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The Finster Log
Archive — March 2007
Posted on: 03/30/07, 16:56:57 | | link
I suppose when you have a public blog (even if it isn't read by many people) you tend to edit your life a bit. Of course this blog is all about birds, but even so, I don't always tell everything about them. Maybe because I'm a little lazy, or don't have a picture, or the picture shows off a little too much poop, or I mean to but then forget. Or maybe because if you write about it in your blog, it makes it more real, and you're not quite ready for that yet.
Bruce and I have been thinking about getting a new bird. We're going to visit him tomorrow.
We weren't looking for a new bird, in some ways it seems too soon after Peanut's death to get a new Birdy Overlord. But I learned about a parrot that needs a new home, and he likes to watch TV with you in the evening. And he likes it when you sing to him, too. Which makes him just about perfect for us.
His owner has described many wonderful things: he isn't too messy, he isn't too loud, he likes to meet new people and go camping. I'm guessing — although she didn't tell me this — that his poops are pure gold.* It stands to reason. But really, it was the watching TV part that started the conversation, and makes us think he could be happy with us.
Of course, the day we finally decided to visit the new bird, I spent a long time missing Peanut terribly. Terribly. He was such a good bird.
But I think if we get along with the new bird, it'll be a good thing. It's nice to have a bird to love.
*Actually, this bird is more than ten times Peanut's size. It's entirely possible his poops are the size of a Finster. Think about it. I know I am.
What About Bob?
Posted on: 03/28/07, 19:58:28 | | link
Despite low light levels, bad pruning choices, and my brown thumb, Bob the ficus tree has lasted quite a few years — longer than Peanut, in fact. But he drops leaves almost every day, and has quite a few bare branches.
I haven't wanted to trim any branches lately, because we still have some strips of cloth tied to a few of them, and a dish of tasty seeds wedged in there. Not that Peanut ever really liked to be in Bob, but we were always hopeful that toys and snacks would lure him in.
I get sentimental over the weirdest things.
But Bob got a trim today, just the obviously dead parts. His shape is still mostly straggly, and he lost a bunch of green leaves during the process, but he doesn't look quite so dead anymore.
And I didn't have to trim away that cloth strip in the photo!
Is This Food?
Posted on: 03/27/07, 07:36:06 | | link
When Wasabi (Peas) died
in late January of this year, I started looking again at liver issues in birds, since the vet guessed that his liver might have been what failed. Heather T. very nicely added some links to articles in the comments of the entry; they're worth reviewing, if you're interested in the issue. I found a few others, which I forgot to bookmark. Grin. But my research soon turned to diet, since diet is really the best way to address health issues for any living creature.
I've scouted out web sites of a couple of finch breeders, and they all suggest a similar diet: dry seed, soaked seed, egg food, and some vegetables. Well, I do that! And yet my Finsters seem to die of liver-related problems frequently enough to take notice. Could it be that breeders are focused on babies, while I'm focused on keeping the Finsters alive for as long as possible? Would these breeders change their birds' diets if they kept more of them as pets? Have they already changed their diets, but haven't updated their web sites?
Bigger birds have more diet options, partly because they're bigger, and can eat bigger things. So they get seed-based food like Nutri-Berries or Avi-Cakes, the packaged foods like Beak Appetit, and the human-prepared food like birdie bread, or Sally Blanchard's famous Glop
. There are pellets that are small enough for finches, but for the most part, that's the only option besides seeds.
Now, that hasn't stopped me from trying things for the Finsters (and Peanut, of course): a few different recipes for birdie bread, broken into bitty pieces; Glop and its variations; new and exciting additions to egg food; and pellets, both dry and moist. The problem is, most of the time I haven't seen the Finsters actually eat these foods, and if they have disturbed the food dish, it's hard to tell if they ate anything, or if they simply played with it. Or walked through it a couple of times. Probably that last one.
But Wasabi (Peas) got me motivated to try again, and I've found a new diet that makes sense to me, and mostly fits into what I'm already doing for the birds. Basically, you use about two parts of whole grains to one part beans (to match the protein), and mix that with about equal amounts of vegetables, and add a bit of fruit. The vegetables are chopped into tiny pieces (you could use a food processor) so birds are less likely to flick them out of their dishes — and that means they're finch-sized! Finally, everything is mixed together so birds are less able to be very picky. Organic everything is recommended, and there are a number of suggested supplements, particularly essential fatty acids.
