Thursday, October 30, 2008

Random musings

The Phillies won the World Series last night! The parrots were so excited when I told them this morning. This is the first time that a team I've followed for my entire life has won. Yea! I still remember my disappointment in 1993 when Joe Carter hit that winning home run against Mitch Williams. I think I have that game on tape somewhere, but have not had the heart to watch it yet, preferring to remember when they were victorious against the Braves in the NLCS instead.

Also, because the game started in the bottom of the sixth inning, having been delayed two days due to rain, I was able to watch the end of the game instead of falling asleep and reading about it the next day. What excitement!

************************************

My friend with the talkative parrot returned home yesterday from a 10-day vacation. She snuck into her house as quietly as possible so that she could see the reactions of her parrots when they realized she was home. When he saw her, he clearly and loudly said, "Ahhhh, Oh my GOD!!!"

************************************

We leave for vacation in two days, and I'm nowhere near ready. I have lots of laundry and packing to do. I also have to cram the parrots' cages full of new toys so that they will have things to keep them busy while we're gone. We've done this for our past few vacations, and they seem to enjoy that. They like their birdsitter and are well taken care of during our absence (or we wouldn't go) but they are still acting a little strange. I think they know something's up.

************************************

I'm not sure if I'll have time to post this tomorrow, but it's Max's hatchday. She hatched on 10/31/01, which makes her 7 tomorrow. I can't believe she's getting so old! She's the first parrot we got, from a breeder, so she's the only one for whom we have an actual hatchdate. It somehow seems fitting that she hatched on Halloween!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Caique update

Beeps is still very hormonal. Unprovoked, he flew at my head last night and managed to get a bite or two in before I could remove him. I think it's a bit worse for him than normal because we are leaving for a week's vacation on Saturday, and he normally gets upset about that. During the week before each of our last vacations, as best I can remember, either Thomas or I received a Beeps bite.

Beeps and Rocky have a symbiotic relationship when it comes to screaming. Rocky starts, and then Beeps chimes in, although at a much lower volume. They were doing this right before I took this video. Of course, Beeps did not continue once he saw the camera.

However, you can see his eyes flash red, and then he starts threatening me. His movements start to look rather mechanical or robotic, and he flips around and attacks one of his toys. I knew then that I had to remove the camera from his view, or risk another bite.

video

This hormonal season has already stretched on too long for my liking. I hope I have my normal Beeps back once we get back from vacation!

Max

This may be perhaps the most boring video I have ever posted. Just prior to making this video, Max was singing and dancing. As soon as she saw the camera pointed at her, she turned into a statue. I think this is the longest I've ever seen her stand still. I can't even imagine the caiques staying still for this long.

video

Below, I thought this was typical Max, foraging wherever she can. Along with our vegetable CSA, we get a loaf of bread every other week. This bread is unsliced, and with only two humans in the house, it would go moldy before we could finish it normally. After a day or two, I slice up the bread, put it in little containers, and freeze the containers, setting myself up for toast breakfasts.

As I was putting the containers in the freezer, I looked behind me to see that Max had taken advantage of the crumbs on the cutting board. To her dismay, I cleaned up this mess shortly thereafter.

They are too smart for their own good

In this video, I've captured something I've mentioned multiple times on the blog. Parrots using their toys as weapons.

video

As always, I feel compelled to mention that we don't condone violence in our house. The greys and caiques will frequently use hanging toys to try to hit other birds standing under the toys. You'd think they'd learn to stay out from under the toys.

These two do this very regularly, so I must conclude that they get some enjoyment out of it. Note that they are both very good fliers and could easily escape the situation if they wanted to. Also, I do closely supervise and intervene if things escalate (i.e. parrot physical interaction).

A scene from my life...

In which I thought Rocky was missing, frantically spent 5 minutes scouring the house for him, imagining the worst, and then found that he had camouflaged himself in the plants, less than 2 feet away from where I started my search.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Saturday at the rescue

I didn't take any good pictures of my own parrots this weekend. I did capture one of Elsa, my female uromastyx lizard. My lizards are brumating right now, which I think of as a minor hibernation. A week will go by with them not emerging from their hides.

Friday, I returned home from work to a surprise: both lizards were out! As soon as I entered the living room, Andreas entered his hide (he may give me some kind of complex!), but Elsa seemed more energetic. She even ate some greens, which is rare for her during brumation.

Their story is similar to that I just read of Bikini on Sugar Selection's blog. We pity purchased them from a pet store that wasn't properly caring for them. It was the last day the store was in business, and we'd overheard the employees speculating about what would happen to them if no one purchased them. I couldn't get those thoughts out of my mind of these poor innocents suffering, so we brought them home. Like Bikini, they were captured from the wild to be sold as pets. It breaks my heart because even though we are providing the best possible home we can for them, it's nowhere near what they would have experienced had they been able to continue living in Africa.Saturday morning we had a race, the last one until Spring, and then we headed, tired, to the rescue. There weren't a lot of people that needed to be helped, so I got to spend time hanging out with and assembling toys for the parrots that live at the facility.

