Saturday, August 29, 2009

Top 5 Reasons Why I Do What I Do...

Ya know – you can do some crazy stuff with Photoshop, like, even make it appear as though there’s actually a Sun Conure and Green-cheeked Conure living in these cages. Imagine that huh? I mean, wouldn’t it be nuts to put a bird in... Hmmm - hang on a second here, that’s not Photoshopped is it? There actually is a `real’ Sun and Green-cheeked Conure chilling in those Victorian era `Domes of Doom’. Oh dear...

I was sent this photo recently and, well, knock me down with a feather (pardon the pun) but I could have sworn this was 2009 and I was living in a well-developed nation that offers plenty of education on bird care and the environmental enrichment needs of parrots as pets. It prompted me to come up with an idea for a series of Blog posts - `Top 5 Reasons Why I Do What I Do’. Each fortnight over the next 10 weeks I’ll post the next in line for the Top 5. So, in no real order of significance, here we have `Number 5’ to kick things off.

Having seen what Conures get up to in the wilds of Central America first hand, I shudder to think about the level of boredom, frustration and stress that such active little extroverts face during the  hours upon hours a day these guys are caged as they are. And we still scratch our heads when they pull their own feathers out. I mean, really... wouldn’t you?

If you guys ever wonder why someone like me spends most of their spare time educating parrot owners, working with people to improve the standard of understanding out there on what a parrot needs to be a functional, engaging and behaviourally well adapted critter in captivity – the image above is as good a reason as any. It sure ain’t for the money, so for those of you out there who think parrot behaviour consultancy is a `good little earner’ – I hate to burst your ambitious bubble. At best, even for those of us getting significant client numbers and running workshops, it might cover part of your feed and enrichment bill over the course of the year. It’s pretty much a pathway that constantly challenges you and, at times, whilst you do unfortunately get to see the worst, you also meet some of the most dedicated and incredibly caring parrot owners who have birds that are thriving! This Top 5 won’t be just about the negative side – hopefully it will be balanced by some real positives. Maybe it should have been a `Top 6’ then? Anyway, as long as parrot owners are sticking their birds in ornamental domes and think that’s just fine and dandy, I’ve obviously still got some work to do ;-)

Cover Photograph by...

I gotta tell ya, I’ve been proud of a lot of things over the years, number one being the birth of my daughter, but this is pretty neat for a parrot obsessive like me. I finally made a cover photo! The August 2009 edition of the World Parrot Trust Magazine features a cover image that I took whilst birding in Costa Rica in 2007. Folks, I can tell you exactly where the shot was taken, put you exactly in the same spot, and guarantee exactly the same experience – you just have to pay for me to accompany you to Costa and I’ll reveal everything when we get there J

WPT – do your bit for supporting conservation of parrot species and joining today. Check their website out at

Birding with Simon & Nicky

Outside of bird training, surfing and playing the guitar – birdwatching is quickly becoming my most consuming passion. Whilst down at the AVES Convention last week I met Simon Brusland-Jensen, curator of the famous Walsrode Bird Park in Germany. Simon ventured north to the Sunshine Coast with his girlfriend Nicky after AVES and stayed at El Rancho Jimbo for a few days to take in some of the great birding opportunities on offer here on the Sunshine Coast.

Birdwatching can be pretty hit and miss, and it’s always a little daunting when you take people out from overseas who are keen birders and kinda relying on you to get them to the `spot’ where they will be able to add some new species to their lists. I always find really hardcore birders a little intimidating and I had a disastrous day last year taking Don Brightsmith out birding and having him, an American on his first trip to Australia, identify more native birds than me that day – soooo embarrassing! This was a little different and Simon and Nicky seemed as happy to get a look at the ubiquitous Lewin’s Honeyeater as they were seeing a White-bellied Sea Eagle fishing on the wing over Lake MacDonald. It was certainly the first time I had ever seen anyone actually stop to take a photo of a Noisy Miner nest but hey, I guess you don’t have Noisy Miners in every suburban backyard in Germany? :-) 

