Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Guess who's 6?

Max was hatched on October 31, 2001, which means today is her 6th birthday! In true Max fashion, she celebrated by eating Thomas's folder.

Max is the parrot we've had the longest, even though she is almost the youngest (Daphne is younger). Without her, we never would have started volunteering at a parrot rescue and never would have met the rest of our flock!

On an unrelated note, over the past year, I was lucky to meet and befriend a wonderful lady who runs her own parrot rescue. We've given each other advice, talked through tough times (and good ones!), and forged a genuine friendship. I only wish we lived closer! Last month, she posted a video of Snowball, a cockatoo that had been surrendered to her rescue, on her blog. He loves to dance and does so with such exuberance and hilarity that it brightens your day! As you may know, Snowball has become an Internet sensation!

Tomorrow, November 1, Irena and Snowball will be appearing on the David Letterman show! I have my VCR all set up to tape this moment. Irena and Snowball have done so much to publicize the plight of captive parrots and to let people know about the existence of parrot rescues. I am hoping that this will end up paving the way for enough donations for Irena to build on to her facility, and to continue to provide excellent care for unwanted parrots. This honestly could not have happened to a nicer person!

So don't forget to watch Letterman on Thursday!!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I bought these fun little 2X2 boxes from the Parrot Asylum. Max has been having a blast! I'll put a bead in there (you can kind of see the orange bead inside the box). Then I shake the box in front of her. She gets so excited and starts dancing around! Then, I give her the box. She must spend 10 minutes chewing through the box. I took about 20 pictures of her with the box, but I think this one is my favorite since you can see her eyes pinning and some of the damage she's caused on other sides of the box!

Rocky was hiding the other day, and I was able to capture this. Normally he keeps an eye on me, but I think he may have completely hidden himself! We're still uncertain whether we will clip him or not. He hasn't flown at me for a few days, but I've been very careful.
Here is a video of Max scurrying down the hallway between our kitchen and living room. She is such a little ham! She absolutely loves running around on the floor and will often fly down to the floor and then walk where she wants to go instead of just flying there. I love how she zig zags around. Apparently she doesn't realize that a straight line is the most direct path!

And here are two videos of Rocky. They're basically the same, but only about 6 seconds each. His laugh is just so infectious and I couldn't choose my favorite, so I'm putting them both here. He climbed up into Thomas's shirt, and then just started laughing! They were doing this for about 15 minutes until Rocky decided to climb out and explore something else.

Monday, October 29, 2007

As I've mentioned before, we always keep bins of 2X4 slices around our house. When Rocky feels the urge to chew, he'll go over and grab a slice instead of taking a chunk out of our woodwork. We didn't do anything to teach him about what was acceptable to chew and what wasn't -- sometimes their intelligence astounds me!

After he grabs his piece of wood, he'll bring it under his cage to chip, chip it over Thomas's feet, or the equivalent:
Rocky recently received a new toy from the Parrot Asylum. I placed it on the toy holder that's on the play top of his cage. Over the 6 months or so that he's had this new cage, I've placed maybe 15 different toys up there. This is the only one that's piqued his interest enough to climb on it and explore! Here are a couple of different pictures of him on his new toy.

This is photographic evidence of Max eating an apple. Of course, looking at it, it could also be a grape or piece of paper or a marble. I swear it's an apple! I have been giving her apples several times a week for almost 6 years. Only once before has she deigned to eat any. I honestly don't know why I keep trying. I was so excited when she took a bite! I guess persistence does pay off! Rocky never understood this quirk of hers since apples are among his favorite foods!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Thomas took Rocky downstairs with him last night to supervise his workout (Rocky as personal trainer?) I told Rocky I was going to take his picture, and he turned around and gave me his back. You can see that his wings have almost grown out. He has flown at me three times in the past two days, so we may have to clip his wings. We're currently in discussion about this. However, in this picture you can see all of the different colors that Rocky is. He is so incredibly gorgeous!
I found Max pretending to be a clean dish the other day. I'm not sure why she decided to start hanging out here after two years in this house!
Of course Max has this desire to explore and destroy. I was content to leave her hanging out on our dish drying rack, but then she had to try to eat the cabinets! So she was removed.
And here she is "helping" with our preparation of bean burritos. We've already had to cover the onions and cheese due to her help -- is the lettuce next? She likes to fly over and throw the pieces of lettuce on the floor.
Thomas and I first ran into the movie "Dick" while on our honeymoon. We loved it so much that when we returned to the States, we had to seek it out. This was in a time before the Internet was ubiquitous, so we stopped in several stores, trying to convince clerks we weren't looking for porn, before we found it. Anyway, I just rewatched it and still love it! It's even funnier if you've recently seen "All the President's Men" or if you have some background knowledge of Watergate.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

All about Rocky, or How long would it have taken me to get to my 100th post if we hadn't taken this guy into our home?

