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Birdquest's Lesser Antilles including Trinidad birding tour combines a series of endemic-rich but little-visited Caribbean islands with one of its most popular birdwatching venues. Our Lesser Antilles including Trinidad tour regularly records all of the endemic birds while we explore a whole chain of beautiful island-nations.
Friday 2nd June —
Saturday 17th June 2017
Trinidad Extension: Saturday 17th June — Thursday 22nd June (6 days)
Leader: Mark Van Beirs
Group Size Limit: 9
Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and comfortable accommodations
Of all the bird-rich regions of the Americas, the Caribbean stands out as amongst the most endemic-rich in the entire Neotropical faunal region. Although the largest islands tend to be the best known amongst birders, collectively the many small islands that make up the remainder of the Caribbean hold a treasure trove of avian riches.
One area stands far above the others in this regards, the Lesser Antilles, which between them hold no less than 31 surviving endemic species as well as plenty of more widespread Caribbean specialities. The Lesser Antilles are a long arc of islands connecting Puerto Rico and the rest of the Greater Antilles to Trinidad and the South American mainland.
Settled by the Caribs (an Amerindian people originally from South America) at the time European explorers and invaders reached the islands, little remains of their influence and nowadays the Lesser Antilles are an eclectic mixture of English, French, Dutch and West African influences, both as regards the ethnic origins of the people and culture, and as regards the local political dispensation, for here are independent nations, British crown colonies, départements of France and even an affiliated state of the Netherlands! One island may have croissants and baguettes, the next English meat pies and reggae, contrasts which hugely add to the fascination of travelling through the isles. Many of the islands changed hands during the turbulent history of the Caribbean, where every European war had its distant echo, or became pirate bases for a time. Slaves were shipped from Africa to work the plantations of sugar and tobacco, owned by Europeans who lived in style in imposing plantation houses, and even now, approaching two centuries after emancipation, most Afro-Caribbeans are still waiting for economic opportunity to come their way.
With one of the richest concentrations of endemic bird species in the Caribbean, the Lesser Antilles are a very attractive venue for anyone with an interest in the avifauna of this beautiful part of the world. Good standards of accommodation and food, and mostly easy travelling and birding conditions, make for a highly rewarding journey.
We will commence our Lesser Antillean explorations in Antigua and work our way south, visiting ten of the islands in total. This beautiful, verdant and mountainous chain of islands has long attracted people who wanted ‘to get away from it all’ and it nowadays has a well-developed tourism infrastructure.
We start our travels in Antigua, which has no single-island endemics of its own but which does hold West Indian Whistling Duck and Caribbean Coot. A day trip to the nearby island of Barbuda will turn up the endemic Barbuda Warbler, as well as our first Green Caribs and Lesser Antillean Bullfinches.
The volcanic island of Montserrat was half-destroyed by a huge eruption, but the endemic Montserrat Oriole still survives in good numbers and here we will have our first chance for such Lesser Antillean endemics and near-endemics as Purple-throated Carib, Antillean Crested Hummingbird, Forest Thrush and Brown Trembler.
The beautiful island of Dominica has no fewer than two endemic Amazona parrots, Red-necked Parrot and the much less common Imperial Parrot. Other specialities found amongst its splendid mountains and forests filled with tree-ferns include Lesser Antillean Swift, Blue-headed Hummingbird, Lesser Antillean Pewee, Lesser Antillean Flycatcher, Scaly-breasted Thrasher, Plumbeous Warbler and Lesser Antillean Euphonia. While staying on the island we will also make a trip offshore in search of Great Sperm Whales and seabirds.
Francophone Guadeloupe holds the endemic Guadeloupe Woodpecker and some very approachable Bridled Quail Doves, while Martinique, another French territory, is home to the endemic Martinique Oriole as well as Gray Trembler, White-breasted Thrasher and Lesser Antillean Saltator.
Saint Lucia is justifiably famous for its amazing scenery, where the near-perfectly conical ‘pitons’, extinct volcanoes, rise abruptly from the western coast. Here we will seek out five more single-island endemics, St Lucia Parrot, St Lucia Pewee, St Lucia Warbler, St Lucia Black Finch and St Lucia Oriole.
