In late February, 2013 I took a much-needed vacation. As I had been hovering above 1450 life birds for some time, I chose Trinidad and Tobago as offering a decent chance of yielding the thirty-three lifers needed to bring the list to the symbolic 1500 threshold. Although the region has a fantastic diversity of birds, the great majority were already familiar to me from prior visits to Central and South America. I underestimated the wide distribution of habitats I would need to visit on Trinidad to pursue the new species on the island, and difficulties cropped up during my one day of birding on Tobago, such that I did not quite reach my goal. Nevertheless, it was a great trip and a welcome respite from work.
As resources I brought with me Restall’s guide to the birds of South America (plates volume), lists of bird species for each island, and a couple of trip reports I’d printed from the Internet.
In the following account birds are identified by their common names with scientific names in parentheses. Life birds are presented in capitals. After the first sighting of a species I will not mention further sightings unless they are notable in some manner, thus avoiding tiresome repetition of common birds such as Great kiskadee and Bananaquit.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 17
I drove to Philadelphia, flew to Miami, had a comfortable layover there, and continued to Trinidad, arriving near midnight. At the airport I connected with the rental car company after some confusion, and then due to problems with my overprotective credit card company, had to spend an entirely unreasonable amount of time on the phone at 1 a.m. to get the charge to go through. I finally reached a hotel right by the airport, got a room, and hit the bed near 2:00 in the morning.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 18
The plan had been to get up very early, catch an early flight to Tobago, spend the day on a whirlwind birding tour of the island, catch a flight back in late afternoon, collect the car and drive to Grande Rivere on the northern coast of Trinidad. Due to the night’s tribulations I was unable to force myself up as early as planned. As it turned out, it probably didn’t matter; Carnival had just ended and everyone and their cousins were trying to catch flights everywhere. The airport was so full people were taking turns breathing. A word to the wise if you visit Trinidad: abandon all hope of making a trip in reasonable time anywhere during peak morning hours via Caribbean Airlines. I’ve never seen such an inefficient operation, and they are entirely unequipped to handle the kind of traffic they get between about 7 and 10 a.m.
There was no hope of getting to Tobago during prime birding hours so I decided instead to return to the hotel, grab the car I’d left there, and spend the hot hours running up to Grande Riviere early. It seemed like a setback but proved to be extremely lucky that I wasn’t able to put my plan into effect.
In moving between the hotel and the airport and back again, I didn’t spare a lot of attention for birding, but did find Blue-and-white swallow (Pygochelidon cyanoleuca), Great kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus), Snowy egrets (Egretta thula), Carib grackles Quiscalis lugubris), and Common ground-doves (Columbina passerina).
By the time I hit the road the morning rush was over and I made very good time going east on the main highway. In Valencia I discovered how unfortunate it would have been to drive the road in darkness. Forewarned by the cautious maneuver of a truck in front of me, I slowed down just as an all-but-invisible unreasonable dip in the road appeared before me. Had I been driving the unfamiliar road at night, I would almost certainly have hit the spot at speed, which could easily have damaged the rental car to the point of disabling it. Beyond that the road continued to be a pretty good one, but there were one or two more spots like that before Grande Riviere.
The trip took over three hours with a couple of stops. Although Grande Riviere is not that far in miles from the airport, the road north and then back west along the coast is a typical island road, with plenty of switchbacks and tight turns and pavement just narrower than two cars side by side. It’s the sort of road you get used to driving when you’re a serious birder, but still roughly as unnerving an experience as being in London during the Blitz.
On the first part of the drive I spotted Turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) and Air rats (pigeons) (Columba livia). At a town called Matura I stopped to check out an area with a little fresh water around, but it was relatively unproductive, yielding only Southern rough-winged swallow (Steigidopteryx ruficollis) and Black vultures (Coragyps atratus). On the road again I had a flyby Yellow-rumped cacique (Cacicus cela). I turned up a road heading inland and up into the Matura park for a break. On the way up a minivan coming the other way forced me close to the margin of the road, where the only branch actually intruding on the road happened to hang, and it put a small dent in the hood. Aw, hamburgers.
After I finished cursing synchronicity, I had a decent time birding on a short stretch of the road. Present were Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola), Silver-beaked tanager (Ramphocelus carbo), Barred antshrike (Thamnophilus doliatus), and Tropical mockingbird (Mimus gilvus). Prolonged observation and process of elimination eventually allowed me to convincingly identify small birds in the midstory as GOLDEN-FRONTED GREENLETS (Hylophilus aurantifrons); the illustration in the book greatly overemphasized the contrast between the underparts and mantle, as the actual bird looks remarkably uniform in color unless you get a good look in good light to see the yellow tinges on the flanks and chin. A nearby flowering tree drew a COPPER-RUMPED HUMMINGBIRD (Amazilla tobaci).
