30 November 2010

Thanksgiving with the Birds and Cinna-bunny

Coconut and Cher got to hit the road last week for a Thanksgiving weekend with the whole family, reunited at Ms. Flock Advisor’s place on the west coast. We headed out on Wednesday evening with Nutri-berries and turkey sandwiches for road-food, and a Big Gulp. Coconut got the whole back seat to himself and spent most of his time chattering at every bump in the road that had the audacity to shake his house around and spill his water dish. Cher rode shotgun.

I carried the two of them up to Ms. Flock Advisor’s apartment just in time for dinner and a movie at home. Kenobi was already there tormenting Sprite by eating leftover bits of fruit pellets around the base of his cage. A few minutes into our visit, Cher had cranked out enough screams to prompt Ms. Flock Advisor to advise me that I should keep her with me at all times during awake hours to prevent the screeches, and eviction.

Coconut and Lennon got reacquainted, mimicking chirps back and forth. More on them later.

We decided to spend the first half of Thanksgiving Day with the animals, and watching the early football game of course. Ms. Flock Advisor was as into the game as much as I until New England started stacking points on top of points in the second half. Kenobi and the birds weren’t bothered by the score, though, and got lots of time with us until we went over to our wonderful friends' house, The Middletons of Greater Tampa, for a heaping feast of gourmet delights. Kenobi seemed to be enjoying the litter box I got for him on our arrival the weekend before. It is a little smaller than the one he normally uses, and he looks like a pot roast when he sits in it. Cram a few potatoes in there with him and you’d have a proper English feast.

Kenobi did get splashed with spice the day after Thanksgiving. I was home all day trying to get some work out of the way and Kenobi had decided to keep the Thanksgiving feel alive by feasting on some carpet under Ms. Flock Advisor’s couch. After several attempts to chase him out, and show him that he had a tasty stack of hay on the other side of the room, I had to resort to more desperate measures. In the past we’ve used lemon juice or cinnamon to discourage him from eating a patch of carpet he is particularly attracted to. He only seems inclined to eat certain patches of carpet at a time for some reason. Since we had stocked up on pumpkin pie making supplies we had plenty of cinnamon available for the task. I reached blindly under the couch to sprinkle a little down, and Kenobi charged defiantly from behind the couch. He rammed his nose into the open end of the shaker, causing a minor cinnamon explosion, and then took off in panic on an erratic lap around the room that ended with a dive into his cage. He was sneezing incessantly and wiping his nose with his front paws while I was still trying to process what had just happened.

I pulled him out of his cage to find that his face was powdered with the brown spice, as were both of his front paws. I took him over to the sink and sponge-bathed his twitching nose until he could manage a breath without a sneeze. Once he was all cleaned up, he got back to being his normal self quickly, although he smelled like a Christmas candle. He did have a few sneezing fits throughout the evening, but they were gone the next day. When Ms. Flock Advisor called on her way home so that we could make a dinner plan I asked if she would like some pumpkin pie for desert, or if she would rather hang out with Cinna-bunny. I felt really bad about the incident, but we made it up to the little guy by bringing him an 8-foot tall bunny snack the next day to nibble on.

Saturday was our day together. Ms. Flock Advisor was off of work and we decided, once again, to spend time with the animals. Lennon and Coconut got to fly around together. Well, as usual, it was more Coconut chasing Lennon on laps around the room. It is fun to watch, though. Lennon still will not let Coconut hang out with him.

Coconut did find himself a hangout later in the day after we had gone to pick up our Christmas tree. While watching the Gators get their spanking from the Seminoles, we let the two little white birds have the run of the house. Coconut flew straight to the tree and perched on it. When I walked over to pick him up he just crawled right inside the branches and ended up totally concealed, and content. We couldn’t see him, but he did make a few chirpy Christmas Vacation-like sound effects from inside. Cher and Coconut also posed for a few pictures with the tree, but I think the “C-nut’s Hideout” shot came out the best.

Kenobi found the tree tasty. He came out and immediately started nibbling on the low-hanging branches. I was concerned about his health and set-up a fence around the tree. Ms. Flock Advisor jumped on the Google-train and found that Douglas Fir is eaten by Deer, Chipmunks, and Rabbits in the wild, so turns out he was okay. That was good because by the time she came across that information he was already gobbling up the fallen needle-trail that led in from the door. The little guy couldn’t get enough tree needles. I gave him a few as a reward for going into his cage at night.

