Thursday, February 24, 2011

Piper Lays an Egg

Here's the egg Piper laid last night, and over
there are the 4 eggs she laid in January,
along with the half-tissue box I thought
she would like to sit in, all pushed over
to the opposite side of the cage.

If she follows her past pattern, Piper will
lay her next egg about 48 hours after the
first, and will continue this way until she
has 4 eggs. She'll sit on the eggs almost
constantly for the next 6 to 8 weeks,
coming out only to stretch her wings,
gobble a fast bite, dive-bomb and
otherwise harass little Mr. B, and
receive some head-scratching.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Piper, Again

Hi Ellen,

Yes, we've done that with the fake eggs, leaving her own eggs in there from the previous bouts of laying, not leaving them there, and so on.

This time around, I left the 4 eggs in there from her last clutch, and she pushed them to the side.

She has also pushed the box out of the corner to the other side, which I think is a good sign. She sits in the corner making peeping sounds for awhile each day and gets upset when we come near while she's sitting there, so maybe she's making some progress. Here she is, sitting in her corner, scolding me for trying to take the photo.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Mada's friend finally has a name: Bitsy. Because she (or he---we don't really know yet) is really a teensy tiny, itsy bitsy, little bird, compared to Mada. She even seems small compared to the cockatiels.

She hasn't willingly let us touch her yet, hasn't taken food from our hands, hasn't stepped up onto our fingers. But she has stopped flinching/flying/flopping to the opposite side of her cage whenever we walk by. (Unless we're carrying something, which means I've changed my laundry routine.)

Here's what we think about her: She's almost 1 year old, and she has spent the past 8 months of her life in a cage in a pet store, with only one side open to the "world" (the store). The other 3 sides are blank white walls, with the back wall opening up so employees can reach in to clean her cage.

I've seen them reach in and spray some chemical cleaning spray (which isn't good for humans and I think are even worse for birds) and wipe around with a white rag, never even talking or making soothing noises to the bird, change the food and water dishes, then shut the door. Or reach in to grab her with a towel, none too gently, so they can cut her wings or toenails or some customer can get a better look at her.

So she got used to entertaining herself, climbing and playing on her ladder toy, the one toy she had in there. And she regarded any interaction with humans (besides the people like us talking to her from the front of the cage) as scary and painful. No wonder she's scared. No wonder it's taking a long time for her to feel safe.

Now, though, safe in our home, she hangs up-side-down in her cage, plays with her ladder toy, climbs around, checks out the other toys, eats and drinks, plays some more, hangs up-side-down again.

And she watches us constantly. Watches us walk, watches every move we make as we change her water and give her fresh food.

She watches us kiss Mada and talk to him. Watches him talking to us, stepping up when we say, "Step up," climbing around on the outside of his cage and eating from our hands, playing games with us, and stepping back down on his perch inside his cage when we say, "Step down."

At night, she goes into her little green cuddly thing, with about 3 inches of tail sticking out. In the morning, she's up, screeching (oh yeah, the typical conure sound but very thin and high pitched, so screeching, not squawking, is the word for it) with the other birds. "I know you're awake, I can hear you, I'm hungry, feed me, now!"

Welcome home, Bitsy, and we're sure you'll eventually do more than just tolerate us. You'll see that we really do love you, and you can trust us.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Piper has been laying eggs throughout every spring and summer for a few years now. (Cockatiel hens are like domestic chickens in being able to lay eggs without having a mate.)

This year she started even earlier than usual and had already laid her first set of 4 eggs by the end of January.

But then we moved her cage---in fact, moved all the birds' cages to new locations---and she hasn't been able to lay eggs since then.

We're not that crazy about having her lay eggs, anyway, because every egg she lays depletes her body of calcium and phosphorus, and we can see by how she goes into the other birds' cages whenever she can to try to eat their poop off the bottom of their cages that she feels the need for those minerals.

(In case you're wondering, we DO feed her a super healthy diet, plus grit every day, and mineral cakes and bars in her cage.)

But it's HER biological clock, isn't it. And she's driven to do this.

For the past two weeks she has been trying all kinds of ways to get her cage ready for the next set of eggs, and I've been helping her. I've moved various boxes in and out, set up cloths around the boxes so she'll feel safe, let her try another cage, let her try a box next to the outside of her cage, and so on. I've done this so many times that I've lost count. In the past two days, I've rearranged everything 6 times. This morning I moved her cage to another new location and tried two more boxes if different sizes in her corner.

