Friday, April 30, 2010

Human perches

Beeps continues to want to be on me all of the time. He is absolutely irresistible, so I usually give in, and then attempt to perform tasks one-handed. I don't trust him on my shoulder (he can be unpredictable and I really don't want a face bite!) so that means he must be on a hand or arm.
Sometimes I get him to attach to my pants and then he climbs up me, giving me about 30 seconds of two free hands for getting something done.

I think Thomas may have been feeling a bit jealous of Beeps yesterday, as he told me that I wasn't the only one parrots wanted to be around, as he grabbed up Rocky:Hope everyone has a great weekend -- this will be our first without Daphne, so it will be very strange. We've got lots to do, as usual, and will hopefully have some interesting posts for next week!

Kissing obsession

Both of our greys are obsessed with kissing, though Max's obsession usually manifests itself verbally. She is always asking for kisses and making kissing sounds. Stella has taken this to an entirely new level.

If she doesn't see Thomas for about 10 minutes (or longer) and then he reappears, she flies over to him and sticks her head toward his lips.
I'll do in a pinch, but Thomas is really her preferred set of lips!He repeatedly tells her to get a new hobby, but I remind him that we're all she's got! Plus, they do tend to get obsessive about something for a few weeks and then switch to something else, so he should enjoy this while it lasts!

Fight club

In the past 24 hours, there were two (non-serious) events of parrot-on-parrot violence in our house. You will probably not be surprised to hear that both of these events involved Max, who I suspect still pines for the first 2 years of her life when she was an only parrot. (I can't blame her).

Event 1:

Thomas only worked a half day yesterday, so he was home for lunch. The greys were on the same play stand. He was feeding Max some of his lunch of wild rice. Apparently she enjoyed this so much that she temporarily forgot she was a prey animal and let her guard down. Stella creeped up behind her and took a bite out of Max's back, coming out with a beak full of timneh down feathers. Thomas saw Stella creeping up, but didn't think she'd do anything to Max (!)

Event 2:

Thomas also has today off (does he ever work?) so was eating breakfast as I headed down to run on the treadmill. I suddenly hear a shout and stomping back and forth between the kitchen and living room, so I came back upstairs.

Apparently Rocky was perched on his chair, minding his own business. Out of nowhere, Max flew over and tackled him to the ground! Thomas said they fell as one object to the ground and then wrestled around a bit before Rocky could distance himself.

One of Rocky's tail feathers was on the ground, so I said "It looks like Rocky lost a feather." Thomas replied, "And a little pride."

However, Rocky was singing and dancing while he said this, so I don't think his pride is too wounded!

Incidents like this one are why we're planning on keeping with medium-sized birds. If Max had tackled a budgie, it could mean death or serious injury. When she tackles Rocky, it means nothing serious. As much as I miss budgie sounds and really want another one (and there's even a gorgeous tame male at the rescue where we volunteer), I think we're good for now.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Moving on

Thank you to everyone for your good wishes and nice thoughts on our loss of Daphne. It still hasn't completely sunk in; she was such a part of the routine. I keep going to grab her food or water dishes, or to say good night to her. My birdsitter told me that she was the chirpiest she'd ever seen her, and seemed very happy the week we were gone. I don't know if she told me that just to make me feel better, but it does give me hope that she was happy until the end!

The other parrots do not seem to be affected at all by her loss. Perhaps because she was so easy going, and so much smaller than them, they never really considered her as part of their flock. After all, she wasn't taking away too much of our attention!

Max was doing her best to cheer us up last night, drinking from Thomas's ice water:
And this morning, Rocky was so funny. I wish I had this on tape! Thomas had the morning off, so he let Rocky out while we were eating breakfast. Normally, Rocky sits on Thomas's lap, but he didn't want to be there; he kept climbing off and coming by me.

He insisted on being less than an inch from me, wings spread wide. He alternated between saying "Hello Rocky!" and "Gimme a kiss! *kiss kiss kiss*" I think he was trying to get a reaction out of me. Thomas told me to just ignore him to see what he'd do, so he ramped up his cuteness. I tried to ignore him, but I couldn't stop laughing.

