A quick email from Team Leader Mark, followed by an equally rapid site inspection to confirm our existence, saw Trekforce Expeditions piling onto Bird Rescue territory for a 5 day visit in which to “do something useful”.
Although I had compiled a mental list of such useful tasks, I didn’t actually reach the final decision until the day of their arrival. Seven eager faces smiled and nodded as I explained the Yellow Head’s precarious situation in Belize, and the Forestry Department’s sanction of a facility in which to hold and hopefully breed former captive birds. Seven wide-eyed, smiling faces remained fixed on mine as I explained that what we really needed was an aviary no less than 40’ wide by 60’ long by around 18’ high. Nobody moved. I guess they were waiting for the punch-line… or looking around for the cameras…
Armed with my very informative sketch (picture the illustration accompanying a 6 year-olds diary entry entitled ‘my house’) they trotted off into the bush to string up their hammocks and mull over their assignment during lunch.
As deaf, dumb and blind luck would have it, one of the Trekkers was a civil engineer. That qualification put Jeff in charge: I think we were all relived that someone was going to be.
Wobbling into day 2, we began to realise three niggly little details: 1) I had seriously underestimated the materials required, 2) the structure would be too weak to hold the weight of the wire, and 3) five days was about a quarter of the time we really needed to finish this project. There was a considerable amount of thinking-rum drunk that evening, I can tell you.
More luck: 1) On finishing my sums I realised the fundraiser we had in May brought in almost enough money to cover all the additional materials required. 2) Tito, who is a genius, turned up the very next day, giggled a bit at my choice of supports and then put his team of scaffold-scaling welders to apply cross beams and uprights to fix the damage. 3) The Trekkers held a board meeting and decided to forgo their scheduled R&R and stay on the project until it was finished. I vaguely remember we had some celebratory rum that night too.
Whilst Tito’s team got on with the strengthening work, the Trekkers made a nest in the garage and began the most tedious job in the world - clipping the rolls of wire together. With Radio 1 live-streaming and a barrage of British dialects singing along, I felt a tiny bit homesick -until I remembered how cold it was in the UK and then I was cured.
As days passed, tedium gave way to excitement as we realised this challenge may actually reach completion before the Trekkers had to leave.
With much cheering and fanfare, the final roll of wire was clipped together, hauled into place and secured to the frame. I think there was also a little bit of rum, beer, wine and Chinese food consumend that night… but don't quote me.
On the morning of Trekforce’s departure, a few finishing touches were required, and then confident that the enclosure was sealed – in fact, confident that this was the best aviary I have ever had built – I went about catching Norman, Sombrero and their happy band of psychopaths.It wasn't pretty so the less said about that, the better.
Cameras poised we waited to see how the birds would react to all this space. The result was better than I could have imagined: the cacophony of laughter, calls and swooping flight had every eye tearing up – especially mine. These bird had never known such freedom. My only regret is forgetting to video the event.
The Trekforce Team hurriedly planted the obligatory tree, posed for the obligatory photos, and with much hugging, crying and waving, departed Belize Bird Rescue, leaving behind a happy corner of yellow-head paradise.
Thank you Trekforce Belize 2011: Risky, Emily, Lauren, Jeff, Diamond, Gratton, Mark and my trusty volunteers, Kevin, Hayley and Sarah. You are all amazing!