Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Glenn the Rockster

I have been making more progress in handling Rocky. Yesterday, Thomas went running in the afternoon again, and was showering when I came home from work. I offered my (heavily sweatshirted) arm to Rocky and told him I'd take him to shower with Thomas. Instant cooperation! (He loves showers!)

This morning, Thomas had the day off, so he was working out downstairs when I was waking up the parrots and giving them fresh food/water. Not having the sweatshirt handy, I offered my (lightly sleeved) arm to Rocky and offered to take him downstairs. More cooperation! (He loves being downstairs!)

I'm still not sure where this is headed -- I'll have to wait and see. Will I only be able to ferry him around to places he wants to go? Will he step up from other places than from inside his cage? Will I be able to use a bare arm? Only time will tell.

When I have Rocky on my arm, I talk to him in this high voice that he seems to like (because he mimics it back to me), telling him what a good boy he is and using the nicknames we have for him.

Rocky came to us with his name and, although I never would have chosen that name for a bird, it seems to fit him. He usually calls himself Rock, but will call himself Rocky occasionally. He gets very excited when songs with the word "Rock" are played in our house (The Ramones have quite a few on their greatest hits CD). Many times in our house you will hear one of us singing, "Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock'n Roll High School!" which always results in dancing and singing from our little macaw.

We call him: Rocky, Rock, Rocket, Glenn the Rockster, and occasional terms of endearment like Sweatheart and Sweetpea (all of the birds get those). He doesn't seem to have a preference.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My thoughts on timnehs...

About a month ago, I posted my thoughts on caiques. I've since decided that I will post my thoughts, experiences, and observations on the different parrot species that share my life in the thought that someone considering getting one of these other birds as a pet may stumble upon them and it may help them in making their decision. As always, these are just my thoughts and experiences and am in no way claiming to be an expert!

When we first decided to get a parrot, about 7 years ago, we did a lot of Internet research and ended up narrowing down our choices between a mini macaw (Hahn's or Noble) and a Timneh African Grey. We were leaning towards the grey when we found a breeder with whom we clicked and that had timnehs available -- the decision was final! I sometimes wonder how our lives would be different had we gone with a macaw.

In any case, I still believe that a timneh was about the perfect choice for our personalities and lifestyle. We wanted an intelligent bird that was fun-loving and that would bond to both of us. And that's what we got with Max. That's not to say it's all been wine and roses with her. She has some feather destructive issues that I will address in a future post. She can be needy, noisy, nosy, destructive, and so much more. She is a wild animal living in our house.

My comments will mostly be based on Max, but I have dealt with probably about 10 timnehs that have been surrendered to the shelter where I volunteer over the past few years, and have found many similarities in their personalities.

Max is very much in tune with the goings-on in our house. Nothing gets by her. She follows Thomas and I around the house, commenting on our lives. These comments can be words (saying "want some" when I place my hand on the refrigerator door), noises (making a swallow sound when I take the first drink out of a glass), or movements (moving her wings and body around when I put a shirt on in the morning). Even when she looks deep in thought playing with a toy, she'll let out a kiss sound if Thomas and I hug each other, or make the squeak sound when I open a door that has long since been oiled.

Because she is so intelligent, I worry all of the time that I am not providing her with enough mental stimulation to keep her sane and happy. I am constantly searching for new ways to keep her mind and body occupied -- clicker training, foraging, flying, etc.

Max is scared of very little. I've read that many greys are afraid of new things, but that's not the case with Max. When she sees a new parrot toy, she flies over to investigate. She loves bathing and will buzz me if I turn the spray bottle to another parrot before she's done. It breaks my heart to see scared, phobic greys surrendered to the shelter because I know what their potential is. The good news is that with patience, time, love, and understanding, these greys can turn around.

Although Max does slightly prefer me, that is shown only in small instances such as when I go upstairs she flies to me unbidden, but will not follow Thomas. She is equally tame to both of us. I know that all parrots can bite (and certainly have received my share of bites from other birds, including other timnehs), but Max has never bitten anyone. We actually wonder whether she even knows how to bite (we hope that's the case!). When she gets angry, she'll stretch her body out and quickly bring her beak down (like many birds do when they bite), but she just hits my hand with a closed beak. She doesn't do this very often, though. She'll also express her anger by buzzing one of us. By "buzzing," I mean that she flies quickly at us, just over our head, and pushes off of our head with her feet. It's very strange.

Sadly, many greys are purchased by people who want a talking bird. Although most greys will say at least a few words and some have a prolific vocabulary, that is not a good reason for acquiring a new pet. You can't have meaningful conversations with them -- they aren't friend-replacers! The novelty quickly wears off, and the bird often finds himself neglected in a back room because he wasn't as entertaining as the owners had hoped. I've seen this more times that I can remember (and not just with greys).

