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The Finster Log
Archive — September 2002
Posted on: 09/30/02, 17:44:59 | | link
Tea started singing his Hunka Hunka Burning Love song to no one in particular. Frank flew over to the perch next to him and watched. Tea scooted a few inches away, and started singing again. Frank scooted over, and watched. Tea stopped singing, scooted over, and started singing again. Frank scooted over, and watched. Tea gave up singing. A little while later, I heard singing from inside a nest box. Tea was inside, singing to Goober, and Frank was on the box's perch, peering inside. Finally, Goober couldn't take it any more. She flew out of the box, practically knocking Frank over.
After lights were out, I heard singing from inside a box again. Frank heard it, too. He launched himself off the nest box he was sleeping on with Sally, hovered in mid-air trying to figure out which box had a singing bird inside, and finally settled back down with Sally. Such a curious bird!
When It Comes To Toys, Size Matters
Posted on: 09/28/02, 07:20:20 | | link
When it comes to toys, size matters. Norm is Fizzy's Goffin's Cockatoo. Click here to see Norm getting treats out of his toy.
Bruce invented a Sock Full of Nuts when he was bird-sitting Norm one weekend. He took an old sock, put some nuts (in shells) inside, tied a knot at the end, and gave it to the bird, who threw it around a few times, and then proceeded to chew holes in the sock, crack the nuts open, and eat the meat inside. It was a really good toy. So I decided to make one for Peanut. Now, Norm is about 19 times Peanut's size. Norm thinks jeans make a really good toy, but Peanut couldn't chew a hole in a pair of jeans if his life depended on it. In fact, Peanut can't shell a big sunflower seed by himself, so I had to modify the Sock Full of Nuts.
A strip of paper, twisted several times with goodies (oat groats, tasty seeds) hidden inside. Peanut just loves these. He climbs all around his house trying to get all the good bits, and then when he's gotten everything, he'll make spit balls out of the paper. Well, they're not really spit balls, since birds don't have saliva the way mammals do. But he's pretty good at tearing paper into tiny little bits. In fact, paper is one of Peanut's favorite toys.
Everybody Needs Toys
Posted on: 09/27/02, 14:59:41 | | link
All creatures need something to do, particularly when they are in captivity. They spend most, if not all, of their day locked in a cage, and if they get too bored, they can go crazy. So it's a good idea to give them new things to do. Cleaning everything and moving all the perches around can help, although if you change things too much it'll take them awhile to settle in.
Apart from the once-yearly major Finsterium cleaning, about every three weeks I take the three trays out one by one, clean up all the seed squeezins, and put another three weeks' worth of paper liners in the two side trays (the middle tray gets cleaned every day since most of the food sits there). The Finsters just love checking out the bottom of the cage when the trays are gone. This photo shows the late Snow Dude peeking out (Zebra Finster, he's still a juvenile here, his cheek patches aren't in yet, and his beak is still a little black).
This photo shows another good Finster toy. This is a strip of cloth that I tie around the end of the perch hardware so Peanut won't accidentally bump into it when he flies over to the Finsterium. Peanut will chew on it, but if you look closely you'll see that one end is inside
the cage. I think Frank is the one who manages to bring this inside, since I see him chewing on it a lot. Some of the Societies like it, too.
Another good toy is plastic vines I hot glue to the tops of nest boxes. The Finsters spend a lot of time chewing on the leaves, and trying to rearrange them to make a nice nest. This is Sally on the box.
Any item that could possibly be used to build a nest is also fair game for toys, but I try to discourage nest building, to try to keep the hens from laying too many eggs.
For the most part, though, Finster toys are food. Put a pepper heart in the cage, and they'll fly right down to check it out and eat the seeds. Same with cucumbers, corn (either thawed frozen kernels or chunks of cob), broccoli, etc. Except for a lettuce leaf, which they get every day, I try to give them different food items all the time, so they'll have something new to check out.
Frank Is Still A Mystery
Posted on: 09/26/02, 18:16:50 | | link
Tonight, Tea was singing his Hunka Hunka Burning Love song, and dancing his Hunka Hunka Burning Love dance, to Goober (female). Frank flew down to the perch they were on to watch. Go figure.
