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Macaw Messiah

Thursday, January 29, 2015

I am delighted to say that, in February, I will be returning with a group of about 15 people to Costa Rica. Guiding trips is a brand new thing for me, but I find it suits me pretty well. Why wouldn't it? I guess it's obvious that I love showing people amazing places and creatures.

 It helps to work with Holbrook Travel, which owns a lodge (Selva Verde) along the Pacific coast, and specializes in thoughtful, sustainable eco-tourism worldwide. I respect and like the people I work with very much, and our Costa Rican guide, Mario Cordoba, is the bomb. He's promised to work some more bats into this trip. Squeeee!!

After last winter's trip, I did several posts about Don Alvaro's macaw and wildlife sanctuary on his finca not far from Holbrook Travel's proprietary lodge, Selva Verde. And you, gentle readers, surprised me yet again by asking where and how you could donate money to help him keep these magnificent birds in the manner to which they have become accustomed. I didn't have an answer for you then. Still don't have proper contact information for Don Alvaro. But I'm headed back there in February 2015, and I would be delighted to bring along a gift from you. (Probably ought to have donations in by Feb. 19 at the latest). A recap:

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, and one that, in its misery in solitary confinement, had plucked itself all the way to fuzzy gray down. Don Alvaro has 19 in all. That's a LOT of macaws. (Just having one around frequently got on my last nerve). But "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.

Ruckus on the finca! RAAAAWWWK!!!

Great green and scarlet macaws, free flying in the riverine gallery forest, which connects directly to the enormous and well-studied La Selva Bioreserve.

Shots of scarlet and electric blue arrow overhead

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.

I embrace this concept so fully that I had tears rolling down my cheeks for much of the visit, just watching these birds living as they were meant to live. Well, panhandling peanuts isn't quite their natural state, but it's a lot closer than moping on a T-stand,  wings clipped, in somebody's dark living room or den.

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 in the photo below. Great green x scarlet macaw gives you three sunny rainbow babies. And two full-blooded scarlets to the left. So it can happen, and these birds can multiply in this setting.

Even though this pairing was a bio-misfire, it was encouraging to see that macaws could so 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, also hoping. The world desperately needs more macaws. Everywhere they once were, they are disappearing.

I've seen so many macaws languishing in iron cages, sitting still and mopey, their colors and eyes dull with boredom. Seeing them swooping and bickering and yelling here, their feathers smooth and in jewel-toned perfection, was a tonic I 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. Having to hear macaws screaming indoors is nothing but painful. Even if they weren't as intelligent as a two-year-old human, their screams alone should rule them out as appropriate pets. But outdoors? 

 It's music, parrot punk. Macaw emo.

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, all of them rapidly switching places and flapping from tree to tree, changed me forever.

I believe that this is the only way for macaws to live--together, full-flighted, and free.

 If you agree, please consider a small gift for Don Alvaro, that he may continue to provide a beautiful life for these incredible, but so often abused higher beings.

See the DONATE button on the right sidebar of this blog. In the comment box, be sure to specify that it's for the macaws. Thank you so much. I'll take your gift to him (LUCKY ME!!), and I'll be sure to post pictures from our 2015 visit. With your help, I think I'll be able to get a smile out of him this year.  :D

¿Quién es esta mujer, y porqué ella está llorando?


Just donated!

Beautiful post as usual. I tried to give a little donation, but could not find a box in which to write the purpose. I could find the word, but not the response box. As soon as I master this, I'll make a macaw donation

And thanks for the new recaptcha - I feel much more human now. :)

Donation made. Your trip is on my bucket list, but it has to wait until February is no longer a working month. (Free the teachers!)

Donation made with pleasure! I was so amazed and touched by this story and your pics last year. I swear those macaws look like they're smiling in your pics. I worked in pet stores and for vets, I've seen a bunch of macaws. Never with such happy expressions! So hopeful you will take lots more pics of them on your trip.

What a wonderful and heartwarming story! I have a rescued Blue and Gold Macaw,and it is only a dream that he would be able to be free again. However, as for many thousands of other macaws here in the U.S., that is not possible. Perhaps Julie you could do a post on how we can help improve the quality of life, provide care and nurturing, for those birds we can help here in our own neighborhood.

Posted by Karen Becker January 30, 2015 at 7:48 AM
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