Aug 10, 2008

Birds, Bees and Bromeliads

What a busy month. We have loads to tell you. Let's see - It started with Colette deciding to rescue a parrot. Someone locally had just gotten a young Red Lored Green Parrot. These are native to Belize and we have learned recently that it is not legal to own any native birds. Many people do keep parrots as pets here and all of them (except for those imported legally under CITES - and there isn't many of them) have been poached from the jungle. This usually involves cutting down the tree and raiding the nest. These poachers then sell the young birds, often with their wings cut terribly, to people who want to keep them as pets.

Parrots are intelligent, engaging and entertaining animals and it is not surprising that they so many people want to keep them as pets. Unfortunately, the wild population is being decimated in Belize by poaching and by citrus farms, who consider parrots a pest and slaughter them (legally) by their hundreds.

Colette was lucky to have been in touch with the wonderful people from Belize Bird Rescue Belmopan on mainland Belize. They did everything within their power to assist Colette so that she could bring the parrot to their sanctuary for rehabilitation. So we'll start this blog by following one young Red Lored Green Parrot on his journey back to freedom.

This young Red Lored Green Parrot had found its way from somewhere near the Macal River on the mainland. It ended up with a family who was finding it difficult to care for it. They had only had it a few months.

Belize Bird Rescue sent Colette an appropriate carrying cage with a little perch in it. This picture was taken at the local airport as she was preparing to fly the parrot over to the mainland. Belize Bird Rescue were waiting for her at the other end and whisked her and the parrot off to their amazing facility near Belmopan.

Both of us love mainland Belize and Colette was thrilled to have this opportunity to spend a little time there. Little did she know that she was going to be visiting a magical place and spending time with some amazing people.

As she got near to Rock Farm, where Belize Bird Rescue is located, she recognised a landmark from previous visits to the mainland. This is a huge Christian radio station that sticks out eerily high up on a hill, rising up out of the jungle. The drive was spectacular as always but she wasn't prepared for the beautiful place that Rock Farm is.

It is an idyllic place, clearly built with love. Almost like something out of a children's story book or fairy tale, where animals are everywhere, happy, healthy, friendly and living their lives to the max. Horses, ducks, geese, guinea fowl, chickens, turkeys, parrots, dogs and even owls are all over the property.

Colette says that it was like being a kid again, collecting freshly laid eggs, horseback riding or walking down a path to find this engineering feat of a watermill. This watermill is completely driven by water and is just made of pipes and wood. It provides fresh water for the whole farm.

So while the little parrot settled into his temporary new home (above) and got to know some of the other parrots, Colette wandered around Rock Farm.

This is the next stage for parrot rehabilitation. Once their cut wings grow back - and sadly that doesn't always happen - they can relearn to fly in this luxury aviary with six full sized trees.

But there are plenty of other trees at Rock Farm. Here are some bananas and a Breadfruit tree in the forefront.

Here is a close up of a Breadfruit growing on a tree. They are thinly sliced and fried like crisps.

Colette went horseback riding and while there are no embarrassing pictures of her on horseback, you can see what a wonderful place Rock Farm is for horses.

These are locally known as 'stingless bees' although I understand that they can sting. They were just hanging around and doing their bee thing.

There isn't a place at Rock Farm where there aren't any animals. This cute grotto is a happy place for ducks and chickens.

And there are chickens everywhere. They even came upstairs and would hang out on the balcony with the people and dogs.

Of course none of our blogs are complete without a dog picture. Here are two of the pack of six that prowl Rock Farm. Bad guys beware. Good guys watch out - you might get licked to death.

Colette had the opportunity to get some lessons from the Bird Rescue Belize people in how to groom a Cockatoo. This extremely endangered but magnificent Moluccan Cockatoo certainly enjoyed the attention. These birds are not native to Belize and this bird had been brought into the country by someone who had no idea how to care for it. As a result, he has been so lucky to end up with Nikki and Jerry who run Belize Bird Rescue, but they make it plainly clear that they are not pet bird keepers and that it breaks their heart that this bird can never be returned to the wild, nor will he ever meet others of his kind.

