Friday, May 29, 2009

Rhubarb frenzy

Last week Wednesday I went to the farmers' market for the first time this season. There wasn't too much produce yet available but I still wanted to support my favorite local farmer, so I bought some rhubarb even though I had no idea what I was going to do with it.

I asked my friends on a forum that I frequent, and someone recommended a Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp. (Yes, I can use recipes other than those coming from my favorite cookbook!) It was quite delicious. I made a few substitutions -- whole-wheat flour instead of all-purpose and lemon rind instead of orange (since that's what I had at home). The topping didn't cook all of the way, which was probably the result of me not mixing it properly.
It turned out a little too sweet for me; if I make this again I think I would eliminate some of the sugar coating the fruit and perhaps only make half of the topping.

Two days ago, I bought some more rhubarb at the farmers' market. This time, I decided to make a Rhubarb Coffee Cake. Also delicious! Once again, a few substitutions. I didn't have enough sour cream, so I used plain yogurt. And once again, I substituted lemon rind for orange. Finally, I didn't have turbinado sugar, so I just used regular sugar. I also used a bit more rhubarb than the recipe called for since I didn't want to be left with a couple of stalks. I used a food processor to chop the rhubarb finely.I would recommend either of these recipes to anyone who has some spare rhubarb lying around.

Thomas was making asparagus-spinach soup/puree for dinner last night. After placing the cooked items in the blender, Max had to come over to investigate:
The parrots absolutely loved this dish. When Rocky really loves something, he keeps his top beak in the food and laps it up. We joke that he's afraid Thomas will remove the spoon if he doesn't lay claim to it by keeping his beak immersed. When Max really loves something, she uses her bottom beak to scoop out as large of a portion as she can. Both of these actions were seen in our house last night.

Everyone loves when the farmers' market is around again! How did we survive the winter?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dinner challenges

I've mentioned before that Rocky makes us laugh out loud almost every day. He's recently become more insistent about climbing up on the couch while we eat dinner and trying to steal food off of Thomas's plate.

On Friday, he was gobbling up food remnants when he mistook decoration on the plate (a fish fin) as a piece of cheese. He excitedly tried to lap it up and, when that failed, tried again. Of course Thomas and I laughed about this, so Rocky kept it up for our enjoyment. I hope to get this on video if he keeps doing it!

Last night, we were eating bean burritos, and Rocky wouldn't take no for an answer. He climbed on the couch, up Thomas's arm, and finally onto Thomas's plate. He finally got what he wanted:Because Thomas gave in, it's likely this behavior will continue.

Cooking challenges

Over the weekend, I decided to make Double Chocolate Bars from my favorite cookbook, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman.
As I went to the cupboard to gather my ingredients, I noticed that Max was trying to destroy my book! Luckily the damage she inflicted was contained to the margins; all recipes are still readable!

Maybe she knew I was planning on making something she couldn't eat?

Laundry

In a surprise move, Max followed me upstairs this weekend. She'll often fly to the stairs and wait for me to pick her up, but this time she flew over and then climbed the remaining seven or so steps and wandered into the bedroom.

I was getting a basket of laundry to do. I could have tossed her down the stairs and she would have flown to her cage or stand, but she obviously wanted to be with me and I didn't want to disappoint her.

I needed both hands to get the basked downstairs. Normally I place her on the lid of the basket; this time I decided to place her inside.I love how she kept lining up her eye for that perfect peering angle!

Boundaries

Normally when Thomas or I shower with the parrots, we place shampoo bottles on the top to separate them, as seen in my blog header. I've been eschewing this step lately if it's just the greys. They generally stay at their ends of the shower. If there's a problem, they can both fly away. Also, they've been tolerating each other better as the months go by.

On the day in question, they started out on opposite ends of the shower. Slowly, Stella started creeping over by Max, until they were only inches apart.Thomas's remark: "Well, Max, it looks like someone has little regard for personal space!"

Friday, May 22, 2009

Greys, again

Last night, Thomas was preparing portobello mushrooms for dinner. Max came over to investigate. I grabbed my camera, but was surprised by the picture I took:
In between when I saw the scene and when I took the picture, Stella had run Max off of the counter and started investigating the mushrooms herself! Then, she flew off and landed on Max's place on the stand! She's never perched up here before. That's Max's spot.Stella usually perches on the second level. We're going to have to closely watch things to make sure that Max is handling her new position in the flock OK. So far, she seems to be taking things in stride. I must admit I'm happy to see that Stella has the confidence to make such moves!

