Sunday, August 30, 2009

Robin and the 4 Pips

A number of you have asked me privately about the possibility of hearing the song I sang at my nephew's wedding. I have not yet been able to configure an upload of it, as it is on a DVD along with the rest of the service.

I have, however, uploaded a .wav file that I recorded in the bird room, just before leaving for Michigan. Actually, it might be better (?) than the wedding video since all 4 birds joined me in the accompaniment!

(I promise, they were stone-cold quiet until I turned on the recorder!)

Little limelight-hounds.... !

So, below is a link to the file. Hey - not all singers get to be accompanied by 4 'Pips', right? (If you are too young to know what a 'Pip' is, and you have never heard of Gladys, please do not admit that on the comment page! Geesh!)

The name of the song is "I Could Never Promise You", by Don Francisco (circa 1970's).

If the file asks you to open it, since it is a .wav file, it can be heard in any music player such as QuickTime, Real Player, Windows Media Player, etc.

And, without further ado - the 4 Little Limelight Hounds on cue!

I Could Never Promise You.WAV


Saturday, August 29, 2009

When Gray Equals Green

Talk about the shock of a doggie's life...

I had one the other day. I haven't been this shocked since my mom almost fell on top of me (the night she broke her toe!) Now - that was shocking! Thank goodness she missed me! I am only now getting over that scare!

And, yes - I am still working the nanny-cam... I am on the job! She doesn't make a move that I don't see!
But - more important - I have a bit of news to report.
It's not good news, so just prepare yourself. You know about my local girlfriend? She lives at the very top of the mountain and her mom brings us vegetables from her garden. I wrote about her in one of my recent posts: Jelly.

Ooh-lah-lah, Jelly! I dream about her...

Well, dad and I were walking past her house the other day. I was happy; my tail was wagging faster than a locomotive, when suddenly:
I heard this somewhat familiar song. A whistle-tune.

I recognized it - the Andy Griffith theme song. Coco (aka The Green Monster, aka The Diva) is able to whistle this tune.
The only problem is, we were a good half mile away from Coco. My laser-ready ears told me something was amiss. This tune was not quite the same as I am used to hearing, and it was too nearby to be Coco.

That was when I looked up - toward the house where Jelly lives, and I got the second shock in two weeks. (Let's hope I get over this one faster than I am almost being crushed by my mom's falling body!)

On the b
alcony, behind the glass window, there it was...

A parrot!

Now, how can this be? While they say dogs cannot see colors (have they ever asked one of us?) - I can assure you that when it comes to parrots they are all the same. Gray, green - they are all feathered creatures that create a lot of noise and take attention away from important things (like dogs' needs).

I stopped. I performed a full body shake, and then re-focused.

Yep - it was still there. And, it was still whistling.
My eyes and ears were both working fine (unfortunately).

What is with the Andy Griffith theme song - is it like a classic or something?

Well, I hardly knew what to say or think.

I can tell you this: next time I see Jelly playing out in the yard, I'm going to be comparing notes with her.

I wonder - behind closed doors at her house, is that parrot in charge, too?

I will find out and report back!


Friday, August 28, 2009

Bucky and Strider - Millet Eating Fiends!

Awhile back I posted an entry, including a video, of when I first began working with Strider to step onto my open palm for a bite of millet. He was fairly hesitant. That was about 6 months after he arrived.

Now - fast forward -

Strider has been here 11 months! My how time flies! I decided to take a video today of Strider's progress; however, Bucky was certainly not to be overshadowed! Each day, at least one time, I offer millet or nutriberries, either by offering a finger for them to step onto, my palm, or offering the nutriberries between my fingers as they eat while sitting on their perch. They have now reached the point that when they see me approach the cage, I have their 100% attention! Especially if I bend down and reach in the direction where their food items are stored!

Below is the original video followed by today's video! I think you will agree - they are just too darn cute! And Strider seems like a different little boy. How can so much cuteness be encapsulated in such a wonderfully tiny packages!


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bye Bye All Eleven!

Bye bye to all 11 stitches! Yeah! Life is slowly getting back to normal now that I have gone (knock on wood) almost one week without renewing my clutz-club vows.

I've gotten a lot of rest and sleep over the past 5 days, eaten a few bon-bon's (doctor's orders), and now it is time to resume my normal schedule and normal activities!

So, just to catch you up on everyone else:

Barney update:
He is still following me around like someone assigned him to guard duty or something. Imagine that!!

It feels like we just finished a molt (it always feels that way, doesn't it?), yet she has been losing a number of feathers lately. I think she is just trying to give my old vacuum a run for its money! It has been really hot, and she has been enjoying her showers. She seems to have a bit less than a usual appetite, but it is normal for her to go in cycles where she will eat more or less - always making up for lost time in the end!

The Boys:
Little shy Penske - has a real personality! He is willing to befriend Strider, but I have not yet seen them preen one another. They have been sharing food, so I know the relationship is progressing. A number of times, Strider and Penske have spent the night together. Plenty of times the three of them bunch up together and are just too darn cute! Penske is now fully flighted, but still refining his skills.

Poor Bucky - still struggling to get his flight feathers. He has two. Unfortunately, they are both on the same side, so they are more of a hindrance than a help. We could nickname him Scooter (since he runs so quickly), but it is too late. Sadly, we had already nicknamed him 'Thud'!

