Monday, September 29, 2008

Grey moments

I had a bag of potatoes from our CSA in the sink, so Stella had to come over and investigate. The bag kept her busy for several minutes.
Saturday morning, Stella and Thomas were bonding a bit, and I managed to take this picture. I think she was starved for physical affection when she came to us. Greys aren't known for being physically needy, but I think that's because they only want physical attention from those they love and trust. As opposed to many cockatoos, for example, who often welcome physical attention from anyone willing to share.

Stella had been favoring me, but Thomas has been making great progress with her lately.

In this picture, I caught her in mid-scratch. We've been trying to give her drenching soaks at least once a day to help with her feather regrowth.
Here the greys are playing with the rope figure-8 toy on the stand. Max will often try to use this as a weapon. She stands on the upper level and swings the toy at any unsuspecting parrot standing on the mid-level. They have learned their lesson and rarely will anyone stand there.

So Max has to get a bit creative. She was trying out different positions to swing the toy into Stella. For a few moments, they both had their beaks on different sides and were playing tug-of-war.
We separated them shortly after this picture was taken. They're still not very friendly towards each other!

In which I catch Rocky in the act

This video is a bit longer at the end than I would have liked (I don't know how to do any kind of editing). Friday evening, Rocky kept running around the kitchen, opening up the cabinets and then looking at them. I was hoping to catch him opening up another cabinet, which is why I kept taping, but he decided not to.

I also saw him open up a cabinet in the bathroom where he worked on the opposite side (where the hinges are) to get it open. Didn't get that one on video, though!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Cooking: one success; one failure

We had the tomato cobbler for dinner last night. It was not exactly a success. I'm not sure if I did something wrong (but I followed the recipe!) or if that's how it's supposed to taste? In any case, we won't be making it again, at least for a long time, because there are many other things we want to try.

On the other hand, the lime bars were a big success. At first Thomas was a bit disappointed. When I asked him what kind of baked good he'd like me to make next, he said "something with coconut." Which these lime bars have. Apparently I was supposed to know he meant something with coconut AND chocolate. But he gave them a try and liked them.

Rocky was begging for a taste, so Thomas obliged him:
I left the room for a few minutes, with Thomas supervising the parrots, and returned to this:
Rocky liked them so much he decided to help himself! Needless to say, I removed the platter back to the fridge. The parrots haven't figured out how to get in there -- yet!

This is the last weekend before the marathon, so I'm in major taper mode. It's kind of driving me crazy -- I seem to have excess energy since I've taken my running down a notch to rest my legs for the race.
We have a couple of other things planned for the weekend -- hiking, musical theater performance, grocery shopping, cleaning... I definitely need a few more hours in the day! Hope everyone reading this also has a great weekend!!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

On apples, human perches, and visitors from the future

Thomas had Tuesday off, so we went out to lunch. While driving back to work, I saw this motorcyclist who looked like he was from the future. This picture does not do him justice. He was very shiny and sparkly -- almost like a cartoon character. He also drove very fast and was (quite unsafely) darting in and out of traffic.

Tuesday evening, we were all in the kitchen, preparing dinner, when I suddenly heard the unmistakable sound of someone quickly eating an apple. When I had last seen Stella, she was hanging out in her favorite spot:
Somehow, she managed to silently fly over to the island where we keep the fruit we don't need to refrigerate. She helped herself to an apple. In this picture, I was trying to get capture her with the damage she'd done to the apple, but she decided to help herself to some more.
Therefore, everyone got some apple as an unexpected pre-dinner snack -- we couldn't let it go to waste! Too bad this is an heirloom variety that we can't find in the stores, as it is a favorite in our house of the human and avian inhabitants.

Rocky saw Thomas eating this apple, and quickly climbed up on the table, fake eating to show he wanted some, and attempting to help himself. Thomas eventually did give him a bite.
I was cooking dinner, but that was being regularly interrupted because Stella kept flying to the floor and I needed to pick her up and put her on a perch. Finally, I found a perch where she'd stay for a few minutes -- she wanted a human perch.
And she's not the only one who'd prefer to be on a person! Here's Rocky, after dinner, getting some quality time with his favorite person.
Last night was Thomas's final shift overnight at the hospital for two months! We are all very excited about that.

The greys are able to share different levels of a stand for several minutes without fighting -- that's progress. Usually one will get too close for the other's comfort and they end up flying away -- Max heads for the fridge and Stella for the stove. What do they have with my kitchen appliances?

Since Thomas was gone, I spent the evening making lime bars (he had requested something with coconut in it). I also made a tomato cobbler that is best if you make it a day ahead of time -- pictures tomorrow!

The morning after Thomas spends the night at the hospital, the parrots are particularly needy. That was the case this morning. But first, some exciting news!