I've mentioned before that the normal breakfast routine is for Thomas to place his mostly-empty cereal bowl on the counter. That's Max's signal to go over and get some leftover cereal pieces and soy milk. She knows to wait for this and therefore doesn't bother Thomas when he's trying to eat. Today, someone beat her to the bowl:Max couldn't believe what she saw! She was creeping over towards the bowl, but seemed afraid to even try to run Stella off.
Thomas felt bad for Max, so he had Stella step up and he held her for a few minutes so Max could eat:These guys fascinate me every day!

Hope everyone has a good, long weekend! It's supposed to be beautiful here, so I'm hoping to get in a fair amount of hiking.

Lizard happiness

As usual, I'm anthropomorphizing, but I don't feel like my lizards are often happy. We provide them with about the best care we can in captivity, yet I still think it's not enough.

The one time they get excited about anything is when they get to eat dandelion flowers. We don't use pesticides on our lawn, partly for that reason. During dandelion season, I'll pick a few flowers for each of them as I come home from work.

This is Elsa, my female. I usually give these to her by hand, but wanted to get it on video and she doesn't always have the best aim (she's accidentally gotten my finger before when I wasn't paying attention). I'm always amazed at how quickly she grabs up the flower and devours it! video

And here's Andreas. He's the more personable and happier of the two. He seems to enjoy watching us and will come out of his hide occasionally to check things out. Sorry for the bad camera work!
video

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Grey videos

Last night, Thomas and Rocky went downstairs to work out while the greys and I made dinner. Max doesn't really like this arrangement. She loves the basement and would rather have gone down with Thomas. However, she can get into mischief, which means Thomas has to stop working out to rescue her. Also, she is very dusty and we're trying to keep our downstairs DVD player in good working order by limiting its exposure to our dusty greys.

She flew to the perch closest to the basement door, a chair, and stared longingly at the door. (I did take her down for a couple of quick visits, which she loved).

In this video, I'm trying to engage her in one of her favorite activities -- talking about kissing. Instead, Stella responds with a kiss (she's out of view of the camera) and then Max quietly says "hello" towards the end. I'm posting this because I love it when I ask one of them for a kiss and get a response from someone else. This actually happens quite regularly in our house since the greys and caiques love making the kiss sound!

video

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As I've mentioned many times before, I am fascinated by the ways in which my parrots interact with each other. There is actually very little interaction between them; I often wonder whether they recognize each other as parrots? Or do they consider themselves human and therefore above even recognizing the lower beings inhabiting the same living room?

The greys are the exception. There is little-to-no physical interaction, but they will chase each other around and will vocally interact. It's been very interesting to watch. When Stella first came to us, she was terrified and her wings were clipped. The first few days, Max buzzed her several times; once she even fell off of her cage and reopened her mutilation chest wound. I wrote about Stella's introduction to our house here, including mentioning the first time Max buzzed her.

What a difference a year makes! Stella now is extremely confident. Rereading the entry I linked above, I barely recognize her as the same bird! I'm not exactly sure when this happened, but at some point she definitely put Max in her place! Stella has achieved a sort of authority over Max. Max no longer tries to buzz her or knock her off of her perch. In contrast, Stella frequently chases Max around and makes her leave her perch.

I'd love to be able to capture more of this on video, but there's little warning when this type of thing happens, so I just have the end here.

Max had been on the chair closest to the basement door (see the above story). For some reason, Stella decided she wanted to perch there, so she flew over and landed on the chair, forcing Max off. Max ran across the table to be close to me, and in this video you can see Stella running over to chase her off.

Max actually flew around, landed on my head, and when I moved my head to get her off, landed back on her perch. You can see Stella following this action.

video

Trying to hatch

Yesterday morning as I was in the living room tending to the birds' cages and the greys were in the kitchen, I heard a big "thud!" followed by fluttering wings and then quiet.

Of course this strange series of auditory events prompted me to investigate. Last I'd seen them, Max was on the stand and Stella was perched on the sink.

Apparently Stella had moved over to the counter where we stack our recyclables where they wait until one of us is going outside. She knocked over the pizza sauce can and then flew down to try to hatch it.

Getting it in position:
Doing some digging:
Sitting on her "egg":
After I took this series of pictures, I returned everything (sauce can) and everyone (Stella) to more appropriate places. She repeated this, so I took the can out. No need to encourage nesting!

Luckily she remains very sweet and immediately stepped up even while nesting.

My replacement

Thomas started work a little later than usual today, which meant he had more time to spend with the parrots before work. After his shower, he went upstairs to change. I was changing the parrots' food and water downstairs. Rocky was following me around in a threatening manner, so I placed him on the stairs and told him to go up and find Thomas.