Keeping a healthy, well-adjusted grey is hard work. The same can be said for most other species of parrot, but is particularly apt with greys. Because of their intelligence, they require tons of mental stimulation. While Max isn't as destructive as many cockatoos or macaws, she regularly goes through toys that need to be replaced. New research is showing that greys may be particularly susceptible to heart problems due to an inadequate diet and a sedentary life, so diet and exercise are also major concerns.

I go back and forth as to whether my favorite bird is the timneh or blue-and-gold macaw. This may seem surprising that I didn't put caique on the list, nor do I own a blue-and-gold macaw. I guess the edge goes to timnehs since Max is such a stellar representative and she lives with me.

Lately Max has been flying over to me while I read the paper and pushing her head into my hand so that I'll give her head pets and scratches. Thomas came home last week and interrupted one of our sessions, whereupon he commented on how disheveled she looked.

Here she is, trying to get in on the action of cooking dinner by hanging out at the sink. This morning, she was throwing the lizards' food on the ground as I was cutting the endive. She is very nosy and wants to know what going on and, more often than not, be involved in the process.
I feel like I haven't adequately described Max or what it's like living with her. Although I love her madly, there are days where she absolutely drives me nuts. For example, when she won't stay out of the garbage can or eats the seal on our freezer door (she knows she's not supposed to do these things and does so for attention -- if I don't notice her quickly enough, she starts saying "hello!" in her super cute voice). I suppose the updates I post here are also important components for getting an understanding of that.

In summary, in the right, bird-appropriate home, I think that timnehs are among the best choices. Even better would be to work with a rescue and find one that chooses you (there is one at the shelter where I volunteer right now and it is so hard to not bring him home as his personality very much reminds me of Max). But only in a home committed to providing the best care possible for the duration of the bird's life, as with any parrot.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mostly Rocky

Rocky is still in nesty mode, as you can see by this nest he is building. We're not sure if he wants to share it with all of Thomas or just his feet. In any case, they had a pleasant Saturday morning with the paper (Note: this is the very beginning of nest building):
He has been molting lately, with the result that one feather has been turned around for most of the weekend. We keep telling him to fix himself, but he hasn't yet. Thomas and I have also both tried to turn the feather around, with no luck. We expect that it will molt out in the next few days.
One of Rocky's molted feathers ended up on our kitchen counter, which is one of Max's favorite hangout spots. She was playing with it and preening it:
By the time I got my camera out to photograph her, she had dropped it. Although I rarely stage photos, I figured that since I was merely recreating events that would have been captured had I been quicker, it was OK. Unfortunately, Max then wanted nothing to do with the feather. This isn't a great picture, but it shows off some of her personality. As I attempt to hand her the feather, she got all fluffy and posed in threatening postures. After a few more tries, I was able to take the above picture, which is what she had been doing.
In other news, we returned home on Saturday night and were taking the parrots out for a few minutes before bed. Emboldened by the wine I had finished earlier in the evening and protected by one of Thomas's sweatshirts, I decided to see if Rocky would step up out of his cage for me without attacking. I hadn't held him (except on a stick) for about 20 months. Success! He stayed calmly on my arm. The next day, alone in the house, I tried again. More success! Then, we played on the floor, with Rocky coming over and putting one foot on me before running away. No indications of any attack.

This is still a work in progress, as I tried twice this morning and was met with all-out attacks. I have quite a few bruises from this, but he wasn't able to get skin as I was wearing the protective sweatshirt.
Thomas doesn't think I should work with Rocky on this. He thinks that severes are such one-person birds and that since Rocky and I have hammered out a workable relationship, why try to change things now? He also doesn't want to see me bloody and scarred for no reason. Obviously we currently disagree on this. Right now, I'm planning on working with him every day to see whether we can make progress.
I thought I had made peace with the fact that I lived with a bird I couldn't physically handle. Apparently that's not the case. I'll update here with how things progress.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The caiques and Max

Beeps has been rather aggressive against technology lately; even more than usual. This means I haven't been able to take as many pictures of him, as I only have a short window and then he tries to jump the camera. I don't want to get in the way! I'm probably jinxing myself, but it's been several months since I've gotten a bite, and I want to keep it that way!

Last night, Beeps was playing with toys on the side of his cage, and I wanted to get a picture. His toys are so colorful, and he is so photogenic, that I thought it would look nice. He got wind of the camera, and turned to look at me. This was snapped about 3 seconds before his eyes started flashing, which was followed by head jerking. Had I not put the camera away, I would have had a little visitor beeping and flying towards me.
I'm sure I've mentioned before that Max and Calypso get along fairly well. The romantic in me imagines this is because he saved her life a few years back. What other explanation could there be that he gets along better with a bird from a different continent than one of his own species?

Here is Max on Calypso's cage. She spends much of her evenings here, only returning to her own cage occasionally if she wants to eat a pellet. She goes inside his cage and play with his toys (even when she has the identical toy in her cage). She drinks his water and eats his seeds. But she won't eat his pellets. I find this fascinating since his pellets are in a bowl and easily obtainable, while hers are wrapped in paper and hidden around her cage.

