Arnos Vale

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Harry C

Arnos Vale

Post by Harry C » Fri Mar 13, 2009 11:58 am

Hi,
This is my first post to this forum so apologies if this is in the wrong place.
Myself and the other half along with two friends will be spending five days on Tobago staying at the Grafton Beach as part of a three week tour of the caribbean in September, anyway to get to the point I am into photography and on doing some research I found that tea at the Arnos Vale while they feed the birds is an opportunity to photograph hummingbirds however would they allow me to set up a tripod and small flash set up? if not is there anywhere else that this may be possible?
Whilst we are seasoned travellers and are careful of our own security I am a bit paranoid regarding my camera gear several £k's worth and I like to move away from the "tourist" areas and explore to carry out my hobby, how large a risk is this likely to be? 8-[ I will be going into the rainforest and have booked the services of Newton George for this 8)
Looking forward to limin \:D/ %*} =P~

Regards Harry

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Re: Arnos Vale

Post by David Watkins » Fri Mar 13, 2009 12:22 pm

Harry,across the road from the Grafton is the Grafton Bird Sanctuary,it's a five minute easy walk to get to it.I think you might struggle a bit with a tripod in the rain forest why not use a mono-pod,I find it as effective(also doubles up as a hiking stick)
David :D

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Re: Arnos Vale

Post by Steve Wooler » Fri Mar 13, 2009 12:25 pm

Hi Harry

Welcome aboard! :D

Tea at the Arnos Vale used to be one of the "musts" on any visitor's to-do list. Sadly, it is alleged that for the last few years the hotel have only been putting out kitchen scraps, etc., and not the food the birds need. All I can say for sure is that the exotica that used to be regulars are now long gone (but are regular visitors to other local properties, like Top 'O Tobago). However, you might be lucky and its certainly worth a try. I don't think anybody will object to you setting up a tripod. A flash is not going to be necessary. As much as the flash speed would help freeze the wings at night, the ambient daylight is normally so bright that it will minimise the flash effect. To be totally honest, I have always found the best way is to simply take the time to slowly move nearer and nearer the bird feeders and let the birds get used to me. They can be surprisingly unconcerned if you do it slowly and gently. I have been 'whacked' by squabbling hummingbirds half a dozen times in my life - that's how unconcerned about your presence they can become. In fact, here is a picture of one aggresive little sod at Top 'O Tobago who was constantly on guard, defending 'his feeder' against other copper-rumped hummers, but perfectly happy to share it with bananquits and other species of hummer.

Based at the Grafton, you have the excellent Grafton Caledonia Bird Sanctuary directly opposite the hotel. Get out there at dawn and you should be in for a treat - but you will need a powerful flash to get the best in there. It can be quite dark under the tree canopy.

Your security question is a difficult one to answer. While with Newton or any other reputable guide, you will be in safe hands, so no problem. However, I have exactly the same concerns when out on my own. The fortunate thing is that long lens and expensive bodies are very easy to identify so I have no knowledge of them ever being targetted by thieves - unlike computers, cellphones, watches, etc.
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Harry C

Re: Arnos Vale

Post by Harry C » Fri Mar 13, 2009 1:46 pm

Hello Steve,Hello David

Thanks to both of you for the replies. with regard to the Grafton Bird Sanctuary, do they have established feeder stations or is birding a hit or miss affair? I will operating with two cameras one a 300mm with 1.4 extender on a tripod with gimbal head and the other will be hand held with some use of a monopod. The proposed flash set up was not so much for light but to hopfully reduce the amount of blur to the wings and some fill in light to the shadow areas. :-k + [-o< . Any ideas of other locations not just for birds would be welcome :?: the wife is not happy at the moment as I am looking for a underwater housing for the snorkeling #-o

Thanks again =D> =D>
Harry

AHStewart

Re: Arnos Vale

Post by AHStewart » Fri Mar 13, 2009 2:20 pm

Usually plenty of "birds" at Store Bay beach (2 legged with thongs) #-o

Harry C

Re: Arnos Vale

Post by Harry C » Fri Mar 13, 2009 2:31 pm

Hi AH
I take it that there is no likely hood of small deposits from above then. :lol:

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Re: Arnos Vale

Post by Steve Wooler » Fri Mar 13, 2009 2:41 pm

Hi Harry

Yes, they have a feeder area - but frankly I just enjoy getting down the trails and seeing real life.
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Re: Arnos Vale

Post by David Watkins » Fri Mar 13, 2009 3:30 pm

me too

Harry C

Re: Arnos Vale

Post by Harry C » Fri Mar 13, 2009 5:08 pm

Hi
Like you Steve and you Dave I too would walk the trails and see the life around me,however the reason for asking about feeder stations is that if you stay long enough it is possible to take photos of the birds at their favorite perch,a clear flight path for in flight pics and finally at the feeding area, this way you are reasonably sure of obtaining some pictures worth keeping, stalking is a little hit and miss and dangerous falling over tree roots and into ditches( this has cost me more than one camera and several repair bills) :oops: but I do take your point in that it is more natural but limited time means needs must, afterall those nice documentries by D Attenbrough dont just happen in a few days, they plan for months. :!:

Harry

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Re: New beach facilities at Bloody Bay

Post by J Lewin Smith » Sun Jan 31, 2010 2:41 pm

On Jan 10 were shown the new facilities at Bloody Bay. We were told these would be opening in February. They are beautifully built, and consist of changing rooms and showers, a cafe and a lifeguard station. Hope that they do open soon and are kept staffed. Jane lewin Smith

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Re: Arnos Vale

Post by Steve Pitts » Sun Jan 31, 2010 3:22 pm

Hi Harry

I think that Arnos Vale has lost it's appeal for birders as the 4:00pm tea and bird feeding isn't what it was several years ago.

