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The Finster Log
Visualize: Calm And Uneventful
Posted on: 04/19/07, 19:28:23 | | link
I called the Transportation Security Administration today. The fellow asked for my name and phone number so he could add me to his permanent list of "interesting people"
so he could call back if we got disconnected, and revealed that I might have to take Harley out of his travel cage in the airport so that the cage could go through the security scanner. You know, so they can make sure I'm not hiding explosives or small children in there.
This seems like a really bad idea. You get an airline-approved cage, you put the animal safely inside, and then you have to take it out in the middle of a crowd? In an enormous, open building? You could probably sneak a leash onto a dog, but cats have sharp claws and could easily get away from you — and lost in the airport forever! Harley's wing feathers are clipped, but if he got really scared he could get himself into trouble, or bite somebody, or something like that.
But I am trying my best to remain calm. Harley is good at stepping up, he is good with people and traveling, and I know the "hold the toes" trick so he can't get away so easily. Plus, the TSA fellow said I could ask for a "private screening." I don't know what that means, exactly, but at least if it's really crowded, I'll have the option to go someplace quieter.
And the calmer I am, the calmer Harley will be.
Visualize whirled peas.
Crazy For Nest Building
Posted on: 04/11/07, 20:52:52 | | link
Despite the bits of snow we're getting this week, it's Spring, and Szechwan (Pepper) knows it! He always sings his Hunka Hunka Burning Love song, but lately he just can't get enough of the nest building. So I accommodate him with bits of timothy hay. I've discovered that if I give him the grass every other day, he gets so desperate for it by that second day that I can open the Finsterium door to take a picture without him freaking out too much.
That sounds mean, doesn't it? This tiny little creature loooooves his nest building, and I withhold the grass just so I can take a few pictures. Bad pictures, I might add. Well don't worry, now that I have my pictures, I'll stop torturing him. Grass every day now! The wider picture is a little better; you can pop up a bigger version
While Szechwan (Pepper) is the busiest, all of the Finsters are building nests. Ginger, who is in the background of the wide photo, also seems to like to play with the timothy, and eat it. There are some stalks of grass with seed heads still attached. I can't tell if there are any seeds left, but Ginger likes to look for them. She'll stand on one end of the piece of grass, and pick at the seed head on the other end.
One day, Ginger and Szechwan (Pepper) were fighting over the same piece of grass. Szechwan (Pepper) took a piece of grass up to his nest box, but since the end still sticking out of the box had a seed head, Ginger snatched it right out and started looking for seeds. So Szechwan (Pepper) stole it back, and took it back into the nest box. But since the end still sticking out of the box had a seed head, Ginger....
Well, you get the idea. Good times!
Posted on: 04/09/07, 19:27:29 | | link
Harley is 5 years old — he either is, or is on the verge of being, an adult bird. He could live to be 50, or even 60 years old. He has the intelligence of a 5-year-old human, and the emotional skills of a 2-year-old human. Approximately. (These skills won't change.) This is not the kind of pet you can take lightly, this is the kind of pet you have to put in your will. The decision to take him in is similar to having a child (congratulations, Jen!
). Or adopting one.
For all these reasons, and out of respect for the bird and his humans, with whom he has lived for about three years, Bruce and I cashed in frequent flyer miles to travel about 1,000 miles to spend an afternoon together. As it turned out, we got along really well. Within an hour or two, Harley was sitting on both of our knees, one foot tucked up, resting and comfortable. That suggests he is an adaptable creature, and that his current family has socialized him very
But Harley isn't the center of attention right now. He lives with a few other birds (including a macaw who likes to stick his tongue out at you!), quite a few dogs, and a bunch of fish. It's a lively, lovely home, but African Greys like to be the center of attention. And his family loves him enough to recognize that, and wants to find him a better place. For him
Re-homing a bird is always a hard decision. But thanks to the internets, we found out he likes to watch TV with his people — and there we were. Sitting with a generally calm, generally quiet bird, who came very
close to knocking a tall glass, full of water, right over! RIGHT OVER! Oh, and he likes to chase toes. Who could resist that? Not us, that's for sure.
The Big Day is April 20. A few more frequent flyer miles, a small kennel tucked under the seat in front of me, and Harley will take over our lives.
Posted on: 04/01/07, 19:03:07 | | link
This is Harley:
He's a Timneh African Grey.
His poops are about the size of a Finster's head. On average.
We're going to bring him home with us, in a couple of weeks. We have to rearrange the living room first. He has more furniture than we do.
My head is going to explode.
You know, in that good
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!