Sudama Steps 2009.11.07

I headed out to the South Oropouche Lagoon on Saturday 7th November. My brother decided to come along with me and we planned to walk down the riverbank at Sudama Steps (while not a dangerous area it is always preferable to have company). Driving through Rahamut Trace we came across the usual marsh birds but there is still not much water in the lagoons. With water levels so low grasses continue to grow in areas where  there would have usually been too much water for them to survive. The result is that there is not as much open water and this limits the variety of birdlife and/or makes it harder to see those birds which are in there, such as this Yellow-breasted Crake (Porzana flaviventer). Spiders on the other hand, like the one below, are making the best of the tall grasses.

Spider in Rahamut Tr.

Spider in Rahamut Tr.

Chances are the area will remain this way for the rest of the year.

Along the way I came across a dead Wilson’s Snipe. It had probably been hit by a car earlier that morning but remained in great condition.

Wilson's Snipe

Wilson's Snipe

This gave me a chance to take a look at the tail feathers which are important in differentiating it from the similar South American Snipe. Further along the road I heard the musical notes of a seedeater coming from some pigeon pea bushes along the roadside and after a short wait a male Lined Seedeater (Sporophila lineola) flew out. We are not seeing as many of these handsome migrant seedeaters now as we did last year but there is not nearly enough data on their year to year numbers to determine any population trend(s) as yet.

We wanted to walk the riverbank before the sun really came out as it becomes unbearably hot later in the day. The walk was cool enough as it was only 7:30 am by the time we made it. Bicoloured Conebills (Conirostrum bicolor) and Red-capped Cardinals (Paroaria gularis) frequent these mangroves along with a large number of migrant Yellow Warblers (Dendroica petechia). The area is perhaps most famous for the Spotted Tody-Tyrants (Todirostrum maculatum) that live here.

Spotted Tody-Flycatcher at Sudama Steps, Trinidad

Spotted Tody-Flycatcher at Sudama Steps, Trinidad

This is the furthest north these birds are found in Trinidad and they are more accessible here than at the alternative locations (they can also be found at Icacos, Erin and Pt. Fortin). They are very easy to locate as they call loudly in the mangroves. We also came across 4 Yellow crowned Night-Herons and both light and dark phase Long-winged Harriers.  The highlight of the day however came near the abandoned picnic site where we found 3 Ruddy–breasted Seedeaters. I hadn’t seen any here for quite some time so it was good to see them (however I did not get any decent photos before they flew off). These birds were abundant as recently as the 1980’s but, like all our singing seedeaters, they have been wiped out by the cagebird trade. For the sake of balance I should mention that it has been suggested that sugarcane crop-dusting have affected them as well. I have doubts abouth this for two reasons. Firstly the other major grassland specie, the Blue-black Grassquit, has not seen a similar decline despite favouring a similar habitat. Secondly many of our seedbirds lived in secondary forest and woodlands, not in sugarcane fields (the major exception being Gray Seedeaters) Perhaps, as caging birds is not as popular now as it was then (and as sugarcane is no longer cultivated), these birds may continue to live and multiply out here in the lagoons.


#1 timmaz on 11.21.09 at 8:37 am

hey i am very thankful for the work you do. i am a amateur birder just starting off. congrats to you for the work you done & keep it up. i regularly follow your website.

#2 timmaz on 12.12.09 at 8:37 am

i can’t believe that there are Lesser Goldfinch still around. great find. i live in tunapuna & i keep hearing that these birds live in the st michael valley, stjoseph ridge area. well once again great find & i really enjoy this website.

#3 KrisSookdeo(Admin) on 12.14.09 at 10:17 am

It would seem the Lesser Goldfinches move about between the valleys as they have already left Mt. St. Benedict. Credit for the find goes to Dave Smith

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