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Trinidad & Tobago - Tour Report - January-February

John Muddeman
05/03/2009 10:12:48

Another incredible trip to these tropical islands, a potential first for the country and its possible link with Iberia!

Posted in: Butterflies and Moths, Dragonflies and Damselflies, Reptiles, Birds, Mammals | Non-Iberian


Having escaped the clutches of winter here in Spain, the Travelling Naturalist T&T trip has again been a delight.

One of the highlights, ironically, will be the discovery (on 31st Jan) and retrospective identification (admittedly by others) of a new bird for T&T : Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus! This was in the Waterloo area of Trinidad’s W coast and fortunately stayed long enough for local observers to refind it some 10 days later, once I’d alerted the TTRBC secretary via email after return home! A sub-adult bird, showing several characters of the S Hemisphere Kelp Gull L. dominicanus, the identity is still to be formally proven, but thanks to comments from various experts around the world, it seems almost certain to be a GB-bG.

Great Black - backed Gull-Larus marinus © John MuddemanGreat Black-backed Gull
Larus marinus
© John Muddeman
But it also seems that the terrific storm (‘Klaus’) which swept in from the Azores, through Iberia, France and to Italy, may have been partly responsible for its appearance! While this would seem highly unlikely, within a week or so of this bird being refound, another, first-winter bird was at the same site, while photographs taken of the sub-adult also included a pair of pictures of another vagrant gull at the site, still awaiting identification! In addition, plenty of Black-legged Kittiwakes –wrecked by their thousands across S Europe by storm- were also reported from the C and S Caribbean (including a few yesterday at Manzanilla, Trinidad), with later, two Black-headed Gulls on Trinidad and a Herring Gull on Tobago! These would all appear to be a legacy of displacements by the original storm (which has also lead to >65 Glaucous, >30 Iceland and 3 ‘Kumlien’s’ Gulls in Spain in February alone, including some in the Mediterranean).

My sincere thanks to Martyn Kenefick for discussions and comments relating to the GB-bG and other vagrant gulls in the S Caribbean.

Black Hawk-eagle - Spizaetus tyrannus serus © John MuddemanBlack Hawk-eagle
Spizaetus tyrannus serus
© John Muddeman
But T&T was clearly about enjoying the typical local wildlife, and highlights included the first Black Hawk-eagles for a TN group there, a species which appears to have been displaced from the Wallerfield area (due to disturbance from the rampant development going on there) and have taken up residence in the Arima Valley instead (despite Ornate Hawk-eagle also remaining there), plus a whole suite of new odonates and butterflies, and finally, despite considerable searching, a couple of snakes not in the Caroni Swamp : C American Tree Boa and another harmless tree snake, Machete Couesse. I personally also saw my first Brazilian (Tree) Porcupine at Asa Wright and a simply gorgeous and diminutive Silky Anteater curled up asleep in the mangroves in the Caroni Swamp.

Another great bonus was to bump into Dr Kevin Caley, one of the people responsible for GSIN. This stands for the Global Species Identification Network, a highly ambitious project to get high quality and up-to-date, peer-reviewed information on the status, distribution and identification of all larger and many smaller taxa (ultimately ALL species?!), for anywhere in the world, onto the web (and indeed, with many other potential uses too). Certainly, although the project is not on-line yet, despite being very well developed for some taxa and areas, the prospects are mouth-watering for travelling naturalists and the extensive ID guide which Kevin was carrying and which had been compiled specifically for T&T enabled us to identify a series of species including frogs, butterflies and dragonflies from our photographs, which simply might not have been possible otherwise. Brazilian (Tree) Porcupine - Coendou prehensilis © John MuddemanBrazilian (Tree) Porcupine
Coendou prehensilis
© John Muddeman


Related Information:
To see John's tours in 2010


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