eastern Main Road (Trinidad)
Rufous-vented Chachalaca Stonehaven Bay, Grafton Estate Sanctuary, Arnos Vale, Main Ridge Forest
Common Moorhen Buccoo Marsh
Wattled Jacana Buccoo Marsh
Southern Lapwing Buccoo Marsh
Grey Plover Stonehaven Bay
Semipalmated Plover Buccoo Marsh
Ruddy Turnstone Stonehaven Bay
Lesser Yellowlegs Buccoo Marsh
Spotted Sandpiper Speyside, Buccoo Marsh, Caroni Swamp
Laughing Gull common
Sooty Tern Smith's Island (Tobago)
Royal Tern Stonehaven Bay, Pigeon Point
Sandwich Tern Stonehaven Bay
{Scaled Pigeon} Cumaca
Pale-vented Pigeon Little Tobago
Eared Dove common (Tobago)
Ruddy Ground Dove Arnos Vale, Mount St. Benedict
White-tipped Dove common (Tobago)
Green-rumped Parrotlet Grafton Estate Sanctuary, Buccoo Marsh
Blue-headed Parrot Cumaca
Orange-winged Parrot common
Squirrel Cuckoo Mount St. Benedict
Smooth-billed Ani Grafton Estate Sanctuary, Buccoo Marsh, Cumaca
Ferruginous Pygmy-owl Cumaca
Oilbird Cumaca
Common Potoo Caroni Swamp
Grey-rumped Swift Asa Wright Nature Centre, Cumaca
Band-rumped Swift Asa Wright Nature Centre, Cumaca
Short-tailed Swift common
Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift Mount St. Benedict
Rufous-breasted (Hairy) Hermit Grafton Estate Sanctuary, Cumaca
Green Hermit Pax Guest House, Cumaca
Little Hermit Cumaca
White-tailed Sabrewing Main Ridge Forest
White-necked Jacobin Grafton Estate Sanctuary, Pax Guest House, Asa Wright Nature Centre, Cumaca
Black-throated Mango Grafton Estate Sanctuary, Arnos Vale, Pax Guesthouse
Ruby-topaz Hummingbird common (Tobago)
Tufted Coquette Pax Guest House, Asa Wright Nature Centre
Blue-chinned Sapphire Pax Guest House
White-chested Emerald Pax Guest House, Asa Wright Nature Centre
Copper-rumped Hummingbird common
White-tailed Trogon Asa Wright Nature Centre, Cumaca
Violaceous Trogon Asa Wright Nature Centre, Cumaca
Collared Trogon Main Ridge Forest
[Green Kingfisher] Caroni Swamp
Blue-crowned Motmot Grafton Estate Sanctuary, Arnos Vale, Asa Wright Nature Centre
Rufous-tailed Jacamar Main ridge Forest, Cumaca
Channel-billed Toucan Cumaca
Golden-olive Woodpecker Main ridge Forest
Chestnut Woodpecker Asa Wright Nature Centre
Lineated Woodpecker Mount St. Benedict, Cumaca
Red-crowned Woodpecker common
Plain-brown Woodcreeper Cumaca
Olivaceous Woodcreeper Grafton Estate Sanctuary
Buff-throated Woodcreeper common
Stripe-breasted Spinetail Main Ridge Forest
Great Antshrike Cumaca
Barred Antshrike common
Plain Antvireo Main Ridge Forest, Cumaca
White-flanked Antwren Asa Wright Nature Centre, Mount St. Benedict
White-fringed Antwren common (Tobago)
[White-bellied Antbird] Mount St. Benedict
Black-faced Antthrush Mount St. Benedict, Cumaca
Bearded Bellbird Asa Wright Nature Centre, Cumaca
Golden-headed Manakin Asa Wright Nature Centre, Cumaca
White-bearded Manakin Mount St. Benedict, Asa Wright Nature Centre
Blue-backed Manakin Grafton Estate Sanctuary, Main Ridge Forest
{Fork-tailed Flycatcher} Eastern Main Road (Trinidad)
Tropical Kingbird common
Grey Kingbird Main Ridge Forest, Caroni Swamp
Boat-billed Flycatcher Cumaca
Streaked Flycatcher Main Ridge Forest, Pax Guest House, Asa Wright Centre
Great Kiskadee common (Trinidad)
Brown-crested Flycatcher common (Tobago), Caroni Swamp, Mount St. Benedict
Dusky-capped Flycatcher Cumaca
Tropical Pewee Asa Wright Nature Centre, Cumaca
Fuscous Flycatcher Grafton Estate Sanctuary, Arnos Vale
Yellow-breasted Flycatcher common (Tobago), Mount St. Benedict
Yellow-bellied Elaenia common
Forest Elaenia Asa Wright Nature Centre
Southern Beardless-tyrannulet Mount St. Benedict
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher Main Ridge Forest, Cumaca
Caribbean Martin common (Tobago)
Southern Rough-winged Swallow Arima Valley, Cumaca
Rufous-breasted Wren Arnos Vale, Main Ridge Forest, Cumaca
House Wren common
Tropical Mockingbird common
Long-billed Gnatwren Mount St. Benedict, Cumaca
Yellow-legged Thrush Main Ridge Forest
Cocoa Thrush Asa Wright Nature Centre, Cumaca, Mount St. Benedict
Bare-eyed Thrush common
White-necked Thrush Main Ridge Forest
Rufous-browed Peppershrike Mount St. Benedict, Caroni Swamp, Cumaca
Chivi Vireo Mount St. Benedict
Golden-fronted Greenlet Asa Wright Nature Centre, Cumaca, Mount St. Benedict
Scrub Greenlet Grafton Estate Sanctuary, Buccoo Marsh
Shiny Cowbird common (Trinidad)
Giant Cowbird Main Ridge Forest
Crested Oropendola common
Carib Grackle common
Yellow Oriole Pax Guest House, Asa Wright Nature Centre
Tropical Parula Mount St. Benedict
Northern Waterthrush Buccoo Marsh, Cumaca
Golden-crowned Warbler Mount St. Benedict, Cumaca
Bananaquit common!
Swallow-Tanager Cumaca
{Bicoloured Conebill} Caroni Swamp
Purple Honeycreeper Asa Wright Nature Centre, Cumaca
Red-legged Honeycreeper Cumaca, Mount St. Benedict, Main Ridge Forest
Green Honeycreeper Pax Guest House, Asa Wright Nature Centre, Cumaca
Blue Dacnis Mount St. Benedict
Trinidad Euphonia Mount St. Benedict
Violaceous Euphonia Asa Wright Nature Centre, Cumaca, Mount St. Benedict
Turquoise Tanager Pax Guest House, Cumaca
Bay-headed Tanager Asa Wright Nature Centre, Cumaca
Blue-grey Tanager common
Palm Tanager Pax Guest House, Asa Wright Nature Centre, Cumaca
Silver-beaked Tanager Pax Guest House, Asa Wright Nature Centre, Cumaca
Red-crowned Ant-tanager Cumaca
White-lined Tanager common
White-shouldered Tanager Cumaca, Mount St. Benedict
Red-capped Cardinal Caroni Swamp
Blue-black Grassquit Grafton Estate Sanctuary, Mount St. Benedict
Black-faced Grassquit Grafton Resort, Grafton Estate Sanctuary, Arnos Vale

Total species: 149

Potential lifers not ticked:
{seen but identified by guide only}: 4
[heard only]: 3