Birding Despite Disability

Obsessions Don't Care About Limitations

Trinidad’s Asa Wright Nature Centre Ceases Operations

Here’s a huge loss for birding, resulting from the COVID-19 lockdowns: one of the world’s finest eco-lodges has shuttered itself up and let all of its staff go.

The Asa Wright Nature Centre used to advertise with a tagline to the effect of “30 species before breakfast.” This in part was due to their prime location in excellent habitat and the extensive array of fruit and hummingbird feeders adjacent to the veranda.

Fruit tray feeder with a medium sized, dark brown bird; yellow outer tail feathers, blue eyes, large white bill.
Crested Oropendola at the Asa Wright feeders

Claire and I were fortunate to have visited there for a few days and nights in 2014. I don’t know how many came before breakfast, but our first morning at the hotel and on the grounds yield 57 species, including the easily located Oilbirds in a nearby cave, and eardrum-shattering Bearded Bellbirds in the adjacent forest.

Their delicious rum punch poured rather freely, too, served every late afternoon on the veranda. But if you were birding afield that day, they’d be sure to have a bottle sent along so that you were not denied this daily pleasure. Such was the case for a memorable evening boat trip they took us out on to watch flocks of the spectacular Scarlet Ibis coming in to roost. It was a unique setting for getting tipsy.

Flock of a dozen or so brilliant red ibis flying past mangrove trees.
Scarlet Ibis arriving at Caroni Swamp, Trinidad

They employed a variety of guides working in different habitats, taking us out night birding for potoos and paraques, to Yerrette hummingbird santuary, and to the Aripo livestock area, with everything coordinated through the hotel. They also helped with our trip to nearby Tobago where worked with Newton George.

Hopefully when tourism resumes, someone will step in to fill the void that this leaves, and Asa Wright will have a second life.

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