Yeah so continuing where I left off in my last post (in case you missed it, check it out here), I’m sharing some of the other images I made on our trip to the rich and undisturbed tip of Tobago. As I mentioned before, landings are impossible on the islands, and having made some rocky landings myself in the past – memories of trying to time the swell to jump off a boat onto a slippery rock at the base of Soldado rock all the way on the opposite side of T&T make my palms sweaty as I type this – I wasn’t complaining.
Just being able to be close to the islands themselves was immense in itself. The habitat is different from any mainland habitat; but similar in part to what’s on Little Tobago. Due to these islands being basically rocks, there is no trove of fertile soil for trees to grow. Consequently only the hardiest and most resourceful of plants survive here. Lots of cacti all over – again, good thing no landings are allowed. Could imagine the result of putting slippery rocks and cacti together? Gah.
We had excellent opportunities with the many Magnificent Frigatebirds that were around, lots of curious juveniles. See here for more Magnificent Frigatebirds.
A major reason for us taking this trip was to secure views of some of the pelagic terns that for a brief moment in the year, take a time out from their oceanic nomadic lifestyle to breed. Brown Noddies perched here and there as we circumnavigated the small islands.
We were really looking for a couple beautiful, sometimes difficult to tell apart, species though. Striking in their black and white, both Sooty and Bridled Terns are known to use Tobago’s offshore islands to raise their young. The former being common, the latter being rather uncommon. I had seen both before, and had gotten excellent views of the Sooty – in fact, one of my images of a Sooty Tern won a spot in a local calendar competition some years ago. Unfortunately, whomever was in charge of the natural history aspect of the competition (presumably one of the judges perhaps) decided that they knew better than I – and changed the label on my Sooty Tern to that of a Bridled. It may seem like not a big deal, but to a birder – trust me, it is.
This time, we were unable to get such great views of the Sooty, only seeing it from a fair distance.
But within the crevices in the rocks, we were thrilled to find this adult and juvenile Bridled Tern!
Compare this with my image of the Sooty Tern from 2013 and see if you notice the differences in the white forecrown area as well as the deepness of the fork in the tail. The Bridled Tern has a much deeper fork with much longer tail streamers. Yeah, still pissed.
Anyway, it wasn’t all seabirds. In the recent past, the offshore islands off of Tobago have been colonized by Scaly-naped Pigeons. These large birds have also begun to spread to mainland Tobago, and possibly within the next ten years may be more of a common sight. For now, we were content with fly-bys.
Much thanks to the expert of expert boatmen Zolani for getting us safely through choppy waters, this is a highly recommended trip for anyone interested in plain appreciation of what isn’t usually seen. From the birds to the vistas to even a gorgeous adult Hawksbill Turtle that popped up for air – it’s worth it. And you don’t need a huge lens – my favourite image of the trip was made with my wide angle. I call it “Assorted Seabird Compendium Party Pack”