Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Refuge seeks volunteers

Parrots are loud, demanding, messy and loveable.Which makes them similar to a two-year-old child, only they never grow up, according to John Seeland, the marketing director for World Parrot Refuge, near Coombs.

The parrot refuge is home to around 450 of the exotic birds and it can get a bit deafening in the large barn-like buildings the birds occupy. Imagine that may toddlers in a room."We give away complimentary earplugs," Seeland says, laughing.The birds even play with the same brightly coloured, plastic toys a child would."[Parrots] are very, very intelligent," Seeland says. "Basically, they dissemble things. The [toys] they really like they'll destroy."He says the toys are just as important to the birds as food and water. Without them, the birds get bored and stressed - and than start pulling out their feathers.

The facility goes through a lot of toys and would be glad to have people clean out their basements or garages and pass unused toys along."Parrots would love to have them to play with," Seeland says.Most people wouldn't think of parrots as cuddly in the way they would about dog or cat. But parrots actually need physical attention.The resident escaping parrot, Charlie, likes to wander around until he's picked up and petted. Once picked up, he'll often say "Love Charlie, love Charlie."Other parrots need the physical attention to help rehabilitate them if they have come from a bad home or are in distress.Oscar, who is starting to grow back his feathers, wouldn't let anyone touch him. Seeland spent many hours working with the bird, which now sits on his shoulder and says "hello" in a quiet voice.

The parrot refuge, which has been open since June, needs more volunteers willing to take time to love the birds."It doesn't take a lot of training to shower love on a bird," says Seeland.Volunteers to conduct tours of the facility for visitors are also needed."You need to know what you're talking about," Seeland says.

The World Parrot Refuge is hosting volunteer seminars Sept. 29 and Oct. 1 to show interested people what the facility is about - and what they are getting themselves into.You don't need to know anything about parrots, but you do have to have an interest in them. The seminars will cover parrot food preparation; show off the birds; explain what the facility does; show parrot-holding techniques and give a tour so those who might consider becoming a tour guide will know what is expected."We'll give them a living example of what a docent [guide] would do and a living example of what auxiliary staff would do," Seeland says. "I want people to see, hands-on, what they'd be doing."The parrots also like music. Seeland, also a musician, plays for the birds, which have their own special way of dancing."They quite enjoyed it," Seeland says. "Musicians can come in and audition for the birds."The birds will decide for themselves if they like the tunes.The Sept. 29 seminar runs from 3 to 4:30 p.m. and the Oct. 1 seminar is from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Musicians who want to play at the refuge can come to the Oct. 1 seminar. Both the seminars are at the World Parrot Refuge at 2116 Alberni Highway. Volunteers need to be 16 years old and up.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Celebrating conservation

"Do you want to build a bird house?"

That was an easy question for 5-year-old Anders Warrick, who shouted an excited "Yes!" as did a crowd of other children clamoring to get their hands on a hammer Saturday morning.

Hundreds of children and their parents poured into the Benton County Fairgrounds for the third annual Kids Day for Conservation.

Mixing science, social activism and a lot of fun, Kids Day for Conservation is a way for local natural resource organizations to extend their message to children, and through children, their parents. Everyone from 4-H to the Boy Scouts of America to Starker Forests was on hand to present ideas of preserving and enjoying natural resources through fun and games.

For birdhouse builder Anders' parents, Wendy Williams and Doug Warrick, who are both biologists, the event was a natural extension of the lessons young Anders already learns at home.

"We hammer that in at home anyway," Williams said. Since Anders is so young, they let him enjoy the activities at events like Kids Day, and then go over the science with him when they get home. Anders had made the rounds already, trying out a little bit of everything.

"He enjoyed the animal tracks and the trout," Williams said. "Anything where something happens, that's hands-on."

Charles Brunner, assistant professor in wood science and engineering at Oregon State University, was monitoring the activities at the Wood Magic booth, where children learned about the different levels of permeability in wood. Red oak, for instance, is so permeable that you can use sticks of it to blow bubbles, as many children were discovering.