This little sun conure has a horrible scissor beak. You can't tell from this picture, but that's where the top and bottom beak don't line up, so the top goes off to the side. We're hoping that with proper trimming, it can be brought back to normal. She is one of the sweetest little birds, and incredibly beautiful. However, sun conures have very loud calls! She was perched on my bead container, supervising my toy-making progress:Thomas hadn't been up to the rescue for quite some time, and the macaws certainly missed him! I was able to capture this picture of him with one of his ladies:A terribly sad bird also came in. I didn't get a picture, but will try to later this week. A 25 year old mitred conure was surrendered. This bird was never even loved enough to have been given a name. He lived for about 20 years with an alcoholic whose favorite pasttime was terrorizing and teasing this poor conure. Finally, his dad had enough and brought the bird home to live with him for about 5 years. But he still didn't name the bird! He realized that he wasn't giving the bird what he needed, and surrendered him to us. He's now in a big cage, with tons of toys, and on a good diet.

After about 3 hours getting used to his surroundings, he came over to the side, soliciting my attention, and actually started saying "hello!" to me. It's so sad to think of what this poor creature has endured during his life. It won't be easy to find him a home. He's plucked out almost all of his feathers, and is not socialized.

I know I can't save everyone, but he's one that I wish we had room for, to give him a great last few years of life.

Sorry for such a depressing start to the week! I'll try to get some happy parrot pictures tonight!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Stealing my food, with an accomplice

Wednesday evening, I went out to dinner with some friends, leaving Thomas home alone with the parrots. Since I was to eat dinner an hour or so later than normal, I had an after-work snack of a muffin. I was eating the bottom, saving the best (top) for last. The top was resting on the counter.

Then, Thomas arrived, macaw in tow. Rocky started begging and finally got his way -- a bite of my muffin top. At least someone enjoys my baking!
Also, unlike the last time they were home alone, Thomas reported that the parrots did not behave perfectly for him. This supports my belief that he was exaggerating how well they behaved last time!

The face of jealousy

Here is the face of jealousy:

And another picture, from this morning:

The object of her jealousy? This one:

Max has exhibited very jealous behavior of late, especially as it relates to Stella. For the past week, Stella seems to be trying to initiate a better relationship with Thomas. She's been flying to his shoulder. If you read my recent post about shouldering, you know that he's not exactly happy about this. But he's able to remove her from his shoulder and interact with her in a way that doesn't put his face at risk for bites. This has made Thomas very happy, as we really didn't want Stella to become a one-person bird. However, this has made Max very unhappy. If Thomas doesn't remove Stella from his shoulder quickly enough to satisfy Max, Max will buzz Stella off of his shoulder. Since they both can fly, this results in greys circling the room for a few seconds until they get their bearings and land on a stand. Talks with both of them encouraging a friendship have been futile...

Blogger issues

I am having major blogger picture issues right now.

When I upload a picture, it's not staying the size I select -- it morphs into this giant picture and only the left-hand side is displayed. In my baking post from yesterday, the picture with just the bread has a right-hand side with muffins. This has been working fine for the past 18 months -- what's going on?

Until I get this figured out, I'm not going to be able to post any pictures since the right side is gone.

Drats!

Update:

DoodleBird commented that pictures were working. I tried deleting my cookies, and even restarted my computer, but it didn't help. However, since I knew it wasn't a problem with blogger, I tried uploading in a different way (attaching the file from my computer instead of through photobucket) and it worked. Maybe it's a problem with photobucket. Thanks for letting me know it wasn't blogger!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sad news

It's been a really busy month at work and I've been unable to keep up on reading the blogs in my sidebar. I'm finally working through them, and came across a very sad post about a bird that I'd come to care for over the past year or so.

Here is a really moving post written by a friend of the owner, and here is her owner's blog.

I am just sitting here, stunned, and almost in tears.

A visit to my friend's house

Over the weekend, Thomas and I visited one of our friends. She has parrots. One of her parrots is the most vocal parrot I have ever met. He regularly embarrasses her by yelling, "Knock it off!" out the window at the neighbor's dogs.

He is a great singer and has many songs in his repertoire. His favorite is "Old MacDonald," but I love it when he sings a song with the following lyrics: "Oh Lord, it's hard to be humble, when you're perfect in every way!" I had never heard this song before, but it just seems to sum up a parrot's personality so perfectly!

I kept trying to get him to sing the humble song, but he responded by singing "Old MacDonald" or by telling his owner, "I love you soooo much!" As we were leaving, he repeatedly called to us, "See you in a little while!"