Now, as I write this down, it all gets a little overwhelming, and I think there's no way I want to describe it all, much less do it. But while there are a lot of details (which occasionally appeal to my obsessive-compulsive tendencies, after all), once you get started, it isn't so bad. You know, mostly not so bad. And starting in small steps not only makes it easier for the human, it also means the birds will more likely accept the new diet as food. I figure, if I've completely converted the Finsters to this diet in a year, I've done pretty well. And if all I end up with is about where I am now, it'll still help the birds.
The diet emphasizes sprouting things. Not for so long that you end up with the inch-long sprouted mung beans that you find in Asian markets and restaurants. But just for long enough that a root has started showing.
Hey! That's what I called "soaked seeds." I already do this! And the Finsters love them! You can see why the diet appeals to me.
Now, different grains and beans start sprouting at different times. And that's fine — in the wild you'd expect birds to snack on seeds at all different stages of growth. But some things need to be grown longer to be most beneficial to birds. The biggest difference are beans, which will make them fart
"give them gas" if they're not sprouted for long enough. As a result, the beans for this diet are generally the small ones (lentils, mung, adzuki and sprouting peas): they're soaked overnight, then cooked for about half an hour. Grains can either be sprouted for a few days — until most of the varieties in your mix have little rootlets — or soaked overnight and then brought up to a boil briefly.
The interesting thing is that even by just soaking for 12 hours, the amount of enzymes in the food increases greatly, and even if you cook it at that point, it doesn't lose much nutritional value. Ah, the power of cheese
So, to my normal 48-hour soaking mix of tasty seeds (three kinds of millet and canary grass seed), I am currently adding amaranth and quinoa. I might try oat groats, as well. To be terribly sneaky, I've also added a bit of broccoli and red clover seed. (I haven't added alfalfa seed because those should sprout for three to four days to be the best for birds.)
There are many more seedy things you could add, not to mention all the other grains, the beans, and the supplements. But apart from mincing up any organic greens I have on hand, slowly increasing the amount of soaked seeds and decreasing the amount of dry seeds offered, this is as far as I've gotten. Still, not a bad start.
Not that I can tell which bits the Finsters are actually eating....
But at least nothing so far has been Evil.
Peanut probably would have liked this diet, I don't think he ever met a grain he didn't like. Sigh.
A few links and things
The diet is covered on the Yahoo! discussion group called FeedingFeathers
. Apart from the discussion group, the site offers quite a few files that go into even more detail than I have — which, I'm sure you'll agree, is a little hard to believe! While Yahoo! offers a fine service, I'm not fond of the fact that you have to register to get any information, and I've always felt their servers are slow. If you want to sign up, look in the files for "Shauna's mash" (there are other variations, and lots of files to look through), and start asking questions. If you don't want to sign up, I will send you that one file (it's a Word document) to give you a good introduction.
The Sprout People
provide great details on all the different grains and seeds and beans that are good for sprouting, plus they sell all different sorts of mixes, organic seeds, as well as a variety of sprouting systems. They also have information and sprouting mixes designed for birds
The Birdbrain LLC
has some nice sprouting mixes.
Nature's Choice Essentials
has a couple of lines of sprouting mixes for birds.
You don't need to buy sprouting mixes if you have a Whole Foods, co-op, or other natural food store around with bins of bulk foods available. But these mixes are a nice option.
Posted on: 03/22/07, 11:48:06 | | link
Last night I dreamt that, after all these years, either Frank or Sally showed up again, alive. This was no menacing little zombie, come back to life, demanding seeds and human brains. Somehow, the bird had managed to stay alive, in hiding, and it was just at that moment in the dream that I discovered it again.
This seems perfectly reasonable, because I'm not the best at cleaning. In reality, my tolerance for dirt does NOT leave piles of tasty seeds in private spots, like little Easter eggs to be found by hungry birds. Dust, yeah — layers of it. But not piles of seeds. But in the dream world, it was possible.
In fact, we'll call the dream bird Sally, since she once DID live in the general apartment instead of the Finsterium for a day or two. I'd been away on a trip, and she somehow managed to get out without the bird sitter noticing. It was her sweet peeps coming from the office that helped me find her.
