Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year end reflections and looking forward

Despite the melancholy tone of the past few days' posts, 2008 was another great year for us. Sadly, Jeff Saturday passed away early on, but that was really the only bad thing that directly happened to us.

We took in Stella and watched her transform from a sad, scared grey to a confident and happy one.

The other new additions to our house were three Australian Rainbowfish that hatched in our tank. Sadly, one of these little guys didn't survive, but the other two are thriving and are so large now it's hard to tell them apart from the fish we purchased a few years back.

I met my revised reading goal of at least 52 books, including one of the best books I've read in a long time (London by Edward Rutherfurd). This isn't the reason why it was one of my favorites, but one of my ancestors is mentioned towards the end of the novel!

I learned how to knit hats, branching out from just making scarves (although scarves dominated my 2008 knitting).

I picked up weightlifting again after a hiatus of about 8 years. Wow! I had considered myself in good shape due to running, but adding strength training really kicked me up a notch. I really recommend this to everyone. The book I used to get started was Getting Stronger by Bill Pearl -- this was the "textbook" for the weightlifting class I took in college.

However, I realize not everyone was as lucky as me. I'm not going to list anyone here -- you know who you are and you are in my thoughts -- but friends of mine, both in "real life" and those I've "met" through this blog, suffered tragic losses this year. The economy divebombed, which has directly affected many of those I care about. Here's hoping that 2009 will be even better!

As for the year ahead, I once again have made a list of goals, separated into categories:

Animals:
  • Not add any new animals to the house
  • Teach at least one of the parrots to retrieve
  • Build the lizards a new, larger enclosure
Knitting:
  • Make something other than a scarf or hat (mittens, perhaps?)
Reading:
Fitness:
  • Run a PR in at least one race this year
  • Increase bench press by 15 pounds for 3 sets of 10 (half my weight)
  • Run at least 1,362.4 miles (average 26.2/week)
Miscellaneous:
I just love the promise of a new year and fresh start. What will I learn? Who will I meet? Where will we travel? All of these unknowns that will be known and summarized 365 from now. Oh, the possibilities!

I sincerely wish each and every person who reads this a very Happy New Year! Sorry I haven't been reading blogs of late -- I have an 11/30 year end at work, which means December has been ridiculously busy. I anticipate things slowing down in the near future, when I'll have plenty of time to get caught up!

Dinner!

Monday evening, I was making the humans' dinner (chili), the parrots' dinner (mash from ParrotNutz), and sandwiches for the humans' Tuesday lunches.

Thomas was playing videogames and had Rocky with him. Then Rocky tried to bite him, for no discernable reason, so he went in his cage until dinner was ready. Stella and Daphne were in their cages for safety (Stella because the stove was on so I could cook the chili, Daphne because I couldn't be directly supervise and worry about her because she is so much smaller than the caiques). The caiques were playing on their respective cages.

I was trying to multi-task making three meals at once (I know, I'm exaggerating a bit) and set the bread on the counter while I went to stir the chili. Seeing an opportunity, Max swooped in and started nibbling on the (frozen) bread. After taking a picture, I moved the bread. She then immediately ran to the block of cheese I was going to shred for chili topping, and took a huge bite through the plastic!She was tossed back to her stand, where she stayed for a few minutes. After the bread and cheese were put away, she came back over to the counter and started throwing a fit because she wanted her dinner. You can hear Beeps and, towards the end, Rocky clamoring to be fed also. Keep in mind that I had left work early and they were getting dinner about an hour before they normally would.

The parrots' dinner needs to steep for about 15 minutes, and this must be the longest 15 minutes of their lives. As soon as Max sees me with the bag, she starts demanding, "want some!" even after I explain to her that she should know by now that she has to wait for it to finish. Patience is definitely not one of the parrots' strong points!

video

I'm famous!


Well, not really, but yesterday I was reading the paper when I stumbled across a picture of me and a bunch of my friends! I'm the second person from the left.

We get together and run every Sunday morning. We noticed a guy jump out of his car and take several pictures as we were just getting started. I thought he might be from the paper, but when I didn't see anything Monday, I'd forgotten about it.

Our names weren't listed, so even my own parents didn't realize it was me until I called them. To be honest, I don't think I would have recognized myself from this angle, either, especially in black and white!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How many is too many?

This post is inspired by a comment by DoodleBird the other day. She wrote: "I love reading about your flock. I sure wonder what it would be like to have more than one bird...CRAZY! (love the regurgitation story)"

Which, of course, made me think. As always, thanks for the compliment :)

Shannon wrote, "I have four birds and I don't think I could handle more than that without compromising the quality of their lives. I wouldn't have sufficient time to give them all the attention they need, some needing more than others."

I completely agree. And to be honest, there are many days when I believe that we have too many parrots. With one or two birds, it's possible to be a family that owns parrots. When that number inches up towards six, as in our case, the reverse seems to happen. The parrots own us. Pretty much every decision we make revolves around them.

For example, for years we couldn't take a vacation because we didn't have anyone trustworthy to watch them. With one or two, we could have boarded them with my parents. That's just not possible with six. Now, since we do have a wonderful bird sitter, we are taking as many vacations as possible. We don't know how long we'll have her (we may move, she may move, unanticipated life events, etc.) so we have to take advantage now!

With one or two, we could take them along with us when we go for overnight visits with my parents (they live about an hour away). With six, that's impossible, so we don't stay overnight.

