I am sitting in a cyber cafe in Chang Mai and I am soaking wet. I decided to take a temporary refuge from the Songkran festival which started officially today and which will end 3 days later on Friday. I had known of this festival for a long time, even thought of coming here for it but never did until this year. My wife Joy was to have joined me here (in case you are wondering) but she got caught up in some work in Singapore.
I marked myself as a combatant by carrying a small bucket to drench anyone drenchable and in turn was cleansed of misfortunes by an assortment of water blasters, buckets and pails wielded by others. The water can be directly from the moat which surround the old Changmai city, may even be purified by special water treatment trucks and likely to have ice blocks in it. As the temperature is about 35 C, it can get very refreshing.
This is the most important Thai festival and celebrate their New Year.
I also thought I should bring to a conclusion the legacy of Tinkerbell.
I had written earlier of clicker training and of the target stick. For more details of clicker training, it is strongly advised you join either of the two clicker training groups that I mentioned before.
The training that you will be doing together with your charge is a long term process. It is also a daily process. It is not so much as to training but a bonding that you do with your charge. In my view, they understand you much better than you may understand them. The training should not be a mechanical process that with enough repeats, you can get them to do things immediately like clockwork. Perhaps that can be done. But ask yourself, will that be enjoyable to her? and to you? that you can proceed to do such unenjoyable procedures on a daily basis? It is far better to have a routine that both likes and look forward to. If you got a flying bird, if she does not like it, it will not be possible to make her do it. It is much more important to keep it interesting enough for her to like what you are doing with her. Many repeats one after another is not going to fit that most important requirement.
Life must be more than mindless rote training on either side.
Clicker training session with Tinkerbell consisted of maybe 25% clicker training intersperse with lots of talking and headrubs. That may be sessions of couple minutes long and about twice or three times a day. The daily outdoor flights with her were part of the training but not considered as clicker training here.
With that 'touch target' technique, you are onto a lot of other tricks that you can teach her.
I bought those different color and shape baby toys with the thought of teaching her color and shapes. I laid them out in front of her, use the target stick to touch one of them and told her to touch target. She immediately knew it was not the stick and the block being referred to. I had visions of getting her to pick up objects by verbally telling her the color and shape and she getting that right and dropping into the container. It went so well that first session that I thought it was going to be too easy.
She picked up the blocks as indicated by the target stick. She got clicked and treat a few times. I placed out my hand and told her to drop it there. She walked up to my hand and placed it. She got clicked and treat. What happened was a quirk of fate. HalfTail my cat and Zorro my ferret were also let out to play on the floor and they happened to be there at that time. The block slipped from my hand and fell near HT. HT had a fright and jumped up.
Tinkerbell thought it was so much fun to frighten poor HT even if that first time was an accident. At the next request to pick up the block with the target stick, she did that and deliberately threw it down near HT. HT had another fright and ran away. Tink then took another block and flew to aim at HT. I got excited myself and added my emotions to the situation and Tink felt it was a great game she got on to, taking blocks and hurling at HT and Zorro.
That ended the attempts to teach Tink to pick up blocks. That was another reason why I felt parrots, or at least Tink is an empath able to pick up emotions. I did not feel it fair (and I was too lazy) to want to lock up HT and Zorro everytime I teach Tink. Everytime I took out the blocks, she would pick one to throw at HT or to fly with it to bomb HT. That was Tink's interpretation which I could not correct or bring myself to correct.
I store those blocks away. But perhaps you may have better luck with that especially if you do not have other pets around to act as distraction.
My main aim at that time was to get Tink to fly back to me on cue. I focused on 'touch target'. But with variations of touching the target stick. To get her to bend up and bend down and walk or fly to the target stick was too easy. I had to use more complex variations to keep her interest. You can see that in an old letter together with photos of her doing that.
This 'touch target' was the basis of how I taught her to fly back to me on recall.
The above URL is an earlier letter that I wrote on recall training. Even if your parrot does not fly as yet, you should teach them recall training even if they walk to you now. You get them into the habit of coming to you when you call them. When they can fly, it will be that much easier.
If your parrot do not fly now, it may be possible to get them to fly later when new flight feathers are grown. This may not be a definate thing. If your parrot had not been allowed to fledge and fly for a few weeks before the feathers were clipped and if they are many years old now, they may not even fly after the flight feathers are grown again.
