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Trinidad & Tobago First Steps to South America

A 13-day, small group birdwatching tour to Trinidad & Tobago

Our long-running tour to Trinidad & Tobago offers the perfect introduction to South America’s treasure house of birds - and a welcome escape from winter at home! Join us for seven nights birdwatching amid the rainforests that surround the world famous Asa Wright Nature Centre on Trinidad, followed by four nights on the smaller island of Tobago, enjoying its surprisingly different avifauna.

Tour Dates

2018

Spaces
0

Leaders
Richard Thaxton
local guides

Max Group Size: 10
Duration: 13 Days

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Cost: £4695

inc flights, outbound from London Gatwick-Port of Spain (Trinidad) and returning Tobago-London Gatwick, with British Airways

Deposit: £600

Single Supp: £825
Land Only: £4095

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Golden headed Manakin Trinidad&Tobago April 2015 Jo Latham copy resized

Neotropical treat - a male Golden-headed Manakin on Trinidad © tour participant Jo Latham, www.wildlifephotocards.co.uk

Ask a few well-travelled birdwatchers their favourite places in the world to stay and Asa Wright will soon enter the conversation. This famous lodge on Trinidad not only makes for an excellent introduction to the incredible diversity of bird life in Central and South America, but it's an outstanding location in its own right.

The view from the veranda out over the valley is superb, while the birding from here - sometimes only a few feet away at the hummingbird feeders - is always entertaining. Around the centre itself lie 200 acres of estate, a former coffee, cocoa and citrus plantation now reverting to secondary forest, surrounded by impressive rainforest.

Our February birdwatching tour to Trinidad and Tobago begins with a stay of seven nights at this beautiful lodge. And we certainly won’t have to go far to enjoy our first birding - the grounds at Asa Wright are simply heaving with birds! The songs of Palm Tanagers and Southern House Wrens echo from the buildings and the grounds are alive with sound, from the mournful melodies of the Cocoa Thrush to the corkscrew gurgles of Crested Oropendolas and the high-pitched squeaking of feisty Copper-rumped Hummingbirds.

Exploring the rainforest via a network of well-maintained trails, we will visit Dunstan Cave, home to the mysterious Oilbird; go in search of the nerve-jangling song of the peculiar Bearded Bellbird; and hope to witness the frenetic 'wing-snapping' courtship displays of the tiny White-bearded Manakin.

During our stay at Asa Wright we will also travel out to explore other of the island’s key habitats, from the savanna grasslands at Aripo to the rainforests of Trinidad's Northern Range. On one day, we'll even commute to the coast at Waterloo! There are so many highlights, but one of the most enduring memories of our stay at Asa Wright - aside from the centre's delicious and eagerly awaited rum punches, that is - will be our boat trip into Caroni Swamp, drifting quietly through the mangroves on our way to experience the evening roost of Scarlet Ibises.

Tobago is Trinidad's much smaller neighbour. With its tropical beaches, coral reefs and seabird islands, it offers a more traditional Caribbean setting. Though the two islands are only 25 miles apart, Tobago's avifauna is surprisingly different and we’ll search here for a number of species that don’t occur on Trinidad - such as the beautiful Blue-backed Manakin, rare White-tailed Sabrewing and excitable Rufous-vented Chachalaca. We’ll also take a boat trip out to the seabird island of Little Tobago, where elegant Red-billed Tropicbirds and Brown Boobies nest. With four nights staying at the beachside Blue Waters Inn, our stay on Tobago makes for a fine contrast to the first part of our holiday.

February is a great time to visit Trinidad and Tobago, with many of the islands' forest birds (including those magical manakins) displaying and the first seabirds back and nesting on Little Tobago. It's the 'dry season' and the climate is also delightful at this time. Our 13-day holiday has been planned to take advantage of British Airways twice weekly return from Tobago back to London, neatly avoiding the faff of having to return to Port of Spain at the end of the trip and catch a homeward flight from there.

Guide Richard Thaxton knows the islands' birdlife well. Our February 2018 tour will be his tenth visit to Trinidad for Limosa and his fifth to Tobago. Take your first steps to South America with us and discover why birdwatchers keep on returning to the twin island paradise of Trinidad and Tobago!

