Friday, May 02, 2014

Quicksilver the African Grey Parrot, the Seasonally Hormonal Dive Bombing Maniac Part 3, Who Ate the Cipcakes and Chris Lyons Reports on the Fordham Hawk Corpse Mystery

April 30th, 9:09 AM  The perch stick and zip ties held on the top shelf doors  but....Quicksilver is smart, driven, and set on getting his way.  Just look at that expression!
 The top shelf doors remain unopened but Silver got up this morning, went under the blanket barricade, opened the door on the left and climbed into yet another "cavity".

And we know how he feels about cavities.  

9:11:12 AM  And he's starting to come out.  And here he comes!

 I duck.  Silver curves over me to the dryer and lands.
 9:11:26    He lands on the towels, depositing a few fluff feathers on the clean laundry.  Note his expression looks a little dazed. 

 Speaking of his expressions.
 9:11:36  He once again focuses on me. 
9:11:49  Thirteen seconds later Silver is readying for his next step.  Note the sliver of his nictitating membrane, up left.  There is nothing flying around that might get his eye to activate it.  It has been activated by his own thoughts about going into action.

Looks pretty baleful doesn't he?
9:12:14 In the meantime...

...the audience has arrived-
                    Squirrel the Cat and Tig the Basenji
Not to disappoint them but that nictitating eyelid has told me it is time for me to leave the laundry room.

9:32:05  I am in the second parlor right outside the laundry room unpacking more of the interminable boxes from the move when I hear a tremendous skittering rustle.  Rather like some one doing something strange and active with a plastic bag.

9:32:31 Definitely strange and active.  It appears Silver has lost his purchase on the plastic bag that holds among other things,  the extra vacuum accessories and is scuffling and flapping madly trying to stay inside the cavity.

9:32:32  Silver has managed to hook his feet on the edge of the bottom shelf and his beak behind the lip of the top edge.  But what now?

9:32:34  His hold lasts two seconds but he can't hold the position nor pull himself inside so he falls out.  But he has his wings curved in to catch the air and keep him from plummeting to the floor and makes it to  the dryer.

Okay this is when I do something completely oblivious and dumb.  Actually this part isn't dumb,  I take a few steps across the room and check on Silver.  He's fine. but on my little walk I notice that something  has fallen from the shelf into the sink.  This is when I do the really dumb thing.  I lean into the sink, pick up the product and kind of give it a little toss into the bottom shelf.  Just as I started to give it a little flip... I knew the action was very very bad but it was too late and I knew I had done an exquisitely dumb thing I was going to be very sorry for, as I could hear Silver's wings go into action behind me.  

WHAM!  I have parrot toe nails digging into the top of my scalp.  OWWWW!

 9:33:27 I whip the camera up turned back towards Silver and shoot.  I look at it quickly parrot still on my head.  Not a good photo. Actually it is very good documentation as the important part isn't fuzzy.. See the tension in Silver's foot grasping my hair and scalp. It's quite clear. But I don't see that in the heat of the moment and I have a bright idea. Yes! There is a mirror on the opposite wall.  I could take the picture in the mirror.  

Yes, dear readers, I'm  about to do the really dumb second thing.

I turn the camera away from us and toward the mirror.  Drat!  I can't get the shot with the camera to my eye and can't see the live action with it at the proper height.  I'll wing it.
 9:34:19   GOOD GRIEF!!!!  The flash went off.  Pull it down change settings.  Irate parrot still on my head.  

Can you believe this?  What was I thinking????
9:34:26  Almost!  But Silver is fuzzy.  Another try.

9:34:52  Super.  Too far over.  But lovely shot of where Silver clipped the loose wallpaper off with his beak.  I decide to just shoot some rapid fire without looking at them and hope something works when I bring them up later.

 9:35:00  Keep in mind that Silver has probably had nearly as many photos taken of him than Pale Male so the camera ordinarily doesn't bother him.  And this shot of him would have been fine but I don't know that because  I wasn't looking at the individual shots.
Please note that Quicksilver has cocked his head for a better view of my thumb holding the camera.  He is considering launching himself at my thumb.  I do not know this until he has launched himself at my thumb,  clamped onto it, and is biting it with increasing excruciating pressure as his beak breaks the skin and keeps on going.

Reflexes come into play.   My right hand whips down with the parrot hanging on it and he is inadvertently flung and flies into the kitty litter box below.  He lands, kitty litter rockets everywhere. Somehow, the camera ends up sitting safely on the washer, and Silver jumps up on the side of the kitty litter box ready for more action.
 9:35:42  Silver is giving me the eye and leaning forward to possibly take to his wings.  I leap for the exit to examine my bleeding thumb.  
9:36:09  On the other side of the curtain, the previous audience waits next to the boxes I was unpacking to see who will be vanquished from the laundry room.  Thanks guys.

I peek in to check on Silver.   He's having some more of his breakfast. All is right with the world.   Beating up humans is hungry work. 
9:42:44  I wash my thumb in the kitchen and come back.  Silver appears to have been investigating the box of miscellaneous parrot stuff and a rusty dust pan.

Then I make the mistake of taking another picture of the "cavity". 

9:43 Silver wastes no time in flying to the top of the washer and measuring the distance to the top of my head.

Notice the laundry is really building up.  

Would you do laundry in here? 

