For the Love of Birds or an Excuse for a Nap?

Feeling energized to get a jump on yard work, I set out before lunch to do some raking around our plantings under the deck. Seconds out the door, I heard a flurry of fluttering. My eyes immediately followed the fluttery mass towards the top of the closest tree. While the birds silently looked on, I scoped the area to see what the fuss was all about. I’m confident that it was all about this:

New Bird Nest Under Deck

Under Construction

 That little ledge isn’t exactly well hidden from (my) prying eyes but it does seem inconvenient for things with talons or grabby paws. Considering that it is only about three second’s flying time from the feeders on the deck, I can understand why they picked this spot.

I wanted to check yard work off my to-do list but I also didn’t want to discourage the builders from coming back, so I made quick work of cleanup from around just a few shrubs. While I tidied up, I found a bunch of feathers buried under leaves that I set aside in a small pile close to the nest. Literally, an early house warming gift:

feathers in the yard

I hope our guests will be pleased with this assortment. 

Since it’s the birds’ world and I’m just living in it, I wrapped up my task much sooner than planned. As far as I’m concerned, any wild birds that survived The Winter of 2013-2014 get to do whatever they want, whenever they want to do it.

And so just like the birds, it only took seconds for me to decide that I should flutter back to bed for a leisurely read and an afternoon nap.

Dishpan Talons

It finally dawned on me why the birds dart away more often than not when I start to wash dishes at the sink.

dish gloves make hands look like talons

No dishpan talons for me!

I am so sorry, little friends! It never occurred to me that it must be confusing that the same nice lady who provides you with a bounty of seed and fresh water also employs a beast of a bird with claws of death that hover about the window from time to time, just waiting to wash a dish and make a kill.

These gloves are bad for business. Predator-free dining is a Seed n’ Feed guarantee.

I have since switched to a nice lavender-hued set of gloves. At worst it may seem that we now have a Blue-Footed Booby tending to dishes, but fear not! They primarily eat fish and don’t live anywhere near here.

Arden Refreshing Seed and Water Winter

Yes, we’re open!

Birds in Their Holiday Finery

What makes a bird lover’s holiday merry and bright? Why, feathered friends conveniently cloaked in colors befitting of the season of course! Surely these winged lovelies could coax even the most obstinate scrooge into chirping out a holiday tune or two: 

Australian King Parrot
Santa honey, there’s one more thing I really do need…the seed.  

543945045_35435391df_z King Parrot Prescott PymPhoto by: Prescott Pym

Red Crested Turaco
Red Crested Turacos were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of snail snacks danced in their heads.5744224495_aeb32a78f3_z Red Crested Turaco Anne White

Photo by: Anne White

Bay Headed Tanager
O Bay Headed Tanager, O Bay Headed Tanager!
How are thy feathers so verdant!

8767703589_f1c00b2ab5_z Bay Headed Tanager JPC Raleigh

Photo by: JPC Raleigh

Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Nectar came without ribbons!… it came without tags!… it came without packages, boxes, or bags!4602880799_94e7892aa6_z Broad Tailed Hummingbird Pat Gaines

Photo by: Pat Gaines

Chattering Lory
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the forest
Not a creature was stirring, not even a Chattering Lory 

8336185855_f79fbfdbc3_z Chattering Lory Salis

Photo by: Salis

All photos are Creative Commons-licensed content for noncommercial use requiring attribution from Flickr.

Reptiles Tip the Scales (A Feather-Free Post)

Earlier this month, the wildlife rehabilitation center held its 2nd annual Wild about Wildlife fundraiser. As a not-for-profit organization, the center requires support and donations from the public in order to “keep the lights on.” More than just keeping the lights on, it costs money to have extra staff on hand through the busy season, not to mention year-round supplies and medication. Money received from fundraisers, education programs, and general donations are critical to on-going wildlife care.

Arden WAW Fundraiser 2013

Yours truly sharing information at the information desk.