The other main area where this comes up is in my daily life, especially when I'm home alone with the parrots. Of our 6, 2 are what I'd consider low maintenance (Daphne and Calypso), 1 is medium maintenance (Beeps), 2 are high maintenance (Max and Stella) and 1 is off-the-charts-extremely high maintenance (Rocky, of course).

When Thomas is home, he provides the vast majority of the attention needed by Rocky and as needed with the others, especially Beeps. Each of us tries to spend at least a few minutes of quality time with every parrot every day. When Thomas is not home, Rocky demands attention from me, which takes away from the time I have for the others.

Not to sound whiny, but with so many parrots requiring so much attention, that doesn't leave us a lot of time to ourselves. It's difficult to read or knit around them because Beeps flies over and wants to play with my book or yarn. Or Stella will fly over and nudge me with her beak until I acquiesce and pet her head. Or Max flies to the stairs (where she knows she's not allowed) and starts calling, "Hello! Come here! Up! Up!" Or Rocky starts screaming, for no apparent reason, and breaks my concentration. Or Rocky climbs up on the couch and fake attacks my leg (protected by a blanket or likely to be an actual attack). Or Stella climbs on the lizard tank and I have to get her off before she gets any closer to the couch and risks burning herself on their lights. Or Rocky climbs on Daphne's cage to provoke a reaction and I have to remove him. I could go on and on... Before I know it, I've spent 10 minutes on the same page, with little comprehension due to the interruptions. Or I've lost stitches in my scarf by setting it down mid-row to rescue someone. And I think I've mentioned the time when Rocky bit through the cord on Thomas's video game controller at the worst possible moment (he now has a wireless).

This is what my life will be like for the next 50 years. They don't grow up, move out of the house, and visit only occasionally. They never leave (just like Bob Wiley in What About Bob?)

Of course, as I've mentioned many times before, these parrots are all here to stay. I love them all and know they're about as happy as captive parrots can be. To be quite honest, I can't imagine our lives without the parrots. We got Max when I was 23; she's known me pretty much all of my adult life. Thomas and I had been married less than a year when we bought her. We'll grow old together. But would she be happier if she were the only parrot in our lives? Quite possibly. There are times where I think she enjoys the ambient company of the parrots (they rarely physically interact -- only an occasional tussle that is quickly broken up). But there are other times when her jealousy surfaces and I wonder if we shortchanged her by making her share our attention with so many others?

As I mentioned yesterday, there are 5 greys up for adoption at the rescue where I volunteer, with another one possibly being surrendered this weekend. I'm going to have to stay strong and not bring any of them home, no matter how much it causes my heart to break. I must be fair to the parrots already in my home.

Sorry it seems like I've been a little down lately. I'll have more upbeat posts in the future! It's just been a rough few weeks due to the demands of Thomas's job (he had to spend 25% of his nights at the hospital in December but only 16% in January), my job, my volunteering (not parrot-related), the holiday, etc. And then having all of those greys surrendered has made me a bit melancholy.

Monday, December 29, 2008

More greys

I have been home a lot more than usual lately. We've been unfortunate in getting ridiculous amounts of snow, so I've not been at work as much as normal. (That's why my blog posting has been sporadic and blog reading has been almost non-existent. I hope to get caught up this week!)

This, however, has made the parrots, especially the greys, very happy. They still don't physically interact in a positive way (I posted last week that Stella pinned Max -- Max has been very wary of her since then) and may never do so. However, I think that they enjoy having another grey in the house.

Last night, Thomas asked them, "Can't you be in separate rooms?" because as soon as one flies in, the other is soon to follow. Yet they don't call to each other when they are out of sight. It's so fun to watch their behavior, and writing this blog helps me see changes in their behavior over time.

I thought this was a nice picture of Stella -- you can see the nuance of grey coloring on her feathers. I used to think that greys were rather drab, but they have such an understated brilliance about them.Max still has been coveting the empty almond shells left by Rocky and Stella. She is either unable (or unwilling to spend the time) to crack open almond shells. We've taken to slightly cracking the nut to give her a head start. Or just giving her an empty shell since that seems to make her just as happy.
We got a new humidifier over the weekend. We're hoping that it will help with Stella's feather regrowth. It can't currently be in the living room due to the lizards (the increased humidity could make them sick). But, we have plans to move the lizards to another room in the spring, and the parrots will get the new humidifer. Until then, it's in our bedroom. Thomas held Stella up to the mist -- she quite enjoyed it!
But this did cause me quite a scare when I woke up in the middle of the night and worried there was an apparition in our room. I guess it will take some time to get used to it!

Sharing

Last week Friday, Thomas had an unexpected morning with the parrots. They took full advantage of that! Beeps had been on his stand, but then he flew over to Thomas's shoulder. Immediately Rocky, who had been playing with the nuts, had to come over to stake his claim:
After I took the above picture, Thomas and I were talking, and I noticed that when he'd cock his head, Beeps would move his at the same angle. It was adorable!Beeps really isn't allowed on shoulders (his beak can do serious damage and it's hard to watch his body language up there. We definitely want to avoid face bites!), So Thomas placed him on his lap. Beeping, he started climbing up Thomas's shirt to be closer to him.

It kind of looks like he's reading the paper!If you looked closely in the preceding picture, you may have noticed two feet approaching Thomas's arm. That's right -- Rocky was displeased with the attention Beeps was getting and came in to get a piece of the action.
Rocky doesn't seem to mind if Thomas interacts with the other parrots, as long as Rocky doesn't feel he's being slighted. He's more than willing to share, but doesn't want to be left out!

