Sunday, October 13, 2013

A day in the life of BBR

Being blog-absent for so long, you wonder where to pick back up.  Well, I am often asked what I find do all day so that seems a good place to start...
A typical day begins at dawn, which is anywhere between 4.45 and 6.45am depending on the time of year. Our somewhat unorthodox dawn chorus of whoops, whistles, snorts and cackles accompanies that of the regular wild birds as Belize Bird Rescue wakes. 

Rolling the crazy house-birds out onto the verandah and chasing down the naughty ones playing tag  on the cabinet tops, I urge the coffee machine to work faster.
All naughties evicted and coffee in hand, it’s downstairs to begin dishing up breakfast. Pepper is my permanent helper, recently joined by Sancho, who is truly the worst helper in the world. He’s discovered that baskets flung from shelves will get me to continue the game of tag, which appears to be a favourite morning game. If I am really lucky, he won't knock a basket-full of food onto the floor, although my luck is usually not so good.

Ms Mature Pepper calmly enjoys samples from everyone’s plate until she hears that Geoff (my son-in-law) is up and about, and flies off to attack him: she usually waits until he has two cups of coffee in his hand, and is trying to open the screen door with one foot. One day this will end in tears.
Baskets filled with fruits, veggies, nuts, corn, beans and birdy-bread, and of course the ubiquitous sunflower seeds, I start distributing to my impatient customers. 

Thankfully, I have the lovely Celeshia who is BR's full-time bird lady, plus two great guys that help us to distribute the 40-50 dishes , so on weekdays, everyone gets breakfast by 8:00am.

 There are usually one or two 'special' dietary needs too: mice and chicks for the meat-eaters; bugs, worms or soldier-fly larvae for the omnivores; fish for the stinky sea-birds. Every new beak that passes through presents a challenge and has resulted in us cultivating a healthy mouse colony, a meal-worm farm and a soldier-fly bin. Next on the list are crickets, earth worms and lizards if we can manage it. Nature really is cruel...

Washing the dishes, chopping veggies for the next day, preparing various treats (sweet potato, scrambled egg, cooked corn, chopped chilis, fresh coconut, birdy-bread, wild berries and fruits) takes up most of the morning and I thank Celeshia every day for taking control of all this!

Most days I go shopping in nearby Belmopan. Thank goodness we don’t live 20 miles out on a rocky tyre-busting road, as many of our friends do – I could never be that organised with my shopping lists. For those keeping count, it's currently around $70BZ ($35US) a day to feed our charges.

Although a very important part, food is only one aspect of the operation. The enclosures need to be swept, scrubbed or raked daily. The parrots need enrichment: branches with leaves and berries, flowers and toys, and we regularly need to add or change out perches.

Fighting ants, particularly the fire ants, is a continuous task.  Sometimes we have birds that require medication or special handling, and new intakes need a health check and we band all of our parrots. We often have to go out and collect/rescue birds and transport any injured ones on to the wildlife clinic, and of course, our favourite part: release!

Construction, modification and improvement never stops. This year we built three 20'x20' enclosures, put a 4' extension on the 5 quarantine enclosures and built a set of 4 low-level enclosures for the delicate non-flighted birds such as our permanently grounded aracari pair and two olive-throated parakeets with crippled wings. We also installed an enclosure within the rehab flight aviary which will enable us to catch the birds more easily before we can ship them off to the release site. We have 26 red loreds who will be testing the efficacy of that new feature when their release time comes.

We often have to move birds around into different enclosures as their needs change and new birds arrive. Introducing a new parrot to an existing group is always interesting, and very necessary if we are to build release flocks.  Most fun for everyone are the yellowheads - trying to find that magic combination of boy-meets-girl. It’s not proving easy, I'm sorry to say. We are supposed to be getting them to breed, but they are having none of it. We recently abandoned the yellow-head flight enclosure (renamed Fight Enclosure) and have instead turned it over to this year's wonderful white-fronts. I only hope our gracious hosts at the release site are ready for these 20+ devil-birds when the time comes. 

I made a disastrous decision to split our original flight enclosure into two in a move more commonly referred to as ‘throwing good money after bad’. I am not too big to admit that even after 10 years of learning, I am still making mistakes. Mr Jose is still tutting at me and shaking his head. No panic, he'll fix it - somehow he always does.

This year I have been totally blessed with several wonderful volunteers and helpers: it’s actually been our busiest year in terms of birds, but my easiest as I have had so much help and (yes!) time off. Thanks to you lovely ladies and gents - you all know who you are!! It has been an amazing year and Celeshia and I learned an awful lot. So much so, that we realised how much more we have to learn, so Celeshia is headed off to the frozen North to enjoy 6 weeks of on-site training and workshops at various specialist centres. I think she's in for a shock when she experiences Quebec in November, poor gal.

Around 5pm we can begin to slow down and enjoy a well-deserved rum and coke on the verandah as the soft-release birds come in for their afternoon feed. Here are a pair of white fronts scrapping over the table with the red loreds. (spot the boys!)

So there you have it: a little of what we do at BBR. So far, 2013 has brought us 86 birds and we have 94 in total at the centre: hopefully we will be able to liberate over half of those throughout the next 6 months which will add to the 40 birds already released this year.

And finally, in August we had our first documented breeding success: two banded and released ex-pet red loreds were photographed feeding their baby . This is without doubt the best reward we could possibly ask for.


  1. I just love that last photo and report -- makes it all worth it, doesn't it? Well done, y'all!

  2. Wonderful update - I can almost hear the chaos in the morning and love the success story at the end. I know you save many lives but the breeding update is extra special. Thanks you to and all those volunteers for all you do. Cheers Miss Nikki!