Brown Pelicans Trinidad&Tobago April 2015 Jo Latham 1 copy resized

Brown Pelicans take life easy beneath Trinidad's Caribbean sun © tour participant Jo Latham, www.wildlifephotocards.co.uk

Day 1                                                
FLY LONDON TO PORT OF SPAIN

Our birdwatching tour to Trinidad and Tobago begins with a British Airways flight from London Gatwick to Port of Spain (Trinidad). We'll be met on arrival and transfer directly to the Asa Wright Nature Centre (about an hour), which will be our base for the first seven nights of the tour - and where we will be welcomed by the first of our daily complimentary rum punches! Night Asa Wright

Days 2-7
THE ISLAND OF TRINIDAD            

Using the bird-rich Asa Wright centre as our base we have many wonderful sites to visit during our week's stay here:                               

ASA WRIGHT CENTRE & TRAILS

As day breaks over Trinidad's Northern Range, we will awake to the resonant calls of Bearded Bellbirds deep in the forest - and get our first taste of the island’s colourful birdlife right outside the bedrooms. Lemon-chested Great Kiskadees shout out their name as we gather to enjoy one of the prime birding sites of the area - the veranda!...

Tea and coffee will be waiting for us here at 6.00am and we’ll soon be enjoying our first close-ups of Caribbean birds at the fruit-laden feeders. Birds that are as pleasing to the eye as their names are to the ear: White-necked Jacobin, Blue-chinned Sapphire, Tufted Coquette, Golden-olive Woodpecker and the endemic Trinidad Motmot are but a few of the animated delights that await! The feeders can also be a good spot to see the smart White-lined Tanager, and Great and Barred Antshrikes, whilst brazen Trinidad Squirrels, peculiar Red-rumped Agoutis and impressive Golden Tegu lizards snuffle around beneath, picking up scraps.

After enjoying our own delicious buffet breakfast at Asa Wright, we will begin by exploring the network of trails that criss-cross this wonderfully diverse estate. The gorgeous Guianan Trogon, spectacular Channel-billed Toucan, furtive Grey-throated Leaftosser and lovely Bay-headed and Blue-grey Tanagers are among a host of treats in store, along with more species of antbird, tanager and honeycreeper to be found amidst the lush vegetation.

With luck, we may witness the explosive ‘wing-snaps’ and whirring flash of a tiny male White-bearded Manakin, instantly transposed from one perch to another during its strange courtship dance on the forest floor. And just watch what happens if a female should appear at the lek!

We’ll also make a special effort to find a male Bearded Bellbird, a canopy-dwelling speciality whose loud, anvil-like calls echo through the forest and are one of the characteristic sounds of Trinidad. Entering a calling territory, we’ll hope to get close enough for a good look at the strange, string-like wattles that dangle from the bird’s throat and are used in display.

OILBIRD CAVE

A visit to Dunstan Cave is another highlight of the trip, for this beautiful riparian grotto is home to one of the world’s few accessible colonies of Oilbird. This extraordinary nightjar-like bird lives in caves by day, emerging at night to pluck fruit from trees as it flies, locating the fruit by smell and finding its way around the caves by echo-location! We’ll make the eerie descent into the cave (by day, with flashlights), venturing in far enough to see several Oilbirds sitting on their nest mounds. We should hear others further back in the cave, uttering the peculiar clucks and screams that enable them to navigate within the pitch darkness. (To minimise disturbance, please note that visits to the Oilbird cave are restricted to one per week.)

We’ll return to the Centre in time for afternoon tea, over which such brilliant jewels as Purple and Green Honeycreepers, Blue Dacnis and Silver-beaked Tanager will entertain us - all at remarkably close range!

THE NORTHERN RANGE

On one day we'll drive up the ridge of Trinidad's Northern Range. Cutting through the forest here, the Blanchisseuse Road offers excellent forest birding and yet more lovely scenery. We’ll pause frequently to listen out for the approach of mixed-species feeding flocks that are so much a part of rainforest birding, eagerly anticipating the appearance of our first Green-backed Trogon and Speckled and Turquoise Tanagers, not to mention Golden-fronted Greenlet, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Cocoa Woodcreeper and the restless Tropical Parula. But there are dozens more species to watch for... from Short-tailed Hawk, Lilac-tailed Parrotlet, Rufous-tailed Jacamar and Golden-olive and Red-rumped Woodpeckers to Stripe-breasted Spinetail and a plethora of flycatchers including Dusky-capped, Slaty-capped, Streaked and Euler's.