I don't know what's gotten into him. He certainly isn't switching his allegiance, but he could very easily have attacked me and he didn't. Maybe he senses my sadness and is trying to cheer me up!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Yesterday, I arrived home from work to find that my beloved budgie, Daphne, had passed during the day. She was on the floor of her cage, in the corner. We only had her one week shy of four years. It wasn't long enough.
I'm just glad that it didn't happen on our pet sitter's watch, and that I cuddled her and told her how much I loved her before I left for work that day, part of our usual routine. I wish I could have been there for her at the end. She hid her illness well.

I truly hope she didn't suffer, and that she knew she was loved, even though she was alone at the end. Even though she was one of the quieter budgies I've ever met, the absence of budgie-chatter is deafening.

Thomas buried her in what we call our budgie garden -- where Lenny, Ethel, and Jeff Saturday also rest. It's a place in our backyard where the tiger lilies are in the process of growing.She was one of the most gentle souls I've ever met. I miss her so much.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Routine, again

It's like we never left. This was Calypso's shortest adjustment time ever to me returning. He was still punishing me yesterday, but this morning was asking for kisses and begging to be picked up. Less than 36 hours after we returned -- record time!

I thought this was a pretty good picture to see how Stella's feathering is coming along.She's slowly allowing the feathers to regrow, leaving an ever smaller oval bare on her chest. She also still plucks her legs. I didn't think she'd ever look this good!

For comparison, here she was two years ago, about a month after she came to our house:I still don't think she'll ever be fully feathered, but that doesn't really matter to me. Her personality is so sparkling that I rarely even notice her imperfect outward appearance!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Boston wildlife

We arrived in Boston on Sunday, the day before the marathon. I had to get to the buses to take me to the starting line almost 4 hours before the marathon started! Which means that Thomas had around 8 hours to himself in Boston until I finished.

Originally, he had told me that his plan was to not get so drunk while I was running that he didn't recognize me at the end! But he was just kidding and was completely sober when we reunited at the finish. He had spent his morning running and then walking around the city.

He was resting in a park when this pigeon started harassing him for food. Sadly for the pigeon, Thomas didn't have any (plus, we don't feed wild animals even if he had had food), so the pigeon left him alone and went in search of other food:Then, he watched some sparrows taking a bath. He claimed to do this for about an hour, but he may have been exaggerating!There were so many pigeons in the downtown area! I know many people don't like pigeons, but I find them very beautiful. From behind, while in flight, they remind me a lot of Max!The next day, to rest my legs, we went on a whale watching tour through the Aquarium. Our guide told us that we had one of the best animal sightings of any tour she's ever given! (Though she may say that every time). In any case, we were impressed with the whales and especially dolphins that we saw.

We saw the dolphins first; they were so playful!We saw two kinds of whales; humpback:
And fin (though I know we got pictures of the fin, I'm not entirely sure that's what this one is, but I think so!):Back on land, we had more normal urban wildlife sightings. We hung out in Boston Common and the Public Gardens for hours.

I love watching squirrels!There were several blue jays flying around:I know many people consider them pests, but I absolutely love Canada Geese. They are so beautiful and their black necks are just breathtaking. Thomas and I used to have a shift doing wildlife rehabilitation (which we hope to be able to do again someday) and these were one of the more common animals we'd take care of. Once I was carrying an injured goose to the tub, and she pooped all over my shoe. Gross!We were in Boston at a very beautiful time, though I'd also like to see it in the fall. Many of the trees were just beginning to green:Not exactly wildlife, but this made us laugh:I've mentioned frequently that I'd really like to have a dog, but that our lifestyle and house are not suited to one at present (cue tiny, sad violins for me). In Boston Common, we were seated on a bench near the experimental off-leash dog area.

We may be weird, but we had a great time watching the interactions various dogs had with each other and with the dog owners:We were staying in the North End, where this sign displayed the famous dogs of the area:We probably saw some of them during our stay!