I have been offering Max apple pretty much every day for years. I think there may have been one other time when she ate some, but she usually will investigate it and then walk away. In fact, I no longer cut her a piece. Today, she shocked me by eating the apple! This isn't the best picture, but she has apple in her beak and her right foot!
As I was about to put the birds in their cages before leaving for work, I felt a bit like the Pied Piper this morning. Max was insistent on stepping up, then Beeps came over and wanted to step up also. He was so happy he got his wish that he started dancing while perched on me -- something he rarely does (it's one of my favorite things he does, though, so I was very happy!) Stella flew over and started begging to be picked up, even after I explained that I only had two hands. Calypso was also begging, not yet confident enough to fly over. Daphne was chirping for me, and Rocky was in the living room calling my name. It was really hard to pull myself away from them and head into work this morning!

I'm glad Thomas will be home tonight -- and for the next two months -- to take some of the pressure off.

In which Stella throws a fit

Upset because I'd placed a cookie sheet on the stove, blocking her from one of her favorite perching spots, Stella lets me know about her unhappiness...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Miscellaneous stories

I forgot my camera at home, and it even had some pictures and movies on it! I guess they will have to wait until tomorrow...

Instead, these next stories will be told without accompanying pictures.

When I was running on the treadmill and watching The Sound of Music a couple of Saturdays ago, the scene came on TV where Captain Von Trapp is introducing Fraulein Maria to the children. For those who may not be familiar with this wonderful movie, he demonstrates the whistle he uses to call each of his children. Calypso got very excited and tried to imitate all of the whistles -- I could hear him even though I was in the basement.

Then, a few days later, Wheel of Fortune was on for background noise. It comes on after Jeopardy! and I hadn't turned the TV off. Stella was the only parrot in the living room -- the rest had come into the kitchen with me. She had to be in her cage as I was cooking and needed to keep her safe (since she is fascinated by the stove). Suddenly, there were all sorts of beeps and tones coming from her, amplifying those coming from the show.

My parrots generally don't pay attention to the TV, so I thought it was interesting that we had two occurrences of this in a short period of time.

I took this picture while on our Madrid, Spain trip last February. It's a living wall at the Caixa Forum. It was really fascinating to see, and I hope to try to grow something similar someday. On a much smaller scale.
My favorite farmer was not at the market today, so that was a bit of a disappointment. He did warn me last week he might not be there, so I was prepared. Another farmer did have baby bok choy, so the lizards will be happy about that. I also bought a little over 5 pounds of tomatoes as I have big plans in store for them. I hope to share a success story with you in the near future of my tomato cooking endeavors!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Waiting for Thomas

As has happened many times in the past month, Thomas came home from work and went downstairs to work out before dinner. He usually takes Rocky with him, as he'll stay nicely on the stand. The rest of the parrots stay upstairs with me. They tend to like to explore the basement, which isn't exactly parrot-proofed. And Thomas doesn't want to frequently interrupt his work out in order to bring a parrot back to the stand.

Max particularly likes the basement, so I'll take her down several times to say hi to Thomas and Rocky. Yesterday, Thomas left the basement door open when he went downstairs. Max flew to a chair close to the basement door, and stared at the opening, probably hoping she could go down:
I was cooking dinner, and when I looked a few minutes later, she had migrated to waiting at the top of the stairs:
I am just happy that she isn't brave enough to fly down on her own at this point! Of course I granted her wish and we went down to say hi to Thomas.

The caiques have gotten to the point where they share a large stand without any fighting, although they do an elaborate dance where they manage to stay about as far away from each other as they can. They still don't seem to want to befriend each other. They have wildly different personalities -- I wonder if that has anything to do with it? Beeps is in the foreground, and Calypso is in the background, on a higher level.After I took this picture, I looked to my left a bit and noticed that I could get a similar picture of the greys:That's Stella on the perch in the foreground, and Max on the chair in the background, near the basement door.

We had a lot of vegetables left over from our CSA. I really am trying to do more cooking, and so I tried something relatively adventurous for me. I am a list-making, rule-following person. I like to find a recipe and follow it quite closely. But I've heard some of the fun of cooking is experimenting and making things on your own. And since I didn't have all of the ingredients on hand for anything I wanted to make, that's what I did last night!

I cut up a bunch of vegetables we had around: eggplant, tomatoes, onions, yellow squash, and red peppers. I layered them in a dish, added some olive oil, crushed garlic, and some spices. Then I cooked this at a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, sprinkled some shredded mozzarella cheese on top, and baked for another 10 minutes. We served it with some goat cheese on top. It was delicious! I'm hoping this encourages me to do more experimenting!

Here's what it looked like, in the baking dish, before the goat cheese:The parrots got to eat little pieces of cooked squash, so they were very happy!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Another severe macaw relationship

I just found this story that was written by a woman with a 21 year old severe macaw. I imagine the similarities between Charlie and Rocky are striking!

Another weekend

This was the week where we got to pick up our fruit CSA, so here's a picture of the apples and pears we got. Delicious!
From our vegetable CSA, we got some green heirloom tomatoes. I was hesitant to try them because of the color (I know that's a strange reason), but they tasted very much like red tomatoes. I don't think I'd go out of my way to purchase them, but I'm glad I gave it a shot!
We also got cucumbers, so Max was happy about that.

Here is one of my latest favorites at the rescue. She was quite emaciated and near death when she was surrendered to the rescue where I volunteer. She's not yet up for adoption since we have to get her healthy again, but she's already made huge improvements. She has some balance and gripping issues that we hope will improve as her health returns.