Being the playful macaw that he is, and living with a playful mate, Rocky often is carted around by one foot like this. He loves it! He always reminds me of those posters from the 1980s with cute pet photos and some sort of saying like "Just Hanging Around!"The next photos and video are an illustration of what happens in our house almost every night. After work, we are in the living room, and Rocky wants to be near us. The rest of the parrots are generally ok with just being in the same room as us. They do get physical interaction with us, but do not want as much of it as this guy! Even when Thomas isn't home, Rocky will climb up on the couch to hang out with me.
I swear that we sweep up our floors every single day (sometimes more than once)! But Rocky chips up wood like his life depended on it. That's why you'll often see flipflops in the backgrounds of our pictures. I wouldn't want to risk walking barefoot in our house!

If Thomas is feeling charitable, he will help Rocky in his quest to get to the couch by putting his leg down and letting Rocky climb up. I love this picture because you can see Rocky's left foot grabbing on to Thomas's big toe for leverage.
However, last night, Rocky must have realized that Thomas was wearing pants with an opening large enough for him to fit into! (Thomas was still wearing hospital scrubs from work).

Is Thomas's leg really that large, or is there a macaw in his pants?Thomas was shaking his leg and trying to get Rocky out for a while, and then I decided to take a video and call him out -- it worked! Luckily, a quirk of his is that no matter where he is or what he's doing, if you call his name, he has to come over to find out why.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Max strikes again!

I have written on several occasions about the trouble that Max finds. Here, for example. And here. And here. Sense a pattern?

On Sunday, we went to a local apple orchard and also picked up some popping corn. I left the bag of corn on the counter, partially hidden -- but apparently not well enough!

Max flew into the kitchen, as she often does, and when I next checked on her, found this mess, and Max sitting on her stand, asking for a kiss! When will we learn?

As I have written many times, I am unable to handle Rocky and must use a stick. Because I really don't want to get bit, I keep a stick handy to me at all times in case he decides to walk near me. He really is so compliant. He steps up on the stick as soon as I ask him to, and I can even put the stick at his level several feet away, ask him to step up, and he stops whatever he's doing, runs to the stick, and steps up!

A few days ago, I was on the couch and my stick was laying on the floor in front of the couch in case I needed to use it. I looked down and saw Rocky, perched on the stick, preening himself.
When I look at him in poses like this, it's hard to believe what his personality is like. I think he looks so angelic -- but I know better!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Yesterday was another beautiful day. A little on the warm side, especially for October, but I'm not complaining! Thomas had the day off, so we decided to go for a hike. There were so many people out enjoying what will probably be one of the last nice days of the year. As we walked by this tree, we were both struck by how beautiful and majestic it was.

This is the spring that we were hiking to see. Unfortunately, it was murky and we couldn't see any of the water bubbling up from the ground. Thomas loves springs, so we try to hike to them as often as we can. There are some beautiful springs that are a little bit further from our house that we will go and see later this fall (if the weather continues to cooperate) or next spring.

On our way back, we ran into two snakes. Thomas was walking slightly in front of me, and he almost stepped on both of these guys, about 15 minutes apart. Luckily, they moved in time and so did he! But it was still enough of a scare to get his heart racing. I know, they were probably more scared than he was! And yes, after the second snake, he did make me lead the way, which turned out to be snake-free!

Thomas was playing with Rocky yesterday as we were lazing, watching football, and I was also knitting. After they were doing this for a bit, I remembered the blog and ran to get my camera. Rocky loves this kind of one-on-one attention he gets from his chosen person. We would never do this to any of our other birds, as they don't enjoy it. But, when Rocky's in the mood, he will run up to Thomas and roll over, indicating that he wants to play like this.

Rocky had a great weekend, as he got to spend a lot of time with Thomas. Sunday morning, we were listening to the Beastie Boys. Thomas is a huge fan, and I like them too (although not as much). However, the parrots LOVE this music. I think it's the beat, but they all start dancing when they hear this music. Then, Rocky started rapping. I couldn't get it on video, but he was repeating, "Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock Rocky" along with the music. I will attempt to get this on tape at a later date!!!

