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The Reluctant Budgerigar Fancier

As a young child I was already an animal lover. I yearned for a pet and was particularly keen to have a cat or a dog. Sadly my father had no interest in having animals in the house. I knew that my mother was working on him but I didn’t hold out much hope.

A New Friend

You can imagine my surprise when my mother returned home one day and announced that I was to have a new friend after all. For a few moments I was overjoyed but my celebrations were cut short. My mother disappeared for a few moments and then returned with a bird cage. I couldn’t believe it! My new pet appeared to be a budgerigar.

I had no interest in birds. I wanted an animal that I could cuddle and take for
walks. For the first few days I pretty much ignored the budgie.
My parents had clearly noticed my lack of enthusiasm and hatched a cunning plan. The following weekend I was bundled into the car and told that we were going out for the day. I asked where we were going and was told that we were heading for the Zoo. We weren’t!

A Valuable Lesson

We were heading for , a privately owned bird sanctuary in Somerset. Oh well, It could be worse, I mused. We could have been going to the dentist.

When we arrived I could hear birds singing and a lot of squawking from the car park. I felt a little more engaged in proceedings when I discovered that you could feed the birds. My parents bought wild bird food and nuts at the entrance and we entered the gardens.

I was in for the surprise of my life!

The trees were full of colourful birds. There were macaws and parakeets everywhere and a lot of budgies! I was stunned to discover that so many of the birds were free to leave their cages. When they spotted anyone with food they swooped down to feed and I found myself covered in budgies.

As we moved around the park I became more and more entranced. I loved feeding the birds and my mother ended up having to rush back to the shop at the entrance to purchase more wild bird food and special treats for the parrots. I met everything from cockatoos to peacocks that day.

The defining moment arrived when we were walking past a large aviary in the centre of the gardens. I was heading for an encounter with the penguins but was stopped in my tracks by a strange voice yelling "hello there!" I looked around to see who was calling out and my amused mother explained that it was one of the mynah birds in the aviary. How amazing was that? Birds could talk! Mum told me that budgies could talk too. I decided that my new pet might have potential after all. My parents had chosen the perfect way to get me interested in birds.

Wild Bird Food for New Friends

Rode Bird Gardens was a magical place. I visited many times over the years and always had a wonderful day. There was nothing quite like watching those parrots swoop down from the trees and the many peacocks running towards me when they realised that I had bird food. The talking mynahs and African grey parrots were always highly entertaining and had acquired an interesting and slightly shocking vocabulary.

Sadly Rode Bird Gardens closed for good in 2001. I have never found anywhere else quite like it. My own budgie never did learn to talk but I ended up rather enjoying its company. I also started feeding the birds in the garden. My parents ended up having to invest in huge volumes of wild bird food. All that stopped when they bought me my second pet. The cat was a bizarre choice given the circumstances!


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