Monday, July 05, 2010

birds of a feather

Yesterday my daughter and I took a day trip to visit a waterfowl park that also focuses on conservation of eco-systems and breeding of endangered species. Daughter had camera in tow, and I was her assistant, juggling lenses and operating as a spare set of eyes for when she was taking photos.

"Look, look! Quick! It's a perfect shot!"

I'm not sure I was all that helpful in that regard, as my idea of the perfect shot and hers are sometimes different.

However, we had a wonderful day, making our way through all the different areas of the park several times, enjoying the many bird species and being able to get very close to them, as many of the habitats have walk-through sections where there is no fence between humans and birds.

Most of the birds were quite social and curious. They all looked well-fed, well-cared for, and the habitats were clean and yet for the most part, completely natural, with lovely pools and water elements incorporated beautifully into the landscape.

We were able to see a staff member cleaning a habitat, which involved careful, very slow raking of bird poop and feathers into small piles, which were then scooped into a big bucket. I was impressed that the caretaker was so attuned to the birds, moving slowly and not rushing, so there was minimal disruption.

We happened to be at the flamingo area when one of the curators came by, and he not only answered my questions but took us to a private area so we could see the flamingo nesting shed. The flamingo builds a nest by pushing mud into a mound, then making the top concave so the egg won't fall off. There were four two-week old flamingos in the flock, and he said they had seven more in the nursery. He pointed out the father flamingo of two of the babies, who was ensuring they could explore without being bossed around by the other adults.

He also took us to the back of the owl habitat so we could see the owl baby, who keeps leaving the nest to stay down on the floor of the habitat. They decided to leave him there, as they were worried he would injure himself trying to fly before he's ready.

They have birds from all parts of the world. The toucan was incredibly beautiful, almost like something from a shop, painted by hand. As were the rainbow lorikeets, who were incredibly social and one in particular seemed quite taken with my daughter and her bright blue shirt and red hair.

Judy the azure macaw was taking a walk on the shoulder of one of the keepers, who told us she takes a walk every single day and refuses to go back into her cage until the walk is complete.

A favorite moment was the incredible sound made by a pair of kookaburras, who absolutely put on a show for a small group of us who formed to listen. 

I often have negative reactions to zoos and places where animals are captive, but this place had a different feel to it. Every employee seemed truly thrilled to be there, and focused on the birds. The birds themselves seemed in good spirit and each one was beautiful and healthy. I don't know much about birds, but I do know they can get very ragged and unkempt looking if not healthy, and it's easy enough to look at a habitat or cage area to see if it's being kept well or not. Every area had private spaces for the birds, shade, water and food, in many cases space to fly as well as actual trees and plants and terrain for the birds to enjoy, and in the smaller habitats there was fresh, clean foliage and branches that approximated the natural environments.

I still find it difficult to see birds in cages, and a few were: the owls, the tropical birds, the kookaburras. But the fact that they were so beautifully feathered and not stressed in any way I could see made me think they are relatively happy there, and I'm sure anyone who passes through leaves with a new appreciation of these gorgeous creatures, and hopefully a kernel of resolve to protect any birds they encounter in their daily lives.

Of note: very few insects! Butterflies were everywhere, but no flies, gnats, or anything else. I suspect all the ducks had a hand in that.

It was a wonderful day - and interesting after hours of being with birds to come home to cats, Corgi, and horses. Such different animals. The eyes of birds are very very interesting to look into. But utterly different than equine eyes.

I'll be adding photos as I get them from daughter - she came home with many amazing shots.


Grey Horse Matters said...

It sounds like a very interesting day. I don't like to see animals in cages either but this place sounds like a good place if you're a bird. The nice part was getting to see the babies in their nests. I'll be waiting for the pictures, I'm sure they are beautiful.

billie said...

Arlene, the other thing that was in the back of my mind is that right now, with the oil spill in the Gulf, and various things going on around the globe, these birds are probably safer where they are than if they were free, which is a sad statement to make.

Many of the species either are or were previously endangered, or are close to being so.

Valentino said...

Reflecting on the general lack of consideration / respect humans have for the environment of uncaged wildlife in the world, sounds like the birds you visited have it pretty good. Can't wait to see the photos.

Love the new background picture - reminds me of around here with the heat and lack of rain.

billie said...

Arlene, I posted a comment that seems to have disappeared into cyberspace.

It said that one thing that went through my head yesterday was the oil spill, along with some other issues around the world, and the fact that these birds are likely better off where they are than in the wild, which is a sad statement to have to make. :/

billie said...

V, I agree... and thanks for noticing the new background. It has a special meaning that I'll explain in a blog post later this week. Mostly I just really loved the dry earth and the lightning - I'm feeling very connected to the elements these days.