Monday, December 5, 2011

Asa Wright Nature Center: A Birder’s Paradise

Blue-crowned motmot

Beautiful basolina flower

Green honeycreeper

Violaceous trogan
The verandah above the bird-feeding tables
We love to check out new flora and fauna in the places we visit, and we certainly got our wish when we took an overnight trip recently to the Asa Wright Nature Center here in Trinidad. The center is deep in the mountains of the Northern Range, at the end of a long, narrow, winding road through the rain forest. We’d had quite a bit of rain lately, and there were piles of red mud where landslides (or landslips, as some of the newspapers called them) had occurred. Fortunately the road was passable all the way to the center; to come from the other direction takes several more hours. En route we stopped at a roadside stand for some traditional Indian treats such as doubles, saheena (calaloo leaves rolled, sliced, dipped in batter and fried), and aloo pie (slender fried dough filled with potato)—delicious!  Before we even got to the center, we stopped to see a blue-crowned motmot, a beautiful bird, sitting on a tree branch by the side of the road. As we disembarked the van, an aguti (a rodent about the size of a large housecat) scampered across the road with a piece of fruit in its mouth. We hiked through the forest, saw and heard incredible birds (Trinidad’s avifauna is more akin to that of South America rather than the other Caribbean islands), quizzed our guides on everything we could think of, and sat for hours on the covered veranda of the Main House, sipping tea and coffee and watching the hundreds of birds that fed on the fruit, bread, and sugar water that they put out as 
attractants every morning and afternoon.  Some highlights of the trip included marking off at least a couple dozen new species in my Trinidad bird book, seeing a wild toucan (albeit from a distance), and watching bats swoop through the veranda after bugs (and one actually hit Chris in the head).  Two exceptional highlights were things I had to force myself to do, and felt better afterward for facing my overcoming my fears.  The first was to touch the hairy leg of an enormous tarantula crawling along the veranda rail. Normal spiders don’t bother me, but this guy was HUGE! The second was eating termites (only two, and they were little) that our forest guide, Barry, found. He said that they’re a good source of protein if you’re lost in the forest, though I think I’d stick to the abundant fruit. By the way, they taste like minty carrots.
Bananaquits on feeder

LARGE tarantula


  1. Ok, so I loved all the pictures but the tarantula totally freaked me out. Anne was probably in heaven. Gorgeous pics! You should write another story!

  2. That tarantula is STILL giving me nightmares, I'm sure he came home in the backpac with us.