Visitor News

25 Apr 2013

A New Driveway for Spring Hill

News of Asa Wright, Visitor News
awnc paving 2

Open for business…here come the visitors!

 

The work began in December with the construction of two retaining walls where the old driveway was slipping. And when these walls were completed, the contractors installed some new and larger drains under the road. But the really important thing, as far as our visitors have been concerned, had been the need for resurfacing the driveway. The surface had deteriorated badly, and walls and drains were needed to ensure that the new surface would last. So the old surface was scraped off, and new curbs and paving were installed. It is now a pleasure to drive or walk along the road, and we ask everyone to monitor their speed until we install the humps to ensure that we drive as carefully as we used to before the resurfacing! Landscaping will be done in the areas where the retaining walls were built, and we hope to have flowering shrubbery in these spots to bring in birds for all our walking bird lovers to enjoy! We know that there were days during the works where some of our visitors were inconvenienced. We apologise for this but we know that on your next visit you will appreciate the new, smooth driveway.

awnc paving 1

From the doorstep to the main road.

 

01 Apr 2013

A Don Eckelberry Scholarship Winner at Asa Wright

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

Matthew Palmer speaks to a group of artists.

 

Birds of Asa Wright inspired these models.

Matthew Palmer will enthrall you when he describes his art. For him, the role of art is to conceive a tangible work which captures the intangible; the unidentifiable mystery present in all things. His sculpture of an owl, for example, is not simply the appearance of the owl, but also its spirit and movement.
Mr. Palmer, who hails from Washington, spent a week at the Asa Wright Nature Centre as the winner of the Don Eckelberry Scholarship Award which is given by the Society of Animal Artists. He is a self-taught artist who has an inherent artistic talent which he perfects by doing. On Friday 15th February, he met with a group of artists who gathered in the Mango Room to learn about his work and to share their work with him.

 

Interested in seeing more of Matthew Palmer’s art?

Visit www.matthewgraypalmer.com

In addition to showing us photos and videos of his artwork, he explained the story behind them. And, what a variety. He has made large pieces for Universities and Nature Centres – a model of a skeleton called ‘Dooley’, an elephant made of silhouettes of butterflies, a bald eagle, gallinule, a manatee, fish and several more. To make these models he experiments with different mediums like bronze, epoxy clay, cement, marble, limestone steel and styrofoam. For one of his birds, he even made wispy feathers with a milk carton. We watched a time lapse video of Mr. Palmer building a family of life-size elephants, taking a total of 250 hours.

A close look at some of Matthew Palmer’s sketches.

 

For this artist, there is no task too big. Not limiting himself to a particular style, Mr. Palmer also draws and paints. That day we were able see a fascinating assortment of the sketches he had been working on during his stay at Asa Wright. There was something that appealed to everyone in this collection. He also showed us the models of a Green Hermit, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, White- necked Jacobin and Purple Honeycreeper that were crafted at Asa Wright. The artists in attendance had an opportunity to display their work. Looking at Mr. Palmer’s art and hearing his description of art, the artist or dilettante would be impressed by his creativity, his industry but most importantly his desire to translate what cannot be seen into a concrete work of art.

Story and photos by J.L. Ryan

28 Mar 2013

The Asa Wright Verandah: Surprise Reacquaintances

News of Asa Wright, Visitor News

Barbara Bach and Mary Beecher (now Mary Price) were school friends in Boston long ago. They were in a biology class together. Then they moved on and did not keep in touch. However, the biology they learned was enough to interest them in birds, and both became Bird Watchers, travelling to various destinations to see the birds of the world.

Without their knowing it, both are living in Michgan, and both were looking for a break from the winter storms sweeping the State. Mary and her husband Rick decided to come to the Asa Wright Nature Centre for that escape. Barbara was wondering what to do in the impending Spring Break—although “spring” was nowhere in sight—when her friend, and fellow birder, Gwen Nystuen contacted her and asked if she would like to join a group going to the Asa Wright Nature Centre in Trinidad. Barbara jumped at the chance.

And so, one morning on the verandah overlooking the Arima valley, with the birds they love all around them, they recognised each other and renewed a friendship which distance and time had interrupted!

And that is typical of the serendipity of Asa Wright and her Verandah! While, to our knowledge, these are the first school friends to connect years later at Spring Hill, we have had the pleasure of seeing others who reconnected with birders they had met two, five or more years ago in Africa, Central America or the Far East! Such is the family of birders worldwide—their paths can cross anywhere in the world, just as Barbara’s and Mary’s had at Asa Wright.