She sat on my lap as I assembled toys for the shelter birds last weekend, supervising my knot-tying.

Despite her previous mistreatment, she has a wonderful personality. I'm hoping we can find her a home where she will be cherished as she deserves.
I didn't take any pictures, but my parents adopted a 25 year old cockatiel over the weekend. I am so in love with him! He also has a great personality. He loves whistling tunes (including many that he makes up himself) and wants to spend time with people, getting head pets. Cockatiels truly are fantastic little parrots and it make me sad how few realize their potential. According to a few Internet searches, the oldest confirmed cockatiel was around 35, so hopefully they will have a decade with this little treasure.
The apple winery was fantastic! We bought a case of cider and some bottles of wine. I still can't believe we'd never been there before!
Also, my vet called at 9:40 on Friday night. I'd been sleeping for almost an hour at that point, so I was worried that something was wrong with the phone rang (my family and friends know we go to bed ridiculously early so never call after 7:30 or so). He said that the bloodwork on Calypso and Stella came back, and was perfect. In fact, he said he'd never seen such great values on a plucking grey before. That gives me hope that perhaps she will allow her feathers to grow back in. But we'll still love her even if she doesn't!

A strange series of phone calls

This is not parrot related in any way.

Sunday morning, I had just returned home from a 12-mile run. I called Thomas to let him know I was home, but he didn't answer. A few minutes later, the phone rang. Expecting it was Thomas who saw me on the caller ID, I picked up.

Phone Call #1:

Me: Hello

Voice on other end (Jamaican-type accent): Hello, this is Miss Cleo.

Me: I think you have the wrong number.

Miss Cleo: Do you have a significant other?

Me: Yes

Miss Cleo: Does he have arthritis (Note: Thomas does have arthritis)

Me: I think you have the wrong number. Goodbye!

The phone rings again. I don't pick up, fearing it's Miss Cleo. It's Thomas, so I pick up and ask him if he has anything to do with this. He denies all involvement.

The phone rings again. I pick up, thinking it's Thomas.

Phone Call #2:

Me: Hello?

Miss Cleo: Hello! This is Miss Cleo!

Me: I think you have the wrong number!

Miss Cleo: Did your significant other play high school football?

Me: No (even though he did)

Miss Cleo: Has your significant other ever been incarcerated?

Me: No! (That answer was true).

Miss Cleo: I can see in your moon card...

Me: Stop calling me! (Hang up).

The phone rings again. I don't pick up, and it's a hang up. Then it rings again. I don't pick up, but it's Thomas, so I get it off of the answering machine. Once again, he swears no involvement. It rings again. I think it's Thomas, so I pick up.

Phone Call #3:

Me: Hello?

Miss Cleo: What is your name or nickname?

Me: None of your business! Stop calling me! (Hang up)

The phone rings again. I don't pick up, but it's Thomas so I get it off of the answering machine, again. Then it rings again. Thinking it's Thomas, I pick up.

Phone Call #4:

Me: Hello?

Miss Cleo: Hi Mary! Marie! Mary! Marie!

Me: Stop calling me!!!!! (Hang up)

Then, I went into the shower with the parrots. I don't think I got any more calls since there weren't any hang-ups on the machine.

I don't know quite what to make of these strange calls. I assume that after a while, I would have been asked to push a few buttons to talk to someone "psychic" for a per-minute charge. Thomas was disappointed that I kept hanging up instead of taking it further.

I'm still not convinced that he's completely innocent. Is there a website where you can enter a few details about someone and get a "psychic" to call them? I could see him doing that, although he says he wouldn't want them calling us at home, so he wouldn't have done that.

I have a feeling Miss Cleo will be a part of our inside jokes for years to come.

Update: Thomas finally admitted he was behind these calls!!!

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Max likes to hang out on our kitchen chairs. She actually likes to sit on the seat and chew on the bottom of the table, so we rarely have our chairs pushed in. She was playing on the seat of the chair a few days ago, when Stella flew over, perched on the top of the chair, and started threatening Max. You can kind of see Max leaning away from her. I moved Stella to a more appropriate perch after taking this picture.
Inspired by some of the cooking blogs I've been browsing lately, I've decided to do more cooking and baking. I'm also trying to turn cleaning into one of my hobbies, like knitting or reading. That has not yet happened.

My absolute favorite cookbook is called How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. Every single thing we've made from here has been absolutely delicious, and the title is not deceiving -- just try to think of something vegetarian that's not in here. Want to make your own ketchup? Check! Thirty different kinds of veggie burgers? Check! Plus, he writes in an easy style with lots of explanation for those of us who are not great cooks, yet without being condescending. I can not say enough good things about this book!

When Thomas was on call last time, I decided to make Double Chocolate Bars as a surprise for him when he got home. The recipe called them a mix between brownies, fudge, and cookies. They were, not surprisingly, delicious (and I don't really like chocolate). Since the parrots can't eat chocolate, it's driving them nuts when we eat some.
Thanks to Max, I'll always be able to quickly find the page on which this recipe resides: Thomas got a little angry with me on the phone yesterday, so I surprised him by having a two-course meal ready for him. Both recipes from this book, of course! I made beet crisps as the starter and a roasted eggplant dish. I did take pictures, but they didn't turn out well. Maybe next time!