I finished with the cages and realized the two of them had been up there for quite a long time. As I mounted the stairs, I heard Rocky giggling. Entering my bedroom, I see Thomas on the bed and Rocky on my pillow!

I asked what was going on. Rocky just kept laughing. Thomas said, "Looks like you've been replaced!"

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Costa Rican wildlife

Thomas and I returned earlier this week from a week's vacation in Costa Rica. The main purpose of our trip was to stay at the amazing Tiskita Jungle Lodge while getting to see wild scarlet macaws flying free.

We had an amazing, incredible time, and I can't say enough good things about our experience at Tiskita. I'd highly recommend this place to anyone who loves seeing wildlife, and Thomas and I will definitely be going back in the future. If anyone interested in going there has any questions, just leave a comment and I will do my best to answer!

Just ten years ago, there were no wild macaws flying around in the jungles around Tiskita. Their habitat had been lost due to slash-and-burning. The owners of the lodge (Peter and Lizbeth) purchased a large chunk of desolate land and got to work returning it to its splendor, ultimately achieving what is a wildlife paradise. They have a huge fruit orchard, and plant trees with the goal of pleasing the current wildlife inhabitants and perhaps attracting even more (like spider monkeys, who do not yet appear to live there).

I could go on and on, but instead will show some pictures!

It's kind of hard to see this guy, but here is a sloth:
There is a specific kind of tree that sloths like, and Peter planted several around the lodge for that reason.

The lodge is right on the ocean -- how calming to fall asleep to the sound of the waves at night! Here are a couple of pelicans we saw resting on a rock:
I'm not sure what kind of lizard this is (there were many different kinds of lizards!) but I liked his pose:
This iguana, resting in the grass, was the first animal we saw upon arrival:
Later, we saw another hanging out on a rock:
This green iguana spent most of his time basking on a leaf right outside of our cabin -- this picture was taken while on our porch:Peter and Lizbeth hope that eventually every cabin will have its own ghost bat living near it; our cabin didn't have one yet, but we found one at another one:The beautiful scarlet macaw; the main purpose for our trip:
We spent the first few days seeing them fly overhead and hearing their squawks, but we didn't come close enough to take any decent pictures. The biologist told us that they're very good at hiding and that our best chance of seeing a pair would be to catch them foraging. We'd most likely see the mess they were making before we saw them. And that's exactly what happened! We would have walked right by the tree in which they were perching had they not discarded so much food waste!

We spent a little over an hour watching them forage in this beach almond tree. They spent most of their time in the same tree, but they weren't particularly close to one another. After about 50 minutes, the male came over by the female, squawked, and then took off, landing in a neighboring tree. The female apparently was still hungry, and she stayed and foraged in her original position. The male then started foraging in his new tree. We watched this for another 30 minutes or so until we left. About 10 minutes later, we heard a squawk and saw them flying away together.

It's really amazing how completely these giant red birds can be camouflaged!The biologists are able to tell all 50 or so macaws apart based on feathering and coloring on their wings. The male of the couple we were watching was named Dylan and the female was Red.

The first macaws were set free about 6 or 7 years ago. Last year was the first year that macaws successfully nested in the wild -- there are now 3 one-year-old macaws hatched in this forest and flying free! And several pair right now are nesting but the babies have not yet fledged -- the biologists are keeping a close eye on them. This was so exciting as it was proof that the flock is being established and therefore has a better chance at long-term survival.

The agouti is a rodent-like animal that we saw quite frequently. There was one that was foraging on the trail we took down to breakfast every morning. As long as we didn't approach her, she wasn't bothered by our presence:Since it's spring, we saw a few babies from different species; here is a young agouti:I'm not sure what birds these are, but I liked the picture, so I'm posting it!Peter found a boa constrictor near the lodge; he called us over as he used a tool to safely grab him up and then place him safely in a tree:Kind of hard to spot -- no wonder we didn't see any while out walking in the jungle!

We went on a hike with Lizbeth, where she showed us some of her favorite parts of the forest. She knows where certain birds like to hang out, and because of her we saw three different kinds of manakins and several woodpeckers, along with others. No pictures, though -- they were too quick for us!

Towards the end of our walk, she saw movement out of the corner of her eye -- we had happened upon a group of white-faced monkeys! They were eating fruit in the orchard. We sat there for about an hour and watched them. It was so fascinating! We could see a few babies clinging to their mothers as they swung from tree to tree.

