A Glimpse of Trinidad

Purple Honeycreeper (male)

One of the many joys of birding in other countries is spending time with local guides. Whether it’s driving through the towns or bumping along on a back road, for a short, sweet time we are receiving the gift of a glimpse into their lives.

 

Trinidad is a small island in the West Indies, located eight miles (12 km) off the northeastern coast of Venezuela. It has rainforests and plantations, cities and towns, fishing, and steel drum music. Their economy is based largely on the export of oil and natural gas products. Wikipedia Trinidad overview

 

It was originally called “Land of the Hummingbird” by the South American Lokono people…and hummingbirds still grace the rainforests. Some of the most beautiful hummingbirds in the world live here.

 

And there are a lot of birds on this tropical island, 460 different species.

Dunston Cave stream, Trinidad

 

Green Honeycreeper, male

During our six days in Trinidad, our modest accommodations were located in a mountain rainforest eco-lodge. Asa Wright Nature Centre. For us, every day was about finding the birds.

 

Some days the guide drove a few of us into town, visiting birding spots like sewage ponds, swamps, and an old abandoned army base. I realize that doesn’t sound glorious, but it was.

 

One afternoon we went to the Caroni Swamp, a 12,000-acre mangrove wetland famous for the nightly arrival of huge flocks of scarlet ibis.

 

Caroni Swamp post.

Scarlet ibis, Caroni Swamp

That was magical. And I also loved cruising the back roads, not only for the panoply of exotic birds, but to see native Trinidadians in their daily routines.

Ranger releasing a caiman spotted and called-in by a local resident. Caroni Swamp

 

After-school scene

 

Watermelon truck and fruit stand

 

Lapwings, creekside

Some of the scraggliest trees were the sites of dozens of colorful birds. We watched a tufted coquette, one of the tiniest and showiest hummingbirds in the world, hassling a much-bigger owl.

Tufted coquette, male

 

There were often tanagers everywhere you looked.

Silver-beaked Tanager

 

In a residential neighborhood on a mountainside we watched yellow-rumped caciques among their needle residences, while squawking macaws flew by.

 

Yellow-rumped Caciques at nests

 

We were birding among cacoa trees when a Rastafarian silently walked by extending the two-finger peace symbol.

Rastafarian

Unripe cacao pods

 

This is a construction site near our lodge, we passed it at least twice a day. They have perpetual wash-outs here, during heavy rains.

 

Construction Site

When we weren’t busy trying to spot a bird, one or another of us in the group would ask our guide questions about the country; school system, local or national government, or more personal questions. Some guides like to tell the local folk stories about certain trees or birds.

 

We had different guides every day while in Trinidad, and they all revealed different stories.

 

One guide often pointed out the crops we were looking at, how the product was used, how you ate it and what it tasted like. He liked to cook so he would tell us how to fix it and flavor it.

 

While in a traffic jam, one guide explained they have a lot of traffic in Trinidad because it is so cheap to drive a car, fuel costs almost nothing.

Our guide, Rudall, looking for macaws

On top of being excellent birders, as I often point out, guides are fluent in many languages, knowledgeable about the science of birds, and savvy about the biology and botany of the area.

 

What a gift it is to drive through a foreign country, listening to a person tell about his country and its history, his friends and family, his surroundings. In Trinidad it was always men who were the guides, but I was happy to see a few women naturalist trainees at the Asa Wright Nature Centre.

 

Always, no matter what country we are in, it boils down to the same thing for all of us:

 

We strive to establish a comfortable and productive life, connect with loved ones and neighbors, and work through our troubles, our hopes, and our fears.

 

Photo credit: Athena Alexander

Posts I’ve written about special birds seen in Trinidad:

Boat Guide (R) and Captain (L) on nearby Little Tobago Island

 

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95 thoughts on “A Glimpse of Trinidad

  1. A local guide can make
    All the difference no matter the type of tour. Getting to know the people and their daily lives is such a gift. As to the birds…460 species? It must have been like paradise found for you and Athena. So much beauty in these winged creatures.

