News of Asa Wright

01 Jan 2010

Our Harold Diaz leads Photography Contest

Conservation & Education News

Resident Guide Harold Diaz celebrated his success in the recently completed EOG Amateur Bird Photography Competition on December 15, 2009. Harold, a long- time lover/conservator of nature, has within recent years pursued his interest in the photography of native wildlife, especially birds regularly featured in many of the Centre’s publications including this monthly newsletter. His combined interest in nature and photography has been recognised through his accomplishment of winning six out of the twelve positions in the competition.
For his entire life Harold lived within the beautiful rainforest of Aripo Village (much like that which exists at the Centre), and recently developed an interest in and talent for capturing the brilliance of many resident species of wildlife, particularly the bird life in the northern range. Most of his photos display each animal’s true character, often illustrating its behaviour and the multifaceted colours. This is the second annual competition put on by EOG Resources, a multinational oil and natural gas company with offshore natural gas investments in Trinidad and Tobago.
The EOG Amateur Bird Photography Competition emphasises the company’s commitment to the promotion and preservation of Trinidad and Tobago’s flora and fauna, while acknowledging and rewarding the photographic talents of local enthusiasts. All 12 award-winning photographs are images of native birds. Of these six were taken by Harold.
Each of the 12 photos is now featured in the EOG Resources 2010 Calendar. It is a beautiful collection of some of Trinidad and Tobago’s birds with corresponding profiles on each winning photographer. The Board, Management and Staff of the Asa Wright Nature Centre congratulate Harold Diaz on his success and encourage him in his future pursuits in wildlife photography. He has done us proud!
January 2010

01 Jan 2010

Simla gets a breath of fresh air

Conservation & Education News

In early December, the William Beebe Tropical Research Station, also called Simla*, opened its doors to over a dozen young adults from various local academic institutions. Participants included students of Arima North Secondary, UWI, SBCS and Valsayn Teachers’ College.
The exercise titled A BREATH OF FRESH AIR was aimed at increasing local awareness and interest in research at Simla. As a globally recognised field station, Simla has made significant contribution to the field of natural science over the past 60 years, while surmounting considerable challenges. A participative approach, facilitated by manageable group size, was used for both the field research and the volunteer exercise.
With limited water, volunteers met the challenge of the first exercise which involved general cleaning of the main building. Members of the FIBR (Foundations in Integrative Biological Research) Guppy Research Project of the University of California, Riverside then held the undivided attention of the volunteers as they walked them through their evolutionary studies of freshwater fish, Poecilia reticulata (the Trinidad guppy). Many students admitted to having been totally unaware of Simla’s existence or contribution to conservation through research.
What was even more encouraging was the commitment made by participants to continue to volunteer their time and effort for the advancement of research and the wise management of the natural environment by locals. To see where it all began, participants made their way four miles northward along the Arima-Blanchisseuse road. Their destination: Asa Wright Nature Centre’s parent holding, Springhill Estate, the ideal location to strategise on the way forward. At Asa Wright we look forward to strengthened collaboration between all supporting institutions and their anticipated success.
*Simla in the Arima Valley was named by Dr. William Beebe after the Simla Mountains in the Himalayas, once home to this famed naturalist.
January 2010

01 Jan 2010

Another successful Christmas Bird Count

Conservation & Education News

December 28, 2009 was very productive day, with no rain, and clear skies encountered for most areas. A total of 57 participants in seven initial groups were engaged in the field from 5.45 a.m. to 9.00 p.m. A total of 178 species representing 5,589 individuals were recorded on the count. The Asa Wright Nature Centre wishes to thank all participants for making the Christmas Bird Count another successful one and we look forward to your continued participation and generous assistance in future counts. The table below gives the species count by area. Areas No. of Species
A – Wallerfield/ Arena 110
B – Las Lapas 79
C – Caroni Swamp/Plains 50
D – Caura 72
E – Lopinot 52
F – Asa Wright 66
G – Maracas Valley 55
H – La Laja (AM only) 52
I – Aripo Livestock (Night Birding) 07
Some highlights of the count were: • The return of the Blue Capped Tanagers (last recorded in 1984) to the CBC • Low numbers of Cattle Egrets (104) • A Cocoi Heron in Livestock Farm • No Gallinules in this count • Grassland Yellow Finches seem to be doing well in Livestock Farm area • No Piratic Flycatchers in this count • Manakin and Honeycreeper numbers are up again for this count Access to eTeck park remains prohibited, hence the low numbers of Red-Bellied Macaws. Somewhat low species numbers for the Asa Wright Centre grounds. No p.m. session was done for La Laja.
January 2010

