Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ants, birds and probably alcohol

Alexandra the anteater has been back and forth between homes and has finally come back to roost at our place. Jerry spends 3 or 4 hours a day in the bush with her, which is inordinately peaceful for me. We also have some super friends who think it’s fun to bring termite nests into our downstairs bathroom where Alexandra lives, and we now have several nests full of termites who are happily exploring our block wall cavities. I sense that 2010 could be the year that the Bug Man cometh.

We had a new bird delivered a few weeks ago: Pepperito the Red Lored. He’s a charmer and toddles into the bedroom in the morning, shimmies up the bedspread and really, really ticks Chili off. I feel like a parent trying to referee the classic combination of ‘jealous child’ vs ‘cheeky wind-up-the-sibling’ child.’ Does anyone know what happens when you bang parrots’ heads together??

The baddest saddest news is that Penelope has been relocated. I wasn’t going to talk about its because I’m not happy about the result, but when she ripped out someone's earring, tearing a new piercing, and ran off down the road trying to remove a small child’s eyes, I figured she was not going to be a good rehab candidate. She is currently holidaying in the zoo: not the ideal choice for her life (no disrespect) but she loved to fly and she enjoyed her freedom – a little too much as it happens… Anyhow, I shan’t dwell on it, it’s better than being in a cooking pot I suppose, which would surely have happened if she had flowed the wrong pair of eyes down the road one day. To appease our guilt, we shall be visiting her with scrambled eggs next week, despite what the signs say about feeding the animals.

We’re also in the process of getting rid of a few horses: we have a friend (who also happens to be the most superb horseman I know) who is short of good riding horses for his trekking company, so Jack and Houdini have gone for a touring holiday for a while. By the way – if you ever want a safe, fascinating horse-trek to Barton Creek Caves or around Pine Ridge, I know just the guy.

It’s been party season in case you hadn’t noticed: my pathetic excuse for having done very little with the birds. Instead, I’ve done my share of “on the bank, in the river”, piƱatas and musical chairs. I even persuaded some poor sap to dress in the Independence sweaty parrot suit for the Humane Society Christmas Afternoon which sacred the life out of some kids to the point where they never want to see a parrot again, let alone own one. Good job!

I have to say, introducing Belizean children to pass-the-parcel (which I find out is a very British game and hasn’t ever really crossed the pond) was not easy: they couldn’t believe the gift was theirs, they kept trying to give the parcel away to their younger siblings, and as for “rip the paper off, quick” - forget it. I suspect they were trying to save the wrapping paper for next year, something I vaguely remember doing before consumerism and a disposable society swept the UK.

So, there endeth the decade. New Year’s Eve afternoon and only a few short hours from the first hangover of the year. In my foolish youth, I recall scoffing at self-employed farmers, bakers, newsagents, milkmen: all those professions I would list as “jobs I would never do” because of the early starts and lack of sick leave. Well, I shall no doubt be up my ladders at stupid-o’-clock tomorrow morning with the rest of the self-employed idiots, feeding my ungrateful charges and wondering how on earth I ended up here.
Happy New Year!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Double Standards

I have a list of stuff to do that is so long, I’ve decided to do none of it and Blog instead.

What a flippin week – my computer HATES me. I’m still not speaking to it for what it did to me and I’ve turned its speakers off, as no apology will be good enough. Sulk? Me? Hell, yes!

The excellent news is that the leg bands have arrived for our little darlings. Chili is sporting her shiny new bracelet and after the initial indignation, has managed to leave it alone for the most part. She has also decided it helps her to fly and has been experimenting quite a lot. I haven’t had to resort to ladder-rescues yet, but it’s coming.

Speaking of rescues, we were lucky enough (or not, depending on your point of view) to tag along on a wildlife raid this week. They needed our truck to transport what they hoped would be the haul of the decade of illegally captive wildlife. Unfortunately, somebody tipped off the offenders and by the time we got where we were going there was just one anteater, a spinning flip-flop in a cloud of dust, and an empty parrot cage swinging in the breeze. Darn and blast it. We heard that literally 5 minutes before, there was pretty much one of everything you could name, plus half a dozen crocs and several parrots- including a macaw- on display for the tourists. On the bright side, the tourists were told by their tour guides not to interact with the animals, which is great news: the message is getting through.

There’s a moral dilemma for me though. Here you have a bunch of people who’s sole source of income is to show tourists their parrot and ask for money in return for photographs. Is the parrot suffering any more or less than your average ‘pet’ parrot in Belize? You could argue that at least it has the attention of it’s owner and something to occupy its mind during the day. And because it is the owner’s livelihood, it is being cared for – no-one wants a picture of a sickly-looking bird. Of course, you all know if I had my way there would be no captive parrots at all, but for as long as we allow pet birds, what is the difference between one kept for the entertainment of a household, and one destined to make money for their owner? And what do you say to someone when their animal is taken from them because they charged money to display it, and they ask you ‘then how come it’s not free to enter the zoo’?

Hmmm. I could loose sleep over this one – but I probably won’t. The truth is, the majority of these animals are youngsters, caught when they’re cute and docile, and discarded for a younger model once they reach maturity. Apparently the anteater was number 19 on the guy’s list, most likely for this very reason, and one of its forelegs had been dislocated in the past, probably when it was pulled forcibly from its mother. Generally speaking, its a filthy business and it doesn’t benefit Belize in any way. And of course, there’s the health issues: in this litigious society, Belize’s tourism industry can’t afford to be responsible for an American tourist contracting rabies, or some child’s finger being removed by an angry macaw.

I shall now go and put flight-enhancers on the rest of MY birds, from which I derive tremendous pleasure, and have started the rocky road of fund-raising to support. How does that make me different from the aforementioned profiteers? Well, I get people to give me money and then tell them they can’t look at the parrot! Good wheeze, eh?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gone, recovered, and Guan again.

First things first. A resounding "Well done" to the ladies of the Belmopan International Women's Group who managed to claw in a gratifyingly large amount of money from their Annual Dinner Dance last week. This announcement also gives me cause to post a gratuitous photo in what had the potential to be a somewhat wordy blog. It's our George Price Center Cruise Ship. Aren't we brilliant?

