Sunday 10 April 2016

Military Macaws

Mar 20 2016  Oak and Fir Forest Jalisco
Jorge (George) Novoa was outside the botanical gardens waiting for me. As I mentioned in a previous blog it was a chance meeting set up by the botanical garden director. I'm pretty exited to be going to see Military Macaws, hopefully the effort will be worth it. Jorge's hillside property was in the past a poachers domain, cutting down the old snags that the military macaw's required to nest. The nestlings were then sold on the black market.
 I had already seen a number of caged macaws on my visit and I can only describe it as a sorry and deplorable situation. These days Jorge and his volunteers camp on the property until the birds are fledged. So far six pairs are nesting and Jorge plans to install more boxes.
As we travelled south Jorge suddenly pulls off the main road and we take off up a red dirt track. I jump out to unlock the gate to a former logging road that would take us up several kilometres through oak and pine forest.

Oak and Pine Forest.
 Unfortunately the logging roads we use also allow poachers to reach high up in the hills, often under the pretext of collecting firewood. As we climb higher Jorge points out an elegant trogon, its colours are the same as the Mexican flag and is often referred to as the 'Mexican national bird'
I jump out of the minibus and get a quick snapshot before it takes off. Jorge says the species are quite rare in the area. The bird wouldn't turn around for me but at least I got a glimpse, it's a good enough excuse to go back and try for a better pose. Elegant Trogons are reliant upon woodpeckers to excavate holes in trees where they place their nests.

Elegant trogan
As we climbed even higher we came across a flock of social kiscadee and then a black and white warbler, all very interesting but not the main aim of the excursion.

Social kiscadee

 Finally we arrived a gated off area with a temporary camp set up to protect the birds until they have fledged. This way Jorge and volunteers can monitor the nests. The day I arrive a film crew were already documenting the macaws for an upcoming special for a Mexican TV network.

Our first sighting of a Military Macaw.
The birds have readily accepted the nest boxes Jorge has built for them.

We take off on a winding trail through the forest, a Nutting's flycatcher can be heard but remains out of sight. Finally we arrive at a point overlooking a large grove of fir. Jorge's keen eye picks out a macaw flying into a nest box. It's our first sighting and the whole party which includes a class of photography students and a young family are ecstatic.

I was hoping that we might get a closer view but for the moment the sighting was enough for us to forget the flying ants and their venomous bites. 

We then walk along the escarpment toward two more nests. This time the nest-boxes are a little nearer but the macaws have just flown away to feed, all we need to do now is wait and hope our group of non-birders  have the patience  to keep still and quiet long enough for the birds to return. 
Jorge says the birds travel long distances to find fruit and nuts. After about thirty minutes one bird returns, everyone is happy but the biting ants are making life uncomfortable. I decide to stay while the others leave for the coast. I wait for the Macaws return which they did twice. 
At this point I have smothered myself in insect repellent which at the time seemed to work a treat. Later back at the hotel I found myself covered in at least fifty red welts from where the ants had bitten through my clothing. 

Jorge is on a mission to help the macaws. Although he is linked up with a few large tour operators he see only about 25% of the fees collected. George needs help to support his efforts either by hiring him directly or through donations. I was very impressed with Jorge's effort and commitment I hope to help him promote hid non-profit effort in a later blog. Contact me if you are going Puerto Vallarta way and i'll hook you up and all best of all fees go the Macaw program.

I have witnessed more than a few magical moments in my life but I have to admit watching a pair of Macaws flying in the wild ranks up there with best of those memories. It was time to head back to the coast the end a full days birding which began eight hours earlier. 

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon
BC Canada

1 comment:

  1. Only seen elegant trogons in Arizona lovely birds and so are the macaws