Bucky has a bit of an assertive attitude, but I feel it may be due to his inability to fly. I think once he has his wings he will not feel the need to be quite as presumptuous. He is a bit more standoffish to Strider than is Penske, but I have seen them feeding one another on a few occasions as well. The relationships will take time to grow, and in the meantime, they are living together famously. There is plenty of room for everyone to have their own corner if they need some space.

Strider, meanwhile, has been asserting himself as the oldest boy budgie in the Fort. He does seem to have a bit of an entitlement attitude. When I pass out the nutriberries, it doesn't matter if I provide 5 or 25 - Strider feel he needs to eat whichever nutriberry someone else is chasing around!

It is such a blast to watch them chase nutriberries - one of these days I might dump a container of marbles in the Fort just to watch the show! They are a study in constant motion, chasing, playing - I cannot tell you how much enjoyment I receive out of watching them enjoy themselves!

All three budgies are molting, so you can imagine how many feathers I clean up every day. But I am happy to do it as I am so anxious for Bucky to become flighted. Once he is, we can remove the Fort's handicap provisions, raising all the perches, installing the remaining swings, and provide the boys with even more non-stop fun! Meantime, my husband was in the bird room on the computer the other day, and he said they were so loud he could not hear himself type! Come night fall, I have 3 tuckered out little boys.

I have found two things that make the boys quiet:

1) Coco yelling; and
2) Me playing my new 'Mountain Dulcimer' that my dad made out of conduit pipe!

Is this not the coolest! The pipe is cut, tuned to perfect pitch, and I presently have one set of mallets (wooden). He is making a set of mallets with leather covers that will provide a different tone.

I do not have too much of a learning curve on this home made instrument, as I began taking piano lessons when I was young, in high school I played the glockenspiel and orchestra bells, and in college I played orchestra bells, marimba, xylophone and vibraphone. The Mountain Dulcimer is somewhat similar. However, the scales are set up in a 4 x 4 fashion as opposed to following the arrangement of the white and black keys of the piano.

The dulcimer has 4 complete scales (A, D, G and C) set up as follows:

Top of Dulcimer
8 4
7 3 Key of C
6 2
5 1

8 4
7 3 Key of G
6 2
5 1

8 4
7 3 Key of D
6 2
5 1

8 4
7 3 Key of A
6 2
5 1
Bottom of dulcimer

The birds seem completely enthralled with it! Hubby is in the process of building a Fort Dulcimer (a stand and carrying case).

In the meantime, I have been plinking it while sitting on the floor...

someone mentioning something about it being "impossible for me to fall onto the floor if I was already sitting on it?"

Geesh....!!! A couple of little, minor boo-boo's and I'm constantly reminded to be careful...!


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fingers Crossed-Stitches Out Tomorrow!

Fingers crossed....

If they are ready, the stitches come out tomorrow afternoon!
Thank goodness!

There is always a small chance that they will not be ready, but I am hoping for the best. In fact, I have a pep-talk scheduled with them just prior to bedtime. I want to be sure that they know I've appreciated them, but it is time for them to move on to the trash can.

I suppose this means it will also be safe to remove the surgeon's calling card (signature and cell phone number)!

I must be honest about something.

I have been utterly shocked that no one seems to believe my plausible explanation:

A Bar Fight

I mean - you all believe me, right?
Yes - definitely - a bar fight.

I mean, people are acting like it is not even a realistic scenario - do you believe that?

It is not like it is impossible...


Yes, clearly it was a bar fight.

I'm pretty sure I jumped between two people to save the day... and... the rest could be pretty foggy.

Not only are people acting like a bar fight is not a plausible explanation, but they are not even courteous enough to ask if the other guy looks worse than me!

(If someone says they got into a bar fight, I think the least thing folks should do is inquire as to how bad the other person looks, don't you??)

Since Friday night, notwithstanding a minor incident when I dropped and broke a ceramic cup (I was not harmed), I am happy to report that I have not:

1-Tripped over anything or anyone
2-Poisoned myself by accident
3-Poisoned anyone else by accident
4-Fallen out of bed
5-Burned myself, cut myself, or bruised myself

I am sad to report that despite the scheduled removal of my stitches, my husband has advised me that I am not able to ditch the safety helmet or the neon yellow and orange safety jacket.

Do you know how embarrassing it is at a stop light to have someone in the next car over roll down their window and ask if you know when a certain road project will be completed?

Or, to have someone at the grocery store say that the soup is "in the same aisle as the lady that glows in the dark?"

I'm just sayin'....

Barney, as always, is a shining light in my life. I believe he knows something is not quite right, and his reaction has been to keep me in constant sight. Yep - good thing Barney is always on duty making sure I don't hurt myself anymore!


Monday, August 24, 2009

It's a Budgie Pool Party!

The 3 Musketeers' first official pool party!

Notice the lifeguard in the upper right corner...

Safety first! Every good pool party has a lifeguard!

Bucky doing the belly-flop...
Strider queuing up for the cannon ball...
Penske attentive to his responsibilities...

Penske decided he needed to keep a closer eye:
"Ok boys - there will be no horseplay at my pool!"


Once the party was over, while Strider and Bucky were happily drying on their lounge-perches, Penske went ahead and took a little dip. Such a good lifeguard!