Unwanted

So many unwanted birds out there. I was up at the rescue where I volunteer this past weekend. There are so many great birds looking for homes, and not many people looking to add another bird to their home. The rescue where I volunteer works with 5 other area rescues, and everyone is in the same boat.

I am particularly bothered when there are greys at the rescue. I think I've mentioned this before, but they seem to fare the worst among all of the parrots that are surrendered. I think it might be that it takes them longer to bond to someone, and when they do, it's serious. They can't handle the loud calls and activity of the dozens of cockatoos and often resort to plucking or mutilation (that's why we brought Stella home).

Several months had passed without any greys at the rescue, but that has come to an end. There are now 5 up there. Five! From horrible conditions. Two came from one house. They were kept together in a cage that is smaller than my budgie's cage. They don't seem to particularly care for each other, and one was picking on the other and not allowing her to eat much.

I think the total number of birds surrendered in 2008 will wind up in the high 400s. And the rescue had to turn down many birds due to lack of space -- what happened to them? Sold on craigslist or just discarded outside (that would have been Beeps's fate in a previous home had a wonderful lady not intervened just in time)?

Two of the greys look remarkably similar to Stella. They have similar plucking patterns, and the terrified look in their eyes that she had when we first brought her home. How can I leave them up there? Especially after uncovering Stella's potential and knowing I could do the same with them? But we are at capacity and it would be unfair to our current birds to bring anyone else home. So they wait at the rescue and I hope that one of the rare people qualified to own a parrot will end up adopting them.

There are also three macaws up there, all of whom have survived horrific events. Like being thrown out of a moving car in winter. The macaw below has severe health problems due to malnutrition and other deficiencies in her care. We didn't think she'd survive to see the new year, but she's been rallying and making great progress. She has this note on her cage because when she is handled, she gets too excited and breathing becomes difficult. However, she is near the end of her treatment for that issue and has regained her spunk. For some reason, she does not like me at all. Perhaps I remind her of someone in her past? When I pass her cage, she lunges and tries to attack. This picture captures so much of her personality!I know I've said this so many times before, but if someone stumbles upon my blog while doing research considering adding another parrot to their flock, please consider an older bird. There are so many out there, looking for homes. Many don't have significant behavior problems that a good home won't solve. They're just wild animals who had the misfortune of being owned by someone who didn't know what it takes to successfully live with these magnificent creatures.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Short stories

St. Nick brought nuts to our house. Thomas placed them in this container on the table, and the parrots have been helping themselves. Rocky did have a nut in his beak, but he dropped it when he saw me approaching with the camera. Note the nut dust around his feet.
Stella also has been helping herself, especially to almonds. She and Max have developed a symbiotic relationship, since Max likes playing with the empty almond shells. She watches Stella, waits until Stella drops the nut shell, and then Max swoops in and takes her treasure to a place where she can play with it.

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Yesterday, I was in the kitchen with the greys. Stella was following Max around and had her pressed up against the end of the perch. Instead of flying away, Max gave the sign for Stella to back off. Stella ignored this, jumped on Max, and had her pinned down on the bottom of the stand. This happened in about one second. I had been on my way to pick Max up once it became clear Stella wasn't backing down, and Stella had her pinned before I could make it to the stand. I broke up the fight and no one was injured. Stella did have to go to her cage to cool down.

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Max said her first three-syllable word earlier in the week. She said, "Hello everyone!" which is what I say to the birds when I come home. Actually, my full phrase to them is "Hi little dudes! Hello everyone!" but Max only said the second half. She said this to me as I emerged from the basement while she was in the kitchen.

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As I mentioned in an earlier post, we spent Christmas with my parents. We leave on Christmas Eve, spend the night, and return early Christmas Day. The parrots end up spending about 18 hours alone. We don't like doing this, but it's tradition to do it once a year, and they survive. Also, we do not leave the house for the rest of Christmas day, so they end up getting a lot of attention.

Beeps saw me packing a few things, flew over, and viciously attacked my head. The next day, while unpacking, he did the same thing. He really doesn't like us to leave!

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I hope that everyone has had a great week! Between the holiday and the snow, I was not in to work very often, hence the break in posts. And now it's the weekend again! It will be very nice to get into a routine again.

Pictures of the ladies

Earlier this week, I was taking pictures of Daphne. She is underrepresented on the blog, as she rarely gets into mischief. Entries about how wonderful she is would quickly get boring! In any case, since she is extraordinarily beautiful and sweet, I wanted some pictures. Additionally, she is getting up there in age (at least 5 years old, as far as we can tell), especially for a half-English budgie. I really regret that I don't have more pictures of Ethel, our previous budgie, and don't want to make the same mistake with Daphne!

It's really hard to get a good picture of Daphne. When I use the flash, her coloring contributes to the result of her looking washed out. When I don't use the flash, she turns out blurry. Thomas saw my frustration, and pulled out the tripod so we could get some decent pictures of her.

Here she is, on top of her cage:And a close-up:He then started taking tripod pictures of Max:
And Stella:I'm sure it was just coincidence that he only photographed the female birds of the house!

Cockatiels!

We spent Christmas at my parents' house, which means we also spent time with their cockatiels. Every time I see these guys, I remember how much fun they are! Unfortunately, they are far too often overlooked, which is a shame because they might just be the perfect pet parrots, if parrots must be pets. There are so many in rescues, unwanted, looking for a family.