There were just so many things that reminded Colette why she loves the jungle in Belize so much. Flowers like these were all over the Rock Farm property, just growing wild.

You couldn't turn a corner without finding another beautiful tropical flower. When you see them in flower arrangements in the USA and Europe it is hard to imagine that they just grow wild some places. Belize is one of those places and there is a great flower story coming up later in this blog.

Here is the orange orchard at Rock Farm. It was such a beautiful place, Colette didn't really want to leave.

But this owl, which had recently been rehabilitated by Belize Bird Rescue, did indeed want to leave. He is now free flying on the property and will soon be heading back off into the wild.

Owls move so quickly and quietly it is a real challenge to get a picture of them flying, but Colette just managed to capture this one as he flew away to freedom.

Colette did have to return home and she misses San Pedro like crazy when she is away. But before she did, she went to visit our lovely friend Chap, who runs Junglewalk books in Belmopan. It really is the cutest little bookshop, run by the cutest guy. Love ya Chap.

Meanwhile, Maya was at home getting our garden started. It may look a bit bleak in this picture but those are baby palm trees that you can see growing. Some of them will provide us with coconuts when they get bigger.

Knowing that the garden is Maya's baby, Colette went and bought her the plant that you can see above. It is a pink Bromeliad. The picture above is of it where we placed it up a tree, where they grow. They are, in fact, air plants of sorts. It will grow onto the side of the tree but take no nutrients from it. Colette bought this at a great roadside restaurant on mainland Belize called Cheers They sell all sorts of beautiful orchids and bromeliads. They promised Colette that this one is salt tolerant and will do well on the island.

Here is a close up of its magnificent flower. You can just see the little smaller purple flowers that are starting to sprout. When Colette brought it home we heard a strange croaking coming from it. We discovered a little stow away tree frog that still sits in it now and chirps loudly every night. A bit sad really because no one ever chirps back.

Maya works really hard in the garden every day, which is pretty evident if you look at her arms. She deserves some rest and relaxation with Buddica. But Colette decided to try to get some action in a completely new style (for her anyway).

Those of you who know her will be shocked, but believe it or not, Colette tried windsurfing. Here she is is trying to get up on the board. Yes that is her in the brown bikini. She no longer has that blonde hair.

Now she is getting the hang of standing up. That is difficult for Colette when she is sober and standing on land. This is a challenge.

And thar she goes. She is actually standing and moving. She didn't do too badly and really had a great time. She got this lesson compliment of Sailsports Belize

Thanks for that. Maya is going to give it a go next time.

While all this was going on, ACES, American Crocodile Endangered Sanctuary, from mainland Belize had been busy preparing 'Debbie', a crocodile recently rescued from San Pedro, for release into their sanctuary habitat. When Debbie was captured in a pond, about 200 meters from our house, she was found to have suffered a number of injuries at the hand of humans including a bullet hole, spear wounds and broken ridges. She was also harbouring a nasty bacterial infection. Marisa Tellez, the zoologist working with ACES, makes it clear that the American Crocodile has the most powerful immune system on the planet. If Debbie is suffering from an infection from the water, then the human community needs to start worrying about what is in that water.

Debbie settled into her new home without any serious fights with the others, much to everyone's relief. Debbie was lucky. Two other crocs from San Pedro have died in recent weeks. One was clearly killed by poachers and had its head cut off. The other ACES had attempted to rescue after locals had captured it but a hook that someone might have tried to catch him with had caused internal injuries to the croc and he died.

But it isn't all bad news for the animals. Colette helped out at this SAGA fund raiser in Central Park, San Pedro. The charity raised a wonderful $2500BZD. Congratulations to everyone.

So, lots of thank yous from us to Jerry and Nikki at Bird Rescue Belize for being lovely people and for welcoming Colette into their home and family. Thank yous to ACES for doing work that isn't hugely popular because Crocs aren't very pretty, but very important. Thank yous to everyone that helped raise money for SAGA,