Flying Mission Bay

Posted by Raz on Feb 10th, 2014
Feb 10

Our move to within walking distance of Mission Bay has been a windfall for the beasts: it’s turning out to be an awesome flying spot. Lots of open space along the park and out over the bay. They have covered a huge amount of territory, and it’s gorgeous at sunset.
MB panorama

Other exciting developments:

  • Piper and Carly are flying together! It used to be an invitation to distraction to let them go together, and they’d inevitably end up going in different directions, or just go off exploring for awhile. They are a tight flying duo now, screaming and diving over beachgoers.
  • We have an inflight contact call. I used to use my refs whistle as a “call back” signal, but it’s now morphed into an inflight update. I tweet — they let out a loud chirp — or vice versa, every few seconds. It is quite handy since there are buildings, trees, and hills they fly behind where I can’t keep them in view. I credit the idea to Carly, who often did this in flight before, and finally I took her cue and chirped back! They have been tiny specks on the horizon and I can still hear the callback. Really nice.
  • Emergency descents are awesome. There are very rarely any type of raptor here, but occasionally a Red-tail or Red-shouldered hawk. They have had plenty of experience flying with these types, but I still like them to get out of the air ASAP. Carly has always been ridiculously responsive to my “urgent recall”: GET DOWN HERE NOW! I don’t really know why as it’s not something we specifically trained. Piper, on the other hand, had the more natural instinct to keep flying fast and try to lose the pursuer. Which sometimes meant losing me for a while after he landed safely, until he relaxed enough (I guess) to call or make his way back. But we had a hawk show up at the bay last week right after they started flying, when they are their most rambunctious, and he zoomed down right after he saw Carly respond to my GDHN! Nice.
  • Recall training drills still work wonders. When we started flying here they were both quite “adventurous” — i.e., lots of exploring, horrible responding. It had been so long since we’d had a real flying routine, I’d gotten out of my habits too. So I paid more attention to the timing of their food (smaller breakfast on flying days), and started doing indoor recalls before dinner, and bingo — total turnaround. So much so that I wondered if it was just coincidence and perhaps they’d just had enough exploring and knew the territory to their satisfaction. (Since the training is supposed to have this effect, I guess I’ll go with that. I don’t know much about parrot exploratory habits… but an interesting question.)
  • It’s official: Carly is a Porker. My scale has had dead batteries for at least 2 years, and through 2 moves. I decided it was time to do a weight check. Piper weighed in just slightly above his previous normal weight, at 511 g. Carly when young was a reliable 440 g. When we got into the flying routine several years ago, she settled at a very stable 465. (I attributed that to just “filling in” as she became an adult, though I’m not sure what the normal pattern is.) Now she is 495! I don’t feel fat on either of them, and wonder if maybe this is increased muscle…? They really are putting in some mileage.
  • Regarding mileage… Here’s a map of some of their longer routes (approximately). They did the yellow one yesterday, with a few more loop-de-loops. I estimate the distance as about 6-7 km (about 4 miles). They were up for quite awhile!

As the Bird Flies

And a sampling of this winter’s incredible sunsets, plus iPhone video of the beasts in action.

Do Not Feed the Beasts

Discriminatory Signage

sunset november

More pics here.

Mr Roo goes to a new home

Posted by Raz on Jul 29th, 2013
Jul 29

After a long search, Mr Roo finally has a new home: Papa’s Garden free range egg ranch!  A friend found them at a local farmer’s market, and they were in the market for a nice Cochin banty rooster.  They just moved onto a 3 acre property in Alpine, and he’ll have lots of girlfriends to choose from there.

In our training he had learned how to target, jump up 2 feet in the air to touch a stick, hop up onto a perch, and step up and sit on my arm.  And in just the last couple days I discovered he liked to be held and scratched on the neck. He got a little injury on his beak and while I cleaned it and put ointment on he just layed his head on my arm and closed his eyes.

This is Roo on his last afternoon at home, napping with Eliza Doo after a long, vigorous dirt bath.  Gonna miss this guy.

Mr Roo and Eliza Doo, 27 July 2013

Mr Roo and Eliza Doo, 27 July 2013


Papa’s Garden

Roo's new mom

Roo’s new mom

We fought the law…

Posted by Raz on Jul 16th, 2013
Jul 16

… and the law won!

