Off late my favorite pastime during the lockdown has been socializing with birds at the park. By ‘socializing’ I mean, walk to them as non provocatively as possible and then just stand there, watching them. When they do walk away, I try to mimic bird sounds to get their attention. I guess I could call this a fun, learning experience? It hasn’t been very effective with the birds so far, but I’m willing to try a few more times to see how it goes.
I’m not really a fan of birds, specifically pigeons. That is because there have been several times when flying birds have, well, pooped on me. TOO many times to remember. Most of the times they have been pigeons. Maybe a crow once.
It started as an odd observation. Whether I was riding a two-wheeler or standing with a bunch of people or WALKING with a bunch of people, bird shit always managed to find me.
It could have been plain bad luck. Or, Shitty Luck, as I like to call it. Or, WAS it? Because you have to be reaaally good to be able to target a moving person amidst a group of five! It once even happened as I was talking to a bunch of people about why it was unsettling for me to stand under a huge tree that had pigeons and crows frequently flying to it. For real!
Another time, it happened when I was in a crowded ferry where people were throwing puffed rice to the sea to feed seagulls. Yes, the seagulls seemed to be conspiring with the pigeons. What’s more freaky is that Pigeons have been proven to have outstanding memory!
So, why make an attempt to befriend them?
Well, for starters, these birds at the pond that I’m trying to get acquainted with are mostly flightless. Also, on one of my recent trips to the charming Lake District, where we were staying at this beautiful cottage in a very remote farm, I used to go to the farm where there would be scores of sheep grazing, to… um, ‘interact’ with them. The first time I stopped over at the gate, they just looked at me curiously and went about their business. The next time however, I opened the gate and walked in cautiously. Of course, I made sure I wasn’t entering the territory of a ram or a new born. The last thing I wanted was an impression of a hoof on my face.
At first they all were in small clusters and just staring at me to gauge if was of any danger to them. But lots of embarrassing minutes of standing still and bleating (as perfectly as possible by me) later, they started approaching me!! Being a novice to farm life, you cannot imagine how delighted I felt. Soon there were so many of these fluffy puffy cotton balls with legs hopping towards me bleating to each other, probably discussing what kind of food I was going to give them (though to their later disappointment, I had none). There were sheep coming over from two other interconnected farms, wondering why everyone was flocking around me. I felt like the Pied Piper of Hamelin!
Though they were all just bleating there were different tones and pitches, which made me wonder about animal behavior. I’m used to the way dogs behave, having had many pets in the past but, having very little to no experience with other animals made me very curious about it. In addition to that, ever since I read the book Animal Farm I can’t help but ponder some times if animals can actually function together as a team and be social, if not covertly make plans of trouncing us. I know, that is not the actual takeaway of the book.
This led to me doing some research. Apparently, though the popular stereotype is that sheep are docile, passive, unintelligent, and timid, research on their behavior, affect, cognition, and personality reveals that they are complex, individualistic, and social. The truth is that sheep are, supposedly, far smarter than we know. They are known to express loyalty and emotions.
Since learning all that about sheep, I thought it would be fun to experiment and learn about birds as well, at least the flightless variety. Hence the Social Experiment with the geese and the ducks, and a few doves at the park. It has been a calming and gratifying thing to do.
I won’t lie, though. I am kind of secretly hoping that they do have their own classified methods of networking with each other in which they gossip about this particularly affable girl they have recently met, and the message passes on to a certain pigeon or flight of pigeons that have been targeting me with poop missiles.