    • I agree, Sue, local guides make all the difference in a trip. We work them into the travel budget as a high priority, do with less expensive restaurant meals, etc. Many thanks for your visit and comment today, I think you are on an exciting adventure yourself. Have fun!

  2. Gorgeous colored feathers on the honey creepers. Birds of paradise are spectacular too. This gives me the opportunity to plug a book, Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle by Thor Hanson. He is witty and erudite. Makes wonderful and fascinating reading.

    • Yes, it’s a bit of a secret down there in the southern Caribbean. It has less infrastructure for the big cruise ships, but just as much sunshine and beauty. Happy to take you there today, John — thanks so much.

  3. I loved the birds and the way you enjoyed the culture as well. This is going on my bucket list along with Belize and Costa Rica. Thanks for the armchair look at a country most of us know little about.

    • I’m happy you enjoyed the Trinidad visit today, Cindy, the birds and the culture are marvelous. If you are thinking about going to Trinidad, please email me, I’ll give you some travel info. Warm wishes to you–

  4. Thanks for this glimpse into a beautiful and interesting place! Such colour and variety – the hummingbirds are wonderful, and the tiny tufted fellow is a real sight. I enjoyed reading about the guides and the background to island life there. Travel is an education, broadens the mind, and sharing your travels is a positive contribution.
    Have a great weekend!

    • I always think that if more people could travel and witness other cultures and lifestyles, there would be more good will in the world. It’s always an education, as you say, and opens our eyes to the ways of others. I’m glad I can share it here, and I’m so happy to share it with you, pc. My warm thanks for your attentive reading and warm comment. You and Mrs. pc have a wonderful weekend, too–

  5. Having great local guides makes all the difference in really experiencing and appreciating what an area has to offer. I’ve never been to Trinidad, but the bird life sounds amazing. There are some beautiful shots in here, but I loved the little tufted coquette. It looks like someone was having a “bad hair” day πŸ˜†

  6. Heartwarming!! All these birds and your experience. I have to think over my opinion because I often do everything on my own. But you’re right Jet, it’s better to have a guide. More Informations, better places for birding and renting a guide supports the economy of the locals as well as nature conservation.
    I really enjoyed your post! πŸ™‚

    • It is really fun to tag along with a local, and they make it easier for us foreigners to get around and spend our time doing the most fun and beautiful things, instead of getting lost or missing out on some of the rare finds. I’m glad you enjoyed Trinidad today, Simone, thanks so much for stopping by.

    • No matter how much color there is in a tropical country, the local guides just add that much more color. Glad you enjoyed the skip to Trinidad today, Jan, many thanks.

  7. Oh my goodness, what a magical trip. When I check out the reader in WordPress, I always view your post last because I know there will be lots to see and learn. Thank you Jet for the Trinidad journey today.

  8. Gorgeous birds, beautifully captured! Thank you for sharing the stories and adventure of Trinidad.
    It must not easy to spot these birds with so many beautiful trees and bushes around. πŸ™‚

    • Yes, you’re right, Amy. With the lushness of the forest and the colorful pods and flowers, there is a lot for the human eye to follow. But what a great sight wherever one looks. Great to hear from you, and as always, a pleasure.

    • It’s like having two gardens everywhere you look; one with all the flowers and another with all the colorful birds. Enjoyed your visit today, Eliza, as always…thank you.

    • I am enamored of the accents too, Allan. Especially the word “three” because it comes out “tree,” as well as the mesmerizing lilt of the voice. Thanks so much for stopping by–

  9. Lately it almost feels as though we live in a rainforest! But we certainly don’t have the variety of brightly, almost neon colored birds you’ve introduced in this post! What a joy it must be to see these wonders and to get to know other cultures and peoples. I truly do enjoy joining you and Athena in your amazing travels.

  10. Such beautiful birds with brilliant colors, they enjoy plenty of sun and a lush vegetation where to find their meals. Although I haven’t been there I do have a good idea about their avian habitat. This post is very informative and interesting. Thank you Jet … L)

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the trip to Trinidad and the birds there, HJ. With your residency and birding experience in South America, I can see you would have a good idea of the habitat, it is much like So. Amer. I read that Trinidad was once part of that continent, and is on the same continental shelf. Thanks so much for your visit, always a treat.

