Mount Saint Benedict, Trinidad: December 21, 2008

Despite their proximity, Ecuador and Suriname are actually pretty difficult to travel between, and Aimee and I had to suffer through four flights over two days to arrive finally in Paramaribo. Our overnight layover was in Trinidad, which conveniently is one of the more interesting islands for birding in the Caribbean. Geographically Trinidad is rather mountainous, forming the extreme northern end of the Andes, and, given that it lies just off the coast of Venezuela, can reasonably be considered an extension of South America, especially in terms of its avifauna. Anyway, Aimee and I arranged in advance to stay at Pax Guest House, located well outside of Port of Spain, part way up the mountains. This comfortable guest house is part of a monastery called Mount Saint Benedict, and there is a good amount of habitat for birding.

Coming from South America, whereas the usual visitor is coming from the north, I wasn't overwhelmed by the birds present in the area. A visit to the hummingbird feeders at the guest house in the early morning offered a colorful but common array of garden birds, including the Bananaquit, Blue-Gray and Palm Tanagers, Purple Honeycreeper, and Yellow Oriole. Several species of hummingbird were also present, most spectacularly the Long-Billed Starthroat, and large flocks of Orange-Winged Parrots flew overhead. Before hitting the Old Donkey Trail above the monastery, Aimee and I enjoyed breakfast together on the veranda as Great Kiskadees and Copper-Rumped Hummingbirds looked on.

Again, the birding along the trail wasn't mind-blowing, but it was a fine day and we felt very fortunate to have such a pleasant layover, instead of being stuck in Panama City, for example. Along the trail we had good looks at the White-Bearded Manakin, Long-Billed Gnatwren, Ochre-Bellied Flycatcher, Rufous-Breasted Wren, and Barred Antshrike. We were also struck by a large group of Plain-Brown Woodcreepers acting as if they were attending an antswarm, diving nervously about as they dropped from trunk to trunk. We would follow our pleasant morning expedition with a terrific afternoon visit to the Caroni Bird Sanctuary to see the Scarlet Ibis, expertly arranged by Oda, the affable hostess of Pax Guest House.

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