December 31 2012
Today, some friends who are visiting encouraged me to slow down for a moment and reflect on what the Echo team and I have achieved over the past 12 months. I must admit these days I prefer just to "get on with it" rather than to reflect, but it was a satisfying pause. If you'll spare me a moment of your time, I'd like to tell you about some of the highlights. Please keep in mind that our achievements are only possible thanks to the donations of incredible parrot enthusiast around the world.
When 2012 began, we were already in full swing with the rescue of over 100 parrots and parakeets. In February, Echo moved to Dos Pos, a top parrot spot on Bonaire that was the perfect place to release the rescued birds. It was the perfect location for the Echo team, too. Over this past year, we released 35 parrots in addition to the nine we had already released in 2011. Most were illegally captured but some were injured. Four of those who were injured had broken wings, one been shot, and another had a broken leg. All recovered and were released.
The rescued parakeets recovered well, too. 94 birds were rescued, and though three died and four had to remain in permanent captive care, 87 were released into the wild. Some have even come back to the release site with chicks of their own this breeding season. Our rescue work continues, and you can find out more about our adoptable parrots at http://www.adoptaparrot.org.
Sally, who you can adopt, has already lost her "Fat" title
Our work with wild parrots kept us busy this year, too. 2012 was our seventh year of population monitoring. We have been banding parrot chicks since 2006, and though it is hard work, we're hoping to learn new insights about parrot survival by recording sightings of the birds after they have fledged.
Thanks to support from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, we were able to share our parrot fieldwork experiences with two great guys from Puerto Rico, where they are working with one of the world's rarest parrot species. Having them here was a real honour and we're sure the parrots will benefit from the experiences we shared together.
In addition to monitoring, we're trying to help the breeding parrots as well. We've been busy making nest boxes, which we hope will compensate for the loss of ancient trees, which were cut down in the 1800s. Introduced bees have taken over many of the remaining natural nest sites, so we have also begun to manage bees. We hope to remove every hive in a known parrot nest during the upcoming non-breeding season.
It's clear that we need to restore the parrots' habitat and we're working on this in various ways. This year, we established a native plant nursery and we've been growing trees that will one day be sources of food and nesting sites for the parrots. We are in the process of building a fenced area to keep out herbivorous feral goats, donkeys, and pigs where some of those trees will be planted. And we are doing a lot of outreach to show people why habitat is so important not only for the parrots, but for people, too.
Though none of us saw the ancient trees that were on Bonaire before the 1800s, we can still celebrate the incredible trees that are here. That's exactly what we've been doing with local students. The results are an online Google Earth map and a better appreciation of nature among local kids. In addition to that, we've been working very hard simply to get children and young people outdoors. Echo team member Michaela says, "You know it works when, upon seeing the released parrots, they all go quiet." Almost every child from the nearby town of Rincon has now been to Echo's Dos Pos Conservation Centre. Many adults have, too!
2012 was only Echo's second official year and I think it was a successful one. The achievements I've mentioned here are just the highlights - there is much more going on. We're growing the organisation and establishing projects such as the native plant nursery that will benefit Bonaire's parrots in the years to come. It is the support of parrot enthusiast like yourself that makes this all possible.
We have big ambitions for parrot conservation in 2013 and I'd like to encourage you to help the parrots. Right now the best way to do so is to adopt a parrot! Sally, Bubba, and Olivia are incredible parrots whom you can support. I am sure that following their adventures is something you won't want to miss.
Also, if you adopt Sally now, you can double your support thanks to conscientious parrot-keeper Cornell from Connecticut, USA, who has pledged to match the first $2,000 raised for Sally. Please find out more and adopt a parrot at http://www.adoptaparrot.org.
December 07 2012
Yes yes it's been too long and goodness there's an awful lot to tell you dear reader. I can't even begin to explain it all right now so this may well just become a list of all the things I need to tell you about, soon. I promise!
First two new baby parrots and oh heck it's terrible. We couldn't believe it. One has probably had his leg broken for him and he'll never be right, unlike his namesake Forest Gump. His brother Bubba is marginally better but dramatically underdeveloped. As in, he's about where we'd expect him to be at two months of age but he's actually five months old.
We were in the process of setting up an adoption program, that is to say I was thinking about it. So now Forest and Bubba are here we've thrown that together as quick as we could because we haven't got spare funds to care for them properly. That means poor old Monty has lost out because Bubba is up for adoption instead of him. Please please take a look and help these little scruffs out.
