Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Three steps forward...

Good news/bad news continues. The best news is that Mick and Titch had a glorious release and flew off into the wide blue yonder. They haven't returned to our knowledge, but no surprise there; they're off in a hurry to make babies. Interestingly (don't yawn) Timba and Chichi, who usually camp out in the lower branches of a single tree, have moved up to the top platform. Hierarchy at work. Chichi is definitely making sex noises - dare we give them a nest-box...? And today we successfully released a dove we had been nursing for a week. Oh come on, every bird is important!
Buster (Hunter's son) is sick with tick-fever again. It's his second bout in a few months, the consensus is that we discontinued the antibiotics too early the last time. If you're interested, the symptoms are rapid onset of lethargy and appetite loss, usually with pale gums. Treatment with doxycycline for at least 2 weeks, but better for 3 we hear. We give 200mg twice daily for our 80lb dog, but check with a vet. Without treatment the dog will pop his clogs in very short-style. We noticed Buster under the weather on Saturday and by Monday morning he was on a drip (much on the mend today though, thanks for asking).
Rocket, our 200 year-old horse is getting skinny again, poor old fella. We've brought him out of the scrubby pasture for some yummy lawn-grass and a tonne of vitamins. Probably get colic now, knowing our luck. And finally, the agouti has discovered the joys of teeth - hers mostly -and is using them to good effect: nuts, sweetcorn, my favourite bookcase... great. She's going on Ebay if she keeps that up. All we need now is for the remaining 7 horses to discover that the electric fence is broken, and make a bee-line for the bananas.
Ooops, too late.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

RIP Hunter

It's been good news, bad news lately. Monday morning, we awoke to find our trusty pack leader, Hunter, had died peacefully in his sleep: so peacefully he hadn't even disturbed his blanket. Heart attack or stroke, we guess. He was probably only between 7 and 10 years old - as a rescued street dog we can't be sure of his age when he first joined our happy band. Following so close on the heels of 2nd Lieutenant Wilson's death late last year, it leaves us with a somewhat dysfunctional and leaderless pack. Buster is now in charge, God help us.
On a brighter note, Klientjie (the Third Stooge), who I thought had disappeared for good, came sailing over the horizon with Mr P. What a wonderful sight - not least because I can now look Dr L in the eye and tell him all his birds are safe and well. Mr P is quite a strapping fellow whereas Kleintjie is a mere slip of a girl - a very distinctive couple in amongst the crowd. It would have been a tear-jerking sight: Little and Large swooping toward the aviary, greeting long-lost friends then flying off into the wide blue yonder - were it not for the dead dog at our feet...
Good news, bad news continued: On Tuesday, Mr Forestry Officer invited us to join him in a Q&A session at one of the local universities. A very productive exercise, all in all. Later that day he presented us with a badly injured barn owl: broken wing, fractured skull, damaged eye. Unfortunately it did not survive the night. By coincidence, Wednesday we bumped into the Audubon Society representative who found the bird. Not content with the extent of injuries sustained when it was hit by a car, the local youth were trying to finish it off with stones; Belizeans believe that barn owls are the soothsayers of doom, death and disease, which brings their average survival rate down from 'not great' to 'not a chance'. We have another busy season of orphaned baby owls in various states of disrepair to look forward to. Ah well, out with the soapbox and the bullet-proof vest and let's begin the happy task of eradicating a thousand years of superstition.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Busy doing nothing...

Forgive me Blogger, for I have sinned; it has been a week since my last post. I have spent the last seven days putting up Parrot Propaganda posters on every available notice board around town; thanks for the help from those unsuspecting individuals who didn't run away fast enough. It remains to be seen whether anyone reads them or not.
We received an update from the owl's new parents. He's now officially called something unpronounceable that means 'Night Eyes' in Latin - or Nox for short. We have been promised a written account of his life so far, as soon as young Bruce makes it to civilization to send his email. The good news is though, that Nox is doing well and has learned to perch on a human arm without ripping chunks off it, which is always a plus. Shame he didn't learn that level of restrain with his own arm...
I daren't tell Dr L, but the Three Stooges are now the Two Stooges. And I think the one that has gone AWOL has been led astray by Mr P, who is also conspicuous by his absence. Talk about the blind leading the blind - I hope they found some helpful flock-mates. The remaining two are behaving as a pair. They share their food and roosting space and fly in mad circles around the house and through the orchard together. Nox's new dad kindly made us a parrot nest-box which we'll put in one of the taller trees near the aviary. Yeah, okay, but you never know, oh ye of little faith. We did contemplate putting it in the aviary, but we are likely to get inter-species breeding if we did. They don't seem to be bothered with this prospect, but we are not about to encourage a psittacine melting pot in our back yard - it doesn't exactly complement what we are trying to achieve. Speaking of which, to round off a perfect week of achieving very little, we also acquired a baby agouti. Our mother-dog brought it back in her mouth, probably thinking it was a long-lost puppy. Of course now she will have nothing to do with it - thanks for that, Judy. We'll add it to our very long list of 'Things that Waste a Lot of Time' and hope it grows up quickly.

(BTW, want to know more about the Stooges, Nox et al? www.belizebirdrescue.com)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Up the Ante

My self-imposed Sunday chores include bleaching the parrots. Not the actual birds, just everything they may touch, or eat out of, or stand on. You can keep your fancy disinfectants; bleach works. And it degrades in sunlight (plenty of that here) and doesn't smell of lavender or 'potpourri' or some sickly throat-grabbing lemon-like olfactory assailant. Some clean-freaks advocate alcohol, but I believe this substance has a higher purpose. Anyhow, bleaching parrots gives one time to think (as does vacuuming or mowing the lawn) And my thought for the day as I was been bitten every 10 seconds was "what use are fire ants?". Wikipedia wisely tells me "not a lot".
Naturally we can't use any form of poison or insecticide; can you imagine the headlines? "Belize Bird Rescue poisons 160 domestic fowl, 12 parrots and thousands of wild birds". Who am I kidding. Headlines? Ha. You have to be a machete-wielding maniac or a politician to make headlines these days (yes, there's a difference). As a fire-ant killer, Ms DuPlooy (www.duplooys.com) recommends degreaser, molasses and warm water - but this acts only as a topical murderer, knocking off the top 2% of the nest. We tried dousing them in boiling water, but this offended my sensitivities toward these innocent helpless creatures. Only kidding - didn't really work either. A friend suggested white lime, but this will burn unsuspecting bird-feet and probably isn't too healthy as a midday snack. It seems to be one of the few battles we will not win in Belize (plus I am supposed to support the 'share the planet' theory). The best we can do is confound the enemy. Parrot food is neatly arranged in plastic chip baskets, with threaded bar and cabinet knobs screwed on for legs: these little restaurant islands live in a baking trays full of water. Regular cleaning of the tray is required as the crafty little beggars use peanut shells as boats. Honestly! Human feet are usually encased in wellies and the perches we position between the trees and the feeding platforms have to be moved regularly, or they become a route-march for the clean-up team. I once witnessed a parrot fall off a perch as it tried to pick ants of both its feet at once. I know it shouldn't have made me laugh, but I don't get out much.
I am reading about phoridae, a wonder-fly that eats fire-ants. Get this: the 'ant-decapitating' fly reproduces by laying eggs in the ant's thorax, the larvae migrates to the head and starts to eat it. After about two weeks, they cause the ant's head to fall off. The fly pupates in the detached head capsule, requiring a further two weeks before emerging. Now where can we get some of those from?