Visitor News

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!


29 Nov 2011

Dancing Jewels in the Sun

News of Asa Wright, Tropical Nature News, Visitor News

You feel a sense of disorientation it live” and by the judicious selection as you enter the patio garden of Yerette, at the home of Theo and Gloria Ferguson, in Maracas St. Joseph.

The hundreds, maybe thousands, of hummingbirds which swarm around you, like jewels dancing in the sunshine, make you feel that you have walked into a swarm of bees!

The Fergusons, and Theo’s magnificent bird photography, are well known to us at Spring Hill. He launched his collection – “The Experience” – at the Main House in 2009 and his work hung on the walls of “De Bird Nest” dining room for several months. They have also shared the illustrated lecture series “Hummingbirds – Fragments of the Rainbow” with our guests on many beautiful evenings.

But the wonderful experience of sharing photographs was obviously not enough for the husband and wife team. The couple have since decided to “bring it live” and by the judicious selection of flowering shrubbery and bird feeders, hundreds of “Fragments of the Rainbow” now visit their garden.

There are seventeen species of hummingbirds in Trinidad and Tobago. Theo has seen and photographed thirteen of these species in his garden. This is astonishing given the fact that some of these species, such as the Green-throated Mango, “do not belong” there.

After enjoying the thrill of walking among swarms of feeding hummingbirds, you are invited to view a video show of Theo’s photographs of these beautiful little creatures.

The only words one can use to describe the experience is “you have “visit and discover for yourself”. The trip to Yerette is now included among Asa Wright’s external tours. Just ask at the Front Desk.

18 Oct 2011

International Special Events Society members visit Asa Wright

Visitor News

ISES planners (from left to right) Omeeta Jaggernauth, Siobhan Thompson, Simone Sant-Ghuran, Judy Coward, Kathleen Maynard and Frances Pollanais-Le Foucade chat with Peter O’Connor at the Centre.

Last June one of our good friends at Lonsdale Saatchi & Saatchi, Marlene Chin, was a guest at the Spring Hill wedding of Shree Caesar (formerly of Marabella) and Kent Hash of Baltimore. Enthralled with the ambience of a “rainforest wedding”, she subsequently arranged for a group of wedding and event planners to visit Asa Wright and to experience that very special magic for themselves!
So, just after our reopening in September, on a rainy Saturday, a group of six International Special Events Society (ISES) members and friends who specialise in planning weddings and corporate events spent a day with us to learn more about the very special nature of the Asa Wright Nature Centre.
A presentation on the Centre’s facilities was followed by a site inspection tour of the Jade Vine Arbor and the Jonnie Fisk Conference Centre (formerly known as the Mango Room). The planners also took the opportunity to look at the rooms at the centre, from the huge high-ceiling chambers in the main house, to the charming cottages set amidst the flowering gardens.
A delicious lunch was served in the centre’s dining room after which the group relaxed on the iconic Asa Wright Verandah. Not withstanding the usual lunch time showery spell, the planners saw the wonderful potential of bringing to Asa Wright special events like intimate weddings and corporate retreats that are compatible with the essential peace and serenity of Spring Hill.
We now look forward to sharing our rain forest with some of the special events which might grace our premises in the future.

17 Oct 2011

AWNC takes part in British Bird Fair in England

Visitor News

Deborah Castillo talks with potential visitors

Asa Wright Nature Centre (AWNC) Reservations Agent Deborah Castillo and I attended the British Bird Fair in England. The fair, which is held annually in the month of August, took place this year from the 19th to 21st and the AWNC occupied booth 12 in marquee 1.
The fair started on Friday and visitors crowded Asa Wright’s small booth, praising our staff for their wonderful experiences while staying at the centre. It is customary every year to greet guests who stayed with us, those who are planning their visit, and others who for many years have wanted to come but never did.
On Friday the 19th a talk was held in honour of Richard ffrench, who recently passed away. talk was given by Martyn Keneflick and attended by Mrs. ffrench, her daughter Julie and her husband, Allyson White (mother of Graham White), plus 160 persons who paid their respects to the great bird man.
I was privileged to attend this talk and I must say Martyn did a fantastic job in highlighting the AWNC and its affiliation to Mr. ffrench.
I am extremely grateful to all those who made these trips possible over the years. This is something that should be continued by the centre, mainly because of all the exposure the centre gets for the three days that of the fair. I believe that 90 per cent of the visitors to the Bird Fair know about the AWNC and only positive remarks have been heard coming from the visitors and participants.

By Ann Sealey
(Manager, Lodge Operations)

08 Jul 2011

June wedding brings dozens to Asa Wright Nature Centre

News of Asa Wright, Visitor News

Spring Hill hosted a delightful wedding on the weekend of 12th June, when Shree Caesar originally of Marabella wed Kent Hash of Baltimore, Maryland. Over twenty of the couple’s close overseas friends and relatives arrived at Asa Wright several days ahead of the ceremony, and enjoyed their own company in nature’s rain forest setting.
Not necessarily naturalists when they arrived here, we hope that the charm of our forest trails and bird songs would have been enough to convert some of these happy people into permanent nature lovers and bird watchers.
The overseas group was joined by almost a hundred local family and friends and family of the bride on Sunday, for the actual wedding.
The ceremony was conducted Pastor Martha Lutchmansingh in the beautiful Jade Vine Arbour, following which the party moved across to the Jonnie Fisk Conference Centre, popularly remembered as the “Mango Room”, for the reception.
The banquet was catered by our Joanne Singh-Ramlal and her team of chefs, and served by our impeccable dining room staff. The meal featured the best of Asa Wright’s wide selection of local culinary delights.
Guests danced into the night to a gentle blend of live entertainment and DJ music, with everyone remembering our adage that “noise disturbs wildlife”.
We wish the happy couple all the best for the future, for we believe that weddings held in paradise lead to marriages made in heaven.

22 May 2011

“Mountain Ebony” Robusta coffee available again at AWNC

News of Asa Wright, Visitor News

We are not talking here about raiding a cemetery or anything so bizarre! We are simply announcing the return of our “Mountain Ebony” Robusta coffee to our guests and, more importantly to our gift shop atthe Centre.
As aficionados know, the coffee which we serve here and sell from the gift shop is grown in the forest at Spring Hill. It is picked by our staff, dried in our sunshine and then roasted and ground on the estate. So the coffee never leaves the Valley.
Visit us to see 29 species of nocturnal bats.
Visit us to see scores of nocturnal tree frogs.
Visit us to see 159 species of birds, including the nocturnal barn owl.
While you’re here, have a cup or six of our eye-openingly delicious house-blend coffee. until you take a bag of Mountain Ebony home with you.
Last year, with the severe drought we experienced, we had very little coffee to harvest, and although we served it at meals and on the verandah, we were unable to sell the packaged coffee from the gift shop.
But now it is back on our shelves!
Good, strong coffee, strong enough to “Wake the Dead!” which is the tagline created by our sponsors Lonsdale Saatchi & Saatchi, to market the product.

Meet the little night characters who depict the Mountain Ebony coffee of Asa Wright. These loveable little night creatures helped LS&S to win a Gold ADDY® Award in the Caribbean Advertising Federation Awards.