More Backward Glances

I didn’t plan to become a crazy bird lady.  In fact I insist on not being crazy about this at all.  It just accumulated, over time.  I have related previously my history with pet birds.  Now here are some side bars, as it were, to my life that may well have been signposts to my eventual bird-crazy life.

I grew up in San Diego’s East County.  While in high school, I did a lot of walking around in a park near the apartments I called home because I had a dog but no yard.  One summer a beautiful jay, blue to me, started showing up just when I went walking.  I started whistling and calling to the bird, and liked when he would call back.  He would fly ahead on the route I always took and wait for me to go past.  Then he would go on again.  I never had seeds or treats for him, and I have to believe he just liked the company and the songs.  Much later I found out he was likely a scrub jay.  I will always think of him as about the smartest non-parrot bird I had ever known.

I have a vague memory of a minah bird kept by one of the priests in the parish.  My mother kept house and cooked for the priests when I was very small, and I remember being fascinated by the bird.  His glossy black feathers with yellow accents were attractive, and the sounds and whistles he made were entertaining.  But I mostly remember that he shook the fruit he ate and splattered it all over the wall behind his cage.  Not the perfect pet, if memory serves.

In high school I also had a foster sister for a time.  Cheyenne collected elephants, and started me collecting owls.  Every owl had to have a name, just as her elephants did.  After the first 500, I gave up naming them.  Cheyenne also like crows and ravens, and East County has those in abundance.  Whenever she saw one, she would call to them, making a very passable caw.  I tried to do the same, but never reached her level of competence.  We did get interesting looks from the crows, and occasionally some would fly closer to look at us.

We didn’t feed the crows, but I have never missed a chance to feed ducks and other pond fowl.  I habitually stashed the crust ends of bread loaves in the freezer until we could get out to lakes.  My kids liked the trip too, and were usually able to find a playground near the lake and the ducks.  That may have been the end goal in their minds.

The exception to the rule about pond fowl would be geese.  I love the look of geese, and if they are separated from me by a sturdy fence, I can watch them for hours.  But once on a camping trip in the wilds of Escondido known as Elfin Forest, I heard stories about the pack of geese that lived there on the pond.  They had attacked a guest’s Yorkshire terrier.  Even knowing that the dog probably asked for it, I knew I didn’t want to meet these birds in the dark.  Every night time trip to the restrooms became a harrowing adventure.  Maybe because I carried a stick with me, I was never attacked, but I saw the creatures watching me between the campers and motor homes throughout the day.  Scary.

Mike and I both point out hawks either perched over the freeway or on the wing.  We once saw an owl on the side of the road, at night, possibly feeding on road kill.  We point out the little sparrows and starlings and red-wing black birds wherever we find them.  Once we were in a drive-thru line, and saw sparrows making a nest in a pipe opening on the side of the building.  We took a photo.  If we go to the beach, we look for pelicans, but pretty much ignore gulls.  I would not hurt them, but do not like to encourage them.

In Escondido, there is a flock of returned-to-the-wild parrots.  I occasionally hung out in a area where they fed and roosted, and really enjoyed their noise and color.  Not sure the permanent residents shared my joy.  The flock was pretty mixed when I saw it, even included a few parakeets of the budgerigar variety. I haven’t seen the flock in years, but I hear from others that it’s still going strong.

On a trip to Disneyland, Mike and I were doing our usual bird watching and comments.  The folks with us were impressed by how much we knew and shared.  Either that or they were hoping we would shut up.  And yes, we loved the TIki Room.  I dream of having a bird room someday with a similar theme, but no animatronics involved.

When I lived in Ramona, I was renting a cabin with a high peak roof, an A-frame.  Someone in the area had peafowl, and when the peacocks escaped, they looked for the highest point on which to land.  Yes, the top of a A-frame cabin suited them perfectly.  And there is nothing like the sensation of being woken out of a deep sleep by claws scrabbling on the roof and a wail like someone dead and complaining about the fact.

Individually, these incidents might not amount to very much in the life of an ordinary person.  But for bird people, they indicate a severe addiction.  The only cure is to welcome every bird into your life, no matter how little or how much time they spend with you.  Trust me, I’m a bird lady.

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