I continued to Grande Riviere and checked in to the charming and well-situated Le Grande Almandiere; its open-air dining area has splendid views of the sea. Magnificent frigatebirds (Fregeta magnificens) and Brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) soared over the water, while a squadron of Short-tailed swifts (Chaetura brachyura) patrolled the sky above the hotel itself.
As bird activity was picking up in the afternoon, I ran a scouting mission up the road to Montevideo so I would be prepared for a return visit the next morning when the local target bird made its appearance. The first stretch of this hike yielded Smooth-billed ani (Crotophaga ani), Palm tanager (Thraupis palmarum), and Double-toothed kite ((Haarpagus bidentatus). I detoured off the road on a short trail to a small cultivated field, and in a grotto-like area of brush and reeds pished in White-flanked antwren (Myrmotherula axillaris) and Violaceous euphonias (Euphonia violacea). Initially I misidentified the male euphonia as a Trinidad euphonia but later study reminded me of the difference in the throat patterns. A tree in the cultivated area hosted a Greyish saltator (Saltator coerulescens) and Black-tailed tityra (Tityra cayana).
At the crest of the ridge I found the viewing area for the local specialty and here saw Orange-winged amazons (Amazona amazonica) and Yellow-crowned parrots (Amazona ochrocephala) enjoying the fruiting trees. Both Green honeycreeper (Chlorophanes spiza) and Purple honeycreeper (Cyanerpes caeruleus) were present as well.
I explored further along the road, finding Giant cowbird (Molothrus oryzivorus), Black-throated mango (Anthracothorax nigricollis), Blue-grey tanager (Thraupis episcopus), Southern house wren (Troglodytes aedon), Crested oropendola (Psarocollus decumanus), and Lineated woodpecker (Dryocopus lineatus). Due to confusion over a trail and some twists in the road I lost my way and spent a tense hour retracing my steps and worrying over the declining light, but made it back to Grande Riviere and the hotel to take a pleasant dinner and relax for the night.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 19
The predawn hours saw me again starting the road to Montevideo, intent on reaching the crest by first light. In Grande Riviere itself I had Ferruginous pygmy-owl (Glaucidium brasilianum) tooting, and a brief imitation brought the bird almost instantly to perch on telephone wires in the light of a streetlight. On the way to the crest I also spotted a soaring Hook-billed kite (Chondrohierax uncinatus), but the hoped-for Short-tailed nighthawks were not in evidence.
At the crest I set up my scope on the veranda of the observation center and started scanning the trees across the road. After fifteen minutes without luck I was considering engaging a guide for my second morning to maximise my chances before I left the Grande Riviere area. Long experience has taught me that practicing perserverance is a good thing even when it doesn’t yield a sighting, though, so I kept panning across the far hill. Something blue and out of focus swam into my field, apparently a hummingbird feeding on the flowers on a tree just across the road, so I adjusted focus.
The blue thing was, in fact, the wattle of a TRINIDAD PIPING-GUAN (Pipile pipile). It was so close that through the scope I could clearly see the bristles that lined its wattle. As it turned out, the same tree held two other of the critically endangered guans. I had fantastic looks at the dark bodily plumaged, black-flecked white panels in the wings, and bare legs and heads.
This spot is known to be the only reliable location for the endemic Trinidad piping-guan. The bird is protected here and there are signs around seeking to educate the locals concerning the significance of the “pawi.” I was later told by a guide that the protection is working and the guans are increasing in number here. To be reasonably sure of seeing one, take the road signed to Montevideo out of Grande Riviere about a kilometer to a hillcrest. There will be a fenced-off area with large spreading trees to the left and the observation center with veranda up some stairs to the right. Be there within about fifteen minutes after sunrise and watch the flowering trees behind the fence. As long as it isn’t raining heavily, your chances are excellent.
After studying the guans to my satisfaction, I turned to look at some trees near the veranda itself, finding TRINIDAD EUPHONIA (Euphonia trinitatus) - my earlier mistake standing me in good stead this time as I was prepared to examine the diagnostic patterning on the head. Back down the hill a little I ran a short trail that cut a loop out of the road, finding Buff-throated woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus guttatus) and Short-tailed pygmy-tyrant (Myiornis ecaudatus).
