Conservation & Education News

02 Nov 2012

New Resident At Spring Hill

Conservation & Education News, News of Asa Wright, Tropical Nature News

Cascabel ready to strike at bats disturbed by our entry into the cocoa house.

We recently acknowledged what appears to be the permanent status of a new arrival at Spring Hill. A beautiful large Cooks Tree Boa, (“Cascabel” in local parlance) seems to have taken up residence in one of our cocoa drying houses.

We have not yet determined its gender, because we do not want to “capture” and possibly distress it, but this approximately 7 feet (2 meters) long, yellowish, non- venomous boa constrictor lives up under the apex of the rolling roof. It comes out on top of the roof ridge most mornings for a brief spell in the sun, before

returning inside. It has been seen striking at the bats which share the cocoa house, so we believe that it has no reason whatever to move on.

This cocoa house practically abuts the new photographers’ Blind which we have just opened, so both the Cascabel, and its chosen diet of bats are on hand to “pose’ for the photographers who wish to capture them on film!

And for those of you who really do not like snakes—or bats!–, please do not be concerned. You will not see these creatures on your visits to Spring Hill unless you ask to be taken to the cocoa house!


The same snake enjoying the sun on top of the roof, note the head turned back into the picture.


29 Oct 2012

Red-crowned Ant Tanager (Habia rubica)

Conservation & Education News, Creature Feature, News of Asa Wright, Tropical Nature News

Red-Crowned Ant Tanager by Pierre Yves-Bilat.

The Red-crowned Ant Tanager, identified by the scarlet stripe on its crown, is found throughout central and northern South America. The male with red crown and brownish-red coat of feathers, can claim responsibility for inspiring the species name. Conversely, the female is yellow-brown with a sand-coloured coronal stripe.

Although timid, Red-crowned Ant Tanagers are inquisitive dwellers of the forest understory where they forage for insects. They occasionally follow bands of army ants, hence their name. Whenever excited, they display the red crown in the form of a raised crest. In Trinidad, the males can be confused with female Silver-beaked Tanagers, but their red crown and discordant, grating call give them away, although they are good at staying out of view. Those vocalisations are sometimes followed by a sweet “pee-pee-pee.”

These birds commonly mix with other species and are known to build shallow cup nests, usually near streams. At a length of eighteen centimetres, the oft-hidden Red-crowned Ant Tanager is a true beauty.

– J.L. Ryan


  • Hilty, Steven L. Birds of Venezuela. 2003.
  • ffrench, Richard. Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. 1991


19 Oct 2012

A Gift From The Asa Wright Nature Centre’s Past

Conservation & Education News, News of Asa Wright, Tropical Nature News

The Common Potoo in 1937, Picture by Kenneth Fournillier of Ray Johnson’s original photograph.

Joselynne Carr Sealey is a friend of the Asa Wright Nature, and with excellent credentials! She is the daughter of the late Andrew Carr, one of Trinidad and Tobago’s best known naturalists, and sister to Dr. Thomas Carr, who served as President of the Asa Wright Nature Centre from 1996 to 1998.

Andrew Carr is credited with saving the Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalist Society in 1926, when it was losing membership and interest locally. He went on to serve as the Society’s Secretary until 1976.

Andrew apparently loved the wilderness, and explored the forests of the Northern Range with like-minded persons. Recently, Joselynne discovered, among Andrew’s belongings, a photograph of a Common Potoo, locally called “poor-me-one” because of its soft wailing call, taken in the forests in 1937!

Joselynne called the Centre and offered us this historic photograph, which is pictured at left.

Taken by a Ray Johnson, who Joselynne believes was an expatriate surveyor working in Trinidad, this is indeed a special view of this unusual bird. The photograph now hangs in the main House at Spring Hill, and we ask visitors to check one of our earliest bird-life photographs.

Thank you Joselynne for kindly donating this to the Centre!

12 Oct 2012

Internships — The Next Generation

Conservation & Education News, News of Asa Wright

Gerana Alfonso.

While we work to develop an interest in the environment among the very young, we are keenly aware of the need for continuity. Asa Wright has developed partnerships with the University of the West Indies, University of Trinidad & Tobago and with the Eastern Caribbean Institute of Agriculture and Forestry. Students and recent graduates can thus assist as interns at Asa Wright. This year, we were pleased to welcome back Gerana Alfonso, who had spent time with us in 2011, and Christiphire Kelly, who both came to participate in our Camp Safari and other projects this year.

