2014 Update

October 5th, 2014

Well, I cannot believe it’s been nearly a year since I last posted a blog entry.  My life has changed a lot in many ways and not at all.  But happily so.

My flock is doing very, very well.  They do love living here in Albuquerque with me in my little cottage.  The cockatiels Chipper and Charlie are about 14 years old, Sam is about 12, and Steve around 12 also (3 of which have been with me).

Steve is doing very well too, despite his chronic underwing wound.  Having been a rescued African Grey with serious emotional and physical problems, he has really turned around and become a happy, well-adjusted (for him) Grey.  He is still phobic about being removed from his cage, and he doesn’t take any chances if he thinks someone wants to pull him out and take him to the vet.  So he sticks close by his cage.  But he’s a happy guy and we have a wonderful connection.   He is the most gentle and sweet bird with a bit of  Grey playfulness shining forth now and then.  Here are some photos of him from last week.  He is actually not perching on my knee (though he has done that from time to time), but is sitting on a perch on his cage door asking for head rubs.

photo 2


photo 1

Steve’s underwing wound originated with his first owner who neglected him and didn’t provide any kind of stimulation.  At first, we thought he was mutilating himself; but I’ve since learned from my vet here that Steve has a chronic problem with ingrown feathers under one wing.  This may be the original cause of the wound – Steve’s attempts to remove the discomfort.

The bad thing is that he always has a bit of a bloody wound or scab under that one wing, but if I take him to the dreaded (but wonderful!) vet every 2-4 months to have it debrided and swabbed and checked for ingrown feathers, he does very well.  He may eventually die of an infection, but so far he has lived with it without complications.  It must present him with pain every day, but you would not know it except that he is slower moving than most Greys and he doesn’t stretch or lift his wings in greeting, as most parrots do.

My excellent avian vet and I have gone over possible surgical solutions, but he has so little skin left in that area, and the stress would be extreme for Steve.  We both feel Steve needs to be allowed to live happily with some minimal help along the way.  Here he is, after a thorough drenching shower, happily chewing up foraging materials with his humidifier spewing its helpful wetness into a very dry New Mexico fall season.

photo 5

Sam is a wonderful companion and loves going for walks on my shoulder out into our garden.  For longer walks, I put him into a small soft-side parrot carrier, which he loves.  He is easy-going and a very simple guy – though he doesn’t take well to strangers.  He considers my mother and sisters strangers…still!  After 2 years.

photo 4

And my most recent avian accomplishment was to get my two cockatiels to room in the same cage.  I had begun them together when I got Charlie, but they proved to be too competitive then.  But they’ve mellowed also and spend so much time in each other’s cage that I thought it was time.  And it’s working out great and saving me some much-needed space (this is Chipper below – Charlie was roosting somewhere on top of my cupboard when the photo was taken).

photo 3


Although I haven’t been painting for some time, I still explore ways to create.  Recently, I had a real desire to embroider again and I combined that desire with creating a liturgical item for my local priest, called a pall (it covers the chalice used during Mass), and this was the result.  I love embroidery, which I used to do a lot when I was in my 30s.  Eventually I will get back to painting.  However, it may have to wait till I have more time when I’m not working regularly.


The fall here is always beautiful – spectacularly so:  cold nights, warm golden days with soft, very dry, breezes.  The annual balloon festival is in full swing, and I am very grateful for everything.  May your fall be lovely and may you keep warm and toasty this winter!


PS  BunRab, my house rabbit, is fine too.  She is currently shedding her spring/summer coat and looks rather tatty so did not want to be photographed!





Happy Thanksgiving!

November 28th, 2013

From Sam


From Steve


From Chipper


From Charlie


And from dozing BunRab on her “condo” made by my sister out of pallet wood:



Naughty Crows

November 19th, 2013

As the weather gets colder here in Albuquerque, I’ve had to curtail walks with Sam in his carrier.  But a couple of weeks ago, I took advantage of a sunny noon lunch break and the two of us went on a mile walk.

We entered the park near home. During the Fall when the pecan trees start divesting themselves of their nuts, the crows gather by the hundreds in this park to forage for food, and crows are noisy and very, very raucous!  As we passed under a wheeling bunch of them, Sam got quite agitated and began screeching at them.  Finally, he couldn’t hold it in any longer.  He yelled at them, “YOU BE!”  – which is shorthand, learned by his old flockmate Pippin the lovebird, for “YOU BE GOOD!”  Pippin was always correcting her “boys” when they got too fractious and loud.  And although she’s been gone for a couple of years now, Sam obviously did take that in and used it  appropriately when he felt the crows had gone way too far in their behavior.  Naughty, bad crows…




New Mexico Fall

October 3rd, 2013

Amid the evocative smells of roasting green chile, Fall is upon us suddenly.  The nights are heading toward very nippy to nearly freezing, but the afternoons are warm and golden.  There is nothing like New Mexico fall!  This will be my second one since I moved here a year ago.