My friend reported that as soon as we were out of the house, he launched into "Oh Lord, it's hard to be humble" and sang it repeatedly throughout the rest of the night.

What a goofball!

Snacking on tomatoes

Thomas was snacking on oven dried tomatoes last night; of course Rocky decided to get in the action. But we noticed that he wasn't actually eating any. It's a bit hard to see in the video, but occasionally he would lift his head up and fake eat some tomatoes. Especially when Thomas really ate one.

video

We have heat!

Our furnace was successfully installed on Tuesday, so it's once again warm in our house! Tuesday morning, since I was home and cold, I did some more baking.

I made some cookies. The recipe was from Penzey's spices catalog. It uses their vanilla. They didn't have enough sugar in them for Thomas. The recipe made quite a few cookies. I was able to pawn some of them off on the furnace installer and the electrician, but have dozens more. We'll be volunteering at the bird rescue on Saturday, so I think I can offload them on other volunteers up there!Pictures still aren't working properly, but I think that will be OK for this post.

I also tried to make an Irish Soda Bread (left) and muffins (right) from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. The muffins were OK -- I made quite a few modifications, so they're a work in progress! The bread was not cooked long enough. Disappointing since I followed the recipe, but I'll try again!
Mallow, to answer your question about CSAs, read on! CSA stands for "Community Supported Agriculture." It can have different meanings depending on the individual farmer. The main premise is buying directly from a farmer, in a sense buying a share of that year's production. (Here's the wikipedia definition if you want more details.)

Thomas and I participate in 3 different CSAs this year.
  • Vegetable CSA: we paid a farmer in advance for delivery of boxes of vegetables during the harvest season. At the beginning of the season, we received a pamphlet letting us know what they were planting and what we should expect. However, depending on weather and other conditions, actual produce and quantities are not guaranteed. Every Friday, for almost half of the year, we pick up a box of vegetables at a local pickup spot.


  • Fruit CSA: we paid an orchard in advance for delivery of fruit (mostly apples and pears) during that season. They specialize in heirloom and hard-to-find varities.


  • General CSA: this one's stretching the definition a bit! But it's what the farmer calls it. We have struck up a relationship with an amazing farmer about an hour away from us. He raises cattle and other animals for meat (being vegetarians we don't buy that), but has contacts with many other local farmers that produce cheese, yogurt, butter, etc. We pay him in advance and then receive deliveries of food that we order about once a month.
For us, the reason we do it is that we really like to support local businesses as much as possible. The farmers are guaranteed a certain amount of income and don't have to worry about produce not selling at farmers' markets or other venues. It's introduced vegetables into our lives that we probably would not have tried otherwise. We've been able to go weeks without grocery shopping!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Furnace issues

We received a solicitation in the mail from a local heating and air conditioning place offering a discounted furnace tune-up. We've been in our house three years and had never had one, so I set up an appointment for last Thursday. To be honest, I didn't even realize this is something that should be done!

To my surprise, the technician told us that we had a defective heat exchanger. He put a neon warning sign on the furnace, shut off the valves, advised us not to use the furnace, and made me sign a sheet of paper that rendered his company not liable if we chose to use the furnace and died from carbon monoxide poisoning (we decided to not use the furnace -- with birds, it's not worth the risk).

This was certainly not the outcome I had expected from a simple tune-up!

It's chilly here, but not ridiculously cold. If it weren't for the animals, we wouldn't have been in a big hurry to replace the furnace. I can deal with a little chill! I have a mini temperature gun we use to make sure that the lizards' enclosures are at the appropriate temperature for them, and we amused ourselves by taking reading all over our house. A few times it got down to 59 degrees, but mostly was in the 60s. It stayed in the mid- to high- 60s in the living room due to the heat escaping from the lizards, so the parrots were never uncomfortable.

We found two companies that would come out to give us estimates Saturday afternoon, and we are having our furnace and air conditioner replaced tomorrow (which is why I will not be blogging tomorrow).

In an attempt to make the best of a bad situation and increase the temperature in our house, we tried to use the oven as much as we could!

Saturday I made roasted garlic (so delicious we were eating it straight out of the oven -- no vampires will be able to get us!), oven-dried tomatoes, and a pizza for dinner.

We had received many grape and cherry tomatoes from our CSA. Neither one of us really likes the smaller tomatoes, and tomatoes aren't the best for parrots to eat. We didn't want them to go to waste, so we made oven dried tomatoes. They are delicious!

From this:
To this:It was so easy! After washing the tomatoes, cut them in half lengthwise. Put a wire rack on a baking sheet, then place the tomatoes face-down on the wire race. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Bake for as long as you want so that the tomatoes are the consistency you want! 2-3 hours if you're using them that day, about 4 hours if you're using them within the week, and about 6 hours if you want to store them for several weeks. We did 4 hours and these will be gone in less than a week. They make a great snack as well as pizza topping!

