Birding in Trinidad and Tobago - 2nd - 21st September 2015

Published by Teresa Montras Janer (tmjaner AT

Participants: Teresa Montras Janer, Magnus Friberg



2nd Sep: Flight from Barcelona to Piarco Airport (Trinidad). Arrived at Trinidad on 2nd Sep at
night. Sleep in Trinidad.

3rd: Flight from Piarco Airport to Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson Airport (Tobago). Pick up
at the airport. Birding across the island. Arrival at Speyside on the afternoon. Guide:
Newton George.

4th: Boat trip to Little Tobago and birding on the island. Visit Newton’s Hummingbird Gallery
in the evening.

5th: Birding on the Main Ridge Forest Reserve. Walk along the Gilpin’s Trace. Guide: Newton
George. Drop off in Castara by midday.

6th - 7th: Castara. Birding around the village.

8th – 9th: Travel to Crown Point on 8th in afternoon. Birding around town: Sewage ponds and
Pigeon Point.

10th: Flight to Trinidad and first day at Asa Wright Nature Centre.

10th – 13th: Asa Wright Nature Centre. Staff guides: Jessie, Sherian, Elsa and Brandon.

13th – 20th: Stay at PAX guesthouse and birding across the island:

14th: afternoon-evening: Caroni Swamps with Madoo Bird Tour’s.

15th-16th: Birding at Grande Rivière. Guide: Nicolas.

17th: Aripo Livestock Station, Manzanilla beach and Nariva Swamp. Guide: Roodal Ramlal.

18th: Pointe-à-Pierre Wildfowl Trust and Waterloo (Temple in the Sea).

19th: Chaguaramas’s area and Waterloo (Temple in the Sea).

20th: Asa Wright Nature Centre.

21st: Fly back to Barcelona


ca 2500 euros / person


• Birds of Trinidad and Tobago (2nd Edition). Martyn Kenefick, Robin Restall and Floyd Hayes. Helm Field Guides.

• A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago (3rd Edition). Richard ffrench. Comstock Publishing Associates.

Richard ffrench’s guidebook turned out to be more useful. The drawings are definitely more accurate, and you get a better overlook at the similar species and their distribution in just one glimpse. The only species that was better in the Helm’s guide was the Turquoise Tanager.



Our adventure started with our arrival at Piarco Airport, Trinidad, on the night of 2nd September (10pm). As we had been on a plane for the whole day and it was late, we decided to overnight on the island. We booked a room at RudeKaiso GuestRooms, Longdenville. Quite an odd place but apart from the strong diesel/disinfection smell all over the room, we cannot complain. Everything was clean, the A/C on and a coldish room waiting for us. At 6am next day, we headed towards the Airport again.


A beautiful small island. Wonderful beaches and rainforest. As we were here out of season, we had almost everything to ourselves! Although we are not into it, you have many chances for snorkelling in the coral reefs along the coast.

3rd Sep. First day in Tobago. Birding across the island.

Newton George was already waiting for us at Tobago’s Airport. After a 20min flight connecting both islands, and waiting for about 45min to get our luggage, the birding was about to start! Newton was going to be our guide during the next 3 days. We heard nothing but good things about him. No surprise there. His knowledge of all bird species, calls and where to find what is just impressive. We could not have found a better guide and we highly recommend him to everyone, especially if you do not have much time and want to get all of Tobago’s specialities in a short time.

We left the airport at 10am and headed straight towards Tobago Plantation – Least Grebe; our first Green Heron; Rufous-vented Chachalaca; Pale-vented Pigeon; Red-crowned Woodpecker; Mangrove Cuckoo; White-fringed Antwren; Scrub Greenlet and lots of Black Skimmers. Bon Accord Sewage Ponds was full of waders; Masked Duck; Black-bellied Whistling Duck; White-cheeked Pintail; Glossy Ibis and an unexpected Wilson’s Phalarope, an early sighting and first for the season which made Newton the happiest fellow. We had lunch at Pigeon Point and after that made a short stop at Turtle Beach and Plymouth, where there were lots of Brown Noddy; Brown Pelican and Roseate Tern fishing just a few metres ahead of us, and a Whimbrel on the beach. Magnificent Frigatebird; Eared Dove; Grey Kingbird and Caribbean Martin were all over the island. At around 4pm, we reached Speyside. On our way, we saw the first Black-faced Grassquit and stopped on Roxborough Cocoa Plantation area to have a look at two Common Potoo. Newton had already arranged a room for us at Top Ranking Hill View Guesthouse: a self-contained apartment, clean, with A/C and Wi-Fi available and a nice balcony overviewing the village. Calm and quiet.