Everybody – flock and human and dogs – are doing great, though Poppy, our Maltese puppy of one year busted her knee and had to be splinted for 6 weeks after which she was operated on.  The splint was a trial for her, as was her “cone of shame” in the beginning.  Now, she’s back to her bouncy self, but we have to keep her not quite as bouncy as she’d like while her knee mends.  But she can go for very short walks, which she looks forward to with great enthusiasm.

As the sun sets slowing in the West....

As the sun sets slowing in the West….

BunRab appreciates this nifty 2-story bunny thingie that my sister made out of fence railing.


Steve enjoys sunning himself on his “porch”:


And Sam appreciates the addition of his climbing perch and swing






And the cockatiels are in fine fettle.  This is Charlie’s preferred place to nap during the day, on my bookshelf.  St Francis, whose feast day is tomorrow, is benignly looking on…



May your fall be as lovely as mine!

Hurricanes and Torn Ligaments, Among Other Things

August 12th, 2013

Believe it or not, we had a Category 1 hurricane here in Albuquerque a couple of weeks ago.  It didn’t last long and it didn’t affect everyone.  Fortunately, we sustained no damage, but lots of beautiful old cottonwoods and pines were felled and there was flooding all over the place.  And there were power outages.  We were one of the lucky remaining 6000+ citizens without power for about 3 days.  Still, we did have fun shopping for batteries, LED lamps, and ice for our coolers while others were buying non-essential things.  Were were among the few still in survival mode!  Oh, and of course, we spent time in the evenings playing Scrabble with headlamps.


When the hurricane began, I ran from one house to another to close the windows in my place.  I flashed back to “The Wizard of Oz” when Judy Garland was running with Toto during the storm, wondering if I’d make it to my house.  Fortunately, while the floor was somewhat drenched with the rain coming in all directions, a general mop-up did the trick, and the birds and BunRab were fine.

Then, a few days ago, our 11 month-old Maltese puppy, Poppy, tore the ligament of her ACL.  Basically, one of her hind knees is busted and we have to wait for another week+ for the swelling and bleeding to go down before she goes into surgery to repair the damage.  She is consequently crate-bound except for short forays into the yard to do her business.  Here she is peeking at Sam, our Curious George, on my bed.  If she weren’t behind her screen, Sam would not be there!

Poppy and Sam

Otherwise, things are doing well!  Steve loves to shred his newspapers each night.  During the day, I also hang up a brown paper lunch sack filled with a treat and chewable toys, and he spends considerable time ripping that up and finding his treasures.

Let’s hope your summer has been free of hurricanes and torn ligaments!

Enjoying Summer

July 18th, 2013

The summer here in Albuquerque is going along well.  After the intial very hot, dry days of June, we have been supremely blessed with at least a couple or more rains per week, now that we are heading into the monsoon season.  I say “supremely blessed” because New Mexico in general has been in a drought situation for a long time.  A side benefit to having the rains is that I don’t have to run the humidifier for Steve.

The flock is doing fine and all is going along well.

Here is Sam posing for me in the early  morning.



And here is Maizy, waiting for the Harrison’s pellet crumbs to drop!  (All animals here love Harrison’s, including Bun Rab, and it’s a race between Bun Rab and Maizy to see who gets the crumbs first.)



Steve is doing very well after his ingrown feather saga.  I thought he had another bothersome feather to have removed, when he began fussing under his wing again.  But it turned out that the scab that had formed under his wing was the problem.  It fell out last night and I wasn’t surprised it bothered him – it was big!


Steve loves to forage for treats wrapped in paper on his play station.  At night, when I put him to bed, I change his newspapers at the bottom of his cage.  He has begun, for the first time, to play with the papers – hanging upside down and being a real, bonafide African Grey clown!  This is wonderful and I hope that it is behavior that will continue.


Steve’s main difficulties are twofold:  1.  he is still phobic about being outside his cage, and 2.  Quickly loses confidence in himself if he falls.  It can take weeks for him to regain ground that he covered.  This may be owing to the fact that falls always meant extreme pain, so he’s slower and more careful than most Greys.  But, maybe in time….

