We are Siamese if you please…

Have you ever had the privilege of knowing a Siamese cat? I’ve been lucky enough to know several in my life, and the first one was a tomcat I’ll never forget!

Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay

His name was Bourbon, and he looked a lot like the cat in this photo. He was the neighborhood tomcat, back when we only had about five neighbors in a square mile, and he would saunter into the yard looking for pets and possibly a handout. Of course, we always obliged, and he’d wander off when he’d had his fill.

My Grammy lived about half an hours’ drive away, and so was frequently over for supper, holidays, and so on. She had her own cat, a fluffy black beauty named Twinkletoes. Now, this was quite a while ago, and the prevailing wisdom at the time was that cats made better pets if they’d had one litter of kittens before they were spayed. We know now that this is baloney, but like I said, it was quite a few years ago. I remember her looking like this picture:

Image by Paul C Lee from Pixabay

When Twinkletoes was old enough, Grammy brought her out to the house to see if Bourbon would help out with the process of getting some kittens, and boy was he smitten!

That cat was in LOVE! He came by the house every day. He talked to her through the screen door. He sang love songs to her, day and night. And, finally, she was convinced that this was, in fact, the tomcat for her.

Whew! We were SO glad the singing was over. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard a tomcat singing out his wants, but they’re LOUD! And, they’re persistent. Oh, yes, and they’re not very musical (at least by my standards)!

Image by rihaij from Pixabay

Of course, the story doesn’t end there. Twinkletoes stayed with us while she was expecting, and after 8 weeks, she produced 4 kittens. Two were black and fluffy, and looked just like their mom. But two were white! All the kittens had blue eyes when they opened them, as all kittens do. But, in the meantime…

Bourbon had become Twinks’ constant companion. Unlike most tomcats, he came and visited every day. All the time she was expecting! And, when the kittens came, he started to babysit!! He’d lay down in the basket with them, clean their ears, groom them, and play with them as they got older.

My parents, and Grammy, had never heard of such a thing, so we were all pretty impressed!

Image by liliy2025 from Pixabay

As the kittens got a little older, the black ones’ eyes turned yellow, but the white ones started getting color on their noses, ears, feet and tails, and their eyes stayed blue. They were SO adorable! Even when they were old enough to get out of the basket and play, Bourbon would let them attack his tail, jump on him, wrestle with him, and generally indulge them like any fond dad.

We had no trouble finding homes for the kittens, and when they were old enough, three of them went to live at friends’ and neighbors’ homes. My Mom fell completely in love with one of the Siamese, and she named him Bandit, for his mask.

Image by Richard Revel from Pixabay

Twinkletoes returned to Grammy’s apartment, had her surgery, and lived happily for many years. Bourbon stopped the daily visits when Twink left, but still came by fairly regularly, just like before. He’d visit with Bandit, and they were always friendly. We had the pleasure of his company for several years.

I’ll always remember Bourbon as the exceptional cat that he was, and be thankful that I had the pleasure of knowing him. I’ve had several Siamese of my own over the years, but he was the first, and you can tell that he left a mark on me!

Image by liliy2025 from Pixabay

If you love Siamese cats as much as I do, please check out “My Siamese Cat Journal”, available on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2pyRjjh and learn more about where they’re from, what they’re like, and why they’re so different!

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Quail in different sizes!

Above is a really good photo of a California Quail (Callipepla californica). That “scaled” belly pattern is the giveaway as to which type of quail you’re looking at! Their facial mask, topknot, and striped flanks all make them look similar to my personal favorite, the Gambel’s Quail ( Callipepla gambelii) but the Gambel’s has a solid black patch on it’s belly. There’s a photo of a Gambel’s male just below.

You can see that they must be closely related, and their behavior, diet, and preferred habitat are all very similar. These are definitely dryland birds, and they are found in the SouthWest deserts and drier areas of the US. I grew up hearing the Gambel’s call, and it’s one of the things I miss from home…

This little Northern Bobwhite hen is probably hoping to escape detection by opossums, raccoons, foxes, and coyotes, as well as the odd kestrel that would easily steal a chick. Bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) are common in grasslands and pastures here in the US, although they’ve become pretty uncommon where I’m located now in the Appalachian foothills. The literature I found cites human intervention in wildfires and the introduced fire ant as important factors in their decline.