Dreams are weird, huh?
Posted on: 03/19/07, 19:09:57 | | link
Late Friday afternoon one of the Paint The Patches Formerly Known As Holes In The Ceilings Guys called to ask if he could come by that evening to paint the patches. I thought "What, didn't the other Paint The Patches Guy tell you to call the day before
you wanted to come so I can catch the birds?" Well, obviously not, but that's okay. I arranged for him to come by at 9 am on Saturday, and then I did a little dance, because Bruce was home to help. Bruce is the Best Bird Catcher, Evar! We got up early Saturday morning to catch the Finsters while it was still dark, and everything went well. We also discovered that Oolong has been sleeping in a nest box with a Spice finch, which is good news — I'd been worrying that she was sleeping alone.
The Finsters were closed up in the office, the windows in the living room were open, and the Paint The Patches Guy painted the patches. We left everything that way for most of the day, just to be sure the paint had dried and there weren't any fumes left. And then we set the two cages up, door to door, just like before
, and entered a rift in the spacetime continuum that lasted almost exactly three hours.
No, really. A rift. In the spacetime continuum. I am not kidding. Why would I kid?
Because it's the only thing that explains the fact that it took three hours for all the Finsters to leave the dark, cramped, dry hospital cage for the wide open space of the Finsterium, filled with snacks, wheat grass, egg shells, nest boxes and a big, lovely bath. Three hours. Two hours and fifty-nine minutes, to be precise.
Be honest: What were you doing between 5:01 and 8:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (U.S.) on March 17, 2007?
I'll bet it was nothing
Spring Is In The Air?
Posted on: 03/16/07, 20:31:33 | | link
Szechwan (Pepper) and Cinnamon were sitting next to each other on a perch, singing their Hunka Hunka Burning Love songs. To each other. The girls, meanwhile, were ignoring them on the other side of the Finsterium.
I can't really decide if the Finsters are springing into courtship activities, though. Oh, now that the wheat grass isn't evil anymore they tear that up and take the blades into nest boxes, but I think that's a toy as much as anything. And during the day they pair up for sweet moments, but then they sit together in completely different pairs a few minutes later.
For example, Szechwan (Pepper) and Oolong often sit together on the white concrete perch, picking non-existent feathers off each others' bald little heads. But lately, somebody has been kicking poor Oolong out of the communal nest box at night — rather emphatically sometimes, I'm afraid.
She might need a Society finch boyfriend or girlfriend. And then
we might see some Spring action!
The Joy Of Painting
Posted on: 03/12/07, 20:41:07 | | link
The Fill The Holes In The Ceiling Guys came by Thursday morning to fill the holes in the ceilings, and they were going to paint on Thursday afternoon. But then something came up, so they arranged to come Friday. But then something came up, and so they arranged to come Saturday. Well, you get the idea. At one point the Main Ceiling Guy promised to come the next morning with flowers, but that hasn't happened yet. I AM HOLDING MY BREATH, OF COURSE. Each time the job was postponed I figured it would only be one more day, so the Finsters could stay in their tiny little dungeon. But this morning the Main Ceiling Guy called to say that the paint matching machines at both Lowe's and Home Depot were broken.
Yes, broken. Yes, both of them. And I have to say, he seemed as surprised as I was. Right. And let me also point out that the big job he's working on right now is for someone my landlord knows, so my landlord has no sympathy. Sigh.
To be fair, the five patches in my ceilings formerly known as holes are small, and I really don't mind being on call for the Ceiling Guys. The job will take no more than ten minutes, after all. But I hate keeping the Finsters in the tiny hospital cage for an unknown amount of time. So I arranged with the Main Ceiling Guy that he should call me when the nicely matched paint is in his hands, and we'd arrange a time for me to get the birds ready then
So I did a little dance, lined up the hospital cage with the Finsterium
(this is an old picture, it pops), and opened the two doors.
Move In Day!
This isn't a great photo, as I took it through the side of the Finsterium, which is wrapped in plastic to keep winter breezes out. The green box is the opening of the bottom part of the Finsterium door. The pink box is the opening of the hospital cage. Here's what happened:
: the cages are arranged, and the doors are open.
