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  SALLY BLANCHARD'S BLOG 2007

 The photographs and graphics have been removed from the Blog

SUNDAY November 18, 2007

Friday and Saturday I had a booth at the National Cage Bird Show.  It was interesting to see all the birds being judged. It is a very different world than having companion birds although I am sure that there is some overlap. I saw the largest Caique and Alexandrine parrot I have ever seen. Obviously the birds have to be well-cared for or they wouldn't be in the condition they need to be in for a bird show. Since I was at my booth most of the time, I didn't really get to spend too much time learning about the bird show and the reasons one bird wins over another. It seems that size really does matter with some of the categories. With the singer canaries, the song was what mattered. If a bird didn't sing for the judge ... that was it. I wasn't sure what all the ribbons were for ... there were so many different colors. Some cages were surrounded by ribbons of many different colors. Some asked me if the birds knew they had won all the rewards. I don't know for sure but I wouldn't doubt it.

In the mid 1970's I went to a few cage bird shows. In fact I helped co-chair a show that my bird club where birds were judged. I was planning on entering my Red Lory, Gypsy. She was a gorgeous bird in excellent feather. On the way to the hotel, she jumped off the perch and ended up rolling around in her droppings. That seemed to be the end of my bird show hopes. As I walked into the show area, a friend noticed my dirty little Lory. She said she had a better cage if I could get Gypsy cleaned up in time. The bird show was on one side of the hotel exhibition area and a large wedding reception took place on the other side. I rushed Gypsy into the women's room which was full of wedding guests. Gypsy was very tame so I held her in my hand and held her under the faucet. I was careful about the water temperature and I made sure she didn't get her head wet. The women from the wedding were quite concerned about what I was doing to the poor little bird but Gypsy was just fine with what was happening. Then I put her under the hand drier moving her back and forth until she was dry. I rushed her into the show room and placed her in the cage moments before the judging was to start. I don't remember for sure but I don't believe that there were any other lories so it was a given that Gypsy would win best Lory. When she made the final four (or whatever it was called), she was competing against 2 larger birds and a Caique for best of show.  The caique came in second and Gypsy won the best bird in show. The next year my Yellow-collared Macaw Bojo won the best Macaw in show. That was my limited experience with bird shows with judges.

MONDAY November 12, 2007

Last month was a bad one for my animals. I wrote in early October about my almost 21 year old Silky Terrier dying. The last day of October, Buffy, one of my cats passed away.  When my grandmother went into a nursing home in the early 90s I adopted her cat. Louie was with me for several years and the evening of one of the PBIC Conventions in Oakland, he had a stroke and died. That left Nimbus as the only cat and he and Louie used to play together a lot. I decided to go to Alameda Animal Control and adopt an older cat. I fell in love with the poofy Cheshire cat cheeks of a somewhat fat cat and he came home with me. His name was Socks but I renamed him Toc, which stood for the other cat. However before I left the shelter, I was informed that he had come in with another cat. She was a skinny little shy cat. After a few days, I decided to go back for her… after all they had been together for over 8 years and probably missed each other. When I got her home, I immediately discovered that they couldn’t stand each other, but Nimbus and Louie became great pals. Over the years Buffy evolved from being the proverbial scaredy cat to being my mother’s most devoted companion. Even when my mother was comatose, she still was petting Buffy. When my mother died, Buffy went back to being a very shy cat.  She had always been skinny but had received a clean bill of health from the vets she had seen. From the shelter records, I know that she was at least 16. Nimbus who died last spring was almost 23 so 16 seemed young to me but the vet told me that was a pretty good age for a cat to live. I can’t say I know very much about cats even though I have almost always had one in my live. I have always had a laissez-faire relationship with my cats. There are two basic rules for them: 1. Leave the birds alone, and 2. Use the litter box. My older cats rarely show any interest in the parrots. I think this was passed on from Nimbus who got too close to my Amazons one day and the large male, Rascal jumped on his back. He was quite young then and he never showed any interest in the parrots again; neither has any of the other cats who came to live with me.  I have always adopted older cats who have already had their front claws removed. I hate the idea but I provide them with a good life as an indoor cat. I just can’t see having cats with full claws around parrots. It certainly is possible to have cats with parrots but it requires some management skills. It has been my experience that it is the small flighty birds like finches, budgies and cockatiels that attract a cat's attention. Cats usually ignore larger more sedate birds. I never allow my birds out without knowing where the cats are. TOC was really obese when he came to live with me and although he is thinner, he still lacks the curiosity and athleticism to be a problem for the parrots.

SUNDAY November 11, 2007

I am now bird sitting Bianca and she has quickly won my heart. I first fell for her when I did a consultation with her caregivers. She is a very loving and enthusiastic hen Umbrella.

Note: There is a sandwich shop across the street called Carl's Canteen that makes delicious loose meat sandwiches - or Made Rites. These are an Iowa tradition and my family was from Iowa. In fact I was born in Cedar Rapids. Throughout the years as I was growing up and moving all over the place, my mother talked about three Iowa food favorites and how much she wished she could get them: 1. Made Rites, 2. Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches, and 3. Pan-fried Catfish.  With a Made Rite sandwich shop across the street, I was able to meet at least one of those requests after we moved here. My mother had quite a few loose meat sandwiches after we moved here. I am still looking for a good Pork Tenderloin sandwich - maybe I can talk the folks across the street into making them too??

OK I have obviously gone off on a tangent again.  So why was I talking about was I talking about food and how does that relate to Bianca? There are two young ladies who are related to people at the sandwich shop and they have come over a few times to meet the parrots. Yesterday they spent quite a lot of time catering to Bianca's every wish. This scenario reminded me of a cartoon I did for the Companion Parrot Handbook of one of my many imaginary "inventions" called the Perpetual Petting Machine. The question was, "how long could Bianca enjoy this much petting? The answer ... How many hours are in a day? The actual answer ... until one of the girl's fathers told them they had to come back to the sandwich shop.


TUESDAY November 6,  2007

Janice G sent me an email with a link to a story that appeared today in the Asheville Citizen-Times. The article presented generalized misinformation about several "easy-care pets."  The concept of the article was that there were many pets that were far simpler and inexpensive to keep when compared to dogs and cats. The following is the section about birds:

"Break out of the mold with cheap, easy pets

Jim Marks, CITIZEN-TIMES CORRESPONDENT

published November 5, 2007 12:15 am

BIRDS

Parakeets are the most popular pet birds, perhaps because they are smaller and less expensive than some of their more talkative cousins. Parakeets can be as little as $15, and live happily in a cage costing $15-$35. Cockatiels, cockatoos, macaws and parrots, on the other hand, can run all the way up to $2,000. Their cages run $50-$150.

Laura Paintiff, who owns and runs WNC Aquarium and Imports with her husband, said African gray parrots are great talkers, and cost about $1,100.

Quaker parrots, on the other hand, are also great talkers with a warm personality, and only cost about $165.

Pet birds can live as long as 25 years, so it’s a good thing they are easy to care for.

They rarely need a visit to the vet, but owners should insure they aren’t faced with severe temperature fluctuations or fumes from paint or burning Teflon cookware."

My Response to the newspaper:

I have published a parrot related magazine (The Companion Parrot Quarterly) for 16 years and have worked with hundreds of people and their parrots over the last 30 years. Jim Marks has written one of the most ignorant pet industry slanted articles I have ever read about "cheap, easy-care pets." The last time I read an article this bad about "easy-care" pets was in the early 1990s and it was rubbish then. Parrot family birds are neither cheap nor easy to care for. The only easy care parrot that I am familiar with is a toy parrot. The statement, "Pet birds can live as long as 25 years, so it’s a good thing they are easy to care for."  Parrot family birds (including parakeets - accurately called Budgies) require daily cage cleaning, daily food preparation, accessories such as toys that can be costly, and at least daily (if not more frequent) social and focused interaction with the people in their lives for them to anything that could be called a "warm personality." Not all African greys talk and those that do receive a tremendous amount of interaction from their caregivers. The prices of cages in this article are absurd. Proper caging is much more expensive. Proper medical care by qualified avian veterinarians is generally much more expensive than with dogs and cats because they are far more complex. If anyone wants a parrot to live 25 years or more, they will need to spend a great deal of money. I am familiar enough with the other animals listed as easy-care pets to know that the writer's statements are inaccurate generalizations at best. Next time you decide to have someone write an article about something they know absolutely nothing about; please make sure that they do quality research instead of a "quicky" article full of inaccurate generalizations.

The result of anyone believing information that comes from such a poorly researched article is far too often a lot of animals that receive poor care and die long before their time.

Sally Blanchard
Editor Publisher
The Companion Parrot Quarterly
www.companionparrot.com

Please read this article and send your own comments about this article. The website address is:

http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071105/LIVING/71103015/1250/ADVERTISING


FRIDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2007

I'm baaack.
My trip to New Jersey was quite an adventure and I will write more later.

For now I want to show readers a series of photos that I took at Bird Paradise.

I really don't know how long the juvenile delinquent Black-headed Caique had been making a play thing out of the handsome Hawkhead but I did get a good series of photos that clearly show a pattern of harassment. In the first photo, the clinging Caique grabs the Hawkhead's tail. In the second photo, the Hawkhead is clearly trying to escape but the persistent Caique holds on and is dragged across the play area. In the third photo, the Hawkhead tries to get away by climbing up to a perch but the persistent Caique continues to try to drag him down. Finally (in the fourth photo), the Hawkhead has made it on to the perch and looks underneath himself to get a good look at his stalker. Even though the Hawkhead is on the perch with his buddies, the stubbornly unyielding Caique continues to harass him and try to pull him off of the perch.

Clearly the Hawkhead needs a restraining order to keep this Caique away. If there is a lawyer willing to do pro bono work on his behalf, the larger bird may finally be free of his stalker. Please contact harassedhawkhead@companionparrot.com and I will forward your messages to him..

THURSDAY EVENING, OCTOBER 19, 2007

Tomorrow I travel to New Jersey and tonight I am running around crazy trying to get stuff ready that I should have gotten done last week. I am speaking with Dr. Irene Pepperberg at Bird Paradise. I will write about this adventure when I return but I still have too much to do! 