  11. I love getting the world tour from you Jet, it so much more personal than TV programmes. And this e birds – the colours! The Scarlet ibis, even at a distance has the saturation turned up to 101% – it’s hard to believe nature sometimes. I used to have people say to me in weaving classes I used to run “we like natural colours” by which they meant “earthy”, but I would just tell them to look at a daffodil or a carnation to see bright natural colours. I could have pointed them to these birds as well. Which brings me back to the Tufted coquette – what an appropriate name. Oh, and the sculptural nests of the Yellow-rumped Caciques – brilliant! Another post thoroughly enjoyed, thank you πŸ™‚

    • I am happy (I’m smiling as I type, Alastair) you enjoyed the Trinidad post, and absorbed all the best parts to savor. Interesting share, too, on your weaving classes and the term “natural colours.” We spend enough time outdoors, both you and I, to see earthy colors can be so bright and bold, even outrageous. The scarlet on those ibis was astounding. They come in to roost at night, in flocks by the hundreds, and fortunately this is sunset and that lovely sunset glow enhanced the scarlet even more. I love the name of the tufted coquette, too, so perfect. Those cacique nests were high off the ground, higher than the roofs of the houses. But the birds are big (gull size) and noisy, so not hard to find if you know what to look for. Really really fun to share it with you, Alastair, thanks for your great comment.

  12. Thank you for sharing this wonderful adventure, Jet! All the birds were so vividly colored too…in keeping with the color schemes of the island πŸ™‚

    • If you stayed at Asa Wright you would definitely see a tufted coquette, Mike. They are super fast, but a true delight when you see it. Email me (via Contact tab) if you decide to go, maybe I can answer questions or help you out. Cheers–

  13. How marvelous to experience this trip with you vicariously. I love the Purple Honeycreeper – just an incredible bird!! Reminds me of the feeling I had when we spotted a Red-legged Honeycreeper in Panama.

    • Hi BJ. The purple honeycreeper was much like the red-legged, size-wise. And oh, that cobalt color is extraordinary. Happy I could share the Trinidad finds with you, thanks for stopping by.

    • Although I don’t know the scuba conditions here, I definitely know the birding, and it was great fun. We did have one day for snorkeling off of nearby Little Tobago Island, and it was not good, not much in fish or coral. Many thanks, Dave–

  14. Jet, thank you for the way you framed the relationship and β€œvalue proposition” of local guides for bird watching. This definitely motivates us to get a guide next time we are in an area with a plethora of birds. What magnificent birds in Trinidad! We both love humming birds and we used to get daily visits from them when we lived in Granada, Nicaragua in our little courtyard. The purple honey creeper is amazing.

    A few of the best bird experiences I have had were flamingoes en masse in Namibia taking flight, a nesting island for frigates in Panama and a bounty of birds in Cuba in a swamp area.

    Alexanders photos of the birds are quite magnificent.

    Peta

    • I am happy to know you and Ben will consider using a guide on an upcoming adventure, Peta. It’s a wonderful way to connect with a local, find incredible birds, and contribute directly to a local. I’m glad you enjoyed the birds of Trinidad, and loved hearing about some of your best bird experiences. Flamingoes and Frigatebirds are some of my favorites, and when they’re in large flocks it is a breathtaking spectacle. I once saw Lake Baringo (Kenya) covered with flamingoes, a pink carpet, a sight I still cherish. It was far from camp and we never would’ve found it without the guide. Many thanks for your lovely comment and visit, Peta.

  15. Oh wow, Jet, how lucky you are to be able to travel like this. What a totally different world! OH my goodness!!! Gorgeous birds one after the other. The colors just blew me away! You are one of a few WP friends who have motivated me to get a new lens with an extender to start my journey of bird snapping. I am taking notes how the “experts” do it. Even though living in this part of the world is minus many “luxuries” we just take for granted, there are times I would love to wake up to find myself living in such simple Beauty. THANK YOU for this educational and stunning post!!! πŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌ

    • Hi Amy, it is a great pleasure to bring you the colors and birds and sights of Trinidad. I am very glad you enjoyed it, and thank you for your kind words. Cheers my friend — and have a great week.

