Over one year ago at the 5th Annual Parrot Palooza, a blonde woman walked up to me after my presentation I had given on the effects of positive reinforcement training and the behavior changes I had made in working with my Moluccan Cockatoo, Rocky. “Hi”, she said. “My name is Carol Cipriano and I would like to know if you would be interested in speaking on The Parrot Lover’s Cruise.” I was honored to be asked and said “I’ve never heard of The Parrot Lover’s Cruise.” and with those beautiful, flashy, green eyes she said “That’s because I haven’t made it happen yet.” A few weeks later she e-mailed me the details and I agreed. My how that year flew and as I sit here typing this I think how often I still think about all the fun times and people I had met on that cruise over one month ago.
On October 24th, 2009 60 people, including 3 speakers set voyage from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida bound to Cozumel, Mexico; Limon, Costa Rica; and Colon, Panama. It was a tough one for which to pack because a week before the cruise I had once again spoke at the Parrot Palooza. So in my suite case was gloves, scarf and jacket and beside it was shorts, t-shirts, and my bikini. I set sail with two friends in which I roomed and for two of the three of us it was our first cruise. We hung off our balcony waving good bye to The United States not knowing what the next 8-day cruise would hold. We were pretty excited.
Saturday and Sunday we spent at sea. The speakers: myself, Robin Shewokis, and Dr. James Morrisey had our meeting with Gary and Carol Cipriano prior to
– and discussing the details of each of our presentations. I was excited and spent the majority of the time at the poolside putting the finishing touches on my presentation. Carol did a great job at planning the speakers and events between ports. It flowed smoothly while allowing time for relaxation by the pool, evening with friends and meeting new ones.
Sunday was The Parrot Lover’s Meet & Greet. I was waiting in anticipation to see who all was going to be there. There was a wide variety of backgrounds from bird store owners, bird toy manufacturers, parrot rescues, breeders, zoo trainers, and companion parrot owners. I even met another couple from Ohio! I took many days to finally get to meet everyone and I’m still not sure I did. After a few days it was neat bumping into fellow parrot lovers at different areas throughout the ship. It was neat stopping at the coffee shop for a coffee and finding yourself still there an hour later congregating in a group of parrot behavior lovers and interacting and learning from each other and knowing you would see them again soon if you needed to follow up with them. Soon all the conversation was interrupted with……our first port……Cozumel, Mexico.
Myself and two of my friends, Regina Underwood and Kathie Hahn decided to take The Stingray Excursion & Snorkeling Encounter. Wow what a rush this
was. The guides took their time with each of us teaching us all about the stingrays as they swam around our ankles. We each had our photo taken holding
one under water. The guides told us that kissing a stingray will bring us one year of luck. Whether that was true or not, I jumped at the chance. I can’t say I’ve done that before. We had the opportunity to feed the stingrays right from our hands. I get butterflies in my stomach just thinking back about this. They would swim up and nudge our ankles underwater begging for fish. There were tons of them! Those butterflies were getting bigger as I leaned down to stick my hand in the water. They saw me coming and swam in anticipation. Ah ha ha! I loved it.
After feeding them, holding them, and kissing them it was now time to dive into the deep and really watch them in action. I am scared to death of the ocean so this was a complete adrenaline rush for me. Our group snorkeled about 30′ above the stingrays that floated below on the ocean floor. We floated around for about a half hour and headed for the bar to review our photos, catch a snack and changed back into our clothes. I give this excursion a 2 thumbs up for anyone looking for something to do on their trip to Cozumel. I also heard you could snorkel around Fat Tuesdays. I thought that would have been fun to do also.
Tuesday was the day of my talk. I gave a talk about “Empowerment; Choice, Control, & Complexities”. I’m fascinated with the effects of our birds’ behaviors by allowing and working with giving the choice back to the animal, the scientific effects of control and lack of it, and how developing and increasing the levels of complexities in our bird’s environments has such an effect on their behavior and well being in very obvious ways. After the talk everyone had time on their own with a Q & A session at 5pm before dinner. I was surprised at the amount of people that came to the Q & A. I was very pleased to have spoke with all that came. I only wish I had more time to really sit down and get to know everyone better.
Wednesday was another port day and it was our day to visit Costa Rica. I sat at the bow of the ship with my coffee in hand observing Costa Rica from a distance. I ended up running into a friend from Massachusetts, Lissa Buja and her husband Andy. I knew they were on the cruise, I just hadn’t seen them yet. We hugged and chatted while creeping up to all this mist, mountains, and rainforests. I looked up and noticed a large bird guiding us in. I pointed up in excitement to Lissa. I believe Lissa told me it was a Frigatebird. He was huge, he was beautiful, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. I had this overwhelming feeling of missing all the birds in which I’m surrounded by on a daily basis. “Yea, I miss them but it is because of them as to why I’m here”, I thought.
