Member Login



Auto-login for future visits

Join or Renew Today!

Membership Benefits:

Close Button


A New Chapter in my Work with the Blue-throats

Sarah Faegre | Jul 03, 2008


With the Isla 2 chicks, Goliath and Manu, successfully getting around on their own, it is time to deconstruct our field camp and move on to a new group of Blue-throats.

December 27th 2007

And so begins a new chapter in the adventure: I am now at the estancia Trés Palmeras, sitting at this moment in blind at the nest box near the house, where three large chicks should fledge any day now.  Actually, I only know for sure that one of three is still there, as he is poking his head out as I write. 

It is hot and humid and very still.  Dark clouds are gathering and it looks like its getting ready to rain...a lot.  I wonder when Steve and Carmen will arrive at Veintiuno.  If it rains, they will be majorly delayed.  They were supposed to arrive today or tomorrow, last I heard (on the 24th) but plans change so much that I really have no expectations-except that I expect for nothing to go as planned.  Steve was scheduled to arrive in Trini on the 26th, so probably he will arrive on the 27th, meaning that Carmen would want to travel from Trini to Veintiuno on the 28th (tomorrow), but if it rains tonight...It could really be up to a week before they are able to safely land at Veintiuno. 

The final day in camp turned out to be quite an ordeal.  It was fraught with misunderstandings, complications, and general stress and disorganization that would accompany any such move of large amounts of stuff through flooded savannahs of Bolivia, using the neighbors' ox cart.  I did my own fair share of adding to the complications and changed my own plans at the last minute, in my stress and despair at so suddenly having to leave the campamento:  Just as Vicente was about to grab my huge, 60 lb. backpack and heave it onto the ox cart with the rest of the camp equipment, I said, "Or I could walk to Tres Palmeras." (Note that Palmeras was to be my ultimate destination after the plane bringing Steve and Carmen arrived).

"But you will have no one to come get you with the horses at the other side of the river," he said. 

"I know," I replied.  "But since it's just the one backpack I can carry it all the way by myself.  Vicente, in his stress at hurrying to pack up everything and not make the Veintiuno folks wait on us any longer, agreed that it was a good idea because that way I could stay and do an extra clean-up of camp (i.e. remove any remaining signs that we had lived there and leave Isla Chiquita as pristine as we had found it).  So we said a hurried goodbye and off he rushed to the ox cart. 

I was alone in the empty camp I breathed a huge sigh of relief.  I would be able to leave the camp just as clean as I felt it should be and take my time to say goodbye to my home of the past month and a half, to which I have become deeply attached.  I could also finally rest a bit from my earlier 3-hour trek/swim to the river, across the river, and back, to hand off some of my stuff to Marco, who was supposed to bring John to the river from Tres Palmeras.  John would continue to the camp and then to Veintiuno with the oxcart, where he (and Vicente) would await the plane to Trini. 

Of course, the hand-off of my stuff didn't go as planned either, because nothing ever does.  Vicente had asked John by radio if Marco would bring be bringing John to the river by horse, because if he was then I would meet them at the river with some of my stuff so as not to have so much with me at Veintiuno, when my ultimate destination was Tres Palmeras anyways.  Somehow, John thought that I was coming to the river with all my stuff and heading straight back to Tres Palmeras, so he came alone with one extra horse.  Marco was sick and could not accompany him anyways, he explained. 

Upon explaining that I had not brought all my stuff and did not intend to go to Tres Palmeras, I swam across the river, gave him my bag and took his bag and swam back across the river with his sinking, lead-weight bag and then walked the hour back to the camp to tell Vicente that John had to go back to Palmeras with my bag and the horses and would then try to convince the very ill Marco to take him to the river so that he could arrive at the camp before too long and catch the oxcart to Veintiuno.  Of course, just then, as I was about to take a break and eat something, thinking that since the oxcart was supposed to come that day, then it surely wouldn't come until comes the cart and a guy on a horse.  And here we are, only half prepared, with 5 months of camp life strewn about in piles, and I haven't even begun to prepare any of my own stuff, which is exploded in my tent and strewn around camp.  The mad rush began.

The hours of the day went like this:  6:30-10:00 I hike to the river with a small but heavy backpack, swim across and back, and then hike back to camp.  10:05-here comes the oxcart, Vicente and I become super stressed and there is no time to eat or relax.  11:40-everything is packed but garbage has not been dealt with and John still has not arrived.  I decide to stay.  The oxcart begins to head back to Veintiuno and 2 minutes later John arrives and then goes running to catch up with them after listening with a very puzzled look on his face while I tell him that I've decided to go to Tres Palmeras after all.  Finally I am alone and happy to relax for a bit.  But I am also sad.  I wish I could spend one last night here-just me, alone, listening to the howl of the rare-maned wolf, rocking in my hammock under the gibbous moon, finding Goliath and Manu one last time.  But realistically, since I need to reach Palmeras before 7:00 pm so I can communicate by radio, I have only a few hours in which I will clean up and say goodbye to my home on Isla Chiquita.  I plan out the rest of my day: Noon to 2:00 pm-clean up camp.  Two to 6:00 pm-hike/swim to Tres Palmeras.

Changuito, the armadillo, comes trotting past me on his way to a new excavation site.  Madidi, the aplomado falcon, flies twisting and swooping through the palm trees and lands on her favorite perch.  I walk to Isla 2 to say goodbye to Manu who, on the night on the 25th, was still in the tree where Vicente had placed him.  But now, on the afternoon of the 26th he is gone, presumably getting stronger and braver and moving about on his own.  When I finally heave the bulky, 60 lb. pack onto my back and walk into the savannah, I feel alright about leaving the campamento. 

The 4-hour hike to Tres Palmeras was incredibly difficult, but actually not quite as bad as I had expected.  The worst of it was trying to carry my backpack all wrapped up in the poncho for 10 minutes through the swamp on either side of the river.  I could barely lift the hulking thing over the barbwire fence, let along walk through the mud, carrying it in my arms.  In the end, I tied up the poncho, ready for the river-crossing, and then dragged the huge bundle with a rope through the mud and knee-deep swamp on either side on the river.  Swimming was great-for 3 minutes I was freed from the crushing death-grip of a backpack half my weight.

December 28th

So, the poor, deformed Nemo is the only chick left in the box nest-I climbed just now to check because after the nest watch yesterday I suspected there were no longer 3 chicks in the nest.  And when I looked into the box, there was poor, crooked little Nemo, lying on his back, screeching at me.  But his parents aren't neglecting him at least because he isn't too skinny and he can waddle around the nest box well enough to poke his head out of the entrance hole.  But the big question is: will he be able to fly?  And if not, what will happen to him?  Lots of interesting questions which will be answered in the next few weeks.

Today during mid-morning I saddled up Mataperro and rode to Isla Grande after discovering that the chick there hadn't been checked on for quite a few days.  He is very much transformed from the last time I saw him, a month and a half ago, when he was a fat, pink dumpling with wings, somewhat resembling a tiny, plucked chicken.  He is still extremely fat-(he weighs almost 2 lbs!) but is now gorgeously feathered with all the brilliant ultra-marine, indigo and gold of an adult Blue-throated Macaw.

The Isla Grande chick, Blecs, on November 14th

Blecs on December 28th

Proud Isla 2 Blue-throat parents

A beautiful sunset seen from the campamento