This week has been full of fieldwork. We're doing a study on the phenology of the trees on the island. So this month is setting up, Which means locating 30 individuals of 17 species across the island. Which makes 510 trees for anyone that's counting... But I'm very much enjoying locating them. Basically I get to walk around the island looking at trees. Occasionally with Echo's newest team member, with far more tree/bird knowledge than I have, which makes life even more interesting.
Also, and even more exciting, I actually got to spend time with a horse this week! Sam was looking for horse muck for the garden, located a lady with a horse so of course I jumped in the truck when he was going to collect it on the off chance I would get to see it. Did better than that though, spent an hour walking it round to graze and talking to its owner. Who doesn't have the time to ride it and would love the help! And if knowing that their were other people on the island who were willing to help would be looking into getting him a companion too! Actual horse that I may get to ride! It's been too long, and needless to say this had me very happy this week. And Sarah too I think!
- Current Location:Netherlands Antilles, Kralendijk
Last week was a long and manic one. We had visitors from Puerto Rico come to see how we look after our parrots over here. So they can try some of the same things on their (much more endangered) parrots in Puerto Rico. But at the same time I had two of the dreaded grant applications in. So I had to get them finished and try not to miss out on all the fun stuff too. Which led to a manic week, but part of it at least was good fun. And I only missed out on a couple of outings, so not to bad (and lots of lunchbreaks too, but that's manageable too).
We started the week by exploring Fontein. Climbing up to the top of the cliffs, which I hadn't done yet. AND my ankle stood up to the abuse, which means field work can begin again. I still suck at climbing, but everyone was willing (forced?) to wait for me, so that worked out. The view there is beautiful too, you can pick out the parrots flying, and their trees.
As well as exploring we played with the climbing gear we use. Its a bit different to the gear they would normally use. And that I can do. Good fun climbing up and down the rope hanging from the trees. Unfortunatly I had to leave them too it so I could feed the parrots dinner so didn't get to laugh at them dangling as they work it out!
We did a bit of a tour of the south (again cut short thanks to parrot feeding), lots of talking about everything, and of course a visit to our avairies. Not quite on the scale they have (they have a captive breeding program), but interesting all the same (I hope!).
Speaking of the parrots feeding. We have two new recruits. I was flagged down driving through Rincon one day, which resulted in two very malnourished parrot chicks at Echo. There story is a bit fuzzy, but we have them now at least. Their cage was the worst even Sam had seen. Getting them out proved to be a challenge too. My hand was the only one small enough to get into the cage and out again with parrot in hand.
They are improving slowly though. Getting three feeds a day plus the seed and fruit and beginning to look like parrots. At five months old they have the development of 2 months, but better than they were... just. One, Forest, had a broken leg that didn't heal. He's not able to feel it, and can't really climb. Walking requires beak and wings to pull himself about too. But he seems happy enough, and picked up feeding quickly. His brother, Bubba (I didn't pick the name...), still prefers to attack the food rather than eat it, but he's getting there too. He can climb and is trying this flying thing. At the moment I think it might be better labelled 'falling with style', but the idea is there at least. Ville came to the house all proud this week because Bubba had drawn blood when he was cleaning him, a strange measure of improvement, but given that they had no strentgh in their beaks when they arrived an improvement all the same. (they have a blog too: www.adoptaparrot.org)
With two more releases there are parrots hanging round at the avairies again. This makes keeping the attention of the chicks on food interesting as they perch round the shelter making noise. But they too are looking more like real parrots and less like pets.
Christmas decorations have appeared in town now, although it's so warm it doesn't feel like it should be December. Hopefully we'll soon be beginning monitoring of tree phenology, as well as planting more trees, and general parrot care. And building a clay oven!
So more sifting through GPS data. But this morning I actually managed to get Excel to convert degrees and decimal minutes to decimal degrees. I know that doesn't sound all that exciting, but really, it was. Other than that more grants. We had a visit to the kunuku from the lieutenant governor last night too, so spent yesterday cleaning the house and clearing the trail. Wonderfully behaved birds flying in too feed so that went well.