TUESDAY MORNING, OCTOBER 9, 2007

I am actually up quite late because I have made a decision tonight that is keeping me awake. As many of you know I have a very elderly Silky Terrier named KT. She was the love of my mother's life and, of course, she has a very special place in my heart. I had wondered for some time who would leave my life first - my mother or KT and I knew they both would be somewhat lost without each other. It has really surprised me that KT has lived a good year and a half since my mother's death. She was totally blind when we moved here to Colorado but once she got used to the living area she did fine as long as no one moved the furniture. She did learn to navigate with her nose and bumped it into a lot of stuff.

When she had lived with me for a year or so, a woman told me that Silky Terriers were prone to collapsed tracheas and rarely lived more that five years or so. I think this was a gross exaggeration but I adored this little dog so I was somewhat worried about her, especially when she would have a coughing spell. I didn't need to worry. I can't remember when KT actually came to live with me but it was either 1989 or 1990 and she was 3 years old when I got her. That makes her somewhere between 20 and 21. Even though she is blind and somewhat demented, I wasn't going to put her down until she stopped wagging her tail and/or seemed uncomfortable and/or in pain. Today was that day and I know it is time. So tonight I am grieving her loss as she sleeps at my feet and tomorrow I will take her to the vet. Twenty years is a very long time for a dog to live and thinking about her really takes me down memory lane. I have had her longer than I have done the Pet Bird Report/Companion Parrot Quarterly (That started in 1991). I remember a time when I drove down to visit my mother in southern California (she didn't move in with me until 1999). I always took KT with me because my mother loved her so much. I got out of the car at a rest stop to stretch my legs and when I walked back towards the car, KT jumped up at the window to greet me and locked me out of the car. A young woman walking a pair of Dobermans saw what happened and found a wire in her car and helped me unlock the door. KT barked at the big dogs the whole time and when I opened the door she jumped out and chased after them ... the little dog complex (somewhat similar to the Caique complex mentioned in the next entry.) I will certainly miss this wonderful little dog.

Nimbus, my cat who died in March, was almost 23. It didn't seem as unusual for a cat to live that long but I never expected to have a dog who lived close to 21 years. Part of it may be because for many years, I fed my dogs a recipe that consisted of fresh ground turkey and cooked oatmeal with high vitamin A vegetables and added nutrients including EFAs, calcium, and vitamin E. I need to start doing that again. Dewey, my Havowart, is a 9 and he is starting to have as much problem moving around as I do- he has always had hip problems. Two of my cats (Toc and Buffy) are 14 or 15. Only Diablito, my 2 1/2 year old Tuxedo Manx, has enough youthful exuberance to keep me on my toes. And even the birds are getting on in age - 9 (Twiggy), 11 (Whodee), 17 (Pascal), 19 (Spike), 24 (Roxi-anne), and 32 (Paco).

MONDAY OCTOBER 8, 2007

Yesterday I drove down to visit my friend Andrea and her birds. I took my camera but I forgot to change it from close up to automatic so all of the photos of her birds came out blurred. Andrea has a male Eclectus named Skyler, a Caique named Beaker, an Alexandrine named Harper, and a Ringneck hen named Piper. Beaker and I may someday become friends but as it is now, he pretty much does that Caique stalking thing with me. I play with him carefully with a towel and we are not too sure whether Beaker is still stalking me or actually playing.  I think with some birds there is a fine line. He sauntered towards me and sways back and forth snorting like a miniature bull. I used a kitchen towel as a barrier and we played for some time. I did get one semi-in-focus photo of Beaker about to leap at me when I was sitting on the couch - you may notice that both of his feet are off of the top of the couch. Luckily I was saved by a couch cushion just after I snapped this ominous picture.

I really enjoyed listening to Harper talk. He is a quite a talker and says all sorts of fun things. One of his favorite expressions is "Kiss your foot." He also has a way of saying "ex-cell-ent" that is hysterical. None of his photos came out so I will include a photo of one of my Tongue-in-Beak Clay works that I just finished of an Alexandrine. Just about every Alexandrine I have ever met has been an incredibly delightful companion. I have to rate them as one of the most under rated parrot family birds. They are stunningly beautiful with all of their colors - several shades of green, lavender-gray, chestnut, and turquoise. Their eyes are yellow with a delicate ring of red and, of course, they have their large orange-red beak.  I made the tail as long as I could without it becoming really fragile but it could have been a few inches longer to be really accurate. I think Harrper is going to join my list of the top 25 most enjoyable parrots I have ever met!

SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 29, 2007

If you don't want to read my mini tirade about the bar next door go down to the day before this one ...

I often work late at night at my desk in the Laughing Parrot Gallery. One thing that I will never get used to is the number of people who stop and stare into the door or window to see what is in here. There are several good restaurants and a few bars in downtown Loveland so their are often people walking by. From time to time someone will come in who saw something in the window that they wanted to know more about. Right now I have a display of Exotic Birds From Around the World in the window. This display includes a few parrot family birds but is mostly softbills such as Toucans, Bee eaters, Rollers, Hornbills, Trogons, etc.

There are also usually some people from the bar next door that just hang out in front of my window and smoke because they are no longer allowed to smoke in the bar ... Colorado state law. I am sure that public urination is also against the law but I have watched drunks urinate in my front door alcove twice. Of course, by the time the police would get here, the drunk would be long gone. When I talked to the police about it I was told that their would be no way to prove that the person came out of the bar next door so there essentially was nothing that they could do about it. It is sad because this is really a delightful historic little downtown with good restaurants, gift shops, and art galleries. On the other side of my store is a Natural foods store and and a very cute store across the street sells baby stuff. I am also across the street from a theater that has been redone and is now a Loveland landmark.  I have seen several live performances there.

It is also against the law for anyone to smoke within 10 or 15 feet of the front of any business but I have never seen anyone try to enforce that part of the law. I wish they would because the smoke filters into my display window and into the front of the store. I quit smoking over 20 years ago ... mostly because I realized how bad the smoke was for my birds. I guess you could call me a reformed smoker and I know that we can be extreme from time to time. I am adamant that I don't want to breathe in other people's cigarette smoke but I also believe that if people want to smoke it is their own business as long as they are in a smoker's environment or their own home (as long as their parrots don't have to breathe their cigarette smoke. I once watched the necropsy of  a Timneh grey that spent half of his life on his owner's shoulder. The man was a heavy smoker and the bird's respiratory system looked black enough to be that of a coal miner.)

On July 1, 2006 my life changed dramatically. That was when the Colorado smoking ban went into effect. This meant that the people who go to the bar next door could no longer smoke in the bar. So the bar set up a patio at their back door for their smoking patrons and put a tent up with a TV. The problem is that this extension of the bar next to my carport and right below the side of my wonderful deck and my master bedroom windows. I can't use the deck at all because of the smoke and it certainly put an end to my putting any of my parrots outdoor for their daily sunshine. From about 11am to 2am almost every day and night, it sounds and smells like the bar patrons are in my home and they are often loud and obnoxious. My response has been to spend most of my life in my store and my office down here. I moved into a smaller bedroom in the front of my dwelling so I could sleep without hearing the shouts and laughter of people who have had too much to drink. 

I also have some speakers outdoors and was playing classical music to drown them out in the evenings. One time I was really upset and it was quite loud so the police came to my front door because of a noise complaint. This was certainly a case of the pot calling the kettle black. In my conversations with the police, it is clear that I have no rights whatsoever in this situation. I knew there was a bar next door and I really never had any trouble with it before the smoking patio was added. The irony to me is the number of people I have watched stumble out to their cars and drive away. It really makes me wonder if the "crack down" on drunk driving is hypocrisy.

FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 28, 2007

I had a delightful visitor today. For some reason that I am not always clear about, I have a thing for hen Umbrella Cockatoos. Especially if they are well loved. Notice I did not say well-behaved. They don't necessarily have to be completely well-behaved as long as their behavior is based on happiness. I have never believed that exuberant, happy-to-be-alive behavior is negative. When I meet a hen cockatoo that is full of herself, I really enjoy spending time with the bird. I have to admit that today was pretty much a yucky day. I am not sure whether I am recovering from something or getting something different but I felt lousy. Ginger's visit cheered me up tremendously! I spent a an hour or so visiting with Ginger and her caregiver Judy.t

About a month ago I did a consultation with another Umbrella hen and her family. She was also full of herself in a quite delightful way, but she had become aggressive to her male caregiver. My basic diagnosis was that they needed to find more creative ways to channel her energy into play and to learn to interpret her body language better. Some times with cockatoos, the line between exuberance and overload is not always easy to see.

I love meeting these well-loved cockatoos. It is then that I clearly see that cockatoos can be wonderful, if not demanding, human companions. Through the years I have met many people who do an excellent job with their cockatoos and rewarded with a positive relationship. A few years back I met a hen Umbrella who did the hokey pokey with her caregiver. It was so much fun to watch! Then several bird people started playing with her and she became very exuberant ... she was picking up our energy and we were all having fun. Her posturing and vocalizations were not those of a misbehaving cockatoo.

Unfortunately I have also met dozens of problem cockatoos in rescue situations and I have worked with dozens who scream incessantly or show aggression at the slightest provocation. What is the difference? With the handfeds, I think it is the people that they have encountered throughout their lives from the time they hatched. Not every cockatoo that hatches in aviculture has been blessed with nurturing from a caring breeder and not everyone has gone into a home that really understands their special needs for human interaction ... especially for instructional interaction. They all need a "job" whether that job is enthusiastically swinging from their playgyms or taking toys apart. They also need a supervisor who cares enough to teach them positive interactions and doesn't demand that they become their love sponges.

WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 27, 2007

I have received some interesting comments about my previous rant about Dr. Pepperberg and Alex ... mostly positive.  I found a quote from Carl Sagan that I think is appropriate for a discussion about animal intelligence.
“Philosophers and scientists confidently offer up traits said to be uniquely human, and the monkey and apes casually knock them down - toppling the pretension that humans constitute some sort of biological aristocracy among the beings on earth.” Alex has shown us that the word parrot could be substituted or added to monkey and apes in this quote.

On Sept 13, I included a graphic of a painting my father did of me when I was in the 4th grade.  I found it when I was going through a mislabeled box.  Another item that I found was a watercolor painting I did when I was 7 or 8 years old. This shows a very different type of childhood than the idyllic painting my father did of me as a young bird lover. I think it is quite amazing that I painted this type of subject at such a young age ... I guess it also shows that I had a "dark side" as a child. My father was an Air Force Colonel and he framed the painting and hung it in his office in downtown Philadelphia. When he asked me what the painting was called, I told him it was "Peter and the Atom Bomb." Obviously I was a child of the "Cold War."  I think I called my little boy Peter because I was so fond of the musical story "Peter and the Wolf" as a child. As a past high school art teacher, I am quite amazed that I could create such an abstract yet identifiable painting of a young boy in a nuclear conflagration ... especially when I was that young. I am really happy that this childhood example of my artistic ability survived my many many moves.

