Saturday October 18, 2003 10:47 PM
The Birds

Today we went to the open house at the World Bird Sanctuary. I'd heard about the place on a news item some months ago and thought it might be interesting to see sometime. When Ruth found a flyer for the open house at the Children's Library we decided to write it on our calendar for today.

The day started out a little later than I'd anticipated, but then that's what happens when you go to bed on Friday night and consciously decide against setting an alarm clock. When I awoke, I judged from the sunlight in the room that it was probably eight-ish, and it was- eight fifty-seven to be exact. The next time I looked at the clock it was twenty past nine. When I finally began to think about getting out of bed it was close to ten, and we were all finally downstairs and dressed by ¼ to eleven.

Of course, the first step was to check the website for directions to the 50+ mile away destination. The next step was to waste spend most of the next hour answering phone calls, getting snacks packed for the trip, and general time-dissipating fiddling about and at ten forty-five we were ready to head out. To the bank. And the auto parts store for some transmission fluid, and to the abovementioned Children's Library to stave off a whopping fine on the seemingly 30 pounds of books we'd checked out for Isaiah exactly fourteen days ago. After the library, though, we were actually on the road- to the gas station. Twenty dollars later, we actually were on the road for real to the World Bird Sanctuary.

Before we made it all the way to the WBS, we had one more stop to make- the world's dirtiest McDonald's. This is probably an exaggeration, I imagine, but the first thought that crossed my mind when we entered the place was "This joint is filthy". It was also evidently the kind of restaurant where the manager gives himself Saturdays off. The demeanor of the activities behind the counter and in the kitchen could have best been described as a casual train wreck. We eventually got our food, though, and due to my cat-like reflexes, I made it to the table with all of it. An eight-ish year old soccer kid (he still had his uniform on- minus shoes, of course- no unattended soccer creeplet in his right mind would be wearing shoes when he could be sliding around on dirty restaurant floors in his socks, eh?) did his best to bestow upon himself the privilege of wearing the totality of my family's meal but I was too fast for him.

We finally made it to the commuter lot that was doubling as an overflow parking lot for the WBS at about two thirty and rode the bus up to the gate of the WBS itself. The first thing we saw as we rolled up in the 2nd from the front seat of the bus was a person in an eagle costume. Isaiah thought that was pretty funny.

As we walked a little further along we came to the introductory information booth. Ruth was gathering up pamphlets while I stood enjoying the beautiful weather and the nature all around us, till Ruth pointed. "Look," she said, "it's a little owl right on that table." Sure enough, right there on a table a little owl, about eight inches tall, was sitting tethered to a little stand.

"Is it real?" Isaiah asked.

"Did it just move it's head?" I replied.


"Did it just flap it's wings?"


"Then you tell me- is it real?"

"No, Daddo. I think it's robotic."

My comments that a robotic owl would not have feathers fell on deaf ears so I gave up trying to get through to him.

We made our way up the gravel paved walk into the WBS proper and when we came to a fork in the path, we saw some signs posted mentioning the activities of the day. The only one still going on which interested us was the "Birds of Prey Show" at three thirty in which it was claimed mighty hunters of the sky would fly "inches over your head". We decided to attend the show and began to search for the amphitheater in which it would take place since it was approaching three by this time.

It was also approaching what should have been Isaiah's nap time. His attitude began to degrade rapidly and by the time we were seated in the outdoor amphitheater waiting for the show to start, my question of whether he was having fun was met with a rather less than cheerful "No".

He was fidgety, but not too bad during the show in which birds of prey really did fly mere inches over the heads of some audience members. There were two owls- one barn, one screech. A falcon, a hawk, a raven, and two eagles- one golden and one bald. Many people mistake young bald eagles for golden eagles, you know. They look very similar. Isaiah thought the birds were interesting, but not as much as he would have if he hadn't been getting grumpy. He did laugh at the talking parrot, though, and he wanted to go down front after the show and let the white-ringed raven snatch with it's beak and deposit in a Plexiglas box the dollar bill I'd given the him to hold out to the bird. He even smiled very nicely and stood still while I took a picture of him standing between the bald and golden eagles and their handlers.

"Stand still and smile," I called to him.

The handler of the golden eagle, stood up straight and looked at me with his public relations face.

"Thanks, Dude, but I meant the boy." I told him.