Off the ship I went and Regina, Elise, Leslie, and I found ourself taking the same excursion. It was a boat ride, a plantation
visit, and a train ride. We had the
opportunity to see a lot of wild life. A lot of birds, Howler Monkeys, lizards, bats, and sloths. It was sloths galore from here on out. I know Carol Cipriano and Robin Shewokis visited a sloth sanctuary. On the train ride we had plenty of opportunities to see the sloths in their natural habitats. How fascinating it is to see all of these animals and their behaviors in their natural habitats. If evolution isn’t evident in the feathered ones in which we share our lives, take a look at the sloths. They’ll get your mind wandering. Wow, what unique creatures.
Days full of adventures, nights full of fun. All the while I noticed myself developing great friendships, closer to those I knew and forming from the ones I had met. As I type this I wish I could go back and do it again, but I’m not finished with my post, so on to Thursday.
Thursday was another day at sea and perfect timing for another lecture. This one was from Dr. James Morrisey and his lecture was on Avian Nutrition & Nutritional Diseases. The pen came out and boy did I start taking notes. He mentioned symptoms, situations, and diagnosis’s that brought to mind certain situations that I observed in some of the birds I’ve met or come in contact with over the past few years. I jotted the notes, I asked the questions, and I passed information and suggestions on to friends. I found Dr. Morrisey very funny, very informative, and very easy to talk to. What a great guy and I hope to cross paths with him again somewhere in the avian world. If you’re reading this Jamie, thank you for stopping in to see us all the last night of the cruise. It was such a pleasure getting to know you.
Friday. Friday was our day of docking at Panama. I will admit, I was surprisingly pleased with our visit to Panama. It was not a place I had ever thought I needed to see. Well let me tell you this, of all of our ports Panama was the one in which I want so bad to visit again. Let me explain. Our journey started with the bus trip through the city of Colon. It’s a big city. It was a bit overwhelming at times. I looked at everyone else on our bus of two full of Parrot Lovers. The head’s were pointed towards the windows observing the lifestyles and social life of the city. They were watching us too. It was neat watching two different cultures watching each other. It makes you really feel grounded to where we were born and raised. I tipped my hat to a young couple starring back at our bus that happened to fix their eyes on the first set of eyes looking back. Their eyes met mine and locked looking for communication. Nothing was said, yet so much communicated. The girl smiled back and the boy waved and as he waved a smile grew. It was a good gesture to see returned as I thought “What is going through their mind?” Surely they must be thinking the same. So as we continued through the city of no traffic lights I respected the streets in which we traveled, as their culture gave us respect in return and we followed through on our obvious tour bus.
The buildings started becoming fewer and further in between. Something I noticed increasing as the buildings were decreasing was the birds. I started noticing birds flying here and there. As we headed further into the mountains I started noticing the increase of different species of birds flying around. I know because if something flies, it’s caught my eye. Did I forget to mention that October 24th is the peak of raptor migration season? Don’t let me forget to tell you the story coming back and visiting the Panama Canal.
We headed further and further into higher elevations, that was obvious. The road was new. It was so new it caught my eye and I meant to ask but was side tracked by the conservationist talking to us on the history of the conservation efforts of the Panamanian rain forests. As we climbed higher and higher,
the forests became thicker and thicker and darker. I loved it. My eyes were pealed to the canopy tops. I probably missed so much but I couldn’t force my eyes down. When I did glance down to take a drink from my water, I noticed beaten vehicle paths into the woods. I remember the speaker talking about the Audubon Society having a conservation group out there somewhere. Oh the information shooting my direction as I kept my eyes focused upwards and then there was water, a bridge….an interesting bridge our two busses full of Parrot Lovers were crossing. Robin and I and a few other friends were sitting at the back of the bus and turned to take this photo of the other bus on the bridge behind us.
Without going into great detail, because I could write for days just on the Panamanian rainforest
experience, it was the highlight of my excursions. We did some serious bird watching. If our eyes didn’t see it, our ears heard it. We would be listening so intently for birds that when the Howler Monkeys would start we would jump! Tom, one of the people in our group did point out this lovely spectacle. We spotted numerous birds. Well, I didn’t spot anything, I had birds pointed out to me. We hiked and hiked through these trails and we climbed a canopy tower. What a walk that was but once we got up there it was so worth it. Jeannie and I met two students from UC Davis participating on a project of raptor migration. Jeannie introduced me to him and we chatted for a bit. We hiked down to the waterside. There I took the most beautiful photo. We walked into the clearing and it was a scene from a movie. Above the trees were thermaling King Vultures.
Saturday was our last day at sea. Saturday was Robin’s talk on enrichment. Robin’s talk was very interactive, very engaging, and kept the audiences attention. She gave some eye opening thoughts and views into increasing the exploration of our bird’s and their environments in numerous ways.
Saturday night we went out on the town, or the ship. We were all dragging our heals on ending an 8 day cruise. A cruise most of us entered not know each other. A cruise in which by the end numerous contacts had been made, friendships had developed, and future plans being discussed.
So a big thank you to Carol and Gary Cipriano with the formation and completion of the 1st Annual Parrot Lover’s Cruise. Carol and Gary did a fantastic job in raising over $4,000 for The World Parrot Trust, a well recognized and worthy organization which can be found at http://www.parrots.org/.
The second Annual Parrot Lover’s Cruise has already been planned and the adventure can be found at http://www.parrotloverscruise.com/