The parrots loved the beet crisps, and all of them had bright purple droppings this morning.

Hope everyone has a great weekend! My taper is in full effect so I'll be running 14 miles this weekend. I'm expecting great weather! We're also planning on going to an apple orchard and winery -- this may disgust the purists out there, but I can't wait to try some apple wine!

Rocky videos

Thomas often has to spend the night at the hospital. When he returns home after a 30 hour absence, sometimes Rocky acts as though it's just a normal day. Other times, like last night, he is so happy to see him that he does all sorts of weird things.

When he got home from work, he took off all of his clothes (scrubs) and threw them on the floor. Rocky loves when Thomas does this as he is drawn to smelly things (I thought that was only dogs...) In the background, you may be able to see some of my workout socks that Rocky threw out of my dirty workout clothes basket. He then brought them into his special hallway.

In any case, Max decided to join in on the fun of working over Thomas's clothes. Unfortunately, by the time I started to film, Rocky had basically stopped working over the clothes and had started wandering around with his beak dragging on the floor. But I still wanted to show this because their infrequent cooperation was foreshadowing events to come...

But not yet! When Thomas hasn't slept in 30 or so hours, his personality changes. He's crabby (not surprisingly) and also will often act a bit drunk. He likes to bang things together, which the parrots love. He was at the kitchen table, banging Rocky's stick around, and Rocky came over and started attacking the stick. As with the last video, this ended up turning into him wandering around, dragging his beak on the ground.

Both of the greys had nails that were a bit long, so Thomas decided to do them last night. He did Stella's nails with little problem, but as he had Max in his lap, Beeps and Rocky came to her defense! Rocky started throwing himself at Thomas's feet, attacking them (and not a fake attack). Beeps dive bombed him, twice! (This is the first -- and I'm hoping last -- time we've seen a dive bomb from Beeps).

Thomas and Max had to move into the bathroom, with the door closed, so they could finish in peace.

And even then, Rocky followed them. He was throwing himself at the bathroom door. I tried to get this on video, but Rocky is really drawn to the stick. I had it so that I could stop him from attacking me, should he have decided to try to do that. Instead, he decided to step up. But I think you can still get an idea of what he was doing in this video!

I didn't want him to hurt himself, so I then picked him up and held him near the door so he could hear Thomas reassuring Max (and Rocky) that everything was OK. I think you can get an idea of how he continued to freak out in this video. He was so happy once Max came out of the bathroom, perfectly fine and perched on Thomas's hand.

About 10 minutes later, Thomas noticed that Rocky was attacking the Dremel that he'd left on the kitchen table. Smart parrot -- he knows what that's for! Those are my running shorts on the table -- I lay them out the night before morning runs so that I can get an extra minute of sleep! As with the other videos, he started running around, dragging his beak on the ground. But you can still see one Dremel attack! There were many more before this. After, I put it away.

Tonight can't help but be a bit more peaceful!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Scene from a mutli-parrot household

One of the main issues I've run into in my multi-parrot household is jealousy. Our parrots love attention! With 2 of us and 6 of them, there are bound to be times when someone is feeling left out.

Usually, this jealousy is expressed verbally. That's what's happening in this video. Prior to filming, Calypso kept making kissing sounds. Since he is underrepresented on this blog, I wanted to try to capture that. He and Beeps are sharing (different levels of) a stand, Max is on the adjoining stand. Rocky is playing on the kitchen table, uninvolved in the scene. Stella is in the living room in her cage (for her safety) because the stove is on and she has an unhealthy fascination with it. Daphne is in the living room (also for her safety) as I was cooking and couldn't risk anything happening to her because I couldn't supervise adequately. She is also uninvolved in the scene.

It may be hard to distinguish what's going on. I'm asking Calypso for kisses, then Max says "gimme a kiss!" (really quickly). Beeps and Stella also give kisses after I ask another parrot for one. In this case, "kisses" just means making the noise and not any sort of beak action. Off-camera, Max was also trying really hard for me to pick her up.

One of the issues I've run into while volunteering at the rescue is people quickly acquiring too many parrots. Oftentimes, they start with one, then two, then six (that's where we are!), then ten, then twenty. It's amazing how these things can snowball out of control. After all, there's always room for one more, right?

Ultimately, it's the birds that suffer when people get in over their heads. Because there is the same amount of space for more birds, more fights happen -- beaks and toes go missing. One-on-one time with each parrot diminishes, then oftentimes disappears altogether. Cleanliness suffers; quality food and vet care may no longer be affordable.

In my opinion, there is no magic number when suddenly things are out of control. Many households can't adequately care for one bird. Others do fine with many more, especially with smaller birds in an aviary environment that have each other for company and don't want human companionship. Or when birds have formed a bond with each other as well as their humans. (Us? We're not so lucky. I think my parrots think they're people.)