Friday, October 19, 2007

We have a large wooden plant stand in our kitchen that is filled with plants. Beeps's stand is near the plant stand, but, until recently, he hadn't shown much interest in the plants. That was Rocky's turf. However, in the past week or so, he's started jumping to the plant stand and hanging out with the plants. Sometimes he bites off little pieces, but mostly he just walks around. Here's another picture where I caught some weird eye activity!

I went grocery shopping a few days ago, and picked up some hot peppers for the parrots. Here's Max, enjoying hers (notice her pinning eyes!) I always have to be careful about touching my eyes after having a parrot on my hand that has recently eaten hot peppers!

And here's a video that shows off part of Rocky's personality. Many parrots like to play a pick-up type game: they drop something and their human picks it up. Rocky is no exception! The difference with him than with any other parrot I've seen play this game, is the hostility he seems to show towards the objects he discards!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Elsa is going through another molt. I helped her take off a lot of her skin before thinking about taking a picture, but here you can see the excess skin above her tail and on her upper right side. She is finally starting to get her normal colors back after having her skin stained by the substrate at the pet store. We've had the lizards for almost 5 months now!

The lizards' tanks are in between Rocky's cage and the couch. He has decided to use their stand and Elsa's tank as a way for him to get on the couch. Here he is climbing up to her tank. Then, he runs across the top to the side by the couch, and hoists himself up on the arm of the couch. We do not like this because of the electrical cords and heat required for the lizards, so we have been supervising more closely and are brainstorming other ways to keep him off of the lizards!

A few weeks ago I had posted a video of a caterpillar and got a nice comment on it, so I thought I'd post this video of a bee crawling around on a flower. I had taken this during a hike in April, before I had started the blog. I just love seeing animals in nature and this bee seemed particularly interesting to me!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Thomas and I spend much of our after-work time in our living room, which is also where all of the animals live. I try to be aware of where everyone is constantly, but every 10 minutes or so, I visually make sure that all of the parrots are around and not getting into trouble. Yesterday as I'm doing this check, I notice that Rocky has burrowed under the newspaper that we lay daily in front of his cage to catch his poop. I could not see him at all -- just a moving bump. I did take a picture of this, but decided not to waste space on the blog. If you can't visualize what I'm talking about, put something parrot-sized under a piece of newspaper -- not all that interesting!

Whenever I call Rocky's name, he stops what he's doing and gives me his full attention, which is what he's doing in this picture. Notice the green plastic peanut he'd previously thrown out of his foraging bucket and the destruction he'd already wreaked on the newspaper!

Thomas has a glass of ice water with dinner every night, and yesterday he had Beeps perched on his hand when he went to make this. Beeps loved the freezer! He was trying to eat all of the ice cubes as Thomas deposited them into his glass and later lapped up the ice water as though we didn't give him a clean bowl of water in his cage. Of course, when he saw me with the camera, he had to focus on me instead of the ice!

As I've written before, Rocky loves to drink the leftover nut milk and cereal pieces from Thomas's cereal dessert. When Thomas is done, he places the bowl on the living room floor, and Rocky runs over to get his treat. When Rocky is done, Max usually will drink some of the milk as well. Here is a video of Rocky's routine. Of course, Thomas could take the spoon out for him, but it's more fun this way! On a side note, if Max is the first one there, she leaves the spoon in and works around it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

In April 2006, I was bidding on a budgie painting on ebay. The picture reminded me of a mixture between my late budgie Lenny and my current budgie Ethel. Unfortunately, between the time I placed my bid and the time the auction ended, Ethel had died. I was devastated, and hoped that I would be outbid. If I won the painting, I was going to donate it to the parrot rescue where I volunteer so they could sell it and make some money. It was going to be too hard to see this painting as it would always remind me of Ethel's death, given the timing.

And then I received the painting in the mail.

It took my breath away -- it was so beautiful -- and oddly, it made me happy instead of sad. I contacted the artist, Mary Hughes, to see if she'd be willing to do a commission painting of Ethel, and to my delight, she said yes! Here is Ethel:

Of course, I was hooked, and had to get portraits done of all of my birds! It sounds cliche, but the paintings are even more beautiful in person!






I am just blown away by Mary's talent, and feel so lucky to have found her! She is one of the nicest people I have ever known, and puts so much effort into making sure that each painting accurately represents the animal. I can see this very clearly in the two caique pictures. Looking at them, I don't have any question as to whether it's Beeps or Calypso -- she has captured their essence!

Thomas and I ordered paintings of all of my parents' birds, and of my sister's cat, as they make great gifts. We will have the lizards done once they have completed their molts so we know what they should look like.

The above paintings are all copyrighted by Mary, but she said that I could put them up on the blog -- thanks so much!