Next I returned to the trail closer to Grande Riviere that led to the small cultivated area, hoping to turn up White-bellied antbird. Instead I pished in a couple of female manakins, which I was able to identify as GOLDEN-HEADED MANAKIN (Pipra erythrocephala) and WHITE-BEARDED MANAKIN (Manacus manacus). I would later see males of both species at another location. A Red-legged honeycreeper (Cyanerpes cyaneus) also showed up in a tree along the road on the way back to town.
Back in Grande Riviere I took a break to read and sun on the beach. A Yellow-headed caracara (Milyago chimachima) was among the vultures near an estuarial pool. The coarse sand gave way to large pebbles and small stones in the water, making for an unpleasant landing for a swimmer bellying out. That combined with the strong surf made swimming an unattractive prospect but I did wade out to my waist just to experience the sea on that coast.
In the afternoon I returned to the road to Montevideo. Fork-tailed palm-swifts wheeled overhead. In the reed-and-brush “grotto” on the trail to the cultivated area I found Plain-brown woodcreeper and whistled in a Silvered antbird (Sciatera naevia). Back on the road a RUFOUS-BREASTED WREN (Thryothorus rutilus) sang and showed well in a roadside bush. The vines and slender trees framing a rivulet running under the road briefly hosted a beautiful GREEN HERMIT (Phaethornis guy) flashing the characteristic elongated white central tail feathers. A trogon - probably Violaceous - appeared and then fled, and a beautifully patterned Turquoise tanager (tangara mexicana) also was present feeding.
Back in Grande Riviere I found Yellow oriole (Icterus nigrgularis) right by the hotel, and Spotted sandpiper (Actitis macularius) on the beach.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 20
In the morning at first light I hiked up the road to Montevideo again, hoping for Short-tailed nighthawk, but had only a distant bird calling that might have been a Mottled owl before the sun rose. At the crest I looked around for a while and a group with a guide caught up with me there. The guide advised me that White-bellied antbird was commonly heard at one end of the trail that cut off that loop of the road, so I headed down there and spent some time trying to get a visual on a singing bird without success. Soon the group, having seen the guans arrive at their customary hour, came along that stretch of road and I decided to go ahead and pay to join the guided tour.
We had good luck along the road, finding Gray-headed kite (Leptodon cayanensis), Plain antvireo (Dysithamnus mentalis), Forest elaenia (heard only) (Myiopagis gaimardii), Tropical pewee (Contopus cinereus), Squirrel cuckoo (Piaya cayana), and Channel-billed toucan (Ramphastos vitellinus). Soon we had a calling trogon that the guide indicated was the former Violaceous trogon, now GUIANAN TROGON (Trogon violaceus), and after some work I was able to locate it in the trees by the roadside for decent viewing . A Common black-hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus) soared past .
Coming back along the road we had a pair of LONG-BILLED STARTHROATS (Heliomaster longirostris) at the top of a slender leafless tree; views were not excellent but they were diagnostic. A singing bird in brush behind a small section of chain-link fence eventually came to the fence in response to the guide’s playback, yielding the hoped-for sighting of WHITE-BELLIED ANTBIRD (Myrmeciza longipes)! It was one of those one-piece-of-the-bird-at-a-time sightings, but the handsome coloration and physiology were well appreciated.
The rest of the road yielded a few more birds: Northern waterthrush (Seiurus noveboracensis), Plumbeous kite (Ictinia plumbea), a SOUTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET (Camptostoma obsoletum) I found in a tree and which the guide pointed out was issuing its familiar call, White hawk, and GRAY-RUMPED SWIFT (Chaetura cinereiventris).
I accepted a ride back to Grande Riviere, collected my things from the hotel, and checked out. On the road back to the center of the island I saw Ringed kingfisher (megaceryle torquata) and White-tipped dove (Leptotila verreauxi) along the first leg. Coming down the west coast I had a hirund sitting on the wires with a distinctive breast and flank pattern, so I stopped to make sure of the identification: it was indeed a CARIBBEAN MARTIN (Progne dominicensis), said to be fairly rare on Trinidad. A bit further on a White-shouldered tanager (Tachyphons luctuosus) dove across the road in front of the car.
Back in the center of the island I paused to refuel the car and had a moment of sticker shock. The price tag to fill the car was $60, but I knew that was Trinidad dollars and at six Trinidad dollars to the American dollar, it had cost only $10 to fill the tank. Gas in Trinidad is cheap, folks.
