On another homeward mission, we were introduced to a lovely couple who were also spending some time in their second home in the forest. Beautiful people, Ian and Lynn Wright – originally from across the pond, artists, conservationists and downright good company – they saw the value of Tobago’s wild spaces and how it’s in grave danger of disappearing. Together with the incomparable Roy Corbin – to say he’s effervescent still isn’t apt, you have to meet this man in person to truly understand how much he exudes positive energy – they have established Corbin’s Local Wildlife Park in the small village of Mason Hall. Secluded and serene, it overlooks a scene of gentle (and not-so-gentle) green hillsides, the calls of Great Black Hawks echo in the distance, even further in the distance is the unmistakable blue of the ocean. It’s so devoid of human noise that cell phones aren’t needed, should you need to call someone else on the compound, hey, just shout!
Upon a cordial invitation from Ian and Lynn, we made our way to Mason Hall, no doubt excited about what we’d see. After chatting for a few hours while our lunch digested, it was almost evening by the time we mobilized. Of course, being distracted by a different perspective on a common Tobago specialty didn’t help our timing at all. Following a cheep, cheep, cheep call we came across this Rufous-vented Chachalaca, temporarily separated from its parents.
Finally into Corbin Local Wildlife Park, Ian graciously led us on a tour of the compound, chatting about his goals for a country that he wasn’t even born in. I wonder if it really is too much to ask of T&T’s own citizens to have even half of the commitment that some foreigners have to protect our native species. Jolted from my musings by the sharp call of a Rufous-tailed Jacamar, I lagged behind to spend some time with this tame bird in the fading light. Density overcompensation has been cited as the possible reason for species like this Jacamar, as well as other noticeable species like the Trinidad Motmot seeming to be more commonplace on Tobago rather than on Trinidad. While it may be so, I do believe that Tobagonians are more likely to leave things alone than their fellow countrymen.
Before long, nighttime was approaching, so we promised that we’d be back the following day. There was just too much to explore!
The next day, we poked around and recorded some more Tobago specialties, such as this Grey Kingbird, calling into the morning sun.
Green Herons are found in Tobago and the rest of the West Indies, but not on Trinidad – they’re replaced by their congener the Striated Heron. I recently drafted an article on Green and Striated Herons for the lovely folks at Birds Caribbean – more on that as it develops.
Back at Corbin’s land, Roy led us down to where they were rehabilitating Nine-banded Armadillos. Seeing these little creatures full of life and wonder, it pained me to think that this was a common “game species”. Spend any time with a live armadillo and it’s plain to see that these guys deserve just as much chance at life as we do.
It was definitely a bittersweet experience – the armadillos here were all rescued as juveniles – their parents were killed by hunters. Before you fly in a rage about it – the little ones were brought to Roy by the hunters themselves and not left to die. Or dog food. Roy himself being a former hunter has retained his links with his friends, and in so doing, spreads the message of responsible and sustainable hunting.
And why Bubbles? Bubbles was the name of the runt among the three Nine-banded Armadillos we spent our day with. And true to his name, he kept blowing bubbles as he ran around, inspecting everything possible. He left his drool on our feet, my camera equipment, my bag, everything.
Concerned about what appeared to be a nose-bleed, I asked Roy if that was normal. Apparently Bubbles always gets into sticky situations and tends to injure himself on a regular basis. Really makes one think about the psychological trauma these creatures go through when their lives are turned upside down by us humans huh.
Overhead, two Red Squirrels fought almost to the death (not really) over a piece of bread.
All in all, a very enriching experience, highly recommended for anyone, of any age, of any level of inclination towards nature. You can contact Roy Corbin directly at (868) 327-4182.
Naturally, before we hitched the ride on the air bridge to Trinidad, checking the drains was a must. Tobago never disappoints!