On Sunday 22nd June, 16 keen art group members made the journey to Pointe-a-Pierre Wildfowl Trust. When we arrived at 10am, a large tour group from POS was being shown around, which gave us a chance to get our materials together, explore the visitor centre and warm up by sketching the regal peacocks patrolling the garden.
As the tour group dispersed, so did we, venturing further around the main lake alone or in small groups. Some chose the serene lake vista as a subject, while others focused on the waddling Muscovy ducks (Cairina moschata) and charismatic black-bellied whistling tree ducks (Dendrocygna autumnalis discolor) as excellent models for practising quick, loose sketches. The latter are critically endangered in the wild, thanks to overhunting, and the centre provides both a refuge and a breeding programme for them. Indeed, nearly 1,500 have been reintroduced to the wild by the centre over the past 4 decades.
Some artists grabbed the opportunity to draw and photograph other species that are almost impossible to see close hand in the wild - such as the iconic scarlet ibis, which is also bred in large enclosures at the centre for reintroduction purposes. Usually only visible as bright red dots on green mangrove islands in the Caroni swamp, these spectacular birds are no less impressive when seen up close.
At 1pm we reconvened at the centre, where our guide, Simone Ho, led us on a tour. Here we learned about the many species that live in and around the lake, most of which we enjoyed excellent sightings of, including the symbolic lotus flower, the wattled jacana (Jacana jacana), the Neotropic cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) and the elegant snake bird (Anhinga anhinga). Much of the tour was focused on conservation and local ecology – which are central to the objectives of the Trust. Some members continued to speed- sketch or take artistic shots with their cameras while others just enjoyed the stroll.
As a lapsed TTFNC member, Simone was sympathetic to our thirst for information on natural history and on our desire to explore some of the less-used hiking trails that branch away from the main path. We had only ventured a few metres along these trails when we spotted an unmistakable spider: the Trinidad dwarf tarantula (Cyriocosmus elegans) – tiny, yet by its movements so clearly a tarantula. As we continued, we collected several ‘devil’s ear’ or ‘monkey ear’ seedpods (Enterolobium cyclocarpum) and even caught a glimpse of a spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus) in the shallows.
Pointe a Pierre Wildfowl Trust is open to visitors between 9-5pm on weekdays, and 10-5pm at weekends. Visitors should call ahead to make a reservation (see www.papwildfowltrust.org for details). Entrance is $15 which includes a guided tour of the lake.