For the birds

Just as I have always loved animals, I have always had a passion for birds. This may have been because I grew up knowing them a tiny bit. Apart from a hamster called Tim (not to be confused with my friend in Brooklyn) and a couple of ill-fated goldfish, the only pets we had as children were budgies. My uncle George, who was an invalid, was able for some years to keep an aviary in my grandmother’s back garden. I loved hearing the little voices of all those birds. I was very young then and had not yet considered the concept of birds being captive. In my experience, budgies were born in cages and although they might come out and fly around a room, sometimes a house, that was the extent of their freedom.

Of course budgies bred in captivity may have been unlikely to fare well in the wild, although they not infrequently escaped. Then their survival would have been dependent on many factors. In Australia, where they have existed wild for 5 million years, they seem to thrive, but they are a much smaller bird. They exist mostly in flocks of a few hundred but where these groups come together they are sometimes seen as murmurations. What a sight that would be.

I remember being awakened in Australia by birds which I mistakenly thought were budgies. In fact they were probably crimson rosella. They were certainly noisy like budgies but they were bright red.

That particular trip began with numerous complications which had to do with the inconveniences of airline staff travel. (It is an enormous privilege to be able to travel the world at a fraction of the price and one always tried to remember it, but at times your plans could go badly wrong!)

In any event, I was too distracted by jet-lag and anxiety to spend much time bird watching. Normally I would have rushed about with a camera and I would have noticed that those beautiful creatures were not budgies. For someone who has always admired birds so much, it is embarrassing how terribly uninformed I still am.

But I am so happy that the birds in my life now are living free and that I am occasionally able to photograph them, albeit it a somewhat amateur effort. According to my bird book these little sweeties are house finches. As usual the boy gets the pretty coat.


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