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Major Tom to Ground Control!

July 2, 2011 5 comments

Someone posted something on my FaceBook page today that reminded me of this. Two days ago I was out re-arranging items in the aviary. Hanging new toys

Rico totally not digging his new swing.

here, changing perch placement over there, etc. Anything that hangs from the netting I have hanging from ceiling protectors. (you can see a ceiling protector in the upper left hand corner of the photo to the right) It helps prevent tempted beaks from chewing quick links so close to the netting.

Anyway, I was at the very top step of my 3-step, step-ladder. I’m trying to keep my balance which is hard for me to do anyway. I have to look up to see where the netting is. “I can reach it if I stand on my tippy toes” I thought. I had to hurry and glance back down at my feet on the step ladder because I was loosing my balance already. I glanced up one more time to locate the spot I wanted. Quickly glanced down, glanced back up and went for it. Tippy-toes, tippy-toes, reach, reach, almost there and then THUMP! It scared the jeebers out of me in such concentration. I stood there on my tippy-toes staring into the sun reaching for the netting trying to figure out what in the heck just hit my head. It didn’t take long before I realized it was one of those flying, white-feathered, aviary blood suckers. I use the term ‘blood sucker’ in reference to being a leech, as in always wanting to be on me.

So as I stand there teetering on my ladder with a waft of hair now in my eyes as a result of the incoming white-feathered blood sucker’s perfect timing in perching on my head. I can feel the netting at the tip of my fingers so I jump a little and snag it. As I snag it, the impact from the blood sucker perched on my head has pushed me just enough off kilter that an image comes to mind. An image of a little kid leaning against the leaning tower of Pisa smiling for the camera. “I’ve got the netting!” I thought as I feel the step-ladder starting to move in the other direction. “Houston, we have a problem” I yelled. The ladder is going one direction, the netting in the other and I’m just the connector between the two with a white-feathered blood sucker on my head now yelling his funny clucks of “huh? huh? huh?”.

If I keep a hold of the netting my weight will start ripping it from the screws in the garage. I look down at my potential spot of landing catastrophe and begin singing “This is Major Tom to ground control!” I let go of the netting and the ladder went falling back the other direction. This would be a great opportunity to put some wings to use, but no, I crash to the ground. The blood sucker never moves, he’s fine, and probably enjoying the ride.

I land laughing so hard as I remember the neighbor is out watering his backyard and I just know he’s watching all of this. I land and grab that ball of feathers on the top of my head. I’m now on my knees in the back yard, laughing, and kissing the belly of the one that caused this morning’s welcomed ruckus. My neighbor quietly walks out of the back yard as I’m kneeling there with this ball of feathers in my hand looking up at me with feet up in the air. I laughed and asked him if we should work on training out that behavior. “Nah” I said as I stood and placed him back on my head, “What fun would that be?”.

Oh dear. . .

May 6, 2011 5 comments

Rico chasing a squirrel in the aviary!

Well, I saw a potential behavior issue coming a while back and I barely did anything to change it. Well here it is and ah, shall I say it could be a wee bit of a problem?

Rico started chasing the squirrels in the aviary a few years ago as you see in the photo to the left and the video below. The first few times he did it, I laughed. My attention is a huge reinforcer for Rico. After the first few times of laughing, I realized I could very well be reinforcing a dangerous behavior. The last thing I need is for a squirrel to turn around and bite Rico if Rico gets close enough. Well, the summer soon ended and the aviary time was over for the winter. Hmmm, right.

So we found ourselves cooped up in the house playing training games to bide our time for the weather to get warmer. Can you foresee what behavior I’m getting ready to talk about if I tell you we have two cats? After a month of being cooped up in the house, Rico identified a new moving target. I literally saw what he was thinking one day. He was perch on top of the refrigerator and I was cleaning up the kitchen. My husband’s oldest cat, Ceno who is 24 years old came walking through the kitchen. I glanced at Rico and if I could put thoughts to what I saw him thinking, I saw him thinking “How cool is this? A bigger squirrel for my indoor target practice.” His body hunched down and his eyes got big. “Oh no!” I thought and all I could do was look at Ceno and say “Run!” Ceno didn’t even see it coming. That’s ok because he rounded the corner and ‘out of site out of mind’. Rico turned and looked around as if to say “Ok, what was I doing.”

Well it didn’t take long before Rico started his indoor target practice. One time my husband was home and Ceno came running through the house. Rico came flying through the house behind him. My eyeballs about popped out of my head and I looked at my husband. He saw it! His eyes were huge and he looked at me and said “Was Rico chasing Ceno?”. I pretended like I didn’t see it and I said turned to watch the black running by and the white hovering above. “My bird would never do a thing like that” I said. All I received was ‘the look’ from my husband. I knew he wasn’t believing one word coming out of my mouth. “What?” I said as I looked up and he was still staring at me. I’m chuckling as I’m typing this because me and one of my birds are always up to something we are trying to hide from my husband.