And finally she seemed content. For about 15 minutes. She stayed there, chewing at the top of the cut-off Kleenex box I'd put in the corner which I'd enclosed with dark fabrics, and settling her rear end into place. And then she climbed out and chirped for me again.

So I rearranged everything again. I wonder how long it will take for her to feel okay here. Maybe it's because it's a long weekend and I've been home most of the time. Maybe tomorrow when I leave early in the morning and don't get home until way late, she'll realize that she can be happy. Or maybe not. We'll see.

Here she is a few minutes ago, waiting on top of her cage for me to figure out what to do next.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Some Books I've Enjoyed This Week

First, Thanks to Laura for mentioning "The Mozart Season," by Virginia Euwer Wolff.

Laura, the day I called you to ask the name and author again, the bookstore didn't have the book, so I ordered it from I finished reading it yesterday, and I really enjoyed it. I'm recommending it to everyone now.

(I tried to post a comment on your blog about this, but couldn't make it work.)

I see that Ms. Wolff has written several books. Have you (Laura or anyone) read any of the others, and, if so, do you recommend them?

Next, whether you love horses or are kinda scared of them (like me---come on, they're huge, and they have really big teeth) or don't care one way or another about horses, I think you'll like this book: "Chosen by a Horse," by Susan Richards.

It's about a horse called Lay Me Down, who chose the author when she volunteered to adopt a horse from among 40 horses rescued by an animal humane organization from an abusive owner. Really: while Ms. Richards was trying to find the horse she'd been assigned to take, Lay Me Down trotted up the ramp into her trailer, with her newborn foal following close behind. Ms. Richards was saved in turn by Lay Me Down.

It's not as sappy as I may have made it sound, though it did bring me to tears. Read it!

Susan Richards has also written "Chosen Forever," which I'm reading now, and "
Saddled: How a Spirited Horse Reined Me in and Set Me Free," which I'll read next.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Off, Wisconsin

It's tough to watch the people of Libya and Bahrain being tear-gassed and shot at for demonstrating for human rights and freedoms that we in the U.S. have taken for granted for hundreds of years.

And tougher to watch the people of Wisconsin under threat of similar violence for fighting to keep those same rights.

The governor of Wisconsin has declared war on the public employees of his state.

He wants to cut their health and retirement benefits, cut off their bargaining rights, and is now threatening to send in the National Guard.

Shades of Colonel Qaddafi!

And our U.S. Congress, spurred on by the Tea Party (whose members appear, from the news clips I've seen, to be a bunch of retirees with too much time on their hands who are benefiting from Medicare and Medicaid which our tax dollars are paying for), is now talking about furloughing federal employees and cutting their benefits which they have worked so hard for.

I have some news for Gov. Scott Walker, Rep. John Boehner, et al:

State, municipal, and federal employees are taxpayers, too. And voters.

And I have a suggestion for you:

Why don't you furlough YOURSELVES! Take a break from all this so-called governing, which is making fools of you.

Because I want to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave, a land where we honor commitments we made in the past to our own people, with elected officials who aren't so desperate for sound bites and future jobs with lobbying firms that they'll sell away the future of their own people. Shame on them, and shame on us if we let them get away with it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Latest amphibian surveys

I've copied these from my Globber blog because not everyone who reads this blog knows about that one. I'm having such a great time going out hunting for frog and salamander eggs, I can't tell you!

Saturday, February 12, 2011:

First survey of the year at the Costco retention pond in North Vancouver: Lots of cattails, lots of evidence of beavers working here, and limited visibility in the tea-colored water.

Then Jack and I surveyed at a ditch behind some buildings in a nearby industrial area. We saw lots of egg masses, and Jack caught this adult chorus frog. He held it long enough for me to take some photos, then let it hop back to the edge of the ditch.

On Tuesday, February 15, Ann and Jack and George and I surveyed in the Burnt Bridge Creek restoration area near Andresen and 18th in Vancouver. It was raining steadily when we started: a great day for ducks and frogs...and us.

