The season for blueberries used to be short. You’d find fresh berries in the store just during a couple of months in the middle of summer.
Now, though, it’s always blueberry season somewhere. Blueberry production is booming. The berries are grown in Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey, Michigan and the Pacific Northwest — not to mention the southern hemisphere.
But in any one location, the season is still short. And this means that workers follow the blueberry harvest, never staying in one place for long.
Blueberry farming has a long tradition in Bladen County, N.C., in the southeastern corner of the state. Chris Barnhill, the owner of Blueberry Hill Farms, showed me around his farm. He’s the fourth Barnhill to grow blueberries here.
A couple of hundred workers move slowly down the rows of bushes. Their fingers move quickly, stripping the bushes clean. “They pick by the pound, in buckets,” Barnhill explains. He gestures toward one of the worker. “She already has got six buckets.”
When the buckets are full, workers carry them to a collection station to be weighed. They get a little paper slip that they can turn in once a week for cash.
A Harpy Eagle chick was discovered 10 months ago in Bladen Nature Reserve, the furthest north that a breeding pair of harpy eagles have ever been confirmed. In May a group, including Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education (BFREE) bird team, satellite tagged the chick.
The team was led by Angel Muela, a seasoned harpy eagle tagger, and William Garcia (BFREE). Ya’axché rangers Victor Bonilla, Pastor Ayala and protected areas manager Lee Mcloughlin were present in an observational capacity. The whole expedition was filmed by internationally renowned wildlife film maker Richard Foster.
The adult female and male had not returned to the nest to feed or nurture the chick for some time resulting in a malnourished and weak chick. It made a few failed attempts to fly; it fell to the forest floor risking being attacked by predators and an instance had a close run in with a troop of spider monkeys. The team returned the chick to the nest to prevent predation of the weak chick. BFREE’s bird team also took the unusual step of providing dead chickens and later bringing live chickens for two months to train to kill prey.
In early July, BREE team sighted the adult male with the chick on a tree near the nest where he was seen feeding the chick and standing watch over the chick as it attempted to fly. The bird team withdrew their support for the chick and monitored the situation before being forced to leave the site because of the advent of the famous heavy rains of Toledo’s wet season.
Monitoring continued via the satellite tag, which had been attached to the back of the chick, the bird team could continue to determine its movements. They were able to confirm that the chick, now a juvenile, had left the site of the nest and moved to a nearby valley where she stayed for 5 days. It seems she is doing well as it is unlikely such movements would be occurring in ill health. It also suggests she is becoming more comfortable and skilled at flying.
This is by no means the end of the story; the chick will depend on the support of her parents for the first TWO years of her life. BFREE are working on GIS mapping to produce interpretive maps to keep the public informed and particularly for use for educational and scientific purposes.
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