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Tragedy & joy

Mike Bowles & Loretta Erickson | Jun 27, 2007


It has been an unusually quiet "beginning of summer" in our little section of Southern California with only the begging sounds of two fledglings heard so far.  No doubt that will change in the upcoming weeks!

Along with the wonder and excitement of this time of year—the fledglings taking their first flight and their proud parents soaring behind also comes the heartbreaking stories of those who don’t make it. 

Not many things would hit closer to my heartstrings than last week's events.  On my way to work Friday morning I made a quick pass by the only Blue-fronted Amazon nest we had been able to locate this year.  This site had put a new twist to the life stories of our slightly more than a dozen Blue-fronts.  For the first time, we discovered two of our well known Blue-fronts nesting—two who had never been known to be a pair before.  This discovery reinforced what we had previously thought and that was they were younger birds and not ready yet, but spring 2007 brought Ripley and Chaco together.  From their appearances they looked to have been successful either in laying eggs or maybe even better, laying fertile eggs.  There was no way to tell if there were chicks in the nest and with this being a first year for these two nesting, it was anybody's guess of the outcome. 

Friday however, put an end to the anticipation. On a quick pass by their nest site I came to find their palm tree had been devastatingly destroyed by despicable tree trimmers!!  There was nothing left but a pair of forlorn, confused parrots darting back and forth between their 'once' nest site and the nearby trees they had found to observe from.  At the bottom of their tree, nothing but dead palm fronds and the remnants of what looked to be a promising future for this newly mated pair.  I searched at the base of their tree for clues to fill in the blanks, but found nothing.  The dead remnants of the tree were too deep to offer any insight.  I was able to find out who the tree trimmers were and made inquiries as to what might have happened, but they claimed to have seen nothing.  We'll never know what might have transpired, but for now, the sight forever etched in my mind of those two beautiful birds trying to figure out what happened to their nest site is deeply heart-wrenching.

Ripley investigates the destruction of her palm tree by tree trimmers.
Update:  She and Chaco returned every day for more than a month.

The Blue-fronts are no strangers to tragedy.  I suppose no more than the other Amazons, but more noticeable because there are so few and it’s incredibly easy to notice when something is amiss among them.  Late last year (2006) they lost the safety of their roost to tree trimmers and the year before that (2005), they lost one of the babies to a human inflicted shot from a pellet gun and from stories we have heard, an adult along with him.  As a result, our breeding pairs were reduced from three to two.  So far, all indications point to the fact that they do not nest every year.  This of course could change as more in-depth observation continues.

Unfortunately, this won’t be the only sadness we hear of this year and with the heartbreak of some, the joy of others can’t be ignored.  Seth and Syra, our most watched and documented mated pair of Red-crowns fledged the first of their three chicks on Friday morning.  This was a record year for them in that the two previous years they had two chicks…this year THREE!! 

And what has become of Tav and Bandini, our first recorded mated pair of Yellow-heads (see previous post from November 8, 2006)?  Just one week ago, Mike was able to positively confirm they indeed had a chick in their nest.  Has he fledged?  Was there one or more?  No one has been seen at their nest site since last Wednesday.  Do we now have our first Yellow-headed fledgling(s).  You can be sure, as soon as we know…you will!!!