About two years ago, my parents adopted Jack and Jill, a former breeding pair of tiels that had been turned into the rescue where we volunteer because the breeder's daughter had developed allergies and she was getting out of the breeding business.

The rescue where I volunteer will not normally adopt out a pair of opposite-sex birds (as there is such an overpopulation problem already), especially a proven pair! However, these two were extremely bonded to each other, and it would have been cruel to separate them. My parents agreed to provide them a home for the rest of their lives, without allowing them to breed.

Jack and Jill do not like to be more than about two feet away from each other. If this happens, they frantically whistle and call back and forth until they are reunited. When they were learning to fly, one of them (most often Jack) would take off and land somewhere. He didn't yet have the flight skills needed to return to Jill, so the two of them would call, frantic, until a human intervened and brought him back to her. They have since become proficient fliers, and manage to almost always stay very close to each other. It is so sweet to watch, and reinforces in my mind the importance of allowing birds to be birds.

Here is a close-up of Jack:And one of Jill:Jack is much more adventurous than Jill in all aspects except food. When a new toy is placed in their cage, he runs over to investigate. After he gives it the OK, Jill will play with it. When they were breeders, they had only a perch and nest box in their small cage. It was amazing how quickly they took to toys, multiple perches, and the freedom to fly around the house!

With food, it's Jill who first tries it out, and if she likes it, Jack will have a taste. They were on an all-seed diet, which has been greatly expanded at my parents' house.

One interesting quirk about them, which makes us laugh every time, is how much they love it when drawers are opened. They get so curious and excited and must go and check it out. They had both been on their cage when my brother opened the door in order to change the CD. I told him to pull out the shelf with the DVDs on it in order to provide the cockatiels with some excitement.

Jack immediately flew to the door and showed interest in the DVDs -- on the far right side, you can see Jill also showing interest in the DVDs:Then, he made the short flight over and started investigating, yet again, the DVDs (several of the covers have cockatiel bites out of them!)Several months ago, they added a third cockatiel to their house. I didn't take any pictures of him, unfortunately. His name is Birdie, and he's a 26 year old tiel. He was surrendered to the rescue because his family had redecorated their house and he no longer fit in. He needed a retirement home, and my parents had an opening, having just lost their quaker.

Unfortunately, he has an old wing injury and will therefore probably never be able to fly. We're hoping that once his flight feathers grow out, he will be able to glide down as he sometimes tries to imitate Jack and Jill when they take off, but he lands on the carpet instead of taking flight.

He loves spending time on my dad's shoulder and one of his favorite things to do is walk around the kitchen table and solicit attention from everyone. We were playing cards over the holiday, and he'd sometimes get in the way of the pile during his wanderings. He has a wonderful whistle that he frequently emits, especially when he's happy. I don't know how much longer we'll have him around, but he sure brightens our lives with his presence now! I don't know how anyone could have disposed of him!

Another Rocky video

Unfortunately, I came in towards the end of a game that Thomas and Rocky had apparently been playing for quite some time.

Rocky would run down to Thomas's feet, and he would lift Rocky back up, closer to his face.

I was only able to capture this once on video, but they'd been doing this for quite some time earlier. If you listen closely, you can hear Rocky moaning, especially towards the end of the video. He goes through periods where he constantly is making noise like this. Between Rocky and Beeps, there is rarely silence in our house.

video

Monday, December 22, 2008

Other weekend images

On Friday, I was spraying everyone down with the water bottle. I don't know exactly what happened, but all of a sudden Beeps took off and landed in one of our plants. If you look closely, you can see water drops still on the plant.

He hung out in the plant for a while -- it seemed like he wasn't sure how to get out? After taking this picture, he stepped up on my hand and then flew back to his stand.My parents gave us an old rug they had, and I put it in front of the kitchen sink. As you might expect, it has been a big hit with Stella.

Here she is, digging (you can see little pieces of carpet that she's dislodged):
After I took the first picture, she came over and gave me a questioning look:She is so very determined to dig in the carpet, and I am so very determined that she not do such a thing. It doesn't bother me that she's ruining the carpet, but I don't want this to trigger hormonal activity and possibly lead to egg-binding. Can I defeat a parrot in a battle of wills? Stay tuned!

Games Rocky and I play

I have mentioned many times that Rocky does not like me. He demonstrates this, verbally and non-verbally, every day. However, I am very persistent and keep hoping that someday there may be a detente.

There are several games that Rocky only plays with me. I'm sure he'd play them with Thomas, if Thomas were interested. However, my husband is gracious enough to let certain things happen only between Rocky and me, to make them more special.

One game we play together is that I'll make a clicking sound, and he'll repeat it. Then, I'll move on to another noise which he repeats. Sometimes he initiates the changes, and sometimes I do.

