24 May 2010

Green Beaks

There is a new unanimous favorite on the menu at the Feather Dorm. Swiss Chard is high in nutrients, readily available at the weekly farmers market, and apparently tasty to both birds and rabbits. One upside is happy animals that actually eat their food in the morning, rather than toss most of it around in a sassy demand for attention. The other upside is the entertainment they provide with their chlorophyll-stained beaks and faces.

Swiss Chard has been a favorite green vegetable of the Flock Advisors for some time, but its bitter taste when raw had kept me from ever offering it to the birds, who seem to prefer sweet fruits and veggies. Last week, however, a sudden shortage in lettuce for Kenobi forced me to break into the human stash of groceries for anything that halfway resembled his leafy fare. Being toward the end of the week, the produce drawer held only a Zucchini and a few stray leaves of Swiss Chard left from the bunch we had consumed throughout the week. The Chard won as most resembling lettuce, and Kenobi inhaled it.

Kenobi has a rather particular palate that has been known to snub baby carrots for some carpet or a People Magazine cover. Seeing his dish licked clean, I decided to see if the stuff was safe for the birds. It checked out as not only safe, but recommended as a source of vital nutrients like potassium and vitamin A. After fifteen minutes of food prep, which consisted of chopping the leaves and some apple to compliment it, and doling out the morning feedings, I was delighted with a few minutes of utter silence, except for the gnashing of little beaks. Each bird was digging deep in their bowl for every scrap of their fresh, green surprise. Cher's novelty foods I normally put in a coconut shell that hangs from the roof of her cage, and she had it clutched close to her face with one foot while she busily blazed through every leafy tid-bit.

A week into the new menu item, everyone in the Feather Dorm is still taken by it. Coconut and Lennon both have their white beaks stained green, and Kenobi has a little dollop of green under his chin. New favorite foods are fun, and especially rewarding when they are also nutritious. Part of the fun of having birds is the multitude of fresh produce that they can safely consume, and trying to find which are their favorites. Lists of parrot or rabbit safe plants and fruits can be found all over the internet, and I will usually try to cross-reference at least three reputable ones just to be sure. Washing the fruits and veggies is an important must as small animals are extremely susceptible to pesticides and chemicals that the human body would hardly detect.

In other news, Cher has finally cut the sequel to her first film, in which she played a naive student on the road to shear genius. In the sequel, she has in fact mastered the skill of stretching her fully fledged wings on cue. Check it out below, and be sure to keep an eye on the FlipperstoPaws youtube.com channel for more such fun. Kenobi was extra playful the other night, and some of that footage will most likely find its way off of the editing desk and onto the youtube servers.

14 May 2010

When the Advisors are Away, Bunny Strikes it Rich

Occasionally, the Flock Advisors take a day to themselves. A day all to themselves, that is. Wednesday was such an occasion, but it always seems we just can't resist revolving at least a bit of such an outing around the flock back home. This week, it was Kenobi who benefited from our day of gaming, gawking, and grazing.

The morning started out with two tickets procured by Ms. Flock Advisor for an eco-tour on the waters of St. Augustine. The main attraction of the mini-cruise was to be dolphin viewing, with a possibility of manatees. Meeting the guys with St. Augustine Eco-Tours at the city marina, our boat left the dock at 10:30 a.m. for a leisurely start to our full day of enjoyment. The trip was an enjoyable one with top notch equipment and a sharp and conversational captain. We saw dolphins for basically the entire trip, and had a mother swim her very young calf within 20 feet of our drifting boat. The captain was careful to observe all of the protective measures of the Marine Mammal Protection Act throughout the excursion. St. Augustine Eco-tours offers kayak, powerboat, and sailing tours, so if you find yourself in the area, check them out. Its a great way to get out on the water with ease, and maybe even learn a thing or two.

Once our 90 minute journey was over, Ms. Flock Advisor and I set out to walk through old town St. Augustine, find some lunch, meet up with a friend for some ice cream, and listen to some of the great live music the town always has to offer. Amy Hendrickson's voice and picking perfectly complimented (as usual) the mellow saxophoning of her on-stage partner and the pint of Dogfish Head IPA in my hand.