Oh, and have I mentioned lately: No Finsters on concrete perches.
I Might Throw Like A Girl, But I Can Catch A Bird On My Head
Posted on: 09/25/02, 13:04:39 | | link
Peanut's wings are clipped, but not radically. I like him to be able to fly from his house to the Finsterium (which is a big play gym for him), but I don't like it when he flies loops around the living room. Well, I do like it, but I also realize that my apartment really isn't bird safe, and he's so small he can get into trouble. If I weren't careful to the point of paranoia, I'd keep his wings more severely clipped, but as it is, he usually has the outer four flight feathers clipped on each wing.
When he first gets clipped (invariably a few weeks before he starts molting, and getting full-sized feathers back) he takes a bit of time to re-learn how to fly with this slight handicap. He can still fly level, and down, but he can't land as gracefully, and he has no lift. There have been a few magical moments when I realize he's about to fly to my head, but won't make it if I don't duck down a little. I've caught him every time.
Darjeeling Is Back In The Big House
Posted on: 09/24/02, 16:59:48 | | link
Darjeeling (who weighs 15 grams) was poked and prodded by the vet, and given a clean bill of health. No signs that the egg had broken inside, no other worrisome symptoms. Big relief. We had another discussion about calcium. I'm going to start sprinkling supplements (grated cuttlebone, etc.) on their soaked seed, and see if that helps. The vet often suggests that people change the environment of a hen who keeps laying eggs; moving perches around can get her out of the laying mode. But Darjeeling is a Society finch, after all: in my experience it's impossible to get them to stop trying to breed. Moving things around in the Finsterium will never do the trick, the only option would be to separate the males from the females, and I don't have space for that. I took Darjeeling back home and popped her into the Finsterium, where she spent most of the day resting.
Darjeeling Is In The Hospital Cage
Posted on: 09/23/02, 17:59:57 | | link
Probably all living creatures need at least some calcium in their diets, but female birds (hens) particularly need it when they're laying eggs. If they don't get enough, the shell can be so soft it's hard to push out, and their muscles can get so weak they can't push anything anyway. This condition is called "egg binding," and can be fatal. I have lost more hens than I care to count from this: Fluff Nugget died of egg binding, and Chocolate died of a prolapsed oviduct — the hen pushes so hard she pushes out some of her insides. Very bad news.
I have also saved hens from egg-binding with a timely dose of liquid calcium. Doses, actually. You catch them up, get some calcium in them, pop them in a hospital cage where they can be warm and undisturbed, catch them up in an hour for another dose, and keep that up until they lay the egg.
Darjeeling survived a bout of egg binding a few months ago, but despite my regular calcium regimen, and my periodic research on new things to try, she clearly wasn't feeling well this morning; head tucked back to sleep, breathing heavy. Daytime: unless the bird is really sick you can't catch them, and wouldn't want to try for fear of giving them heart attacks, so I had to wait until dark. Extra calcium in the water, heat light on, and about mid-morning she laid an egg. Not too bad: hard shell, but thin. A close look at her vent area showed that the egg may have broken on the way out, since it looked like there was a drop of white hanging down. So, she's in the hospital cage, she's had a nice dose of calcium, her vent looks messy but I don't see signs of yolk in her body cavity (that's the worst in terms of infection), and I have an appointment at the vet first thing in the morning. She's pretty active in the cage right now.
My fingers are crossed.
Definition Of A Warm Toasty
Posted on: 09/22/02, 14:41:35 | | link
About 7:30 pm, or closer to 5:30 as the number of daylight hours gets smaller, Peanut is ready for Warm Toasties. This means he snuggles into your right hand, you cover him with his blanky, he grinds his beak for awhile, and then he falls asleep. We do this every night, ideally for at least two hours. One Saturday evening in winter, we started early, and stayed up to watch Saturday Night Live, so Peanut got about six hours of warm toasties, but that's unusual.