This has been on my mind a lot lately because of one couple in particular that I know through the rescue. In the past three years, they have acquired 8 amazons, a macaw, a conure, and a grey. At least three of their birds who used to be handleable no longer are because they don't get enough attention. They just surrendered an amazon back to the rescue because of aggression issues stemming from packing too many parrots into too small of a space. And now they want to add another macaw. I've tried talking to them, but it does no good because they don't think there's a problem.

So, to get it off of my chest, I just whine about it here...thanks for listening :)

When will this residency end?

Thomas was on call again last night, so the parrots and I were home by ourselves. As he often does, Rocky positioned himself by our sliding door, where the glass happens to be at parrot-level, in the hopes of catching a glimpse of Thomas mowing the lawn.
Alas, it was not meant to be...
He climbed up on the plant and was acting in a way such that I knew he wanted attention (from me? Verbal only, of course!) I'm posting this because of how adorable (yet sad) he sounds towards the end when he's responding to my "hello."

Because of a scheduling quirk, it will be almost a week until his next call day, which will please the parrots (and the humans).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Life with parrots

I was driving home last night, with Thomas in the passenger's seat. A few blocks from our house we are lucky to have a little river (it's more of a creek, but is officially a river), with a fair amount of trees. As I was driving yesterday, Thomas said, "don't hit the deer!" Luckily this street is not a busy one, as I stopped and made him take a few pictures out of the window. I know these are nothing like the pictures (and story!) Shannon can provide, but it thrilled me!

When we got home, Thomas changed his clothes and attempted to put a sweatshirt on. Rocky may have a rough winter ahead of him if he doesn't quickly get used to Thomas wearing more clothes again! Rocky was extremely agitated and quite aggressive against Thomas when he tried four different sweatshirts. Finally, he found one jacket-like object that was warm enough for Thomas while not drawing Rocky's ire.
Later that evening, Thomas was sitting at the table, reading the paper. He asked me if I'd give him a little shoulder massage, and I told him I would if he'd hold Daphne. I had been holding her and didn't want to put her back in her cage. I couldn't leave her on a stand since it's too risky that another parrot might attack her. Of course he said yes -- who could resist such a budgie?

She climbed up his arm and started perching here on his sleeve. She happily sat there, occasionally chirping, for several minutes until I took her back.
When I have to transport one of the parrots somewhere and I don't want them to fly off, I'll often flip them upside down and walk with them. We've made this into a game, so everyone enjoys this. We call it "going on a trip." So, I'll say, "Want to go on a trip?" and then flip them upside down. Max will sometimes flip herself over and hang off of my hand.
I haven't been writing much about Beeps since he has been extremely camera aggressive for a month or so. If I walk by his cage with the camera, there's about a 20% chance that he will fly at me and try to attack. I'm careful to hide the camera behind my back, out of his sight, when I pass him!

He's a bit agitated in this picture; probably thinking about an attack. I snapped it quickly and got out of the way!
For any runners, or would-be runners out there, I thought I would write a little about two of my favorite running items. I didn't find out about them until years after I started running, but wish I would have known about them sooner. I now consider them to be running essentials!

On the left is Aquaphor. It's kind of like Vaseline. It is fantastic at preventing blisters and chaffing. I put it on my feet for every run, and around the band of my shorts and sports bra for longer runs. I used to get blisters quite regularly, but haven't for years, thanks to Aquaphor. You can find it in the lotions section of stores like Target.

On the right are special socks. I wear Wigwam C-T Marathons, but there are many different brands out there. I buy mine at REI. If you run, please do not wear regular cotton socks. It's worth the extra money to get something decent. You will not believe how much better you feel with proper socks!I promise not to turn my blog into one big commercial for my favorite running gear! I just get so excited when I find a really great product and like to tell people about it!

Congo vs. Timneh physical characteristics

A few weeks ago, I said I would try to get photos of my greys' tails to help illustrate the physical differences between congos and timnehs.

Here's Max (timneh):

Here's Stella (congo):

In addition to the color of their beaks, one of the most striking differences is their tails. These tail feather molted naturally (I'm saving them to send to this project).I've noticed some personality differences between my girls, but those are not necessarily due to the fact that they are a congo and timneh -- my caiques also have many personality differences! But there are also many similarities between my greys. Probably the best personality similarity is that they are both very loving!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Tiny porch visitor

When I came home over the weekend, I noticed we had a little visitor on our front stoop. He stayed there for me to take a few pictures.
Unfortunately, this picture came out a bit blurry (zoom!!!) -- doesn't this little guy look kind of evil? All while looking utterly adorable...
I turned my back on him in an effort to reposition myself for better pictures, but he then disappeared.

It was a slow weekend for pictures. By the time I'd grab the camera, they'd stopped doing what I had intended to photograph! I'll try to get my act together this week!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pandora find: Parrots

The other day, I was listening to pandora (of course!), on a radio station I created based on Mason Jennings. Since I listen while I'm working, the music is mostly background noise, although I do occasionally stop working to listen to a song.

I thought I heard the word "parrots" in a song, so I stopped to see what the song was, and it's called "Parrots" by Alexis Harte. The lyrics (found here) made me think of the issue that Beloved Parrot linked to the other day.