To see more examples of Mary's work, or if you would like to order a portrait of your own pet, visit her website. Here is the link to the custom pet portraits page. The process is so easy -- send her some pictures and answer whatever questions she has. Pretty soon, you have a wonderful keepsake!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Thomas had to work from 7 am Sunday to noon Monday again, which meant that I was home alone with the birds for most of the day. Calypso loves this, as he's not a huge fan of Thomas, but the rest of the birds miss him. Especially, as you might imagine, Rocky. After searching the house for him for a few hours, he realizes that Thomas isn't there, and settles into his cage.

Earlier that day, I had put a phone book on top of his cage, and you can see that he did shred it a bit. But, mostly, he sulks in his cage and waits for his mate to return.

All of my birds have foraging buckets on the outside of their cages. These are stainless steel buckets that I fill with toy parts and talon toys. I used to put some treats in there for them to find, but I found that they were just as happy to forage only for toys. Here is Max doing a bit of foraging in her bucket. This can keep her busy for hours as she'll toss things out and when she finds a special toy, she brings it to the top of her cage and plays with it for a bit. When she loses interest, she heads back to her bucket. I can refill the bucket with items she dropped on the floor and she has to start again! I do make sure to rotate the items in her bucket on a regular basis so that she never knows what she's going to find!

This is what the floor under her cage looks like after a bit of foraging. The talon toys in this picture are from TNT Toys. I buy many of their foraging components from Parrot Asylum and have placed an order that should arrive sometime this week, so I can show you more examples of their foraging at that time!

When Thomas plays video games, he sits on the floor under Max's cage. When she sees him there, she gets so excited, runs over to her foraging bucket, and proceeds to throw out all of the items in there -- directly at him! We think this is quite funny, so we laugh and encourage it. I'll try to capture that sometime!

Friday, October 12, 2007

I thought this was one of the cutest pictures of Rocky that I've ever taken. Of course, he has seed hulls on his bottom beak! But his pose and the look in his eye is fantastic!

Here is a video of an adorable Rocky. I love his little old lady voice. He will rarely talk in front of the camera, so there is a bit of dull space between words (and I say "Hi Rocky" a few times, so watch to see if his beak is open or not!) If you listen closely in the background, you can hear Calypso laughing. Rocky usually calls himself "Rock" and only adds the "y" when he's feeling particularly lonely.

I was thinking that I often post adorable (to me, at least!) stories, photos, and videos of Rocky, and I don't want to leave anyone with the impression that severe macaws are easy birds! Because they are not! Mini macaws are often sold as easier macaws because they are smaller than their larger cousins, but that is not true! They are often nippier and more challenging than the larger macaws. So, I decided to get a video of him screaming. This is not the true effect, as he stops during the screams to do his begging sounds, plus there's no way a computer sound file can replicate what it's like to be in the same room as this!

It's hard for me to capture him screaming on video because he screams for attention and when I point the camera at him, he's getting attention and therefore doesn't need to scream! So, I had to pretend that I was talking on the phone, leaving only one hand free for camera operation (excuses for the bad stability!)

And then there's my wonderful Calypso. I don't talk about him much because he doesn't create as much havoc in my life as the other parrots! He also doesn't like the camera as much as the others, so it's hard to capture what I want as he often starts puffing up and screeching when the camera is pointed at him.

The other day, though, he started doing this strange motion when he saw the camera, which I capture here. I've never seen him do this before, and I'm not exactly sure what it means. I'm assuming he's either showing off for the camera or threatening it? In any case, once the camera was out of sight, he returned to being his normal, wonderful self!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rocky has been in an exploring mood lately and has been particularly concerned with finding small, dark places to hide. Here he is, investigating whether he can open up the bottom of our stove. He also has been trying to open up cabinets, and spending lots of time under his cage and under a plant stand we have in the kitchen.

When not doing that, he tries to spend as much time with Thomas as possible. I head Thomas say, "Will you please let me read the paper?" and saw this picture. I thought it was so funny as Rocky is so relaxed as he's irritating his mate!

On Monday night, Rocky was on the couch with Thomas, and a loud noise scared Beeps. He rarely flies with volition, but will take off when something scares him. He flew from his cage, to Rocky's cage, and then started exploring. Notice Max on Rocky's door -- when she saw Beeps over there, she had to fly over as well (Max often flies with volition!) Beeps loved climbing up and down the toy hanger on top of Rocky's cage. The clearance between the top of the toy hanger and the ceiling is just about caique-size, so he was hanging out on top (crouching a bit). Then he kept climbing up and sliding down, as I partially captured in this short video:

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thomas's current job requires that he work nearly every day, with 4 days off during the month. Monday night he told me that he had Tuesday off (thanks for the advanced notice!) and would I like to go for a hike with him? Luckily my job is flexible, so we were able to go. We went to another (different) State Park. This one is about 15 minutes north of our house, and it's where we often go cross country skiing during the winter.

