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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

BrooklynParrots.com Wins PETA Ad Contest - Thanks to Everybody Who Voted!

BrooklynParrots.com Wins PETA Ad ContestI was informed today that your humble webmaster is the winner of the first ever PETA blog ad contest. Thanks to all who voted for the ad, which featured two wild Quaker Parrots. As I acknowledged in a prior post, PETA isn't a perfect organization (I'd really like to find one someday) but it's done much to raise awareness of cruel animal control practices, which is a very good thing.

It's been a rough week around here: I really hoped that the little parrot that I rescued last Sunday would live, but it wasn't to be. Winning this contest cheers me up a lot; again, thanks, folks!

Thanks again,
Steve Baldwin
BrooklynParrots.com

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Death of a Wild Parrot

ow - Wild Brooklyn Death of a Wild ParrotOne thing I usuallly don't talk about is the fact that I occasionally find dead wild parrots on my frequent journeys through their habitats in the Northeast.

I usually try to avoid this subject: if I see a dead parrot on one of my tours, and there are kids in tow (as there frequently are), I usually mutter that "death is a part of life" and try to move on as quickly as I can to where I want the focus to be: on the big wide fields where there's lots of life, light, and green-winged flight.

I don't like Death, but that doesn't stop it from happening. On Sunday, I went out to Edgewater, New Jersey, because I wanted to see the big flock of New Jersey parrots that never fails to cheer me up.

Of course, Death had other plans, because I was only there a few hours before Death showed up and forced me to make a choice. Death came in the form of a lovely little wild parrot who came down with the big flock into Parrot Park. I noticed that one of his little feet was stiff: I'd seen this before in Edgewater, which does not lack for environmental hazards (there's at least one large EPA Superfund in Edgewater and environmental problems are well-documented in its neighboring towns).

Whenever you see a wild parrot flopping around with a stiff foot, it's a surefire sign of lead poisoning. Lead is an invisible killer, and there seems to be enough lead in the environment in Edgewater to kill plenty of birds (this is the third wild parrot I've run across in Edgewater with obvious signs of lead poisoning).

I could have just walked away and that would have been it. Another dead parrot had been seen earlier in Parrot Park and it was plain that something bad was happening in Edgewater. But I decided to do what I could, so I easily captured this little guy and Mike Trachtenberg, of Edgewater's 07020.com, who happened along earlier, produced a small shoe box in which we placed him. It's illegal to bring any wild parrot to a vet in New Jersey so I persuaded Mike to drive me to the ferry at Point Imperial to take him across the Hudson River to Brooklyn.

I didn't have the financial resources to bring my ailing friend to The Animal Medical Center, in Manhattan, which charges $1,000 before its staff will even see a sick animal. Instead, I wanted to bring him home to Brooklyn, and do what I could to make his last hours more pleasant than they would have been in New Jersey, where he would have probably been nailed by a hawk before sunset.

We floated across the river together on the ferry, traversed 42nd Street, and then descended to the BMT N train. I checked him every five minutes and he looked OK. We heard music from the Andes that musicians played at the Times Square station and then I started to cry, because I knew that he was likely hearing this kind of music -- the sweet flute music of his homeland -- for the first and last time.

We crossed the Manhattan Bridge above the sparkling waters of the harbor. My sick friend made a few hopeful Quaker sounds as we passed under Brooklyn, home of his grandparents, site of his species' initial appearance in North America. We made it back to Bay Ridge and I finally unboxed him. He wanted to climb up the walls but I dissuaded him from this idea: he was just too weak. I made a place for him on the carpet using a cardboard box with a towel inside. I put out food and Gatorade in the top of the shoe box. He really wanted to sleep, but I stroked his head, hoping that he'd somehow perk up. He did rouse, once or twice, but his eyes wanted to close, and I didn't push it.

Lots of people happened to call me during these hours, and I mentioned that I had on my hands a very sick bird. My mother reported that my sister, who suffered a second nervous breakdown last week, might be doing better. I heard from my ex-wife, who is unable to convince my daughter, who is suffering a mysterious chronic cough, to see a doctor. I called my daughter, and made her promise to me that she would go to a clinic, even though she has no insurance coverage. I promised to pay for whatever it would take to get her well, even though I have no money myself to pay for this. Finally, I went to bed, but not before checking on my sick wild parrot.

He was still alive, sitting on the carpet in the little nook I had built for him, head turned around and buried in his wings, as if in sleep. I stroked his head and his eyes opened. I told him "It's OK if you die, but I hope that you live, because I need a friend. As long as you need me, I'll heal you, and if you get better, I'll bring you back to Edgewater, and you'll be free again."

I went to sleep early, around nine, and turned out the lights. Around 10:30, I woke up, and looked for him. He had crawled from his nook over to my sleeping bag, as if he wanted to say goodbye, but I could tell that he was gone. His little body was still warm but it was clear that Death had won. I placed him back in the little nook that I had built for him and stroked his head.