Had odd meeting leaving Dos Pos this afternoon. Two tourists were stopped outside the gate as I came to leave. Not all that odd as we are on the coast road which everyone drives down. But having followed Echo on Facebook they knew everything we were doing. And the stuff before I arrived better than I do. They were very nice though, and I told them next year we might be set up for tourists.
In town today with a big ship in. It's very odd, everywhere is busy. I have an appointment to set up a bank account although I failed at sorting my health insurance. All boring stuff that oddly enough lots of tourists don't get in the way off... can't think why.
Had, for me anyway, a fairly sociable weekend too. Sam's birthday on Friday so we had barbecue on the pier with I think everyone I've met and lots of people I hadn't. And out snorkelling with DCNA people on Saturday. Unfortunately my ankle didn't think much of fins though. But still very nice spot to snorkel.
Next week habitat surveys in our herbivore exclusion area, so we have something to compare too when it's all wonderfully regenerated. Something not in front of the computer! Very exciting.
Busy week of data at Echo this week. Organising and untangling the archive stuff, adding in data from this year and last (and repeatedly being told that the rescue stopped everything when I roll my eyes at year old un-entered data).
I also had a meeting with the board of FESBO, a government organisation that runs, among other things, free afterschool club in every area on Bonaire. Very successful meeting, they loved the parrot and were very keen to get a ‘Parrot Club’ running in ALL of their programs. Which is awesome, now I just need to locate funding for it! It will mean we have a whole group of kids, from across the island, learning about parrots. And within things they are already doing, so it won’t take any more effort from them and will hopefully invade their sub-conscious. We’ll have a whole troop of parrot conservationists!
One of the parrots we’ve released has decided he wants to live in the tree outside our house at the moment. He wasn’t very friendly in the aviary, but we think he must have lived in the kitchen at some point, and seeing our plates and cutlery has triggered some sort of people=food connection. He is getting better, at the beginning of the week we couldn’t leave any cutlery out as he’d fly off with it and he took a liking to Ville’s coffee. Now he is rarely on the table, but still determined to hang round. He has however learnt that us collecting the broom means he’s about to be chased, so he flies off every time we pick it up now. Although possibly we are fostering a fear of brooms rather than a fear of people... And it might sound cruel, but if he does this at another house he may well find he ends up in a cage again, so it is good for him really! He has been calling to the others all day as they go flying past, so hopefully soon he will remember that being a parrot is far cooler than playing with cutlery and go and join them again.
I’ve managed two full days off this week. It was ending up that I had so many errands to run on a Monday in town that I wasn’t actually getting a day off (and was grumpy with town by the time I’d finished the errands so never got what I needed done). So now I have Saturday and Sunday off, which is much better. Rode the bike to town yesterday, taking the long route above the hills, to buy my bits I needed. Rode back along the coast, stopping to dangle my feet in the sea and read a bit (Wuthering Heights, readable but I wouldn’t go out of your way to find it). Out all day and only had one puncture too, which must be some sort of record on Bonaire! Unfortunately I couldn’t actually fix the tube when I got back as the whole valve had torn off. Ah well.
Spent this morning planting veggies in the now iguana-proof (we think...) nursery. Some of them however were originally planted by Ed and unlabeled, so will be mystery vegetables. Drove to Karpata for some snorkelling, in which I must have looked very daft getting into the sea. The entrance is rocky and my ankle doesn’t like not having flat ground, so rather than risk twisting it again as the waves pulled me about I just sat down and scooted myself in. It worked though, and I had a nice hour watching the fish. There are a lot of people about now too, so I ended up watching a lot of divers as well. Ate my lunch on the cliff watching the sea before coming home for a very lazy afternoon.
Next week I fear will be more data, although we do have a visit from DCNA to Dos Pos, and another from the Lieutenant Governor too, so at least some of it will involve actually seeing the parrots. The first of Sam’s many guests arrive too (I think between now and Christmas we must have half the tourists on Bonaire being somehow connected to Echo), and Sam’s birthday too, so I’m sure it will be busy.
Back down to two again at Dos Pos, Ed went home Saturday evening, despite our best efforts to convince him to stay and carry on building camp for us. It did actually take right up until we were driving to the airport for him to suddenly be reluctant about leaving, but not enough for him to let me turn the car round apparently. Me and Ville also felt very odd going to the airport and not leaving by plane.