So that's our new microsite. Have I mentioned our other new online thingy - the tree mapping website? Oh dear, or the trails website? I really ought to blog more often. Both of those are aimed at getting more people out into nature. The latter is only just related to parrots but as we are out and about anyway we thought we should put it together as there wasn't one on Bonaire. We also made a Facebook page if you fancy it. I'll dig out the links next time, but right now there's a bit too much to sort out, especially with the new chicks.
Before these latest additions we had already rescued a chick from this year, Ville named her Freya (something about Nordic mythology). Not long after her "Our Bryan" another chick in need of help arrived. So all in we're up to four chicks now.
We're not only collecting them though. We have done two more releases and although they were very different, they were both successful. Worry not dear reader, I do have pictures. I just need a moment and the alignment of the internet planets, so that I might be able to post them. Many of friends are now flying free. King Arthur, and the New Year's Eve or was it New Year's Day twins are out. All of them had badly clipped wings but they are strong flyers now. So that's nearly a year that we've been looking after them, and actually more than a year for King Arthur. Are you in any doubt as to why they need your support?
The wonderful Cheryl Rutherford has created a new logo for Echo. And it's a donation don't ya know! She's great! Our first logo "The Happy Parrot" was a design Cheryl had made for T shirts. I went on to butcher it into a logo. But this new one, we all love it and we hope you do too. I'll tell you about all those nice arty details next time.
Of course you know Fat Sally is back and working out. She's a real character and it's going to be challenge to get her to be a parrot again, that is one that can fly. It might be easier starting with a Rhinoceros.
Bruce and Thatcher in the rehab continue to be little devils. We had another broken bird, Goliath a 400g champion with a broken wing. He healed and flew off back into the wild.
There were several days where the released parrots didn't come in for food. This followed some rain so we we not too worried. Anyway now they are back and we're happy to see more happy healthy free flying parrots, hoorah.
And then we had two great guys visiting from Puerto Rico. It was an exchange visit so we could all learn from the other's work. I can't wait to get over to see their incredible work.
What else could there be… grant writing, hmm something more exciting, oh yes Michaela has been dragging the team through the spiky trees in search of other parrot nests. They found more bees in what could have been parrot nests. We already have a lot of them to move. Luckily honey is yummy! We're planning our first fenced area and the nursery is full of nice trees ready for the planting. When out checking nests we found a Hoba tree, which is locally rare. There were loads of seeds on the ground so we collected about 200 and just about every seed germinated. Even ones that were left in the plastic bag. So why don't we see any seedlings in the wild? Hello Billy Goat, Hello Donkey! We also had visitors from the Netherlands who have developed a parrot population simulation. We're looking forward to working with them more to improve the predictions of what the population might do but also because the simulation is going to be used here in the local high school.
Yes well, like I thought there is much to come back to and explain properly but at least now dear reader you'll have an idea what on earth this new website and logo are about and that we haven't just been on the moon for the last few months.
I look forward to telling you more soon. I hope that even after reading this rapidly written and not reviewed report you're also looking forward to that too, until then….
September 18 2012
A few Mondays ago we got a call that another parrot had bounced off a car. Normally we'd expect a parakeet, a broken wing or both but this call came from Jim and Jane who sponsor Echo so it was definitely going to be a parrot. Sam headed over but was still in for a surprise. It was an unweaned parrot chick who had had a lucky escape, he was knocked about but otherwise ok. Except he had lost his parents. The story has a happy ending so do read on. Jane has given us permission to share her nice email and she tells the story well:
"On Monday evening after you left, when the parrots came through on the way back to the roost two of them stopped in the tree out front. Junior was on the wall in the carrier and we opened the door to it hoping their chatter would cause him to talk back and maybe fly to them. He was still very frightened and I think Mom and Dad were a bit intimidated by the carrier. They moved on back to the roost. We put Junior to bed once the sun went down, he could barely keep his eyes open he was so exhausted from all the "trauma" I think.
So then as you suggested we got up about 15 minutes before sunrise on Tuesday and sat on the porch with Junior in the carrier waiting to hear the group of parrots that usually come through. We first heard them about 6:30 and Jim put Junior back on the wall. BUT...this time we had the idea to take the entire top off the carrier, it was then just essentially an open box, as we thought this would be a little less fearsome for Mom and Dad and for Junior too (particularly if they could sense that Junior was in a CAT CARRIER!!!) Even with the top off, Junior was still all huddled in a corner of it. AND THEN, within about 5 minutes Mom and Dad showed up in the same tree out front and started talking. Junior's head popped up over the side of the box, he gave a little shout. Mom and Dad started talking louder and Junior hopped up onto the edge of the box and answered. Next thing you know he flew to them and the three of them flew off together after a quick burst of what I like to think of as "thank you". It was just delightful to see them reunited.