And Calypso doesn't seem to mind at all! If one of the other birds accidentally lands on his cage, he immediately chases them off. But Max is welcome. He'll occasionally wander over to her cage to play with her toys or eat her seeds. I find it amusing when Max is on his cage and Calypso is on hers. However, there is no physical interaction -- they keep a safe distance away from each other.

I love these finger traps that Max has in her foot. They are quite inexpensive, and every single one of my parrots loves them. Of course, what Rocky, Max, and the caiques demolish in a minute takes Daphne months! Calypso dropped his finger trap right before I took this picture, but for about 30 seconds, all 5 parrots were playing with the same toy.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Shower scenes

Thomas went for a post-work run yesterday, which meant that the parrots were treated to an evening shower. As you might imagine, this made Max, Rocky, and Beeps very happy!

Rocky in particular as he loves the shower and he loves Thomas. Putting the two together is an ideal combination! In this first video, I walked in to see and hear him fake eating. You have to concentrate a bit since the water running in the background is kind of loud. He's just about to start singing when I ask him what he's eating, and that prompts him to fake eat some more.

video

I walked out of the bathroom, but then heard Rocky start to make these strange sounds which reminds us of rapping sounds. He has done a better rap on occasion (especially when anything by the Beastie Boys comes on the radio!) but this is certainly passable, although somewhat difficult to hear because of the shower running.

video

Max and Beeps were also on the shower, but they didn't do anything interesting enough to get them included in today's entry. Notice the body wash and shampoo bottles that we have to keep up there to stop the parrots from eating the wall or irritating each other. When the bottles get low, they often just throw them off of the shower and watch as they fall, making a satisfying thud.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What caique rapprochement?

The caiques had been getting along better as of late. I'm not sure how much I mentioned on here, but they have been sharing a stand with no problems. Calypso definitely was still king -- Beeps made sure to get out of his way -- but Calypso didn't seem to be intentionally antagonizing him as he had in the past.

I was secretly hoping that they would continue down this path and hopefully get to the point where they would preen each other. They just have to do a better job of removing each others' head pin feathers than me!

Another thing I should mention is that if you do an Internet search about caiques, one thing frequently mentioned is how they hop instead of walk. I have not found this to be the case with either of my caiques. In fact, both Max and Rocky hop exponentially more than the caiques.

Within the past week, the caiques have started doing something rather strange. I'm not exactly sure how to describe it, but basically Calypso starts chasing Beeps around. This chase is executed mostly with hopping, although there is a bit of flying at the end. I think it may be a form of play since Calypso could jump him if he really wanted a fight (this has happened in the past). And neither bird seems agitated while this is going on. Perhaps a friendship is forming?

This starts with Calypso hopping next to Beeps. Beeps beeps (of course!) and hops away. Calypso follows. It is fascinating and funny to watch. They look like video game characters. They'll usually hop around the two stands in the kitchen a few times, and then Beeps tires and flies off to a different stand or his cage. Calypso does not yet have enough confidence in his flying to follow, so the game ends there, to be repeated later.

I will try to get this on video, but past attempts have ended with Beeps flying at me and trying to attack the camera, which puts an end to the game.

They were playing this game this morning, when Beeps made an unexpected hop/short flight into a plant:
No sooner had I put my camera away when Calypso followed him into a neighboring plant:
They were both hanging on to their plants, beeping and calling in the way they do when they want to be rescued, so I moved them to their stand where they happily stayed for the rest of the morning.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More secret talents

I got home yesterday to find Thomas and Beeps on the couch, and Beeps was removing a scab from Thomas's hand! He had never done that before. Of course, it was a scab that he had placed on Thomas last week, so maybe he just takes care of his own messes.

Yesterday's post got me thinking about other talents that our parrots have. Calypso is also a great weather-notifier. He has a special freak-out call that he does when there's a scary thunderstorm, extreme wind, etc. Last week he started freaking out at about 4:30 in the morning. I looked outside and didn't see any unusual weather, so I assumed that he was faking so that I'd come downstairs and comfort him. Not wanting to encourage this behavior, I went back to bed, and shortly thereafter he quieted down. I found out later that there had been an earthquake several states away at that time and he was probably feeling some sort of vibrations!


Before you think I am completely heartless, Calypso is not beyond faking in order to get attention. A few years ago, he had a leg injury and while he was healing, he couldn't put any pressure on his right leg (I actually forget which leg was injured but I'm saying right for purposes of this story). He would make his sad, injured sound while holding out his leg, and he was showered with attention. He slept in our bedroom so I could awaken if he needed me, and received other special treatment. The day I realized he was completely healed was when he was making his sad noises while holding up his left leg as though that were the injured leg! I don't want to make a habit of running downstairs in the middle of the night to comfort him if he's just faking!

