Sunday, October 16, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Through no fault of my own, I have ended up with volunteers. Ordinarily the very mention would cause an outbreak of hives, but surprisingly enough they are rather helpful and quite pleasant to have around. What they think of me really doesn’t matter: as I have to constantly remind them, they are doing it for the birds. In my grudging, half-complimentary way I would like to say a public thank you to Amanda for her knowledge and practical administering amongst my indecisive ditherings, and Hayley who didn’t even like birds when she got here and only came for a holiday to visit my daughter. Thanks ladies – lovely job.
So, what have we been up to? Well, we now have 5 yellow-heads, all of them totally bonkers and I am pretty sure they are all different sexes (yes, of course there are 5 sexes of yellow-head). We released 6 red lored and 2 white-fronts in May, but even so we still have 43 birds in total, which is quite ridiculous. Thankfully, 16 of them are on the downhill slope to release. Another six are living in the house with us, for pity's sake, and three of those are cockatoos. Don't ask. And no, it's not funny. We’ve had broken things that, thanks to Isabelle-The-Vet, we've managed to fix, and some that sadly, we haven’t. We’ve had baby parrots and older parrots and some things that weren’t even parrots at all. The highlight of that category has to be Arnold, a baby armadillo who’s mother had become someone’s lunch and who in turn was destined to be an Early Learning toy for some bored children. Arnold came from Maya Center, a village adjoining Cockscombe Basin which is next on my list for a stern lecture on Wildlife in the Wild. Since his arrival at less than a week old, Arnold has stuffed himself on a mix of dairy, eggs and cat food and has doubled in size in a month. Even so, he still fits in the palm of one hand.
In May we had a 'Night Out For The Birds' fundraiser. A huge thanks to everyone who came, helped out, donated and supported and particularly to the British High Commission who donated so much including the fabulous venue. Final count was just short of $6000bz which got our broken aviaries up and running and should give us enough to make a good start on the yellowhead aviary.
Excitement this week as we tested out our new soft-release site. We decided that Bibi & Daphne would be first to go – not that they are good release candidates or even appropriate release candidates, but because they are so bad at being captives. Bibi is the red lored who had an argument with our neighbours’ sling-shot at the expense of his eye and Daphne is his inappropriate white-fronted girlfriend. Since they spend most of their day tying to escape, we figured they would be happier hanging out in the bush, miles from any humans with murderous intent. The owners of the property are fully aware that these are ‘parrots’ and that they will ‘make noise’ so I have high hopes for this relationship. It seems that researchers have observed parrots with eye issues doing very nicely in the wild, and since Bibi will be fed, watered and sheltered if he chooses, then this is the best option for a shot at a wild existence. I just hope the babies get Daphne’s brains.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
My tail is caught, I am hauled from my tunnel. There is strength; too strong for my writhing and flipping. My bite fails to connect, my thrashings ineffective.
Then, the pain is excruciating. My being centres on the blinding flash of agony in my claws. My limbs are drawn behind, shoulders burning. The pain returns ten-fold, a pin-like digging to my back. Just as I know it can go on no longer, the agony doubles, my hind claws scream, my shoulders burn, the prickling to the back once more. I am immobile. Every twitch causes fire throughout my body. My eggs! The urge to expel is overwhelming, but I am unable to push them from my body. I feel a tightness around my midsection, a band preventing breath or contraction. My mind dims, unable to comprehend what is happening.
I wake. Try to move. The agony returns, the tightness remains, my eggs press hard in my belly. There is now pressure from above; a weight on top not there before. There are human noises around me – a signal to danger, but I cannot run, cannot move, my limbs secured. I hear noises of my own kind; soft sounds of constricted agony. I twist my head as much as the pressure and pain will allow and there I see the awfulness of what is. I now understand the pain, the agony, the burning, the pressure, the futility of hope. Piles of bodies – my own kind, females, heavy with eggs, stacked like logs on the cement floor. Their limbs secured behind, the claws snapped from their feet, ligaments stretched to the limit and tied into knots – unbreakable bonds of their own flesh and sinew. A final insult - the useless claw dug into the leathery skin of the back as if agonies inflicted were insufficient. The bellies of the captives bulge with eggs that strain for escape against cords and bindings. Eyes wide with pain and despair, I know as I gaze upon these eyes it is as if I gaze at my own reflection in the clear pools of the river eddies.
Those eyes I watch blaze with hurt as her body moves, a blade flashes, the binding around the abdomen severs, eggs expelled in a flush of relief. Relief turns to agony, the final glint of a blade at her neck. I see blood, fear, pain and finally acceptance of death.
I watch purpose for life crushed as eggs are consumed; I watch hope for life diminish and fail in the eyes of my neighbour; I see disregard for sense in the face of my captor; I see futility in my own life and despair at its end.
And then I feel no more.
Monday, March 21, 2011
At first light, the stealth attack went largely unnoticed: reconnaissance units were spotted around known food sources, but nothing unusual to cause alarm. Shortly after dawn, the attack began: and the wave of assault was overwhelming, reaching unprecedented levels before counter-measures could be employed. Food bowls throughout the region were rapidly overwhelmed.
Realising the full scale of the invasion, the coalition of Pump-Action Spray Bottle and cypermethrin were enlisted to combat the intense attacks. Lacking trained personnel and multiple-pump re-enforcements, the officers were unable to execute the proven ‘pincer movement’ resorting instead to the shock-and-awe wave of watering-can attack on the infiltrators. The initial Red Army attack was concentrated on the training facility, but it rapidly became clear that the focus of the invasion was on the First Airborne Flock in their final stages of flight conditioning in Aviary One. Eye witnesses report that it was ‘lucky’ that the trainees were skilled in flight-mode, as ground troops would have been unable to escape the viciousness of the attack.