Christiphire is a BSc (UWI) graduate in Agribusiness Management (2012), and part of UWI’s AGBU 2008 Internship programme. She spent eight weeks at Spring Hill, working mostly on the Camp Safari and the Tour & Explore projects.

Gerana, our returning intern, is now an undergraduate at the UWI.

We wish Christiphire and Gerana all the best in their careers in nature, and look forward to working with them in the future.


08 Oct 2012

Future Custodians of the Forests

Conservation & Education News, News of Asa Wright

In keeping with our mission to preserve and conserve the forests of the Arima Valley, Asa Wright engaged the attention of the people who will inherit these forests and rivers. We set up, through July and August, a series of “Camp Safaris”, which groups of children from all over Trinidad attended. The camps, organized and managed by Conservation Officer Johanne Ryan and Naturalist Guide Richard Smith (both of AWNC), assisted by UWI nature interns Gerana Alfonso and Christiphire Kelly, engaged 302 children and 78 supporting adults.

The children showed tremendous interest in what they experienced, and were taught the importance of our natural heritage.

Eager, young explorers learned how to identify some of our birds, animals and flowers, were taught how to make sponge paint brushes and were encouraged to paint some of the wonders they had experienced. Camp Safari 2013 will build upon the experiences this year.

05 Oct 2012

Bay-Headed Tanager (Tangara gyrola)

Conservation & Education News, Creature Feature, News of Asa Wright, Tropical Nature News

In the Trinidad forest, the Bay-headed Tanager is a distinct species, sporting its red ‘bay’ head and grass- green body. The subspecies, which exhibit variations in plumage, range from Costa Rica to Brazil. Some Tanagers may have blue under-parts while others have grass green under-parts. Some species in Trinidad have green bellies with a bluish tinge. All birds on average are 5.5 inches long.

Also named the Tete Cacao, these birds can be found singly or in pairs and even in flocks of mixed species. They forage among the mid to upper canopy for fruit. One favourite of the Bay-headed Tanagers at Springhill is the fruit of the ‘Trema’. Less often, the Bay-headed Tanager will forage for insects.

The Tete Cacao moves along branches in quick movements, stopping ever so often with its head down seeming to observe the berries for which it is searching. Richard Ffrench described the call of the Bay-headed Tanager as a’ rather slow 5-note sequence, seee, see, see, tsou tsouy, the last two notes lower in pitch’ (Birds, 368). At Asa Wright, you may be fortunate to hear this melody.

This painting of the Bay-Headed Tanager was done by Don Richard Eckelberry (1921-2001), a renowned wildlife artist who played a significant role in establishing the Asa Wright Nature Centre.

– J.L. Ryan



  • Hilty, S. L. 2003. Birds of Venezuela. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
  • Ffrench, R. 1991 Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. Oxford:Macmillan Publishers Limited.




Bay-Headed Tanager

From a painting by Don Eckelberry



28 Sep 2012

Say ‘YES!’ to the Wilderness

Conservation & Education News


Edwin Pierre-Louis and his girlfriend Grychel had heard about the wonders of Asa Wright from their home in Brooklyn, NY. So they decided to visit this place which

had enchanted them in their imaginations. Grychel thought the visit was a belated birthday gift for her recent birthday. But on arrival, Edwin realized that was no other place but here to propose to his long time love. And so it was that visitors on the verandah heard a piercing scream from just beyond the feeders! What bird was that? Staff, rushing to check the source, found an ecstatic Grychel hugging her Edwin, and flashing a beautiful ruby engagement ring!

There is always something special in the air at Spring Hill! We wish Edwin and Grychel a beautiful life together, and hope that they will return to celebrate their wedding in the wilderness where she first said, “Yes!”


(photo cap)Edwin Pierre-Louis proposed to his long-time love Grychel at Asa Wright recently

Photo by Atkin Isaac

19 Sep 2012

Rainy Season Charms

Conservation & Education News, News of Asa Wright, Tropical Nature News

Rainbow against a rain-washed sky.

