CARONI SWAMP BIRD SANCTUARY
Our adventure into the Caroni Swamp started after a short drive from our home into a wooded area south-east of the Port of Spain. The Island of Trinidad has an average width of 40 miles and its greatest length from North to South is 55 miles - it is only 10 miles from Venezuela. Yearly rainfall is between 80 and 150 inches and during the wet season as much as 14 inches has been recorded in a single day. Temperatures range between 70 and 86 degrees. This is the dry season and we have only seen a couple of storms in our few weeks here.
The Caroni Swamp is a lagoon that covers about 40 square miles of wetland with the Gulf of Pariah and Caribbean Sea to the west. The swamp was made a forest preserve in 1936 and has recently been declared a protected wetland of international significance. It is rich in shrubs, grasses, water hyacinth, sedges and ferns. Mangrove trees are the primary vegetation. The most famous residence of Caroni Swamp is the scarlet ibis - the Trinidad national bird.
We boarded a shallow skiff and slid away from the dock.
Quietly we slipped into a narrow pathway cutting through the mangroves with the anticipation of seeing some of the creatures of the swamp.
There was a caiman hiding in the tangled roots of the mangrove. It was barely visible and impossible to see in the photograph.
Termite nests were everywhere. On another outing to the Asa Wright Bird Refuge our guide recommended that we try eating a few termites - said they tasted like carrots and yes I gave it a try. I'll tell you about it on a future blog.
After gliding through the mangrove for thirty minutes we caught the first glimpse of this beautiful bird - a scarlet ibis barely captured with a telephoto lens.
I think the scarlet ibis didn't get the message taught by evolutionists that survival of the fittest most often went to those that perfect their camouflage.
We were told that there were thousands of scarlet ibis that lived in and around the tree islands and so far we had seen only a couple in the dark shadows.
Our boat captain took us through the maze and we saw blue herons, snowy egrets, and even some tree boas shown in the tangled dark mass in the center of the picture.
Big snakes overhead - great fun.
We soon broke out of the jungle into the open Gulf. After the many turns in the channel and around the islands I thought that if left alone I would never find my way back - the one water path had become invisible in the wall of green.
It was a beautiful waterscape of green and blue.
As we came around one turn in the middle of the water was a fairly large island with some snowy egrets in the trees. Our boat captain backed into an adjacent tree line and shut off the motor and told us it was important to stay quiet.
Then suddenly small flocks of scarlet ibis began to fly in and alight on the island trees. They came in fast from overhead and then from the right and left in ever growing numbers. Each time a flock would come in everybody on the boat would give a barely audible sigh of delight.
A contrast of scarlet red against the backdrop of blue and green had all holding their breath as they continued to alight in the trees. Soon the island trees were laden with hundreds upon hundreds of these beautiful birds.
Night was quickly approaching and the specs of red and distant chatter of roosting ibis was a pleasant end to an afternoon turning dark in the Caroni Swamp
Thanks to those whose photos I have added.