Fun was had by all at the first-ever pool party! I went through plenty of kitchen items before I finally struck gold. After all, the 3 Musketeers will not party in any old tupperware!

I tried a foil pie plate, a glass pie plate, and a whole host of other objects until I happened upon the perfect pool!

Success at last!


Saturday, August 22, 2009

I'm In Charge of the Nanny-Cam !

Good news:

Dad put me in charge of the 'Nanny-Cam'...
And, I plan to take my responsibilities seriously.

(He did tell me to give her a wide berth... no closer than five feet at any time.
He doesn't want to have to take me to the vet for a 'crushing' incident.)

And, we now have a system.
(Do not tell mom - it is a secret code):

One Bark:
Mom is heading toward the kitchen, unattended!

Two Barks:
Mom has removed her safety helmet!

Three Barks and a Howl:
Mom is contemplated walking down the stairs unattended.
Call out the posse!

Several have inquired as to my feelings on the recent events in the home. You all know me so well - you just knew I would have something to say! That warms my fur!

For anyone who is wondering, I am still very traumatized by the incident that I reported in my previous post. So the inquiries about my welfare are much appreciated, after all - it is all about me... isn't it??

With the way she yelled for my dad to bring ice when she fell and hurt her toe - I ran directly into my crate. (I'm not sure why, but it seemed the right thing to do.)

I'm just going to say it - there has been way too much high-pitched screaming around here lately for my taste. Do I have to remind these people one more time about my sensitive ears?

After the screaming subsided, I bravely left my crate. Realizing it was just a broken toe, I was admittedly confused. With the screaming that was going on, you would have thought it was something serious, like:

1. She found a snake in the bird room; or
2. My snau'sage container was empty!!!

Other than those two items, I think that sort of high-pitched, frantic scream is a bit unnecessary. And besides, it hurts my ears.

This makes me wonder - could my snau'sage container actually be empty?
I must make a mental note to check that...

Well, time for me to sign off.
Captain Barney - reporting for duty!

Does this thing come in different flavors?


I'm Grounded!

Ok - I give fair warning - if you are squeamish - just step away from the computer... the next picture you see won't be as pretty as this one!

Don't say that I didn't warn you.... this could make a grown-man say OUCH!

I wasn't going to say anything, because I was on a roll with the behavior posts. But circumstances dictate that I take a couple days off. So I will give you the details...

Well, I will give you some of the details... and wild horses won't drag the rest of them out of me. I do have some dignity left... after all... well, some....!!!

Last Saturday night, I inadvertently tripped over Barney, landed all my weight on my big toe, bent it in a way that God never intended, and - well, I don't recommend trying this in your home.

Ok, now is the time - to look away - if you get squeamish...

This picture was taken 24 hours after the incident. Now, fast forward.

Just when I am almost a week into my big-toe healing process, I had a little 'in-home' accident Friday night.

I will spare you both the details and that photo. Trust me, you'd rather see my toes with the French manicure. So, please don't ask... (that includes you too, Jim and Marianne), cos "I ain't talking" lips are sealed.

(Let's just say I'm grounded... see below.)

I just got back from the emergency room where I received 11 big, black, ugly stitches.

(Would you think they could use flesh colored ones as a courtesy?)

I'm just sayin'.... I made the suggestion.

I was also a little disturbed when the doc said 'don't cover it up' with a bandage.

I'm confused. I received a prescription for antibiotics, but yet, I cannot cover it up because it might cause it to become too moist and get infected? Then, what good are the pills?

I'm going to be honest and say that I couldn't help wondering if the real reason that he didn't want me to cover up the stitches had anything to do with him placing his signature just below them, adding his cell phone number, and saying 'call if you like my work'??

Ok - their stitches... their rules.... I get them out in 5 days.

But on a serious note, I couldn't compliment the entire hospital staff more - they were fabulous. From the person at the front desk down to the surgeon - they were all top notch. I was taken back immediately, and in two hours they were done with me, surgeon's signature, cell phone number and all.

He was really great; he said the numbing shots would burn like fire. But he didn't realize that my toe was killing me. Actually, I felt nothing. And, I'm not a needle kind of gal - I usually cry before I get the shot.

He complimented me for being 'tuff as nails', but honestly, I only felt one of the way too many shots ever so slightly. No big deal - he should try walking on a broken big toe, and then tell me that those tiny little needles are going to hurt!

As you can imagine, my husband has grounded me.
And, he means it this time.
He is hovering worse than all get out.

So, I'll be taking a few days off - besides, it's no fun trying to write with a nanny-cam shoved in your face.... it sort of interferes with my creativity.

So, I will see you when I am off probation and on my feet again!

(PS: I mean it, Marianne and Jim, don't even ask!)


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Increasing Desirable Behavior

If we take a look closer at the positive reinforcement section of yesterday's post:

Positive Reinforcement (if):
A - The Dog Barks
B - The Bird Screams
C - The Human Yells at the Bird to Be Quiet
Results in the screaming increasing**

This brings about an interesting dilemma. While positive reinforcement is at work in the above example, most likely we would not be happy with the result! From this we discover that making the statement, "I always positively reinforce my bird" does not tell the whole story; we may be positively reinforcing desirable or undesirable behavior!

While in our examples from yesterday, positive punishment and negative punishment both resulted in a decrease of the target behavior (screaming), we know that while these methods work, they are more intrusive methods of behavior change than is positive reinforcement.