You cannot teach them how to fly. After all, you cannot fly yourself. BUT, you can give them a very safe environment for them to practise their first flights. The first flights can be very scary for them and for yourself. It was scary for me and very painful to watch her hit the walls and slide down. If I had to do that again, I would have prepared a special room with nettings along the walls for her to cling to.
Above URL is another earlier letter on teaching your parrot to fly indoors.
After your parrot is flying about inside your house and coming to you on recalls, you need to take her to fly in much bigger enclosed areas. If you live in a huge mansion, you should also take her to that bigger enclosed areas. You need to let her really stretch her wings safely and you need to gain the temperament and confidence in yourself and her. Your fear can affect her and this is a vital step before attempting harness on outside.
Go into Tinkerbell webpages and read all that I wrote under the main category of "Tinkerbell and her semi-free flights in large building" . You may find the mistakes I made so you need not repeat them. Most of all, you and her will have the fun of it.
With successful recalls in big enclosed areas, you can now think of taking her out in harness.
Do read what I think of harness usage in "Using Harness"
Your parrot must be ready to wear the harness. To wear the harness, she must allow you to stroke and touch her all over. If your parrot likes head rubs, you use that as a starting point. While giving her head rubs. extend your other fingers to stroke her back. At any point when she does not like, stop and do not go on and get back to just head rubs. Slowly, you get to stroke her wings, and under her wings, her back, and her stomach. Take it easy and as a game with her. You got many many more months and years ahead of you. Do not stress her or yourself.
Read all the letters I wrote on harness design. Each of those letters have been chronologically written with increment on the design but building up on earlier knowledge.
The very first letter setting out the principles of Tinkerbell harness is the most important of the harness letter
Even letters without harness in it contain matters relating to harness and touches on or was the foundation to later changes in harness.
The final letter on harness "Tinkerbell - Harness for Dennis" gave the photo by photo stages of the last version of Tinkerbell harness.
When I was out with Tinkerbell, I used two harnesses with her all the time. The first was the visible harness and line used more to reassure me that she could not spook and fly away. The second and most important harness and line is the verbal connections I maintained with her. I talked to her to reassure her and that was what kept her with me.
In outside recalls, and indoor recalls, or anything I need of her for that matter, I always talked with her until I felt she was ready to do that and then and only then, I gave the cue. If her eyes were not on me and mentally she not with me, I try not to cheapen the cue by using it. The cue should only be used when you know it would be effective.
There had been distinct times when I knew we were in mental connections (Please do not quote that con-man former magician and former escapologist Randi as if he is the final arbiter (read some of the articles I found on Randi in the links in http://www.geocities.com/shanlung9/rand
and specifically in
In the late evenings with Tinkerbell been recalled from over 30 meters away, I could not see her from that distance. I talked to her for a while and somehow I knew she was with me and I gave recall cue. And at that point in time, I knew she would take flight to me. If you have played at darts, there are some shots that felt sweet and that you know will hit exactly the point that you wanted the moment that dart left your finger. There is no mistaking that feeling. When you miss the mark, you never ever get that sweet feeling.
I need not raise my voice in that distance, but I knew that she knew. Its just a strange mental feeling that happened in about one in every 3-4 recalls when I could not see her. Perhaps I noticed visual aspects in that distant grey on grey. Perhaps I just did know. And your choice to interprete as you like.
That same person demanding that I submit a 'scientific paper' mentioned that she got bitten by her parrot as she tried to take note of the pinning of the eye before the bite. Now, the eyes may pin before the bite. The eyes may also pin very quickly before the bite. BUT, before the pinning of eyes, there are so many shades of feeling that the parrot will exhibit, that she is nervous, that she is unhappy, that she is very very unhappy, then they pin the eyes and bite. It is just sad that those entire range of emotional display from a parrot can be blissfully ignored and not taken noticed of.
That is why I kind of insisted that you treat the parrot as friends and not something to be 'trained' and that you are the 'alpha' and commander.
Before that, that had been occasional times I forgot to hook the line to the harness. I am sure she knew, but she never flew off from me and I had the feeling she was amused when I realised to my fright she was not hooked. It even got to a stage that harness and hooking of line was incorporated into a verbal check with my wife before we walked out of the apartment.
And this is not something I encourage. In the last month before I left Taiwan, when I reached my apartment and before I go inside. I removed Tinkerbell's harness when we were in the open. That was done rather deliberately by me. She knew she was free. But she flew back to me from her motorbike perch and we walked into the apartment.