The many and various ways I pass the time now has a new addition. Usually it involves drinking coffee whilst sitting at a computer keeping in touch with chums, or sipping wine sitting on our tiny terrace catching the sun, and wondering what else I can do to avoid any cleaning or tidying or putting away of stuff and things that aren't even MINE. And now I am going to type this blog. Provided that doesn't become a chore as well, in which case...

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Other Family Members

I've been blogging for quite a while now, about three years, and I have mentioned a few Dramatis Personae in that time:  Goldenoldenlady (as was) which is Yours Truly, The Husband, The Daughter, The Dog, one or two of my vast stock of sisters (four in all, two who live quite a long way away and I never see these days), The Lodger (long gone), some chums, and latterly Our Ma (now deceased).  But I haven't mentioned the smallest members of the clan - The Birds.

What an oversight!  Especially as where I sit to poot the day away is right next to their little house (aka their cage, but that doesn't sound nearly as pleasant) and one in particular, is very noisy indeed.

We have two budgerigars, had them since 2008, and they have had a suprisingly interesting history for two such tiny creatures.  Now read on...

When The Husband and I were first cohabiting, when he was The Boyfriend, we had at first no pets.  He and his first wife had had cats - four at the same time, at top whack - but she had taken then with her when she left in 1997.  You can imagine how upsetting that must have been.  He has a wife and a feline family, and then they go and he has no-one but himself.  It made him very wary about two things - proposing to me and getting pets.  It took a year for him to concede on both points, and he crumbled on the pet thing just ahead of the betrothal thing.  In 2001 we got a cock budgie, a handsome blue fellow we named Gordon, and the following month we got engaged.  I guess The Husband must have regained his ability to trust.

Gordon was such a character.  He chattered in budgie and human (Good boy, Gordon, handsome, handsome.  I love you, yes I do.  Night night, sleep tight.  Lots of phrases, mostly taught him by The Husband) and flew onto our fingers when called, or landed on our heads or shoulders, a very tame, very happy, little chap.

The following year I left full-time teaching and took up private tutoring instead, which I did in the late afternoon and evenings.  So as The Husband came in from work, I was just going or had already gone, but there was someone at home the vast majority of the time.  And so we got The Dog, or to be more precise, The Puppy, as he was then.

So we had a feathered friend and a hairy toddler and our family was complete, or it was until Gordon died, very suddenly, and without warning, one Saturday evening in February 2008.

I was bereft.  It was crazy how much I missed him and grieved for him. That first week at home without him, when the Husband was at work, the house was deathly quiet, even though The Dog continued to be my faithful little white shadow following me wherever I went around the house.  No cheerful chatter, no amusing acrobatic antics, nothing but silence in the dining room where his cage had stood.  I couldn't stand it.  A week later we were back at the same pet shop, looking for another bird to fill the sad little silent space he'd left.

And so we acquired Archibald Periwinkle, another blue bird, this time with hints of violet in his plumage, as the name might suggest.  He was soon hand tame, but not as chatty as Gordon or any of the other cock budgies we'd both had as children.  He mostly liked to imitate the wild garden birds he could hear when the patio doors were open.  He obdurately refused to pick up any human, and so we resigned ourselves to having chosen a non-talking budgie this time.

Later that same year, when Archie had been with us about six months, we had weekend visitors who were not pet owners and found our decision to have a bird a little puzzling.  They asked a lot of questions, and (their both being doctors) some of them were quite scientific.  Eventually, they asked how do you tell the sex of a budgie.  "Oh it's easy," I decared confidently, "it's in the cere.  You look at the area above the beak where the nostrils are, the colour of it. Here, I'll show you.  A boy is blue a girl is brown or pink." 

I opened the cage door and persuaded Archie onto my finger.  And then I looked at him a little more closely than we had of late.  His cere was no longer pale blue, it was pinky brown and crusty.  This, I knew, was not a sign of illness.  This was a sign of a more mature hen bird coming into potential mating condition.  Archie was a girl!