There were a number of generous sponsors of the event as well as several vendors and organizations that contributed to a fun-filled and informative afternoon. Our wildlife rehabilitation center was joined by:

Aside from turtles, I’m not much of a reptile gal, so I asked our center’s director Ashley about the Jim Nesci show. She told me she had been to one of his shows several years ago and found it really fun and exciting.

Fun? Exciting?? Reptiles??? Hmph.

A man with an alligator walks in to a room…

Once Jim arrived, he started to bring his creatures around the side of the building. He got some assistance moving many yet-to-be-identified guests into the presentation room in addition to his alligator “Bubba ” (the sequel). Joel, who loved alligators as a tot, was one of the guys who helped grab a handle to carry the gator. Now if anyone ever compares the weight of something to an adult alligator, he’ll know exactly what they’re talking about! This is just one of the super-cool benefits about being a volunteer – or even the spouse of a volunteer! You NEVER know what you might closely encounter!

Jim quickly gained the attention of everyone in the room and built our anticipation for the show. The kids immediately became so excited they could barely stay in their seats. After general introductions about Jim and his Cold Blooded Creatures club (90% of club members are rescues), Jim brought out the first guest, a big beautiful African Spurred tortoise named Tank. Tank, which was bred in captivity, crawled around the carpet while the kids crawled around him. A few lucky little ones even got to go for a tortoise ride. A few of us big kids couldn’t help but reach out to touch his shell and legs, too. Tank didn’t mind any of the attention one bit.

African Spurred tortoise_Tank_Jim Nesci

Next up on the reptile runway show was Godzilla, a black throat monitor lizard.  A very enthusiastic young lady in the front row was picked to pose with the native Tanzanian reptile.

black throat monitor lizard_Godzilla_Jim Nesci

Here is Lucky, a North American Alligator, that was acquired after having been discovered in a water sewage treatment plant. A few lucky audience members got to hold the “little” gator.

North American Alligator_Lucky_Jim Nesci

I don’t know if blondes have more fun, but I know that Blondie, an Albino Burmese Python, had no issues with being lifted up by three strong men and stretched out to be held by about 20 eager little arms.

Albino Burmese Python_Blondie_Jim Nesci

Much more than just show and tell, Jim consistently enforced messages of education and responsibility with these creatures – for both of our sakes.

I DARE You to Make Me Like You, Gator

I’ve never been particularly fond of alligators. During nature shows, I grimace and huff in disapproval when I see them snatch poor, unsuspecting animals that are just trying to get a drink of water. Alligators just seem so unfeeling and brutish.

Jim and Bubba taught me a thing or two and have given me a new perspective.

Jim opened up the bag that contained Bubba and instructed him to back out. Just like that, Bubba backed out. So there we all were: big humans, little humans, a regulation-sized alligator, and a smattering of prey birds looking on like “Oh this is gonna be good…”

Alligator in Reverse_Bubba_Jim Nesci

Jim told us all about the original Bubba and his successor that lay before us. Through facts and tales we learned about a mother gator’s nurturing qualities and more about a gator’s respectable IQ. Among a few stories, Jim told us about how his own Bubba would first determine his gator-lady friend’s mood and then approach her accordingly. (That’s an intelligent species in my book!) We also learned that alligators have remarkable immune systems that can be used for study to help humans.

Unbelievably, Bubba operated like he was being remote controlled when Jim asked him to stand, walk, and lay down. It broke my heart to hear Jim tell stories about how people at his shows have hit, poked, and kicked Bubba. These were not life-saving measures, just humans taking an opportunity to be cruel to a living creature that was doing no harm. What did Bubba do in response to the abuse? Nothing.

Alligator_Bubba_Jim Nesci

You got me, gator. Forget about just liking you, I respect you.

Please be a champion of responsible animal care and support your local animal rehabbers, rescuers and shelters. Keep them in mind during the holidays when you consider donations to charitable organizations. These people work HARD at giving animals, that are often impacted by humans, a second chance.