Rocky was in the bathroom because I was cooking while home alone. Rocky kept climbing on Daphne's cage, which upset her. He screamed when I put him in his cage, but since he likes hanging out in the bathroom, is contained there, and can't bother Daphne, that's where he went. I'd go in every few minutes to check in on him. His beak is a bit dirty since he'd just had dinner and didn't clean up after himself adequately!

video

In this second video, Rocky is a bit distracted since Max flew into the bathroom for a bit of attention herself.

video

Coffee cake

The snow that I mentioned in an earlier post did arrive, so I spent Friday at home. I am quite angry with my city right now. They never finished the work they started when the water main broke. It's unlikely that they will be able to finish it now until Spring, due to the snow cover. They have a barrier in front of my house, which means that the plows leave all of the accumulated snow right in front of my mailbox. I spent over four hours on Friday trying to shovel a path to my mailbox, but finally gave up. Accordingly, we are currently not getting any mail. Why couldn't they have finished the job before the snow fell?Since I had extra time on Friday, I made a coffee cake. Surprisingly, it was not from my favorite cookbook, but from the magazine Penzeys One. I love Penzey's spices, and when I was buying spices there last month, they gave me a complimentary copy of the magazine. This marketing tactic worked, as I will most likely subscribe since the recipe was a huge hit, with the humans and parrots in the house!Here are the greys, helping themselves to my piece as I was away, pouring juice:After I moved my breakfast, they moved on to Thomas:It was actually quite funny to watch them, since they were rather patient. Thomas was perusing the ads while eating breakfast, and they just sat there, staring at him. Occasionally, Max would say, "want some!" and they'd both try to take bites if the plate got near enough to them, but they were rather well-behaved.

Of course, Rocky was another story. When he realized what was going on, he climbed up into Thomas's lap and pushed his way to breakfast:
As with many of the things I show them eating, coffee cake is not very healthy for parrots (or people, for that matter!) However, we make sure they only get tiny amounts!

Another inexpensive toy

Thomas has been collecting the tops of the 20 ounce bottles of soda he drinks at work as the brand he drinks is currently running a promotion where if someone collects three matching lids, they can send them in and win a baseball cap. I'm still not sure why he's doing this since he never wears caps!

Last week Thursday, I was opening the mail, and Max flew over to help. She immediately saw one of Thomas's caps, and ran over to play with it.After a few minutes, she flung it down:
And then regretted it, but was unable to catch the cap before it rolled off of the counter and onto the floor:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snow update

My boss just told me we're supposed to get 14 inches of snow tomorrow. There is no way I'm coming in to work. When I told him I would not be at work, he said, "With that much snow in the forecast, I really wasn't expecting you in!" (This is just one reason why I have no idea how I am going to adjust to working for someone else once my job here is done).

On that note, I hope that everyone has a fantastic, safe, and warm weekend. We have lots of things planned, but the snow may derail some things, unfortunately. The parrots will be happy that I'll be home all day tomorrow with them. I'm hoping I don't get bit :)

Night terrors

I can't believe I forgot to post about this earlier! Stella had a night terror last night, and I wanted to record the details so that I can compare should this happen again.

The parrots went to bed around 7:15. At 11:45, I was awoken by the sound of a parrot thrashing against their cage. From the sound of the bells, I narrowed down the suspects to Stella or Rocky. At 11:48, after 3 minutes, I went downstairs. It was Stella.

She was throwing herself up against her toys, the side of her cage, etc. It wasn't constant, like I've seen with cockatiel night frights, but she seemed unable to control herself.

I took her out of her cage and comforted her for about 5 minutes. I tried to put her back in her cage, but she seemed terrified of it and wouldn't let go of the death grip on my hand. So, back to the couch for another 5 minutes of reassurance and love. At that point, she wasn't thrilled to enter her cage, but did so. I went back upstairs. There was one more thrash, and then she was quiet for the rest of the night.

I couldn't get back to sleep for three hours after this. This is unheard of for me. Sleeping is my specialty. In college, the balcony fell off of the house across the street. A student was either killed or gravely injured; I can no longer remember. According to my roommates, there had been lots of sirens and the inside of our apartment looked like a disco due to the flashing lights on the police cars. I didn't wake up.

This morning, I got her up around 6:45 and inspected her. She had torn the skin off of the front of her wings (I couldn't get a good picture showing this) and had a bit of blood on the white part of her face. Other than her physical appearance, she was completely normal this morning.

Thomas did not wake up during this. If I'd have been home alone, I probably would have brought her back to the bedroom with me. When I told Thomas what happened, he was upset with me for leaving her downstairs alone. At the same time, I was afraid of babying her too much as I don't want her to start faking night terrors in order to get attention.All of the other parrots were normal, and I could find nothing strange in the living room when I was down there and she was terrified.

I sincerely hope this was a one-time thing as it was so horrible to see her in so much fear.

My running friend

This post has nothing to do with parrots, but instead it's about running, and about this amazing couple that I've come to know.

One of the things I like best about running is the social aspect of it. I imagine those of you who don't run are thinking, "Are you crazy? Talking while you're running?" But yes! Of course, we're not going all-out at the time, but keeping up a pace that allows for conversation. I'm lucky to live in a city that has a great and active running club, and I've made many friends this way.

Every Sunday, I meet up with a group, go for an 8-mile run, and often go out for breakfast afterward. The people in this group range greatly in speed, and splinter groups form for the actual run.

One of these friends, I'll call him P, is very inspiring. P is 85 years old. He just ran his 100th marathon a few months ago (and he doesn't count any of his ultra marathons in this total!) He didn't even start running until he was in his 60s and his company needed an over-50 runner for an event they were entering.

P is married to a wonderful woman, M. Although she does not run, M takes a long walk every single day. She was just telling me about a recent walk she took in sub-zero weather with snow up to her knees! And she's in her 80s also -- they just celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary. There is such love between them that they brighten every place they go.

