Monday, April 14, 2014

Just Call Me Snow White...

When I was a teenager my mom and I spent hours upon hours building up a relationship with the wildlife that frequented our sundeck.  I spent several hours each day for a week or two one summer sitting on the sundeck with a book in one hand and birdseed sprinkled along the other, ending in a pile of seed in my palm, and seed scattered nearby.  It took a while, but I got the Chickadees to happily land on my hand and eat to their hearts content, and even got a couple to land on my shoulder with regularity.  They are so small and so lightweight that I could barely feel their little talons on my skin.  For years after that summer the Chickadees would land on my hand looking for food.

I spent hours getting the little brown squirrels to trust me, especially one I named Skittles, and like the Chickadees he would climb up to my shoulder and chatter away whilst devouring whatever treats I had with me.  He even brought his babies to meet me, teaching them that this was the easy way to food.  Their mom would stay a few feet away, occasionally braving the journey to my outstretched hand only to grab a nut and dash to safety, but the babies and Skittles would sit right next to me, or on my arm and chow down.

I think it was mom who first convinced our favorite Steller's Jay "Buddy" to eat from her hand, but I was quick to join in the fun.  He became so tame that he'd land on my hand or wrist and chow down on whatever seed or nuts I had on hand... even if they were meant for the Chickadee's or squirrels. In addition to food and mimicking sounds, Buddy liked having his head scratched.  He liked to sit on the bracket that once held our air conditioner just outside the eating area, and receive his meal through the window.  If he saw that mom or I were home and horror of horrors, NOT feeding him, he would sit on the bracket, shriek, and tap his beak against the window to let us know he was hungry.  If this didn't work, he would follow us from room to room outside the window, and squawk as loudly as he could, going through his repertoire of imitations of other birds and man made devices like phones until we acknowledged him.  He especially liked to sit in the fir tree just outside the kitchen window and watch us, becoming increasingly cheeky if he was ignored.

My single most memorable instance involving a feathered friend from the great outdoors involved an entirely different type of bird, and for years afterwards this bird and his friends and relations were sure to remind me of the incident frequently.  One afternoon while mom was at work my dad and I were in the family room, likely working on homework - mine the studying for a test type, his more of the marking tests variety - when we heard the oddest sound.  Brrrrrrrrrr Ding, Brrrrrrrrrr Ding, Brrrrrrrrrr Ding, Brrrrrrrrrr Ding, Brrrrrrrrrr Ding, Brrrrrrrrrr Ding... it continued until I finally got up and followed the noise to the kitchen eating area.  A tiny little green hummingbird had somehow gotten into the kitchen through the hole in the screen door and couldn't find a way back out.  He was repeatedly flying into the window, rather persistent in his quest to get outside.  When I approached he stopped and sat on the window ledge.  He made no protest as I scooped him up, then checked him for any sign of injury.  He let me gently pat his tiny head and back, as his heartbeat thrummed against my palm. He seemed fine, if a bit stunned, so I carefully carried him over to Dad and told him what I'd found.
"Wanna see?" I asked, lifting my top hand to show him my quarry.

"Hmmm.  Uh huh," was his enthusiastic and clearly intrigued response.
"You know, Mom would think this was awesome..."
"Mmm hmmm."

I gave the hummingbird one last pat as I opened the screen door, and he sat on my hand until we cleared the doorway, where he cocked his head at me once, then took off to the safety of the nearest tree.  I figured that was the end of it, thought about the amazing speed at which his heart seemed to beat, and smiled as I went back inside.  From that day until the day we moved out of the house, EVERY TIME I was on the sundeck and there was a hummingbird around it would either hover directly in front of me or buzz past my head missing by mere inches.  We would joke that the humming birds were dive-bombing me, and it really seemed to be the case.  They didn't do it to anyone else, just to me, as if that one little hummingbird had told all his friends and future relations about me and they were doing fly-bys to thank me for helping him.  

Don't ever tell me that small critters like squirrels and birds aren't intelligent.  I had Chickadees, Brown Squirrels, Steller's Jays and Hummingbirds who remembered me year after year and brought their babies to me to teach them that I was a friend who they could trust.  The hardest part of leaving that house was knowing that my furry and feathered friends were being left behind and it would take months of patience and calm determination to ever build up that kind of relationship and trust with wildlife again.

To this day, whenever I hear the telltale thrum of a hummingbird flying overhead I reflexively duck ever so slightly, and then I smile as I think of my little green friend and imagine him telling the other neighbourhood hummingbirds all about the girl who gave him a helping hand just as I tell others about the wonder I felt holding such a perfect and tiny creature in my hand for those few minutes.  Regardless of the mood I am in, I cannot hear that sound without smiling.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tales From The Fishtank

Happy April Fools Day!