While my right hand is suitable for warm toasties, if Bruce is available, then his is the preferred hand. Peanut will practically leap into Bruce's hand when it's offered, which is very fun to watch. The size must be a better fit: Bruce actually holds Peanut (gently, of course), and Peanut snuggles in. Sometimes Bruce will turn his hand over, but Peanut doesn't seem to mind being upside-down.
What can you do while your right hand is filled with a small, green bird? Many things:
- Watch TV — isn't this what most Americans do every night? Movies also count.
- Read — well-used hardcover books from the library work best, although if you're willing to break the binding on a paperback, you can read those, as well. Magazines work just fine.
- Surf the web — I am right-handed, so it's taken some practice to use the mouse with my left hand, but it was worth the work. Typing is slow, but also possible.
- Kill people — while playing The Sims, of course. Killing people is one of my favorite games to play. There are other one-handed computer games that also work, but frankly, when there are people to be killed, why do anything else?
Still No Finsters On Perches
Posted on: 09/22/02, 08:39:00 | | link
What else can I say? Apparently, they like it when I catch them and clip their toenails.
On another note, Peanut was clearly ready for Warm Toasties last night, he walked around the collar of my shirt to my right shoulder, and started climbing down my sleeve. A short-sleeved T-shirt stopped him from getting very far, so I held my arm out level. It took a few stops and starts, and about a minute-and-a-half, but he walked down my arm, into my hand, and assumed the Warm Toasty position.
It's All About The Boys
Posted on: 09/20/02, 15:31:58 | | link
Tea was singing his Hunka Hunka Burning Love song, and dancing his Hunka Hunka Burning Love dance, to Earl Grey today. Frank, who was with Sally on the nest box she had defended from Darjeeling earlier this week, flew over to the perch to be with the Society boys. Tea, singing and dancing, was in the middle, Earl Grey was on the left, and Frank was on the right, leaning over Tea to check out Earl Grey.
Now don't get me wrong: I am not bothered by the two Society males singing and dancing to each other. They sing to each other, they sing to the girls, they sing to me, they sing to tasty seeds: it doesn't matter. I just like it that they sing. And they've probably been doing it for years now, and I only noticed because I'm paying a bit more attention now that I'm writing their stories in the F-Log. After all, Tea looks like Darjeeling if you don't look closely, and Earl Grey looks like Decaffeinated. Who's to say.
My point is, Why is Frank so darned interested? This is not the first time Frank has peered over a singing Finster to look at the object of attention. And, Does Frank pay all this attention to a female object of attention? Inquiring minds want to know.
It Is Very Nice To Have A Bird On Your Head
Posted on: 09/19/02, 14:35:29 | | link
Comparisons to the bus driver on South Park aside, one of Peanut's favorite places to be is on my head. It is nest-like, very safe, and a soft landing. This picture is pretty fuzzy, I'll have to take a better one. The best thing about head-sitting is that he doesn't poop there. He'll get all fidgety to let me know he's ready, and then he'll either step onto my hand (and then to my shoulder to poop there), or he'll climb home to poop inside his house. This was his doing. I don't mind if he poops on my shoulder, but upon reflection I'm pretty glad he doesn't poop on my head. I give him lots of encouragement when he poops right after leaving my head.
Well, okay, he pooped on my head once, but that was a combination of me not paying enough attention, and him being full of water from a bath. I won't go into details, you don't want to know.
Still no Finsters on perches.
Frank Is Home!
Posted on: 09/18/02, 16:00:04 | | link
The last thing I did for birds this morning was give Frank his last dose of antibiotics, and put him in the Finsterium. He flew up to a perch, and looked around for a few minutes. Sally flew over to him, said "Why are you so pink?" and started to preen him. He preened himself, looked around, and preened some more. After about ten minutes of that, he flew down to the ground for some tasty seeds. Altogether, it was close to 20 minutes from the time I put him in the Big House, to the start of a bath.