We’re looking forward to raising some Bobwhites this year and having extras to be able to release once they’re grown…

And then there are the Button Quail (Coturnix chinensis) that live in the house with the rest of the “tame birds”. They’re called Buttons for good reason! They are so tiny that the eggs are smaller than a nickel, and the babies hatch out as small as my thumbnail! This years we’re starting with about a dozen adult birds, in three different colors. We’ll see how many babies we get grown – they’re very delicate as you’d probably guess.

They have a whole series of names: Chinese Painted Quail, Blue-Breasted Quail, Asian Blue Quail, King Quail and Chung-Chi. They’re the smallest “true quail”, and now come in a wide variety of colors to fascinate the bird breeder and fancier. They’re lively little birds that happily live in the bottoms of the finch and budgie cages, picking up the leftovers and generally minding their own business!

If you love birds, and you’ve got room in an aviary or even an indoor flight cage, I highly recommend Button Quail as a cleanup crew! This time of year they are starting to call, and their BIG “crow” sounds like it should belong to a much bigger bird!

 

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Happy Birding!

As always, feel free to email me at FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com with comments, corrections, and complaints!

With Grace and Gratitude,

LeslieAnne Hasty

 

 

Red-Winged Blackbirds Singin’ in the Rain…

Our Red Winged Blackbirds started singing about a month ago, and now that the weather has turned mild, they’re really filling the “air-waves”. We have a tiny little creek below our house, and a line of trees between us, so the Red Wings are pretty happy to perch in the treetops and shout it out.

As he sings, he makes sure to show off those bright red epaulets, erecting the feathers so they catch the light and any females’ eye. After all, what’s the point if no-one is looking?

And if you should actually enter the territory he’s so vigorously claiming, you may be subject to attack! Red Wings have been known to swoop on humans who get too close, and commonly attack much larger birds in defense of nest and nestlings.

She’s much less visible, a lot less bold, and generally busy minding her own business of building the nest, laying the 2 to 6 eggs, and being the primary caretaker of the nestlings. The babies fledge at between 11 to 14 days old, and start learning how to fend for themselves very quickly.

Agelaius phoeniceus is generally found near water, whether actively running like our little creek, or a slough, pond or lake. They’re especially happy, when they have pasture or fields nearby, as they will forage for food among the grass or hay. They eat mostly seeds, with insects making up the rest of their diet, so having one foraging in your garden is probably a good thing.

Red Winged Blackbirds are different from most birds in their mating behavior: One male will defend a good territory, and several females will mate with him and nest in that same area. He’s been known to defend his harem and is one of few birds that does!

Red Wings are not uncommon, and are very striking and obvious when they’re near you. Enjoy them, and remember to spread some seed beneath your feeder for them, as they prefer to forage on the ground!

Happy Birding!

As always, feel free to email me at FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com with comments, corrections, and complaints!

With Grace and Gratitude,

LeslieAnne Hasty

The Kentucky Folk Art Center IS Open!

I spent the day at the KFAC yesterday researching grant options. They got hit hard with the last round of budget cuts from the State, and have lost nearly all their staff.

Tammy is the full time Admin, and she’s amazing 😍  She keeps the door open from 9-5 Mon thru Fri, and they’re open on Saturday as well.

If you’re in town, or love folk art, you HAVE to see this place! It’s got the most incredible collection, and a great little gift shop, too!

Please excuse my photography, and go see this place yourself! It’s a tribute to our Appalachian heritage, and to self-taught artists everywhere!

https://www.moreheadstate.edu/kfac/

And on FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/kyfolkart/

SO worthwhile!!

5 Things You Want to Know About Red Pandas…

Red Pandas have recently been vaulted into the spotlight by YouTube videos of their antics, and they surely do look adorable! But, do they make a good pet? Here’s some info you need before deciding that you HAVE to have one in your home!