  16. Good Lord what an amazing trip!!! Thank You for the beautiful pictures! My boyfriend and I are bird freaks and he will flip over these pictures. Amazing. Thank You, Jet!!! πŸ€—πŸ’–πŸ˜ƒ

  17. This is such a beautiful post on many levels. I love your closing sentence….it is so right. The more we travel and learn about others we realise that our desires and wishes are the same. I didn’t know that Trinidad is also called ‘The Land of the Hummingbirds’ – I do need to go there:) As always beautiful photographs and very interesting ones people going about their daily lives. Thank you, Jet

    • Wonderful to have you visit, Janet, and for me to have gleaned some of France, through your recent post. When we took Caribbean Airlines from Trinidad to Tobago, their logo is a hummingbird. I thought of you when I saw it. Thanks so much for your kind words, and great visits.

  18. Love this post. It “sounds” lyrical and peaceful, joyful and relaxed…and there are steel drums playing softly in the background. Thanks for sharing the spirit!

    • Aloha to you, Nan, and many thanks for visiting me on a different tropical island across the globe. I’m happy to have shared the Trinidad spirit with you. Sending love and mahalos.

  19. It’s not hard for me to love the tropics and after reviewing your impressive post
    big smiles are on my face. Seeing those incredible hummingbirds and dense
    vegetation reminds me a little of home. Great photos Jet!

    • I am happy the hummingbirds and rainforests of Trinidad gave you big smiles, Eddie, this has now given me a smile. πŸ™‚ Thanks for your wonderful comment and visit today, my friend–

  20. Pingback: #ThankfulThursdayReblogs – Jet Eliot | Booknvolume

    • Thanks very much, ACI, it was fun bringing you to Trinidad, thanks for stopping by. You seemed to have slowed your usual pace down on WP, on your site; please know I am hoping you are doing okay with other pursuits, and am thinking about you with warm wishes.

  21. This must be a birder’s paradise. Thank you for the lovely photos and the story. I love your philosophy about travelling in your final sentence. Meeting the locals is so important.

    • Yes, it is a birder’s paradise. Birders always like to have lots of different bird species, and especially ones we haven’t yet seen; so we had all of that, and much, much more. In addition, one of my favorite parts is meeting the locals, something I know you enjoy in your extensive travels too. My warm thanks, Draco, for your visits here today.

  22. What an enjoyable tour in this gorgeous tropical island,Jet dear!Fantastic species of birds with showy,coloured plumage,the Blue Honeycreeper and the Green one are so beautiful,and so is the little Tanager with the cardinal plumage!The flock of the Scarlet Ibis above the swampscape is totally enchanting!I also noticed that the unripe cacao pods are red,when I saw them in Bali,beginning Jan,they were dark brown,When are they ready to collect them?The tree is called Chocolate tree,I think.Thank you for this compelling tour and for all the beautiful photos of the birds,the portraits of the locals and the street,candids.Best to you & Athena πŸ™‚ Happy springtime,my dear friend πŸ™‚

    • So fun to have you join us in Trinidad, Doda. I remember well your recent photos of Bali and the colorful tropics you visited, and there is much similarity. Isn’t it fun to see the cacao pods? Our guide in Belize climbed up a tree and retrieved a ripe yellow pod and opened it for us. He said they did it all the time as kids there. He had to take his shoes off to climb the tree. So glad you enjoyed the Trinidad tour, thanks so much for your lovely visit here.

      • We enjoy so many sweet things from these blessed trees,I was interesting to see the fruit on the trees.Enjoy a beautiful day,dear friend πŸ™‚

  23. I was born in Trinidad and didn’t realize the beauty of ASA Wright until I migrated to the USA and brought friends back for a visit. Sometimes jems are waiting in our back yards to be discovered.

    • Wonderful to hear a Trinidadian’s perspective, Kirt, on the wonderful ASA Wright. Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and comment. It’s a great message you share to all of us about our “backyards.”

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