This past winter Rico and I had a new behavior to work on modifying. We did it. It worked or is working.

Rico tossing an empty roll of vet wrap on the dining room table.

Rico barely chases the cat anymore but it is something he has learned and I will always have to watch it. Rico knows when the cat walks through the room, if he stays still he gets pine nuts. I have to make sure to watch for this. We are now able to space out the amount of times that I deliver the nuts. Sometimes the pine nuts aren’t of high enough value though. So I began searching for other things he likes to do that are of higher value to him. For whatever reason, Rico loves to toss a roll of vet wrap. I’ve taught him to play fetch by tossing the vet wrap in the aviary also. It is great exercise for him both physically and mentally. I’ve often wondered if him chasing the vet wrap could be a reinforcer for him chasing the cat. It is something I am constantly watching. Regardless, he loves chasing the roll of vet wrap, it wears him out, and it is something fun for the two of us to do together. Did I mention how much he loves this? HE LOVES IT. Pulling a roll of vet wrap from the drawer is a guarantee that it will stop Rico from doing whatever other behavior he is doing.

The last few minutes of Rico perched calmly beside me on the back of the chair.

Fast forward to today. Ceno the 24-year-old cat was not feeling well today and went in for a vet visit. He is fine but it looks they did a blood draw from his hind leg. My husband took him to the vet, not myself. So how did I know they probably did a blood draw? Because I’m sitting here at my computer working with Rico perched

beside me on the back of a chair. All is calm and then Ceno walks down the stairs and through the kitchen. Something caught my eye and I did a double take looking at Ceno. Ceno has a good portion of his hind leg wrapped in vet wrap. My eyes grew huge. I turned and looked at Rico. HE SAW IT! He also let out the loud “HAW” of a yell they do as he moved into position. I quickly looked back at Ceno and Ceno hunched, stopped, and turned and looked at Rico and I. Ceno was looking at me for confirmation that all was ok. I stood and yelled “Ceno run!!!”

A video from a few years ago of when Rico first started chasing the squirrels in the aviary.

Oh but the guilt… a short funny story.

April 13, 2011 7 comments

"Ooooo!" Murray busting me attempting to eat my snack by myself.

An incident happened today that made me think of a funny phone call I had with a friend a few years ago. I was on the phone with my friend Jeannie having a conversation. She asked me “So what are you doing?” I told her I was eating my lunch. The conversation went on and then she stopped and asked me “Where are you?” I told her I was sitting in my car. She asked if I was out running errands. I told her “No, I’m in the garage.” Silence. I could feel an explanation coming on. “So you’re sitting in your car, parked in your garage eating your lunch?” I started laughing with my mouth full because I knew she was going to laugh at me when she found out why. “Why are you sitting in your car in the garage eating your lunch?” she asked me. “Because!” I said feeling guilty for what I was getting ready to explain. ” I just finished my errands and stopped by a drive through and picked up a sandwich. I just pulled in the garage and I’m sitting here eating it in my car so I can have it all to myself. Once I step foot in that house Murray (my macaw) is going to start ‘Oooo’ing and then all of the birds are going to want some. I wouldn’t mind enjoying my lunch all to myself!” I started laughing while I was making my plea in my defense. On the other end of the line I heard laughter. “Be quite and let me eat my sandwich.” I said as we were both cracking up laughing. My friend did have to mention how selfish I was before we hung up.

So fast forward to today. I was sitting here working on my computer this afternoon. I started getting a twinge of hunger pains. Immediately I thought of making my favorite rice dish as a quickie appetizer. I made it and in between my first and second bite I heard an “Ooooo” coming from behind me. The “Oooo” was one of those as in “Oooo that looks so yummy.” I stopped mid-air with spoon almost in mouth. I felt something staring so intently that it began burning a hole in my back. I glanced over my shoulder and there sat my macaw with clear shot of my afternoon behavior. My mouth was still open with the spoon almost hitting it. Out came another “Oooo”. “Man!” I thought. “I almost had it. I almost had my snack to myself.” I found myself feeling as though I was a kid getting busted with my hand in the cookie jar. “I could just take a few steps to the left and be out of his site”, I found myself thinking. “Come here.” Murray belted out. “OK fine!” I said back to him as I began preparing him a dish in addition to the food he already had hanging at his play station.

Rocky enjoying my snack.

I swear I about tripped over my bottom lip from pouting so hard as I walked out ‘my’ snack to

Murray eating my snack.

Murray. I turned around and there stood Rocky, my Moluccan Cockatoo, on his play station. “Hi” he said. “Ugh” I said as I threw up my arm as I surrendered. I rolled my eyes and prepared another dish. “There goes half of my snack!” I sputtered under my breath. I then went in the living room and sat in the corner and finished my snack before the other two birds had the opportunity to see what I was doing. “What?”

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