The bath/water dish in the Finsterium is a 10-inch diameter plastic saucer made for plants. Three or four bathing Finsters will fit into it at one time. Most of the Finsters take at least two baths a day. While I have had a Finster who never took a bath, ever, I have also never known a finch to enjoy baths as much as Frank and Sally. Sally particularly likes baths, and will perch on the side of the saucer before and after jumping in to get splashed by other bathing birds. She also takes the longest baths I've ever noticed, a good two minutes at a stretch. This morning, though, Frank outdid her by a long shot: he was splashing in the water for 4 1/2 minutes, and then perched on the edge for another minute or so, getting splashed by other birds. He then flew up to a perch, and preened for a solid half hour.
I actually expected him to take more baths this morning, and stayed nearby to watch for most of the morning to see, but that was the only bathing he did for a few hours. After that I had to do other things; I saw the evidence of two other bath sessions, but never saw an actual bath. Truth is, Frank cleaned all the pink stuff off during that first bath. He's such a handsome bird!
19 Down, 1 To Go
Posted on: 09/17/02, 16:19:38 | | link
The hospital cage is about two feet long and one foot wide. The back and sides are wood, only the front has wire. There are two long perches, and one short one that Frank hardly uses. I cover the front with two heavy towels, to keep all the light out when I catch him. That doesn't stop him from flying, and hovering in mid-air, when I try to get him. I've gotten pretty good at sensing where he is. Obviously, this is partly using my ears, and being pretty familiar with the layout of the cage. But it's also turned into something of a Zen experience. He moves, I try to grasp him gently, I touch him with a finger, he moves again.
His foot looks fine now, he hasn't gotten much pinker since that photo I took, and he's even started singing his Hunka Hunka Burning Love song. It's a soft, sweet croon, reminiscent of a bosun's whistle. I'm sure he'll be glad to be back in the Big House tomorrow. Apart from hooking up with Sally, he's a big fan of baths, and won't take one in the small water dish that fits in the hospital cage. Tomorrow will be one big bath!
One other note from today: As I was finishing up washing dishes this evening, with Peanut on my head, I noticed that Sally was sitting on top of a nest box with Darjeeling. In fact, Sally was sleeping! The two of them stayed there together for a good few minutes. At first I thought that Sally must be really lonely, but the next time I looked Darjeeling was gone, and Sally was trying to arrange the fake vines. I guess she was trying to set up her territory, and was just waiting Darjeeling out. It'll be interesting to see what happens when Frank gets home.
The World May Never Know
Posted on: 09/17/02, 13:01:00 | | link
Oat "groats" are the grain of the oat before it's been turned into "flakes" or "meal." They're one of Peanut's favorite snacks, and I often feed them to him by hand, one at a time. I've often wondered just how many oat groats Peanut can eat in one sitting, so today I counted while I fed them to him.
I decided to stop at 50. I didn't want Peanut to explode.
Hunka Hunka Burning Boys — Again
Posted on: 09/16/02, 05:27:12 | | link
All the Finsters got startled by something, they made their alarm sounds, they flew up to perches, and Earl Grey started to sing his Hunka Hunka Burning Love song — just the beginning. The male Societies do this sometimes, I think to prove that even though they were startled, they're still attractive males. Then Tea flew next to Earl Grey. For just a few seconds they were both singing to each other, but then Earl Grey stopped, and Tea sang his Hunka Hunka Burning Love song, and danced his Hunka Hunka Burning Love dance, to Earl Grey. Those boys!
Serious Toe Picking
Posted on: 09/16/02, 04:36:56 | | link
Toe picking is a normal part of every day bird hygiene: they preen, they bathe, they preen some more, they wipe their beaks on perches, they preen, and they pick their toes. Goober likes to hang onto the side of the Finsterium, and do some serious toe picking there. She did it again just now. I've never seen a Finster to be so serious about toe picking. Maybe I should have taken a close look at her toes during the Finsterium cleaning, but I didn't think about it. They look okay as far as I can tell. Maybe she has a toe fetish?
Hunka Hunka Burning Boys
Posted on: 09/14/02, 07:48:50 | | link
Earl Grey sang his Hunka Hunka Burning Love song, and danced his Hunka Hunka Burning Love dance, to Tea
today. Not only are they both males, but Earl Grey is Tea's son, so the whole thing is pretty weird. Mind you, Society Finsters are almost always in the mood (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), but I've never noticed the boys singing to each other before.