But that’s a good thing.  The Neighborhood Code Compliance officer was not interpreting the chicken ordinance correctly.  I wrote to the office of City Councilman Todd Gloria questioning the interpretation of the zoning restriction on backyard chickens given to my by the NCC officer.  Todd Gloria was the councilperson who initiated the law allowing backyard chickens.  I heard back within 2 hours from a Senior Planner with the City:


Hi Linda,
You are correct.  The ordinance sates that chickens may be kept on a property developed with a single dwelling unit.  So if your house is the only residence on the property  then it meets the requirement even though it has a multi-family zone.  Please feel free to refer the Neighborhood Code Compliance officer to me if there are any questions.

Dan Normandin, Senior Planner

City of San Diego – Development Service


<happy chicken dance>

Garden sun, acclimation — and victory?

Posted by Raz on Jul 14th, 2013
Jul 14

Piper has become so well-adjusted outdoors over the past year or so. Such a big improvement from the bird who — for what seemed like forever — would startle outdoors at the drop of a pine needle. This was definitely an “easy does it” approach to acclimation, totally at his pace. But I suspect that this type of training is more robust in the long run and less susceptible to unexpected regression. He also took his first bath recently. Only took 5 years! The duo enjoying some afternoon shade in the garden.

In less happy news, our local Complainer-in-Chief and Most Despised Person in Neighborhood, Dick — real name — finally, after a year, got 2 other people to sign his petition against the birds, and sent it to the city. I got a notice on my door. But we discovered he totally conned the others into signing. He told a new resident that the birds were bothering “everyone”, so she signed to be friendly, and didn’t know it was for a complaint to the city. Turns out she’s not bothered at all, and she and her husband whistle back and forth with them often. Then he told a second woman that the birds were driving the first one “f-ing crazy”, and they only needed one more signature. She had refused before, but signed to be helpful to her next door neighbor, and he sent it in to the noise abatement office.

For context, this is the guy that I was warned about before moving in to my house, whose demands for a curfew time became more and more outrageous (no sounds from backyard after 4 pm!), who calls police on neighbors’ family gatherings, wanted my landlords to “do something” about the mockingbirds in their tree, yells out racist remarks to Spanish speaking kids and workers, and has been repeatedly seen spying through my fence.

This Dick is one of these people who totally isolates himself and obsesses over grievances (many other neighbors have been the Target du Jour). What this type do not realize is that normal people actually talk to each other. Bottom line is that both women told the noise police that they really weren’t personally bothered by the birds, and now that they’re aware of the scam they’re pissed at the guy. I won’t know the outcome for a few days, but NP were strongly hinting that they’re getting the idea Dick is rather unstable, and are going to talk to the women again. If this gets thrown out he has no other avenues of complaint. Fini.

Sad part is that in the course of all this the city officials became aware of my rooster — who I’d built a fine soundproof coop for so there were no morning wake up calls. Other than that he rarely crows. But roos are illegal within city limits, so now he has to go.

*** Seeking Free Range Home: 1 Red Cochin Bantam Rooster. Friendly and clicker-trained! Free clicker training lessons for new owner or affiliated 4-H group *** 


UPDATE: The city is now saying that because my single-family home lot is in an area zoned to allow low-density multi-family units as well as single-family units, chickens are prohibited.  I am right at the edge of a tiny multi-family-unit-allowable zoning area, totally surrounded by single-family  homes.  There is a small apartment complex at the end of the block.  Fight begins…

Found lurking in the garden

Posted by Raz on Jul 2nd, 2013
Jul 2

Carly loves her orange tree frolics when the leaves are wet.

Piper not into it. Stands guard.

Almost hilariously bad training advice

Posted by Raz on Jun 4th, 2012
Jun 4

I was just sent a link to a new membership parrot site, canned variety, where for just $10.99 you can get access to SECRET information like this preview!

How to tame your parrot

Taming your parrot is the first step towards training it. Taming your parrot includes making it comfortable in your presence and in its surroundings so that it doesn’t aggressively resist training. Our membership site tells you the secrets of taming your parrot. Here are a few pointers.

[You don't want your parrot to resist training aggressively. Resisting passively requires less first aid.]

  • Clip its wings…
  • [Of course the first thing you want to do is make your bird totally dependent on you and unable to get away.]

  • Praise and reward it every now and then…
  • [Just every now and then. Avoid making it systematic or having any logic behind it because you might inadvertently teach him some behaviors.]

  • Carry it around your house or garden. Initially, wear protective gloves when handling your parrot…
  • [Don't forget the protective gloves! Your bird can't fly, so if he wants to tell you he's had quite enough carrying around thank-you-very-much he will probably bite you, and then you won't be able to keep carrying him around.]

  • Keep other pets at a safe distance from the parrot…
  • [Your parrot might fall off your hand and bite them, and they aren't wearing protective gloves.]

