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Let it snow!

Sam Williams, PhD | Mar 28, 2015


This time last week I was driving in the snow. Oddly enough I wasn’t in the Caribbean. I was in Connecticut on my way to the Featherfest, an annual event of the CT Parrot Society.

Before driving in the snow I’d had a crazy parroty week. From the airport I’d jumped in a rental car and drove over to Ithaca. First though some background: Here on Bonaire the parrot car does most basic functions most of the time or at least it did until a week ago when it finally died. The indicators have been dependable, the headlights less so and the brakes have been somewhere in between. Back to Ithaca and I’m in a rental car with 20 buttons and switches on the steering wheel alone. There were another 30 in the driver’s area. There’s no wonder there are accidents, who has time to look at the road?! After half an hour the novelty of having my butt roasted wore off but it took me another half an hour to work out how to turn the heated seat off! I was feeling like a little boy from the country.

By 1am I rolled past deer and into Ithaca. Audrey, a dedicated and fun Echo volunteer who is studying up at Cornell had waited up. She’d also received an Echo T-shirt delivery that I would be hauling around with me and thankfully my down jacket that had been sent from England – thanks Dad!  

In the morning I met up with Jamie Morrisey, a great avian vet from Cornell University. After seeing a picture of a broken parrot I’d bandaged in my Parrot Lover’s Cruise presentation Jamie had offered to give me some training. As we are getting quiet a few broken parrots it seemed like a good reason to visit. I also got to talk about general veterinary care of our birds too which was really useful.

On Tuesday I had another early start and the GPS led me back to the airport from there I plunged into a jam packed train of people wearing green. It was 10am on St Patrick’s day, we were heading to Manhattan and some of the kids had already had too much to drink!

At home my nearest neighbour is 2 miles away. I bet there are more people on some if not most city blocks in Manhattan than there are on Bonaire. It’s crazy!!! Echo supporters Stu and Nancy were my guides and councillors on this experience and they did a great job. Whenever I travel I’ve always got a big shopping list. I had three shops I “needed” to visit: B and H Photo, REI and Wholefoods. Some of it for Echo some of it for me, none of it available on our little island. I took so long we only made it to two.

Fine food and great wine played a big part of my trip, in Manhattan and everywhere else too. We don’t get so much choice on Bonaire so it was a real treat. No time for details though, another day had arrived after another short night and another set of travel arrangements and another bed awaited. Next up was my first presentation. This one with the Long Island Parrot Society. A large group of people had turned out, luckily they managed to understand real English and my presentation about the Caribbean Parrot crisis was well received, hoorah. I even got heckled by a few parrots, which everyone enjoyed. The members were generous in their support and enthusiasm for our work, which felt great. Thanks everyone!   

Back to Manhattan, more shopping and then presentation two at Fauna. The audience was a smaller group but very attentive. This time I was talking more specifically about Echo and the amazing Yellow-shouldered Amazons. There were good questions and a great level of interest. More T-shirts were sold more donations were made, hoorah once more and thank you to Fauna and the Manhattan parrot folk.

I was deliciously wined and dined and made it to bed by midnight only to wake at 3am in a mild panic about all the stuff I had to pack. My brain does this at different moments so I simply got up and packed my two cases and a carry on bag. I got another hour or so of sleep before my next appointment. Aeri is a long time virtual volunteer. She is real. The virtual part just relates to her doing awesome design stuff and much more from Manhattan. We had planned to travel together but the forecast of snowstorms ruled it out for her so we met for all of 10 minutes before I headed back out to the airport to pick up another rental car. This time a 4x4 with a whole lot less buttons.     

I traveled up to Connecticut and met another person who has played a key role in Echo pretty much since it began. Cornell Bialicki’s first donation way back when Echo was just fledging kept the organization afloat at a critical time. Since then Cornell has continued to generously support our work with the Yellow-shouldered Amazons, hoorah for Cornell!!!

Despite the threat of snow we ventured further north towards Foster Parrots. Cornell was keen for me to meet Marc and Karen and their team. We arrived to a huge spread of food including fresh berries of all colours. Such delights on Bonaire are exchanged only for body parts and I was ravenous. If it were not for my complete lack of conscience when it comes to sharing food I would probably have been embarrassed by myself.

There were an awful lot of parrots to meet and it was both great and sad to see how extensive the flock there was. After a nap (for me) and a coffee we had to tear ourselves away from the great conversations and get on the road again.

On the journey back to Cornell’s we met the snow and conditions quickly worsened. At one moment a pick up in the oncoming traffic spun towards us and slammed into the central reservation as we drew alongside. I like to drive and don’t get much opportunity to travel here so I was actually enjoying the challenge and it was great to have Cornell as a top co-driver. Of course we made it home in one piece and later Cornell played ‘let it snow’ on his incredible theatre organ.

It was Friday and my first wedding anniversary. My beautiful wife Sarah wasn’t at all bothered but I realised we had a unique opportunity. I called her up on skype and Cornell played ‘here comes the bride’. We got married in our back garden so we hadn’t had the music last year and Sarah was touched. Hoorah again for Cornell!

Saturday was the Featherfest and we arrived without trouble despite seven inches of snow in the night. Echo T-shirts sold like hotcakes and before I’d had chance to look around it was time to present. This time the presentation visited all the incredible places and parrots I’ve had the good fortune to work with. The Featherfest was a great event and despite my plans to get on the road quickly after the presentation I ended up being one of the last to leave. Hoorah for the Connecticut Parrot Society.

I’d had yet more stuff sent to Cornell’s so there was another epic session of repacking to be done at the airport hotel before my early flight. On the plane I slept and not long after I got home I had a long siesta. It had been a crazy week! Thanks to everyone who made it possible and to everyone who supported Echo.

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