They do not serve food so, if you plan to go there, get some on the way. You can cook in the apartment. The village is not far, but there are just a few small shops and not much to choose from.

4th Sep. Birding in Little Tobago.

This morning, Newton offered to give us a lift to Blue Waters Inn, where our boat to Little Tobago would be waiting for us. The boat trip offered us all the expected species such as Magnificent Frigatebird; Brown and Red-footed Booby - from which we had very good views once at the little island, breeding on the cliffs of Little Tobago - Laughing Gull and a juvenile Bridled Tern! Once on Little Tobago, we followed our guide Randy. ‘Native’ Red Junglefowl were all over the place – a sign of a previous human presence on the island; Broad-winged Hawk circling over us; Scaled Pigeon; Trinidad Motmot everywhere; Fuscous and Brown-crested Flycatcher; Chivi Vireo feeding young and the two highlights of the day: fantastic views of two White-tailed Nightjar and one Red-billed Tropicbird! As this is out of the breeding season for them, this sighting made us very happy! If you keep your eyes open, you may be able to see big hermit crabs - up to 15cm long - here and there.

Back on the ‘main’ land, we walked back into the village and stopped for lunch at Jemma’s Restaurant, the Tree House. Simply superb! Do not miss it!!! We spent the evening in Newton’s place, at his Hummingbird Gallery – that is actually not a gallery but a lot of hummingbird feeders on his veranda. Here we saw all the possible Hummingbirds of the island, some of which we already saw from our balcony: Rufous-breasted Hermit; White-necked Jacobin; White-tailed Sabrewing - which we saw again next day in the rainforest; Black-throated Mango; a late male Ruby-topaz Hummingbird and Copper-rumped Hummingbird.

5th Sep. Birding in the Main Ridge Forest Reserve.

Spectacular rain forest with wonderful birding. We met Newton early morning and picked up Andrew on the way – another birder who joined us this morning – and had a short stop at the Common Potoo location where two were roosting. Birding along the road of the Main Ridge forest gave us Great Black Hawk; Rufous-tailed Jacamar; Red-rumped Woodpecker; Golden-olive Woodpecker; Streaked Flycatcher; Venezuelan Flycatcher; Chivi Vireo; Red-legged Honeycreeper. A walk along Gilpin’s Trace gave us excellent views of White-tailed Sabrewing; Olivaceous Woopcreeper; Cocoa Woodcreeper; Stripe-breasted Spinetail and the most wanted Blue-backed Manakin, including two males displaying! And we enjoyed a final stop at the Main Ridge Visitor Centre, with a perfect veranda overlooking the surrounding forest: Collared Trogon; Violaceus Euphonia, Blue-back Manakin; thrushes and tanagers.

After such a fun morning, Newton dropped us off in Castara where we spent the next couple of days.

6th - 7th Sep. Castara.

This small fishing village, now totally dedicated to tourism, is a fantastic place to relax during the low season. We stayed at Sealevel Guesthouse, just a few metres from the beach were we spent most of the time. We swam everyday with Magnificent Frigatebird; Royal Tern; Laughing Gull and Brown Booby flying over us and fishing just a few metres away! Sealevel is a nice guesthouse run by welcoming hosts; clean self-contained apartments with Wi-Fi and a nice balcony – we were lucky to get one with a nice view – but there is no A/C! And in such hot and humid conditions, we really missed it. Especially, when at 4am the roosters, which are abundant and everywhere, start calling, to be joined by goats and dogs half an hour later. Such a concert makes it difficult to sleep, especially when your windows are totally open in an attempt to catch the little possible breeze. Apart from that, our stay at Castara was really good.

As for birding, a walk to the nearby waterfall gave us Green Kingfisher. And a daily morning seawatch from the cliffs nearby produced Audoubon’s Shearwater and Red-footed Booby, in addition to all the other seabirds already mentioned.

As for food, we had some nice – although a bit expensive – breakfasts at Cheno’s Coffee Shop and pizza at The Boat House Restaurant. We wanted to try the popular Marguerite’s Restaurant, but they were on holiday.

8th - 9th Sep. Crown Point.

