11 April 2005

"I Report - You Decide: Can YOU Guess Who The REAL Freaks Are?"!

Photo "borrowed" completely and unapologetically without permission from Terry Banana Josephson. (Sorry Terry, better to beg forgiveness than ask for permission, eh?)

"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me."
~ Emily Dickinson

Can it be mere coincidence that Emily Dickinson, by utilization of a metaphorical device, compares the concept of "hope" with the miracle of a bird? I choose to believe it's a "Godincidence". But that's just me...

And there is new life in the aviary. I have two lovely new orange-cheeked waxbills.

It has been my experience and observation that most new introductees into an aviary, fly in quite timidly and keep to themselves. Newcomers try and hide in a corner or appear unobtrusive in a ficus tree or fern, to scope out the scene and see whether the other inhabitants are friendly fowl or scowl fowl.

I know the two Owl Finches I received as a birthday present, were shy, quiet and tried really hard to "blend in" and stay out of the way, even going so far as to wait and eat after the resident zebra finches, who had been in the aviary for a full six weeks, plucked the best, tastiest, juciest meal worms. The Owl Finches wanted acceptance and clearly they didn't want to "ruffle any feathers". Only in the past couple of weeks have the Owl Finches acted as if they had passed their feathery "hazing" by the Zebra Finch Fraternity.

But these two new Orange-Cheeked Waxbills? Timid? Unobtrusive? Backward? Shy?

Four words: I DON'T THINK SO!

When Dan introduced our latest celebrity acquisitions to the aviary this past Friday Afternoon, these two birds flew in and acted as if THEY were the owners of the aviary, not simply the new kids in the flock! They flew in the face of each "old-timer" as if to say, "We're here! Let the party and games begin!". I mean, it was as if they were letting everyone, bird and human, know in no uncertain terms that they, by virtue of being the most colorful, showy and expensive, were the very reason this Aviary came into existence in the first place!

How in the world could we NOT name these two feathery, fun, mirth-makers of mischief JULIANNA BANANA and NICHOLAS PICKLUS?

After they made their maiden flight into their new home, I hovered, as all parents do when their kids visit a new playground, to see if the Zebra Finches would dive bomb them into submission and remind them of their "NKITA" (new kids in the Aviary) position in the pecking order. After all, I saw the male Zebra Finches buzz around the Owl Finches and I looked on helplessly as we saw Mr. and Mrs. Owl Finch have to endure the "not so welcome" to the neighborhood. For the first week or so, I'm pretty sure the Owls only ate after the lights were off to avoid the incessant harassment. Hundreds of times a day I would walk by and see the male Zebras bobbing and weaving circles around the timid Owl Finches, serving notice that, while membership may have it's privileges and even though everyone knows Owl Finches are way more exotic than Zebra Finches, the ticket to avian acceptance was not so easily earned.

So of course I was a little giddy and apprehensive as my two new "kids" flew in the aviary front door, hoping for safe passage and a minimum of flying feathers. I even tried to occupy the established residents with about 30 of the 1000 count meal worms that arrived the same day as the Orange Beaks joined our family. Maybe the old-timers wouldn't notice the newcomers if they were scarfing up everyone's favorite form of protein - MEALWORMS! Tell the truth, how many of you were thinking of "Ensure"?

You can just imagine how my aviary anxiety was turned to avian admiration when I saw Julianna and Nicholas fly in and take their perch, FRONT AND CENTER BABY, diving right into the bowl containing the squiggly, slimy meal worms - served up in a piece from my wedding china collection - the first time my wedding china was ever used, which will tell you that I am nothing close to a cook. I KNEW that someday I would find a use for that Noritake I registered for and own 8 place settings of - never understanding that it would take almost 25 years before it would come in handy as a feeding dish for the birds. A reminder that everything, even dusty old, forgotten wedding china, has a purpose. :-) Call me crazy, and more than a few people have, but the simple, yet elegant "Tahoe" pattern make the mealworms look extra tasty.

That crazy pair came in strutting their stuff, kicking tail feathers and taking names. You could just imagine what was really being communicated in their chirps - Here's what I overheard about an hour after the flight landed...

"Wow Julianna - that looks like a lovely Tuscany nest - doesn't it look like a great place for us to settle in?".

"It does, Nicholas, so what if there are 3 zebra finch babies being fed and nurtured in there, who are not quite ready to leave the nest - let's call the Realtor and move in STAT! Tell those babies it's fall or fly time, kiddo!".

"Get Martha Stewart on speed dial, good thing she's no longer a jail bird! It's time to decorate!".

"Two words, Nicholas. Think Pink!"

I swear, it sounded a lot like that. I have never seen Zebra Finches back away or back down but let's just say they retreated to their corners and watched - beaks wide open, feathers puffed out in an attempt to look bigger than they really are. The Orange-cheeks were so not impressed. You have to admire that.

Three days later and it's "Home, Sweet, Home". Interestingly, they have befriended the Owl Finch couple and, though it may simply be my overactive imagination, the Owls seem to behave as if they are more settled with the introduction of the newcomers. Before Friday, they still seemed to behave as if they were intruders. I think the Zebras have been told to Zip It! There's a new pecking order and (O)range comes before (Z)ebra. Get it? Got it? Good!

The only problem I can see is that it's so interesting and animated in the aviary, I am spending way too much time watching the birds and too little time writing and figuring out how to sell more work to buy more birdseed and meal worms. This is way better than The National Geographic Channel. Even my four cats seem to sense a change in the line-up.

Can nest-building be far behind? I'll keep you posted...

I think I'm going to have to petition Mr. Terry Banana-Picklus for two wish bracelets for his grandbirds. :-)

I wonder if they'll start chirping with that signature "eh" and singing "Oh Canada!"?