The song just came on again, which is why I'm posting it now.

I survived the treadmill

I woke up, hoping that the weather forecasts would be wrong, but was met with pounding rain. There is no way I was running 16 miles in that! So, after getting the parrots and lizards ready for the day (fresh food and water) and lingering a bit too long over my own breakfast and the paper, delaying the inevitable, I headed downstairs for some treadmill running. Not fun at all!

I ran to The Sound of Music for the first 12.5 miles, and then Thomas came home, got on the elliptical, and changed the channel to Saturday morning cartoons. Since he hadn't slept for approximately 30 hours at that point, I let him have his way.

That is, by far, the longest I have ever run on the treadmill, and I hope that I never have to do that again.

I feel like I shouldn't complain about the weather, given what's happening down south. One of my friends, who runs a small parrot and reptile rescue, was in the evacuation zone. The fact that there was too much rain for me to run seems like such a petty concern in comparison. So far, it sounds like she (and all of the animals) are doing well, but she hasn't been back home yet to survey the damage. My thoughts are definitely with her at this point.

A friend sent me this link the other day and I found it very interesting. Even though I don't own a dog, much less a pit bull, I just hate how they are maligned in the media and by many people. The site I linked to has pictures of many different dogs -- see if you can find the pit bull. It took me about 9 tries!

On the subject of pits, one of my favorite animal rescue organizations, Best Friends, has done amazing things with some of the dogs rescued from Michael Vick. My friend and I are in the beginning stages of planning a trip out there sometime in the next 6 months. We can't wait! You can stay in cabins on their property and volunteer while you're out there. I'm really looking forward to spending time with the parrots and with the dogs. This may only exacerbate my desire for a dog!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday ramblings

Another week has passed -- wow! I didn't take a single picture last night or this morning. I guess I should have saved some of yesterday's posts for today. Instead, I will post some random, mostly parrot-related, thoughts that are running through my head.

I was running a bit late and since I was going to be alone at the office today, I decided not to dry my hair. I thought about not showering, but decided that since I did have to go out in public, a shower was definitely necessary!

The greys both love it when I have wet hair. I don't think either one has even preened my hair when it's dry, but when it's wet, they can't get enough.

Last night in our clicker training session, Calypso perfected taking a bow. It will be interesting to see how he does in tonight's session!

The greys have many similar personality traits, but they are also very different. Max is much more independent and Stella is much needier. They are both quite jealous of the other birds, especially each other.

I am supposed to run 16 miles tomorrow. Right now, the weather forecast indicates thunderstorms all day. I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I don't think I could handle 16 miles on my treadmill, even with "What About Bob?" playing. I also don't want to be struck by lightening.

I am so happy that I found pandora. My workday happiness has measurably increased by having this music playing all day. Also, I have been exposed to some new artists, leading to quite a few CD purchases.

Stella and Calypso have their annual vet visits next week. I am not looking forward to this. Thomas can't make it, unfortunately, which just adds to my stress since he's the one that really understands medical issues and can ask important questions. Luckily I don't suspect anything is wrong with them, so this shouldn't be a major issue.

I don't want to wish my life away, but I can't wait until Thomas no longer has to spend the night at the hospital (21 1/2 months). I married him because I want to spend time with him! I sometimes wonder if medical school was worth it...

I'm going to the library after work and I can't wait!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

All's well that ends well

Last night, Max was throwing a fit about something. I don't remember what her fit was about -- most likely she was upset that parrots other than her were receiving attention. She flew over to the table and started destroying the newspaper. That'll show me!
But then she got some melon and all was well with the world again...
(Sorry I happened to catch her eye in mid-blink -- it looks kind of gross!) She does have tantrums occasionally, but luckily they are short-lived and then she's back to her normal personality! Also -- that is a giant piece of melon and much bigger than we would have given her. She grabbed it out of the bowl when Thomas's back was turned. We got it away from her after she had an appropriate amount. How could she even lift a piece that big? It's almost the size of her head!

Rocky is in nesting mode. He's found a new place to nest -- the middle level of the cart where we store the parrots' food. We keep a blanket there in case we want to cover up while on the couch (have not had to use this for months, obviously!) He even brought some wood pieces up to chip.

Once again, I feel the need to put a bit of a disclaimer about Rocky's nesting. While I wouldn't say we encourage him to nest, we definitely don't discourage him, either. That's a decision we've made, knowing him. We discourage our female parrots from nesting (we don't want to deal with egg-binding issues), and would discourage any of our males if adverse behaviors happened as a result of the nesting. Rocky enjoys this diversion, it keeps him busy, and it has no impact on his behavior, so we allow it. He's just being a bird!I had to move this plant to another location in our house because I didn't want it to suffer death-by-caique, but I thought this picture was kind of cute. It almost looks as though we're growing a caique -- how many days until the harvest?Stella, she who loves our sink and the stove, has started also perching on our dish drying rack. I can't imagine why -- the wire can't be a comfortable perch. By her left foot, you'll see where she has chipped away to the underlying metal. We're going to have to buy a new rack soon -- yet another peril of living with parrots.I've experienced fantastic customer service from two companies in the past couple of days, so I wanted to mention them here.

