A couple of months ago I read in the newspaper about an exotic bird sanctuary in Del Mar called Free Flight. I'd never heard of it, and looked it up on the internet to see if it might be possible to visit and take photos. Then, the next week I had lunch with my two photo pals, Judy and Terry, and in one of those weird coincidences, Judy started talking about having visited Free Flight with yet another photo buddy. Judy had enjoyed taking photos there, so the three of us decided to schedule a visit in August. We met there last Tuesday, and spent about an hour and a half wandering around taking pictures and enjoying the antics of several beautiful and exotic birds.
The sanctuary opens at 10:00, but the birds are brought out one at a time and placed on perches, so for that reason it's probably better to arrive sometime after 10:30. You can walk right up to them, feed them fruit, and even offer your arm for them to climb on. The day we were there, several birds were being fed by visitors, but none seemed interested in stepping onto someone's arm. We were also warned that not every bird is totally good natured, and it is not at all unusual for one to deliver a little nip on the finger or arm. As you can see, there are some pretty strong beaks on these birds! It was fun to watch the children who were visiting try to feed them fresh fruit without getting their fingers nipped.
We asked how these birds came to be at the sanctuary. It turns out that Free Flight was originally established as a boarding and breeding facility that eventually evolved into this exotic bird sanctuary with a mission not only to care for the birds, but also to encourage public interaction with them. In recent years, as a result of the economic downturn, some bird owners have found themselves unable to afford to care for or provide a home for their bird, so Free Flight has accepted many of these birds as well, and given them a safe home.
There was one very colorful pair of birds that seemed to really enjoy each other...they played with, groomed, and talked with each other the whole time we were there.
This is a really fun place to visit, one that adults and children both enjoy. I totally enjoyed being able to get so close to the birds; they're entertaining, beautiful, and very photogenic and I'm already planning to go back with different lenses, just to see what other images I can make.