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2007

The following message is not intended to insult my readers. It is also not intended to make anyone feel bad if they have been misinformed or have asked questions about Alex's welfare. It is a message intended only for the malicious people who are described below and probably won't recognize themselves in my words. Of course, the majority of these know-it-all people would never take the time to read anything on this blog.

To those mean-spirited, petty little miscreants who are using the Internet to bash Irene Pepperberg and proclaim that Alex was nothing but a lab rat ...
GET A LIFE AND GROW UP!
What gives you the right to try making yourself seem significant by mouthing off (again and again) about something you know NOTHING about.
Have you ever met Alex?
Have you ever been to the lab?
I have and you are all full of it..
As someone who has worked really hard to make life better for parrots, I am really sick of people like you who have to be the first one to tell everyone all of the bad things you hear when you don't even have the facts. Does your nasty behavior really make you feel more important? Sad, isn't it!

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2007

The Legacy of Alex the Grey

(My drawings are actually of Alex)

Occasionally I buy a copy of People Magazine. Sometimes I like the articles about real people and I certainly don't want to lose track of my knowledge of pop culture trivia. (Please note a slight edge of sarcasm) However I can certainly state that for a long time I thought that Paris Hilton was the Hilton Hotel in Paris. In fact, I actually wish that was the truth because I doubt that People would waste so much print space on a hotel.

That said, I really have a serious intent of bringing up People Magazine. I noticed in the section on Passages that they had a photo of Alex and a notification of his death. If there is anyone who doubts the influence that Alex has had in acquainting the world (parrot lovers and people who don't know diddlysquat about parrots) with the truth about parrot intelligence, just consider this blurb in one of the most read magazines in the U.S.

I heard about Dr. Pepperberg's work with Alex at least 20 years ago and have visited with her on several occasions. I only had the pleasure of meeting Alex once when I was visiting Tucson. He took a little time to warm up to me but when he did I spent an unforgettable 10 minutes interacting with him. My time was up when one of his favorite students walked into the lab. I was no longer of any significance to him. (But that was OK - it is not that often that a mere mortal gets to spend that much time with a legend.) One of the points that Dr. Pepperberg has made on several occasions is that there was no evidence that Alex was an exceptionally intelligent African grey. She believed that most any normal grey could have been used for her work. This idea verifies one of the most important aspects of my work with parrots and that is that a great deal of their behavior is learned. It is difficult to believe that some people are still adamant that parrot behavior is all hard-wired. Some is; some isn't. I know that my late great African grey, Bongo Marie was every bit as smart as Alex and so are most of the greys that I have met. The difference is in the teaching and learning. I taught Bongo Marie an incredible amount of stuff and she learned very quickly, but it was not in the name of science. On the other hand Alex learned in a highly structured manner that qualified him as a scientific experiment. This is not to say that he was not loved; to know him was to love him or at least to develop a devoted affinity towards him. Alex developed a strong personality during his years with Dr. Pepperberg and he certainly was more than just an experiment. He did not always do what he was supposed to do and he made it quite clear that he was up to the task; he just was not in the mood to do it. He made up his own words that his caregivers had to learn so that they could do his bidding properly. He had a delightful talent for manipulation, which is just more evidence of his intelligence. If an animal attempts to deceive or manipulate another animal it is evidence that they are aware that they can change that animal's behavior. I think that this criteria indicates intelligence in the vast majority of companion parrots. 

I think that Dr. Pepperberg's work with Alex profoundly changed the world of parrots and I will always be grateful to this wonderful bird for making my life much easier. I started giving programs about wild birds over thirty five ago. When I first got into parrots, I was lucky to have a great deal of knowledge about birds and this helped me figure out more about parrots. At that time, so many people treated parrots like caged birds rather than companions. The parrot sat in a cage on a wooden dowel. He might have had a lava rock hanging from a chain. Sometimes he talked and if he was really lucky and tame enough, his owner might bring him out of the cage from time to time and he would get to climb up to the top of his cage. Sunflower seed was the diet of most birds because many people thought that all birds ate nothing but seed.

I think that so many people who have gotten into birds in the last few years or so think that bird keeping has just about always been like it is now ... that one could always find decent information about parrots ... NOT SO! The changes in the last 15-20 years in regards to parrot information have been beyond phenomenal. When I started writing articles about parrots, the word socialization had rarely if ever been applied to raising baby parrots. Socialization of young parrot chicks became my crusade. An arrogant breeder once said to me, "You can't prove this socialization crap is true and until you can I am not going to waste my time with it." This statement was not only ignorant but it proved her total lack of common sense and knowledge about parrots. Back then there was hardly any in-depth information about the biology and ethology of wild parrots. Of course intelligence goes hand in hand with early socialization and all animals with a modicum of intelligence need to learn their social and survival skills. An extension of this aspect about parrots that I also had to fight for was to get people to understand the intelligence of their birds. I would explain how intelligent parrots are and use observations, experience, and anecdotes to back up my claim. Some people enthusiastically nodded their heads in agreement but others shook their heads in disbelief. I still hear people say that parrots are just mimicking us when they speak and have no idea of what they are saying. It was even a struggle to try to convince people that parrots were intelligent enough to deserve compassion and concern for their welfare. This was especially true when I spoke to groups that either did not have parrots or to groups that included production type breeders (or "animal users" as aviculturist Laurella Desborough once referred to her colleagues with a financial interests in parrots.) I spent a lot of time swimming upstream to educate people about parrots and in some ways I still do. Of course, making enemies of some people is actually a measure of success.

Along came Alex! He was featured on television shows about animal intelligence (As I recall this list includes NOVA, National Geographic, Discovery, PBS, various children's chows and many more.) In addition to a number of books, any magazine that had to do with animals, birds, parrots, animal intelligence, animal behavior, etc. eventually made mention of Alex. People who never had even thought about parrots, started to know haw smart they are. I have had a good number of people come into the Laughing Parrot Gallery who have never owned or even thought of owning one, yet they know that parrots are really smart because they have heard about Alex. It became easier and easier to get people to understand the physical, emotional, and intellectual needs of parrots because they had learned about Alex. There were and are still nay sayers ... I once heard bird trainer Steve Martin mock Dr. Pepperberg as someone practicing bad science. And of course people who had more concern for the buck than the bird didn't like the changes Alex was influencing in the world of companion parrots.

I have always believed that it is more difficult to accept mistreatment of any animal when people realize that the animal shares what are considered to be human traits. If we have a basic comprehension of history, we can see how easily the human race embraces the dehumanization of people to justify bigotry, racism, and genocide. Add to that the fact that the human race tends to have an arrogance of superiority when it comes to other species on the planet ... I call this "speciesism." The accusation of anthropomorphism is often flung at anyone who tries to make a favorable comparison between an animal and humans. There is a vast difference between acknowledging an animal's innate characteristics and turning a parrot into a delightful little human like Disney's Jose Carioca. The truth is that quality science has shown that many of the traits that we have smugly thought to be human are shared on many levels by animals.  It is not anthropomorphism to assign an animal a certain "human-like" trait if that animal innately shares that trait. This, of course, brings me back to Alex, and and the vast difference he has made in the way so many of us now look at animal (and particularly parrot) intelligence. How can anyone with any intelligence and compassion, mistreat an animal who shows as much intelligence and understanding as Alex?  This is what Alex's legacy is to me.

THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 13, 2007

Sometimes it just seems that there is way to much to get done. I have been working on CPQ #72 that will feature play. I just finished doing a whole bunch of drawings for the toys articles. I have 4 Tongue-in-Beak Clayworks upstairs that I am trying to finish but I just finished several new ones that are birds I have not done before ... a Jardine's, Green-cheeked Conure, Bare-eyed Cockatoo, a Great-bill and two wild birds - a Black-billed Magpie and a cute little Western Tanager. To see them all, go to the TIB page. I also just finished an Umbrella Cockatoo that I think is delightful. I have always loved the way that they throw their head down with a fully extended crest.

A lot has happened in the last month or so that I should have been writing about. I'll try to remember some of it. In August, I attended a Toy making Workshop. I spoke about why birds need toys and their different styles of playing. Andrea Frederick and Cindy Dietrich talked about toy safety and techniques for making toys. Then we all got to make our own toys. Most of my parrots really love their bells and the more racket they make the happier they are. So I decided to go with the bell theme and I ended up making a toy that was quickly dubbed "Hell's Bells." It is 2 feet long, has a total of 9 bells, with all sorts of other stuff. I hung it up last week on the play gym area in the store, but so far no one has touched it ... maybe it is still too awe inspiring?!? Now if my male Double-yellow head, Rascal, still lived with me, he would have demolished it by now.  He is the real bell aficionado. As many of you know, he now lives with Troy Beaudoin (Terry and Shari's son) in Minnesota and they are very happy together. Maybe if I ever get upset with Shari or Terry for even the most petty little reason, I will send the Hells Bells to Rascal. The combination of Rascal and the Hell's Bells toy would be an assault to any one's eardrums.  To be honest, I don't think that Hell's Bells could be a marketable toy. It would be cost prohibitive and would drive most people crazy if their parrots really loved it.  

A few weeks ago, I drove down to Andrea's to meet her parrots and go out for dinner. The drive was about an hour and I had NPR on my radio. A Dr. Stuart Brown, who is the founder of the National Institute for Play was being interviewed. Talk about synchronicity! Ever since the Toy Workshop, I have been working on a special CPQ that would deal mostly with play. I rarely listen to anything but music on the radio and the fact that my radio was turned to NPR was amazing. The interview started when I backed out of my carport and lasted until I drove into Andrea's parking area.  Look for my in-depth article about parrots and play in the next issue.

went to storage today to bring several boxes of the CPH and back issues to the store so that I could fill orders. I brought one box home that was marked issue #49. It turned out to be all of my photos and some memorabilia from the time I was a kid to before I moved to Colorado. I was sure that all of this stuff was lost and recently I had actually been looking for something that I found in the box. I loved birds as far back as I can remember. My father was a hobby painter and when I was in the 4th grade he painted a picture of me with our Budgie, Miki. I was sitting next the window and there was a wild sparrow outside the window. The painting was in the box. The condition is not that great and I don't think that Miki was actually that yellow or quite that body shape. As I remember him, he was a normal green Budgie.  I adored him! I have told his story in this article on the web site Budgerigars: The Most Popular Pet in America. I have been traveling down Memory Lane tonight looking back at my life from when I was a baby (I was a very cute baby!). I am beginning to understand why my mother always said that she just couldn't understand how she got so old.