The single image proved to be the end of Isaiah's tractability and the point where his attitude began to plunge even more sharply. He began to whine and want to go home. Ruth and I, however, weren't done looking at birds. There were a number tethered outside that we saw in one area. Ruth liked the Lizard Buzzard and I liked the Crested Eagle.

Inevitably we ended up in the gift shop where despite the fact that I told Isaiah on the way in that we were not there to buy anything and not to touch ANYthing, he started whining to get a toy and fooling with the trigger-operated snapping jaw animal heads.

"Put that down, we're not getting any toys."

"Look, this one's a hippo."

"It's a rhino," corrected Ruth.

"Put it down," I followed.

"Well, can I get this one, Daddo? It's a tyrannosaurus!"

"Complete with red teeth," interjected the girl at the register.

"No, you cannot get that, Isaiah," I replied, "but I will get you something even better..."

"Yeah? What?"

"A patch!" I proclaimed grabbing a patch with the logo of the WBS.

"I don't want a patch," he moaned.

"No patch, eh? OK then. Hey- how about a postcard!"

"No postcards either."

"I've got it, then- a bookmark. They're three for a dollar- you can have a few of them!"

You can imagine the tone if not the literal words of his reply. I got a patch, 2 postcards (50¢ each) and three bookmarks. He got nothing. I know I'm mean, but I refuse to pay a dollar for one third of an ounce of grade 'C' rubber lovingly hand painted by the unfortunate denizen of some south Asian sweatshop and there's no way I'm buying one of those stupid snapping jaw things.

Also in the gift shop was Melody. An American kestrel who lived in an indoor habitat due to a paralyzed foot that was the result of a wasp sting. The shot I got through the mesh walls of her environment was one of the best bird pictures I got all day.

As we exited the gift shop, we spied the booth set up to sell gift shop stuff that was on clearance- like sports bottles imprinted with "1977-1997 World Bird Sanctuary 20th anniversary" and a bunch of cheap and cheesy gew-gaws and dust-catchers. Surprisingly, all the t-shirts were also ½ price! I got a neat one with two owls on it and we also got one for ????? for whom Ruth said X-Mas shopping was now complete.

As we had approached the booth, my eyes had fallen upon a small stuffed owl (about seven inches tall) on the "take half off the lowest marked price" table. At ½ the original price of $8, I figured the price was actually fair. Isaiah was whining sharply again by this point and complaining and wanting to go home. Ruth caught my eye and lifted an eyebrow towards the owl and I nodded 'yes'. The owl, whom Isaiah named Flyer, didn't stop his weepiness, or complaining, but I think it made him feel a little better to have something fuzzy to hold tight to.

By this time we knew, based on Isaiah's behavior and the fact that the four o'clock closing time was looming near, that our departure had better be imminent and we made our way back down to the now-empty amphitheater where the restrooms were. After Ruth and Isaiah made use of the facilities we discovered that the building whose front wall served as the backstop of the amphitheater held some cages with parrots in them, some aquaria with different animals in them and a touch-table for the kids where Isaiah handled a deer's antlers and a snakeskin. His attitude was beginning to improve slightly till he saw in one of the aquaria a snake bigger than he was comfortable being close to, and once again it was time to GO.

By the time we got back to the front gate to wait for a bus to take us back to the parking lot Isaiah was crying and crying. It was past four o'clock and it had been a long day despite the fact that we hadn't really done that much. I was tired myself. He had at least stopped crying by the time the bus arrived but he was still griping.

We were the first ones on the bus and Ruth told Isaiah he could pick where we would sit. He, of course, chose the "very very back". I didn't care one way or the other, but Ruth said that the youngest member of our family didn't care for the extra bumpiness of the ride and that he was kicking and squirming inside her all the way back to the lower parking lot.

Once in the van, a semi-cool juice pouch from the snack bag improved Isaiah's spirits greatly and it wasn't long, once we were in motion, that he was asleep. He slept the whole ride and about ninety minutes more after we got home. I was glad of that because I not only got to round out the day with a bit of reading on the back porch, but I got to watch 'Ask This Old House' and most of 'This Old House' undisturbed.

Isaiah still says he didn't have fun and that he doesn't want to go back for a long time. That's OK, though, because even with his whining, it was interesting to see the birds and since it's about 57 miles away we won't be going back for a long time anyway.