Next I stopped for a quick afternoon look at the Aripo Agricultural Station, turning up Cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis), Savannah hawk (Buteogallus meridionalis), Red-breasted blackbird (Sutrnella militaris), and Wattled jacana (Jacana jacana). As it was midafternoon activity was slow so I decided to continue on, believing I still had at least an hour’s trip in front of me.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that after the turn (which is only about a mile down the highway from Aripo) it was a mere ten kilometers to Asa Wright Nature Center’s entrance road. The entrance road is itself about a kilometer in length and fairly winding so the trip took a bare half hour.
At Asa Wright the first new trip bird was an Olive-striped flycatcher (Mionectes olivaceus) in a bush near my cabin. I spent the first afternoon on the viewing porch. White-necked jacobins ((Florisuga mellivora) and WHITE-CHESTED EMERALDS (Amazilia brevirostris) were haunting the hummingbird feeders. Out in the forest a bellbird was giving its metallic call; scanning with my binoculars I picked out a white spot in about the right part of the canopy and with my scope I soon had fantastic looks at a male BEARDED BELLBIRD (Procnias averano), complete with hanging black wattles. I invited the others on the balcony to rotate through getting their life looks with the scope and a good time was had by all.
Another bird appeared just below the bellbird and proved to be a Scaled pigeon . The feeders on the ground below the balcony attracted White-lined tanagers (Tachyphonus rufus), and I had brief views of a female Tufted coquette (Lophornis ornatus) near a flowering bush. A BARE-EYED THRUSH (Turdus nudigenis) skulked in, showing the bold eye-ring, and a Little hermit (Phaethornis longuemareus) made a quick appearance near where I had lost the coquette.
I enjoyed a relatively lavish meal in the Asa Wright dining room and got to bed early, anticipating a big day ahead.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 21
At first light I was out the door to try the shortest of the Asa Wright trails, the “Motmot trail,” which proved aptly named. Immediately before the trailhead (which was right by my cabin), a largish bird popped up into a minor tree, and I was eye-to-eye with the recently-split Trinidad motmot (Momotus bahamensis). I later heard several people express that they had had difficulty or no luck finding this endemic at the center, and suspect it is an earlier riser than most casual birders. I also had a brief glimpse of what was probably a male White-bearded manakin, but other than that saw nothing new on the short trail.
After a filling and welcome breakfast, I waited with others for the start of a guided tour to the Oilbird cave. Our guide appeared around 8:30 and we set off, stopping first at the bushes below the main house veranda to admire a male Tufted coquette. This is a really resplendent bird, with its orange fan of feathers off the cheeks (each with a terminal black dot) and its red crest - a lot of finery to pack into such a small package. Another new bird for the trip that was hanging around the feeders was a Gray-fronted dove (Leptotila rufaxilla).
The trail to the Oilbird cave goes down a steep hill in virgin forest. White-flanked antwrens were on territory here and we stopped for some folks to get the birds. As we were descending, a raptorial shape floated over the trees and was briefly in view through some rents in the canopy. I was not in position to ever get a decent look at the bird, which was very unfortunate because it was a Black hawk-eagle! Another participant who was luckier in his location reported a very good look at the barring on the undertail. Our guide reported that he had seen the bird in the area before, but usually only as a distant soaring shape - he was surprised it was so low this time.
On we went, picking up a Collared trogon (Trogon collaris) on the way. Eventually we made our way down to a stream that issued from an extremely narrow gorge. This gorge was the Oilbird “cave,” technically not a cave at all, although from inside you would be hard-pressed to tell the difference. We were allowed to go in by twos and in our guide showed us several OILBIRDS (Steatornis caripensis) roosting on small ledges in the rock. They are good-sized birds with large eyes and dark russet plumage with round spots; we could see their feet in some cases as well. It had been explained to us that Oilbirds are the only known species of bird to use echolocation. They are nocturnal fruit-eaters, and other than seeing them in a rookery such as the grotto near Asa Wright, your only real chance of spotting one is to find it flitting mothlike around one of its favorite feeding trees at night - a rather tricky proposition.
While we waited outside the cave for the last few tour participants to go in and have their looks, we picked up some bird activity around the stream, with both Green and Rufous-breasted hermits (Glacuis hirsutus) making appearances. Another member of the tour spotted a Cocoa thrush (Turdus fumigatus) but I had only a brief glimpse of it hopping into the underbrush.
