Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill


I like documentary films okay, but they have to read well just like any good non-fiction book. Don’t waste my time with stories that stumble over themselves no matter how pure and altruistic the message might be. And I have to admit I don’t necessarily seek out documentary films to watch, so all you snobs can stop reading right now. When I sit down and take the time to watch a movie, I want to disappear into the film and lose my own life details for awhile. Call it escapism if you want, but I’m guilty.

That’s why when the “Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill” appeared in my mailbox—I did after all select it and place it in my queue at Netflix—I was a little bit disappointed that our evening entertainment was going to be a documentary.

Within minutes the whole room was mesmerized. We were so taken with the film, that we immediately called our daughter in San Francisco, whom we were to visit shortly, and told her the wild parrots were a “must see” on our next visit. Within the hour of our call she was walking in the Ferry Plaza and actually saw the brilliantly colored flock flying overhead. This is quite a visual feast, as the Cherry-headed Conure, once native of South America, are a brilliant green with a crimson hood.

A few weeks later, one of our first stops in San Francisco was to visit the Embarcadero and look for the flock. Lo and behold, there on a well-worn limb in a thickly vegetated tree was a lone bird. That’s the only bird we saw of the flock. We faithfully crossed the street to fetch some sunflower seeds at the Ferry Building Market. We came back and patiently waited for the bird to feed from our bounty. Nothing happened, he/she didn’t budge, but neither did the bird move the half hour we waited, some of our party dozing off in the plush grass. Mark Bittner, the wild parrot guru, could probably tell me which parrot this was, but even he says on his website, that the flock has grown so large, he no longer knows them all personally. His estimate now is that there are around 200. When he first began counting them in 1993, there were only 26.

Art is in the living experiences we have as well as what we hang on our walls. If you get the chance go see these birds, at the very least rent the movie or read the book!—Ruth Mitchell


(c) 2006 - Ruth Mitchell - all rights reserved

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