I exit. 
10:33:07  I return and Silver is sitting on the damp throw rugs on the sink beneath his newest "cavity".

I head for the bathroom.  Did  I mention that the other bathroom is being worked on?  So the little bathroom off the laundry room is the only one available.  Excellent timing. 

When  I come out, I glance up at the cavity.  

This is a mistake.  Silver sees me look.

He starts... 


 ...for me!
 3:28 PM When I come in, Silver is relaxed, standing on one foot and looking reasonably sane.

Still vigilant though.

May 1st. Silver didn't even go into the laundry room today except to take a bath in the cat's water bowl.  He hung out in other parts of the house for the most part, didn't fly at my head,  and didn't look for cavities as far as  I could tell anyway.  

Strangely Silver decided to sit in the kitchen window on the curtain rod and look out at the south side of the yard.  Not a normal perch at all unless I'm in the kitchen.  When I went to leave the kitchen I took him into the living room with me.  He immediately flew back to the kitchen and his previous perch.  OK.  And stayed there for what seemed like ages.

I cooked dinner.  We ate it. And by then he'd decided he wanted to watch TV in the other room.  Fine.

I went into the kitchen to clean up.


Okay, who took the foil off the cupcakes?

  More than that, who ate the frosting off the top of those  cupcakes?  I'm suspicious that the counter walking Squirrel may be the culprit.

I look more carefully.  No.  Someone flipped the cupcakes over so they could eat the bottom, the cake part, without having to deal with the frosting.

Looks like parrot work to me.

Where's the  foil?
Bingo!  Look at the top left corner.  That hole is from a parrot beak.  Yes indeedie!  Very stealthy removed too.  He didn't just chew through it.  He's getting sneakier.

And just what might tomorrow bring?

From Chris Lyons watcher of Vince and Blanche of Fordham and beyond..
I just heard from a co-worker that a Red-tailed Hawk was killed by a Metro-North train, over by the Fordham station.  He saw the body.  He did not remember if it had a red tail.   But I've seen no juvenile birds in that general area for some time now.

I did see the two adults, on top of a nearby building, several weeks back--there was calling and copulation going on.  My concern at the time was that a nest had appeared on the same building they nested on last year--the other side of that building, in an identical iron structure meant to hold a window box.   That is not a safe place for a nest, because of the proximity of Webster Avenue and the Metro-North tracks.

But I was puzzled to note for the past several weeks that there seemed to be no activity around the nest--the nest on Collins Hall that was used for many years is clearly inactive.   I haven't been seeing any hawks on or near the campus since I saw the pair involved in courtship.  My co-worker says he saw the dead hawk about two weeks ago.  I have seen a lone adult Red-tail some blocks west of Webster Ave. since then.  
So nothing's confirmed absolutely, but it sure seems like something's gone awry.   Whether the surviving member of the pair will find a new mate and try to nest again is impossible to say right now.   It may be that the territorial boundaries are shifting for reasons I can only guess at.   They may not be Fordham Hawks anymore.   Perhaps an entirely new pair will nest on the campus or in the Botanical Garden.  Or maybe I will see a bird in that nest on Webster soon.  But so far, it's looking pretty dead there. 
I'll try to get more information, and will certainly keep all of you in the loop--I hope you will also report your observations to me (Pat, you don't need to be reminded to do this, obviously--I always enjoy your reports and videos).

Seems like the Fordham Red-tails are having a real run of bad luck--first Hawkeye was poisoned, then Rose disappeared (I still think she and the vanished male of the Great Horned Owl pair killed each other), and now either Vince or the new female has met with an accident.   Breeding season is a dangerous time for adult Red-tails--distracted by hormones, exhausted by rearing young, and with their territorial instincts ramped up to the extreme, they can make fatal errors in judgement in an urban environment that is extremely unforgiving of mistakes (not that a fully natural habitat would be any less so). 
Hope other urban nesting pairs are having an easier time of it. 


Update--well, I still don't know the identity of the hawk that was killed, but I can report with full confidence that the Webster Ave. nest is active.  Saw an adult--the female, I'm pretty sure--perched up there, and looking down into the nest.   Also mantling to protect the inhabitants of the nest from the strong early afternoon sunlight.   There are hatched young in there. 
So two possibilities--
1)Vince was killed, and Blanche (my name for the female that replaced Rose as Vince's mate last year after she disappeared) immediately employed the notoriously effective Red-tail Social Media to advertise for a replacement, who presented himself with alacrity.  Whether she had laid eggs at this point, and who the father might be--?????   But I'm guessing that even if it was too late for him to be the genetic father, the prospect of inheriting a territory and a mate would be more than enough to entice an unattached male into raising some other male's chicks.   If Blanche had died, of course, the new female would have needed to gestate eggs, and she might have wanted to build a nest somewhere else, and the scheduling would have been more difficult. 
2)Vince is still alive, and some stranger was killed by the Metro North train--one scenario that comes to mind was that an unattached bird got too close to the nest, and was chased by one or both reigning adults, and in his or her panic to escape, got clobbered by the train. 
Anyway.  The Fordham territory's streak remains unbroken--and I am so ambivalent about that.   Because the nest isn't actually on the campus, or in the Botanical Garden, and it's just not safe.  God damn it, Blanche.  You really want to spend the rest of your life cycle depending on the kindness of strangers? 
Keep your fingers crossed folks!

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