Thursday, August 13, 2009

Asa Wright: Beyond the Verandah

Thursday, August 13, 2009
The verandah view at Asa Wright in Trinidad.

It's really hard to leave the incredible setting of the Asa Wright Nature Centre verandah, but if you want to see certain species of the centre's wonderful forest birds, you've got to hit the forest trails. Our first morning, after breakfast, we met our guide Roodal Ramlal at the foot of the verandah stairs. He took us down the main trail and into the forest. All around us we heard insects droning and birds calling and singing. Lizards scooted across the path. We kept our eyes peeled for snakes, but, sadly, saw none.

Roodal and Julie heading down the forest path.

From the dappled sunlight along the upper path, we entered the forest proper, stopping only to identify birds: a golden-olive woodpecker, a cocoa woodcreeper and a cocoa thrush—birds which prompted smart-aleck comments from nearly everyone ("I'm cuckoo for cocoa thrush!")

Jeff Bouton in full digi-pose.

Jeff Bouton, who works for our trip's sponsor, Leica Sport Optics, contorted his body into all sorts of shapes to get that perfect digiscoped image. This was Jeff's second trip to Asa Wright, so he knew (but only hinted at) what we were about to experience.

The manakin hunters scanning the forest.

Before long we were at one of the spots where manakins could be found. How did we know this? Well, there was a sign...

Actually, there were two signs. One pointing us to the correct spot, the other telling us more about the manakin species we were seeing and hearing: the white-bearded manakin.

A small group of about a dozen male white-bearded manakins was making noise and flitting about a few feet off the ground on the right side of the trail. We stopped and spread out to try to catch some of the action with out eyes, binoculars, spotting scopes, and cameras.

Linda and Pete Dunne in manakinland.

Male white-bearded manakin.

Soon one male stopped close by.And he showed us why the species is known as white-bearded manakin, by puffing out his throat feathers in a partial display to a nearby female whom we never saw.

Soon the forest underbrush was alive with male manakins, flashing about in streaks of black and white. Stopping long enough to strike funny poses, puff out their bearded throats, and do a little dance.

And then the birds came even closer. They seemed to be completely oblivious to our gasped exclamations and beeping, whirring cameras.

Then again, we were nowhere near the top of their must-impress list. That skulking female manakin was the object of their attention. And I have to say, even I was impressed with the energy and singing and dancing prowess that was on display that morning.

But this was just one of four separate, mind-blowing birds we would see on this day, on this trail, in this fabulous place. One of them, I've already shared with you prior to today's post. It was the bearded bellbird.

Tomorrow I'm going to throw down a bit of white-bearded manakin video.


On August 14, 2009 at 9:30 PM Julie Zickefoose said...

Ahh the little manakin boys. How I loved them. Thank you for this lovely post, so chock full of wonders.

On August 17, 2009 at 5:02 PM Bill of the Birds said...

Thank you for your comment, Julie Zickefoose. You are a nice person. If it weren't for your comment, I'd wonder if this post got read at all, or if it just disappeared down the Googletubes of the Interwebs.

On August 19, 2009 at 8:35 PM woodpecker said...

What delightful little birds. Have have not seen the white bearded manakin before. I live in England and it is not a bird that we get over here.

On August 21, 2009 at 1:39 AM Jack said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
On August 21, 2009 at 3:16 AM TR Ryan said...

I heard them birds is hyper.

On June 20, 2010 at 1:23 PM Jeff Bouton said...

the hardest part was training the little birds to read the signs ao they knew how to act and where to be seen!The Asa Wright staff is the best I've ever seen at this. Here in the US it seems the interpretive signs with potential birds to be seen are never accurate!