01 Dec 2009

AWNC history book launch

News of Asa Wright

It is much more than a history of the Asa Wright Nature Centre. It is, in fact, the real story of the Centre, from its beginnings as a cocoa and coffee estate, to its current establishment of the Nature Centre and Lodge. Author Joy Rudder has woven a tapestry of personal vignettes to create a different type of historical record. Her book The Old House and the Dream, which was formally launched at an at the National Library on December 4th, reveals a history of the estate and the Centre as seen through the stories of all of the people who have been part of that history. Joy has presented a series of short stories, told of and by people involved with the Centre over the years. The reader is in touch with the personalities and the timeline which runs through the narratives. The personalities are brought to life “with all their warts,” as historian Bridget Brereton described the book Tel: (868) 667-5162 Email: asaright@tstt.net.tt ‘The Old House and the Dream’ The Management & Staff of the Asa Wright Nature Centre and Lodge wishes everyone a blessed Christmas Holiday and New Year! Come have a look! in her keynote address at the launch. The difficulties the founders of Centre endured when the indomitable Icelander Asa Wright first accepted the idea of allowing her home to be taken over by a Conservation Trust, are described with deep personal feelings by the parties involved. The reader becomes a member of the extended Asa Wright family as they absorb the dramas which surrounded the founding of the Centre. This is a totally readable history of a unique institution which has now become internationally recognised as one of the finest bird watching sites in the world. That it succeeded in this mission is a credit to all those who worked and fought for its survival. And Joy has brought all this to life for us!. The book can be purchased at the Asa Wright Gift Shop, Metropolitan Bookstore and Paperclip.
December 2009

01 Dec 2009

Commonwealth notables visit SpringHill

News of Asa Wright

While the Asa Wright Nature Centre was not included in any visit or activity during the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held in Port of Spain, this did not prevent persons from coming to visit Spring Hill on their own initiative. Nobel Laureate Professor Joseph Stiglitz, who was the keynote speaker at the CHOGM Business Forum, is an avid bird watcher and nature enthusiast.
He arrived in Trinidad ahead of the Forum so that he could fulfil a long-held dream – to visit the Asa Wright Nature Centre. He spent two nights at the Centre, enjoying the nature trails and visiting the very rare Oil Birds in Dunstan’s Cave. Chairman Dr. Carol James came up to join Professor Stiglitz for lunch, along with UWI Economics Professors Dr. Patrick Watson and Winston Dookeran. In his speech to the Business Forum, professor Stiglitz emphasised the economic importance of the environment and atmosphere to our livelihood on Planet Earth.
We also enjoyed a visit by the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Mr. Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and his party. The Sri Lankans marvelled at the similarities between our Northern Range forests and the interior of their country.
Then the Commonwealth Secretary General, His Excellency Mr. Kamalesh Sharma and his wife Babba arrived for lunch and a short visit on their last day in Trinidad. They were ecstatic to conclude their busy visit to Trinidad in such beautiful and serene surroundings, promising to return and stay a few days to walk the trails and visit the Oil Birds. Other than their enjoyment of the Spring Hill experience, all of these visitors expressed one serious concern for the Centre – and that is the ever-increasing scars on the hillsides viewed from our famous verandah.
As the ongoing quarrying operations move closer and closer to Dunstan’s Oil Bird Cave, we must do all that we can to protect and prevent further disruption in the life of this rare and precious bird species.
December 2009

01 Dec 2009

Directors reaffirm mandate for Northern Range Preservation

Conservation & Education News

The Board of Directors held their Annual General Meeting at the Centre on November 6 and 7, and passed a resolution reaffirming the Centre’s mandate to protect the world-renowned wildlife resources of Trinidad’s Northern Range. This resolution was considered necessary given the ongoing destruction of forests in the Arima valley by quarrying interests, and housing and development in other valleys.
Quarrying in the Arima valley has encroached into Simla’s lands, and the world famous William Beebe Tropical Research Station is now surrounded by noisy, dirty quarries. The spring which supplied water to the station for 60 years has dried up as a result of landslips caused by the quarrying.
Another, government-owned quarry has cut a huge scar into the hillside in the valley across from the Asa Wright verandah, clearly visible to all of our guests. Dynamite blasts are seen and heard from the verandah, and the destruction continues, as forests, water sources and wildlife habitats are destroyed.
The Board has noted that the country has not placed adequate value on its natural resources, and is moving forward with a campaign to sensitise the government and citizens generally about the tremendous value that should be assigned to our forests, water sources and wildlife. Indeed, the survival of the Asa Wright Nature Centre depends upon the successful pursuit of this campaign.
The Centre is also enlisting assistance from our many international affiliates and friends
December 2009

