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Snoring with Macaws

Honduras is the most dangerous place in the world for environmentalists. Because of the factors that cause this, we have not been able to enter certain areas where parrots and people are struggling.

Finally this year we were given the go ahead by the military, which accompanied us along with the forest service, to travel up to the reaches of the indigenous territory of the villages with whom we work. First we set up camp at the edge where the pine savanna meets the broadleaf forest, and then hurried up to the overlook so as to do an official census of parrots. We were looking mostly north to the Colon Mountains (photo above). Met with unseasonably cool and wet weather, some of our count had to be done from within the truck with ponchos held high to get a glimpse of the rainbows, storm clouds, and what we hoped would be a great green macaw. Perhaps only a couple hundred are left in Honduras, and I had yet to see one here.

The rain parted for just a bit, and out of the dark, drizzly mountains flew a large macaw headed towards us into the savanna and a likely nest (video above). It was a great green macaw! We celebrated on top of the lookout and then headed back to camp to find a way to stay dry with the overnight rain (photo below).

We slept close to one another due to stories of jaguars who might snatch one in the night. In the morning there was scant time to tease the snorers before motoring up to the lookout for the morning count. Some counted while others went in search of the green macaw nest.

Night camp with my hammock in the foreground

Here is what we found during our two counts: (Tablitas Mirador)

March 2 p.m. March 3 a.m.

Amazona automnalis (Red-lored Amazon) 12 57

Ara macao cyanoptera (Scarlet Macaw) 4 3

Pionus senilis (White-capped parrot) 1 0

Eupsittula nana (Olive-throated parakeet) 2 0

Ara ambiguus (Great green macaw) 1 1

Amazona guatemalae (Northern mealey parrot) 1 0

Amazona auropaliata (Yellow-naped amazon) 0 4

Psitacara finschi (Crimson-fronted parakeet) 0 4

Red-lored amazons were busy protecting territories and nests (photo above and below, and video below showing pairs fighting)

Our plan had been to build a permanent camp here so we could extend our parrot protection efforts, but due to recent violence in the nearby forest, we adapted and decided to make the camp portable and break it down every day. Then as the week progressed we heard more and more news about the level of violence, and decided that once again, this is not the year.

Camp we will not repeat, this year

Now may not be the time to be in this territory, but it is always the time to teach

Back at the research and conservation center in Mabita we organized our patrols after gathering all the information we could to live and promote peace while protecting parrots and people in this area. It seems an impossible dream at times, even though last year not one macaw chick from our conservation area entered the wildlife trade.

Patrols organizing for the season

Amidst all the challenges, however, there is a beauty that cannot be squelched. Our job is to testify to it, and tell the story of what might yet be once again - not just one solitary macaw flowing out of the mists, but flocks of a hundred as in times before.

Awake my people, and arise on the wings of indignation to bring liberation to all.

There is always time for joy! (Full team at camp.)

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