Anyway, I had another one of these defining moments the other day. Having used mine an awful lot in conjunction with the aforementioned event, I realised that of everything I would miss when the lights went out for the last time on this overburdened planet of ours, it would be my computer. You can live without ice in your G&T, you can find other ways to make coffee, you can make music with pots and pans and a bit of cat-gut, you can even put up with bumping into door frames when you stagger around looking for the bathroom in the middle of the night. But electricity was invented for computers. Not the busy-body things that make life difficult – like the ones that stop you ordering a BLT without the bacon because there’s “no button on the register for that, madam” or the one that insists you fill in your zip-code when you’ve already told it you don’t live in the USA. What I mean is MY computer. My own personal magician that checks my spelling and makes my handwriting legible. The one that does sums for me, that keeps me in touch with my relatives and reminds me when it’s their birthday. The one to which I go running when I have a disagreement about which Sheen was in Loaded Weapon or what year Churchill was born – you know the sort of really gripping stuff that used to keep us awake at night before the birth of the Internet. Point being, I was just finishing my silent prayers of gratitude to the great god Pentium, when the bloody thing crashed on me. How ungrateful can you get. Actually – a crash would have been less heart stopping – what I actually got, as I reached for one of my thousands of precious photographs to insert into my equally precious website was a very cute message telling me that my C drive and all who sail in her was gone forever. Argh.
24 hours later, my precious Jerry managed to retrieve said drive and contents. I have spent the last 3 days christening the external drive I have had for 2 years and never actually bothered to use. Unfortunately, that's not behaving either: probably sulking over being ignored for 2 years. Lesson learned, and an abrupt end to unconditional love for computers, I might add.

So what about parrots? Not a lot, actually. We’re still waiting for the legbands and until we get them, all plans are on hold. Chili’s doing well but is at that unfortunate stage where 6 feathers are almost enough to fly with… but not quite. I can see me chasing around with a ladder before very long.

Speaking of ladders, Jerry spend most of Saturday up one trying to retrieve a lost monkey. A male howler had wandered off course and ended up at the mercy of a group of adolescent boys and a pile of stones. What is it about stones here? Dogs iguanas, owls, monkeys, other kids…? When I was growing up I must have heard ‘don’t throw stones, you’ll have somebody’s eye out’ about a million times (not from my mother of course – I was a perfect child). But here I see grown adults stoop to pick up a handful of stones as a Pavlov’s response to simply seeing a dog in the street. I mean, really, do that many people get bitten? Do that many monkeys leap from the safety of a tree to attack a human? Could an iguana care less who’s on the ground below them?
But how do you break that cycle? Do you educate the adults or the children? One is almost a lost cause, and the other you’re basically telling them their parents have irrational thoughts about their own safety. Maybe just a catchy poster campaign with a mother in curlers yelling “don’t throw stones, you’ll have somebody’s eye out” stuck on a million lamp-posts??
Anyhow, the monkey has spent a happy few days recuperating at the zoo and as I type is being released back to his troup with a couple of new scars and a story to tell. Hurrah for the Belize Wildlife Emergency Response Team. (BWERT) Sounds like the noise I used to make after a particularly good Friday night out.

Penelope (purpurascens) The Guan has unfortunately become our first ‘unreleasable' sanctuary bird. Ordinarily we would do our utmost to release birds back to their natural habitat, but Penelope became tame within 2 seconds of arrival - as we now know Guan’s are programmed to do. Everyone warned us that Guans are a problem. In fact everyone we know who have wild populations around, have at some stage needed to raise one, and without exception have all refused to take her on. “A guan? No fear. Never again”. Or less polite words to that effect.
With Forestry Department approval, we let her out of her aviary prison and it took her about half an hour for her to find the best seat on the verandah and another 10 minutes to work out which was the most effective window to knock on for warm offerings from the kitchen. She now has several new names: Penny the Elephant, That Bloody Bird, Poopy-Plop Monster… okay, we can’t say we weren’t warned. Guan for Christmas, anyone…?

Sunday, October 25, 2009


As yet another week rolls around, my new website is no nearer completion - in so far as I have not yet managed to complete a single page. Just as I feel I am getting to grips with CSS it does something I didn't ask it to do and I have to spend another 2 hours working out what it is. Now, what else do I know that's a bit like that...? Frustration finally triumphs over intelligence and I slink back to my baby 'I can draw a text box' programme.
Anyway, if there are any philanthropic Expression Web 3 writers out there that would like to set up a template for me before my free trial and what remains of my patience runs out, I would not be upset.

In the absence of Pepe, Chili is blossoming, and I've had to start bulk-buying chew-toys and band-aids once more. Although enjoying the occasional trip to the aviary, she makes it very clear when she's had enough and wants to come home.

On the real bird front, we've had a bit of a cabinet shuffle in the Big House. 5 new arrivals have created much posturing and jockeying for position. Mind you, the new arrivals are from this years' brood so I suspect they have had to settle for whatever they are permitted to have - at least until they're a little more confident. They are very polite and well-behaved and a credit to those that raised them - I thank you.

Michael has been ousted by Bibi for some unknown reason, and is currently holidaying in the living room. He seems very happy with that arrangement as he clearly wasn't winning any rounds in the aviary. So grateful for sanctuary in fact, that he hasn't bitten either of us yet. Just biding his time I'm sure.

Sunflower seeds finally hit the stores last week. Amidst the frenzied panic buying so typical of Belmopan, I bought lots and I think they've run out again. At least Milo's happy for now: liver disease? obesity? pah!

I had a ticking off this week from some real rehabbers not very far removed from aforementioned new birds. Apparently I'm not supposed to give my birds names. I have decided, in that case, that I don't want to be a real rehabber: it sounds exceedingly boring. I shall be a Bird Shrink instead, reassembling little personalities and preparing them for the big wide world. I shall also give names to the 5 new birds. (sorry you know who, if you're reading this - can't help myself: ID numbers just don't give me that warm fuzzy feeling.)

So, on with the week, and if I put here in writing that we are going to release the remaining Tinamou before the next weekend, we might actually get out and do it. Of course, I could always sit here and throw rocks at my computer...

Thursday, October 15, 2009


It's one of those days.
I have a million things to do - and none of them are small things, so if I were to actually start to do one of them, I wouldn't get finished today. Incentive... meet window.
On top of that, Chili is being remarkably uncooperative. She shins down her T-stand every 10 minutes, grunting and squeaking and making me feel guilty for spending time with my computer. Having said that, it's a good thing: I feel she's getting her personality back somewhat and she's preventing me from turning my brains to mush with You-Tube and the like.

