Archive for September, 2009

Each One a Character

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009
Hanging out in Charlie's cage

Hanging out in Charlie's cage

Though I’ve been living with Chipper for over 9 years, and Charlie for over 5, these guys never cease to amaze me by how complex their lives are.  At first glance, they seem to be very predictable and simple, but once you get to know them – and any cockatiel or parrot, for that matter – you see amazing differences in personality, character traits, habits, obsessions, etc.  They are so human in this way!

For instance, Chipper has always been extremely interactive from babyhood when I first got him.  He was the only one of his nestling group who was always exploring and dropping into space from a hand or cage – without benefit of flight! – just to see what’s “out there.”  He was – and still is – forever bruising his wings from falls and being a bit too curious for his own good.  (I have to keep his flight feathers trimmed, or be becomes really aggressive.)

Chipper is also moody.  If he were human, I’d think he had a slight manic depressive tendency.  One day/afternoon/hour he might be singing his heart out with happiness; the next he’s in a snit about something.  Those snits may simply be that he’s mad at me for not understanding what he wants.  He can’t quite get me to understand him and I’m sure he gets really frustrated.  I do “get” his steering directions, though.  If he’s on my finger, and I start going one direction and he wants to go another, he leans hard in the direction he wants to go, and I get it!  (He could train horses at this rate.)

I’ve also learned, over the years, that Chipper tends not to show his true feelings – he displays a bit of a macho/devil-may-care attitude toward life and seems to ignore your feelings.  But he’s actually very sensitive and I can tell when he needs more TLC than usual, when he’s insecure.  This may sound really anthropomorphic, but I’ve experienced it, time and again and seen how he responds to my understanding of his moods.

Hanging out on Sam's swing

Hanging out on Sam's swing

Charlie, on the other hand, was not hand tamed and is still wild and will not accept hands touching him.  My attempts at finger training him only resulted in a freaked-out and very stressed bird (his phobia probably resulting from the injury that caused his missing toe).  However, he is really quite personable and interative vocally.  And he gets jealous if he doesn’t get enough attention, so it’s not that he is oblivious to humans, though he is bonded closest to his friend Chipper.  Charlie’s demeanor is always sunny and consistent.  He’s happy all the time and sings to prove it.  BUT he is not as “creative” and inquisitive as Chipper.  He seems to need Chipper’s presence to give him courage to explore on his own.  Here you see Chipper has climbed up to the top of the swing perch, and Charlie followed him half-way up and began chewing on a toy.  He’s quite a precious little guy too.

The difference in behaviors may be influenced by early human contact, but I suspect it’s not the whole picture.  I’ve always thought these intelligent beings are unique just as we are, and isn’t it wonderful that they are?  If only we could understand them as well as  they probably understand us!

Charlie demonstrates a really good stretch!

Charlie demonstrates a really good stretch!

Sharing Blackberries

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

blackberryturkeyAcross our alley drive from my house is the neighbor’s gloriously, well-tended stand of blackberry bushes he has trained over a chain link fence.  (Correction:  They trained themselves; he just hacks away at them so they don’t take over his entire yard.)

Every human I know loves ripe blackberries.  The wildlife here is no exception – from the birds to the bears.  (Although there are bears nearby, they are never seen in town – only on the outskirts and in the hills.)

These nearly-grown turkeys are no exception!

And then the deer traipse by each day to pick on the newest batch of ripening berries.

And then I take my turn too…


Deer Matters of Life and Death

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

deerfamilyOne of the deer families is doing well and taking time to chew cud of an early morning.

This photo was taken the morning after I found a very dead yearling buck in my back yard.  He had not been a thriver all his short life.  He had some sort of skin condition that made his coat very sparse, although it seemed to have improved since the spring.  But his antlers grew out strangely.  One short one, and one just a stub.  He was clearly not doing that great.

So it was no surprise to find him dead.

I used to wonder where deer went to die – either when they grew too old to chew or graze; or if they were sick or injured beyond hope of healing.  Well, most seem to disappear into the wild and be never seen again.  But at least two of them spent their last seconds in my yard.

Death seems to be very much an accepted part of a deer’s life.  This family calmly chewed their cud within sight of the dead buck.  I thought maybe it would create bad mojo for them to be so close.  Apparently not!

And why do does typically deliver twins?  Well, the likelihood of one of the two fawns dying is so great that the deer gods have decreed that twinhood is the rule, rather than the exception.

So, while it is sad to see a closely-watched member of the ‘hood’s deer pass away, I’ve learned from the deer that it is part of life.  I hope I am as gracious and calm about death when my time comes!

Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning…

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

007…oh, how I hate to get out of bed…

That’s Chipper at 7 am in his bedtime roost.  As the mornings get darker and cooler, he has a hard time getting out of “bed” these days.  He looks at me a bit incredulously that I would ask him to wake up so early!

Nevertheless, the enthusiasm of the other three birds coaxes him out – and of course, the prospect of special breakfast treats.

But, boy, I sure agree with him about getting up!