  • If it behaves aggressively or bites, don’t shout or punish. A firm ‘no’, over time, does the trick…
  • [You would not want to punish under any circumstances, because by definition 'punishment' is anything that will decrease a behavior, so be careful that you say 'no' in a tone the parrot finds pleasant. Eventually he will realize that no matter what he does, you're not going to stop carrying him around the freaking house and he'll just give up.]

  • Let it roam around the house on its own at times. Just make sure it is safe…
  • [I personally recommend protective 4-toed gloves]

  • Introduce your parrot to other family members…
  • [Suggested introduction: YOU: "Parrot, this is Sally." SALLY: "Pleased to meet you."]

On the positive side, almost everything is spelled correctly.

Carly & Piper active, in the air and otherwise!

Posted by Raz on Apr 29th, 2012
Apr 29

Forgive me readers, for I have sinned. It has been 7 months since my last blog post.

Carly’s beach flying was on a bit of a hiatus for awhile after I discovered last fall that there were two nesting pairs of Peregrine falcons whose territories overlapped right around Scripps Pier (our usual starting point). So we have been flying a bit around the Cuyamaca College campus — with Piper — and hit the beach again this weekend on a beautiful warm day after a kelp tank dive (see the nice new Kelp Cam!)

Instead of flying by the pier, where there are fewer human distractions, I let her fly around La Jolla Shores area where there is less likelihood of falcon distractions. Lots of pigeons and seagulls there, and fortunately the crows that had been abundant and always harassing her were no longer around. But instead of getting lots of exercise in the air she chose to do just a couple trips and then spend time visiting with people. What can you do? You can lead a bird to the beach…. She met a nice family of surfers who had just been competing in a girls competition — ages 8 to adult — and enjoyed a lot of time being adored. A new trend? Girls??

Carly & Piper's love nest.

Carly & Piper's love nest.

On the home front, breeding season has been highly active! Piper (4 years old) has still not quite figured out the mechanics, but they are working on it daily. I don’t know about other Grey couples, but this one is not shy about when or where. Carly has been in full nesting furor. I had to put up a sliding door to block off the kitchen because she was so determined to make use of the kitchen cupboards. I think I have successfully set up an area around the cage that is keeping their interest with lots of stuff to chew on and crawl inside: bottlebrush branches, bamboo cuttings, baskets, a wooden nest box, and other goodies. Right now Carly is over there chewing while Piper is keeping watch. When I walk up he does a very fierce display of floofed feathers. At least I think it’s supposed to be fierce.

The nest watch.

The nest watch.

This morning I was biking through Balboa Park, and the San Diego Bird Rescue group was there as usual on Sundays. They have a very nice 7-month old Grey named Siri (great name for a Grey!) who is up for adoption. From what I have heard them say about training it seems the group is on the right track. They have an application process for adoption that includes a home visit, discussion about the responsibilities involved in having a parrot in the home, a visit to their aviary to find a good match, and classes on caring for parrots for those who need them. They directed me to the web site for more info — I asked if they offered classes for other parrot owners — but the web site doesn’t say much. I’d like to know more about how they operate, and their facilities, training methods, etc. It’s nice that they bring a group out to the park to be outdoors and be around different people. (All clipped of course…)

Siri, age 7 months.

Siri, age 7 months.

San Diego Bird Rescue at Balboa Park.

Temporary Homes Needed / So Calif

Posted by Raz on Sep 1st, 2011
Sep 1

A friend is in a difficult situation and needs temporary housing for her African Grey Timneh and her Green-cheeked Conure. She has had to quit a job that involved a lot of standing and lifting because of health problems, and because of that she has had to move in with roommates. Unexpectedly, the landlord just informed her she could not have her birds there. She would like to keep them in the area so she can visit if possible, and expects it will only be a couple of months until she can find another place to live.

The Timneh, Ragga, is one of Wendy Craig’s wonderful birds. He is very active, flighted, and does not normally spend much time in a cage. He is very affectionate with the owner and most other women, and does a lot of talking. It would be best if he could be in a place where he could be out a bit each day. He not very comfortable with the men he’s met so far, and is aggressive toward the conure so they can not be housed together. He has done fine with smaller birds like cockatiels, but she is not sure how he’d interact with a bird his size or larger.


The conure, Dobby, is a sweet little guy who gets along with most anyone and generally likes to be handled. He also is chatty, and is better with being in a cage when he needs to. Both are comfortable traveling, so they shouldn’t be too rattled by a new environment.


We’re going to see if Ragga can stay with Piper and Carly for a while, but I don’t have a large space, and close neighbors on all sides, so if he and Piper don’t get along it won’t be workable.