So what might be a way of approaching the result of the bird screaming less by a method of positive reinforcement?

You may recall a previous post - Half Empty or Half Full - we focused on looking at behavior from a different perspective. That is, instead of considering what we do not want to happen (looking at a decrease of an undesirable behavior), we can instead focus on what we do want to happen (an increase of a desirable behavior)! And, we can use that approach to great benefit.

So, instead of considering how to decrease the screaming, we can instead identify a behavior that we would like to see increase, and one that will help us begin to change the bird's screaming behavior.

Hold that thought - as we will be coming back to selecting a behavior that we would like to see increase. But before we go down that road, it is important to take a moment to point out one thing:

In the initial post on this topic, where we began with the example of the dog barking and the bird screaming, my friend, Les (hi, Les!) lovingly commented 'lock up the pooch'! In actuality, Les brought out an important aspect of the discussion - that is:

Changing the Antecedent

Naturally, if the pooch did not enter the room and bark, it is likely this would have an affect on the bird's behavior. (Unless the bird heard the dog barking from a different room and the same result occurred).

For me, changing the antecedent is my first consideration when analyzing behavior. It is a proactive approach; changing the consequence feels more like a reactive approach. It may not be practical, feasible or desirable to prevent the dog from ever barking again, or from coming into the room to bark. However, when looking at behavior change, the antecedent is one of the first stones I uncover.

In our example:

A-Dog Barks
B-Bird Screams

We first need to select a behavior that we would like to see increase. For example, we could begin with selecting a word/phrase that the bird has already learned such as 'pretty bird'. (Coco has learned to say this, and has also learned that it receives my attention and often a treat.)

A-Dog Barks/human asks bird to say 'pretty bird'
B-Bird Says Pretty Bird
C-Bird Receives Valued Reinforcer (treat)


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Positive/Negative Reinforcement & Punishment

In the post: Ignoring vs. Reinforcement, we were discussing the ABC's:

A - The Antecedent
(what takes place before the behavior)
B - The Behavior
(also called the target behavior)
C - The Consequence
(what takes place after the behavior)

For example:
A - The Dog Barks
B - The Bird Screams
C - The Human Yells at the Bird to Be Quiet

In this example, if the screaming behavior is maintained or increased, it is being reinforced by the stimulus of the human yelling.

In behavior terms, we would call this:
Positive reinforcement

Positive... because something was 'added' (the human yelling)
Reinforcement... because the behavior was maintained or increased.

What if the human yelled 'quiet' and the behavior (screaming) decreased?

Then in behavior terms we would call this:
Positive punishment.

Positive... because something was 'added' (the human yelling)
Punishment... because the behavior decreased.

After carefully observing the target behavior to determine if there has been an increase or decrease in frequency, it is then that we are able to conclude whether the consequence is reinforcing or punishing.

(Side note: As I mentioned in my post on the Changeability of Reinforcers, reinforcers are changeable, situational and personal. The same applies to punishers. What is reinforcing to one bird may be punishing to another; what is reinforcing or punishing one day may be the reverse on a different day or in a different situation, and so forth.)

The benefit lies in focusing on the target behavior, and observing whether the frequency of it increases or decreases.

There are 4 methods of changing behavior:

Positive Reinforcement
Negative Punishment
Negative Reinforcement
Positive Punishment


Positive Reinforcement (if):
A - The Dog Barks
B - The Bird Screams
C - The Human Yells at the Bird to Be Quiet

**Results in the screaming increasing**

Positive Punishment (if):
A - The Dog Barks
B - The Bird Screams
C - The Human Yells at the Bird to Be Quiet
**Results in the
screaming decreasing**

These examples are positive (reinforcement or punishment) because something was added
(the human yelling).

On the flip side, we have negative reinforcement and punishment.

In the case of positive (reinforcement and punishment), something was added.

Of course for negative (reinforcement and punishment), something is removed.


Negative Reinforcement (if):
A - The Dog Barks
B - The Bird Screams
C - The Human Leaves the Room
Results in the screaming increasing**

Negative Punishment (if):
A - The Dog Barks
B - The Bird Screams
C - The Human Leaves the Room
Results in the screaming decreasing**

The beauty of looking at behavior in terms of A, B and C, is that we observe the frequency of the target behavior itself. With this knowledge, we are then in position to design a plan toward behavior change.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Do They Think I Can't Smell?

Grape flavored children's Benadryl?

C'mon, people....

Did you two really think you could pull that one off?

I am part basset hound... and, I do have a working nose....

May I suggest children's Benadryl in bacon or turkey flavor next time?

Ok - on a more serious note...
I'm a little bummed out.

Why you ask? (Thank you for asking - usually people only truly care about the birds...)

Birds, birds, birds... everything around here seems to revolve around things with wings that make noise.

So, yes - I must admit I am a little bummed.
The night my mom came home from the wedding (Saturday), naturally, I was under her feet. Where else should I be? I even tried to crawl up her pant leg, but that didn't work out so well for me. I'll have to rethink that one.

She was very tired, as you might imagine, after driving 1,200 miles in 4 days. So, I stayed close to her just to make sure she didn't slip away from me again.

That evening, she went to get up from her computer chair, and...

Tired coupled with her natural clutziness did not make for a happy ending.

