A Bird Here, A Bird There

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American Goldfinch, Lurie Garden

Last night WordPress let me know I haven’t been posting enough lately by requesting identification from me when I tried to sign in. So we went through the identification-code-by-text-message routine this morning and I guess I’m back in business for a while.

I seem to have caught my biennial rhinovirus too, which is keeping me from living too dangerously. I made it through choir rehearsal last night without any significant coughs or wheezes but this morning I am draining miserably.

There are next to no birding opportunities on my way in to the office for now and I haven’t been out too much lately, but here are a few pictures taken last week on December 1.

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Black-Capped Chickadee

BCCH Millennium 12-1-2015 -7808I had stopped at the northwest corner of Millennium Park to see if I could grab a picture of a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker but that wasn’t going to happen. However there were cooperative Black-Capped Chickadees and White-Throated Sparrows.

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White-Throated Sparrow

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At home over the last week or two, I had been trying to grab a picture of the newest arrivals while they were still relatively clueless, but it was difficult to find them sitting in a spot with enough light, and when I did, their immediate reaction was, “No, we are NOT cute! Don’t point that thing at us!” I managed to grab the fuzzy picture below before they started to disperse.

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Zebra Finch Fledglings

Pet birds being what they are, it’s easier to take a picture of a wild bird like the Hermit Thrush below, who was also with the little group of birds at the northwest corner of Millennium. He came down to sit and stare at me to see if maybe we could figure out what was so interesting about each other.

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Hermit Thrush

That’s about it for the moment. I’ll try to be back sooner. ‘Tis the season and all that too, hard to escape holiday revelry.

I haven’t been out yet this week but I think I will go out today and continue the hot dog experiments. In case you’re wondering, no, the squirrels are not interested in hot dogs. Just waiting for the crow to leave so he can sneak a peanut.

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Inspiration

CP300 Piano IMG_1061Life takes its twists and turns and I never know whether I’m going to wake up dreading the inevitable or embracing the challenge – or stuck somewhere in between.

Over the Thanksgiving Day holiday I had time to play piano for the birds…and to again ponder the sad state of my Yamaha P150 which I purchased perhaps 15 years ago, as a dealer’s floor model, and in the past half year or so was no longer inspiring to play. Sometimes it seemed to take forever to warm up to volume. And now a key was sticking, or stuttering loudly. Servicing would probably fix all this, but I would have trouble moving the keyboard into the car, let alone finding someone to service it – not to mention however long that would take, and I would be without an instrument to play.

So as I was looking about for some help with the existing instrument I ran across testimonials about the Yamaha CP300, which apparently has been out for years (but so have I) – and when I read a review from one concert pianist who said he prefers practicing on this instrument, it was all over. Why not get one? About the cost of another trip to Costa Rica, which I am not doing right now: and it would last me a lot longer than a one-week trip.

Knowing the quality of Yamaha’s keyboard instruments, I had absolutely no hesitation to simply press the button and order the new piano keyboard from Amazon.com. The biggest obstacle was figuring out how to be home for the delivery, because if nothing else I am no longer capable of handling a 94-pound dead weight myself. And UPS, which gives me warning a day in advance when it will be delivering something as unimportant as a calendar, gave me no warning what time the delivery was going to be attempted. I left work early after tracking the package but missed the driver by half an hour.

Luckily my friends Linda and Ed Rios came to my rescue and we picked up the piano from UPS the night of its missed delivery.

I made the recording above of Eric Satie’s Trois Gymnopedies yesterday afternoon. I have never learned it well enough to memorize it, so there are page turns, but the birds are singing along here and there.

I am in love with the new instrument and I feel like playing again. So much so that I have decided to alter my work schedule a bit in January so I can come in half an hour later a couple days a week and play in the morning before I leave for work. It is a shame to have only the weekends to play and then if I am doing something else in the morning being too tired or busy to play later.

I’ve been able to play more this weekend because my mobility has been compromised by some issues with my right knee. So except for the pain it’s been a relaxing weekend with lots of naps and hanging out with the indoor crowd as I get to know them better. I will see a doctor tomorrow and ask for a shot and an opinion, so I can get back to walking at my usual clip.

Now for a word about Dudley the Diamond Dove. Dudley started laying eggs a couple weeks ago…so she is now Dudlee. I know of two additional eggs that have broken because of where she has dropped them.

Dudlee's egg collection

Dudlee’s egg collection

I have a lot to learn about doves. Apparently with Diamond Doves, both sexes sing. And Dudlee has two sounds. One vocalization is akin to blowing on an empty bottle. But the other is a lovely coo, and it’s always two notes. You can hear her sing it in the video below.

Dudlee hiding behind the broccoli

Dudlee hiding behind the broccoli

I also managed to record the two male Zebra Finches tonight, whose songs are still developing. Thus I have not yet named them. They seem to spend a lot of time fighting over territory, which involves chasing and cursing each other, but they have not come to blows so I guess it’s just a guy thing.