: Cinnamon flies into the Big House! He flies around, sings his Hunka Hunka Burning Love song, calls out to the other Finsters, and stays up on the perches. The food is very attractive, but the hospital cage sitting there seems to make him nervous.
: Ginger joins Cinnamon in the Big House! Huzzahs all around!
: Ginger hops inside one of the nest boxes.
: Cinnamon joins Ginger in the nest box.
: Ginger flies down to the floor to eat corn, and Cinnamon joins her. (Corn, being Very Sticky, was not offered in the hospital cage.)
: Cassia flies into the Finsterium!
: Dirty from not having taken a proper bath since Wednesday, the Finsters start bathing. Szechwan (Pepper) immediately flies into the Finsterium to join them! The bath goes on and on, with Finsters flying to a perch to preen, and then flying back down for more.
: Oolong finally joins the rest of the gang in the Finsterium, and immediately eats some corn.
There is nothing better than Move In Day!
A few final notes: 1) The Finsters took an unprecedented number of baths today; I lost count. 2) The timing of the stay in the hospital cage turned out well, everything considered, since the birds stayed there over the Daylight Savings change, and didn't even notice that annoying time difference. 3) While in the hospital cage, three Finsters slept on the edge of the bird bath
(picture pops), and two slept on perches; I think it was a different bird arrangement each night. 4) Although I didn't clean the entire cage, I did take the opportunity to clean all the perches and the White Nest Box One Quarter Full Of Empty Seed Hulls — now once again known as the Magic Purveyor Of Tasty Seeds. 5) I forgot to mention the Poops Of Fear while I was catching the Finsters on Wednesday night. Bruce is familiar with the phenomenon, but since I don't usually catch them, I'd never noticed it before. Birds usually poop right before flying, to lighten the load. Apparently they do the same thing when they're terrified, in case they're about to fly. So every time I turned the lights out to try to catch a Finster, I heard a chorus of poops falling to the ground. They probably lost a lot of weight that night.
Here's hoping the Paint The Patches Formerly Known As Holes In The Ceilings Guys never call back
It's A Two-Person Job
Posted on: 03/07/07, 21:18:12 | | link
The Fill The Holes In The Ceiling Guy comes by tomorrow morning, so shortly after 7 p.m., when it was good and dark, I turned off all the lights, closed all the doors, and armed myself with the Green Net Of Evil Catching and the Flashlight Of Evil Looking.
Now, I've watched Bruce catch the Finsters many times, and with the Green Net Of Evil Catching in hand, my arms are long enough to catch a tiny bird almost even in the top corner of the Finsterium. But it really is a two-person job. One person to catch the birds, and another to turn the overhead light switch on and off, spot the little things in the cage, watch to see if any fly out of the cage, help keep track of them when they do
fly out of the cage, etc. Oh, I got the job done, and in only about half an hour, but it was not a smooth experience. (And one could say that half an hour is quite a long time to catch five birds.)
Here are the highlights:
• Almost directly upon opening the Finsterium door for the first time with the lights out, a Finster flew toward my head and — I feared — out the door. Luckily, that did not happen.
• The first bird caught was either Cassia or Cinnamon — I still can't tell them apart. Let's say it was Cinnamon. As I was putting him into the hospital cage in the office, I told him, "Whatever you do, don't get loose in here!" Which, of course, he did. After a flight into the closet, and underneath my desk, I managed to catch him without squishing him too much.
• Oolong was second. For a brief moment she was clinging to the Finsterium with one foot and the Green Net Of Evil Catching with the other. I laughed out loud until she got startled and flew straight toward my head. She showed me! Starting with her, I went into the bathroom and closed the door while I transferred her gently but securely from the Green Net Of Evil Catching to my hand. Success.
• Szechwan (Pepper) was next. It went pretty well until I got him into the hospital cage. Then I had to wait for awhile until he stopped clinging to the wall, conveniently holding the door closed with his tiny little feet.
• Ginger was next. Her capture went relatively easily, until I turned the overhead light on and realized I didn't know where number 5 was. After a bit of panic, the Flashlight of Evil Looking showed that (we'll call her) Cassia was hiding in a nest box. Those Spice finches are so dark they can really hide well if they sit in the back of those boxes!
