Some sayings are trite for a reason, most often because they are repeated innumerable times in speech and in the day to day unfolding of events. I’ve personally used the title of this post several times and I’m certain many of you would have as well – I missed my last scheduled posting here because I had no computer, just one of several pieces of fabric to have unraveled over the last few weeks. But this phrase can also be applied to occurrences of a more positive, birdy note.

Specifically, have you ever had a bird elude you so often that you firmly believe there is no hope of ever seeing it – and then voila – it appears one day. And in the subsequent days, it seems to be everywhere. As far as resident birds go within Trinidad & Tobago, the Grey-throated Leaftosser is one of the more difficult birds to get a view of. The first time I saw one was many years ago along the driveway at Asa Wright at very close range but within a thicket. The remainder of the handful of subsequent sightings have been within the Main Ridge Forest Reserve on Tobago.

Being exclusively a ground-forager in the dark rainforest understory, the Grey-throated Leaftosser is a bird that can easily escape visual detection. Its strident call can be heard from a fair distance away, but spotting a russet-toned bird within russet-toned leaves on the forest floor isn’t the most straightforward of tasks.

It has been suggested that I stake out known nesting areas, try audio playback, and much more – but that’s simply not my ethos. I absolutely love being surprised by one of these birds as I round a bend on a forest trail. Which is precisely what happened some weeks ago.

Grey-throated Leaftosser

Having car issues can be a bad thing, but it is much less of a hindrance if you can hike into the forest. When life gives you lemons, I guess?

I spent considerable time walking along a trail near to where I’m currently based that leads into the Main Ridge Forest Reserve after only a few kilometres (still doable with mild discomfort being the proud owner of a sprained toe). Over the past few weeks I have been surprised with several sightings of this Near Threatened species, the most memorable of which was while walking with another photographer at the start of this month.

We observed this individual for a few minutes doing what it does best – you guessed it – toss leaves.

All the while I was looking through my viewfinder at this bird I was hoping it’d look at me. It never did until it reached to the top of this mound.

Some days later I observed yet another Grey-throated Leaftosser totally engrossed in tossing leaves but in a significantly less visible location. All we’d see was the occasional leaf being flung to the heavens. A bit of an exaggeration, I know.

Eventually, it hopped onto this tree trunk and gave its finest woodcreeper impersonation.

I’m grateful for the relative plethora of opportunities with this secretive species – and hoping that I’ll have the same fortune with my most recent lifer – Striped Owl. Fingers crossed!

Written by Faraaz Abdool
Faraaz Abdool is an internationally published freelance conservation and wildlife photographer/writer who specializes in birds and the issues they face worldwide. He graciously serves on the Trinidad and Tobago Bird Status and Distribution Committee (formerly the Trinidad and Tobago Rare Bird Committee), and leads birding trips on both islands. Faraaz also runs yearly birding and wildlife tours to East Africa. Although he doesn’t keep a life list, Faraaz has been a keen birder for many years, separating Black and Turkey Vultures at distance as a little boy, skipping class to gaze at Magnificent Frigatebirds as a teenager and quitting his job as an electrical engineer to put all his energy into conservation as an adult. Faraaz cultivates wildlife consciousness via his words and images, in a last-ditch attempt to reconnect humans with nature and save the world.