Foreign Findings: It’s for the birds

A few weeks back, when I wrote this post, I mention that I have some pretty bad tales about creatures from the sky but that those are for another time. Anyway, that time is now.

There’s a saying about Portland (or maybe about anywhere where it rains a lot) that a true Portlander never uses an umbrella. I call bullshit on this. Maybe some people who never get out to enjoy the city don’t carry umbrellas but anyone who has to or wants to walk around most definitely uses one. If they don’t, and it’s on purpose, they’re probably pretentious fools with bad hair. (Which I suppose is exactly the kind of people I’d like not to attract angry comments from – so in that case, they sound like awesome individuals.) Also, I’m not counting runners in this – running in a light rain is pretty great.

Anyway, being from the Pacific Northwest, I’ve learned to live with rain – invest in a plethora of umbrellas, some rain coats and jackets and a fantastic pair of rain boots. It’s actually rain boots that take center stage in one of my most horrific childhood traumas… rain boots and birds.

Oregon hike in the rain

My mom, sister and  I on a hike. Like true Oregonians, a little rain never stopped us Taylor girls! And yes, I realize that none of us are wearing rain boots in this photo, but it was all I could find without sifting through mountains of old photo albums.

Once, when I was about seven or so, my sister and I were in a hurry to don our galoshes and go puddle-stomping and mud-playing. I was having a tough time pulling on one of my boots due to what I thought was a dried clump of mud. I kept jamming my little foot into the boot to try to break it up. Finally, I just gave up and turned my boot upside down only to discover a terrible gift presumably left by our cat. It was a dead bird.


So you see, from an early age, I have never gotten on well with birds. I was also bitten by a goose once as a child and an entire flock chased little Julie through a park. The bite may have hurt but it doesn’t hold a candle to repeatedly stomping a dead bird with your bare foot. It’s. Just. So. Gross.


Thankfully it wasn’t this bird… but read on.

Nowadays, traveling is what seems to bring the bad birds my way – it started in Guatemala. Coming back in from the beach one day, Andy and I spotted a large, brightly colored pelican statue that hadn’t been there before. It was big and cartoonish and so we decided to get a better look. We strolled right up to it, speculating on where it might have come from. Suddenly, when we were  just a few feet away, it turned its head and came at us. Let me tell you, that was no statue.

I think one of us might have let out a little scream. I don’t think it was Andy. I quickly retreated to behind our pool’s privacy fence; I saw no need to push my luck when it came to a pushy pelican. Meanwhile, Andy, completely ignoring my pleas to get to a safe distance because wild animals can be dangerous and we know nothing about pelicans, kept investigating.

As you can see from the photo below, my hiding place was not safe for long. The gate proved to be of very little use in the way of keeping giant birds at bay. It busted through the swinging doors in an attempt to eat us all, or just do a little investigating of his own, it was hard to gauge his intentions.

Giant pelican in Monterrico, Guatemala

Killer (or just curious) bird on the loose.

At this point it was trying to get into our cabana and the guys attempted to shoo it away.

Pelican fight in Monterrico, Guatemala

I love the guy’s stances. Sam looks like he is properly fencing, but with a pool skimmer instead of a sword and Andy looks like he just may full-on tackle the bird… that, or he might fall into the pool.

After much craziness, we finally got the bird to leave us alone – only to watch him chase some guy in a speedo toward the beach.

Pelican chase in Monterrico, Guatemala.

Poor guy didn’t even have a pool skimmer. Also…. some joke about the pelican brief.

Another bad bird travel story took place a few years later in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. It happened just moments before my blog’s profile photo was taken.

2011 - Europe - Santiago - Julie Walking

Yep, that’s the one.

You wouldn’t know it by the serene, seemingly wonderful travel moment that appears to be happening in the photo above but something awful had just happened to me. A block or two prior, a pigeon smashed into the side of my face.

Let that sink in for a minute.

A pigeon, a rat-of-the-sky, smashed into my face. If it hadn’t happened so darn fast I might have just vomited right then and there out of sheer grossed-out-ness.

Pigeons are everywhere; I’ve seen a million of them in my life with their deformed feet and affinity for crowding already crowded public squares. I mean, I braved St. Mark’s Square before the ban. These urban beasts aren’t scared of humans by any means but while I’ve witnessed a few near-misses, this was the first time I’ve ever seen one full-on hit someone. It just flew up from the street, startled by a passing car, and smashed right into my face.

It was pretty bad.

Luckily nothing has happened on our last few trips… although Andy did step on a dead bird in Bunbeg, Ireland (he was wearing shoes though). Also a few years ago, a neighborhood blue jay took a page from Alfred Hitchcock’s Birds and terrorized my dog for an entire spring. It got so bad that I wouldn’t leave the house without something to swat it away with.

It would wake me up each morning by slamming itself repeatedly into our window and screeching at Chaos. If we left the house, it would follow us for blocks, swooping and screeching at my poor dog. It was a feathered nightmare. The 10-second video below is tame compared to its usual behavior – but it would do this kind of thing for hours on end. Thank goodness it didn’t come back the next year.

This post is a little biased. So to be fair to our feathered-friends, I’ll leave you with a few good travel photos of some birds I’ve met along the way.

Still, my advice to you is that it never hurts to be a little wary around these winged-creatures. Also, be wary of gifts from cats – no matter how well-meaning the feline may be. Cats are, after all, notoriously bad gift-givers.

Swans in Naoussa, Greece

Sometimes they are sort of pretty like these swans in Naoussa, Greece.

Crane in Monterrico, Guatmela

Or this crane on a lagoon tour in Monterrico, Guatemala.

I didn't take too many pictures that day because we all looked as bulky as this bird. It was New York last winter and it was cold. Big coats do not make for svelte looking girls.

Sometimes they make an otherwise predictable picture a little more unique like this pigeon on top of the Empire State Building in New York

A parrot in Copan, Honduras

Sometimes they lend themselves to colorful photo props like this macaw at the Copan ruins in Honduras.

Ducks in St. Goar, Germany

And sometimes they’re just cute and eat dandelions and make you smile like this duck in St. Goar, Germany.

4 responses to “Foreign Findings: It’s for the birds

  1. What a cute blog! And knowing you personally, I know for a fact you really don’t care all that much for any bird within touching distance. But Andy can ward off the birds and Chaos can eat the bugs for you.


    • Thanks Mom! Yep, I do prefer to keep company with people who will protect me from the critters of the world. I believe you’ve also killed your fair share of bugs for me. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Foreign Findings: My stake in the life aquatic | See Jules Travel·

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