Archive for 2011

He Speaks!

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

For the first time ever (at least in my hearing – what he does when I’m not home, I haven’t a clue), Steve SPOKE.

His first words, as I was leaving the house, wishing everyone to be good and telling them that I love them, he said:  “I’ll be right back!!!”

I repeated the words back to him, and he said again very clearly, “I’LL BE RIGHT BACK!”

How fun is that?  He’s such a dear guy.  It made me smile so broadly all day today that he finally has relaxed enough to say something.

I believe Steve learned this phrase from his first owner.  Mary of Parrot Musings told me over a year ago that she thought she heard him muttering something like this when she was out of his sight.  I wonder what else he might come out with in the future?  Stay tuned….

A Merry Christmas to All!

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

So Sleepy…

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Chipper (left) and Charlie (right) are inseparable.  Where Chipper goes, Charlie follows.  And that includes nap time on the tree in the sunshine…  They make me want to take a nap too!

“Come On, You Can Do It!”

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

When Chipper was a baby and came to live with me, he had never flown.  Therefore, it took awhile for him to learn.  One of the phrases he heard me say again and again to encourage him was “Come on, you can do it!”  So whenever I am in a coaxing mood and want him (or Sam, across the room) to do something and there is hesitation, Chipper will chime in with “Come on, you can do it!”

It doesn’t take much to get Chipper excited about life.  The shiny gold flash of the lid on this jar was really cool to him, so I encouraged him to rap his beak on the lid as it made such a satisfying noise.  He told himself that he could do it, and he did!

Chipper Feels the Christmas Spirit

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Chipper, my cockatiel, has been unusually cheerful and happy these last few weeks.  After skritching his head one night, he wanted to go on “walk about” on my couch.  I had dumped a number of items on it just previously, having returned from a class for newcomers to my church.  Chipper spied a little book (about the new translation of the Mass) and quickly sidled up to it.  He loves the book, as you can hear!

YouTube Preview Image

Sleepy Sam

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Sam and I were hanging out on the couch awhile ago, and the sunshine was ever so relaxing.

He fell asleep on my lap for a few minutes…

Flock Update

Monday, December 5th, 2011

I apologize for not writing for so long.  Again, computer problems.  I seem to have a bad effect on new computers.  I finally had to dump my new HP desktop and switch to a Mac – now no problems!!  May it continue thus…

For you Steve fans, Steve is doing fine.  While there isn’t much outward progress to report, my feeling is that he’s doing well.  He continues to have a serious case of agoraphobia and hasn’t ventured outside of his cage in a long time, EXCEPT at night when the other guys have gone to bed and it’s head-rubbing time.  Then he consents willingly to stick his head – sometimes half his body – outside the food hatch near my chair.   But no more than that.  In this, he has regressed a bit, as he used to come out periodically when things were quiet.  That hasn’t happened in a long time.  But I don’t force the issue or any others.  I figure that in time – perhaps a great long time – he may finally feel he’s safe enough to come out a bit more.

Curious about my iPhone and looking very dinosaurish...

Steve is also very shy with the other birds.  Having been a single bird at the beginning of his life and gone through terrible years of neglect, he is timid of the cockatiels (they are the noisiest and most fractious) and Sam (who is definitely unpredictable).  He may never warm to any of them, but that’s OK.  And he doesn’t know how to play (having never been given destructible toys to play with).  This has been a challenge.  He also often opts not to get excited about things because it may still hurt to move his body a lot (the skin under his wings is very tender).  But at least he chews on various items I have hung and attached throughout his cage, and that’s good.

He continues to keep the feathers off his neck and upper chest – it’s a bit of a habit now, I think.  But when he began chewing the feathers on this thigh big time, I felt there was another reason at play.  I began spraying him daily with warm water, in case it was because of the increased dryness with winter heating.  That seemed to do the trick.  He has stopped chewing his thigh completely and I will continue spraying him, despite the colder weather.  He seems to really enjoy the spray, so it must be what he needed.

The one thing that pleases me most is that his relationship with me as caregiver and friend is much stronger and feels cemented somehow.  He gets very excited to see me if I’m out late, beaking my fingers happily.  And his personality is starting to manifest at odd moments.  If I turn on a light in the living room after I’ve put the birds to bed (covered), he will emit a soft heart-wrenching wail, which means he wants me to come and say hello, followed by happy finger-beaking.  Then it’s hard to cover him as he will continue with a few pips and whistles when I re-cover him.  He is the sweetest, most gentle of greys!

The other guys are doing just fine too, though I think Chipper has been missing Pippin my lovebird.  This past week, he kept referring to her in such phrases as “What, Pippin?” and “Whatcha doing, Pippin?” – which has the effect of tearing my heart!  Sam continues to make Pippin’s sweet sound and also her sounds of annoyance – sounds which Pippin made about HIM when he did things Pippin considered in poor taste or simply bad behavior.

Sam, the goofball/dog with feathers

The cockatiels Chipper and Charlie are fine too.  I had to replace Charlie’s sleep basket with a very large one, so it displaced a wooden box I had previously used to shore up his basket.  Chipper has always coveted it, so it’s now in his cage, and he is most pleased!  I call it his hobbit home, and here he is coyly peeking out of the hobbit hole:

Chipper, loving his hobbit home

(By the way, don’t ever give such a nesty box to a female bird or it will induce them to lay eggs, which can be dangerous.)

And here is Chipper again, in your facet:

That’s a summary of how things are going in my flock.  Here is hoping that your life goes well this special season – that you stay healthy and happy and warm!

My Steve – with me now for one year!

