Parrot Blogger - Sam Williams

– About Sam –
Sam received support from the World Parrot Trust to research the Yellow-Shouldered Amazons on Bonaire.

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July 10 2014

Wonderful Parroty distractions

by Sam Williams

Living in a hotspot for wild parrots is amazing. I see parrots daily from my office and I can hear them pretty much all the time. There are always parrots in the area and if a bird of prey passes over the parrots, parakeets and other birds go “mental”! As a result I also get to see Crested Caracaras regularly and Peregrine and Merlin Falcons in the winter months too. Falcons, you have to admit, are pretty cool.

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I’ve got a feeding table in the garden too. Bird tables work best when one puts food out at the same time each day, religiously. That doesn’t quite work for me with so many other interesting things going on but nether the less the parrots pop in and visit most days, when there’s food. It was pretty thrilling to creep up to within a few meters of wild parrots and I even pulled out my SLR camera to get some pictures through my now fungus filled lens (the other side of living in the tropics).

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I’ve even got a parrot in the house right now too. Typically there was a lot going on when we received the call that someone had found a parrot. There’s never a good moment to receive a broken parrot. He’s sat in a hospital cage out of sight but in my office and I hear him moving around and feeding from time to time.

You can imagine it’s hard to get any work done with all these parroty distractions. And I haven’t even mentioned the Grove-billed Ani that’s sneaking through the grass as I write or the rampant White-tipped doves bow-cooing and “at it” beneath my window, or the endemic Yellow Oriole with his golden feathers and lovely whistle. (You really should check out the Ani and the Oriole they are gorgeous but don’t bother with, the dove!)

Yet, unfathomably, the challenge of ever getting any work done is even greater than that. I’m not talking about the little flies that have just appeared who will spend their short lives desperately trying to climb into my eyes or the afternoon sun that beats down and threatens to warp my nice desk. I mean the parrot chicks!!!

Within a mile of my house there are many, though still not nearly enough, parrot nests. Deep inside these delightful cliff and tree cavities there are pink, prickly pin feather filled or cute green baby parrots going about their business and growing. Their business also includes rather a lot of eating, digesting and popping too. It’s just amazing how every time I sneak out of the office and run to the hills for a distraction they’ve grown. In two short months white eggs turn into green fledglings. The transformation is simply incredible and it’s a small wonder I get any work done when I could be out there cooing over them!

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Posted by Sam Williams on 07/10 at 08:39 AM
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June 10 2014

Eggs and consequences

by Sam Williams

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I know, I know it’s been “like, for evva” but after nearly two years we’ve managed to get the internet out to our remote solar powered parrot hotspot and home and this week I managed to escape from the office and so there’s some news of adventure to share, now that I'm back in the office. Let’s hope that this may even been the turning of the tide and I will find time to write again more frequently but Dear Reader let’s just take this one step at a time for now.

Did you see? It’s June already! The parrots have shifted from being social creatures in large groups to being absolutely vicious defenders of their territory and nesting opportunity. Those that are nesting are pretty business like in their behaviours. It goes something like this:

Dawn
Mr Parrot “I’m here love”
Mrs Parrot “I’m coming out”
Mr Parrot “Morning here’s your breakfast”
Head bobbing and Glug Glug Glug
Mrs Parrot “Ta! Lovely view out here isn’t it?, I’ve got to get back to doing the incubating. Is that the neighbours over there? Can you go and pull their feathers out darling they really should have got the idea by now”
Mr Parrot “Certainly dear I’ll see to it and I’ll be back this evening”

By contrast those that are not actively nesting are the ones making a real commotion. Their calls are different and they remain together as they check out possible nests. They don’t actually commit to a nest perhaps because there are few sites remaining that are actually suitable (after all the trees were chopped down in the 1800s) or perhaps because they are just not ready yet. But these are the ones that distract the Echo team who have been so dedicated as to rise pre dawn and head out each morning and afternoon to make observations and separate the breeders from those “playing house”.

But yes yes it’s June and things are already in full swing. It was New Year a moment ago and now there are eggs! I was lucky enough to get out with Michaela and Randy to see how the birds are doing. This of course involves precarious abseils (rappels) on sharp rocks often with piddly little trees as anchor points. It makes a nice change from being behind the computer but it is interesting how dangling around on a rope over a large volume of air not to mention jagged rocks has changed now I have more responsibilities, a lovely wife and a few more years. Suddenly I’m thinking about the consequences and I don’t remember doing that before. Nevertheless it was fun and look what we found!

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Posted by Sam Williams on 06/10 at 08:25 AM
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June 20 2013

The Echo logo’s secrets!

by Sam Williams

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For a long time now I've been meaning to describe the lovely little arty details about the new logo design. As we've just installed our great new sign at Dos Pos it seems appropriate do that now. If you haven't seen the sign take a look on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/echobonaire.org

Cheryl Rutherford
http://www.crutherford.ca/
...generously donated her time and designed the new logo for Echo. Indeed our earlier logo "The Happy Parrot" was also Cheryl's great work but that was actually a T-shirt design that I stole and chopped into a logo. The Echo team and myself love the new logo especially when you hear about the special features that even Robert Langdon would be proud of In Cheryl's words:

"The curve in the underside of the tree, the tree trunk and under the word "Echo" represents an echo: it curves around like, say, the movement of a boomerang. I had read about how the name Echo came to be and thus added this visual representation.

The "heart" in the tree trunk represents "people" and the dedication to conserving the parrots.

The parrots are intentionally flying out of the design/box, representing parrots flying freely and uncaged.
"

The last feature has been brought to life in the sign which was donated by Echo's great friends at Sign Studio
http://bonairesigns.com
...and now stands at the entrance to the Dos Pos Conservation centre.

Cheryl's contributions haven't stopped and she's help us now to get the design on to T-shirts and we hope to be able to tell you about those soon too.

The parrots, the Echo team and I would like to thank Cheryl for her great work on the design and Michael and Diana too for turning it into a fabulous sign!

Posted by Sam Williams on 06/20 at 11:55 AM
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December 31 2012

What a great year

by Sam Williams

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.

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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.

Posted by Sam Williams on 12/31 at 01:18 PM
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