These guys are great. I told them last night that they didn't get a Christmas card from me since I didn't have their address and I couldn't find it in the phonebook (I had the wrong city). P said, "Just google me!" and proceeded to spell his last name. How many 85 year-olds know about google? (Their card was sent out this morning.)

They are such an inspiration for what I hope to be as I age. They are active, intelligent, friendly, and witty. On those cold days when I want to sleep in instead of run, I remind myself that P is running today. I certainly can't wimp out! And since I want to still be running when I'm 85 (although possibly not marathons), I need to take care of myself now. I am so lucky to know them!

Bitten

I got bit last night. One guess who? As I hear a collective, "Rocky!" let me tell you that you are right. There are some people out there who make comments like, "Every time someone gets bit by a parrot it's their own fault." Cases like mine show the folly of making such all-or-nothing statements, especially when intelligent, sentient beings are involved.

I do have a picture of my bite, but forgot my camera at home today, so will update this post with my bite picture later. This may not happen until Monday if the anticipated 12-15 inches of snow appears overnight, in which case I will be taking tomorrow off.

I came home last night, quickly ate something, and prepared to leave for a Christmas gathering with my running friends. This is a tradition that I love. We meet and run for about an hour, and then we go to someone's house where we eat and socialize. I can eat a few extra cookies when I've just finished a run! I brought double chocolate bars from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

I placed my running jacket on the table as I was getting ready. Rocky gave it the business, as he does with blankets, then he got interested in something else. I put the jacket on, and was standing by the back door saying goodbye to Thomas. Rocky climbed up onto the kitchen counter and, with no warning, jumped several feet and immediately began attacking my upper back.

Thomas was right there, so he grabbed Rocky off of me, receiving his own bite in the process.

This is the first time that Rocky has jumped anyone (me) while his wings were fully clipped. I'm not sure if it's because he had just been playing with my jacket and then he saw me wearing it, of if it was the headband/ear warmer I was wearing that kind of looked like a hat (though black, not red).

In any case, I was lucky that I was dressed for running in about 8 degree weather, as my layers protected me from anything more painful. And now I'll be keeping an even closer eye on Rocky. I told him he'd better start behaving himself since the parrots will be alone with me quite frequently in January as well (Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha! said in an evil tone).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Persistence

Last night, the parrots were so happy to see Thomas again since he had not been home the previous night. In the evening, he was trying to get caught up with the paper, but Max kept bumping her head into his hand, asking for head pets. He was happy to oblige as it does not impact his paper-reading ability.
Later on, I was temporarily unable to locate Rocky. He was sitting quietly (!) on a stand where he rarely goes, and had blended into the background of the plants. The Christmas cactus is (barely) blooming again!
Last night was a rough night. The parrots were very demanding and Thomas was in a bad mood due to lack of sleep the previous night. We ended up putting them to bed about 15 minutes earlier than normal. They weren't happy with this -- both of the greys kept yelling "hello!" and Rocky was ringing his bell. But it was necessary for our sanity. I know they're just being wild animals and not intentionally irritating, but I had to keep reminding myself of that fact last night. Everyone seemed to be in a much improved mood this morning! In fact, Calypso was being so adorable, it was very difficult to leave for work as I wanted to stay with him all day!

Parrot mountain climbing

Last night, Thomas was dishing up dinner when Rocky ran over to him and started climbing.

video

Towards the beginning of the video, when it gets a bit shaky, it's because Max flew at me. Towards the end, when it gets really shaky, it's because Max flew at and hit my head.

As best I can tell, she did this because Rocky was getting attention, with the camera pointed at him.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Being considerate

I didn't take any pictures last night, so I'll just tell some recent stories instead.

Saturday morning, Thomas and Rocky were showering together, with Rocky on the shower door ledge. As usual, there were shampoo bottles up there in order to divide the ledge into the appropriate number of parrot slots, even though Rocky was currently the only parrot in the bathroom. Something got into him and he started growling and then knocking all of the bottles, aiming for Thomas's head. As I was reading the paper, I heard Thomas lecturing, "You need to be considerate! Were you born in a barn? Be considerate!" I got a laugh out of that and we've been telling the parrots to be considerate, although they haven't been listening.

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Thomas was on call last night, so I was alone with the parrots. This tends to put everyone in bad moods since we like having him around! Max got angry with me for some reason I no longer remember, so she flew directly towards my head. I didn't duck as she's a good flier, and was surely just buzzing me, right? Wrong! She flew directly into my head, upon impact emitted a sound like she was a squeaky doll, landed on her cage, and then exclaimed, "Hi Max! Good girl!" Maybe that will teach her to play chicken with me, but somehow, I doubt it.

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I had my recycling bottles stacked up on the counter between the stove and the door. It has been ridiculously cold and I am not willing to make a trip out there since it's supposed to warm up a bit in the upcoming days. Stella likes to hang out over there, banging her beak against the bottles. I think she likes the sounds she makes. (I have tried to get a video of this but then she stops). This morning, she started throwing the empty bottles off of the counter! Luckily, she didn't do this with any glass ones, but I had several empty metal and plastic containers rolling around my floor. That was motivation enough to take out the recycling this morning, even though it was minus one degree F.

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Rocky did not want to go to bed last night. He spent the first 10 minutes or so growling in his angry way (I must get this on video since my description is not doing it justice). After a minute or so of silence, he started saying, in his old lady voice, "Hi Rock! Hi Rocky!" I love it when he speaks in that voice because he's such a tough guy, and then a sweet voice comes out of him!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Apple Cobbler

The weekend flew by again. Do I start every Monday morning post in such a manner? I certainly could, if I don't.