Midday on the 8th of September. After breakfast at Cheno’s, Andrew, owner of Candles in the Wind Guesthouse in Crown Point, came to pick us up in Castara. He is a wonderful host and could be a good option as a guide along the island if you are interested in ‘being a tourist’ in Tobago. On our way to his guesthouse, we stopped at a take-away restaurant close to Scarborough harbour where we bought a 25TT tasty lunch (typical Tobago cuisine) and got to try the popular ‘Doubles’. Candles in the Wind is located close to both the sewage ponds and Pigeon Point, in a very good neighbourhood and close to many restaurants, banks and shops. Rooms are clean, with A/C, Wi-Fi and Andrew is always there, ready to help with anything he can. You only need to ask. On our last day in Tobago, we first went back birding around the sewage ponds – where we had been with Newton a few days ago – but this time, without him, we had to keep outside the gate. After that, we walked along the whole beach at Pigeon Point. We were almost alone and the long white beach, full of bits of old coral and a storm reaching us made this walk one of the best in our holiday. Surely, we would not have experienced the same in peak season! Once back in town, we bought some nice giros for lunch.


This was by far our favourite place of the whole trip! Expensive? Yes, but totally worth it. You cannot miss spending a few days here!
We landed in Piarco airport early on the 10th, took a taxi for 45$ and reached Asa Wright a little after 11am. We stayed here three nights and visited the Oilbird cave. Spectacular! This century-old house, once a plantation for coffee, cocoa and citrus, has the most astonishing veranda overlooking the top of the canopy in the valley. This, together with the feeders spread across the front of the main balcony, makes this place an excellent birdwatching spot - just sit and enjoy it! Good service, nice Trinidadian food and cosy and clean rooms. No Wi-Fi and no A/C - although you do not really need it here.

We could make a really long list but will try to shorten it: Bat Falcon hunting at dusk; Little Tinamou; Squirrel Cuckoo; Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl; Oilbird; all possible hermits and hummingbirds; all three trogons; Channel-billed Toucan; Lineated Woodpecker; Great Antshrike; White-flanked Antwren; White-bellied Antbird; Black-faced Antthrush; Golden-headed and White-bearded Manakin; Rufous-browed Peppershrike; beautiful Silver-beaked Tanager, Purple and Green Honeycreeper coming to the feeders; and Trinidad Euphonia. On our first day, we had no idea how lucky we were for getting a Crimson-crested Woodpecker and two Speckled Tanagers. They turned out to be the first sighting of Crimson-crested Woodpecker at Asa Wright, and the first observation for over a year of Spectacled Tanager - good that Magnus took photos of them!

If you ever stay at Asa Wright, small guiding tours with their staff are included in the price. Jessie took us on a welcoming morning tour. Although he had only been birding for a year it was impressive how quickly this guy picked up the birds! Sherian showed us the insects, scorpions and spiders at night. Elsa guided us to the Oilbird cave. And Brandon became our little friend at ‘Asa’, sharing lot of hours birding from the veranda and in the surrounding area. Interested in birds and snakes since childhood, he is an excellent guide if you want to get the most difficult species in Asa Wright.

Tiger Lizard and Red-rumped Agouti are common visitors to the feeders. And if you are lucky, you may be able to spot some very big Green Iguana as well! The endemic Trinidad Chevron Tarantula would be hiding or close by its burrows along the main road.


We left Asa Wright at midday on 13th. Roberto, one of the drivers from PAX Guesthouse, came to pick us up. We were extremely happy that we did not rent a car. The steep slopes, the lack of signs and the crazy Trinidadian driving would not have been enjoyable at all, and would have certainly become quite stressful. Trinidadians are very nice people, but the safety in the island seems to be a real concern within the inhabitants. Many Trinidadians recommended that we should never attempt to drive by ourselves and they totally discouraged us from going anywhere on our own – especially when all you want to do is go birding in remote and lonely locations.

We previously thought about staying in PAX for a couple of nights and then look for a cheaper place. However, PAX is such a wonderful place. Welcoming, always-smiling staff, excellent food and a more than helpful host, made us think otherwise. Oda, the owner of the guesthouse, helped us to organise the rest of our trip, finding the best deals and prices. Her husband Gerard is a well-known birder in Trinidad. It was a pity he was not there, but she was the most helpful person we met. Thanks Oda! The food in PAX is delicious and the breakfast abundant, well filling and included in the price. PAX is a nice 100 year-old house located in Mount Saint Benedict. The veranda overlooks the town of Tunapuna and is a good spot for raptors. We saw Zone-tailed Hawk; Savanna Hawk; Common Black Hawk; Short-tailed Hawk and Grey Hawk just in one morning. Rooms are clean with both Wi-Fi and A/C available. However, we booked one of the cheaper rooms without A/C and subsequently had real problems with the mosquitos (there are no mosquito nets). Nevertheless, anytime you entered the room, especially at night, with all the lights from the town below on the plain, made it all feel luxurious.

