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Birds of a feather

October 07, 2005|By: Catharine Cooper

It started innocently enough -- a kayak in the Elkhorn Slough. Little

did we (Emma-Cherril and Catharine) know that that this simple dip

into a wildlife refuge would lead to an all-encompassing search, a

few hundred miles of diversion, and hours and hours of laughter.

Piles of soft, cuddly stuffed birds -- squeaky toys, really --

crafted by the Audubon Society filled the rack of the Elkhorn Refuge

Visitor Center. Each bird is a close representation of the actual

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species, rendered in poly-fuzz with the bird's vocalization recorded

on an internal device that can be activated by a soft squeeze.

We, of course, had to try all of them, until with great difficulty

we decided on a robin for Emma and a red-tailed hawk for Catharine.

These were quickly attached to our respective backpacks, and we

headed north.

By the time we reached Port Townsend, Wash., we were more than

ready for a break from the road. "The Constant Gardener" was playing

at the Rose Theater, and we were happy for the diversion.

Before the show, Emma and I engaged in our recently developed

pastime -- bird talk. That simply meant that her squeaky-toy robin

would call out, while my squeaky-toy red-tail would respond. The

wrinkle here is that a woman five rows back began to laugh and told

us that she too has one of the Audubon birds.

That led to a woman in front of us admitting the same. Suddenly,

the birds were talking, a woman had developed a "squeak" in her

husband's neck (i.e., she'd squeeze and he'd squawk) and none of us

could stop laughing. We queried the five-row back woman for possible

locations to obtain additional birds and marked down potential

addresses for our morning walk.

Before the film, one of the theater's staff gave a brief

introduction to both the film and upcoming titles. He remarked that

due to popular demand, "March of the Penguins" would be returning for

a 12- week stay. He was, of course, just kidding.

There were birds in Port Townsend -- just none that we could take

home. The general store had two that were broken. The toy store had

birds -- but not squeakies. It was a dry day in birdland -- although

a walk along Fort Warden's shoreline gifted us a kingfisher, two

herons, an egret and an otter (OK, an otter isn't a bird, but he was

such a sweet sight).

We headed for Sequim to hike the rainforests and ponder the bay.

Black oystercatchers chattered incessantly, a kingfisher screeched

and fluttered from masthead to tree, and a flock of Canadian geese

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