Tobago - November 2014

Published by Paul Davis (davispm AT

Participants: Paul Davis


Photos with this report (click to enlarge)

Barred Antshrike
Barred Antshrike
Blue-crowned Motmot
Blue-crowned Motmot
Black-throated Mango
Black-throated Mango
Ruddy Turnstone
Ruddy Turnstone
Tropical Mockingbird
Tropical Mockingbird

I flew from Heathrow with British Airways to Tobago with an hours stop in Antigua on November 24th. A smooth uneventful flight until I landed and realised that somewhere on route my luggage had gone astray. I travel a lot so it was bound to happen eventually. Most people seemed to think that my bag and I would be re-united in a day or two at the most, alas it was five and a half days of a weeks holiday. Apart from my clothes etc there were all my battery chargers for the cameras. Anyway, that is the moan out of the way. I had pre-charged all my batteries, so if I was careful, I could still get plenty of shots.
I stayed at The Blue Waters Inn ,Speyside .
The hotel is set in large grounds, in a beautiful bay and a back drop of rainforest. I arrived after dark, so the holiday started in earnest the next morning.

At 5.30 am the first birds started to sing, they were Tropical Mockingbirds and a very pleasing sound it was. Shortly after the Rufous-vented Chachalacas pitched in, not so melodious, then Bananaquits and Tanagers. I hopped out of bed, got my gear together, sprayed the repellant on, just in case, and headed out to watch the sunrise. The sun rose over the island of Little Tobago across a short stretch of water. A small gang of White-tipped Doves gathered in a fruiting tree above me joined by a few Pale-vented Pigeons. Blue-grey Tanagers darted in and out of the same tree. After a sumptuous breakfast, I took a stroll around the grounds and spotted a couple of Agoutis foraging in the half light. On the beach a resident pack of Ruddy Turnstones rushed towards hotel guests hoping for some morsels of breakfast muffin or some other delicacy. These lovely little birds were always ready and willing to pose for photos. At about 9.30 most mornings the staff would put out sugar feeders on a number of poles dotted about the property. Within minutes Bananaquits, Copper-rumped Hummingbirds and the occasional Rufous-breasted Hermit arrived and stuck around for most of the day. Several Brown Pelicans gathered on the boat jetty and fished the bay very successfully.

I spent nearly all of the week in the hotel grounds apart from a trip to the Adventure Farm nature reserve on one day and a shopping trip for clothes on another.

I took a short boat trip across the bay on my second morning to Little Tobago island. The crossing is only about twenty minutes and passes over reefs that can be easily viewed through the glass-bottomed boat. Once on the island I was greeted by a very accommodating Yellow-crowned Night Heron. There was quite a steep set of steps to the top of the island where there were lots of sea birds flying around the cliffs. These were mainly Red-billed Tropicbirds, Red-footed Boobies and some Brown Boobies all of which were constantly harassed by the Magnificent Frigatebirds. In the trees all around were several other birds, a Tropical Kingbird made an appearance along with a brief visit from a Crested Oropendola with it's beautiful bright lemon tail. Blue-grey and Palm Tanagers flitted about the shrubs. This was only a very short trip and I was soon back at the hotel for lunch in the restaurant that overlooks the bay. There were several other birding residents at the hotel, including a couple, who are members at a local nature reserve back home that I am also a member of....small world.

Day three started the same with a pre-breakfast stroll. This morning a pair of Southern Lapwings had flown in and settled down on one of the lawned areas. I also spotted a couple of Red-crowned Woodpeckers, a Yellow-bellied Elaenia, and my first Blue-crowned Motmot. The rest of the day was mainly taken up by a long drive to and from Scarborough, the capital, to do some essential shopping. I did see plenty of Carib Grackles and Smooth-billed Anis en route.

Day four, I decided to take a trip to the Adventure Farm nature reserve, which was another fairly long drive but well worth it. The reserve is run by a couple who are passionate about nature. They put out fruit and sugar water to attract birds and they come in force. Here I saw four hummingbird species, Copper-rumped, Black-throated Mango, Rufous-breasted Hermit and White-necked Jacobin. There were also three Tanager species, White-lined, Palm and Blue-grey. A ringing of a small bell that meant fresh banana was on offer brought in three Blue-crowned Motmot,a Red-crowned Woodpecker, two Bare-eyed Thrushes and a pair of Barred Antshrikes. Pale-vented Pigeons, Eared Doves, White-tipped Doves and Ruddy Ground Doves also patrolled the grounds.

Day five and the battery power is nearly exhausted, so I used my other camera that is for macro work and spent most of the day taking insect shots, although a very obliging White-fringed Antwren came within range of my 100mm lens with 1.4 converter. I also managed a close shot of a Tropical Kingbird and a Red-tailed Squirrel. There was also a House Wren but not close enough.

Day six and the case has been located and is on it's way. At 1.30pm it finally arrived so using the plug points in the restaurant I charged the batteries whilst tucking into a very tasty salad. Of course while I was powering up several Frigatebirds decided to come right up in front of the restaurant and dance in the surf. I would have got some cracking shots but alas.

Fully charged and raring to go I took off into the rainforest along a short trail from the hotel car park. In a clearing I saw two Grey Kingbirds, a Black-faced Grassquit and a performing male Blue-black Grassquit. Another Crested Oropendola made a quick exit but a Barred Antshrike was more sociable. Later in the afternoon, back in the hotel, I saw two Ospreys fishing in the bay.

Day seven, the last full day, was spent relaxing in the gardens, most of the usual suspects were flying about. I saw my first Yellow-headed Caracara of the week and also possibly my first American Kestrel flying over the forest although as this is such a rare visitor ,it may be a case of mistaken identity.. There were also quite a few Orange-winged Parrots, squawking, high up in the canopy.

Last morning, bags packed and a last walk around the grounds. The Chachalacas were even more approachable this morning,they seemed to be almost following me, which was great for photography.

Apart from the annoyance of the delayed luggage, this was a very enjoyable trip. The hotel staff were fabulous, as was the food and the nature. I would love to return in the future. On the way to the airport I saw a Little Blue Heron, several Tropical Kingbirds, Cattle Egrets, Magnificent Frigatebirds and Smooth-billed Ani. In a small park next to a take-away at the airport, a little gang of Carib Grackles gathered, hoping for handouts and I duly obliged, in exchange for a couple of shots... great ending to a cracking holiday.

Species Lists

Blue-crowned Motmot
Tropical Mockingbird
Grey Kingbird
Tropical Kingbird
Yellow-bellied Elaenia
Bare-eyed Thrush
Blue-grey Tanager
Palm Tanager
White-lined Tanager
White-fringed Antwren
Barred Antshrike
House Wren
Smooth-billed Ani
Carib Grackle
Rufous-vented Chachalaca
Blue-black Grassquit
Black-faced Grassquit
Copper-rumped Hummingbird
White-necked Jacobin
Rufous-breasted Hermit
Black-throated Mango
Pale-vented Pigeon
Ruddy Ground Dove
Eared Dove
White-tipped Dove
Orange-winged Parrot
Crested Oropendola
Red-crowned Woodpecker
Yellow Headed Caracara
American Kestrel ( possibly )
Magnificent Frigatebird
Little Blue Heron
Cattle Egret
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Brown Pelican
Red-billed Tropicbird
Red-footed Booby
Brown Booby
Ruddy Turnstone
Southern Lapwing