Max's great talent is that of beep-intensifier. I bet you would have thought Beeps was a natural in this category, but no! Any beeping that goes on in our house -- stove timer, microwave, smoke detector, bleeped out words on TV, Thomas's pager -- is repeated, loudly, by Max. This actually comes in handy when we're baking something in the kitchen and watching TV in the living room. It's not always easy to hear that beep, but Max makes sure that our baked goods don't get too crispy! She does provide other sounds, like kissing sounds when I hug my husband or teeth-flossing sounds when I pick up the container of floss, but I have yet to find a truly useful purpose for those talents.

I'm sure there are more that I'm missing at this point, but will be sure to report them as they occur to me.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Calypso's hidden talent

Despite the fact that I was home almost all weekend and spent lots of time with the parrots, I took almost no pictures and don't have any interesting stories of things that happened with them.

So I'm forced to think of things that have happened in the past and I don't think I've ever mentioned Calypso's special talent before. He is the best scab-remover I've ever seen.

I know many birds will pick at their owners' perceived imperfections -- skin tags, moles, stray hair, etc. Calypso ignores that and focuses on scabs. He investigates my hands and fingers, preening me and searching.

When he finds a scab, he tenderly preens the area, testing to see whether it's ready to come off. When it's time, he gently pulls the scab off. There is no pain involved.

Luckily I very rarely have any scabs, but even if several months have gone by, he keeps his gentle ways about him.

If he were a person, I think he'd be a nurse

I love this picture of him. He's normally not photogenic, but I think this picture brings out his beautiful colors.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Burnout


I forgot my camera again today. Things were really going well this morning, until I was about to leave for work and realized that Andreas's light (and main heat source) didn't turn on. I'm just glad I noticed and didn't leave for work before the automatic timers are set to turn on! He probably would have survived that, but it wouldn't have been good for his health.

After experimenting, it seems like the bulb just stopped working. It's still under warranty (I've had it less than 5 months) but the more pressing concern was his well being now. I didn't have another one. The lights are supposed to be good for at least 18 months, so my plan was to change them every 12 months and not buy them until right before the time I was to replace it, partly so the warranty would still be in effect, and also so that I would have the latest product.
I had kept his old bulb (which does not provide adequate UV rays but does provide heat), so that went into his fixture as a stop-gap. Then I ordered a replacement bulb and have started the process to return the lemon bulb to get another replacement. I guess I'll have to keep one on hand as a backup in case something like this happens again.
Unfortunately, there are no local retailers around that carry this product, so I have to wait a few days until I can get it in the mail. Argh!
I do not understand why this post shows up all scrunched up. I know what paragraphs are and have been pressing the "enter" button properly. This is just adding to my frustration!!!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Brooms

One of the things that I love about having several parrots is that they each have their own personality. From living with them, I've usually got a pretty good idea of how each particular parrot will react to a situation, although there certainly can be surprises!

We try to only sweep when the parrots are in their cages (I think I've mentioned before that Beeps and Rocky both hate brooms). However, the other day, Thomas decided to sweep while all 5 of them were in the kitchen with us.

As expected, Beeps got really excited. This means he starts pacing in a determined way (he starts marching), his eyes flash red, he makes beeping sounds that are sharper and louder than normal, and he starts jerking his head around. These all lead to him flying at someone and attacking (in this case, the person with the broom).

Rocky, on the other hand, is determined to get as far away from the broom as he can. On this particular day, he ran over to the other side of the kitchen and took solace in his plants.
Max, Calypso, and Daphne are not phased by the broom.

Then, Thomas took out the vacuum cleaner. We rarely use this in our house as only our stairs and upper level (where the parrots are generally not allowed) are carpeted. We never walk on our carpet with shoes, and are rarely on our upper level (basically just for sleeping) so the carpet doesn't get very dirty. Also, we are definitely not neat freaks!

Rocky was terrified. He was quite agitated and wouldn't stop screaming. I tried putting him in his cage for him to feel safe, but that didn't help as he could still see Thomas with the vacuum cleaner on the stairs. Finally, I tried putting him in the bathroom (his favorite place) and he calmed down enough even to sing as the vacuum roared in the background. Funny guy!

In other news, I have finally finished knitting this scarf. I started working on it on the plane to Madrid last February and have been slowly making progress since then. I tend to have at least 3 projects going on at once, so maybe if I were a bit more focused, things would get done sooner.

I still have to block it (I have never done this before, so it will be interesting to see how it turns out!) but am in no hurry since the weather is finally warm enough where scarves are unnecessary!

I made this with the intention of giving it to Thomas, but he thinks it's a little too skinny for his taste. I guess we'll see what happens after the blocking (the edges do tend to curl in a little), but otherwise, I'll have a new scarf that, with its color, will match just about anything!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Adding another parrot

I decided to write today's post because of a conversation I had with a friend a few weeks ago about adding another parrot into your home. As my new blog-friend Stephanie will soon be adding a new bird to her family, I thought it would be particularly timely. (Edit: She just brought home a Meyer's parrot -- congratulations!)

