Sunday, July 29, 2012

Stork Storkers Club

We’ve had a busy couple of months here at the madhouse. Several new arrivals: a baby toucan, two winged parakeets, baby white-fronts, baby red loreds, a volunteer here and there – some survived, some didn’t -but the highlight has to be our extremely tall friend Mr Jabiru Stork (aka Roo, Storky, Bert and Ernie).

In case you haven’t already been bored rigid by the tale, mid July we received a call from Mr Dyrk Fransisco, the PR guru at Belize Audubon Society. A jabiru stork had been hanging out at the bar at the end of the Municipal Airport runway. A leggy blonde frequenting bars, you say? What’s wrong with that? Well, unfortunately, this particular leggy blonde was using the runway as a footpath and had already caused a couple of aborted landings. All very amusing if you don’t own one of the planes and you’re not one of the passengers. So here were the choices presented to us by the airlines: get shot of the bird, or the bird gets shot. Hmmm.

Cue the Belize Wildlife Conservation Network (BWCN) response team (pause for ooo’s and aaah’s) We are ready to spring into action at a moments notice, just like Spiderman. So, armed with nets, gloves, cages, crates and blankets, plus numerous representatives from Belize Forest Department, Belize Wildlife & Referral Clinic, ISIS, Belize Humane Society and Belize Audubon Society, we launched ourselves at Belize City.
We didn’t find the stork, but we did find the bar.
I don’t remember a whole lot else.

Everything went quiet and we assumed (ass + U & me) the problem had solved itself. Nope.
A week later Dyrk called again. ‘The bird is back and they are going to shoot it.’
We moved a little quicker this time and actually found our quarry as he was tucking into the contents of the swamp behind St John’s College. I have to say, we didn’t expect the warm welcome we got from the Dean, but I think the policemen managed to calm him down. Tree-huggers are such dangerous animals… but that’s another tale probably best told by someone else.

Okay, remember that library scene in Ghostbusters where Dan Akroyd has a 'plan' that consists of a single instruction:  “Get Her!”? Well that was us for the next half hour, flailing around a swamp in oversized wellies with giant butterfly nets trying to catch an (excuse me he most certainly does fly) stork in a massive open field.  I bet that was hilarious to watch – good call not inviting Channel 5.  

Guess where we went after that?
So, sitting at the bar, we formulated a cunning plan. “We’re gonna draw him into the shallows. Draw him in and drown him” (well, drug him, actually, but that’s not in any movie I want to own up to seeing) However, being as it was past our bedtime, we decided to wait until tomorrow to put our plan into action. Actually, we all decided it would be best if Dr Stacy from BWRC and Gillian from Belize Humane Society did all the work, and we would swoop in and take the glory. Which is pretty much what happened. 

I’m not going into detail because it was a simple capture with no dramas: they crawled out of bed at 6am, fed him the drugged fish and bam, 6 hours later he was in the bag. Easy. All this talk about crying and wanting to go home is just Stacy being a princess.

So our extremely happy (read comatose) stork was cuddled by the good doctor all the way back to Bird Rescue where he refused to wake up. And when he finally opened his eyes he totally refused to stand up. Three days and several minor coronaries later, he finally started doing stork stuff like standing and eating. Phew is an understatement but it will do for now. At this point Audubon were already getting calls like ‘why did you kill our stork?’ No pressure or anything.

Okay, so closing off the long story, he thankfully went from strength to strength and just about cleared out our entire fish-pond with his 20-a-day habit.  

Almost 2 weeks after capture, his day of freedom finally rolled around. Massive thanks to Dyrk for the assistance in finding a site, we could not have done it without him. For those that are interested, rainy season is not the best time for a stork – the wet-land swamps become lakes and their prey have way more places to hide out. Many wading bird head to Mexico at this time of year but cross-border travel was out of the question for a leggy blonde with no passport.

Final destination transportation became the subject of many late-night discussions. After consultation with several experts, we opted for the ‘cuddle and run’ approach to stork travel. Stacey once again hugged her baby for the 80 minute return trip to swamp-land. As we speak, just north of Sandhill at Greys Swamp there is one solitary jabiru, snacking out on frogs and fish and waiting on the return of his cousins. If you see him, please say ‘hi’ from us, maybe take a picture and give us a call to let us know he’s okay… 610 0400

The full photo-story can be found here at Picassa:

Just like the Oscars – Belize Bird Rescue would like to thank (no particular order)
Belize Audubon Society (Dyrk Fransisco)
Belize Wildlife Conservation Network, Dr Stacey Green, Gillian & Gordon Kirkwood, Dr Isabelle Paquet- Duran, Belize Wildlife & Referral Clinic, Belize Humane Society, Iris De La O, Chelsea Canon, Lara Berland, Philip De Shield, International Crane Foundation (Milwaukee) & Belize Zoo
Belize Forest Department, Tropic & Maya Air (for their patience), Admirals Bar (for giving up their baby)

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Shockingly long time since the last blog. I am not even going to try and catch up – you can do that with the newsletter if you like. Yes, there are now two quarterly BBR newsletters spanning 10 months: what do you mean, lack of commitment??

It seems we are into kite season again with its drying breeze and fire-fanning gusts. I am hoping for enough of the odd rain-shower to dampen the tinders of the forest floors, but I don’t suppose we will be that lucky.It's also the season for barn owls as proven by the 5 hissing, smelly little darlings living in the office right now.  If anyone you know is complaining of owls in the attic, please steer them toward our factsheet

Embarrassingly for a bird sanctuary, we’ve had a bad year for domestic fowl so far.
We were called out to pick up a (very) small croc in Roaring Creek. It had string embedded in its neck so it was obviously once a loved and appropriate family pet. Acting on good advice, we removed the string and put the croc in our duck pond for observation. If anyone wants to know, this is precisely how you turn a duck pond into a croc pond.
A few days later, we noticed that our land-lubber ducks and a lot of our chickens were disappearing at an alarming rate thanks to the neighbouring dogs. 

We decided to erect a lovely new fence between the dogs and us, but once the river dropped, they easily found their way around. Then we discovered that a jaguarundi had also been busy around the pond, so there was nothing for it but to fence in the chickens entirely, catch the darned croc and in doing so, give the ducks back their refuge. I won’t bore you with details, but 4lbs of chicken pieces later, the croc is still there, the croc-trap has become a lawn ornament and Jerry is in the process of draining the pond.
Moral: crocs don’t belong in duck-ponds.

Mating season is in full flow at Belize Bird Rescue. Buzz and Spike are guarding the Crazy Aviary, the yellow-heads are worse than they ever were, the peacock (yes!) spends the entire day about six inches from our workers heels, Harry is humping his perch and Pepperito is relentless in his attacks on son-in-law Geoff. In fairness, Geoff takes it very well, Pepper is not exactly silent in flight as he launches himself from his broken nest-box, so a well-timed duck has Pepper sailing overhead and Geoff’s leg muscles aching by the end of the day. The only time Geoff comes unstuck is when the fly-catchers nesting outside his bedroom door join Pepper in the attack.

Lastly, I am pathetically excited about our posters which are now printed and awaiting distribution to all 480+ schools in Belize. I must once again thank the World Parrot Trust 2011 Parrot Lovers Cruise passengers for their fantastic donation which made this possible. More details on that are also in the newsletter.
Let’s hope that the messages on the poster provide some food for thought this nesting season, and save one or two parrots in the process.