Heading back out we saw a Green-backed trogon (Trogon viridis). A pair of Stripe-breasted spinetails on territory about halfway up the hill showed for some people, but for whatever reason I was unable to get on them before they disappeared.
I took lunch after the tour and then headed up the road a few minutes to the Morne Bleu tower, seeing only common birds there and a Bay-headed tanager (Tangara gyrola) before rain drove me back to my car and down to Asa Wright again. At the center I tried the famous Discovery Trail, seeing Golden-crowned warbler (Basileuterus culicivorus), White-bearded manakins lekking, Chestnut woodpecker (Celeus elegans), and a White-necked thrush (Turdus albicollis) sitting on a horizontal vine above eye-level and giving a low repeated “cok” call. A few dozen yards down the trail I ran into a couple I’d spoken with earlier, and knowing the guy had been frustrated so far in seeing the thrush, I gave them careful directions to find the bird I’d just seen. I later learned that they did find it and he was gratified to add it to his life list.
The rain came and went while I was on the trail and at one point I had to shelter under a thick canopy. Still, I was able to get brief views of a male and female Bearded bellbird, and stayed pretty much dry until it cleared up. I decided to head down the slope toward the Oilbird cave, not going all the way to the cave and risking disturbing the sensitive birds, but just making my way to the spot where the spinetails had been seen, and I soon relocated the STRIPE-BREASTED SPINETAILS (Synallaxis cinnamomea) and watched them for a short time until they headed off into the undergrowth again. When I turned to retreat back up the hill I was treated to a better view of a Cocoa thrush as well.
Next I joined an evening trip down to Aripo Agricultural Station - it’s all of half an hour from Asa Wright - and we had good luck, seeing Southern lapwing (Vanellus chilensis), GRASSLAND YELLOW-FINCH (Sicalis luteola), Purple gallinule (Porphyrio martinica), Great egrets , and Yellow-chinned spinetails (Certhiaxis cinnamomeus). We spent a while luring a Striped cuckoo (Tapera naevia) into view and through the scopes we watched the bird call and stretch. Other birds present were White-headed marsh-tyrant (Arundinicola lecuocephala), Yellow-bellied elaenia (Elaenia flavorgaster), and a typically obliging pair of Ferruginous pygmy-owls . No Ruddy-breasted seedeaters were to be found, however - it was pretty late for those birds and in any event they are getting scarce at Aripo.
Back at the main buildings our guide elicited responses to a tape and soon spotlighted a TROPICAL SCREECH-OWL (Otis choliba) sheltering under a sort of mini-canopy of leaves.
Night fell and we did some night birding on the grounds, finding many Pauraque (Nyctidromus albicollis), several WHITE-TAILED NIGHTJARS (Caprimulgus cayennensis) (one of which sat on the road in full view of our jeep and allowed us to study the intricacies of its plumage for some time), and a very compliant Common potoo (Nyctibius griseus). We headed back to Asa Wright fully satisfied with a productive evening’s birding.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 22
In the morning I again headed up to Morne Bleu, but once again rain cut the visit short, with only a female Collared trogon and several Golden-crowned warblers as notable sightings. Returning to Asa Wright, I walked the Discovery Trail again without turning up anything new, and then checked out of my room, enjoyed lunch, and drove back down to the east-west highway.
I went back to the vicinity of the airport and arranged for a room at the Holiday Inn for the next night, then went to the airport itself and spent a fairly frustrating hour arranging for a roundtrip to Tobago. I have to say Caribbean Airlines on Trinidad is the most inefficiently run and frankly sloppy outfit I’ve ever dealt with.
When finally free of the clutches of the airport I did a quick run to the Trincity Water Treatment area, which is off the east-west highway within sight of the Holiday Inn Express. There I found many Yellow-hooded blackbirds (Chrysomus icterocephalus), Little blue herons (Egretta caerulea), Black-crowned night-heron (Nyticorax nycticorax), Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), another Yellow-chinned spinetail, and Pied water-tyrant (fluvicola pica). I walked over a culvert and was surprised by the sudden thrashing disappearance of a Caiman that had been lying in wait. Also present were Gray kingbird (Tyrannus dominicensis), Masked yellowthroat (Geothlypis aequinoctialis), and a juvenile Blue-black grassquit (Volatinia jacarina) that proved somewhat difficult to identify until I had the leisure to look through the books closely.