On Sunday, I made a pumpkin pie and apple cobbler. I made the pie recipe from the back of a can of pumpkin I had in the pantry. It's OK, but not wonderful. I think I'll look for another recipe before trying this again!

As for the apple cobbler, I used the recipe in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. It was so delicious! Thomas caught me making yummy noises as I was eating -- I didn't even realize I was doing that! I had another serving for breakfast. We used the apples from our CSA.

The parrots got a tiny taste of the cobbler. When Rocky saw me put my bowl down on the floor, he descended from his cage as quickly as he could and ate as much as he could before I took the bowl away.

Indecent parrot activities

Rocky is very happy that it's gotten cooler outside and Thomas is wearing pants (as opposed to shorts) in the house. When Thomas is sitting on the couch, one of Rocky's favorite places to hang out, chipping wood, is towards the bottom of Thomas's pants.Unfortunately, I was not able to get this on video, or even a still picture, but Rocky actually climbed up Thomas's pants and emerged again via his waistband. By the time Thomas realized what was going on, he couldn't get Rocky to exit via the pant leg, so he had to let things go to their conclusion. He was a bit worried about Rocky misbehaving in his pants, but I am pleased to say that all went well.

In this video, he is chipping up a untreated 4X4 pine slat. He works quickly! Too bad there's not a market for these little chips to help him earn his keep! video

We had swept the living room Sunday morning, but here is what the entire floor looked like by the time we were ready to go to bed:If you listen closely, you can hear Rocky chipping wood in Thomas's pant leg. Rocky enjoys it when Thomas moves his leg around like this. We have no idea why! video
After one of these sessions, Thomas drops little wood chips behind him as he walks around. I joke that he wouldn't get lost in the woods because he could follow his trail.

Rocky decided he'd had enough of Thomas's pants, and climbed up to join his buddy on the couch. Thomas was studying for a test he had today -- maybe Rocky is trying to join the medical profession?

Saturday morning paper

Saturday morning, Thomas and I were reading the paper and eating breakfast. Of course it is impossible to do this in our house without hangers-on. First, Beeps flew over to perch on Thomas's arm.The green-eyed monster overtook Max. She had been happily playing on her stand, but as soon as she realized Beeps was receiving attention, she had to go over and get her share.Max got bored perched on his hand, so she hopped off and started exploring the kitchen table. This caught the attention of Stella, who decided that she also needed to join in the fun!All of these pictures were taken while he was on the same page of the paper -- probably less than one minute.

Where's Rocky, you may ask? Why, of course he's hanging out on Thomas's feet. Thomas complained about being so popular, but I know he secretly loved it!

Answering Questions

Things have settled down a bit, so I should be back to blogging on a more regular basis. Except for tomorrow! But there have been a few comments that I wanted to respond to and decided to do so in a post instead of in the comments.

Beloved Parrot asked, "question re Parrot Garden -- that looks like one fabulous place. Is that where you volunteer? If not, have you been there?

I so wish we had something like that here . . . sigh . . ."
Unfortunately, I do not live close to Parrot Garden. My good friend and I are planning a trip to visit there sometime in the next few months. She introduced me to Best Friends last year, and I am just so impressed with that organization. All of my parrots have virtually adopted one of their counterparts there, and I can't wait to meet them in person! I have brought up the topic of moving out there someday to Thomas, but not sure if that's feasible or not.

Beloved Parrot (again!) wrote, "OMG! You use non-stick cookware with all those birds in your house? Surely you're aware of the dangers, right? And now they've found it doesn't have to heat up to 500 degrees; a pan with invisible scratches can off-gas at a much, much lower temperature.

I dumped ALL my non-stick stuff and now I use stainless steel and good ole' cast iron skillets. Believe it or not, I don't miss non-stick at all. Really.

And good luck with those hormonal parrots. I don't have as many parrots as you but sometimes it feels that way. And, like you, if I don't catch those tiny sudden warnings my flesh pays for it."

I am embarrassed to admit that we do have a few nonstick items that we are still using. We have switched over most of our equipment, but still have a few nonstick items that have stuck around (bad pun!!!) It's becoming a more important issue since we've been doing more cooking and baking lately.

Nonstick isn't just bad for parrots. It's also bad for people. I remember reading an article in National Geographic a few years ago that has stuck with me. Mark Bittman, my favorite cookbook author, also no longer uses nonstick items due to health risks for humans (or at least that's what he's written in his cookbook).

We've talked about this and will be eliminating all nonstick items from our house before the end of the year.

Doodlebird [Hi! Welcome to the blog!] wrote, "I recently was told that especially in Caiques, fruit (sugar) makes them very hormonal. I was told not to give mine any fruit when she goes through "spring fever". I don't know if it's true, but it was a pretty reputable source. Have you ever heard of such a thing?"