In the tropics, fruiting trees can be the centre of almost ceaseless activity for days on end. On Trinidad, they’re a great place to find flocks of raucous Orange-winged Amazons and Blue-headed Parrots along with the handsome Chestnut Woodpecker, Yellow Oriole and Golden-headed Manakin.

There will doubtless be many others to enjoy: Little, Green and Rufous-breasted Hermits buzzing in the dark forest understorey, shy and elusive Black-faced Antthrushes that haunt the tangled woodland floor, and a host of birds of prey including American Black and Turkey Vultures, Double-toothed Kite, Common Black Hawk and the striking White Hawk circling above. We will explore one or more of the roads over the mountains and enjoy a picnic lunch here before returning Asa Wright.

MANZANILLA & NARIVA SWAMP

Offering a change of habitats, we make a day trip to Nariva Swamp and Manzanilla, on Trinidad’s east coast. En route, we take a side road to look for the smart Red-breasted Blackbird before arriving at a good mix of open and wooded habitat. Mixed bird flocks may hold Streak-headed Woodcreeper and the engaging Streaked Xenops, whilst the palm-fringed coast at Manzanilla is well worth checking for loafing Brown Pelicans and Magnificent Frigatebirds riding on the east trade winds.

Nariva is the largest freshwater swamp in Trinidad, and also has some excellent mangroves. Although difficult of access and under increasing pressure from reclamation, the marshes and farmland around the edge of the wetland can nonetheless be productive for birds with the scarce Pinnated Bittern and aptly named American Pygmy Kingfisher to look for, along with Wattled Jacana, Azure Gallinule, Silvered Antbird, Pied Water Tyrant, Yellow-hooded Blackbird and Carib Grackle.

ARIPO SAVANNA & WALLER FIELD

We'll set off to explore the more open areas of Trinidad’s central lowlands. Aripo is the island's only surviving savanna habitat, its fields and scrub supporting a variety of birds that will mostly be new to us today. Savanna Hawk, Yellow-headed Caracara, Southern Lapwing, Striped Cuckoo, Bran-coloured Flycatcher, Grey Kingbird, White-headed Marsh Tyrant, Fork-tailed Flycatcher and the comical Green-rumped Parrotlet are likely here, along with grassland finches such as the handsome Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, brightly coloured Grassland Yellow-finch and the tiny Blue-black Grassquit.

A late afternoon and evening visit to Waller Field provides an opportunity to look for Red-bellied Macaws, hiding beneath the fronds of their favoured Moriche Palms or coming in to roost. The yellow-hooded Moriche Oriole (regarded as a subspecies of Epaulet Oriole by some) is another speciality of this area, while Black-crested Antshrikes and diminutive Ochre-lored Flatbills cavort in the scrub. We will take a packed dinner with us this evening so we can stay out later than usual to look for night birds. Tropical Screech Owl, Common Pauraque and White-tailed Nightjar await.

WATERLOO & CARONI BOAT TRIP

We start the day by commuting to Waterloo! This is an area of mudflats on the island’s west coast, with a great range of waders, terns and other shorebirds to enjoy. We should find plenty of Black Skimmers and Laughing Gulls, along with Large-billed and Royal Terns and waders such as Semipalmated and Wilson’s Plovers, Western Sandpiper, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Greater Yellowlegs and Willet. We might also see Four-eyed Fish here today.

In the afternoon we continue down to Caroni Swamp, with its wide diversity of mangroves. In addition to seeking a number of species that are restricted primarily to mangrove forest, a boat trip through the swamp is a highlight of any visit to Trinidad and makes for a fitting finale to our stay on Trinidad.