Before I get too far in, let me restate that I certainly don't consider myself a parrot expert! Additionally, there is so much that we don't know when it comes to making these guys as happy as we could. On many topics (for example: feeding pellets, clipping vs. allowing flight, giving boxes as toys) one can make coherent arguments for both sides. My practice has been to try to gather as much information and as many opinions as I can on keeping parrots. Then, I combine that information with common sense and my own experiences when interacting with them, always reserving the right to change course when new information or experiences arise! Also, what works for one household will not necessarily work for another, and what works for one bird may not work for another birds in that same house.

About four years ago, we were living with Max and our cage-bound elderly budgie, Lenny. I don't think Max recognized Lenny as another bird (he was terrified of people and hated coming out of his cage). She certainly wasn't jealous of him as 99% of the attention was focused on her. I basically considered us a one-bird family at this point. I say this with no disrespect for Lenny. We loved him and provided him the best life we could and were devastated when he died.

Thomas and I had many discussions about whether we should add a new parrot to our house, what kind, etc. We hadn't made up our minds when a black-headed caique was surrendered to the rescue where we volunteer. His name was Calypso, and he was captivating. The first thing he did when Thomas removed him from the carrier his previous owner had transported him in to surrender him was climb up Thomas's arm and bite him on the ear. An auspicious beginning!

We'd interact with Calypso during our twice-weekly visits to the rescue. There wasn't much interest in him by potential adopters as he didn't want to come out of his cage and wasn't friendly when he was forced out. He came to like us, though, and after maybe 6 weeks of this, we decided to take him home.

A picture of Calypso from September 2007:
I was very worried about the implications of this new arrival on Max. For two years, she had us to herself. I realize that parrots are flock animals in the wild, but how exactly does that translate in an environment so different from what she would have known in Africa?

Surfing the Internet for guidance, I found this article, and it made a lasting impression on me. Concepts in this article are how we introduced Calypso, and then 5 others into our house (Ethel, Daphne, Rocky, Beeps, Jeff Saturday). They shape interactions we have with our parrots every single day.

Basically, we run our house on the concept of "First Among Equals." Our current 5 birds came into our lives in this order: Max, Calypso, Daphne, Rocky, Beeps. That's the order in which they get fed, come out of their cages, go to bed (in reverse order), do clicker training sessions.

We've found that this method helps with structure and routine (which parrots love). It also allows us to reaffirm to Max on a daily basis that she is well-loved and that no one is going to replace her in our lives.

When it's not carried out, we hear about it from the birds! A couple of examples:

I'm usually the one who distributes their seeds in the evening, and I distribute in this order: Max, Calypso, Rocky, Beeps (Daphne doesn't get additional evening seeds). A few months ago, Thomas distributed the seeds. However, Max and the caiques were in the kitchen and Rocky was on his cage making begging sounds, so Thomas gave Rocky his bowl first and then placed the seed dishes on the other 3 empty cages. The routine had been altered! The next day, when I once again fed, Rocky was making begging sounds, but I told him to wait his turn and he would get his food in 5 seconds. Because he didn't know what to expect -- he had been fed first yesterday, after all -- he started screaming when I gave Max her seeds first. It took me a week or so until he realized that the routine was back in force and that screaming wouldn't get him fed any sooner.

The second story relates to our last vacation. I had neglected to tell our friend who comes over to watch the animals when we're gone about the importance of First Among Equals. For the first part of the week, she let Max out first, and then the other birds. Then, one day, she let Rocky out first. Max refused to come out of her cage. When she finally emerged, she didn't follow our friend into the kitchen as she had on the previous days, didn't make any sounds, and was generally ill-tempered. Our friend was seriously considering taking her to the vet because of the drastic changes in her personality. The next day, Max was let out first again, and her normal demeanor returned. Upon our return, my friend asked me about this. I explained First Among Equals and apologized for forgetting to tell her about it ahead of time!

What I like about this is that everyone knows where they stand, especially where food and coming out of the cage are concerned! Max, the only one who knows what it's like to have Thomas and me to herself, still gets some special privileges. For example, after putting everyone else to bed, I take her in the bathroom with me as I brush my teeth for some final one-on-one time.

I realize this may not work for everyone, but it's what we've been doing to (more or less) successfully keep harmony in our multi-bird home!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Laundry parrot toys

Upon returning home last night, Thomas took off his work clothes and changed into his workout clothes, leaving his work clothes (scrubs) and a jacket on the floor for him to change back into after his workout.

