The dark side of giving the brain a rest

One of the absolutely wonderful thing about the current volunteer work in the rescue center is that I do not have to think. At all. Or veeeeeery little. 

I guess that thinking about which rack, bucket, scrub or cloth I need to take for the cleaning job of the day doesn’t count as thinking. In fact, one almost does it automatically now. Neither does the job of observing in which creative way the birds have been shitting today or whether there is a new, preferred shitting spot – last week the parakeets decided that shitting on the lock to open their door was the best way to greet our morning….

My brain illuminates – BRIEFLY – when I am babysitting the resident birds for the daily tours, as I am trying different ways to stimulate them (enrichment is the official term) while they are out, basking in the sun. We have three cases that I find particularly challenging: A blind bird, a bird with a brain-damage and a bird that was kept as a pet and that is terrified of sticks (I wonder why…pffffff). The puzzle is how to make their time outside more enjoyable. 

  • For the blind bird, we figured out quite early that he absolutely loves to have showers. It is a wonder to look at him as he extends his beautiful wings to get more and more water. He is so happy that he starts whistling. He also needs to check where you are every now and then. He clicks his tongue, and you need to respond with a click. And then he calms down again. I guess that he knows that we are around. 
  • For the brain-damaged bird, a beautiful rainbow toucan (keel-billed toucan) has been more of a puzzle. She fell down from her nest when she was still a chick and she was diagnosed with a brain-injury. She looks okay from the outside – more than okay, she is gorgeous – but she doesn’t want to fly. So, she keeps on jumping here and there on the floor. But most of the time she is in a corner looking at a fence. So, I started thinking about ways in which I could stimulate her and make her life more interesting. The solution came in an unexpected way. One day the other birds were served mamón chino which they didn’t eat (a fruit similar to …). But, either because of the color or the shape it called the attention of the toucan. She didn’t eat it, in fact, she was not interested in the taste of the fruit. But she loved to play with the peel, to toss it and tear it apart. She was so happy – or excited – that she even flew to the lower branch of the playground. My, was I happy! So, after that, I am collecting the peels of the mamón chino to play with her a bit. It is paying off. Instead of staring at the fence, now she comes to me for the playing time. 
  • The last one, the pet parrot is the most challenging one…or not He is so scared of people & sticks that it is even a challenge to encourage him to jump on the stick to be able to transport him to the playground. He is also a special case for other reason. He is a yellow-naped parrot. And these parrots only live on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. So, basically, there is no other parrot of his kind in the center. Parrots are very social, so he is very lonely as all attempts to introduce him in larger groups of Caribbean parrots – even mixed-species- groups have failed. So, I have been puzzling about how to enrich his life.  I thought that playing the sounds of parrots of his species could work. I used the Merlin app and played the sounds. He was alert…but not relaxed. I have tried to talk with him, but he runs away (no comments, please….). What works best seems is to ignore him completely, sit down and make no noise. Then he puffs and goes to sleep…finally happy that this idiot stops buggering him and talking gibberish to him. Oh, well, fair enough. Too much thinking anyway. 

That is my thinking of the day. The couple of hours that I am babysitting the birds. The rest is a blank spot. 

The scariest part is that I am super happy about it. I can almost feel the brain relaxing day by day. While Frank is already bored and needs to start working behind the computer on some greater brain challenge, I do not feel that need at all. 

As the other muscles develop – carrying buckets and the wheelbarrow is good for the arms, and so is brushing, walking up and down the center and squatting for cleaning the cages is good for the legs- my brain muscle is withering. So much, that I have found it difficult to get inspiration to write a blog…hence my scarce participation in the blogging in the last weeks. 

(Well, that, and the fact that I am so incredibly tired of the hard-physical work that I hardly had the energy to brush my teeth before going to sleep) 

That is the dark side of giving your brain a rest. It might relax so much…that it is hard to activate it again. 

But either because of the fact that my academic-sitting-behind-the-computer body is getting used to the physical work and I am not so tired or because I have recently started to do some brain work for the organization by helping them creating a biological research station (more of that later), I felt the need of blogging again! So, brace yourself for another set of blogs about animals, food, shit and living a sabbatical in paradise! 


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