On Saturday morning, I had been upstairs while Thomas and the parrots were finishing breakfast. When I came back down, I did my normal parrot census (not that I don't trust Thomas to keep an eye on everyone...) and Stella was missing. I looked in all of the usual place -- the carpet by the shoes, the stove, the dishrack, her stand, Max's stand -- nowhere! Then I noticed Thomas was snickering a bit, as he'd known all along she was reading the paper!My dad's side of the family is changing up the Christmas gift exchange this year. Everyone was supposed to buy a $5 or less item at a hardware store. We were visiting my parents, so Thomas, my dad, brother, sister, and I crammed into to car and headed to the hardware store. We found our gifts and were surprised when we found the perfect toy for Rocky, and it was only $1.99: a fleece throw blanket. This guy is so strange. I'm pretty sure this blanket will make him happier than any of his toys. He'd probably prefer it if I'd remove all of his toys, except for one bell, from his cage, and replace them with blankets.

I took a couple of videos, but he played with this for a really, really long time: video
video

I think I've mentioned before that Rocky has food issues. We think he was not fed on a consistent basis in his previous home. As such, despite the fact that he's beed fed regularly for the 2 1/2 years he's been with us, he gets anxious and unbearable when he thinks he should be fed and he's not.

Yesterday, Thomas and Rocky were in a back bedroom and I was reading in the living room with the rest of the parrots. I stopped by and asked Thomas what he was thinking about for dinner. That was my first mistake -- using the "D" word. As soon as Rocky heard me say dinner, he decided it was time to eat, even though it was only 4 o'clock and he normally wouldn't get fed for another hour or so. He started screaming. And screaming. And screaming.

I explained that it would take me about 15 minutes to get dinner ready, gave him a treat to tide him over, and asked him to please not scream since that wouldn't get things done any quicker. Of course that did not work. He climbed down off of Thomas and joined me in the kitchen, screaming. When I tried to get the screaming on video, he stopped, of course. I don't know how such a loud scream can come from such a tiny guy!
video

I made another apple cobbler over the weekend. Once again, this is from my favorite cookbook, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I made a few changes, of course. Like last time, I didn't coat the apples in sugar, which reduced the sugar in the recipe in half. I used a larger pan, and therefore more apples, with the same amount of topping. I also decided to add some apple pie spice. However, I wasn't paying attention (being distracted by Rocky's screaming and all) and didn't notice that there wasn't a sprinkle lid on the spice -- it was open. Therefore, instead of shaking a teaspoon or two into the topping, I dumped the entire jar.

Since I was just making this for Thomas and me and I didn't want to waste the flour and sugar already added, I made the recipe this way. It was extra fragrant while cooking, and, surprisingly, not bad. I don't think I'll do this everytime, though!

Here is the finished product:And Stella, inspecting (greys are so nosy!!!):Final story of the day, promise! As usual, Stella kept flying over to the carpet in front of the back door to dig. It was taking me a really long time to make the cobbler because I kept having to pick her up, wash my hands, and start peeling apples again. She was just about to go in her cage until I finished with the apples, when Thomas came to her rescue.

When he tries to have her step up on his hand from that location, she gets a bit nippy with him. However, he tried scooping her into his jacket once, and she loved it! I may have posted about that before. I thought she looked so adorable, peeking out of the opening in his shirt, so I asked Thomas to stop so I could get a picture. I didn't even realize at the time that Rocky was climbing up as well.
Rocky did manage to get on Thomas's arm, and Thomas placed both birds on stands.

Friday, December 12, 2008

End of the week -- again!

I wanted to capture the back of Calypso's tail because, as you can see, there is much orange and yellow in it. When he first came to us, almost 5 years ago now, it was entirely green. Beeps's tail is almost entirely green -- he has tiny specks of yellow on the bottom of one or two feathers. I asked their vet about this, but he said he didn't know. I suspect it might have something to do with aging, but I'm not sure. We got Calypso when he was 9, and he's 13 now; Beeps came to us at age 8 and he is now 10.But of course I couldn't crop Max out of the shot. She always has to keep an eye on things! Thomas calls it "creeping us out."

In our house, the parrots always have to know what's going on, and are almost always are creeping us out. Some evenings, I'll be sitting on the couch, reading or knitting. Time flies by, and it will be several minutes until I look around to make sure that all of the parrots are OK (my ears are always alert for parrot trouble, but I also like to frequently visually confirm that everyone is where they should be). Every single one of them will be looking at me, even if they're also playing with a toy or eating. I'm curious if this is always the case, or if they just sense I'm about to look at them, so they look at me first. Even though they're prey animals, I hope they know I'm not going to get them!

Speaking of Beeps, I forgot to post this story earlier! Monday evening, Thomas was on the couch, watching TV. He had just come off of a 30-hour shift, but didn't want to nap because then he's unable to sleep at night. I was in the kitchen, and the greys had followed me in there. Everyone else was in the living room.

Despite his best efforts, Thomas fell asleep. He remembers dreaming, and also slightly conversing with me (I had asked him if he wanted some french fries with his nut burgers). For some reason, he awoke with a start, and it's a good thing he did because Beeps was about an inch from his face, eyes flashing red, doing the mechanical posturing he does before an attack. He managed to get Beeps to fly back from his cage, and resumed his nap with the hood from his sweatshirt protecting his face.