Moving slowly along the maze of channels, we’ll watch for resident birds such as Anhinga, Boat-billed Heron, Striated and Yellow-crowned Night Herons, Osprey, the 'ragbag' Greater Ani, Yellow-throated Spinetail, Bicoloured Conebill and Masked Cardinal. The tiny Silky Anteater also inhabits the fringing woodland, passing the daylight hours curled up in a ball among the branches.

As the day draws to a close we'll arrive at the fabled evening roost of Scarlet Ibis, marvelling as they drift in to perch like bright Christmas ornaments against a backdrop of lush green mangroves and the hazy blue mountains of the distant Northern Range. Neotropic Cormorants, Tricoloured Herons and Snowy Egrets are also plentiful and Green-breasted Mango is regularly seen. As evening settles over the swamp, the weird whistling of Common Potoos pierce the still night air. The boat will return us to the jetty at dusk, so we will be back for a later dinner this evening. Six further nights Asa Wright

Day 8                                               
ASA WRIGHT AND TRANSFER TO PORT OF SPAIN, FLY TOBAGO

We enjoy a final morning birding at Asa Wright, then depart after lunch for Port of Spain airport and our short hop over to Trinidad’s sister island of Tobago. The flight doesn't take long - barely twenty minutes, in fact!

The compact Caribbean island of Tobago forms the final link in a chain of mountain ranges that extends from the Venezuelan Coastal Range, on the very edge of the South American continental shelf. The distance between here and Trinidad is only 25 miles, resulting in considerable species overlap - but there are also a number of birds that either occur only on Tobago or which are far easier to see here than on Trinidad, plus some wonderful seabird colonies, too!

We'll be met on arrival on Tobago and make the one-hour transfer to our beachside hotel at the northeast corner of the island, where we spend the final four nights of our holiday. Night Blue Waters Inn 

Days 9-11                                                                              
TOBAGO'S MOUNTAIN RAINFORESTS, 'ROUND ISLAND TOUR' & BOAT TRIP TO LITTLE TOBAGO ISLAND

The raucous calls of Rufous-vented Chachalacas - Tobago’s national bird - provide an early morning wake-up call at Blue Waters. The guest rooms are situated on the edge of the hotel’s private beach, with fine views across the bay.

It won't take us long to discover that the hotel's extensive grounds also happen to be great for birds! Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Broad-winged Hawk, Pale-vented Pigeon, Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, White-fringed Antwren, Barred Antshrike, Chivi (Red-eyed) Vireo and Scrub Greenlet are among many to be found, while the endemic Trinidad Motmot and more widespread Rufous-tailed Jacamar are often much easier to see here than on Trinidad.

If conditions are suitable, we will take the first opportunity to enjoy a boat trip out to Little Tobago Island. This is the place where the memorable film of spectacular Red-billed Tropicbirds and Magnificent Frigatebirds was made for David Attenborough’s classic series Life on Earth.

Once ashore on Little Tobago, we will climb slowly (up many concrete steps) to the lookout, to view the island's nesting seabirds. The steep windward slopes provide ideal breeding habitat for Brown Boobies, but Red-footed Boobies (predominantly dark phase birds here) can also be found. With luck, we might spot an elegant White-tailed Tropicbird, a species that has only recently started to nest on Little Tobago.

On our way back to Tobago, our glass-bottomed boat will travel slowly over Angel Reef and the 'Japanese Garden', revealing the splendours of the spectacular coral reef - and we can either look down on Angelfish or perhaps a Hawksbill Turtle swimming lazily by, or gaze up at the seabirds gliding overhead.

Making an start early, we travel up into the scenic mountains to explore Tobago's best rainforests. We will visit the Main Ridge Forest Reserve, which has been a protected rainforest since 1765. The flame-coloured Immortelle trees attract numerous nectar feeders - among them, the stunning Red-legged Honeycreeper - as well as raucous flocks of Orange-winged Parrots, which periodically explode from the treetops in typical parrot fashion.

Gilpin Trace is a secluded mountain trail where we have an opportunity to see the rare White-tailed Sabrewing, a large and brilliant green hummingbird that was all but lost to Tobago following the destructive passage of hurricane Flora in 1963. 

