31 August 2010

Driving with Parrots and Lennon Goes to Disney World

 The winged members of our flock are very accustomed to keeping odd hours with their furry (well, some are more furry than others) flock-mates. Even Cher, however, was a little grumpy toward me as I bumbled around at 3:45 a.m. trying to gather my thoughts, belongings, and necessities for Lennon and Sprite’s move. The previous evening had gone late, so only minor preparations had been accomplished. Still on the list was to pack for my weekend away from home, take some requested items for Ms. Flock Advisor, set up the staying members of the flock with enough food and supplies to make it through the weekend, get Sprite to voluntarily go into his carrier, and load his and Lennon’s cages.

By 4:30 I was ready to wake up Sprite and give him a chance to go into his carrier. Like earlier in the week, it only required that I put his breakfast bowl in there and he went in after it. I only needed to give him about 10 minutes to climb his way there from his perch inside his cage. Smoothly I approached him while he was inside it, and stretched an arm to its door. He popped his head up at me briefly, but then stuffed it right back into his stainless steel dish to dig for another peanut. With one sweep I closed the door and latched it. This action got his attention and he spun himself back to where there had been a gaping doorway, but now there stood only a wall. He went into his mumbling vocals and then reached back for a Nutri-berry, much to my relief. Closing the door on him certainly came as a surprise, but it did not interrupt his breakfast. Even as I worked his cage down the stairs and out to the truck, Sprite continued his gnoshing right alongside Lennon who was also staged in the living room and ready to go out the front door.

Wrestling Sprite’s cage nearly had me tapping out only halfway down the descending corridor. The cage is of course awkward, but I would challenge anyone to find a noisier contraption. At 5 a.m., our neighbors were treated to the sound of cartwheeling scaffolding as I slid, heaved, and dragged the lineman sized birdhouse finally out the door.

Lennon was the first of the two birds out to the truck. One more trip into the apartment and Sprite came out, the door was locked, and Cher was left in charge for the weekend. The transport vehicle was on the highway at 6 a.m. with a full tank of gas, and one hungry driver. My plan was to leave at 5 a.m. to be sure and beat rush hour traffic on the way, so I resolved to deny myself a McDonald’s visit until after I had made it past the potential problem areas almost 2 hours away. Perhaps a stop for some vittles would have fueled my brain enough to realize that it was Saturday.

Nevertheless, the three of us pushed on until just past Orlando and made the first and only stop of the road trip at a McDonald’s on Disney property. Having realized by this time that rush hour traffic on a Saturday was little to be concerned with; I took the opportunity to order a heavy breakfast and parked to let the birds have some time to relax as well. Sprite got some peanuts and mumbled some sort of nonsense to the ladies waving at him from the Drive-Thru window. As far as I know, that was his first experience with Drive-Thru service, something Cher and Lennon have both enjoyed many times. Once we parked, Lennon got out of his cage and ran some laps on the dash. I snapped a quick picture of him on his first trip to Disney with a little proof in the background. Sprite worked on a peanut while I enjoyed my breakfast burrito.

Bellies full and legs stretched, we rolled back up on the highway and bee-lined it to the left coast. Lennon continued to stare out the back window, as he had all the way, and whistle to the sounds of steel drums, ukuleles, and harmonicas belted forth by Radio Margaritaville. One song even included a chorus of jungle sounds, to which even Sprite got in on a little karaoke. The music made the time fly by….(insert chuckle here), and the birds eventually got their first look at the Bay, and probably the closest that they’ve ever been to a pelican in the process. Pelicans ride the air currents off the epic bridge spans around here populated by four or more lanes of speeding vehicles. They routinely skim traffic as if it were the glassy lip of a breaking wave. As a squadron of them buzzed the passenger side, Sprite let out a growl.
Sprite's first look at the Bay.
The birds were then successfully off-loaded in Ms. Flock Advisor’s new shelter. I spent the rest of the day assembling various items and keeping the birds company. They both settled in just fine. They are eating, mimicking, and playing with their toys. As of this writing they still have not seen Ms. Flock Advisor, but she should be home shortly.

26 August 2010

Parrot Trasnport and One Chubby Bunny

With this productive summer finally at an end, it is time for an update from the Feather Dorm. The Feather Dorm blog will from now consist of stories set on the east and west coast of Florida as Ms. Flock Advisor has accepted a new job in an exciting new locale. As for the flock, we've decided to heft equal shares of the cage cleaning burden by sending Sprite and Lennon to the Gulfside while keeping Coconut and Cher here at the Seaside. Kenobi will likely be traded back and forth like a chubby little divorce child, spoiled at one end by boxes of vanilla wafers.

We are now less than 48 hours away from the Sprite/Lennon transport, and preparations have gotten serious. Lennon will be fortunate enough to be transported in the familiarity of his cage. Sprite will have to endure the trip in his carrier while his towering domicile rests in the bed of the truck. The last time Sprite was transported was in January when he was towel-grabbed by the owner of the pet store and put into his unfamiliar carrier only to be taken to a strange set of surroundings. It wasn't a terribly traumatizing ordeal, but definitely at least a smidgen shy of positive. He has now become accustomed to these new surroundings, his third home, and will be moved into a new house. He still has a home with us, and we are hoping that all of the work we have put into building a relationship with him will make our continued presence in his world trump the strangeness of Ms. Flock Advisor's new abode. My mission for the last several weeks has been to make his carrier a positive place. It has been present in the room at all times and he has gotten treats in it repeatedly. Ms. Flock Advisor and I have routinely worked the carrier into his life as an enrichment device by hiding treats, toys, and shredding materials in it for him to access. Today I placed his food bowl directly in the carrier instead of in its normal place in his cage. He showed no aversion to having his breakfast in and on the carrier.

Training has also been a key component to Coconut's preparation for the move. As loyal followers will recall, Coconut has developed a smitten relationship with Lennon over the past year, but the feeling is never reciprocated. Still, Coconut has learned all of Lennon's whistles, mimics, and calls. Lennon will most likely be overjoyed to spend his days with Ms. Flock Advisor, but we have been concerned about how Coconut will respond to the sudden absence of his "buddy." Enter the mental stimulation that is his target training. As followers will also recall, I have been working to train Coconut for some time now. Over the summer, he has become quite the interactive little guy. He no longer frantically twitters and bounces around his cage every time a human comes near. He calmly sits on his perch and waits for his food bowl in the morning and eagerly takes treats from my hand. He follows his target stick around his cage, and even responded to it in Cher's cage when he snuck in there during my last cleaning-fest. Little by little, Coconut has grown to trust the Flock Advisors and I believe that the relationship we have built thanks to the training sessions will help to ease the loss of Lennon. Coconut has learned that his training sessions are a time when he can receive millet (his favorite reinforcement), and he has inevitably associated myself and Ms. Flock Advisor with that positivity. Trust and confidence are the two most beneficial side effects of positive reinforcement training, and I am very happy that we have seen Coconut developing both.

Check back for a post-transport update after the weekend, but I expect that it will go relatively smooth. Kenobi will be staying on this coast for the time being, so his vanilla wafer intake will be tempered for now.