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FEATURE


Alexandrines should be kept in a separate flight as the male may become aggressive in breeding mode so we built a 20 metre long narrow flight, enriched with branches, swings and two nest boxes. Mistake one: The Alexandrines appeared


to be courting so I transferred them into their new quarters BEFORE the porch door was finished. Both birds appeared uneasy with the


move. Coming in to feed Fern and Alex from the outside, I shut the flight door behind me. Alex flew at top speed toward the flight door, crashed into it, the bolt gave way and he burst through into freedom. I sighted him two hours later behind the


stables. So using a cage as a lure, I put Fern in a crate on the stable roof. I left the scene for 30 minutes to let Alex calm down. Mistake two: When I returned, Fern had


squeezed out of an unbelievably tiny gap in the wire crate. Neither birds in sight. I was lucky and so were they because September 28th was the start of the Indian summer. I work at home so every thirty minutes


I’d go outside to look for them. In two days I saw a flash of green so one bird had survived. But which? The speed of even an aviary bird at liberty is unbelievably fast. Grapes are the Alexandrines favourite


treat. Bunches of grapes were placed at either end and middle of the aviary roof as well as monkey nuts. And millet sprays. It looked like a harvest festival!


Both birds appeared on the roof to eat


the treats. There was no way to approach them. Fern is wild caught, Alex captive bred; neither is tame. We planned a strategy. A cage crammed with goodies was placed on the flat end of the roof with a long string attached to the open cage door. The string was hidden out of sight and we took turns to watch the cage for as many hours as possible, bearing in mind that it’s early morning and late afternoon that birds generally feed. For the next few days, I saw Alex and Fern


morning and evening. They were not flying together but keeping within hearing distance of one another. Wal laughed, ‘I must say both birds look


very happy.’ For five days I kept as good a track of the


birds as I could. They approached but never entered the cage. On the sixth morning, Wal - up early at 7 am - found one Alexandrine eating from the bowl of seeds left on the roof. He walked round side of the aviary and found the other one (Alex) eating inside the cage. He gently pulled the string shut and put the bird in the aviary. Rather casually at breakfast he announced, ‘I’ve caught your bird for you.’ Alex, in perfect feather, once back in the main aviary, was climbing upside down on the roof wire looking for another escape. Wild caught Fern appeared to have no desire to re enter the aviary.


BIRD SCENE 39


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