Pax Guest House Birding Package
Sample itinerary, subject to conditions locally:
Day 1 -
London Gatwick on a lunchtime flight with BA. Early evening arrival at Piarco
International Airport. Our representative will meet you once you have cleared
customs. Transportation up to Mt. St. Benedict will take approximately 30
minutes. Upon arrival, you will be served a welcome fruit drink. Just before the three courses buffet dinner
the famous Pax Rum Punch to ensure a hearty appetite. After dinner, there will
be a brief introduction, outlining the week ahead.
Day 2 - Orientation Day
We will spend all day at Mt. St. Benedict, with over 600 acres of forest, an ideal place to introduce and familiarise ourselves with a whole host of new species. Birding begins right outside the doorstep; even before breakfast we should have seen Orange-winged Parrot, Ruddy Ground-dove, Tropical Kingbird, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Mockingbird, Blue Grey, Palm, White-lined and Silver-beaked Tanagers, Bannanaquits by the score, Yellow Orioles and Crested Oropendolas as well as many hummingbirds. At Pax, we will concentrate on hummingbirds and can confidently expect to find most if not all of Copper-rumped, White-chested Emerald, Black-throated Mango, Tufted Coquette, Blue-chinned Sapphire and Green Hermit. Dependent upon the time of year, we may also add a stunning Ruby Topaz to your list. The Avian terraces (used in the filming of Sir David Attenborough’s Life Of Birds) at Pax provide spectacular views of raptors. Both Turkey and American Black Vultures are constantly in the air, whilst White, Zone-tailed, Grey and Short-tailed Hawks, Grey-headed Kites and Yellow-headed Caracaras frequently soar past against a backdrop of forested hillsides. During the day we will make one or more excursions into the forest above Pax, along an easily manageable system of trails. Birds are abundant and we could encounter Rufous-breasted Hermit, Violaceous and White-tailed Trogons, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, White-flanked Antwren, Golden-headed and White-bearded Manakins, Rufous-breasted Wren, Long-billed Gnatwren. Tropical Parula and White-shouldered Tanagers. If we are really lucky, we will come across one or more of the more shy and secretive forest dwellers such as White-bellied Antbird, Black-faced Ant Thrush or even Collared Trogon. We should hear the melancholy whistle of Little Tinamou, but our chance of catching a glimpse of these elusive gamebirds is unlikely, but possible. By the end of the first day we should have seen well in excess of fifty species and are ready to venture further afield.
Day 3 - The East Coast
There will be time for you to have a pre-breakfast walk birding the roadside above Pax. Whilst you will encounter many of the species seen yesterday, the more open terrain provides the opportunity of a flypast of Lilac-tailed Parrotlets, Smooth-billed Ani, Short-tailed and Lesser Swallow-tailed Swifts, Barred Antshrike, Boat-billed Flycatcher and Blue-black Grassquit. After a leisurely breakfast, we depart by minibus along the East-West Corridor of Trinidad to the Aripo Agricultural Research Station; an area of open savannah, wet pastures, hedgerows and isolated trees. Here new birds will come through thick and fast. We have an excellent chance of finding the majestic Savannah Hawk, our first Wattled Jacanas, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, both White-headed Marsh and Pied Water Tyrants, Grey Kingbird, White-winged Swallow and the brightly coloured Red-breasted Blackbird. Wintering American shorebirds are often found in the wetter areas. In the correct seasons we should encounter both Solitary and Least Sandpipers, Southern Lapwing and occasionally a few Stilt Sandpipers. We will keep a special eye out for one or two of the more uncommon Trinidad species known to occur including Cocoi Heron, Striped Cuckoo and, if we are really fortunate, Pinnated Bittern. During the late morning we continue our drive east, arriving at Manzallia Beach where we will take our lunch. Seabirds are scarce on this coastline, except for the ever present Magnificent Frigatebirds and Brown Pelicans. After lunch we will slowly drive south along the beach road, searching for the raptors that shade themselves from the afternoon sun perched on the coconut palms. Both Common Black Hawk and Yellow-headed Caracara are regular and we even find the diminutive Bat Falcon or even the beautiful Pearl Kite. We will stop at one more of the mangrove fringed streams that cross the road where we regularly find both Red-rumped Woodpecker and Black-crested Antshrike. With luck, we will also see the minute American Pygmy Kingfisher or even Silvered Antbird. Finally we arrive at the southern end of Nariva Swamp which occupies a vast portion of the eastern coast of Trinidad. The area we will visit comprises of both shallow freshwater swamp, rice and watermelon fields. Here we will particularly seek out Straited Heron, American Purple Gallinule, Red-breasted and Yellow-hooded Blackbirds and both Shiny and Giant Cowbirds. Additionally, we hope to find one or more of the rarer residents of the swamp including Pinnated Bittern, Long-winged Harrier or the elusive Azure Gallunule and the sort after White-tailed Golden-throated hummingbird.