THURSDAY, AUGUST 2, 2007

I am watching an African Grey named Topper and an Orange-fronted Conure named Tikko. Tikko reminds me of my Cockatiel, Rosie, from many years ago. Rosie used to sit with his head in his bell and this is one of Tikko's favorite things to do. Rosie was a very special bird and I guess he considered himself a quite a "ladies man."  At about 8 pm I would ask him "Do you want to go to bed?" and then whistled his lullaby for him. You know how parrot family birds love to mix things up. A friend of mine was bird sitting Rosie and her neighbor came over. She walked over to Rosie and told him he was a very pretty boy. To this he replied, "I love you, you're pretty! Do you want to go to bed?"

Topper, the Grey that's here, occasionally talks in a man's deep voice. When I am her working late at night it really throws me3 until I remember he is here. I put him to bed at about 8 or 9 but as long as I am down here, he keeps me company with all sorts of conversation, whistles, and alarm noised. He whistles the "tune" from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. He is very talented. He is quite tame but I have been going really slow in working with him because he doesn't seem very comfortable with me yet. He is very tame with his people, but has not warmed up to me yet. When I make eye contact with him, he fluffs up and postures aggressively. He also says "Scary Stuff" when he feels threatened. Since I don't want to force him to come out, I have been doing what I call "the chair exercise" with him. I have been sitting in front of his cage reading a book. Occasionally I look over at him but then I lower my head in a submissive posture. Today he came very close to me and took an almond from my hand for the first time. Hopefully he will come out to visit with me in the next day or so.

One of the reasons I decided I would not work with him right away is because my energy has been pretty bad the last two weeks. The most important aspect of this can be summed up in 3 words, I HATE QUEST. When I moved here I used them for my DSL and phone service. I made the mistake of thinking they were the only phone company here - they aren't. I have to admit that I paid my bill late - sometimes I can barely keep track of what day it is. I received no shut off notices and they shut off my phone and DSL. I called in a payment immediately but it took 7 days to get reconnected. It didn't matter who I talked with or what I said. The last 2 weeks, both my phone line and my Internet access has been down. Since I do most of my business using the Internet, this crippled me. I could not check my email, use Paypal, run charges, access Ebay, upload information to the CPQ web site. So after the first 7 days without phone or computer, I switched to FRII - another DSL company. Unfortunately Quest had to take part in the change so it took me several more days to get up and running. I talked to the service man and he informed me that it would cost $110.00 got him to come out to change the line over. He informed me that Quest was a revenue based company and his job was to create revenue. I watched a Quest ad tonight and they were touting their great service. Finally I got service again yesterday when FRII was nice enough to send someone out to move the wires from one post to another.

Without my phone or Internet, I have been doing a lot of artwork.  I particularly enjoy doing the clay sculptures and have been doing some birds that I haven't done before. I finished an Eclectus hen, a Sun Conure, a Red-bellied Parrot, a Goffin's cockatoo, and a Yellow-shouldered Amazon. I am going to do an art fair next weekend so I am trying to do some more wild birds. I am working on a Rockhopper Penguin now but I made it large enough that it is really getting difficult to have it hold together. Hopefully I can resolve the problems I am having with it tomorrow. 

SUNDAY, JULY 15, 2007

I have been busy doing artwork. I am going to have a booth at an art show for the first time in over twenty years.  A few weeks ago, I also had a booth at a bird fair for the first time in almost as many years. The first day was pretty busy and my hope is that more parrot people in the Denver area will know about the Laughing Parrot Gallery and come up for a visit. The second day was a heat wave and not that many people came to the show. I think they all stayed home in their air conditioned homes. I did get a chance to meet some nice people and visit with a few fun parrots.

I used to have a booth at just about all of bird fairs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some were certainly better than others as far as quality was concerned. I attended quite a few bird shows throughout California; some as a vendor, some as a spectator. Just about all of them had at least one vendor that enraged me. It was obvious to me which vendors had smuggled birds but there wasn't much I could do about it. I talked to the people at Fish and Wildlife and they appreciated my information but needed absolute proof before they could do anything. Why was I sure that the birds were smuggled. There were boxes of baby Amazons and conures; all native to Mexico and it was baby season in the wild. Certain species in the boxes were not that available as hand-feds. One vendor at a couple of shows had birds standing on broom sticks. Occasionally one of the parrots would fall to the floor and the man would just pick up the bird and put him back on the pole. There was no doubt in my mind that the birds were all drugged so that they would be tame enough to sell. Some of the venders had obviously sick birds that seemed very tame to the novices who purchased them. At one show, I saw a small wire cage full of wild-caught African greys. They barely had room to move. I watched the vendor put on heavy leather gloves and pull one of the greys out by his leg. When the bird screamed and twisted to bite him, the man jerked it and I am pretty sure the bird's leg broke so he threw it to the ground and grabbed another grey.

Back in the late 1980s I started a small parrot related distribution company because I knew about many great products that weren't being sold by stores. These included foods, treats, toys and various accessories. Back then most of the good parrot products were made by people with an entrepreneurial spirit who loved parrots and wanted to make healthy treats and/or safe toys. I loved dealing with these people and I loved making good products available for parrots. I also loved working with many of the bird/pet shops that I sold to. I hated dealing with some of the the others that were ignorant about the proper care of birds and obviously preferred to stay that way. .

As I traveled around the country giving programs, I would find out about new products for birds and would bring them into the Bay Area as a distributor. I was the first distributor for some of the products that are still on the market today, while others are long out of business. At least a few of these companies were ahead of their time and parrot owners didn't yet see the need for their products.

More on this topic to follow ...

MONDAY JUNE 25, 2007

Today I was forwarded a message written by the "Toolady and the Rescue Birds of Echo's Haven." I have not met the Toolady and have not formed any personal opinion of her and, of course, she is allowed her opinions.

However, I need to let readers know how strongly I disagree with her message, which insinuates that the Oasis Sanctuary in Arizona does not spend their donations for the welfare of their birds. The inference is that the director, Sybil Erden, drives an expensive car and takes $90,000 as a yearly salary. Obviously this woman has never been to the Oasis and is speaking without having correct information. If she had simply tried to solicit funds for the organization that she wanted to promote, I would not have been as offended as I am that she needed to bash a legitimate organization that is doing an excellent job with the birds in their care. I have been to the Oasis on several occasions and wholeheartedly support the organization and the care that the birds receive there. I am sure that any readers who have actually visited the Oasis would agree with me.

The "Toolady" wanted to raise money for the Tropics in North Carolina. I am actually shocked that this organization persists. I had a great deal of experience with the Tropics several years ago. When I first talked with Mary Bradford she seemed very sincere to me and I supported the Tropics in the Pet Bird Report (now the Companion Parrot Quarterly). However, I quickly received emails from many reliable people (without political motivation) who had been there and were very concerned about the collector mentality and the welfare of the wall to wall birds at the Tropics. When I discontinued my support of the Tropics, Mary Bradford put out an email personally bashing my appearance and accusing me of abusing my caique, Spike. To my knowledge, the Bradfords closed the Tropics under threat that it would be forcibly closed. It is also my understanding that they sold off most of their birds so that they could pay bills and taxes.

Running a large scale animal sanctuary of any kind requires serious planning and a solid foundation in regards to fund raising and legal issues. It also requires a lot of work. One of the reasons that I have such intense respect for Sybil Erden is that she has taken a dream and turned it into a reality. For years she did a great deal of the grunt work with both building and maintaining the sanctuary and caring for the parrots. Each and every time I have been to the Oasis, I have seen the donations go towards improving the facility. As I wrote in this blog on May 10 and May 19 and will write in the next issue, I visited the Oasis in April to give a program. Last time I was there, the goal was to build a state of the art 40' x 40' African Grey aviary … this time it was there and very impressive. I got to spend over an hour sitting and watching all of the greys and their interactions. They could not have had a better home. It is my opinion that the Oasis is an excellent facility to support. Now they are fund raising for a Macaw aviary; there is no doubt in my mind that the next time I go down there, I will spend a great deal of time watching the Macaws flying and interacting in a 60' x 60' aviary. The next one planned is for Cockatoos and then maybe the Amazons will be next. I look forward to returning every few years to see the progress.

By the way, Sybil drives a pick-up truck. It is a pretty large one and is fairly new. The roads to the Oasis are not that great and the truck comes in handy when Sybil rescues dogs along the isolated stretch of road or brings a new donkey home that was going to be slaughtered. I never knew that Donkeys were such great watch "dogs."

There are also several big geese at the Oasis to keep animal intruders away from the parrots. I have no idea what Sybil's salary is but no one there is getting rich off of the Oasis. (Actually it is about $12,000.00 a year) With Sybil's dedication, I would bet that it pretty much covers only her basic personal expenses because she lives and breathes for the care and betterment of the birds at the Oasis.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20, 2007

Sometimes I simply do not understand people ... especially some bird people. Perhaps I am biased but I believe that the number one trait that good parrot caregivers can have is CURIOSITY ... a quest for learning. I have worked with parrots for well over thirty years and I learn something new every time I talk to people.

Most of CPQ readers that I talk with share this trait. Since I have had the Laughing Parrot Gallery open, I have been amazed at the people who have parrots who seem to lack any sense of curiosity to learn anything. One woman came in a few weeks ago. She did tell me that she had a cockatoo so I tried to engage her in conversation about the bird. She seemed offended. She had never heard of the Companion Parrot Quarterly and stated that she had stopped reading Bird Talk years before because there was nothing much that she could learn from it. At some point she did tell me that she was feeding her bird a 100% diet of a brand of brightly colored pellets. I tried to explain to her why I believed that the pellets with artificial food coloring would eventually cause serious problems with her bird. The next day a woman came in who lived near a good bird shop in another part of the country. She didn't shop at that store because they were too bossy in there. They probably gave her too much information because of their passionate concern for the proper care of parrots. I presume that she shops instead at a bird store with a very dubious reputation. I suppose there are people who think I am too bossy. My guess is that the woman who fed her cockatoo the colored pellets thought I was a bossy know-it-all. I try not to be too bossy but sometimes I am sure that people don't like my advice ... especially if they didn't ask for it. Today a couple came in an wandered around the store. I tried to engage them in conversation because I tend to be a gregarious person who loves to talk about birds. The woman did say that they had two macaws. Again they had never heard of the CPQ and had never read anything I wrote. The couple seemed to lack any curiosity about anything in the store or anything I had to say about parrots.