Bird Crushing On: American Goldfinch

Once I start my regular volunteer shifts at the wildlife rehabilitation center, my Saturdays get rather birdy which is exactly how I like it. While I’ve had a lot of fun this year caring for many feathered friends, I have to say that my crush for the season must go to the American Goldfinch. The center received a few nestling goldfinch in August and September, well after the usual rush of little ones that check in for care and a second chance. I recently learned that their breeding season is later than most other North American birds because it is the time of the season when fibrous seeds, used for feeding young, are produced from plants like thistle and milkweed.

I’ve always thought that goldfinch are as pretty and fun to watch as most other birds at our feeders, but now that I’ve been able to care for some little ones, I’ve fallen hopelessly beak over talons for these squeaky little golden nuggets.

female American Goldfinch nestling orphan

Orphaned young female American Goldfinch nestling.

As this one female goldfinch started to learn to feed herself and was getting weaned off of hand-feeding, I discovered that she liked the food placed upon branches. She would gape like she wanted to be fed, but would then back away, like her instincts were kicking in at the same time, telling her that she should be feeding herself. Following her lead, I would place little bits of food on the branch. I’m not a bird expert, but judging by her reaction, food that would magically appear on a branch just millimeters from her beak seemed to go over exceptionally well.

female American Goldfinch fledgling orphan

Eating on her own and perching pretty!

I’m simply delighted that this sweet little bird, the only survivor from a fallen nest, was recently released.

There is a sibling trio of orphaned goldfinch that will be ready for release soon as well. Like any other group of siblings, this bird bunch has squabbled, jumped on each other, fought over food, knocked each other over, chatted about who-knows-what, learned from one another, and become bothered when temporarily separated.

American Goldfinch sibling orphans

Thick as thieves.

As the trees start to display their autumn colors, as falling temperatures coax us in to fuzzy sweatshirts, and as marketers wheedle us in to purchasing pumpkin-inspired everything, I find that my eye has perhaps wandered a bit here and there towards a devilishly handsome crow that is recovering from a wing injury. Is this popular symbol of the season already vying for position as my new corvid crush?

A 30 Year Old Dream Comes True

As many times as I stared into those cool blue peepers on paper, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think they would stare back at me. 

It was the end of my birthday weekend extravaganza, and Joel and I were finishing up dinner at a restaurant. I spent the past few days doing exactly what I wanted to do and I had more fun than I could have imagined. I was in a fantastic mood.

That’s where this story begins.

Towards the end of dinner, Joel said that there was one other thing he had in mind for my birthday but wanted to ask me about first before buying tickets since it was music-related. Ahhh…he knows me well; I’m not much for plays or musicals. “What’s that?” I asked, intrigued by where this was going. “Well, it’s a concert with a meet and greet after the show.” At that point I just didn’t know what to think. I started to assume that it was likely someone he wanted to meet and hoped I’d be his +1. “He’s English,” Hmmm. I started to wonder which English singer he likes. “Some guy named Adam…”

I froze.

“Ant” he finished.

I burst into tears right there at the table.

“Had I known this would be your reaction, I would have told you sooner!”

Adam Ant Flair 1984 and in 2009

On left: Displaying Ant pride with button flair on class picture day in 1984.
On right: Displaying Ant pride in a concert tee on grocery shopping day in 2009.

I had two months to consider my meet and greet strategy. A few times while thinking about scenarios of how our brief encounter would play out, my side of the conversation would go from charming and delightful to adoring which turned into desperation, until I had finally reduced myself into a sniveling mess of tears and panic. I called Joel a few times to say I couldn’t do this; it was stressing me out too much.

Arden Leather Pants Chanukah 2

I was the only kid at school who wanted leather pants for Chanukah so that I too could look like a Dandy Highwayman.

I was 10 years old when I first watched his “Stand and Deliver” video on MTV. I remember bursting in to tears at the end of the video and deciding immediately that I must have an Adam Ant poster. In desperation, a poster was created that evening (probably well past my bedtime) using poster board and markers. They were the moments that I’d become a fanatic for many years.

Adam Ant Barbie Doll

I had quite the eye for detail, hmmm? This is the work of a twitterpated tween. Bite marks on the arm were from the dog. 

Every feeling I was experiencing in the present was the culmination of all those tween years worth of wishing, hoping, praying, and wondering if I’d ever get the chance to meet him. It was a dream that just slowly faded over time.

Wall of Adam Ant

Wall decor and accessories courtesy of Teen Beat, Bop, and The Alley at Woodfield Mall (Schaumburg, IL) procured in the ’80s.

There was already a small line formed outside the venue when we arrived. I couldn’t help but bounce and clap from my spot in line every few minutes from the sheer excitement. I looked like a grown-up but I was a kid again inside. Once we were let in, we found a spot just three people deep from the front of the stage. We were sure to get a great view and hopefully some direct eye contact.

Below are some pictures from the The Blueblack Hussar Tour concert in Chicago on August 1st. Adam Ant and his band did not disappoint. They gave it everything they had for two hours. They played new songs as well as many retro classics that had all of us singing loud and proud right along with him. It was an excellent concert and we all had a fANTastic time! I hope he comes to town again; I’d attend another concert in a heartbeat.

Adam Ant Concert 2 Adam Ant Concert 1

After Adam was situated for the meet and greet, I watched other fans go one by one up to meet him and get autographs. I felt an odd sense of calm right before it was my turn. It was going to be OK. I was going to be OK.

I was not OK. When I started to walk towards him to say hello, I didn’t realize I had my shaky hands covering my mouth as I started to mumble unintelligibly, so he leaned in to say he couldn’t hear me. It did somewhat work out in my favor, however, because I got an extra hug and a soft “there there.” Now, I can personally vouch for the gentleman’s comforting skills, too.

Arden at Adam Ant Meet and Greet

On left: This is what I look like trying to smile while in a state of shock.  

As he started to give me his autograph on what I had to sign (the new ticket stub, a 1984 ticket stub, and a photo of me in front of my Adam Ant posters) I thanked him for everything he has given to his fans through the years. It would have been great had I stopped there, but I think what I was saying sounded good in my head so I just kept going. And going. My nervous energy was unstoppable and I’d have loved to hear his thoughts but I never gave him the chance. I did, however, also mention that it was not a coincidence that I had the poster lined up “just so” and had likely kissed a hole right through the paper. That garnered a super-sweet smile in response.

Joel’s portion of the meet and greet is simply a blur to me, but he later filled me in on telling Adam that I would not be the person I am today had it not been for his influence through my formative years.

I left the building with the feeling of disbelief and the scent of his cologne in my hair. Isn’t it funny how someone you hardly know except for what you listen to and read about can be so influential? How impactful it can be to be seen and acknowledged by someone who really strikes your fancy?

I find myself as intrigued by Adam Ant now as I was back then. In the past, I was quite captivated by his visually pleasing features, the full regalia, and lyrics that were a bit too mature for me. Now, I completely admire his candor about his personal life and his efforts in moving forward in his career. He has taught us once again that “ridicule is nothing to be scared of.” 

Arden 1983 Adam Ant Posters

I wish I could go back in time and tell myself, “Hang on kid, it will happen. It WILL happen. Just give it a few decades.”

Adventures in Aging Canine Physical Rehabilitation

Our sassy little senior has swagger! Unfortunately a bit too much swagger…

We noticed that Peanut had a slightly awkward gait shortly after she joined our family when she was just two years old. As a pup, it made her more impossibly precious. Now? Not so much. The misalignment has progressed over time and has caused a number of issues with her shoulder and wrist, so we’ve been back to the drawing board several times in attempts to address the problems. We finally found a regimen that seems to be working well for us that includes a combination of in-office visits and home exercises.

Seeking Treatment

Through the years, we’ve gotten a number of consultations and tried a few different treatments. An animal neurologist suggested that it could be a neurologic disease or tumor, and the only way to know for sure would be an MRI. Since the problem had been getting slowly worse through the years, we decided it was likely not cancer and opted to not put her through the MRI procedure.

