Showing posts with label birds. Show all posts
Showing posts with label birds. Show all posts

Saturday, October 19, 2013

For the Birds

I was made aware of the group MickaCoo for Pigeons and Doves this morning.  It's a group, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is a volunteer-powered, donation-supported adoption agency for domestic (unreleasable) pigeons & doves that would otherwise be killed in San Francisco Bay Area shelters for lack of homes. 

"We are always full and have a waiting list of at-risk birds waiting to come in to our foster care."
I really know nothing about birds, but it seems that these folks do good work and are overwhelmed and desperately in need of help.  If you are a bird lover and can either foster, adopt or help get some birds adopted, check their web page to learn how you can volunteer or donate to help them with their work.  There is also a page for upcoming events

According to their volunteer page, they need:
  • foster volunteers
  • Outreach/Tabling assistance
  • Grant writing and fund raising
  • Transportation
  • Bird care coaching and "hotline" response
To that I would also add web design assistance.  I find their web site not very user friendly.  I promised someone I would give them some publicity and I have now done it.  If I were in the Bay Area, I might volunteer some time, but...can't.  I have enough with that lady bird I'm dealing with at Atria.

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We've never done birds -- dogs, cats, fish, rabbits, and all sorts of rodents, but no birds -- but I've always loved watching birds.  When my mother was living in her house, to get there I drove through a 21 mile bird sanctuary and always saw lovely birds that I desperately wanted to photograph, but there are precious few places where you can go off the 2-lane road and park, and usually those places are far from the birds I wanted to photograph.

Driving down I-80 you often see giant hawks sitting in trees or on fence posts, but driving 65-70 mph you are long past the bird before you can stop your car.  I have yet to take a really good picture of one of those beautiful raptors. 

The best bird-photographing I did was in Australia.  My favorite birds to photograph were the cute little gallahs (called "pink and greys") that you saw everywhere.

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We would see them in flocks in what I called the "bird tree" where we took the dogs to run every morning.  We saw them in the tree and could hear the cockateels and crows flying overhead (did you know that crows in Australia sound different from crows here?  I decided they caw-cawed in an Australian accent!). Often we saw the parrots that some called "28s" (because of their multi colored feathers).

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Those exotic birds are such fun.  I remember a day when I was working at the Lamplighters office on Dolores Streeet, a street that has a row of huge palm trees down the center of it for many blocks.  We heard this huge racket on the street and went out to look and there in the tree was a big flock of exotic birds.  I had never heard that apparently birds which are taken in as pets and then escape banded together to become on flock.  There was every color imaginable in that tree.   They eventually ate their fill, flew on, and I never saw them again.

Years again the movie about the parrots of Telegraph Hill came out.   I wondered if it was the same flock of birds I had seen years before, but no, this flock was all the same breed of escaped birds.

I have to admit that I never had a great love for pigeons (sorry, MickaCoo), but doves are something else. One of the cool things about my mother's house for several years was the basket that the doves commandeered, which hung just outside her living room window.  Many families of baby birds were hatched in that basket and it was fun to be able to stand there, just about a foot from the nest, separated by the window, and watch those babies grow, from bald newborns to adolescents standing on the edge of the nest trying to get the nerve to take their first flight, while Mama and Daddy sat on the porch cooing encouragement to them.

Sadly, after about four years, cats discovered the porch and found the nest to be their own private cafeteria and several babies met their end in a neighbor cat's mouth.  Not surprisingly, the parents never came back, but I did love having the opportunity to watch so many babies grow up there.

My mother, these days, often says "life is change" and as I look back over just my life "around" birds, I can see how that happens.   The doves brought her so much happiness over the years, now she could care less.   Birds nested in a tree right outside the upstairs window of Atria and she had a "ho hum...more birds" attitude.  She forgot about them as soon as we left the window.

It's sad that she finds so little true "joy" and excitement in things these days, but "life is change."  I sometimes feel like a cat has come into her apartment and stolen the mother I knew and left behind this very nice lady, who is not really the person I have known all my life.

Damn cats.  :(

Friday, January 16, 2009

It's a Plane. It's a Bird!

I've been watching the reports of that plane that went down in the Hudson River today, after impact with a flock of geese. From all reports, it was a masterful piece of flying by the pilot and, at least as of this writing, there don't appear to be any fatalities, or even serious injury. It's nice to have a tragedy like this turn out good.

But I was surprised by one comment that I heard on one of the interviews. Someone asked how often this sort of thing happened and the interviewee said it was extremely rare.

I guess it surprised me because I once typed the transcript of a conference about the danger of birds to airplanes. It was a very long transcript and I learned a lot about it (most of which I have forgotten, since this was a job I did more than 20 years ago). But I remember being amazed that it never occurred to me that birds could be a danger to aviation. I especially remember being amazed at the size of the bibliography, which was the size of a small book all by itself.

I remember was that there are whole areas of study devoted to the kinds of bird repelling things you can do around airports, things like the vegetation to plant, noise makers, "bird spikes," and lots of other things I have forgotten.

I did a simple Google search, trying to remember the kinds of things I typed at that time. (I was amazed at how many web pages had gone up on this subject just since the accident today.) One report says that they cause an estimated $600 million in damage yearly. Another report about the experience of the Air Force says, "bird strikes are blamed for killing about two aircrew members every three to five years, downing a couple of USAF aircraft annually, and costing the service between $50 million to $80 million each year."


Lorenz.jpg (16379 bytes)Have you ever heard of Konrad Lorenz? (It's only serendipity that this happens to be a picture of Lorenz with a flock of Canada geese!)

I read Lorenz's book on imprinting when I was working for the Physics Department back in the 1960s and pictures like this have stayed with me all these years. His experiments showed that baby animals imprint on the first figure that they see. The geese adopted Lorenz as their mother and they followed him everywhere.

Lorenz's experiment was sort of recreated in the movie Fly Away Home, where a little girl becomes the "mother" to a flock of geese and she has to teach them how to migrate, as their mother would have done (I'm sure you've seen the movie...it's a wonderful tear-jerker.)

I'm feeling a lot like Lorenz these days. I don't think we've ever had a group of puppies who have imprinted on me so strongly as Tater and Tot have done. These little guys stay where I put them, huddling together in sleep, but if I walk by, they are up in an instant, begging to be let out. When out and in the house, they stick pretty close to me most of the time. If they go off on their own to investigate all I have to do is call them once and they come racing (again--can they please give lessons to Nicki?)

But the most fun thing, I have to admit, is how much they like sleeping on me. Yesterday they were just fussy. Not hungry, not really ready to go into the playpen, so I put them both in my lap. They start treating me like they would do a mother, sniffing at my mouth and licking me (which is nice now, since they still have "puppy breath"). Tater is determined she is going to give me additional piercings, since she likes to crawl up on my neck and nibble at my ear. Tot would occasionally whimper and I would whimper right back at her. She'd stop crying and pull her head back to search my face for a long time, as if she was trying to figure me out--why I looked like such a strange dog.

The two puppies slept in my lap for a couple of hours yesterday (which was nice, because I napped too). And today they did it again. When they wake up, they wrestle a bit in my lap, but there is no eagerness to get down. It's all very sweet, very much like Konrad Lorenz. I feel the need to "teach" these puppies how to be dogs. (Tot and I had "climbing out of the cage" lessons. Tater figured out how to lift her legs over the lip at the bottom, but it was too complicated for Tot, so I had to show her how to lift her legs one at a time over the lip.)

I'm sorry that they'll have to go away for a week (or permanently). They grow so fast that they will be all grown up (relatively speaking) by the time I'm able to bend over at the waist again.