They teach children in the U.S. that if you lose your Mom and Dad you should always go back to the place that you last saw them because that is where they will look for you. I guess the same lesson is taught to Bonaire parrot children too!
Thanks again for all your assistance and advice in facilitating this happy reunion."
March 13 2012
Biscuit was alive. It was incredible because breaking his leg at such a young age would have normally resulted in his very own personal extinction. Back then he couldn’t even feed himself, but despite his many and malicious protests the parrot team persevered and Biscuit as a result had not died a slow and painful death. Hurrah for the Echo team!
It was not all rosy though and Biscuit’s not-dying had come at a heavy cost. He was a prisoner. Biscuit was an optimist, however, and he knew his situation wasn’t as bad as that of some of the other parrots he had met. Bruce, Bob Mad Max and Thatcher all had broken wings, which Biscuit, being a vastly intelligent parrot, knew was a bad thing for a bird. Billy the kid had been shot through his wing in the part equivalent to the human hand and that too could be considered a bad thing. Worst of all it hadn’t been their fault.
It was of course the goats and donkeys that had caused these broken wings! Because Bonaire is so green you, Dear Reader, would be forgiven for thinking this is a wild accusation and that the habitat is in great shape. But those introduced mammalian herbivores have caused such a reduction in the variety of parrot feeding plants on Biscuit’s island home that great gaps in food availability result. It is in these times of hardship when the parrots come to town. This of course is when they bounce off cars, fly into telegraph wires or ironically get shot for eating the mangoes of a goat farmer.
There was no sign of a limp as Biscuit moved along the branch on the morning of his great escape. One of the other parrots was whistling their Great Escape ditty and there were just the right number of clouds in the sky. The flock had done their homework meticulously and concluded that they had to make their bid for freedom on a “branches” day. On those days the door, through which the humans entered the aviary, opened more often and for longer. It was exactly in one of those moments that Biscuit would lead the others in a terrifying drop from the high perch and out of the door. The humans would not see what had happened until Biscuit was already free.
After the intensive weeks of studying the human’s routine it came as quite a shock when the humans put the feeding bowls in the wrong place. Biscuit and his friends could not understand why on that sunny morning the food bowls were sitting on a shelf outside the aviary. Wild parrots flew over the aviary and up and down the valley of Parrotopia and Biscuit feared they might eat his breakfast. Biscuit was concerned. They had everything planned out. They were ready to escape and the humans were screwing it up.
Perry looked puzzled and he leaned over to Biscuit. Just as he was about to say something a strange little door, which Biscuit realised he had not noticed before, slowly and mysteriously opened. What a coincidence that this door would open next to the feeding bowls.
After exchanging more puzzled looks Biscuit and his friend Perry flew to the branch nearest the food bowl and open door. The others were right behind them. Biscuit stepped out on to the shelf. Twiggy, who had very nearly starved to death before joining the Echo flock, flew over. She saw the food and in that moment the significance of what was happening was lost on her. As Twiggy gorged, Biscuit tried to make sense of it. He had stepped closer to the edge of the shelf and a tingle of excitement and fear raced through his body. He couldn’t make sense of it, nor could he wait any longer. So with his wings fully stretched Biscuit launched himself from the shelf and reclaimed his freedom. Hurrah for Biscuit!
It was an explosion of joy. Biscuit screamed euphorically for all he was worth. The others, Perry, Twiggy, Isla and Johan, and the two juveniles instantly felt the tingle as well. Perry almost knocked Twiggy from her food bowl as he scrambled to launch himself. Biscuit was now flying around making arcing turns and moving up and down. Perry too seized his chance and dove into the endless open sky. Hurrah for Perry!
Even the food could not keep Twiggy and so for the first time in her life she flew in a world without boundaries. Hurrah for Twiggy! All the while each of the parrots called out, and then called out some more. The excitement and fear in that moment was indescribable.
The young parrots flew like fledglings. Their rapid and shallow wing beats and their calls brought tears to the eyes of even the most hardened Echo team member. In that instant everything had changed. Biscuit now had 30, 40 maybe 50 years of freedom ahead of him.
Biscuit was just one of over 100 parrots and parakeets that the Echo team have been caring for. Dear Reader do please take a moment to consider what Biscuit’s great escape will mean for him, just as it will for each of these 100 birds. Rather than living a life in prison Biscuit will now be able to fly wherever he chooses across Bonaire. Biscuit will taste Shimaruku cherries straight off the branch. He will be free to choose his mate and one day he will get to make love in the treetops. Hurrah for Biscuit making love in the treetops!