A View from the Futon

Finches in the Window

Finches in the Window, from the futon perspective

There’s a lot to be done around here and I am doing absolutely none of it.

View from the Bridge downtown

View of the Jackson Blvd. Bridge from the Adams Street Bridge downtown, with the cell phone

I was improving Tuesday with my right knee when that same night coming home on the train an unfortunate move put me out of commission, so I was forced to take Christmas Eve off from work, which produced little on my end except for a lot of indoor bird observation, reading the paper online, accepting sympathy from friends and succumbing to naps. I did play a little piano.

As I’ve been sharing a lot of time with the indoor birds lately, listening to the begging sounds of new baby birds has been the highlight of my existence. A reminder that I have to get better because I have birds to take care of. And I will do anything for my birds. Even if it hurts.

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We were promised a break in the clouds for Christmas, after the promise of rain turning into snow did not pan out. The sun did manage to peek out from the clouds this afternoon, which greatly improved our moods. It has been so dismal and gloomy (or “glismal” as my mother used to say), I think we broke the record for days in December without sunshine.

So I listen to the baby birds: the Society Finches, who sound like you would imagine baby birds to sound, and the Zebra Finches, who sound like someone shaking a box of pins, that grows gradually louder day by day. I have taken to calling them The Pins. You can hear them helping me read through a little Bach D minor prelude (the last English Suite, finally). The next time you hear them they will be twice as loud.

And the songs and personalities of the new finches are starting to reveal themselves. I have decided to name the two male Zebra Finches Arturo Toscanini and Ricardo Muti, seeing as how their songs have yet to be formed enough for me to write them out and provide lyrics. Arturo has been working diligently on his song and it is the most developed. I suspect he is the alpha male. The clip below is of Arturo singing with a little Mozart.

I am also feeling a little better about my Zebra Finch matchmaking, it seems to be working out. At first I thought it was stupid of me to throw two males and two females together and expect them to get along, and they seemed to be out to prove me a jerk, but now they seem to be getting along more than they chase each other.

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Tina in the nest

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Trevor

 

Things were not so rosy with the Society Finches either. I had Phoenix and Rikki, the two hens from before, and introduced Trevor and Tina. Phoenix and Rikki abducted Trevor after a while, and at one point Phoenix seemed to be taking over Tina’s brood, but I think everybody is together for the common cause now. Tina is back in the nest, although when she does come out she proves to be a beautiful bird. I am looking forward to seeing the offspring. I have not been able to determine whether Trevor has successfully mated with either Phoenix or Rikki although I thought I caught him trying once with Phoenix. Phoenix and Rikki are finally over the shock of realizing that I am not throwing out eggs, as I did for months before with their previous crowd, but that’s a long story. Now I have all young birds and they should reproduce while they can. Below is a clip of Trevor singing with a little Mozart.

Blue, the Budgie, and Dudlee, the Diamond Dove, take refuge from the finches together. Dudlee manages to find new hiding places, and she throws her voice when she coos. I have a hard time locating her, especially when I’m less mobile.

Dudlee

Dudlee

I have simply decided that the only approach to the knee, besides seeing a surgeon for his opinion in a couple weeks, is to get as much rest as possible, do whatever physical therapy exercises are feasible, and walk as carefully as possible. Stairs are now a terrific challenge and I am trying not to mess up my other knee by asking it to bear all the weight. I suspect in part getting a shot in the right knee was a gamble because I now have pain at the point of insertion. But as bad as my memory for it is, I got through all this once before and so I should be able to do it again. And embrace the reminder that I am not invincible. There’s much to be done, or not done, while prone.

Lastly among other things I have had to give up since this incapacity took hold, I regret not making traditional food gifts for the holiday. I used to do a million cookies, but in the last few years I have tailored the baking effort to several loaves of cinnamon oatmeal raisin bread, but this year if I manage to get to it at all it will be for the New Year’s Day instead.

The only time I got behind a camera lens that wasn’t my cell phone was last Sunday, when I managed to get a few pictures of regulars who visit the yard.

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Downy Woodpecker

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I hope to be back soon with something more cheerful than a bad knee report. Hope your holidays are much merrier!

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Report from the Home Front: Hector and the Society Matrons

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After two weeks of observing a very bored and resigned Isabella, I broke down and introduced three new Society Finches into the home bird mix this weekend.

Isabella

Isabella today, in a much better mood

Let me back up and say goodbye to Ferdinand, her former companion. He was still singing but a mess, unable to fly and down to his last feathers, before I left on my trip in November, so it was no big surprise to find out he had succumbed while I was gone. I knew I would miss his singing, for sure. But not missing having to cart him around every time I had to clean the cages, because he could not fly, not to mention his miserable self. If I took any pictures of him in his reduced condition I am not interested in finding them.

Isabella, Hector, Rikki and Phoenix

Isabella, Hector, Rikki and Phoenix

I started writing this post weeks ago, and now the Societies have moved in. Indeed for a while there it appeared they were taking over. They are recognizable by variations in appearance, and so I have named them Hector, who is a scruffy little pale male with a punk hairdo, Phoenix who is the darker one more resembling Isabella but not quite, and Rikki, who has a pink bill and a very loud call.

Hector

Hector

I bought three birds to practically insure I would get a male and have his song to compare to Ferdinand’s. There were about 16 birds or so in a tiny cage at PetSmart so it was a crap shoot which ones I would get when the young attendant opened the cage door from behind and started waving around his net. Hector is quite lighter than the others and he was smaller, so I wasn’t sure I wanted him, but now I’m glad he came, he’s definitely a character.

His song is quite different from Ferdinand’s. My first impression of his song was a little like a Winter Wren trying to sing Papageno’s “Magic Flute” song. Click on the clip below to hear him (apologies for the shaky background music).

After I’d had them a couple days, in a moment of weakness I decided to buy some nest boxes and put them around. The two bamboo ones have hooks on the back so they were made to stick in the cage. The other thatch nests I hung around but there is only one left after the budgies started chewing holes in them, and it belongs to Zorro and Fiona, in the same spot as their forever failing curtain nest but now replacing it.

The bamboo nests are in one finch cage and initially had 10 or so eggs between them. The three new Societies have been taking turns sitting on them. Three weeks ago I had no idea whether the eggs were fertilized but they seemed to think so. And just about when I had given up hope, I began to hear little begging noises.  I haven’t had birds breeding in the house for years, so this is kind of a nice diversion. I’m always up for hearing begging sounds in key with the music and new songs developing among young males. If I do get a couple males it will be interesting to see whether their songs imitate Hector’s or if they branch out on their own like my Zebra Finches tended to do when they were going at it.

Rikki

Rikki

But I will be removing the nest boxes after fledging because I do not want to continue this experiment ad infinitum. Inbreeding is not my calling and it shouldn’t be theirs either.

Society Finches don’t use a lot of nesting material like Zebra Finches so it’s practically impossible to resist looking inside when one nest doesn’t have anyone sitting on it. Last night when I was cleaning, I saw one, possibly two, pink eraser-like blobs moving in the leftmost nest. This morning I seemed to be able to see two or three with some feathers in the righthand nest. I tried to take a picture but it’s impossible to get anything between the cage rungs and the darkness inside. Not to mention it’s always a challenge to get pictures indoors anyway, with the cages backlit against the living room windows.

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If nothing else Hector and his Society Matrons have livened up the place and all the other birds have grown used to them. I hope to have baby pictures soon. In the meantime here’s another picture of Hector.

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