As weather patterns change everywhere, our little islands have also been affected.
While we hear of the extreme – from droughts to floods, and heat waves to
bitter cold – we are thankful that our changes have been benign…so far!
This year our dry season was sprinkled with almost daily showers. And so our hills
stayed green, and the little streams that run through Spring Hill sparkled and sang
happily all through the dry months. This meant there were no forest fires, so no
birds’ nests, or bee hives were destroyed, or ground dwelling animals were forced to
flee for their lives.
All this has resulted in natural blessings for Asa Wright! The trees and
plants are still in flower, and bird counts are up, and as regular BellBird readers
will know, unusual animal sightings have occurred around the estate.
Those of us, who worried that we may have had torrents when the rainy season
officially began, have been pleasantly surprised. The rains continue, but there
is the beautiful mix of sunny days and intermittent showers when the sunshine
and the rain create beautiful rainbows in the valley’s mist. When we wander the
forest trails, we walk in the embrace of these mists, eerie but poignant! Sunbeams
pierce the canopy above to highlight that bird, butterfly or flower just as we walk by.
Most visitors come to Asa Wright in the northern winter months between
December and March – mainly to escape the cold. But if you can, you should try
Asa in the summer. Everything you can wish for in a rainforest bird sanctuary is
there — with rainbows added!


30 Jul 2012

Migratory Bird Monitoring

Conservation & Education News, News of Asa Wright, Tropical Nature News

Setting up mist nets. Photos by Caleb Walker


Our Nature Guide Caleb Walker is one of only three persons in Trinidad & Tobago who is certified to conduct Bird Banding exercises and training. Bird Banding involves the gentle, temporary capture of birds, recording the species, location and date of capture, then applying a tiny coded band on the bird’s leg. If an already “banded” bird is captured, the relevant data is recorded. The exercise allows scientists to monitor the migratory patterns of several species of birds for research and conservation purposes. In June, Caleb, along with certified Bird Bander Carl Fitz James of Brasso Seco, held a day-long banding exercise in Brasso Seco. The exercise was conducted with a group of students from Bishop Anstey High School and United States Ambassador to Trinidad & Tobago, Mrs. Beatrice Wilkinson Welters, and was done as part of International Bird Migratory Day, with the United States Embassy hosting the students in this learning and outreach exercise. The students watched the

experts retrieve birds from the mist nets, saw how gently they were handled, and carefully banded and recorded before being released. Caleb reported that the students showed a genuine interest in this “new” exercise, seeking answers to many questions. Ambassador Welters was also very interested in the programme and asked if students graduating from universities in the US could come to Trinidad to work with our Bird Banders for their extra credits. We certainly look forward to further collaboration with the Ambassador and her Embassy.

Caleb and Carl each attended a Bird Banding training course at the Klamath Bird Observatory in Oregon, USA, and have worked locally with Klamath Executive Director Dr. John Alexander, who visited Asa Wright, Simla and Brasso Seco earlier this year. We look forward to Caleb developing a leading role for Asa Wright in the future banding and monitoring of migratory birds travelling through Trinidad.

A Silver-beaked Tanager ready for banding.

26 Jul 2012

Greenleaf Award for Asa … Again

Conservation & Education News, News of Asa Wright, Visitor News


2012 awardees with Minister Moonilal. Photos courtesy EMA

The Environmental Management Authority held its Biennial Green Leaf Awards Banquet at the Hilton Trinidad Conference Centre on June 5th, to coincide with World Environment Day. Among those attending from Asa Wright were Chairman Dr. Judith Gobin, former Chair Dr. Carol James, CEO Veronica Simon-Wallace, Kenneth Fournillier, Atkin Isaac and Peter O’Connor. The feature address was given by Minister of Housing & the Environment Dr. Roodal Moonilal and Environmental NGO’s present were pleased with government’s continuing improvement of its Environmental credentials, although much still needs to be done.

Atkin Isaac receives award from Minister Moonilal

Asa Wright Nature Centre won the category for Sustainable Eco Tourism, and our Conservation Officer Atkin Isaac, received the award from Minister Moonilal. This was Asa’s second Green Leaf Award, having won the “Environmental Conservation and Protection” category in 2000. Both awards now hang with other awards and honours in the main corridor of the main house at Spring Hill.