For whatever reason, my two little troublemakers decided to go over an investigate the clothes.
Thomas had planned on taking Rocky downstairs with him while he worked out (we have a parrot perch down there, of course!) When he looked for Rocky, he found him hanging out in the sleeve of his jacket. So Thomas went downstairs alone and I brought Rocky to him after Rocky tired of hanging out in clothes.
I think Max learned to do weird things with fabric from Rocky, so I wanted to get a video of that. However, the video took a different turn towards the end. video

I tried to get a picture of her with the button in her mouth, but they all turned out extremely blurry, so I deleted them. I brought her downstairs so she could show Thomas what she had done to his jacket. Since he only wears it around the house, he said that was the price he had to pay for leaving it on the floor!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Weekend photos

We had another full weekend that flew by way too quickly!

I was home alone with the parrots Saturday night, and Max, as usual, decided to hang out in the kitchen by herself. She usually keeps to her stands, the top of the fridge, or the counter. However, this time, she decided to perch on my clean dishes that were drying!

Needless to say, the dishes were no longer clean as she lately has been hanging out in the garbage and has also been known to walk through her own poop.

And then, when I take a picture of her there, she puts her foot out for me to have her step up!
This was also when I was alone with the parrots over the weekend. Rocky's cage has this toy hanger that goes on top of his cage. He will ignore this for months at a time, and then suddenly become obsessed with hanging out on top. It's kind of hard to tell from this picture, but he has to hunch down in order to stand at the top and he is probably still brushing the ceiling.

If anyone is interested in purchasing the toy shown for their own bird, this was from the Parrot Asylum.

You can see the border in this picture. I hate it! This is how the house was decorated when we moved in a few years ago, and we haven't done anything about it. I didn't take any pictures, but Rocky chewed off a bunch of the wallpaper in the hall over the weekend.

We are lucky in that our parrots are generally not destructive. I think he just doesn't like the wallpaper as much as I do. Thomas accused us of being in cahoots as he knows I want his help in repainting the house!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Grindhouse

We were at the library the other day when I noticed that the 1st season of The Sopranos was in. Yes, I realize we're about 8 years behind the rest of America. We've wanted to watch this series, but have been hesitant to pay around $60/season to buy it. I've been keeping an eye open at the library, but usually they have newer seasons, and I really want to start at the beginning.

In any case, we can check out DVDs for 2 weeks from the library, which means we have 2 weeks to watch 13 episodes. As Thomas has overnight call this month, this means we may have to watch several episodes in one sitting.

Wednesday night, we were wrapping up the third episode of the evening (!) when I noticed that every single parrot was grinding their beak. We had kept them up about 50 minutes past their usual bedtime. This was the first time I had ever heard Daphne grind -- usually she just goes to bed.

We looked at each other and said, "It's like we're living in The Grindhouse!" Neither one of us saw that movie, so we have no idea what it really is like, but the title sure seemed to describe what was going on in our house.

So far, we've watch 6 episodes, with 7 remaining. I think we'll be able to get through them all before it's due at the library. Now I have to hope that we can get season 2 before I forget everything that happened during season 1!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Happy reunion

Thomas had to spend Tuesday night at the hospital, leaving in the morning before the parrots awoke, and returning Wednesday afternoon. They went about 42 hours without seeing him, which is about normal for his call days.

When he returns, Rocky, Beeps, and Max are so excited to have him back. When I got home from work, he was trying to nap on the living room couch while Rocky and Beeps were hanging out on him and Max was making kissing sounds.

Here is Rocky, protecting Thomas from me as he tries to nap. I was checking on the lizards when I received this warning:
Look how big and scary he is!

I know I've been doing a lot of lizard pictures lately, but I couldn't resist this one. I think it has something to do with the way that Andreas has positioned his front feet on the wood in his enclosure.
While I was making dinner in the kitchen, I started to hear excited squeals coming from the living room and found this:
I was able to get some on video, although I didn't capture all of the fun as this was towards the end. Rocky and Thomas have such a trusting relationship. I can't even imagine trying to do this with Max! Although, from our experience volunteering at a parrot rescue, macaws tend to be much more hands-on than the other parrots who share their lives with us.

In any case, Rocky was reveling in the one-on-one attention he was receiving from his mate!
video

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Garbage can or foraging toy?

This morning, like most, Max hung out in the kitchen as I walked back and forth between the living room (where the birds' cages are) and the kitchen (where I wash and refill their water dishes). However, her fascination with the garbage can apparently has returned.

It's strange. Months will go by without her perching on the garbage can, and then suddenly, it's the only place she wants to be.

In this case, she had eyed a piece of wood that Calypso had floating in his water dish, and that I had subsequently discarded. Nevermind that there are bins of wood in our living room that she can access, and many pieces in and on her cage.
I had to wash and prepare the lizards' greens this morning, as I had run out the day before. The discarded chicory endive, which Max snubs when I offer it to her, suddenly became irresistible.
With another piece:She appeared to eat some, but threw most of it on the floor for me to pick up.

Here she is, cleaning her beak on the garbage can:

And looking innocent:
After I took these pictures, I removed her from the garbage. I'm really hoping she's forgotten about her fascination this evening!