I'm not exactly sure what happened, it all went so fast as my doggie-life flashed before my handsome brown eyes.

Before I knew it, she had tripped and fallen, and couldn't even get up!

She was yelling out for my dad to bring some ice, but I have never heard that sort of high pitched, urgent scream, and - well, it scared me. (I am very sensitive, as you can imagine).

It's not a big deal; she just broke a bone.

But, enough about her (and the birds). What is important is that I have been feeling very traumatized and vulnerable. I've not wanted to go into the bird room since! I am sure that this entire incident somehow had something to do with those birds! Those 4 little trouble-makers...

She posts pictures of everything little thing I do - should I post a picture of her broken bone when she's not looking? Oh, and I am wondering - will she be forced to endure ear drops and have grape flavored children's Benadryl shoved down her throat? Yeah... I figured not... seems like a double standard to me!

Time for a snau'sage break and a belly rub - see you later!
The 'Barn Boy'


Monday, August 17, 2009

According to Coco...

Alrighty then...

I have read my dad's post. I think he needs a new pair of glasses, as he is just not seeing things very clearly! I would loan him mine, but...

Somehow, I am not surprised. But, to say I "went after him" is a bit of a stretch....

Do all humans exaggerate so much?

I was trying to make a point, and there is only one part of my body which has the natural ability to make points - and that - is the end of my beak!

None of this would have transpired if he had dropped the food and ran as I previously instructed.
Yet - he ignored my decree - and I find that almost as distasteful as being served a blanched almond.

He didn't get the message when I chewed that perch into a shape that was a perfect replica of his finger? Hello!

For 3 days I had let him know that I detested seeing his face in my fort area - but yet - he continued coming back. Well, a girl has to eat. And thus, I hatched a plan.

You see, for those 3 days, I had been secretly stashing nuggets. (I learned this trick from watching the squirrels out on the deck. I asked them one day what they were doing, and they gave me a story [longer than I cared to hear] about the value of saving for a rainy day or a cold winter.)

Trust me, squirrels can be quite long-winded. If you ask me, I think they must have some deep-seated psychological issues. I've also noticed that they seem a bit obsessive-complusive and hyperactive about their food gathering practices. But, I digress.

So, while my dad thought I was eating my food (as if it were high quality macadamia nuts or something), I was actually hiding the pellets in my secondary food hut!

The beauty of this plan was that he could not reach my secondary food hut without coming past me first... and I knew this would not happen on my watch. I never left my hidden stash unattended. He had no clue what I was doing!

So, every time he would look in on me, and see there was 'no food left' - he would give me more! Brilliant if I do say so myself!

I was polite, but aloof those first 3 days, as he played right into my wing.

More nuggets came my way like clockwork.

When day #4 arrive, I had a good 3 days worth of food stashed! Despite overhearing my mom tell him approximately how much food I ate everyday, he never suspected a thing! If there was no food in any of my foraging areas, he gave me more.

So, with a good 3 days worth of food then hidden, I decided to make my move Saturday afternoon. I was planning to banish him from my kingdom permanently (or, at least until my mom came home).

Unfortunately, the Saturday morning feeding did not go quite as I planned - I had to do a little quick thinking on my feet.

I did walk away from him the first time - at least he got that part of the story right. First, he pulled that little 'polly wanna nut' episode'. I admit, I was a bit less than amused with him. Simply drop the nut and step away from the perch....

But the real crisis came when he stepped onto my fort perimeter. See, he was coming dangerously close to the secret location of my stash in the back of my secondary food hut. In fact, he had intended on hiding some food in that exact location I had been using!

I simply could not risk the real possibility that he would find my stash. That would mean 3 days of hard work down the drain. And no doubt the little tattle-tale would run his mouth to my mom when she returned...

Ok - as humans might say - yes, I may have 'lost it' just a wee bit. When I saw him enter the perimeter - I had to act quickly. I simply could not allow him to ruin my plan.

So, yes - I did chase him off - just a little.

(He ran like a scared cat!)

Now, had he not breached the fort perimeter and moved his hand in the direction of my secret stash, none of this would have ever happened. He could have just dropped the food and ran, and I would have implemented the final stage of my plan that afternoon. But no....

Anway - all is well that ends well - he never discovered my secret stash!


Unfortunately - my mom did... find the secret stash... and, well - it did not take her long to figure out that there was a conspiracy going on. I had bought off the budgies' silence by flipping them a few extra nutraberries... (even with all 3 of them working in concert, they are still unable to open the plastic container). But, the pointy end of my beak is a multi-purpose tool.

I must say that when she questioned them, they sang like jail birds - but she couldn't get a straight story from them, so she just dropped it. I don't think that she will forget this though. Next time she goes away (if I ever let her), I am sure she will clue in my dad that I might 'stash food' again...

Oh, one other thing...

I must say that I find his comparison of me to Godzilla quite flattering!


Sunday, August 16, 2009

According to Coco's dad...

Ok - I guess I'll give you his side of the story first!

I left early Wednesday morning, at 5:15 am. So Coco had seen my husband Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. When Saturday morning arrived, and 3 days had passed, perhaps it was simply one day too many....

So, he entered the room as usual, opened the curtain and began dispensing the food.

At the time, she was on one of her lower perches - one that she began destroying for the first time shortly after I left town.

His Step 1:

He offered her a nut while she was sitting on the perch.