I know I ought to be writing a brilliant and insightful post right now, but I've been chasing Pokemon characters in Google Maps on my iPhone.  You never know how long these April Fools Day gags will continue, and I've caught 47 of  the 150 Pokemen. :)

Since most of my attention is otherwise occupied with this extremely important and time sensitive task, here is my favorite April Fools Day prank followed by a brief look into the lives of my fish. (No, really!)

My all-time favorite elaborate April Fools Day hoax:
The Spaghetti Harvest, The BBC 1957.


Tales From The Fishtank:

From FB before the Great Fish Plague of 2014:
I released the baby guppies into the main tank as I couldn't just pick a few to keep in sequester, so i figured they could fend for themselves in the plants and let nature take it's course - some will survive, some won't. They were all swimming around the top of the tank when I went across the room to use my computer. About 40 minutes later I looked over and couldn't see a single baby fish. Not one. I went over to the tank thinking there was no way all 40 babies could have been eaten in 40 minutes, and boy was I right. All of the babies (and I do mean ALL of them) were swimming in a group in the corner behind the plants and the Plecostomus. They seem to have adopted the Pleco as their Nanny/Guard Dog and whenever he moves, so do they, following as one. It's quite cute really.

From FB a couple of months ago after the Great Fish Plague of 2014 ,which only Pleco survived:Right now Pleco is going to town on a piece of broccoli. I think this is mostly due to the fact that I took away the tattered remains of the slice of zucchini that he devoured while I was at work today. The day before yesterday he discovered that he could eat the skin of the zucchini as well as the innards, and boy does he like it!
Also, today he murdered the last remaining live plant that was in his tank... he thrashed his tail against it until it fell apart and had no hope of survival, so it too has been removed... so much for things he can hide behind. Now all he's got is a TARDIS (it's tall, but not sufficiently wide enough to properly hide a pleco) and a bubble curtain (that he rearranged twice to form an arch instead of a solid curtain of bubbles from the bottom of the tank up). He's "hiding" under the bubble arch now, and newsflash: I CAN SEE HIM!

More recently: 
My little orange guppy has decided that unlike the 4 new guppies, he is a pink danio. He keeps following the 3 new pink danios around and trying to "school" with them, while they're like..
"Uh... what's up with this dude following us? Yo, guppy! You're a GUPPY, not a danio!"
"But I wanna play with you!"
"Dude! you're not one of us. Go play with the other guppies."
"But we're practically the same colour and everything! Puhleeeeeeze?!"
"Meh, fine, you can follow us around if you really want to, I guess..."

Meanwhile there's a new yellow guppy, and the orange guppy (the veteran) keeps looking at him like he's doling out warnings.
Yellow: "OOOOOOHHHH! Look! A big spotted rock! I'm gonna check it out!"
Orange, while following danios around: "Dude, you don't wanna go over there..."
Yellow: "I think some food fell on this rock... I'm gonna chow down!"
Orange: "That isn't a rock..."
Yellow: "Oh! Look there's a space under the rock... I'm gonna go check it out!"
Orange: "Not a good idea..."
Pelco: "Now seems like a good time to stop contemplating my nonexistent navel in complete silence and stillness... I think I'll go for a swim. VOOSH!"
Yellow: "YOWZA! OMG I'm gonna die!!!!!!! AAAACK! What happened to my rock!?"
Orange: "I told you so!"

That brings us up to today.

I am pretty sure I have a pair of gay guppies.  I have only male guppies as female guppies cause the male guppies to go gaga and chase them relentlessly until they finally stress out so much that they die.  Also, female guppies have babies, LOTS OF BABIES, and I just don't have a big enough tank to go through that again.  My point is, the guppies I have are all male.  Two of them seem to be pretty chummy.  At first I thought it was a one-sided thing, as one of the boys has a dark belly, making him look a little like a female guppy...  to a myopic and horny male guppy that is...  So I thought: okay, dude is horny, so he starts to chase the only fish that looks like it might possibly be a viable route to procreation... but I watched them closely today and the fishy affection is clearly not one-sided.

My favorite fish in the tank right now are the baby Panda Cory Catfish.  They are very cute little guys who scour the bottom of the tank for any food that the others don't eat before it hits bottom.  There is a small problem with these adorable little fish though: they blend into the gravel so well that I keep thinking I've lost a couple of them.  The other day I frantically searched the tank, moving plants and other decorations, but could only find two of the four babies.  Resigning myself to the idea that the other two didn't make it, I finally gave up.  Two hours later, I looked in the tank and saw three of the little buggers.  I can only seem to find three at a time right now, so I don't know if I have three or four, but given their incredible ability to blend into the gravel when not in motion, I am holding out hope that the fourth is still alive and swimming.  He or she could always be hiding under Pleco. :)