First, I purchased some electrolyte capsules from Hammer for use in my upcoming marathon. I received them very quickly (I placed my order on Monday and had them by Wednesday) and they threw in a bunch of free samples -- bars, gels, recovery drink, books, etc. I like their gels and my marathon partner likes their electrolyte capsules (which is why I bought some), so hopefully I like the rest of their products just as much. Their strategy worked because I was very impressed!

My other happy purchase was some shorts from Race Ready. I have a few of their long-sleeved shirts (since that's what they give away at the marathon) and had heard good reviews of their shorts. Just like with Hammer, I purchased online Monday and received by Wednesday. I ran in them this morning and loved them! There are so many pockets, which are necessary for distance runs. Also, the owners wrote a nice note on my invoice. I have not found running clothes I like better than Race Ready, so I will slowly be transitioning all of my running clothes to this brand.


Rocky was an attention hog last night. He could not get enough of us! Repeating "hello!" is one of his ways of begging.

In this video, he climbed from his cage to Stella's and then kept saying "hello!" to me while wandering around her cage. I answer him back -- but you should be able to tell what is me and what is the parrot.

He may also have been begging a bit because his routine of late had been to go inside Stella's cage and eat her seed while she was in the kitchen. I closed her door last night so this wouldn't happen -- he has his own seed!


Our kitchen is set up such that our counter juts out, bisecting the room into the "cooking" side and the "eating" side. In our house, that means the "cooking" side and the "parrot" side. Of course, since the parrots have pretty much taken over everything on the ground floor of our house, that translates into the "cooking" side and the "parrot stand" side, with parrots moving freely between both sides.

Thomas and I were on the "cooking" side, tag-teaming both the preparation of dinner and the keeping of Stella off of the floor. To be more specific, Thomas was doing most of the cooking and I was doing most of the Stella pick-up. Let me also make clear that we were preparing a salad with no stove action. Had the stove been on, Stella would have been in her cage for her safety.

As I picked Stella up (again!) I noticed that the basement door started to open. What? There are no other people in this house. The parrots can't reach the doorknob. Do we have a ghost?

Upon further investigation, Rocky had somehow managed to open the basement door! We're hoping that someone just hadn't latched it completely. If he's now able to open up properly closed doors, I may have to give up and let him completely take over our house :( He will have won the battle of wills.

He then stood at the top of the stairs, calling our names, even though he knew very well that we were in the kitchen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Two types of people in this world

One of my favorite comic movies is "What About Bob?" I watch it several times a year, usually when I have to do a long treadmill workout and want something that will help me pass the time -- although I do have to worry about laughing too hard and falling off. But that's another post.

I am not the type of person the quotes movie lines, but the exception is probably this film. One of my favorite parts of the movie is near the beginning when Bob (Bill Murray) is in his first session with his new psychiatrist, Dr. Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss), and explaining why he was divorced. Bob's explanation: "There are two types of people in this world: Those who like Neil Diamond, and those who don't. My ex-wife loves him." After listening to Bob's explanation, Dr. Leo Marvin responds by saying, "I see. So, what you're saying is that even though you are an almost-paralyzed, multiphobic personality who is in a constant state of panic, your wife did not leave you, you left her because she... liked Neil Diamond?" (I had to get the exact quotes here).

It's probably not exactly clear why I'm bringing this up. First, let me reassure you that there is nothing going on with Thomas's and my relationship, so don't worry about that! But recently I said to Thomas, "There are two types of people in this house: grey people and macaw people. I am a grey person." (His response? A sarcastic, "oh, really?")

Being able to interact with hundreds of parrots and scores of people over the past years I've been volunteering at the bird rescue has been quite interesting. While every bird is an individual, I've been able to notice personality trends within the species, and also to observe the way in which certain volunteers and customers interact with the birds.

In my experience, the types of parrots that seem to be most polarizing are cockatoos, macaws, and greys. I've rarely (read: never) heard someone say "Gosh, I really hate budgies!" but I've had so many people tell me that they hate cockatoos, macaws, and greys. Why is that? My thought is that it might relate to the fact that these three types of parrots can be difficult to keep in captivity. They are very demanding, and things can quickly turn bad when their owners are unable to understand their body language. They are also among the three types of parrots in which I've seen the most plucking, which signals to me that they might have a harder time adapting to life in captivity than, say, caiques, and therefore disappointment sets in with the owners when the bird doesn't live up to their expectations.

But getting back to why I made that comment to my husband. With the recent adoption of Stella, I've really been thinking about these kinds of things lately. While Stella has a decent relationship with Thomas, she does prefer me. We're working on this because we don't want her to become a one-person bird! But she has never bitten or struck at me, whereas she has, on occasion, struck at Thomas and even has caused him a bit of pain, although not broken his skin. I think this may be in part to my personality and the way that I am a grey person. Max also slightly prefers me, although she absolutely loves Thomas and an observer would probably say she has no preference. The ways in which she shows her preference for me are subtle.