I wonder if the Grafton Hotel puts out humming bird feeders (filled with sugar water) as many places are keen to attract them for their photogenic value.

We have made a very basic feeder from a small plastic soft drinks bottle filled with watered down pancake syrup.
Just fill the bottle with the mixture, screw on the top after punching a small hole in it and turn it upside-down.

By rigging it up in a bush or tree the liquid drips out and the humming birds find it very quickly, as do the ants and bees.

If that's too much of a palarver, you could always stake out any of the nectar-rich flowering shrubs that are bound to be in the Grafton's grounds or pop over to Shore Things cafe where we always see hummingbirds in the garden.

You've probably already seen them, but some lovely bird studies here -
http://www.mytobago.info/photogallery02.php

Good luck capturing your bird in flight

Steve
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Re: Arnos Vale

Post by Steve Bond » Sat Feb 06, 2010 4:57 pm

Just to add my comments.........I've just returned from Tobago and lugged a 400 2.8, 70-200 2.8, 2x bodies and so on + monopod. I'm used to the weight, but balancing the bag & lots of water is essential. Grafton feeding station is still good as long as they are feeding at 1600, as the light is lower. I would agree about the trails, but early morning and evening are obviously best. I found the problem with tall he hummingbird feeding stations wa sthat they are usually on the edge of a varandah, which means the light is always on the birds back only! At cuffie River they are in the open and you can pick your direction and angle and get even light all over the bird- you don't want to use a shutter below 1/2000 if you want to freeze the wings. With flash you have to be 'lucky' as, obviously, the shutter speeds are far slower - I took loads and have ditched all bar2, which are blinders as the wings are 'right' and it emphasises the irredescence.
The sewage ponds were good for photography. The Hilton grounds is now hit & miss due to all the building work and the boardwalk closed. Luckily I was with the excellent Newton George who gained access and found a lovely Mango nest.
If you go to Little Tobago and want flight shots, a cloudy day is good as the contrast in the afternoon (more birds) on a sunny day is extremely difficult. If you want a good hour or two, Curtis at Workshop Tours in Charlotteville will take you out to St giles for photographs of the frigate Birds. He will also chum the water so you can get that flight shot just as they are picking food off the surface - 70-200 is best for this. Hope this helps other bird snappers.

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Re: Arnos Vale

Post by Mark Farrington » Sat Feb 20, 2010 9:08 am

We've recently returned from a 10-day stay at Top O'Tobago - our third wonderful visit there.

This time I took my DSLR and a selection of lenses (Olympus E-620, 9-18mm, 14-54, 50-200 and 1.4x converter - the 4:3 sensor has a 2x magnification factor) plus my monopod. I'm not particularly a birder or previously much of a bird photographer, but it was fun to learn on the job, and the opportunities are of course stupendous.

First, I spent lots of time stalking birds on the TO'T property, and this was the best place for hummers at their various feeders. I actually found somewhat slower shutter speeds to give images I preferred - sharp bodies but partly-blurred wings. I felt this was more natural than the 'frozen jewel' effect you get at 1/2000s. I don't much like the flat lighting that you often get with flash (or, rather, that you tend to get if you're using the sort of basic flash equipment most normal people use and can carry!).
Each to his own, I suppose! It did mean that I was firing off a lot of shots to get a few that were perfectly sharp in the hummer's body, but being able to do this at no cost is one of the great advantages of digital equipment.
I found it better where possible to get closer and use the tele-zoom without the converter: the autofocus was noticeably faster like this. The monopod does help getting sharp shots even with Image Stabilization turned on, but it does rather limit you as to viewpoint and especially background, so I found trying some shots hand-held is also a good idea.

Secondly, we did go for a tea at Arnos Vale. The tea comes rather stewed in bags, and you get a plain piece of cake and a couple of dull sandwiches. Not great at TT$60/head, and they charge you another TT$30 for a second pot! Anyway, the setting is nice (think a little of 'Last Days of the Raj in Simla') and there are quite a range of birds to see - but very few hummingbirds, please note! I had plenty of time to shoot assorted tanagers, Antshrikes, cocricos, Mot Mots, bare-eyed thrush and several more I'm not sure of the names. You can get very close - there were only about half a dozen others taking tea, so there was plenty of space and we weren't getting in each others' way. Also the light, with the sinking sun, was nice.

We later went for a couple of bird & wildlife walks with that excellent fellow William Trim (I'll post a separate review on this) and William said that there were new owners at Arnos Vale who seemed to be trying to smarten the place up, and he thought they'd only recently re-started the bird teas. He's heard that a lot of local birds had moved from Arnos Vale to Top O'Tobago and to the Adventure Eco Lodge grounds because they were being fed only there. He anticipated that if they kept up the teas at Arnos Vale that the range and number of birds to be seen there would increase.

Interesting to hear the Grafton reserve reports in the other messages on this thread. We've never been, but with my new-found bird photography interests I'll add it to the list for our next visit to the island.
Regards, Mark

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