The Collaboration with Naturalist Journeys Was a Win-Win-Win!
Our Trinidad and Tobago birding guides found 237 species of birds in the off season during a win-win-win eBird checklist collaboration with Naturalist Journeys that benefits birders everywhere. They submitted 20 eBird checklists representing two dozen birding hotspots throughout the islands.
“We should all be encouraged by this outcome and for the impressive numbers of birds which we now know can be seen during what we generally consider our off season; including dozens of rarities and even a few lifers,” wrote Jason Radix, our longtime lead guide for Tobago, who coordinated the e-Bird checklist project. “This update can now be used as a reference list for future bird watching tours.”
To see what they saw on these unique and gorgeous islands, join one of Naturalist Journeys’ guided group tours to Trinidad and Tobago.
Helping our guides cope with a loss of tourism income was the primary motivation for Naturalist Journeys owner and founder Peg Abbott to create the eBird checklist incentive program. In a COVID-induced lull in ecotourism she paid the guides a modest monthly stipend to keep getting out in the field and to keep their birding skills sharp, while contributing to important citizen science.
It is a bonus that their eBird checklists will be a great encouragement to birders who have begun to return to the just-opened country, as they demonstrate that a great variety of birds continue to proliferate in Trinidad and Tobago, even in what’s considered off-season. The COVID-19 pandemic saw the country shut to tourism for a long 16 months, during which, UNESCO named Northeast Tobago a Man and the Biosphere Reserve, underscoring just how precious it is to biodiversity.
In all, our guides visited more than two-dozen birding hotspots and submitted 20 eBird checklists.
Surprising them both, our longtime Trinidad and Tobago birding guides actually recorded life birds during the project: Our Tobago expert Jason Radix saw his first Bran-colored Flycatcher, after many years of birding the islands, and Lester Nanan, a third-generation ecotourism pioneer in Trinidad, saw his first Hook-billed Kite.
Their eBird checklists are especially important in the absence of reports from visiting birdwatchers. This bird data drought was observed all over the world, as described recently in the journal Biological Conservation, not only with birds but for all user-dependent collaborative nature data collection.
“The outbreak of COVID-19 followed by stay-at-home orders have definitely affected the quantity and quality of data collected by participants,” according to lead author Wesley Hochachka, a researcher at the Cornell Lab quoted in an article about the study on eBird’s website.
Studying eBird checklist data from New York, Spain, Portugal and California, “(o)ne of the biggest changes they noted was in the type of habitat the reports were coming from,” eBird wrote in its piece, Pandemic-related Changes in Birding may have Consequences for eBird Research. “With more people at home, more people reported birds around urban areas…Less common habitats, such as wetlands, may then be under-sampled because restrictions on human travel make it less likely that birdwatchers will go there.”
Our guides not only traveled to wetlands but to all the varied habitats our guests get to experience on our tours in Trinidad and Tobago. Below, enjoy descriptions of those habitats and see galleries representing the many wonderful birds that can be seen even in the “off season” with Trinidad and Tobago birding.
In Caroni National Park, we moor up at a quiet spot in the mangroves to let the sunset show begin. Hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of Scarlet Ibis cloud the sky as they fly in to roost, an experience you won’t soon forget.
The best area for finding shorebirds in Trinidad is the extensive area of tidal mudflats along the west coast—an area locally known as “Waterloo”. We plan our departure time with tides in mind. Of significant interest are birds arriving from mainland South America.
We bird the swamp formed where the Nariva River reaches the sea; freshwater environments of herbaceous swamp and mangrove swamp forest make for spectacular birding. This is a very full day with many stops and the discovery of species found nowhere else on the island.
We visit the hummingbird retreat called Yerettê, “Home of the Hummingbird.” Located in the Maracas Valley, this private home and lush garden attracts up to fourteen of the eighteen species of hummingbirds found in Trinidad and Tobago.
A remnant of a once major lowland habitat, the seasonally-wet Aripo Savannah is surrounded by sugar cane fields. We explore the tropical birds unique to this habitat, as well as the distinctive flora that has adapted to the savannah’s harsh conditions—alternating from wet to dry.
Main Ridge Forest Reserve
We visit the Main Ridge Forest Reserve, tracing the spine of Tobago. Founded in 1776 and considered the first forest reserve created for a conservation purpose, it’s a great place to find furtive species.
Full List of Birds:
|Common Ground Dove|
|Ruddy Ground Dove|
|Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)|
|American Pygmy Kingfisher|
|Great Blue Heron|
|Little Blue Heron|
|Common Black Hawk|
|Great Black Hawk|
|White-headed Marsh Tyrant|
|Lesser Black-backed Gull|
|Southern Rough-winged Swallow|
|Grey-necked Wood Rail|