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Today, a year ago exactly, I few halfway across the US to meet and take home my rescued African Grey Steve, who had been fostered from a parrot rescue by my good friend Mary of Parrot Musings.

It’s been a very challenging year for both of us, with many ups and downs x a zillion, it seems!  There have been times I’ve been overjoyed for the least little progress and down in the dumps through discouragement.  Nevertheless, I was never willing to give up on this sweet, most gentle of Greys.  That very gentle spirit is what attracted me to him.  From all of the neglect and unknown treatment he has received in the past, Steve could have turned out anti-social and vicious.  But he has always allowed himself to trust again, amazingly.

Steve has severe phobias – about being handled, about being outside his cage, about other birds, about the outside (where he had escaped for 5 days during this stay with his original owner).  Those phobias still remain, and probably always will in a reduced form.  But with extreme PATIENCE, he has come a long way in a year.  Most of this time, it was I who had to learn from Steve what he needed.  That is still an ongoing process.  Sometimes I’m embarrassed by how long it’s taken me to “get” what he needs, but with give and take between us, we have come to be very attached to one another.  Like any other relationship, we learn what the other person is like in certain situations and we adjust or compromise.

What is very clear is that Steve will never be a typical boisterous Grey, who likes to hang from things and bounce around having fun.  The skin under his wings is so delicate that the least jolt, fall, or sudden movement tears whatever has healed, causing those wounds to bleed slightly.  Pain is part of this cycle, so Steve is very careful how he walks or climbs – deliberately and with care.  These are the mutilation wounds he developed when living with his original owner, and which continued while at the rescue.  Since being fostered and coming home to me, he has never once picked under his wings, thankfully.  The only thing he does, in times of nervousness, is pluck feathers from his neck, and you can see that bald spot in the photo above.

It might be possible, with a type of avian physical therapy, to improve the mobility of that delicate skin if it ever healed definitively, but Steve cannot be handled yet, and I think the trauma of regular handling would be far more detrimental to his physical and emotional self than anything gained from the therapy.

Of course, this means Steve isn’t very active physically and probably never will be.  But I’ve arranged his food in such a way that it’s either wrapped or stuck inside various crevices all over his cage.  Same with his foot toys.  So he has to move around to get to any food.  He loves it this way.  So, while Steve may not live as long as a healthier Grey, he will be a happy one and after all that he’s been through, that is all I care about.

The best part of our day is at the end, when the other birds have been put to bed.  I sit next to Steve’s cage near his food hatch.  I’ve rigged a platform there, so he can safely walk up to and through the hatch to get his nightly head rubs.  We commune with each other for about 1/2 hour before Steve’s bedtime.  Even if Steve doesn’t solicit head rubs, he will sit with one foot curled up, relaxed, and just watch me, and I watch him.  It’s a great calming time for both of us.

I have great hopes for the next year for Steve!

The Dog Days of Summer

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

and we’re all coping fine, though Bun Rab is decidedly hotter than she’d like to be…

Steve is doing good too – with his usual setbacks and moving forward periods.  However, I got some great input from an animal behaviorist who works a lot with parrots.  It is well worth reading Chris Jenkins’ full reply to my query on the World Parrot Trust website at this link.  For a scared parrot to approach something that is frightening, it has to be worth his while to get closer/used to it.   And that means rewards.  He said that if you have a toy that Steve is scared of, then just place it a foot away and reward him for not spooking.  Then inch closer, each time rewarding him for not moving away from it.  But if he moves from discomfort, back off and start from his comfort level.  Such a simple concept and I’d been using it to some degree without understanding it fully.  I’m glad to report that it’s really helping.  I’ve got him used to several items he was spooked by, and with continued training, hands may come to be less scary.  I’m a long ways off, but even what I’ve done so far has produced more confidence and a more one-on-one connection with me.  He loves to train, even when he’s feeling nervous.

AND, Mary and Thomas of Parrot Musings visited us last Sunday!  They were en route from one engagement to another and graciously stopped by for a short period to meet my flock, at last.  Mary had fostered Steve for about 3 months before he came to me, – not just fostered, but saved Steve’s life (which was about to be snuffed out through euthanasia) –  and we have continued to communicate with each other about his progress, getting her advice, etc.  Thomas generously trimmed Steve’s nails, which had grown too long since I got him from Mary last October.  And then he trimmed the nails of the rest of my flock.  Thank you again, Thomas!

Here’s a recent shot of Steve about to stick his head out of his food hatch for head scritches:

I forgot to take photos, but I believe Mary did.  Perhaps when she returns, she will post something.  It was so great to see Mary and Thomas!

Last but not least, Chipper and Charlie continue to be the rascals that they always will be.  The heat does not seem to daunt them at all.  I think the Australian outback is still in their genes, so they seem to be best adapted to the summer (not so to winter’s cold!):

Park Your Horse at the Minute Market

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

It’s not every day that I see horses parked at the Minute Market across the street from my office, but occasionally, I’ll see one or two horses quickly cross the busy highway, the rider parking her horse in the parking lot as she rushes in to purchase something at Oregon’s version of the 7 Eleven.

These horses seem quite used to this routine, unphased by the traffic and the curious stares of passersby.

Within a couple of minutes, one of the two riders returned and off they went.

Speaking of horses in unexpected places, I was taking a walk in my town, which is near the countryside, and saw a woman leaning over to brush what I thought was a young girls’ very long blonde hair.  But when I got closer, I was surprised at what it really was:

Here’s a close up of the same fellow, who I realized had just featured his show-off performance in the town’s recent parade: