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Choroyes nests

Project update: Wednesday, 23 December 2009

We have been quite busy lately by intensively checking Choroyes nests.

Gemma, a volunteer from the Falkland Islands (UK) started helping us in November, joined later by her friend Pablo. Beginning in December, Magdalena, from Universidad Austral (Chile) joined the Choroy Team. I am very happy working with them as they are workhorses for field work!!

With the help of Gemma and Pablo, we added another study site located on the dairy farm Los Negros, where we have been able to find 5 additional nests. Given the sticks nailed to the trunks and the enlargement of the cavity entrances, this site was also intensively poached until recently. Climbing trees has been intensive and many of the new nests are located over 25 m from the ground, which have been quite challenging to get to! In a few of the abandoned cavities, far from the ground we have found a rich microcosm made out of spiders, cockroaches, beetles, ants, and even earthworms! Among several native epiphytes, we found the exotic blackberry present very high on nesting trees. At the base of one pellín (Nothofagus obliqua, the tree used for nesting) we found a Chilla fox family.

Most nests have chicks already. However, we have had a couple of interesting and nice surprises: in hollows used previously by parrots, we have found in two instances Speckled-teals incubating, in one a Kestrel, and in two others Barn Owls and bees. A black rat was seen by one of the nests. Unlike in the previous season and perhaps given that we started earlier this year, I have been interesting to find in many cases the adults incubating the eggs or warming the chicks.

A bad new is that we saw a lorero by one our monitored nests, which was illegally carrying an old shotgun. Farmers hire loreros to scare away depredating parrots when crop is sprouting. This practice, against the law, is widespread among most farmers in the region. The worst part is that he happily told us how he have killed many parrots less than 80 m from our monitored nests, that were raiding corn crops. The man found it very effective to leave the dead birds as scare crows hanging from the fences or just on the ground. At another of our most productive study site, a local also told us that they had to shot many choroyes, because they destroy the sprouting corn fields. He further told us that the landlord was desperate and wiling to poison the birds with the chemical “furadan” to save the crop. At the other end of the same area, another farmer decided to shop down most of the pellines for timber boards and fence posts. Additionally, farmers often “clean” the land of old trees (the same used by Choroyes) for planting berries, tulips, or other intensive crops. Felling native trees is not against the low in Chile, as scattered trees are not considered “a forest”.

For Christmas we took a 2-day break and we are excited for what comes for the remaining of the breeding season. We very much look forward for the soon arrival of Tom and Arelis from Puerto Rico, as well as Mark and Marie (Parrots International) from California for a productive nest monitoring and radio-tagging. A forthcoming volunteer Francisca (from Universidad Santo Tomas, Chile) will arrive starting January. Sadly, Magdalena will leave us by then. Other volunteers (Matthew from Australia and Lonneke from the Netherlands) will likely come during February and March.

I hope that this brief report provides a sense of the successful and joyful breeding season we already have. I am including several pictures of the highlights!

I would like to extend my special thanks to all the supporters, friends, and farmers, but especially to the dedicated and hard-working past and current volunteers!

Our best whishes in these holidays for all the parrot fans and lovers!

blogs from the field - parrot conservation in real time