  1. Red Pandas have an incredibly specialized diet: young leaves from bamboo plants. They spend around 13 hours every day eating (in the wild) because there is so little actual nutrition in these leaves, and in the winter they may lose close to 15 percent of their body weight.

2. They can escape the most carefully constructed enclosure you can build! Red Pandas have escaped from the Smithsonian National Zoo in 2013, as well as zoos in London, Birmingham, Rotterdam and Dresden. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums actually state “beware: Red Pandas are escape artists”.

3. They have a thumb! Actually, it’s a “false” thumb, and is actually an extended bone from their wrist, but it functions just like a real thumb. This is one of the reasons that they’re so good at escaping. Giant Pandas have the same sort of false thumb, but it evolved specifically to help get bamboo to eat. The Red Panda’s thumb evolved to help it climb trees.

4. The Firefox browser is named for the Red Panda! Firefox is another name for this adorable creature, and Mozilla adopted two baby Reds born in the Knoxville (Tennessee) Zoo in 2010 in honor of the connection.

5. Red Pandas were discovered by Europeans in 1820, 40 years before the “Giant Panda”, and the word Panda is thought to be derived from a Nepali word, “ponya”, which translates to bamboo eating animal. The Nepali people call it “bhalu biralo”, and Sherpas call it “wah donka” or “ye niglva ponva”. Thomas Hardwicke made the first presentation in Europe about the Red Panda, and he called it a “Wha”, which he felt described its loud call. But, he didn’t publish his paper for six years, and lost the naming rights to Frederic Cuvier.

Red Pandas ARE endangered, and estimates of their present population are from 2014. That year, there were 1,864 wild Reds in China. It’s taken 30 years for the IUCN to change the status from Endangered to Threatened, and last year Red Pandas were photographed in Western Nepal. The biggest threat to their continued existence in the wild is habitat fragmentation, followed closely by the illegal trade in wild animals for pets and parts (I know, gross!).

Check out the Red Panda Network at http://www.redpandanetwork.com and see if you can help Red Pandas survive into the next century!

If you want to learn more about Red Pandas, but don’t have a lot of reading time, look for My Red Panda Journal at https://amzn.to/2X0qYKr . It’s great for you to record your thoughts about Red Pandas, life, gratitude and mindfulness and learn a bit about the wild world we call Nature!

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Birdy Genius: The African Grey Parrot

Remember when people said that parrots just mimic sounds, and have no actual comprehension? Once I’d had a parrot of my own, I KNEW this was SO untrue! And I knew that “bird-brain” was actually a compliment!

Then I saw the results that Dr. Irene Pepperberg was getting from her lab at the University of Arizona. She acquired her most famous Grey, “Alex” from a pet shop when she was finishing her doctorate at Harvard.

Alex was capable of identifying objects by their type, their texture and their color, and learned how to label objects that were new to him. And that put him in the same class as primates, who had previously been the “gold standard” of animal intelligence.

Birds have brains that are structured differently than mammals, and so scientists for a very long time believed that they were not smart, and that they acted from instinct alone. But Dr. Pepperberg’s work with Alex disproved all that!

Baby Greys are just as homely as any newly hatched parrot, but they grow SO fast, and learn SO much! Greys can live for 80 years or more, and need daily interaction and exercise time. That means that they’re a MAJOR commitment in terms of your time, so don’t forget to plan for them to live well after you’re gone.

Way too many parrots end up in rescues, or, worse, handed off from one home to the next. Neither of these works well for a bird who is at least as emotionally developed as a 5-year-old child!

That being said, an African Grey is a smart and responsive addition to your family, who’ll entertain you in ways that are impossible to describe to anyone who hasn’t had a bird before!

In addition to being so intelligent, they’re also as playful as a 5-year-old, and they don’t seem to grow out of that bouncy, fun-loving, exuberant sense of life the way we humans do!


If you’re thinking of getting an African Grey for a companion, remember that they’re smart, frisky and a little needy, too! If that’s just what you’re looking for, make sure that you find a reputable breeder with good references from happy customers, and get your routine veterinarian check-ups just like you would for a cat or a dog.