As the sun gets low in the sky, we need to return to the coast road and await the arrival of large flocks of Red-bellied Macaws. They spend most of the day feed deep in the swamp and neighbouring forest, but roost in the tops of Moriche/Royal Palms shortly before dusk. We then return to Pax for dinner.
Day 4 - The Northern Range
An early start this morning, we leave to drive up the Arima valley, and then onto the Northern Range. These forested hills form a mountain chain across the width of the island, holding an extremely wide variety of species not normally seen at lower elevations. Our initial destination is the world famous Asa Wright Nature Centre. On the way we will stop at one or more look out points where we can find some Double-toothed Kite, Channel-billed Toucan and Black-tailed Tityra. Ornate Hawk Eagle is regularly recorded in this valley. We will spend some hours at Asa Wright, marvelling at the array of species coming into the balcony feeders but the highlight of this day will be the Oilbirds. Once weather permits us and the cave is open we will taking a guided walk along the well laid out trails to these unique birds. Full access to the forest is restricted to those staying at the Centre only. A possible birdlist for the Nature Centre is exhaustive, but we will make a specific effort to try and find White-necked Jacobin, Collared Trogon, Blue-crowned Motmot, Chestnut Woodpecker, Great Antshrike and Bearded Bellbird. A picnic lunch will be taken in the grounds of the centre with Grey-rumped and Band-rumped Swifts flying overhead, before climbing further north along the Blanchisseuese Road to try and locate species found at even higher altitudes. Along the way we will stop at a reliable Golden-headed Manakin lek where up to 10 males regularly try to attract the attention of their drab olive mates. During the remainder of the afternoon, we will make a number of stops hoping to see the following: - Blue-headed Parrot, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Channel-billed Toucan, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Red-legged Honeycreeper. Speckled and Hepatic Tanagers before reluctantly retracing our steps on the drive back to Pax.
Day 5 - Lowland Forest, Sewage Ponds and Night BirdsAnother early start, firstly heading for the Arena Forest. Birds themselves are not as plentiful as in the uplands but this site gives us the opportunity of finding certain species more difficult elsewhere. Our first stop will be beside a breeding colony of Yellow-rumped Caciques attended to by one or two Paratic Flycatchers. In the forest proper, we will walk wide trails seeking Squirrel Cuckoo, Plumbeous Kite, White-tailed and Violaceous Trogons, Lineated and Golden Olive Woodpeckers, Plain Ant Vireo and White-bellied Antbird. On previous trips, we have been fortunate enough to locate a roosting Spectacled Owl, although the chance of repeating this feat is remote indeed. We will however visit a Green Hermit lek and watch these long tailed hummingbirds chirping and literally shivering from head to foot. We then visit a group of sewage ponds close to the airport where we can normally find Least Grebe, Purple Gallinule, Large-billed Tern, Southern Lapwing, Little Blue and Striated Herons, Snowy Egret and Pied Water Tyrants. The ponds are a favourite feeding ground for both wintering and migrating American shore birds, and at the appropriate time of year we may find Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper and Black-necked Stilts. Ringed Kingfishers are occasionally seen too whilst Cayman laze on the water’s surface. (NB. Ongoing construction at this site may occasionally affect access.) In view of our early start, we return in the heat of the day to lunch (and possibly a siesta) at Pax before heading off again in the late afternoon. Our destination is Wallerfield, a deserted airfield in the midst of the Aripo Savannah. Whilst our primary goal is to try and find ‘night birds’ this habitat is home to Pale-vented Pigeon, Fork-tailed Palm Swift, Sulphury and Bran-coloured Flycatchers and Masked Yellowthroat. We stand a chance of finding one of the scarcer species found in this area such as the Ruby-Topaz hummingbird or Moriche Oriole. Crimson-crested Woodpecker, the rarest of its family in Trinidad, is occasionally seen here. As dusk develops, we await the first Pauraque to begin calling. We have an excellent chance of seeing one of these long tailed night birds together with the While-tailed Nightjar and even possibly Nacunda Nighthawk, Tropical Screech Owl and Barn Owl. We return to Pax for a later dinner.