Whilst I'm having a downer on the day, there are still no sunflower seeds in Belize. The excuses are credible: the supplier ran out of supplies, the credit card payment for the supplier failed, the container is stuck, the container is here but there's no-one to unload it, manana, manana. I am promised Friday. Meanwhile, Milo is positively apoplectic, and the velociraptors have run out of unchewed arm-flesh to bite. I love this country, and ordinarily these mini-crises of sporadic availability do not bother me. The potato famine passed me by and the onion shortage was, well, short. But mess with my birds (and my gin) and I do get a little peeved. So, Friday it is.

We had a bird-chilipepper bush collapse on us yesterday (just shows how short of news I am). I pulled the entire thing into the babies' aviary then watched fascinated as half of the birds sat on the floor waiting for dropsies and windfalls. I have never seen them do that before. Is it a baby thing, or a bird-chili thing, I wonder? Could this be the subject of my long-awaited dissertation...

I promise - no more until I actually have something to say.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Calling all Parrots

Pepe has gone AWOL.
There are times, every now and then, when I really hate what we try to do and feel like throwing in the towel. We have no idea where Pepe went and he was certainly not ready for the wild. After the latest kidnappings we can't help but fear the worst.

The overly-humanized beasties we encounter cause us considerable dilemma: they clearly love people far more than they love parrots and to throw them into an aviary full of strange green things whilst their beloved humans sip tea on the veranda is cruel and unkind and doesn't help their rehab. They respond so much better when they are allowed to adjust at their own speed. The pre-kidnap Chili would rant continuously if we dared to subject her to accommodation fit only for birds. Nowadays, she's not so fussy - just grateful to be home, I guess. But Pepe was a total home-body. He looked with disdain upon the aviary residents, and would dive-bomb the velociraptors if they dared to get too close to Jerry. Morning tea was a ritual and no day was complete without a ride on the motorbike.

We have our critics, and at times like this I find it hard to defend the logic. Yes, if we caged the bird it would still be here. Yes, if we clipped its wings we would still enjoy its company. But... birds are supposed to fly and humans are supposed to let them and we could not entertain that we exist to perpetuate the misconception that birds are better off in human care. Right? Of course right. Might as well change our name to Hattieville.

So, with Milo happily ensconced in the aviary and Chili grounded for a few more months, we are devoid of indoor aerobatics. Blue and the V-bombers still give us a display in the mornings, but my word, we miss Pepe. Maybe he'll find his way home, eventually...

In the meantime, if anyone encounters a rather precocious red lored that can whistle a bugle call and say "come on Pepe" in the same voice as the pea-soup girl in The Exorcist, please give us a shout.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

That Sinking Feeling

Amongst this week's more notable accomplishments are a Parrot Care leaflet I am finally happy with, and the much awaited installation of a shiny new concrete sink for my outdoor food prep.

The leaflet has been a monumental struggle. For a wordy body like me to cram 1500 words of 'look after your parrot, you moron' into a readable A4 tri-fold plus pictures, was somewhat painful. I cheated and used Legal, which gave me a precious extra few inches (yes, size does matter), and cut out some of the pictures and a lo-ot of text. What remains is a shadow of its former self, but this version stands a fighting chance of getting printed and actually being read (as opposed to the War & Peace version that required a wheelbarrow to distribute). I shall now test my webs skills by attempting to add a download-able version to the website.

The sink was entirely Jerry's struggle. For a very reasonable sum, we acquired one of those charmingly rustic 3-basin concrete sinks from the local concrete chappy. With unsurpassed ingenuity, several planks of wood and a neat little wheely-thing, we managed to wrestle the 4-ton monstrosity onto the back of the truck. It wasn't until we were halfway home that we began to question how we were going to get it off again. Our immediate thoughts are unprintable. It finally took 4 men, a block and tackle, a very sturdy orange tree and a lot of testosterone-laden grunts to swing it into place; and amazingly, with no raised voices and minimal bad language. I am now equipped to chop, scrub and distribute outdoors. Look at us: more and more like a real rehab centre every day.

Speaking of 'centre' I had an enlightening moment last week. I am lucky enough to enjoy the company of a wonderful band of ladies who comprise the Belmopan International Women's Group exec committee. At our last meeting the question of spelling was raised. Do we 'ize' or 'ise'? Are we a 'centre' or a 'center'?? Since first settling in the Caribbean 10 years ago, I have hung furiously onto my British spelling roots, despite the Americanisms (izms??) surrounding me. To actually hear a born and bred Belizean proclaim 'we were born of the British system, we spell the British way' gave me renewed courage of my convictions, just as I was about to succumb to pressure. Until I hear a directive from the Prime Minister to the contrary, a Centre we shall be (and that red line on this blogging programme can just jolly well check off)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Land of the Free, but what about me?" Belize Independence 2009

On Monday we paraded with the best of them. Young Michael, fashionably decked out in his newly constructed parrot suit, performed beautifully in his cage, turning somersaults and wowing the crow. I’m not sure the message was delivered completely intact, as the cute bird distracted the eye somewhat from the accompanying ‘let me out’ message (as cute birds tend to do). Still, we couldn’t have one without the other and it proved to be so popular that next year we intend to have several cute birds. We are eyeing up appropriately sized victims: parakeet, white-fronted, red-lored and yellow-head - you have been warned. All in all, a fun day, and a terrific, long-overdue, first ‘official’ parade for the true capital of the country. Here’s to many more.

In amongst the bad feeling of the Spike/Chili incident and the preparations for Independence, we haven’t managed anything spectacular with the birds. A comforting status quo reigns, but likely this will change once we get the leg bands and can start throwing a few grown-ups out of the Big House to make room for the graduating babies. Having said that, in order to band them, we’ve got to catch them all first…

Comfortable with our quiet spell, we rather stupidly offered to baby-sit a sick umbrella cockatoo - or U2 for those in the know – as I now am – smug smirk. Mr Cool had developed a bout of Delhi-belly. Don’t ask us what he had been eating, but it was appearing both ends – quite the most bizarre thing. Dr Isabelle gave him shed-loads of drugs and we gave him shed-loads of things to process for a repeat appearance from one or the other end. Two days after we first thought he was going to croak, we heard our first "I’m cool" from him, closely followed by hello, helloooo, HELLo, Helowo, HELLO, HELLO, HELLO, I’m cool, I’m, Cool, I'M COOOOL….

Okay, cute no longer.

Having made a complete recovery, the bl**dy thing fell madly in love with Jerry and chewed a large hole in our sofa to make a nest for them both. He also chewed a hole in my arm to make me go away, he terrorised our cleaner who now wants a pay-rise, he dive-bombed my mother and he rendered my own house a no-go zone for the best part of 6 hours. Even Pepe beat a hasty retreat whenever I’m Cool was loose.

Now – serious question. Who would have a cockatoo? No, really, I need help here: they are noisy, they’re destructive, and potentially very dangerous, they’re demanding, insistent, persistent and have an uncanny knack of making you feel guilty if you don’t give them attention every waking hour. They won’t allow you make phone calls or talk to anyone, they’re fussy eaters, they’re moody and unpredictable AND they’re expensive. There must be a 2-FanClub somewhere, staffed by nutters and subscribed to by lonely maniacs. If there was ever to be a list of ‘captive illegals’ - 2's are right there at the top along with tigers and grizzlies. Have a look at this and tell me I’m not wrong:

Yes, I’ve finished ranting – here are more pretty pictures of our float (and apologies to any sane, happy 2-owners, wherever you may be.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Before and After

We had a huge setback with the rehab programme last week which I am now almost calm enough to write about. Our young neighbour was convinced he could hear Chili down the road inside someone's house. Sure enough, they had Chili AND Spike - wings chopped, spirit broken. We appreciate that Chili was a little too tame and we can trace the hows and wherefores of them trapping her. But Spike?? Are they mad??? Our money's on a glue trap, but in the absence of a shred of honesty, we will probably never know the truth. I have secured my place in hell as, not only am I gratified by the fact that the guy who had them is missing a leg, but I rather wish the other one would drop off as well. I can hear my mother Nikki-ing as I type, but I don't care. What is wrong with people? Everything that made those birds fascinating and special was destroyed with a pair of scissors and a cage. Idiots.

I think you need the before and after shots in glorious technicolor to appreciate the extent of my rage (yes, "sweet Nikki" is capable of rage!!)

Anyhow, after exactly 3 poop-free months I have my cling-on back. She's a nervous wreck and buries her head in my neck constantly. Returning home to find a Pepe-shaped interloper probably doesn't help much either. She'll be grounded for at least 6 months - in the meantime I only hope she has learned something about people.

Spike, never the sanest of birds, was so messed up it took us a day or two until we were absolutely sure it was him. But today - day 9 of his return to the fold - he rediscovered his love of lacrosse, which may mean he's on the mend. Since he can only jump about 4 feet, he's lost every game so far: I may need to let him 'win' a couple of times to give him some confidence back.

Learning from the Chili/Spike episode, we are planning on making our next release a multiple escape. We have 3 definites, 2 probables and Timba. We plan to ring our birds in future and have had a fabulous offer of some freebies (thank you kindly). We just need to decide what to put on the rings. My thoughts are along the lines of 'if you can read this you're too close' or 'the police are on their way' but apparently there's not enough room on the band. I guess nothing's going to deter the complete idiots, but it may make the half-wits think at least once. Of course, if anyone has any better ideas...

And at last the peanut shortage is over, closely followed by a dearth of sunflower seeds. I've managed to score some pumpkin seeds which are far healthier for the birds; on the other hand, when you crave a double-scoop chocolate-chip ice cream, then frozen yoghurt just doesn't do the business.

Milo has been unusually active these last few days, climbing all over the aviary and visiting every feed station. It took mothers' brains to work out he hadn't suddenly become a 'real' bird, but the poor chap was actually searching in vain for the double-scoop chocolate-chip shop.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

...when a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of lust.

I'd like to say great things have happened since I last wrote, but that would be a lie. We've had a trickle of minor happenings, most of them I am ashamed to say, seem to have involved at least one crate of beer and a distinct lack of peanuts.

We finally let the veloceraptors loose on the world. Actually, we let then loose on an unsuspecting Blue. He is no longer permitted to perch just anywhere, only where the Little Green Gods allow. At first we though "ah, cute, Blue has flying-mates" but now I suspect it's more like "Run, Blue! Run for your life." Their most recent trick is to fly to the top of the ladders and bite the living *&!$ out of my arm while I'm changing the feed. That's always fun 20 feet up at 6 in the morning in a rainstorm.

Pepe is driving Jerry absolutely crazy (quiet snigger). Although they still have sex on a regular basis (sadly, pictured), the foreplay is getting shorter and Pepe's temper shorter still. I think Jerry is beginning to feel like he is being taken for granted. Pepe's also spreading the joy, canoodling with every male visitor we have pass through in the hopes of a better offer. Tart.
Speaking of canoodling, there's some pairing up going on in the Big House, which is going to complicate the carefully planned release schedules. Timba is still struck on the white-fronted female and has set up home in the dog kennel (hey, I didn't say anything about normal). Michael and Como are very cuddly and are measuring up the old bee-hive for curtains. Iran has been left in the cold by this relationship, so he's set his sights on Blue, who actually seems to be responding to the advances (picture scenes from visiting hour at Alcatraz). Milo has his own little fan club although none brave enough to ask him out on a date (thank God). He usually takes the soprano on the dawn and dusk chorus and may I take this opportunity once again to apologise to our neighbours. He still won't come down from the rafters and I swear he laughed at me the other day.

We had a bit of excitement with Prico who seemed to be seeing incredibly well. We threw him in the aviary for a change of scenery and within a day or two he was back to nearly blind again. The carefully thought-out scientific theories range from 'not enough to eat' to 'too much light and his vitamin A ran out'. Whatever, he's safely back on the tree trunk that passes for an ornament in our living room.

We had a flying visit from the Be Kind Belize students from San Pedro. They were delightful kids and their toy-making was so good I'm hoping it will become part of their curriculum for as long as I can keep them supplied with materials, although Rafi got more than he bargained for when he hung up his toy! This was one of the few groups of visitors we had this month that did not involve beer, by the way, in case you were wondering.

And finally, this month saw the first ever Wildlife Conference for Belize. I'm ashamed to say I'd never been to a conference before - I always thought you had to sell toothbrushes or something to get to go to those. Anyhow, it was a great success and we hooked up with lots of interesting souls. We had no idea there were so many enviro-crazies in Belize: when you operate in isolation, it's always a shock when you discover you are almost normal after all...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Santa's Little Helpers

We were blessed with decent rains this week so we could get on with this year's planting. We finally made a much talked-about trip to the Mennonite nursery that sells some unusual stuff: peach, apple, red guavas, pomegranate, cranberry, raspberry, blackberry and mulberry (real blackberry - not the pretend Belizean blackberry that is actually a big tree full of black berries that only the squirrels will eat. We'd planted 6 of those before we cottoned on. Man, we're quick).

We were also blessed with 2 new arrivals. One came from a couple of local children who's mother was given the bird by a friend. She didn't want it and had obviously sent her boys out to get money for it. The kids received The Lecture (several times, poor things) and the promise of the reward of Bird Rescue T-Shirts on delivery of the bird. We waved goodbye never expecting to see them again. Next morning they were back with a red lored in a cardboard box. Miraculous! I did feel sorry for them though: I can imagine they faced a scene similar to Jack returning home with the magic beans.

The second bird was delivered by the owners of Thatch Caye - they in turn got it from a lady who had to return home after 5 years in Belize. Pepe is adorable - he is probably in the best condition of any bird we have ever had (apart from maybe Fiona) and he absolutely loves Jerry. I can watch and larf as poor Jerry is chased all over the house by this fully flighted and very willful bird. It's like Chili (and Mr P, Basil, Rosie, Midge, Beaky...) all over again. Except this time is Jerry that's not allowed to go to the loo by himself! At last and hooray.

I've also had helpers this week: a first for me. Dyanna is my toy-making helper but I try not to abuse her generosity. However, work-experience helpers needing to put in 40 hours to graduate are fair game. Thanks Andrew - see you next week. Seriously, it was tough for the freak to relinquish control, but I managed it. And they really did do a good job. Bugger. I guess it's not rocket science after all...
As well as constructing some amazing foraging toys, Dyanna and Andrew helped us get aviary 3 up and running so the little darlings occupying the house would have somewhere to day-trip. We still bring the babies in at night because they give us 'the look' and we are clearly a soft touch. And it means I can do the early-morning feed in my PJ's without frightening the horses. The babies are enjoying crunchy stuff, but still need the slop twice a day. Or is it that I still like feeding them??? Some mothers just don't know when to let go...

Jake must have read my last post and is behaving more like a real owl. He is no longer desperate to come in at night and has discovered that the ceiling fans on the roof-terrace make excellent hunting grounds. Thanks to BEL and a strange quirk of the wiring, every time there's a power-out, the lights come on, so Jake can be guaranteed to have a hunting light almost every night (I wonder if he knows that's illegal...?)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Where did June and July go?

You know it's a long time between posts when you forget your password. "Little and often is best", says my father (not entirely sure what he's talking about and rather afraid to ask) and when a good friend accuses my blog-writing of 'not being that prolific', it's time to hit the keyboard.

From last post to date, we have had eleven new arrivals, (see - I'm busy and important). 1 of them is blind, 5 are perpetually hungry babies and 8 of them live in the house with us (see, I'm stupid too). They are all just too cute for words. So cute in fact, we have constructed yet another aviary to put them in: there's only so much cute you can wipe up off your sofa in one day.

Amongst the happy band of cute things is a white-fronted boy with a club-foot, and his sister who has splay-legs. They were hand delivered by two boys on horseback: apparently broken birds aren't de rigeur for Roaring Creek. It's an interesting indictment of stereotypes that the boy has a permanently clenched fist and the girl can't keep her legs together...

Another baby wandered into someone's garden. Escaped from goodness knows where, clipped wings, missing toes, a keel bone you could cut glass with. Lucky find. Lucky bird. Pippa is now chief sofa decorator and is first out the door when the aviary's ready.

2 baby red loreds and a crested guan were seized at a checkpoint. Apparently the guys that had them in the car said they 'fell out of the nest' and they were 'just taking them to Forestry'. I guess they 'fell out of the nest' and landed on a pair of scissors then. Those wings are at least a year off being useful.
Prico is blind and has discoloured plumage - the product of an inappropriate diet. Let that be a lesson to you as you shovel down that fourth plate of fries this week. We're hoping it's reversible, so our veggie bill has doubled overnight.

Blind he may be, but he still managed to locate and dismantle Jerry's laptop. As you will see from the photo, Jerry was working on very important Facebook files when this catastrophe occurred.

The best news has to be Spike. No, I haven't killed him. It was close once or twice though; I gave real consideration to swapping the lacrosse stick for a baseball bat. In the end, we threw him out of the door - closely followed by Blue. So much for the theory that they should go together to keep each other company - we didn't see Spike for dust. Blue's happy enough hanging out, getting extra rations of papaya and poking his claws up at the inmates he left behind. He keeps us company in the garden and visits his friends by the river when he's bored. Sounds a bit like some of the people we employ actually.

Jake seems to be a fixture. That wasn't supposed to happen. He left for a week and came back. He reminds me of a teenager who left home, got a lousy degree and now can't get a job. He's almost learned to knock on the door. (Knock on the door, crash into the door, whatever.)

Jerry confiscated an abused horse last week. The police never did arrive as threatened, which makes us think the lad was maybe feeling a little ashamed. Sorry about the picture - yes that it a recently gouged out eye - hope you didn't just have lunch... If it makes you feel better, he's currently servicing our mare. Obviously, in the horse world, it's all about inner beauty. Or maybe something else...

That's your lot. If you need more, go to the website (all together now) where you'll discover that whatever it is I've been doing instead of blogging... it's not updating the website.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Comings and Goings

I am suitably embarrassed and chastised at the tardiness of this entry. I could blame it on many things - but instead will take it on the chin.

We finally found a home which filled our rigorous criteria for Bambi and Thumper: a private reserve 2 hours into the middle of nowhere on a bush-track of potholes dug by bored Cornish navvies. All we had to do was build a cage for the truck, catch and drug the deer (see dodgy photo) and take them on a day-trip: a very simple, stress-free week's work. Stress levels considerably tested as Thumper alternated between getting his head stuck in the carrier, and using the missus as a trampoline, and to top the lot Bambi popped her clogs just as we getting her out of the truck. Chalk up another first: successful mouth to mouth on a deer (Jerry did the kissy bit - you may tease mercilessly). Finally, at last, hurrah... resurrected deer safely delivered to Gallon Jug. Bless you Mr Zander.

A merry week flew by as an old school friend descended with hubby and 3 offspring. I have to say, not just a little trepidation preceded their arrival; 3 girls under 11 - not the usual variety of Rock Farm visitors. I suspected various bottle openers would be banished to the darker recesses of the kitchen drawers. As it happens, Joanna, Katy and Pippa were an absolute joy, a credit to their parents, and they may all add parrot feeding, poo-scraping and duck herding to their ever-growing CV's. If the experience taught me anything, I learned that should anyone ask about holidays for the little people in their lives, I can say with impunity that Jenny and Andy are the best parents in the world and I've no doubt you would have a lovely time at their house. (only joking girls - come back soon!)

Meanwhile, back in the aviary, Spike is on Red Bull and back to his old trick of flying at your face. We have become very adept at catching him on a stick and flinging him back into the tree - rather like a bizarre game of Parrot-Lacrosse. The long-awaited release of Timba and Chichi resulted in a disappearing Chichi. Obviously her frantic cries for escape were not so much 'let me out' as 'get me away from this maniac red lored'. I think I now know what "call the police" sounds like in white-fronted speak. Timba crawled back into the aviary and immediately hit on the only other available white-fronted female. I think something in his head may be broken.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Horrible Hounds

This week has been one of sleep deprivation. In between the unseasonable thunderstorms, the (expletive) dogs have taken to nocturnal horse-bothering on a semi-professional level. I will shortly be getting t-shirts made - red ones for our lot and blue ones for the neighbours' dogs: please do not read political affiliations into the colours - they are just colours and they belong to everyone. (Always a tremendous source of amusement that immediately following a change of local government the public trash cans are over-painted with the new party's colours. In fact, 24 layers of alternating blue and red paint are probably all that's holding most of them together.)
Sorry - I have deviated from my complaint-track. Whilst the dogs are merrily chasing horses in that useless, floppy, grinning, oblivious way that only dogs can pull off, the local possum population have been advertising our hen-house as the latest KFC franchise. Feeling I had done my bit with the heron-proofing, I set the workers on possum-proofing the place. Wholly satisfied with their chicken-wire patches, I sent them home, waited til dark and, once all and sundry were safely roosting, quietly closed the door. Actually, I quietly pushed the door toward the door-hole, but there was no way it's warped little self was ever going back in that space again. Wouldn't you think they would have checked that...? I know, I expect too much. That cost me another chicken that night. No amount of gyrating and torch-pointing would galvanize my stupid canines into chasing it off. You could almost hear them: "no way man, it's dark over there". Useless lumps.

Anyhow, to happier things: the new aviary is at last finished. Woohoo. Its first resident was an aricari (Harry) apparently injured by a sling-shot. Lovely things, sling-shots. I think every child should be given one at birth. Very useful, not at all damaging to wildlife or the development of a child's sense of responsibility and morals. Harry recovered and was released yesterday. The aviary is now empty and ready to receive the Veloceraptors - who are now both flying, and biting, and nastier than ever. Veloceraptor 1 is rather adept at tucking into that area just below your shoulder-blades that you can't quite reach. Even though you know you can't reach it, it doesn't stop you spinning round trying - I don't know what I expect to happen - one day my head will stay still and my body will move to the front, so I can swat the little burger? Actually, no, that wouldn't work either because my arms would still face in the wrong direction...
Ah well, never mind - this time tomorrow they'll be safely behind bars. Better add little orange jump-suits to my shopping list.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Farewell to Ben

Jerry left for India last week - not his favourite place but needs must. In his absence the dogs managed to kill the agouti. Having grown up with birds, it wouldn't occur to them to touch the feathered creatures, but small furry ones have always been fair game, which is why we always vowed never to have any. I'm trying to be philosophical about it, but truth is I do actually miss the annoying little pee-machine. Jerry is devastated; Ben was his baby. Although conscious of the fact that dogs don't understand grudges and sulking, I managed to make my 'I hate dogs' mood last the whole day, and amazingly enough they got the message and slunk out of my way when they saw me coming. One night's sleep though and all is forgotten - they are back to their usual ebullient, clueless selves. Doggie brains don't retain a whole lot of information. Bit like some humans I know...

Rat-murdering apart, it's been a busy couple of weeks on the bird front. We have received 7 parrots and an injured aricari, and we finally got around to building the new parakeet aviary. It should be ready for occupation on Tuesday which will be a big relief as velociraptor number 1 is getting rather too proficient at buzzing a bemused Milo, a furious Chili and any unsuspecting humans. He's also far too fond of his over-sized cousin; Milo seems to enjoy the attention, but one can never be too sure. Roll on Tuesday.

As if our 'man verses beast' lifestyle needed reinforcing, on a recent stroll down to the chicken-house I witnessed my favourite blue heron with an almost full-grown chicken flapping around in its beak. Mystery solved as to where they are all disappearing to. "Just a couple of strings, they can't step over them, simple as that" they say. So, armed with drill, string and wire I set about proving the theory. Satisfied, I retreat for a beer and watch through binoculars as the heron swoops over my wires and gobbles up another chick. Okay then, I guess I need to put some higher up. Finally I have horizontal strings decorating the hen-house from floor to ceiling. Beer number two, chicken number three and aghast as the heron flattens himself out to fly neatly between the strings. Ok-aay, I guess some vertical strings are required... Anyhow, several chickens later and a long story short, we now have the equivalent of a football goal surrounding the chicken house, with a bungee-cord door for us. I am now an expert net-weaver and the heron finally got the message and has given up. See - still the smarter species. Yes, I know it would have been quicker with chicken-wire, thank you very much.

On a final exciting note, some very reliable eye-witnesses have reported a mountain lion in the area. How likely is that, I wonder? Still, if the mountains are devoid of food and habitat, why not head for the valleys. Maybe the rat's days were numbered anyway: cold comfort, I think they call that.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Deer Walkers

We are turning into the sort of odd-balls that make other people shake their heads and tut. Not that I care - tut away. We finally bit the bullet and let the deer out. Bambi & Thumper resplendent in his & hers collars now accompany us on our daily walks with the 5 dogs and a parrot.

Ben (the agouti) has her own rat-flap; a hole in our bedroom fly-screen. We only really see her when she's hungry or it's too hot outside. Even then we don't actually see her; we just hear the grunts and squeaks - vaguely reminiscent of a chipmunk trying to imitate a gorilla - as she gnaws her way through the door frames and book cases.

One of the parakeets has got a thing for Milo, the Moluccan cockatoo. Not a great idea given the size difference. Milo seems to enjoy the attention, but it seems somehow perverted so being spoilsport humans, we tutted and brought Milo outside.

The parrot shower is operational - just in time as Mother Nature recently turned up the thermostat in her Belize oven. The hydroponics, however - is not operational. Nag, nag, nag...

This week, I am not proud to announce that I helped perpetuate the illegal trade in live iguanas. I purchased 4 lovely specimens that were hitching a ride over a villager's shoulder. Overcharged, I spirited my prizes back to the farm, only to find that hog-tying iguanas involves snapping the middle claw of each foot, pulling the legs behind the body, tying the tendons in a secure and effective knot and digging the dangling and bloody claws into the body - just in case one of them were named Houdini. Somewhat sickened, we released the unfortunate maimed creatures to an uncertain fate. Cultural, you cry? Bollux say I.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Birds and the Bees

The excitement of this week came in the form of a swarm from our bee-box. Not the first, but definitely the biggest. I watched them regroup on the usual tree before slapping forehead and running for camera. Hoping for dramatic shots of a swirling cloud, I waited, trigger poised. 20 long minutes later we were treated to a very blustery rainstorm, which failed to shake off the bees but instead encouraged them to cling on for hours whilst they dried out. You may be fascinated to know that during adverse weather conditions, tree-hugging bee swarms form very tight balls and layer their little bodies in a totally uniform direction, rather like furry wing-ed thatch. Clever little B's, aren't they? Anyhow, boredom eventually set in and I was miles from the camera, pinned to the sofa by a demanding cockatoo when they finally decided to take to the air. Cockatoo's are not something you can just fling off and apologise to later, hence the lack of bees-in-action photos.

I have my trustee assistant Jerry installing a shower for the parrots this week. And when the dry season decides to show it's ugly face, I'm sure they will be very grateful. We have also broken out the fag packet for the design stage of the veloceraptor enclosure (fags are British cigarettes, by the way - always have been, always will be, despite what the New Dictionaries say) We've watched the pertinent bits of Jurassic Park 3 times now and are weighing up the merits of an electric fence -just in case they manage to chew their way through the steel in the night. Speaking of which, if anyone knows the whereabouts of the container with the steel fittings in, could you please alert Builder's Hardware.

This has also been a week of discoveries:
We discovered that Belizeans still like to eat iguana meat, iguana eggs, hickatee, gibnut, deer... all protected, some endangered, some critical. We also discovered that no-one wants to make a fuss about such illegal practices as it is 'part of the culture'. As Jerry says, human sacrifice was part of the Maya culture, but you know, times change, roll with it.
We discovered that the survival rate of newly hatched ducklings by our lake is not good: a clutch of 20 can disappear at the rate of 4 or 5 a day until they are all gone.
We discovered that the Great Blue Heron has a penchant for newly hatched chicks. (repeat after me - all birds have a purpose, no bird is more important than another, every bird has to eat)
We discovered that TACA, our new dog gets lost easily. Those 3 hours were nearly as much fun as watching the chicks being eaten.

Jerry has still not finished construction of his hydroponics. I am writing this in the hopes that he is shamed into a rapid conclusion. I shall keep you posted. Literally.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


This week we are minus one horse. A bullet to the brain definitely does the trick; the old boy went quickly, quietly and happy in his state of blissful unawareness. A set of dentures would have given him a few more years, but at 27+ his day was done. Miss you, Rocket.

We are up one dog. Tucker arrived a week or so back, an ex-rescue dog who's rescuers needed to return to the US. Their sad loss is our happy gain. He goes by the name of Tucker. Cue great hilarity as our Spanish workers make aeroplane noises and point gleefully at the dog. We have given up correcting them, so - TACA he is. He's a little ray of sunshine, and can outrun Jerry on the motorbike. That surprised the hell out of our lot, who thought they were fast runners (as my friend's teacher once scathingly said to her - "my dear girl, one’s performance rather depends on with what one makes the comparison." Aren't teachers great? How to make ambition wither and die). Anyhow, a happy balance of madness restored to the pack.

We were given a magnificent hawk, courtesy of Looey who hiked the poor soul all the way out of Mountain Pine Ridge. It couldn't fly, could barely stand, and on close inspection...oh, guess what? It had been shot. I'm sure it was imperative that this bird should die: wild, in the bush, miles from ‘civilization’, it was obviously causing immense problems. It survived 3 days before succumbing to its injuries. I wish I could say the same for the moron with the gun.

The agouti is growing fast. She has free run in and out the house (lovely) and comes and goes to her favourite drainpipe as if she owns the place. She is still sucking milk from a syringe and can down 10ml in 6 seconds flat; a course record. The dogs are leaving her alone - mostly - although TACA has an unhealthy interest in her nether regions. I'm not surprised - she stinks - and the house is not the place for a rat, Royal or otherwise. (Don't know why I'm wasting my time, Jerry never reads this anyway).

We got two new parrots last week - red loreds - courtesy of an expat headed home. Iran & Michael (yes, of course we renamed it Iraq). They have a long way to grow with their freshly clipped wings, but they are otherwise physically and mentally healthy so it shouldn't be an uphill struggle. The veloceraptors are finally taking flight. They can make the length of the living room in a single bound. Chili has become an expert fighter-pilot with advanced training in mid-air veloceraptor interceptions. Belize Bird whatwasit now?

There we are - that's us up to date. Don't worry, I'll be back to my usual verbose self next time, making an otherwise short story very long.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Three steps forward...

Good news/bad news continues. The best news is that Mick and Titch had a glorious release and flew off into the wide blue yonder. They haven't returned to our knowledge, but no surprise there; they're off in a hurry to make babies. Interestingly (don't yawn) Timba and Chichi, who usually camp out in the lower branches of a single tree, have moved up to the top platform. Hierarchy at work. Chichi is definitely making sex noises - dare we give them a nest-box...? And today we successfully released a dove we had been nursing for a week. Oh come on, every bird is important!
Buster (Hunter's son) is sick with tick-fever again. It's his second bout in a few months, the consensus is that we discontinued the antibiotics too early the last time. If you're interested, the symptoms are rapid onset of lethargy and appetite loss, usually with pale gums. Treatment with doxycycline for at least 2 weeks, but better for 3 we hear. We give 200mg twice daily for our 80lb dog, but check with a vet. Without treatment the dog will pop his clogs in very short-style. We noticed Buster under the weather on Saturday and by Monday morning he was on a drip (much on the mend today though, thanks for asking).
Rocket, our 200 year-old horse is getting skinny again, poor old fella. We've brought him out of the scrubby pasture for some yummy lawn-grass and a tonne of vitamins. Probably get colic now, knowing our luck. And finally, the agouti has discovered the joys of teeth - hers mostly -and is using them to good effect: nuts, sweetcorn, my favourite bookcase... great. She's going on Ebay if she keeps that up. All we need now is for the remaining 7 horses to discover that the electric fence is broken, and make a bee-line for the bananas.
Ooops, too late.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

