parrots

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Parrot Life

Published March 21, 2017 by sarcasmica

Birds were never in my plan. Animals, yes, birds specifically, notsomuch.

My “life plan” (chuckle chuckle chuckle) was to flounder in community college for a little while before sticking with the sign language interpreter program. Once I mastered that, I would go to Moorpark College in Simi Valley, CA and work as an interpreter while simultaneously studying in their exotic animal training and management program. In order to study in the program, you also have to work at the college zoo. The only block I had was how to get through all the bug stuff. I hate bugs. HATE. I can appreciate their role in an ecosystem and yes I understand how important they are blah blah blah, but handling them?! No.

Blech. I can’t.

Anyway, I got as far as my interpreter program. I didn’t even complete that. See, my step mother was the interpreter coordinator for the campus in addition to a teacher in the department. (That is how she and my dad met and later married) My last semester I had a class that is only offered once/year at only one time. I was at the end of my last semester in the three year program when my dad died. Being as how I was the only offspring of either side to help my stepmother make arrangements, get through the awful tragedy, and deal with the hurricane of tedium you have to deal with when a loved one dies, school suffered a bit. I still made it to my final roughly a week after the funeral… the funeral my teacher for the same class attended along with most of the department and all my past and present instructors.

Guess who failed the class? Yup. Moi. I wasn’t expecting a free pass, I wasn’t expecting an A, but can you really not help someone out in that scenario? Really?! Can you honestly not offer some kind of counseling on the side or advice? Just F, done, buh bye, sorry for your loss.

Anyway, I was bitter after this happened, naturally. I also was connected through my step mother with my first signing job in Irvine at a high school. I moved to Irvine and could not manage the 2 hour rush hour commute for the one hour class back in Torrance, either. I just let it go.

Anyway, that job and that city led me to Arizona and another job and then got married and had a kid and life and yada yada yada. Long story short, I never made it to Moorpark College.

In my early 20’s while still in school, a friend of mine was a manager at Petco. She offered me a job as a Bird Specialist and I’d be in charge of the department – ordering, feeding the babies, caring for the cages and animals, stocking, etc etc. I took it knowing any knowledge needed I’d have to research myself since they do not have any sort of extensive training for this. I loved it. It was sad – seeing the state they were delivered in from breeders – but it was also gratifying – being able to educate people on a pet. I was absolutely astounded at how many grown people have a fear of birds. Kids would readily go into the bird room while their parents stood outside shaking their heads and twitching at the thought of wings coming at their face. (a common fear, apparently)

Anyway, I suppose that’s where the seed was planted. Ironically twenty years later I’m working the other side of the pet industry. It’s exactly opposite, actually, right down to me volunteering and not getting paid to care for the birds that people could not for a million and eighteen reasons commit a lifetime to. It’s so rewarding that there’s about 65 volunteers that the sanctuary heavily relies on for feeding/cleaning/food prep/grooming. I’m always impressed with the volunteers that balance this work with a paying full time gig. There are students, retirees, unemployed (moi) but we all, I think, look forward to our time there helping out.

Everyone has their niche. Some people like the cage work; cleaning and feeding. Some people like the massive open flight area. Some like the rooms and some don’t even interact with the birds. They handle food only. My happy place is the room. I have one room where I’ve learned about 70% of the birds names and know them fairly well. I don’t handle many because, quite frankly, I’ve seen enough bites to not be excited by that happening. I’ve had only one bad bite that’s left a scar, but like most stories of bites it was my own fault. I took a bird out and she didn’t want to return to the room when I needed her to. Instead of getting a perch, I kept insisting she step up on my arm and after repeatedly pushing back with her beak, she finally gave me a good clear chomp. … then I got the perch. Duh.

Funny enough two of my favorite birds reside in rooms completely different than my favorite. I don’t hold it against them, though 🙂

Anyway, I don’t know if I’ll ever get to fulfill my wish of actually working and interacting with wild exotic animals for a job, but truthfully my kids and these crazy parrots seem to be filling my heart. So while I figure it out, I’ll just keep taking pictures and hope people enjoy them.

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Merlot

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Coco

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Sugar

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Zephyr

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Junior (i think)

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Willy

 

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Da Birds – Greys

Published May 5, 2016 by sarcasmica

I volunteer at a parrot sanctuary 2x/week. I love it. It can be a total mind trip, but for the most part it’s been a dream. Combine this hobby with my new one, photography, and I just can’t help but share. I’m a sharer. A shareologist. A Sharing McSharePants.

Here are some fun stories of the crazies I get to work with.

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This is Kepler. Kepler is a talker.He’s been at the sanctuary since around December, I think. He likes to talk about food, so naturally we are buddies. He bit me once when his favorite (and 90% of the birds’ fave) volunteer came into the room. I guess he wanted to be available for the other person because I dropped him right back onto his perch after that, thankyouverymuch.

Recently he’s been in a room with the other Greys. There are mixed feelings about this VERY social bird going into a room with *gasp* other birds. Kepler has had a realization that he is not, in fact, a spoiled prince. He gets taken out quite often still, though. Last week I was in the room talking to him and my first fave, Beeba:

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Kepler did his usual foot pop to ask to step up (onto my hand) and I obliged him. My mistake came in either showing up with a haircut and new highlights, or in not immediately going to the door because the stinker bit me. Not too too hard, but enough for me to react. I offered him to step onto my other hand and then he REALLY bit me. So much that I had to drop him, turn toward the door, he flies back up to his perching area and says in a sweet lady voice, “Buh bye.”