Hormones are such a tricky thing! I have heard this before. I've also had a long talk with an avian vet about how we humans, in providing our birds with the best life we can for them in captivity, essentially put them almost constantly in the mood to breed. Abundant food, plentiful showers, long periods of light, and other factors combine to make them think it's Spring year-round. I don't know what the answer is! I do try to maintain consistently 12 hours of darkness for them to sleep, but I'm not going to withhold food for a few days or provide a low quality diet to help simulate the harshness of winter!

I think it's something you can definitely try to see if anything improves. You never know what will work with each individual bird! My parents had a quaker who exhibited extremely aggressive behavior anytime he had any white flour or white sugar, whereas other quakers can eat those things with no adverse effects.

Now for the caiques in my house. Calypso (he is 13 now) has not gotten hormonal for several years. Beeps, my 10 year old, is majorly hormonal right now. I did try reducing the amount of fruit in his diet, but it did not seem to have any impact on him. Since he likes fruit so much, it's back in his diet. The way we're dealing with him is by closely monitoring his body language so we don't get bit and hoping that his season comes to an end shortly!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Crabby Parrot House

What is wrong with me? I haven't been taking as many pictures lately. I think it's because many of the parrots are going through some molting/hormonal issues and their crabbiness is rubbing off on me. Why would I want to document this unpleasantness?

Beeps is healing quite well from his close call with Max earlier this week. However, he is one GIANT hormone right now. I feel horrible for him since he doesn't understand what's making him act so strange. He'll be perfectly fine one moment, and then his eyes start flashing bright red, unprovoked. I have a few seconds to put him down, or I will be missing flesh. I don't remember how long this lasted last year; I'm hoping it ends soon!

Daphne is going through a major molt and is also crabby. I imagine all of those pin feathers poking through can get uncomfortable! I had her in the kitchen with me yesterday, and she actually took off and flew back to her cage. She's never done that before. And while I'm happy she's feeling more secure in her flight skills to attempt such a maneuver, it was upsetting that she did so in order to escape my presence!

Rocky has been very insistent on ripping the wall paper off of our hallway wall, so we've had to keep a close eye on him. Part of me thinks the damage is already done, so just let him at it (less work for us to remove it later), but I'm pretty sure he shouldn't be ingesting wall paper glue.

Stella is still doing her digging and chipping up wood as though her life depended on it. But her personality is fantastic, luckily.

Neither Max nor Calypso has shown any hormonal behavior. That tallies up to three unpleasant parrots (Daphne, Beeps, and Rocky) and three pleasant parrots (Max, Calypso, and Stella) in our house right now.

We've lost 2 Australian Rainbowfish and an oto so far this week. All of our aquarium values are testing in the right range, so it's a mystery. Thomas did a slightly-larger-than-normal water change last night. We hope this clears up whatever problem might be taking place.

I made Fast Nut Burgers from my favorite cookbook. How have I had this book for almost a year and not have made these? So delicious! And easy, as the name implies. I'm going to try to make this into a "meatloaf" later this week.

Basically, you chop up an onion, 1 c. nuts (I used walnuts), and 1 c. uncooked oatmeal in a food processor (I used a blender but made sure they didn't get too finely chopped). Add in 2 TBSP ketchup, 1 tsp. chili powder, an egg. Mix, form into patties, and cook on a nonstick pan -- 5 min on one side and 3-4 on the other. The author, Mark Bittman, lists all sorts of variations, like here, which means I'll try many of them out in the coming months.

The more I've been cooking, the more I've been enjoying it lately.

Back to work -- and hoping that upon arriving home I'll be met with six pleasant parrots. But I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Compendium

I don't know why I get such a kick out of the greys hanging out on the stand together, but I do! Shortly after I took this picture, Max started hitting Stella with the rope figure-8, so I moved her to a different stand.

Yesterday was a bad day in our house for avian interactions. As was our normal morning routine, all of the birds (except Daphne) were out as I walked in between the living room and kitchen, refilling food and water bowls.

I was in the living room, and heard very agitated squawking coming from the kitchen. I dropped everything and ran in to see that Max had Beeps pinned on his back. She was attacking him. I separated them, but she had already bit him on his cere, and there was a small amount of blood.

We were very lucky that nothing worse happened, and Beeps is on his way to a full recovery. However, Beeps and Max are not allowed out of their cages at the same time if I'm not able to give them my undivided attention to separate them before things get this far. I couldn't get a good picture of Beeps's injury.

Onto happier things...