In the header of my blog, I mention that I may occasionally discuss my knitting efforts. I don't do so very often because I am the slowest knitter ever! Who wants an update -- yep; finished another 2 inches on my scarf last night! But, I have finally finished a project!

I think part of my problem also is that I usually have several projects going at once, and I've been making scarves with small needles. But still, my output is ridiculous! I love to read Wendy's blog, and I am always amazed with her speedy knitting. Yet, she does not trade quality or artistic-ness (is that a word?) for her speed. Wendy, when do you sleep? And when Stephanie goes on a knitting spree, it's the same thing!

In any case, here's my latest object. It's a neck warmer.
I've branched out from scarves and hats, but only barely. This is kind of like a mix between the two. One of the jackets I've been wearing lately has velcro on it, which means my scarves have been sticking to it. So my neck has been exposed when I wear that jacket since I don't want to ruin a scarf. I made this with yarn I bought from Stephanie's destashing (she has more yarn available here, if anyone's interested).

Now I'm knitting like crazy to finish a scarf for my mom for Christmas. She asked for one last week -- are you kidding me? A scarf takes me longer than that! Luckily, I was almost done with one in the color she was requesting, so assuming I get my act together, it will be done in time.

I hope everyone has a great weekend! It's very cold here, but should be warming up a bit (to the 30s) for the weekend, which means we hope to get some cross-country skiing in.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

More food pictures

In addition to the mashes we bought from Parrotnutz, we also bought some treats. We'd previously bought Logs, Nuggets, and Squares, and they were once again a hit. This time, there was also a new product: ParrotPlopz. The Plopz are made with human-grade ingredients and don't have seeds in them, which means I can sneak a taste or two as I hand them out to the parrots.

Here is Max, eating a nugget:And then she also got a plopz:Beeps with a plopz:Then, he accidentally dropped his food, so he had to go down to the bottom of his stand to finish it off:Occasionally, something spooks my birds, and they take off at the same time, do a lap or two of the kitchen, and land someplace other than where they started. It's very strange -- I'm not sure what sparks this. But, it happened last night. Usually, the birds drop everything during this chaotic time; however, last night, Beeps held on to his nugget, landing on the plant stand:And, Stella held on to her plopz, landing on the floor:For dinner, I was making their mash, which requires me to add boiling water and let the mixture steep for 15 minutes. Max decided she didn't want to wait until the food was ready:I did move her after taking this picture and gave her a (probably futile) talk about the virtue of patience.

While dinner was cooking, Rocky decided to hang out with Thomas's feet:
I had to take this picture of Andreas because of the way he was posed. His neck is so stretched out -- I can't imagine this is comfortable for him! He stayed this way for at least 15 minutes before moving on to bask somewhere else.I was hoping to announce that Beeps had come through his hormonal period, but that may be a bit premature. He has been so much more pleasant lately. He can be out of his cage when we eat dinner, and I can say the word "babycake" without getting attacked. However, this morning he flew at me as I walked near his cage, carrying Stella's and Rocky's water dishes. I spilled some water on the floor, and he immediately flew to the inside of his cage, where he was enclosed. But we're almost there!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cheese Shortbread with Parrot

I've previously mentioned that I participate in a forum where there are frequent cooking challenges. This month's challenge is "Holiday Entertaining." I thought this would be the perfect time to try out a recipe that I've been eying for several months. Of course, it's from my favorite cookbook, How To Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman.

Here is the recipe:

Cheese Shortbread

8 TB (1 stick) cold butter, cubed
2 c. grated semi-hard cheese (I used cheddar)
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour (I used 1/2 c. whole wheat and 1 c. all-purpose)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp cayenne (I put in a bit more since I like things spicy!)
paprika, optional (I opted out since I didn't have any)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Food process everything together until it's a coarse meal texture. Form into 1" balls (you need to really roll them in your hands to form the ball). Place about 2" apart on greased or nonstick pan (avoid nonstick with parrots in the house!) and slightly flatten with your hand. Bake about 10 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Sprinkle with paprika, optional. This recipe is supposed to make 30-40; I wound up with 43.Delicious! Although next time, I think I'll use a sharper cheddar, or possibly try one of the suggested variations with blue or goat cheese. Since I am more unpredictable eating sweet things than savory ones, these are much safer to keep in the house. There are still some left, 4 days later, whereas 43 cookies would likely have already been consumed.

These really caught the attention of Stella, who helped herself:I love how she tries to clean her beak on the wire rack.
video

Then, she even started eating the crumbs on the ground! She doesn't really like holding food in her feet, so when she does, you know it's good!
I imagine she's asking me why I put the rest of them in a parrot-proof container!After rereading, this post, I feel the need to add this disclaimer. This isn't a healthy parrot recipe. However, there's nothing in it they can't have. Despite the fact that it looks as though Stella ate a lot, you can see by the crumbs all over, that most of it landed on the counter. This was a people recipe, and she happened to make me laugh while stealing some for herself :)

I didn't post yesterday as I had an unexpected day off. There was a terrible snowstorm and the weather people were saying not to go out unless it was absolutely necessary. So I had a nice day off, reading, working out, and spending time with the parrots. Thomas and I did go for a walk in the afternoon, after he got home from work. I wish I'd brought my camera -- it's so beautiful, with the freshly fallen snow. We have hopes of cross-country skiing this weekend!