Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Thing #41: In which we brave an encounter with birds

If you have read this blog for any length of time, I think you may be aware of my sheer terror of birds. I deeply mistrust them and as I have stated previously, I am convinced that they will attack at any time. They clearly have no regard for anyone but themselves, as demonstrated by their willingness to poop wherever they fancy. They have absolutely no manners and no respect for their fellow bird and will fight one another for a mere morsel of food. Those beaks and claws are frightening and capable of inflicting damage. They might as well be armed with machine guns. Don't even get me started on the arrogance of geese and how they will just take over a territory, unconcerned for anyone who was there before them. Simply stated, I dislike birds and I do not like to be anywhere near them.

Children, however, tend to love birds. I have yet to meet a child that is not interested in watching or feeding them. As I am not interested in making our children unnaturally petrified of birds (this is something I am sure they will come to figure out on their own, as they are bright), birds are yet another item I have to add to my "pretend like you are okay with it in front of the LP" list, along with clowns, mall Santas and talking to people with bulging eyes. So when Auntie K sent me a message, asking if we would like to go check out the community garden and aviary she and Uncle L had recently discovered, I agreed because I knew the LP would like it.

There is a large park located near the McMaster Children's Hospital and university campus. Tucked inside this park is a community garden and aviary. Although the aviary is officially open on Sundays, apparently you can wander in anytime and check out the birds and the garden. It is a very peaceful, happy space that makes you feel as if you are out in the country. Although Hamilton has a bit of a reputation as an industrial, dirty, city, I am starting to realize that this is only partially deserved. There are hidden gems and green spaces all over the city.

The sign is missing the part that says "BEWARE, OUR BIRDS MAY KILL YOU AT ANY MOMENT"

While there are a series of buildings you can walk through to presumably view the birds on Sundays, there are also several pens scattered throughout the garden with birds on view. During our walk about, we said hello to a gorgeous red parrot with bright blue and green feathers. At first he was a total jerk and just ignored us, preferring to groom himself. Later, once we had moved on, he started making noise and trying to get our attention. When we went back for a second visit, he actually said "hello". The LP were most impressed. Naturally LP1 wanted to get closer. Given that his beak looked as if it could split a coconut and his claws were razor-sharp, I wasn't a fan of this. When I look at parrots, I can see how they are somehow related to certain kinds of dinosaurs. Jurassic Park taught me to respect the claws of animals.

A giant cage full of finches were next. This is the point where I confess that when I was fourteen, I received two finches as a birthday gift. My mother accidentally killed one with a fish net when she was trying to catch it and the other one died when were on vacation. Our neighbour left a note that said, "sorry, folks, your bird died. I left it on the tool bench in the garage." I did not mourn the loss. They were messy, noisy birds and I hated cleaning the cage. The LP were interested in observing the finches for awhile. I didn't tell them the story, although Auntie K and I were both remembering it.

We went and looked at some big white birds. I don't know what they were. They had big tails and just sat there like lazy, bored birds. Next up were some ducks. I have no issue with ducks. Generally they just walk around and quack and look cute. You never hear of a duck going rogue. There were some chickens next door to the ducks. I think these chickens were part of a polygamist sect. It appeared that there were two sister-hens and an assortment of chicks. The rooster was sitting in a dirt hole, occasionally flapping about but generally uninterested in what his women and children were doing...until they later chased him out and took over the hole. When this happened, the LP wanted to get closer but at that point, my heart could take no more and I asked them to stay away. You cannot trust chickens. Before that drama, we saw some pheasants and I have to admit that one was absolutely gorgeous, even if he was a technicolour mess. A bright yellow mullet, tiger-like markings around his neck and seemingly every colour in the rainbow on his body. What a bird. It was at this point that LP1 became interested in some small apples that had fallen off the trees all around this enclosure and alternated between attempting to feed them to the birds (much to my intense nervousness) and gathering them up. 

We also looked at a peacock with some babies and a bizarre breed of chicken that looked like they were wearing Ugg boots. The LP were drawn to these birds and I instinctively sprang forward to pull them back, much to Auntie K's amusement. We sat on a bench and watched the chickens for awhile as the LP had a snack. It was quiet, sunny and warm. If it weren't for the fact that we were totally surrounded by birds, it would be very relaxing.

When we weren't bird watching, we wandered around the gardens. I think they were wonderful. There is something so hopeful and optimistic about people coming together to grow vegetables in the middle of the city. Apparently some of them were destined for food banks. I also like this. People who use food banks deserve fresh, organic, local produce, too. There was everything from tomatoes to beans to celery and many things we couldn't identify growing in the gardens.

I admire people who grow their own vegetables...particularly since my attempts have largely been disastrous. The whole "water daily"thing doesn't really work for me.

As we were standing in one of the gardens, looking at the vegetables, we looked over to the fence and spotted a young deer! It was amazing. We tried to take the LP over to see it but getting them to remain quiet...doesn't really work. It scampered off. I think LP1 saw it, though. Both of them seemed to really enjoy our outing today. LP1 was content to run around, gather apples and look at the birds. LP2 liked looking at the birds (indeed, he likes all animals with the exception of pigs), and check things out. It was a happy adventure for all of us.

We left the garden and went for lunch with Auntie K. I always think that exploring new places is best completed with a spot of something tasty with good company.

Don't be fooled. If there wasn't a cage there, I know he'd be swooping at us. I'm not fooled by his cheery "HELLO! HELLO!" one bit.

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