We Do Walk…

May 21st, 2013

Sam in the carrier and Maizy forging ahead on a beautiful warm Albuquerque morning…







Steve and Sam

May 7th, 2013

Steve finished with a shorter second round of antibiotics and is doing well after an initial low-energy period after his ingrown feather ordeal.photo-1He’s now back to be his version of “active,” which is a very, very slow form of active for most African Greys.  He’s just a quiet and slow-moving guy.  However, once in awhile, he really gets mischievous as happened today:  he really, really, wanted a soaking bath. I usually spray him, but he continued in his water dish.  So I provided a low tub of water for him, which he splashed his head into, and then upended most of it onto his play station.  It was good to see, even if a bit messy!

Sam is being adventurous by accompanying me on my daily walks (that is, when it’s not too cold or too hot).  I recently bought a nifty (though expensive) small walking carrier made by Celltei that can be worn like a back pack or worn in front (which I prefer, so that Sam feels I am close and he can see me).  Sam LOVES the carrier!  Here he is, waiting for “walkies.”


The carrier sits on top of his cage, where he plays during the day.  I will often find him quietly sitting inside, just hanging out serenely. I love being able to include Sam in more of my activities, and this is a great boredom-buster.  It tires him out too – an added benefit.  This is the small size, though it borders on being almost too small.  But it works for a Jardine’s Parrot.  It would be too small for an African Grey.



Feeling Pretty Good

April 29th, 2013

photo-2I’m happy to say that Steve is doing much better now.  After a course of antibiotics and some pain relievers on days when he’s been to the vet, he’s doing great.

Dr Linda Contos saw Steve on his follow-up to his first appointment, where it was discovered that his bloody underwing was the result of ingrown feathers.  The wing is still pretty raw but healthy – he’s not worrying or chewing there any more, so the removal of those ingrown feathers did the trick.  The doctor felt, after reviewing all his vet records from Wisconsin (during which time he was in the rescue facility and was being seen by the vet who handled birds from the rescue) that his original bloody underwings probably began with ingrown feathers that no one discovered.  All along, it was thought to be a behavioral issue.  At one point, the sores were so bad that the vet recommended euthanasia if there were no improvements.  That’s when Mary decided to foster him and give him a new chance.  And that’s how I found Steve, through Mary’s blog Parrot Musings.

I’m very happy to find that Steve is much more resilient about vet trips, now that he knows he’s mine and I’m his.  He must have come to that conclusion a little while ago, and things are starting to open up for him.  Even last year around this time, he wasn’t sure he was going to be hauled away yet again.  Steve continues to have a very sweet, gentle nature.  I’m so glad he’s part of my family.  And he can be darn cute and winsome as he shows in this picture:


A terrible, no-good, horrible day…

April 18th, 2013

Steve is feeling mellow and quiet after his dose of antibiotic and Metacam, following a very bad day  on April 16 when I took him to the vet for the first time in 2.5 years!  He has been problem-free for that long – and he needed that long a stretch without vet interference to heal from his bad experiences from previous vet visits in Wisconsin.  But this time I had to bring him in.  I noticed that some of his feathers were growing weirdly on his left wing and he was beginning to fuss with them, pull feathers, etc.  Then I  noticed a spot of blood on his beak, so I got him into see our new New Mexico vet, Dr Linda Contos, at Ventana Animal Clnic in Albuquerque.  She’s an avian vet and very good with birds.

He did indeed have two ingrown feathers under that wing and a bad infection, so she removed the offending feathers and began him on a course of antibiotics.  I was very impressed by Steve – after his initial protest about being hauled out of his travel cage, he was very calm.  The doc said that owing to his previous history of mutilation under his wings, it didn’t surprise her that some feathers are ingrown.  They form little abscesses and cause discomfort.  She did not advise putting a collar on him to prevent him from chewing further, since he is a calm bird and that previous chewing was for a specific reason – to relieve his discomfort and pain – rather than from an emotional or behavioral issue.  Collaring is extremely stressful.  I agreed – Steve is a happy bird and no longer has a reason to feel abandoned and neglected and he rarely pulls his feathers unless the humidity is extremely try (I keep a humidifier on next to him here in the desert to avoid the feather picking and try to keep the humidity between 38-50% RH).  The doc also said that Steve almost seemed even grateful that the offending problem was removed.

The doc also showed me how limited his wing muscles are – which I already knew – and that he will never be able to fly.  The good news is that we examined the other under wing and it was totally healed and pristine.  It’s just that the skin is thin and the muscles atrophied.  And because he is so hand shy and phobic about being forced out of his cage, it’s unlikely that muscle rehab is in the near future, if at all.

It took Steve about 24 hours before he began looking and acting like his normal self, but we’re back to his normal routine of foraging on his play station in the morning, and all looks to be very good for his future.  And he doesn’t appear to have held it against me that I had to towel him to get him out of his cage!