I’m still stuck doing office work, although I can now walk like a normal person, my ankle is just still weak, so every time I step on something not perfectly flat it gives way. But soon I will be out doing fieldwork! Honest...
Lots of other work is getting done though. I spent most of the week trying to identify parrots to see if they are the same across nests and years. Tedious, (and reminiscent of my dissertation. Less photos this time but more difficult to ID) but all done now. This did also involve me going through someone else’s field notebook, which was more than a little painful. I’m sure in 2006 it made perfect sense to him. Six years later to me it made very little sense. Coming across identical images with one labelled male and one female was also slightly infuriating.
More signs for our parrot trail are being made, so hopefully soon someone other than me will be able to follow it all the way around. We don’t have the timber for the posts right now though, so I have a lot of signs but nothing to do with them. Carla also came and did the health and safety assessment for us too, so we may, one day, have tourists using the trail too.
The island is becoming incredibly green now it’s started to rain more. Unfortunately the rain generally comes at night, which on a tin roof is thunderously loud. I tend not to sleep much those nights. Our roof is now only sporting two holes though, so we are improving. We even have the beginnings of gutters, so we can actually collect some of the water.
This weekend I’ve finally managed to get back into the sea, for the first time in a month! I managed to keep hold of a bike and cycled down the coast road. Went to a new spot, with less coral than most of the others but a few large shoals of fish, so it was very pretty. Tomorrow I am going into town to register, now my immigration is sorted. Then I will be free of visiting that office until at least July.
My ankle is still playing up (and still swollen), so nothing interesting to do this week. Even taking the kids from Rincon to play with trees had to be postponed, as I'm not sure I'd keep up with them!
The rain is making working inside more interesting though. Our roof is mostly waterproof. The mostly is kind of a problem though. We have pots and pans all over the floor every time we get a dump of rain so we don't end up flooded. The aviary is trying its best to wander down the hill too, or at least the floor is. Ville was out late last week planting shrubs all along the edge to hopefully give the soil some defence from the rain!
I did spend the end of the week writing our camp handbook. Which kept us all entertained for a while coming up with rules we should enact. As did the 'Project Management' book Sam gave me to keep me quiet while I can't work. Trying to run camp like an office would possibly cause some problems...
I did get out for a couple of hours lending Ed a hand weeding the nursery, which I'm hoping to trade for a few hours work on the Parrot Trail. As I haven't been down there since it has started to rain I'm not sure what it's going to look like...
I know, I’ve been lazy and not posted in ages. So here I am making up for it.
Camp is even busier now than ever with four of us there. Which means everything is running on and progressing at a rate of knots. The place is looking more and more like a real house (and almost running like one, we even got water this week!) and the parrots are getting some much appreciated attention.
I have actually had field work to do, and lots of it, looking for potential nest cavities. Which means basically we walk through the mondi look for likely trees. And then sound like over enthusiastic dentists every time we find a cavity, yelling it so the rest of the team don’t get too far ahead while we measure it for it suitability for the parrot. It’s a lot of fun, except when you meet an impenetrable wall of cactus or spikey spikey trees that make you crawl to get through. That bit is less fun.
But, of course, when I actually get field work to do that means I can go out every single day, I’ve twisted my ankle. Which is more than a little frustrating. Especially as I did it doing what I had just warned Ville from doing (well, not quite, I only had about two feet to fall, he had about ten). So I have been sat very still behaving myself for the rest of the week. It is on its way to healing now though, I can walk on it, it just aches if I do too much. And Sarah is wonderful and letting me take advantage of her being a physio, so hopefully I will be able to go out again soon... And everyone has been very nice to me making sure I don’t have to walk around too much, although Ville does keep warning them off letting me get used to it.
So that means the end of my week has been full of grant applications yet again, which is very important but doesn’t really make all that interesting reading. I don’t even have social things to relate, last weekend everyone went to Regatta opening, but I took advantage of an empty camp for the day. Although I did read a lot of my book, second Game of Thrones which I highly recommend, but has nothing to do with parrots.
Failed to update last week, we’re having issues with our internet (again) so access is even more random than normal.
Last week we had 3 groups from a school in Rincon down to see the birds, which was a success I think. They seemed to enjoy themselves anyhow, and everyone got to see the parrots. One group was rained off, but they came this week, so they got to see them too.