If you can help with one of these birds temporarily, please drop me an email. It’s hard times these days, and I know this is the kind of situation we all dread facing.

Piper Comes Out!

Posted by Raz on Sep 1st, 2011
Sep 1

My boy Piper is growing up and getting used to the world. He is the one I rarely took out because he behaved so skittishly around new people or environments, and has shown little interest in going with us. (No flying to the door to come along, like Carly does.) I decided early on to just let him take things at his own pace, and I didn’t know if he’d ever change his preferences. Now he and Carly love the new digs, and both want to be outside all the time. They play outside on the stairs, we do training down in the courtyard every evening, and they can hang out in the trees. I think the way it is semi-enclosed felt comfortable to Piper. However, he has also become a great fan of flying in the nearby park — big rambunctious flights, high and fast, with lots of screaming. For some reason he has never had a big problem with learning to fly down, even though he hasn’t been outside that much. He will often make a few passes if he gets going too fast, but doesn’t hesitate to take the plunge. Perhaps flying like a kamakaze inside my old apartment got him over the fear of crashing. (He certainly crashed often enough.)

In addition to the flying, he is becoming friendly with new people. The other day he was seriously flirting with a neighbor woman on the stairs. We’re talking kisses and the whole nine yards. Fergus the cat was getting quite pissed off at the shift in attention. He is also getting much more comfortable around men, as well as larger groups, and he often goes with Carly and I to the neighborhood pub now. Here they are making out on the stairs:


His behavior change seems to be closely related to the new environment, though I’m not sure exactly why. But I think we’re all happier and more relaxed here, so that may have something to do with it. I would not have thought that moving away from a large, suburban greenbelt area into the heart of the city would be an improvement from the birds’ perspective, but this little piece of garden heaven in the city is unique.

And did I mention there are palm nuts on the property?! (That’s the tree in the background, one of many in the neighborhood.)

palm nut

As with Carly, I’m glad that I let him take his time with this and “come out” when he felt comfortable. He is actually the same age now as she was when she first started flying at the beach. She showed no interest in getting off my shoulder there for 3 years, including 6 months when she was flying outside at home. It is possible both could have been pushed harder in their training to acclimate sooner, but I personally find it much more interesting, and respectful of the animal, to let them find their own pace. We’re not doing a show, and this is all about their enrichment, not mine. I must say though, it is great to get madman Piper doing some vigorous flying, for the sanity of the whole household!

Playing on the stairs… (Piper goofing, Carly sneaking, Fergus being sneaked upon.)

Carly Lu’s Blueberry Mango Bread

Posted by Raz on Jul 13th, 2011
Jul 13

This is a staple at our house. Everyone has to fight over it: Greys, cockatiel, cats, and me. Some humans might not find it sweet enough, if they are used to a lot of added sugars. You can substitute in any number of things, like shredded carrots or greens, or other fruits or berries. I try to use ones that have the highest nutrient content (dark colored berries or fruits, orange vegetables).
Carly Lu, Cook's Supervisor

Carly Lu’s Blueberry Mango Bread

Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray 9″x11″ pan or 24 muffin tins with cooking oil.


1 cup blueberries*
1 med. mango, diced
1 banana, mashed
1 cup diced raw yam, pumpkin or butternut squash
1/2 cup dried fruits (such as cranberries, cherries, apricots, papaya)

nuts (optional):

1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

grains & spices:

1 cup fine multi-grain or regular flour
2 cups 8-grain flour
2 T flaxseed meal
1/2 cup oats [Note: very important! -- Carly]
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp eggshell powder**
pinch of salt

wet ingredients:

4 eggs
2 T vegetable oil (or red palm oil)
1 cup peach or plain organic yogurt

Blend ingredients listed in grains and spices in a large bowl. In another bowl beat together wet ingredients, then blend in mashed banana. Mix with dry ingredients until well blended. Stir in nuts. Stir in all fruits except blueberries. Gently fold in blueberries last.

Pour into tins or baking pan. Cook at 375 F for 25-35 minutes (toothpick or knife comes out clean; it should just be slightly brown on top)

* Tasty substitutions: Raw cranberries instead of blueberries for a tarter variety. Cooked pumpkin instead of bananas for a boost of Vitamin A.

** For calcium. You can just throw in the washed shells from the 4 eggs if you don’t mind crunchy. I save them, let them dry out in a warm oven, then grind them into a fine powder in a coffee grinder. I can use the powder in this bread, mix it into sprout toppings, or add to the kitties’ raw food.

Adapted from “Blueberry Almond Muffins” in The Healthy Bird Cookbook. Not just for birds!

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