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The Finster Log
Posted on: 05/13/09, 17:24:00 | | link
To be a little enigmatic: Bruce has been a technical consultant for a legal issue connected to a sector of the US government for about two years now. Vague enough for you? Most of the time, he's been commuting to Washington, DC for the work; believe it or not, it's cheaper for him to live in Ann Arbor and commute to DC than it is to buy a place in the city. But a few months ago the Barack Obama transition team got offices in the same block that he was working in. Traffic got busier, Secret Service guys started showing up everywhere, and everyone realized they would never get plane tickets or hotel rooms for the week of Inauguration without paying thousands of dollars. So the folks Bruce was working for finally got their IT guys to provide everyone with secure, online access, and since the week Obama was sworn into office
, Bruce and the guys have been able to work from home. Thanks, Obama administration!
Of course, this means that Bruce has been home, spoiling Harley, since late January. And this
means since Sunday, when Bruce had to go to DC for a few days for a meeting, that Harley has been STARVING. TO. DEATH. Because Bruce isn't around to give him snacks whenever he wants them. Bruce is very weak that way.
It's not that I never give Harley snacks. It's just that I don't give him unlimited snacks, and I make him work for them. Here's a pretty complex foraging toy I made for him a little while ago:
Two kraft paper boxes, the smaller one is four inches square; organic timothy hay (the Finsters get this to build their nests) and crumply paper strips for filler; various toys and snacks to hide inside. The long black things are big twist-ties that I string through the holes I punched in the boxes to attach the whole thing to Harley's cage. Here it is, almost done:
You can see I cut lots of holes into the boxes, so Harley would know there were things inside. Also, because he can be pretty lazy when it comes to destroying toys, so I had to get him started, and make it a little easier for him. Here it is, in place:
And here is Harley, sitting on top:
You can see where he's torn it up a bit. The thing is, his laziness not only keeps him from ripping apart the kraft paper (it's too haaaaaaard!), it also means he only attacks it from certain spots. Specifically, from that rope perch next to the box toy, and from the top of the box. Not from the two sides eminently approachable if only he'd climb around on the top of his cage — no, not at all. After a certain point, he was smart enough to figure out that if he chewed up any more of the top of the box, he'd fall in. But he wasn't quite smart enough to figure out that he might get stuck on the top of the box — which he did, twice. Badly. So stuck that I had to rescue him. Poor guy. So I moved it to the opposite corner of his cage, so he'd have that whole front bar to climb on. Despite the occasional new snack I added, this spot wasn't very popular either.
That is, until Bruce went out of town for a few days, and suddenly Harley started STARVING. TO. DEATH.
TO DEATH. I say. Death. Really. The box had been sitting in this spot for almost two weeks, practically untouched. But once Bruce went out of town for the first time in months, and Harley realized that I wasn't miraculously going to turn into his Unlimited Snack Monkey, it only took him about ten minutes to empty it out completely:
Don't worry, I've been weighing the poor starving bird, and he isn't wasting away. Partly because he helped me eat my risotto with artichoke hearts the other night. It turns out he's quite the foodie! You know, except when it comes to the whole-grain, organic food I lovingly sprout, cook and chop for him every day. That stuff he pretty much ignores.
Harley Is So Helpful
Posted on: 04/06/09, 20:59:13 | | link
Last night Harley was helping me read my tools catalog:
Lucky for me, I guess, I wasn't shopping for pliers. Here's a close-up:
A little later, he climbed up to the back of the chair to warm his tail at the fire, and get scritches. Lots of scritches.
It was a good night. You know, apart from the pile of spitballs in my lap.
He Was Handsome Already
Posted on: 03/22/09, 12:12:54 | | link
Harley got his wing feathers clipped, his beak trimmed, and his toenails trimmed yesterday. It was quite a day! Here he is getting a pedicure:
He's already learned he can't fly well anymore (we want him to be able to fly a little, but we need to get a screen door installed before we play too much with that), and he's fallen off a perch or two, poor fella. I'll be back to sanding his tree perch with a dremel tool so it won't be so slippery. Just goes to show those same pointy toenails that can scratch your fingers so much also help a bird hold onto perches.
In The Jugular!
Posted on: 03/19/09, 19:34:59 | | link
Harley had his annual vet check-up today. He was very well-behaved, apart from regurgitating lunch like crazy
! He sat on Bruce's shoulder at every opportunity — but considering where we were, that wasn't a problem. He stepped up very well for me (except when it was time to get back into the travel cage, but then he stepped up nicely onto a couple of tongue depressors), and he even stepped up for the vet! Of course, the minute he saw the towel he flew away and started barking like a dog. (Bruce hadn't heard that before, and was quite impressed with both the volume and the dog-like qualities!)
The vet confirmed that he's gained 7 grams since his last check-up, but she checked him carefully and decided he didn't feel overweight. As long as he doesn't gain another 7 grams by next years' visit, he should be fine. Otherwise, she declared him fit and healthy. And very handsome, of course!