Here was Max playing with a wine cork. As soon as she saw it, she started saying, "want some!" but she dropped the cork soon after I gave it to her. I think she must have thought it was something different.
A few months ago, I purchased these bags from Envirosax. They've been fantastic and it's now a habit to bring them in with me when I go shopping. They are able to carry a rather substantial number of items in them. My goal is to not get a single bag from any store in 2009.
Thomas and I were able to get a bit of hiking in, but I left the camera in the car. I took a few pictures as we were leaving the forest, and this was the best one. I just love Autumn -- absolutely my favorite time of year!
We got a ton of broccoli from our CSA:
Which Thomas turned into soup. He made enough so that we can have it a couple of times this week, when we don't have as much time to cook.My neighbor gave me some cranberries, so I made the cranberry muffins that were in my favorite cookbook, "How To Cook Everything Vegetarian" by Mark Bittman. I made the recommended substitution of some cornmeal for flour. They were incredibly delicious! I also made a banana bread (with chocolate chips and coconut added for Thomas); that's on the left.
As usual, the weekend just flew by! It's been cooling off, which has meant very pleasant sleeping weather. Of course, that makes it a bit harder to get up in the mornings, when it's so nice in bed...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Playful Stella

Things got a little busy again, which meant a short break in blogging. Ever since our trip to Belgium in May, we've been drinking more beer. We used to be pretty much exclusively wine people, but Belgium opened our eyes. Stella loves going over to the empty bottles and flicking her beak against them to make noise. We keep them right back the back door so we can take them with us to recycle, which means they are right by the stove. She probably thinks we put them there for her! She did manage to knock a bottle off of the counter last week, but luckily it did not break.I was so happy when I saw her hanging upside-down on the stand. In my mind, that indicates a happy, playful parrot!

We have a small number of kids that come to our door, selling things as fund raisers. I used to pretty much decline because none of the stuff was anything I wanted to buy. However, after thinking about it, I want to promote being a good neighbor instead of a grump, and so I made the decision to buy at least one thing from each seller.

And that's how I ended up with a tin of caramel corn. There wasn't anything this child was selling that I would eat, so I bought something I thought Thomas could take to work with him and share. I left the tin on the counter with a note on it asking him to take it to work, and this is what I found when I returned home from my run:I have other ideas of how I can pawn off this popcorn, but this is kind of frustrating. He said he doesn't want to set a precedent. Come on! Unfortunately, I am the only person in my office, so bringing it to my work is not an option!

One of my friends and running partners is competing in the Ironman Kona in Hawaii tomorrow. I can't even imagine doing that. In addition to running a marathon (which is plenty for me, thank you very much!), you have to swim something like 2.4 miles and bike around 120 miles. All in a row. I hope to be able to follow his progress on the website. I am kind of jealous that he's in Hawaii, though!

And, on to baseball! The parrots are very excited that the Phillies won game one of the NLCS. Unfortunately, the game was on past their bedtime, so they had to wait until this morning to hear the result (they were down 2-0 when the parrots went to bed, so it was a huge surprise!) They don't want to get too excited, since the Phillies are known for disappointing them, but things are looking up towards another World Series appearance!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

It can be difficult to bake at our house...

...when all of the measuring cups are dirty.

I've posted similar videos before, but I just love watching Thomas and Stella play together. In this video, I loved watching her look at both measuring cups when Thomas put the second on there. What should she do? Knock them both off, of course!

video

Monday, October 6, 2008

Exhaustion

I took this picture last week but never got around to posting it. After dinner, Beeps has been joining Rocky on his favorite parrot stand: Thomas. They stay far away from each other, and Thomas is there to stop any fight that might start. Beeps has been quite hormonal for about a week or so now. We've been able to avoid attacks -- just barely -- by closely watching his body language.
Beeps had to go in his cage early yesterday because he kept trying to attack me during dinner. It can be messy to duck an attacking caique with a spoonful of mashed potatoes!

I took this picture on Saturday afternoon. Thomas ran a hilly 10K race that morning. It was the first time that Thomas ran a race without me. Usually we either run together, or he's the spectator. But since it was the day before my marathon, I needed to rest my legs. I spent an enjoyable hour reading while he ran.

When he got home, he was exhausted, and Rocky was pleased to be able to spend time with his favorite person.
Hope everyone has a great week! Things are a bit busy so I probably won't get around to reading blogs until later this week. Can't wait to read what you have been up to!

Marathon Update

I finished the marathon yesterday. In fact, 24 hours ago from right now (when I'm typing) I was about 3 minutes away from the finish line. The weather was perfect and I really couldn't have asked for a better day!

I was able to run with my friend for 16 miles or so; then he wanted to slow down a bit but I was still feeling great and continued along without him. In fact, I ran the second half of the marathon 37 seconds faster than the first half -- the first time I've ever had a negative split! I beat my goal time by about 11 minutes.