"One little girl under a year old was blowing all kinds of bubbles," Brunner said.

For the department of wood science, Kids Day is another way to inform kids and adults about the magic of wood.

"We've been here every year," Brunner said. "We help educate the public about wood and natural resources they use."

Under the cover of one of the fairground outdoor arenas, 8-year-old Sequoia White was diligently hammering nails into the sides of her hand-made songbird house, which was carefully designed with a small entrance so that nuthatches and wrens could fit in, but invasive species like starlings could not. Unfortunately, Sequoia's favorite bird will likely not inhabit the house, since she admitted to a fondness for parrots.

Sequoia was assisted by John Snelling, president of the Marys Peak Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America, an organization focused on wildlife and outdoor activities.

"Now we're going to put in hinge nails," Snelling said, walking her through the process. "That will allow you to clean out the house if you need to."

Sequoia was concentrating hard on building her bird house, and said she had lots of previous carpentry experience.

"This is my fifth time building a bird house," she said, smacking a nail into the side of the red cedar. She had big plans for the house, which may not house parrots, but will provide a much-needed habitat for the area's precious songbird population.

"I'm gonna hang it up on one of our big oak trees."

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Article on 'Animal attractions' My Magpies are similiar

WHAT are we, anyway? To the local magpies I am Meat-Giving Woman.
Last weekend my husband called me to the front door. "Look at this," he said. There were two magpies on the garden path, and as I came to the door, they advanced confidently, one of them hopping on to the veranda. It looked at me fixedly, turning its head to do so out of one bright eye.
"It did the same thing about three weeks ago,"
I said. I'm sure it's hungry. So I went, as I had done before, and got some raw cats' meat from the fridge and came out again. The first magpie was still waiting on the veranda, and backed up to let me put the lump of meat on the path. They attacked it ravenously.


As we went back in to leave them to their meal, Rick said to me, "I swear it all but spoke to me.
It came up and eyeballed me and said, 'Get that woman who gives us meat'."
The magpies don't come to Northcote every day. The first time they came there had been a storm, and last weekend was windy, so I figure that they ask for food when insects are scarce.
A day without food is a very serious matter for a bird. They have a very high metabolic rate: their hearts beat fast, they use masses of energy to fly, and because they need to be light to fly, they can't store much fat. So they need food often. The Northcote magpies were not tame at all, just rather clever and assertive. How they knew to come to us instead of someone who might flap their arms and yell "Shoo!" is another matter. Maybe they were working the whole street door to door, like telco salesmen.
We talked of it with that certain joy that you get from being trusted by a wild animal. Both of us were aware that we were being anthropomorphic: ascribing human traits to a non-human entity.
We wondered if we were being sentimental dills for ascribing our human kind of dialogue and intentionality to the birds. But it all came so naturally, somehow.
We blithely attribute personal qualities to animals, but then we go ahead and reattribute them to ourselves as totems, aspirations, symbols and love objects.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Madurai temple loves its parrots

The most popular residents of the revered Meenakshi temple in Madurai have now found a new home — the open sky. The temple authorities have set free over 60 parrots that have been an integral part of the 1,200-year-old temple. The birds were set free following requests from animal welfare organisations and state forest department officials. The temple has traditionally been rearing parrots, as the statue of the goddess in the temple holds a golden parrot in her hand. Devotees, as a mark of reverence, started donating parrots to the temple about a century ago.

Recently, an aviary was also set up in one wing of the massive temple, and named the Kili Koondu Mandapam. While the astrologers in the temple used the birds for fortune-telling, the birds themselves were quite a crowd-puller for their unusual talent of reciting slokas and shrieking out the name of the resident deity. According to priest Chonandaram, who spoke to TOI from the temple complex, "The tradition of keeping parrots has been continuing for the past 100 years. It was painful to see them fly away. But the birds, known for their tremendous energy, who could copy whatever you told them, would be happier now, than living in cages. We have with us only one pair of parrot now, in order to maintain the tradition."