Her Response:
She turned around and walked away from him, heading up to the perch highest and furthest away from him. (Body language)

His Step 2:
After she arrived at her lofty location, he offered her the nut again.

Her Response:
He said, "She yanked the nut out of my hand, spit it out onto the floor, and the psychopath proceeded to attempt to nail my hand."

(Do you find this as shocking as me?! My sweet littl' princess? Hmmm; I think we may not be getting the whole story....)

His Step 3:
He decided to feed her and leave the room. However, at this point, he made a critical error in judgment in my opinion. He stepped off the carpet and onto her 5' x 8' fort perimeter (the enameled masonite) in order to attempt to place the food. This would not be recommended given that she had already told him twice, through her body language, that she thought him lower than common, garden variety pond scum.

Her Response:
With her wings and tail away from her body in a flared position, she made a beeline for him - "with evil intent, and in full attack mode."

(Am I the only one that finds this story unbelievable??)

His Final Step:
He quickly threw the pelleted food in his hand into her main house and "barely escaped with the clothes on my back and the nose on my face".

Of course, I simply
have a hard time grasping the idea that The Diva would act in such a manner! So, naturally, we will hear Coco's side of this story tomorrow!

PS: My husband just commented that "Coco makes Godzilla look like a cuddly little house pet."

The plot thickens!


Saturday, August 15, 2009

I'm Back from My Trip!

I'm back!!!!

It was undoubtedly a long trip - and it is nice to be home.
The travel both directions was completely flawless. Thanks and blessings to all of you that said a prayer for me!

Wednesday morning, I made it through the entire mountain pass, and across the Tennessee line without passing a single car or truck. Being a stretch of over 50 miles, such is simply unheard of - an answer to prayer. Even with leaving at 5:15 am - traffic would be expected to be lighter but never non-existent.

There was plenty of travel in the opposite direction, so I believe I had an angel or 3 on the front of my truck clearing the way as I traveled around the curves and through the tunnels under cover of darkness, fog and a light misty-rain.

The significance of not coming upon a single car or truck is that I was able to remain on the right hand (trucker) side, thus avoiding the left-hand, shoulderless lane where one must hug the concrete barrier and protect tired eyes from the direct onslaught of opposing headlights. I was especially grateful for this blessing.

Naturally, the wedding was absolutely perfect! A few people have asked, so I am working on the feasibility of uploading and posting a video of the part of the ceremony when I sang to the happy couple. They were so precious - the two of them - and I am so very happy for them! What a joy to share in the celebration of their new lives together!

My nephew was exceptionally nervous the night before the wedding...

How nervous was he?

He introduced me to his groomsmen as his "Aunt Diane"!

(By the way - there is no one in our entire family named Diane! We have no idea where that came from!)

I returned one day earlier than anticipated as the birds' babysitter (husband) became ill. He is doing much better now.

He had a few stories to tell though - and in tomorrow's post I am just going to go ahead and let Coco tell her version - as it seems there was a bit of an incident and Coco's view of things is quite different from his! Imagine that! So be sure to check back tomorrow - I'll be all rested up and back to my blogging!


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Final Preparations

Out'a my way, mate'ys...
I'm headin' north!


Monday, August 10, 2009

Road Trip Time!

By this time tomorrow night (Tuesday), I will hopefully be long asleep in preparation for a very early Wednesday morning departure.

I don't know if any of you are like me - unfortunately, the night before a road trip it can be hard for me to get to sleep on time! So much to do!

I've done much of my work tonight and over this past weekend, but there are always plenty of 'last minute' things that appear like smoke from an abyss.

The most important final preparation will be administering my husband's final exam to see if he has in fact retained all of the instructions, rules, and guidelines I have provided on the birds' care in my absence. There is no room for a bell curve on this test - 100% accuracy, or we take it again from the top! Answers must be rendered both timely and correctly.

The 14 hour drive from North Carolina to Michigan is one I have made alone many times, and I rather enjoy the solitude of the road, my mind and music. This particular trip, to celebrate my nephew's wedding Friday night, will give me plenty of time to practice the song I will be singing during the lighting of the unity candle. (And, won't they be pleased to know Aunt Robin is going to practice - yeah!)

The first hour of the trip is the most strenuous for me. It is a time when I usually drive in complete silence as I travel through the western North Carolina mountains until passing into Tennessee (the flat-lands). Anyone who has driven that strip of Interstate 40 between Asheville and the Tennessee line knows of what I speak. The narrow, winding roads that lead through the mountain and tunnel passes are challenging in the daylight. This is also the only part of the trip where there is no cell service, through what seems like endless walls of granite and quartz rock in the dark as your eyes are dodging headlights from oncoming tractor trailers. There is no 'median' during this treacherous part of the trip - only a concrete barrier wall that separates the two lanes of traffic that travel in each direction. I personally find it rather unnerving, and breathe a sigh of relief when I see the Tennessee Welcome Center in front of me and the sun rising behind me.

While I certainly do not enjoy the first hour, especially in the dark, it is essential to pass through the mountains prior to sunrise so that I will not be passing through Cincinnati between either 12:00 noon and 2:00 pm or 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm. So the timing of leaving the mountains is actually based upon the arrival time in Cincinnati, which is approximately the 1/2 way point of the trip.