14th Sep. Caroni Swamps, with Madoo Bird Tour’s.

We thought we were going to be alone but unfortunately, at the last moment, four people from California came along. They were okay but would not be quiet for the whole tour. Anyway, we really enjoyed it. As for the highlights: White Hawk; Long-winged Harrier; Pied Water-Tyrant (which we later discovered is very abundant in Nariva Swamps and Aripo); Red-capped Cardinal; and of course a few hundred Scarlet Ibis and lots and lots of herons and egrets roosting on the islands. If you do go at this time of the year however, do not expect to see too many Scarlet Ibis as they are breeding. Still very impressive though! We would have liked to have seen Boat-billed Heron but unfortunately we were unlucky. This is a difficult species with nocturnal activity.

15th- 16th Sep. Grande Rivière and the Piping-guan.

Driving to Grande Rivière is really boring: three hours for a ca90km drive. The road along the coast is really beautiful, but totally awful especially when the last 18km takes you about an hour! We had big expectations about this place but, maybe because we were spoilt in Tobago, being totally alone there with fantastic beaches and small villages, the Grande Rivière by contrast did not impress us at all. The village itself is really small and at this time of the year it does not give a good impression. The surroundings, as we discovered the next day, are really beautiful though, but you need a car. Nesting Green and Leatherback Turtles are the big attraction but we were out of the turtle season. We already knew that, so the only thing we came looking for here was the Trinidad Piping-guan or Pawi - the only endemic bird species in Trinidad. Nicolas took us out birding early on the 16th. Such a fantastic rainforest in Grande Rivière! Nicolas is a good guide and a nice guy. He really worked hard to get the Pawi. But it seemed like they did not want to show up. After two and a half hours of guiding, there was still no sign of them. We did see Scaled Pigeon; Channel-billed Toucan; Lineated and Crimson-crested Woodpecker on the same tree; Piratic Flycatcher; Black-tailed Tityra; a very upset Yellow-rumped Cacique defending its nest, but no Pawi. But at last, the sharp eyes of Nicolas spotted a big black bird landing on the trees nearby. He was probably more excited than us especially as his “100% success ratio” was in danger! And yes, there they were: six guans feeding on the nutmeg trees. Finally we got them! Very close. Very good views. After the guiding, Roberto came to pick us up and by mid-afternoon we were back in PAX. We were happy to be there. Such a nice atmosphere!

As for accommodation in Grande Rivière, we stayed at Mac Haven Resort. Despite its name, the only non-resort in the village and therefore the most affordable place although still overcharged. It’s clean, with A/C, but no Wi-Fi. As for restaurants, we can recommend Le Grand Almandier, where in spite of the advertisement for “No lunch served” there was no doubting they would serve us – many thanks! We were very hungry and the meal was really good. Total creole style.

17th Sep. Aripo Livestock Station, Manzanilla beach and Nariva Swamp. Guide: Roodal Ramlal.

Roodal came to pick us up early morning after breakfast. Our first stop was at the Aripo Livestock Station. This was the only spot around Aripo Savanna where Roodal was willing to go without security. Also a night tour on the Blanchisseuse road seemed to be too dangerous to consider for this skilful guide, who usually works guiding guests from Asa Wright across the island. Again, the safety in the island appears to be a matter of major concern. We never felt threatened or in danger here, but meeting so many locals talking about that in these terms, made us be more cautious than we would have normally been.

