Trinidad and Tobago: Caroni Swamp

American Flamingos at Caroni Swamp.

This post is Part 2 in the series about our trip to Trinidad and Tobago.

✦ ✦ ✦

Our group piles into a boat and the driver leads us through the mangroves and forest at Caroni Swamp. This is the day I am most looking forward to in Trinidad–to see the Scarlet Ibis, Trinidad and Tobago’s national bird. Caroni Swamp is a mix of fresh water herbaceous marshes and brackish mangrove lagoons with natural and artificial channels that meander around the perimeter of the swamp. Instead of hiking through forest to see the birds a boat takes you through these artificial channels to get to the prize–the ibis.

It’s a pleasant way to see birds, especially when you have a troubling, spastic back. (And even when I don’t have a bad back, I always prefer birding by boat over hiking.)

Gliding through the mangroves and forest lagoon at Caroni Swamp

In a jungle there is something always hiding in the trees, such as the Common Potoo, doing its best to impersonate a tree branch stump, a Tropical Screech Owl, camouflaged against a trunk and a boa constrictor, coiled up around a tree limb just above our heads as our boat glides slowly beneath it.

Common Potoo
Tropical Screech Owl (photo credit: John Schrader)
Some sort of boa constrictor (photo credit: John Schrader)

If I were to decide to stand in our boat I could reach up and touch that snake. But why would I? I hold my breath as our boat glides underneath and skip the picture taking. Our new friend John is snapping photos and that’s fine by me. I’ll get that photo when we swap at the end of our tour.

We arrive at the swamp, out in the open, and there are about a dozen other boats filled with birders and tourists, waiting to see the big show. Our boat gently bobs in the water and I watch American Flamingos in the middle of the water, feeding on the shrimp. They’re not a bright pink like I’ve seen elsewhere, like in Mexico, but a light pink. I keep my eyes peeled to the sky looking for the Ibis to come in.

First one comes in.

And then another.

And then all of a sudden a big flock of Scarlet Ibis fills the sky then swoops into the trees to roost. This goes on for the next 20 minutes as more flocks come in. They begin to fill the limbs of the trees, which before served as a hiding place, but now all is out in the open as the leaves become the backdrop of glorious contrast to showcase the red birds.

I snap as many photos as I can, but nothing captures the sparkly red that flutters against the blue sky.

It’s like blood dripping from the sky, and I am pleased with Trinidad so far.

Scarlet Ibis coming in to roost.
Scarlet Ibis roosting