Last year’s Bioblitz took place in the capital city of Port of Spain, an area that I have honestly shunned for my entire life – I just can’t keep up with the hustle and bustle, the traffic and the congestion. Not to mention the general dirtiness and the constant need to look over one’s shoulder. I didn’t expect anything great, you know there’s one major rule when you’re going into nature, which is to expect the unexpected. Well I discarded this thought before we even left home.
Getting there some time after lunch, we sluggishly crawled up Lady Chancellor Hill – the last time I had been there was possibly 20 years ago! At the top we decided to do some casual surveying, counting a small number of passerines in the bushes at the top, as well as more than a few Black Vultures soaring through the low clouds.
We noticed a particularly aesthetically pleasing branch nearby, and one of the members of our small group quipped “hmmm, imagine something perched on that branch” – a common joke among us bird photographers, as we’d scope out lovely perches for birds that they’d never sit on, no matter how hard we hoped and prayed. Before we had a chance to laugh at the thought, a gorgeous adult Yellow-headed Caracara flew by, made a circle and headed straight for that branch. I couldn’t believe it. It landed in the perfect spot, with the forested hills as a lovely backdrop, in some lovely diffuse light. I stared in disbelief, as I hadn’t even taken my camera out – in fact, it wasn’t even assembled – such was the level of expectation. Well I moved faster than I’d ever moved in my life before, scooted around a small tree, and began working with this bird.
I don’t know if it was comfortable around humans, being a resident of the capital city and all, but this particular bird did not seem in the least bothered by the few of us firing our shutters frantically – it actually started to preen itself after a couple minutes. Well I hoped and hoped that my eyes did not disappoint me, and that my images were in focus. Fortunately, I managed this one keeper out of the lot. Not bad.
After the caracara flew off I began searching for birds a little more actively, and soon enough we had a Tufted Coquette feeding nearby and Violaceous Euphonias in the trees above. No respectable pictures of either, though. Manual focus disappoints more often than not. As the light faded, I managed to grab this photo of a Lineated Woodpecker high in the trees.
The next day, we were asked to remain in the vicinity of basecamp to facilitate any members of the public who were interested in doing bird walks in the Botanical Gardens. So we poked around and recorded some of the expected species, such as this Orange-winged Amazon, one of many that can be seen in the capital city on a regular basis.
The rich calls of the Cocoa Thrush may lead one to believe that the bird is more resplendent than it actually is, but hey, brown is beautiful too.
Perhaps the surprise of all surprises was a bird typically found in deep forest, I remember seeing my first Squirrel Cuckoo in deep south – I’ve also seen it in the Northern and Central Ranges. Apparently this particular bird was spotted in the Botcanical Gardens the previous day, which in accordance with the natural behaviour of this species means that this is its home. Squirrel Cuckoos do tend to have specific habits and pathways through their territory, regular enough that one can expect to see one in a particular tree at a certain time if its habits are learned. I did fire off some shots at it in the couple seconds it wasn’t hiding, none of which were in focus.
After the surveying was completed, we headed back to basecamp where there were numerous activities for visitors, including a colouring station. While it’s really geared towards children, it’s always great to let your inner child loose *wink*
Of course, serious business of tallying our species list also had to be done. Another fine Bioblitz with some wonderful people, here’s looking to Bioblitz 2017!