As hairy as it is traversing the mountain pass in the dark - - - it is nothing - - -nothing at all - - - compared to Cincinnati during rush hour trust me!

Once through the mountains and across the Tennessee border, I will catch Interstate 75 and ride that puppy practically all the way home. Passing through Tennessee and into Kentucky, the roads are straight, quiet and comfortable. I especially enjoy the wonderful Kentucky scenery. From there - it is a straight shot into Toledo, and out Central Avenue to finish the last hour as I cross the Michigan border. Easy as pie!

I am not sure how much time or internet access I will have during the trip. I will be leaving Sunday morning to return to North Carolina. So, at the latest, my next post will be the following day (Monday). If I am able, you can count on me posting an update or two between now and then!

Until we next meet back here - happy trails, everyone! I hope you all have a wonderful week/weekend.

And, anyone who wishes to say a prayer for my safe travel - it will be graciously accepted!

See you all soon!


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ignoring vs. Reinforcement

In my travels, it is not uncommon for me to read statements similar to this:

ignoring that behavior, because I don't want to reinforce it."

In today's post, I want to explore the correlation (or lack thereof) between ignoring and reinforcement.

Let me begin by reviewing (the first sentence of) the definition of
positive reinforcement from the behavior terminology as defined on the Good Bird, Inc. website:

Positive Reinforcement
: The presentation of a stimulus following a behavior that serves to maintain or increase the frequency of the behavior. (Emphasis added)

There are several elements in this sentence:

1) A behavior
2) A stimulus
3) The maintenance or increase of the frequency of a behavior

I'll use this as a working example:

(A) The dog enters the room
(B) The bird screams
(C) The dog barks

If, in this example, the screaming behavior is maintained or increased, it is being reinforced by the stimulus of the dog barking.

A standard response of ignoring undesirable behavior in our birds is, at best, a stab in the dark toward changing it. It will be ineffective unless our response of ignoring is replacing something we were previously doing that was in fact the stimulus responsible for maintaining or increasing the frequency of the behavior.

Therein lies the importance of identifying what stimulus is in play.

It begins with a concept called a
functional analysis of behavior.

Again quoting from the Good Bird, Inc. website of behavior terminology:

Behavior Analysis: The science of behavior change; the study of the functional relations between behavior and environmental events. It attempts to understand, explain, describe and predict behavior. In many ways it is a study of how animals learn. (Emphasis added)

A functional analysis has 3 elements (A, B and C):

(A) The dog enters the room
A - stands for 'Antecedent' - that is, what takes place before the behavior occurs.

(B) The bird screams
B - stands for the identified 'Behavior'

(C) The dog barks
C - stands for 'Consequence' - that is, what occurs after the behavior takes place.

There it is - where it all begins - the ABC's!

It is straightforward, but not necessarily
simple, as we strive to objectively identify the 3 elements, absent our own emotion or assigning human emotion to our birds.

For example, "I don't know - my bird just hates me!" would not qualify as an antecedent.

I pause for a moment to refer back to a previous post on
The Changeability of Reinforcers. We know that a stimulus (reinforcer) that serves to maintain or increase the frequency of the behavior can be:



In identifying reinforcers, it is important to bear in mind these factors.


In the example we are using, the consequence of the dog barking is serving to maintain or increase the bird's screaming behavior. It is clear to see that leaving the room, even going to a different country, would have no effect on the stimulus. That is, unless we took the dog with us!

(However, if the dog did not enter the room - thus changing what took place before the behavior (the antecedent) - that would also likely have an effect on the bird's behavior. Perhaps more on that in a different post!)

When might 'ignoring' have an effect on behavior? Let's look at a different scenario:

(A) The dog barks
(B) The bird screams
(C) The human yells at the bird to be quiet.

If, in this example, the screaming behavior is maintained or increased, it is being reinforced by the stimulus of the human yelling.
However, if we chose not to respond, would it be 'ignoring' that had an affect on the bird's behavior, or ceasing to provide the stimulus of yelling?! A distinction with a difference!

So before we consider ignoring as a standard response to undesirable behavior, it is important to take a moment to identify the:

(A) The Antecedent
What takes place before the behavior

(B) The Behavior

(C) The Consequence
What takes place after the behavior

Positive Reinforcement
: The presentation of a stimulus following a behavior that serves to maintain or increase the frequency of the behavior.

Changing a behavior begins with a functional analysis, including identifying the stimulus following the behavior that serves to maintain or increase its frequency.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

I Notice Things

I just wanted to go on record - that I notice things. (Especially in this position where all the blood rushes to my head and my intelligence level increases by the second. It is much more effective than ginko biloba.)

I notice that in the 3 new signature pieces that my mom has... I am only featured in one!

So - I've made an important life time decision. (And, yet - it does not involve food or rawhides! I know - shocking!)

My mom is leaving for a trip to celebrate her nephew's nuptials this coming week. By the way, 'nuptials' is another word for 'wedding'. I learned that when my dad stuffed me in the crate on Friday while he left to have the brakes done and oil changed in preparation for the road trip - and I was watching
Friday's episode of The Young and the Restless.

In other words, he got to go out into public where there are all sorts of people who wanted to rub my belly... I was lingering in an over-sized doggie den with the tv instead of belly-rubbers.

(I also learned that none of the people on the afternoon soap operas have dogs. Can anyone explain that one to me? I didn't think so!)