This little guy is eating a piece of fruit; he proceeded to lick his fingers afterwards; it was so adorable!
In this video, you can see one of the juvenile males trying to scare us off. Two different monkeys tried to scare us off, but after we remained still where we were, they appeared to forget about us. (We stayed a decent distance from them -- the owners do not want the wildlife becoming tame at all as that can be dangerous to them).
video

The last day, we took one last walk down to the pond in order to hopefully spot the resident crocodile who had eluded us the rest of the week. On the way down, we heard a very distinctive bird call coming from this bird of prey:And then, success! As though he knew we were leaving yet wanted a glimpse of him, the crocodile appeared:In addition to the animals pictured and mentioned, we also saw coati, a tayra (apparently quite rare to see!), land crabs, howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, and many other lizards, hummingbirds, birds, butterflies, frogs, toads, etc. Our experience was absolutely amazing; and I can't thank Peter and Lizbeth enough for such a magical vacation. I can't wait to go back!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Macaws in flight

Our second day in Costa Rica brought us our first glimpses of wild scarlet macaws. We'd heard them previously; their loud squawks penetrating the jungle. Every time we saw them, we actually heard them first. Sadly, they are backlit so their beautiful colors are hidden in these pictures.That's all I have time for today -- more pictures to follow!

We're back!

We had a wonderful time! I hope to have a bunch of pictures posted in the next day or so.

The parrots were just fine during our absence. Especially Rocky, Daphne, and the caiques. The greys were less happy that we were gone. Stella didn't fly off of her cage and attempted to bite our bird sitter (I'll call her "S") when she was going inside her cage to replace her water dish. And then there was Max.

Max behaved horribly! I'm actually a bit embarrassed about this. She was quite mean to S and didn't listen to her. When S would try to put Max back in her cage, Max would fly away. At least she was getting exercise! But S is a pro and managed just fine, with only some hurt feelings on S's part. We're going to have to brainstorm some strategies for her to use next time we're gone.

When we got back, the parrots were very happy to see us. Except for Calypso; he's still mad that I left and will probably be so for about a week. Rocky was a bit excited, so Thomas couldn't pick him up with his hands, leading to work-arounds like this:
The greys were wonderful; they couldn't get enough of us. Normally when I get them out of their cage, they immediately fly into the kitchen. When we got back, neither one would leave my side, although things are back to normal now.

It's good to be home!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Opening packages

I've found a stash of parrot candy -- little pieces of wood wrapped in colorful paper. My parrots love this! In this picture, you can see Max, Stella, and Beeps (in the back) enjoying this treat. Beeps later went back and grabbed the pieces the greys had dropped to completely destroy them.Since his hormones have calmed down, I've been able to take a few more pictures of Beeps. Here he is, eating a pecan. I just love the way he holds things. It's so nonchalant; he has such a loose grip but always manages to hold on to his treasure.
We're leaving town for a week, so there will be a short blog hiatus. It's also the reason I haven't had time to read all of my favorite blogs -- I've been too busy making sure I got everything done in time. I can't wait to catch up with what you all have been doing and that's the explanation for why you'll be receiving very tardy comments from me!

The parrots know, as always, that something is up. Beeps attacked me this morning, as he does every morning that we leave. I knew it was coming and managed to evade him before he broke skin! The other parrots have just been clingy, which makes it harder for us to leave them.

I should have some beautiful pictures when we return; including, hopefully, some of wild parrots in their actual environment!

Have a great week and I'll be back shortly!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Balance

One of my quirks is that I really like balance and even numbers. This presents itself in many areas of my life, including with the parrots. We do have 6, after all, including 2 caiques and 2 greys.

I'll often have a caique perched on each hand and it makes me so happy! Same thing with the greys, although there it's often because they're initiating it. If I'm holding Max, Stella will often fly over to be held as well, and vice versa.

Last night, Thomas was in the kitchen and had a grey on each hand. Originally, he just had Stella. Max was apparently feeling left out and claimed his other hand.
They were having a great time, and then jealous Rocky noticed. He grabbed an almond from the plate and sidled up to his favorite person:
We've tried unsuccessfully to add another budgie to our house -- Daphne wants nothing to do with that! We've also thought about adding another severe macaw to our house, but decided against it. If we could guarantee that Rocky and the other severe macaw would get along, we'd probably do it. But, with parrots, there are no guarantees. And the last thing I need is another Rocky wandering around. I might go insane!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jelly thief

Thomas was making his pre-run snack this morning when Max swooped in and started gobbling up jelly as fast as she could.She must have some sort of sensor that alerts her to unsupervised sugar!

