I and the Bird

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Rare Sightings on the Hill

By far the best perk of being an intern on Capitol Hill is the receptions. No doubt. Free gourmet food, free booze (!), free stuff, and C-list celebrities. Tonight I attended probably the best reception since I've been here (and dude there's been some tough competition...Seeing the crappy band Lifehouse? Meeting the cat from Meet the Parents? Beer Wholesalers?) and by far the best reception for a birder: the American Zoo and Aquarium Association party. I mean, nothing calms you down after a day of the rat race like a few mini roast beef sandwiches, 4 free bud heavies, crazy wild animals and a run-in with a legendary veteran of the talk show junket and owner of a George-Hamilton-perma-tan, Jack Hanna.

The best part, though, was all the animals trucked in from area zoos. Lets do the list: Red-Tailed Hawk, Great Horned Owl (the first time I've seen one...damnit), a toucan sp, a Spectacled Owl, an African Penguin, a Cheetah (!), a Dingo (which much legally be surrounded at all times by 'the dingo ate your baby' jokes...), 2 crazy gigantic snakes, an ocelot, a bearcat (a crazy half-badger-half-cat), a snake lizard and some huge millipedes. So awesome. Up close, the toucan was my favorite. Beautiful, smooth feathers and brighter colors than anything in the US (painted bunting? dunno). I asked the woman why the bird had such a huge beak and she said nobody knew...I volunteer my services to investigate. Close second was the giant python that had to be shut in a big Igloo cooler once the speeches started.

I want to take a quick minute to talk about zoos. A lot of people whine about how zoo animals are denied their freedom, or are bored or mistreated or generally unlucky. I think that's crap. What are an animals basic needs? The things they wake up and spend all day looking for? Food, shelter and safety. Getting to a zoo gives them all of these things for their entire life. They get free food delivered by doting, 24 hour caregivers, better health care than I have, PLUS a guaranteed poacher-free existence. I'd call that an animal jackpot.

Oh. My. Goose.

Thanks to Christopher Starling (birding stage name perhaps? crafty!) for sending me this life-altering picture of a mutant goose taken by Brian K. Schmidt. What the hell is that! I think it may be a descendant of King Tut's pet goose. You think the other geese tease him about it? You think it gets in the way when he's flying? All I know is, whatever that thing is, it'll haunt my dreams for years to come.
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