I had a request recently for a Macaw bird of the week. On investigation, I found that no Macaws have previously featured as bird of the week, probably because I have only rather ordinary photos of Macaws taken in the wild. So I’ve cheated a bit with the first photo which is of a free-flying but tame Blue and Yellow Macaw which belonged to the dive shop owner beside the Blue Waters Inn at Bateaux Bay in Tobago.
My main reason for being there was a nearby island called St Giles which has large colonies of seabirds such as Magnificent Frigatebirds and Masked and Red-footed Boobies. I did a boat trip round the island, of course, and a dive, which is when I came across the Macaw. There were also Rufous-vented Chachalacas in the grounds of the hotel and nearby rainforest had hummingbirds and Blue-crowned Motmots one of my target birds in Tobago: a delightful place and I was amused to find another Bluewater, more or less, on the other side of the world.
The best known and most popular Macaws such as the Blue and Yellow and the Scarlet are spectacularly large with a length of about 85cm/33in but as a group they are quite variable in size. Shortly after the stay at Bateaux Bay I came across a smaller - 50cm/20in - but genuinely wild Macaw, the Red-bellied, in nearby Trinidad at a disused US Air Force base called Wallerfield. It was having a sunset snack on palm nuts while we were there to look for nightjars (Paraque and White-tailed Nightjar which used the airfield at night to hunt for insects. Wallerfield is now being developed as a campus for the University of Trinidad and Tobago, so I suppose the nightjars have had to move on but maybe the Macaws will benefit in time from the planting of palms.
I didn’t have to wait too long to find Blue and Yellow Macaws in the wild. Ten days later, I stayed at a Lodge called Sani near the River Napo in Ecuador. The River Napo is a major tributary of the Amazon and the only way to Sani is along the river - a 4 hour trip eastwards by boat from Coca, a depressing frontier oil town with air services from the capital Quito.
Sani Lodge was built as a part of a deal between the local Quechua people and oil companies to search for oil. Happily no oil was found and the wonderfully isolated Sani eco-resort was left in peace. One of my favourite spots there was a canopy-level wooden platform for viewing birds built at the top of a huge pink-flowering Kapok tree. You never knew what was going to turn up - anything from Trogons to Toucans - and sometimes Blue and Yellow Macaws would do a majestic fly-past.
Five years later, I eventually found the Scarlet Macaw in Costa Rica. Having found my main target, the Resplendent Quetzal, in the mountains I headed to the Pacific coast to stay at a place called the Villa Lapas known for Scarlet Macaws. The name Lapa means ‘cleaver’ and is, I gather, a local word for Macaw (the usual Spanish word is guacomayo) signifying the ease with which these birds can chop tough nuts. The bird in the last photo is feeding on the seeds of the Beach/Indian/Sea Almond, Terminalia cappata and I took this photo from a boat on the way down the local river to look for Boat-billed Herons.
Terminalia cappata is probably native to Southern Asia, but has been widely planted in the tropics from Costa Rica to Queensland. it is a familiar tree in Townsville, particular along the Strand, where it is a great favourite with the local Red-tailed Black Cockatoos. It’s more than 13 years since the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo featured as bird of the week, so perhaps it’s time for it to make a reappearance.
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