Aripo is a great place and it was a pity we could not explore more of the area. Here we saw Savanna Hawk; Wattled Jacana; Green-rumped Parrotlet; a very tame Yellow-chinned Spinetail and Pied Water-Tyrant; White-headed Marsh-Tyrant; Long-billed Gnatwren; Grassland Yellow-finch; Greyish Saltator; Yellow-hooded Blackbird and Red-breasted Blackbird amongst others. Once at Manzanilla beach, we followed the road between the coast and Nariva Swamps. We saw a juvenile Grey Hawk on a phone post, a shy Black-crested Antshrike - very close but hiding in between the mangroves - and a bunch of Collared Plovers on the beach. You cannot go into Nariva Swamps but there are many locations you can stop along the way. The best though, are the rice and water melon fields surrounding the Swamps. Here we got Pinnated Bittern; Limpkin; Red-bellied Macaw; Striped Cuckoo; nesting Pied Water-Tyrant (on a surprisingly open nest) and Giant Cowbird, as the main species. If you want to see Red Howler and Capuchin monkeys and try for the elusive manatee, do not forget to book a boat trip into the swamps. We did not know that, but in retrospect would have liked to have done so. Lucky us, two days later we forgot about that!

18th Sep. Pointe-à-Pierre Wildfowl Trust and low tide in Waterloo.

Pointe-à-Pierre WT is a centre where they breed threatened species in captivity prior to releasing them later on in the wild – such as Scarlet Ibis; White-faced Whistling-Duck; Black-bellied Whistling-Duck or Blue-and-yellow Macaw – and they run several projects on nature education and conservation. It gave much of a ‘zoo-feeling’ for us but it was still interesting to visit and see that at least there is a move towards conservation in such a rich island where hunting, is still a big problem. At least we got to see Muscovy Duck; Limpkin and Green Kingfisher.

Waterloo is a fantastic place for waders. Go there at low tide and you will not be disappointed. We visited two areas: the temple in the sea and the small Waterloo fishing deck. Waders everywhere! Black Skimmers skimming around and many Yellow-billed and Large-billed Terns. I was especially glad to see Willet and Black-necked Stilt. Red Knot and Cocoi Heron were a nice surprise. Out of the breeding season, you should also see Scarlet Ibis.

19th Sep. Last weekend. Saturday birding in Chaguramas’s area and Waterloo.

A week ago, in Asa Wright, we met a lovely couple from Trinidad, Hayden and Anna Smith. Hayden is an engineer and Anna, a GIS Development Officer. They are both artists and nature lovers and we received an invitation a couple of days ago to take us around the island. They live just 10 minutes from PAX so, that morning, after breakfast, they were already waiting for us. After a short car tour in Port of Spain, we headed towards Chagurama’s area, to take a small walk to the Edith Waterfall. They wanted to photograph Red-tailed Jacamar. And there they were: nice pair hunting at the beginning of the trail. And that good start just turned even better when Anna, a few metres ahead, spotted a Red Howler. Although, there was not only one but a whole bunch of them, with babies! It was really amazing. We spent quite a while observing them, quietly, in silence just taking photos. Finally, we moved on. Then just another few metres ahead, a group of Capuchin monkeys appeared in between the big bamboos. Lots of them. Everywhere. And these were very curious and followed us for quite a while. Red Howler started howling. Capuchins everywhere, following us. An unforgettable experience. We all were really happy and decided to have some lunch and as none of us – neither Magnus nor I – had eaten yet Roti, Hayden and Anna wanted us to try a Trinidadian speciality. And it was delicious!

In the afternoon, we once again visited the fishing deck at Waterloo. And once again, we had so much fun. As for new species, we added Grey-necked Wood-Rail; Lesser Black-backed Gull and Bicolored Conebill.

On our way to PAX, we stopped to take some photos of a Ringed Kingfisher for which Anna had a reliable spot.

20th Sep. Asa Wright Nature Centre.

Our last day in Trinidad. We joined our friends Hayden and Anna at Asa Wright. We found a female Bearded Bellbird, Double-toothed Kite and a distant flock of Lilac-tailed Parrotlet. Also we got to meet Brandon again which was nice!
Thank you guys! You made the best of our last weekend on the island and gave the best ending to my best birding holiday ever.

Everything over? No, not really. Last day. Last dinner at PAX. While seating on the veranda Magnus heard an owl. I heard it as well: a Tropical Screech-Owl.

21ST SEP. FLY BACK TO BARCELONA. End of the trip.


TOTAL: 218


White-tailed Tropicbird; Masked Booby; Boat-billed Heron; Sooty Tern; Brown Violetear: wrong time of year.
Pearl Kite; Ornate Hawk-Eagle; Chestnut Woodpecker: no luck.
Spectacled and Striped Owl: no locations.

PHOTOS by Magnus Friberg. Visit:

For full and detailed checklist, download PDF: