Well, it's over a month since I sat here and typed - and has that much happened? Probably not…
I have been dreadfully disorganised. There are lovely donors who haven’t had their letters or sponsorship certificates (waiting on me), I have half finished food prep room (waiting on plumber) a half-tidy office (waiting on carpenter) and no new aviary (waiting on welder). I needed holes digging and roofs fixing before the rains came – (forget that, where’s my brolly and a mop?) And I have another month to wait before I am armed with a laptop and projector and I can get out into unsuspecting schools and listen to myself talk.
So – what do I have??? Sorry? Speak up – did you say "what do I have???" I’ll tell you what I have: I have my first yellow-head, thank you very much. No – not something that needs squeezing, but a genuine parrot. I am very grateful to ‘anonymous donor’ who gave up their beautiful bird for a higher calling – it’s really given me the kick I needed. Talking about these animals is one thing. Hearing “nope, didn’t see any this year” is another thing. But to see one of these beauties up close and personal is just breathtaking, and to think that the only ones left in Belize may be those in captivity is heartbreaking. So here I am, breathless and heartbroken, poised with cheque-book in hand to build the new aviary. The time for procrastination is over. Geoff has finished his quest – 475 miles in just over 33 hours. He managed to raise the best part of US$680, bringing our total to $2070 and there’s more on the way I am told. And what's more, Geoff is determined to do the challenge for real when he hits Belize next month, so watch out for the one-man Belize Bird Rescue Cycle Team as he flies around the country in his parrot suit (yes, of course I’m making him wear a parrot suit).
The dry season is taking its toll on the duck-pond. The island is no more and the water wheel clearly has a prostate problem, despite Joe’s best efforts with chains and whips and things. We need some good rain now, not that piddling stuff sent to interfere with hole-digging and roof-fixing.
In the midst of the dry, I spent a sweltering weekend at the Belize Agricultural and Trade Show. Temperatures hit 106 in the shade, but still people turned out to drink beer and look at horses and flowers. Amazing. We got a good pass through the Forestry Department display, and folks ooo-ed and aaah-ed at the wealth of information from jaguars to parrots to crocodiles and so many things in-between. It was well worth doing, but I forgot the golden rule: a bribe always clinches the deal. Next year I bring several large bags of lollipops and some free pencils.
Another bit of excitement: what we assume to be one of the 2008 barn owl releases is back and sitting on a clutch of eggs. Yes, Jerry is going to be a grandpa, how cute is that? Unfortunately there are also 2 chicken eggs under there. I am not going to be the one to fiddle about under an angry barn owl, so she will either have to hatch her happy meal, or hope the owl babies come first and shove the poor things out before they get chance to know what’s going on.
We hit huckleberry season last month too, that’s always popular. Not only do they taste good, but the parrots end up looking like extras in a zombie movie. It seems to amuse them – much head-tilting and chirping at each other. Unfortunately it gives me the unshakeable and totally awful earworm of 'Do The Hucklebuck' for several weeks thereafter. I’m most familiar with the Coast to Coast version, which is probably the worst of them all, and just talking about it now will have me wobbling like a duck for a good few days.
We had a couple of sick exotics pass through: a sun conure and an eclectus. Unfortunately the eclectus died soon after arrival, but the conure looks like it’s going to pull through. It brought to light once again the dangers of feeding peanuts to parrots, and parrot experts everywhere will be relieved to hear that I have served my birds their last peanuts. It’s left a small hole in their feed tray, which I am now filling with freshly-baked parrot bread. The lengths you have to go to.
And on a note that appears to amuse many, I managed to part company with the motorbike last week. A rookie mistake - braking too hard on dew-laden dry grass. In fairness, I was dodging 4 very naughty horse-chasing dogs at the time, so I should be forgiven. I now have a patch of missing skin that apparently resembles Queen Victoria and is about the size of the Isle of White; my days as a leg-model well and truly over.
Finally - if you want to pay up on Geoff's Quest, I promise not to use the money for reconstructive surgery.