A few weeks ago I got wind of a special bird that was spending some months here in the northern hills of Trinidad. We’re accustomed to the general pattern of migratory birds – from the northern hemisphere that is. Each year, from August or September, these birds would be escaping the cold grip of the northern winter – only to depart the following March/April. From warblers to falcons – they’re all well documented.
But what is a visitor doing here in the middle of the year? The less documented migrants that appear from the south do swell our forests considerably during the months of the southern winter. Look out for “scissors-tail” or Fork-tailed Flycatcher – that’s one of them. I don’t think some of us realize the importance of being an equatorial country. We need to be able to provide migrants with food and habitat all year round!
What’s even more special about this particular bird is that it’s a breeding visitor. Which means that each year, they fly north from their native South America to breed in places where the climate is milder. Although the phrase “mild climate” may soon disappear from the vernacular.
After getting the tip-off, we ventured into the Northern Range in search of this beauty. That morning, the forest was quiet. Whatever was there, was distant, high up in the canopy, or flying over frustratingly. We had a Black Hawk-eagle calling loudly and repeatedly, but we only got extremely fleeting views of that large raptor through the thick canopy as it glided past.
Three hours passed, and I didn’t make a single image. Machine-gun drumming in the canopy alerted me to the presence of a Chestnut Woodpecker – I took eight photos of this one bird before it disappeared. One was acceptable, and featured in an earlier blog post here.
After a couple more fortuitous sightings, we decided to make our way back out. A bright blue movement caught our eye, and instantly we knew that here was the jackpot. Although the bright blue disappeared quickly, the presence of the dull green female was just as welcomed.
Breeding pairs of Swallow Tanagers have been known to operate both singly as well as in loose colonies of a number of pairs. The key in looking for them is in knowledge of what they look for in a nest. They are embankment-nesters, so perched conveniently next to one such embankment was a pair. The female rarely deviated from her purpose. And with that level of camouflage, she doesn’t need to! I’m certain we walked right past her on the way into the forest and never knew a thing.
Gender discrimination aside, what we really were searching for was the male of the species. As photographers we are always in need of strong images, and sometimes the very appearance of a creature can bend the mind of the viewer sufficiently to stimulate thought, and perhaps some level of introspection.
This bird is unlike any other I’ve ever experienced. It’s a tanager, yes, but so different in its stance and poise – not to mention colour!
As if to bless me further, he turned around. Which is his better side? I can’t decide!