And in a major case of dog stalking, we fell in love with this guy:He was walking with his owners; the woman was holding a dog frisbee. He kept going over and mouthing the frisbee to get her to throw it to him. Finally she did a few times, but not enough for him, as he'd immediately ask for more. He was very playful!

We're back!

We're back! Almost to the minute one week ago, at the time I'm writing this, I had finished running the Boston Marathon and was in search of my warm-up gear. We had a great time in Boston, and I will post some pictures shortly.

We got back late last night, after the parrots' bedtime. However, we decided to let everyone out. They are definitely getting used to us going away and coming back, though they are still more clingy than usual, and likely will be so for a few days.

Rocky was so happy to see his mate again:Perhaps because Thomas had given him some food?

But then we got to work with unpacking. Macaws are not very good at watching what's going on -- they want to be in on the action. So it was with the unpacking.He wasn't the only helpful one:
She couldn't get enough of us last night. Now she's helping Thomas do his neti pot:Calypso is being strange, and I will probably not be able to handle him until this weekend.

Beeps was so happy to see me. I had thought that the week away would dampen his hormonal impulses towards me; alas, this did not happen. He is still trying to woo me and drive Thomas off. He attacked Thomas at least three times last night, including some hovering. Thomas dove out of the way in time, often in a very theatrical way, which just reinforced Beeps, who I fear has come to see this as some sort of game.

Max was wonderful. Thomas has today off of work as well, and he said she spent over an hour singing happy songs while she was in her cage and he was brewing. Last night and this morning she wouldn't let us out of her sight. This will probably get old in a few days, and she'll be back to hanging out in the kitchen alone instead of being with her family.

As always, the only reason we were able to get away was because we have such a wonderful bird sitter who takes great care of them when we're gone. With the exception of Max, they love her. Max actually frustrates me in this regard since she is so difficult for our bird sitter, yet she is so well-behaved for us. When I talk to S. about her, it's like we're discussing a different bird! I just can't believe the trouble Max gives her!

It's great to be back and regular entries should start to follow again soon!

Friday, April 16, 2010


Taking a blogging break...see you in a week!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Nut competition

This is a post with a lot of videos. If I knew how to edit things, I would have combined them into two videos -- round 1 and round 2.

My friends Judy and Strider (Strider is Judy's dog!) gave the parrots a container of mixed nuts. I thought it would be fun to videotape the parrots choosing their favorites in a nut competition.

Round One:




So far, it's looking like a runaway for the cashews! But not so fast...



The results from round one were: Cashew 3 Almond 2. It seemed a bit too close to call a definitive victory for cashews, so another round was warranted.

Round Two:






The second round results: Cashew 5 All other nuts 0, for a total score of Cashew 8 Almond 2.

This actually becomes a bit more interesting after all of the cashews have been eaten and secondary nuts must be taken. Sometimes, the parrots are able to find small cashew pieces. Max will frequently throw other nuts on the ground in disgust. Beeps and Stella are happy with any nut; Rocky and Max will keep tossing nuts around in hopes of finding a cashew until the container is taken away.

The parrots send a big thank you out to their wonderful and generous friends!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hey, jealousy

For as long as I've had parrots, I say an excited "Hello!" as soon as I walk in the door, in hopes that I would be greeted in the same way. For years, that didn't happen. I persevered.

Oh, they were definitely excited for me to return home. The caiques (Beeps, especially) would beep excitedly. Rocky would make his excited vomit noise, and the greys would chirp and whistle. When I'd make it into the living room, they were all extended in a begging pose, fluttering their wings, itching to come out.

A few months ago, Stella responded to my "Hello!" with a "Hello!" of her own. To reinforce this, I'd single her out with a "Hello, Stella-belle!"

For the past week, right after Stella says, "Hello!" Max has been, too. Which of course gets her singled out with a "Hello, Maxwell!"

It just took a little jealousy to motivate Max!