I just seem to get greys, and actually share a lot of personality traits with greys -- I'm cautious when meeting new people, really open up once I get to know you, carefully think things through, etc. I see so many of my personality traits mirrored in my greys (of course, there's a perception bias since my greys also have many personality traits that I don't share!)

Thomas, on the other hand, is a total macaw person. I may have mentioned this before, but we joke that he is half-macaw. He has interacted with over 100 macaws, and every single one of them has loved him. You can read through this blog to see stories of him and Rocky -- that's how they all are with him! It's really quite amazing to see him interact with a scared or abused macaw. Within minutes they're putty in his hands. Once again, I see a lot of the macaws' traits in my husband. He's very hands-on, funny, he tests people before he decides they're ok, etc.

One of my favorite macaw/Thomas memories took place probably 3 years ago at the rescue. We had had an influx of female blue-and-gold macaws and probably had four or five at the same time. He took them out and placed them on separate stands in the back where he was working. Every single one of them managed to climb down from her stand to try to capture his attention. Several of them called to him by name and one would scream from the moment she heard his car until he gave her a proper greeting.

I hope the above paragraphs did not give the impression that I hate macaws or that Thomas hates greys -- nothing could be further from the truth! I have had connections with several special macaws, but I just seem to "get" greys more. Thomas loves greys (especially the ones that live in our house!) but is truly a macaw person.

If such a scientific study were feasible and we brought 100 greys and 100 macaws into our house, in those birds that had a favorite between us, I'd guess that over 90% of the greys would choose me and the same percentage of macaws would choose Thomas.

Volunteering at the rescue has also shown us that neither one of us is a cockatoo person! When we first started researching parrots, we intended on bringing home an umbrella cockatoo. In fact, we found a great deal on a cage before we'd decided on what parrot to purchase, so we had a "cockatoo-sized" cage before we had a bird. And we thought we'd put a cockatoo in that cage. Luckily for us we started researching and ended up buying Max, our timneh grey -- she really was the perfect first bird for us (and the right size for the "cockatoo-sized" cage which is too small for a cockatoo)!

A year or so after we brought Max home, there was a mutilating Moluccan cockatoo at the wildlife rescue where we volunteer. We almost brought her home because we felt so bad for her condition and thought we could improve her life. Once again, we really dodged a bullet by not taking her home! (By the way, if anyone happened to stumble on this and is reading all the way thorough, please visit MyToos if you're even thinking of adding a cockatoo to your house! If that doesn't scare you away, you might be the right home for one!)

I'm not really sure where I'm headed with this, except to muse, like in the title of my blog, on parrots. I find their interactions with us, and with each other, fascinating.

I often wonder what our lives would be like had we purchased the umbrella cockatoo we saw in the pet store. I'd like to think we would still have her and would be providing her a good home, but would that be the case? Maybe; perhaps I would have become a cockatoo person instead. But I doubt it. I really think there's a good chance that we'd be miserable, with a strain on our marriage, and we very well may have surrendered the cockatoo to a rescue. Ugh -- I'm veering off into depressing thoughts again!

In any case, I could not have asked for a more perfect match in our house than Max. Is a timneh grey right for everyone? Definitely not! I've seen about a dozen come through the rescue in bad shape because their previous owners were unable to meet their needs. And we certainly have not been perfect owners -- Max had a plucking issue, we allowed her to escape, etc.

Pretty much blindly, with only the web as our information source, we stumbled upon timneh greys and I truly don't think we could have made a better decision.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Parrot toys

I wrote a few weeks back about making parrot toys. In addition to making toys for my own parrots, I make toys for the birds at the shelter where I volunteer. If anyone reading this wants to help out at a parrot shelter but either lives too far away to be able to go there frequently or just doesn't have the time, this is another option -- making toys in your spare time (while watching TV, for example) and bringing them up when you're in the neighborhood. Just ask your local parrot rescue -- I'm sure they'd love the help!

At the rescue where I volunteer, we take in several hundred birds ever year, and usually have at least 15-20 cockatoos and 5-10 macaws at any one time, in addition to many smaller birds. As you can imagine, they go through a lot of wood!

The other shelter volunteers save toy parts left over when the bird has destroyed the toy, such as wire and chain. I'll take a box or two of parts home and remake them into new toys for the birds. In this way, we save money as well as landfill space by recycling parts into new toys.

This is what I brought home last Saturday:
And this is what I dropped off at the rescue this morning:
By making toys, you also know that your donation is going directly to help the birds, and you're making their lives more enjoyable!

On the same toy note, I was at the hardware store over the weekend and noticed a plastic 5-drawer storage container. I have used 3-drawer containers as foraging toys for the parrots, but this one was taller and about perfect Rocky size!
I filled the drawers up with different things. Around Easter time, the stores near us are filled with paper Easter grass. I always buy a cart-full and use it throughout the year. I could probably make this cheaply at home using a paper shredder. In addition to the paper sheds, I put in various toy parts (including wood pieces to chip), and a few Harrison's power treats (Rocky's favorite).
I placed it in his cage, like this.
When I returned home from work, several of the drawers were open and he had gone through them. I think the whole toy cost about $7. Keeping your parrots' minds active does not need to be expensive!