01 Nov 2009

West Indian Tobacco Co. plants thousands of trees at Aripo & Asa Wright Nature Centre

Conservation & Education News, News of Asa Wright

On Friday October 23 more than 100 staff members of the West Indian Tobacco Company and several invited guests gathered at Spring Hill to plant the final lot of 9,000 tree seedlings. Earlier in the year, the company had approached the Centre with a proposal to offset their industrial carbon emissions by planting 9,000 trees.
In need of a partner to provide the land space and to ensure the
trees were protected, the company chose Asa Wright.
Over 8,000 trees were planted at our L’Orange Estate in the Aripo valley by persons hired from Aripo Village by West Indian Tobacco. Asa Wright, through Education and Outreach Officer Kenneth Fournillier and
Conservation Officer Atkin Isaac, advised the company on the selection of suitable trees and on the planting methods and sequences. The final 500 trees were selected fruit trees planted at Spring Hill by the volunteers
who arrived early enough to enjoy breakfast among the birds on the verandah. They were then taken to the Jonnie Fisk Conference Centre where the volunteers were addressed by AWNC Chairman Dr. Carol James, West Indian Tobacco’s Operations Director Mr. Sheldon Taitt, and Member of Parliament for Arima, the Honourable Pennelope Beckles. Dr. James, in welcoming the initiative, explained why the Centre had accepted the offer to partner with West Indian Tobacco on this conservation exercise. She called for more local companies to live up to this level of stewardship over the natural environment and adopt similar initiatives. Mr. Taitt spoke of his company’s commitment to “neutralising their carbon footprint” with this exercise, and thanked Asa Wright for accepting and assisting the project.
Describing herself as “Member of Parliament for the Northern Range,” Honourable Pennelope Beckles declared her pleasure at having this project come to her constituency, and for the choice of hiring young people from Aripo to plant and nurture the trees until they can sustain themselves. Following the addresses, the gathering was shown a video presentation of the tree-planting exercise, from concept to completion, before all walking out through the rain to plant the final 500 trees. All outfitted in bright yellow T-shirts supplied by West
Indian Tobacco, 120 people, including Ms. Beckles and Dr. James, walked the length of the driveway to plant the fruit trees along the Arima Blanchiesseuse Road.
November 2009

01 Sep 2009

UTC volunteers clear trails at ASa Wright

Conservation & Education News

Staff of the Unit Trust Corporation (UTC), in a continuing effort to exercise their Corporate Social Responsibility, performed volunteer trail-clearing work on the Asa Wright Spring Hill Estate during the weekends from May 31 to July 25, 2009. An estimated 250 UTC staff members (just under half of the company’s entire staff) participated in this year’s programme. All branch offices (except from Tobago) were represented, with most participants having visited before on private trips, some having made their first visit during the company’s first volunteer programme in 2008. During the clean-up sessions, groups averaging 30 persons were lead into the forest and overseen by Mr. Winston Rojas, who they all claimed was very informative, professional and helpful. His assistance was essential to the programme’s overall success. Clearance of the Centre’s ten-mile network of trails was UTC clears trails at Asa Wright done with some volunteers commenting that it was their first time in the rainforest. UTC’s Marketing Assistant Ms. Denise Artherton, who coordinated the programme, was in high praise of the work conducted at the Centre and communicated that it was a rewarding experience for everyone involved. This exercise, she said, is just one of a series of UTC’s Corporate Social programmes pursued around the country, Management and Staff of the Asa Wright Nature Centre are exceedingly grateful to the Unit Trust Corporation and thank them for the tremendous volunteer work done over the programme’s last two cycles, and look forward to hosting them again in the future.UTC volunteers clear trails at AWNC.
September 2009