She knows she's not supposed to be there, which makes the whole thing that much more frustrating. When I find her and say, "Max!" she starts acting adorable and saying, "Hello! Give me a kiss!" in the cutest possible voice. I can't resist her.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Weekend recap

Andreas has been tons of fun lately. He's been extremely interactive and I've been letting him out to explore quite a bit. I may try to get some on video since his walk is fantastic. I have to keep a very close eye on him, however, as I don't want him getting stuck somewhere or being attacked by a parrot. Also he can't be out for very long because uromastyx lizards like it to be HOT, and our room temperature doesn't exactly qualify!
He still looks really scraggly and has remnants on his skin from the colored sand he was kept on at the pet store. We've had him for 10 months now and I really thought he would have molted it all off. But we love him anyway! (And Elsa, but she's been crabby lately so no pictures!)
We had some beautiful weather over the weekend, and were able to get some hiking in on Saturday and Sunday. Since the Saturday hike was spur of the moment, I didn't have my camera with me (or suitable hiking shoes as my work shoes got full of mud!) which was too bad because we ran into a garter snake that was sunning himself. Thomas almost stepped on him -- good thing he was watching where he was going as the snake did not move out of the way. We think he wasn't quite himself due to the rather cold weather.

On Sunday, we saw a beaver swimming in the lake -- this picture isn't the best. He is the blurry spot in the middle of the picture. You can see the wake following him:
And a turtle sunning himself in the marsh:
We also saw tons of birds, but didn't get any good pictures. Unfortunately, it's raining right now, which means it will likely be muddy in the upcoming days. I can't wait for the weather to cooperate so we can do more hiking!

We were making juice over the weekend, and came across this odd-looking carrot:I'm not proud of this, but I am a major food snob in that I have trouble eating food that looks strange. There is no way I could have eaten this carrot, but we juiced it up, so I guess I am consuming it. I'm really trying to work on this! In the meantime, I spend 10 minutes picking out my 7 apples for the week at the grocery store to make sure I get perfect ones.

As I didn't want to make this a parrot-free entry, here is a picture of Beeps:
He's been a little hormonal of late, which means we have to be extra careful on watching his moods. Also his whereabouts as twice last week he jumped on me and bit me. There were several other close calls, but I was able to dodge him on time. Yesterday, Thomas was giving him part of his dinner, and Beeps grabbed on to his finger and made him bleed quite profusely. I noticed the red eyes right before the bite, but only managed to get "WATCH" out of my mouth as a warning to Thomas before Beeps latched on. Poor little frutrated guy!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Back to normal

I still have no idea why the parrots (really just Rocky and Beeps) were so irritating yesterday morning.

In any case, I am choosing to think about the positive in that they were back to normal this morning. Maybe they act out every once in a while so that I'll appreciate their normal behavior more? Could they really be using psychology on me?

I focused last night and this morning on enjoying them and therefore didn't take any pictures. But here's one of Max from a few days ago.

I'll leave this short -- yesterday's post was rather negative so I didn't want to leave that one as my last for the weekend!

It's supposed to be warm around here, so Thomas and I are planning on getting some hiking in, despite what will most likely be muddy conditions.

Hope everyone out there reading has a wonderful weekend as well!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Wonderful evening; bad morning

Last evening, we had a wonderful time with the parrots. They were joys to be around. In fact, Thomas (who never says stuff like this) said, "If our house were to blow up in some kind of explosion and we lost all of our parrots, I don't think I'd want to get any more because ours are so wonderful that no one could ever take their place." I don't know why he was thinking such macabre thoughts. I apparently paid the price this morning for their wonderfulness last night, as I had one of the worst mornings in recent memory.

Let's start with the good stuff: last night.

Apparently Rocky's not the only one interested in garlic. As soon as Beeps saw Thomas with the cloves, he flew over to Thomas's shoulder and climbed down his chest to investigate. Thomas did offer him some, but Beeps didn't want any.
We were making a vegetable soup, and Max also came over to investigate the frozen vegetables. She just looked, though, and didn't start throwing them out of the pot as I had feared.
Rocky's nails were starting to get a bit long, so we got out the Dremel tool and Thomas sanded them down. Rocky lies complacently on his lap as long as Rocky's face is covered and he can't see what's going on. We have to be careful to not trim them too short as we did that one time and I couldn't hear the clicking on the floor when he walked on it. I need warning when my stalker is near!
The evening just went so smoothly.

Then, this morning happened.

It actually started off well. One day during the work week, I don't get up and run and today was that day off for me, meaning that I got to sleep in. The parrots get up at the same time every day (give or take about 20 minutes). Usually I get up really early and run before they get up, but on my off day, I get to sleep in an extra 2 hours and the first thing I do is get them up.

