Saturday, November 26, 2005

Fagan, my Moluccan Cockatoo

While searching the Internet I ran across the website for a parrot rescue organization. Although these folks take in all species of neglected and abused parrots, they were founded to aid cockatoos ... especially Moluccan Cockatoos. It always makes me feel hopeful for the birds out there that need saving to know that organizations like this exist. After seeing this website I decided to share my thoughts about living with Cockatoos.

Living with a Moluccan Cockatoo (among a number of other birds) for the past 21 years I understand how Moluccan's and other cockatoos can, under the wrong circumstances, end up in need of saving. Although they are among the most intelligent and beautiful parrots, they can be very demanding and most can be extremely loud. However, there is nothing sweeter, more lovable and cuddly and beautiful than a Moluccan cockatoo baby ... or any Cockatoo, for that matter. They are so easy to spoil. And that may be the problem ... spoiling and not setting guidelines for good behavior. Well, there is another major problem too ... new owners that dote on a baby bird and then "get back to normal" which means there isn't enough time to give the bird the attention it has grown to expect. You understand why you don't have time ... but they certainly don't.

Although I didn't buy Fagan on impulse, many people do buy a parrot that way. They see a beautiful bird and just can't leave the store without it. Bad decision. While not all birds that are purchased this way end up victims, many do. It is those birds that need rescue by good people like those that run Mollywood, the organization I previously mentioned. Please visit Mollywood's website. I think it is important to see what abuse and neglect can do to a pet bird. But don't be disheartened by those you'll visit at Mollywood because the good news is you'll see how well they are now loved and taken care of. Who knows, they may touch your heart enough for you to find a way to give Mollywood a little support.

There isn't a bird more loved than my Moluccan, Fagan. How he, and all the parrots in my family, came to live with me is another story. As loved as Fagan is, it hasn't always been a bed of roses living with him. I made the mistake of not setting guidelines in the beginning. So when he reached sexual maturity I had my hands full. We've had our ups and downs. Once I discovered the Pet Bird Report years ago (now known as the Companion Parrot Quarterly) I was able to form a plan to overcome the challenges Fagan gave me. But I should have educated myself beforehand. Over the years, with kindness instead of abuse for doing things wrong, Fagan has learned to live with rules. He's learned to adapt to a domesticated lifestyle. I know ... in a way that is sad. It's only because these essentially wild creatures are so highly adaptable that they can live in our homes, in the first place. Truthfully, as much as I always want to be with my parrots I also regret that they can't live the natural life they were intended for.

Fagan is a wild caught bird. There isn't much doubt he was brought into captivity as a baby and I bought him when he was approximately between 6-12 months old. From the very first he was so loving ... certainly not the typical wild caught bird. I was mezmerzied and fascinated ... my dream of having a Moluccan Cockatoo had come true. Seems funny to think back on those early days because I didn't realize at the time that setting guidelines and boundaries for Fagan was absolutely essential to raising a disciplined and well-behaved parrot. I guess that is why I get on my soapbox once in awhile. I really want everyone considering bringing a parrot into their home to understand that it is essential to educate themselves before making that decision. Trust me when I say that you will save yourself a lot of trouble, and save a parrot from unnecessary sadness and grief, if you make the right decisions.

Over the years I've learned a lot about parrots and they've taught me a lot about myself. I count myself among the fortunate to have lived with them ... but it hasn't always been easy. It takes a lot of sacrifice and I think that is what people should know. But then having any pet, or doing any activity takes some form of sacrifice. However, parrots may offer unexpected challenges you won't be prepared to endure, if you don't do some homework. If you decide to buy a parrot be sure to choose a species that is a perfect fit for you, where you live, and your lifestyle. If you really want a bird you may discover your "dream bird" might not be the best fit ... so offer a loving home to the one that is.

Pet birds offer a wonderous life experience if you'll just offer them a good, permanent home ... and go about it the right way.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

My Project FeederWatch Is Underway!

Last year I missed participating in Project FeederWatch. So today I began my real first experience officially tabulating the birds coming to my backyard. Since my backyard bird feeding has been purely a recreational pasttime, I haven't spent a lot of effort trying to identify every bird that visits us. Sometimes it just isn't convenient to drop everything and run for the binoculars.