A few moments into the battle, alarms calls were sounded from the perimeter. Preliminary reconnaissance reported that intense waves of incursion fighters had taken over strategic ration points around the outlying medical and quarantine facilities. Once again lacking trained support personnel, the coalition were forced to refuel and enter enemy territory without back-up. The Vice-Presidential feet suffered sustained attacks, and one or two Muscovy ground troops were caught in the cross-fire.
Sources close to the Presidential Staff admit that this attack had been expected for some time now: in the absence of President Jerry the sporadic preventative measures of covering fire had been abandoned in favour of a softly-softly approach. Vice-President Nikki admits that the Red Army is beyond negotiation, and reprisals must be swift and effective. This evening she was heard to comment that no black mound will go un-punished from now on.
Experts blame the latest wave of attacks on the recent heavy rains: “The Red Army rely on underground food stores” explained Morito Fushiyamo, head of the Fire Ant Research Team. “After heavy rains such as these, food becomes waterlogged and rapidly mildews, forcing the troops to turn to alternate food sources”
It is not clear whether the recent attack on Rock Farm was coordinated to take advantage of the readily available food source, or was an opportunist raid as it had become widely known that President Jerry was out of the country on a fact-finding mission.
Feathered locals grudgingly admitted that they were ‘happy’ that Vice President Nikki was in charge of operations as President Jerry was considered to be ‘over-zealous’ with his attack strategy, although many liked the ‘harmonious state’ that existed when the two of them were in power together.
But there is a sinister side to these red invaders. The recent trend in Fire-Ant-Eating amongst young geckos have resulted in a spate of deaths, causing consternation amongst Gecko Parents. Dried Fire-Ants have become a delicacy at Gecko Parties and some young geckos have died painful deaths as a result of ovedosing on fire-ants. The Ministry of Gecko Health has launched a national campaign entitled 'Don't Do Bugs' in an effort to prevent young geckos from attempting 'ant-sucking'. Grafic posters depicting the death throes of geckos are on display at known ant-suck venues in the hope that the teenage lizards will steer clear of the sport.
Finally, Rock Farm have issued an ultimatum to The Termite King, explaining that reprisals will be ‘swift and severe’ if they kill any more of the lime trees on the property.
Back to the studio.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Hey - I'm a parrot girl - could happen to anyone. The only difference seems to be that our boy has shorts on and the genuine hawk-eagle has long pants.
Anyhow, it's still uncommon, sling-shots are still Satan's Underwear, it's still a beautiful bird and it means that someone somewhere is having nesting success.
Thanks Ryan of BRRI for the correction and I've added some gratuitous bird shots for your viewing pleasure.
Incidentally - this is what he actually grows up into:
And this is what we thought it was:
Now, do you blame us???
View the release here
Monday, January 3, 2011
We never did find out why he was walking: maybe he was a late fledgling that needed some flight training, or had been clipped by a car and bruised, or just fancied Christmas in the country for a change.
Jerry got a black and white hawk eagle for Christmas. He was another sling-shot victim ($2.50 in A&R - we should club together, buy the lot and burn them on the PM’s desk)
Thanks to a sympathetic local who convinced the idiot with the sling-shot not to ‘finish off’ the bird with his boot, this magnificent bird is rested, his bruises are healed, he flies just fine, thank you very much, and is more than ready to go back home. There is tremendous interest in this creature as it’s very rare in Belize. In an unamusing show of Mother Nature’s irony, one of its faves for lunch is the equally rare orange breasted falcon.
For the last month we’ve been nursing a sick cockatoo. After a lot of trial and error and help from vets, we have found a treatment that seems to be doing the trick and on Dec 29th we celebrated her first proper poop in 32 days: we really are very sad people. Amazingly, the weight gain and return to normal behaviour happened within minutes of that monumental poop. She’s going up 5g a day and screams like a B-movie actress, which is entertaining for about 5 minutes or so.
Poor Bibi who was another sling-shot victim back in August, eventually had to have his eye removed. His undoing was that he chose to roost near a building that is occupied by (comments have been removed by moderator). Whoever shot him was trying to recapture him, and even got the scissors to his feathers. I sincerely hope Bibi managed to remove some fingers before he escaped and found his way home. This particular ‘person’ is also attributed with stealing 4 recently donated bags of expensive parrot chow. Nice fellow.
Anyway, after this horrible incident I finally realised that my on-site releases are not going to work consistently enough to continue risking birds, much as it’s great for data gathering. Some friends have a 300 acre property that backs onto a protected area on the Coastal Highway, and they are now moved in and almost ready to receive the first batch of releases. Their Christmas present to BBR will be 50% of the funding for the pre-release cage. Bless you guys! That said, I did break under the pressure and released the white-fronts on site. They were going nuts with the wild birds passing over so regularly and were so ready to leave home. One pair scarpered over the hills and far away with the wild bunch, and the remaining 4 are back and forth periodically for a sunflower-seed fix. Good news all round there.
The final new arrival of the season: a cute red lored baby who flew right into a friend’s dining room during supper time. It’s obviously a lucky escapee: she had a leg injury which appears to be improving daily, she’s in bad condition with stress bars and malnourishment apparent in the feathers and she thinks that the horrible noise that red-loreds make when they’re frightened or in pain is acceptable speech. She’s had me running to her quarantine cage three or four times a day to see what monster has her in its clutches, at which point she’ll laugh at me. The things people do to parrots…