I left to nurse my injured pride. When a bird bites you, there is adrenaline. It hurts. Especially when you had trust in that animal. Granted, if you work with them there is always respect for what they can do. You have to understand that there is no such thing as a bird that doesn’t bite. There are birds that predictably bite, or birds that bite less often than others. This was my reminder.

I was there today and bit the bullet, so to speak, and picked him up again. I try not to hold grudges and I don’t like being afraid of them, so I pulled up my big girl granny panties and asked him to step up. (after I spent some time just scratching his head) He did. I went for the door and just hung out with him in the hall. I sat with him on my knee and scratched and talked with him. When it was time to go back, he was less cooperative, but didn’t make any moves to bite me. WHEW! I was trying not to sweat and shake when I had to push my hand into him to get him to step up to go back to the room. He was a gentleman, though, and fully cooperated at that point. Hopefully he will be equally gentile tomorrow.

Another guy in this same room named Tucker is out for my blood. He mostly likes men, so I have that offensive quality when I walk into the room. He’s bit me once, pierced another volunteers nose, and generally just glares at me when i’m in his vicinity. I first realized who this bird was when, early on in my volunteering, I was feeding and he popped his foot up to step up. I tentatively offered a finger and he immediately bit down hard and latched on. I had to shake him off, he falls to the floor and begins cackling at me. “Ha hahaha!”

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Tucker also likes to take on a gravelly grumpy old man voice when I walk towards the door and say, “GET OUT!” as often as possible. I take no offense. The feeling is mutual 🙂

 

 

 

Wanna Be Photog

Published March 28, 2016 by sarcasmica

Since volunteering at the parrot sanctuary, I have been introduced to a new hobby: photography.

I love taking pics of these birds. Who wouldn’t, I suppose, right? I just love getting the details. The unexpected angles. Those eyes and feathers…. all the while watching out for those beaks.

I tried taking a photography class in college, but the first class was making your own camera from a film canister and I did NOT have the bandwidth for that crap. I suppose there was a point, and probably to start people at the very very very basics of understanding how a camera works by building a camera, but that was just not in my ability for attention and detail when I was 20-ish.

So now i’m 39. I’m trying to wade through the extra plump masses of information on choosing a camera, being realistic about the camera I choose, trying not to get bogged down with details and logistics of actually “Where are you every going to actually USE this camera, woman?!” not to mention, “and you’re just going to invest this money to look at pictures stored on your already over-stuffed computer?”

I’ve started a Your Shot account on National Geographic. I could look at those pro photographs all day long. It’s fascinating.

While I fully understand I wont be camped out among penguins on a glacier in Antarctica or hiding under a hidey hole in the tarantula-covered grounds of the Amazon, I work with nearly 300 macaws and African Greys and Amazons every week! (the Amazons are intimidating and crazy, so I have yet to develop a reparte with them as of yet)  I live 30 minutes from a beautiful zoo. I live in the Pacific Northwest. Landscape is literally out my back door .. and front door, and side door and doggie door.

I have enough subjects to get me started… now I just need a camera, a useful class, and some inspiration.

(It’s a very limited collection thus far, but for anyone interested and/or knowledgeable here’s the link to my page: http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/profile/1272414/ )

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More About Birds

Published September 18, 2015 by sarcasmica

I could not in a million years have imagined the type of traction my post To The Person Wanting To Buy A Bird would get. I know I’ve said that already, but it’s still mind blowing to me. I’m up to five thousand two hundred views so far.

Today was an interesting and hard day at the sanctuary. First off, a very experienced and well-loved-by-the-birds volunteer had an unfortunate run-in with an African Grey beak. This was another painful and unfortunate lesson in dealing with birds for all of us there today. The element of surprise. Unpredictability. Especially with rescued birds whose history you don’t quite fully know.

She was simply putting the food/water dishes on the perch for them, and BAM! The bird charged, and jumped at her face, clamped down on her nose and hung there until he decided he was done. At that point, she came out looking for paper towels, help, and no doubt some Xanax. The amount of adrenaline involved is astounding. I’ve only had comparatively small bites on my hands, so I can’t imagine the surge from having one of these “little effers darlings” pierce your nose!

It was a quite literal piercing clear through her nostril. Lots of blood. Tears of pain and no doubt hurt. After all, we are all there of our choice just to do some good, “We are feeding you, damnit!” It’s hard to separate that logic. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

Once everything calmed a bit from that, we finished cleaning, feeding, watering, treating, all with a little side of trepidation. Next I thought i’d take off after a quick walk through of the aviary. … I ended up sitting and chatting with some volunteers. I wanted to see if Joey the Amazon would let me pick him up and pet him again. A week or so prior I was able to hold him, scratch him, and play a little with him. I noticed it was only once he wanted to step up, though.

I patiently sat beside his open perch and after a bit, he slid down his little top perch pole, wandered to the front beside me, I looked up and started to offer my finger, he turned to head to the rear perch, I turned back to the conversation and after a couple of minutes heard him shriek out, and then “THUD!” hit the newspapered base of his play perch.

We all just looked at him, stunned. I thought he pierced the paper and was stuck, but someone picked up his little body to cradle him and see what was happening. He let out a few cries on his back and just like that, he was gone with one final wailed exhalation.

He was gone. .. ?!!

What. the. hell. just happened?!

The conclusion was that it must’ve been a heart attack or heart-related ‘incident’ for it to happen so suddenly and quickly. We were all thankful he didn’t suffer through a long illness, but heavens! That was just out of nowhere, and it was so sad to watch a bird that everyone interacted with daily and love just ‘go’.

The truth about animals wrapped up in one day of volunteering. It’s hard to watch nature reclaim her creations, but I think we’ve all found solace in giving him at least a beautiful place to end his time surrounded by caring and love.

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R.I.P. Joey 😦

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