Sunday, March 23, 2014
This is not an ordinary man-and-macaw story. The afternoon we visited Don Alvaro's finca in the rolling countryside near the Rio Sarapiqui was one of the most magical and moving of our trip.
This gentle man rescues macaws. Caged, lonely, abused macaws, macaws coming from all over. I saw one with only half a beak, one that had plucked itself to down. He has 19 in all. That's a lot of macaws. "Has" isn't quite the right verb here.
Because it's what he does with them, how he "keeps" them that moved me so. These birds are free, flying all over the farm. Flying many kilometers up and down the river, voicing harsh shrieks that, in their harshness, still sound joyful.
But they come back to Don Alvaro for peanuts and a little loving.
Having lived with a captive chestnut-fronted macaw for 23 years, I could immediately see that this was a much, much better way. Perhaps the only way to "keep" any parrot. Free.
Macaws are widely perceived as so valuable that very few people would dare to release them into the garden, much less the sky.
But Don Alvaro relies on their native intelligence and their attachment to the only home they know. And he hopes they will breed, make more macaws, perhaps in time even repopulate some of the area, perhaps La Selva Biological Reserve, which after all isn't too far away.
As a trained observer can see, one pair has already bred. A great green macaw paired with a scarlet, making some lovely hybrid babies--four in one clutch!
You can't tell someone whom to love. Mama and Papa, likely the birds to the right--and three of their sunny rainbow babes lined up.
Even though it was a bit of a bio-misfire, it was encouraging to see that they could successfully breed. I hoped hard that some same-species pairs would follow suit. Don Alvaro has huge nest boxes in the trees around the place, hoping. The world needs more macaws. Everywhere they once were, they are disappearing.
Having seen so many macaws languishing in iron cages, sitting still and mopey on perch stands, their colors and eyes dull with boredom, seeing them swooping and bickering and yelling here was a tonic si sorely needed.
Oh, they were saucy and loud. Yet their screams fit this vibrant place, were part of its music. They dissipated into the open sky. I realized that listening to macaws screaming indoors is nothing but painful. Outdoors it's music.
These macaws have found a friend, someone who understands and trusts them.
Who believes in them enough to set them free.
Though he has very little English, and his Spanish was far too rapid for me to understand, Don Alvaro's kindness and love permeates this place. Just being there with him among the birds changed me forever.