Caique for breakfast

Thomas's rotation this month has been wonderful for us. He's working fewer hours than the past several months, and that means he's often here for a weekday breakfast with the family.

Today, Beeps was determined to be his breakfast:Luckily for him, we're vegetarians! Also, don't parrots look so strange with a head-on angle?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mushrooms and wheat berries

At the farmers' market this weekend, we snapped up the scant local food available this early (late?) in the season -- namely: mushrooms and onions. I was looking for something different to do with them, when I found a recipe I could adapt from the recent Clean Eating magazine.

In order to get all of the chopping and cooking done, I kept the greys in their cages and let the caiques out. The caiques are much better at self-entertaining; they like to verbally interact with me, but are not likely to fly over to my workspace and start throwing mushrooms on the floor. The greys wouldn't be able to stop themselves from throwing mushrooms on the floor.

Here's Calypso on his new favorite perch:
I put him on the chair yesterday out of frustration when he and Beeps kept attacking each other while on the stands. A change of scenery was warranted. This morning, he wouldn't step down onto his stand -- he wanted back on this chair!

Wheatberries with mushroom/tomato sauce:

olive oil
1 red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
~12 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
1-15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp. dried thyme

Cook the wheatberries according to the package. I made 2 servings. These need to simmer for about an hour, so I started them, then did all of my chopping (while on caique-watch) and had plenty of time to make the sauce.

Dice the onions, chop the mushrooms, and mince the garlic so everything is ready to go. I also opened my can of tomatoes now.Heat olive oil in a skillet. When hot, add onions.Cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly. Add the garlic. Cook for a few minutes more, still stirring regularly. Add the mushrooms and cook for a few more minutes as before.Add the can of diced tomatoes and the thyme and cook until it's the consistency you like. Then, pour the sauce over the wheatberries:
Thomas loved this; he said it was one of his favorite dishes of the past few years. It's pretty simple to make, and the sauce ingredients are things we usually have on hand for the summer. Instead of wheatberries, I might next time try this with couscous or something that doesn't take quite so long to cook! I'd also like to try this with fresh tomatoes once they are in season.

This was the first time we'd tried wheatberries. The consistency took some getting used to for me, but Thomas liked them instantly and wants to include them in our diet more frequently.

As I was leaving for work this morning, there was a mourning dove drinking from the water my neighbors emit onto the street from this hose attached to their house.I just wish all of these birds weren't hanging out so close to the street! At least this street isn't very busy; pretty much only residents drive on it. I wonder what other wildlife I might catch there over the upcoming months!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Weekend parrots

We didn't quite get everything accomplished this weekend that we'd set out to do (no hiking and we have one episode left of I, Claudius), but overall, things were great! The parrots were creating havoc, as usual.

For example, Max was contentedly playing with a toy on a stand:Stella, who had been perching on the other side of the room, flew to the other stand to play with a toy (note Max in the background on the other stand):Not to be outdone, Max flew over to the stand where Stella was to try to play with the same toy as Stella!Of course, "play" mostly meant trying to hit Stella in the head with the toy.

Because we were doing so much brewing this weekend, we allowed Rocky and the greys to be out of their cages. Normally, we cage them during brewing since things need to be sterile, and inquisitive parrots do not lead to sterile surfaces!

I was capping the bottles, and had placed a couple of discarded caps on the side. Max thought she was so tricky -- she slowly circled around me, eye on the cap, and then ran over, grabbed the cap, and ran away to play with it.

Stella started chasing Max to try to get her to drop the cap. She wasn't interested in playing with a cap herself -- she just didn't want Max to have one. Finally, Max had enough and flew to her stand, where she felt safer.
But she wasn't safe from Stella:Shortly after I took this picture, Stella chased Max into the living room, then came back in to the kitchen (where we were brewing). Max played with the cap on her stand for another few minutes, and then came back in by us. Let's hope no errant feathers got in the beer! (They didn't; we were careful!)