So, to be truthful, I was really surprised today as I sat and really focused on every movement I saw. With my trusty field guides laying nearby I discovered the exact species of sparrow that has been hanging around. With age, my 20-20 vision has faded a bit so it is pretty difficult to get a clear picture of small things at a distance. So I really didn't know that the sparrows I see frequently over in one corner of my yard are White-crowed sparrows. Granted, they are a very common species. But until I sat and really studied them I had no idea how really attractive they are. And also how interesting to watch. They were scratching around on the ground, busy as bees. But one decided that the warm California sun was just too hard to resist and he spread his wings and hunkered down close to the ground ... and just lay there for awhile. I chose to believe he was sun-bathing, but I have read that birds will use ants to help rid themselves of mites. So maybe he'd found an ant colony and was encouraging the ants to help him groom. Hard to tell, but it is an interesting thought. But no matter what he was doing he definitely looked like he was enjoying himself.

Today I saw White-crowned sparrows, California Towhees, Lesser Goldfinches, Oak Titmouse, Purple Finches, Mockingbirds and Anna's Hummingbirds during the time I could spend today watching for birds to report to the Cornell Lab.

I thought it would be an interesting project and was looking forward to it. But honestly, I'm really surprised at how much I really did enjoy it. I can't wait to watch tomorrow. Then I'll have to wait for at least 5 days before I can do another 2-day stretch of official bird watching. Afterall, to be a citizen scientist you must follow the rules.

If you love birdwatching, and like to feed birds in your backyard, or are devoted to pet birds don't miss

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Citizen Science

A month ago I made a note on my calendar as a reminder that Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Project FeederWatch would begin on November 12th. Well, a lot of good my reminder was ... I got so busy that I completely forgot to order bird seed for my feeders so am getting off to an unexpected disorderly start. I never allow my feeders to empty completely unless they need cleaning. So what in the world was I thinking to let myself run out of seed and thus disappoint my feathered visitors. Hmmmm! I sure don't know the answer to that. Especially, when it is so blasted convenient to get the seed. I don't even have to leave the house ... I just order it online. I have a really good source that provides quality seed (which is a must for me because I don't like wasting money), free shipping, really fair prices and specials. What more is there to ask for. In fact, it is less expensive than at my favorite wild bird store ... which, of course, I love going to.

Anyway, I ended up letting the birds run out of seed. Fortunately, the seed arrived within a few days. So now that the feeders have been cleaned and filled and I'm all set for Project FeederWatch. Now, if the birds will just cooperate by discovering that the feeders are full again. I don't think that will be a problem, as I saw the first couple of returnees this morning. So all should be back to normal by tomorrow or the next day. So I'll be able to make my first week's bird count report.

I'm really looking forward to the pleasure of adding some statistics from my backyard to the Project. If you haven't discovered Project FeederWatch check out my blog "News From The Cornell Lab of Ornithology under Previous Posts over there to your right. There might still be time to join in the fun. If not ... then there is always next year.

I don't have any kids of my own introduce to bird feeding, but have often thought that Project FeederWatch would be a great experience for any child. Wouldn't it be great to introduce a youngster to the natural world in this way. Who knows they might even bud into a real, honest to goodness scientist ... it's happened before! At the very least they'd grow up with understanding and respect for the natural world.

When I received all the materials Cornell sends it's "citizen scientists" there was a nice calendar of the bird watching days for the Project. The calendar has some nice pictures and comments submitted by a few of the participants last year. One couple summed up what ProjectFeeder Watch means to them -- which sums it up for me too ...

"We sat on our loveseat every morning -- coffee at hand,
binoculars at the ready, our bird/nature journal nearby for
notes. One hour of calm before the chaos of the crazy world
out yonder."

I don't know if I'll be able to spend an hour ... I won't be sitting on a loveseat ... I'll have tea instead of coffee ... but it will be a time to relax, enjoy nature and ignore the more demanding needs of the day ahead.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Florida Sea Turtles

You aren't mistaken, this is a weblog about birds. So what is a sea turtle entry doing here. Well, it relates to a brief comment about sea turtles that I made in this weblog Tuesday, Nov 8th. I mentioned a friend that did sea turtle rescue. It brought to mind a couple of interesting comments that she shared about saving sea turtles. So I thought I would jot them down in case others might find the information interesting.

