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Strictly for the Birds...


Plaza de Armas, San Juan—a popular al fresco restaurant for pigeons

I’m sure there must be some place without birds, but I haven’t been there. And everywhere I have been, the birds have caught my attention, sometimes to the annoyance of companions who wish I would just move on and pay less attention. But it can’t happen. Just as some people notice every good-looking passer-by, just as some have eyes attuned to signs, or doors…I can’t take my eyes off birds and bread.


So, culled from among many—far too many to include them all—are some of my favorite birds. In some cases, they’ve given me a laugh by adding an ironic touch to a romantic tableau; in others they’ve made themselves environmental pests, and in still others they’ve taken on expressions that make me think they know what I’m thinking. Maybe they do. And here they are.

195 It's not all birds...the fish were also ready for their close-up.

Birds and water form an unusual pattern in the wintry Seine.



Sometimes the water's too cold to swim. Reykjavik, top; Brooklyn, below.

But when winter's over, it's time for the beach, either the "people beach" in Maine, or the pigeon beach on Barcelona's Avinguda Gaudi.

A solitary sentinel searches Elliott Bay, Seattle for signs of good fishing. Some birds need to work for a living, while others, as in the scene at top from San Juan, and below from Bergen, Norway and Reykjavik, know where their next meal is coming from.



You may notice that all sorts are lined up in Reykjavik, but only pigeons in Bergen. In Bergen, the gulls feed on the opposite side of the path, closer to the pond.




211And the fashion-show birds, who like to strut their colors on the runway...




Grace in the water can be a good substitute for flashy feathers. These swans at Richmond, near London, have that down pat.


Some birds are natural leaders...if not of their own kind.

and some just go to sleep on the job, or "pigeonhole" themselves, like the two fellows below, one from Jerez and the other a resident of Seville's Alcazar.




The next one just kept looking at me, as if he were checking my credentials and asking what I was doing on his territory...




Believe it or not, this is a peacock in Lisbon, pretending to be a vulture.


And this bird isn't even really a bird; it's a whimsical sculpture by Rafael Bordallo Pinheiro near Lisbon's City Museum.

And that leads into my favorite travel birds...the vandals and jokers who give us an ironic laugh by twisting our perceptions of dignity and importance. We may have big words and big intentions in honoring heroes and mythical figures...but the birds have the last...well, word.





...from Bergen, Jerez, Oslo and Vienna. Is that what they mean when they say "giving him the bird?"


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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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While searching for some other photos, I came across these two that might have joined the birds above. One is a scene of well-mannered pigeons on a rail at the Musee Rodin in Paris, perhaps waiting their turn to annoy diners in the garden cafe; the other is yet another of those ironic meetings of statue-fied dignity with feathered pit stop...




The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations


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