I was delighted that balance was added to my day. Another couple came in this afternoon, they also had macaws. I could tell immediately that they were subscribers. I brought my grey, Whodee, down for a visit. We sat down and talked for an hour or so and I thoroughly enjoyed the parrot conversations. We talked about Scarlet Macaws and how they are so different from the other macaws, especially that they seem more sensitive. We didn't come up with any definitive reasons for this ... perhaps that is another discussion when they come up again. I am delighted that there are still so many questions to answer and puzzles to solve; even the ones that will never really be answered are worth discussing because discussion always gives a better understanding. Unfortunately I never asked these delightful people their names. I look forward to them coming back so I can talk with them again. I really enjoy talking with curious people!

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 14, 2007

I really appreciate the orders and donations that are starting to come in to help me keep the Laughing Parrot Gallery going. A few readers have ordered Tongue-in-Beak sculptures of their species of parrot. I love doing these and appreciate the opportunity to do as many as possible. With the 20% discount for subscribers, they are more affordable. Years ago I used to enter art shows and have my bird sculptures in galleries but I haven't done that for years. There is a nice art gallery around the corner from the Laughing Parrot Gallery on Lincoln St. Appropriately it is called the Lincoln Gallery. I have a friend who is an accomplished clay sculptor. She mostly does animals but recently did a wonderful sculpture of a Snowy Owl.  I entered three pieces into their open show and all three were accepted. My Goose with the Puppy in his bill won a Merit Award. At the opening of the show, a number of people asked me about the sculpture called 'Role Reversal.'.

In the early 1970s,  I attended a few Ducks Unlimited Art Shows to show my Rare Hardwood Inlay Bird Sculptures. The artists set their work up and people came to see it during the day, but the time when a lot of items were sold was after the banquet. Often the attendees would have a few drinks and were more apt to part with their money. I explored the show and noticed how many paintings and sculptures there were of hunting dogs with dead birds in their mouths. I went back to my booth and did a drawing of a mallard with a puppy in his bill and hung it on the back of my booth. The duck hunters loved it and I remember selling it but can't remember how much I sold it for. Once I started doing my Tongue-in-Beak Clayworks, this was a sculpture I had to do.

I love the work of Gary Larson and eventually  I saw his wonderful cartoon of a Pheasant with a puppy in his mouth. I was pleased to know that I thought of the idea before I saw his cartoon. I have done several cartoons that have a Gary Larson attitude. Of course the difference is that he has done hundreds of brilliant cartoons, and I have done a few and, of course, most of mine are parrot related. I have created a booklet, Selected Parrot Humor, with my favorite humor from the PBR/CPQ. The day that he stopped doing is cartoons was a sad day for me. I really appreciated his sense of irony and particularly enjoyed the fact that his cartoons could be viewed on different levels. They were funny on a basic level but often had a side to them that only someone with an interest in biology could understand.

My color pencil drawing of 4 Caiques foraging was also accepted in the show. This is my first "major" drawing. Most of my parrot drawings are about 8"x10" - this one is over twice that size and took me forever to do. I have been influenced by the intense colors of parrots and I lay down a lot of color to try and accomplish this intense coloration. I break a lot of colored pencils before a drawing like this is finished. I also get some serious hand cramps in the process ... but they are not nearly as bad as I used to get when I did my bird sculptures using hard woods such as Rosewood, Ebony, African Blackwood and other very dense exotic woods. I really enjoy doing artwork again!

SATURDAY, MAY 19, 2007

I am planning Issue #72 of the Companion Parrot Quarterly.  I am planning on doing Friends of the Sulfur-crest and Citron-crested Cockatoos. If you have a story to tell about your cockatoo, please send it in so we can have a good number of personal experiences. I am primarily interested in information about your particular bird and your relationship; what you like (love) about the bird and any problems you have had with him or her and if you found a solution to the problem. Try to keep the article between 500 and 1000 words.

SATURDAY, MAY 19, 2007

More on the Oasis ...

Waiting to Fly ...
After spending time sitting in the Grey Aviary, I am looking forward to my next visit to the Oasis. Fund raising is progressing for a similar but larger macaw aviary. The Oasis has some of the funds but still needs much more money to build a first class aviary like the grey aviary. I believe that it will be 60' x 60' (or 60' x 40'). There are many macaws at the Oasis and they are either in roomy outdoor aviary cages or cages inside the large building. While these cages are appropriate for now, Sybil Erden is looking forward to the day when all of the birds are in true flights like the one the greys are in now (see below). Plans are also being made for 2 large cockatoo aviaries ... one for hens and one for males.

When I first met Sybil Erden, she had a vision. At that time, she had way too many birds in her home but she was looking for land to set up an oasis for them. In my conversations with her, I could tell she had the determination to do something important. She stayed true to her vision and the Oasis has evolved into a first class sanctuary facility for parrots. Continual fundraising is essential for the Oasis to maintain (and possibly increase) the number of birds who live on the property. I may have an ulterior motive for promoting the Macaw Aviry because I want to be able to watch them flying in their large aviary at the Oasis the next time I visit. The majority of funds for a project like this come from people who love parrots. If you are particularly fond of macaws, this is a great project to help fund. Donations of any size are gladly accepted. For more information, please go to:  http://www.the-oasis.org/

WEDNESDAY, MAY 10, 2007

 At the end of March I took a trip to Tucson Arizona. I love visiting Tucson for a variety of reasons. I lived there when I was in my late twenties. I started doing my bird sculptures there and the marvelous bird life there turned me into a fanatical bird watcher.  Now I stay with my friends Barbara and Bruce Bailey. Barbara is still recuperating from her extensive bone marrow transplant. The Transplant was very successful but she still tires easily. Until she was sick, Barbara was always a dynamo and I think as her health gets better and better, she will be one again. Visiting the Bailey's is always an adventure since they have well over a hundred cockatoos (actually I think it is less than a hundred ... maybe less that 20 ... but it seems like over 100 at meal time. There are two cockatoos that I have a "special" relationship with. The first is my little Citron-crested buddy, Pumpkin. She is a delightful cockatoo who would be happy to sit on my shoulder 24-7 but she is not demanding and she does whisper sweet nothings in my ear.

The second is my nemesis, Tiwi. She is Barbara's longtime companion Moluccan. She is absolute proof that a cockatoo who plucks can be a happy bird .... and Tiwi is loaded with personality!

A few years ago, I made a critical mistake with Tiwi. I allowed her to chase me down the hall where I climbed onto the guest bed. In my defense ... I was barefooted and one of Tiwi's favorite games is to bite my big toe. It is the old game "dance when I say dance." Tiwi always remembers me and the time she won her game and I lost. Before I got to Barbara's, I planned my strategy. I wore heavy shoes (I do not have any steel-toed shoes) and swore to myself that I would stand my ground. I thought that if I didn't give her any attention, she would just check me out and that would be it. Yeah -sure! It did work for the first half of my visit. She did follow me down the hall when I went into the bathroom. When I came out, she was waiting for me on the guest room bed. She had rummaged through my open suitcase and thrown my clothes around. I was going to have to play keep away with her. As I walked towards her, I thought that I really needed to do something different with her to change the game. So I mustered my courage, walked over to her and said "up." I think it surprised her because I think she thought that she had me completely bamboozled. She stepped on my hand immediately and our relationship changed. She still stalked me and followed me just about every where I went. The difference was that I had a little more to say about the rules of the game we played and aggression was not acceptable. I made up a few more games for us to play and, most of all, she stopped trying to bite my big toe. I also reached the realization that the reason Tiwi picked me out was not because she doesn't like me. The reason she likes me to visit is that she knows that I am a sucker as far as spending a lot of time playing with her.

THE OASIS SANCTUARY 

Every time I visit the Oasis Sanctuary I am very excited about the changes that have been made since my last visit. When I was there the last time, they were raising funds for an African Grey Aviary. They had a small parrot aviary, a Lory building, and rows of aviary cages all arranged in a Pecan grove. For one reason or another, some of the parrots can't take the heat in the summer or the cold in the winter so they live in cages in a large building. Most of the birds still housed in the building are chronic feather pickers.

During this visit I noticed at least two major improvements that I am sure will make an incredible difference in the welfare of the birds. One is that the aviary cages are now underneath a canopy to protect them from the weather. The roof of the canopy has a misting system that keeps the birds cooler on hot hot summer days. The second amazing improvement is the 40' x 40' African Grey aviary. It is very sturdy and was built with a few live Pecan trees inside. In addition, it has many climbing branches and open areas for flight. I think I counted 18 greys but they kept moving around. I sat on a bench in the aviary for an hour or so. I wish I could have spent more time and that I had a pencil and somedrawing paper. It was an incredible experience to watch the Greys climb and fly in such a large enclosure.

One grey spent the whole time I was there digging in the dirt and chewing on dirt and rocks. He would walk from one hole he had dug to another and work another rock loose to chew on. Then he would look up at me and give me the raspberry. Then he would move on and do the same thing over again and again. At one time he did walk over to me and bit my shoe, looked up at me and gave me the raspberry and then wandered off to his new exploration. Since greys are such avid diggers, it wasn't a surprise to see a grey on the ground ... it surprised me that there was only one. Perhaps others would have joined him if I wasn't in the aviary. The raspberry thing ... well that's a different story ... it certainly must not be a natural behavior!

I wanted to ask questions about all of the greys I interacted with in the aviary. Some of them were quite tame and curious about me, while others stayed as far away from me as possible.  The Grey Aviary also has a very unique misting system and the birds like to hang out near the mist. Sybil told me that they were planning a water feature of some kind but were still investigating what would be the best for the birds. Greys love to bathe in shallow water pools so that will be a welcome addition. The aviary is large enough for about twice as many greys and there are a few more inside of the large building (photo to the left) who will be joining the others in the aviary now that the weather is warmer.

TUESDAY, MARCH 27, 2007

I finished another Clay sculpture of an African Grey this evening. It was one I had actually started a long time ago but I had some problems figuring out how to finish it. I finally tackled it and I am happy with the way it turned out. It is for sale on my Tongue-in-Beak Clayworks page and the photo is larger there also. I really like the way the towel the bird is sitting on came out.

