I have a confession to make. I love Tobago. And the first thing I usually do as soon as my feet hit the ground there is head to the drains and sewerage ponds behind Bon Accord. Hahaha. Oh boy, I love my life. Why do I do this? Well, unlike Trinidad, Tobago’s drains don’t smell like rotting intestines from last month. Plus (obviously) they are filled with birds during the right season. And the right season is migratory season. Which allows for viewing of many different species of one of my favourite groups of birds: Shorebirds (I think it’s a toss up for top spot between shorebirds and vultures for me)
OK, so here’s the quiz: in the following photo, there are four birds. They are all different. One is common, one is exceedingly rare and two are uncommon, but regular visitors. Answers at the end of this blog post 🙂
I don’t usually enjoy birds on man-made objects, but there was something about this Lesser Yellowlegs walking with ease among all these upturned nails I just couldn’t pass up.
This biologically rich area is rumoured to be the proposed site of the construction of a major hotel in the very near future. Allegedly a promise made by a prominent politician to a prominent businessman. Sounds promising, right? Promising may not be the word that comes to mind when you realize that this major hotel would be operating tax free for 40 YEARS. Anyway, perhaps the esteemed leaders of this country pay no mind to the fact that mangroves are extremely important – so important that some countries have legislation protecting their mangroves. I can quarrel about this forever. You can read more about the critical importance of mangroves here, and specifically regarding the possible impact of the construction of this hotel on the environment and local businesses in Tobago here.
Fighting my urge to continue to preach all why it’s a terrible idea, here’s a picture of a young Yellow-crowned Night Heron to calm your (my) nerves. This is just one species that uses the delicate mangrove and seagrass habitat as a nursery. Countless others do as well, birds, crabs, fish, you name it. You don’t destroy a nursery, you just ****ing don’t.
Roadside drains aren’t the only areas you can enjoy close viewing from the comfort of the soft seat of a vehicle. A drive through Tobago’s protected Main Ridge Forest Reserve gave us absolutely excellent views of some striking forest inhabitants, such as the incomparable Collared Trogon. I had mentioned two other species of Trogon found within T&T here, but the Collared Trogon (male pictured here) is the only species found on Tobago.
I know that I said the Collared Trogon is incomparable, but a Tobago specialty – a “target bird” for many visiting birdwatchers – the source of one of the most eerie calls in the rainforest – might just steal the show. As most Manakins do, male Blue-backed Manakins congregate in communal “leks” to sing and dance in the hopes of wooing a suitable mate. I’ve seen many female Manakins sit and observe the frenetic dancing and calling by a group of up to four males; only to fly away. Brutal.
Although not as fancy as either the Blue-backed Manakin or Collared Trogon, the Venezuelan Flycatcher is an even more sought-after bird by birdwatchers. Not found in Trinidad, it rarely betrays its position, and most often it’s in the highest of branches making its distinctive weeeer call.
Answers to shorebird quiz: from the lower left hand corner going diagonally upwards they are: Stilt Sandpiper (with unnaturally yellowed legs, its upright stance and slightly drooping bill should give it away), Hudsonian Godwit (large bird with buff tones, two toned straight bill), Lesser Yellowlegs (yellow legs plus needle straight monotone bill) and a Pectoral Sandpiper (this one’s difficult as it’s blurry, but look for the feathers on the shoulder and mantle edged buff, plus two-tone bill) in flight.