• Cassia had the biggest adventure. She got out of the Finsterium, sat on top of it for awhile, perched on Bob's light, flew back to the top of the Finsterium, flew on top of the refrigerator, and back and forth and around for a bit. This was where I really
needed two people: normally, if a bird flies over to Bob, we turn the overhead light off and hope that it will stay put in the dark. One person moves carefully toward the bird, Flashlight of Evil Looking in hand, while the other listens for bird wings and flips the light back on if it starts flying. That way, we can see where the bird gets to, and keep it from crashing into something in the dark. But alone, I was afraid to try to catch Cassia anywhere too far from that light switch. However, catch her I did.
• Cassia's adventure was also where I realized having pets that are small enough to fit anywhere
could be a really bad idea. My new mantra is "PLEASE don't fall behind the refrigerator!"
• It took the Finsters a little less than an hour to feel comfortable enough to start peeping and chirping, and about another hour to start fighting. Fighting? The Finsters?!? Yep, they were fighting. Which proves that an enormous Finsterium is a much better place to live than a cage about a fifth of its size.
I have no idea what the Fill The Holes In The Ceiling Guy's schedule will be, apart from being here tomorrow morning. Here's hoping he won't need to come by for days....
Score One For The Environment
Posted on: 03/05/07, 19:32:14 | | link
I baked a sweet potato in the toaster oven the other day. Lately I've been microwaving them, but this time I decided to bake it since I wasn't planning on using the toaster oven for anything else. I'd forgotten, apparently, that sweet potatoes leak out a lot of sugars while they're baking, which creates surprisingly large foamy blobs that char to black, and threaten to take over not only the entire toaster oven, but The World.
I should have taken a picture — this is a blog
, after all — but you'll have to make do with a verbal description: it was Pure Evil.
The sweet potato came out fine, although the Finsters ignored it, as is their wont. But the toaster oven looked such a mess that we seriously considered replacing it. We're not the type of "Ugly American" that throws things out every time they get a little dirty. But really: Pure Evil. So we went to the store to look at the options.
That's when we remembered that most new appliances that have something to do with heat are made with PTFE, a.k.a. polytetrafluoroethylene or Teflon. And when heated "too high" — a temperature that has a surprisingly large range for scientific study — the resulting fumes are deadly to birds, and can cause flu-like symptoms in humans. You can read more about PTFE on Wikipedia
, or any of your favorite search engines.
Some of the toaster ovens on the shelves were marked as having PTFE coatings, and some weren't. But to be safe, we decided against a new one. As it turns out, with a few hours of soaking, the toaster oven wasn't too hard to get clean. (Of course, when I say "clean" I mean "relatively free of the Blobs of Pure Evil and other large and mysterious food and food-like substances.") One less appliance goes into a dumpster. And the Finsters are much safer.
That is, until the Fill The Holes In The Ceiling Guy calls back to set up his schedule. Sigh.
Stop Picking On Ginger!
Posted on: 03/02/07, 14:10:45 | | link
It was a dark
bright and stormy
day, so I opened the door to the Finsterium, and took a lot of pictures a few weeks ago. (Again, really: where does the time go?) I now have some pretty alarming examples of the results of aggressive allo-preening in birds. But first, a very pretty photograph of (probably) Cinnamon (half inside the box) and Ginger (on the porch), taken in March of 2005. This is the Before picture.
You will notice that while she has some feather damage around her neck, for the most part Ginger has very pretty feathers. If you look carefully, you can even see the little cowlick on the top of her head. Such a pretty bird!
Well, those days are long gone. Here she is now.
Note that while the feather damage from the 2005 photograph was probably self-inflicted, Ginger's naked neck and "chin" have been plucked by another bird or birds. And that pretty little cowlick? Gone. But really, wouldn't you rather remember her from a couple of years ago? So I'll let you pop up the photos of the top of her head. In this photo she is tilting her head
, so you can see the furrow plucked from the top of her head. In this photo, she's preening her own chest
, and her head is tilted straight down. Really, both of these photos show a bit more detail than anyone needs. Pop, baby!
Ginger was pretty calm while I was taking these photographs. In fact, she even hopped a little closer to me while I was taking them. Probably because she senses that if she hopped into my hand, I would give her Warm Toasties — I wouldn't pluck her tiny little head bald.
The worst part is that she's lost even more feathers from the back of her head since I took these photos on February 13. Stop picking on Ginger, you naughty Finsters!