Monday morning it was time to haul Cher, Coconut, and Kenobi back to the east coast with me. Cher was kind enough to wake up any sleeping neighbors as we made our 6am departure. The weekend was wonderful. It was great to have everybody under one roof, and for once not be missing/ worrying about any of the Feather Dormers all weekend long. We’ll be doing it again for Christmas, I can’t wait!

Can you find all the animals in this photo?

22 November 2010

Kenobi's Vay-Kay

On Friday I loaded Kenobi into the back of the car for his trip the west coast, his longest car ride since we brought him home for the first time almost two years ago. He got to travel in the comfort of his normal cage, litter box and big pile of hay included, unlike the birds who have special travel carriers. With the bubble glass of the hatchback over this head, Bunny-Balls got a window seat view across the state.

The trip over was fine, he slept most of the time. It was funny to hear him munching on hay-snacks every so often as he'd awake for a few minutes. With his cage right behind my seat I could hear all of his little sounds that normally go unnoticed as we tower above him around the house. His perturbed little grunts were loud and clear as he slid across his cage through corners and thumped into the side. By the time we made it to the highway he learned to ride in his litter box, which is clipped to the side of the cage, to stay locked in place.

I don't know what was going through the little guy's head as I carried him out the door of the apartment to load him in the car, but I'm pretty sure he thought he was being abandoned when I stopped for a quick break at a rest area two hours into the drive. As I walked back to the car I could see him through the back-glass standing on his hind legs sniffing the air. He followed me with his eyes until I opened the car door, and then started biting his cage-bars like he does in the morning when he's ready to come out. I wanted to grab an information brochure from the kiosk for him to nibble on, but they were all soggy from a recent rain.

Kenobi was greeted by Ms. Flock Advisor very warmly. He hopped his circles around her and then explored his new domain. The carpet in her new apartment is shaggier than what he's used, so we had to offer a lot of distractions to keep his mind off of grazing on the grass-like floors.

This is the most exposure Sprite has ever had to Kenobi, and he was very uneasy about having a bunny under his cage. When Sprite lived on the east coast he was in our bedroom. Kenobi was not allowed in the bedroom, so Sprite only saw him through the doorway and when he was out in the living room on his stand. He reacted to Kenobi by displaying an array of territorial behaviors and postures that we don't normally see from him. He paraded on the top of his cage with his tail feathers wide, showing the bright red and deep blue hues, and his head feathers doing their best impression of a crest. At one point he spread his wings out wide, which is something I don't remember seeing him do before in a territorial scenario. All of this visual display was accompanied by a stream of robot sounds, clicks, and grunts coming from his throat. As impressive as it was, Kenobi didn't take any notice and just went about his business of chowing on dropped peanut shells and fruity pellets. He also went ahead and claimed some toys that Sprite had carelessly dropped.

Lennon and Kenobi rekindled their feud. They are still in a battle for the attention of Ms. Flock Advisor. Lennon seems a little less-apt to fly away as before. When Kenobi gets too close, Lennon's crest goes up and he spreads his wings as wide as they will go, and repeats "Hi good-bird" until Kenobi yields. Kenobi doesn't really yield so much as get sidetracked, as bunnies do, but Lennon is still happy to keep his perch on Ms. Flock Advisor. The two can agree on one thing though, Grape Nuts.

Back on the east coast, Coconut is doing very well with his target training. He targeted outside the cage for the first time last week. This was a major step for him. He is still showing a lot of eagerness for his sessions and has great attention. Even when he fails, he comes right back to try it again. It is so good to see him thinking through how to achieve his rewards. If I can get him a little more used to the presence of the camera, I will get a video up of one of his sessions.

Cher said her one phrase again last week, which makes a total of about four times that I have ever heard it. This is a constant argument between me and Ms. Flock Advisor as she does not believe that Cher is actually saying, "Stop it!" She says I am hearing things and that Cher just grunts. I think it is an exact mimic, and quite fitting that the most difficult bird we have would learn such a phrase. The first time I heard it she was biting the neck of my shirt. I kept saying, "Cher, Stop it!" Finally, I went to grab her to get her off of me when she wouldn't stop, and I would swear it was a recording of my own voice that came out when she said, "Stop it!" for the first time. Trouble is, she hardly ever says it. I am yet to find a good trigger, but Ms. Flock Advisor has been present now at least two times when she's said it but still thinks it is just unintelligible grunting. I'll keep working at it, I just wish she would pick up something else to say. Normal birds say, "Hello."