RIP Hunter

It's been good news, bad news lately. Monday morning, we awoke to find our trusty pack leader, Hunter, had died peacefully in his sleep: so peacefully he hadn't even disturbed his blanket. Heart attack or stroke, we guess. He was probably only between 7 and 10 years old - as a rescued street dog we can't be sure of his age when he first joined our happy band. Following so close on the heels of 2nd Lieutenant Wilson's death late last year, it leaves us with a somewhat dysfunctional and leaderless pack. Buster is now in charge, God help us.
On a brighter note, Klientjie (the Third Stooge), who I thought had disappeared for good, came sailing over the horizon with Mr P. What a wonderful sight - not least because I can now look Dr L in the eye and tell him all his birds are safe and well. Mr P is quite a strapping fellow whereas Kleintjie is a mere slip of a girl - a very distinctive couple in amongst the crowd. It would have been a tear-jerking sight: Little and Large swooping toward the aviary, greeting long-lost friends then flying off into the wide blue yonder - were it not for the dead dog at our feet...
Good news, bad news continued: On Tuesday, Mr Forestry Officer invited us to join him in a Q&A session at one of the local universities. A very productive exercise, all in all. Later that day he presented us with a badly injured barn owl: broken wing, fractured skull, damaged eye. Unfortunately it did not survive the night. By coincidence, Wednesday we bumped into the Audubon Society representative who found the bird. Not content with the extent of injuries sustained when it was hit by a car, the local youth were trying to finish it off with stones; Belizeans believe that barn owls are the soothsayers of doom, death and disease, which brings their average survival rate down from 'not great' to 'not a chance'. We have another busy season of orphaned baby owls in various states of disrepair to look forward to. Ah well, out with the soapbox and the bullet-proof vest and let's begin the happy task of eradicating a thousand years of superstition.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Busy doing nothing...

Forgive me Blogger, for I have sinned; it has been a week since my last post. I have spent the last seven days putting up Parrot Propaganda posters on every available notice board around town; thanks for the help from those unsuspecting individuals who didn't run away fast enough. It remains to be seen whether anyone reads them or not.
We received an update from the owl's new parents. He's now officially called something unpronounceable that means 'Night Eyes' in Latin - or Nox for short. We have been promised a written account of his life so far, as soon as young Bruce makes it to civilization to send his email. The good news is though, that Nox is doing well and has learned to perch on a human arm without ripping chunks off it, which is always a plus. Shame he didn't learn that level of restrain with his own arm...
I daren't tell Dr L, but the Three Stooges are now the Two Stooges. And I think the one that has gone AWOL has been led astray by Mr P, who is also conspicuous by his absence. Talk about the blind leading the blind - I hope they found some helpful flock-mates. The remaining two are behaving as a pair. They share their food and roosting space and fly in mad circles around the house and through the orchard together. Nox's new dad kindly made us a parrot nest-box which we'll put in one of the taller trees near the aviary. Yeah, okay, but you never know, oh ye of little faith. We did contemplate putting it in the aviary, but we are likely to get inter-species breeding if we did. They don't seem to be bothered with this prospect, but we are not about to encourage a psittacine melting pot in our back yard - it doesn't exactly complement what we are trying to achieve. Speaking of which, to round off a perfect week of achieving very little, we also acquired a baby agouti. Our mother-dog brought it back in her mouth, probably thinking it was a long-lost puppy. Of course now she will have nothing to do with it - thanks for that, Judy. We'll add it to our very long list of 'Things that Waste a Lot of Time' and hope it grows up quickly.

(BTW, want to know more about the Stooges, Nox et al?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Up the Ante

My self-imposed Sunday chores include bleaching the parrots. Not the actual birds, just everything they may touch, or eat out of, or stand on. You can keep your fancy disinfectants; bleach works. And it degrades in sunlight (plenty of that here) and doesn't smell of lavender or 'potpourri' or some sickly throat-grabbing lemon-like olfactory assailant. Some clean-freaks advocate alcohol, but I believe this substance has a higher purpose. Anyhow, bleaching parrots gives one time to think (as does vacuuming or mowing the lawn) And my thought for the day as I was been bitten every 10 seconds was "what use are fire ants?". Wikipedia wisely tells me "not a lot".
Naturally we can't use any form of poison or insecticide; can you imagine the headlines? "Belize Bird Rescue poisons 160 domestic fowl, 12 parrots and thousands of wild birds". Who am I kidding. Headlines? Ha. You have to be a machete-wielding maniac or a politician to make headlines these days (yes, there's a difference). As a fire-ant killer, Ms DuPlooy ( recommends degreaser, molasses and warm water - but this acts only as a topical murderer, knocking off the top 2% of the nest. We tried dousing them in boiling water, but this offended my sensitivities toward these innocent helpless creatures. Only kidding - didn't really work either. A friend suggested white lime, but this will burn unsuspecting bird-feet and probably isn't too healthy as a midday snack. It seems to be one of the few battles we will not win in Belize (plus I am supposed to support the 'share the planet' theory). The best we can do is confound the enemy. Parrot food is neatly arranged in plastic chip baskets, with threaded bar and cabinet knobs screwed on for legs: these little restaurant islands live in a baking trays full of water. Regular cleaning of the tray is required as the crafty little beggars use peanut shells as boats. Honestly! Human feet are usually encased in wellies and the perches we position between the trees and the feeding platforms have to be moved regularly, or they become a route-march for the clean-up team. I once witnessed a parrot fall off a perch as it tried to pick ants of both its feet at once. I know it shouldn't have made me laugh, but I don't get out much.
I am reading about phoridae, a wonder-fly that eats fire-ants. Get this: the 'ant-decapitating' fly reproduces by laying eggs in the ant's thorax, the larvae migrates to the head and starts to eat it. After about two weeks, they cause the ant's head to fall off. The fly pupates in the detached head capsule, requiring a further two weeks before emerging. Now where can we get some of those from?