We're back from Trinidad and Tobago--an AWESOME trip! We came home with Oilbird, Ruby-topaz, Bearded Bellbird and Trinidad Piping Guan! Now we're heading to the Everglades from our base camp in Florida City! Caligo Ventures was our agency, and I'm quite confident we'll be organizing a tour through them for a small group in the near future. A highlight of our visit was a stay at Asa Wright Nature Center, were we saw Oilbirds, White-bearded and Golden-headed Manakins, Bearded Bellbirds and the famous Tufted Coquette! ! Below are a few sketches made during our trip, photos to follow soon.

Our abreviated itinerary, intended to give potential tour leaders a sense of what Trinidad and Tobago have to offer was as follows: Asa Wright Centre Grounds, Dunston Oilbird cave, the Northern Range for a few interesting Passerines like Swallow Tanager, and an unexpected Trinidad Piping Guan. Next we visited Aripo Savannnah to locate Yellow-hooded Blackbird and two Water Tyrants. In the evening, we visited Matura Bay to see Leatherback Turtle nesting, and the following day we stopped Yeretté (a private residence called the "Home of Hummingbirds"). Caroni Marsh was a textbook example of the color found in Trinidad. We saw the Scarlet Ibis fly-in there and a number of other prized mangrove species. We would then move to Tobago via a 20-minute flight for some Marsh birding there, Gilpin Trace trail, and finally Little Tobago Island for REd-billed Tropicbirds, Brown and Red-footed Boobies and two species of Terns. We'll spend the first 3 nights at Asa Wright, then a night at Cuffie River Lodge, then a night at Blue Waters Inn.

It's hard to tell in my drawing, but this male Bearded Bellbird's mouth is WIDE open in mid scream.
Bellbirds have an uncanny ability to open their mouths

Trinidad Piping Guan! We were very lucky to see this bird on our recent trip to the Asa Wright Nature Center in Trinidad. Having been warned that seeing the bird required arriving a day early, and leaving the lodge at 3:00A, we didn't have much hope of seeing it. As luck would have it, we found one just outside the Center, on a hilly road where it has occasionally shown up. It was an incredible experience to see this bird, one of only two endemic birds of Trinidad!

A childhood dream come true. We saw Oilbirds in Trinidad! These birds are truly unique in that they are not only the world's only nocturnal avian frugivores, but they also use echo location to navigate their cave colonies. They are the only member of their family... which makes them especially cool!

Not as easy a distinction as I hoped... The best field mark for me was the contrast between the cap and back of the Bridled, and the additional white on the tail, different from Sooty. The flight style difference was hard to judge on a moving boat...

"Cape Sable" Seaside Sparrow!
I needed to refer to photographs to make this portrait of the "Cape Sable" Seaside Sparrow we saw in the Everglades. We were in position, just beyond Mahogany Hammock by 8:00A and listened for the birds' Red-winged Blackbird-esque song. We watched several males at a good distance as they perched high in the saw grass. Mosquitos were pretty bad that morning, but the worst insect experience was definitely at the Gumbo Limbo trail...


The goal today was to sketch as many Forster's Terns as quickly as possible in the half-hour I had. Gesture drawing is fun, but not particularly accurate. The nesting colony at Charleston Slough made for a good subject because the birds were engaged in a number of activities from searching for food, flying back and forth from the nest, chasing each other and nearby Gulls, squabbling amongst themselves. Now, if I can only get those birds to sit still long enough for me to draw them...