When you spend some time in the hinterlands of the Northern Range, it is amazing how much you encounter that negates the comments of people who generalise their findings on the scarcity of various species of wild life.
It is certainly not safe to say that certain avi fauna such as the Trinidad Piping Guan locally known as Pawi have become endangered or are on the brink of extinction when surveys are not carried out throughout our forests. Most times it is just that habitat loss causes many species to migrate deeper into the forests where food and nesting facilities are more abundant. The threat of poaching too has caused many species to become wary of forests accessible to man. It is a fact that people really do not penetrate the true heart of the forests of the Northern Range.
We roamed forests that so far have been undisturbed by man. Water vines laced tall trees that grew out of a deep carpet of age old leaves. We noticed one Pawi peering through the leaves of the high canopy. A sudden movement on another branch caught our eye. This turned out to be two more of this species shifting on their perch to presumably get a better view of us. Their heads moved to and fro as they craned their long necks for a better view.
We paused to admire them and discovered that there were not just three birds but eight in the same tree. This was only the first day of our expedition into the forest and already we were seeing species that were really scarce along the outskirts.
Unlike the Blue-crowned Mot Mot of Tobago that literally poses on a branch for you to take photos, the Trinidad species is always very wary of bird watchers coming too close. We were fortunate to meet one that actually remained for quite some time above us.
That evening in camp, shortly before seven o'clock, the sweetest sounds you could ever hear in the forest emanated from a tree just across the river. These were the sounds of a large flock of Pawi, sounds that yours truly hadn't heard since the early eighties when passing through a nutmeg estate in Matelot. These birds were actually singing.
The following morning we woke to the whirring sounds of the wings of one bird as she flew to a tree just above the camp. We counted 11 birds around the camp that morning.
Later that day about two hills away, we decided to pitch camp on a flat just above a small stream. We later discovered that more Pawi had taken up residence here as Cajuca, one of their favourite fruits, was bearing in these parts. They didn't seem too disturbed by our presence but continued about the business of enjoying their sustenance.
Usually it is difficult to see these birds unless you know how to look for them. They usually perch so high in the canopy and remain so quiet during the daytime that you pass below them without being aware of their presence above. You actually have to scan the canopy to see them. The prominent white flecks on the wings usually betray their camouflage, so too when one of the flock changes branches. The wing beat of this large bird makes a distinct and loud noise and its weight bends the less sturdy branches of the upper canopy.
In these virgin forested areas of the northeastern Northern Range, wild life thrives. Habitats are intact, poachers never range this far, and numbers of Pawi are at an alltime high.
During a period of three days we covered the heights of Petit Riviere, Matelot and Shark valleys and returned over to Cumaca our base point. We recorded a total of nine bands of Pawi with an average of ten birds in each. Had we ventured down more of the remote valleys fingering out from the crest of the range, I'm sure that we would have encountered more bands. On a recent trip from the coastal side, we confirmed the continued presence of five flocks of Pawi in an area known as "Pawi Paradise". These birds never strayed far from this area.
For the continued protection of this species, I regret that I cannot name specific locations. Rest assured for now, our Pawi abound in great numbers.