Merlin, the Red-fronted Macaw and Ariel, the Green-winged Macaw are visiting me again so their people could take a vacation. They are in the Pacific Northwest and are or will be driving down the California coast along Highway 1 from Oregon. This is the major part of California that I really miss but I didn't take advantage of it enough when I lived there. Point Reyes in one of my favorite places and I loved to drive up there for the day and have a picnic lunch from the wonderful grocery store deli in Inverness. One time when I was in Inverness there was a lot going on. We were going to get lunch but the store was off limits and to our puzzlement we saw several very pregnant women walk out of the from door. As they walked away, they all pulled a pillow like apparatus from underneath their clothing. Finally we saw enough to figure out what was going on. Hollywood was filming the remake of "Village of the Damned." We saw several movie stars including Christopher Reeve before his horrible accident. When I saw the movie, I got the idea to do my "parroty" Aviary of the Damned. It is on the Fun Pages on the site.

Side tracked again - Merlin and Ariel are a lot fun to have around. Merlin should be called Merlin the Mischievous. I like parrots with spunk and he has a lot of it. Both Merlin and Ariel are very tame and sweet and like to hang out with anyone who happens to be in the store during the day. Merlin flies so it is difficult to avoid his attention. My employee, Mariano, helps with shipping, lifting, and odd jobs. He has never been around parrots before but is becoming quite fond of them. I think since Merlin has such a strong bond with Jared, his "adopted dad" he really likes having Mariano around for a buddy. This particular picture was taken as Merlin was giving Mariano a "birdey hickey" at the same time he was grabbing his ear with one foot. Ariel was also harassing Mariano in some typical macaw manner and the poor guy went into parrot sensory overload. Joanne and her 17 year old son Zach come over during the week to feed and take care of my birds and animals. They are pretty used to them now except for my little demon bird, Spike, who can be pretty particular about the people he likes. Like a typical "spoiled brat," the more someone does for him, the less likely he is to like them. It is interesting, however, that Spike really gets along well with Mariano. Other than that, I am his only other friend at this time. Poor little guy! It took awhile but Joanne and Zach are getting pretty comfortable handling Merlin and Ariel now, although the photos look like they still think the birds either have bad breathe or are going to remove their noses. (Sadly a lot of things disappeared when Mariano worked for me. Good help IS hard to find!)

THURSDAY/FRIDAY, MARCH 15/16, 2007

I have had a few requests to write a bit more about myself and how/why I became such a bird fanatic. Early in life I liked to watch birds in my back yard but I never really bothered to ask much about them. I think an important part of my "education" was living so many different places. I often find myself standing around with a group of people at a conference when they are talking about where they live. Sometimes as they talk, I find myself saying, "Oh I lived there." The problem is that I say it to people from several different places and people begin to look at me as if I am slightly nuts.

The following are the places that I have lived.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa - I was born in January (on epiphany) 1944 and was named Sara Merle Rundquist. My mother named me Sara so she could call me Sally. My mother's ancestors were Welsh/English/Irish and my father's father was Swedish. Sara was a family name and Merle was my grandfather's name on my mother's side. He died a few months before I was born so I am happy to have his name as my middle name. Merle is the French name for the European Blackbird. My mother always said she named me Sara so she could call me Sally but many people do not realize that Sally is a nickname for Sara. I've even had delays getting on planes because of the the Sara/Sally confusion.
   My father was in England during WWII, so my mother, brother, and I lived in my mother's old family home. I was a really cute little girl as the photo with my grandmother (mother's mother) shows. Years later my father told me a story about meeting an African Grey Parrot at a dinner party in Paris just after the war. The bird had very colorful language but spoke French, which meant that my father could not understand everything it said. He evidently made several comments about pig excrement. Because of this bird, my father always talked about getting an African Grey. We eventually got a Budgie but never got a Grey.
Montgomery, Alabama - Maxwell Air Force Base
The only story from this time that I have heard is that I played in the coal bin with the General's daughter and we both were filthy dirty.
Berkeley, California -
spent a lot of time with my aunt and uncle who were botanists and did a lot of nature hiking learning about plants and birds when I very young. I don't remember anything specific but I have been told that I really enjoyed the birds.
Germantown, Pennsylvania My brother and I both contracted Polio on our move from California to Pennsylvania. He was much sicker than I was and was in the hospital for a few weeks. He was lucky and suffered no major or permanent problems. I was luckier and had a very mild case and I was quarantined in a hotel until we moved to our new home. I got to read dozens of books including a favorite story about a little girl and her parakeet. I can't remember the name of the book but I know that I really wanted a Budgie after I read it.
Whitemarsh Village, Pennsylvania - Got Mickey Finn our wonderful talented Budgie. I adored him. One day my visiting Grandmother walked out the door with him on her shoulder. He said, "Shut the door stupid, the bird's out." She turned around and rushed back into the house. (More on Mickey Finn)
Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania - earned a Girl Scout Bird Badge
Montgomery, Alabama - Maxwell Air Force Base - Sixth Grade
A next door neighbor woman tried to tame the tomboy out of me and turn me into a young lady. Mostly I remember me and my friends trying to walk around with books on our heads. Her attempts failed.   
London, England - I noticed wild birds but didn't take the time to identify them as we traveled around England. I waited until my trip to England in 2001 to actually identify the British birds. I do remember going to a huge caged bird show with my parents. There rows and rows of all kinds of caged birds with lots of parrots. Most of all I remember rows of cockatoos in cages that were in way too small cages. I bought the first item in my bird art collection at the Portobello Road Antique fair - a large wood carving of a pair of hawks. It cost five pounds, which was about $15.00 at the time... it is probably worth more than that now? That's one of my sculptures of a life-size Cedar Waxwing sitting to the left of the Hawks.
Baldwin, Long Island, New York - High School - Got As in Biology when we studied Anatomy and Animals - I didn't do as well on other topics. My art teacher wanted me to paint flowers and birds and I wanted to paint soldiers and football players (I guess I changed over the years!)
Hempstead, Long Island, New York - First Year of College (Hofstra University) I saved a knocked down nest full of Blue Jay babies and was attacked by the parents as I placed the nest back in its tree. Despite this attack, I was delighted to watch the babies grow up from my bedroom window.
Redlands, California - (Second Year of College - University of Redlands) Can you imagine what my accent was like moving to California after living in Alabama, England, and on Long Island. No one could understand me.
     I loved my college on Long Island and felt very sorry for myself that I had to move. One evening, I was sitting out in the back yard moping and a Great Horned Owl flew down and landed next to me and then hopped on my lap (click here for story) A semi-tame Raven visited us on a frequent basis to drink out of the hose or my father's sherry glass.
I went to San Bernardino Valley Junior College for a year and took some really interesting classes that never counted towards my degree. I took Anatomy and taught the lab part of the class the next year. I also took Physical Anthropology which I loved. 
Loma Linda, California -
Married an Air Force officer who went to SE Asia for a year and we lived here before he left.
East Los Angeles, California -
I graduated with a degree in art and a teaching credential from California State University at Los Angeles. My emphasis was in sculpture. I did some welding, stone sculpture, clay work, assemblage and, what became my favorite, wood sculpture. My first actual wood carving was of a somewhat abstract owl. I am sure that my Owl friend from Redlands was my inspiration. My professor loved my stone sculpture but was not very impressed with my owl and gave me a C on it. I still like it. This was not a safe place to live. My roommates and I had two break-ins - one was a knife-wielding man who crawled in the kitchen window. The other was a "john" who meant to go upstairs where a "lady of the night" lived. Very scary!
Los Angeles, California - College
San Gabriel, California - College
Rosemead, California - College
My roommate when I lived here was pretty much a caricature of a horrible roommate.
Santa Ana, California -
I lived in my grandmother's high quality antique shop while I did my student teaching. My room was actually part of the shop so I always had to make sure my bed was made. The bed frame was very high and I had to use a step stool to get into it. My grandmother (father's step-mother) had many wonderful duck decoys that inspired me to carve my very first bird sculpture. She also had quite a few antique porcelain birds. In going through some of her old photographs of items she had sold, I came across a black and white photo of a bell jar with two taxidermy parrots. They were fairly small with long tails. I can't guarantee it but once I really got into birds, I talked with her about them and she said they were 'Carolina Parrots.' I wish
that I could go back in time and get them!  
Since I went to so many colleges before I graduated, I ended up with 30 extra units but they most in classes that I really enjoyed - Biblical Literature, Anatomy, Psychology, Physical Anthropology, Art History, Medieval History, the Renaissance, Childhood Development, and a few others.
Tucson, Arizona - Davis Monthan Air Force Base Spent 6 weeks at a little motel on Speedway while my husband was in school.
Wichita Falls, Texas - Shepherd Air Force Base -
This was my least favorite place I ever lived perhaps it was because it was tornado season and there were a few of them!
Lompoc, California - Vandenburg Air Force Base -
Beautiful area and I spent a lot of time wandering around in nature while my husband was in classes
Tucson, Arizona - Davis Monthan AFB -
This is where I started my bird sculptures and became a fanatical bird watcher. I did a sandpiper out of redwood - not the easiest wood to carve. I loved bird watching in the desert. There is an incredible variety of birds in southeast Arizona. One of my most memorable experiences was when I was chasing after a Curve-billed Thrasher and fell backwards into a barrel cactus. It was very difficult to drive to get help removing the cactus spikes from my butt.
Wichita, Kansas - McConnell Air Force Base -
It was in Wichita that I went into high gear doing my Rare Hardwood Inlay Bird Sculptures. I started going to art fairs and having special showings of my work throughout the Midwest. I reached the point where I could pretty much sell everything I carved.
Warrensburg, Missouri - Whiteman Air Force Base -
My husband and I built a wonderful house that was surrounded by miles of woods. I let the last 2/3 of the yard stay wild and set up bird feeders and nest boxes throughout the yard. I saw over 150 species of birds in and around the yard. I also took a class in Ornithology at Central State Missouri University - the professor's name was Dr. Hawksley. I hated to leave this home but my marriage had become very difficult due to my husband's alcoholism.
Wichita, Kansas -  I moved back to Wichita because I had so many friends and clients there. I joined the local wood caregivers association and met a couple who were setting up Double-yellow head Amazons for breeding. I became smitten with several of there birds and started bird sitting when they were out of town. Their first true pair, Charo and Chongo, were the parents of Paco and Rascal. Paco was their first baby. The more I was around parrots, the more I became fascinated with them. The picture shows 3 babies from three consecutive years - Paco, Tuffy, and Rascal.
In 1976 I had a showing of my bird sculptures at the Fuertes Library at Sapsucker Woods - the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. I continued my bird sculpture and had pieces in galleries all over the country. I also started traveling to see birds.
In 1982 I went on a bird watching trip to Costa Rica ... it was incredible to see parrots in the wild! The experience had a profound effect on what I believed about wild parrots and their capture and importation for the pet trade. I watched a pair of Scarlet Macaws come out of their nest tree and fly over the valley screaming each other the whole way. When they returned they were so quiet that I was actually surprised to see them clamber down to the nest opening. I watched a flock of Mealy Amazons virtually disappear into a flowering tree. I wouldn't have known they were there except for the flower petals being thrown from the tree. I also had the pleasure of seeing a small group of Yellow-napes bathe in a small waterfall pool. Of course I saw many other wonderful bird species. My favorites were all of the Hummingbirds, Toucans, the Laughing Falcon, the Mot Mots, the Resplendent Quetzal, the Trogons, and all of the birds I had never heard of before I went to Costa Rica.
It was in Wichita that I really started working with parrots. I started out by taming wild-caught parrots and helping out my friends at their aviary. I also started giving programs on my sculptures, parrots and wild birds and became more comfortable with public speaking. I enjoyed living in Kansas but all of my family was in California so I knew that I would move back there at some time.
Alameda, California - Once I settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, I continued doing my bird sculptures but also started working extensively with people and their parrots. I taught a monthly bird care seminar at the San Francisco SPCA and give bird care and behavior seminars and programs at other Human Societies and Bird Clubs. A few years after moving to Alameda, I was in an automobile accident and sustained a neck injury that made it very difficult to continue doing my bird sculptures. For a few years after that I had a parrot distribution business. My goal was to seek out high quality parrot products and get them into bird and pet shops so people who cared about their birds could buy them. I also promoted and sold the products at the large bird fairs that were held in California then. In 1989, I submitted a few articles to Bird Talk Magazine and became a regular contributor. I started traveling around the country giving programs about parrots In 1991 I started doing the Parrot Psychology Column for Bird Talk. I did hundreds of consultations with people about preventing and solving their parrots' behavioral problems.
As I talked to more and more people about parrots, I realized that there was a need for a publication that provided more in-depth behavior information. I started the Pet Bird Report in 1991 as a 16 page newsletter and the publication continued to grow and is now called the Companion Parrot Quarterly. In 1999, I published the first edition of the Companion Parrot Handbook to rave reviews. The second revised edition was published in 2004. Readers continue to tell me it is the most helpful parrot book they have read. The Beak Book, the only book with in-depth information on aggression and biting in companion parrots,  was published in 2002.
    
