The trip I most enjoy looking back on last year was the closest to home…
By Susan Platt, Volunteer
Another day begins at The Oasis; it takes a team. The work day starts early: 8:00 AM in winter, 7:00 AM in summer. Everyone gathers in the office to clock, or rather, “screech” in, and start the morning ritual. Previously washed and dried towels are loaded into the golf carts and the flock scatters to the aviaries.
Each bird is an old friend, and is treated like family. All the birds are checked morning and evening to determine the state of their health. Anything unusual is reported and logged. Back at the “staging” area a mountain of food bowls are prepared for the aviaries, and for those residents living in other environments because of physical disabilities, illness, or anti-social behavior. The old bowls are pulled, washed, and sterilized. The trays that hold them scraped and cleaned. The new food bowls are delivered and water is replenished for all the birds. It takes the entire morning working together. There is a strong sense of camaraderie. If someone finishes their tasks early, they pitch in with others who are still in motion. No one is done until everyone is done.
Cages and aviaries are cleaned in rotation every afternoon, and now there is more time to interact with the birds, and sometimes to beware of their behavior. Lesson 1: NEVER enter the lair of a belligerent territorial Macaw without your Macaw step-up stick. Lesson 2: Practice the Cockatoo Toss. This is a deep, fast bow, which allows you to toss the flying cockatoos who will inevitably descend to your shoulders. Lesson 3: Don’t wear clothing you’re particularly attached to, because you’ll be leaving pieces of it behind. Finally: Leave your jewelry at home! Birds LOVE bling!
By late afternoon it’s time to tuck everyone in for the night. In addition to the 800 exotic birds there are dogs, cats, horses, ducks (including a disabled duck who can’t walk but is an Olympic floater), geese, a guinea hen, a turkey, and fifteen chickens who provide eggs , and who do NOT like to go to bed. They lead us all on a merry chase at bedtime. The days go by swiftly and happily, scraping, hosing, scrubbing, and, for a treat, showering an anticipatory and vocal flock with the portable mister as they flap and dance in appreciation. Everyone falls in love with a bird during their visit. In my case it was two birds, Jellybean, a Blue-streaked Lorikeet, who meows like a cat and chats like an inquisitive child, and Ophelia, a Black Lory, for whom there will never be enough attention, and who rolls her neck in contortions of ecstasy with every touch.
The volunteer accommodations are spacious and comfortable beyond what any true bird fancier would need, with private bedroom and bath. There is a large communal kitchen, and everyone is welcoming. Once you arrive you realize that the only thing that matters is working with and sharing time with these amazing birds, and getting to know the dedicated people who care for them.
In the evenings I watched the sunset from a spacious, private porch, listening to the sounds of the birds drift across the desert from the aviaries, watching the stars appear in the darkest of desert skies, and giving thanks for the opportunity to be a small part of The Oasis. When the time came to leave, I was sad to say goodbye. Now I know why these lovely and loving people have dedicated their lives to these birds, and why The Oasis is so fittingly called a sanctuary.
For My Oasis Friends:
Bird calls seep through the aviaries.
Permeating the desert evening.
Gliding on soft breezes.
Their voices sing of hope.
A community of outcasts.
Sheltered and cared for.
Joined by the bond of neglect.
Their voices rising in unison.