Then, since it's been two years, we decided to draw blood for a few tests. Last time, they whisked Harley away for the blood draw, but we decided to watch this time. The less stress for a bird, the better, so even the minute or so it might take to transport him to another room was worth saving.
"You know we use the jugular?" the vet asked before she began. Yes, well, the right jugular vein is the biggest, and therefore the easiest to use for drawing blood in companion parrot-type birds. Not all vets use the jugular vein, but I'd heard about it before. You can click here for a bigger version of this photo
— but don't worry, you can't see much. Unfortunately, the vet wasn't able to get too much blood. She jiggled the needle around quite a bit, but for some unknown reason the liquid just stopped coming, and after what felt like minutes but was probably just a second or two, she decided to stop. Hopefully we'll have enough for tests on liver and kidney functions. Since he looks fine otherwise, we should be safe with that.
Poor bird has to go back again for a toenail trim on Saturday, but hey — a dremel tool is nothing compared to a needle stuck in your neck!
Posted on: 03/18/09, 19:23:21 | | link
Once again, yesterday it was warm enough to take Harley outside:
Today: overcast and cool. But still, it's a sign that Spring might actually stick
in a few more weeks!
What's This Now?
Posted on: 03/08/09, 20:12:00 | | link
After 27 1/2 months of Winter, we were finally able to go outside in Southern Michigan on Friday:
67 degrees Fahrenheit (19.4 Celsius)! Unbelievable! It had been so long since he went outside, Harley didn't know what to do with himself! But, after a little while, he ate snacks. Can't go wrong with snacks.
And, yeah, it's been almost 30 degrees lower than that since then. Still, we enjoyed it while we could.
Sure It's Food, But Is He Eating It?
Posted on: 02/04/09, 10:09:00 | | link
I've put food on skewers for Harley before. Here's a photo from the old apartment.
Although we didn't move this perch when we moved the cage to the new house, Harley rarely sits on it anymore. Skewers were often ignored in the apartment, but they're almost always ignored in this spot now. So I needed a new plan.
The thing is, Harley can be pretty lazy when it comes to — well, anything. He'll work pretty hard for a snack, but some of his favorite toys are ones he stands on and quietly chews to bits. This is not a bird that hangs upside down from one toe, screeching and throwing toys around. He's much more likely to sit on a perch, one foot tucked up, and doze the day away. That's probably why we get along so well.
Still, some activity is good. So I persevered, and finally managed to get the metal pole on Harley's tree stand angled in the correct way, and hung the skewer. Success! I found the sweet spot about two weeks ago, I've given him a skewer almost every day since, and he's played with the toy every day but one. These next four photos were taken on four different days:
That nondescript brown thing hanging from the bottom of the skewer in all four photos is a coffee filter with some of the so-called food I give him every day tucked inside. The food is a combination of lightly sprouted grains and seeds, cooked beans, and minced vegetables that he usually ignores while looking for peas, pomegranate arils and bits of apple. Surprisingly, it almost seems like he's eating it when it's "hidden" in the coffee filter.
Let me clarify: the game is definitely "I MUST REMOVE ALL THE LITTLE BITS FROM INSIDE THE BROWN PAPER!" But it seems possible that he's actually, occasionally, swallowing a molecule or two of food while he's playing. This is not swallowing
inhaling cheese, mind you — it's more like osmosis. But I'll take it.
He also enjoys playing with the vegetables, which generally entails tearing them into little bits. But sometimes he'll take a bite, chew it up in his beak to drink the liquid, and spit it out again. His favorite seems to be zucchini, but sweet potato and the greens usually get bites taken out of them as well.
But It's GOOD For Him!
Posted on: 02/03/09, 20:20:07 | | link
Bruce called me up today to tell me about an article on the health benefits of peanut butter. See "For love of peanut butter
" by Nanci Hellmich, in USA TODAY. The article states "It's an almost ideal food when eaten in moderation because it's rich in protein, high in healthful monounsaturated fat and relatively inexpensive."
Of course, we all know Bruce only mentioned this article because he wants to give Harley more peanuts for dessert. A LOT more.
Posted on: 02/02/09, 20:04:32 | | link
Harley doesn't actually eat walnuts, but occasionally, they make pretty good toys.
If he actually ate walnuts, we probably wouldn't give him a whole one in one sitting.
Well, Bruce might. But Bruce is very weak.
Give Me Grass!
Posted on: 01/30/09, 21:03:30 | | link
So now, if I don't keep Ginger and Cinnamon sufficiently supplied with grass for nest building, they tear up their poop paper.
What's up with that?!? Don't they realize it's still Winter?!? Haven't they noticed we've gotten almost twice as much snow this year, as we had this time last year?!? Don't they realize it's at least 6 months until Spring?!?
I haven't had Finsters this excited about nest building since I had Zebra finches — and they're the bunnies of the finch world!