Caroni Swamp: In Search of the Scarlet Ibis

The Scarlet Ibis – a dazzling wader with a distinctive and brilliant red plumage – is the national bird of Trinidad and Tobago. If you find yourself lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, you can witness a congregating of these vibrant birds returning on mass to roost  in a whirl of noise, colour and excitement. The right place is Caroni Swamp and the right time is dusk and since M and I found ourselves at both the right place and the right time, it appeared to be the right thing to do! We had previously been informed that the current month (May) was not favorable for birdwatchers since most of our little feathered friends would be nesting; regardless and with great anticipation, we boarded a boat with the hopes of catching a glimpse.


…and so the journey begins

…but before reaching the roosting sight, we had to first journey deep through the winding mangroves wherein hid a few spectacles of there own.

Mangrove maze

The first critter we spotted was this guy, a blue heron, the most common species of the swamp. His colouring made him an easy target to spot yet the harder we looked, the more wildlife became visible.  The mangroves were coming alive. Branches crawled with tiny crabs. Birds swooped in and out of the thicket. Even a snake was spotted by keen eyes; and as if teasing, a few Scarlet Ibis passed overhead.

Deeper into the swamp we went until at last the shadow of the trees lessened to reveal an open waterway. It was here, tied to the branches, that we waited.
And waited.
And waited some more.
As the light began to dim and the mosquitoes began to feast, they came.

At first they came in small groups – a flash of red crossing the horizon, all with the destination of a single mangrove cluster directly across from us. It wasn’t long before a sea of living, moving red contrasted sharply against the lush green of the foliage…and oh the noise! By the time we set sail for the shores, the Ibis count was one hundred strong.


The Scarlet Ibis: not so good at playing hide and seek

Although nesting season was against us and BBC’s Wild Caribbean did it better, I left satisfied with our find in the search for the Scarlet Ibis. Ladies and gentlemen, red is the new black.

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