Quarter in Review – Apr/Jun 2016

APRIL

For April’s lecture we were treated to “Ecology of the Crab-eating Racoon” by Laura Baboolal of UWI, which highlighted her work on the racoon population of the Caroni Swamp. Trinidad and Tobago is home to one native racoon species, Procyon cancrivorus which can be found in  a range of habitats ranging from mangroves to forest.

The bird group headed deep into the south lands for their April trip which saw them visiting Granville and Icacos. It was a very successful trip with the group being treated to rare sightings in the form of a Wood Stork, Mycteria americana and Black Hawk Eagle, Spizaetus tyrannus.

Hawk Eagle, Spizaetus tyrannus over Granville

Hawk Eagle, Spizaetus tyrannus over Granville (Photo: Lawrence James)

The Club field trip for April was to the Caurita Petrogylphs. These Amerindian stone etchings are a national treasure and are considered sacred by the Carib community

Caurita Petrogylphs (Photo: Trinidad Express)

Caurita Petrogylphs (Photo: Trinidad Express)

MAY

It is easy to think that visiting a prime turtle nesting site like Grande Riviere is a perfectly safe way to enjoy the natural world but our May lecturer quickly showed us just how dangerous it can be. In her presentation, Ayana C. Phillips of the UWI SVM highlighted the surprising range and concentrations of harmful bacteria that inhabit the beach and the possible human health risks (be sure to wash your hands frequently when at these beaches!)

The field trip for May was scheduled for Monos Island, however a change of plans saw the group heading to Central Trinidad to Chickland. But even backup plans sometimes need backup plans, and a spate of bush fires in the Chickland area forced a diversion to Gran Couva to explore the quiet country roads and trails. While there, they visited the Carmelita Waterfall (which was more of a trickle in this dry season).

Carmelita Falls

Carmelita Falls (Photo: Jeffrey Wong Sang)

The bird group had to face the brunt of the dry season as well when they walked the Cumuto Rail Line, flanking the Aripo Savanna. The area’s specialties include Sulphury flycatcher, Tyrannopsis sulphurea and Red-bellied Macaws, Orthopsittaca manilatus. The Moriche Oriole, however, remained elusive.

May marked the launch of our 125th Anniversary commemoration with a display at the National Museum and Art Gallery. The display remained for several weeks and will now move on to other locations.

Part of the display at the National Museum and Art Gallery

Part of the display at the National Museum and Art Gallery

JUNE

The end of yet another quarter found us delving into the ecology of one of our native anthuriums as Aidan Farrell presented “Searching high and low for T&T’s anthuriums”. He highlighted recent work done by his team on two native anthuriums as they tried to determine what accounted for the unique distribution of the two species – one favouring the dry Bocas while the other favoured the wet forests.

Members were able to put their anthurium identification skills to the test as the Club overnighted on Monos island for the June field trip. Overnight trips really allow members to get a good feel for an area. Highlights include the mysterious nocturnal bird calls (believed to be that of Rufous Nightjar, Antrostomus rufus) and the strange red fleshy fruits later identified as belonging to Cynophylla hastate.

Old jetty on Monos (Photo: Jeffrey Wong Sang)

Old jetty on Monos (Photo: Jeffrey Wong Sang)

Fruit of Cynophylla hastate

Fruit of Cynophylla hastate (Photo: V. Blanchard)

Following the harsh dry conditions of the May trip, the birders were faced with wet and gloomy weather for the June trip to the Arena Forest. Despite the conditions, the groups persevered and were treated to Tufted Coquettes, a busy colony of Yellow-rumped Caciques, Piratic Flycatchers and other forest birds.

A rough time was also had by the Herpetology Group, but for a different reason. The group journeyed to Wallerfield for a late evening scramble in the bush for any reptiles and amphibians. Soon into their trip they were assaulted by a swarm of bees and some members were stung while retreating. Bravely they trekked on have a good night with several herptiles to show for it.

Herpetology Group heading into Wallerfield

Herpetology Group heading into Wallerfield

Submission of entries for the 125th Anniversary School Art Competition came to an end in June. Entries are now being collected from across the country for judging in August.

 

Quarter in Review – Jan/Mar 2016

JANUARY 2016

The new year began with our Annual General Meeting on 14 January where we reviewed the highlights of the year gone and some of the plans for the year to come. At this point we also held elections for the 2016 management committee and the results were as follows:

President: Kris Sookdeo
Vice President: Palaash Narase
Treasurer: Selwyn Gomes
Secretary: Amy Deacon
Assistant Secretary: Renoir Auguste
Committee Member: Dan Jaggernauth
Committee Member: Imran Khan
Committee Member: Darshan Narang

January’s field trip took us to the Cumaca Caves. Here members were able to observe the cave’s oilbird colony, look for the cave catfish and learn about the tragic events which took place here in 1964 in which two divers died while exploring the cave.

Members at the Cumaca Cave - January 2016

Members at the Cumaca Cave – January 2016

Plate at cave entrance in memory of the two divers.

Plate at cave entrance in memory of the two divers.

The bird group was off to Chaguaramas in January for a bit of “night” birding as members looked for nocturnal species such as nightjars and owls. Paraques and tropical screech owl were reported but the rufous nightjar remained elusive.

FEBRUARY 2016

In February we were treated to a lecture by Amy Deacon on the subject of “Human disturbance and tropical freshwater communities” which looked at the impact of human activity on the stream environment.

The 'River Lime' Effect

The ‘River Lime’ Effect

We had a large turnout for February’s trip to the L’Eau Michele mud volcano in Penal. The volcanos and the surrounding environment are fascinating, with a range of interesting plant observations. We then visited the nearby L’Eau Michele beach – a beautiful gem on the south coast.

Members at L'Eau Michele in February

Members at L’Eau Michele in February

We mounted a display at Bishops Centenary as part of their Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programme during the month and students were able to get a taste of the marvelous biodiversity of T&T – hopefully some of them will decide to become naturalists!

Display at Bishops Centenary

Display at Bishops Centenary

MARCH 2016

The Aripo Savanna was a recurring theme in April. We began the month with a presentation by Renoir Auguste on the reptiles and amphibians of the Aripo Savanna which highlighted the various species documented for the area. We were reminded that the potentially dangerous fer-de-lance was a relatively common species there.

Herpetofauna of the Aripo Savannas

Herpetofauna of the Aripo Savannas

We would keep that in mind for later in April when we overnighted at the savannas. Members were able to explore at their leisure late into the evening with groups looking at insects and bats. More members came out the next morning to join those already there for a walk – birds, plants and the area’s historic link to World War 2 being the main attractions.

Aripo Savanna at dusk

Aripo Savanna at dusk

While the main trip had us in the lowlands, the bird group headed up the hills into Brasso Seco for their overnight stay. The heights offer a great vantage point for raptors and other forest birds. White Hawk, Trinidad Euphonia, and Blue-headed Parrot were just some of the highlights.

Birding in Brasso Seco

Birding in Brasso Seco

Many years ago we had a sub-group called Conservation in Action within the TTFNC, the members of which tried to take a more direct approach to environmental stewardship. As part of the Club’s celebration of its 125th Anniversary this year we are trying to resurrect the group. We needed a relatively simple exercise to allow the group to get into the groove of things so Conservation in Action had its first activity in March in the form of a beach cleanup under the guidance of the Las Cuevas Eco-Friendly Association (LCEFA). The activity took place at the end of the beach, beyond the stream, where more turtles lay. A great activity for the launch of the group!

Cleanup at Las Cuevas

Cleanup at Las Cuevas