My friend's volunteer job was to dig up the nests of eggs along the beach when tropical storms were approaching so they wouldn't be destroyed from the rising tides. It was interesting to go along with her on a couple of those occasions. She would put sand and the rescued turtle eggs into a bucket ... thus sort of re-constucting the nest. BTW, if I remember correctly the average number of eggs was around 30 or so. Then when the time was right the eggs would hatch and the babies had to be returned to the beach so they could reach the sea, as they would if there was no need to be rescued. This was always done at night. And the reason was clear. If the tiny baby sea turtles were released during the day the sea birds would catch them before they could safely reach the sea. If I remember correctly, the moonlight shining on the ocean attracts them and directs them to the water.

That fact makes me recall a comment she made about the lights shining from buildings located on the sandy part of the beach. During sea turtle (season) the rescue organizations would ask the owners of restaurants and other businesses to turn off their beach lights at night. The reason? It's because newly hatched turtles are drawn toward bright light as they make their first journey to the safety of the sea. The bright lights from the establishments would mis-direct them and they would head down the beach toward the building instead of into the sea.

I found the limited experience I had with sea turtle rescue to be fascinating ... especially watching the baby turtles scurrying down to the water when they were released. If I was still in Florida I'd sure do my best to help out. But I'd have to divide my time ... as the wild birds of Florida can always use help, too.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Florida Memories

I'm a native Californian and have the typical loyalty most people have that love where they were born and raised. Except for going to college in Eugene, Oregon I've lived in California all my life. That is, until l994 when we moved to northeast Florida because of work commitments. I'll have to admit that I encountered pretty extreme climate (and culture) shock, so I was having a bit of a hard time adjusting. It all worked out though and one of the main reasons was falling in love with Florida's natural world.

It was on my first visit to find a place to live that I realized how abundant the birds were. I can remember crossing a little bridge as I drove around Ponte Vedra Beach, the town we were moving to. It's a good thing there weren't any cars behind me since I stopped right in the middle of the bridge mesmerzied at the scene below. I guess it was the thunderstorm that drove all the birds to the large pond. There were every kind of large and small water bird you could dream of. It was the most amazing scene ... and I truly couldn't believe it. I sat there for a minute in awe. It was at that moment that I knew I would be fine living in Florida. And I was.

It was a 6-year stay and although I'm back in California, to my surprise I really miss Florida. No, of course, I don't miss the humidity and heat in the summer. It is a real bad combination. But you get somewhat used to it. It is Florida's wildlife that I really miss. Fortunately, northern Florida still is relatively untouched as compared to the urbanization of south Florida. In northern Florida you still have to watch out for box turtles as well as other types of turtles as they carelessly wander across roads. I've saved quite a few. In fact, we had our "own" box turtle, which we named Barney. We didn't keep him, but watched him routinely wander across our driveway as he trekked along his territorial route. Evidently having cement poured over his path wasn't enough of a deterrent to decide another route would be better. It was great fun. And I've mentioned the Belted Kingfisher in my "Kookaburra Close Encounter" weblog entry. He was a repeat visitor to our dock.

We lived on the Intracoastal Waterway and had a huge nature preserve across the river and small parcels of undeveloped land on each side of our home. So it was a very natural environment in which the wildlife was comfortable. I remember walking out my front door one evening and looking up into the loquat tree about 3 feet away. There were a couple of little black eyes peeping out. It was a very young opossum. And boy, was he cute. He wasn't afraid and stayed right where he was. I ran for my camera and got several good pictures of him. He was still there watching me as I left the house on my errand.

Another time I was walking past a window on the second story of my house and looked out to find a flock of Cedar Waxwings in that same loquat tree. The loquat fruit attracted them and they were busy devouring all of it. It was the most amazing experience to see these birds from just a few feet away. Because of the window they couldn't see me so I was able to stand there (absolutely transfixed) until they had enough to eat and flew off. I really couldn't get a good count because they were so active flying from one fruit to the next ... but suffice it to say, there were a very large number of them. And the funny thing is they all seemed to have enough to eat at the same time because the flock took off all at once. Or else maybe their leader had enough and was ready to go. I wondered if something had startled them, but found nothing. When they left ... they left for good. And they left me with a memory that will last forever. They are such beautiful birds.

Then there were raccoon families we watched grow up. And I even saw a few snakes crossing our driveway on their way elsewhere. Sometimes they lingered on the warmth of the driveway.. I was always fascinated so would cautiously approach to identify them with reptile book in hand. The only snakes that ever gave me a little fright were the racers. They are harmless, but move very fast ... thus the name. It was the fast movement that caused the momentary instinctual fear. But I got over that, too. Actually, I wish I had kept a diary of all my animal encounters and other wildlife experiences. I'm sorry I didn't, as I know there is a lot I won't recall.

