Quarter in review – July/September

July 2016

July’s general meeting featured our annual member’s evening, in which members present to the memberships on various topics including drone footage from the L’Anglais Mud Volcano in Palo Seco, the use of the datwan (traditional toothbrush) in T&T, ethospecies, the natural history of Grenada, one man’s journey to discover the mushrooms of T&T and a short update on the Club’s 125th strategic planning session.

On July 17th, The birdwatching group journeyed to Plum Mitan and Caltoo Trace in East Trinidad. Members had to hit the road early to get on site as early as 5am but were rewarded with Blue Ground Dove and other lovely birds. The final tally: 55 species

This Blue Groud Dove was the star of the show (Photo: Lawrence James)

This Blue Ground Dove was the star of the show (Photo: Lawrence James)

As part of our 125th Anniversary celebrations, the July trip was a night time turtle watching trip to Matura in recognition of the Club’s turtle tagging project. Starting in 1963, the  TTFNC  first  investigated  reports and  confirmed  that  a  large  number  of  leatherback turtles were being killed on the Matura beach. Beach patrols  continued  at  Matura  during  1964  and  in 1965,  Peter  Bacon,  the  Vice  President  of  the  Club, was  appointed    coordinator of the Club’s Turtle Project  .  The  Club  commenced  a  programme  of regular  patrols  on  the  beaches  beaches  at  Matura, Fishing Pond, Big Bay, Toco, Grand Riviere, Maracas and  Las  Cuevas. In  1970,  the  Club  began  a  Turtle  Tagging  Project  using  equipment  supplied  by  the  University  of Florida at Gainsville.  During the next eleven nesting  seasons  333  leatherbacks  were  tagged. In May 1973, based on its many years of observation  and  information  gathering,  the  Club  submit- ted a report prepared by Dr. Bacon to the Minister  of  Agriculture,  Lands  and  Fisheries  entitled  “The  status of sea turtles in Trinidad and Tobago”

August 2016

In August, guest speaker Jack Torresdal spoke to members about the elusive Golden Tree Frog. Traditionally believed to be an endemic to the cloud forests of Trinidad, the frog has now been discovered in Venezuela. Jack spoke about the research that his group has been doing on the tree frogs and discussed some of their findings.

The field trip for this month was the long awaited annual overnight camping trip to Gran Tacaribe where members are able to explore a range of habitats including snorkelling in the shallow rocky reef, hiking to Madamas and exploring the forest. Not to mention a chance to kick back and relax on one of Trinidad’s most beautiful beaches!

Beautiful Gran Tacaribe

Beautiful Gran Tacaribe

Orange Valley was the target of the birders in August as they tackled the unenviable task of shorebird identification. It was a good learning experience for all as they distinguished between tricky species such as Western, Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers.

Shorebirds at Orange Valley

Shorebirds at Orange Valley

September 2016

In recognition of our 125th Anniversary, a special dinner was held at the Namaste India Restaurant. The all vegetarian course had some members uncertain but they were pleasantly surprised! Members were recognised for their contribution to the Club over the years and a good time was had by all.

125th Anniversary Dinner

125th Anniversary Dinner

The 125th Anniversary’s School Art Competition was really the highlight for September. With over 400 entries, the judges really had their work cut out for them! The winners were  recognised at a prize giving ceremony where their fantastic work was on display. See link for some of the artwork.

The 125th Anniversary's School Art Competition award presentation.

The 125th Anniversary’s School Art Competition award presentation.

Another long awaited trip is the Club’s annual geology trip. The focus was on onshore geological features related to the petrochemical sector in South West Trinidad. The group visited Pt Fortin to see evidence of the Los Bajos fault, the Stollmeyer Oilsand Quarry near Guapo, an active oil extraction facility in Parrylands and the Pitch Lake.

Stollmeyer's Quarry

Stollmeyer’s Quarry

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.