I have also seen:
- Tea singing and dancing to a fresh dish of tasty seeds,
- Tea singing and dancing to me (might be wishful thinking),
- Either Tea or Earl Grey singing from inside the nest boxes (maybe both, it's hard to tell),
- Both Tea and Earl Grey singing and dancing to no one in particular, and
- Chocolate — female — singing and dancing to I forget who. I asked around about this one, apparently it isn't unusual for female Societies to sing and dance. Usually, as was the case with Chocolate, the song isn't as loud or musical.
11 Down, 9 To Go
Posted on: 09/13/02, 13:17:52 | | link
Antibiotics are very tough. 20 doses, 10 days, intense experiences of catching tiny, fragile birds who can have heart attacks if they get scared enough. Frank almost lost it once when he got loose during the day and we ended up chasing him around. He was just a puddle of feathers on the floor. Finally he roused himself when we picked him back up!
The good thing is Frank has been pretty feisty this time around. Sort of good, he flies around in the dark which means it can take awhile to catch him, even in the small hospital cage. And then he'll bite me if he can. Can't blame him, though. Click to see Frank all pink and matted
from the antibiotics.
Frank has had recurring owies on his toes. I've taken him to the vet a couple of times, and smeared Neosporin on the foot. The vet and I are hoping those concrete perches will help him. White-Headed Nuns have such big feet, and fast-growing nails, that it's hard to keep them trimmed. Unfortunately, Frank and Sally are even less inclined than the Society Finsters to try out anything new. And so far, nobody
has been on a concrete perch.
What Is Peanut Doing?
Posted on: 09/12/02, 13:16:48 | | link
Almost every evening, Peanut sits on my shoulder while I wash up the dishes. Usually we make kissy noises to each other, or sing. But tonight, he was doing something...different. He was very...enthusiastic.
Parrots sometimes fall in love with their primary owners. I know Peanut loves me, since he's come close to regurgitating for me a couple of times. I usually tell him I love him, and then walk away, since I don't want to encourage an obviously doomed relationship. I don't know for sure what a Parrotlet Hunka Hunka Burning Love song and/or dance are like, but I think they have both songs and dances. When Peanut regurgitates, he gets up on his tippy toes, stretches his neck, and paces back and forth on his perch, chirping loudly the whole time.
Now, I can't say for sure what Peanut was doing while I washed dishes tonight, since he's very small and I don't have eyes in the back of my head (and the Finsters never tell me anything). But I wouldn't be surprised if he were stretching up on his tippy toes, stretching his neck, and pacing back and forth on the collar of my shirt. He was certainly chirping loudly the whole time. I'll leave the rest to imagination.
Spinach Is Tasty
Posted on: 09/11/02, 13:11:21 | | link
I had a handy bag of baby spinach (The Spinach For Lazy People), so I pulled out a few leaves with long stems, tied them together with a twisty-tie, and put it in the Finsterium. Apparently temporarily free of the Too new! syndrome (no, still no Finsters on concrete perches), the Societies flew right down to check it out. Yummy! I'm sure I've given the Finsters spinach before, but I don't remember them liking it so much. Maybe I never gave them baby spinach before. They have sophisticated palates. For example, they love green pepper seeds, but rarely touch red ones.
Only a Finster knows what's tasty.
Posted on: 09/10/02, 18:07:30 | | link
Still so many Finstinations going on! Usually the Society Finsters are very curious and fine with change, but I guess there is just too much
new going on.
I finally found concrete perches designed for cage corners — the Finsterium mesh is too delicate to hold a perch on only one side. But, since I don't want piles of poop in the corners, I had to modify them. This photo is the design I copied, but it isn't the actual perch (didn't think to take a picture before I put it in the Finsterium). These concrete perches are supposed to work magic on toenails, hopefully I will never have to trim a nail again. However, I have not seen a single Finster on a new perch
. Too new! Too new!