Another memory remains vivid. It is B.E.A.K.S. (Bird Emergency Aid & Kare Sanctuary) in northeast Florida. Open for the public to visit periodically, we took advantage of seeing the great work they do up close and personal. It was on one visit that we were told about Radar. Forgive me for fogetting what species of owl he was. But he was unique, indeed. You see Radar ended up at B.E.A.K.S. because he was born without eyes. And what made him especially unique? He learned to fly to his caretaker from the sound of her voice. Due to the care and love he received in this rehabilitation sanctuary Radar had a decent quality of life. Otherwise, he would certainly have been doomed to death in infancy.

It was at a B.E.A.K.S. fund raiser that we fortunate to win a bid to visit White Oak Plantation. White Oak is a privately owned and operated nature and conservation center in northeast Florida. Six hundred acres of the plantation are dedicated to White Oak Conservation Center where 60 threatened animal species are preserved. Many of these exotic species are associated with the Species Survival Plans coordinated by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. Using the knowledge gained by studies on these animals, Species Survival Plans are formulated and refined to aid in the preservation of these unusual species. There is another 6500+ acres of pine forest, wetlands and riparian habitat that comprise the balance of White Oak Plantation. What a special privilege it was to visit this incredible, and I might add, very beautiful plantation. There is much to know about White Oak ... perhaps for a future weblog entry.

I met some great people in Florida, too. Some remain friends. One such lady was involved in sea turtle rescue. I witnessed the rescuing of sea turtle eggs, from their beach nests, to save them from being washed away by tropical storms. When the eggs hatched we released them to the sea ... watching the babies scurry into the welcoming ocean waves. Another experience not to be had in southern California, for sure.

And then there were my friends at the bird hospital. They are some of the most special people I've ever known. One of these special ladies has taken in the broken and discarded parrots that people no longer wanted or could care for. If not for people like her ... many of these creatures would have been doomed. But instead are living quality lives with someone who loves them.

My only regret is that I had not discovered
backyard bird feeding while I was in Florida. It's strange that such a bird lover wouldn't have taken advantage of the hobby with such abundant bird life around. But I guess I was just too immersed in my pet birds. Actually, I did become interested just before moving back to California, but there wasn't the time to get started before making the move back to California. But it didn't take me long to begin upon getting re-settled.

Perhaps on another day more memories of Florida's animal world will come flooding back so I can write about them again. I love recalling them and really wouldn't mind returning to Florida if I could continue the up close and personal experiences with it's wildlife again. Hmmm! Who knows what the future might bring.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

To Blog, or Not to Blog?

A week or so ago I received a copy of Cage & Aviary Birds, a newspaper publication from the U.K. It was sent to me as a courtesy for being featured in the publication. It all started a couple of months ago when Kim Forrester contacted me. Kim is a feature writer for the newspaper and she had been searching the Internet for birding blogs. Coming across mine, she contacted me and asked if I would mind if my blog was featured in an article she planned to write. The request came as a surprise, of course, and I was really honored to be able to help promote blogging with a bird theme. So I contributed my thoughts and some photos.

The purpose of Kim's article was to promote an interest in sharing bird information through blogging. I'm sure the others who contributed to the article were as pleased as I was to help. And I have to admit that it was exciting to receive a copy of the newspaper and read about myself and see a couple of photos I'd contributed. Actually, it was really a hoot ... to use a bird term.

I regret that those of us in the U.S. don't have easy access to the U.K.'s Cage and Aviary Birds. However, if you are visiting this blog from the U.K. you might want to get an issue if you don't already have one. And since you are reading blogs ... maybe you'll also decide to share your thoughts and interest in pet and/or wild birds by creating your own blog. The article covers ways to do that. My blog is created with It's free and may be one of the easiest to set up and use.

If you are a little more ambitous you may decide having a website on birds would be just the ticket like I do. If so, check out (that's my website) to see what an extremely non-techie person can do if they have the right program. And speaking of non-techie -- I didn't have a clue about creating a website before I started mine. And what is the right program to create a website? That's easy ... it's the one I use. Check it out ... you might just decide that having a hobby website would be a lot of fun. Or take it one big step further and build an income around it. If you'd like more information just leave a comment and I'll be happy to leave another entry with additional links that may be of interest.