As it turned out we had the most unbelievable day of Silvereye spotting, Osprey observing, Honeyeater hunting, Wren wrangling, Pardolote purving, Wagtail watching, Galah gazing... (alright, I know – enough alliteration already). All up we counted 73 species on our list later that night, including three newbies for my personal Noosa list. As much as I’d like to take credit and big note my `Bird Guide’ abilities, I’m about as amateur as you get and it was just a darn lucky day in the field (but you gotta agree, getting 15 Glossy Black Cockatoos drinking at the end of the day right where I said they would be should justify a little quiet satisfaction in one’s skills – there’s a pair in the pic above). That night we rested the binoculars and field guides and soaked up some good Aussie amber ale – still debating if it was an Oriental Pratincole we saw darting over the Lake, but damn happy with the experience.  Always keen to impress, I thought we might add some nocturnal birds to our list before the stroke of midnight so I took Simon out for some spotlighting. Didn’t see a damn thing, despite my assurances of a resident Tawny Frogmouth and regular Boobook Owl visitations on our block. Should have quit with the `Bird Guide’ thing while I was ahead!

Simon and Nicky – if you read this, thanks for an awesome day! Hopefully we’ll meet again on your side of the equator ;-)

A Weekend at AVES

I ventured down to Grafton last week for the biennial AVES Parrot Convention. This is an event hosted by the Northern Rivers Avicultural Society in NSW and features 3 days of presentations from International and Australian aviculturists. The 2009 programme featured some really fine talks and I was most impressed with the two lectures from Ricardo Valentin on the Puerto Rican Amazon Conservation Project. Ricardo is a fantastic aviculturist, a dedicated observer of the behaviour of his birds, and a keen breeding problem solver – skills that have made a huge contribution to the increase in numbers of Puerto Rican Amazons over the past 10 years. Ricardo’s presentations exemplified the critical partnership roles that can be established between aviculture and conservation. Inspiring stuff!

 The AVES weekend finishes off with a traditional BBQ at Casuarina Parrot Gardens. Whilst wandering around the aviaries I took the photo above of an Umbrella Cockatoo and a Galah in synchronous preening. They were quite a pair and a wonderful example of the benefits of social housing of compatible parrots in captive environments.

 If you missed out on AVES then make sure you’re planning a trip to Brisbane in July 2010 to be a part of the Parrots 2010 Convention. This will be held over three days from July 2nd to 4th and will feature an innovative programme of breakout lectures covering two streams – Avian Husbandry, Breeding & Handrearing and Avian Behaviour, Training & Enrichment. You can register your interest via the Parrots 2010 website at I will have plenty more to `blog’ about on Parrots 2010 as the event draws nearer!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Lola's Legbreak

In the March/April 2009 edition of Australian Birdkeeper Magazine I wrote about the process of making a decision to acquire another parrot as part of my educational workshop, training and vet clinic consultancy `crew’. If you didn’t get the chance to read the article you can grab a copy of the back issue via the new ABK website at  I will be updating readers on how things have turned out since acquiring `Lola’ our Yellow-crowned Amazon as the learning journey has certainly continued. Unfortunately, that journey hasn’t exactly taken the road I thought we prepared and planned so well for.  Whilst parrots with behavioural issues seem to gravitate my way like a dung beetle to a cow pat, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had to rarely deal with any serious injuries or major health complications in my birds over the past 15 years. I’ll save the elaborations, dramas and hard lessons learned for the ABK follow-up article (should appear in the Oct/Nov edition), but just wanted to share a quick insight here. As you can see – with the wonders of modern technology, advancements in avian veterinary care, and an absolutely awesome team of professionals at Brisbane Bird & Exotics Veterinary Service, when your Amazon busts its leg it gets a pretty darn neat looking pin, cast and best of all you get to take home the x-ray images on CD! Lola is back flying around in her aviary just fine and despite some major withdrawals from her `trust account' during the rehabilitation period is impressing me with her resilience and increasing confidence. Hopefully it’s a good story for everyone to learn from when it’s published later this year.