Today, from the moment I showed my face, straight for about 35 minutes, Rocky screamed. He did stop for about 5 minutes when he ate his breakfast. I couldn't figure out a reason. There was at most 1 second of quiet time in between screams. He had been doing so well and had barely been screaming lately, so this was going back to behavior he had when he first came to live with us. It is not pleasant.

During this screaming session, I was refilling the parrots' water and food. As I walked by Beeps's cage carrying water dishes into the kitchen to be washed and refilled, Beeps jumped on my arm and started biting me. Startled, I dropped Max's water dish, splattering dirty water all over the living room and shattering the ceramic dish.

This prompted Beeps to go into what I call "freakout mode." I've only seen this about 4 times in our relationship. It's almost like he becomes possessed. He starts flailing around the living room, goes behind the fish tank, and acts very fearful. The first time, I chased him around until I could towel him and put him back in his cage. This seemed to cause him a lot of stress, so now I just let him freakout, avoid him as much as possible, and after 5-10 minutes, he returns to his cage and I close him in there. If I hadn't have had to go to work, I would have returned to bed.

The screaming continued, and my nerves were frazzled. I was thinking how much better my life would be if we hadn't taken Rocky or Beeps home. This was just a fleeting thought, but I had never had it before, so that was disconcerting (I no longer feel that way and am glad we have them). I decided, off day or no, I needed to do a hard workout and pound away my stress.

I put everyone in their cages and went downstairs to hear water streaming through the ceiling. Apparently Thomas had overflowed the toilet before leaving for work. I had to plunge, clean up the mess, and start a load of towels (since our bathmat had gotten wet and I used towels to mop up the water).

Needing a laugh, I put one of my favorite episodes of Arrested Development on and did a hard treadmill workout. I managed a few laughs and got out my frustration.

By the time I made it back upstairs, everyone was back in their normal good moods. Rocky didn't scream again, and Beeps was no longer freaking out or threatening to bite.

I saw Andreas, covered in seeds, and felt that all was right with the world again. It's like he knew I needed a laugh!
Completing our normal morning routine, Max and the caiques showered with me and we all shared a quick breakfast before I ran out the door and rushed to work. Late, but in a much better mood than if I hadn't been able to run.

I just hope I don't have another morning like this for a long time!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Christmas cactus explosion

Thomas and I received a tiny Christmas cactus as a gift in 1999. Since then, our plant has quickly grown and has required several repottings. Normally, we get blooms once a year, in the November/December timeframe. However, over the past few days, we've noticed a few flowers.

I decided to try to take a picture of Daphne perched on the plant so I could give an idea as to how large this plant is. She didn't want to perch on the plant, however, so I held her in front of it for a picture.

Daphne is pretty hard to photograph, which is part of the reason why she appears seldomly on this blog (the other reason being that she is so well-behaved, which makes for boring entries!) If I use the flash, she is whited out, and when I don't use the flash, it's dark and blurry. But I persevere!

In this picture, she was shaking herself out just as I snapped the photo, and I love the way it captured her movement!
Of course, Max was jealous and acted as though she wanted her picture taken with the plant. I was hoping she'd pose under the greenery, but she didn't want to. I hope this kind of shows the scale, though. I can't get my arms around it and it's unwieldly! Pretty soon it may require 2 people to life it!
Every month, Thomas starts a different rotation. April will not be a fun month for anyone. In addition to lots of overnight call, he is gone longer hours during the days he can come home at night. I've written before about Rocky's love of Thomas's feet. On days like this when Thomas gets home closer to his bedtime, Rocky resigns himself to his shoes.
Rocky was so adorable last night; I wish I would have gotten some of his behavior on video. He can be so flirtatious and disarming and was almost able to lure me in to his web of biting. Before I came to my senses, I was actually thinking, "How can anyone this cute and funny, who is calling my name and telling me he loves me, bite me?" In any case, he had Thomas and me laughing so hard last night our sides hurt.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Marble Max

One special treasure for Max is marbles. We don't give them to her too often as we don't want them to lose their allure. But when she's really excited about something or won't leave us alone, we give her one. She treasures it for 10-15 minutes, an eternity in Max time. We don't know what's so special about the marbles, and it doesn't work for any of our other birds!

My running partner and I were out running this morning and talking about the local elections that are taking place today. In one of the races, there is a real goofball running. I'm sure he's a nice guy, but he doesn't seem to have a firm grip on reality. I will be voting for his opponent.

As we were discussing how surprised we were to see so many signs in yards supporting him, we ran into him on the street, putting out more signs!!! We greeted each other (something that we always do when running) and he said, "Don't forget to vote today!" My partner and I just said, "Yes. Good luck!" and stifled our laughter until we were out of earshot as we certainly weren't voting for him.

In any case, we hope he didn't overhear our previous comments, although nothing we said was that bad. We were talking softly, but voices can carry in the traffic-free early morning hours. But what are the chances of (almost literally) running into him on the street as we were discussing him?