Tobago!

Well, yes we’ve made it to Tobago.  This was the last 4 days/5 nights of our whirlwind trip to TnT!  As I said before we stayed in Castara, which a small picturesque fishing village.  We arrived after dark the night before, so we didn’t see the view (properly) from our balcony until the next morning:

Our morning view of Castara.  The yellow building across the road is Marguerites, where we had our dinner the first night - very enjoyable!
Our morning view of Castara (from the balcony). The yellow building across the road is Marguerites, where we had our dinner the first night – very enjoyable!

This morning, Roger took us along the road through Main Ridge Forest Reserve, which is one of the hotspots of Tobago for birds. Along the way, we took in some of Tobago’s many beautiful views:

One view point had a handy tree for ads!  In hindsight, I realized we didn't see billboards everywhere, which is so refreshing.
One view point had a handy tree for ads! In hindsight, I realized we didn’t see billboards everywhere, which is so refreshing.
One of the many bays that you can get a fantastic view of.  If you look at the map of Tobago, you will see that it is full of bays.
One of the many bays that you can get a fantastic view of. If you look at the map of Tobago, you will see that it is full of bays.

The reserve is thought to be the oldest forest reserve in the Western Hemisphere.  It was designated a Crown reserve in 1776 after a British scientist was able to demonstrate to the politician in charge of development of Tobago that the trees and rainfall were connected to the success of the plantations.  This ridge, which is the watershed, is not surprisingly, wet – even in the dry season.  If you are walking any of the trails, or even the side of the road (!), you can expect mud.  We stopped at a variety of spots, that Roger knew to be good bird spots and often got killer views of some really beautiful birds.  Of course, they got some good photos too!  One aspect of birding on a ridge (that I enjoy) is that you are often looking down at the birds – rather than looking at their feet like we do in Pelee in the spring.

Beautiful philodendron leaves wet from a brief shower.
Beautiful philodendron leaves wet from a brief shower.
This gives you an idea of what the ridge road looks like.  Lush, misty, muddy, birdy....
This gives you an idea of what the ridge road looks like. Lush, misty, muddy, birdy….
Yes, we really were there; and we didn't pluck any plants!
Yes, we really were there; and we didn’t pluck any plants!
This is essentially what the rain forest looked like all along the road.  This spot is of interest because there is an Orange winged Parrot nest here.  If you look right in the middle of the photo, you will see a hole in the tree.  There is actually one of the parrots sitting on the tree just above the hole.  When we first arrived at this spot it's mate was peeking out of the hole!
This is essentially what the rain forest looked like all along the road. This spot is of interest because there is an Orange winged Parrot nest here. If you look right in the middle of the photo, you will see a hole in the tree. There is actually one of the parrots sitting on the tree just above the hole. When we first arrived at this spot it’s mate was peeking out of the hole!
I loved this little waterway: half wild, half managed by humans.
I loved this little waterway: half wild, half managed by humans.  Plus, look at that collection of greenery, almost every leaf shape represented!

After soaking up the goodness of the forest reserve it was time to have a quick lunch at Blue Waters Inn (very nice place, $$$), before catching the glass bottomed boat to Little Tobago Island.

On our way to Little Tobago island.  There are all sorts of rocks and formations sticking out of the ocean along the way.
On our way to Little Tobago island. There are all sorts of rocks and formations sticking out of the ocean along the way.
Perhaps these ones qualify as islets, since they have a covering of trees on them.
Perhaps these ones qualify as islets, since they have a covering of trees on them.
The Little Tobago greeters.  Now here's a bird I can get a picture of!
The Little Tobago greeters. Now here’s a bird I can get a picture of!
Roger just ahead of me at the beginning of the trail up to the top of Little Tobago.
Roger just ahead of me at the beginning of the trail up to the top of Little Tobago.

Our focus on Little Tobago was the Red-billed Tropicbird colony.  The colony here is different from other seabird colonies that I’ve been to, in that you hike to the top of the island and look down the steep cliff where they nest.  Of course, you can’t really see the nests, but you can see the Tropicbirds wheeling about in the air, along with Brown Boobies, and Magnificent Frigatebirds.  This was where Roger gave Scott a “trial by fire” lesson in wildlife photography – try to capture moving targets!!  Tropicbirds are oceanic seabirds that only come to land to breed, they are very awkward on land and so prefer the shallow cliff nesting sites.  The Frigatebirds hang around the colony in the hopes of a free meal – one of their favorite behaviours is to harass another seabird until it disgorges it’s meal (all in flight of course!).  We saw them try this a couple of times with different Tropicbirds.

This is the view from the top of the Tropicbird colony; and yes, those are cactus!
This is the view from the top of the Tropicbird colony; and yes, those are cactus!
This is why the Tropicbirds are here - to raise their chick(s).  This fella was just off a side path.  There actually was a nest at our feet at the look out, but the chick was quite obscured by leaves, and I didn't want to bother it.
This is why the Tropicbirds are here – to raise their chick(s). This fella was just off a side path. There actually was a nest at our feet at the look out, but the chick was quite obscured by leaves, and I didn’t want to bother it.
I have to show you this, because I pretty proud of myself - capturing this with my little lens!  A Tropicbird over head.
I have to show you this, because I pretty proud of myself – capturing this with my little lens! An adult  Tropicbird overhead.

But here is what it looks like with the big guns….

Red-billed Tropicbird (photo by Scott Walker).
Red-billed Tropicbird (photo by Scott Walker).

My version of events at the lookout is this….  I watched the birds, took photos of the plants (’cause you know I like those leaves), tried to photograph the flying Tropicbirds a couple of times, checked the chicks a few times ’cause they are just so darn cute, tried to photograph a feral hen who wasn’t as co-operative as the roosters, when I realized I was HOT.  I haven’t really mentioned how hot TnT is.  It’s hot.  So, I thought I’d take a break in the lookout shelter and update my bird list.  Then something caught my attention at the trail we came up – a sound I guess, and this is what I saw:

Yup, a Red-billed Tropicbird obviously miscalculated it's position and crash landed on the forest floor.  As I mentioned they are not built for land, they can hardly walk.  I was just deciding that maybe I should rescue it, when it waddled to the spot in the photo and decided that was enough of a hump to take off from.  It flew right past my head, between Roger and I!
Yup, a Red-billed Tropicbird obviously miscalculated it’s position and crash landed on the forest floor. As I mentioned they are not built for land, they can hardly walk. I was just deciding that maybe I should rescue it, when it waddled to the spot in the photo and decided that was enough of a hump to take off from. It flew right past my head, between Roger and I!

Then it was time to catch the boat back to Tobago, and meander our way back to Castara.  On our circuitous way back we saw so much more of Tobago than we would have if Scott and I had been by ourselves.  It was great.  To top it off, Roger took us to my favorite spot – Flagstaff Hill.  We were there just as the sun was going down,so I’m sure that added to the atmosphere.  I don’t normally even think about this, but I told Scott later that this is where he can scatter my ashes – at sunset of course.  The views were fantastic, but for me it really was the feel of the place.

A view from Flagstaff hill.
A view from Flagstaff hill.
Path to the little manicured park at Flagstaff Hill.
Path to the little manicured park at Flagstaff Hill.
A bench at Flagstaff Hill.
A bench at Flagstaff Hill.

The rest of Tobago tomorrow!

Valerie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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