A Grey will change your life forever, if you let them, and if you’re ready, they’ll grab you up into the whirlwind of bird ownership and never let you go!!!

Please check out “My African Grey Journal” at https://amzn.to/2SzWZLa to keep a record of the unbelievable things your Grey does!

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Downy woodpeckers


Photo by Rachel Moore on Unsplash

It’s so cool to see our Downy Woodpeckers! They’re not very big birds, smaller than a Robin for instance, but that dapper black and white plumage with the males’ red cap is SO striking.

I really enjoy seeing them come to our feeder through the winter, and recently our male resident has been joined by a lady Downy. I’m hoping to see babies later this year, and possibly get my own photos of these beauties.


Photo by Luke Schobert on Unsplash

So, on to facts and trivia…

Downies are the smallest woodpeckers in North America, and also the most likely to be seen at our feeders! In the 1950’s and 1960’s, Downy woodpeckers ate a LOT of elm bark beetles, possibly slowing the spread of Dutch elm disease that the insects were carrying.

Downies have the typical woodpecker style of tongue: Long, sticky, and barbed, which helps them pull up insects from deep in the bark and the wood of trees.

Woodpeckers don’t really have ‘songs’, although they do call to one another. The Downy woodpecker has a call described as a sharp, whiny “pik”. They do ‘drum’ on logs and trees to mark their territory and to attract a female.

They actually have stiif feathers covering their nostrils to keep out the dust while they’re drumming!

Most of their diet is insects, but I see them coming in and working on both the suet feeder and the seed feeder. They appear to toss out the smaller safflower and thistle seeds, concentrating instead on the black oil sunflower and drilling industriously away at those.

Downies drill their own nest holes in dead or dying trees, usually at least eight feet above ground level. They use a very small nest entrance to discourage predators, and it takes them both about two weeks to finish drilling. The female will find and drop into the nest hole some soft wood chips, before laying four or five plain white eggs. Both parents incubate, but the male spends more time at this job!

Incubation time is around twelve days, and both parents feed them for around three weeks until they fly from the nest. Juvenile DOwnies will be mature enough to start their own families in about a year, and the cycle begins again.

Something I thought was really interesting is that Downy Woodpeckers only live an average of one or two years! The oldest recorded Downy made it to 11 years and 11 months old!

Downy woodpecker hen

Downies are found throughout North America although they’re not common in the southwest. They’ll eat lots of different insects, such as beetles, ants, caterpillars and wasps! If you’ve got a garden, these little birds are definitely a friend, as they’ll spot bugs you don’t by virtue of their sharp eyes and ears.

So, put out a feeder today, and see what sorts of birds you attract? Maybe you’ll get to watch these charming little birds on your porch or balcony!

As always, comments, questions and criticisms are welcome. Please drop me a line at FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com and let me know about YOUR woodpecker experiences. I LOVE your stories!!

Sources: BirdEden.com and National Audubon Society (www.audubon.org).

Betta Fish are smarter than you think!

Last Summer, my son, Tyler convinced me that he HAD to get a Betta fish. What brought it on was seeing some poor, tiny Bettas at the local Wally world. I told him about my Aunt Lorraine’s fish (Mr. Fish) who had learned in a week that I was now the one feeding him and started to do what I considered “tricks”, at least for a fish!

You see, Aunty was feeling poorly, and I stayed with her for abit while we were in the middle of selling one property and buying another, and feeding the fish was something I could do for her. I fed Mr. Fish at the same time every day, and withing a week he would come up to my hand as I put the food down on the top of the water.

I had had a Betta once before, and it had lived happily in a planted vase on top of the fridge for several years before going on to fishy heaven.

But Mr. Fish lived in a big tank right at eye level, and he could see me coming with the food. So, as time went on, he’d see me coming over to sit down beside him, and he’d mosey over to see if it was actually feeding time.

Then, as he figured out what time the food came, he’d actually put his head up out of the water to wait.