The island of Saint Vincent is home to the endemic St Vincent Parrot and the delightful Whistling Warbler, as well as Grenada Flycatcher and Lesser Antillean Tanager.
Our final ports of call with their single-island endemics will be Barbados, for Barbados Bullfinch, and Grenada, home to the endangered Grenada Dove.
After all these idyllic islands and so much sun and sea, never mind such relaxing and enjoyable birding, it is going to be hard to drag ourselves away!
During the optional extension we will explore the much larger island of Trinidad. Famous internationally for carnival, calypso and cricket, Trinidad’s mixed-race human population are a friendly, warm-hearted, fun-loving people who demonstrate one of the world’s most admirable examples of integration and racial harmony.
Situated at the far southeastern corner of the Caribbean Sea, the island lies on the continental shelf close to Venezuela; indeed, Trinidad’s northwestern peninsula extends to within 10 miles (16 kilometres) of the Venezuelan coast, and a few thousand years ago the island was joined to the mainland. The island’s Northern Range, which rises to almost 3300ft (1000m), in fact represents the farthest extremity of the Andes!
Accordingly, the islands’ avifauna is dominated by the continental, rather than the oceanic, elements of the region. Trinidad, about the size of an English county, has a bird list of over 400 species, comprising no less than 68 families, of which a remarkable 247 species breed on the island. This amazing diversity for such relatively small island reflects the luxuriant tropical conditions, with habitats ranging from montane and lowland rainforests, cultivated areas, savannas and scrub to freshwater and brackish swamps, marshes, sea coasts and offshore seabird islands.
Trinidad has long been considered to offer exciting Neotropical birding in a compact area and with very easy birding conditions. What with idyllic accommodation at Asa Wright), a relaxed atmosphere and great birding often starting right at the doorstep, what more could one want? The famous Asa Wright sanctuary is home to what must surely be one of the best bird feeding stations in the world and is a paradise for birders and photographers.
While based here we will also experience the strange, nocturnal, cave-dwelling Oilbirds that feed on fruit and navigate by echo-location, find the endemic Trinidad Motmot, hear the deafening call of the Bearded Bellbird, admire the incredible antics of two different species of manakins as they perform their amazing displays to an accompaniment of grunts, buzzes, snaps and wheezes, and enjoy the mind-blowing sight of hundreds of Scarlet Ibises speeding over the mangroves to their roost. And this is before even mentioning the parrots, trogons, jacamars, toucans, ant-thrushes and many other exciting birds
Finally, in the far northeast of the island around Grand Riviere, we will search for the endangered endemic Trinidad Piping-Guan.
Birdquest has operated tours to the Lesser Antilles since 2004 and to Trinidad since 1996.
Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels are mostly of good standard, occasionally medium standard. Road Transport is by minibus, car or 4x4 vehicle and roads are variable in quality.
Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but there are several moderate grade walks.
Climate: Almost always warm or hot at this season, with dry and sunny weather interspersed with overcast and rainy intervals (not usually of long duration).
Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile in the Lesser Antilles and good on Trinidad.
Important Information for Pound Payers: Kindly note that the Pound prices shown here are based on post-EU-referendum exchange rate reality, unlike the website prices of most UK bird tour operators which are still based on outdated and hugely higher pre-referendum exchange rates. Consequently you can rest assured that we will not have to adjust these prices upwards at invoicing, unless the Pound falls significantly further, and if there is any recovery by the Pound you will receive the full benefit of the cost-saving by way of a price reduction at invoicing.
Tour Price: £6350, €7500, $8320 Antigua/Grenada. Trinidad Extension: £1790, €2110, $2340 (ending in Port of Spain).
Price includes all transportation (including all inter-island flights), all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.
Base prices for this tour are determined in US Dollars, the currency in which we pay for most tour services. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110. For those not paying us in US Dollars, prices may be adjusted (either downwards or upwards) at the time of invoicing should there be a change in the exchange rate. See booking information.
Single Room Supplement: £825, €974, $1081. Extension: £275, €324, $360.
Deposit: £700, €950, $1050. Extension: £200, €250, $300.
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.
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