Thomas was working in the medical tent, so I stayed at the finish line area longer than I have in the past (we were sharing a car). And that led to a great experience. About an hour after I had finished, the person announcing all of the finishers' names had to leave his post to announce the awards ceremony. I happened to be chatting with a volunteer near the announcer's podium and the next thing I knew, I was up on the scaffolding and announcing!

In a marathon, the participants wear a chip on their shoe. This helps to ensure proper timing. One year there were so many runners that it took me 15 minutes to cross the start line and you don't want that time added to your finishing time! In this race, a mat was placed about a hundred yards before the finish line. The names of the participants popped up on a computer set up on the scaffolding, so I could announce who was about to finish.

It was the perfect way to spend an hour, and then the announcer came back and took over for me.

Yesterday was one of those almost-perfect days that I want to bundle up and keep with me forever! I had been on the fence about completing another marathon after this one as I'd had a few unpleasant training runs. However, after yesterday I know I'll be signing up again for next year!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Shouldering

I'm writing this post because I recently answered a question about how to stop a bird from going to your shoulder on a board that I frequent. Sometimes it's easier to write a post so that I can direct people here in the future, with pictures, instead of retyping everything again!

First, like many parrot-related issues, whether or not to allow a parrot on your shoulder is an individual decision. I've always been a worst-case scenario type of person (a visit from a former smoker whose voice box had been removed -- similar to this person -- in the 3rd grade convinced me never to smoke because I was sure that would happen to me if I did).

When we got Max, we decided that we didn't want her on our shoulders. The main reason was that we didn't want to risk a face bit. Here is a page with pictures of some face bites that have happened. Later, we realized it was a good choice for us for other reasons. It's hard to see body language when the parrot is on your shoulder!

At the parrot rescue where I volunteer, I was in a room with another (now former) volunteer. He had a large macaw, who loved him, on his shoulder. He was walking around and got a little too close to another bird. As a warning, the macaw on his shoulder gave him a nip on his ear that managed to pull a few centimeters of cartilage out of his ear. This confirmed our decision to not have shoulder birds! I've also seen horrible ear lobe destruction by a shouldered senegal (I witnessed the attack) and have seen the results in the form of facial lacerations on at least a dozen people surrendering their birds to the rescue where I volunteer.

However, I realize that thousands of people successfully allow their birds on their shoulders, and I don't believe that one way is necessarily better than the other, assuming that people have thought about the risks they're incurring. Even in our house, Thomas will occasionally place Rocky on his shoulder, and I'll occasionally allow Daphne on mine.

Four of our birds (everyone but Max and Daphne) came to us as shoulder birds. When they got on a hand or arm, they would automatically scamper up to a shoulder. We've managed to break all of them of this habit.

This post is meant to help people who want to keep their bird off of their shoulder.

In my opinion, the two most important components of preventing a bird from going to your shoulder are arm position and persistence. Max was kind enough to stand in as my model for arm position pictures!

Many people hold their parrots in such a way that basically gives the parrot a ramp to their shoulder. Many birds like to be up high and tend to gravitate to the highest position they can. When I hold Max like this, it would be very easy for her to run up to my shoulder.
To prevent a bird from going to your shoulder, it's helpful to arrange the environment to make that as difficult as possible for her. I've shown this position to scores of people with this issue at the rescue, and it can be difficult at first to get used to!

Keep the top part of your arm as close to your body as you can. It's a lot more difficult for a bird to climb up a vertical arm than a ramp! Then, make a "V" at your elbow. The bird is up higher (you can see in this picture that Max is almost as high as she would be if she were on my shoulder). If she starts climbing down my hand (which often won't happen because birds like to be high and that requires climbing down), I have plenty of time to get her to step up on my other hand and replace her where I want her to be.
Another reason some birds like to be on a shoulder is that they feel safer there. This is especially true of parrots with poorly-clipped wings, or anyone with balance issues. For birds like that, I'll keep the top part of my arm as vertical as possible, but I'll bring the bottom part of my arm in. It's almost like I'm cradling the bird with my chest. The bird will often rest their beak against my torso when we move, giving them extra security. Depending on the bird, their condition, and my relationship with him/her, I'll sometimes take my other hand and hold the bird closer to me. I seem to do this especially with large macaws who have foot and/or balance issues.
Persistence is the other key aspect. If you remove a bird 20 times from your shoulder but then get tired of it and allow her to stay there after the 21st attempt, you've just taught her that she'll get her way if she keeps on trying, and it becomes more difficult to extinguish the behavior.

Building a nest

Stella is attempting to build a nest in our kitchen. We have a scrap piece of carpet in front of our back door where we deposit our shoes upon entering the house.