Monday, May 4, 2009

No pics, but we both got bit this weekend

And I'm blaming Thomas for both of them.

Mine happened first, on Saturday morning. One of the many things that gets Beeps riled up enough to bite is when we change the parrots' food and water dishes in the morning. Therefore, the rule in our house is that Beeps does not get to come out of his cage in the morning until this task is completed. On weekdays and some weekends I do this as Thomas has to be to work before me and is in a bigger hurry. Other weekends, I've sometimes already left the house to run, leaving Thomas with this job, and he can risk a bite if he wants to let Beeps out. This really is only an issue the four or so days each month we're both around on a weekend morning.

Thomas knows this rule, but thinks it's "mean to treat Beeps like a second-class citizen." My response is that Beeps has shown us that he can't restrain himself from biting during this time so it's safer for everyone involved to keep him caged for an extra 10 minutes or so.

Saturday, unbeknownst to me, Thomas let Beeps out. Predictably, he flew at me and attacked my arm. I was not quick enough to get out of the way in time as I did not expect him to be out. He barely broke the skin and I will be completely healed in a few days.

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Sunday, Rocky was hanging out on the couch, nesting in the blankets. He was aggressively posturing towards Thomas when he approached the couch. Thomas ignored the warning signs and sat down anyway. Rocky responded by biting him twice in quick succession, right on the hip. Because he bit him through his pants, he didn't break the skin, but there is a lot of bruising right now.

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Later that evening, Thomas was upstairs playing a video game. I was reading on the couch. Rocky climbed up on the couch and solicited head pets from me! Then he climbed all over me and my book, asking for attention. I didn't want to disrupt the magic and run to get the camera, so I have no photographic proof of this happening. The strange journey of our relationship continues...

Max's favorite toy

One of my friends owns a toy company that makes Max's favorite toy. It's the Wheel Tweet Small towards the bottom of this page. While doing some spring cleaning, I found one that I hadn't yet given to any of the parrots! (It's also a favorite of Rocky and Calypso).

Max was so happy and proceeded to play with this for quite a long time, which allowed me to get more cleaning done as I wasn't having to remove a curious grey to a more appropriate place.

I decided to take a video of it to share with my friend, but then Stella's reaction led to me posting this on the blog instead.

video

I think Stella was making this noise to show her displeasure that Max was getting all of the attention. After turning off the camera, I gave her a toy of her own and she busied herself destroying it.

Leaving behind a path of destruction

Parrots are messy and destructive. I am lucky in that my parrots, for the most part, recognize what is acceptable and appropriate for them to chew and what they should leave alone.

I've mentioned before that we have to leave wood slats in strategic places around the house for when Rocky gets the urge to chew. He used to take a chunk out of the fish tank or the base board, but that was just because he felt he needed to chew right then and nothing else was available. When given the choice of approved chewing materials, he'll leave our house alone and stick to parrot wood.

I believe I've also told the story of Rocky's day of freedom from his cage a few years back when he escaped through a food dish holder. He climbed on to the couch, removed the bookmark from a library book, and proceeded to leave little bits of bookmark in all of the rooms in our house. It was fun to see physical evidence of how he'd spent his day, and I was so happy that he didn't destroy the library book. We promptly got him a new cage with better food dish locks.

Friday evening, I had just swept the kitchen floor. After a few minutes, I returned to find this:
That's an almond on the left and a piece of wood on the right. This resulted in more sweeping for me!

Yesterday, Thomas called me into the living room and said I was not going to believe what Rocky did. Here it is:He gently removed the batteries from our remote control. Since he's been ignoring the remotes for years, we've gotten lax at making sure they've been placed out of his reach. No longer, as I really don't want him thinking he can play with batteries.

Friday, May 1, 2009

More greys

Last night, Stella found a box I'd placed near the back door so I'd remember to take it out to be recycled. It must not have been to her liking as she walked out right after I took this picture, and right before I was going to remove her myself. I don't want to promote nesting activities with my females!
I've made yet another batch of double chocolate bars. Obviously, the parrots are not allowed to eat any, although that doesn't stop them from getting their hopes up. As soon as Thomas cut himself a square, Max flew over, demanding, "want some!" and then perched on the container while giving him a sad look. Stella then flew over to the counter. In my opinion, less because she wanted some chocolate bar and more because Max was there and she didn't want to feel left out. You can see Beeps in the background on the stand, keeping an eye on everyone.
I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend! I'm not doing any races; instead, we're hoping to get a good spring cleaning started. I'm hoping it's warm enough to roll the parrots' cages outside so they can be thoroughly cleaned with the hose.