 In 1999 my elderly mother came to live with me and my life changed dramatically. All of my dogs and cats immediately became devoted to her and she always had at least one or two of them on her lap ... especially if she was eating. I didn't share my food and she did!  The photo shows my cat Toc after my mother ran over his tail with her stair chair lift. She didn't see him on the stairs and he is a pretty stubborn boy and didn't move. We did "save" his tail and you can tell that he did not resent my mother for the accident ... especially if there was food around. My mother and I loved each other and we drove each other crazy at times. She lived with me for the last 7 years of her life. When she first moved in, she was able to get around quite well but she became more and more debilitated requiring more and more of my time and energy.
    
At some point in my life I decided that life in the San Francisco Bay Area had become too hectic and too expensive for me. I wanted to live someplace where I could afford to have an avian education center, gallery, library, and museum for all of my stuff. Before I even knew where I was going, I started packing. Eventually I decided to move to Loveland. It just seemed like a neat place to live. As far as the move went, nothing happened as planned. The move cost me over twice what I had planned ... mostly because of difficulties coordinating everything. The actual move was pretty much a nightmare. I rented an RV for my mother and all of the animals and two trucks for my stuff - I had lots lots and lots of stuff.
Loveland, Colorado - 
Perhaps someday I will look back on my move to Colorado as "Sally's Folly." Although I really enjoy Loveland, life has not gone as well as I hoped here. My mother's health deteriorated due to a reoccurring bladder infection. She had been on so many antibiotics for it that they no longer helped. She passed away a year ago. I immediately felt both sorrow and relief. The Larimer County Hospice provided me with incredible support during the last month or so of her life. I had become emotionally and financially drained with her care. My mother was very intelligent but never knew it ... you didn't have a chance of winning against her at scrabble. I teased her quite a bit but she always had the perfect come back and I miss that a lot.
It took some time to get the Laughing Parrot Gallery open and this winter was dismal. The weather kept almost everyone inside. I started doing a series of parrot related Booklets and Compilations and I have sold quite a few of them. I plan to do more as time goes by. Originally they were compilations of all of the articles on the species or topic from the PBR/CPQ but a group of people whom I had previously mentored threatened to sue me so I had to redo the booklets and remove their articles. Other people were quite generous in allowing me to use their articles ... their consensus was that the more good information there was out there, the better the lives of parrots will be. The "politicrap" in the bird biz can be amazing.
     In the last year I have started doing a lot more artwork, which makes me very happy. I call my work pArRoT. I enjoy doing the colored pencil drawings of parrots and hope at some point to do one of each species of parrot that is kept as a companion. I have turned many of my drawings into note cards and am planning to do some prints of them also.  Most of all, I love doing my "Tongue-in-Beak" Clayworks and am always trying to think of new and original ideas. My latest piece is my second version of "Grey Matter." I like the fact that several people are ordering clay sculptures of their birds and I get to do more species. I hope to do many more of these humorous sculptures as time goes by. I still have quite a few ideas for them! I am working on another grey, a Moluccan, a Pionus, and a Cockatiel now.

TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2007

People who come into the Laughing Parrot Avian Education Center are usually surprised to see a live cat or two amongst all of the bird images. I often hear the words, "I would love to have a bird but I have cats."  While it does take some management to avoid problems, I have had parrots and cats (and dogs) for a long time. Many years ago when Nimbus first came to live with me he was investigating Paco and Rascal - my DYH Amazons - on their sun porch. This was when Rascal was about 7 years old and quite full of himself. He launched himself off of his perch and landed on Nimbus's back. I never saw him move that fast before or after! Nimbus lost his curiosity about parrots.

Shortly after I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area I decided I needed a cat. The house next door had a small abandoned barn that had been a canary aviary. The family had owned several houses on the block, including mine, that were built when the west part of Alameda Island was mostly truck farms. The patriarch, Papa Joe, had raised canaries for years but he had passed away a couple of years before I moved in. The neighbors actually gave me his last canary - a hen who was about 9-10 years old. I had her for a few more years. Because of the canary aviary that had not been cleaned out yet, there were lots of mice and I have to admit I am not very fond of mice in my home. I was talking to a friend and mentioned that I was going to get a cat and that I was thinking of buying a Russian Blue because I thought they were so beautiful.

A few days later I was sitting in my living room watching television. I had not yet replaced the raggedy screen door and a kitten who was about 6 months old crawled in through a rip in the screen. He walked over as if he belonged there and jumped up on my lap. I tried to find out if he belonged to anyone in the area, but no one claimed him so I had my cat and he was very handsome (pretty much the same color as a Russian Blue.)

I used to carve bird sculptures for a living and I had just finished one of my most complex and expensive sculptures - a life-size flying California quail. It was sitting on a credenza in my living room. A few days after he moved in, the kitten jumped up and knocked it on the floor breaking the sculpture so that it was basically irreparable. I suppose that I could have kicked the cat out but I kind of liked him so he stayed. But I got an idea for his name - Nimbus ... because there seems to be a dark cloud in every silver lining. A year or so later, I had to quit carving after I fractured a vertebrae in my neck in an automobile accident.

Although I had been working with parrots for some time, that was when I really started doing it seriously. When I started doing the Pet Bird Report/Companion Parrot Quarterly, Nimbus became one of the office workers. His job evaluations were not that good but he was usually great company. He was particularly good at being a paper weight in the In Basket. He fancied himself a writer but I could never understand what he was trying to write on the many occasions he walked across the computer keyboard. Nimbus had a passion for the outdoors and I finally relented when I had a house with a high fence. He most went outdoors and sunned himself. Nimbus had become what could be called a "full-bodied" cat but in the last few years he started to slim down.

A few months ago, he started having kidney  problems and he started going downhill. Saturday he experienced an aortic saddle thrombosis, which is throwing a clot that "causes a blockage in the aorta in the lower abdominal region or the area in which the aorta splits to become the femoral arteries of the legs."  This is the same condition that killed Louie, the cat that I adopted from my grandmother when she went into a nursing home. On Monday I had to have Nimbus euthanized.

He had a good life in his close to 22 years living with me.                                   

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2007

Saturday I did a parrot program at Loveland's Backbone Special Event Center. There is an uplifted ridge of rocks west of Loveland called the Devil's Backbone. Not far along the Big Thompson River (which is not very big!) is a little red building that looks like it could have been a stagecoach stop. It was the first of a series. Click here for more information on the other planned seminars. We were not able to give a lot of notice ahead of time but we did have a number of people who were interested and signed up. The day before the seminar, the news reported that there was another big snow storm/blizzard with heavy winds coming into Colorado. This storm did hit south and east of Denver and in the mountains. North of Denver and up this way, there was nothing but people in Colorado have become quite wary of snow storms after living through so many since right before Christmas. Business has been very slow at the gallery and other Colorado businesses because people stay home rather than venturing out in the snow. Because of this, we only had about 9 people, but this created a much more intimate group where everyone got to ask questions and be a part of the seminar. Since the topic which had to do with a parrot's psychological needs in his environment and his need for his "human flock" to provide "social security." The topic is an important one so we will be planning another seminar with this same topic ... probably in May.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2007

We had a few people come into the gallery today. It has been horribly slow because of all of the bad weather. Of course, the visitors were treated with a visit with two delightful Macaws. As I wrote yesterday, Ariel and Merlin are visiting while their people have some potentially toxic work done in their home. Merlin, the Red-front is the "little bully" and Ariel is very patient with him up to a point ... they seem to have the same relationship that many siblings have. Earlier today I got a kick out of watching the two of them. Ariel, the Green-wing, was preening Merlin's head with her beak. At the same time she had her foot up scratching her own head in the same place that she was preening Merlin. It was a much more complicated version of a dog kicking with his foot when his belly is being scratched. 