15 November 2010

Lennon Plays Scrabble

Scrabble letter-tiles are irresistible chew toys for Lennon. Ms. Flock Advisor and I found this out on Sunday night as we laid the game out on the floor. Lennon does not sit still when left to his own devices. As I combed the box for a refresher on the game's rules, and Ms. Flock Advisor tried to give me the Cliff's Notes, Lennon found the tiles she had set up vulnerably on their stand. He proceeded to pick them up one by one, turn each in his beak before dropping it and going for another. What made this even more entertaining for us was that he was dropping them on the game board, so it appeared he was trying to play. He did not spell out any words but had as much fun as the rest of us.

As we got our game underway, Lennon marched around the room finding new items of interest. In the wild, cockatiels forage on the ground.     Lennon displays this type of behavior around the house as he inspects the carpet for hidden morsels and chewable objects. He attempted to disconnect the Patriots' flogging of Pittsburgh by nibbling through the antenna cable. Ms. Flock Advisor redirected his focus from that noble task, and he went on to separating her iPod ear buds from their cord with his busy beak. I scooped him up before he could complete that job and we let him play with the Scrabble tiles some more. Eventually he found a sizable pretzel crumb and that held his focus until it was time for him to once again perch on Ms. Flock Advisor's shoulder and tend to his feather preening before going to bed.

Kenobi is indeed becoming quite the hefty bunny, and I now have a means of comparison to make that claim. Last week I picked up my mom's bunny, an adult female named Petunia, and found that she was much lighter and less round than Bunny-balls. Perhaps it was the vanilla wafers, but he has been off of those for a while. Ms. Flock Advisor said that his chubbiness is a good thing, and I have to agree that it is endearing. She may need to come back and run around the house with him so he can burn some calories, but the vanilla wafer treats he would receive for cuteness might cancel out his workouts.

05 November 2010

Trick, Treat, or Cheese Sandwich

Halloween is an exciting time around the Feather Dorm. As usual, the Florida/Georgia game is played that weekend which means that I do everything I can to stay home and watch it. Last year this meant some quality time with the birds, building my costume for a party that evening. Cher still has not made her peace with that costume.

I do not normally wear a costume for Halloween, but I found out last year that the party we had been invited to was  costume party. Ms. Flock Advisor lives to wear her costume that one day a year and puts much thought into amassing the various pieces to make it up in the weeks preceding. By contrast, I had decided to run quickly down to Office Depot before kick-off and grab a cartload of supplies for my A.W.E.S.O.M. - O costume so that I could build it whilst depleting the Sam Adam's reserve and watching a Florida practice scoring touchdowns.

 Kenobi and Cher were out roaming the premises while I worked to construct the thing, which was basically a decorated cardboard box. The costume is one worn by Cartman in a single South Park episode wherein he tries to dupe Butters. When the box was sufficiently decorated I began taping it together in its three dimensional form, and Cher was not okay with this. As soon as she saw the brown beast rise over my head as a donned it, she flew sans-direction until she smacked into the screen on the porch. I couldn't believe her reaction, and had to hide the costume until we left the house with it later that night.

This year I pulled it out of the closet to re-use at a costume party to which Ms. Flock Advisor had secured an invite for us both. This time I made sure Cher was in her cage when I un-collapsed it, and so her reaction was merely alarmed screaming and aggressive displacement on her toys. I am sure that A.W.E.S.O.M. - O was very intimidated as she crushed wooden blocks with her beak and yanked on her bells with a claw.

On the other coast, Sprite had his first Halloween experience with us. He and Lennon showed little aversion to my costume; but they were very interested in the treats associated with the holiday. Ms. Flock Advisor and I spent Halloween day with them enjoying a feast of our fall favorites. We made a delicious cocktail of pumpkin ale in a sugar/cinnamon rimmed glass, I had a traditional German Oktoberfest beer, and we loaded up on foods. Bread, cheese, candied apples, bratwurst, and of course candy. We finished the night off munching roasted pumpkin seeds scooped out of the Jack-O-Lanterns we carved that evening.
Sprite and Lennon both got to partake in our snacking, as they usually do. Bread is always a hit with them, but Ms. Flock Advisor created a special Halloween treat for Sprite: a cheese sandwich. She wrapped a cube of cheese in hunk of French bread just the right size for him to hold with a foot. He held it for a moment before deciding to go straight for the filling. He managed to work out the block of cheese with his beak while maintaining his grip on the bread, which he nibbled at second.

Cheese and bread are not part of a balanced diet for parrots, but they are a heavy favorite in the "now and then" food group.