The first one’s song has a refrain, the cadence of which first reminded me of a Black Rail, but he is adding notes to the beginning of it, so I am hoping for a name to reveal itself soon.

The second one gave a little concert tonight as he foraged for nesting material.

So far, the new finch hens have been laying but nothing has hatched. Could be the time of year or simply the time it is taking for everyone to get settled in. Of course Dudlee’s eggs will never hatch, but maybe her gender explains part of the special relationship she has with Blue the lone budgie. She and Blue now share a perch at night and they sit feather-to-feather.

Dudlee in the Kitchen Window

Dudlee in the Kitchen Window

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Blue and Dudlee hanging out above a Society Finch nest

Things are getting back to normal on the most important level: I am playing music for birds again.

TGIF and Miscellaneous Observations

Greater Roadrunner outside Neal's Lodges

Greater Roadrunner outside Neal’s Lodges, Uvalde County, Texas

It’s been a long week short on inspiration, and the weekend promises to be full of rain so I will not be birding far away, if at all. As it turns out I have made plans to visit with friends and family I haven’t seen for a while. Perfect timing to include a visit to my dentist as well. My People Weekend. And with the coming July Polar Vortex, I am already dreaming of doing yard work without sweat.

I took off work early yesterday to be on hand for the tow truck driver who eventually showed up and whisked away the old car. This has been one event foremost in my mind, of things I really wanted to get done. The Taurus started happily after sitting idle in my backyard for 3 months, as if looking forward to its next destination. The cell phone picture below shows its better side with the intact side mirror. Maybe you can see the rust underneath where the side panel fell off if you click on the picture.

Final Farewell

Final Farewell

Goodbye, Old Paint

Goodbye, Old Paint

Like Gregory the dachshund my parents gave away to an adoring childless couple after my brother was born, the car didn’t even look back at me. I suspect the car knows it’s going to a better place too.

After I came in from the yard, with the cell phone still handy, I took a picture of some of the finches waiting in the kitchen for me to resume the snack service. They seemed oblivious to cell phone pictures, but I still have hopes of stalking them with the real camera, which they resist, at an opportune moment. The four newest Society Finches (Bella, Johnnie, Franklin and Marty) are huddled together on the right with a male Zebra Finch (it could be Zorro), and one Spice Finch is preening himself at the far left.

Finches on the Pot Rack

Finches on the Pot Rack

While waiting for the tow truck to arrive, I managed to put my pictures from our Texas trip back on the laptop and started going through them, which explains the Roadrunner at the top and the rest below. There will be more to come as I rediscover them. It’s more fun to go back two-plus months in time than I thought it would be.

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow possibly shopping for nesting material...

Barn Swallow shopping for nesting material.

Chipping Sparrows were everywhere.

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

And it seemed after we saw the first Clay-Colored Sparrow, by the end of the trip, they too were everywhere.

Clay-Colored Sparrow

Clay-Colored Sparrow

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I went to check our ebird list for April 30th when we birded around Neal’s Lodges that morning, and the Blue Grosbeak was not on it. I have now added it to the list.

First Summer Blue Grosbeak

First Summer Blue Grosbeak

I will be back with more discoveries from the Texas trip and a bird song or two.

Have a wonderful, peaceful weekend.

Gregorio’s Mishap and Recovery

When I got home last Sunday night, after unpacking just enough, the birds were all chattering busily as usual, welcoming me, I guess. At some point doing my chores, I stopped for a moment and remembered Gregorio, but before I could say his name he started singing an extra long version of his song, repeating and repeating, “Gregorio, Gregorio, Gregorio…” I could have had no better welcome.

I haven’t dared write about Gregorio’s trials until I was sure of a happy ending.

Backtrack a few weeks before I went to Ohio: on a beautiful Saturday I was out working in the yard. After a couple hours I went back in the house. There, in the kitchen sink, was a fallen moth trap with a bird stuck in it. A zebra finch male, to be exact. I was horrified, and I felt terrible, because I should have known better than to put moth traps in the kitchen. But I had been getting so tired of the Indian flour moths, I stuck a couple traps on top of the crowded little shelves that jut out over the sink, thinking the birds were too busy elsewhere to get into it, or just relaxed with the thought that the birds have lived in the house for so long with few mishaps, I stopped paying attention to the fact that just in the past few days the zebra finches were starting to explore regions they had ignored for ages.

Zebra Finches on top of the kitchen cupboard

I was just too distracted, lackadaisical, thoughtless to make the connection.

and checking out the inside...

So there he was, my little finch, alive but very still, stuck in the trap, having lost a lot of feathers due to struggling with the adhesive. I reached in and pulled him out as gently as possible. A few of his remaining secondary feathers were stuck together so I washed him gently under warm running water and dried him in a towel. What to do with him? I couldn’t release him, because he wouldn’t be able to fly around high enough to reach the middle door of any one of the finch cages, which is essential if a bird is going to eat in this house. The only solution was to incarcerate him temporarily. And he would have to grow some feathers before my trip, because I didn’t want to add yet another cage to the burden for my bird care person. I had no idea how long it would take for him to grow back his feathers. Right now all I could be concerned about was his survival. (By the way, I could not bring myself to take pictures of him in his worst state.)

I put him inside one of the finch cages temporarily and closed the door while I went down to the basement to find the infirmary. It’s a dumb little cage that I picked up years ago for not a lot of money, and whenever I have a bird to isolate from the rest, I use it. I started thinking about preparing an extra little breakfast tray every morning. I found a water dish and a few accoutrements to make the cage as homey as possible. I knew he would hate being confined, but there was no other option.

When I had the cage ready, I stuck my little bald creature inside and started to look for a place to put the cage, out of the way, perhaps, in the dining room. No, no, no! was the reaction I got from my little prisoner. He vehemently objected to being away from the action, hopping up and down and throwing himself against the sides of the cage, so I set him on top of the coffee table in the middle of the living room, where he could see and hear all the other birds and vice versa. Looking back, I realize that was already a good indicator that he was going to fight his predicament and overcome it.

It wasn’t until maybe the middle of the next day that I figured out it was Gregorio, when I had taken inventory of the other male zebra finch’s songs and he was the only one not singing. Poor little Gregorio. I felt even worse: the past week almost every tape I listened to, Gregorio was singing on it, and I thought I had grown tired of hearing him. Now I didn’t know if I’d ever hear him sing again.

The first few days were extremely awkward. A couple times he hopped out of the cage past my hand when the door was open while I was changing this or that other dish, only to flop down to the floor, where I’d catch him easily. Once he was a little harder to catch, underneath the butcher block island in the kitchen, but I scooted him out and picked him up. He finally got the idea that he couldn’t fly and became somewhat resigned to his fate. I was afraid he wasn’t eating well either, seeming to eat only spray millet, and I lectured him about eating better if he wanted to grow back his feathers. Eat your vegetables! I have a feeling spray millet is like dessert for birds, but even if that was all he was eating I didn’t have the resolve to remove it from the cage to force him to eat something else. It must have been comfort food too.

I don’t think it was quite a week when I heard him vocalize for the first time. He wasn’t singing yet but he was calling. That was encouraging. He was growing little fluffy feathers around his head. I couldn’t tell what was happening with his other feathers; he had lost most of his primaries and secondaries on one wing, and I knew he had a lot of contour feathers to grow back as well. Then one afternoon when I was sitting writing on the futon, his cage right next to me on the coffee table, he sang a little. “Gregorio, Gregorio.” I knew he was on the mend!

A few days before I wanted to release him, calculating his release date was going be five days before I left for Ohio, I had his cage perched on the kitchen counter where I took him every morning and evening to clean and refill things, and I explained I wanted to make sure he could fly high enough to get into a finch cage to eat and that was why he was still locked up. As if to challenge my protective caution, he flung himself all the way up to the top of his little cage. Look at me, I can fly this high, I can reach the cage door. Patience, my little man, patience. It’s only a few days, and we’ll let you out.

Gregorio was eating more of his food, and the fuzz on his head was filling in. Saturday came, and I set him up with his breakfast just in case he had to return to the cage. I put the cage on the coffee table and opened the door. Within seconds he was out. He first tried flying all the way up to a curtain rod and fell down to the floor, disgusted he didn’t make it. But as soon as I thought he might be able to break up his flight into stages, he did exactly that, landing on top of a cage, and then eventually making his way to the curtain rod. You know what they say about great minds thinking alike…

Gregorio upon release

It wasn’t until then that I took a few pictures of him.

bald but brave

When I saw him eating spray millet inside a cage, I knew he was going to be all right.

Gregorio inside a regular finch cage

One time I looked up and he was snuggling with a Society Finch. Another time I saw him paired up with another male zebra finch, which is how it’s gotten to be in this house with only one female zebra finch left, so the guys choose partners, not for sex but for companionship, and it’s really a nice thing to see. I hadn’t been worried about the other birds picking on him, but it was yet another reason to incarcerate him until he got back on his wings.

Well here we are now and I barely recognize him. He still looks a little flat-headed and his tail feathers are a little stiff, but he’s zipping around with all the other birds, up to his old mischievous ways, and needless to say I don’t have any moth traps anywhere the birds can get to.

All the while as I was writing this Gregorio was singing his song. He knows I’m writing about him, and I’m sure he’s trying to add his two cents. He just started up again. Gregorio, Gregor, Gregorio, Gregor…