Other outreach has included taking groups from an after-school program in Rincon geo-tagging. They’ve been out twice now and the plan for next week is to go and visit some more remote areas, and a particularly big Wayaka that escaped felling.
Days off have been at Fontein (although not today) working on the permaculture garden there. Getting around the lack of water makes it different to the work I’ve done before, but hopefully they’ll be lots of veggies and trees growing soon.
I have also created a ‘parrot trail’ around the kunuku. Although it only has five signs at the moment it is taking shape nicely, and I made the signs using the jigsaw all by myself without chopping my fingers off. And even after I painted them they still look like parrots!
Otherwise I’ve been working on outreach plans and grant applications, of course. I did also take our new volunteer, Ed, out geo-tagging Saturday morning. And collecting cuttings to be planted in our nursery (which is now hopefully goat, donkey and iguana proof!). I think that was a welcome break from working on the kunuku, but I’m not sure everyone else gets as excited about counting trees as I do... (I did realise as I was painting signs that conservation is the same wherever in the world you are, I was counting trees, carrying out surveys and painting signs in Tanzania too).
Another new volunteer arrives next week, which is exciting. Someone else to lend a hand with the ever mounting pile of tasks. Although the newest task is doing nest searches, so fieldwork! And lots of it, we have 3km2 to cover. But fieldwork!
Day off today. Went cycling. Meant to go snorkelling, but apparently in order to do that you need to remember your swim gear too (or, I guess you don’t have too, but it is advisable...) So didn’t do that. Town errands tomorrow, and I think next week is probably full of grant writing, as the deadline is Sunday.
Everything else this week has been office based too, which makes for a not so interesting blog posts. We have a new volunteer this week though too. Working on camp development so camp is improving quickly. We have a shower that works now properly, and a pump (no water without geckos, but it should be arriving on Thursday), and lots of other exciting things starting to make camp even better! Also means today has been spent touring the island and snorkelling, which is a fairly good way to spend the morning I think.
We did spend the weekend working on both kunukus. Saturday we built a fence at Dos Pos, hopefully too keep people out of the garden stealing the coconuts. Sunday we were at Sam's emptying yet another pool of 'compost medium' (sludge!) for the garden. It is quite impressive soil though, especially on an island without any, so hopefully we will have lots of happy plants.
Nearly finished social surveys! 29 more to go. Was hoping to get them all done this week, but I couldn’t get the printer to play, so no luck. But only 29 more.
That filled Tuesday this week. Wednesday was then spent doing office work and inputting the surveys, in between fighting with the printer. And a little more trail cutting. That is also nearly finished.
Thursday was field work, along with Sam and two people working on database and spatial data on the island, who were over for the week. Tried to get pictures of the pair at Pina Colada nest, but failed unfortunately, four people were just too many for them to risk coming out to see who we were. We did manage to ring the chicks though, one of which who had left the nest a little too early (and probably not entirely on purpose) that we caught in a tree looking rather soggy. Both ringed and back in the nest now though. I did get in a tangle AGAIN with my abseiling though, going over the edge slightly sideways is scary! The rest of Thursday was meeting about the database and mapping, as well as meeting with Sam and more office work.
Spent Friday morning doing more office stuff, mostly working on our outreach plan and starting to write another grant. Then back to Sam’s for more meetings on the database, before heading out to the National Park to do roost counts and ringing of the chick me and Ville failed to retrieve last week. Successfully retrieved and ringed this week, although Sam (definitely NOT me, whatever he claims) did leave the ‘extractor’ at the nest and had to go running back up the hill to collect it. Not many parrots on the roost counts, but still a pretty place to watch the sun go down.
Then went out Friday night. Including me. And I did actually enjoy it, who knew? Mostly because there was another event on in town so it was quiet I think. But nice social evening.
Saturday I worked from Dos Pos but mostly office based again. I did sort the kitchen ready for new volunteer to arrive on Tuesday, and do a little more trail clearing.
A couple of bits of field work to do next week, then we are done with nest checks. Hopefully soon will get on to cavity and nest searches, covering 3km2 looking for possible nest sites. I think office work may again prevail for a few weeks first though...