There was nothing more that I could do. I could curse the town of Edgewater, which doesn't seem to care that lead and other poisons are leaching through its every mortgaged pore. I could curse the whole damned system, which makes it illegal to help a wild parrot in New Jersey, or the chemical companies, which just don't care that they're poisoning the planet, or the real estate barons building New Jersey's "Gold Coast" on deadly, poisoned land. But the only thing I did was stroke my friend's head one last time, saying five times over, "I'm sorry," before collapsing in tears.

Tomorrow, this long night will end, the sun will rise, and the parrots will flock again. I will bear myself off in a series of antiseptic steel tubes to my job on Long Island, and I'll probably not think of what happened today much. But here, right now, in the middle of the night, it's all I can think of. If my wild little green friend had lived, my life would have been a little brighter, and I would have seen this miracle as a sign from God that all would be redeemed.

But things don't work out this way, at least, most of the time. The poisons that we place in our world will last for centuries. The species that we are extincting won't come back. Humans will eventually wake up to the fact that lead, and uncountable other poisons in the air and water, are slowly and silently killing us. This will only occur once people begin to topple and fall, palsied, like my little green friend, unable to even raise themselves to eat.

My little green departed friend was one of those "canaries in the coal mine" and I really hoped he would make it. His death will only be marked here. Nobody, including the media, and especially the politicians, whose livelihoods are supported by the commercial poisoners, will make a peep about it. He will have died in vain, as so many of us do.

Maybe that's what I'm really crying about.

Epilogue 9/24/08: When I re-read this account almost a year after writing it, I am struck by how it seems that the death of my little green friend was a harbinger of great tragedies that would soon tear my life apart. Three months after this incident, my mother committed suicide; three months after her death, my long-suffering sister did the same.

My family is gone now but I still visit the wild parrots whenever I can. It will take me years to make sense of these losses but there is something about the parrots' improbable existence here that gives me hope, and hope is exactly what I need to weather the long storm of grief before me.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Wow - Wild Brooklyn Parrot Safaris Are On The Map!

ow - Wild Brooklyn Parrot Safaris Are On The MapThanks to Sheraton Hotels for listing our Brooklyn Wild Parrot Safaris among their "must see" activities in Brooklyn. Thanks to this kind of support, I've had people come from as far away as Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and even Australia to see our borough's remarkable wild free-range parrots: it's a tremendous thrill to know that this legendary hotel chain is promoting "dem boids" as an official "destination" in this hallowed borough! The next Brooklyn Wild Parrot Safari is on November 3rd: be there or be square!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Connecticut Parrots Face Tough Week Ahead

Connecticut Parrots Face Tough Week AheadThe wild parrot flocks living in Connecticut face a mass nest tear-down this week. According to an article in the New Haven Register, the United Illuminating Company will tear down 89 nests beginning this Tuesday.

Thanks to pressure from pro-parrot groups, United Illuminating will reportedly not harm the birds, but UI's actions must be monitored closely, because it has an extremely poor record when it comes to treating wild parrots humanely. In 2005, the company, in concert with the U.S.D.A. and several private Florida-based energy consultants, killed several hundred wild parrots in an action which its spokesman, Al Carbone, characterized as a "solution" to the wild parrot issue. Only after mass protests in Connecticut and a lawsuit from a local animal rights group were the so-called "Thanksgiving Killings" halted.

I am pleased that UI has apparently changed its stance from lethal to non-lethal wild parrot control methods. This is a step in the right direction. No one questions the need for utility companies to maintain their infrastructure: all that we ask is that UI employ the same best practices already employed by responsible utility companies such as Con Edison (in New York) and PSE&G (in New Jersey). These practices include timing nest removals for September (when the young have fledged) or March (between the onset of warm weather and parrot mating season). The fact that these removals are happening now, in late October, instead of September, suggests that UI still has some work to do before it is in compliance with these best practices. Fortunately, unusually warm weather patterns in the Northeast means that most of the evicted parrots will probably survive.

There is much more that can be done to accommodate the divergent needs of parrot and mankind. Extra insulation can be applied to electrical lines near poles in which the parrots nest. Orange reflective tags can be attached to deter the parrots from re-nesting in sensitive infrastructure (this approach has worked both in New York and New Jersey). Alternative nest platforms can be deployed to provide safe housing for the parrots: this approach has been successful in Connecticut and in Texas.

My hope is that UI will explore these methods, because they provide a win-win situation for its stakeholders and the wild animals which inhabit its operating areas. Let's hope that its change of stance in this teardown is a sign that UI is taking all of these concerns more seriously than it has in the past.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Please Help BrooklynParrots.com Win This Ad Contest!

A few weeks ago, I created an online ad for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and it turns out that it was liked well enough to make it a finalist in PETA's first Blog advertising competition.

A number of people have challenged me about creating this ad. They seem to believe that PETA is a radical organization with a pet-unfriendly agenda. While I do not always agree with PETA, I do believe that its role in forcing the large chain pet stores to stop selling larger parrots is laudable. It has also done much to raise awareness of the plight of wild animals such as the Monk Parakeet who are subject to inhumane treatment because they are labeled as "pests," "illegal avians," and "invasive species."

If you like my ad, please vote for it at the following page: www.peta.org/feat_blog_ad_contest.asp
?c=petabacfsbw
. (My ad is on the top-right corner of the page). Thanks!

Friday, October 05, 2007