Sidewalk Art, Revisited

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

photoOver a year ago, I included a blog entry about this man of mystery.

He is still around and become even more mysterious.  He’s looking cool and very sharp with those blue shades!

Fawn Convention

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

fawns4I looked out one day and saw that the fawns of two does were gathering in my parched front yard.  I’m not sure what they found so enticing, although they do eat the plum leaves and those are beginning to fall regularly as the season segues into Fall.

It was fun to see them all healthy and losing their spots.  If you look closely, you’ll see that the spots are disappearing on their undersides.  In another month, most of the spots should be gone, replaced by their fast-growing winter coats.  They’ll start to look fluffy and thick-coated soon enough.

I sometimes wonder what the deer find to eat – their mothers are looking quite thin and bony.  But urban deer might actually have it better than their forest cousins.  These deer can choose from succulent bits from lawns and gardens that are watered regularly (ahem – not so on my “lawn”!  When the temperatures stay in the 90-100s F, it’s not really worth wasting the water on my tiny lawn).

Here is one of “my” fawns relaxing and enjoying his cud of a recent morning:


A Bird-y Saturday

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

SamGarbageFirst order of the day was to clean cages!  Sam is in a nesting mode, so he snuck into the trash where I stash the old cage papers.  He did not want to leave….argh!  But a little tidbit helped change his mind.

Then I took Chipper to the vet to have his check and to have my avian vet check this weird feather he was growing.  Chipper has been molting heavily – as has everybody else except Sam – and it’s taken a long time for him to grow a new set of feathers.  He’s been lethargic and grumpy.

One of his primary feathers was starting to grow weird and then it became painful for Chipper.  He’d wince or squeak when he stretched.

So the doc just pulled it out.

Here is what it looked like – a spiral feather with a really heavy, thick shaft. The doc felt the strange growth occurred when it was growing out and probably got injured.

Chipper feels much better since it was pulled!

FeatherAnd then there was the matter of the TURKEYS…

Chipper and Charlie often sit, play, sing, chew boxes on top of their cages, a side of which faces the front door.   Whenever I’m home on mild or warm days, I open the inner door and just use the screen door in order to provide more light for the birds.

Of course, they also see whenever the deer traipse through the front yard, or if the neighbor’s calico cat stalks through.  These sightings are ho-hum for them.

On this day, however, they saw — EEEK!  These monstrously large VELOCIRAPTORS!  (Or otherwise know as wild turkeys.)  At least, to the cockatiels, they looked pretty bit and very scary…

turkey1Mass cockatiel hysteria ensued and I had to collect my two witless birds from various locations of the livingroom before they hurt themselves.

Well, all in a day’s work…


Sunday, September 6th, 2009

StubbyWhen I visited my family in Albuquerque, I went through some old family stuff and found, to my delight, this ancient crayon drawing I made of my first dog Stubby.  She was a Poodle/Scottie mix and I chose her out of a litter of pups when I was 9 years old, after which I made this sketch.  She had been lying asleep on my bed in the sunshine.   (I later got a prize for the drawing in school, which I was quite proud of.)

Stubby was a darling little thing and became a fast buddy to me, my sister and brother, and of course  my mother in particular.  After all, Stubby spent more time with my mother – while we were in school – than we did when we were at home.

Nevertheless, I was quite happy that I chose her for my family.

Here is the entire gang when we were oh so very young…

1964 Santa Ana with Stubby.2Stubby was extremely particular.  When she was old enough, it was decided that she would be bred to a Scottie to produce a litter of pups.  She’d have nothing to do with the male dog chosen for the task.  And yet, a couple years later, she fell head over paws for a roguish Beagle that roamed the neighborhood.  That was not a planned mating, and the resultant pups were anything but cute.  Well, a few of them turned out OK, but one in particular was quite homely.  She had a nearly smooth Beagle coat with dark Scottie  coloring.  But then she had these weird wisps of long hair that stuck out all over the place.  It was as if the poodle genes had been fighting the Beagle genes and neither side won.  We called her Grizelda.  She was the last pup to find a home, but we found one eventually – to an elderly, rather eccentric woman who doted on her in breathless accolades about Grizelda’s many sterling qualities.

Stubby was a loyal and fierce protector of the family and was with us through thick and thin, tolerating and accepting all the various other animal additions to the family, including cats!

1969 Yuma and Stubby CatWe were fortunate to have had her in our young lives,  and still miss her now and then.

Cooperative Playtime

Friday, September 4th, 2009
YouTube Preview Image

When I returned home from Albuquerque, NM recently, I presented Chipper with a brand new Birkenstock box – these are great, because they have no glues or tape holding them together.  Chipper,  you may have heard, agrees!

But Charlie, not to be left out, joined Chipper in the shredding fun, and the two boys played together for some time before one or both of them got bored.

Occasionally, Chipper  – being the eldest at 8 years old – needs his personal space and has to tell Charlie.   So they have some beak sparring and screeching at one another, with one or the other flying out of reach.  But for the most part, they really rely on each other’s company and wouldn’t be happy without it.