We were delighted to entertain Barbara, Mary and their family and friends, and learn of the happy coincidence that brought two school friends together after many years apart.

 

16 Oct 2012

How the Visitors Rate Us

News of Asa Wright, Visitor News

Trip Advisor is a social medium for travelers worldwide to rate their experiences. Contributors speak from their hearts, and never pull their punches on either good or bad experiences. Asa Wright has good reason to be proud of this Vote of Confidence coming from the people who visit us.

 

01 Oct 2012

Asa Wright Nature Centre on Display

News of Asa Wright, Visitor News

CEO Veronica Simon-Wallace presents a bottle of Angostura Single Barrel Rum to a lucky patron at the Asa Wright Exhibit.

 

Asa Wright Nature Centre spent a month of outreach during August, exhibiting our wonders at the UK Bird Fair in Rutland, England, and at the local Tourism Fair “Tour & Explore.” We also conducted a series of in- house safari camps for schoolchildren.

The UK Bird Fair is one of the most important annual Bird and Nature Exhibits, and Asa is now a regular exhibitor at this gathering, which was held from August 17th through 19th. We were represented by former Lodge Manager Ann Sealy, who knows quite well what is expected of us there, and by CEO Veronica Simon-Wallace. We presented the gorgeous, natural wonders of Trinidad and Tobago, and particularly Asa Wright’s Spring Hill Estate, to the interested Birders who come from all over Europe. We are sure they would have been enticed to stay with us to experience our verandah, forests, streams and bird life. We are anticipating seeing some of our regulars, and now, new visitors over the coming months.

Locally, the Centre participated, once again, in the Tourism Development Company’s “Tour and Explore” exhibit at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya. This TDC initiative is hosted each August and is directed primarily at young persons, demonstrating to them the natural and cultural wonders of their own country. Too often, we look

externally for special sights and activities, without realizing the wonders existing in our own islands. “Tour and Explore” consisted of presentations of our Northern range forests, our wetlands and turtle-nesting beaches, among other natural wonders of Trinidad & Tobago. Our booth was set in the specially designed Northern Range, and we attracted a constant flow of visitors, many of whom had not known of Asa Wright.

 

09 Aug 2012

Special Treat for Ann

News of Asa Wright, Visitor News

Ann (centre) with former Board member Christine Toppin-Allahar, left, vice president Phil Schaeffer, former Chair Dr. Carol James and Chair Dr. Judith Gobin. Photos by Kenneth Fournillier.

 

When our Lodge Manager Ann Sealy retired in January, her staff members gave her a rousing send-off on the verandah of the main house. However, the Board of Trustees was always aware that they would be honouring Ann for her service to Asa Wright in due course.

“Due course” came to pass last month when Board Members gathered at Spring Hill for a Special Executive meeting, and to celebrate Ann. On Friday June 15th, local and overseas board members, and some former board members, hosted a double function in the charming Jade Vine Arbor and then in the dining room to thank Ann for her years of dedication to the Centre. Among those present were Ann’s mother, an employee of Spring Hill in the early days, Ann’s husband Frank and daughters, Deborah, who still works with us and Rachel.

Ann with her family members.

 

Over cocktails and delicious canapés prepared by Events Coordinator Joanne Ramlal-Singh and her staff, guests reminisced over the good times of the past several years. Following an address by former Chair Dr. Carol James, Chairman Dr. Judith Gobin presented Ann with a gift on behalf of the Board of Trustees. Former Directors Everilde Medina and Rodney De Bhoemler were also presented with gifts of appreciation for their service. Following an engaging response from Ann, the whole party moved down to the dining room where the Asa Wright chefs and kitchen staff produced a magnificent banquet in honour of their friend and former manager—Ann Sealy.

But possibly the highlight – and certainly the surprise of the evening – was when the chefs were called in for appreciation of the evening’s excellent fare. With the diners still applauding the meal, chef Dianne Jeremiah burst into song, and presented us with a moving a cappella rendition of “To God be the Glory”. In a touching moment, Ann rose from her seat to embrace Dianne and join in the final chorus of the hymn. To Ann, the BellBird cries: We have in two short evenings, tried to show you what you have meant to us over the years but it is you who have honoured us far more!

 

Ann, in green top, second row, joins chorus with Dianne Jeremiah in front row, second from left.

26 Jul 2012

Greenleaf Award for Asa … Again

Conservation & Education News, News of Asa Wright, Uncategorized, 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.

25 Jun 2012

Sun comes out for Spring Nuptials

News of Asa Wright, Uncategorized, Visitor News

Germaine Hospedales exchanged marriage vows with Joseph Hopkins.