Here Thomas is, walking ahead of me. I was still a bit stiff from the marathon, so I wasn't able to walk as quickly as I normally can. Additionally, I was still suffering a bit from the chaffing under my arms, so I was often walking with my arms held out to my sides, which he declared to be embarrassing!

Thomas took this picture using one of the features on our camera to highlight only one specific color. I thought it turned out pretty nice! As we were walking along, we ran into nobody for the first 4 miles of the 5 mile trail. I was reveling in the solitude and peacefulness of nature. Then, those thoughts were snapped by this:

3 busloads of high school kids! Going the opposite way as us, so we passed them all! We only saw 2 chaperons, and they were at the front of the pack. I think they needed a few more as the last student walking up the path was smoking pot as he was walking! That's right -- on a school field trip in nature!

In any case, we had a fabulous time. The weather was fantastic, and we just love being outdoors. We also saw a caterpillar of some sort; here is the video:

That was about the only wildlife that we saw clearly. There were a few birds in the trees and maybe one squirrel that we saw.
On to parrot stories!
Rocky has a fleece hat that he absolutely loves. Thomas and I love this hat, also! It had been tucked away in our closet along with the rest of our winter clothes, but Thomas brought it out a few weeks ago when we were going for a hike and he wasn't sure about the weather (turns out that he didn't need one!) Apparently, to Rocky, Thomas turns into a different person when he has this hat on! Rocky tries very hard to attack him! Rocky also loves playing with the hat, when it's not on a person. We've been letting him play with it for a few weeks. Here is a still photo and video of him. If you listen closely, you can hear how hard he is hitting the floor with his beak. We have no idea why he does this, but he also does it with towels and other fabric.

And here is a strange picture of Max. I was trying to get a picture of her chest because she has some new feathers growing in with a strange pattern that I found interesting. Of course, as I got closer to her, she started begging for attention. Only when I looked at this picture on my computer did I notice that she is doing something weird with her eye and her foot. And I didn't get her chest picture clearly.

Monday, October 8, 2007

I completed my 9th marathon yesterday, in ridiculously hot conditions. It was at least 30 degrees warmer than I would have liked. My time was 21 minutes slower than last year's personal best. It's frustrating because I was actually better trained and in better shape than last year and was hoping to do better. However, since this year's average time was 21 minutes slower than last year's average time (for all finishers in this marathon), I certainly wasn't alone! And this gives me motivation to train even harder for next year. Apart from some minor chaffing under my armpits and a slight heat rash on my thighs, I am no worse for wear! And these will be healed in a few days.

Not too many parrot stories from over the weekend -- the marathon was my biggest priority -- but here are Rocky and Thomas looking at a catalog we received in the mail. Is Rocky helping him to pick out Christmas presents?
Also, as usual, our kitchen table is full of mail and miscellaneous stuff (including Rocky's step up stick!), but as soon as Rocky heard this song come on the radio, he started dancing. That is him clicking near the end. This guy has rhythm!

I don't have any photos to illustrate this (other than a random cute picture of Max begging for attention), but I was on the phone with a friend last night. I went into the bathroom to talk because Max doesn't like it when I'm on the phone for more than about 2 minutes (I should be paying attention to her!) and she starts buzzing me. This is how well that worked: Max flies down to the floor, knocks at the door with her beak for a pretty long time. I open the door, toss her back to her stand. Repeat at least 10 times!

And finally, we did our approximately quarterly overhaul of the aquarium. Thomas's main passion in our aquarium is the plants. He fertilizes them and has a CO2 reactor running to keep them happy. The fish are an afterthought for him. The plants grow so well that every quarter or so we have to take out huge amounts of plants to give the fish more room to swim. The two giant sword plants that Thomas is holding, along with at least 20 of their baby sword plants were taken to a local fish store as we feel bad about throwing the plants away! The fish were so happy after the cleaning!
In other aquarium news, we have lost a few more fish, unfortunately. This is frustrating because we are frequently testing the water and try to provide them with the best environment possible. The remaining fish all seem healthy, and we will not be adding any fish for a long time. All 3 clown loaches have been hanging out together (yea!) and have made a noticeable dent in our snail population (the main reason we added them to the tank). Here is a picture of our tank after the major cleaning.