It was the next stop on our itinerary that yielded the take for Bunny-Balls. Derby Owner's Club (a horse racing simulation game) at Dave and Busters is something we take advantage of when we have the time to make the drive into Jacksonville. Of course, Dave and Busters has more to offer than just the elaborate trumpeting behemoth at the back of the midway that tends to hold our attention for 6 hours or more on a good day. The Flock Advisors always find a good crane game (and by good I particularly mean cheap and stuffed with loose piles of small plush animals) to be utterly irresistible. We wound up with four brand new bunny toys in a matter of minutes, and then racked up another four at the end of the night from Ms. Flock Advisor's ticket winnings. She hit several jackpots on some kind of light chasing machine that took Kenobi's toy meter all the way to full.

Not to leave out the rest of the flock, a new post will be coming shortly as Cher's "Wings" behavior is nearly complete. I have also been moving forward with Coconut's clicker training and he is responding very well. Also, for those that have been here before, leave a comment about the new look. I have done a lot to the blog's layout in the last week, you'll notice some ads, and an Amazon.com search bar from time to time. Supplying the Feather Dorm with everything from bird food to ipods has gotten much more affordable since I recognized the boon that is Amazon!

05 May 2010

Cher's on "the tube"

An abnormal gap in blog frequency is a sign of how busy the flock advisors have been of late. Apart from the end of the author's school semester, the tourist season ramping up (and thus, more work), weddings to attend, and cleaning bird cages, the flock advisors also got their new business venture off the ground and have been on an advertising spree. If you didn't get one of our flyers last week, ask your closest neighbor for one. If they don't have one either, leave a comment below so I can drive over with a van-full of them.

Of course, it isn't all capitalism and Madison Ave. around the Feather Dorm. The birds are eager to take our minds off such trivial things so that we may kneel at their alter of soiled cage liners. Kenobi has done his share as well, sampling some new cuisine around the Feather Dorm, and testing the structural soundness of the place in the process.

The most exciting progress has been with Sprite. He is stepping up from his cage with more confidence each session. We've tried a new reinforcement schedule with him that allows us to jackpot him for the best approximations, while still tokening him with rewards for mediocre approximations to avoid frustration and keep him trying. He is now standing on a handheld perch long enough to eat his peanut, and even accept a head scratch before inching back to the security of his cage. He'll be hopping on shoulders in no time, which the flock advisors will have to get used to.

Coconut and Cher were spotted clacking beaks through the cage bars the other day, which is a sign that they are bonding. Figures, the one bird Coconut finds that wants to spend time with him is the one bird the flock advisors wouldn't trust with a stone sculpture of a bird.

Kenobi has been enjoying more time out on the porch as the weather warms up. I've been doing a lot of my writing out there, and Kenobi hops out to lay in the sun and take in a feast of smells. He has also decided to feast on the 2x4s that make up the deck of the porch. Besides trashing the security deposit, he might eat his way to a 15 foot free fall down to the first floor if left unsupervised out there for long enough. Bunny-balls would be one disappointed lagomorph, though, to find that the downstairs porch has a floor of tasteless concrete.

Lennon has been getting plenty of exercise by flying laps around the dorm. The flock advisors have busied themselves (amongst everything else) with removing all hazards from his potential flight path. Ceiling fans off, check. Stove cooled off, check. Toilet lids down, check. We have to constantly go over that list because a cockatiel rarely checks for tower clearance.

After Sprite's video in the last post, Cher has also now found her way to Youtube.com. As part of our ceaseless efforts to promote Flippers to Paws, LLC, our new Youtube.com channel will feature videos of training sessions, training related discussions, and videos showcasing just how fun animals can be (and why you need one, and why it should be trained, and why we're just the ones to help!) Cher is the star of our first video, as she is actively learning a new behavior. Watch the video below, and then check out our Flippers to Paws Facebook site for updates. Not to give too much away, but there could be a painting puppy in the future of the Flippers to Paws Youtube channel.