Although it has been a rainy dry season up at Spring Hill, the sun shone through on Wednesday 4th as Germaine Hospedales exchanged marriage vows with Joseph Hopkins. This happy couple had their morning Wedding Ceremony conducted on the beautiful Asa Wright Verandah, with about thirty-five family members and close friends present. Blessed with sunshine and the beautiful panoramic view down the Arima Valley, the formal ceremony then moved out to the beautiful Jade Vine Arbor for the reception.
In a setting decorated with the naturally beautiful hanging Jade Vine flowers, and exquisite cut wild flowers from the Spring Hill gardens, the happy couple entertained their guests at a luncheon prepared and served by the Asa Wright Staff.
We believe that weddings celebrated at Spring Hill will result in long and happy marriages! We wish Joseph and Germaine every blessing, and hope that they will return to enjoy our setting and hospitality on their future Anniversaries!

 

14 Feb 2012

A Farewell to Ann

News of Asa Wright, Visitor News

“Beauty, strength, youth, are flowers but fading seen Duty, faith, love, are roots, and ever green.”

These lines are taken from the poem “A Farewell to Arms”, written by George Peele in the sixteenth century. The title was also used by Ernest Hemmingway in his novel of that name.

Ann Sealey, who retired in January, gave to Asa Wright and all of us here so much of her beauty, strength and youth for 32 years. But she departs leaving us with the benefits of her duty, faith and love for the place known as Spring Hill. And the roots of her service are deep and will remain ever green in our memories, and in the operations of the Centre.

When Ann joined us on January 13th 1980, as a kitchen helper, the Centre was a much smaller place. But she grew with us, and for the past four years served as Lodge Manager of the estate, overseeing all of the operations. She developed a full knowledge of all of our birds, animals, and even the flowers and the trees, and could advise visitors on all of these.
Ann’s duty to and her faith in Asa Wright were easily discerned. If we happened to be short-staffed, or if there was problem, Ann would literally roll up her sleeves and personally do whatever needed to be done to get us past the hiatus.

All of her staff gathered on the Verandah on Friday 13th to acknowledge her service and dedication to us, the Centre and to our Mission of conservation and preservation. Several stood with tears in their eyes to pay their tributes to a wonderful Servant and dear friend of the Centre

But Ann is not totally gone from our lives: She will be retained to assist us as and when needed, and to provide us with such advice and counsel as we may need on our journey. So an era has not really passed, but is slowly fading away. Bless you, Ann, and thank you for all that you were to us!

06 Feb 2012

Rainforest Christmas

News of Asa Wright, Visitor News

Images of Christmastime generally show either the scenes around Bethlehem on that first Christmas night, or the adopted North American and European versions of winter scenes and even “Santa Claus”. There is little credence given to the idea of Christmas, and even New Year’s Eve, being celebrated in the rain forests.

But we do! And here at Spring Hill we all work to ensure that our guests who have chosen to be in the forest at Christmastime enjoy our own traditional customs and fare.

Christmas is a “long season” in Trinidad and Tobago. It begins in early November with the traditional songs of the Paranderos, the people who play and sing the music of Parang. This is essentially music of our Spanish heritage, mixed with the rhythms of the first Amerindian peoples. There are songs of Advent, played on guitars, mandolins cuatros (a four-stringed instrument) violins and bass, supplemented with “chac-chacs” (maracas) and “toc-tocs” (claves). The songs are sung in Spanish, and the rhythm is largely Castillian waltz. Traditionally, Paranderos leave their homes to visit neighbouring villages, to sing and play their Parang, and to share in the food and hospitality of their hosts.

On Sunday 18th December, the Calbio Parang Group visited Asa Wright to serenade our guests. They sang the songs of Advent on the main veranda on a clear starry night, to the background sounds of our crickets, night frogs and pygmy owls.

On Christmas Day, our rain forest guests were treated to a day of sparkling sunshine, and enjoyed their Christmas lunch of turkey and ham, complemented with local traditional dishes of pastelles, pigeon peas and rum-soaked fruit cake.

The rains returned for New Year’s Eve, but the Old House at Spring Hill was warmed up with the scintillating sounds of Trinidad’s steel drum music. A small ensemble of steel played music for dancing on the verandah, and our visitors – all from cold climes – were able to dance in the cool open air! A steel rendition of Auld Lang Syne drifted down through the forest at midnight, while fireworks burst in the distant sky beyond our valley.

Happy New Year, from the Rain Forests of Trinidad and Tobago, to all of our wonderful friends!