When I looked carefully at the first photo, I wondered about the third bird. Then I realized it was one of my collection of hanging parrots. It seems quite curious about what Merlin and Ariel are doing? They were actually pulling on each other's tails. The third bird is actually a vintage paper mache logo from Corby's Whisky. It is an unidentifiable bird - a little bit of macaw with an Amazon shape.  The next photo is of Ariel responding to the fact that Merlin was hassling her. Of course when she goes after him, he can just simply fly away. The third photo is of Ariel giving Merlin a good head preen.

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2007

I am bird sitting two macaws for a couple of days while work is being done in their home on a new heating system. Their people called me today because they were afraid of fumes and Teflon and no one in the company doing the work could answer their questions and concerns about potential problems. Merlin is a fully flighted Red-fronted Macaw and Ariel is a 16 month old Green-winged Macaw. I met her the summer I moved here. She was the only Green-winged that summer but there are 5 babies this year and they are all really cute. I think Ariel may be a bit more dignified than the birds this year. This year's babies are a raucous bunch.

I have just started to bird sit on a very limited basis with only one or two birds at a time. I have watched a fun little Brown-headed parrot named Beau. I have very little experience with this species and have been delighted to get to know one up close and personal. He needed his wings trimmed but I didn't want to do it the first day so he flew quite a bit in the store. One time he flew into the "kitchen" area and disappeared. I couldn't find him anywhere until I realized he was hanging on the wall. I am looking forward to his visit again in March. He is a very gently little sprite.

Maybe tomorrow I will have a chance to take some photos of Ariel and Merlin. The cage was too large to fit in my "bird sitting room" so they are in the main store. I am alternating them in the large cage. When Merlin is in the cage, Ariel is content to hang out on the large atom but when Ariel is in the cage, Merlin is dedicated to hassling her through the cage bars.

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2007

Last week I went to the ATM at a Kings Sooper Market in Loveland. I needed to get cash to pay someone because of a cash flow situation. I rarely have more than $50 cash with me but in this case I had $600.00 in my purse. I bought some groceries and got home and realized to my horror that I did not have my purse. I knew that I had left it in the cart. This is the price of being stressed, overloaded, and over sixty. I sped back to the store and the shopping carts had all been taken inside. Not good. I rushed into the store and asked at customer service if anyone had turned in a purse. I was asked what color it was. I said "blue" and the woman went and got my purse out of a locked room. The guy who was collecting carts had turned it in and all of the money was inside. Sometimes something happens in life that restores faith in humanity!

Back in 1976, I was living in Missouri and was having a showing of my "Rare Hardwood Inlay Bird Sculpture" at the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology in the Fuertes Library. It was quite an honor and I drove to New York to deliver the sculptures. On that trip a friend and I turned it into a vacation by coming back through Pennsylvania and then the Shenandoah valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains. After the show another friend, a dedicated bird watching friend, and I had planned a trip to go up through Canada and then down to New York to get the sculptures. She had her baby with her and we were planning on stopping at her parents home outside of Detroit so they could spend time with their grand daughter while we bird watched at Algonquin Provincial Park, etc. On our trip we stopped at a Dairy Queen in Gary, Indiana. We had our lunch and Susie changed the baby's diaper. We had driven at least 60 miles when she discovered her purse was missing. She had left it on the top of the car when she changed the baby's diaper. It had the $500 (worth even more back then!) she had saved for the trip. We drove back and, of course, it was gone. She was very upset and decided that she couldn't go on the trip because she didn't want me to pay her way. I needed the company and certainly didn't want to take the trip by myself.  When we got to her parent's house, Susie's husband had called and wanted her to call him as soon as she got in. A woman had called  from Gary, Indiana to report that she had found a purse and wanted to know if it was OK for her to send a check to replace the cash because she was worried that the cash could get lost in the mail. Bill told her to keep part of it as a reward and she refused to do so. Susie's parents lent her the money for the trip until the check from the woman in Gary arrived.  Susie and I had quite an adventure in Canada and also got in some great birdwatching in New York and the rest of the trip.

My favorite story about Algonquin is when we ended up on a dirt dike road through some relatively isolated swampy area of the park. I stopped the car and we got out to see what we could find. We heard a splash in the water below so we walked to the edge. We saw a cow moose and her very young calf. She was only about 7-10 feet away and was obviously alarmed by our presence. I haven't researched this to determine if it is a normal defense mechanism but she immediately urinated in what seemed to a way to get us to leave her and her calf alone. It worked ... I have never smelled anything so acrid in my life .. it burned our eyes and made breathing difficult!  We got in the car and drove down the road a bit. Eventually we stopped and nature called both of us so, in turn, we both peed behind the car. As we were scanning the area with our binoculars, we saw a wolf trotting towards us. As she got closer she detoured down the bank to avoid us. We stood very quietly against the car. She was by herself and she seemed intent on avoiding us so we weren't too concerned about her. Once she got past us, she walked back onto the road. She was probably about 25 feet away when she stopped and sniffed the air. She then turned and trotted back towards us. We still stood quietly but with a bit more fear than before. We whispered to each other that if she started running towards us that we would quickly scramble into the car. When she got to the place where we had peed, she squatted and urinated. Then she trotted down the road again. It must have been her territory and she wanted to let us know. 

Hmmm ... this is the way my mind works - I can start out telling a story about the return of a purse and restored faith in humanity and then I end up writing about moose and wolf urination!


SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2006

In transferring photos to this computer after the other one died, I came across this picture on my cat. As many readers know, I have a cat who is pushing two years old. He is a very cute Manx. I originally named him Diablito (little Devil) because he is into everything. When he is really sweet, I call him Angelito (little Angel). Most of the time I just call him Lito because he goes from being devilish to angelic and back again so quickly. There is a "canopy" over the parrot playgym area of the gallery. We have two very large Penguin figures there. They made from goose feathers on a framework. One afternoon, I glanced up to see that they appeared to have a new addition to their family ... I grabbed my camera and got this photo.  Lito now has the nickname "penguin cat."

Lito loves to hang out in the store. As long as he behaves, he can stay ... this actually means he doesn't get to spend too much time there. He loves to climb up on the desk top and then on to the top of the display cases and onto the loft in the front of the store. People are often surprised to come into the bird art gallery and find a live cat peering at them from the top of one of the display cases. If the movie Happy Feet had come out before I got Lito, I would probably have named him after one of the Penguin characters from it.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 31, 2007

This last weekend I was at the Parrot Festival in Houston. It was nice to be out of the cold and snow if only for a few days. I have always considered myself to be somewhat of a "gregarious misanthrope" ... I really enjoy spending a lot of time by myself so that I can work on my various parrot endeavors or read. But when I go to a conference or a seminar, I thrive on the social setting.  I thoroughly enjoy spending time with friends that I have not seen for some time. I laughed a lot and they say that laughing is very healthy. I spent a lot of time with the people from Project Bird Watch, including Bonnie Zimmerman, Stewart Metz, and Lorraine Otto. They are doing a wonderful job in Indonesia to help the wild parrots and recently introduced a small group of smuggled Moluccan Cockatoos back into the wild. We all missed Barbara Bailey at this event and I know she would have really enjoyed it. She has been in Seattle at the Fred Hutchinson Transplant Center since November. I am pleased to report that her bone marrow transplant has been a success and she is feeling better than she has in years. It appears that she will be able to return to Seram to see the wild Moluccans that she loves so much. This was Shari Beaudoin's first conference since she became president of the Amazona Society and the meeting went very well. I think that her dedication will help the organization grow and prosper. Her first newsletter was wonderful. For more information, visit the Project Bird Watch and Amazona Society Web Sites.

For one reason of another, I did not get a chance to attend many of the lectures. It is really difficult to try to run a vendor booth and attend a lot of the programs at the same time. However I did get a chance to talk with several speakers and there was a very positive feeling about several conservation projects. Dr. Don Brightsmith said that he was optimistic about the Spix Macaw project. Several of the bird collectors and breeders who have these macaws were being quite cooperative about working with their long-term reintroduction to the wild. 

This is the first time I have had a "serious" vendor booth at a conference and I was very pleased with my sales. I sold quite a few of my "Tongue-in-Beak" Claywork pieces, many notecards and booklets. Next time I will bring more drawings because I sold the only ones I brought.  There was no doubt about it - my "Grey Matter" sculpture was the most appreciated piece that I had at the show. I will be doing more with this basic theme!

Not a Good Year
  This new year has not been very good to me. It is phenomenal the number of things that have gone wrong. Of course, if you have paid attention to the weather, Colorado has had a couple of blizzards and snow every weekend since before Christmas. If it hasn't snowed, the temperature has been very cold ... that is unless it is warm enough to melt some of the snow during the day so that we can have serious ice at night. In addition to the weather, the following has happened:
1. Stomach flu the week after Christmas - takes a couple of weeks to feel decent.
2. Computer virus (even with virus protection) creates another serious problem on the computer I use to format the CPQ causing another long delay. My pagemaker files are corrupted and I use pagemaker for everything.
3. Mitsubishi Montero 4 wheel drive - dies just when a 4 wheel drive would really come in handy in the deep snow. Needs a new battery and alternator.
4. Next day my PT Cruiser dies - needs new battery but has to go to dealer to put the battery in. Still hasn't been fixed yet.
5. Roof in loft area in store where I do my artwork leaks. On warm days, the snow melt causes the bucket to be filled with water several times a day.
6.  Basement in store leaks.
7. Coincidental problem with the other computer that we use to keep all data records. Works only at snail's pace.
8. Old crown breaks off of molar.
9. Upstairs toilet overflows, turns bedroom carpet into a swamp and ruins living room ceiling below it. I use every towel and sheet in the house to soak up the mess. 
10. Washing machine won't spin or drain and needs replacing. Can't wash pile of wet towels used to clean up toilet overflow. Luckily a friend lets me bring everything to her house to wash the next day. 
11. Broke another tooth eating an almond.
12. Ordered new Pagemaker program, which I waited for with baited breath so that I could print a full assortment of note cards and booklets. Received the program the day before I was to leave. Adobe sent me the French version by mistake. I still haven't received the English version.
I think that's enough - it is all going to be uphill from now on!!! That is as soon as I get everything repaired!
13. The computer I use for all of my work is kaput - after spending close to $600 having it worked on it turns out that it is the mother board. Argh!!! I have to try and rebuild and/or transfer all of my files to this computer I am using now so I can finish the now very late CPQ and print out the booklets.

 

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