Rising to more than 700m (2300ft) above sea level, these forested uplands also harbour Plain Antvireo and the very handsome Blue-backed Manakin. As we work our way back downhill towards our hotel, other stars to watch out for include Collared Trogon, Rufous-breasted Hermit, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Fuscous and Venezuelan Flycatchers, Yellow-bellied Elaenia and the shy Yellow-legged Thrush. Looking up, we will keep our eyes peeled for the scarce Great Black Hawk soaring overhead.

On another day we can take a ‘round island tour'. Heading southwest, the pools at Tobago Plantation hold wetland species such as Anhinga, Western Osprey, Tricoloured and Green Herons, Black-crowned Night Heron and Belted Kingfisher, while chunky Caribbean Martins chase insects above the water. Purple and Common Gallinules nest here too, while a quick stroll around the sewage lagoon – no good bird tour should be without one! – might unearth the likes of Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Scrub Greenlet or Northern White-fringed Antwren. Foraging quietly in the mangroves, the secretive Mangrove Cuckoo is another localised specialitity to watch for here.

At the southwestern tip of Tobago, we take in another water treatment works at Bon Accord. Wader possibilities include Solitary Sandpiper and Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs - and we might be lucky to find a Sora picking over the mud. Tiny monochrome Least Grebes bob about on the lagoon as aptly named Short-tailed Swifts pass overhead, looking like flying wings.

Swinging back along the island's north coast, 'Hudsonian' Whimbrels may join with terns along the shore. Closer inspection could reveal Cabot's Tern (here showing characters of the yellow-billed form ‘Cayenne Tern’) amongst the larger Royal Terns. Nearing Charlotteville, we will watch for Giant Cowbird - hoping to see a strutting male, all puffed up in his resplendent finery in an attempt to impress the seemingly indifferent females. Three further nights Blue Waters Inn

Day 12                                                                           
STARWOOD TRACE / BLUE WATERS INN, FLY TOBAGO-LONDON

For those that wish, a chance to enjoy some leisurely final birding this morning with a walk up to the old cannon and along Starwood Trace, a trail cut into the hillside above the hotel that affords superb views across the bay to Little Tobago. The path winds its way through secondary growth forest, where we can take a last look for Great Black Hawk, Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Fuscous and Yellow-breasted Flycatchers, White-fringed Antwren and Scrub Greenlet.

After enjoying a relaxed farewell lunch at the hotel today, we travel back across the island to Tobago airport. Our British Airways flight departs for London from Tobago this evening, without the faff of having to return to Trinidad. All flights touch down in the West Indies (currently St Lucia) en route back to London.

Day 13                                                                           
ARRIVAL IN LONDON

Morning arrival in London Gatwick, where our birding tour to Trinidad & Tobago concludes.

Yellow chinned Spinetail Trinidad Dr Kevin Elsby wildlifeontheweb.co.uk 2006

Not all tropical birds are brightly coloured, this Yellow-chinned Spinetail being one of the islands' more subtle attractions © Dr Kevin Elsby, wildlifeontheweb.co.uk

What To Expect

This 13-day, two-centre birdwatching tour to Trinidad & Tobago offers the perfect introduction to South America’s treasure house of birds - and a welcome escape from winter at home! Join us for seven nights birdwatching amid the rainforests at the world famous Asa Wright Nature Centre on Trinidad, followed by four nights on the smaller island of Tobago, enjoying its surprisingly different avifauna.

Our groups enjoy the exclusive assistance of Trinidad and Tobago's top resident bird guides throughout their stay in the islands.

February is an excellent month to visit Trinidad and Tobago. With their tropical climate, temperatures here remain fairly constant all year (20-32C/68-90F). Rainfall is spread throughout the year (averaging drier January-May, wetter June-Dec), and typically occurring as tropical downpours.

Birds

210-240 species

Accommodation

Our tour begins on Trinidad, with a seven-night stay at the famous Asa Wright Nature Centre. Dotted about the delightful grounds, rooms here are chalet-style, equipped with ceiling fans (three of the lodge’s single rooms have air-conditioning not fans) and private bathroom. Most rooms have a balcony.