Soon I returned to the airport and took a flight to Tobago, where I rented another car. My first destination for the next day was to be the Gilpin Trace trail, and from my simple map it looked like it would save me some time the following morning if I stayed the night in a place on the northern shore of the island. This proved to be a major miscalculation which played a role in mostly ruining my hopes for productive birding on the island, but hindsight is twenty-twenty.
I reached my night’s destination, the Arnos Vale Hotel, virtually without mishap. However, I had not made a reservation - remember, my plan had been to spend one day on Tobago and I’d had to change that plan when I discovered the insanity of the Trinidad airport earlier in the week - and thus the place was not prepared for a visitor. The son of the owner, Phillip, was there, however, and he exerted himself to an incredible degree to allow me to stay. All the rooms were locked, the keys were in the owner’s personal room, and the only one with a key to that room was the housekeeper, who had already gone home. So Phillip had the guard accompany me back into the nearby village of Plymouth to pick her up (not pick up the keys; she was unwilling to relinquish them so we had to pick her up with the keys, drive her to the hotel, and then drive her back). With all this shuttling back and forth it was pretty late by the time I hit the hay.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23
Early in the morning I started for the eastern end of the island and the Gilpin Trace trail...and after hitting some confusing intersections not shown on my rudimentary map, somehow found myself back in the suburbs of the main city, Scarborough, on the south side of the island. Although this meant I was losing some of the precious morning hours of my one shot at Tobago’s specialties, I gamely set myself north again, retraced my steps, and headed for Gilpin Trace again...
...only to find myself in @!! Scarborough again.
Aggravated and now very hungry, I went back to the Arnos Vale Hotel once more, and went ahead and had a midmorning breakfast. Phillip again put himself out to assemble me a very tasty breakfast. Fortunately the hotel has a large number of productive feeders and some very good grounds for birds, so I was able to spot a few of the Tobagon specialties here. RUFOUS-VENTED CHACHALACA (Ortalis ruficauda) was easy as it came right up to the balcony, as did several Trinidad motmots (they are much easier to spot on Tobago than on Trinidad itself). A lovely male Ruby topaz (Chrysollampus mosquitus) showed up. I also heard a call reminiscent of the Red-bellied woodpecker, and guessing it was the near-endemic, I tracked it down to find the hoped-for RED-CROWNED WOODPECKER (Melaneres rubricapillus) in one of the trees right near the balcony.
After expressive effusive thanks to Phillip for his hospitality and extensive efforts to provide shelter and food to a weary traveler, I accepted a better map from him and started off once again for Gilpin Trace. This time, with the intersections made intelligible by the map, I made it there in less than half an hour. The hour was getting late for birding and I would not have time for a number of stops I’d wanted to make elsewhere on the island, but I was making the best of the situation I could.
The trailhead for Gilpin Trace was pretty clearly marked and I headed in. Almost immediately the signature bird of this trail, WHITE-TAILED SABREWING (Campylopterus ensipennis), showed up and looked me over, perching for an extended look. I spotted at least a couple more further down the trail. I also had great looks at a Rufous-tailed jacamar (Galbula ruficauda) here. Unfortunately, I was much too late for Gray-tailed leaftosser to be singing, and my efforts at Blue-backed manakin came to nothing (although I could hear them at a couple of points, they were well above the trail in dense foliage and did not come down).
I tried another short trail in the same area, but turned up nothing I hadn’t seen before, so eventually I headed back to Scarborough (stopping to scope islands off the coast along the way just in case any noddies or terns were hanging around). It turned out that it only took about half an hour to get from Gilpin Trace back to Scarborough, leaving the stops out. I left Tobago with only the three life birds to my name and a resolve to do it right next time.
Back on Trinidad, I checked out the Trincity treatment plant once more, seeing nothing new although I witnessed the Yellow-chinned spinetail building a nest and found a scallop-breasted juvenile Blue-black grassquit in the reeds. As a last effort I went to Pigeon Point hoping to spot shorebirds and terns, but there was no free place to scout the water. I did walk between a couple of shacks to see Laughing gull (Larus atricilla), Sandwich tern (Sterna sandvicensis), Royal tern (Sterna maxima), Sanderlings (Calidris alba), and a Ruddy turnstone (Arenaria interpres).
After that I turned in the car, caught my flight back to Miami, and continued on home. I’d had some very good luck on Trinidad, some bad luck on Tobago (which I could and should have avoided by coming prepared with a better map), and overall a good vacation. I was seven birds shy of my goal and thus still short of 1500 life birds, but that’s what the next trip is for, right?