Day 6 - The West Coast
You can take a pre breakfast walk, either birding the roadside above Pax or alternatively the first stretch of the forest trails. Or you could have a lie in! After breakfast we will explore a variety of habitats on the West Coast of Trinidad. We firstly make a brief stop overlooking the Caroni rice fields. In early autumn, these fields can hold many thousands of migrating shore birds, whilst throughout the year there is a chance of finding Limpkin or a Long-winged Harrier quartering the grasses. We then proceed further south to the tidal mudflats at Waterloo. Our timing is to coincide with rising tide and the gathering of herons, shorebirds, gulls and terns. Again dependent on season, we could find Semi-palmated and Western Sandpipers, Laughing Gulls, Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns and American Black Skinners. Throughout the year the mudflats usually holds Neotropic Cormorant, Brown Pelican, Tricoloured, Little Blue, Great Blue and Straited Herons, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Snowy and Grey White Egret. There is always a chance of finding an unusual gull or wader here, even a Black-headed Gull! We then travel further south to the Point a Pierre Wildfowl Trust - 26 hectares of magnificent wetland habitat, slightly bizarrely set within a large petrochemical complex. The trust was formed in 1966 and is the centre for many conservation projects. Whilst driving through the fields and trees enroute to the lakes, we should find both Saffron Finch, Red capped Cardinal, Black-bellied and Fulvous Whistling Ducks, birds difficult to find elsewhere. Once we reach our destination, we will make a concerted effort to locate Streak-headed Woodcreeper and Grey-necked Wood Rail, both are shy and retiring species. Much easier however, will be to add Anhinga, Black-crowned Night Heron and Ringed Kingfisher to our trip list. We will have lunch in the grounds of the Trust, whilst Ospreys circle overhead before retracing our steps north for what will be the highlight of our day - a boat trip through the mangrove forest into the Caroni Swamp to coincide with the Scarlet Ibis roost. Whilst ibis and herons will be the focal point of our attention this evening, we will hope our boatman can locate other ‘mangrove specialities’ such as roosting Grey Pottoo, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Black-crested Antshrike or Bicoloured Conebill. Both Mangrove Cuckoo and Boat-billed Heron are residents of the swamp but we will need great luck to see either. Cook’s Tree Boa is often seen too. Our boat docks as the light fades and we have the short drive to Pax, before celebratory rum punch and dinner.
Day 7 – Round-up day
This is a day for the leader to use as he or the group wishes and if the group is large enough, often splits in two . Some members may wish to enjoy the more relaxing/tourist side of Trinidad with a shopping visit to Port of Spain followed by a spectacular drive along the northern coastline to the beach at Maracas, where we will have lunch and an opportunity to paddle! The keener birders within the group may wish to revisit an area in search of species that had eluded them earlier in the week. A pre-dawn drive to the far north east in search of the most endangered species - Pawi, better known as Trinidad Piping Guan (the only endemic) is usually a popular choice. Because of it’s very early start, this excursion will have you back at Pax by lunchtime with the afternoon free.
Day 8 - Return Day
There is no pre-planned birding agenda today, although the guide may be available to walk the forest trails of Mt St Benedict if time permits. In the afternoon we then have to bid you farewell and provide transportation for the return journey back to Piarco Airport for your flight home to the UK.
Day 9 - Arrive London Gatwick mid-morning.
Or Day 8 onwards to…
Asa Wright for some more superb birds and primary forest.
‘Paradise’ Tobago, beaches, forests, new birds…….
Or both of them!
We’ll be happy to arrange your combination, just ask!
Contact Sarah-Jane Thompson for your quote!
Tel: 0117 9658 333
About Pax Guest House
Facilities: Lounge with local TV, library, dining room and outdoor terraces, tea garden, garden with bird feeders and nature trail. Afternoon teas and bar service. Laundry service is also available.
Meals: Local/international, mainly buffet-style. Packed lunch provided if out for the day.
For birders: The owner, Gerard is a keen and experienced birder, bird books, birding guides and excursions with transport available locally (subject to availability).
“ Thanks to Sarah-Jane, everything went like clockwork, no problems with anything. Her knowledge of the area really helped when we phoned making the initial enquiries. It could not have been improved – an excellent holiday”