Life In The Time Of Corona Virus With the Birds

I’m sure everyone is wondering how we are functioning since my last blog, and the answer is “very well, though not optimally.” As I mentioned last time, we are extremely fortunate that one of my research assistants, Diana, offered to take the birds. They are living in a beautiful, sunny third-floor bedroom, with views of budding trees and sky. They have settled in and are adjusting to the new schedule. My senior lab manager, one of my students, and I split shifts with Diana so that the birds have their full 11 hours a day of human companionship.

We can’t do much research, because only one person is with them at any one time. We continue with some training so that they don’t forget their labels and will continue to learn a behavior that we will need for an eventual experiment. At least when I am with them, they are rather “needy.” Griffin wants to spend almost all of my shift on my hand, preening and demanding tickles. Athena likes to sit on a perch within close reach so that she can also ask for “tick-tick.”

I’ve learned to type efficiently with one hand (in between tickles) and can keep up with emails, though nothing else. Once or twice a shift, Griffin will pause from preening to say “Wanna nut”— his request to do some work. However, once I set up a task that I can do solo (e.g., training on bigger/smaller), he usually decides to give random answers so that I’ll quit. Athena will occasionally identify the material of a toy that she doesn’t have in her cage so that I’ll give it to her to tear apart — but, again, only if she’s had enough tickles for the time being. As I said, it’s not optimal, but I’m thankful that all is well.

Birthdays Not The Same But Not Forgotten

One event that was definitely a casualty of the shutdown is the birds’ annual hatch-day celebration. Griffin’s hatch-day was on April 14th and Athena’s was on April 17th; we generally pick a day in-between to commemorate their entrances into the world. There are always some treats. Several years ago my senior lab manager, Suzanne, found a recipe for a ‘berry-cork nut’ cake — an apple cake made with ground almonds and almond flour, some of the birds’ favorite foods. It has become the traditional “yummy bread” (the label Alex used the first time he ever had cake).

We post pictures of the parrots as they chow down, and whoever is in the lab that day also gets to share the dessert. It is fun, even though normally it isn’t a huge party. This year, be that as it may, would have been of specific note — Grif turned 25! — and I was wanting to get a different sheet cake for the people, put it in one of the normal regions in the Psych Department at Harvard, and welcome different people who have helped us during that time to ensure they got a cut. I was additionally wanting to do some extra raising money to pay tribute to this achievement.

Rather, things were very calm. Suzanne made a piece of basic banana bread for them. Planning of that berry-cork nut cake is incredibly tedious, and time is something hard to find for us nowadays. She took a few pictures of them making the most of their treatment that my partner lab director, Roni, at this point ought to have posted on Facebook (one of them beneath). An exploration partner in the lab, Christian Liu — who has been liable for all our fine art for as far back as hardly any years, is taking a shot at a card to post, as well. The primary message is to discover something glad in all the madness that encompasses us!

Possibly in a couple of months, we’ll have the option to observe Griffin’s “homecoming day,” when we initially carried him into the lab as a 7-1/2-week-old chick in June 1995. [NB—I don’t bolster embracing unweaned children. I was startled at the possibility of hand-taking care of and weaning, however, I had master help from a vet-tech companion and for various reasons had a minimal decision in the issue. Athena, interestingly, was fledged, weaned 4-month old on her appearance… ] If in this way, it will likewise be an energizing festival of arrival to ordinary life!