I feel compelled to add that I doubt beer caps are appropriate parrot toys. I'm not sure what it's made of -- if the metal is parrot-safe. I know what kind of toy-player Max is, and if she were the type to try to eat the metal, I would have never allowed her to get a cap. She just likes to hold strangely-shaped objects in her foot and in her beak; not ingesting anything. She will not have access to any unsupervised; this was likely a one-time thing. Unless she manages to steal one next time we're bottling!

Beeps's obsession with me continues. On Saturday, I was going into the garage to get something out of my car. As I opened the door, Beeps flew over and landed on my back. We do not allow the parrots in the garage (unless they are in carriers, going to the car).

Thomas was standing near the door, so he said, "Here, give Babycakes to me." So I did. He stepped up with no problems. As I was in the car, I hear a raised voice. I return to find a bloody husband and a caique snaking his head around repeating, "Pretty baby! Pretty babycake!"

Apparently, just as Thomas said to Beeps, "See, I'm not so bad," Beeps bent down and bit his hand! There is no reasoning with caiques!

Since Thomas couldn't brew while having to watch out for attacks, Beeps went in his cage until he could be more closely monitored. Hormones!

Pamela asked about my recipe for veggie orzo for the parrots. This started out as a human recipe that Thomas was making, but it looked so unappealing that we're feeding it to the parrots instead.

He took a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, 1 cup of orzo, water, and a bit of olive oil and heated it up. His plan was to add some kind of spice for human consumption, but, as I said above, we couldn't eat it!

I'm not exactly pleased that Max was picking out and just eating the corn, but I'm not too worried about it. The majority of her diet is from her pellets, and other stuff just supplements that. She can be quite the picky eater, so I am very grateful for pellets! Also, because she gets so much exercise, I am less worried about her diet than if she were sedentary.

Backyard (and frontyard) suburban wildlife

My wildlife sightings are nowhere near as interesting as Shannon's, but they still make me happy. Especially the squirrels. I love watching those guys! They seem to be enjoying life.

Though it's not very clear in the photograph, this guy is a bit lighter than the rest of the squirrels. Hopefully he'll stick around this summer since he's the only one I can tell apart!This is a different, fatter, one:
I looked out my patio yesterday and there were dozens of birds in the tree! I'm not quite sure what kind they were; I really need to buy a good bird identification book.
And, a surprise sighting of ducks. I was backing out of my driveway when I noticed a slight movement in the street:Luckily there was no traffic on my street, and I had my camera with me, so I could take a picture. My neighbors have this hose coming out of their house that emits hundreds of gallons of water into the street every day. It is just mind-boggling. It creates a huge ice pond in front of my driveway every winter. I do not understand how so much water can get pumped out of one house! I'm hoping these guys were just stopping over and not planning on nesting since it will be tricky for them to get their babies to water. Still, it was a nice start to my morning since I love ducks!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Grey starvation

Last night, I got home after Thomas, since I was up at the rescue. I always end up leaving much later than planned! The birds seem to know when I'm trying to leave and start doing super cute things that I want to reinforce -- which doesn't happen when I put them back in their cages!

As always, I was very happy to return to my own flock. Thomas was cooking dinner, and had several slices of cheese out to snack on while dinner cooked. And I know some of you made the instant connection. Unattended cheese? That must mean a Max photo. Yes, Max's cheese magnet was once again in effect:She was not happy about it, but Thomas got the cheese away from her right after taking the picture.

He'd also cooked up a vegetable and orzo dish for the parrots. As it was cooling, the greys decided to help themselves to some early:I suspect Max was just eating the corn kernels:
After Thomas took Max in the kitchen, Stella hopped up to take her place:I really think that so much of Stella's quick transformation from scared, mutilating grey to happy, confident grey is due to her watching and imitating Max. She is such a sponge when it comes to grey behavior!

I absolutely cannot believe that another week has passed. Where does the time go? We have so many things planned for this weekend -- farmers' market, brewing, running, finishing I, Claudius, watching Ne le dis a personne, hiking, yoga, etc. -- that I know these next few days will fly by as well. Hope everyone reading this has a great weekend as well!