Several times today, I noticed Sally on top of nest boxes with some of the Society Finsters. This is unheard of, usually the White-Headed Nuns keep to themselves. First I wondered if Sally was missing Frank, maybe spending time with the other birds out of loneliness. But after I watched for awhile, I realized that it was part of the Too new! phenomenon. Sally would land on top of a box, trying to find something familiar, and then one or more Societies would join her. Poor thing was too frazzled to fly away — probably they'd been crowding her all day and she was tired of moving.
At one point, all six Societies were sitting on the ground, doing nothing, just looking up. They weren't quite all lined up in the same direction, otherwise I'd have been worried.
The Great Finsterium Cleaning
Posted on: 09/09/02, 15:07:18 | | link
The first thing I had to do this morning was bring Peanut into the back room to see where all the Finsters were. They're his pets, and he's been very upset the few times when they're not in the Big House. He was clearly concerned this morning, very quiet, looking around. Once we got into the back room he started "arnking" almost non-stop. Very happy bird! How to describe an arnk? It's sort of like a short burst of a cat's purr (although I hate to mention cats). He arnks when he's really happy, like when he's visiting a Finster in the hospital cage, or when we get home really late and he realizes he'll get Warm Toasties after all. Peanut and his house stayed in the back room while we cleaned, so he'd have company.
The yearly cleaning of the Finster Girl Memorial Finsterium is a big job, and this time it's actually been closer to two years (ouch), which might be why we were dreading it so much. In fact, it went more quickly than we expected. Good tools help: rubber gloves, dust masks, two vacuum cleaners, a nice collection of scrubby brushes and scrapy things, and a bird-safe citrus cleaner soap. It took about four hours, and since it's a pretty nasty job, this is all I'll say:
After a break to have lunch and let the Finsterium dry, we put in the new nest boxes, the brand-new concrete perches, the rest of the perches, lining paper, food, water, etc. Then we carried the holding cage over to the Big House, lined up the two open doors, and waited for the Finsters to fly back home. While this is much easier than trying to catch the birds one by one, they are always surprisingly slow to fly home. And a three-foot long hardware cloth cage gets awkward to hold after the first few minutes.
Finally, they were all inside, and freaking out! New nest boxes! New concrete perches! New perch configurations! New breezes (we finally
took the plastic wrapper off from last winter)! New new new! "And no Frank!" said Sally. Finstinations everywhere.
Fritz and family came by in the afternoon to take Rose Red home. I'll miss her, since I don't have any zebra finches now, but she was awfully lonely with Fluff Nugget gone. She's going to set up house with Shakespear (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). More later?
Posted on: 09/08/02, 15:06:29 | | link
In preparation for the annual Finsterium Cleaning, we had to catch all the birds. This means waiting until dark, closing all the curtains, shutting all the doors, making sure there are no open pots of water to drown in or other hazards, and, armed with a small flashlight, a soft bird net, and hands, plucking the birds one by one from their perches.
Of course it's never that easy. Even though it's dark, the birds will still fly if they're scared, startled, or think someone is trying to catch them. Waiting until dark and using a flashlight makes it possible to catch small birds, but it doesn't make it easy. Sally flew out first, which is typical, although this time she flew to the top of the fridge before her usual flight across the living room to take refuge in Bob, the ficus tree. Once in hand and in the relative safety of the small bathroom (toilet seat down) I clipped her toenails, gave her a once-over (okay), and popped her into the holding cage.
Of course, it wasn't that easy. She flew to the top of the fridge, flew across the living room, landed on the couch, flew to Bob, fell to the floor, and that's when we caught her, periodically turning on the overhead light while she was flying to try to keep her from crashing into anything, and turning it off again when she landed to try to keep her where we could catch her. Still, the Catching Event went relatively easily. Only Sally, Rose Red, and Darjeeling actually flew off anywhere, the rest were caught by hand or net in the Finsterium.
Frank had a small owie on his foot, so he got his first dose of antibiotics, some Neosporin smeared on the foot, and he went into the hospital cage, where he'll be for ten days. Rose Red went straight into a small travel cage, since she'll be going home. The rest of the birds just got the normal once-over and nail trim, and got popped into the holding cage. It took about 45 minutes to catch and check all nine Finsters. Afterward, Peanut got more warm toasties.