At last, in the third pond, we found one egg mass of red-legged frogs:

Ann and Jack held their "frog wands" under the egg mass so I could take a better photo. You can see that these eggs are not freshly laid; they're that crescent shape that indicates it won't be too long before they hatch.
We also saw this bullfrog tadpole.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Surprise! Snow in February

I know, it's SUPPOSED to snow in February, but still it caught me off guard this morning.

Meanwhile, inside, Birdley and Piper are not at all bothered by the snow:

Monday, February 14, 2011

How We're Spending St. Valentine's Day

Jason is in his study, using a graphics program to fix up some figures for me.

I am in my study, working on the document into which those figures will be re-inserted.

I'm wearing the lovely necklace Jason gave me this morning (which I bought from a couple of weeks ago and gave to him to give me this morning).

In a little while, I'll use the electric hair clippers I gave Jason (which I bought at a discount store a couple of weeks ago and hid so well that I couldn't find them before he left for work this morning) to give him a haircut.

Then we'll watch The Daily Show, give the birds a few goodnight air-kisses, and tuck ourselves in early because tomorrow we both have to get up early: he has to go to work, and I get to go looking for amphibian egg masses again.

Friday, February 11, 2011


11 February 2011

So, the Egyptian Army has taken over as Hosni Mubarak steps down.

The protesters are glad, because it seems like anything and anyone would be better than Mubarak's oppressive rule of the past 30 years.

I'm glad for them, even though the dictatorship has been replaced by a military coup, because it looks like these protesters have the commitment, the staying power (I mean, they stuck it out in Tahrir Square for 18 days!), and the smarts to get through the next weeks and months to being able to form a real democratic government.

And I hope the U.S.---my country and I love it, but---will keep its nose out and let the Egyptian people go through this themselves.

They're the ones who know what they need, and the process and the struggle are what will make them strong.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Madame L Is IN

She thinks she knows everything, and she certainly has an answer for everything!

So check out her blog: Madame L Answers All.

Feel free to ask questions in the Comments box or by e-mailing her at

She may be slow in answering, as she's a very busy lady, but she promises to give you the benefit of her vast knowledge and wisdom by answering questions as soon as possible.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Frogs and Newts

Tuesday was a long day. I left the house shortly before 6:00 in the morning, carrying a plastic container of Jeff's special vegetable eggs for breakfast.
After I did my errands on campus, I put gas in the car and met Laura and Jack at the Salmon Creek Safeway.
Laura apologized for being "so OCD" that she had printed out maps and directions for every one of the ponds and swamps we were going to visit that day. May I please say to all my "so OCD" friends, "Stop apologizing! You make it so much easier for the rest of us!"

So we drove north to Longview, Washington. We bypassed the main part of the town and took SR 432, which would have taken us to the beach, but we didn't want to see the beach. We wanted to see frogs.

We found the town of Stella, Washington, even though it wasn't on Laura's GPS unit, because Jack knew the way and Tom had given us some really good directions. Sure enough, there was the historical society on Stella Road, and then we came to Germany Creek Road.

Tom led us to the ponds on Columbia Land Trust property, where we found approximately zero frog eggs. (Tom is a steward of the Trust's property in the area, and he had us sign permission forms before we could enter the property.)

Tom assured us that he and his crew of four members of the Lower Columbia College Science Club had found "more than zero" frog egg masses at the next set of ponds, on another piece of Columbia Land Trust property. These were some interconnected beaver ponds that the beavers had abandoned some years ago.

And there were indeed more than zero frog egg masses there. We found 99 egg masses, mostly laid by Northern red-legged frogs. Tom held the white yogurt-container lid on the end of his "frog wand" behind this egg mass so you can see the eggs better.

We also saw a bunch of adult newts, including these ones at the bottom of one of the beaver ponds (photo taken by Laura):

Next we went to a marshy area near an old alternative high school in Longview, where we found a few egg masses of northwestern salamanders.

Funny thing about this marsh was that even though it was generally very shallow, in some places the water was higher than the tops of my hip boots (which I bought the day before at the Goodwill on 164th in Vancouver for $20) in some places. Fortunately I was able to get to more shallow water before my boots were over-topped.
Then we went to two sites near the I-205 Bridge in Vancouver. We found exactly zero egg masses in both locations. In one, an unnamed retention pond, we saw an interesting sight, a cat-tail covered with moss.

In the other, called Mimsy Swamp, Laura sank into mud so deep that she almost lost her boot. Here she is holding it up, after 5 minutes ("but it seemed much longer than that!") of struggling to get her leg out and then reach back into the mud for the boot.

More photos from Mimsy Swamp:

I got home after 3 pm, tired and with blisters on both feet from my new hip boots, but rarin' to go again.

Friday, February 4, 2011

To the Tyrants of the World

Ela Toghat Al Alaam (To the Tyrants of the World)

Thanks to Jeff for finding this poem for us, written by Tunisian poet Abo Al Qassim Al Shabbi in the early 1900s:

Hey you, the unfair tyrants...
You the lovers of the darkness...
You the enemies of life...

You've made fun of innocent people's wounds; and your palm covered with their blood

You kept walking while you were deforming the charm of existence and growing seeds of sadness in their land

Wait, don't let the spring, the clearness of the sky and the shine of the morning light fool you...
Because the darkness, the thunder rumble and the blowing of the wind are coming toward you from the horizon
Beware because there is a fire underneath the ash

Who grows thorns will reap wounds
You've taken off heads of people and the flowers of hope; and watered the cure of the sand with blood and tears until it was drunk
The blood's river will sweep you away and you will be burned by the fiery storm.

In the Arabic script:

ألا أيها الظالم المستب

حبيب الظلام عدو الحياه

سخرت بأنات شعب ضعيف

و كفك مخضوبة من دماه

و سرت تشوه سحر الوجود

و تبذر شوك الاسى في رباه

رويدك لا يخدعنك الربيع

و صحو الفضاء و ضوء الصباح

ففي الافق الرحب هول الظلام و قصف الرعود و عصف الرياح

حذار فتحت الرماد اللهيب

و من يبذر الشوك يجن الجراح

تأمل هنالك انى حصدت رؤوس الورى و زهور الأمل

و رويت بالدم قلب التراب اشربته الدمع حتى ثمل

سيجرفك سيل الدماء

و يأكلك العاصف المشتعل

More Amphibian Searching

I couldn't wait to post this, even though I won't be doing the amphibian surveys at these sites near Longview, Washington, until next week. One of our lead volunteers fixed up this map for us from Google Earth.

Is that great, or what? And talk about different perspectives...

A New Perspective

I was just reading some of the comments of NASA Astronaut Mark E. Kelly, the husband of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords, at the National Prayer Breakfast this morning (Friday, February 4, 2011).

He said people are still bringing flowers to the grocery store in Tucson where Rep. Giffords was shot and wounded. He said, "That reminded me that you don't need a church, a temple or a mosque to pray. And prayer isn't just asking. It's also listening for answers, and expressing gratitude, which I've done a lot lately."

He said he told his wife, still recovering from the traumatic injury and unable to speak because of a tracheal tube, that "... maybe something good can come from all of this."

His experience of being an astronaut has given him opportunities to look down on Earth with a new perspective. He said,"We orbit the Earth at about nearly the same distance that Washington is from my home town of West Orange, New Jersey. But from space, far above that traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike, you have an entirely different perspective of life on our planet. It's humbling to see the Earth as God created it in the context of God's vast universe."

Also, he feels the many prayers of people all over the country have helped his wife recover, and he asked us to keep praying for her.

I am praying for her and for country, as well as for the people of Egypt and people all over the world who are hoping to find the freedom we enjoy here.

Here's NASA's page with a list of photos of Earth which they use for scientific modeling.

The photo below comes with an article from December 8, 2010, from NASA scientists saying they now believe the Earth will be warming to "only" 1.64 degrees Celsius because of increasing CO2 in the atmosphere.

Previous estimates of climate change may have been "too gloomy," these scientists say. "As we learn more about how these systems react, we can learn more about how the climate will change," according to a NASA statement about the research. "Each year we get better and better. It's important to get these things right."

Yes, it is, isn't it: to get these things right, and to get some perspective.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Groundhog Day, 2011

Good news from Punxatawney Phil, who predicts an early end to this horrible winter --- at least for folks on the East Coast, I guess ---because what I see out my window this morning is blue sky with a tinge of pink marshmallow clouds and shadows for everyone. Not that I'm complaining. I'm just happy for the good news for the rest of the country.