Sunday, June 12, 2011

Rare Birds of NYC

In early summer NYC parks come into full leaf.  They dot the city and glisten like emeralds dropped into a wastebasket of concrete and exhaust.  These parks hold rare flea market finds to patient observers. 

Last week, bleary eyed and weary from a recent move into a fifth floor walkup, I took my morning walk in the Heather Garden.  On a bench someone had scattered birdfeed.  Amidst the drab sparrows flitted a fluorescent green and yellow parakeet.  He pecked at the bird seed, oblivious to his beauty, all the more stunning against the brown camouflage of the sparrows.  I approached cautiously so as not to scare him away.  As I neared, the wild sparrows flew away with instinctive distrust.  But the tame parakeet, accustomed to human presence, remained pecking at the bird seed.  I neared to within a foot, yet he did not budge.  Poor creature, I thought, he must have been someone's pet.  And he is doomed.  Such a rare beauty will not last through the harsh winter.

Today as I exited Central Park on W72nd St., I stopped short.  Sitting on a window ledge of one of those magnificent doorman buildings (what do they look like inside?) blazed a powerful red parrot.  He had muscular talons that gripped the ledge securely.  Emerald, blue, and white feathers streaked across his wings.  His eyes had been made up with brilliant blue and white shadow that circled them like a target.  A passerby stood giddily near the great bird while his wife tried to take a photo.  The owner, a man mildly past middle age, said anxiously, don't get too close.  The passerby paid no attention.  The parrot ruffled his wings, and swiped at the passerby with his great hooked beak.  I told you, don't get too close.  He can do real damage, the owner intoned angrily.  The passerby looked sheepish.  His wife hurriedly snapped the photo, and the two rushed off.  I asked, how old is he?  The owner replied, forty-five.  I thought, if I'd been with anyone (bird, beast or human) for that long, I might also become angry when a stranger fails to heed requests for respectful treatment.

That got me thinking about Poochini.  Once, when we were first getting to know each other, we had walked to the Bethesda Fountain.  The pair of swans that used to come through Central Park in early spring were paddling on the pond.  All of the sudden there rose a tremendous squawking and hissing.  A woman's toy poodle had fallen into the water close to one of the swans.  The bird had risen clear out of the water, extending her powerful wings, beating them with fury, and pecking at the poor dog.  The woman frantically kneeled by the side of the pond.  After several unsuccessful attempts she was able to scoop out the dog.  I hugged Poochini closely.  That was when I learned to beware of angry swans.