Flying over to Tobago, we conclude our tour with a four-night stay at Blue Waters Inn, a comfortable beachside hotel set within wooded grounds of 47 acres near Speyside, on the island’s gorgeous northeast coast. The hotel has recently been refurbished and facilities comprise a central building, restaurant, swimming pool and beach bar, with blocks of guest rooms located to either side of the central building. All rooms have private facilities, air-conditioning and a balcony.

Meals

All main meals are included in the tour price, commencing with dinner on Day 1 and concluding with lunch on Day 12. The food at Asa Wright includes much that is locally grown. Meals are served buffet-style in the main house. Picnic lunches are another highlight... as is the Centre’s trademark rum punch, home-produced coffee and cake! 

Walking

Most of our birding on this tour takes place along roadsides and well-used trails. The walking effort is mostly easy but with some hill trails, all taken slowly. The walk to the Oilbird cave is quite short (about 1km) and involves some fairly steep sections down through the forest; the trail is uneven but well maintained, with a handrail to assist. Please note thatto keep disturbance to a minimum, visits to the Oilbird cave are restricted to one per week, determined by the staff at Asa Wright.

As one would expect, rainforest trails can be muddy at times - sturdy waterproof walking shoes or lightweight boots with good grip are recommended.

Travel

We fly with British Airways, outbound from London Gatwick to Port of Spain (Trinidad) and returning Tobago-London Gatwick. Both flights have a touchdown in the West Indies (no change of planes).

Our tour price also includes the domestic flight Port of Spain (Trinidad) to Tobago on Day 8.

Ground Transport  By minibus (in the event final group size doesn't warrant two minibuses, the second vehicle may be a smaller car driven by our local birdwatching guide). Most places we visit lie within about an hour's drive of our accommodation.

Boat Trips

Our stay on Trinidad includes an afternoon boat trip (lasts about 2hrs) through sheltered mangroves at Caroni Swamp, with an experienced local boatman.

Sea conditions permitting, our stay on Tobago features a boat trip to Little Tobago Island, which has been a seabird sanctuary since 1926. The crossing here takes just 20-30 minutes but can be rough in windy weather; participation is optional and we won't go if conditions are unsuitable. The boat has a glass bottom for viewing the coral reef.

Green rumped Parrotlet 1 Trinidad&Tobago April 2015 Jo Latham 1 copy resized

Occurring on both Trinidad and Tobago, the diminutive Green-rumped Parrotlet is the smallest parrot found in the Americas © tour participant Jo Latham, www.wildlifephotocards.co.uk

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1 ML, Trinidad tour ... I had an excellent holiday and would put this on my list of trips to do again!... [empty string]
2 JL, Trinidad tour ... Limosa seem to get good groups - or maybe we are just lucky! The organisation is spot on... [empty string]
3 CE, Trinidad tour ... Having just returned from Trinidad I would like to say once again what a wonderful time we have had due to the careful planning of Limosa. The Asa Wright Centre is a little piece of heaven as you know - and I just wanted to say how well we were looked after there... Many, many thanks to all at Limosa... [empty string]
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We also keep your personal information confidential. We will retain your personal information for a reasonable period or as long as the law requires.

Accessing and updating

You are entitled to see the personal information held about you and you may ask us to make any necessary changes to ensure that it is accurate and kept up to date. If you wish to do this, please contact us by using the methods listed below. We are entitled by law to charge a fee of £10 to meet our costs in providing you with details of the personal information we hold about you.

If at any time, you would like to correct the personal information we have about you or if you would like to change your preferences for contacts from us or other members of the Limosa Holidays Family, you can let us know by contacting us by using the methods listed below.

Changes to our privacy policy

From time to time, it may be necessary for us to change this privacy policy, so we suggest that you check here periodically.

Links

This website contains links to other websites. Please note that we are not responsible for the privacy policies of such other websites and we advise you to read the privacy policies of each website you visit which collects personal data.

Questions or complaints: contact us

We reiterate that by submitting your personal information to us you consent to the use of that personal information as set out in this privacy policy. If you have any questions, concerns, comments or complaints about this privacy policy and/or our collection or use of personal information, or if you wish us to stop processing your personal information for any particular purpose or purposes, then please contact us on [email protected] or telephone us on +44 (0)1692 580 623.

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