Now, I’ve got to say that I’ve had all kinds of pets in my life, and I just didn’t expect Mr. Fish to be all that smart. I don’t think I actually expected him to do much of anything except swim around and look beautiful (which he did really well).

So, the first time he actually jumped out of the water and bumped my fingers as I was feeding him, I was REALLY startled! And when he started doing this EVERY TIME I fed him, that was a shocker!

After all, he’s got a brain the size of a grain of rice?

So, when I told my hubby on the phone that Mr. Fish was doing tricks, he told me I was full of sh**! I said “Wait till you come home this weekend!”

Mr. Fish did not disappoint, and my husband, who’s also had many pets, was suitably impressed.

Anyway, all that to lead into our Betta, “Rico”, rescued from a tiny cup of water and now living comfortably in a ten gallon tank. He was red, white and blue when we got him, but now he’s about three times as big and all blue.

We have a plan to possibly acquire a female to keep him company, but we’re waiting until the weather warms up to get that going. I know that we’ll have to keep her separated for a while, so he doesn’t beat her up trying to get her to lay eggs and mate before she’s ready.

But for now, he’s pretty content to do his ‘piranha’ act whenever I feed him!

If you’re interested in Betta fish, purchase “My Betta Journal” at    https://amzn.to/2QZy7H4

It’s full of Betta facts, trivia and even a few fishy quotes to get you thinking and being grateful for our pets and mindful of how much joy they bring into our lives!

As always, comments, questions, and criticisms are welcome! Feel free to email me at FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com anytime!!

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Goldfinches year-round…

I’ve been watching Goldfinches for at least 20 years now, and they still entertain me with their persistence and antics, especially at the bird feeder at this time of the year.

When I moved “up-country” to Shumway, Arizona (in the White Mountains) was the first time I really noticed them. The year before, I’d put out a bird feeder and filled it with sunflower seed for the wild birds. Many of the local Scrub Jays took advantage, and being Jays, they planted an entire acre of sunflowers for me before I realized it.

The next spring and summer, I watched in amazement as my semi-weedy acre slowly transformed into a solid, head-high, forest of green plants and golden flowers. But that was just the beginning!

As the Sunflowers began to bloom, there were suddenly a flock of tiny, darting, chipping birds working their way through the flowers. I saw them as they’d land on a flowerhead and carefully comb through the pollen and petals, apparently eating any insects that thought they could hide.

By the time all the sunflowers were blooming, I had a daily flock visit of at least a couple of hundred birds, busily darting through the air, chirping madly, discussing whatever it is birds talk about. It astonished me how many little birds could fit on an acre, and how they got along.

When courting, the male sings while showing off his flight skills in an acrobatic way. They are very distinctive in flight, appearing to bounce up and down above the fields.

These little birds don’t start nesting until mid-summer, which is later than most of our songbirds. Nests are built by the female, and she constructs a compact and solid cup from spiderwebs, plant down like dandelion and thistle fluff, and plant fibers. Some nests are so tightly built they’ll actually hold water!

Nests are usually hidden in a tree fork located in deciduous shrubs or trees less than 30 feet above ground. The hen then lays anywhere from two to seven blue eggs, and she incubates them alone for 12 to 14 days.

The male feeds her while she sets on the eggs, then both parents will feed the babies for another 11 to 17 days until they fledge. Then the young birds start learning what to eat on their own, while the parents continue to feed them less each day.

Some people refer to them as the “Wild Canary”, and they do have a sweet (but soft) song. As the weather warms up here, I get to watch them change color from their winter drab to that eye-catching bright gold. The color is dependent on their diet! Just like a tame canary, if they don’t get the right pigments from what they eat, they won’t be as bright a color.

Watch your goldfinches as they plunder your bird feeder, then fly off to hit up the thistles and other “weeds” that have small seeds. They’re bright enough to put a sparkle into your morning, and will continue to return to your flowers, yard, and feeder for years to come.

As always, please email me at FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com with questions, comments or corrections! I LOVE to hear from my readers!!

Sources: http://www.audubon.org, forum.americanexpedition.us/american-goldfinch-information

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