Stella loves to fly over there and begin digging, as in this video.

video

I usually stop her pretty quickly because I don't want to encourage her to lay eggs. She retains her sweet personality while doing this and I'm able to get her to step up without any biting. I don't think I'd be as nice to someone interrupting me in such a task!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Grey Feather Toys Sale

Also, I just got an e-mail that Grey Feather Toys is having a 25% off sale for all purchases over $45 from now through Sunday evening 10/5/08. Just enter coupon code WOOHOO. I'm posting the details below, and you can also find them on their website:
  • 25% Off Toys & Parts is valid with a $45 Product Minimum.
  • $5 Off Toys & Parts is valid with a $30 Product Minimum.
  • 4 Days Only! Limited Time Offer is effective now through Sunday evening, 10/5/08.
  • Coupon must be present at time of ordering.
  • Note: Order minimum does not include shipping charges.
  • 25% Off is valid on ALL Toy & Parts, NEW & SALE ITEMS and all toys, swings, boings, parts, toy bases/kits, and talon toys.
  • Valid for all customers. (USA and Worldwide).
  • No Double Dipping Please! This offer cannot be combined with any other special offer, discount program and/ or coupon. This 25% off Promo cannot be beat!
  • *Excludes: Bird Food, Treats, Skewers, Perches, Cages, Gyms, Scales, Carriers, Bird Safe Cleaners and any other non-toy item.
  • Note: Cannot be applied to Previous Orders


My parrots all love their Grey Feather toys! At top is Calypso hanging from one of his favorites. At left is Beeps stretching out to play with one of his favorites.

As you can see, even though "grey" is in the store name, they are wonderful for all parrots!

This comes with perfect timing for us! Beeps and Calypso have a bell toy on their cages. The greys have the slightly larger version of that toy, but of course they want to play with the one the caiques have! Just last week Thomas told me that I needed to order more of those bell toys.

I have also been lucky enough to meet the owners of this company, and they are two of the nicest people I have ever met. They truly have the birds' best interest in mind. Their toys are designed with safety in mind, including all stainless-streel parts.

They share their lives with several African Greys that are as cherished as can be.

Snowball in Sweden

I think I've mentioned before that I was lucky enough to befriend the woman who runs Bird Lovers Only Rescue. You may have seen her on any number of TV programs, including Letterman, with her dancing cockatoo, Snowball.

She just sent me a link to a commercial that Snowball starred in -- in Sweden. All of the filming was done in the States, so don't worry; Snowball didn't have to make an overseas journey! And I don't think he understands a word of Swedish.

I just thought it was so well-done that I wanted to show it here.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Embracing cooler weather

As the weather has been cooling down, everyone's been feeling a bit more snuggly. I turned around yesterday to see Stella caught in a loving embrace:
Even after Thomas removed his right arm from her, she stayed and snuggled a bit.
Of course Rocky also got an embrace: Beeps also got one, but I didn't photograph it since he doesn't like the camera and I didn't want him to bite Thomas! Max, Calypso, and Daphne are not big fans, so he leaves them alone.

Last night, even though Thomas was in the kitchen with us, Rocky went over to the sliding glass door to look out a bit. He will occasionally hang out there, which is fine by me since then he can't try to attack my feet.

Also, for the first time ever, Beeps flew over and started looking outside. We asked him, "Are you pulling a Rocky?" but he just beeped in response.

I am just so excited that Mallow bought How To Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. I've probably said this before, but I think I'm giving it to several people on my Christmas list this year. I made these caramel walnut bars late last week. They taste really great (as you can tell by the fact that several were missing by the time I got around to taking a picture!) My only complaint is that the topping can get runny -- we keep them in the fridge and you can see what happened to the platter. Also, Thomas snuck chocolate chips into the setting batter when I wasn't looking (I pick them out of the bars I eat). I'm trying to do more cooking, but I think I prefer baking. Since that doesn't put dinner on the table, I'm hoping to get more excited about cooking!

Back to parrots. Thomas and Rocky are very hands-on with each other. Instead of having him step up, he'll often just grab him, like here. And Rocky loves it! These guys just have such a fantastic relationship! I'm still working on Rocky. Since I was wearing long sleeves yesterday, I asked him to step up on my arm so I could bring him to Thomas in the basement (he was working out). Rocky complied and didn't even make a move as though he was going to bite me. I think he knew if he bit me he'd go back in his cage instead of going to see Thomas!

Beeps has been quite camera-aggressive for the past couple of months, which is why I haven't been posting as many pictures of him. He saw me with the camera, and started posturing while on the figure-8 rope swing hanging on their stand. I wasn't quick enough to get that shot, but did get him as he was coming down to display.

You can see his left foot is still holding on to the rope swing. He is just so acrobatic!I had a meeting after work on Monday, so Thomas was alone with the parrots for a few hours. He said they were perfectly behaved and didn't cause him any trouble. I'm not sure if I believe this since that's not the case when I'm there. He claims everyone stayed on their cage and no one tried to eat the wallpaper off of the wall. Interesting...