So naturally, once I no longer possessed a working lens, reports of rarities started coming in thick and fast. Hahaha. The south-western end of Tobago is an important stop on the southern journey of migratory waterfowl, and the sewerage ponds and drains never disappoint. I have previously spoken about the joys of the drains of Bon Accord here; this time however, the sewerage ponds kept all the treasures close to its filthy heart.
The unmistakable gaunt figure of a Great Blue Heron was the first thing that caught our attention upon arrival, and somehow it didn’t immediately fly off once we saw it. Great Blue Herons are notoriously skittish creatures, so every effort was made to convince this bird that I was not interested in it at all. It wasn’t standing in a conspicuous position, probably this is what gave it some extra confidence. Perhaps it didn’t think that I saw it at all. Anyway, I immediately knew the shot I wanted. I skirted around, making an excessively wide circle to get in position. Bingo. And how the setting is just as important as the subject, as it tells more of the story.
One of the birds I flew over to Tobago for was a Little Egret. Not a little Egret, but a Little Egret. It’s the Old World counterpart of our common Snowy Egret, and although superficially similar, there are some key differences that I myself have trouble picking out sometimes. The most noticeable difference is the slope of its forehead. The Little Egret’s forehead gently eases into its bill, while the Snowy’s forehead is more pronounced. Fortunately, I did manage to see this bird, just as the rains enveloped the sewerage ponds. Unfortunately, it was flying far off in the distance, and this was the only shot I got of it. Remember manual focus? Yeaahhh…
Deciding to return the following day, we retired to our home away from home. After a warm and comforting dinner, while enjoying a smoking cup of tea in the misty air of the rainforest, we noticed a familiar pattern right outside our porch. The distinctive browns and reds of an extremely healthy looking Boa Constrictor seemed to shimmer in the magic of the night. Of course this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up!
The following morning we found our serpentine friend curled up comfortably no more than two feet outside our door. Bidding our goodbyes, I turned my attention away from scales and onto feathers again. Before the first rays of sun cast their glow into the valley, the raucous calls of Orange-winged Amazons ensured that no-one missed the morning.
Basking in the warm first light was this immature male Red-legged Honeycreeper. Midway through adolescence, he seems like an entirely different species. Not too far off from humanoid adolescents I’m sure.
Back at the sewerage ponds, I was thrilled to see the familiar shape of a kingfisher working the ponds. Finally, I thought – my first good look at a Belted Kingfisher! I had seen it previously, but fleeting glimpses in Caroni Swamp and the Florida Everglades didn’t help me sleep at night. This was the fifth and final piece of the puzzle of the kingfishers of T&T. Learning from my past experiences with this species, I took good care in approaching it, concealing my presence behind a grassy bank. It was hunting from the concrete separator, but beggars couldn’t be choosers right?
And then on to a major reason I was there – a bird formerly considered its own species, Caribbean Coot – now deemed conspecific with the American Coot. I had previously searched unsuccessfully for this bird in Trinidad in past years, but to lay eyes upon it finally almost gave me goosebumps.
Eventually the bird sauntered into the water for the mandatory swimming Coot shot.
Not to be outdone, the resident Least Grebes were active as usual, diving tirelessly to hunt for the little invertebrates that make up most of their diet. I love how their bright yellow eyes pop, giving a welcome dash of contrast to the blues and greens of their environment.
Producing yet another rarity, the sewerage ponds proved that they weren’t finished with me. The richness of this place is astounding. The Glossy Ibis is seen very infrequently, and it took me years before I saw my first Glossy.