So, back to my point - since I am only featured in one of the 3 signature pieces (see below), I've decided that I will be going to visit Arlene during the wedding week. Arlene no doubt can show me how to use Photoshop?! Yes, I'm thinking she can.

And - she probably has a dog biscuit or two in her cupboard? If not - head's up Arlene - the stores are open late on the weekends! (Don't forget - I love snau'sages!)


Friday, August 7, 2009

Millejuana for Bucky and Strider!

The boys are doing so fabulous!

Several times all 3 have been willing to sit on my hand and take treats. I present the opportunity at least once a day.

Below is a video - this one is Strider and Bucky. I think you will agree that Bucky is making fabulous progress! I'm so proud of them how they are enjoying one another's company and getting along famously.

And, they do love their millet...

Which I have renamed to: Millejuana!


Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Talent I Don't Have!

I just had to take today's post to showcase a most wonderful lady and her amazing talent! (By the way - she is Nicky and Rosie's mom - see the Friend's Slide Show at the bottom of this blog page for pictures of them!)

Talk about creativity! Wow! Naturally, I wanted to share them with all my friends!

I really appreciate the time and effort you put into creating these for me!

Each is so unique - I love them all!

Thanks, Arlene for these most wonderful signature pieces! Awesome!


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Body Language On Video

Observing, correctly interpreting and appropriately responding to my birds' body language plays an important role in my relationship with them. In reality, I find it to be one of the most fascinating aspects as well!

Since a picture is worth a thousand words as they say, I wanted to take a moment to point out the body language demonstration Coco provided during yesterday's video. (I've placed the video at the bottom of this post as well to make it easy to access.)

In particular, I want to draw attention to a specific 5 second segment of the 4 minute video. This occurs during the time when you hear me say that she is 'interested' in the camera (in other words, to my eye, she was expressing some signs of being unsure around the camera and the general situation).

Why did I make that statement? What did I see? It is easy to say "watch your bird's body language", but what does that mean, and what does it look like?

We all see the more obvious - pinning eyes, flapping wings, poofed heads, a bird flying away or moving away, but what are some aspects of body language that might not be less obvious, perhaps more subtle, and possibly easier to overlook?

The Diva comes to the rescue by providing an excellent example of some of her unique subtle body language in the video below. Subtle is a subjective term, and to me, what is seen on this video is anything but subtle. Perhaps because I know her. But I will use the term subtle only in comparison to some of the more bold examples of body language that a bird might display.

When the video begins, the time displayed is 3:53 and it counts down to 0.00.

The 5 second segment I want to focus on begins at approximately 3:20, peaks around 3:18, and is over by 3:15.

Now, we're talking 5 seconds, and the most obvious part of her body language actually lasts less than 2 seconds. However, there is a great deal of information being transmitted in those fractions of seconds.

Had I ignored that body language and moved closer to her with the camera, we would have seen a completely different display of body language.

I see that her body becomes uncomfortably stiff.

Her left shoulder moves back and away from me.
Her entire body turns ever so slightly away from me.
Simultaneously, she lifts her right shoulder slightly.
Her head moves to the side, back and away from me.

It is perhaps not too dissimilar to what we might imagine in a human saying, ""Whoaaaa, Nelly - hold on there a minute!"

Upon the crinkling of the muffin paper, her body language drastically, and instantly changes.

This sets into motion an entirely different dynamic and brings about a new set of body language examples:

She leans forward toward me.
She lifts her foot signaling that she wants a treat.
She realigns her body to face me more directly.

Fascinating - for sure!


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Muffin Papers All Around!

Those summer veggies I mentioned in a previous post have been making their way into an evening dinner bowl for Coco! Today's menu:

Yellow Squash
Banana Pepper

A Tablespoon of:

Blended With:
A Dash of Hemp Seed Oil

She finished nearly all I gave her! She does not consume large amounts of anything at one time, and I'm guessing today's dinner was approximately 3 tablespoons.

I suppose the neighbor's freshly picked, organically grown veggies are nearly the best I can get unless I grew them myself! As I have mentioned before, I have a fabulous, huge organic grocery store nearby, complete with bookstore and restaurant (larger than most average grocery stores) - Earth Fare.

Presentation does seem to make a difference with Coco, and preferences do seem to vary from time to time. Recently, 'diced' seems to be 'in'. So I have been using one of my favorite kitchen tools (the 'Chop'pah) - a little hand chopper that is fabulously quick and easy. A few days ago I mushed a small amount of fresh banana in her veggies, and I think she was especially appreciative! Banana is a big hit on her list, and a special treat. I like to think peppers add a nice 'zip' to any veggie mixture, held together by small amounts of hemp seed oil (a rich, balanced source of omega fatty acids). And, there are so many different types of peppers available.

I try to make each fresh meal slightly different. A small amount of crushed nuts, a bite of banana, or a dash of natural yogurt can make a refreshing difference. The ways to make a meal unique are endless.
Variety provides interest as well as different micro nutrients.

This is what a mom wants to see - a nearly empty bowl!

Some days we sit on the floor together as I join her for the meal, or she may receive a small, prize piece of banana that was frozen on a "popsicle" stick and then thawed prior to serving, or muffin paper treats. Once the nuts are eaten, the paper continues to provide some fun!

And now...

Coco demonstrates how to eat a 'muffin paper treat'!