My, how we laughed.  Suddenly he/she needed a new name.  I decided on Pearl.  Pearl the Girl.  And because we knew nothing of keeping females I did quiet a bit of Internet research that week, and somehow got it into my daft head that girls related less well to humans, hence were less likely to talk, and preferred to have a companion bird.

So, I got her one.  Another beautiful hen, a jade green stunner, which we called Myrtle.  Myrtle and Pearl.   Sisters, room-mates, lifelong companions in the making.

Myrtle was a very difficult little thing to handle.  She pecked and panicked and flapped and fluttered and would not accept a finger to perch on.  After a couple of months of trying to train her I gave up attempts to handle her physically, and relied on psychological training.  She was happy to return to the cage once her sister was back in, so they could both have flying exercise and go back to their little house when we needed them to return to it.

How on earth could we have got it so wrong about Archie/Pearl, though, I hear you query?  Well, the simple explanation is that very young or even juvenile budgies do look awfully similar, the cere is a pale violet or very light blue in both sexes, so is maybe not as reliable an indication of gender as we'd been led to believe.

Really, REALLY unreliable, as we were to discover after a few more weeks, when Myrtle's cere began to change, not to pinky brown, but a deeper brighter much more distinct shade of blue.  Myrtle was a boy.  We had got it wrong again!  Instead of sisters, we had a hen and a cock. Oh Lordy!

Another name-change was necessitated.  Myrtle became Mervyn.  Over time this complication and uncertainty about changing their names confused even us, so for quickness of identification they became Mr (Mervyn) Green and Mrs (Pearl) Blue.  We even started addressing them in a Bronx accent, as their names had come out so very Jewish-sounding.  Moyvyn and Poyl.  But mostly just Mr Green and Mrs Blue. 

Which they have remained to this day, five years later.  The only pair of transgender budgies we have ever heard of - only in the Bulmer household, eh?

Oh, and before you ask, no, no eggs.  Not even unfertilised ones.  We do nothing to encourage breeding, we don't give them a nesting box, or nesting material, we do not change Mrs Blue's diet to get her into breeding condition.  And I have recently read that one needs an aviary of at least six birds, three female and three male as a minimum, to encourage the flock to go into full mating behaviour, as being flock birds that's how they behave in the wild, with cocks challenging one another for the best females.  I have occasionally mused about having an aviary in the sunny back garden here in Wales, but The Husband just blanches and sets his mouth in a firm straight line.

That's one of his three NOs a year.  The other being in answer to my occasional suggestion that we get another dog, and the third kept spare for whatever especially silly scheme I dream up that year.  Three NOs a year, max.  Quite a few unsures, of course, but I usually win him round.  Hey ho!  Happy Days.


  1. Hari OM
    Oh this did bring a smile Marion, for I also had budgies when I lived in Edinburgh. Wasn't allowed any other kind of pet, otherwise may not have ended up up with Sapphire and Emerald. (Names are bit of a giveaway!) Saff was the F and Em was the M. He was the 'indistinct' choice in this case but as the name was directly related to colour, didn't change it. They lived pretty much the full expectency - Saff lasting 6 months longer than Em.

    I can appreciate Hubby's reluctance at aviary, however, for it is a lot of work. They are great company though, eh? Thank you for sharing this! YAM xx

  2. You got caught out the same way! How did Saff cope with Em's demise? I sometimes wonder how we will manage things when one falls off the perch. Did the survivor mourn the loss of her cagemate?

    The work is merely half the problem, the noise being another, and being tied to home much more being the third. If one has lots of birds then mating will occur if they are offered nesting opportunities, so then there are eggs and chicks to fret over. And only its own mother could love a newly-hatched budgie. Hideous little critters!

  3. I can testify that they are appealing companions, if a trifle noisy at times. :-) But i can well understand The Husband's refusal to countenance an aviary. Two's company and all that....