Saturday, May 16, 2015

Macaw Growth Data

The first body part to grow the fastest on a macaw is the foot. Around day 25 the foot is near adult size and ready to support the baby chick who will be gaping its mouth open waiting to be fed: 
The second body part to grow at the fastest rate is the entire body. The parents spend all day foraging to bring back food for these hungry chicks. Parents will lay anywhere from 1-3 eggs focusing on feeding the healthiest individuals first. 
The beak size grows as well with a steady rate reaching near adult size by age of 80 days.
Lastly the wings start to grow. Around day 40 the size growth accelerates as the chicks prepare to fledge and leave the nest. Around day 80 they start to say goodbye. 

Summed Up Journey

Link to Photo Album

Take a look at this photo album as I continue to update this site with stories (over a year later)!

Photo Album Macaw Project 2014

Thanks for reading!

Parasites Are Expensive

I smuggled back illegal souvenirs from the amazon jungle.  I didn't know I was doing it at the time because, you see, I had been infested with larval parasites. Bot Fly Larval Parasites, to be exact. Three of them: One on my side, one on my back, and one on my head.

One week after my return I had noticed that some "mosquito bites" were not going away. As the days passed they became more and more itchy, painful, and red, and I swear I could feel something moving around inside. I joked they were my baby bot flies.

Another week went by and the pain, which was most active around the morning and the evening, became unbearable. I had to know what was eating me. I took a break at work and marched over to the walk-in clinic at Swedish.

I felt silly showing the doctor three red mystery bumps. I told him I was recently in the Amazon and these bumps were not acting like typical mosquito bites.  He wasn't sure what to make of them. He also thought I meant I worked at the company Amazon until I explained to him I meant the real Amazon. The Jungle.

He told me he would write me a prescription for anti-biotics but that they were most likely just bites. I said, "Look doctor, I'm no doctor, but I am a scientist and I know these are not bacterial.  It would be worse if it was the flesh eating bacteria Leishmaniasis so I'm going to guess its bot fly larva, which produce their own anti-biotic, and I'm going to need you to man up and cut me open."

He was hesitant. I had to beg him to cut the bump open and look inside. Finally he agreed, got the lidocaine and cut in. After a bit of digging and heightened anticipation, he pulled out a gooey strand. We were both in shock. There WAS a larva eating me and he had just pulled off its feeding tube!

He managed to pull the rest of the body out. A shark tooth rimmed beast and I'll be honest, I was a little disappointed at how small it was. Sesame seed small. All the YouTube videos I had watched made them seem huge.

This was the first of three. He moved on to the bump on my back. He made an incision about a centimeter long and found nothing. He thought he saw a glimpse of it but it managed to slip away and he felt uncomfortable digging deeper. I urged him to continue. But the effort was fruitless. The little buggar was evading his scalpel. He bandaged me up and I went home for the evening.

Lying in bed that night I started to feel movement. Sharp scraping at my skin. Like someone with a little razor chiseling away at me. I'm pretty sure Backstabber (as I named him) was surfacing. The bandage had been put on pretty tight and I think he was suffocating.

The next day I went back to the doctor and told him the larva was probably at the surface. He removed the bandage and sure enough, found the feeding tube and pulled the whole larva out.

This one must have been in my body longer because it looked older and even more fierce.

Two down, one more to go! The doctor began the last larval excavation on my scalp. Same thing happened, as the doctor cut deeper the larva wiggled away. At this point the doctor became uncomfortable and told me the scalp was a sensitive area and was bleeding a lot. He said he didn't make enough in malpractice insurance if something should go wrong and he wanted to stop the excavation. I respected his boundaries and said I would take care of it on my own.

I had done a little research into the situation and found that a lot of people will just suffocate the larva out with slabs of meat. Now, it wasn't practical for me to keep a slab of steak on my head so I did the next best thing: placed a glob of vaseline on my head. I sat like this at work all day. Many co-workers walked by wondering what the heck I was doing not sure if they were grossed out or intrigued.

That evening I went home and removed the blob of vaseline. I noticed what seemed to be a gray hair poking out of my head. I took a closer look. OH MY GOD ITS THE TAIL OF THE LARVA!!! I called my roommate in to take a look. We squeezed it a little. It moved! The problem was, due to the incision made earlier in the day by the doctor, a lot of blood was oozing out as well.

My roommate took over the squeezing and with determination managed to pop it out of my head like a pimple.  This one was the longest yet! My roommate  and I celebrated and she made me a little Happy Botday party hat.

I saved the three babies in a tube of para-formaldehyde and I think one of these days I might preserve them in Resin and make a little pendant necklace out of them. Of course a biologist would do that.

I thought that would be the end of that adventure. But it wasn't. A few weeks later I got a bill in the mail. A bill? What's this? $742.00?!?! For what!? "Removal of Foreign Body".


$742 to get these "foreign objects" removed? Are you kidding me?! I could have done the extractions myself. Why should the hospital get $742 for that and why did they code it as "foreign body removal"? Technically they were part of MY body, as they had been growing off my tissue cells.  I called to question the charge and understand why certain "procedure codes" are set at the cost they are. The only answer I got was "That's just how they're set." Luckily I only had to pay $192 because I had insurance but I was shocked.  And that is when I learned first hand about the need to price shop your hospitals.

So next time you discover you've been infested with bot fly larvae, just come see me and I'll remove them for free.

See  more photos in the link to this album.

No Relaxing in the Jungle

I thought the jungle would be a place I could relax and commune with nature. Quite the opposite. I was surrounded by a number of flesh eating bugs, stinging wasps and inch long bullet ants that pack the punch of a bullet wound if you are unlucky enough to get stung.  I was on edge the entire time.

la isula

One day, as I was climbing high into a tree to check on an artificial PVC macaw nest, I experienced a swarm of wasps descending upon me. I had unknowingly disturbed the nest they built on the back of this abandoned pipe.  Luckily my partner below emergency belayed me down to a safe distance because there was no way I was able to unlatch my Jumars and release myself quickly enough. I am not going to lie when I say from that day forward I literally got anxiety knowing I had to climb more trees that had hives of bees waiting to attack the next biologist who dared get near.

IMG_0879 IMG_0899

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The youngest chick we handled was in a natural tree nest called "Stanford". This tree was very tricky to sit in and reach in to. The chick was so young and fat and featherless, about 15 days of age, but some how he grew on me and I didn't want to leave him.

VIDEO, click the link: 4 minutes of naked baby macaw

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Returning Scarlet Macaw Chicks To The Nest

As I was sitting against a tree, 40 feet in the air, a giant gust of wind swept through. I knew a rainstorm was soon to follow. I called down below to warn the team on the ground--"LLUVIA"--but I don't think they heard me. Sure enough, a minute or so later, the rain poured. I raised the chicks back into the nest as quickly as I could, safe and dry. It took some time to release the Jumars (climbing devices) and fashion a safety rappel, but I eventually made it back to the forest floor drenched. What else would you expect from the Rainforest?