Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Apartment Hoopoe

This is a Eurasian Hoopoe.

For millenia, Israel's location as a crossroads for three continents has meant that human activity in the form of armies, cultures, religions (mono- and polytheistic), and merchants have traversed its small square mileage. Because of this same geography, Israel plays host to bird migrations. The Eurasian Hoopoe is one of those migratory birds. I've always heard 'hoopoe' pronounced 'hoo-pee' but according to wikipedia, it's actually 'hu-pu.' Tomato/tomato, I say. (Digression: that reminds me of Tshirt I saw that said something like, "Tomato/Tomato. It's not the same in print.") The Eurasian Hoopoe, as you can see from the photos, is a beautiful bird. Why am I suddenly so taken with the hoopoe when I should be writing my paper on depictions of Deborah in kabbalistic literature? Is it because the hoopoe was declared Israel's national bird last May in celebration of this country's 60th anniversary? Is it because there's a character in Michener's "The Source" who was given this as a nickname, a character who was one of my favourites in the novel because his awkward physical appearance hid his cistern/well-building-engineering genius? No, I'm introducing you to the Eurasian Hoopoe because last night one of them came and hung out in our apartment for a few hours. I'm assuming he got tired and needed a rest from travelling between his winter home in Africa and his summer European digs.

I was taking a break from translating Exodus 15 (The Song of the Sea) and went to the kitchen to make my 50th cup of mint tisane. There was a bird in the living area, freaking out flying around and this freaked me out. I walked back to my room, put down my mug and went back to the kitchen. As it turns out, our latest flatmate, Anna, was also home and she joined me. We stood there watching this poor bird fly into the ceiling, then attempt to fly out the open window but aim too high and bounce off the wall above the open window, between it and the ceiling. He also kept aiming for the light so when he had finally settled on the kitchen counter, Anna ducked down and raced across the room to turn off the light. Our hope was that he would go toward the lights outside the apartment and make his way out. I went to my room to find my flashlight to point out the window, but it was broken. Back in the living area, Anna and I hung out in the dark for a while. No flapping-wing-bird-movement; we figured he was gone. We turned on the lights, looked around and no sign of our beautiful, tragic, mystery bird. I made my cup of tea and we returned to our rooms.

I went online and did some googlesupersleuthing and discovered our bird is the Eurasian Hoopoe. Lily and Kyle came home and we told them of the evening's excitement and the mystery. We all agreed that it was better Kyle wasn't here for the festivities: she has a bird phobia. While making my 51st cup of tea (btw, it's herbal decaf), out of the corner of my eye I saw the hoopoe.

As it turns out, he hadn't left the apartment as we had thought but had wedged himself into a tiny spot on the kitchen counter, hidden behind an empty plastic milk-bag jug and a huge egg carton on top of which were some prime organic dates. He would have gone completely unnoticed. Barely breathing and terrified, his neck was arched backward so that his chin was flush with the wall and his longlong beak in the corner along the tiles pointed at the ceiling. I told the girls: Kyle and Lily promptly started screaming like an axe murderer had just walked in the room, and Anna sauntered out of her room, "No way, really?" The next 20 minutes entailed Tanya speaking in (hopefully) calming tones to diffuse the potential hysteria, getting everyone to stay focussed ("No, Lily, the bird's not dead." "No, I'm not going to get the neighbours - just because they have a penis doesn't mean they can help." "Yes, I'm sure there's a number we can call but I still have homework to do and don't want to wait." "No, I don't think pipe cleaners will be effective in this situation. But thank you for the suggestion.") and trying to devise a plan. Eventually, we (Anna and I) took an empty box of Kyle's, slid it under and around the bird, used a towel to cover the top, then walked over to the window and released him. Thankfully, he was so scared and shocked he was docile and the trap-and-release was easy. Anna and I, however, were shaking. Kyle kindly overcame her fear of birds long enough to stop screaming and video-document the whole thing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Tanya

I loved your Hoopoe story! Such a beautiful bird - I'm glad your story had a happy ending. Have a great weekend. Love always, Mom