We gave acupuncture an honest effort but all Peanut did was fuss and nip at the doctor, hardly the “most dogs fall asleep” experience that I had been told was the norm. We didn’t really notice any changes with the chiropractic care to warrant repeated visits either. (We are, however, getting good results from chiropractic adjustments to address hindquarter instability.)

Watching the problem slowly but surely progress, I sought out local rehabilitation centers to see what, if any, treatments might help out our little buddy. While there were a few different treatments to choose from, we decided to first go with K-Laser therapy. The goal is to reduce symptoms of pain and immobility by promoting circulation and decreasing inflammation. During the treatments, the technician repeatedly stroked the laser wand over the affected areas. For Peanut, this was her hips, knees, lower back, and wrists.

While it was not a miraculous turnaround, I did notice some improvement which was encouraging.

Peanut getting laser treatments

Here Peanut is receiving laser therapy. The treatments don’t hurt at all, it’s just that mummy’s little lamb chop sometimes gets a bit nippy. 

After completing the recommended dosing of laser therapy, we switched to Alpha-Stim treatments coupled with water therapy. We were told that neurological issues were generally more responsive to this method, so this different approach would allow us to observe whether or not one method was better than the other for treating Peanut’s issues. We did not observe any noticeable results at all however, so we stopped after three treatments.

Peanut on the underwater treadmill

The Six Million Dollar Pug: Better than she was before. Better… stronger… faster.

We have since switched back to laser treatments twice a month coupled with monthly chiropractic adjustments as well as daily at-home exercises. Because I have seen noticeable results from the laser and the adjustments, I think it is worth the effort to continue treatments. I’m all for diet, exercise, and medication alternatives whenever possible, especially when medications have serious side effects.

At Home Exercise

The canine physical therapist gave us a series of daily exercises to perform at home to help strengthen her weak spots. We were met with some resistance when we tried to recreate the setup. Seeing as “Good girl!” is not nearly enough of an impetus to obey our commands, we learned that to get cooperation, we had to pay the pugnacious pug price: popcorn.

Daily step-overs (or what has become gallop-overs) to force Peanut to deliberately coordinate the lifting and lowering of the legs. We needed some type of long pole to lay on the floor for her. We just happened to have a whole bunch of snow brushes that fit the bill, so that is our completely sane and reasonable explanation as to why there are four snow brushes lined up on the floor of a carpeted storage closet. If we don’t do this exercise by noon, she will remind me that she needs therapy (read: popcorn).

Peanut step over exercises

Peanut’s rating: 4 popcorns

All I have to do is walk over some poles for popcorn? Ha HA! Suckers! I could do this all day!

Figure Eights Another exercise designed to help the deliberate coordination of movement and force her to put more weight on her bad side to build up strength.

Peanut figure eight exercises

Peanut’s rating: 2 popcorns

I don’t understand this one. Walking around in circles? Can I just have the popcorn?

Treat Ball Knocking the treats out of the ball with her paws is great for coordination as well as general stimulation.

Peanut with treat ball

Peanut’s rating: 3 popcorns

Knocking treats out of the ball is awesome until that last one that never seems to want to come out. I’m going to stop and stare at it now until you help me get it.

Stability Using a half-inflated yoga ball, this exercise intends to make Peanut use her entire body to stay balanced. We do most of the work holding her up and we only get a minute’s worth of balancing at best but it is still a good addition to the regimen.

Peanut on the yoga ball

Peanut’s rating: half kernel

Meh. Giving this half a kernel is generous. This one’s just weird. 

As an added benefit, these exercises and activities seem to do as much for her mentally as they do physically.

Thank you to Carol, Dr. Becky, and Erin from Canine Physical Rehab and to Dr. Erin O’Connor of Vitality Chiropractic for helping us keep our pug in good repair.

Next on the list to troubleshoot is loss of hearing! I have already started teaching her sign language. Our very first sign that took no time at all to learn? BONE!